This weekend is a Brian/Kayla Weekend.  Brian/Kayla weekend is a phrase coined by Kayla for the weekends we spent when Tywana and Shayna were on the road leaving us to fend for ourselves for the weekend.  Now, it’s a weekend when Tywana is out.  I so miss the four of us.  Kayla is home for about four weeks (probably less- it depends on her work situation) before she goes back to Toledo for her fourth year.  I love the time when the three of us are together.  But, it will never be the same without Shayna being our fourth musketeer, our D’artagnan.  People always refer to the three musketeers. What many people don’t know is there is a fourth musketeer.  Life without Shayna is like pizza without pepperoni.  It’s good.  You can eat it. But, it’s not great.  Pizza needs pepperoni.

Kayla and I both love Brian/Kayla weekends though.  Shayna and Tywana brought a certain level of energy to the house. They kept things exciting.  But, their eccentricities could be annoying to Kayla and to me.   On Brian/Kayla weekend the vibe is more chill. When deciding what to eat, or where to eat, or what movie to watch, with Tywana and Shayna it was always a chore because between the two of them, one or both would veto every choice. Kayla and I can decide on a movie or what’s for dinner in about 30 seconds and we’re both satisfied with the choice.  Kayla tells me she has plans with her friends for Friday night.  I’m disappointed, but I understand.  I’ll just watch movies by myself.  Then, her plans fall through. Secretly, I cheer.  Saturday, I’ve been invited to two wedding celebrations.  One for a dear friend I have met online, but it’s an hour and a half away and this might be my last weekend with Kayla for a while.  Sorry.  I really wanted to go.  The other is my next door neighbors who recently moved in. They’re having a party in their back yard. But, I’m an introvert.  The option there is an evening of quiet conversation one-on-one with Kayla watching movies or making small talk with 100 people I’ve never met. Uh… this is not a difficult choice.

We both love classic movies and don’t mind watching them over again. Tywana has an aversion to watching a movie more than once, even if it’s been a decade since she’s seen it and she doesn’t remember the plot. So, it’s not easy for me to introduce Kayla to my favorites when Tywana is here.  Shayna didn’t really like anything “old” which means pre-2005 or so.  Kayla and I have a list of movies we want to watch together. Tonight I’m going to introduce her to Monty Python and the Holy Grail since she loves Life of Brian so much.  I grab some sushi for us at Jungle Jim’s.  After sushi, we spend an hour or so sitting on the deck on a perfect late July evening having a good heart-to-heart.   Then, we watch the movie together.  After it’s over, we decide to try a movie on Netflix. We also like to just pick a random movie on Netflix and give it a whirl.  We found Kidnap Solutions this week doing this, a dark comedy with both really liked and that led to some great conversation. We choose “Would You Rather”, a kind of knock off of Saw, which turns out to be not so great. But, again, we have great conversation around it.  Even bad movies can lead to good conversation.

On Saturday, I get up and do my usual thing- a several mile walk and a trip to Costco. Then I see Kayla after she rises. We each do chores for a good part of the day. Then, we’re back together to watch some movies.  I’ve been telling her about Rain Man for years. Tonight is the night we finally fit it into the schedule.  Would You Rather has reminded me of The Game, the 1997 thriller with Michael Douglas.  In The Game, a wealthy, bored businessman who is going through life on auto-pilot receives a gift of The Game from his brother.  The thing about The Game is no one will tell him what the game is.  He is instructed to not ask about the objective of The Game because the objective of The Game is to find the objective of The Game.  He undergoes a series of psychological and physiological tests so the creators of The Game can tailor it to suit his particular needs.  When The Game begins, he has absolutely no idea what is real and what is part of The Game. It’s a totally immersive experience woven into his real life. The Game quickly turns to mortal peril.  It turns out the game is a big con and they are out to steal his wealth and possibly kill him.  He doesn’t know who he can trust.  He finds himself isolated and desperate, all he wants is for The Game to be over.  Finally, when he can’t take anymore, someone tells him this has all been a game.  He’s never been in mortal danger. Every step along the way, safety measures were in place behind the scenes, safety measures he was not aware of. But, is that true?  That’s not the end, but I no more spoilers here.

