אָשֵׁר

December 3rd, 2020

Two days ago, the girl that we love was in the bathroom. She shouted for Karin to come. Karin didn’t hear the girl, so I walked over to the bathroom and asked,

“Can I help?”

The very pregnant young woman just stared at me for a moment. Then she made it abundantly clear that she needed Karin, not me. I found Karin in the kitchen and told her the girl needed her ASAP.

I tried to stay out of the way, but I heard most the conversation between Karin and the girl anyway. The girl said,

“I’m leaking. Do you think my water broke?”

Karin answered, “It might just be pee. My pee has been really weak lately. Maybe the COVID is making yours weak too.”

I thought I heard the girl’s eyes roll. Then she said, “It’s not pee.”

Karin advised the girl to call her doctor, and then rest for a while.

A little while later, the young woman asked Karin,

“How did it feel when you had contractions?”

Karin said that she had felt it throughout her belly. The girl replied,

“I am feeling cramps down here.” The girl sounded anxious, understandably so. After all, her baby, little Asher, wasn’t due until the beginning of February.

Karin told her to see her doctor.

The girl explained to Karin, “I called my doctor. They don’t want me to come to their office. They want me to go to the ER at St. Francis Hospital if need help.”

I told the young woman, “If you need to go to the hospital, I’ll take you. Just let me know what we have to do.”

She nodded to me and went back to her bedroom.

Under normal conditions, the girl’s fiancé would be taking her to the hospital. However, like her, he has COVID, and he can barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom. Karin has been sick for two weeks already, and she didn’t want to drive. That left me.

At around 10:30 AM, the girl decided that she wanted to go to the ER. We got into the car and drove.

She asked me, with a voice filled with anxiety,

“Do babies that are seven weeks early die?”

I told her, “They survive. They just have a rough time of it for a while.”

I had to remember back in 1987 when Hans, our oldest son, was born. Hans was four weeks premature. He made it, but he was so fragile for a while. I remembered visiting Hans in the hospital. He was tiny and utterly helpless. I remembered looking at him and feeling afraid.

Now Hans is a grown man with a son of his own. It turned out okay.

I let the girl off at the ER entrance. Then I parked and waited.

And waited.

The hours ticked by slowly. There was no place to go and nothing to do. I tried to text the young woman. I got no response. I didn’t expect one. Phone reception in the hospital is minimal. The girl once told me that reception is bad in hospitals and prisons. She told me once that prisons and hospital are all built in the same way. She would know; she’s spent time in both of them.

I was starting to feel sick, alternately feverish and chilled. That was no good. I just wanted to go home and lie down. I couldn’t leave because I didn’t know what was happening with the girl, and the ladies at the ER desk wouldn’t tell me shit. So I sat in the car with the seat all the way back.

I did get some texts, but they all from people who were not the girl in question. Everybody wanted to know what was happening. I told them that I had no idea.

At about 2:00 I got a text from the girl:

“I just gave birth. You might as well go home. They are keeping me here overnight.”

Okay.

When I got home I heard more details about the birth. It was natural and quick. Asher is apparently healthy. The boy is three pounds in weight. He is feisty. He has big balls.

“Asher” (אָשֵׁר) means “Happy” and “Blessed” in Hebrew.

We’ll see about that. At least he arrived intact.

COVID Dreams

December 1st, 2020

I just woke up from an intense dream a few minutes ago. Now I sit in the dark, typing what I remember of the vision before it all fades away.

In my dream, I was back in Germany. I was in a church. It was the little Evangelische Kirche (Lutheran church) in my wife’s hometown of Edelfingen. There was a choir singing in the loft. The Lutheran minister was there, dressed in black and giving a sermon. The young woman whom I love was sitting in a chair to the left of me.

The girl was beautiful, younger than she is now. She looked to be of high school age, and was dressed in a blouse and skirt, which in reality she would have never worn.

The two of us stood up for the Lord’s Prayer. As we prayed, she put her right hand into my left. She lifted up my hand. There was something in the prayer that I needed to remember, but I don’t.

After the prayer ended, the minister came to us to give us communion. Lutherans seldom do that. He placed the host (the wafer) on our tongues. Even Catholics hardly ever do that. The girl looked at me and smiled.

