“We’re all terminal, man!” When I was a 25-year old graduate student and had just told a classmate, Dave, that my father was dying from terminal brain cancer, this was his response. Having delivered the message he felt important to share, he turned and walked away. We never spoke again. Apparently my unpleasant news and accompanying vulnerability was unwelcome. Unsettling, even. A day ruiner. He was not happy about dealing with difficult things.
To this day, what is most striking to me about his response is not its abject callousness. Not its utter dearth of compassion. Not even its basic rudeness, as if we had just disagreed about the intrinsic value of a lecture we’d just listened to instead of the imminent demise of my dad. (more…)
In Washington State you cannot get your driver’s license until you are 16 years old. I think this is a very good rule and always will. Why? Let me tell you a story…
Shannon was a nice friend to have at church. She added a lot of joy to the singing quartet I led when we were in high school. She always invited me to youth group and encouraged me to hang out with her and her friends. And she made me feel wanted, cared about, like one of the gang.
Shannon was a social butterfly, very comfortable around boys, laughing, joking etc. She taught me a lot about being a teenage girl, kicking back with gal pals, and flirting with the guys. She was a fun, popular, and genuinely a nice person.
In the Spring of ’85 (yes, a long time ago), she invited me and my dear friend, Katie, to go to a Michael W. Smith concert. I’d never gone to a concert before. I was so excited! That night we laughed, sang, linked arms, and swayed to the music. I had never had so much fun with gal pals ever! In spite of the fact I couldn’t hear worth a darn afterward, it was awesome!
Some Milestones Are Better Than Others
No sooner had this whole new world of fun and frolicking opened up to me when, “BAM!,” I was overcome by complete devastation. Some milestones aren’t welcome.
Shannon died. She was in a car accident the night before we were to sing some special songs at church. We were all crushed. How could this be, God?! She’s just a kid! Everyone loved Shannon, so why not take me instead?! Oh, I wrestled with that feeling of guilt and unworthiness most of the summer.
Our quartet stopped singing. We went through a time when we really didn’t even interact with each other. It hurt too much!
Thank God, our mom’s were watching out for us. They helped us pick up the pieces and move forward. It was hard, at first. Shannon’s parents stopped coming to church. This was sad. I felt like if I had just run over to them and hugged them that maybe they would have stayed. I think the reality that even kids can die was so frightening that I was just emotionally frozen for a while.
It’s amazing how some of our greatest losses can have the most incredible impact on the directions of our lives. At church, I was suddenly viewed as a leader in the youth group. I ended up changing my career path from majoring in Music to majoring in Youth Ministry. More milestones.
Little did I know the pain I experienced as a kid would provide me with the tool of compassion.
As the years go buy I think of Shannon often, all the amazing gifts of life she has missed out on because of one mistake in a car. I sing this song and share this story so kids can hear first-hand about the importance of taking driving seriously. No texting, speeding, goofing around…please!! You have so much ahead of you. Don’t miss it! Arrive at all the positive milestones you can.
What has been a significant life-shaping event in your life?
Add to the conversation! We’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like, you can listen to a sample of my song, “Milestones” on iTunes.
Now, the story behind this song, Goodbye, may sound strange to some of you. If you are an animal lover, you may be able to connect with it better than if you aren’t.
Seven years ago, August, we moved into our house here in Southeast Boise. We were excited for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was that it meant we could finally start having pets, as a family!!!
Within weeks (September) we got our first “family” of fish. Two months later, on Thanksgiving weekend, we got our first kitty. He was barely one year old. He was completely black with brilliant amber eyes, just beautiful! We named him “Midnight.” Oh, we just fell in love with this little boy and he with us. I use to hold him in one hand while I would cook dinner with the other. It was like having a baby in my arms again. I loved it!
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
Long–and painful–story made short, it turned out that within three short months he came down with an illness that shut down his kidneys, and he died. The whole experience was so baffling, (Midnight was so young) and painful (having had him long enough to fall in love with him and envision him as part of our family for many years to come), it broke all our hearts, terribly. Terribly.
Also, his death stirred up memories I had long forgotten. The first four years (almost) of my life, I lived in California with Mom, Dad & “Cat.” (Yes, my first cat’s name was Cat.) Our little relationship, Cat and I, also came to a sudden end when my mom received a phone call from Seattle, informing us that Granddad had passed away. The very next day, Mom and I flew to Seattle and never went back. This was a very unexpected change for me. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my little world, including Cat.
Dad sold the house, said good-byes to friends, and gave away Cat. Of course, as an adult, I totally understand all this, but part of me realized that both my black kitties–Cat and Midnight–had been taken from me suddenly, and it became doubly upsetting.
Therapy In Song
Writing down words in a song is very therapeutic for me. It helps me feel and express my emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel, we can then move forward and heal. So, to help me say goodbye to both Midnight and Cat, I wrote this song.
Have you found yourself emotionally stuck? Maybe you just need to spend a little time alone and see what’s going on inside. There are many ways to help yourself let go and heal from the pain. Here are a few ideas you can try: writing a poem, journaling, writing a song, drawing or painting a picture, and working with clay.
Have you ever tried one of these before? What works best to help you heal?
Join in the conversation, below. Add your thoughts and experiences. We’ll be glad you did.