The Game has been a theme that keeps coming up for me. Just this weekend, i was listening to a CD that I meditate to and several songs make reference to “who we really are”. The analogy used in one of the songs is we are actors in a play.  Last night on my Afterlife Topics board, one guy talks about an alternate theory to full blown reincarnation. It’s a simulator theory. The idea is that instead of us going back into a body, starting as a baby, forgetting totally who we are, we can experience totally immersive experiences, choosing a time period and going in as an adult, getting the lesson and no mucking about with all the hassles of 70 or 80 years in these meat suits.  He compares this life to the Hard Level and this alternative quick in and out to the Medium Level. No more Hard Level for me.  I’m loving this alternative. He tells me that he thinks that now that he’s discovered this in this life, he can get out of the reincarnation thing.  Sounds good to me.

What I keep telling myself is that is what I this “reality” is. I’m in The Game.  The Game is rigged. It’s planned to look like total chaos, full of danger. It doesn’t feel like I can trust in The Game.  But, ultimately, everything will be OK.  No.  Everything is OK. Those who seem to have “died” have just completed their roles in The Game. Like actors who have walked off the set, they stand in the wings as we continue the performance. And, when the performance is over, we’re going to have a helluva after party.

Sunday morning rolls around. Kayla mentioned pancakes on Saturday and Rain Main famously has pancakes (with maple syrup that must be on the table before the pancakes are served) in the movie.  Two pancake references.  Message received.  I make pancakes for Kayla for breakfast. God only knows what time she’ll be up to eat them, but I make them and keep them warm for that eventuality.  Tywana phones and says she’s heading back from Nashville. As she’s heading up I-75 towards home, Kayla will be heading up I-75 from here to Toledo for her job interview tomorrow.   I’m here for an hour or so in between with one coming and one going.  I miss the days when we were all together, not all coming and going.  But, this too is part of The Game I have chosen to play.  I sit on the deck and read for a while. I’m reading Conversations with God, Book Three. It’s been many years since i have read the first two. And, as I begin to read it’s about how time and space are an illusion that we choose to enter into in these bodies. It’s not that time and space are really different when we transition back to our natural state, it’s a matter of perspective. When we are in the body, we are in the close up, micro perspective, looking at things in a way that makes them appear separate and to occur in sequence, when in reality, when we pull back and look at the macro picture, all is happening at once. It’s an Eternal Now and we are never truly separate, but part of a big whole.  I guess the theme for the weekend is complete. I hear Tywana’s car coming up the street out front and Stevie starts to bark as she opens the door, back from her trip.

Today I take my monthly walk with my friend Bill who’s been counseling me since Shayna passed. We take a 3-5 mile walk about once a month to check in with each other and get a little exercise. Today, we talk about the business, his upcoming vacation (he always has an upcoming vacation) and things in general. Then, he asks me how I’m feeling these days.

I know that people want to hear I’m feeling better, that I’m “over it”, that I’m “moving on”.  But, I have to be honest. If you’re going to ask, you’re going to get the truth. It’s still a struggle.  I explain to him that the way it’s been explained to me that the pain doesn’t get any less, your capacity to bear the pain just increases.  I tell him that I don’t like where I am right now.  I don’t like where i see myself in the future, but I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel (see what I did there?).  He, being a counselor/pastor in a former life, assesses me.  He tells me that when people are in grief, he looks for that turning point where the event that cause the grief is no longer the defining point in that person’s life.

