Category Archives: grief and trauma

to be there with children

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I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there with children.
Or even a single child.
When I fly I’m aware of everything I’m touching
everything my bag is touching
I’m aware of the food that costs four times what it’s worth.
I’m unsure of timeframes and unsure of connections and unsure of pickups.
But I’ve always been allowed in.
And I’ve always been allowed on.
They went through my bag one time,
me standing there embarrassed because my clothes were
thrown in and wadded-up and others were watching before we boarded the plane.
But I boarded the plane.
And I made it home to my home,
safe, neighbors I know, a language I know, a church I know.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there now with children.
Or even a single child.
After running literally to save your child from
bombs
explosives
machetes
murder
sex-trafficking.
After running for God knows how long
(And believe me in this, God does know how long).
You follow the rules.
You do the paperwork.
You take the tests.
You pass the screenings.
You file everything you can with everyone they tell you to file it with
and then you wait
in a tent, or a classroom, or in hiding,
more than 24 months
104 weeks
730 days
17,545 hours
1,051,900 minutes
with children.
or even a single child
hoping that you’ve done everything you can to save their lives
or your only child’s life.

When my delays are over 45 minutes,
my insides begin erupting.

And then you hit our shores,
passing our lady of liberty promising you welcome as you’ve been
running,
literally,
for your children’s life
or even for your only child’s life.

But then we tell you,
Christian mother
Christian father
Muslim mother
Muslim father
Human mother
Human father
that we don’t understand you
or your children,
or even your only child,
because you aren’t from here.
So in our loud and uninformed anger
we feel better trapping you
and your children,
or even your only child,
in customs in our airport for an indefinite amount of time,
or in your tent, in your classroom, or in hiding,
until the death you’ve been running from
takes your life and the life of your children,
or even the life of your only child.

Pray for us.

Pray that God would shout at us
as we look around our comfortable rooms
at our children,
or even our only child,
and remind us that children, or a single child,
another human in the image of God,
or as Christ has said,
remind us that it is Jesus Christ himself
who remains trapped in the airport tonight,
or in the tent, or in a classroom, or in hiding.
That we have sentenced Christ to death again
from the comfort of our living rooms,
and under the auspices of protecting our own children,
or even our only child.

Pray for us.
We can’t imagine what it must be like
to be there with children,
or even our only child.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the [a]orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in…

 

silence encourages the tormentor

elie-wiesel.we-must-always-take-sides

“Are you German?” he asked as three friends stood beside him; two stood to his left, one to his right.

“No. Of course I’m not,” I answered, realizing as the words came out of my mouth that being a white American to me meant I was only American; I was not German or English or Jewish or Irish or Scottish or Russian or French or Norwegian.

“No. I’m not,” I answered, realizing how blond-haired and blue-eyed I was when the question was asked, and realizing that I felt guilty because the color of my skin and the hue of my eyes and hair about five seconds after the question was thrown into the hallway as we sat waiting on others, now at the end of the Holocaust museum in Israel.

A profe soon rushed him and his buddies out of the museum hallway and through the exit doors moments afterward, I say now with a more red and more sweaty countenance waiting on the roughly eight dudes behind me in my group who were making their way through the horrifyingly real and terrifyingly factual Holocaust museum in Jerusalem over ten years ago. I rub my hands through my blonde, nappy hair.

We left the space soon after.
We ate dinner in New Jerusalem.
I sent a girl two tables over dessert for her birthday through our server who afterward informed me she was engaged “but appreciated the knafeh.”

I’ve gotten so old.

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Elie Wiesel died today.

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If I was reasonably intelligent and generally wise and not from West Tennessee, it would not have required the “Oprah Book Club” stamp several years ago on his book Night for me to have ever heard his name walking through Target looking for Coke Zero and classy toilet-bowl cleaner.

But I’m not reasonably intelligent and generally wise, and I am from West Tennessee, so here I was.

And here I am.

A white American male who has been told both it’s all my fault and also I must protect what I’ve “earned” at all costs. I’m left confused.

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I walked through the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a few years ago with friends and coworkers from one of my employers and an organization that values my deepest insecurities and deepest hopes.

I wept.

We wept.

We debriefed later that evening, and I could only wonder, “Would I have been that one random white dude standing in a sea of black men and women demanding justice, respect, and equality.” I told our folks at dinner, black and brown and white and pale, “I hope I would be one who stood up against those plowed by horses, intimidated by canes, and hung by ropes in the days of my parents (not my grandparents).

