when it rains…
“I accept nothing,” says one of my favorite television characters in response to a former friend who’s trying to tell him about God’s all-encompassing, predetermined plan for the universe. “Nothing is inevitable.”
I slide between believing Dexter’s words here and trying to justify my own pain in light of some inevitable, ordained, and inaccessible (and therefore meaningless?) divine plan.
Because although most of the time I believe that we breathe our own destinies into existence, sometimes it can feel like we’re all just stumbling along into some detached, scheduled-in-advance divine drama – that, as one writer put it, “life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”
Do we really have the power to create our own unique paths? Or is life ultimately just “a tale, told by an idiot, signifying nothing”?
Sometimes I wonder.
It’s been a crazy month.
When it rains, it pours, you know?
I think I could write an entire post – and think and talk and pray and process for days – about each one of these things. But I’m just going to spew everything out below and try to get it all out of my head.
Here’s my month:
Roommate conflicts on my floor. Accepted for a winter study abroad program in Morocco & Spain to learn about interfaith issues and the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interactions. Started dating someone incredible and exciting and new. Family tensions. Phone broke. Flew to Kansas City. Met some of the strongest, most Christlike people on the planet. Went to a film screening that broke my heart and made me ashamed of my religion. Studied the scriptures under a seminary professor. Lived, worshipped, and fell in love with 50 LGBTQA Christians of all shapes and stripes and sizes. Back to O’Hare, then Champaign. Realized I left my phone in Missouri. Declined my spot on the Morocco & Spain trip so I can attend this conference. Flew to D.C. for a different conference, this one about Palestine and Israel (I think). Caught up with some old (new) friends. Was exposed to a lifetime’s worth of fast food, nicotine and café cubana. Suffered what felt like emotional abuse at the hands of a close friend. Flew back early.
Turbulence. Weathering the storm.
Breaking Bad – and Heisenberg’s subsequent reign over my Sunday-evening emotions – comes to a brilliant & bittersweet end. Caught up on late work and missed classes. Got a Facebook message that…my grandma died. Lots of pain. I miss her so much. The family’s still learning how to grieve. Spent a day appreciating and loving on my two little sisters. Heard that my other grandpa is in the hospital – he can’t chew his own food anymore. Lots of tears. I got a tattoo. Spent some serious time with my significant other, with whom I find myself completely enamored. Shared many laughs. Three uniformed cops arrived loudly on my floor – a resident had become depressed and something serious could have happened. (Felt like a failure of an RA because I didn’t know anything about the situation until…POLICE, OPEN UP!) Said goodbye at my grandma’s wake. My sister couldn’t stop shaking – neither could I. Reunion with the entire family. I’m speaking at the death ceremony (idk, are these called funerals?) tomorrow. Two research papers due on Monday.
It’s been a crazy month. Roller coaster of emotions. A mixed Bag. Whatever you want to call it.
I think we’re all still trying to figure out grief, and what exactly makes a “coping method” healthy vs. unhealthy. It’s a thin line between closure and perpetuating our own pain.
I was thinking about this at the funeral home earlier.
Today was more than a remembrance, it was an anthropological, ancestral adventure. We celebrated my grandmother’s life and honored her death with a traditional Buddhist cremation ceremony. We blended and mixed in a melange of silent prayers, Japanese flowers, incense rituals, and wet tissues. I found myself swinging between attempts at humor, ignoring the screaming pain, and, when I could manage, thinking myself mysterious and just letting the emptiness swallow me up.
As one of my favorite television characters would say, “I’ve learned that moments of darkness can overcome us at any time.”
Put another way: “It’s just sadness right now,” said one of my sisters, trying to explain how she feels. “Just sorrow.”
Sometimes I journal, but all I could write last week was, clinically, “i feel emotionally vacant.”
What happens is that I try to be strong for my little sisters and then I’m blown away by their strength.
“She was so proud of us,” I reminded my little sister as we stood over my grandmother’s casket.
“She still is, Ryan,” she said to me.
I really hope so.
When we’re facing the sting of death, Hawaiians will sometimes talk to you about “the big luau in the sky.”
It’s exactly what it sounds like – the idea is that the afterlife is basically a massive celebration, a hoppin’ celestial place where everybody’s welcome and the party never ends.
Call it heaven (call it hell), call it tacky escapism – call it whatever you want, it’s all I can think of right now.
That our family matriarch not only was, but is still proud of us; that she’s up there somewhere dancing and singing and young again; that she would be so proud to know my sisters and I are finally starting to both honor and spurn our family’s legacy; that she’s thrilled I’m an RA; that she’s happy for her sons and daughters; that she isn’t too upset with my new tattoo.
I believe that death is unnatural, and that it should not be in this world. Anyone who has lost someone can tell you how horrible and how out of place death feels – I think this is because death was never intended to be here. In an ideal world, death was not something God intended human beings to ever experience.
As Christians, we rest in the promise that one day, death shall be completely defeated. Overturned by the power of Jesus. Stomped like a mad beat, pushed out of the arena, snuffed out like a rogue stick of incense.
As former-Buddhists-turned-Jesus freaks, our family is doing our best to accept this teaching with patience and understanding.