When My Father Cried

It was the changing season,

a tragedy,

we were all crying,

dumbfounded and surreal

the moments ahead

forever.

He was heart-broken

no place to stand or sit or feel,

just simple pain,

always and forever,

misty eyed and helpless

to the reality of the human condition.

He’d been tested,

he’d been traumatized,

together

ships passing in the night,

his words to soothe,

his reaction lost in agony.

 

How could the world ever be normal again,

when his son had left to travel,

and nearby,

a consoling brother,

a relative of sorts in marriage,

in a consoling gesture,

suggested a distraction.

 

How might he react any other way,

then lose faith in humankind,

when the soul of his world,

remained lost in the mechanics.

There is heartbreak to be noted,

when one’s dream

suddenly fades

while all of those around

have no idea the strain.

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When the World Stops and Everyone Continues to Walk

We have these,

call them,

whatever you might preference at the moment.

An epiphany, a catharsis,

a smack in the face in expression,

the reality of our lives.

 

Just when the seasons began to express

their natural beauty,

the leaves that decay to a certain brilliance,

representing death and love

all the same,

Crisp autumn breeze.

 

Walk outside on familiar soil,

feel the fragrance of winter’s

slow methodical drift in heavy horizon.

We know the air is changing,

Sense a sort of reminder,

What it is we desire we internalize.

 

The other morning, while sunlight spoke

aloud the wonder of Nature,

he too would smile and laugh and then

cry,

for life begins a journey, meant to keep stride,

whether ready to climb aboard –

 

offer a choice, it is not always the case.

 

We decide, who decides, when did everyone

choose sides,

and were we even a consideration,

beyond the normalcy of our lives.

Did anyone even think to imagine,

inspiration is destiny within a moral compass.

 

So what if you don’t know your legacy,

instead rest upon a certain faith,

the sort that maintains a beautiful smile,

an energy,

we all thrive upon when entering the room.

For it is true you can save the world.

 

Because it is a sojourn we all must respect,

and the climate around us all,

needs the accentuate ritual of love,

Because without that handshake,

a quick smile, a silly joke,

we are all still floating an aimless travel.

 

It’s a short trip this trek toward mortality,

Be thankful you give us smile.

While we wait,

In earnest,

we seek a natural horizon,

Gives credence to the strength of His beauty.

Recognizing Who We Are Today! (a draft)

We experienced a tragedy in (our community) last week. We lost a young man as the result of a traffic accident. He touched many hearts. The city, the district, the students were all impacted by the loss of (student), a student known by many for his affectionate and charming persona, an infectious personality. I listened to a couple of students the night of the tragedy talk about the immediacy, how quickly a life is taken, that we cannot quite comprehend the confusion such a loss leaves us when just hours before they were standing right next to the young man, full of life. We are all surely saddened by tragedy, yet, we are also enlightened by the way the students rallied around the celebration of this young man’s short life. In an intrigue, this experience speaks to an aspect of the beauty of our lives in (our community) as we recognize the diverse nature of our community.

On Friday, as the news flooded social media the night before, the students all wore white to honor the young man. I was amazed to look around the school and see nearly 90% of the student body dressed in white. The sight provided a welcome contrast to the negative image our district has attained in recent months. Here’s why.

What happened inside our school buildings on Friday mattered to the students, they were the ones being represented and cared for, and they responded with more unity than I have seen in my career as a teacher. I watched a school that put aside curriculum for the day, and reasoned with the reality of the human condition in every step of the way. In mid-day, there was a service, known as a ‘smudge’ provided by the young man’s family – his Native American heritage celebrated – and in attendance easily hundreds of students witnessed a cultural phenomena with open arms and respectful intrigue.

I said to a friend of mine late Thursday night, that (young man’s) loss would be a unifying force for allowing our students to recognize life as a whole rather than an individual need for survival. I watched kids from every walk of life hug one other, speak kindly to each other, and embrace grieving in a thoughtful and beautiful manner. (young man’s) death was responsible for that coming together of a school district.

Even more intriguing, I attended a football game that night, a ‘Friday night lights’ experience during which both the visitors and the home team wore white to symbolize (our community) tragic loss. It was remarkable to watch the unification of two school’s students who all recognized together the beauty of life and the tragedy of loss. But together they created and expressed a natural silver lining. Ironically, several schools around the region also showed unity and compassion by wearing white in a symbolic gesture of support. My boss said to me today, ‘It’s a small world’ when I shared my delight in the actions of many.