I take a moment to think about this. I tell him, I’m not one to ever say never. I’m not going to say I will never get over this. But, I cannot see my way to that from where I am now.  It seems to me that Shayna’s passing will always be the defining moment of my life. There is before Shayna passed and there is after Shayna passed.  I can’t ever see that changing.  I do the best I can day to day. I try to be productive.  I saw a meme the other day saying when a child loses a sibling, they not only lose that sibling, they lose the parents they had before the sibling passed. I try my best to not do that to Kayla or to Tywana. I am here for them. But, I’d be lying if I said the world hasn’t gone black and white for me. The color is gone from it. I live in this world, but I long for the next one.  Bill tells me that he wishes for me that I will get to the point.  I appreciate the sentiment. But, whether I get there or not is not really on my radar right now.  Every day is one more step on the journey. I tell him that I intend to move forward one step at a time. When I walk my 6.5 miles every day I contemplate the steps along the physical streets being like days toward reaching my goal. Every day is one more step.

I know I’m supposed to want to have joy in my life. And, I suppose somewhere inside I do want that. It just doesn’t seem achievable right now. So, I set a mini-goal, an achievable goal, of being present and being productive. That I can do.  If the joy comes, I’d be happy with that. But, it’s such a grind right now, everything is so hard, that day seems like a long way off. Even if I don’t get there, it doesn’t matter because, as I tell Bill, whatever stands between me and the day I close my eyes here and wake up there, I will have that day.  I remember how much Shayna loved Christmas and her birthday. Sadly, for her, they were only three weeks apart. So, she spent most of the year waiting for those days.  They day after Christmas, she would begin to countdown to the next Christmas.  For me, the day I see her again is my Christmas. I don’t know when it’s coming, but I know it’s coming.

We finish our walk and I head home.  It’s just Kayla and me this weekend. Tywana’s off celebrating her birthday with college friends.  I grab some sushi for dinner and Kayla and I begin our Brian/Kayla weekend. It’s a beautiful night, so we sit on the deck for a while and have a  heart-to-heart.  I’m slowly working through introducing her to my favorite movies. Tonight it’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. She loves it.  One more thing crossed of my bucket list.  We watch another B movie on Netflix.  We love discovering sleepers. This one isn’t so great, but it prompts great conversation.  I do so enjoy these moments, these rest stops along the way.

Kayla sent a text to me early this morning. A few years ago, Shayna somehow merged our contacts. She put hearts next to all of the family members’ names so now when I get certain messages they are addressed to “Daddy” with a heart beside it.

Kayla’s message came up in my messages duplicated with one being addressed to Daddy. At the same time this morning, I get onto Facebook and there is a picture of Shayna in my timeline as a memory of this day 4 years ago when we were in Destin.

Today is Tywana’s birthday.  Kayla got back from Spain two days ago and we’re going to pick her up in Toledo today because we Tywana and I are both busy for the next few days.  Plus, it’s Tywana’s birthday and what better present than to see Kayla after a month of her being abroad?

Six hours in the car later and we’re back at home.  Kayla has brought presents for everyone.  So, she presents us with the presents she has gotten for us.  She’s so thoughtful.  She bought our presents early in the trip and it was killing her to not be able to give them to us or tell us about them.   She’s even brought a snow globe for Shayna’s collection. The snow globe comes with a story. Tywana wasn’t there to help Kayla pack, so frankly, we were worried about what she’d forget and if she could get everything she needed to get in her bags back in her bags.  Her suitcases barely closed on the way over.  Of course, Kayla waited until the last minute to pack and things were not fitting. So, she got to the point where whatever went, wherever. She forgot about the liquids rule that says you can’t bring more than 3 ounces of liquids in a carry on. So, the snow globe goes into her carry on and she’s off to the Madrid airport.  After she checked her bags and was waiting to board, it hit her. Shayna’s snow globe was in her carry on. There was no way she was getting that through security, not once, but twice.  She just knew it was going to be confiscated.  Kayla was devastated, nearly in tears.  Somehow though, that snow globe made it through security in Madrid and security in Philadelphia and now sits on the shelf in Shayna’s room.  I’m not sure if it was in Philly or Madrid, but a security agent asked Kayla if there was liquid in it and Kayla lied and said “No”.  The agent believed her and let her keep it.  I’m reminded of Alec Guinness in Star Wars “These are not the droids you are looking for.” Shayna must have done some serious  Jedi mind magic on that dude.

