Another week down

Originally Posted on September 17, 2011

All things taken together, it’s been a good week. Several exciting developments have taken place on the home front, and I’ve heard some news that I will not divulge here today, but will inform you about in the months ahead. One thing at a time folks…

Above you see a concrete pad I had installed today that will be where our future fireplace will go. I’m pretty stoked about it. I have a guy coming to quote on the installation this afternoon.

I’ve also begun a project that will involve the children which should be completed this afternoon. I will write about it on Monday. There is much taking place and the house is going to be a bit of a zoo for a while, so I’m glad that this project has sort of organically coincided with the start of works so that the kids have a transition in to the new place our family and home is going. But more about that on Monday.

The weekend is upon us. We’ll do all the things we normally do, like the market, mall and church, but this Sunday we also head up the north coast to Ballito for five days by the sea side. I’m looking forward to that. Ballito is one of the nicest beach towns I know. The kids are going to have a blast.

Three months ago today was Thursday, 16 June. Janie was in the ICU of St. Augustine’s hospital, seeing out another day before heading in for surgery the next morning. She was beautiful, brave and pain free at the time due to the anti inflammatories the doctor had given to reduce the swelling on her brain. I remember going in and chatting to her that evening. Janie’s best friend Wendy was there as was Philippa her sister. My mother was set to arrive the next day. Janie would come out of surgery the next day and seem to be making remarkable progress before the tumour suddenly jumped hemispheres and killed her.

Three months on and life is utterly and completely different. It could not help to be otherwise: when the center of your life is removed, you must find a new center. The orbit must change. Three months on and I’m beginning to find that new center. I’m beginning to reconstruct my life and that of my children, and I feel as though I have reasons to live other than just hanging in there for the kids.

I am certain that I am in this place now largely due to this blog experiment in crowd-sourcing recovery. Opening up and revealing things in as raw a form as I’m able to here and receiving prayers, encouragement and especially hearing from others who have lost someone dear to them has carried me to a place I don’t imagine I’d be at had I decided to keep everything bottled up inside. That’s not a credit to me but rather to us, all of us, co-participants in this unfolding drama. I know that sounds like a pretty lofty way of putting it, but that is exactly what it is. I wouldn’t be here were it not for me doing this and were it not for you reading and replying and praying. I am where I am because of us.

That theme has been reverberating through many aspects of my life. I am who I am because of us, meaning the nexus between myself as an individual and the people in my life, especially Janie. She had the most profound impact upon me as an adult. But then everyone has an impact on me, whether I recognize it or not. I don’t think anyone in the West really sees it that way. We are individuals that impose ourselves upon the world. It’s rather more complex and subtle than that, I think.

The Zulu word Ubuntu means “I am who I am because of who we all are.” Nelson Mandela in his book A Long Walk To Freedom characterized as the idea that “people are people through other people.” It means all we do and say, the ideas we harbour and the attitudes we nurture has an affect on everyone within our circumference and even on society as a whole. Some might find this somewhat impinging on their rights, but as the bumper sticker goes, “rights” are for people who do not have relationship with one another. When you are in a relationship with someone, when you love someone (which is the appropriate way to be when in relationship with another, be it amorous or platonic), you don’t worry about their rights but about them as individuals. Your concern is for them. This is right and proper.

To drive the point a little further, a dear friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook the other day: “If you’re a person—not a dog or a bike or a tree, but a real flesh and blood person—does the advice “Don’t take it personally.” make any sense? As long as I’m a person, I’m probably going to take it personally. It’s hard to deny one’s personhood just because someone else has failed to acknowledge it in the way they communicate.”

That’s a very well stated point. The comment “don’t take it personally” is a preface or a caveat thrown in before a (normally) offensive thing is said. This does violence to the object of the offensive comment since it does not consider the pain the comment will cause while leading the speaker to (mistakenly) believe that he or she is doing the other party a favour by stating the “truth.”

If we have a hard thing to say, we must say that thing in love. Love seeks to find a way to communicate truth while preserving the honour and dignity of the object of the truth statement. It also causes us to analyze ourselves and see whether what we are about to say is necessary, constructive and ultimately uplifting. The point of being in relationship with one another is to grow both together and upward at the same time, becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an acknowledgement that we are not only “all in this together” but that we are, in a very real sense, one another. The bible speaks about this when it mentions that the church is the body of Christ. It makes no sense for a body to attack itself. When cells mutate and revolt against the body, it is called cancer. Likewise, when we treat each other with anything less than honour, love and consideration, not just a focus on “rights” (which are, ultimately, the very least we ought to do for one another), we do violence to ourselves also in the end. Because we are who we are because of us.

I love the concept of ubuntu. As a Westerner, it doesn’t always work itself out the way I want it to in my soul. I still snarl at people in traffic and treat them with less than honour. I still call certain politicians names, failing to understand that they too are a part of me, and like us all, is made in the image of a loving God who has lived in a community of his own (known as the Trinity in theological talk) from before time existed.

So this blog has been a little experiment in ubuntu, if you well. Sort of ubuntu online, if you will. I like the idea of crowd-sourcing recovery. I reach out to you, and you have reached back and reached across to others. I have received several emails from people I’ve never met who have experienced something similar to what I have, and I have drawn incredible strength from knowing that this disaster will not be the defining moment of my life. It has certainly initiated a process of transformation in me, but that could not be otherwise. The volcano erupted. The landscape has changed. But the first buds are coming through.

Think of your tears as the rain that coaxed new life out of the wasteland. We’re doing good, folks. Let’s keep at it, shall we?

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