ALL THAT REMAINS

Daily Post WordPress Daily Word Challenge

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“But now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old fashioned kegs”

I have discovered something.

The older one becomes, the more one realizes life is not forever.

Eighteen takes forever to arrive and the years after that much ballyhooed milestone flash by in a blur!

Leaving the eighteen year old mind to ponder the rather decrepit condition of the body in which it lives.

What happened and when did it happen and where was I when it happened?

In startled realization the eighteen year old mind begins to mull over the undeniable recompense of having been born.

Life ends, sometimes not with a bang but with a whimper or maybe with a sigh or a slight whisper of regret.

What will remain?

When that day of reckoning comes, what will remain to say to the world (or at least my world) that Donna was here?

The Bible reminds us that life is like a vapor, you know, like the steam from a tea kettle that dissipates as soon as the flame underneath it is extinguished.

What will remain behind to say, “There once lived a woman named Donna?”

Kind of sounds like the beginning to a really bad limerick, doesn’t it?

But, really, what will remain?

It’s a little late to become a mogul or a tycoon or even a thousandnaire, so material goods are out!

Material goods of any great value, I mean.

What will remain?

Three daughters whose sharp wits outpace mine but whose humor is reflected in my own?

Yep.

Grandchildren who will remember me as Granny without the “r,” the woman who always asked the typical old folks question, “How is school?”

Yep, again.

Life inspired words splattered across virtual pages released to searching eyes in hopefully exotic places?

Yes, indeed!

Memories of yesterday cocooned in the hearts of those left behind to remember and laugh and cry and cherish?

Now, that is the real question, isn’t it?

Really, what will remain?

Legacy

TUESDAY TANTRUM: Cliched Encouragement

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At some point in our lives, death, the unwelcome interloper, will knock on the door of someone we love.

Though we may do our best to hold on to them, the steely cold hands of death will eventually  win that awful tug of war.

When death interrupts the normal flow of life for someone we know and love, our first instinct is to try and fix their brokenness. We just don’t want them to suffer in their sorrow.

A noble intent, indeed, but I have a word or two for all of us well- meaning souls. . .

STOP IT!!!

We can’t fix it! We can’t change it! We can’t make the pain and sorrow go away!

Yes, I know we rush to their sides because we love them, our heart breaks for them, we want them to feel better!

Yes, yes and yes, I get it! Compassion, sympathy, empathy, pathos, all of that, I. Get. It!

BUT

We must do our best to not hand out clichéd encouragement to those who are going through those gut wrenching moments of sorrow!

Cliched Encouragement

“God has another flower in His garden.”

“You loved them but God loved them more.”

“Now you have an angel to watch over you.”
“You can handle this!”
“Stay strong!”
“What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger!”
“He won’t put any more on you than you can bear.”

Yeah, stuff like that.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying do not try to encourage those who find themselves wrapped in grief.

What I am saying is stop trying to fix the person, fix their view of their situation.

Support them through their hard times. Sit quietly with them when there are no words. Weep with them. Share their tears. Hold their hands through the valley. Listen to their stories. Allow them their sorrow in your presence.

Yeah, stuff like that!

Starbucks Furor: Full Of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells

All seem to say throw cares away

Christmas is here bringing good cheer

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Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see

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It came upon a midnight clear that glorious song of old

Of angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold

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Hark the herald angels sing

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For unto us a child us born

Unto us a son is given

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Silver bells speak of joy,  night winds whisper promise, angels bend near with harps to announce, Herald angels sing of glory, Kings bring gifts that bespeak royalty/life/death and Isaiah writes 700 years in advance…

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And the red cup declares what?

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Continue reading

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” ~ Viola Davis

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So, Viola Davis spoke her truth at the Emmy Awards Program last night
While holding an Emmy she had just won, I might add
And this soap opera actress
Of whom I have never heard
Because I don’t watch soap operas
Decides that Viola’s truth is not really Viola’s truth
That she, Viola, has never suffered loss because of her color or her hair
That, in fact, she (the soap opera actress) has suffered discrimination just like Viola and every other female actress
Because “All Female Actresses Matter”
So, stop your whining Viola, we are all in the same boat together
Say, can you hear echoes of Matt Damon explaining to the woman who has lived on the periphery of diversity all her life exactly what diversity looks like
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Even if this soap opera person’s take were true for Viola
And I’m pretty Black sure it isn’t
She would still be seen as the exception rather than the rule
And probably is still seen as such by many in that industry
The break-out talent that the industry deigns to accommodate as the token accepted one
So, let me see if I have this right
Only the white privileged have the authority to define diversity and discrimination to those who who are not included or accepted

And the beat goes on …

I WILL CELEBRATE!!!!!

