Being Luna Lovegood

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SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen/read Harry Potter and plan to, you probs wanna skip a couple of paragraphs.

This post is the result of my journey with grief.

One of my favorite scenes in Harry Potter is in the fifth book/movie, when Harry returns to Hogwarts after witnessing Voldemort’s return and the murder of Cedric Diggory.  The previously-driverless carriages that haul the students from the train station to the Hogwarts campus now have animals to pull them along–thestrals.  Harry is shocked at the sight of these magnificent creatures, and asks his friends if they see them too–which they don’t. He thinks he is going crazy until Luna Lovegood tells him that she sees him too.  This is when he finds out that only those who have witnessed death can see them.

The same can also be said for the Muggle world.  Those of us who have witnessed death–whether by being physically in the room when someone dies or simply experiencing the excruciating pain that is grieving for a loved one–look at the world a different way.

Life becomes all the more precious when you’ve seen its fragility; when you’ve seen how someone can be just on the cusp of being healed to just 24 short hours later being pronounced deceased. It is even harder when you’ve prayed for a relationship to be mended, only for that to become impossible in this life.

For me, death has changed the way I live in almost every aspect. My planned career as a criminal defense attorney is all about preserving people’s lives (specifically when they are death penalty cases). When I’m reminded of my mortality and how short earthly life is, I tend to be more real with the people around me–even going so far as to tell someone I like them or spontaneously buying my sister a book. These things that come out of grief and experiencing death are the thestrals of our life–the things that only people who have known deep loss can appreciate.

I don’t believe that death happens for a specific reason–I can’t believe in a God who picks and chooses who gets to live and who gets to die–but I do believe that certain things that come out of knowing death can be beneficial for one’s development. The sensitivity and sorrow can be used for good.  I have more compassion and empathy for those who have lost or are in the process of losing someone because I’ve been there.  I know that this all seems random and cruel and that you feel like your life will never be the same once this person is gone. I know how bad it sucks when people say the wrong thing, thinking they’re helping when they’re, in fact, making it worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to get those I’ve lost back–anything. I would love to have MaeMae cook supper for me again, play outside with Cap, and get a chance to know the good side of my father, but since I can’t do that, I have to turn the pain into something constructive. That something has taken root as deep compassion for those facing death as or for someone dying.

Recently, I have had to get very honest with myself about a lot of things, but specifically about my grief journey. I am still deeply hurt by the loss of my grandparents. I take things regarding death a lot more personally than most do, because I’ve been in the vicinity three times as someone has taken their last breath and witnessed their consciousness leaving their body–all of them entirely too young. I’m nowhere near healed, and I don’t think I’ll ever be, but I know that they would want me to “use my powers for good” and be there for those who are going through similar things, and really, if Luna hadn’t been there for Harry, wouldn’t he have spent forever wondering if he was crazy?

So, go out, and whether it be grief-related or not, be someone’s Luna Lovegood and let your life experience help someone else.

 

aub

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#kellyonmymind

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My last blog post (way too long ago) was about Kelly Gissendaner, a woman who was to be executed back in the early spring.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post–Kelly is to be executed (the third scheduled date so far) this coming Tuesday.

My heart has ached over this. I’ve wanted to call up Governor Deal and cry into the phone, curse the parole board, and cry some more.

This week, a certain story from the Bible has been on my mind in reference to Kelly’s case–the story of the beheading of John the Baptist in Mark 6.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias[g] came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s[h] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.

Growing up, I always thought this story was pretty straightforward–Herod made a promise and he kept it–with disastrous consequences. However, there is a deeper layer to the tale.  When the daughter of Herodias asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, Herod had a choice–do what was right and save himself a lot of grief by saving John, or do what was politically savvy and have him killed, appeasing not only his stepdaughter but the other people at the table.  Herod made his choice and was “deeply grieved” by what he had done.

So, Governor Deal, as much as I hate throwing the Bible at people, I hope you are fully aware of the choice you’re making–the choice to end a life for political gain.   Kelly is a LIGHT in this world, not unlike John the Baptist. She doesn’t take credit for helping women she’s met in the prison system–she points to God. Kelly is a vessel through whom God is working, and what right to we have to end her life? No more right than Herod did to execute John the Baptizer.

Kelly is the ultimate example of true rehabilitation in our prison system, which is extremely rare. So instead of punishing her for being redeemed, why not use her as a way to show that SOMETHING is being done right in our prison system, in a time when so many states are facing scrutiny. After all, if we punish someone who has changed her life, what is that going to teach others in prison–that it isn’t worth it because you’re treated as less-than-human anyway? Maybe or maybe not. Regardless, in this instance, it’s making a lot of people lose faith in our justice system (and rightly so).  Governor Deal has an opportunity to show that Georgia values life and uplifts people who upheave their lives and affect other people.

