Context and Content

Last week I was reading at  Elizabeth Floss’s blog about a new tool coming out called MPower.  Being that I am sort of a technology junkie I was intrigued by this idea.   Content filtering isn’t a new idea by any means, after all  you could pick up NetNanny over ten years ago to help filter internet content and the movie rating system has been around even longer.  I have long had three major concerns with these tools and I don’t think Mpower will be markedly different.  The first issue is that they never work that well ,  second is my belief that much of the most damaging content on TV is not objectionable in the “checklist” sense – it is more complex and subtle and third context matters — in most cases it matters more than content.

These Things Usually Don’t Work Very Well: After having looked over the Mpower site  and they claim that they will be able to clip out “seamlessly” offensive content according to settings that you select.  (watch their video to see)  In the FAQs section they explain that not every show will be content scrubbed, only the most popular shows and then they will also offer family safe viewing options.   So first off it will not cover everything.  My assumption is that they actually use humans for content filtering (someone is viewing the show and editing for content limitations according to the training the receive)  which is actually much more reliable than software filtering, as anyone who has ever tried to manage a message board with word filtering and found that something ridicules like “grape” was being filtered out will tell you.

I can’t find anything that makes me think that the internet filtering will be very sophisticated.  They claim the will block “Hard-core” porn and will send a notification when the block is circumvented, but there is a lot of content on the internet that isn’t hard-core porn but is still seriously objectionable.  My total guess is that there will be DNS blocking of sites.

I am willing to give Mpower the benefit of the doubt and maybe they will do content filtering better, but I will not be surprised if they have a very limited selection of programs that they filter, have a good deal of problems with the filtering they do and end up with the exact same filtering issues that usually plague the “parental control” tools.

A Lot of the Worst Stuff Isn’t Violence or Sex: Now before you think I am saying something I am not let me explain that I do NOT think that children should be watching sex, violence or “mature” content on TV.  But I do think that there are things on TV that do our children just as much, if not more harm, than the occasional vulgar word, naked body or violent scene.  Anti-adult messages, consumerism, materialism, a host of poor values are shown in nearly every single show.  The world of television is more violent than real life.  It portrays a higher standard of living than most children will ever experience as normal.  It sets an unrealistic standard of physical beauty and the ideal of beauty exemplified in the media is more the creation of marketing — designed to undermine the self-esteem of young woman in a crass bid to sell them more products that they “must” have in order to feel good enough about themselves.   Moral relativism, anti-clericalism,  and an antipathy toward organized religion are so common place that the few exceptions to it stand out as note worthy.    But these are not things that are “filterable”.    In my mind these things end up being far worse for our children overall than the objectionable items which can be filtered.   In part because they are so prevalent in the media they end up being viewed as normal.   To put it another way… it isn’t just the individual scenes of objectionable material that I object to, it is the over sexualized, materialistic, relativistic anti-religious world view that is the predominate view, the normalized view on television that I object to.

Context Really Matters: So this brings me to my last point of concern, context makes a HUGE difference.  Context can more or less redeem some otherwise objectionable content.   The villain meeting his violent end,  a breast exposed in a video about breast-feeding or “cultural” nudity,  the romantic kiss at the end of a movie… could all in theory be blocked because they match the checklist “bad stuff” of a filter (either software or human).   On the other hand some movies and TV shows are so violent or sexual as a result of their thesis that I can’t image any amount of filtering being enough.  Irony or ironies one such movie is the example of filtering in the Mpower video.  If you watch the promotional video you will see an example of filtering on “domestic violence”.  “I don’t want my children to see domestic violence”, says the voice over while we watch a scene being edited to remove the images of a husband backhanding his wife.  The problem with this is that the scene is from the movie “The Stoning of Soraya M”   (at least I am fairly certain it is).    I am at a loss how a movie about a woman being stoned because she was falsely accused of adultery at the hands of her abusive and ambitious husband so he can marry another woman is going to be made “family friendly” because the scene where his hand hits her head his removed.   If you child is old enough to grasp all the really intense issues about the rights of women under shira law — old enough to get something worthwhile from the movie as a whole then they probably will be able to internalize and conceptualize the wrong that this man does to his wife — both hitting her and framing her for adultery and letting her be executed.    I can not image how you could cut enough scenes from the movie to make it ok for a child who hadn’t reached that level of understanding.   Another example – The Passion of the Christ – if you blocked every scene that was objectionable on the violence you wouldn’t have much movie left.  But then again what parent would toss these movies into the DVD player for their 6-year-old to watch?  Not many I suspect.

