Thursday, March 31, 2011


Yesterday was sunny and warm, and I knew something was wrong when Theo said he was feeling cold.

It's not even remotely cold out.

After a long nap (which is HIGHLY unusual these days!)  Theo woke up feverish.

Today his hands and feet have broken out into a red, prickly rash.  We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow.

The problem is, I'm very scared.  Last night I just sat beside his bed, wondering what the *&%# I would do if he died.  There've been a few kiddie deaths in our state from a freak strain of walking pneumonia, (and that's what I was initially worried about), but now that he has a rash I feel a bit better.  Rashes usually don't mean rabid strains of pneumonia.

But that gets me wondering - am I going to be paranoid each time he gets sick between now and adulthood?  That's a lot of colds, aches, headaches, stomach pains, flus, swollen glands, fevers and rashes away.  When will I be able to relax, trust God for the future?

Unfortunately, trusting God these days is tough.  He didn't keep my first son from dying, so what's to keep him from taking my remaining child?  How am I supposed to ever "relax" now?  My world is even less safe than it was a year ago.

And now Theo's having another nightmare - it's going to be a long night.  GREAT.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Two nights ago Theo had some really bad nightmares.  He woke me up yelling "Vincent!  Vincent!" and his blankie was wet with tears.  He slept in our bed the rest of the night.  The next morning he slept in rather late, and when he finally woke up I asked him what his bad dream was about.   Apparently he dreamt that hordes of bugs were coming after him.

Not sure how Vincent fit into that dream.

So I took Theo into my arms, and rocked him while praying blessing, peace and safety over him.  When I was done, I told him that maybe one day he'd be able to have dreams of Jesus.

"But I did dream of Jesus!"

"What?? Last night??"

Apparently after his nightmare Theo dreamt that he and Vincent were in our car, buckled into their car seats in the back.  Nobody was driving the car, but it was moving.  Dan and I were nowhere around.  (sounds like a nightmare, right?)  But then Jesus got into the car and started driving.

I asked him how he felt in the dream.

He breathed a dramatic sigh of relief.  "Sooo happy!!"

That was a good dream.

So my prayer for you, for me, and for Theo is that when we're feeling lost and abandoned, may Jesus direct us to our heart's true home.  And when it feels that our lives are on the fast track to nowhere, when it feels that we're riding in a driver-less car, may our distress be turned to joy at the sight of Jesus' face.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spiritual Director

"Spiritual direction, is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director - the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul."  
         -Thomas Merton

I've wanted a spiritual director for years.  Then I realized that what I more urgently needed was a counselor.  I went for several years on and off, and now Dan and I are going together.  It's good stuff, I think everyone should have a counselor.

But that meant that my spiritual director search was temporarily put off... until a few weeks ago when I finally got up the courage to find one.  And I did!!!  Today I met with her for the first time, she's of an indeterminable age, is a retired Episcopalian deacon and lives out in the "country" in Kaneohe.  She's an amazing listener.  Just walking into her house felt like walking into a monastic cell - the place was absolutely bathed in prayer.  It felt both weighty and light at the same time.  Plus there were Byzantine icons everywhere.  Absolutely beautiful.

At the end we prayed with the wind blowing all around us, chimes singing in the background, and I could barely get up off the couch when it was over.  Good stuff.

Maybe I can fire my counselor now.  (Just kidding Burt, you're awesome too!!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Self Absorbed

Sometimes I get so absorbed in my own grief that I forget that other people have their own cup of pain to drink as well.  
I discovered before our trip that the husband of one of my friends was in the ICU for the H1N1 virus plus a virulent strain of pneumonia.  She hadn't told me what was going on because she didn't want me to be worried or upset over it, having recently lost Vincent.  
As I was talking to her on the phone, I realized that although my cup of pain is different than her cup, we both are drinking it down in vats right now.  
So here’s to hoping that my grief enables me to better empathize with others.  Because sometimes I think my pain is worse than everyone else's  (it is! it is!)  Arggh!!  See what internal issues I have to deal with!?  
And sometime I’ll have to talk about the awesome conference I attended today.  I heard the best sermon ever.  Thanks Rev. Dr.  Brenda Salter McNeil!! (Here's the conference we actually attended - I couldn't find an easily readable bio of hers on their site.) 

And happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Do you ever feel lost?

These past few days after returning home from Chicago I have been struggling to find my equilibrium. I'm not functioning at a high capacity, I can barely get things done, and living in our house is getting increasingly hard for me.  I might need to move.  I'm angry.  It's hard to breathe without crying.

