Something about that date…

“But no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

James 3:8-10


one of the side chapels in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018

I don’t know about your phone, but my phone displays, on the home screen, a banner
notification alert to emails, breaking news, missed calls, texts…etc…
One notification kept reoccurring, despite my having already opened and read the email—
weeks ago.

Day after day, the same notification kept showing up.
Despite my having opened it, read it, and closed it.

Glitch?
Power the phone off.
Power on.

The problem was that it kept happening, again and again.

But first, let’s back up a tad…

I subscribe to The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering.
Each morning, bright and early, I receive an email with the day’s quotes, daily office readings,
the saint of the day meditation of the day…etc.

It’s where I find many of the quotes and meditation (observations and writings) excerpts that I use.

I usually save them, only sending them to the trash once I’ve accumulated about a month’s allotment–
making certain I’ve read, savored and pulled out what is needed in my sharing.

Well, I did such for December 18th’s offering…
I didn’t use it that exact day but the following day…I used it when I felt “called” to do so.
I had used the morning of the 18th’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
as well as the meditation excerpt from Fr. Basil Maturin.

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him, and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

— Archbishop Fulton Sheen

It is, then, in following the will of God,
in spite of all the difficulties that may arise both from within and from without,
in the constant offering of ourselves to God as the creatures of His hand to do and to be what
He would have us,
in the surrender of one thing after another that comes between us and Him and holds us back—–
it is in such acts that we unite ourselves with those glorious beings who cast their crowns
before the throne and with those unfallen creatures who have never known what it is to have
a wish or thought apart from the will of God.
Amongst those glorified saints there are, indeed,
many whose wills were for a long time in revolt against God’s will and who brought themselves
at last into subjection, many to whom the will of God here on earth meant the sacrifice of
everything the heart most loved, many to whom it meant the sacrifice of life itself.
But all that is past and over, and its fruits remain—the eternal life of oblation and union
with God, where one will rules those countless multitudes and binds them together and to God,
where each one of those countless millions lives his own complete and perfect life yet never
jars on any other, where each is perfect in itself and all together compose one perfect whole—
the Body of Christ.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

My godfather, who passed away 3 years ago December 29, 2016, was the Episcopal priest
who I often reference in many of my posts.
He was instrumental in my life…
especially during my youthful Christian journey…
as he watched and silently prayed as I ebbed and flowed when beginning a life of my own.
He was the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta from 1966-1984…
His birthday was December 18th.

And so ironically, oddly or divinely I kept having that errant notification on my phone from the
Catholic Morning Offering for the day of December 18th.

(and you know I don’t believe in coincidence…only prompting by The Spirit)

Day after day the notification was showing up on my phone despite my having read the email.

After powering down the phone multiple times, closing all apps, yada yada, yada…
it would keep popping up.
So I went back to the original email and moved it to the trash…
of which removed it from all of my devices…
I was suspecting my migrating of old to new computers might be to blame but doubted it.

So that was that.
The email was trashed and I hoped the popup notification would leave me alone.

So then out of the blue on December 17th, I received an errant text message from a dear old friend
from out in Billings, Montana.

He was a former priest at the Cathedral when I was in high school and was our priest for youth.
He and I were always very close friends even following our taking separate paths in life.
He moved back home to a small Montana town in order to pastor a small Episcopal Church
while I went off to college.

We’ve stayed in touch sporadically throughout the years…my husband and I even stopped in Billings
a few years back when we were on a driving adventure to Glacier National Park and met up for a bit of
face to face catch up.

But our contact is usually relegated to the yearly Christmas card…

And so I was really surprised when his text popped up out of the blue.

My friend wrote that He and David (Dean Collins) had had a good conversation the evening prior while
my friend was driving back home from church.

I wrote back a tongue and cheek response that their conversation must have been of the divine…
I then asked how he was besides being delusional…

He told me that sometimes he finds that he still needs to run a few things past the Dean, his former
boss, and mentor, as only the Dean would understand.