Then I felt her hand tugging in mine. She was being pulled away. She still smiled, but then she was gone.

I wept.

The dream is over. I still want to cry.

The young woman sleeps in her bedroom nearby. Sometimes I hear her deep, ropey cough in the darkness. She found out yesterday that she has COVID. The woman fears for her unborn son. She is more worried about Asher than she is about herself.

COVID is here in our house, doing the work of all plagues. I have that bitter taste of fear in my mouth, even though I know it all has to run its course.

I am grateful for the dream.

Chain Gang

November 28th, 2020

“The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they’ve done to you”

from “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders (1982)

The young woman’s fiancé has a job interview on Monday afternoon. He’s excited about it, as he should be. His girl is seven months pregnant, and he is flat broke. Both of them live at our house, which is necessary at this point. They have no other options. The young man wants to be a good father and husband, which would require him to make a living to support his new family. So, this thirty-year-old is both excited, and nervous, about getting a new job. There is a lot riding on this.

I have been in a similar situation. It happened many years ago. I resigned my commission as an U.S. Army officer in August of 1986. Almost immediately thereafter, Karin and I found out that she was pregnant with our first son, Hans. I had hoped to transition quickly and smoothly from my military career (such as it was) to a job in civilian life. That was not to happen. I had been a rebel, malcontent, and ofttimes drunk in the Army, and that made me less than attractive to prospective employers. It took me five months to get a job that would take care of my wife and son-to-be. Those were five months of intense stress; months that I would wish on no other person.

The fiancé’s condition is a bit different. He is a recovering addict, and he is putting his all into getting his head straight. I admire him for that. In that sense, he is better man than I am. The young man has a history, and he already has responsibilities (he has three small children from two previous relationships). The man has baggage. He is digging himself out of a hole, and the hole is deep.

The fiancé’s job interview is with the same trucking company that employed me for almost 28 years. I joined CCX in 1988 as a supervisor, and I kept that position for my entire career there. CCX no longer exists. It eventually morphed into Con-Way Freight, and finally it was bought out by XPO Logistics, a soulless, global transportation conglomerate. The transition to XPO occurred just before I retired five years ago. I have not heard any good news from my old work place since that time.

In any case, the fiancé needs a job, and XPO is desperately looking for warm bodies. That corporation assumed that, with the pandemic, business would slow down. It didn’t. It’s booming instead. So, they have a huge shortage of people to do the work. This being true, the fiancé is in a very good position to find work.

Here is the rub: the young man is not necessarily well suited for this particular work environment. He has the right skill set. He knows how to drive a forklift and he has worked already in an factory setting. However, this guy is a sensitive and gentle soul. That is not good.

I don’t know how things are now at XPO. I don’t really want to know. However, when I left that organization, it was a truly heartless, vicious place to work. Part of that was my fault. I was a hard person to like.

Con-Way, or XPO, was always an example of capitalism in its purist and most ruthless form. Good enough was never good enough. There was never enough profit. Every workday was just another chance to squeeze blood from a stone. Con-Way followed the moral code of the cancer cell: growth is always good. We could never be as efficient as we could be. We were always lacking somehow , maybe just a little bit.

Even now, I look back with at those years with trepidation. I didn’t like who I was then. More to the point, other people didn’t like me either. If I ever meet with former coworkers, they say something like,

“Well, you really were an asshole, but you always got the job done.”

I guess that they can write that on my tombstone.

The fiancé is applying for a job on the loading/unloading dock. That will be interesting. He will be working on the dock during crunch time. There is a narrow window during the late afternoon when 1.5 million pounds of freight from pick ups in the city explodes on to the dock. It is busy beyond belief, and utter chaos reigns. All these shipments have to be loaded and sent to places far away, and it all has to happen right fucking now.

Working on the dock at a trucking company is brutal, in a variety of ways. First of all, there are the physical conditions to be considered. The dock is a concrete slab with only a roof above it. The doors for the trucks are all open, all the time. Whatever the temperature is outside is also the employee’s work environment. If it is negative five degrees outside, then that is where you live and work. Eight to ten hours is sub-zero weather takes a toll on a person. A dockworker slowly feels their life force ebb away during the shift, regardless of how many clothes they wear.