This attitude might put me at odds with other mothers in the particulars, but there are movies that contain a fair amount of violence that I really have no problem with my children seeing, especially my older elementary aged children.  The Narnia movies,  the LOTR movies or one of my boy’s favorites (they are 11 and 6) Master and Commander.  The violence in all three is “war” these are battle scene movies and there are definitely good guys and bad guys and violence isn’t some game or morally neutral abstract.  Violence is hard and sad and even a little frightening but forced upon the good guys.  Master and Commander shows the life of young men on a British ship of war (even the maybe eight or nine-year-old “powder boys”.  To see a young midshipman step up and take command, a boy of maybe 13, is inspiring to my young men – the violence ads realism, it isn’t over the top, but it is enough to make the reality of the boy’s courage more admirable .  Life on a ship of war wasn’t a game, it was a life or death high stakes venture for all involved.

So for us context is every bit as important as content.  Another movie that I watch with the children is “The Mission”  which tells to story of Jesuit missionaries who are caught between their duty to the church and their duty to the people they serve when the Church is strong armed by the Portuguese government into surrendering control of her missions in Paraguay and Brazil.   It is a rich and complex movie (and one I think is highly underrated)  it has some violence and some cultural nudity  — the issues are really complex on some levels, but  I find it has a great deal of value for my older children (the 11 and up crowd)  you see a native priest forced at gunpoint to take off his clerical robes – racism in action.   Several priest die.  The two lead characters, one a reformed slave trader who dies fighting to defend his flock, and the other serves them by saying Mass and is shot leading his congregation with the monstrance. Which one chose the better path?  Why did the do what they did?  Why were some of the soldiers so reluctant to fight (one commander has tears streaming down his face and fights on anyhow)     These are wonderful questions for a boy of 11 to be thinking about.    But I wouldn’t ever just sit them in front of the TV thinking that Mpower was going to filter out anything objectionable.

So what to do? Honestly I think products such as Mpower are going completely the wrong direction.   The are working on two premises —  one that families have to watch television and two that eliminating offensive scenes is the enough.  I don’t think either one is true.  You really can have more control over what your children see if you just drastically limit it.  Cut cable all together, be selective with what you bring into the home and watch it with your children (especially the first time).  Discuss what they see and point out those things you agree with or don’t.  Technology isn’t going to fix what is wrong with our current media, most of it is just a wasteland to start with and attempting to rely on such technology is probably not a sensible solution if you are seriously concerned about the moral messages your child is exposed to and assimilates as opposed to the scenes they are watching or not.

Catholic Homeschooling

Homeschoolers live on tarps in parking lots….

who knew?

If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet you might want to mosey on over to the University of Maryland’s Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, there you will be treated to a first class example of an academic with their thinking cap screwed on just a wee bit too tightly : Robin West’s stunningly myopic essay, “The Harms of Homeschooling”.  It is one of those pieces that lets my heart rest easily that homeschooling is safe — if this is an example of the argument for tighter homeschooling regulation then there is no real argument.

Just for fun, here is her list of  “harms” .

