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Two Short Fictions

A "Letter of Demonic Advice" in the style of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
regarding the loss of a child and a short story I'd like to believe could come true.

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More Resources and Materials for Bereaved Families

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Selected Newsgroup Posts
(edited for privacy and repetition)

August 23, 1997 alt.books.cs-lewis Lewis is often referred to as [Jack].

L. wrote:

>The world is fallen. The whole creation groans and travails. And we are
>so ready to accept every good thing that comes to us as our due,
>blaming God for every evil.
>We live in a web of co-inherence.


>don't know the good you have done, and you may never see the
>end of it, but every tear is gathered in His bottle.
>If you don't love, you can't be hurt, but if you can't be hurt, then you
>can't love, either.

L., thank you for your outlook on this. Without going into details,
I regret that I am embarking on a journey of suffering which began last
week. This is a journey that I know not how it will end, but I do know
one thing, God walks with me when I need it, and carries me when I fall.

I have been blessed to be asked to put my faith to practical use in my
life, much as a musician is asked to give a concert after practicing for
years and years on their own. Sooner or later, the time comes to show the
world around us that faith is more than an intellectual or philosophical
exercise, it has *practical* application and brings us into the presence
of the Holy here on earth. The Peace, and the Joy that [C. S.] Lewis speaks about
are practical, life affirming manifestations of a connection with the
heavenly which we as humans have so little capacity for true

We have developed words which describe the "nature of God," words such as
Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence. I submit that we need to
recognize that these are very limiting words, describing a very limited
comprehension of the divine, and are greatly in need of re-evaluation. I
do not think we understand the concepts they represent nearly as much as
we think we do.

In dealing with this world of men and women of free will, it must be
recognized that that free will may be used against us. We can't build
walls around ourselves, it may still break through. We can't be paranoid,
we simply must trust that the compassion, mercy, and love for others that
we have been talking about for all these years, is in fact put to good use
in our society. No one has a signed contract that says that bad things
won't happen. All we can do is prepare our hearts and souls to touch the
hand of God, and feast at the banqueting table He sets aside for us to
nourish us when they occur. We must be prepared to forgive others their
trespasses against us. For if we do not, how can we, as Jack astutely
notes, expect God to forgive us of ours against Him. How also, can we
live knowing that He does forgive our trespasses against Him and not
extend the same mercy to those around us? The Lord's Prayer is not a
simple recitation anymore.

My sixteen year-old son William was murdered last Tuesday in an armed
robbery of a fast food restaurant where he was on his second day of
employment. Did God make it happen? Of course not, a man with a gun
exercised his free will and aimed and fired. Did God know it was going to
happen? Yes, perhaps even from the beginning of time, but I will simply
have to plead ignorance of this particular concept, as it is moot. Could
God have prevented it? Again, moot. It doesn't matter if He *could have*
and it doesn't matter that He *did not*, all that matters is that God Is.
Can all of this be turned to His glory and the good of society? Most
definitely. Remember that forgiveness part and imagine the community
response when they heard that the father of a sixteen year old murder
victim forgave the man that did it on local tv. No malice, no anger, no
shock, no denial, no hatred. Simply sincere forgiveness, straight from
the heart. Those are the most important words I have ever spoken in my

Do I grieve? Yes, I have and I will, but I am not bitter, nor am I angry.
I have the peace that passes all understanding in my heart (I'm sure I
don't understand it). I do not know what the blueprint looks like, I only
know I (and my son) are but lines on the page, and I trust that the
Draftsman knows what He is doing.

Out of this *one* tragedy, we have set ourselves a challenge to see just
how many good things we can bring. Peace and healing to a community, and
to the hearts of our friends and neighbors; community supported
scholarships for our young people to go to school; and above all,
inspiration to those in need of a divine touch. God is Good.

I'm sorry for rambling. But I have gained much insight from this group of
people who share the admiration and respect of a man to whom I owe much of
my understanding of how the world/cosmos *really* seems to work. Please
keep us in your prayers.

I wish you all peace.

August 28, 1997 alt.books.cs-lewis in response to a thread on why bad things happen.

Okay, here goes. Let's see if I can put some of my thoughts down now that
I have been lurking for awhile. Please bear with me, this may even be
longer than one of J.'s posts ;-)

It has been my conclusion recently that bad things will occur in our
society. Period. These bad things are caused by a variety of initiating
forces: Nature, illness, "bad" people acting intentionally, "good" people
causing an accidental event, et al. The simple fact is that we will, at
some time in our lives, *have* to deal with sorrow and grief. That is
simply the way the world is set-up. Sometimes it may be a minor
short-lived sadness, sometimes it may be a gutwrenching, life-changing
catastrophe. But, even if all "evil" in the world were removed, we would
still have parents who would pass on, pets who would die, accidents due to
carelessness (cf Lewis' unfallen world in Out of the Silent Planet).
Indeed, it seems that our culture today is less accustomed to grief and
loss than generations past. Better medicine and more efficient technology
has perhaps given us a small reprieve. However, our culture's
*unwillingness* to be unhappy (daily reinforced by Madison Ave.) seems to
be a more powerful driving force in divorcing us from our sorrow. Perhaps
this has to do with pride more than anything else. Listen to the words of
the old hymns and you will quickly realize that our ancestors were much
better acquainted with personal grief than we are, and were perhaps better
prepared to deal with it, although I cannot speak as an authority on this.
It does seem though, that this preparedness to deal with sorrow when it
occurred went hand in hand with a sense of humility before God and His

Perhaps much of this "deserving good things" is more a result of old Tom
J's famous "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" line. A nice
ideal for a newly formed society, but my observation leads me to understand
that, while we might have a right to pursue it, we may not always catch up
with it. There are over 120 newsgroups in for all sorts of
grief, sorrow, affliction, distress, etc. Many of these people are in
greater need of comfort than most of us. Many of these people are in much
greater need of just the simple things in life than most of us. Many of
these people are also remarkably strong, humble, sweet spirited, and rock
solid in their faith, often signing off with the word "peace". Grief and
sorrow will do that for one.

If we are intent in our lives to live according to "the Book" and involve
God in our daily activities, then we can be assured that He will take steps
to bring us to a place of greater reliance upon Him and greater spiritual
maturity. Of that we can be sure. Does He carefully plan our agonies; or
is He simply an opportunist who takes advantage of our calamities as they
occur; or does He allow evil to overtake us and throw us down in order to
serve His purpose; or is it None of the above? I plead ignorance, and
seriously question anyone who claims to have a "proven" answer. Again, I
think that the whole concept of God's nature must be re-evaluated. I don't
think we have Him figured out nearly as well as we think we do, with all
due respect to Calvin and Spurgeon ;-) After all, we only begin to
comprehend what our limited minds can understand of what He has *chosen* to
reveal to us.

AFAIK, all of the verses dealing with spiritual growth and maturity show
the motivation coming from on High. If it were left up to us, most of us
would be spiritual couch potatoes. Some schools(?) of thought perhaps do
their adherents the greatest disservice because they *do not* prepare
people to deal with adversity. We cannot be responsible for what others
may do to us. All we can be responsible for is *how* we respond to their
tresspass against us. I truly believe that there is no sin against our
fellows which could not be prevented or avoided by the timely application
of the fruits of the Spirit, (Live, Joy, Peace, Long-Suffering,
Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Self-Control) my own case included.

One last thought. One of the most important things I have taken away from
Jack's writings is that Peace and Joy have nothing to do with happiness or
nice lives. They go deeper than these mere superficial emotions and
attitudes. Indeed, the only one who can offer you true "happiness" on
earth is someone who can so completely control your environment so as to
make sure no un-moderated force touches your life. We call those cults.
No thanks.

I'm not after happiness, I'm not even after "good things." These mean
nothing to me anymore, all man's wisdom has burned away. All that remains
is God's Word, tried by fire. That is the coin of the realm in my life
now. The Sermon on the Mount is at the top of my reading list, and Psalm
23 is engraved on my heart. I am but clay in the Potter's hand, and you
know something, that's all I ever wanted to be.

"Surely Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."

I wish you all peace,

Sept. 2, 1997

I regret that I must join your fellowship of sorrow. I was fortunate
enough to find this group through a rather round-about way, and after
lurking for a day or two to get myself oriented, I would like to post.