I am at a loss heading into this next week while simultaneously feeling even more on fire to get through school and be a lawyer for people like Kelly. My biggest (and most selfish) wish in all this is to one day be able to meet Kelly and thank her for her part in making me who I am and shaping who I’m going to be. But that can only happen if our state shows mercy on someone who has changed her life.

Kelly upon obtaining her theology degree from Emory University. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly.

aub

Justice for All

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Growing up, I always heard people complain about their jobs.

“Well, it pays the bills, but it’s not good for much else.”

“….the daily grind…”

As a kid, this did not jive with the promising, “the future is yours!” idea of adulthood I had.

In fact, I think it affected a lot of my decisions.

I didn’t really think much about what I wanted to do until high school, because I figured I wasn’t going to enjoy it anyway, so why spend so much time thinking about it?

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and things are very, very different.

Sitting at a vigil for Kelly Gissendaner, a woman who has been on death row (unjustly, might I add, but that’s another story), I realized that I had been suppressing my dream.

In high school, after meeting Karen Spears Zacharias and listening to her talk about Karly Sheehan, a child who was murdered by those who should have been protecting and loving her, I thought law school might be my thing. Then, when I got to Wesleyan, I pushed that aside and decided I’d go for whatever would make me enough money to buy an F250. I had lost some of my compassion and drive to help people.

But sitting in a folding chair at the vigil, between some of the Struggle Sisters (Kelly’s closest friends) I regained some of that.

How could I just sit by while a woman is killed for a crime she didn’t commit? While the man who did commit it is waiting to get out of prison on parole in a few years?

How could I let the world stray from justice?

Sitting here tonight, having had a great day at the law office I work for, I realized something.

There are only a few people I have never heard complain about their jobs.

Sure, they’ve had bad days, but they have so much drive and compassion that it outshines the bad stuff.

One is my Mama. She worked for Hospice for a few years during our stint as a Daring Duo. She took me to work with her once, and I remember watching her with the people she talked to, and just knowing that she was the perfect person to help them through their struggles. The way she still speaks of

Among other family members and friends, Hugh Hollowell runs Love Wins, a nonprofit ministry for friends that don’t have it quite as well as some of us do. Aside from having been Facebook friends for awhile, I had the honor of meeting Hugh a few months ago. Sure, some days, things just don’t go the way he’d like them to. But the fire in his eyes when he talks about what he does–you just know he loves it.

The difference between people like Hugh & my Mama and those who were always complaining is this–they are doing something they are passionate about. They found a way to take an issue or something they enjoy and turn it into their ways of life–their livelihoods.

When you’re not driven by what you’re doing, you’re not as happy.

All too often, we force ourselves to “do things we don’t necessarily want to do” in the words of my MaeMae, which is good, we should get out of our comfort zone sometimes–and we should work hard for what we want. But when we are forsaking our joy and the capability to truly live life–is it worth it?

I’m incredibly lucky to have found something that makes me excited to get up every morning–excited to file motions and answer the phone. I don’t plan on taking it for granted.

So thank you, to those of you who showed me that you CAN love what you do.

You made this whole future lawyer thing happen.

–aub–

They’ll Tell You I’m Insane

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You can love someone, and they can say they love you, but when it ends, you’re expected to pretend like it never happened, like that one person is just a random citizen of earth, not one of the more important people you have ever known.

It’s very tempting to turn it all into anger and hate; to try and convince yourself that you never really liked them anyway.

But deep down, somewhere in your heart, you still feel the same way, even when you try to bury all those feelings and forget every moment you shared.

And I think that it’s okay to still feel the same way.

As women, we are often shamed for being “too emotional” or “hysterical” which only serves to make us internalize everything, not wanting to bother that person or anyone, for that matter, with our feelings.

I don’t know about y’all, but I for one have enough feelings for twelve people.  I also have a very bad habit of doing the “I-hate-him-he-obviously-never-cared-so-I’ll-pretend-I-don’t-care-either” thing. Which only makes me more miserable.

Even with all the broken promises, lost trust, and bruised feelings, I still feel. As much as I try not to, there’s still the twinge in my chest when I see someone who used to matter to me, no matter how long it has been since the mattering ceased.

I’ve wondered recently if things would be different if we told people how we felt. Not in a I-want-to-be-your-favorite-again way, but in a “I value you as a person and I miss mattering to you and having you matter to me.” If we weren’t so concerned with being thought of as crazy, would we be better friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, community members? Would relationships, even platonic, be different? Would there be less bitterness carried around in the world?