  1. Homeschoolers are in danger of being abused with no school official present to report it. “Homeschooling, without visits or review, removes the children from the one forum in which their abuse may be identified.”
  2. Homeschoolers aren’t required to immunize their children.
  3. Schools provide unconditional love that children can’t get at home. (no, really, stop laughing, this is actually something she suggested)Here is the quote:  “… although I have yet to see studies of this, a safe haven in which they are both regarded and respected independently and individually. Family love is intense, and we need it to survive and thrive. It is also deeply contingent on the existence and nature of the family ties. Children are loved in a family because they are the children of the parents in the family. The “unconditional love” they receive is anything but unconditional: it is conditioned on the fact that they are their parents’ children. School—either public or private—ideally provides a welcome respite. A child is regarded and respected at school not because she is her parent’s child, but because she is a student: she is valued for traits and for a status, in other words, that are independent of her status as the parent’s genetic or adoptive offspring. The ideal teacher cares about the child as an individual, a learner, an actively curious person—she doesn’t care about the child because the child is hers. The child is regarded with respect equally to all the children in the class. In these ways, the school classroom, ideally, and the relations within it, is a model of some core aspects of citizenship.”
  4. Homeschoolers are political drones that vote for people like Bush.
  5. Homeschool parents are authoritarian and that is bad.
  6. We can’t really tell what homeschoolers are learning since most aren’t tested, those who are tested are probably the “elite” of homeschooled children and some homeschoolers probably only teach their children out of the Bible or let them play video games and skateboard all day.
  7. Homeschool parents make more money on average than non-homeschool parents (according to USA Today)  but some of them at least are homeless and have no job skills and are passing this on to their children.”The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner. These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000-square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots. Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.”

Seriously????  I can’t believe this thing even got published.     Anyhow it is good for a laugh.

H/T to Sunflowers and a Spoonful of Sugar.

My world

Advice to Myself

I was thinking this morning about Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and this scene:

I suppose this describes me very well.  I give myself awfully good advice — my follow through is not as admirable.

I was thinking about this a bit this morning and I came to a couple of conclusions:

Stick with what is working, change what doesn’t, and  don’t change what does work in an attempt to fix everything.

I have a terrible habit of doing this.  Kyle called me on it last week when I sat down to rework the house work thing.  The past couple months had side tracked me and things had built up and chaos was starting to rule again.  I pulled out a piece of paper and starting thinking out-loud about changing things, routines and all that and he told me to stop.  We had a plan, it was working I just needed to go back to what worked.  I didn’t need to rework the whole thing.

Overall – A small change for the better that lasts is better than a temporary big change for the better.

I am sure there are some exceptions to this, but I know that the small changes that I make that stick do me more good in the long run than big changes that are only temporary.  I suppose enough small changes add up to big changes and that is even better.

I shouldn’t let myself get discouraged by the fact that I have to “start over”.

I find it kind of alarming that sometimes everything seems to slip all at once, but starting over is always the better option than just ignoring that fact that things are off  center again.   Starting over is the opportunity to go back to doing what works and to make small changes to the things that don’t.

My world · rants

A Reflection on Racism

Last June I posted a bit of a rant related to racism and homeschooling.   Last week I had occasion to mentally visit the topic again and this morning I have time to write about it… fitting for MLK day I guess.

My Hannah is eight years old.  She is the first of my children to have been homeschooled from the start.  Last week she and I were talking and somehow the conversation wound around to racism.  Hannah really had no idea what racism is, it never occurred to her that people would think less of someone based on the color of their skin or where that person’s ancestors had come from.   “That’s stupid”, was her honest assessment of the very idea.

The all come to him
Christ and the children of the world.

I couldn’t help but contrast this to my oldest daughter’s,  Ashley’s, experience which I wrote about last June:

When schools do try to teach diversity it is frequently out of context or worse full of politically correct social agenda.  I remember my daughter coming home from third grade heart broken one day, “mommy,” she asked sadly, “Why are white people so mean to black people?”  I was floored.   Where do you even start with that?  Her class had been immersed in Black History month for about six weeks.  Story after story about the horrible meanness of white people.  She had learned what no child should ever learn, that something was wrong with people like her and by extension with herself because of her skin color. We were able to point out that while some people were bigots that bigotry was a product of education and environment not of her ethnicity and that our family had several friends and even relatives with a variety of racial backgrounds and skin tones.  Do I trust the schools to do a great job teaching my children about the beauty and diversity of race, creed and culture?   In short, the answer is no.