I need to get away.

That's funny, I just got back!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Love Note

Yesterday we left our Chicago family at 4:00 am after a wonderful 8-day visit and headed back here to Hawaii.

Leaving them was really hard.

Growing up as a missionary kid, my family moved around a lot and "home" became whatever place our family was currently located.  We didn't own a house or have one specific place we'd stay the entire time when regularly heading back to the States for furlough.  We were simply home whenever we were together.

When I left my family in the Philippines for Bible college in the States,  I felt suddenly homeless.  It was awful.

Until I was sort of adopted into an awesome family, the Guimary family.  I had known them from my missionary kid days back in the Philippines, and I was great friends with their daughters (and then, their husbands).  They let me stay at their house for vacations and some summers.  I mooched off them for rides, meals, and laundry.  I worked at their dad's church, and he even married my husband and me back in 2003.  

Up until Vincent died, moving to Hawaii in 2004 was one of the hardest things I ever did.  

Because I had to leave the Guimary family.  

And today I had to do it again.

So to 'Mom' G, 'Dad' G, Lianne, Bill, Michelle, Tony, Nerissa, Daric, Jaelle, Laraya, Kaedyn and Javen: I love you guys!  Thanks for flying us there to Chicago, for making space in your house for us, for being great Aunties and Uncles, "Lola" and "Lolo" to Theo, and for staying up late at night crying with us. Thanks for the hugs, the understanding looks, the long conversations, the amazing food, and the effective chiropractic adjustments/therapeutic massage.  Thanks for coordinating church and school reunions, for exploring museums, IKEA, and thrift stores with us, and for shuttling around five children (all under the age of four) through downtown Chicago on the rail lines.  

You guys are awesome.  

I'll miss you all.  And Theo will miss his "cousins".  

But don't worry, we'll be back.   

Because we're family.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Four Months

Today was the 4-month anniversary of Vincent's passing.

I'm all cried out.

Here's a fantastic post from my husband Dan on the subject.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Physical Therapy

Today, while getting a chiropractic adjustment for the first time in I-don't-know-when, I had an epiphany.

I live in my head a lot. Thinking, going to counseling, reading theology books, practicing my faith, writing. I also live in my heart, feeling, empathizing, crying, internalizing.

It's ironic that I place so much value on my internal life, yet disregard what's happening in my physical body, my body that carries me around, breathing God's life-breath in and out, my body that takes care of my children, loves my husband, plays the piano and sings.

Why is this? How have I become so disconnected from my body that I don't cherish it the way it deserves, the way I'm called to as a Christian? Why am I such an irresponsible steward of something as amazing and miraculous and precious as my physical body?

I'm not talking about monitoring my weight. In the past ten years I've battled anorexia, binged, counted calories, obsessively worked out, then become a couch potato. In my adult years I've weighed between 100 and 175 pounds. I'm 5'7". And now I'm finally comfortable with my own skin. I think I'm beautiful. I finally do not care about my weight. Really. Although I still take showers, wear deodorant and makeup, the way I look is no longer very important to me.

But in spite of all this accepting-myself-as-I-am stuff, I'm not very nice to my body. I wear it out, I strain my eyes, I eat unhealthy, I lose my muscle mass, I don't exercise, I injure my muscles, stub my toes, burn myself. The nicest thing I do for my body is coating it in moisturizing lotion.

Why? Why do I go to a counselor every week yet never go to the gym to work out? Why this double standard, the inner life vs. the outer body?

I understand why the Apostle Paul responded to the growing Gnostic movement in the first century A.D. with such strong disagreement. We humans are not just soul and spirit, we are also body, just like Jesus was not only God, but also human, made of mortal flesh, vulnerable, and weak. He got tired when he walked long distances, sleeping in the back of storm-tossed boats and getting his feet washed when they were dirty. He was human, physically one of us. And that's important to remember, because sometimes we can focus so much on our internal life that we forget we are creatures in need of physical care. And at the end of human history when this world is renewed in glory, I'm reminded that we'll also get renewed bodies, glorious in their perfection, yet still bodies.

So I'm going to take better care of my body. I'm going to exercise more, stretch more, love myself a little more. I'm going to celebrate God's coming kingdom in its perfection as I work my body towards healthiness, awaiting the day that all this work will no longer be necessary.