I get that…as I wholeheartedly agree.

I can’t count how many conversations I still have with my godpoppa…
I deeply miss that twinkling eye and sly smile and rich melodic soothing voice of his
as he’d take me in his arms offering my angst-filled heart comfort or lovingly place those
gentle hands upon my head calling for prayers of healing.

My friend in Montana has since retired as the rector of the Episcopal Chruch there in Billings
and now enjoys fishing as well as keeping up with the families of all of his now grown foster boys.

I told him that it was funny that he text me out of the blue regarding Dean Collins the day before the
Dean’s birthday which would have fallen on the 18th.

So fast forward to earlier this week.

I’ve written about my crazy dreams before.

I don’t always sleep well due to the vivid dreams I often have.

Some are slap crazy.
Some are weird as hell.
Some are troubling.
Some have me walking up my husband as I’m mumbling loudly while thrashing about as I seem to be
struggling in my sleep.
Some are so vivid that I can actually wake with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Well, the other night I had a dream that seemed to last most of the night…going on and on.
And of course, it made absolutely no sense and it was crazy… but…
the Dean was in the dream.

He was as he was when I was in college, but I was as I am now.
We were seated at a large table or maybe it was a long bench but we were seated side by side.

He was right by my side.
And despite the dream making no sense, there was however a sense of peace having him right by my side.

So when I woke up… I figured I needed to go back in and pull up that Morning Offering from Dec. 18th
that kept nagging me.
I wanted–needed–to see if I was missing something.

Or was I simply suppose to repost the quote and excerpts again…maybe someone esle needed to read
them…maybe again.

The bible verse is listed above—James 3:8-10

The quote was by Archbishop Sheen which is listed above along with the same
meditation by Fr. Basil Maturin.

And the saint for the day was–
ST. WINEBALD
St. Winebald (701-761 A.D.) was a Saxon prince born into a holy and royal family in England.
His father, St. Richard the King, and his mother, St. Wunna of Wessex, are both saints, as well as his brother,
St. Willibald, his sister, St. Walburga, and his uncle, St. Boniface.
After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his father and brother,
and then spending many years in Rome, Winebald was recruited by his uncle, Boniface,
to join him in evangelizing Germany.
Winebald was ordained a priest and worked as a missionary across Germany, Holland, France, Austria,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, leaving behind many flourishing churches and monasteries
under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Winebald was an important figure in laying the
foundations of Christianity across much of Europe.
After his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. His feast day is December 18.

So now let’s look back at today’s picture I posted up above.

Back in October when I was spending a reflective afternoon exploring the beautiful church of
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Chruch of Sanit Mary over Minerva,
I was slowly walking from side chapel to chapel taking in the paintings, and the statuary—
all of the man-created beauty complimenting the Divine offering of peace.
When I found myself stopping, noting an odd little sight.

Something that I don’t think many of the passing tourists even noticed let alone understood the significance.

Someone had tied a scallop shell to the gate in front of the chapel.

Some of the chapels have gates and are locked most days as many of them contain priceless works of art.
These churches are open to the public with little to no security, so given our day and time,
some areas are simply locked off to a wandering public.

The shell is a symbol of St. James and is associated with Christian pilgrims…
Of which you may read here:
https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/
(Lynda I hope you have your shell)

And so I knew that a pilgrim had been here before I had been.

Our paths had crossed…unbeknownst to either of us…all but for the breadcrumb of a simple shell left behind.

And so since I feel as if my blog is often a pilgrimage of sorts, I also believe that my blog is
in turn a place for pilgrims to visit.

And thus since there was obviously something about the day’s devotion from Dec. 18th that
needed for, or rather longed for, me to revisit and reshare. I have done so.
It is for whoever may find themselves stopping by for a bit of a respite during their pilgrimage.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

35 years ago….

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person.
You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.