I may have mentioned that I watch food and home reality shows. One of my favorite food reality shows is “Master Chef” where home cooks compete against one another for the grand prize.

Now I am a great home cook but I do not cook like those contestants. They are like gourmet home cooks. I don’t know any home cooks who cook like they do. I often wonder if they are given recipes on the show for those fancy schmancy five star restaurant dishes they create.

But, this is not the point of this post. Last evening a woman won “Master Chef.” At the end of the show she proclaimed herself “The first Latina Master Chef.” This is the point of this post.

In my limited observations, it appears to me that every culture openly and unapologetically celebrates its culture except African Americans. It is almost as though we have to hold back a little on the celebration lest we offend someone. We do not declare our pride in our history of determination or our traditions forged in the fire, and we are, too often, the first to apologize for being too visible. It is as though we learned the rules of assimilation too well.

The woman who won “Master Chef” last night stuck to the recipes of her culture just elevating them from rustic to gourmet. She never moved away from, in her words, “who she was.” In fact, every other contestant whose ethnicity would be considered minority represented and celebrated, for the most part, their culture in their cooking. The African American “chefs” sometimes offered “me on a plate,” but not very often and too often with calamitous results.

Here is my take-away from last night’s show. The time has come for me to celebrate me, to celebrate the pain and the traditions of my history, individual and collective.

I will celebrate the pain for it has taught me how resilient African Americans truly are. Trace the timeline of our history and recognize that no matter what we endured, and we have endured a lot, we have survived. It may be true that much of our pain today is because we have not come to grips with the pain of our past, but we must learn to celebrate the tenacity inherent in that pain. I will celebrate!

I will celebrate the traditions passed down to me from ancestors who created their own from scraps, who learned to lead while shackled in servitude, who clothed themselves in their Sunday Best after celebrating Black on a Saturday night. I will celebrate!

I will not apologize for the natural locks or the darker melanin.
I will code switch without explanation or apology.
I will not succumb to “I don’t belong here.”
I will not back away from the conversations that assume I have no voice or opinion about my place.
I will be visible in unexpected places.
I will sing my song of difference and dance my dance of uniqueness in homogenous venues.
Dressed up or dressed down, my confidence and pride will always show.
I will celebrate ME with no apology!

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~My Mother back in the day

“Weekend Glory” by Maya Angelou

Some clichty folks
don’t know the facts,
posin’ and preenin’
and puttin’ on acts,
stretchin’ their backs.

They move into condos
up over the ranks,
pawn their souls
to the local banks.
Buying big cars
they can’t afford,
ridin’ around town
actin’ bored.

If they want to learn how to live life right
they ought to study me on Saturday night.

My job at the plant
ain’t the biggest bet,
but I pay my bills
and stay out of debt.
I get my hair done
for my own self’s sake,
so I don’t have to pick
and I don’t have to rake.

Take the church money out
and head cross town
to my friend girl’s house
where we plan our round.
We meet our men and go to a joint
where the music is blue
and to the point.

Folks write about me.
They just can’t see
how I work all week
at the factory.
Then get spruced up
and laugh and dance
And turn away from worry
with sassy glance.

They accuse me of livin’
from day to day,
but who are they kiddin’?
So are they.

My life ain’t heaven
but it sure ain’t hell.
I’m not on top
but I call it swell
if I’m able to work
and get paid right
and have the luck to be Black
on a Saturday night.