I am embarking on a journey of suffering which began the night of August
12. This is a journey that I know not how it will end, but I do know one
thing, God walks with me when I need it, and carries me when I fall. On
that night at 10:50 pm, while on his second day at work, my sixteen
year-old son William Jenkins was murdered during an armed robbery attempt
at a fast-food restaurant where he was employed. One bullet through the
neck -- he was killed instantly. The robber had been given the money from
the safe, no explanation for his discharging his gun on his way out the
door has been given, outside of the fact that he may have just felt like
shooting someone. Fortunately, due to several miracles too complicated to
go into here, police were on the scene almost immediately, and the suspects
were chased down and arrested. Also fortunately, no one else was injured,
although the other three employees in the back room at the time are
severely traumatized and will need much help and prayer. We now face
several capital murder trials coming up in the next several months, and
many long days ahead. [some of these fact were later realized to be incorrect]

William left behind his mother, brother (13), and sister (10) with whom he
lived; my wife (his stepmother who loved him as if he were her own son)
and me (his father, and close friend); and so many friends and people he
touched with his remarkably talented, loving, and giving life. William
will be greatly missed.

So much for the facts. Now, how do I put all this into perspective and
how do I respond to something which has seemed to reach out from another
world and created such an emptiness in my life that there could be no
vessel large enough to hold it? Well, it's not easy, as all of you surely
... [mostly a repetition of the first post to alt.books.cs-lewis]

I have always believed that we cannot be responsible for what others do to
us. We can only be responsible for how we respond to what they do. As a
result, out of this *one* tragedy, we have set ourselves a challenge to see
just how many good things we can bring. Peace and healing to a community,
and to the hearts of our friends and neighbors; community supported
scholarships for our young people to go to school; and above all,
inspiration to those in need of a divine touch. God is Good. So far the
score is Bad Things: 1, Good Things: Too numerous to count.

Do not mistake that there is no pain. I regret to say that the wound is
as raw and open as there ever was. Faith, confidence, and forgiveness only
serve to help us deal with sorrow the way I believe we were designed to.
But I refuse to ask "What if?", and I refuse to sit in the shadow of death
any longer than absolutely necessary. Do I grieve? Yes, I have and I
probably will for the rest of my life, but I am not bitter, nor am I angry.
I have the peace that passes all understanding in my heart (I'm sure I
don't understand it). I do not know what the blueprint looks like, I only
know I (and my son) are but lines on the page, and I trust that the
Draftsman knows what He is doing.

We are fortunate to have a support group close by which serves families
and friends of murder victims. I regret to say that this group is growing.
We stay active (not necessarily busy), we pray (much easier now than years
past), and we talk a lot. We will not put the cork on the bottle of grief,
when it fills up, we dump it out and start again. We do not depend on our
own strength, we have none of our own left. All our strength is bestowed
from above and is completely dependent on God and His mercy. Everyday is a
learning experience in grief, but everyday also brings a new sunrise.

I'm no one extraordinary. I am just a simple man with a simple faith. I
teach at a small college, nothing fancy, nothing special. If asked three
weeks ago, I would have said what others say to me, "I don't know how in
the world I would ever deal with a tragedy like this." Now I know. I am
but clay in the Potter's hand, and you know something, that's all I ever
wanted to be.

I'm sorry for rambling. I do not wish to burden you, I'm just glad there
is someone out there who will understand.

Please keep us in your prayers as I will keep you in mine.

I wish you all peace.

Sept. 4, 1997 to in response to a thread on forgiveness

It takes no expert to realize immediately that grief such as ours is a
complex process. You recognize this, as we all probably do. It requires
us to deal with *every* fiber of our being -- physical, mental, emotional,
spiritual, and maybe even a few that the doctors haven't discovered yet.
Very few things in life require that of us. We don't get to practice this
stuff very often (others may have some thoughts on this as well, but I can
only think of giving birth, experiencing death, and living with grief as
being in this category). Add to that the fact that dealing with the loss
of someone so close, and in such a sudden and violent way, concentrates the
experience enormously. Yet we survive. And we, too, continue to live,
hopefully to bring as many good things out of the bad as possible. For me,
at least, therein lies the hope, and the legacy of my son William.

If I may take the liberty of explaining my concept of forgiveness for a
moment. For me, forgiveness will not benefit the man who shot my son in
cold blood, with such brutal efficiency, in order to simply make it easier
for him to expediently commit a felony (though William would have, and did
cooperate completely, he would have been a formidable obstacle to anyone
without a weapon). Forgiveness from me won't penetrate the steel bands
wrapped around his heart, nor is it intended to. Justice will be served
upon him, whether in this world, or the next. That is enough for now.

No. Forgiveness is for me, my family, our friends, the community. It is
for all the good people in the world who want to believe that bad can still
be defeated, it is for all those who need to know that we can change the
world with our attitudes and actions. It is for my family to know that
they don't have to be distressed and concerned for my health and safety.
Forgiveness is my gift to myself, and my gift to all the wonderful people
who care about me. Forgiveness brings to me resolution, peace, and above
all, the ability to take action in order to try to keep this from happening
to someone else's child. Forgiveness *breaks* that man's hold over my life
and emotions. He can no longer hurt me. Hate will not consume me.

I am encouraged that you said you do have compassion within you, and it is
turned to those who really need it. That for me has been enormously
important. I think you will find it so, as well.

My heart and prayers go out to you. One thing is sure, we make the rules
up as we go along. We find the things that work for us, and we find the
strength we need from the resources available to us. And we will survive,
and we will live. And I believe in my heart that we, even as adults, can
mature and grow, and move into new hopes and realities which take us beyond
where we were before. There is much yet to discover, about ourselves, and
each other.

I wish you peace. Teach compassion, love, mercy, and kindness to all who
will hear it. For there lies the hope for our future.


Sept.6, 1997 to in response to another loss

I'm sorry for all that you have been through, and your tragic loss. You
have my deepest sympathy, of that you can be sure. I find the unique
nature of everyone's story brings its own trials in dealing with it, as
well so much common ground as well. Quite remarkable when you think about

You have seen first hand the physical effects of unforgiveness, hate, and
rage. I have felt from the beginning that, even if I had not the Biblical
belief that forgiveness was right, appropriate for this situation, and in
line with the way we should behave here on earth, it would still be
necessary in order to keep a second tragedy from coming out of the first.
Though I cannot presume to speak for the dead, I cannot imagine my son
William in his divine peace and joy, being pleased to see me wasting away
and shaking myself to death with raging turmoil. I do not want to see my
friends and family in that condition either, and I have tried to show them
that we do not have to react that way. I am at peace. I am deeply
sorrowful, but I have peace.

I was speaking to a colleague yesterday. He commented on what I had said
at the funeral about forgiveness, and he said "Forgiveness is the greatest
revenge." By that he meant that many people can respond in kind when
insulted or affronted, and in so doing create a situation which simply gets
worse and worse, allowing for yet one more insult. All this does is bring
everyone down to the same level. Forgiveness on the other hand, allows for
no vicious response. It defuses a tense situation rather than allowing it
to escalate. Responding with love and forgiveness can only bring people
up, not down. There can be no peace without Forgiveness. I don't care
whether it is in my heart, or in a war-torn country.

Some of the things that the people in our support group want to do to
their children's murderers are worse than the murder itself. You yourself
feared for the actions of your own daughter. How powerful is this thing
called Hatred that it can destroy us too and bring us to desire and
envision tortures too horrible to speak of? That it can bring us down to
the same level or below that of the one who started the whole mess. If, in
the courtroom, the defendent turns to me with a leering smile and if his
family stares at me in order to wage psychological warfare on me, I will
truly return to them the most peaceful smile they will have ever seen, for
I will not be reduced to their level by hate and anger. At that moment, he
will know that he can't reach out from his cell and continue to exert his
influence on me; he will know that he can't hurt me anymore; he will know
that I am right, and he is wrong; and, I hope, he will realize that he is
in *way* over his head. I suspect it will be rather unsettling for him.

It is easy to swim with the current. I want to challenge people to swim
upstream. I accept without question that there are people who *can't*
forgive. However, I also expect them to accept without question that I

I wish you all peace. I wish that no more sixteen year-olds will die. I
wish my son were sleeping in his bed right now. I must go now. Love one


Sept. 11, 1997 to in response to a thread on faith

During the viewing for my son William (see earlier posts), a good friend
from church came up to me with tears in his eyes, and I could see right off
that he was fearful and afraid. He asked me "Bill, are you still going to
come to church?" to which I replied, "Of course, why wouldn't I?"

He said, "I don't know. Sometimes something like this shakes a person's
faith, and they stop believing."

