Tag Archives: Introspection

Hello Beauty

25 Sep

My title suggests I’m writing about something good. Well, I’m sorry to report this story is wrought with humanity, and more specifically, my humanity.

First let me begin with the scripture that challenges all justice, human justice and my own justifications:

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 New International Version (NIV)

So for a few weeks now I have really been struggling with a particular person. It doesn’t really matter the who of this equation, though I will shed light that this person has caused me a great deal of pain in one way or another for several years now. But most recently the irritation scale has hit new limits as I have been made the object of their angst. As such, I’ve had to endure harsh words, harsh tones, and a few accusations in between–not fun, I can assure you. And though I found myself wrestling with this circumstance for quite a bit, I have since been able to release it…or so I thought. The other day I saw this person approaching my direction and in the most sarcastic tone I could muster (insert your own audible sarcasm to get full effect), I uttered under my breath, “hello beauty.” Now for just one second I felt empowered over their perspective of me, but only for one second. In that second I had the fantasy of being superior and felt my quick-wit well played. But then my heart (or spirit) caught hold my humanity and the next second I felt small. Small minded and small hearted. In that moment of “next” I was offered a turn, a merciful turn and a loving turn. Essentially I was offered the chance to see beauty, real beauty like from G-d the Father of all. The spirit voice inside me asked if I was interested in remaining “small” or if I’d like to partake in the solution of good. I took the latter and this is what came forth:

Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to the beautiful morning.
Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to a new opportunity.
Hello beauty, I feel you
Hello to the fresh air.
Hello beauty, I see you
Hello to the sun and living things.
Hello beauty, thank you
Hello to love around me.

It is really a small and quick moment, the mental/spiritual exchange I had, but it was powerful. It moved me closer to love and further away from the ugly side of my humanity. Hello beauty, welcome–welcome back to me, my heart and where I want to live.

Today hanging on the wall in the office of my colleague I read the following quote by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Only Love Today. I think it the perfect compliment to my own desire.

Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response…my gut instinct…my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read and partake. #onlylovetoday

Memorial Day, Maria Shriver and Me

28 May

This past couple of years my professional life has allowed me to interface with Maria Shriver and her team at Shriver Media. I have become increasingly touched by her Executive Producer, Sandy Gleysteen, as she and I have worked together to help bring the program, Architects of Change (AOC), to the scholastic level. I have also had the privilege to share company with Maria and others from her inner circle (just a few, as Maria’s inner circle is bigger than my hometown!) for bits of time, here and there within the last couple of years. I am touched by them because of their authenticity. Maria especially has been quite transparent, sharing her own life’s lessons, goals and struggles through her book tour, I’ve Been Thinking.... Back in March, after an AOC live conversation with her, we had time to talk a little bit about life. The subject of children came up and I did my best to deflect the conversation by stating “I’m a Gold Star Mom.” Usually, I can divert the talk away from me with that singular statement–not with Maria! She is a journalist after all and she walks away from nothing (or at least that is my impression). My secret was not safe with her and within minutes she and her team were learning of my son, Cole, and my heartbreak. We were just outside of my office where symbolism of my children reside, such as an inch high bottle of Tabasco sauce, reminding me (only) of Cole’s tour in Afghanistan where the MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat) were so horrible he asked all of us to send him as many, mini-sized hot sauces as we could find so he and his fellow Marines could doctor the “food.” Pretty soon, with just a few snippets of insight, we were all wiping away tears. And Maria, in her straightforward Bostonian tongue, invited me to write a piece “from the Gold Star mother” perspective for her Sunday Paper, Memorial Day 2018 edition.

Knowing that AOC is about learning from one another’s stories to empower change for the good within ourselves first and then allowing the ripple effects of that goodness to extend beyond our own vision and reach, Maria challenged me to tell the story of how I get up out of bed and keep going. She reminded me that some people, after loss, cannot find the strength to do so and for some reason, my carrying on while bearing the intensity of my sorrow touched her. And so back in March, I began to think of why I keep going. I was given a 700 word limit and a deadline. I was also left to face aspects of my own story that I strategically ignore, which is not fun especially when the story cannot be fixed (corrected). And even now, after sharing my story via MariaShriver.Com, I am wondering…can I move beyond my disappointment and pain, turn a corner from it? I wonder this because while I am still balancing the weight of losing Cole, my soul remains burdened by it–an open wound that can bleed at any minute. I don’t have an answer to my own question just yet, but Maria Shriver definitely has me thinking!