Julia Child


(August 13, 1983…me and my godpoppa, The Very Rev. David B. Collins, who officated at our wedding)

35 years ago today, I said I do.

Or actually, we said, we do.

Oh, that is such a long story from such a long time ago…

It is a story that was questioned by some back then and later questioned, more times
then not, by our two younger selves.

And yet here we are.
For better and worse…35 years later…
And yes, we’ve seen both…

However, we are currently out of pocket…so that little story will have to wait for
a day or two…

But this is the first time in 35 years that we’ve actually gotten to go do something on
the actual date…I was always teaching and he was always working…so we typically had to
squeeze in a night out or a quick getaway at a later day…at a later time when
time actually allowed.

And with one of us having just recently retired… leaving both of us now home…retired,
we’re practicing on that notion of Julia Child’s…
that notion about being together alllllllll of the time.

I’ll let you know how that goes… 😉

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

a little more empty during a tough year…

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(The Very Rev. and Mrs David B. Collins–David and Virginia “Ginny” /
Julie N.Cook / 1981)

In this grainy old photo you see two people who were very much in love—

…and those two people were two individuals who I loved very much as well.

He had been a Naval Officer during WWII and she a staring actress in the original
production of Carousel on Broadway—and yet they somehow met, fell in love, married
and loved one another well into their 90’s….

And they had each loved me.

The year of the photograph was 1981 and it was taken during an evening
a group of us had met up at our favorite British Pub in Atlanta.
The Churchill Arms.
One could have walked into this pub and felt magically transported across the
proverbial pond to a different place and time.

I think both young and old in our group that night wished we were all in England–
during a different time.

Back then, back when I was young, at that pub on Thursday nights,
the Atlanta Bagpipes and Drums would hold court and practice.
There were the nightly dart competitions.
And on Friday and Saturday nights, a dear older lady would play the piano
as everyone would gather around to sing rousing renditions of Waltzing Matilda,
Keep the Home Fires Burning, Over There, etc….
all the while enjoying a pint of Whitbread, Guinness or New Castle….

Funny thing thinking about a bunch of late 70’s college kids singing Waltzing Matilda
and actually knowing not only the words but what the song was about and when it had actually been popular….

I think the pub is still there…where it was back in my youth…
But it’s now a modern trendy sort of place sans all the typical Anglophile
paraphernalia.
No longer does it harken back to a better place and time.
As it beckons to the cutting edge millennial…with it’s more otherworldly
bar atmosphere of the 21st century.

It was probably an odd place for a group of college kids to gather along with their
parish priest, the current Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Philip…along
with this vicar’s wife…..but the church was no small parish,
he was no small church vicar and we were no average lot of kids.

There was very much a homey feel here, there was a fire place, lots of wood—
a place we, a bedraggled little extended “family,”
could all gather to enjoy one another’s company.
A place we could chat, catching everyone up on life at our various colleges and
hear what we had missed at Church.

The drinking age at the time was 18 so we were all good and by the time this
picture was taken, I was well into my early 20’s.

I’ve written about both of them before.
For various reasons…be it because of my adoption, my faith, my family, my life…
as they each had had a prominent role in my small corner of the world.

They each taught me a great deal about life, love, living, dying, fighting,
believing…. as well as lessons about Faith, God, hopefulness, healing and Grace.

They each saved me, more times than I care to recall, from myself.

They each knew of the failings and egregious actions of my life yet
loved me none the less.
As I certainly worked hard at testing that love many a time.

I am who I am to this day because of them.
Better because of who they were.

They actually laid hands upon my head, several times, as they prayed for healing.

Not for a physical healing but for a more profound and more important healing.
A deep spiritual healing.

He was adopted, just like I was.
We shared that—just as she shared us.
She knew the importance of deep healing.
And she knew how important such healing was for both of us and to our pasts—-
to the two people she loved.

They had 4 children of their own…
and then there was me—the surrogate 5th.
They claimed to be my Godparents…by proxy really…for when I was baptized
as an infant, our paths had not yet crossed.

