Sunday, November 23, 2014

Team Dori ... $8,500 raised and counting!

Good buddy Jim Asker has a great blog entry about Team Dori. His tribute to her is amazing.

I hope you consider supporting Gilda's Club Nashville (more links at the left). We've already raised $8,500 so far, which helps cancer victims not pay a penny for their support group programs. Thanks to all of you have given so far!

Special thanks to Ted Sanft and Jim for helping raise money and awareness about great cancer support programs like Gilda's Club Nashville! These guys are great leaders in our community.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Running for Gilda's Club

It's time to run again for an incredible cause, while remembering an incredible person, my wife Dori. I'm running another half marathon this spring in Louisville with Team Dori to support Gilda's Club Nashville.

When Dori was dying in the spring of 2011, she made a list of things she'd like me to do. One of them was to attend cancer support programs at Gilda's Club Nashville, which she did all four years of her cancer journey. She said take the kids, too. I've been going ever since, and currently participate in a group called No Time to Grieve - Raising Kids on Your Own. Through the program, I've listened to others' struggles and successes, and have shared my own experiences. I've met Warren Thompson, our facilitator who has become a very good friend. Warren lost his wife many years ago and raised three kids on his own. We go to breakfast often. I've met Felice Apolinsky, who Dori loved dearly and vice versa. Felice has been an angel in many ways to me personally and to my children. She connects the dots, which is what Dori wanted for us. Recently, encouraged by founder Sandy Towers, I joined the board ... what a great group of leaders.

Team Dori met yesterday for our first run, then a coffee organizer with GCN's Deb Sandvik. Twelve of our 20 team members made the meeting. Our fundraising pages are being set up today and in the days ahead. My buddy Jim Asker, a lymphoma survivor, is doing an awesome job recruiting many of the "givers" we've met over the years, and I'm meeting new friends and hearing their stories. We're all eager to pound more pavement early in the morning in Middle Tennessee so others can have the support they need.

Please consider giving to Gilda's Club Nashville. You would be doing something great for others while remembering Dorothy Ruth Sawyer Brown, who blessed us with such tremendous grace, love and strength while she was with us. I thank you in advance!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Everything Changes

Much has occurred since the spring, the last time I blogged.

The kids and I vacationed in Glacier National Park in July in an RV. It was an eye-opening experience in several ways. Of course, the scenery was unbelievably breathtaking. God’s awesomeness was everywhere, as you can see.

When you get out of the house and spend a week in an RV with two teenagers, it’s a lot of quality time. Even though Dori wasn’t with us, she was there. Her physical absence was magnified on vacation, while her meaning to us was more apparent than ever.

During the trip and upon our return, waves of grief took turns hitting our shores. We’ve been dealing with deeper layers of emotion, what I call peeling back more of the onion. We’ve had some tough days, but the trip was well worth it. We have been presented with new opportunities to grow.

On the trip, I read Eleven Rings – a great book by basketball coach Phil Jackson, given by my friend Maureen. Jackson’s unorthodox techniques resulted in 11 NBA championships, 10 as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. Long story short, Jackson drew upon Lakota Sioux Indian ritual, Buddhism and Christianity to help shape thinking and focus to build united, high-achieving teams.

Jackson wrote about the Buddhist belief that you cannot be happy or live a purposeful life unless you recognize “everything changes.” I alluded to this in my last post, in fact, citing Father Jerry’s Easter homily.

Change seems to be a recurring theme. Last night, Maureen and I went to the Belcourt Theater to see the movie Calvary. Father James, an Irish widower and now priest, is the protagonist, a Christ-like figure. His parishioners are struggling, to say the least; most have no spiritual or moral compass and some are evil. In fact, one parishioner who was raped as a boy by another priest has pledged to kill Father James in seven days.

Father James is tormented and mocked by his entire congregation. Two men beat him. Adultery and debauchery are everywhere; hope isn’t. His church is burned to the ground and his dog’s throat is slit. His daughter, who recently attempted suicide, wonders aloud about her own meaning. Father James, knowing his death is likely imminent, seems to be on a journey to pay for all these sins.