At any rate, I hunkered down on Mother’s Day and gave way to writing. And just yesterday, Maria’s Sunday Paper hit email inboxes with her own sharing of new beginnings along with my short tribute (and inspirations from a few other amazing people). You can read my story directly on Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of New Beginnings by scrolling down and clicking on the photo of Cole and me.

OR, you can read it here below–

I am blessed to be the mother of two. And like my last name, Bent, so too is the Gold Star which envelops me. You see my son was returned home from the front lines in Afghanistan, OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), with the injury that would later claim his life. And as I write this with the shaky hands of a mother bearing the extreme loss of her son, I am grateful for the extra time I was given to witness the strength, honor and courage first hand of my United States Marine Warrior, Cole Bent, while he fought to survive.

The month of May is a tough time for families remembering their fallen loved ones. For me the month is a succession of painful reminders. I begin with Mother’s Day as I celebrate the role that gave me ultimate purpose, while also bearing the knowledge I am “a man down,” though still in the game. I then move on to the worst day of my life, May 17, when the authorities infiltrated with the horrid news no mother should have to hear, “your son is gone.” And then to the finish line of a national holiday where the entire nation remembers the bravery of the military deceased, those who have selflessly trained and honed their craft to preserve the freedom of our United States. Yes, May is a tough month to be sure.

Maria has asked me to write from this place of grief because she has known me only as having a spunk in my step, a smile upon my face and a forward motion in life that masks this inner turmoil hidden beneath the Bent Gold Star. How does one continue on with such a rift in the maternal walk of life? This question has been following me like a ferocious lion ever since she [Maria] posed it. At every proverbial turn, however, the answer remains the same; love and honor. I am compelled forward by love. The love of my son is insurmountable; yes I use the word “is” because though his physical being is gone from my world the love of him remains brilliantly alive. Love of my daughter, who needs a mother still. Love of my husband, best friend and father of our two children. Love of my family and friends who have walked this Bent road alongside us. Truly it is love, which precludes me from my selfishness.

When faced with the unbearable weight of the news of death, I fell. I fell into my bed unable to physically function—no eating, no drinking…no need! And yet in my desire to allow the grief to overtake me, I couldn’t help remembering the incredible strength of my Marine. The honor, which he so sought by enlisting in the Corps, and the focus of his commitment, are undeniable truths I could not avoid. And still today, I can not allow myself to disengage in this life, while knowing first hand the incredible sacrifices of our military personnel—a world I have been brought into through Cole. This knowledge coupled with love keeps me engaged to this life and to the ones still here.

To be fair (and honest really), I am nowhere near having the strength I long for. The desire I carry to advocate for our veterans and injured military lies within me, dormant, because my own grief still gets in the way. I hope time will assuage this, but the weight of the burden remains unaltered from the moment the golden star was placed upon me, though my soul muscles are more accustomed to carrying it. In the present, the best I can offer is to step out of my bed determined to give and receive love with those who are in my path and to find gratitude in the moments this side of Heaven I am still privy to.

This Memorial Day 2018, I will visit the National Cemetery home to Cole’s remains. I will take time to read the details on headstones surrounding his and recognize the incredible sacrifice of many to preserve freedom. As Cole’s mom, I cannot help but notice he is surrounded by lives long lived. This is the struggle I will again bear as his marble displays the sad truth of a life cut short at 22 years. I will have to, once more, draw upon love and honor to pull myself up from the depths of maternal loss because his legacy deserves that from me. LCpl Bent, not only served our country, he gave our family insight into a world of hard-core commitment and determination. It is for Cole Bent I share my story and give a proper Marine shout…“Oorah my son, Oorah!”

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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