SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

In December 2002 when I was jobless and almost homeless, a young cousin of mine who was attending Virginia Commonwealth University asked me when I was going to get my poems published. Going through the rigorous process in getting my poems even noticed was the last thing on my mind. But during that sweet, uplifting conversation with my cousin, he inspired me to write fifty short vignettes, which I started writing in January 2003 and which took four and a half years to write. These vignettes are just little snippets of my life as I was growing up as a child. Some are crazy funny. Some are sad. Some make you angry. Some will make you think about life. As I was writing each vignette, I was truly missing the security, the comfort, the love, and the joy that my mama and daddy gave me during my childhood. Each vignette was written during a time in my adult life when security, comfort, love and joy had been stripped away. But in the process, God taught me many valuable life lessons. The title of my collection of short vignettes is: The Little Things I Miss. If I happen to be privileged to have you read one of these short vignettes, I hope you too will discover or remember a little thing in your childhood that you cherished, and miss.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Those colors in the sky were some kinna beautiful after a fresh spring or summer rain. I saw red, orange, purple, blue, green, and yellow. Mama told me that those colors were a rainbow. And the way the rainbow arched itself in the sky, it seemed that it had an unknown starting point with no particular destination in mind.

When I was a child, I often wondered where the rainbow led to. Some said to a pot of gold. I thought maybe it led to a crystal city, full of color and full of light, and where everything was perfect and beautiful. Yes, as a child, I envisioned a world that was loving and pain-free and where there was no sorrow or regrets.

A few days ago, my twelve year old cousin pointed to a rainbow in the sky, as we were being driven to town by his father. I asked him as to why God puts a rainbow in the sky. He didn’t know why but wanted to know the answer. I told him that every time he sees a rainbow in the sky, it is to remind us that God will never destroy the earth by water again.

We need reminders along the journey of life to remind us where we have been and where we are and to where we should be going. I have taken many detours on life’s journey, which led to dead ends. If I had remembered the “littleliest” things that flavored my life with amazing tastes, then I would not have sought after people and things which didn’t even come close to the “H” in Happiness.

Rainbows make me happy. They remind me of days when I marveled at God’s mysteries and how my precociousness left me with many, unanswered questions, many of which I still don’t have answers for, and it doesn’t bother me one bit if the answers stay locked up somewhere over the rainbow.

I appreciate rainbows, not only for their color, but also for the simple fact that God reminds me to embrace the littleliest things in life, because that’s where you will find real happiness. Oh, how I have missed the littleliest things of my childhood, which caused me to appreciate and celebrate the many small glories that have blessed my life.

The Children, The Violence, The Deaths, The Loss, The Hurt, The Pain

Children are being killed at alarming rates, not only in the United States, but all over the world. But, in the United States, countless children are killing children. Adults are killing children. Police are killing children. It seems that every time you turn on the TV, a child has been killed.

Black children in particular are senselessly killed almost every day, especially in large urban areas such as Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. Black-on-Black violence has become shamefully devastating. Regardless of color or gender or sexual orientation, the death of a child is traumatic.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain, the hurt, and the emotional devastation from the death and loss of a child. I believe that one of the greatest sorrows on this earth is when parents have to accept the fact that their child, “their baby,” has died. Regardless of the situation, every child, I believe, has value and significance. And every child that is born brings a light and a gift to make a difference in this world.

The society and culture in which we now live has become extremely violent and aggressive. Oftentimes conflict is resolved only by violence and aggression, whether in real life on the streets or in fantasy life on TV crime shows or in video games. When I see the lack of remorse and hear the justification of the killing of a child, I wonder about the moral and spiritual compass of the one who killed.

If you are a Christian, as I am, most Christians seem to forget that God had a Son who lived on this earth and who eventually was killed. When Jesus Christ was killed on the Cross, do we ever think about the pain and the hurt that God felt, seeing His Son murdered? And do we ever think about the pain and the hurt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt, seeing her son tortured, crucified, and killed in front of her eyes?

If you have lost a child, I am convinced that God feels your grief and understands your pain because He too experienced the death of a child. And I believe that God is the Source of our healing when we experience traumatic and dramatic events in our lives.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” I believe that in this particular Scripture, Jesus is asking us to bring all our hurt, all of our pain, all of our unspeakable grief, all of our anger, all of our rage, all of our sadness, all of our tears to Him and He will restore healing and peace to our hearts and to our souls, if we let Him. There is no burden that is too hard or too heavy for Jesus Christ to carry for us and to heal us from.

When a parent loses a child, I believe that there is not a day that goes by when you don’t think about your child. What helps me when one of my loves goes home to be with the Good Lord is remembering the sweet times and the quiet moments that we shared, which have me smiling and crying at the same time. Yes, I miss my love, but I am forever grateful to God for allowing my life to be touched by such a precious, beautiful light. And I hope you feel blessed to have had the privilege to love a child, who in return loved you back. What a gift.