At that point I knew why he was so scared. I also knew he didn't need to
worry. I said, "Mike, can you imagine me going through this *without* my

I've met face to face in the past two weeks, people who have gone through
what I'm going through, only without a solid foundation of faith to carry
them through the difficulty. I pray for them daily. I am not being
critical, I am saying in all sincerity, love, and concern that they are
starving to death while sitting next to a banquet table of strength and

No one has a warranty for happiness. Indeed, we are promised "Joy" which
as C. S. Lewis astutely notes, has very little to do with being happy. God
works with us, He works in us, and we must do our part as well. No one
took anything *away* from me. I was given a gift from the Father which was
designed to last sixteen years and eleven months. I am truly thankful that
in that time, I did not waste that gift or take it for granted. Now, I
have another gift, and it's time to learn how He wants me to use this one.
In order to do that, I need to keep my eyes off this ball of rock we are
wandering around on, and keep looking up to Him. For how else will I see
the sky?


Sept. 28, 1997 to alt.books.cs-lewis in response to a discussion on moral law

I stated,

>>Be kind, one to another.
P. replied,
>At least to those who deserve it.

Ah, there my dear P. is where we part ways.

The response to returning "good" for "good", and "evil" for "evil" (if we
can put aside definitions for the moment and deal with acts which return
like for like in the accepted manner of our rather complex society) is
certainly reasonable to the human mind, the evolved mind, and the
*rational* mind. Those kinds of responses could easily (to my way of
thinking) be the result of the benefits of survival over time, a sort of
Wild West justice surviving through the ages, affecting the natural
selection process, indeed driving it, as the violent often catches the
naive unaware. Not that any of us were around for the event, nor do we
have the resources to reproduce it: rendering it effectively not directly
observable. Our only recourse, as you, and others have attempted, is to
examine the traces left on our organisms, and the societies we generate in
order to determine the nature of the beast itself. But from what
perspective do we view the tracks? There lies the conflict.

I regret, my dear friend that sooner or later we reach an irrationality
that cannot be reasoned out, regardless of our agenda. Lewis points this
out in his introduction to _The Problem of Pain_. (He also gives some good
insights into his concept of moral law which you might be interested in
examining at your leisure) If there was not a revelatory communication to
mankind, we need to examine the problem of compassion as it relates to
human existence. Not compassion to family, friends, and village, as that
can easily be reconciled as a means to corporate survival, but a compassion
to others -- outsiders, strangers, even enemies. I'm not sure one can
reason that one out.

Let me share this one observation of Lewis', then let me share with you a
personal experience.

From _The Problem of Pain_, chap. 1:
"There was one question which I never dreamed of raising. I never noticed
that the very strength and facility of the pessimist's case at once poses a
problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did
human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good
Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that."

and later:
"There seem, in fact, to be only two views we can hold about awe [with
regards to the Numinous]. Either it is a mere twist in the human mind,
corresponding to nothing objective and serving no biological function, yet
showing no tendency to disappear from that mind at its fullest development
in poet, philosopher, or saint: or else it is a direct experience of the
really supernatural, to which the name Revelation might properly be given."

Now, let us examine my case, if you will. Six weeks ago, my sixteen
year-old son was shot and killed by a man who was robbing the restaurant
where William worked. I think we can agree intuitively that this was an act
which goes against the moral law of most societies. Many would say that it
goes against an ingrained Moral Law which we as humans naturally possess.
(Note, it is not necessary for *all* people to acknowledge this) Where was
this man's conscience? Where was his internal Moral Law regulating his
actions? I do not know. Consciences are delicate things, more sensitive
to damage and abuse than we recognize in our society. I sincerely hope
that he has not completely killed the spark of humanity that lives in him,
but it is entirely possible that he has.

The effect of this crime on me physically, and my response?

P., if you have never been acquainted with grief such as this, count
yourself fortunate. It is irrational (in the worst sense of the word), it
cannot be reasoned with, it is maddening, and it has a physical
manifestation which goes beyond anything imaginable. Biologically, it is
not conducive to the survival of the organism, other factors must come into

My response to someone who may not "deserve it" is total forgiveness and
compassion for my transgressor. I take the step which leads to the higher
road. Reason says revenge; I say that I will love my enemy and do good to
those who persecute me. Rationality demands a life for a life; my faith,
built on what I believe to be a revelation of God's mercy which broke
through time and space, says forgive those who trespass against me for
there are greater things ahead. This is not something I learned, it is not
"knowledge." Knowledge would have no chance of standing against hatred.
It is something that I know in my heart that I ought to do. It is a moral
imperative. Moreover, people have been doing it for millennia.

Furthermore, those who cannot imagine doing such a thing admire this.
They seek to emulate it. They respect it, indicating that they too have
the urge to move in the same way, if only their strength of will will allow
it. It made the evening news, for heaven's sake. The fact that a father
was willing to forgive his son's murderer was bigger news than the murder
itself! This I did not seek to accomplish, it is simply how the rest of
the world reacts to the application of moral principle. (And don't get me
started on Mother Teresa and the unselfish acts of compassion she committed
and the world's response to them.)

Therein lies the paradox. If you are going to insist that moral law, or
at least the germ of it when we are young, does not exist, except to
further the survival of the species, then you have to deal with this
problem of compassion and forgiveness, and the respect of others for those
who freely give of it. P., I am not naive, nor am I in denial, nor do
I bestow this forgiveness lightly. It is serious business, this irrational
act. Love, Mercy, Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness, all must be granted
regardless of whether one "deserves it" or not. It is unconditional.
Without it, society may survive, without question. With it, human society
has the potential for life, joy, and peace. Those things come from outside
our frail understandings of human existence. There was something there
which touched our reasoning consciousness with something more than
survival, we can experience joy.

Let me also ask, if we were dealing strictly with the survival of our
species, why does Grief exist? What is its biological and natural
selection advantage? I certainly can see none. For that matter, why do
any of the *complex* emotions exist in our brains, "uncanny dread" being
the one Lewis uses for his purposes. They make no sense, they cannot be
reasoned with, they are irrational, and *they go beyond simple survival of
the species.* From whence have they come? From whence have the strictures
come which limit and indict our human behavior? Entropy is a strong force,
these standards force us to swim upstream. Their origins are obscure, but
I am convinced they are not of this world.

Throughout this entire discussion, the people here may not be able to
*prove* the existence of moral law to your satisfaction, if that really is
what you are after; but if that is the case, then you must also admit that
you cannot *disprove* it's existence. Neither of us has the instruments
with which to perform the experiment. If we start from a neutral
hypothesis, the best we may be able to do is reach a personal perspective
which satisfies our world view, and, if necessary, respectfully agree to

I will pray for you, my friend, for you are in many ways as I once was. I
will pray for your skin to be less thick; I will pray for you to be able to
understand that though knowledge may not in your opinion "just pop into our
heads," you will be amazed at what will pop into our hearts, if we let it;
and I will pray for you to understand the totally irrational, unreasonable,
senseless and biologically useless concepts of forgiveness and
unconditional love. I sense that there is much in your life which could
benefit from these.

I'll bet you never got around to reading that piece on Transposition I
recommended a while back. P., you are attempting to look at a complex
machine from underneath. You may be able to see the dirty, grimy workings;
may even be able to see a broken part or two, but you will never be able to
comprehend the glory and wonder of that machine until you can see it from
above. You simply lack the perspective. It is not logical, but it is
often the case.


In an essay entitled "The Seeing Eye," Jack made the following observation:

"To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who
do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space. . . .But send a
saint up in a spaceship and he'll find God in space as he found God on
earth. Much depends on the seeing eye."

P., you now have people praying for you. Take care, lest you loose
the "Hound of Heaven" onto your trail, for there is no escape once the
chase begins. He loves you far too much to let you evade His joy. The
hunt may last a week, it may last a lifetime, but do not be afraid, capture
only leads to freedom, death only gives way to Life, reason and knowledge
is transformed to Wisdom. And Truth is always on the agenda.



Oct. 14, 1997 to in response to a thread on after death visits

As Hamlet said:

"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our
philosophies, Horatio."

Disclaimer: The following is pretty heavy spiritual stuff. It cannot be
proven in any way other than my own subjective experience. I do believe that
it is a valid insight into the way the universe works, and I believe that it
is consistent with what God has revealed to us about the workings of all
things, and much of what C. S. Lewis concluded in his many books and works on
heaven and earth, especially _The Screwtape Letters_, _The Chronicles of
Narnia_, and _The Great Divorce_.