And then I'll just take it easy for the rest of eternity. That sounds like fun.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When Vincent was buried, our wonderful family friend, pastor Uncle Jay Jarman was present to help guide us through the process. Before Vincent's casket was lowered into the ground, Uncle Jay asked us to close our eyes and envision ourselves at the end of our lives seeing Jesus, seeing his love for us, seeing our life from his perspective. When I closed my eyes, I saw myself talking to Jesus. He was saying - "Much has been taken from you, but much has also been given to you."

Much has been taken from me. I often feel like my life so far has been an exercise in various forms of loss, which i recognize is not unique to me. Many societies less affluent than ours are much more well versed in experencing loss. Wherever there is anything precious, there exists the possibility of loss and tragedy. This is the paradox of human history. We are more fragile (and also more beloved) than we realize.

Although I have lost a great deal in my life, I have also been given much. I have been blessed with a strong will, a great husband, sweet kids, and fantastic family support. I have rich friendships with people who are virtually my family.

We are spending this week in Chicago visiting our dear friends who brought us here for some connection and rejuvenation. It's working. I feel great, and it's only been 2 days!

Much has been given, and I'm so glad for the chance to be reminded of it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Isolation (plus some tips for helping grieving friends)

One of the things I hate about grief is the feeling of being alone - that no one can understand you, no one can feel your pain, no one can share it with you.

And this is at least partially true.  No one person can ever fully understand another's grief, or the myriad of ways that they respond to it.  Dan and I have both been impacted in different ways by Vincent's death.  We've responded differently as well.  And that's OK.

Grief is isolating by nature.

But when grief is shared properly, it has the power to bring people together. I've seen this happen, but it requires a little risk on both sides.  I know some people don't want to talk about Vincent with me because they're worried about saying the wrong thing.  It feels risky for them to step outside of their comfort zone to address a grief that's larger than they've personally experienced.  (For the record, that doesn't help at all, to at like nothing happened. Of course I want to talk about it.)  What has helped, though, have been moments where people just looked into my eyes and said "We're so sorry you have to go through this" or "I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now." There are people who talk about Vincent with me, his life, his treatment, our grief now.  That helps a bit.

It's also a risk for the griever to allow the other individual to share their pain.  Just the act of opening up the wound to the other person is risky because of how they might respond.  I remember the Christian mom on a field trip with us who smiled at me after learning Vincent died, and said, "At least Theo won't remember any of this because he's too young!"  (awful on so many levels!)

So sometimes it's just easier to withdraw from people and grieve in seclusion.  But it's not as healthy, because I as the griever need to know that even though I'm walking this path alone, there are people cheering me on.  And it's healthy for you too, having grieving people around you, as it enlarges your heart and helps you be more thankful for what you have.  Plus, grieving enables all of us to identity more with the rest of the suffering world where awful stuff happens every day.  (Like what's going on in Japan!  Ugh!)

My husband Dan is very clever. He likes to comes up with these little witticisms, some of which are better than others.  (Sorry babe, it's true! :) After Vincent died, Dan said this - "The journey through grief is an unpredictable voyage, but the ship is more stable with many hands on deck."  Doesn't that sound like an ancient Chinese proverb?

Dan's right. Grieving in community can be better than grieving by yourself.  So next time we're hanging out, ask me how I'm doing.  Ask me about Vincent, about how his treatment went, about how his personality was and how much we miss him.  And together, we'll grieve for what's been lost.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Prayer

Dust and ashes touch our face,
mark our failure and our falling.
Holy Spirit, come,
walk with us tomorrow,
take us as disciples,
washed and wakened by your calling.
Take us by the hand and lead us,
lead us through the desert sands,
bring us living water,
Holy Spirit, come.

-adapted from the Book of a Thousand Prayers

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lost and Found

Yesterday the BPA and phthalate-free plates & feeding utensils I ordered online for Theo (after my late-night panic attack) arrived in the mail.  Theo was ecstatic about having a spoon and fork that looked like a fork lift and a some kind of loading truck.  Plus, there was a third utensil, a "shovel" that you can use to push the food onto the fork/spoon.  Very clever.  Especially if you're 3.5 years old.

Since our "safer" new stuff arrived, I took the opportunity to clean out our cupboards that were cluttered up with kiddie plates, utensils, cups, and all sorts of baby to toddler-ish feeding paraphernalia.

And that's when I found it, locked inside a twist-to-seal baby feeder.  I saw the flash of gold and then, suddenly, I knew what it was, in a brilliant moment of joy.  It was my lost golden necklace and pendant, the chain part from Dan, and the pendant a present from my dad on my 18th birthday.  It's the only jewelry item I have left from my dad since our house was broken into the week after Vincent's funeral.