Children and Grief: Lesson One

It is important to understand that children grieve. Children may not grieve the same way as adults after the death of a loved one, after the death of a friend, or from being confronted by a violent situation. But children do grieve. 

Today, we live in neighborhoods, communities, societies, and cultures that have no similarity to the way people lived fifty or sixty years ago. Yes, life presented a myriad of challenges back then. But there was a sense of community, a sense of neighborness, and a sense of family in America’s tapestry that helped to heal some of the pain and the hurt that resulted from grief. 

It seems as if today’s problems, even the world’s problems, have multiplied exponentially in the past thirty years. People, even children, are exposed and overwhelmed by so much aggression and violence that can be seen on television, through social media, and even in their own neighborhood and community. 

When children are exposed to death and to violent situations, I believe that parents and caregivers need to have age-appropriate honest-talks with their children. Honest-talk is about keeping it real and not engaging in unrealistic, fantasy type conversations. (Please be mindful that children are very intelligent and very perceptive.)  When children are given a safe space and permission to talk about their feelings, parents and caretakers need to listen.

Grief is about feelings. And in order for children to heal from a loss in their life, they must know that it is okay to talk about their feelings. The expression of feelings can be uncomfortable to the listener, but the listener must listen.

Today’s culture is fast-paced. Almost everyone is in a rush, and it seems that everything must be done in a nanosecond. Sometimes, it seems as if people do not have time or will not make the time for the special people in their lives. But when grief interrupts our children’s lives, we must stop whatever we are doing, and we must give our children the attention, the love, and the care they so rightfully deserve so that they can feel safe and thrive.  

There will be several future lessons related to children and grief, and this is just an introduction.

When Angels Sing: The Time My Cousin Died

The poem, When Angels Sing, was a poem I wrote a few years after the traumatic death of my cousin Mark, who was killed on February 26, 1995, at the young age of 24, in a head-on car and truck collision, with a driver who was drunk and who was driving on the wrong side of the road.

The car and truck collision was so violent in that Mark was killed instantly. His chest was crushed from the deadly impact. His forehead was deeply gashed. One of his legs was broken. In spite of this horrific tragedy—and loss, the drunk driver did not receive a scratch nor suffered any consequences for shortening my cousin’s life.

At that time, I had never experienced the death of a family member or anyone who was close to me who ended up being killed. The emotions I felt were beyond devastation. How can a person possibly wrap their mind around the fact that a young person, with so much life and so much life to share and give, was dead? It felt like a nightmare, but the nightmare was real.

The Sunday night when Mark was killed, I was on-call in providing overnight shelter to homeless youth who were in crisis. My beeper beeped throughout the night. Usually, during a weekend on-call assignment, the need and request for emergency shelter was minimal. But the Sunday night when Mark was killed, there were so many young people who were in desperate need of emergency shelter, and by the grace and the mercy of the Lord, I was able to find shelter for all of them. I sat my grief aside to help a very vulnerable population.

Monday morning, February 27, 1995, was one of the most beautiful, winter mornings that I had ever seen in my life. It looked like a crystal wonderland outside. The trees were covered with long icicles that looked like crystals. It seemed as if heaven had paused for a few seconds to cry over the death of my cousin. The morning was simply breath-taking, and beautiful.

During the week of Mark’s death, I was bold enough to ask God to show me his death through my spiritual sight, and He did. I saw the whole deadly scene. Believe it or not, what was so surprising was the fact that Mark (his spirit, his true self) was not all conscious of what had happened to him. It was as if his spirit was in a daze and shock, trying to make sense of what had happened.

As I was in one of my morning prayers (during the same week of Mark’s death), God directed me to light this beautiful eggshell blue candle that I had bought years ago, to help guide Mark’s spirit to the light. Up to the time of Mark’s funeral, I was in deep prayer and was in tune to his spirit, asking him to go to the light. (I know some of my readers may think that I have lost my mind.) But, truly, this actually happened.

I cannot exactly tell you when, but shortly after Mark’s death and burial, I had a dream of him one morning. There he was in the midst of this beautiful autumn scenery, and he was smiling and grinning from ear to ear (and that boy could smile too). I cannot even describe how beautiful the trees looked. The trees were glowing with beautiful golden and brown colors, and beautiful light penetrated everything around. While in this dream, Mark said to me, smiling, with happiness like I had never seen, “I’m alright. I’m happy. Thank you.” I woke up immediately, in happy tears, knowing that my obedience to God assisted Mark in getting home safely and with the assurance that I will see him again.

Something good can come from a bad situation. Mark’s death penetrated my heart and soul with a fierce and passionate determination to sit at the feet of God to learn as much as I could about death and dying. During this process, God gave me the vision of “Working Through It.” And nineteen years later, after having experienced so much in life, here I am, sharing my vision, dream and knowledge and hoping that someone, anyone, finds comfort and benefit from one of these posts. And to God goes the glory!

I would like to share my poem, “When Angels Sing,” which I wrote in 1997 in memory of Mark. We don’t know how long a loved one or one of our earthly angels will be with us. But while we have them in our lives, let’s cherish them and love them and let them know how much they’re loved and appreciated, even if they are now in heaven.

