I’ve come here so often, an average of four days per week for a year, that my phone recognizes the Cancer Specialists Wi-Fi signal. The woman next to me, on the other side of the drywall partition, with the plum purple glasses and weathered gray hair, is sobbing. Gasps that sound like someone drowning. My phone doesn’t recognize that but I do. Her cancer, I can tell from the fresh, pink chest port wound, is a recent discovery.
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My older brother died 25 years ago. I was ten years old. I grew up with grief.
Flip turns have a mystique about them. Walk up to any pool and watch folks swimming laps. Your eyes will immediately go to the swimmers who do flip turns at the walls. It doesn’t matter if they are faster than the other swimmers, they will look fiercer because of the flip turn. Conversely, if, instead of doing flip turns, you saw Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps sticking their heads up at the walls, gulping air, turning awkwardly half out of the water, then plunging back in for the next lap, they would seem significantly less fierce.
The realization came to me while watching the “Mothers of the Movement” speaking at the Democratic National Convention. These mothers of children who had died too young and too violently, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and more, had come to Philadelphia to speak. Sandra Bland’s mom was leading them off with words of faith and grace. And that’s when I thought about Donald Trump’s speech at his own convention last week, and about the overarching message of fear, intolerance, and negativity that has come to define his campaign.
“Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Like most children raised by Christian parents in the South, I learned that song before I learned to sing my ABCs.
My garden is cranking again this summer, and one of the most remarkable things about a garden is just how much it varies year to year. You'd think, given how much remains the same, that a garden would be a consistent thing.
A week ago I led a memorial service, a celebration of life, for a two-day old. It was excruciating, as you might imagine. It was also stunning and beautiful, as you might not imagine. Pain was real and evident, but more present was the love that surrounded these two parents and these three grandparents. That service came on the tail of four other deaths in our congregation, all women in their nineties.
“What’s happening to America?” I’ve overheard such comments, exasperated and worried, frequently of late. Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge again: “Has the world lost its mind?”
Pharaoh trembled at the growing Hebrew population; at the thought that these slaves might realize their oppression and realize their power. He demanded that the Egyptians throw all of the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile River. Herod trembled at the report from the eastern scholars of a child who had been born King of the Jews; at the prospect of Jewish rebellion and an end to his tenuous hold on power.
Writing used to be easy. Now, nothing seems easy. Leaning in, I just stare at the screen. Occasionally, I try to type something. Despite my desperation to write, my mind is held captive to a former place. Bloody films never leave you.
Ten years ago we started being married. It is the vow that started our vocation. But what does it mean when a vow becomes an everyday verb? When a calling is shared as a single story?
Recent news, as so often is the case, has brought images and descriptions of young black men shot by police officers. The narrative is sickeningly familiar: a young person dies; protests take place; authorities promise a full and fair investigation and, if warranted, consequences for the officers involved; journalists and community leaders remind us of the long series of these deaths; voices call for mutual respect and genuine collaboration between minority communities and law enforcement agencies, and insist on reform of the justice system. Hardly anything changes.
A couple of days ago I tried to make a point about #AllLivesMatter drawing on the biblical prophets. This week, a Facebook friend made a similar point in relation to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel.
Eric Adams describes his experience as an African American citizen and father as well as a police officer in blue uniform in this guest column; what can only be a painful intersection every day has become searing this week.