Thoughts and hopes the night before the solar eclipse 

It is the night before the total solar eclipse. I am sitting on the porch of a cabin in Bryson City, North Carolina, writing and listening to my brother-in-law playing country songs in his guitar, music that blends perfectly with the mountain air and crickets of this lovely evening. The cabin is called the “Trot In.” It is surrounded by tall trees that encircle a disk of clear blue sky. It so happens that the sun will be visible right in the middle of that patch of sky when the eclipse happens. I look forward to the celestial show but I am hoping for something more than a show, however spectacular. 

This solar eclipse is probably a providential sign of Big Doings. There are many theories that have been put forth by watchers of signs in the sky — war, the end of the world as we know it, the second coming of Christ, a counterfeit second coming to be staged by enemies of humanity, etc. — and I do not doubt it is a sign of something. But I am hoping, probably as Linus hopes for the Great Pumpkin, for a more personal sign– at least that the eclipse might show me something or tell me something or cause me to realize something that up to this point in my life I have missed. 

I am hoping that by driving the eight hours to this place in the path of totality I will find an essential key to the puzzle of life and after it is over, some new understanding will snap into place and things that don’t make sense today will make sense tomorrow. Like why my son Jesse, who would be so fascinated by it and would have so many funny and interesting things to say about it, is not standing beside me on this mountain, watching the eclipse.


Will he see it too? Will he see it from the other side of the sun? Does he know the meaning of it all? Will he somehow clue me in? Does he know things that no one here in earth knows, like why the shadow of moon will travel west to east when the moon generally travels east to west? Does he know if God uses such signs in the heavens as harbingers? Does he know if I will see him soon? 

I will just watch and listen with all my heart and soul and see what happens. Whatever happens I do not think I will be disappointed.

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Grief and hope after five months

I am having such a hard time getting back to all the writing projects I used to think were so important. And yet I still think writing has something to so with my mission in life, so I still do it every day. I just can’t seem to squeeze out much I want to share with the public. I used to write about books nearly every day, and in fact, I am still reading quite a lot, but my books and my life seem to melt into a blurry puddle and I cannot seem to extract a clear enough thought to shape into words.

I go about my life, going to the office, grocery shopping, cleaning house…. but when I sit down to do my life’s work, writing, I find that my spirit has melted into a lump of grief, all smooshed into a gray ball that is trying to find its way to the light. As you see I am doing a lousy job of expressing this in words and even if I could, who would want to read it? What good are words when it comes to knowing the truth? The truth is beyond words. Words can only capture the general direction of it.

The world seems so full of heartbreak now that grief is as common as breathing. Yesterday I read about a 21-year-old guy killed in a car crash on Route 58 near my house and I thought about his parents and said a prayer for them. I dread the thought of the horror they are now going through. The guy’s crashed car ended up hanging from a tree off the highway. Every day someone is facing the loss of a child, the regret, the guilt over every harsh work, every argument, every time you didn’t give them enough attention, every time you could have spent with them but chose to do something else, like pay a bill or go to work, or God forbid, do something just for yourself like read a book or go out with your girlfriends.

Blessed are the oblivious. I wonder at how oblivious I once was to the grief that permeates this world. How can this be given that I had lost all four of my grandparents, my own parents, and my in-law parents? But all of them departed with life in the right order: grandparents first and then parents. I was supposed to be next.

Sometimes an acquaintance would lose a child and I would think how horrible that would be, in fact unthinkable. So unthinkable I didn’t think about it, at least not in terms of such a think happening to me. We all witness death practically every day on the news and in the movies and on TV. We get used to seeing death as a remote fact that happens to other people on glass screens and cannot touch us. When it happens to someone we know it hits home and makes us think; but in a week or so, or 24 hours, we file that thought and continue on in our belief in our own immunity. We are so practiced in putting death in the glass box, a sanitized wall between us and the messy blood and grief of it.

It is now just over five months since Jesse’s death. Not long enough to recover from the mere shock when I see all those hundreds of photographs of his radiant face, usually such an innocent and trusting face. Not long enough to get my mind around the fact that though Jesse still exists, that particular life in the photographs is over.

When he was barely four he asked me if he was going to die. I told him everything that lives will die but he did not ave to worry about that for a long long time. “But what if some people don’t want to die?” he asked, starting to cry. “It’s just like going from one world to another,” I said.

And I am convinced that is the truth. But why are we so blocked out from that other world into which we so easily slip when we leave our body? What is it about these bodies that makes us so blind to the eternal reality? According to the many near death experiences I have read, the minute we leave our bodies, we see the expanded reality and what is going on in this world too. It’s like our physical body is a locked room with the shades drawn.

Here is what I think I understand about it. There is very little we actually understand about the nature of reality, either in this world or the next, but it seems there is an element of choice. Just as I might decided to concentrate my pen on a single piece of notebook paper or limit my attention to a single book I have committed my attention to living this material life with its full set of natural laws as a resident of this material body. The body is  the bottom line of the contract. When the body can no longer house the spirit, our contract with this world ends.

Our bodies and minds come with certain limitations, and some souls live in bodies with more limitations than others. When the spirit leaves the body it also leaves the limitations. Jesse’s brain had some issues with the processing and organizing of information, issues that he struggles with most of his life. He did an amazing job of compensating and overcoming his limitations.

He researched ADD and knew his condition well. He found workarounds, many natural and lifestyle oriented, but also found that certain drugs seemed to help him function better. He wanted to be a productive person so he used the drugs, and as far as everyone knew, used them carefully with close attention to safe dosages. But apparently he make a mistake with drug combinations and this led to his early death. There is recent research that says people diagnosed with adult ADD have a greatly increased risk of premature death. I did not know this until afterwards.

I believe that when Jesse left his body he experienced freedom from his information processing issues. I believe he found that his full intelligence was free to explore, understand, experiment, understand, and do whatever project or mission God had in store for him. That’s what I truly believe he is doing right now – his next project, one perfectly suited to a soul with his curiosity, desire for adventure, and intellectual abilities.