The relationship was set in motion in 1966 when they first moved to Atlanta
in order for him to take the over the position of dean at the Nation’s largest
Episcopal Cathedral.

They are not my parents yet my own parents knew of the great importance and role
this couple played in my life…and where there was jealously there was also
a knowledge that the relationship was necessary for all of us….
Just as their children knew that they were sharing their parents with me
and yet they often spoke in terms of me being “the truly good child”.

Over time, I learned, as I grew and matured, that they needed me just as much
as I had needed them…
life has a way of teaching us such things.

The end of the year will mark a year since he’s been gone.
Her passing was on Tuesday….
And now they are Home, together.
This I know.

Yet that doesn’t make me less sad.
Doesn’t make me feel less lonely.
Doesn’t stop from reminding me that all my parents are now gone…
along with an aunt and uncle, a brother and cousin along with all grandparents.
That all are gone…but me.

Odd how that makes one feel.
Even at almost 60 years of age.
Good-byes are never easy.

There was a time when I could not have weathered this tremendous amount
of loss I’ve experienced this past year…
but I now have a deep knowledge and understanding of Grace.
I am saved by that Grace.
They taught me that…and then some…

the written word

“What is more frightening a totalitarian regime’s destruction of
knowledge or its hankering for it?”

Anders Rydell


(sunset over the Gulf, Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I’ve come across a most intriguing story.
It is a tale of war, ideologies, plundering, destroying, recovering…
with an eventual attempt to reunite as it were.
And very much a true story.

It is a tale as told in Andres Rydell’s book The Book Thieves
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries And the Race to Return A literary Inheritance

Rydell offers in the forward the idea that “In our time, the book has remained
a symbolic value that is almost spiritual.
Discarding books is still considered sacrilegious.
The burning of books is one of the strongest symbolic actions there is,
correlating with cultural destruction.
While mainly identified with the Nazi book pyres of 1933,
the symbolic destruction of literature is as old as the book itself.

The strong relationship between humans and books relates to the role of the written word in the dissemination of knowledge, feeling, and experience over
thousands of years.
Gradually the written word replaced the oral tradition. We could preserve more
and look further back in time.
We could satisfy our never quite satisfied hunger for more.
…Our simultaneously emotional and spiritual relationship to the book is
about how the book “speaks to us.”
It is a medium connection us to other people both living and dead.

A year before my godfather died, he had me come over in order to help him sort through
his belongings.
He and his wife were soon to move to a much smaller place as the issue of
each ones health, both physical and cognitive, was rapidly failing,
and he was under the clock to purge a lifetime of work and living.

To me this aging man was more than a symbolic godfather.
He had been a priest for over 50 years so he was actually more spiritual father than anything else.

While I was sitting sprawled out on the floor of his study, sorting through files,
DVDs and a mountain of papers, he offered me any of the books that I could carry
from his myriad of covered shelves.

Here was once a widely renowned man in his profession.
A long sought after lecturer and author.
His collection of books was both wide and diverse.
Yet it was to a small copy of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol that drew my eye.
“Jules, if you want it, take it” he nonchalantly told me.
I opened the book and inside the cover was written in fine fountain pen lettering
the follwing inscription:
“To David B. Collins
From Aunt Emma
Dec 25th 1930”

“But,” I stammered…. only for him to reassure me, “take it.”

The book is an illustrated version of the Dickens classic with this particular
edition being published in 1927.
And it had obviously been a Christmas gift to a nephew of 8 from a loving aunt.

Once home, I thumbed through the book.
There was a card, what I first thought was a yellowed notecard, placed between pages
222 and 223, the point in the story when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had taken Scrooge to the churchyard in order to see his own grave marker.

The card was however an altar card from the chapel of The University of the South,
Sewanee, TN—the school that Dean Collins had attended for seminary as well as where he
served as rector.

I imagine the card marked material once used in a sermon.

