Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church's Last Passage

I was listening to NPR and heard a rerun of a story I'd heard previously. A familiar voice. I didn't know much about him, but I remembered he was a theologian facing his own early death to cancer.

Only the recycling of this story was to recognize the final curtain of Forrest Church. Knowing he had recently died, the retrospective nature of the interview felt different to me. And I was moved even more by his sagacious words and peaceful spirit:

GROSS: You know, you write in your book, you know, again, about how you don't believe in an interventionist God, and you say, once you start praying to God to cure your cancer or asking God why he didn't answer you prayers, the questions never stop. And then you refer to, like, a bishop who said his faith was shaken by the tsunami.

Rev. CHURCH: Yes.

GROSS: And then you say, you don't like it when people say about a tragedy or about, you know, an illness or death, well, God has his reasons. It's just part of God's plan.

Rev. CHURCH: This is God's plan.

GROSS: What do you object to about that? Why isn't that the...

Rev. CHURCH: Well, I can see how it can give comfort. But God doesn't throw a three-year-old child out of a third story window or allow a drunken driver to kill a family crossing the street. This is not part of God's plan. These are the accidents of life and death. And if God, for instance, is responsible for a tsunami, that obliterates the lives of a hundred thousand people and leaves their families in tatters, then God's a bastard.

I cannot believe in such a God. For me, God is the life force, that which is greater than all and yet present in each. But God is not micromanaging this world. That is a presumption that we are naturally drawn to because of our sense of centrality and self importance, but there are 1,500 stars for every living human being. And the God that I believe in is an absolute magnificent mystery....


GROSS: I want to get back to mortality. How much time would you say, in your typical day, you spend thinking about death?

Rev. CHURCH: At this point, Terry, I probably spend almost no time thinking about death. For the first time in my life, I am living completely in the present. I have, as I said about a terminal illness where you have time, in a sense, it allows you to sort of co-script your final act. To be able to write "Love and Death" was to be able to put a code on my life. I have been able to conclude my active life, as opposed to it just ending.

I am not yet at the point of being on my deathbed, so I am into sort of an in-between place. Each day is - I read. I chat with my friends who are ever more attentive. We take our friends for granted, as well. And when there is a short amount of time, they come out of the woodwork, old, old, old friends. And we spend lots of time together. And I am just in the present.

When the time comes, when I am closer to my deathbed or on it, I am certain that I'll begin probably even fearing, to some degree, the passage, but there is not fear in my mind now, and there is no preoccupation by death. It doesn't - I don't push my nose up against that dark pane in my window. I stand back and let the light shine on me.

I was inspired to tears as I listened. Religiosity and doctrine aside, his words resonated. His attitude challenged others to rethink life, love, and death - perhaps even the nature of God.

"Without even trying," he says "you've already won the only race that really matters. Unconsciously, yet omnipresent, you ran the gauntlet of stars and genomes to assume your full, nothing less than miraculous, place in the creation."

Being alive to love and hurt, to fail and recover, to prove your grit and show compassion, that is life's true secret. Life's abiding opportunity, bequeathed against all odds to each and every one of us, is much the same: it is to live, and also to die, for the multitude of brothers and sisters who beat the odds with us, who labored with our ancestors' hands and wept tears (of grief and joy) from our ancestors' eyes, connecting us as kin to God and each other, blessed together, always together, with the privilege of running from gate to flag in life's glorious race."

Reverend Forrest Church died on September 24, 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Memorial in Lafayette, Louisiana

Our congratulations to Ms Joan Conway, RN and FIMR Director on the beautiful memorial that took place on Sept 16th, 2009 in honor of Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

This is a photo of the statue dedicated in honor of the precious children who died before their time.

Inscribed are the words:

"There are some forces more powerful than the physical world. The love of a parent does not end with Death. Suns rise and moons fall, but their love is forever over all." -- Joanne Cacciatore

I am honored and humbled.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Redefined, Refined, and ReFound

Anna Quindlen, a former journalist for the NY Times, lost her mother to cancer when she was a teen. A master of expression, she wrote of her experience with grief in a column entitled "Life after Death". This was published in May of 1994, two months prior to the big death that would forever change my own world.