Not to change the thread here, but I also agree with the previous poster that
we need to be careful of the "psychics." Not to offend, but I believe this
for two reasons: a.) if they do have a "gift," and they are made of the same
stuff we're made of, I'm not so sure we don't have the raw materials for the
same capacity for spiritual sensitivity, *especially* after all that we've
been through; and b.) if certain of them (note I do not say all) are taking
advantage of people, especially the grieving, I'm sure there is a *very*
special place reserved for their souls.

Now for the relevant stuff.

My father passed away two years ago. He and my son William were rather
close. The loss of my father was a particularly strong blow to me, but we
felt blessed that he was with us for five good years after the heart attack
that started his decline. We had a lot of time to say and do everything that
we needed to say and do in order for this to be as natural an experience as
possible. Then he was in the hospital for one week, then he was gone.

Jump ahead to one week before my son's murder (two months ago today).
William is now 16. My father came to my mother in a dream the Sunday before
William's death. The first time it has ever happened in the two years since
he died. She knew it was something important, and she knew he was there for
a reason. My sister was coming back from Europe at the end of that week, and
mom assumed something was going to happen to the plane. Mom was worried, but
she was also at peace. When you get that kind of special treatment, somehow
you know everything is going to be all right.

Tuesday night that week, William was shot once through the neck by a man
wielding an Accu-Tek .380 as William was leaving the restaurant where he
worked at closing time. When he walked out the door, this man came up to him
and had him return to the door to tell the manager to open it. As soon as
the door was unlocked, William was shot to death, then the man proceeded with
the robbery and got away with about $1800 from the safe. The suspect was
captured within minutes of the crime, and is now behind bars, probably will
be for the rest of his life.

I believe my dad needed to be there that night. William was dead before he
hit the floor. Strange as it may sound, I firmly believe that that was the
job of his guardian angel that evening, to make sure the bullet ran true.
After all, William's guardian doesn't take orders from me. I saw the wound,
William probably didn't even hear the gunshot. When his body ceased to
support his soul, I believe God made sure there was someone there that he
would recognize so he wouldn't be scared during the transition. That someone
was my dad. He was the only one available, William didn't know any other
dead people. Provision was made. As to the *why* of the event, I will have
to plead ignorance, and continue to move forward with what I sense my
responsibility is now in making our community a better place for all of us;
but provision was made for my son, and for that I am thankful. And I am very
proud of him.

Second, I believe my mom needed to be prepared. She was awakened at 2:00 am
by my sister to be told the news in person. Provision was made for her so
she would not be overwhelmed with the shock of it all, for that I am also

Sometimes I think I know when William is near, especially when I'm doing
things we used to enjoy doing together, but right now, he is probably so
overjoyed in exploring his new home, that I won't begrudge him that. I'm
sure it's a much more interesting place than hanging around here. I look
forward to him showing me around when I get there, and I so look forward to
him being there when I go through that doorway myself when my life's race is
run to completion. Until then, I look to the good things that come from
William's legacy. God willing, something better for our community will come
of it, many things already have.

I am also convinced that provision such as this is made for all of our dear
ones. I'm sure there is more to this process than we can ever understand
right now, probably more than we should try to understand now. After all, we
can only try to grasp with our limited human minds that information which
God has chosen to reveal to us. But I do think we can be confident that
things are taken care of in the best possible way, even in the face of man's
selfishness, greed, and hatred. Human beings bear a great deal of
responsibility for the things that happen in this world, one of these days, I
hope we figure that out.

Sometimes trusting God is hard. But I keep telling myself that it is His
plan, I'm just a piece of the puzzle. I have nothing more nor less than what
I've been praying for, singing about, and reading about in the Bible all my
life. I have peace, I have joy, and I have forgiven my trespassers. I also
have indescribable pain and longing for just one more minute with my son.
For the latter, I don't think there is a cure. Strange as it sounds, I'm not
sure I want one.

"Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better
will be. For 'we know that we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him
as He is.'"
C. S. Lewis "Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer"


Nov. 9, 1997 to in response to a mention of "Closure"

Dear ..,

I am so sorry for what you are going through. Many of us here are in nearly
identical situations, and many of us have lost loved ones in vastly different
ways. The one thing we all have in common is the grief. That is the thing
we share, and unfortunately, that is the thing we all have learned to live
with each day. But we do learn to live with it. And believe it or not, it
is the quality which enables us to help others in their pain.

I lost my 16 year-old son to a murderer's bullet on August 12. I too am
awaiting trials to begin. My son's body also was not able to be used for
organ donation because of the investigative process. A bright, young,
caring, incredibly artistic young man was my son. Your loss resonates
strongly with me. You have my my heart's deepest sympathy.

Through the entire process I have learned one thing about "closure." I
suspect that you too will find that closure is over-rated. Nothing can bring
true closure in our situation because there is no justice system on earth
which can return to us what we require. I prefer to think of the process as
one of milestones. We will pass each one in turn, but we won't really have
the closure that the psychologists speak of or that some others may in fact
experience. As C. S. Lewis observes, it is as if we have lost a leg. We may
learn to walk again, we may be able to get around quite well on an artificial
one, but the lost leg will always surprise us with phantom pain, and we will
never be bipeds again.

Please keep coming back to the group. It helps to talk to others who
understand. You will also find that you will be able to help others as well.
It all works to bring about healing. Unfortunately, there are many more of
us than are evident at first glance. As you are geographically very close to
me, I will be e-mailing you to see if I can be of help in any way and to
share some specific local resources with you.

Keep hanging in there. Our prayers are with you.

Nov. 10, 1997 to in response to a discussion on "Closure" and
the justice system

>I am writing in regards to (closure). What does that mean? I have
>heard people refer to it before and I guess if you have court cases
>still pending that would be a closure of a sort, but can you actually
>put a closure on losing a child?
>I don't think I ever could nor would I want to.

Dear C.,

What a wonderful question. I don't think that I can give any sort of
clinical definition of what a doctor or therapist means when they use the
word "closure," but I am certain that many of them use it thoughtlessly, that
is, without giving any thought to what it really means in that application
(as opposed to being insensitive). I think we have a lot of pop culture to
blame for this. Anyone can be an expert on another's problems if they read
the right books and listen to the right tapes. As a result, Closure has
become a buzzword of sorts, and I'm not so sure that it really describes what
is going on inside us.

Here is my perspective on it:

Closure implies a finality or conclusion to an event. I don't think anyone
expects us to forget what happened, but they do seem to expect us to come to
an acceptance and somehow come to a point where we can close the door to that
particular room in our lives and move on. To finish or conclude our grieving
in such a way that we can "get on with our lives," or even become "normal"
again. Anyone out there with a better definition, I'd be grateful to hear
it. (I'm not sure I can even find my Psych 101 text anymore.)

I do think that it is a legitimate concept for some cases, but not
necessarily for us, and here's why I don't buy it, in my experience anyway.

First of all, the event which I experienced three short months ago was a
catastrophic, life-changing, and traumatic event which removed from my
existance a major part of my life. My son is dead. No more. There will be
no weddings, no graduations, no more special vacations or fishing trips. His
*absence* is a constant reminder and the ongoing source of pain. The only
thing which can remove that would be his *presence*. Of course his physical
presence will not walk this way again. If we were talking about a stolen
painting which was found and returned, there would be closure. If we were
talking about a divorce or a relationship which had just become final, there
would be closure. If the grief were caused by the *presence* of something
(illness, war, famine, etc.) and it were removed, then there would be
closure. In these cases, there is an experience which is finite, it lasts
for a specific length of time, and it is resolved. The problem is that
William's absence is ever-present, and cannot be resolved, no matter how hard
I try.