After we get home, we grab a quick dinner (we have got to start cooking at home again).  Six hours in the car doesn’t leave a lot of time for meal preparation.  Tonight is our Helping Parents Heal Online meeting. Suzanne Giesemann is presenting and I am co-hosting. I’ve had no time to prepare anything. It’ll be winging it tonight.  Tracy does the introductions.  My job is to field, screen, and read the questions to Suzanne.

As the questions are coming in, I’m thinking this is my opportunity to ask a question myself. The questions are heavy. The questions are complex. We’re grieving parents. Some of us have been on this journey for a long time.  No one is throwing Suzanne any softballs. As we’re asking the questions, I’m trying to come up with one and I simply don’t have a question for her.  I don’t wonder what Shayna does all day or if she gets to eat ice cream (I suspect she has had a lot of ice cream).  I know Shayna is with us.  I’m not worried that I’ll get there and she’ll be reincarnated and they’ll say “Oh sorry.  You just missed her. She’ll be back in about 80 years.”.

My only question is this.  How do I live the rest of the time between here and there?  And it’s a question only I can answer. For the first several days/weeks/months I just wanted to die. I wanted this over, now.  Then, I got to the point where I saw it as a marathon.  It’s a matter of endurance. It’s not going to be pleasant, it might be long, but keep your head down and take one step at at time.  I noticed other parents on this journey seemed to find joy in their lives. Suzanne used a clever line last night. She said “We know there is life after death.  But, I’m not talking about life on the other side for those who have crossed. There is life for us, right here, right now, after they have crossed.” That is the hard part for me.  That still doesn’t resonate with me.  Grief is proportional to love. The more we love, the more we are going to grieve. When I would see parents who seemed over their grief, I would think they must not have loved the way I love Shayna. I will never get over this. I never want to get over this.  My sadness, my grief, was a way of honoring her, of holding onto her.  It was my duty to carry this burden with me until the “end”.  To have joy again would be to dishonor her.

Now I don’t know.  I know other parents have had these same feelings and I know people like Tom Zuba love their kids as much as I love Shayna. Tom’s had two children and a wife pass and he seems to love life again.  I’ve yet to find the secret to doing this.  I’m enduring it.  I’m crossing the days off of the calendar.  But, I’m sure not loving it.  Will I get there?  I don’t know. The first step I guess would be wanting to get there and I’m not sure I want to.  That is a question I must wrestle with alone.

July 24, 2017- today is Tywana’s 54th birthday.  Today is our 32nd time together celebrating her birthday. As I open my eyes this morning, I think of one birthday together in particular.  July 24, 2015.  We went to Mitchell’s Fish Market for lunch to celebrate.  It was one month exactly since Shayna had made her transition. I don’t remember where Kayla was. But, it was just the two of us. We sat there across the table from each other both still in shock; both still trying to figure out this new life and having no idea where it would take us.  She wore a t-shirt with a giant Hope saying across the front of it.  That t-shirt stands out because Tywana is not a big fan of t-shirts with a lot of words on them, but this one she does wear. I was impressed with her resilience once again.  Only 30 days since Shayna’s passing and she was saying to the world that she was still holding on to hope.

When I met Tywana, over 32 years ago now, I was impressed by several things, but the thing that stood out to me most was the inner strength she showed at such a young age.  I didn’t know what life would throw at us, but I knew I needed a partner who was strong enough to face whatever it might bring. Little did I know at the time just how important this quality would be.  When Shayna passed two years ago, I could not see even a day or two into the future, let alone two years.  My friend who knows many parents whose children have passed let me know the statistics on how many of those marriages end in divorce.  I didn’t know how I would go on.  But, one thing I have always known from the moment at the hospital when they told us Shayna had gone, was that we would face this new life together.