The experiences of my daughter’s couldn’t be different and I think they illustrate something profoundly wrong in how our society deals with issues of race.

Some people would read the two stories of my daughters and be sure that Hannah was missing something and that Ashley was better off.  They would re-spin the two antidotes and say that Ashley came home with a heartfelt understanding of race issues, that she had learned how cruel and unjust society is and would be better equipped to go out and try to rectify the errors of the past, while Hannah is sheltered and unaware, that she is part of the problem since she isn’t sensitized to the struggles of minorities in society and unaware of the bias that she benefits from.

In my mind Hannah has escaped the brainwashing.  She doesn’t see herself as better because of her race, she doesn’t see others as inferior based on their race, she doesn’t even see race — she just sees skin-tone and that only as a description no more an indicator of status than hair-color.   Ashley’s paradigm had been shifted to see RACE, to see a victim and a villain, skin color meant more to her than a descriptive quality, it carries with it a crippling of the historic victim and a hobbling  of the historic villain.   I may be totally wrong, but I do not think this is what Dr Martin Luther King had in mind when he spoke of his dream.  To be judged only on the content of one’s character is much closer to Hannah’s colorblind world view than the painfully pan-tone aware view that Ashley had foist upon her in a public school classroom.

There is nothing empowering about believing that you are a member of a “victim class”.  In college in my required women’s studies classes I often found myself taking the minority view that women are not the poor hapless victims at the hands of evil men, especially white, privileged men, and that they had instead a varied history that reflected more than the monotonousness world view presented in my college classes.   I could actually get away with speaking my mind on this subject in class because, being female, I was free to reject the role of victim.  The men in my class were not so fortunate – the villain is not allowed to reject the role, no matter how removed from them by actual history or circumstance.  If a man in the class were to point out that it was women for instance who put their daughters into corsets or to point out that in a many cultures women and the children benefited from most of the double standards (women and children first in an emergency)  he would be soundly put in his place a a perpetrator of the horrible male hegemony.  Sexism is a charge that is hard to slough off, racism is worse.

Over the last year I have seen one thing very promising coming from our current president’s historic role as the first American President of African extraction.  We are quickly getting over the villain thing.  The first half of the year was peppered with accusations of racism against those who opposed the president’s agenda.  Don’t like the government handing out money hand over fist — you must be racist.  Opposed nationalization of health-care — again you are a racist.  The tea-party movement was labeled racist and the media was so enamored with that line of attack that MSNBC actually cropped a shot of an gun tooting protester to hide his dark skin – while the presenter prattled on about the raciest, gun-packing, protesters.  And people started to question the whole idea of racism as a political motivation.  They could say in their hearts, “I don’t have a thing against my neighbor who is black (or Asian, or Native American)   where do these people get off calling me racist because I don’t want to government in control of my healthcare.”

There were people who were excited to vote for Mr Obama because it was their chance to prove to the world, to themselves, to history, that America has grown beyond a racist past and that we no longer need to be hobbled and burdened by the roles of villain and victim — when the left and the media went right on playing the old race card it felt like something of a betrayal.  But of course they have only illustrated the classic problem of  victimology.   When wrong doing is assigned as a function of birth it can never be made right because it was unjust to begin with.    Little children should not be segregated into groups of historic victims and historic villains.  We should each be held accountable for our own actions, not the actions or circumstances of  our assumed ancestors.  There is no way my children will be able to compensate my neighbor’s children for historic racial injustices.  First off my children’s ancestors were not the slave owners of American History and the neighbor’s emigrated from Sudan less than two year ago.   A bit flippant of an assessment, perhaps,  but also an illustration of the reality of today.