I’ve gambled and lost in relationships because I didn’t want to be honest and up front about my needs and feelings (I also have a bad habit of wanting significant others to be mind readers). I wish things had been different, but I have to live with my decisions.

I hope that in the future, we can express our feelings without fear of being called hysterical or crazy.

Because when you gamble on your person being a mind-reader, chances are you’re going to lose.

And just for kicks, because T-Swift is the best thing EVER to listen to when you’re overwhelmed with feelings, here’s Taylor.

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The Loss of a Light

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This weekend has been a somber one at Wesleyan.

We lost a Light.

Reverend Hurdle, who I’ve mentioned before on the blog, passed away yesterday.

The man who taught me that God is love, commiserated with students about going to the dentist, and who was so excited when Lyssavic and I began to help lead worship at chapel.

Reverend Hurdle led a full life, but even full lives seem too short when they’re missed so terribly.

Tonight at chapel, during the last hymn, the one male voice that has accompanied so many female voices over the years was missing.  The song seemed dull in the Benson Room without his sweet, earnest tones accompanying ours.

We missed his handshakes, hugs, and “I’m so glad you’re here”‘s as we walked through the door.

Reverend Hurdle did not leave us without instructions though.

Every year, at the first chapel of the year, he has made his hope for us very clear–“Love for the sheer joy of loving.”

He believed this was the true essence of Jesus’ call to us.

So, tonight, as so many Wesleyannes grieve the loss of the most beloved man on campus, we still feel called–called to love, for the sheer joy of doing it.

–aub–

Taylor Swift Should Have Been A Psych Major

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This post was originally supposed to be about how I want to be proposed to at STUNT (another story for another day), but I was listening to Taylor Swift’s new album (y’all, I’m obsessed, and if you want a copy let me know) and it got me thinking about something else.

She has a song on this album called Out of the Woods.  The lyrics are repetitive, but the chorus really gets me.

“Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet, good.”

I feel like this a lot actually, but not because of school.

I feel like this in my grief. Waiting for my grandmother, me, my mom, and a multitude of other people to become less fragile following our losses feels a lot like wandering in the woods, dark and disturbing.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk around sobbing all the time.  In fact, I’m usually pretty happy.  It hits harder some days than others.

For a while after the First Loss, my grandfather, when I was sixteen, I was in a pretty dark place.  I often felt like having relationships wasn’t even worth the heartache, because we were all going to lose each other one day.  I was so devastated that I couldn’t imagine that relationships could ever make up for the empty hole I felt.

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I saw this quote today and wished I could show it to 16-year-old me, not that she’d listen.

I have been so rewarded by the relationships I’ve had the privilege to be a part of, at Wesleyan and beyond. And I’m realizing that even though the grief is crippling sometimes, the days like today, involving Starbucks and El Som with my best friend, make me realize that I wouldn’t trade a lifetime of happiness for the experiences I’ve had and am having.

I’ve decided being fragile for a little while is a good deal when I have a heckuva lot of beautiful memories with people I love.

So, back to T. Swift, this is in the last few lines of Out of the Woods–

“But the monsters turned out to be just trees
When the sun came up
You were looking at me”

Now i don’t know who’s gonna be looking at me, but I do think Taylor has a point.  We overestimate how long the grief is going to last, and how permanent its effects will be. (#psychmajor)

So for today, I’m gonna Shake It Off, because I know the monsters are just trees, and the sun is going to come out.

–aub–

Sisterhood That Spans The Generations

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So today was pretty much the greatest.

It started off like any other Friday, I woke up, went to breakfast, and then went to class.

After class, I was thinking about sisterhood, and all the things that make Wesleyan worth it. And then it hit me, the President of our college knows my name! She waves at me when she sees me and doesn’t scurry off like Presidents of larger, busier colleges might.

Thinking of the Queen, I realized my true goal in life–to take a selfie with President Knox.

Being that I’m of the social networking generation, I immediately posted my goal on Facebook.

And then what do you know, because of sisterhood connections, my goal was achieved! 😉

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Yall. For the love.
We laughed at the fact that we had to take at least ten pictures to make sure our hair looked okay (as if hers is ever anything but flawless!).

I’ve had a lot of people recently ask me why I chose Wesleyan over a bigger school.

Things like taking a selfie with the President don’t happen at UGA or Mercer. Because of the sisterhood, and extremely involved alumnae, Wesleyan is more than a college–it’s a family!

-aub-