I knew Tywana was amazing before Shayna passed, but in the last two years, she has really shone and really grown. We have cried more tears together than in the previous 30 combined. It’s been the challenge of lifetime for both of us.  She has more than held up her end of the challenge and I am proud of her for being who she is.

Happy Birthday, Tywana.  I’m glad you were born and I’m glad you’ve been in my life all this time.

The last couple of days I have had the REO Speedwagon song “Here with Me” on my mind.  I’ve been listening mostly to podcasts on my walks so I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to it.  Today, the first podcast I listen to is on animal communication and how animals often give us lessons.  I look for animal behavior as signs from Shayna and have had a lot from various birds, dragonflies, etc.  I’m thinking about the lessons, Chloe, Zoe and Stevie have taught me and I’m expressing gratitude to them.

I listen to a second podcast and have about 15 minutes left in my walk when it ends. I ask Siri to play REO Speedwagon and she goes through my catalog of REO in alphabetical order. As “Don’t Let Him Go is playing I wonder if I’ll get to “Here With Me”.  Then, “Here With Me” starts to play just as I reach the intersection at the bottom of the hill below my house.  I look up and I spot this guy standing there in front of me on the sidewalk staring at me. I try to snap a picture but low hanging tree branches are blocking the camera as I approach and he starts to move because I’m walking straight towards him on the sidewalk.  He walks across the street and stops to look back at me. I switch to video mode, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He continues to move away from me a few steps at a time, stopping and looking back at me. Finally, he sprints away.  Here is the video:

I go back to the beginning of the song and listen to the words.

I can hear your voice
Promising your love will never die
I can feel your golden skin on mine
Beneath the desert sky
So how can it be true
How can you just turn and let me go
Let the story of your life with mine
Forever go untold

I can take these words to bed with me
And hold on to them at night
They can erase the emptiness
And make everything alright
Cause your laughter and your tenderness
Will never disappear
No matter where you are tonight
A part of you is here with me

As the tears stop flowing, I look up to see a cardinal land in the neighbor’s yard as I’m passing it.  Yeah. She is still here with me.

I notice the way we use language. It’s what I do.  One thing I’ve been very aware of lately is the way we speak of the dead, the departed, the Risen (I’ve got a million of euphemisms for them).  Just a couple of weeks ago a long term relationship between a medium and a grief support group was dissolved because some people were upset about the medium using the word “dead”.  The word holds so much power over them that they could not bear for others to use it in their presence.  That’s how powerful language can be.

The particular thing I’ve noticed lately is when we speak of those who have made their transition, when we ask the experts questions about the dead, we almost always say us when referring to those who are “alive” and them when referring to those on the “Other Side”.  This use of of us and them puts a barrier  up between the “dead” and the “alive”. It builds a wall between the “living” and the “dead”. We ask:  “What do they do all day?”  “Do they watch us in the shower?” “Can they hear me when I talk to them?”

I think the use of this language is indicative of the fact that we humans tend to think whatever state we are in at the time is permanent. I remember being a kid sitting around the kitchen table with my grandmother. To me, I was a kid.  She was an old lady.  That’s the way it had always been. That’s the way it always would be. When she told me she felt the same way she did when she was 16, the age I was at the time, I literally could not understand it until years later.  One of the lines she said to me that I remember most was “If you live long enough, you get old.”  Intellectually, we all know this is true, but we really don’t take it to heart when we’re young. I remind Kayla of this pearl of wisdom constantly when she talks about us “old” people.  I remind her she is not a young person. She just happens to be young, at this moment in time.  Intellectually, we all know that we are going to die, just as we know we are going to get old. But, we really don’t take it to heart.  We don’t truly believe that day will ever come. So, old people are not us.  Dead people are not us. They are them.