I share this little story with you because it is just one small fragmented
tale illustrating the importance of not just a story in a book but rather of the book itself… and of the line of people the little book has traversed—
It is really the story a continuum…the continuum from once a loving aunt to
her 8 year old little nephew…and later from aging old man to his equally aging
spiritual God daughter….

But the giving will not have stopped with me…that’s how it is with books.
It’s merely resting for a while before, at some point in the future,
it travels once again,
For we come to understand that books often have a life of their own…

And so what the world witnessed with the Nazis and their fervor to rid themselves
of a certain group of people, with their ultimate hope being to actually rid
the entire world of these people—it was not enough to merely take their belongings, especially their books, and to destroy them or hide them away.

Nor was it enough that they take these very people and burn them, hiding them away…
But the key rather for the Nazis was to take the very essence of these
‘loathsome people’—with that essence being these people’s actual written word.

And if the Nazis could erase their words, then these people would in turn,
cease to exist— or better yet in the minds of the Nazis, cease to have ever
existed at all…..as in a total wiping clean of the slate of the very existence.

Because as Rydell points out “whoever owns the word has the power to not only
interpret it, but also to write history.”

Rydell’s story is rich in history as he gives an in-depth look into how Germany, a highly educated and culturally rich people, came to find themselves being lead blindly by
a madman.

Rydell’s story is a convoluted tale of madness, death, destruction leading to one of
hope and reuniting…linking a past with a future.

For there is a great lesson in his story for us today–especially now.
A lesson it would behoove our society to heed.

And a lesson I will be sharing in the next day or so….

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

a piece of my heart….

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for
that which has been your delight.”

Kahlil Gibran

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Augustine of Hippo

DSCN0611
(my wedding day, 1983)

My priest
My confessor
My Godfather
My “god poppa”
My surrogate father
My confidant
My best friend

The Very Reverend David Browning Collins,
December 18,1922—-December 29, 2016

dscn4761
(My god poppa and Pope John Paul II /
Dean Collins was the American Anglican representative
to the Catholic–Anglican conference held at the Vatican 1980 )

DSCN0609
(my godfather, a WWII Naval Officer, loved the sea and moved
to the Georgia coast once he retired from the priesthood / Julie Cook / 1988)

Just as the storm surge batters the tender sands of the shore….
The season of the long good-bye is currently battering my heart…
As such is the season of this time in my life…

DSCN5321
(my son’s rehearsal dinner, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

dscn4755

Forgiveness, one step at a time

“Jules, your family has put the dysfunction in dysfunctional long before it was popular.”
He said it not with sarcasm, not with contempt but more of a passing state of resignation…
as though he was simply voicing a troubling thought out loud.

I looked down at my feet–tennis shoes no doubt and most likely jeans.
I adjusted my position in the elegant leather wingback chair.
The office was rich with dark coffered paneling–a gothic office in a Gothic Cathedral.
A copy of Diego Velázquez’s Crucifixion graced the wall—–one of my favorite paintings.

This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d sat in his office.

I was probably 18, or maybe I was 22—it didn’t matter as I had been finding myself in his office
since I was 15.

Behind his desk, on a credenza, sat several baseballs in displays cases…you see he
wasn’t just any ol priest or a random dean of a cathedral, he was also Chaplin to the Braves Baseball team—
Yet most importantly he was my “godpoppa”– a surrogate father.

I loved him immensely and I needed him terribly.

I was drowning and he offered a lifeline—one that I clung to
Just as I still love him to this day— despite the passage of time, he still finds that precious time for me.

We also shared something in common.

We were both adopted.

So I believed he always understood some things about me that I had yet to grasp or realize myself.

This was just one more visit in a long line of visits.

There really were no answers to my troubles– he was simply gracious in allowing me some of his
precious and limited time.
Time from his busy and frantic schedule, allowing a “woe some” young person an opportunity to vent,
to share, to describe the latest story—the latest incident in a never-ending stream of incidents that
only seemed to be escalating with time.

