Yesterday I attended a men’s gathering that my buddy goes to and invites to me to occasionally. It’s always interesting being in a room of an average age of probably around 60, all white, all suburban, conservative, Republican, evangelical men. And when I say interesting, I mean kind of terrifying. The thing that makes this gathering particularly interesting besides the appetizers and cocktails we consume, is we sit in groups mostly with people we don’t know around tables and we answer some pretty deep questions. Our wives are involved in wine clubs, book clubs, etc, etc, etc, but for most of us actually sharing with other men at this level is something we never, ever do.
Tonight, the guest speaker is a guy running for Lieutenant Governor. He’s interspersing his life story/campaign pitch in amongst the questions that have been prepared for us. Being someone who no longer identifies as Christian, doesn’t believe in an anthropomorphic God, and is socially and fiscally liberal, it’s always a bit awkward answering some of these questions. Oh yeah, and I’m the only black guy in the room, too.
So, the first question teed up has to do with “How do you prepare for the unimaginable?” Besides the obvious answer that you literally cannot prepare for what you cannot imagine, I decide to not argue with the semantics/logic of the question and play along. But, even though I’ve only been a couple of times and besides my buddy who invites me, no one else at the table has heard my story, I had decided I don’t want to always be the guy bringing up his dead daughter at these things. But, how am I going to answer the question about the unimaginable without disclosing the unimaginable has already happened to me? So, I’m third up on the question and I tell them. Been there. Done that. I had the unimaginable happen- almost three years ago. I tell my story. There’s an awkward silence. I can almost hear them thinking “What do I say to that?” then we move on to the next guy.
Later, we come back around to the question, after the speaker has shared his story, and I tell the men at the table that it’s actually the unimaginable that has prepared me for what I do now. Because of what I have endured, I can empathize with parents who are in those initial stages of loss. I know what my friend Geo felt when his wife suddenly made her transition, a moment in time that changes everything. It’s not a matter of preparing for the unimaginable, but it is a matter of everything in life prepares us for what is to come next.
After we share around the table, the speaker comes back and talks about decision making and how we hear from God in that. OK. Another one. How deep do I go in telling them that I don’t really expect to hear from God. To my surprise, the first guy opens up and says he doesn’t really hear from God. This gives me the opening I need to tell them my true perspective. I tell them how when I was a kid I’d hear people at church say “God told me this.” I felt unworthy. Why was God talking to all of these people and not talking to me. This continued for years. Finally, I got up the courage to ask people. “When God told you this, how did he tell you? Did you hear a voice? Did you see him? How do you know it was God talking to you.” Finally, I realized they weren’t hearing from God any more than I was. They were just going with their gut or their thoughts or what they thought the Bible said and saying “God told me this.” It was then that the verses that talk about God not being in the storm or in the fire, but being a whisper came to mind. I started going within to hear from God. I started sitting quietly and looking for subtle whisperings and voila, God had been there all along. I shared with the table that I sit for half an hour a day. I said you can call it meditation, you can call it prayer, but I go in with no expectations and just sit. And yes, I found out I’ve been hearing from God all along. The first guy who shared said that he was inspired by what I had said and was going to start this practice himself. Hey, cool. Maybe this is why I was here tonight. Mission accomplished. At this point I had to excuse myself to get home to a Helping Parents Heal meeting.
I get home and I jump on the meeting. Tonight’s meeting is with Sharon Wesch, founder of Radiant Heart, a healing method she has developed. She specializes in people who have lost infant children. During the meeting the inevitable questions about soul planning come up. “Why would I have planned this? Did my child plan suicide? Did my child plan to be murdered?” Most of the people in the afterlife community have bought into the notion of soul planning, at least at a high level. Maybe we don’t plan the last details of our life (some believe they are pre-determined), but we plan the high points, certainly if we are going to die young. Yep. Planned. And, yes, as parents, we agree. But, why would we do this? These questions are raised when we look at life from the human perspective. When we buy into the notion that we are our bodies, that these lives are all we have, that we will live forever in these bodies, that death is eternal separation. All of these are things that most of us have bought into because it permeates our society. And, even when we think we are over it, we are not. It’s still there at a subconscious level. We wake up in the morning and our kids aren’t there and we think “I’m never going to see her again.” This isn’t true. As human beings we think we’d plan cushy lives. We’d be rich, healthy, live in these bodies forever or maybe just die in our sleep at 99. No one would plan to have a family member die “early”. No one would plan to be murdered. These are hard concepts to swallow. And, then we have this therapist telling us we can overcome this grief. We can put it behind us? Nonsense. If we really loved our kids, we will suffer “forever”.
The thing about soul planning is no one can prove it one way or the other. If it resonates with you, fine. If not, fine. Take it or leave it. But, there is one thing you do have to accept (or choose to be miserable for the rest of your life). You cannot argue with what has happened. Our kids have made their transition. Whether by suicide, or accident, or even murder, they have made that transition. What are we going to do now? Do we keep going back to the past and trying to change it or do we move forward? Time is moving forward and carrying us with it.
Why would we choose this life? I ask myself this on a daily basis. I have for the past 989 days. As I’m taking my walk this morning, an analogy comes to me. This life is like college I think. No. It’s more like a semester in college. No. It’s a course. It’s not as big of a deal as we think. We come in to learn something. We sign up and we take the course. If you’ve had a child go Home before you, you signed up for a graduate level class, as did I.
I majored in Chemical Engineering. It was hard. I graduated in four years, not many do in Chemical Engineering. I recall times staying up all night studying for finals. I never had days off with no classes scheduled. Business majors needed 180 hours for their degrees, I needed 220, almost another full year. There were times when I’d wonder why the hell I was paying someone money to torture me. There were times when I just could not wait for the end of the quarter or the end of the four years. I just wanted out. I was often poor. I lived with three roommates in rooms designed for two for four years. Looking from the outside or if I had no recollection of signing up or what to expect after graduation, I’d wonder why I was there. No way I’d choose that. Right?
This is the way I look at life now. I signed up for this. It’s a graduate level class and it’s hard. Earth school is hard enough. I heard an NDE survivor describe just being in a body as flying 50’ off the deck upside down over an aircraft carrier. Those in the spirit world thinks we are badasses, just for being here. And, if you’re the parent of a kid who went Home early, you’re the bravest of the brave.
There are times when I get down. Many. There are days I cry, including today. But, as I pondered this this morning, I realized I need to give myself some credit. I thought about being at the table last night and inspiring someone else. I thought about being able to say I’m still here 2½ years later. I think about the things I’m doing to help others. I’m kicking ass in this course. And, for those of you reading this who were on that call last night, whether you know it or not, you’re kicking ass, too.