LAUGHING TO KEEP FROM CRYING

I have been known to laugh
Often
Out loud and in public
I am known for
My laugh
Neither shy or skittish
It is unapologetic
For its startling cacophony or amazing depth
It has masked tears
And
Shrouded insecurity
As a teenager
Elders warned me
My African American Elders
Tone it down
Keep it hidden
Mute it to public ears
Judgmental ears
Because a stereotype
Had attached itself to
My laugh
In their narrow eyes
Always
Too loud
Too long
Uncouth
Dangerous
Unless
We were scratching our heads
Or
Were the butt of their jokes
Which obliged us
Permitted us
Obligated us
To laugh out loud
In public
In front of them
A public laugh
Without permission or invited inclusion
Was unacceptable
Suspect
Brought swift reprisal and demands for “Quiet subservience”
Still
The power of
My laugh
Could not be denied
Then
Will not be denied
Now
I Dare you to to measure me
With your uninformed assumptions
Your negative attention
To my unashamed unabashed exuberance
That
Defies your crude expectations
Of my place
In “your” space
Which
Makes you uncomfortable
Because
My laugh
Is a reminder
You can no longer
Control me
Or
My laugh

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ONE MOMENT IN TIME

I have to admit it, this crutch makes me self-conscious.

I really cannot explain why I am so embarrassed by this crutch.

Maybe it’s because I don’t want people to pity me.

Maybe I feel this way, the not wanting to be pitied, because I have been taught by society to see a physical challenge as something to be pitied.

How did we humans come to score disability as a mark of shame, something to despise and pity?

My condition is only temporary, but I have experienced the rudeness of the able-bodied to whom I have grown invisible, whether on crutch or in a grocery store cart or crutching my way down a street or an store aisle.

I have been run into, almost run into/run over, ignored and passed by.

The rudeness is incomprehensible.

Still, this crutch has taught me to accept the extended grace of others, friends and strangers, without shame.

You see, I keep thinking, “I can do this,” but I can’t, at least not right now.

Now, when someone asks, “Can I help you?” if I really need help, I say “Yes.”

But, on the other hand, I am still capable of handling some things on my own even as others think I can’t or shouldn’t.

Don’t count me out just because it looks like I am down.

I am still here, which tells me His plan is still in place for me, crutch and all.

Last week, as my sister and I checked into a hotel in Dallas, a woman in a battery powered wheel chair was seated near the counter.

I thought I recognized her.

Joni Eareckson Tada.

Then I decided, in normal Donna fashion, “Naaah.”

After a whispered conversation with my sister by the elevator about this woman’s possible identity, I went up to the room while she waited in the lobby.

When my sister came into the room, she said, “That WAS her and she asked about you about and the crutch and she asked for your email, if that’s okay with you!”

Duh!

A few days later, I received an email:

“Dear Donna… it was so encouraging to see your smile as you walked into the Dallas airport hotel when I was sitting in the lobby — I noticed your cane right away and when I asked your sister, she mentioned you had gone through a recent knee replacement. I am truly sorry that you are dealing with so much pain and discomfort. Donna, I have written a pamphlet on pain management (after 48 years in a wheelchair, I deal with chronic pain), and I would love so send it to you. When you have a chance, please send me your mailing address and I will get it off to you right away. In the meantime, draw comfort from these encouraging words in Psalm 57:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Looking forward to hearing from you… Joni”

Joni Eareckson Tada
Founder/CEO
Joni and Friends International Disability Center

The crutch seems much less of an issue these days.

It reminds me of God’s amazing grace spoken to me through a woman who has lived with a physical challenge almost all her life while mine is merely a passing moment in time.

CANES AND WALKERS AND CRUTCHES, OH MY!

TEXAS, MY TEXAS
NOT A LEG TO STAND ON

I was more than a little hesitant to show up at my school reunion leaning on a crutch.
Yes, I know.
Pride.
I could not back out, call the committee chair to say I would not be there.
I was the guest speaker for the memorial.
My word was out there so I had to be there.
I expected the questions
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Why are you leaning to the side?”
I was ready with my answers, ready to fend off embarrassment with forthright honest answers.
Then it happened.
A coterie began to form.
The coterie of canes and walkers and crutches.
When we passed each other in the lobby we would give one another the, “I feel you” nod.”
We commiserated with one another about how we came to the land of assistive devices and we always ended with “This too will pass.”
Our canes and walkers and crutches became badges of courage and honor and longetivity.
When we walked into a room, groups of people would part like the Red Sea to make way for us
We no longer felt like three legged pariahs in the land of the two footed upright walkers.
We were grateful for every grace offering of assistance from door opening to food serving.
We welcomed the ” Can I get anything else for you” moments.
I officially dub us all, Society of The Enabled Steppers.
Next time, we will be the helpers because we have learned how to extend grace.
All because of canes and walkers and crutches, oh my!