Dock work is also emotionally brutal. The main qualification for dock work is impatience. Everything has to be done quickly. Everybody is in a rush all the time. I guarantee that this young man will be under enormous stress. It won’t be long before somebody screams at him,

“What the fuck are you doing?!”

There really is no good answer to that question.

As Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

The young man will need to understand that.

Dock work is dangerous. I know this from experience. I was run over by a forklift back in March of 2009. My entire right foot and ankle were completely crushed by a 8000 lbs. machine. I am lucky to be able to walk. It’s all kind of scary.

Well, I hope the guy gets the job. It will be trial by fire. but then most of life is like that.

Back to the chain gang.

Trump is Right that We Should Stop Endless Wars

November 22nd, 2020

This letter from me was printed in the Capitol Times (Madison, WI) on November 19th.

I almost never agree with Donald Trump. The only thing he has ever proposed that appealed to me was his intention to bring our troops home and shut down our endless wars. Apparently, with his appointment of Christopher Miller as the acting Secretary of Defense, Trump may actually follow through with this objective. Miller told the employees of the Department of Defense that “We are not a people of perpetual war — it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand and for which our ancestors fought. All wars must end.”

Miller’s words would be more impressive of they were all true. The fact is that we Americans are a people of perpetual war. Even a cursory look at our nation’s history shows that we have been fighting wars, declared or otherwise, almost constantly. The United States has seldom been at peace.

Miller is correct that all wars must end. Our currently wars should end now. Actually, they should have ended years ago, before my son fought in Iraq. I guess it’s better late than never.

Soap Bubbles

November 20th, 2020

A little blue machine cranks out soap bubbles as Weston watches. One after another, fragile spheres float upward. Their surfaces are iridescent in the sunshine. The two year old boy squats down and gazes intently at a bubble. He is fascinated by its shape and changing colors. Then it silently pops, and Weston looks carefully at the next ball of nothingness.

As an adult, I smile at Weston’s interest in soap bubbles. He is so enthralled with things that are both beautiful and ephemeral. He stares at one of the bubbles, but he is not obsessed with it. When it pops, it’s gone, and so is his attention span. He knows how to focus. He also knows how to let go.

I envy Weston. He’s in the moment. He doesn’t have much of a past, and his future is a mystery to him. Every day is a new adventure. Weston can’t say much, so he doesn’t get wrapped up in words. He understands some of what people tell him, but he does not know what a lie is. Not yet.

I went for a long walk a little before dawn. As I wandered past an empty field, I heard some twigs cracking in the brush. A doe leaped up. It saw me as it came back to earth. The deer’s ears twitched as she stared at me. I looked at her and waved. She stared a bit longer, and then she bolted into the oak trees.

As I walked back home, I saw the sun rise. A semi-circle of orange flame licked the bare branches on the tree line. It was gorgeous, and then it was gone. That image lasted only for an instant, and now it is barely a memory. The deer is only a memory. She is gone too.

I grieve for these things that are no more. Weston wouldn’t. He would just go on to the next marvelous thing to comes his way. He wouldn’t think about what has come and gone. He’d throw himself completely into whatever he is experiencing right now.

Below is a picture of Weston, my grandson and dharma teacher. The scene is from the past. It no longer exists. Weston is busy doing other things.

Open Ended

November 15th, 2020

“Commitment is an act, not a word.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

When I was on my way home from Texas three weeks ago, I got a phone call from a girl that I love. She was upset. Her fiancé just had a drug relapse, and was in the hospital for detox. The young woman said to me,

“He is getting kicked out of his mom’s house. Can he stay with us?”

Without giving it a second thought, I replied, “Yes.”

The young man is now living with us. As a matter of fact, he is presently taking a well-deserved nap in the girl’s bedroom. He was up most of the night with two of his children (from a previous relationship), and he’s a bit worn out. His kids came here for a sleepover, which means this guy didn’t get to sleep last night. The girl’s fiancé already has three small children, and when the young woman gives birth to Asher at the beginning of February, he will have four.

The young man is a decent enough guy. He’s been through some very rough times, and he trying to get his life back together. He truly loves the young woman, and she loves him. They have similar histories (tumultuous), and they are able to support each other emotionally and spiritually. Financially, it’s a different story, but they are working on that part of the their relationship.