Second, closure is not dependent on the justice system, for several reasons.
1) The justice system re-opens old wounds without notice and interupts the
grieving and healing process. Appeals, releases, acquittals, parole, and
additional legal action, can only make things resurface. Perhaps some who
have gone through the process more thoroughly than I can speak to this
better, but those I have spoken with have found the justice system to cause
more problems than it heals, to put it mildly. 2) Justice is not for the
individual, nor is the court system. Justice as practiced in our culture is
for the community. Suspects are apprehended by community efforts, they are
tried by community members, and they are sentenced by the community's
guidelines. In fact, if we were to take justice into our own hands, as we saw
fit to exact it, we would find *ourselves* on trial. Having already been
through the preliminary hearings, I don't believe that seeing the courts
sentence the suspects in our case will bring any sort of closure. In fact, I
suspect the trial will be rather cruel to us, if the experiences of others
are any indication. 3) No matter how harsh the sentence, no punishment or
restitution can restore to me that which I require. What I need for
"closure" is William, not revenge. (see above)

Finally, I think that the concept of closure (as well as the infamous five
stages of grief) has a basic flaw. In our attempt to generalize the way that
people react to certain events and in order to better understand various
mental and emotional processes, scientists have to resort to studying human
subjects. Humans are individuals. While most everyone will insist that
these concepts are not universal or absolute, many people still look at them
that way. After all, it is an easy list of words to remember, and it does
seem to have some basis in fact. The problem comes when, in studying human
subjects, the study proceeds to the point where the doctors record only the
results that the subjects allow them to see. After a while, the subjects
will begin to show the doctors what they think they want to observe, that
being acceptance and a sense of "closure." Unless the doctors themselves are
the ones experiencing the grief and are objectively studying it, I believe
their data is going to be flawed, with all due respect. I use for the basis
of this belief the fact that there is a good friend of mine who is going to a
therapist who has in fact lost a teenager to violence himself. This
therapist radically departs from the "accepted literature" and has been very
helpful to my friend. Other therapists who have not the same experience are
pretty useless.

Now, after all this lengthy background, where does this leave us? Is there
no closure for us? Is there no finality to our grief? If not, what is to
become of us, and why should we have any hope at all?

For me, the healing started the day I cried bitter tears over my son's body
in his casket, and forgave the people that did this to him. From that moment
forward, I knew that I had been through the worst of it, and everything else
would be a matter of placing one foot in front of the other, taking one small
step at a time, feeling my way through the dark forest and following the
faint glow of hope that God sends to guide us through the darkness. I don't
have closure, I have milestones. I pass them one by one. I adjust to
William's absence and learn day to day to live with it, for it will always be
with me. When the bad thoughts and images come, I redirect them and think on
the good times and memories. When anger resurfaces, I find someone to do
something nice for. And when those very special bad days happen, I go to the
gym and I get on the treadmill and I run and run until I can't run anymore.
For me this is "normal" now. It has been redefined, and I am at peace with

Healing comes slowly, but I find that I am able to help others, because in
helping others, I help myself. I appreciate those around me more than I ever
did before, and I keep William's memory alive any way I can. I find that I
am more sympathetic to the pain of others, and I am more quick to act on
their behalf. I am actively working to make my community a better, kinder,
and more caring place for ourselves and our children. Many in the community
have generously contributed to a memorial scholarship fund we have set up in
William's memory, and because of that, some young person will to go to
college, or stay there, who wouldn't otherwise be financially able. People
are re-examining their lives in the wake of this tragedy. Many of William's
friends are going to church for the first time, many of our friends are
re-examining their relationship with God. All in all, in my selfishness, I
would rather have my son back. But since that is not possible, I'll take any
good thing I can get. For in each good thing, William is still present here
on earth, and death shall have no victory.

God has redeemed an evil, horrible, tragedy. He has created gold out of
lead. "No more bad things" is the phrase I try to live by, and so far, it
has served me well. Inasmuch as I can influence events, I will not let one
tragedy lead to another.

Someday I'll fade and die too. But I have too much to do before that day,
and I will not hurry it along by one scant second. On that day, William and
I will once again stand face to face. I expect he will still be taller than
I, and shining like the sun. Look for us when you get there. We'll be the
ones under the tree playing guitars together, or maybe we'll be fishing in
silver streams, or perhaps we'll just be laughing and running through the
fields with him showing me all the cool things he has found since he's been
On that day, we will rejoice that "The term is over: the holidays have
begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." (C. S. Lewis "The Last

I wish you peace,

Nov. 18, 1997 to in response to a question on Justice

>where is justice? It is not in a court room.Where is justice,when the victim
>is put on trail.Where is justice,when all family members never ask what
>happened in court,when all you want to do is find out how your son was
>killed because you can't live without knowing.Where is justice,when the
>appeals they make never end.I WISH I KNEW.

No one sees the concept of justice the way we do. Those of us who have lost
family members to violent crime have a very clear, defined, and rational
concept of justice. You killed my loved one, you must be punished. Simple,
rational, black and white, no excuses.

Unfortunately for all of us, we seem to be the only ones who do see justice
in this light. Lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries,
and the community itself sees justice in many more shades of grey, and with
far more complex issues in mind. I for one know that I will never again
serve on a jury. My son was murdered. No defense attorney in his or her
right mind would put me, or any other family member of a violent crime victim
in the jury box. Our concepts of justice are too well defined, and we are
all too willing to dispense that justice for one who has been convicted of
violence against another.

As family members of victims of violent crime we will see from the inside of
the system the insanity inherent in it. We want the one simple thing we can
never have, justice and accountability for the actions of one person toward
another. Even the essential essence of pleading guilty or not guilty goes
against the basic concept of justice, for in nearly all cases of a not guilty
plea, a *lie* is being told in order to take their chances with a jury. By
not admitting their guilt (assuming they are truly guilty, of course) the
defendant lies, and by extension then, the defense attorney perpetuates that
lie in order to get either an acquittal, or the most lenient sentence
possible. In order to influence the jury to their way of thinking, every
trick in the book will be hauled out into open court to discredit witnesses,
question evidence, and cast aspersions on the character of the victim. To me
this is reprehensible. To them, it is business. That is all, just business.

You must understand one thing about the justice system, and the concept of
justice itself: It is not for *us.* It is for the community.

Suspects were arrested by the community, they are prosecuted by the people's
attorney, they appear in front of representatives of the community, and their
sentence is decided based on laws written by the community's elected
representatives. Indeed, if we were to go and exact justice ourselves in the
manner which we would see fit, we ourselves would wind up in front of a jury.
Indeed our society would even be more terrifying than it is already if this
were not so.

The passing of the victims rights amendment in many states has made the
justice *process* more sensitive to the needs of the family members and the
victims, but until it is either adopted by all states, or as a federal
constitutional ammendment, there will always be people who are victimized
twice. Once by the crime, and once by the justice system which follows close
on its heels.

The irony of it is, until my son was killed, I in my complete ignorance of
the operation of the system would have said that I thought it was doing a
good job overall. I had no idea just what happened in a courtroom, in
pre-trial preparation, and in sentencing. I suspect most people are like
that. The court system operates completely separate and apart from the
society it serves. There is no awareness on the part of the community. It
is by its very nature a closed system, resistant to change, and accountable
to few. I, for one, will be taking a stand locally to change things for the
better in our justice system. But I won't be holding my breath until change
comes along.

I'm truly sorry, but we cannot look to the justice system for justice, nor
are we allowed to exact it for ourselves. The ultimate irony is that even
when an appropriate sentence is passed, even when a measure of justice is
achieved, it doesn't make us feel any better, for it can never return to us
that which require to make us happy. After all, we're not talking about
stolen property here. As a result, we must look elsewhere for our peace and
solace, but do not look for it in a courtroom. You will only be

You are in my prayers. I hope and pray that you will find peace. It is not
now, nor ever will be easy, but is attainable, even in the face of life's


Dec. 5, 1997 to in response to a poster who seemed to
be in dispair of society

Please don't give up on society yet. As a whole, I don't think that it is so
much that they don't care, as much as it is that they don't know how to care.
I find this to be more true with younger people than with older ones (though
there are some notable exceptions of course). There is a general lack of
understanding into what we are going through, and this is often manifested
through discomfort, insensitivity, and some downright stupid comments. Most
folk just need some honest, caring, and gentle education. Of course, there
are some who will never get it, and for them, there is precious little we can

Our society has been very slowly removing itself from unpleasantness for
several generations now. We don't generally die at home, long term illness
and care is hidden away in a hospital room, grief and tragedy are avoided as
well as other sources of sadness. We believe that medical science can do
miracles, and often they actually do.

Our churches try not to acknowledge tragedy anymore, even though many of the
old hymns are some of the most comforting pieces of literature ever written.
Years ago, people aknowledged grief and tragedy, and wrote inspirational
songs and lyrics pointing people towards something bigger to hold on to when
the biggest thing in your life disappears. We don't do this anymore.
We have a reality-phobia, and of course it is perpetuated in the ads which
inundate us daily from various commercial interests. But they miss one very
basic, essential point -- Happiness is at best superficial, and is not known
for its longevity. There is more to life than happiness, a great deal more.