I later learned, driving through Alabama to visit friends, these hangings were in my own day. They were not carefully removed to parents or grandparents; It was the right now.

But I could only hope that I would have been one of those few white folks in the crowd demanding justice, respect, and equality for the “other” in those days.

Those days which are these days.

Elie Wiesel died today.

And I am hoping in my less trustworthy but more important parts that I will lean into Wiesel’s character and spirit and honor.

+++

It may take me down, but I must stand up for those who are pushed under. I do have blonde hair and blue eyes. I benefitted from both slavery. But I need to answer “no” to the teenagers in the final hallway at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. And I need to answer “no” to my coworker. And I need to answer “no” to the person who checks me in to vote a few months from now where I’m held at ethical gunpoint and asked if I stand for nothing or if I’ll fall for anything.

Rest in peace, after such incredible chaos, brother Wiesel.

I cannot be neutral.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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an open letter to my students

i-also-remember-this

An Open Letter to My Students on the Eve of the Orlando Shooting.

June 12, 2016

Dear Students,

You likely woke up today as I did: late. You may or may not have turned on the news as is my morning wake-up custom, coffee in hand and multiple snoozes later. Within moments it became clear that there was yet another mass shooting while we were sleeping. This morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. Over 100 dead and injured.

I remember thinking ‘My soon-to-be godson is to be baptized today. My responsibilities seem yet-again larger now.’

I’m late to the service by a few minutes this morning; I know you’re not surprised. I stood too long at the television in my bedroom, clenching the wooden ledge on top of the dresser left in the room by my great, great-aunts who were the unusual of their era; they were highly educated, remarkably fashionable, and unusually independent women from a time where that was not allowed. No doubt they were recipients of both celebration and judgment. The dresser left in the bedroom of this house they used which I now sleep in has new fingernail marks as of this morning, left accidentally as I should have been dressing for a baptismal service but was instead being washed again in the blood of others.

“I also remember this, and wish I did not,” as Didion once said. I remember that I was not surprised.

Yet another killing, this time the largest mass shooting in our states’ history and the largest terrorist attack on US soil since my freshmen year of college when I sat in a lecture hall of Blanchard at Wheaton and watched the towers fall before my eyes.

I remember this morning thinking that I was surprised that morning as an 18-year-old hopeful, but that I am not surprised now as a 32-year-old hopeful. And it is the hopefulness of my better wiring which has been wanting to talk to all of you all day long today, even though you’ve managed to sneak away from me for the summer. I’ve managed to talk to you in one of our random, side conversations all day long in my head regardless. Then I decided that I hope you might hear it.

Many of you value your faith deeply; I do as well. Because of this, those who believe differently from you are owed your love and honor. The faith you claim has told you so; the faith leaders you are bothered by have challenged this. Follow your faith.

Many of you think
public policy,
issues of social policy and social welfare,
wealth and poverty,
emails to your governors and senators and representatives
(unanswered as most of them go…which you will remember),
childhood development and influence,
family structure and complexity,
group norms and roles,
mob mentalities and social capacities,
and research formulas and findings
aren’t connected in any real way
to your deep desire to help those who are in need.

The crimes of today should remind you that these things are all connected.

The language and now law signed in by Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee that allow therapists to legally hate and discriminate by refusing counseling to those of the LGBTQ community affected by today’s mass shooting is an issue of policy, welfare, wealth and poverty, legislators who listen and those who ignore (and are paid to do so, which you will remember), legislation and its [silent] funders, biological development and its influences, structure, complexity, norms, roles, mob mentalities and social capacities, research and its findings…

This language and this legislation and these legislators and these voices are the authors of the men and women who will come into your offices and onto your caseloads wounded, orphans of those killed by this morning’s violence, orphans of those who had parents who lived lives of silence or submission to a norm, or stood silently in the back of your sanctuaries on mornings like these as you went to church and thought it was a regular Sunday morning.

I felt the need all day long today, now pushing the clock to make it honest, to let you know that I expect the world of you.

I am pretty sure I have told you this. You will be the best.

I expect a whole other kind of world from you. I expect you to wake up on days like today with the news of the moment and the heart of a saint that is both willing to break the rules and willing to break the norms to dig your fingernails into the wooden ledge on top of the dresser and be late for something planned and appropriate because you decided you had to stand up and speak out for something possibly inappropriate because it puts all of our humanity at risk.