Staying sober and healthy is a struggle for both of them. Well, that is a challenge for me too. Experiencing the physical world without any buffers is a bitch. These two young people are doing their best to live their lives in the world that exists around them, I admire them for their efforts.

However, they can’t do it on their own.

Honestly, nobody can do it on their own. Anybody who says that they can navigate the struggles of life without help is a liar. Rugged individualism isn’t enough. Reliance on a God who may or may not exist in the material world isn’t enough. A person can only survive and thrive with the assistance of other people.

Why did we welcome this young man into our home? I’m not sure about that. Twenty years ago, Karin and I had the opportunity (or responsibility) to allow my younger brother, Chuck, into our house. He was in a similar situation. He was addicted and homeless at the time. I chose to keep him out. I was scared and I didn’t know what my brother would do. I kept Chuck at arm’s length.

Chuck is dead.

Did I kill him? Probably not. But I could have helped him, and I didn’t.

What is different now? I am different, for sure. After a decade of dealing with the young woman’s drug problems, I have changed my ideas and beliefs. I don’t judge nearly as much as I used to. I’m still scared, but I don’t care about the consequences of helping any more.

This young man is family. He is the father of the young woman’s child. I have a responsibility for him, one that goes beyond blood relation.

I am committed. That commitment is open ended.

Something Big

November 12th, 2020

“Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles”

Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan

“And it wasn’t no way to carry on
It wasn’t no way to live
But he could up with it for a little while
He was working on something big”

Something Big – Tom Petty

Monday morning was unseasonably warm. I parked the Focus at the McKinley Marina. Lake Michigan sparkled blue in the sunshine. I walked across Lincoln Memorial Drive to the coffee shop.

The café is called “Colectivo”. It tries to be trendy. Currently, it is very strict on social distancing. There is no indoor seating, and the employees want the customers to order their lattes and get the hell out of the building. I bought a small black coffee, and found a seat at a table near the street. I was waiting for Kevin to show up. He is a friend of mine from the Zen Center. We hadn’t seen each other (in person) for quite a while.

As I sat there, I saw a young man walking along the street, coming my direction. He was thin and bearded. He wore a knit cap and a t-shirt. He seemed to be deep in conversation with someone I couldn’t see. In this day and age, it is not unusual to see somebody who appears to be talking to himself. I looked to see if the young man had a cell phone or earbuds. Nope. He really was having an internal conversation out loud.

The young guy came over to my table. I seem to attractive people like that. He had dark curly hair that was uncombed and unwashed. His eyes were feverish, and they darted in all directions, even when he was talking to me. He asked me for money, which was no surprise.

I told him that my name was Frank, and I asked him for his name.

He replied, “John. It’s John.” He looked around, and continued, “We’re by the street, so I could be ‘John of the Street’, or maybe ‘John of the Lake’. Yeah, that would be good.”

I pulled out my wallet and handed him a ten. He took the bill without looking at it, and slid it into a greasy pants pocket.

I asked him, “So, what are you going to do today?”

He gave me a sly smile, and said in a low, conspiratorial voice, “I can’t really talk about that.”

That made me remember my brother, Chuck. For a while, Chuck lived at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. He got thrown out of his hotel room, and he had nowhere else to go. I used to visit with him there on Monday evenings, before I went to meditation practice at the Zen Center. Sometimes, I took Chuck out for a meal. Sometimes we just talked. I remember that the weather was warm while he was staying at the mission, so we usually talked outside where Chuck could smoke.

The other residents of the mission were outside too. They were all hustling. They were all talking shit about some deal they were working. All of them were convinced that they could beat the system, when it was obvious that the system had already beaten them.

Some guy was trying sell single cigarettes to his compadres. Other guys were drinking sodas. Chuck smiled as he told me about some scam he had going.

“Yeah, this guy came here and he wants some of us to clean out this bar he’s remodeling. It’s a good gig. Just cash. I won’t need to worry about paying any taxes.”

Chuck talked like he was making the deal of the century. All these guys were talking like that. Their lives were in tatters, but they were all working on something big.