As people in grief, we have to recognize that we are a fearful object for
many around us. Our very presence serves as a constant reminder that they
too could be placed in our shoes with no notice. In my own case, people are
only too painfully reminded that it could have been their sixteen year-old
son who could have been closing up that restaurant that August night, and
wound up with a bullet in the neck.

A., I care. The people here care. We care because we recognize the
reality of tragedy, the pain of loss, and the human suffering which bleeds
our strength dry. And because we weep, we have learned to weep for others.
And we weep for you as well. You are not alone, and if we could reach out
over these wires to put our arms around you to comfort you, we would. But
for now, words will have to serve.

Be good to yourself, even when it seems that others are not. Love yourself,
even if the one who loved you most in this world can no longer take your hand
and wipe away your tears. Try to be patient with those around you, for in
you, they may actually learn something about themselves, and because of you,
they may become better people for it.

We are all in this together, we're all walking hand in hand. Hold on tight,
and maybe together we can make this ride a little less rocky.

Dec. 7, 1997 to presenting another problem

Dear Friends,

I don't know if this a real concept or not, but it's real enough to me, and I
suspect it is real enough to others. Please indulge me this one time for
posting something here which quite rightly belongs elsewhere, but all my
friends are here, and I expect you will understand the affect this additional
loss has had on us.

My thanksgiving really sucked. All on account of a bird.

My wife and I ran away for the weekend, Wed, thru Sun. Went to the mountains
to a little Bed and B'fast with some wonderful hosts. Did nothing, read,
sightsaw, spent time with each other, shopped, and ate thanksgiving dinner at
Shoney's (they were the only place open, can you believe it :-). I tell you,
you haven't had thanksgiving dinner until you've had it at Shoney's buffet bar
surrounded by all the hunters who have just come down off the mountain.
Turkey in a sea of Cammo and Blaze Orange! (Guess they didn't have much luck
catching their own dinner.) All in all a great weekend. Then we got back home.

We went to pick up our two birds, one cockatiel, and one budgie, from the
friends who were birdsitting for us. Bad news. Our cockatiel, Rocky, had been
out of his cage playing with the family, and bolted for the door when my friend
opened it. He has never even shown interest in being outside before, so we
felt pretty secure in not clipping him. He flew the coop. Not good.

Needless to say, my wife was, and still is devastated. I'm not much better
off, myself, as he spent many hours on my shoulder singing to me and jumping on
the keyboard so he could read what I was writing. Our friend is just sick over
it. We're trying everything we can think of to locate him, but it has been so
cold here..., that if he didn't get someone to take him in the first night,
I'm afraid he's gone for good. We don't even have the ability to bury him in
William's garden, which would give us some measure of consolation.

Rocky was one of the cheerful presences in our home after the loss of William,
and was a great source of comfort to my wife and me, as pets are so able to be.
William was one of his favorite perches too, he likes tall things. All in all,
I'd rather have my son and my bird friend back, but if I can't, I will take
some comfort in the thought that maybe they are keeping each other company

The intriguing thing has been the second grief, sort of a double whammy. It
brings home the reality that just because we are having a hard time right now,
the world doesn't stop for us. Life continues to move forward, and so, I fear,
does death. I know many of us have losses which follow close on the heels of
the first, many of us (a surprising number I've found so far) suffer the
additional loss of a family pet soon after the loss of a loved one. I did not
realize this, and it seems to me to be an interesting phenomenon. And our
animal family members do seem to grieve, as they also sense something is wrong
with our emotions, or even sense that someone is missing from thier daily

The loss of a son, and now the loss of our best bird friend has made for a sad
week. I hope everyone else's has been a bit better. I have been working with
a local church designing a Christmas show for them, and (with apologies in
advance for such an overtly Christian sentiment) have truly been in tears every
night with the beauty of it all, and message of hope and solace of God's
overwhelming love for us that He would be willing to suffer the death of His
Son for our redemption. For I now know something of the enormity of that
suffering myself. One more new perspective the experience of William's
murder has afforded me.

Be good to yourselves this season. Take heart my friends, January fast

In deepest sadness, yet deepest Joy,

Dec. 15, 1997 to in response to a post on inevitability

>> If one knows that a certain thing is inevitable, like death, then
>> should one grieve? You *know* you are going to die. You know your spouse
>> going to die. Everyone knows it. The only question is *when*, not
>> Don't be surprised when that happens.
>> Accept the inevitable.
>> I.

My dear I.,

I've been reading your post over the past couple of days, trying to formulate a
response. Quite honestly, I suspect that now, having posted your seemingly
simple and matter-of-fact solution to all of our problems (of course, why
didn't we all think of it sooner ourselves? Would have saved a lot of trouble
now wouldn't it?) you have surfed merrily onward and will not be looking back
anytime soon. Never the less, I hope that one day you may find what I have to
say of some small benefit.

I., your post does not anger me, but it certainly causes some concern on my
part for you. This is a remarkably fatalistic attitude which, in my opinion
anyway, is motivated by a less than hopeful outlook on life. For if we feel
that death is inevitable, then we are sucked into the logical trap that sooner
or later *everything* is inevitable, in which case we have little ability to
prevent accidents or influence our surroundings for good, and that we should
simply accept the status quo, live as hedonistic nihilists, and let life go on
around us as it swirls us into its objective, uncaring, and totally chaotic
whirlpool of destiny. A rather scary thought actually, when one takes it to
its logical conclusion.

Though I respect it, I do not share your worldview, and I hope that you will
someday come to a deeper insight into the way the world, and people seem to

Your main error here is that you seem to consider man to be a primarily
rational being. Many there are who propose this, though I think most of them
hold this belief through wishful thinking, hoping against hope that this is the
way things really work, for after all, if we are rational beings, and if reason
can hold sway over our emotions, then we never have to admit (publically
anyway) that we are succeptible to those horrid emotions which so often confuse
us terribly. Control over our emotions is the final frontier for many people
who would like nothing better than to not have to deal with the very difficult
issues of love, faith, compassion, mercy, fear, or grief. I'm certain that I
would not want to live in that particular ant farm, myself.

Your concept of the human psyche may work for you, though you will walk through
life with a stunted emotional system, but it does not work for everyone,
because it is simply incomplete. We are rational creatures, no doubt, but in
denying the emotional response to death, you deny the emotional response to
everything. Have you never been moved by a sunset, love for another, or an
exceptionally fine piece of music? Your emotions are there, they are there for
a purpose, and we must acknowledge their importance.

We have, as humans, an emotional component as well as a rational one. For
some, it seems all too dominant; for others, it seems to be repressed, but in
all, it must be recognized for what it is. It is that which makes individuals
of us all. It is not primitive, it is not barbaric, it simply is. It gives us
that thoroughly unique and exciting quality of individualism, and it keeps us
from the horrid sameness of totally rational thought and decisions. If you
subscribe as I do to the idea that at some point in our history, God reached
down and gave man and woman the very essence of what makes us human, then
these two things came upon us at the same time. Rationality and Emotion, neither
preceeding the other, and neither being more important than the other. Both
with a purpose, and both with a benefit to us beyond what we can imagine.

We go through life then using our rationality and logic, applying it to
everyday situations and systems. We also use our emotional component to help
us through many of the survival-based situations we come across each day where
fear, anger, and love serve very important purposes. Most of the time, we
don't even know that they are in operation, so smoothly are they integrated
into our lives.

Then something happens. In my case, my sixteen year-old son William is shot to
death by someone wielding a gun during a robbery. I knew intellectually that
one day my son would die, I also hoped that I wouldn't be around to see it.
Statistically, he had a greater chance of dying in a car accident than what did
happen, but someone has to make up even the low statistics, right?

Now, you say I shouldn't be surprised. You say I should accept the inevitable.
In one sense you are absolutely right. I shouldn't be surprised that a living
organism has ceased to function. Happens all the time, I've even been party to
ending the life of living organisms before (not however, human) and I know what
death is. The animal ceases to function, it is the spark of life has gone out
of it forever. But the cynic and skeptic will say it is of no consequence,
because in most cases there are enough rabbits in the population to ensure the
existance of the species, there are enough people around who will continue the
human legacy here on earth. And, like many, you who did not know my son, nor
do you know me, are not even aware that one more promising young life has been
erased from the face of the earth. You may even read of it in the paper and
say to yourself, "Oh my, another death in the city today. Oh well, I wonder
how the Super Bowl is shaping up?" Not surprised? No, I daresay you are

But what about when it happens to you? One day, as for me three months
ago, your rationality and your emotions will crash together with the force of a
train wreck. What will you do then? Your best friend dies unexpectedly, your
wife and/or child dies long before their time, someone takes your life before
you have had a chance to live out your days. Will you be surprised? I think
you will be. Will you accept death's chill hand without a fight (after all, it
is inevitable)? You will find a whirlpool of emotions that will make the power
of a hurricane pale in comparison. And if you were to read then the advice you
give to us now, you would know just how puny it sounds. You might turn
self-destructive, some have you know. You might have a nervous breakdown. You
might question for the first time the concept of this universe and your place
in it.