The civil right’s movement of Dr King was working to address actual wrongs.  Wrongs in the enforcement of the law, inequalities in educational opportunity and civil discourse.  Moving onward, moving towards something better requires  a letting go of the past.  The wrongs of history can not be set right, only learned from.  The desperate attempt, even well intentioned, of rectifying past wrongs with present injustice can never set those past wrongs to right.  It could only perpetuate a circle of oppression and oppressor with the roles changing but the tragedy always the same.   No little girl with dark skin should ever come home from school feeling like she isn’t smart enough, or good enough or pretty enough because her skin is dark.  Not little girl with light skin should ever come home from school thinking she is bad, or her family is evil, or that she owes some debt she can’t repay because she was born with light skin.  Far better if every little girl would have to have the completely foreign idea of racism explained to them and then be able to wrinkle up their nose and declare the whole thought of judging people on such petty things as “stupid”.

My world


Afternoon Pastimes
Afternoon Pastimes - Paul Alfred de Curzon

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of priorities, especially about understanding what my own priorities really are.

The defining of what my priorities should be  is very simple:  My relationship to God and my vocation as wife and mother.   In the basic  my faith, my marriage, my children, and my home.  Anything that negatively affects those things is, in the long run, detrimental to my happiness in this world and the next.

I have been reading 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  It is a good read with some terrific insight into the differences between vocation, career and job and it is a good and useful book especially for someone who is in need of a career change, but who doesn’t know how to break out of the rut they are in with their current career.  Mr Miller spends some time talking about seven areas of your life: Career, financial, social, family, physical, personal development, and spiritual, and the need for success and balance in all these areas.  I could easily quibble about that – religious life being an example where these priorities are very different, yet religious life is  rich and satisfying  for those who embrace it.  But it was interesting to me that I was reading about priorities – I think God answers many of my prayers with little bumps.   If I am praying for direction one thing will be repeating over and over — in conversations with friends, things I am reading, things I find online, news stories, random and seemingly disconnected and after about 20 little hints I see the pattern.

We went through a lot in 2009.  I need to set aside some time to ponder my priorities and get myself focused on the most important aspects of my life.

Blogs I Know · Catholic stuff · Faith in Action · Mothers for Vocations

The Man Behind the Collar

This is really worth sharing.

Fr “This short series follows three priests from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in their daily priestly duties and offers a glimpse into the diverse ways that priests serve others and relax through their own hobbies. It shows The Man Behind the Collar.”

My most recent interaction with the priesthood outside of mass was knowing that at almost midnight a priest came to the hospital to give last rites to my grandmother and another patient in the hospital.  24 hour job.

I also love the idea of asking “Lord, what do you want me to do?”.   When I was working with the youth in my parish I told them to pray every morning “What do you want for me to do today?” and if they would be bold enough to listen and act on God’s will they would live extraordinary lives of purpose and joy in Christ.  I really believe this, though I forget all too often to do it myself.

My world

House cleaning.

Well, not really house cleaning, but definitely blog cleaning.   I have been keeping this blog since February of 2007 and I haven’t really done much maintenance on it.  So I am going through a round of catching up and cleaning up and figuring out what direction I want to go with the blog next.

My world

In the end it is all ok

Granny and Grandpa - October 13, 1943 Bud and Betty Hahn, their wedding. She was 19 and he was 24.

My grandmother entered the hospital on November 16th  suffering from intestinal distress, vomiting and abdominal pain.  She had a twisted bowel that was operated on that Friday,  six inches of necrotic intestine had to be removed.  The hospital is horrible for my grandmother. Her lack of short term memory creates a situation of reoccurring distress as she realizes that she no longer remembers where she is, or why she is there.   The daughter of tough Scottish immigrants and a child of the depression she was taught early and well to not complain, protest or make trouble for anyone – she won’t ask for pain medication, ring for the nurse or inconvenience  the staff in any way – even at the cost of her own discomfort.  The staff doesn’t always catch onto this fact and with no one to sit and encourage her to ask for additional pain medication or attempt to eat she fails to provide even the smallest comfort for herself.