So in class, when I hound you and harass you and rap at you and sing at you and yell at you and take points from you and even when I feed you in an effort to buy you, please know this: I do all these things so that some day, some Sunday morning when someone is waking up and committing to go to church and pledge gratefully to be a godfather for a young man or young woman who has not yet learned to distrust the world…

I do all these things so that you will remember that it will never be okay for us to not be surprised at this kind of hateful news that greeted us this morning.

I’m counting on you.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

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in the instant

Life changes in an instant, An ordinary instant, Joan Didion, Quote, New York Times Magazine, Didion, Most Hopeful, Quotes, Life, Change, Donald Jordan

Life changes in the instant.
The ordinary instant.

Joan Didion

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we all will

ann-livingstone-funeral

I watched my own mother file in, first in line of the four women. The two directly behind her I know well and have a heavy respect for as game-changers, rule-writers, integrity-definers, and culture-forgers. The fourth I’ve never met in person and somehow now in this moment feel embarrassed because I know her name and legacy well. These four women together are the honorary pallbearers for Ann Livingstone today, a funeral that is unwelcome and too early for her lifetime and her influence in our own. They are each dressed in black, of course, as they filed in St. Luke’s historic building, but with a sharp and intentional splash of red as Ann had instructed.

I picked up flowers later that afternoon for the tables and counters and surfaces at Mom and Dad’s house later that night. I was looking for all white blooms, and then remembered the instruction for a punch of red. So all white was chosen, and a punch of red per Ann’s request. A southern dinner for family and friends, and in Ann’s case…students, was held at Mom and Dad’s house the evening of the funeral.

The door I came home late through nearly two decades ago as a teenager I was now opening to one-time students who had become Ann’s students either officially in a classroom or practically in the world because she instilled in them this deep longing to work excellently and brilliantly and faithfully and daringly in their respective fields, whether political science or peacemaking or religion or community development or justice or healthcare or human rights. They were arriving on our from porch from California and Canada to who knows where paying respects and mourning the reality that Ann was now, whether she wanted to or not, offering the ultimate assignment: taking on the work that had now been stolen from her far too soon.

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A few days ago, a good friend of mine posted online an image of our high school English Lit teacher Lisa Kee. She was too crazy to categorize, and too sincere to discount. She was diagnosed with cancer before our eyes as we watched from the desks in her classroom. She proceeded to teach us new ways of being honest with our own humanity, our own fears, our own faith, and our own responsibilities to read and write. She instilled in us the responsibility that by doing so we were shaping the world around us. She told us about the horror of waking up to baldness because of chemo, the value of fresh air and moon beams when you’re trapped in a sterile hospital room, and the fear of knowing that death is closer than it had been invited.

For me, and for many, she was the first person who ever made it clear that my voice was worth using and worth being heard, and therefore worth being trained and challenged because our shared humanity was at stake.

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When Mrs. Kee died, her funeral was the biggest of any class reunion I’ve ever been to. To invoke her name shapes the conversation that follows, and raises the bar of what we expect among each of us. Ann was never my professor, but I’m the recipient of those she taught, both officially as students who are now my friends and colleagues, and unofficially as friends, like my parents, who have been shaped and challenged and pushed to live wholeheartedly because of what she has taught them.

Death is bullshit.
Unwelcome.
Unnatural.
Untimely.
Unreasonable.
Unacceptable.

But shots of red, unexpected and insistent fugues, the filing in of these four pallbearers, and images of the past wrestle hard against it, fighting honorably against grief in making way to the surface insisting the work must continue. To live with honesty, teach with integrity and urgency, and die with dignity are a sharp lesson and challenge.

Justice waits for us to fight for it. Peace waits for us to make it. Goodness waits for us live into it.

And in the loss of our larger-than-life teachers who have now been stolen by the fight, we find ourselves pushing a little harder to pass on the imperative of living in ways that are worthy of the human spirit.

To Lisa Kee and to Ann Livingstone, I will do my best. And I will push my students with all I have to do their bests.

We all will.

djordan
Pine Tree

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you will go to church tomorrow

you-will-go-to-church-tomorrow
About five years ago, I sat next to her the morning she was trying church again. I understand why she had quit trying altogether up until now…the threats and the punches from her husband, the need to stay in the marriage from her old church and pastor, the reality of how in hell to care for her children and protect herself at the same time. I couldn’t believe she showed up to begin with. And on that Sunday morning, the sermon itself was ultimately about how wives should keep doing the right thing even when their husbands’ don’t in hopes that their husbands will come around. God bless.

