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Grace, she is my Mercy

28 Sep

**I wrote this piece a while back. And now, amidst the global natural disasters we are under, I am feeling as if this piece is a bit too selfish. But I share it anyway, because the sentiments were (and are), legitimate. The Medical Board of CA called today because they are reviewing a doctor who treated Cole, they are concerned his care was unethical…

I’ve been using the phrase “I need grace and mercy,” this past year more than ever! It is not that I didn’t have use or previous need of the extension of that which grace bestows, but I am recognizing the consistent failings of my humanity and the longing therein for compassion’s salve. Honestly, I have my “shit together.” That just means I am of sound mind and physical ability and utilize these tools as I carry on in life. Beyond that, I am damaged goods bouncing along this road of life and hoping to not hurt others as result of my own struggles. Of course grace is a divine assistance and not really a human trait, but it is the foundation of mercy; compassion or forgiveness shown to someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

The above statements aren’t necessarily illuminating. They aren’t meant to be. To me they are just facts I am sharing. Really what I want to focus on in this post is the reality of sorrows imposition upon the soul; and the tangible need for grace from above and mercy here below. How I see it (visually) is much like bowling with a child, when the bumpers are up on the sides so the ball can safely bounce back and forth down the lane in order to accomplish the intended goal of knocking down some pins. I see the extension of grace as the bumpers, and the hurt person the ball aggressively moving from side to side until the bumpers have absorbed enough friction to calm it down, and set it straight. Of course the knocked pins are the victory, the accomplishment of the goal through much aid, protection and mercy. Funny I should use a bowling analogy…not really a game I play, ever. Perhaps its a subliminal homage to my grams–now she was a bowler!

Here’s the thing, if you don’t know or fathom rather, the need for compassion’s touch–bless you and my sincere prayer is you remain in the good favor of the almighty. But if you do, if you are someone who has suffered a sorrow that is debilitating and you have to find somehow, someway to keep on living, then you understand the profound need for compassion from others whether in small or large doses.

The reason for this is simple, it really does take a great deal of energy to usurp the pain of loss. To daily strive to allow joy to be present, and to even be an active participant in life’s activities such as grabbing a cup o’ joe (coffee), can consume a days worth of effort. This doesn’t leave much energy left for superficiality, self centered choices, inconsiderate behaviors, and intolerable acts. And because those, too, exist within the daily walk of humanity the energy left at the end of the day is most often only enough for “a little bit more.” This my friends is where the gift of mercy is most appreciated…

It is here, at this point, at the exhaustion from living-in-pain point, where you will find the newly, unimproved, Rivka. The Rivka who gives an answer with a sharp tongue (ok, that’s always been my strong point!). The Rivka who hasn’t much to talk about (new found trait). The Rivka who doesn’t want to go to social events (ever). The Rivka who uses the F-word to get a point across or when stubbing a toe (learned in the hospital alongside my paralyzed son). The Rivka who doesn’t call (because she’s out of words). The Rivka who falls short on birthday celebrations (birthdays are overrated, are they not?). The Rivka who has no patience for people’s judgement (of myself or others). The Rivka who doesn’t get excited when things go wrong (I live daily in the “wrong” of my son’s death). The Rivka who wants to annihilate inconsiderate drivers (move them off the road). The Rivka who might not seem burdened by heartbreak (but is). The Rivka who is struggling just to connect to this world (but thankfully does). And, it is at this point you will find the Rivka who is desperately in need of compassion or forgiveness when it is (justifiably) within one’s power to punish or harm her.

Knowing this about myself allows me to don a cloak of empathy most of the time, which has just about shut out my ability to cast judgement (still in me are ill thoughts toward those that callously hurt others, and cars that don’t let me merge onto the freeway). In practical terms, I recognize I am overusing the grace of G-d and the mercy of humans on an ongoing basis. And as such, am using some of my depleted energy bank to ensure I am not stingy in considering whom else might be traveling down life’s lane with the bumpers up.

And if I’m real here in this post, I can confess I hope this writing will challenge each of us to consider further the grumpy person in line at a store and the fact that their story might be wearing them down. Or the aloof individual who doesn’t reciprocate a friendly smile, who might just be making it under the weight of loss. Of course none of this encouragement is new, there are scriptures and proverbs that guide in this wisdom. But in our humanity we forget and so a reminder is not such a bad idea.

 

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Eyes to See

16 Feb

*disclaimer:

I carry the burden of the loss of my son daily. It doesn’t matter if I’m joyful, silent, tired, hungry, irritable, sassy, asleep or awake–the weight of grief is upon my soul always. Yet today I will sidestep my own grief progression to take on that of another.


If you have been following me through the several years I have been writing here at Bentrivka.com then you will undoubtedly have picked up a few clues about my love of riding a bicycle. I am quite grateful for the ability to ride and the area in which I live with the many bike trails offered. My physicality is not something I take for granted, in that I recognize even the fine motor skills at play that make it possible for me to do the activities I love.