The Rachel Dolezal Incident

“I identify as black.”

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Up until now, I have voiced no opinion about what I shall call “The Rachel Dolezal Incident.”

“I identify as black.”

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Something about this statement breaks my heart. Not for her. For me.

Raised in the Jim Crow South, I did not have the “luxury or entitlement” to self-identify as black, to choose an identity that suited my whims. I was black, or Negro as we were known then and I could have declared myself to be a flying purple people eater but to the majority culture around me, I still would have been just another Negro. I did not have to artificially darken my skin or perm-nappy my hair in order to let the world in which I lived know I was black. I had no choice. I was black.

Why did you feel compelled to implement those kind of changes in order to identify with black like me? Why didn’t you keep all that you were born with and just simply say, “Though I was born white, I identify as black.” You would then have saved yourself from being outed by your still very white parents, and Rachel, that place where you were born, it just screams WHITE! Hey, Did you change your place of birth, too? With what place of birth do you now identify?

“I identify as black.”

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What part of your self-identification also encompassed and embraced the dirty nitty gritty reality of being born and raised black in America, the real hope to die black, in America? I suspect that you probably have experienced some discrimination since you “decided” you were black. Hey, did you get that, “Since you decided you were black?” Still, even those experiences are going to be filtered through your very white consciousness and your response to said discrimination cannot be the same as that of the everyday garden variety of black. Besides, because you aren’t a real black, you can go back to being what you say you are not. How ’bout that!

“I identify as black.”

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Rachel, I do not know why you chose to wear this mask. I am still not sure if I even care why you chose to wear this mask. What breaks my heart is the fact that we true blacks have had to wear a mask for almost four hundred years. Years of lowering our eyes and smiling when we really wanted to scream out our rage. Years of accepting cast offs and discarded offal when we really wanted our own and the best of our own. Years of denial and debasement and denigration when we knew our humanity was just as precious as the next group.

We have been more than ready to rip off this mask, to strip ourselves of Dubois’ double consciousness. We are weary of defining ourselves through the eyes of others. We are tired of singing the sorrow songs. We no longer want to be invisible, living in the dimly lit undergrounds of America the Beautiful. We want to be visible to everyone in all our cultural glory, and quite frankly, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired of having our culture appropriated for entertainment and personal accouterments.

But, unlike you, Miz Rachel, when we remove our masks and present ourselves as true humans who deserve every benefit and privilege that you chose to “relinquish,” Matt Lauer will not call us in for an exclusive interview nor will the press pursue us for our story. Instead we will be labelled, aside from other epithets, as “those people,” and everyone will know exactly who they mean without our ever having to declare, “I identify as black.”

Hey, Rachel, I cannot identify with you.

I identify as black!

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“We Wear The Mask”
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask.

I Am The Way

An individual can be sincerely right or sincerely wrong. Sincerity is no marker for the absolute-ness of a principle or a concept or even a “truth.” We believers can stand toe to toe to debate “truth” from our perspective until the cows come home, but too often our truths are merely based on the experiential and emotional rather than the absolutes of God’s word. To debate the absolute of God’s word is to somehow, as I see it, throw doubt on His veracity and to sift who He is through a 21st century sensibility as though His omniscience has been diluted by the swift passing of time.

We now live in a time where some individuals who name themselves Christian, private or public sector, have taken up their own mantle deemed truth and either refuse to accept any other discourse or dialogue or label any opposition as Haters who bring their Haterade to a members only Hatefest.

The gospel of John reminds us that we are sanctified by God’s truth and His word is truth. I do not believe we are called to prove the rightness of our stance (or His righteousness) by wrapping and re-wrapping our sincerity in pious rhetoric that magnifies our rightness and minimizes those who do not stand in agreement. We are called to prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God as salt and light. How can the world savor our salt and be drawn to our light if we spend most of our time tilting at each other’s windmills?

At the end of the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” (yep, a favorite), the genteel and erudite Marcus Brody unsteadily rides his fast paced steed into the horizon as he declares to the others, “Follow me; I know the way,” to which Dr. Henry Jones responds, “Got lost in his own museum, huh?”

Let us not be the individual declaring we know the way while we, too many times have been lost in our own museums.