When Angels Sing

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
They sing so ever sweetly
Like beautiful cords of angelic melodies
They come in all colors and shades
Beige, licorice, amber, mahogany, including jade

You never know when an angel will sing
Nor what gifts they will bring
Angels cross our paths everyday
Some come for a moment, while others come to stay

If you are hungry and thirsty and someone brings you manna
and drink in your wilderness,
That’s an angel.

What about the time when you were sick and there was
only one lonesome somebody to hold your hand.
That was an angel.

An expense is due, and a gentle hand places a folded napkin
in the palm of your hand.
To your surprise, it contained a hundred dollar bill.
That’s an angel.

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

When I see the color purple dancing in the wind
The sunshine in my face becomes a grin.
When I see two squirrels playing and romping about
It fills me with joy, without a doubt.
When I see a baby shaking its rattle in pure delight
It makes my day that much bright.
Or when I see a mother lovingly wipes the tears from her child’s eyes
The feeling that rushes through my heart requires no name or a reason why.

O how beautiful do angels sing
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

When you give:
a cup of water
a thank you
a hug
a “you’re welcome”
laughter
or even an “I love you”

An angel sings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings
Just like the flutter of butterfly wings.

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MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?

When someone we love dies, we tend to go through a storm of emotions. One emotion that can surface is the feeling of abandonment. We feel as though the one who died has recklessly left us or deserted us or walked out on us or quit on us or forsaken us.

 On the day of Good Friday, Jesus Christ of Nazareth felt abandoned, forsaken. In the Gospel according to Matthew, in chapter 27 and verse 46, it says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”

 I cannot even begin to imagine or even comprehend the suffering, the pain, the cruelty, or the devastation that Jesus Christ experienced on the Cross as He was being executed to death.

 But one thing I do know is that even though Jesus Christ was the Son of God, He also was a man (a human being) with feelings and emotions. In the above Bible verse, the first feeling or emotion that Jesus Christ expressed was that He cried. Yes, tears! And as He cried in anguish and in pain, He was very verbal about. He wanted and needed God to hear Him. He didn’t hold it in. He shouted it out!

 As Jesus Christ was dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ not only wanted God to feel His tears, His cries (the first emotion), but Jesus Christ wanted God to feel the second emotion that He was experiencing on the Cross, which was the feeling of abandonment, feeling forsaken by His own Father, God.

 During our time on this earth, we will experience crying episodes and feelings of abandonment and feeling forsaken when a loved one dies. There might be times when we might feel as if we are going crazy. These feelings (along with so many other feelings) are part of the human experience and part of the grieving process when we experience the pain from the death of a loved one or even loss in our lives.

 When death and loss penetrate our lives and when grief becomes too heavy to bear, I truly believe that God cares. I believe that God is with us; I believe that God feels our pain; I believe that God is holding us with loving arms as He dries our tears; and I believe that God will never ever leave us or forsake us, no matter what happens in our life on this earth.

 As Jesus Christ of Nazareth was dying on the Cross, I believe that God the Father was with Him every step of the way, and I believe that God was heartbroken over the devastation of the Cross.

 Some people feel that the expression of feelings or emotions is a sign of weakness when their hearts break from the weight of loss in their lives. If Jesus Christ of Nazareth was not afraid to express and verbalize His feelings and emotions, as He was dying on the Cross, then why should we (as humans) be afraid to express our feelings and emotions during times of crises?

 When we give ourselves permission to express our grief from the loss of a love, in essence, we are allowing our spirits and our bodies to heal. By the way, grief-work takes time. We have to work through it and pray through it.

 As we travel through life, we will have moments when we will ask, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I truly believe that during these fragile moments of feeling abandoned or feeling forsaken, God is closer to us than we could ever imagine, and I believe that He is very concerned about the different feelings and emotions that run wild through our hearts, especially our tears.

WORKING THROUGH IT: THE VISION

Working Through It was divinely inspired in the winter of 1998. During this time I was conducting seminars and workshops in spiritual and psychological education for students who were interested in careers in clinical and counseling psychology and social work. A very popular workshop that I conducted was death and dying. I was overwhelmed by its popularity, and it became my favorite and signature workshop. Because of this popular workshop, I was gifted with the opportunity to teach a course, The Psychology of Death and Dying, in Spring 2000. One of my students was a banker and her feedback of The Psychology of Death and Dying course was as following: “I came to this class with many reservations. You made the class one in which you not only learned the subject matter, but simply enjoyed doing so…believe me when I say that you have a gift for teaching. Your personality permits one to participate in the class without reservations. You must not allow anyone, including you, stop you from teaching. Through teaching you share your greatest gifts.” This one, particular gift of feedback, after seventeen years, has finally encouraged me to step out on faith in creating this blog and to trust God in the process. We all have beautiful light within us and we must permit it to shine. Continue reading “WORKING THROUGH IT: THE VISION”