She writes, "Grief remains of the few things that has the power to silence us."

Amongst other things, indeed, it silences us and others around us. The bereaved often anguish over a sense of abandonment by others. Not that silence is an inappropriate response; silence in the absence of presence results in loneliness. One can be silent and yet still say much.

She continues, "Maybe we do not speak of it because death will mark all of us, sooner or later."

Perhaps, in other words, the fear of death- death anxiety- causes others to withdraw, consciously or unconsciously, from the bereaved. Like an infantile game of hide-and-seek, if we cannot see Death, than Death cannot see us.

And my favorite passage, "Perhaps this is why this (grief) is the least explored passage: because it has no end. The world loves closure... loss is forever (and) two decades after the event there are those occasions when something in you cries out at their continued absence... we are defined by who we have lost."

For me and many other bereaved individuals, this redefining of the self is painful. For some, the pain gradually recedes- perhaps becomes more tolerable- and the newly established identity of the self becomes familiar, comfortable, and even, at times, a wonder. For me, Joanne Cacciatore redefined is sometimes that. And now, nearly 16 years into bereavement, I'd like to say that I've been redefined, refined, and refound by my Dead. Every tear I shed for her is worth it. It is an offering to our love, one that will never die.

Ouch, but beautiful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

From the MISS Foundation


Calling all bereaved parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends! Two new MISS Foundation Fundraisers are about to be launched, and we invite you to participate and please send this email to others and post it so that others may also participate!

First up:

MISSing Ingredients: A Re-member-ing Cookbook

MISS is creating a hard cover re-member-ing cookbook, and we need your
recipes and memories to be a part of this publication. The first 200
recipes and memories entered will be published.

Deadline for all submissions Monday, October 5, 2009,
unless the 200 maximum is reached prior to that date.

There is NO FEE to submit your recipe and memory!!

Recipe Submission Instructions:

1. Visit http://www.fundcraft.com
2. Enter WEB ID: 13500-09VA
(a password is not required)
3. Click on "Short/cut Online"
4. Select (2) in drop down for # of parts in multi-part recipe
5. Select menu category from drop down
6. Enter Recipe Title
7. Enter Ingredients
8. Enter Recipe directions in Method section
9. Title your Memory in the Part 2 Subheading
10. Skip Ingredients section of Part 2
11. Enter your dedication in the second Method section

Frustrated, confused, it just doesn't make sense???? Email your recipe and
memory to: kathy.sandler@missfoundation.org

The cookbook will be available for purchase and delivery in December, 2009, just in
time for holiday gift giving.

You can PRE-ORDER your copies now! Cookbooks will be mailed directly to you!
Visit the MISS Store at: http://missfoundation.org/miss_shop/index.html
Cost of cookbook: $15/copy + $5 s/h
(100% proceeds to benefit MISS Foundation)

For additional information and downloadable PDF flyer here:

Second up:

heARTwork for the Holidays- Home Art Fundraiser

MISS, in partnership with http://www.KidsKreations.us, is hosting a
heARTwork Home Art Fundraising campaign. Your heART creations are
transferred onto items like notebooks, coffee mugs, aprons, ornaments,
pillows, tote bags, laptop stickers and more. MISS receives 35% of

You create art on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, send heART and product order
form and check made out ot the MISS Foundation to either your support group
facilitator or to Kids Kreations by Friday, October 26, 2009. Your art will
beautifully transformed into a forever keepsake.

- Just is time for the holidays-

We invite both children and adults to explore one of the following themes:
What does your life look like now?
(new normal since the death of your child)
When I think of you...

Or... make a keepsake from your beloved child's footprint or handprint
(must be scanned and saved on disc as a graphic file like a jpg)

You can make artwork on your own or host a heArtwork night for your entire
MISS chapter.

All art and order forms must be submitted by Friday, October 23, 2009.

AND we are offering a challenge to each of our MISS chapters: The chapter
that sells the most heARTwork items will win credit towards scholarships to
the 2010 MISS Foundation Conference.

Have questions?? Call or email Kathy at 480-861-7511 or

For additional information please download full information flyer here:


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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