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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!

Cookie Dough and the Haircut

15 Dec

The Cookie Dough:

Earlier in the week I took a hike with a girlfriend.  We are very close friends and have known each other since our teenaged years.  Why include that information in the intro?  Because it should highlight our deep rooted connection which has been forged by many decades of interaction.  …it should, I hope it does.  So here we were huffing and puffing up a hill when my friend told me of her cookie dough dilemma.  Apparently, several months back she had succumbed to the charms of a young boy and his door-to-door knocking plea of, “please pre-order cookie dough, pay now and I will deliver it to you in a few weeks.”  Being that her children are in the private school sector, she thought this a good opportunity to support the local, public elementary house of education.  And so she handed over her twenty dollars, wrote the boy’s name down, and tucked her anticipation away until the three week marker was set to arrive.  Well, according to her, three weeks has turned into three months.  And her question to me was, “I have his name and I know his school, should I call them and ask for my cookie dough?”  My answer was quick and firm…”No.”

I went on to explain that life is unpredictable (as she too is aware), and as such, impedes upon plans and/or intentions.  I suggested that we don’t know the circumstances surrounding the boy’s life and perhaps, in this instance, he (or his mother and father) could benefit from receiving a little grace.  I also recognized the potential that the boy took her money and also enjoyed her cookies as well.  But my thought is, if we look at the circumstance as if weighing it out on a balance, the extension of grace proved the ‘heavy’.  …’nough said.

The Haircut:

Thursday, (only a few days after solving the ‘cookie dough caper’), I took my son for a haircut.  It was an unplanned excursion (especially as I am the usual coiffeur to the Bent family), and took place because we had to kill some time and he needed a cut.  The little barber shop is located within the Long Beach VA facility and the resident barber is Judy, a woman.  She was on the brink of finishing a cut for an older male veteran, so she offered us a place to sit while we waited.  In a short amount of time Judy and her prevailing customer learned of my son’s “Wounded Warrior” status.  And wouldn’t you know, when the man in the salon chair was finished with his cut he turned to Cole and said, “Son, it would be my honor to buy you your haircut.”  Flabbergasted Cole said, “Are you sure?”  To which the white-bearded man replied, “Yes.  I thank you for your service and it is truly my honor.”  …well he tried to get that out, but honestly he got so choked up the words were having to fight their way out (if you know what I mean).  And of course, me being a sucker for a kind deed and an adherer to the policy of “no one cries alone”, I got watery eyed and was (still am) incredibly blessed by this older military veteran.  Not only because he paid for the haircut, but because the plight of my son made a mark upon this experienced man.  After thanking the stranger for his kind act, Cole carefully stepped into the chair of honor.

Judy proceeded to tell us of her credentials and a few personal accounts of her life, while in process of cutting Cole’s hair.  Once finished under her experienced hands, he asked if he could give her a five dollar tip and then handed her a twenty dollar bill.  She thanked him and handed him back a five.  Now the haircut itself cost $10.00, which the kind stranger had taken care of;  so in truth, Cole should have been given back $15.00, not $5.  I watched this transaction which then jet-propelled my ‘momma bear’ tactile instincts.  Though something within me held my tongue.  It could have been that Judy shared with us that she is a four time cancer survivor who lost her “dream retirement home” because of her medical bills.  She shared with us that the circumstance ended up being more of a blessing to her in the long run, and then gave Cole’s knee a pat and said, “see it was a good thing after all!”  It could have also been that she had another man awaiting her services and there was really no way to tactfully call attention to her monetary error.  Or it could have been that I had the twenty dollar cookie dough advice still fresh within me.

Which ever the case may be, it donned on me (as we were leaving the facility) that most likely she had forgotten that her previous client covered the expenses of her next.  Thus when Cole offered to give her a five dollar tip, his rightful change, from a twenty (considering his haircut cost ten) would have been a five-r.  But it wasn’t until my shower this morning that I was given the true message of the triangular transaction.  You see, I was viewing the circumstance from the perspective of my mommy lens.  And what I thought to be an infraction against my son, was actually an INTENDED double blessing from The Good Lord himself.  As she communicated, Judy’s finances were tight.  And unbeknownst to the stranger, Cole’s spirit was depleted.  In one fail swoop, Judy picked up an extra 10 dollars, and my son received a little boost to the soul from the sincerity of the gentleman.  Both were blessed, just as each one needed.  …Oh how my vision is so impaired!

To that end, the answer to my cookie deprived girlfriend still stands.  In fact, now more emphatically.  As if the two stories are not enough, I have more reason to advise my friend to consider the unknown before taking action.  This past week has been grueling for our family…to say the very least.  The “short” of it (as if I can tell a story short-handed):  We introduced a new medication to Cole’s regimen, last Thursday, which caused several severe adverse reactions.  The one I will focus on is the emotional spiraling which occurred on Monday (after my hike with my friend).  Oh there were other, very obvious, overtly physical, negative affects as well.  But the hopelessness that Cole was left to contend with spun him in the direction of suicidal ideation.  And he attempted to overdose on his pain medication, though his actions were thwarted by the entrance, into the room, of his little sister (who remains ignorant of her brothers actions).  Not a fun place for him, not a fun place for his parents (my husband and I).

Unfortunately we didn’t put 2 and 2 together that first night, and it wasn’t until Tuesday eve that we realized this new state of low, was directly related to the collision course of the new medication.  Now I beg of you, as I tell this story, to kindly refrain from offering loads of advice on the subject of suicide ideation…my armor is a bit weary.  The purpose of my sharing is to illuminate the full circle effect of choosing the road of grace, also known as mercy, especially when another option is present.

I will tell you that amidst our tumultuous week, the ‘normals’ of life continue to go on.  In fact, I was the email liaison/coordinator for a magazine photo shoot happening at our house yesterday (Friday), for a London based quarterly.  The photographer, the models, and the stylist were looking to me to ensure the times and locations were set and in place.  Now earlier in the week one of the models called to complain because the schedule for the event had to be tweaked slightly and he was irritated at me as a result.  …keep in mind, my son had just tried to OD…  But you know what I realize, the circumstances of my life do not cause the lives of others to stop.  He was completely in the dark about our familial hardship.  And yes, I could have enlightened him (and his single, no children life), to our heart wrenching scenario…but to do so was (and is) unnecessary.  Let me interject here…I had called upon my “prayer warriors” a few days earlier and my request was simple, “wisdom, please pray for wisdom”.  Not only does my Heavenly Father offer to grant wisdom to those who ask, as written in his word, but he provides the necessary tools for the actions required to enact the wisdom given.  Hallelujah for that.  And at this point in my story is where, for me, I see the fulfillment of prayer most profoundly.

Now back to “the short of it”…haha!

For him (the aforementioned male model), the change in plan was infringing upon his convenience.  And being he was receiving no remuneration for his time, he had every right to be a little testy.  I didn’t need to use my “E ticket” as I call it (E ticket=passport to the very best rides at Disneyland–until the changeover to the ‘all day pass’ was enacted), to override his concerns.  So I apologized and together we worked out a viable plan which ended up being the best choice for all involved.  After all, the beauty of gaining in years is that one is also gaining in wisdom (hopefully).  Now what good would all my wisdom be if it were left as an untapped resource!

Ok, ok…truth be told, the older I get the less I know.  Though there is one lesson life has been teaching me over and over again:

“Much grace I must give, for much grace I often require.”

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