My family suffered through something that many people today now painfully acknowledge and recognize.
But for my family, at the time, our turmoil was pretty much just for us to experience.

The trouble was my brother and his trouble was mental illness.

Mental illness is now finding itself front and center of national headlines—
as there are more and more violent ramifications reverberating throughout our society.
My younger brother, unbeknownst to my parents at the time, suffered a mental illness.
It would be years before it was diagnosed, but the years of turmoil would not be lost on anyone.
And by the time of his diagnoses, it was really too late.

Both my brother and I were adopted.
We were not biologically related and were 5 years apart in age.
Something never seemed quite “right” about Ed.
He was a colicky baby, crying often and difficult to soothe.
My aunt often quips that she knew they should have taken him back as soon as they had gotten him.

A bad apple so to speak.
However, it was 1963, no one really knew much or talked much about the baggage babies can carry
from traumatic pregnancies and/ or births.
We didn’t know or understand the effects of the mother’s life on babies while in utero and
how that could/ would transcend to life and living of these yet to be born children.

Ed was different from the very beginning.

Back then, adoption agencies worked hard to match babies with the adopting families—
skin tone, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, etc.
Ed, however, looked quite different from the rest of us.
He was faired skinned, freckles, light haired, lanky.

I suppose growing up, discovering you are adopted and then looking at your family,
you immediately notice you are more different than you first realized,
which only adds to that already existing sense of alienation.

Given the fact that I was 5 years older and that I was prone to having that bossy big sister demeanor,
certainly did not ingratiate me ever to Ed.
We were more like oil and water, which I can now only imagine having grated on our parent’s nerves
and frustraton.

However, they loved us both very, very much.

In school, Ed struggled.
He was ADHD but no one knew about that particular “condition” at the time.
Believing that hyperactive element to be a part of Ed’s troubles,
our family’s pediatrician told my mother to give Ed coffee, as the Medical field was currently
looking at the use of caffeine, a stimulant, in the treatment of kids who were simply “all over the place”
counteracting that hyperness.

I’ll skip most of the growing up and won’t bore you with the mundane details.
However you need to know that my memories of family meals were not the happy Norman Rockwell
images that we all so long for—–but then again, are any family’s time together pictures of such tranquil images?

I can’t recall an evening that didn’t see some sort of fight or struggle.
Ed wouldn’t eat.
Dad would get mad, telling Ed that he could just sit there all night until he ate.

One night it was two hours before Dad gave in and told him to go to bed.
Mother would begin to cry.
As frustration set in, I would get mad.

I couldn’t understand why things always had to be so hard.
It was supper for crying out loud, can’t we eat in some sort of peace or harmony?!
Mother would leave the table in tears.

This was the typical evening.

If it wasn’t fighting over supper, it was homework.
I would just go to my room and drown my adolescent sorrows in James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”,
“Fire and Rain”, “Don’t let me be lonely tonight”—-
playing his album over and over and over.

And yes there were the thoughts of suicide.
What teenager, who was an adolescent ball of emotional hormones, who was experiencing unhappiness
night after night, wouldn’t entertain such thoughts??
What other remedy was there to such a problem?

Thank God for that gothic office in that gothic Cathedral and for the life-line I had found there.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I was aware of how bad things really were with my family.
It was my 22nd birthday. Mom and Dad had not called all day wishing me a happy birthday.
This was long before cell phones, texting or e-mail.
It was a long distance to Athens from Atlanta—the rates went down after 5PM so I was expecting my call.
By 8 PM I was getting a little sad, as well as concerned.
Finally, I called home.

A collect call of course.
Mother answered.
No words of happy birthday but rather “everything here is fine.”
Great, I thought, but does anyone remember what today is?
I wonder out loud.
“Oh, Happy Birthday Sweetie, Ed’s fine.”

That’s odd.
I wasn’t asking about Ed, and truthfully didn’t particularly care.