During the break-in the thieves took our cameras, computers and external hard drives, all of which contained our videos and pictures of Vincent.  We lost around 75% of all our video footage of Vincent.  And they took all my "real" jewelry that they could find.

Except for this gold necklace that was in the bathroom.

For days after the break-in, I started hiding all my remaining items that I wanted to keep safe.  I hid Vincent's favorite stuffed animals, blankies, my not-so-valuable jewelry, our spare change, and this necklace.  Before going out I would hide this necklace in the most random of places until the day came that I couldn't for the life of me remember where I put it.  I cleaned out two closets and moved 3 dressers.   It was nowhere to be found.

So I lost a lot to these thieves... and then I lost even more to Fear.   I still have some awesome earrings that are so *safely* hidden I may never find them.

Fear often leads us to hide things. We may think we're protecting them, keeping them safe, but it may take us years before we rediscover what was lost.  Sometimes we may never find them again. It makes me wonder - what else have I hidden?  Perhaps it's a talent or a calling or a memory, inaccessible now, unusable. What else in my life has Fear taken from me?  Have I lost anything of brilliance or beauty or of great worth, locked away inside of me, out of sight, out of mind?

What's the point in "protecting" something precious only to lose it?  What's the point of preserving something to the point of rendering it inaccessible to our deepest selves?

Ironically, we as humans tend to lose whatever it is we hold most closely.  Maybe that's why Jesus said that to find your life, you first have to give it up.  We have to hold it loosely, we have to keep it vulnerable.  Because when we fearfully hide it, it's gone from us, out of reach, unable to be of any use, truly lost in the fullest sense of the word. But when we hold our lives open to God, willing for them to be lost in Him, that's when we find what it is that's been hidden from us all along.

When we are willing to give our lives up, that's when they're found.  That's the ultimate paradox.

As we begin this season of Lent, may you find whatever it is that you have fearfully lost along the way.   And may we be willing to boldly lose our deepest treasures, knowing that's how they'll really be found.

...And hopefully I'll eventually find that darn pair of earrings.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not my Home

I don't like living here.  This world stinks.

I don't like that I live in a world where this stuff happens:

child prostitution
human trafficking
kid soldiers
female genital mutilation
more war
natural disasters
global warming
spousal abuse
family discord
death  ...and the list goes on.

I can't watch the news anymore.  When I do, the crushing feelings I have inside build until I feel like I'm about to wail, throw things, or throw up.

I can't listen to many of my friends who try to convince me that things will get better, that my personal grief over Vincent's death is something to "overcome" or "triumph" over. (oh, you should hear me rant on that one, I have many theological points in my favor!!)  So sometimes I feel like I don't have many friends, except for some of you guys online.

I'd just like to sleep all day, but I have too much stuff to do.  So instead I'm eating tons of garlic bread.  Go figure.

This world is not my home.

Can I go home now, please?

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Final

I recently received an e-mail from Hawaiian Memorial Cemetery informing us that Vincent's grave marker was finally installed, so after church last week we went to see it.

We have visited Vincent's gravesite several times since the burial, but somehow seeing the marker placed there with Vincent's name and the words "Victorious in Jesus' Arms" made the experience feel more real, but just barely.  I couldn't help noticing how bare the grave looks, even with the flowers tucked into the vase.  The marker was muddied by all the rain, and instead of grass, ungainly weeds are growing all around his grave.  It's not what I expected.  The cemetery itself is breathtakingly beautiful, nestled beneath the Ko'olau mountains, looking down at the beach in the distance.  But the gravesite itself is unkempt, bare, stark. I almost like it better before the marker was installed, before I have to see Vincent's name carved into the brass, brutally reminding me that he's dead.  Really and truly dead.

While he was alive, Vincent lived a mostly cozy and happy life, always warm, snuggling right next to me, surrounded by quilts, toys, animals, and books.  He loved his brother.  He loved to giggle with Daddy.  He even slept right next to Dan and I at night.  While he was alive, I wouldn't have ever let him play on this hill here in the cemetery - I would have thought it too steep, too windy, and containing too many tripping hazards for toddling little boys. And yet, this is where he is now, lying just beneath my feet. I hate this, how different it all is now. I hate that all I have left of him is this grave, this cold, muddy, horrible, horrible grave.    

It's really dreadful for me to actually think of him buried beneath the marker, wrapped in his favorite monkey blankie.  How the hell am I supposed to function now?  Sure, his little spirit is currently happily playing in heaven, but I'm not there right now, obviously.  How will I be able to live the rest of my life without him?  I don't even want that question answered.  