It is distressing to see her so thin and frail and ill.  Things change  quickly – day to day there is a switch in plans. Over the course of two weeks one surgery turns into three, hopes of grandma returning to her private foster-care placement are abandoned.  Part of this switching of plans has to do with the fact that my grandmother’s condition is hard to predict, at 86 she can’t recover from something a quickly as a younger person would, she is weaker still because of her failure to eat which also slows healing and in turn opens her up to more chances for opportunistic infection.  On top of this there is a continual disconnect between what is communicated between the hospital and the care-facility she has been living in.  One day she can return to where she has been, the next day she needs more rehabilitation. Differing opinion from family about what the treatment goals should be  – my mother has a difficult time accepting that her mother will probably not ever fully recover – she seems to hear what she wants and ends up asking for treatments that are not suited to my grandmothers condition.  I spent some time talking to the doctors and nurses, the hospital social worker, my husband and my father and, most difficultly, my mother, but at last we all got onto the same page and were able to make the decision to stop curative care and pursue palliative care.

One of the social workers I spoke with remarked that choosing this route is always a difficult decision.  But it really wasn’t.   I don’t think the choice was hard.  Like so many “crisis” choices the decision itself was very easy.  Of the options presented — this was the best choice, the best option, the only real option.  The difficulty lays in the afterward.  Those moments in the late evening sitting on the sofa in my room with a glass of wine wondering about the possibility of alternatives that in the light of day and without the leisure to hope for the impossible were not allowed to push themselves forward.  The hope of hanging on for a miracle – a miracle but  to what end? When the thought is carried through to the logical conclusion to even pray that my grandmother would live through this was almost cruel.  The best to be hoped for would that she would once again be living in her care-facility with memories slipping away daily — blowing away like the autumn leaves .   The best would be her mourning the loss of grandpa as she had for the past 14 years waiting for the day she would see him again.   All the while in pain from her surgery, her hip, her aging body.  How could anyone ask this dear woman who has given so much to us to carry this horrible burden farther?

I am not so naive to think that suffering and pain do not work to good ends in God’s wisdom, but while I might pray for the grace and fortitude to see through my own pain – my earnest prayer for my grandmother is that God grant her peace and freedom from suffering.  Prayer, there comes a point where our medicines become torture and we  need to set those things down and pray.  There is a place where only prayer can help and only death can heal us – rebirth us to heaven where hope to meet in a sun filled morning that one who suffered so much for us, Christ.  He will known, understand intimately, the pain we suffer and he will hold us close and wipe away all tears.  This becomes the prayer when the prayer for healing stops and the prayer for heaven begins.

The choice to go with palliative care changed the way medicine worked with my grandmother.  The catechism says: “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. ”  This acceptance provides so much relief for my grandmother.   No longer did the kind physical therapist force her to stand and take two or three excruciating, shuffling steps.  Uncomfortable monitoring equipment was removed.  The rules limiting the visits of my children disappeared and they were all able to come and see their beloved granny again.  A hand-made quilt took the place of impersonal white hospital linens and a cart of refreshments magically appeared in the hospital room every evening for family.

We were blessed that one of the nurses working with my grandmother, Linda, was a good Catholic lady, a convert, as was my grandmother and as am I.  When the priest was called for last rites he was unable to arrive before I had to return home.  The next evening Linda was able to share with me how lovely it was.  My grandmother had awoken when the priest arrived, she had been awake and coherent and responsive.  Since I wasn’t able to be there personally it meant so much to have someone who understood the rite be able to express to me how spiritual an experience it had been for my grandmother.  My grandmother’s lack of short term memory robbed her of the ability to communicate such things to me herself.  It was simply a blessing that someone was there to pass the experience on to me for safekeeping.