When we refer to those who have made their transition, we use pronouns that make them seem other than us. They are foreigners. Even our loved ones, those who are the closest to us, after that person has made his transition, he  becomes one of them.  They become somewhat of a stranger to us.  In the twinkling of an eye that person has gone from being one of us to being one of them.

What I try to remember is that they are not them.  They are us.  All of us, each and every one, will make that transition. I have an exercise I do with people I see on the street. If it is a kid, i picture her old.  If it is an old person, I picture her as a kid. The Buddhists meditate on their own death. They chant (not every day) “One day this body will be a corpse).  That is a very useful exercise.

The only difference between them and us is time. They are not far away. They are not so very different.  They are us. We are them.  The question is not “What do they do all day?”  It’s “What will I do all day?

There are bad days and there are worse days.  There are no good days. There are days when I can fake it. There are days when I can even mask it from myself. People think I’m strong.  People think I’m resilient. Reality is I’m a pretty decent actor.   My life, in a very real way, ended June 24, 2015 and every day since then has been just waiting for my body to catch up with that reality. Day 756 and counting.

What I need to do is to find a way to make the days remaining here bearable. So far I’ve done pretty well with that. Meditation, exercise, and the like has helped.  There are those times, however, when I want to set the burden down, even if just for a little while.  The weight gets unbearably heavy.  I’ve had a lot of those in the last couple of weeks.   I’m not sure why this is hitting me now, in the height of summer, my favorite season when it’s warm and it’s sunny.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough.  Two years in. Isn’t this supposed to get easier?

This summer I got lucky.  Kayla was going to stay in her apartment in Toledo for the summer.  I wasn’t going to see her much over the break.   But she decided to go to Spain and came home for a month before the Spain trip. She’s been gone three weeks now.  She will be home soon for a few weeks before heading back up to her apartment.  Having her around is a godsend.

Everything else feels like running a marathon  through quick sand.  The business is dragging. I keep reminding myself of all the quotes about how many times you have to fail before you succeed.  So, I keep trying thing after thing, after thing trying to move the needle.  I think about  the alternative, trying to find a job with few marketable skills and being in my mid 50s.  I haven’t looked for a job in almost 20 years.  I’m not really relishing that idea.  This morning I’ll meet with the latest marketing company I hired and probably fire them. On Friday I have a meeting with another potential marketing company. The developer I hired a week and a half ago is staying in touch, but no work has been done yet.  Patience, I keep telling myself.  We can live from savings for a long time, but living from savings is stressful for me. We’ve never had to do it before.  How much patience am I supposed to have? What was I thinking when I planned this mess?

I’m facing challenges with the SoulPhone project and with Helping Parents Heal. I’ve got to get back to the SoulPhone thing I’m working on today.  We can’t get parents interested in coming to the meetings in Cincinnati. It’ll be a year in a couple of weeks. I’m tired of trying.

I have a  buddy in Colorado I’d love to visit.  But, Tywana and I already have two trips planned in the coming months.  Besides traveling doesn’t really get you away from your problems.  You can’t leave them behind.

Yesterday I was listening to Roberta Grimes speak about the afterlife. She described it as being so amazing who would not want to pack up and go.  But, she says, “No suicides.  You have to do your time here.”  Susanne Wilson delivers the same message in her book Soul Smart.  I’m reading Nosso Lar.  Chico Xavier says if you commit suicide, it means years in purgatory.  OK. i get the message. That’s not an option.  So, can we maybe make this a little easier to be here?  Just a little?