Chuck is long dead. He drank himself to death. I think the official cause of death was a heart attack, but the booze killed him. He died alone in some shitty, low income apartment. The building reeked of stale cigarette smoke. The apartment was on a floor where the walls were all painted a dingy, bureaucratic green, and signs were posted saying, “Don’t take other people’s ‘meals on wheels’.” One room had a note on the door which read, “Want cigarettes? There’s a Walgreens down the block. Go there.”

I looked again at the young man standing next to me. He was muttering to himself. He looked at me, but he didn’t see me. His mind was far away. He was having this lively conversation with voices I couldn’t hear. The words made total sense to him, but they were gibberish to me. It was like listening to the lyrics from Subterranean Homesick Blues without any of the music.

Eventually, having forgotten me, the young man simply wandered off.

Kevin came over to me. He had just walked out of Colectivo. He said,

“Hey man, can you buy me a coffee? My card doesn’t work, and these guys won’t take cash.”

I told him, “Sure. Why not? You’re not the first guy to hit me up for money today.”

Weimar

November 11th, 2020

“Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE.” – Sid Vicious, punk rocker

Each morning I read the news and I despair.

I live in what many people consider to be the greatest democracy on earth, and all I read lately is how Donald Trump and his acolytes are doing their damnedest to trash our political system. I wonder if any of them have ever listened to the Sex Pistols. Probably not. These folks are still definitely the spiritual heirs of Sid Vicious.

I like to read history. I don’t know why. It is kind of a perverse pleasure. Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think he was being optimistic. I am sure that even when we remember the past, we still tend to repeat it. We are kind of stupid that way.

The current situation makes me think of the Weimar Republic in Germany. The republic existed from 1918 to 1933. That was a crazy, chaotic time period which convulsed Germany from the end of the First World War until the rise of Hitler. It was a short, but important, part of German history. It was a bubbling cauldron filled with hyperinflation, radical politics, massive unemployment, dazzling achievements in the arts, and amazing discoveries in physics.

There is a Netflix series in German (with English subtitles, if so desired) called Babylon Berlin. The series is about living conditions in Germany in the Weimar Republic. I suspect that the series plays fast and loose with the historical details, but I think the show is spot on with regards to the Zeitgeist. That was a time of decadence and moral confusion.

I compare our present situation with the Weimar Republic, and I feel uneasy. There are many differences between the U.S. in 2020 and Germany in 1920. Germany at that time had no democratic tradition. We have one that goes back over 230 years. Unlike Germany, we are not a defeated nation in debt to the victors of a catastrophic war. We are wealthy and powerful. Germany, at that time, was not.

However, we are morally adrift. There is no national consensus. There is no commitment to the common good. There is little or no trust in our institutions. We are hyper-partisan, and unable to compromise, or even converse, with our political opponents.

Those things make me think of Weimar. Those are some the things that destroyed the fledgling German republic. Those are the things that eventually led to the Nazi dictatorship.

I am not saying that Trump is a Nazi. He’s not. He would need to care about something other than himself in order to be another Hitler. However, he does not have any respect for the U.S. Constitution or any of our country’s political norms or traditions. If he can’t win, he’s willing to burn it all down.

Hitler did not bring down the Weimar Republic. Greedy, power-hungry politicians did. Zealots blinded by their fanaticism did. People unable to respect their fellow citizens did. A nation without any common value system did.

It can happen again. It can happen here.

Clowns and Jokers

November 7th, 2020

“Trying to make some sense of it all
But I can see it makes no sense at all
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor?
‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore

Clowns to the left of me! Jokers to the right!

Here I am. Stuck in the middle with you.”

Stuck in the Middle with You- Stealers Wheel

I have an election hangover. It’s not quite like the morning after a serious drunk, but there are similarities. I am not worried about where I parked my car, or if my wife is mad at me. I just keep wondering if we actually have a new President.

I wake up feeling befuddled and confused. I look at the news on the Internet and I groan. Tylenol won’t help with this.

I knew this shit would happen. All I wanted was a clear win. It didn’t need to be the Democrats. I would have been okay if the Republicans had kicked some ass. But we got the worst of all possible worlds. We still have a government and an electorate that is split almost exactly into two equal halves. Nothing has been resolved.

Both Biden and Trump are damaged goods. Neither of them will accomplish anything during the next four years. Neither of them has a mandate.