Well this past weekend I had the time, inclination and need for a long coastal bike trail excursion. You see I had a migraine, and for some reason riding my bike makes me think the migraine will subside naturally. It doesn’t but I still give it a try even though I usually end up needing aspirin and an ice-pack anyway. It was a bright sunny day and the sun felt great, with its warmth upon my skin, while the cool of the breeze maintained my body temp at a perfect level. I had my big dark sun glasses on and of course a spaghetti strap black dress (typical Rivka riding attire). I had a long sleeve Brian Bent custom t-shirt on over my dress and a jacket around my waist “just in case” it was needed (always carry a jacket, that’s my motto). I also had a pair of black capri leggings on under my dress because the breeze was a bit cool for my reptilian tendencies.

In cooler weather you would find me bedecked with a wool sweater on under the jacket (not tied around my waist but on me proper and zipped up to the collar). I would have a wool scarf tied around my neck or draped over my head and around my neck to both keep my ears and entire head warm. I might also have on gloves and a wool beret. All of this is quite normal…normal that is for me!

I was well prepared for my bike ride a few days ago except for one thing. I should have worn a visor to prevent the sun from shining down directly upon my eyes. With a migraine my eyes become quite sensitive to light and though I had my dark lens glasses on, the glare still penetrated without a covering. Realizing half way into the ride that the bright sun was exacerbating the headache pain, I took my long sleeve black shirt off of my body and placed it on my head, overhanging my sunglasses just slightly with the arms tied around the back of my neck. This helped tremendously, it blocked the direct light and I was able to continue the ride in more comfort.

I was pretty sure I looked ridiculous but that is never cause to stop me from arranging my dress in form or fashion of my choosing. So the looks and constant glances from other athletic passerby’s I took in stride. Until…

A man passing by me, going the opposite direction on his bike, looked at me and point blankly said, “Go Home!” And he kept riding. Go home? Did I really hear him correctly? Could he really have been so ignorant and stupid to yell that to me? “Go Home,” he said.

Even as I write this here my soul grieves and I sigh deeply. This man, this person whom knew me not, looked my way and saw a Muslim woman. The stupidity of his comment to a woman with a head-covering on while exposing her chest, shoulders and arms is just over the top ludicrous. And for some reason of which I cannot fathom, he thought it right and justified to tell her to “go home.” Now please understand, I am not grieving my own story here. Rivka (me) is not a Muslim woman wearing a head covering because of her faith and enduring the sneers and jeers from others as result. Make no mistake, I am not offended because of something that was said to me. I am deeply disgusted that anyone would cast such hatred to another…ever. My heart breaks for the unjustified (and ignorant) discrimination that continues still today. And right here in this supposed liberal la-la land in which I live called, California. My story, too, comes on the heels of my husband sharing with me that at our local shopping mall the daughter of a friend wore a head scarf and was told to “take that thing off” by other shoppers. A story I was disinclined to believe, until my own bike ride experience.

I wish I could step in and “take the hit” for another in every case of discriminatory attack. I would take it because it’s a third-party pain making the impact just slightly more bearable. I wake up white and able which, in this day, puts me at an advantage in dodging preconceived scrutiny. But then I remember that the European Jews during the time of Hitler were white, able and some of them even fought for their country during WWI. Ship me back in time and my “advantage” subsides. Oh world we have come so far in technological progress, have we really grown so little as a people?

Sorrow I have. Anger I have too; but hatred is not a part of me. I will stand firm against it. Using my voice and keeping the love of the Lord in Heaven the governor of my soul, I will stand against it. And with this proclamation comes the real challenge, to not hate the hater.

bentrivka

 

Can I photograph your dog?

7 Feb

I commute 128 miles each day, Monday through Friday.  My closest friend, aka my husband Brian, is my chauffeur. The moment I step into my office my fast paced life begins, until I force myself to leave tasks undone and head out the door for home.  It is typical that I arrive home at the dinner hour.  I then catch up with our daughter, give a smidgen of affection to the dogs and march myself off to bed because I have nothing left within me which allows for further activity.  I do not mind my commute, nor do I mind my fast paced job.  In truth, I think my work environment and pace has prevented, in a true physiological form, depression.  And I thank G-d for that.

Because I move at such a quick rate I often do not have time to allow myself to dwell upon my sorrow.  Oh it’s always with me, but I don’t have much opportunity to be real with it.  But today, I drove alone.  And upon leaving work and getting on the freeway, I realized I needed gas.  My first opportunity to get gas was at the exit of the Miramar National Cemetery where my son’s remains, remain.  And my first tear fell at the beginning of the exit.  Since I had the gift of time in the moment (Brian and Esther were both at a convention in downtown Los Angeles), I went to the gravesite of Cole.  I don’t think it coincidental that I was given a bouquet of tulips today from one of the students at my work, G-d just works that way.  I had them in the car with me and decided to take them to his site.