After the weekend my grandmother is transferred to a skilled nursing facility.   My parents and I meet there with the hospice nurse from Providence and she explains their services.  Their goal for the patient is pain management and they are there to support the family in dealing with the transition of their loved one from life to death.  Talking with the social workers and nurses I begin to see how much of a process death can be, how it is a real transition in the sense of moving from one stage of the soul to the next.  We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come.  For us death is not a “dead-end” it is a doorway, beyond it there is more. After three weeks in the hospital my grandmother is moved to a skilled nursing facility.

The hospital was much more pleasant in ways — in my heart I want her to go back to her old care facility with the spirited Romanian immigrant who loves my grandmother.  I  find myself sick with a head cold for the first week after grandma is moved  so for almost a week I don’t see her.  I feel guilty “abandoning” her in that gray place, but  I certainly don’t wish to burden her with a cold on top of her other physical complaints.  When the nurse calls and tells me that my grandmother has begun to decline I have to see her.

Kyle and I spent the evening on Tuesday with her.  She was happy and feeling in good spirits.  We talked about fishing and lambs, knitting and the children, we talked about my grandfather and how much we loved one another.   Kyle and I each held one of her hands and visited.  We gave her kisses as we left and she smiled and said “Such happy, happy memories.”   When we got home Kyle commented on how tightly she had squeezed his hand when we said we had to leave and I told him that when she gave him a kiss she was giving one to my grandfather too.  In some way all those beautiful memories of her long and happy life had come unmounted to time and floated together all equally present and all equally precious.   All the memories were now and all the love in her whole life was with us right then in that moment and the moment was all that mattered.

Memories are one of the few earthly treasures that we can take with us.  Each precious reflection connects us to each other and to ourselves.  Memory of prayers answered, miracles experienced and blessing given us from heaven build and strengthen our relationship with God.  He draws us closer to him with our own stories, both the good and the bad.  He uses it all for our good.

That night I dreamed of my grandfather and a cabin in the mountain near a crystal blue lake in the meadow.  I could hear children laughing and could see sunshine-golden hair playing in tall grass.  They were waiting for grandma, my grandfather, the babies we lost before we had a chance to hold them… they are there.  It is not quite heaven just the fringes, heaven is still a short distance away where the white city of God gleams in endless morning.  This is just a dream- a dream of something comforting, some whisper that everything is good with those I have loved and lost.  They are there together waiting for her.

The next evening is so different.  My grandmother can no longer speak; she is waiting, slipping.

The next morning  I spoke on the phone with hospice and the nurse was surprised at how swiftly she had declined.  That evening I went to the care facility immediately after dinner, somehow I knew even before I left home that I would be there until she passed.  Kyle seemed to sense this as well and urged me to take all the time there I could.  So I could be there when she needed me.  The only thing I can compare it to was being at Serenity’s birth.  A birth is also a transition, work, important and sacred.  It is part of god’s plan for our experience and for our ultimate union with him.  It is inescapable.   When you share this with someone, when you are there when someone you care about goes through this it disconnects you from the mundane for a short time.   It can go well, as it did at both the birth and death I have attended or it can be difficult, though I can not imagine it ever being easy.

When I arrived Granny’s breathing was labored my mother had stopped by on her way home and asked the nurses to give her oxygen.  There was a definite change.  The waiting had ended and this was work.  All I could do was sit and hold her hand and rub her shoulder with lotion.  Prayer, again it came round to prayer.  I found myself singing “Let all mortal flesh keep silent.” It just seemed the only thing to be in my head, but right there with only the sound of her breathing and the pump and hum of the oxygen machine it made sense that silence was imminent.  I told her about my dream and the beautiful valley and grandpa waiting for her on the wide deck overlooking the lake with the fish jumping and the curious deer at the edge of the woods and I asked her to look after my babies and I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her and she was gone.  And the room seem small but at the same time something sacred  had occurred there. And I know that angels were leaving and that my grandmother would soon be able to be home.  I could almost her my grandfathers’ voice welcoming his “little bride” just like he used to call her when he would come up behind her in the kitchen for a hug and a kiss.  And all is good with those I have loved and lost.