This was a surreal conversation and happy birthday to me.
Mother told me Dad was busy and would talk to me later—doubly odd to say the least.

It wasn’t for a week or so later that I discovered the truth behind that strange evening’s call.

It seems that Ed had decided to run away.

He took mother’s car, two thousand dollars (where in the world he came up with money is beyond my soul,
as we did not have that kind of money lying around)
and his bass guitar.
He decided he would go to California
(why do all young people seem to want to run away to either California or New York?!)
to live in the desert and look at the stars.
Okay.

He made it to the US/ Mexican boarder when the Boarder Patrol stopped him.
They searched the car.
I suppose seeing some 16-year-old kid driving an old mom car pulling up to the US/ Mexican Boarder
threw up a giant red flag.

When they opened the trunk they found wet underwear hung over the bass guitar, drying.
They also found the money.

The Agents called my parents and told them that had they not stopped him,
he most likely would have been stopped in Mexico and most likely would have been killed by
the border bandits when they found the large sum of cash on a wayward kid.
Dad had to fly out to get him and drive back to Georgia.
I said then and there, they should have left him to his own devices.

Later, when it was time for me to start my student teaching,
I had to move back home in order to student teach at a school in the Atlanta Metro area.
My brother at the time was attending GA Tech.

Living between our great Aunt, who had run a boarding house during the War and
that of our house—–all depending on his mood.

He was really super smart but really super socially awkward.

There was one evening, in particular, that I recall most vividly.

It was my first-day student teaching.
To say I was nervous was an understatement.
And it just so happened that mother was in the hospital at the time,
as she had to have a hysterectomy.
I had to juggle the new teaching post,
running to the hospital, getting ready to help take care of mom and help take care of my dad.

That evening I had come home after a very long day of school and hospital duty
only to find Ed in the den with all of his record albums spread out all over the floor.
I sat on the floor, looking over what all he had.
Ours was a tenuous relationship and his temper was explosive–
I had to tread very lightly and truly wanted to be able to get along with him.

The conversation turned to mother.
He had fallen into the habit of referring to her only as “woman”,
as he did not consider her his mother.
I found this to be infuriating.
But the whole adoption thing was coming to a head in him, to such a level, none of
us fully grasped.

The stories of his explosive temper were becoming legendary.
Mother would have prepared him a baked potato.
If he had found it not to his liking, the potato was slung against the wall as he would spew foulness from his mouth.
Calling mother a ‘fucking bitch.’
There were holes in the walls from thrown hammers or screwdrivers or the wayward fist.

I could not fathom how on earth Mother and Dad could or would tolerate such behavior.
It made me crazy.
I was mad at them for letting him control the whole house.
I was thankful to be living away at college, spending summers away working at boarding summer camps—–
dreading ever coming home.

What I couldn’t understand, at the time, was that they had tried counseling.
Ed refused to attend.
The whole “tough love, kick him out on his own” approach was more then their hearts would allow.

This particular evening was not to be any different.

As I brought up the fact that Mother was in the hospital and that he should go see her,
he reacted in typical explosive behavior.
He blew up at me.
Why?
I have not a clue.
He proceeded to take a ball bad to every album sitting on the floor, smashing all in sight,
waving the bat at me and telling me my head was next.

He next stormed off to his room where I knew he kept a revolver.

When did my family every have a gun in the house is beyond my soul.

I left the house.

I went to the only place I knew I could find safety and solace—my godparents.

I called the house hours later only to have Dad answer the phone.
I recounted the series of events.
Dad got mad at me for “setting” Ed off.

Are you kidding me??!! He got mad at me??
WOW!!

As life with Ed is now becoming a small book, I will condense the remainder of all of this–
and bless you for reading all of this.

Ed eventually moved out of the house.
Attending Ga Tech sporadically and living in one of our great aunt’s boarding rooms,
as her large house was all but empty.

Mother by this time was broken and beaten.
I eventually got married and moved away.
Thank God.