Yesterday, Tywana was asking me about how she can keep her pictures in the cloud but take them off of her iPhone. Apple doesn’t make this easy.  I had asked her a few weeks ago to research it.  She asked me again yesterday.  I’m in the middle of working on stuff for the SoulPhone, trying to get Treasured Locks back on track, doing volunteer work for Unity of Garden Park, and I took on a small project for a friend. But, as Tywana pointed out, I’m doing all of that for other people and I tell her I don’t have time to do this for her. So, I spend a few minutes on Google and come across Amazon Prime Photos, which I had completely forgotten we have. We’ve been struggling to find a way to store our pictures so she can upgrade her iOS on her phone. I send the link to her and tell her to check it out. Then, on a whim, I decide to log in myself.   Maybe I can help her get started. Wait?  I have pictures already there? I don’t remember putting them there. And there are videos.  Most of the videos I recognize from the thumbnails. But, there’s one of Shayna I haven’t seen before.

The video is dated May 2015. It’s just before she cut her hair short and just a few weeks before she passed.  I click the play button.   Shayna’s friend has been recording Shayna being Shayna being silly when her friends’ mom calls and tells her friend it’s time for Shayna to go home. Shayna calls the house and I pick up.  She asks me to come get her and I agree.  She hangs up and makes the comment “He said yes.  ‘Cause I got him in my back pocket like that.”  Classic Shayna. And truer words have never been spoken.

I watch the video over and over. These little moments that we take for granted, we have no idea that one day they’ll be so precious.  Sometimes I forget just how much I miss her.  Seeing her face, hearing her voice, I can imagine hugging her again. I’d give anything to get that exact same phone call right now, just asking me to come pick her up.  The tears flow. Is this happiness from seeing her again or sadness from the longing for more.

I often wish for an after death communication that others have had.  People see their loved ones in bodily form. They might feel a hug from them as they lie in bed.   I sit and wonder why I haven’t gotten one of those. Then, I realize it may be because it would never be enough. I wouldn’t want to let her go again. The next time I see her I don’t want to have to say good-bye again.  Maybe I’m blocking that. As much as I’d like that, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I go to bed and I have trouble sleeping even though sleep is sweet escape and what I want most in this world. Finally, mercifully, sleep comes.  Then, inevitably it seems, the morning comes again and I’m up. Everything I left when I went to sleep is still waiting her for me to come back into the world and face.  Day 757.

I’ve always been a “middle path” kind of guy.  Long before I knew what the middle path was, I was on it.  I believe in all things in moderation, including moderation.  There are some things I’m extreme about, but not many.

Last week I got into it with a couple of guys on the subject of the truth of the Bible, the existence of God, why “bad” things happen to “good” people, etc. The thread on Facebook went over for a couple of hundreds comments as I recall.  There were several people engaged but mostly two people with very simplistic and very wrong (in my not so humble opinion) views.  On the one hand, I had a fundamentalist Christian whose attitude is basically “God (the Bible) said it. I believe it.  That settles it.”  I quickly pointed out to him several places where the Bible said in fact the opposite of what he believes and tried to help him understand God did not author the Bible.  This guy’s attitude is God is the micromanager of everything and therefore God is responsible for everything that happens (God being the big white dude in the sky with the beard).  On the other hand, I have a materialistic atheist who says “Babies die all over the world all the time. If there were an all powerful, all loving God, babies would not die. Therefore, there is no all powerful all loving God.”  This is about the most simplistic and overused argument for atheism I have ever heard. It assumes an awful lot including you know what is good and “evil” and that a loving God wouldn’t allow any “evil” in the world.  The logical extension of this argument is that if the world is less than perfect (in your eyes), God cannot exist.

We, of course, went back and forth as I battled both extremes. The Bible isn’t perfect.  It’s not the Word of God. And, it doesn’t even make the claim that God micromanages everything. God has regrets. People rebel. People negotiate with God.  On the other hand, the “evil” in this world can be explained in any number of ways.  Free will, God allowing natural cause and effect, God using evil for a greater purpose.  When we take a child to the doctor and he gets a vaccine, the child would say that is “evil”.  As a parent, you understand the temporary pain of the injection is more than outweighed by the protection it offers.  When we go to the gym, we endure pain and discomfort to make our bodies stronger. There are countless real world examples of how pain (evil) or struggle can be useful as a step to a higher goal.