This weekend we celebrate the loss of a beautiful young man, one that I did not know personally, but understood to have touched the lives of many, including many students in the drama program, for which I am an advisor. The lesson learned from this weekend’s start of the healing process, is that we as a district do embrace the beauty of a unique population of student body that do and can believe in one another if given the proper resources. We as a community need to do our part in assuring our students that we can go forward together.

I think (young man) is imagining how special our world is given his new perspective, and his engaging smile is suggestive of our need to recognize his gift and not forget the message his role in the circle of life provides us all.

*names withheld to respect the student and family.

The White Out

In a sudden state of conclusion,

a confusion,

an interruption of our

ultimatum,

we were in a stirring rendition,

of love, of fun, of childhood,

when simply in the notice of our soul catcher,

we were told it is time to go home.

 

Now in the quiet of the day,

when laying back in my bedroom,

the familiar walls, the sounds,

static realities of my existence …

Now I can stand alone,

notice hanging on a wall nearby,

a dreamcatcher follows my eyes,

I suddenly do understand why.

 

A multitude of personality

spoke the knowledge of a few,

only to find some solace,

in the calm,

the storm that surged last night,

lays down a peaceful blanket,

a security to know we are never alone,

and instead just part of the circle,

that place where our lives,

measured amongst their lives,

and the lives of anyone whom nearby,

can hear my shout, her tear, his solemn plea,

we are all inside this dream catcher.

 

In matters of the soul,

we can cleanse our hearts in the grief

of our confusion,

in a thankful paradigm,

we might suggest,

perhaps another day,

because tonight everything is so fresh –

there is an ultimatum

in the sweet peace of love.

 

There is a cathartic happening today,

meant to suggest love,

in the confusion of wondering why,

it is his soul chosen today.

For all of our heartfelt passion,

for life and the responsive nature

of letting our lives speak loud,

for the loss of a mechanical truth,

suddenly surreal in His sensual sky,

we do know love today,

and the Creator has sung song today,

in the eyes of this Elder is the compassionate way,

we know love, we know love, is this day.

Our Violent Humanity

GettyImages_830617844.0

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

 

It would seem we haven’t had enough,

Watching our neighbors fall to the sword,

The world around us eschewing the evil

Of a nation lost in a swirl of self-pity.

No one to blame but ourselves,

Yet that never comes into play,

We are soon to discover some outlet,

Easy to say we may fall personal prey.

In looking at the news today, I saw

Real lives being struck down, a society

Lost in its own pitfalls of insecurity,

All of them wondering, remaining alone.

When we might raise a flag to equality,

Shudder the notion that fire might stay,

The real burden of proof is our own lives,

Lost in the façade of believing in truth.

There is a Christian belief in humanity

Spouted from every possible pulpit,

Always with the best intentions, they say

The world will be better without evil.

Yet is it some times the very cross carrying,

Honorable, parishioner borne out of fear,

Might wield the weaponry of utter hate,

The rhetoric of painful prejudice begotten.

Pitfalls occur with anyone’s desire to change,

To make change, ask for change, demand change,

The local grocer suggests we use credit instead,

Yet it seems everywhere, fake news still relents.

I watched today with an ill heart the display

Of a humanity lost in the perils of bigotry,

Lost on themselves, lost on each other,

Drifting aimless in a world beyond reproach.

We might only reflect upon where we came

From in a society that once believed in love,

Today is seemingly hell bent on the otherwise,

The ability to act without a conscience so unwise.

Oh, to find love again – to breathe.

The Obituary

I wonder how they felt it might read,

summing up their life,

in a nutshell,

passing through all of the bad times,

focus upon the good, the energy, the meaning,

the society we live in deems the necessary truths.

If we knew,

would we then change our mind,

if we could stand in the back of the church,

see the weeping eyes,

the countless expressions of confusion,

would we,

care.

 

I wonder what mine will say today,

as compared to years from now,

which would be more attractive,

the present reality

or that seeming legacy that time forgot,

only the pain did always remain,

a constant,

within even a moment of relief,

there would be the memory of how many times,

we might have,

he might have,

thought differently than to withstand

normalcy.