I voted reluctantly for Biden. It would be more accurate to say that I voted against Trump. Biden was the very last person among the Democratic candidates that I wanted on the ballot. I was stuck with Uncle Joe. I actually put up a yard sign for Biden. I hadn’t put a political sign in my front yard since Ralph Nader ran for president. Come to think of it, I hadn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1992. I voted for a Democrat this time, not because I liked Biden, but because I despise Trump. Sad, but true.

I woke up this morning at 4:00 AM. Like I fool, I first looked at the news. Then I put on a reflective vest, and went for a very long walk in the countryside. I walked in silence and gazed up at the stars and the moon. As I walked back toward my house, I could see the eastern sky just beginning to get an orange glow. I felt good by the time I reached my front door.

I think I need to go for another walk.

Soon.

Cemetery

November 6th, 2020

Shawn and I went to Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery while I was in Texas a couple weeks ago. Shawn’s husbands are buried there, both of them.

Shawn is my sister-in-law, and she is twice a widow. That would seem to be an uncommon situation, and an unpleasant one. It is hard enough for a person to lose one spouse to death, but to lose two?

Mount Calvary is hidden away in a low income area of Bryan, Texas. It is a bit hard to find, at least it is for a Yankee like me. Shawn had to give me directions to the graveyard, because I couldn’t remember where it was. We arrived there in my old Ford Focus on a sunny Wednesday morning. The grounds were well kept, and there were a few trees to provide shade. It was quiet there.

I am not a big fan of cemeteries. However, my brother, Marc, was. Marc was Shawn’s first husband. Marc was also an amateur photographer. He loved to take pictures in cemeteries. He had a strange connection with these places, especially with Mount Calvary. I have a black and white picture of Marc, sitting in this cemetery, apparently pondering his mortality.

Marc died in February of 1998. He blew his mind out in a car. Marc was going to a park to play frisbee golf with a close friend. Marc’s Mazda spun out on some gravel and he hit a bridge abutment. Marc was killed instantly. His passenger survived with just a few scratches.

That was my first real encounter with death. Up until that time, I was only vaguely familiar with the end game. I had had grandparents die, but they were old, and it only seemed natural that they should move on. When Marc died, eleven years younger than myself, death became very, very real. I wasn’t afraid to die, but I was suddenly aware that I was in the batting order.

Shawn and I stood next to Marc’s headstone. It’s a black rock, deeply carved with his essential information, and also etched with an insipid phrase that is intended to inspire (or at least not piss off) anybody who bothers to visit the grave. It says something maudlin like “always in our hearts” or words like that. I forget exactly what.

Shawn remembered how brutally competitive Marc was about nearly everything, especially video games. I remembered that too. Back in the early 1980’s, I played “Missile Command” with Marc. He beat me by about 10,000 points. I finally threw down my controller and walked away. Marc yelled after me, “Can’t take it? Too much for you?” Fuck you, Marc.

Shawn and I thought that perhaps we should change the writing on his gravestone. We could erase the Hallmark phrase and write down, “I win!” or “I am superior!”. These are all things that Marc actually said during his life. Why not?

I don’t want to be derogatory toward Marc. Of all my brothers, I was closest to Marc. I’m not sure why that was. We had similar life paths, and we thoroughly understood each other. It truly hurt me when he died. Something inside me died along with him. Marc was an intensely spiritual man, and he was a devoted husband and father. In the short time given to him, Marc did things right.

Shawn’s second husband, Bob, is buried next to Marc. I did not know Bob well. He was a rough and tumble kind of guy. He had a gift for music and art. He and Shawn came to love each other, and I liked the man. I wrote to him once that there were no hard feelings between my family and him. I wanted Bob to know that my family, i.e. Marc’s family, was okay with his marriage to Shawn.

Bob died of brain cancer. He and Shawn knew that he had the cancer when they married. Bob died in Shawn’s arms. Shawn begged God to be merciful. She didn’t want to lose two men that she loved dearly. God said “no”. Shawn still believes in God.

As I stood in front of the two tombstones, of Marc and Bob, I felt uneasy. There was too much suffering. There were too many things left unspoken. There was too much left unresolved.

Shawn wanted to say the “Hail Mary” while we were there. We did. I think we did the Buddhist prayer too: “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo”. Maybe we didn’t do that together. Maybe I only did.

There are no answers. There are only questions.