So, yesterday I ran across a podcast that was a new idea on evolution I had never heard. I don’t buy into it fully, but is has a lot of promise.  It could satisfy the Atheistic Materialists (I capitalize because that is actually a religion, not a scientific position).  It starts with the fact that the entire universe is evolving.  It has evolved from material/physical, to producing life, to producing conscious beings, to producing spiritual beings. Those spirit beings when they “die” go on to an afterlife which is also evolving.  It solves the problem of why the world is so chaotic and so magical at the same time by saying the world is chaotic because we are evolving out of chaos into a more organized world that is now being shaped by consciousness.  There is no perfectly omniscient, omnipotent God (yet) because God is evolving as the entire universe evolves.  The theory holds promise as a stepping stone for Materialists to understand that we are more than just our bodies.

So, I went to present this idea to my two friends.  Turns out the Christian Fundamentalist has shut down his Facebook account.  According to his brother-in-law, our conversation pushed him over the edge.  I actually sought the guy out after the conversation wound down. I apologized to him for any offense.  And, I told him I admired him for joining the fray.  I guess it wasn’t enough.

My Materialist Atheist friend didn’t react the way I had hoped to the podcast.  He wanted me to summarize it for him (even more than I already had).  He complained that the theory was too complex. It is pretty complex. The universe is a complex place. And he clings to the fact there is no evidence, no “proof” of any of this stuff.  He complained that the host and the interview subject took for granted that we are spirit beings.  There is so much evidence, I don’t even know where to begin. The fact that we are spirit beings has been proven at this point way beyond any reasonable doubt by several fields of study.  I learned that with this particular guy, don’t waste my (digital) breath.

So, I have successfully alienated both the Materialists and the Religious Fundamentalists.  I must be on the right path.

We don’t need to add guilt on top of grief. It’s not easy, but it is simple to release the guilt.

First, we all die. Every single one of us. The difference is when and how.  Death isn’t a tragedy. It’s something we know will happen when we come in.  Second, I believe that we all go at the time we are supposed to go.  There is nothing we can do to stop someone from going at their appointed time. The week before Shayna passed she was on a trip to Florida and I was here.  I wasn’t there to protect her. When she touched down back in Cincinnati on the Saturday before she passed, I was relieved to have her back in the house, where I could take care of her. She died in her sleep down the hall from me just a few feet away.  I learned a lesson about control that day.  Nothing is in our control, as much as we like to have the illusion.

Third, we needn’t feel guilty that our loved ones are in bliss.  That’s silly. They are having the time of their lives, a time that we can’t even imagine. We are stuck here in this dense, cold world.  If anyone should feel guilty, it’s them for having a vacation while we’re still stuck here working.  The week that Shayna was away, she was at a resort with her volleyball team, living it up. Going to dinner every night, having ice cream, riding around the resort in golf carts. She didn’t call her sister or me one time. And when Ty asked her if she felt guilty she said “No. I’m having a good time. Why should I feel guilty?”  She knew she would be seeing us soon.  She wasn’t going to let guilt ruin her good time.  I’m sure she’s having a great time now, not worried about us because she knows we will be there soon enough.

I don’t feel guilty at all. Shayna had a heart condition that we were told was mild and really just a minor nuisance. She had been released to be monitored every couple of years, but she had no restrictions. We had taken her to one of the best pediatric cardiologists in the country. We aggressively treated her with two procedures and had her wear a monitor for a month. We did everything the doctors recommended and more. There have been times when I’ve wondered if we should have taken her back in sooner. She was supposed to have an appointment in August, just two months after she passed. Should I have gotten a second opinion?  When she had a fluttering in her chest a few weeks before should I have taken her back?  I could beat myself up. I could feel guilty.  I won’t do that.  I know the answers to all of these questions. I did all I knew to do at the time. I did all that is humanly possible. It was her time. It will be my time one day.  The only difference is timing.