By the time I was 25 and Ed was 20, Mother was diagnosed with cancer.
I know in my rational mind that people do not give other people cancer.
It doesn’t work that way.
Mother was sick for all of 6 short weeks.
It was as if she gave in to the cancer as an escape.
She had no will or desire to fight as her “fight” had left her long ago.

I blamed Ed for her death.

Like I say, people don’t give people cancer but I believed with all of my heart that
he had killed her.
And I resented the hell out of him for it.

By this time he was deeply involved in his quest for answers regarding his adoption.
He had also been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
It was at this point for my dad that he would do anything to help Ed find “peace”.
To say that my dad didn’t love him would certainly be a lie.
I just wish Ed could have understood that at the time.

It was the first case of it’s kind in the state of Georgia.
Ed had his adoption annulled.
My dad went before a judge, on behalf of Ed, asking that it be so.
Ed had exhaustively sought his birth parents, finding his mother and narrowing down who
his father had been.
In the annulment, he relinquished his identity of being Ed and took on the name
from his biological birth certificate–Timothy William Sommers.

There is still so much to all of this that time simply will not allow me to go into more detail,
as I am certain your eyes are already glazing over.
I am also certain that you realize that this story does not have the happiest of endings—
but it is an ending all the same.

By the time I was 31 I received a call at work.
I was teaching at the time.
They called me to the front office.
Ed was currently living in Ohio, continuing his quest to establish a relationship with his biological mother.
Upon meeting her he called my dad telling dad that he now understood why he was the way he was—
seems the old expression holds true—nuts don’t fall from the tree.

This particular day, when I reached the front office, I saw something in the face of our school secretary.
She was handing me the phone telling me it was my dad.
No one had to tell me what I was about to hear.
Dad was on the phone, telling me that the State Patrol in Akron, Ohio had called him.
They had found Ed dead in his apartment from a single gunshot wound.

You would think that this would be the sad ending to a sad story,but it is not, thankfully—

I am a firm believer in Redemption and Grace.
God’s hand has been too evident throughout my life, despite a troubling growing-up.
And yes I wholeheartedly believe that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.

It took me a long time to stop blaming Ed for mother’s death,
and for resenting him for how terrible our family was because of him.
I even had a great deal of resentment for my dad for not being stronger to do something,
anything to stop the craziness.

It wasn’t until years later that I found the forgiveness I so long needed—
not so much for Ed’s sake but rather for my own.

I had a student who was terribly troubled and had a severe drug problem.
He was removed from our school and sent to an alternative school.
I was terribly frustrated in that here was a kid that I never could reach and felt as if I had
somehow failed with him.
Shortly after his removal from school, he killed himself.

Being raised in an Anglican church, to me, suicide, at the time,
was very taboo.
Many victims of such were not even given church funerals.
I had always thought it to be the greatest sin against God—as it was a slap in the face
for a most precious gift of life.

The husband of a dear friend, who at the time was a Methodist minister,
sent me an email regarding the situation.
He told me that at the time when a person seems to be at their lowest point on this earth…
a time when we cannot know what is transpiring between that person and God—
how can we say that at that decisive moment when a person pulls a trigger,
or takes a drug, or breathes in a poisonous breath,
that God is not right there, right then still offering His undying and unyielding Grace and Forgiveness?

I can’t answer that.

And so it goes.

That God is so much bigger than me, my brother, this student, my parents, the cancer,
and all the tragedies any and all of us ever experience!!

After all of the years and all of the energy, the oh so negative energy,
I could and can look at my brother, and yes despite an annulment, he will always remain my brother,
I could and can find forgiveness.

Yes the story is sad—but it is not hopeless—
as long as there is light on the Earth, there will always remain Hope.

I must forgive as I too have much to be forgiven for in this life, just as we all do–
for it is one step, one day, one act at a time—

God remains Sovereign!
His Forgiveness and Grace endless…
Thank God and Amen!!!