Over the course of Vincent's 18 month life, I changed diapers, bathed him, gave him medication, nursed him, fed him, held him, cuddled him, and in general, got very attached to his body. That's all I had of him.  And now, that's all that is left of him here with us.  I hate that. 

I hate this whole freaking thing. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


The other night I spent a few hours scouring the internet for affordable BPA & phthlate-free kids products.  
Because I hate the fact that we are surrounded by dubious chemicals, drinking them in our water, having them leach into our food.  I can only imagine what kind of discoveries they’re going to make in 30 years that will make us cringe over the materials we let into our house.  

I cloth diapered both my kids, and hated having to switch to paper after Vincent got cancer.  We eat local food as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just easier to go to the supermarket, or to warm up a frozen dinner.  If I could afford it, I’d shop completely at Whole Foods.  But since I can’t, sometimes I just give up and eat Pop-Tarts.  Hurray for genetically engineered ingredients!  
Really, it’s so easy to give up. I hate knowing I can’t trust our government to keep these money-hungry companies at bay.  (And it’s that way regardless of what political party’s in office, I’m not talking about politics here.  I’m talking about being able to know what kind of chemicals are in your house, your food.)  No wonder our little kiddies are getting cancer at higher rates than ever (at least in our state!).  
I hate knowing that whenever I eat a burger from my favorite fast-food place that I’m also eating ammonia.  (That’s what they wash hamburger meat in to cleanse it from all the E. coli.)  I hate the fact that when I eat soybeans 93% of them have been genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup.  Really.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Just google. it.  Or read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

Friday, March 4, 2011

Embracing Contradiction

"'For those who love God all things work for their good."  
There is no misfortune, there are no catastrophes, there are no sorrows, however extraordinary, that cannot become crowns of glory and of hope when suffered with love for God.' " 
- Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, before his assassination 
My life has become full of contradictions. On the one hand I derive hope from the concept that God can take our worst ordeals & our blackest experiences and through them, create something triumphant and meaningful.  I love the idea of God as the ultimate alchemist, taking darkness and creating light out of it, transforming chaos and pain into things of beauty.  And I do believe that he'll do that somehow in my life.

The problem I have is this:  my belief in God making all things new is NOT much comfort right now. I think it's a fantastic truth about God, but I wish I didn't have to know it so intimately. You know what I mean? It's one thing to know that God can transform our awful experiences into something positive, but it's another to actually experience it.

Well-meaning people often say things like "It'll all work out" or "It'll get better"or "God makes everything beautiful in its time." After losing Vincent, the fact that God can somehow work good through all this crappiness doesn't really make me feel any better.  I don't want to hear anyone tell me that God will make it all work out, or that it will get better soon.  I'm just mad and sad right now.  It doesn't make me feel better to know that perhaps things will get better.  That doesn't help how I feel now.

I'm reminded by something Rabbi Kushner said many years after he lost his first-born child Aaron.  He said that even though he's a better rabbi, counselor, listener, friend and spouse because of Aaron's life and death, he'd still rather have Aaron back and be a worse rabbi, counselor, listener, friend and spouse.  He'd rather have his kid back.

So would I.

But until then I'll keep on liking God's alchemistic powers (and disliking the fact that I need them) as he takes junk and makes it into gold.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lava Flow

Today was not a good day for Theo.  He got upset over the slightest issues, wasn't happy even when he got what he wanted, and whined when he didn't.  

Of course, it didn't help that we woke up late this morning and had to shove food in his mouth before preschool AND finish his homework (tracing the letter B).  Theo didn’t feel like eating breakfast, and was taking tiny bites while absentmindedly “tracing” the letter B.  And he can write the letter B just fine.   

So I was angry.  Really angry.  I was so frustrated I yelled, “Theo, you are NOT a good eater.”  But then he looked up at me with his sheepish little face, looking slightly confused and a little bit sad.  So I quickly yelled, “But you are a VERY GOOD BOY.”  (in the same tone of voice as the first statement.)  No wonder Theo’s acting crabby and weepy today.  I’ve never yelled at him before.  It can be very confusing to live with an angry adult.  
Later in the morning, something hit me (which of course you all know by now.)  I am angry.  Too often.  I think my anger is like lava flow on the Big Island, slowly streaming under what looks like hardened rock, yet sending tell-tale sky-high plumes of thick steam when reaching the ocean. 