And that will bring you to the third part of our make-up, which I suspect you
also minimize in your life -- the Spiritual. Religion stands in the gap
between emotion and rationality. It belongs to neither, though it is vital to
both. It cushions the blow when they both collide and it gives us the hope,
and assurance that life *is* worth living, that we can change the world, and
that there is more to life than hedonistic gratification. There is no fatalism
in God. There is, however, acknowledgement of reality. When in the Bible, God
says "Be still and know that I am God." God could have just as easily
continued the thought with, ". . . and that you are not."

Bad things happen, happen all the time. They happen to me, they happen to
others, and one day, they may happen to you. The difference in the two of us
is that, as a result of the trust and faith in *God's* mercy and provision, I
am probably better prepared to deal with the things in my life that *people*
have done to turn it upside down, to redeem those tragedies for good, and to
see that there is hope in life I never had seen before. It still hurts, it
still sears me to the core, but I am at peace before God. I have even found
joy at God's feet in the midst of my sorrow. A paradox indeed, but God is a
God of paradoxes.

There is much for me to do now and I will exert my energies in a more
productive manner to do what is the most important thing on this earth --
helping my fellows, my neighbors, and those I love in any way I can in order to
make their lives better and making this world a better place for all of us. In
so doing, perhaps one less sixteen-year will die. Perhaps one more grieving
parent will begin to heal. Perhaps one more skeptic will begin to go to
church. Perhaps one more politician will vote out of compassion instead of
greed. Perhaps.

But even if this does not happen, I will have tried. My son's memory will have
been preserved, and I will be able to stand before God and say, "When adversity
came my way, I did the very best I could. I'm sorry I couldn't have done more."

And one thing which will happen from now on. I will *always* be surprised when
I read in the paper that someone has died a tragic or traumatic death. Grief
opens you up to being more sensitive towards the sorrow of others. It makes us
more "human," if you will, and it makes us more as God, sharing in some small
measure in His suffering and frustration with His creation.

I will swim upstream for my brothers and sisters here on earth, even you.
You are in my prayers. I hope our paths will cross again. Think.
There is something very important that you have missed.


Dec. 23, 1997 to in response to a post of appreciation

Thank you for a very touching confirmation that in the process of
participating in our own healing, we are also, perhaps unknowingly, helping
others with theirs. I guess we're doing something right. :-)

I too will be lighting a candle Christmas morning for my son, William. His
murder was only five short months ago, but already it seems both like
yesterday, and a lifetime ago. In that time, I have come to love looking at
the sky. I can just imagine him surfing along on the clouds as they scud by.
What an enormous freedom he must be enjoying now that his soul is unfettered
from his body. His now infinite joy in contrast to my infinite sorrow.

I pray that you, and all of us here on the ng, will find some measure of
peace in our journey, during these days when difficult reminders come without
warning and rages of grief overtake us. I think, my dears, that there is no
cure for grief, only in our adjusting to its everpresent frown does it become

Be good to yourselves this season. Rest when you can, and don't try to do
too much at once.

And don't forget to look at the sky every once in a while. :-)

December 29, 1997 To a memorial site.

On August 12, 1997, my son William Benjamin Jenkins, a bright, talented sixteen year-old was accosted at closing time outside the fast food restaurant where he worked by a twenty-three year old man with a gun. He was forced to turn around and get the manager who was still inside to open the door. Once the door was unlocked, the gunman shot William in the neck. The bullet severed the two major blood vessels to the brain, and my son was instantly killed.

The gunman then proceeded to rob the manager, forcing her to open the safe and give him her purse. If not for the fact that he had already used up his only two bullets on William, the manager would most likely have been killed as well. The gunman then fled on foot to a waiting car.

Five minutes later, three suspects were captured by police. One man and two women, girls really, one 18 and one 17. They had the manager's purse with the money from the safe inside, and the Accutek .380 semiautomatic pistol which was used in the murder.

All three are now awaiting trial for first-degree murder and robbery. If convicted, they will most likely spend the rest of their useful life in prison. The man may get the death penalty. And three more lives are now ruined, along with their families who will suffer a grief of their own.

They had stolen a little over $1700, one woman's sanity, and one young man's life. The money was recovered. The manager, in time will heal somewhat from the shock of seeing William killed right before her eyes. But William's life is forfeit. He was on his second day of work at his first "real" job.

He left behind a grieving mother, a thirteen year old brother, an eleven year old sister, me (his father), and a step-mother. We, along with literally hundreds of his friends, relatives, and acquaintances will miss him every single moment of every single day for the rest of our lives.

So, now what? Do we rant and rage at the world and the society which has created some perfectly outrageous conditions in which we must try to live? Do we strive and contend with God because we don't think we've been fairly treated?

No, we will try to live in peace with our grief and work to bring as many good things out of this tragedy as God will allow. For He redeems tragedy and makes it bloom anew with unexpected life.

Many good things have come from this sad event already. Two memorial scholarships have been set up in William's memory. Several of William's friends have begun to go to church for the first time in their lives. Our community is becoming more aware that they can't ignore these terrible acts, through our outspoken attempts at keeping this incident, and others like it in the public eye. And perhaps soon we may see more positive steps to action. People are coming to realize that shootings do not just happen to drug dealers and people in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime.

No one is more or less important than anyone else in the eyes of crime and violence. And if we are to decrease and minimize its effect on our world, we need to realize that no one can be seen as more or less important than another in the eyes of our society. We must care for everyone, and treat all with a measure of love and justice that comes from faith and hope.

Ultimately, we hope that William's death will bring about a hope for the hopeless, and a peace to the violent. Through our push for peace, forgiveness, hope, and compassion in our society, perhaps we can bring about the accountability, honesty, and justice that people so desperately need.

We must stop treating each other shamefully, and start responding with kindness and compassion to give hope to those who are in need of it. For a child without hope grows up into an adult without hope. And an adult without hope is the most dangerous thing alive. I know this to be true, for three of them killed my son.

I wish for everyone who has lost a loved one peace and strength in their journey down this difficult and merciless path.

Peace and God's Blessings,

January 13, 1998 to MERELewis regarding a discussion of C.S. Lewis' book
A Grief Observed.

First off, IMHO, AGO is *the* most important book on grief, recovery, and
bereavement ever written. After my father's "natural" death two years ago, it
was of great comfort to me and my mom. Now, after my son's most unnatural and foul murder, it has been a saving grace in my life and faith.

It is, I think, of great use to Christians who have walked in God's will in
their lives, and I see enormous value for those who have spiritual doubts
and/or a less real-ized faith, as well. God brings out of it for each of us
what we need to hear, when we need to hear it.

I, too have felt the door slammed in my face, bolted and double bolted from
within as my house of cards was reduced to rubble, and it is indeed a most
terrifying experience. But then, like Jack, things slowly started to change,
and now, we are building a new house of faith, and not one of cards this time.
Real brick and morter, this one, and anchored solidly into the bedrock which
was from the foundation of time.

Wouldn't Adam have grieved so over Abel? See, we are connected even to the
First Man and Woman in our grief. Did God grieve so, or even deeper, over His
murdered son? Our grief is another connection and link to our Lord. It is
perhaps a more important life experience than we realize. Something to think
about, perhaps even something to embrace (though certainly not to covet).

For some, only the basic, elemental concepts of Jack's insights will be of
help and comfort; for others, well, let's just say that I have no other book
of Jack's in which there is something underlined or highlighted in nearly
*every* paragraph, or which gets revisited so often.

Grief reduces everything to its essentials, it focuses us laser-like on what
really matters in this world. When deep grief strikes, it does one of two
things, it has the potential to open our spiritual senses, expanding the mind
and heart and bringing one to a higher spiritual maturity by forcing us to
question and re-order our priorities, and examine our most deeply held
beliefs. Or else, it shatters, destroying all that it touches -- lives,
families, hearts, even communities. Sometimes it even does both, and the
maturity and growth can only come after the pieces are put back together, with
God's help, of course. This is why it is so important *when* tragedy strikes
to have the cushion of faith so firmly in place in our lives to begin with.