 

Oh the papers they might read,

and then in a week or two,

there his ashes would be spread.

Why “13 Reasons Why” Is Important

13

In the fine arts we are encouraged to go big with our ideas, to allow emphasis on the issue, the illusion, the piece of art being presented on the stage. The purpose is designed to get the point across to the audience, or keep them engaged. The true compliment to an artwork, no matter the venue, is that people continue the discussion beyond the actual event.

Watching 13 Reasons Why, a controversial Netflix series really blew my mind. I felt like I was back in my high school again, experiencing the turmoil that a teenager goes through trying to adjust, fit in, survive the utter chaos of peer rejection and acceptance, all in the same day, every day.

About half way through the series, episode 6, or tape 3 I was riveted to every moment. Watching Clay struggle with the reality of losing his friend was compelling. I watched the behavior of his circle of people, I won’t call them friends, because so often in this period of a teenager’s life it is difficult to define who a true friend is. 13 did an excellent job exploring that aspect of high school.

I felt like I was the student in the room, experiencing the pain that comes with pressure and bullying. While the world goes on around a teenager, their internal struggle is never really revealed, and 13 explored that well enough to suggest this is real behavior. I thought all the characters fit the proper stereotypes.

The parents of each character as they unfolded in the show seemed normal. What I mean is they depicted the dysfunction of raising a family, holding a job, keeping up with or losing touch with their responsibility. I think the relationship that tore me up the most was Justin and his mom, I felt his pain as he leaned against the wall and she closed the door on their communication.

The administrators of the school seemed effectively overwhelmed by their task. There was the initial counselor who basically didn’t get tenure and then the new guy came in and gradually established their grounding as a central figure. In the end, it was clear things were beyond his control. Imagine the guilt we feel as teachers when we realize we missed something, that if we had just … we can settle behind the reality that our role in the classroom is to deliver our curriculum. Clearly that was demonstrated in 13 Reasons Why, but at the same time, we could recognize the vulnerability that children experienced around adults that were not involved. Or, if they were, they didn’t have a clue.

As I suggested in the beginning, in order to keep an audience, a piece has to have big moments. In television plot lines are imperative, and this is where I began to lose my direct connection to the characters in 13. Everything that could possibly happen, did, all impacting this small group of peers. Why such a micro-managed focus on the energy of a typical high school? Because the ability to attach pain and suffering to familiar characters helps get the point across to the audience.

If we accepted our buy in to the characters then everything they went through was plausible. Much like the movie Crash years ago where a diverse populace all experienced tragedies and successes within a literal block of L.A., though perhaps not possible, the experience the characters endured was certainly believable in the right context.

In 13, the key to this story is they deal with every aspect of being a teenager – confusion with sexual identity, clear cognizance of sexual preference and the societal scrutiny, the lifestyle of a jock, of a nerd, a geek, an outlier, a weirdo, In every aspect of student or teenager, the experiences seemed real and tragic.

What is an important takeaway is to recognize the behaviors demonstrated throughout this series were pretty spot on for the most part. The story line of the tapes could actually happen, though the possibility of getting through a dozen involved students probably not likely. But, they all maintained their characters with a haunting consistency.

Finally, let’s not forget this is about suicide, and the helplessness that everyone feels with a loss they believe they are responsible for. Even though in the real world we always blame the person who takes their own life. The movie itself defined the act as weak. I found it interesting that the young woman who revealed her cuttings on her arms, suggested she was doing it right, that suicide is a cop out. I’ve worked with cutters in my hospital work, and there was always a distinction between real and attention seeking, vertical and horizontal cuts as so eerily demonstrated in the series.

13 might be perceived as a segment of peers in a typical high school all being responsible for Hannah’s death, but if that is a takeaway, it is possibly wrong. It really is the remarkable telling of a young person’s struggle to define themselves while walking through life in a world of hurt, and having the fortune to play out the process with direct and frightening evidence, ironically replayed in cassettes with haunting truth.

I believe this series, beyond the embellishment and soap opera moments, is vitally important, certainly not for the eyes of children under 12 – not yet, even though we think they’re ready. It is a wonderfully tragic piece to create healthy dialogue, whether the characters are realistic or not. I was moved.