Friday, December 21, 2012

Busy With The Good

There is nothing, nothing worse than what happened on December 14 at Sandy Hook. The fact is, evil is real and "the line between good and evil runs through every heart" as Solzhenitsyn said. We are all a little more broken this year. And we must live with that reality. But with all the heartache and terror that life on this planet brings, I am convinced that people are fundamentally good. And therefore I have hope. Here are a few (personal) reasons for my optimism from 2012 as the year comes to a close. 

John Green's book, The Fault in Our Stars rocketed to #1 on many lists! This book is dedicated to our Esther and I think of it as a kind of love story she never got to have. It is a hopeful look at a hopeless reality. That's good news.

My kids: 
Angie quietly went back to being called, "Evangeline" -her given name. This makes me so happy! Though I like “Angie”, Evangeline means "one who brings the good news" and she IS good news. This spring, she'll be getting away to Europe for several months for some "woofing" (look it up!). 

Abby continues to shine brightly out in southern California where she's carved out her own, sweet life. Of course, most of my conversations with her are about her eventual return here! But I'm learning acceptance. I’ll sometimes think of her and be amazed that someone so wonderful could also be my daughter.

Graham is mostly sweetness and light and he's a gentle soul with a lot of potential ahead. He and I are good friends and I don't know what I'd do without him in my daily life.

Abraham (he goes by "Abe") has established himself as...himself. He is a one-of-a-kind original! All year long, he continued to skateboard, and even went to Camp Woodward in PA for a week of expert instruction. He learned a ton of new stuff this year, broke a wrist, bashed his face falling and all that. He loves a fellow third grader and has been sure to let everyone know all the details. (I would have been mortified at that age.) He has also begun to write. This was his "Year of The Letter" and his little notes are amazing. A neighbor recently lost her elderly mother and Abe wrote a letter of condolence. I didn't realize he'd been aware of all the medical traffic next door. Or that he cared so much. He wrote, in part: "First, I know that your mom died, so here's a letter to cheer you up! We know that your mom has been to the hospital a lot. Well, when your mom was alive, she was awesome! You are awesome too. Finally, you are the best friend ever! ps. We wish your mom did not die. pps. I am so sorry that your mom died. I'm just glad it wasn't you! Have a happy Christmas."

Esther. She's with me all the time. I realized something this year. I used to say, "Other people's children die, not mine." At least that's how I made sense of it. You see, my daughter is fully alive, very much with me, inside me, living. I continue to relate to her. Recently, a woman my age came up to me after I spoke about Esther and told me about her son, a young man in his early 20's, a soldier who didn't come home from Iraq. As I looked in her eyes, there was deep sadness but also abundant life. Because I could see him, alive in her! There were no words, just a mutual tightening of the throat, a knowing hug and an understanding. I know what she knows. You can't kill love. We are all vagabonds of grief. So, there is no such thing as the way I used to think. Your child's death is my child's death. There is no "other death." Another's death is equally our diminishment, to paraphrase John Donne. 

In 2012, I also finished writing Esther's Book! Yes!! Although, in terms of any project, I am only allowed to say the following:   “It’s still very much a work in progress but I’m hopeful we will know more soon.” However, you think John Green's book was exciting?! That's it. In November I did speak about Esther in front of 400 high school students in San Diego at a Tedx youth event. That was awesome! The whole experience was beautifully inspiring and I am grateful for any opportunity to tell her story far and wide for as many years as the fates allow! (Again, for more info about my book, simply refer to the sentence in quotation marks above. Wink. Wink.) 

We visited with friends and family in California, New York and beginning tomorrow, we'll be with Lori's family in New Jersey, which will be fun. I'm reminded that family and good friends are everything in life. I think the best kind of life is lived in community and I am convinced that some of us need more alone time to find ourselves but all of us cannot truly know who we are without each other.

Our foundation, This Star Won't Go Out, this year went over the $100,000 mark in giving! This is amazing when you consider that a typical donation is $5 or a few hundred dollars from a group of high-school students through various fundraising events. It's quite astonishing and deeply satisfying. There is nothing as wonderful as hearing, seeing, or reading about the tears of joy these very shattered families feel when they get an unexpected check. Thank you to everyone who gives to TSWGO or to anything positive! You prove my point that goodness wins. 

Lincoln, the movie that is, was my favorite film of the year and when he and his wife were arguing about who has grieved more, well...well, I sobbed and sobbed and used up a box of tissues on that one scene alone. 

My favorite book this year was TFiOS (obviously) but I also read and read many other, worthy tomes. A nonfiction equivalent of TFiOS that I really enjoyed would be, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by the French Philosopher Luc Ferry. This book has worked in me like a massage on my knotted soul. And music! I think the most profound songs of the year were I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons and Home by Phillip Phillips. Both songs are amazing messages of hope and good reminders for what's ahead in 2013. 

Home. I know it when I feel it. So, there's much to be glad-hearted about. My favorite thing this year was anytime I heard my bride happy. Lori has brought much hope to many college students as an instructor and especially as a Life Balance Coach at Quincy College. She broke her wrist in an awful way this year. I was truly, really sad for her. But she is strength walking. And, besides her indomitable spirit, she's given me much encouragement, either through affirmation or rebuke, as needed. We struggled to make ends meet and vowed 2012 would be the last year of that nonsense. I threw out my shoulder in the summer (sorry Red Sox, no longer available), lost my first adult tooth to decay and, for a while, the only silver linings that appeared for me this year were the ones above my ears. But I end expectant and renewed. And I know what happens after death! But, sadly, this blog entry is out of room so the answer to the meaning of life will have to wait for another day.

Finally, I woke up the other day with these words on my lips: "I saw you busy today." So I end with them.

I saw you busy today
in a world where Evil is real. 
Where there are no excuses
And no words for the -
We must live with that. 

I saw you busy today
your hands were dirty
but your heart was clean
and I wondered if that's the way it works
that wholeness is found in healing you

I saw you busy today
sometimes changing sad faces to happy ones
sometimes being sad, too
And you were Goodness
And therefore I have hope.

Busy with the good. Watch out 2013!


  1. Hello, I just wanted to say the I only recently learned about your daughter Esther and what an incredible soul she was. I feel sorry for not having known her when I could have and I am so sorry for your loss. Best of luck with Esther's book. I can only wish it will be as awesome as she was.