Especially since Vincent died (actually, since he was initially diagnosed,) I find that my frustration erupts at odd moments.  Sometimes I don't even realize that my anger's just there, always there, slowly rising, ready to surface at any moment.  And I find myself and the ones I love innocently stepping where we think will be rock, only to find red-hot lava licking at our feet.     
That really stinks.  For everyone.
Of course, that leads to the question why.  Why am I so angry?  (Sorry, that’s just a rhetorical question folks! :)  I can’t address that question here because it has simply too many answers.  
Some of you have wondered whether or not I’m angry at God.  Surprisingly, I’m not.  But I am trying to take all my anger and express it to God, because I know that if anyone can handle my anger, it’s him.  If anyone can handle my feelings of frustration, of betrayal, of disappointment, of victimization, it’s him.  If anyone can handle raging, fury, crying, wailing, cursing, it’s him.  He’s seen all that before, carried all my pain and anger before I was even born.  These emotions are not new to God, nor is he easily fazed or surprised.    
In 1881, Hawaii's King Kalakaua visited Thomas Edison in New York to discuss the idea of harnessing volcanic power and channeling it between islands via underwater cables to create electricity.  While it wasn't feasible at the time (they ended up using hydropower), the Big Island now uses the volcano's geothermal energy to help power the island. 

Apparently, boiling magma can be harnessed and used for constructive possibilities. 
For someone carrying this much heat beneath the collar, that's great news indeed.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy

Last week we attended the monthly Childhood Cancer Connection support group at our local children’s hospital.

I think it’s funny how I feel more at home with the people in this cancer support group (that I haven’t known that long!) than with practically anyone else I know.  I couldn’t tell you what each member does for a living or where they live, but I can tell you about their children.  I could tell you about about two beautiful teenagers who are no longer dealing with their failing bodies and treatment side effects. 

I could speak of kids and preteens and teenagers partying up a storm with heaven’s angels.  I could tell you about a handsome preschool boy who’s now making funny faces with Jesus.  I could tell you stories of valiant fighters, stories of kids who are taking their toxic treatments in stride, who are being strong for their devastated families, who are going to school and receiving chemotherapy at the same time.  I can tell you stories of relapse, remission, and recovery.  
And they know about my son Vincent.  I don’t need to explain anything to them, or be afraid of sobbing, or put on a happy face, or watch my language.  They have all looked death in the face and seen, if only in their imagination, life without their beloved children.  They have all faced the chaos of diagnosis and unrelenting treatment.  Some of us have seen our children slowly slip away.  Others have witnessed wondrous steps toward recovery.  No wonder we have an amazing bond.  
Our Childhood Cancer Connection group feels like a little bit of heaven.  It's safe.  It’s a place where you don’t have to have any “right” answers, where you can vent, cry, laugh, tease, plan, eat, celebrate and remember.  There is an aura of compassion and openness in the room.  
Shouldn’t our churches be like this?  Places where we can vent, cry, laugh, tease, plan, eat, celebrate and remember?  Has our 21st century Western church become so far removed from pain and suffering that it’s hard for us to know how to treat those of us in our midst that are hurting?  Our family was blessed to have individuals in our church that helped us carry our cross, and were with us every week until the end of Vincent’s life, but that’s more the exception than the norm.  
We laugh and cry easily at our group meetings.  We wear our emotions on our sleeve, and somehow, through the pain, we actually have fun.  How can we as believers (or nonbelievers) become more in touch with our pain, and through that, to our shared joy?  How can we tap into the communality of the shared sorrow of our human existence?  
Perhaps that’s the wrong question.  Perhaps the real problem is not that we don’t know how to tap into our shared sorrow but more that we’re unwilling to do it.  We don’t want to have our hearts broken.  We keep them safely guarded while we entertain ourselves with games, work, TV, food, sex, fashion, religiosity, Apple products (that’s me), and other good-yet-not-meant-to-be-ultimate things.  I’ve turned off the TV countless times to avoid hearing stories of devastation around the globe.  Why?  Because I didn't want to feel anything, and I knew if I watched it I would feel pain.  So I simply closed my ears and chose another activity.
So I don’t blame you if you don’t want to cry with me or with someone else close to you who is suffering.  Perhaps you can’t.  Perhaps you’re afraid that if your heart breaks your life will be ruined.  And it might.
But maybe if you’re willing to lose your life, you’ll find it handed to you instead.  Maybe, if you sow in tears you’ll reap in joy.  Maybe you will even weep all night.  

But when the morning dawns, so will joy.