For people dealing with socks in the floor or toilet seats left up, perhaps this is not a problematic statement. But the reality that more than two thirds of christian women in violent relationships feel like it’s their duty to tolerate the violencemakes it a problem. The difficulty with knowing that nine out of ten church-going, christian women interviewed felt that their husbands used their religion and doctrine to support their abuse2 makes it even messier.

I worked at the church at that time, so I found myself on Monday morning wringing my hands while deciding whether or not to mention this difficulty to the preacher. When walking in that morning, one of the staff who worked there at the time asked if I had been at church the day before and what I thought about it. After playing dumb and answering with questions, it became clear that she was a survivor of domestic violence and left the sermon the day before feeling guilty for leaving the marriage. Another conversation with yet another church staffer made it clear that there were at least two women in the building who had been in “christian” marriages in the past where domestic violence was present. They had both pushed courageously through their church’s tradition that you have to stay, wait it out, and keep doing the right thing in hopes that your male “head of the christian marriage” will come around. The two of them before 9:30 in the morning made it clear that I had to mention this issue to the preacher in hopes that in the future he would be willing to make the caveat to avoid these silent sufferers leaving church thinking God is mad at them for their bravery in avoiding assault.

His response when I scheduled a meeting with him about the issue?

“You can caveat a sermon to death.”

A few days later, an additional response.

“It’s not your place to talk to me like you’re my teacher.”

I managed to leave my employment at that church too many months later after these interactions. I’ve learned in the meantime, now serving my second year as chair for an incredible nonprofit working to empower women and men in abusive relationships to get the hell out, the reality that many churches are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence out of fear that people are looking for excuses for divorce.

Please catch your breath with me.

Many churches and their male pastors, in this area at least, are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault out of fear that women are looking for excuses for divorce. Or, for the incredibly important reason that we can “caveat a sermon to death.”

To my friend that Sunday morning sitting next to me, leg and arm muscles tightening as you received word from the pastor that you should stick it out, I’m so sorry. I wan you I left. I moved on. And I wish I had never invited you. To church staff who pushed through the same issues, I’m so sorry. I left. I want you to know I moved on. And so did you. To the women who are still in church and still in marriages and still wondering whether or not God honors marriage more than your own safety and dignity, I have good news. He is for you.

This past Sunday, I watched as the Executive Director of WRAP, the nonprofit working to empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence, climbed the steps to the microphone at my church during the middle of the service. I felt my watery eyes turn on as she spoke gently and directly about the number of women who show up for services at WRAP and say that they were afraid to tell their churches because they were afraid they wouldn’t be believed. I watched the priest walk over to this woman as she was trying to make her way off the platform as he said, “please don’t go yet. If I can, I’d like to pray for you and the people your organization works with.” I watched him put his arms around her and say, “Thank you God for women like Daryl, and for places like WRAP, and for the work they do as a part of your church to let people know your heart if for marriages and families of mutual respect. You are a God who wants peace in families, and safety for all in the family. We know, God, that you are never for the abuse of your children. So we say today that we stand with you against domestic violence for all reasons.  Empower your servants to work with great power to free those in danger, and know that you are with them.”

You will go to church tomorrow. Is your church willing to honor peace over abusive marriage? Ask. Find out. Make it an issue, and make sure that your church will speak up. The people affected by these issues won’t cause problems in your congregations; they will go home and take another fist to the face. The burden is ours. The insistence is His.

djordan
Pine Tree

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic or sexual violence, contact WRAP by visiting www.wraptn.org. 

Nash, S. T., Faulkner, C., & Abell, R. R. (2013). Abused conservative Christian wives: Treatment considerations for practitioners. Counseling and Values (58). October, pp. 205-220.
2. Nickmeyer, N., Levitt, H. & Horne, S. G. (2010). Putting on Sunday best: The silencing of battered women within Christian faith communities. Feminism and Psychology. (20)2. February, pp. 94-113.

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Lord willing, we won’t keep growing

Our Jackson Home posted a piece I wrote reflecting on this year’s Remember Me Walk for survivor’s of homicide loss. This group is astounding to me, and I’ve copied some of the post below with a link to read it in its entirety. And if you have not yet checked out Our Jackson Home, you should probably get on the ball.