Now it just isn’t right…a mother should not see the name of her child on a headstone.  But alas, I do.  And I arranged the flowers at the base.  I sat there and marveled at the minuscule insects that were feeding/breeding on the granite.  It seemed fitting as Cole hated bugs yet they always found in him a perfect place to land.  As I killed the odd breed, I laughed, through my tears, at the irony of their presence.  And then I returned home and avowed to allow myself time to feel.  To give in to my sorrow and once again be a woman in mourning.

Shortly after my son passed away, a dear friend of mine gave me a morsel of wisdom.  She said, “Rivka, just remember you are going to need to extend grace to people, for they often don’t say the right thing.”  I haven’t forgotten her words.  And just this week at work, I was given verbal confirmation that I am walking in that wisdom.  Someone said, “Thank you, Rivka, for your graceful manner.”  And, “Thank you for the efficient and cheerful way in which you do things.”  Now I have to tell you, those comments bring tears to my eyes because I am truly surviving on the strength and hope of our Lord G-d, Heavenly Father.  For inside of myself I am flat, depleted, and worn.  But everyday I pray to be useful and in (and of) service to G-d.  And if people are seeing cheerfulness and grace within me, it is because the Holy Spirit is hearing my cry and answering my prayers.  …I am grateful, humbled, and honored to be in His service.

And yet, this afternoon, MY afternoon…

On this day when I gave in to allowing myself a moment of grieving, I became stretched by an unknown stranger in need of the grace of that which my dear friend had counseled me.

I took the dogs on a short walk, mostly to satisfy their canine exuberance once I walked in the door.  I have little Buddy, the Chihuahua/Terrier mix and Piper, the purebred Siberian Husky–Cole’s service dog.  Now Piper is a super love.  A sweet and beautiful creature.  But she is terrified of little kids, girls especially.  Mostly because they see her and run toward her in natural excitement that translates with a high pitch squeal.  They long to take her fluffy, furry body and wrap their little arms around it.  And the closer they get, the more terrified Piper becomes (of course one should never run up to a strange dog–but little girls are often too young to have yet adopted the policy).  At any rate, as I was walking through the neighborhood behind my house, the last leg of our short jaunt, I spied a cadre of little girls running from one house to another, with a “mom chaperone” trailing behind.  Based on their enthusiasm and bags in hand, mom included, I gathered they were on some sort of a scavenger hunt.  Piper noticed them too, so I assured her it was ok and felt confident their own adventure would keep them distracted from Cole’s beauty (really I should say bitch, but it just doesn’t sound right–even in writing!).

I was almost past the little group, and mind you, I had my coat on with my hood over my head–my intent was to emanate the sentiment, “closed for the season”–when out of the mouth of the mom came a shout, “can I photograph your dog?”  Uh oh, she penetrated my world with her intrusive request.  Couldn’t she see I am in mourning?  Couldn’t she feel my closure to the world?  I was merely walking the dogs out of obligation to them, while missing my son and feeling great pain for his suffering and our loss.  Why didn’t she know?

Well how could she?  I do not have the advantage of wearing clothes of grief.  Nope, I had just my green jacket and its protective cover failed me.  But I needed this afternoon and needed it desperately.  I also needed to respect Piper’s fear of little girls and so I said, “not at this time” and I kept walking.  The mom was taken aback and quite put out by my response.  In fact, she reacted according to her position…not mine.

“Grace.  You will need to extend grace to people.”

Once I got the ugly thoughts quieted from my mind, I remembered back to Rivka the young mother.  Rivka, who could put her shoes in the place of the mom wanting a photo.  Of course from her perspective, taking a picture of a beautiful dog is not an imposing request.  For little did she know, and little would I have known if I had been her, that I had just returned from the grave of my son and my heart was(is) broken though still functioning.  So I enacted the words of counsel from my friend and I allowed the woman to think ill of me, and I chose to not think ill of her.  Truth is, I envy her.  I envy her excitement and exuberance for her children and their young stage of life.  I love her place of intent, to bring joy to her group of girls through the simple act of photography.  And I miss that place of being, though am grateful for once having had it.

There really is a great deal of hardship in this world.  AND, there really is an awful lot of goodness.  We really have a choice between bitterness and joy.  I choose the latter of the two which is why being in the service of our Lord is so important to me.  To think He can still find use of my brokenness blesses me with a peace I cannot explain.  I am sorry to the mom for whom I could not accommodate.  I am not sorry I did not stop for her to photograph a terrified dog.  And I am not sorry that I allowed myself to be true to my own emotional state.  I am just sorry that she might consider my actions unreasonable and therefore feel affronted by them.  I am much more aware that as people, we are walking this earth, many of us, with stories that effect our actions.  I am just one of them, and this is just one of my little stories.

Siberian Huskey

Piper, at your service!

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