For those who say that religion and faith serve no "practical" purpose besides
being a superstitious placebo, they are most sadly mistaken. And it is more
than hymns, liturgy, and morality. Faith is the cushion between our emotional
hearts and our rational minds when they come crashing together with the force
of a train wreck through an event which is gut-wrenching and life changing.
For some, that cushion is well padded and healthy; for others, it is thread-
bare; for all, it must absorb the impact.

I believe that we were born with the ability to grieve, for God would not let
us go so unprepared into a world where accidents, age, and evil will bring
tragedy in the span of a heartbeat. But grief must be coupled, intertwined
with one's faith. Though I do not always have "happiness" these days, I do
have Joy, and that has made all the difference. My faith has been able to
absorb the impact of that crushing blow, though not without trauma. We are
still on our feet, and we are walking more surely with each passing day.

Having Jack's books (and letter VIII of Letters to Malcolm has also been
helpful, written, if I am correct, some time past the initial shock of his
grief and loss) has been like having a roadmap in a foreign country. You're
not sure where you'll end up, and you don't know what your destination will
look like, but at least you know what landmarks to look for on your journey.

Recently, I had written to a member of this group something I will share with
the rest as well. I think the thing that makes Jack's works so valuable is
that he was so "real." He did not offer hollow platitudes and advice, nor did
he speculate. He walked the path and saw the Light from the perspective of a
traveller on that path. That was an invaluable service, and for it many are
most grateful.

The most amazing thing of all, is that when he was jotting down notes in those
composition books, I'm sure he had no idea of the magnitude of the service he
was accomplishing. He was only going through the natural grieving process and
tending to his own healing. And while he was caring for himself and his
personal needs, he was in direct obedience to the Divine. And one day, what,
nearly four decades later, it would help me, and others like me to deal with
our grief as well.

And as a footnote, I daresay he was experiencing somewhat of a similar
obedience in writing the Chronicles. Writing, as he put it, stories that he
would have liked to have read as a child. When God directs our obedient
lives, *everything* we do has His watermark on it, and thus can be used for
His Glory and Purpose, even if we at the time see no longevity to it at all.
Obedience is the key. Keeping the face and presence of God before us each and
every day. Dwelling on Him, meditating on Him, and residing in His goodness
and mercy constantly. Flowing, as it were, sublimely in the stream of his
good Will. Therein lies the power of the Christian life in all its glory, and
the collective formidability of God's Church.

January, 2000.  To in response to a post questioning one's faith.

>I pray
>every night to go to her and also in church. I worry that that is
>sinful but I feel so alone and lost. I saw Sally Jessy recently, and
>she said she lost her faith since her daughter died. I think I am too!

I don't think there is an experience in life that digs into us as deeply as the death of a loved one. It can take an enormous toll on us, especially in the things we have always believed, or thought we believed. It is natural to question your faith, and no, it is not sinful to want to be where your daughter is. Where is the sin in it? How can something which is so basically rooted in your love for another be sinful? One can argue that it is selfish to think such thoughts, but to long for the presence of one we love in such a way is not selfish. It is simply mourning, and it is the way we are made, nothing more.

Now, if you were to begin to act upon that longing, taking steps to end your life, then I think you would be doing a disservice to yourself, your living family and friends, and your daughter and her memory. We continue here, out of order and out of step with the world around us. I suppose we still have work to do, but remember, Adam and Eve lost a child too, and they continued to live on for many, many years until it was time for them to go. I'm sure it was hard for them, but I take some comfort in knowing that our condition goes back all the way to the beginning.

When one re-examines his or her faith in light of the death of a loved one, the strength of that faith *before* the event is probably the most important factor. I know a lot of bereaved people who have no problem believing in God, but now their worhip has been replace by anger, perhaps even hatred. I suppose somewhere along the line they thought there was a bargain involved, that God had to do something for them because they did things for God. They heard the verse that says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," without thinking that they would perhaps be the ones who would someday mourn. Now that their lives are turned upside-down, they resent their position in life and they cut off all lines of communication, perhaps to exact some sort of punishment, either on God or themselves.

Others find their faith to be a house of cards built out of what other people told them to believe. Never really believing it themselves, they always relied on others to believe for them. When the fire comes, their faith burns away like dry grass. Now, they have to walk through a perilous and terrifying valley, and they are simply not ready to do so.

Some of these people set about to find God in earnest while others simply sit in the shadow of death until they become shadows themselves, not capable of living and not caring if they die. Sometimes good comes out of such as these, sometimes, only another tragedy.

Some find comfort in blindly proclaiming that God is in total control, but that leaves them with some pretty tough philosophical nuts to crack and they may not be able to allow themselves to think too deeply about this. C. S. Lewis is one who really looked at this position seriously in "A Grief Observed." He came to some healthy conclusions which I respect and have come to share. I highly recommend this book if you are dealing with questions of faith and loss.

Personally, I don't think that God is going to sit and toss us scraps from the table whimsically -- Helping some while watching others suffer like some cosmic sadist or dice-thrower. I think what is closer to the truth that God is faithful to us when we call as we live in this dangerous world. And the danger, more often than not, is of our own making. We are destined/condemned to live our lives confined by time travelling in a straight line. At what point do we demand that we not experience injury or pain? At what point do we demand that our lives always be altered by divine intervention? When the author walks out onto the stage, the play is over and everyone goes home. Are we ready for that? Some of us might be, but the rest of the world may be pretty upset by it.

The sad truth is that we only grow when there is a crisis in our lives. We only mature when there is pain. Doesn't matter if you are a toddler, a teen, or an adult. If there were no painful challenge in our lives, we wouldn't be worth much. Pain brings us to humility and softens our hearts. I think it is significant that I have only encountered courage and strength in broken hearts, nowhere else.

Some pain is stronger than others. Some, like ours, is gut-wrenching, but I don't think that God is the author of it. There are plenty of sources, but the God of Love, Mercy, and Compassion is not one of them. Rather God, in my own meager understanding, is there as we live each day, like when my father helped me learn to ride a bicycle. Ready to pick me up when I fell off, ready to bandage and comfort, but he could not, nor would he, bestow upon me me the ability to ride or the experience. I had to do that for myself, with varying degrees of success.

If there is something of which God is perhaps culpable, it is making us too caring, too able to love, too able to grieve, too able to feel. And yet, I think we are still only shadows here of what will be, mechanical and chemical impressions of what we really are as spiritual beings. But if our happiness and joy is also only a shadow of what is to come, the mind boggles at what the future holds when we must leave this world behind. Indeed, when a caterpillar turns to a butterfly, the only ones who mourn are the other caterpillars. And yet, even their turn is coming.

For those with faith, we win no matter what. If we live, we live with assurance and comfort, though we still have longing and pain. The longing and pain enable our memories, so it is terribly important that they remain part of our lives so that our loved one will also remain part of our lives. If we die, we die to leave this mess of chemicals and dust behind to dwell in the overwhelming presence of the Almighty and a joyful reunion, not only with one loved one, but with many. I am assured that it is worth waiting for that which is promised. We could all take advantage of this opportunity to do some more growing, I suspect.

Furthermore, while we are waiting, it is worth ensuring that we will be part of it all by becoming the kind of people who desire to dwell in the undimmed and awesome presence of the Almighty, choosing love over hatred, mercy over rage, and humility over pride. All we are really called to do is live, and be ready. Sadly, there are a lot of people who only do the former, neglecting the latter. Where were our loved ones in their preparedness? That is between them and God, but I am confident that our children are in good hands.

To use grief and pain as a motivation to get closer to God's presence here on earth, to re-open the channels of communication, to bring the love, kindness, and compassion into our lives that is so often missing, is to accomplish a new sense of spirituality. You will most likely surpass everyone in your church, progressing far beyond what others can even imagine to achieve. You have earned the right to walk between heaven and earth. Fewer things tie you to this ball of rock. You have no fear, not even of death. You have earned the right to seek God's face, not perhaps to ask "Why?" but to ask a more important question, "Now what?"

This turned out to be longer than I expected. I hope that you will come to the conclusions that are right for you in your journey. Things do not come easy, or perhaps quickly. You may need to be patient. All growth involves change and pain. I wish and pray for you a new level of spirituality and hope that you will experience a redemption to your tragedy, for this, I believe is the business that God is really in.


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