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The crowd was larger this year than any crowd the past seven. The Carl Grant Events Center at Union University was filled with tables surrounded by people of all kinds, ages, colors, and worlds held together by the sad reality that someone they loved has been murdered—some of them fifty years ago and some five months ago. The reality that no one truly understands this grief is echoed in the camaraderie across the room. “Lord-willing,” they say, “we won’t keep growing. We don’t want other people to know what this feels like.”

Grief is breathtaking. All have experienced it, and we know the deep-down grumbling in our guts that must be an echo of the deep-down grumbling in our souls.

A life is lost. A story ends. …

Click here to keep reading on Our Jackson Home

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the funeral laugh

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You know it.

And please.
Don’t act like you don’t know it.

Don’t act like you don’t know what the funeral laugh is. If you pretend that you don’t know it, I’ll know you’re lying and that’s an entirely different thing to address. We’re together here, you and me.

We all know what the funeral laugh is.
And we’re all guilty.

That inappropriate laugh in the moment where we are faced with the reality that the clock stops ticking one day. The clock stops ticking and the reality rushes in that we are more time-limited than we are prepared to admit. And we don’t know why things happen the way they do, why pain and progress get shaped and honored and forgotten the way they do; why pain lasts and hope lasts; why the possibility of something different for the future can operate with larger and stronger and broader strength than the reality of the way things have been in the past.

That completely inappropriate laugh that surprised us as much as anyone who heard it before we muffled it with a cough or choke or some other lame cover.

We can pretend as though we are wired for money or wired for sex or wired for love or wired for prestige.
But we can’t pretend for long.
Because once we catch anything we chase,
it sheds its skin
and we realize that we are naked and selfish,
insecure,
hopeful,
and powerless in more ways we care to consider.

And that’s when in stings.
It’s gonna be the funeral laugh or the funeral wail. One is coming out and we can’t help it.
We are at the funeral. We know that the person in the casket is highlighted by a story that now has defined lines of what was and wasn’t accomplished.
And we are terrified.
And rightly so, because we are afraid of what the present reality means for us when we shove it up against the reality of the future.

But, it’s that laugh that comes out. And in the same way it’s poorly timed and poorly placed, it’s also unexpected and sends a surge to the abdomen which sends a surge to the brain. And the surges remind us that we are, today, in this moment, alive. And we are alive in a place that is filled with people on the edge of laughter or tears, people ourselves included, who are still making the little choices one after another because our clock is still ticking. Our story still has options.

So we remember our inside jokes and laughs.
So we send cards to the mailbox with stamps and seals that say thanks again for everything.
So we let the other person in front of us in traffic, in line, in thought.
So we pause and raise a glass to make a toast that’s more a prayer than the blessing would have been.
So we make a decision to risk admitting we are powerless and hope that something rises to catch us.
So we wear party hats when making grown-up decisions that aren’t fun because we are alive and here to make them.

So we decide to choose the laugh at that inappropriate time that’s marked by real and gritty silence and seriousness. We know that we will wail again in a moment, and we know that both are actually fine.

But right this second, we choose the laugh. And then it won’t stop. We can’t stop it.

At this funeral, in this thin space where we are asked again that huge question about what it means to move forward in the world we will stop moving in, for a time, one day, we choose the funeral laugh. Because we can. And because we must.

djordan
Pine Tree

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moving forward. always.

It’s all a mess, of course.
We run into it knowing that we have a plan
We run into it knowing that we have the knowledge
to fix it
to solve it
to make it better
We burn to fix it, to solve it, to make it better
So the fact the we have the change to
put the plan into action
and use our knowledge to make it better
must mean that all will be well
because
we are ready
to make it well.

But then,
we wake up to the news of
all gone wrong.
all unexpected.
all that is against all we’d hoped for
worked for
longed for
waited for
prayed for.

It’s in that moment
of course,
that we realize it’s all a mess
and we begin to wonder if plans and knowledge
and we begin to wonder if the burn to solve it, to fix it
are an existential mocking of sorts.

And yet
even waking up to the news of
loss
death
murder
backward
pointlessness

we can’t help but rub our eyes and
do our best to face forward
and look upward
and work to put our plans and knowledge
back to work
knowing that we may not actually ever get what we hope for
but knowing even more that
we are not willing to hope for less.
Even in the mess.
So we move
forward.

always.

and so we are bold to pray.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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