At one point, Father James discusses the inevitability of change with his daughter. At another, he comforts a woman who has experienced tragic deaths in her immediate family. Father James opines that if your faith is rooted in the fear of death, it isn’t very deep. Faith isn’t a comforter so much as the knowledge you are forgiven and welcomed to His Kingdom, if you believe.

When called by parishioners to their homes, Father James asked if he was there to be tormented, tempted and ridiculed, or if they wanted to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness. Did they have true remorse? Were they seeking redemption?

Calvary is dark and graphic. I sensed many left the theater is disbelief, after Father James is murdered in cold blood, threat carried out. At the end of the movie, you could hear a pin drop. Where was the happy ending?

If everything changes, and it will, then what are we waiting for? Why is it so hard to ask forgiveness? Why are we so prideful and judgmental?

My wife taught me the living example of faith. Now, reminders are everywhere – in gifted books, in movies and on vacations. The Holy Spirit is speaking through others now, trying to connect me to righteousness and redemption, as I face my own ongoing challenges and shortcomings.

The only lasting happy ending, if we believe, is after this life. I’ll pray about this more, and ask that you pray with me, and for those who seek redemption and those who choose another course.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Promise of Easter

A few weeks ago while cleaning out a drawer, I found another journal that Dori kept when she was sick. While bearing her heavy cross, she called cancer her "opportunity" to get closer to Christ. That was Dorothy Ruth Sawyer Brown, the mother of my children.

Today, Easter Sunday, is a joyful day. The pain of Good Friday - the grief of Mary and Jesus' followers and the scourging and crucifixion of our Lord and Savior - has become His promise of redemption and renewal on this most holy day. This morning at Easter Mass, I thought about all of this, as well as Dori, as the trumpets and violins beckoned the congregation. Ebullient altar flowers stood at attention, seemingly aware of the meaning of the moment. Jesus is risen. We are saved.

Two years ago, once the tremendous shock of Dori's passing started to wane, life changed. At times, it was chaotic and unrecognizable. The silence in the home could be deafening, the pained voices of loved ones hard to hear. Peaceful moments were rare. I traded one cross for another. My role as caregiver was over. My role as a widower, raising two children, was underway. What were the answers? What should I do? Everyone I knew was talking, but I couldn't hear what anyone was saying. Are you kidding me, as my best friend often says?

Last fall, life started getting bumpier as teenagers grew. Kathryn started driving, and the thought of another loss was too much for this parent to bear. I was not ready. I didn't do well. It was time for a new direction, so I started making changes.

Dori's death created a vacuum that filled gradually. You cannot raise two children on your own, have a successful career and stay balanced, without some help from others. That support, however, sometimes had strings. Boundaries dropped, and a new dynamic existed before I knew it. New challenges emerged. A few said hurtful things. A crossroad was reached. Refocus and a new plan were needed. Boundaries needed to be redrawn. I needed to take care of me, and especially my children.

My new plan: I would keep unconditional love around our inner circle. There would be no strings. Family members saw this recalibration, some accepting and able to make the adjustment. Others I love unfortunately are incapable at this moment. I will always be open to working with anyone within these boundaries, but it will be through unconditional love.

Not to anyone's surprise, I still think of Dori every day, often. I call on her spirit and example for help. Her wisdom, patience and love are no longer of this earth, but if I stop, breathe and listen, she is there. Her smile and laugh, adorned in His Light, never fades. I cannot tell you how much this comforts and guides me to teach my incredible children and live the life I've been given.

In today's homily, Father Jerry simply said, "Jesus is the answer," whatever the question. We all have or will have a cross or crosses to bear. Life will change; ready or not, the moment will arrive.

My task, and perhaps yours, will be to stay in sight of the answer - Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior - who promises us hope and eternal life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.