Tagged: God

The Last Picture

On May 28th, 2014 at around 8:30am, my mom took her last breath. I put my hand on her chest and left it there until I could no longer feel her faint heartbeat. She went out of this world with all but one of those she brought into the world by her side. A week prior was the first diagnosis she’d received; colon cancer, stage four. It wasn’t my mother who received the news first, it was me. Six days later, she was gone. She didn’t drink, smoke, and ate rather healthily, but cancer couldn’t care less.

During the last week of my mother’s life on earth, there was sadness, forgiveness, togetherness, and lots of remembering. I listened as each family member reflected on their own unique relationship with the matriarch of our family.

Last fall was when my mother began to experience pain in her side and lower back. For ten years, she left her diabetes diagnosis go untreated, and when she finally went to the doctor for her pain, she argued with them about further testing. If you knew her, this certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to hear, as she was a stubborn woman. Knowing what we know now, it’s very possible that my mother would still be alive today had she gone in for extensive testing and treatment. However, that’s not what my mom wanted. Her lack of action to seek the medical attention her body was requesting may in fact be the only selfish act my mother carried out; maybe.

A month before she died, she had a liver scan that indicated she had dozens of lesions, which immediately concerned her doctor that not only did she have cancer, but that it hadn’t originated in the liver. When she called to tell me, I asked her how she felt, and she said without hesitation, “excited.” When I asked why she was excited, I already knew the answer; “because I’m ready to see Jesus.”

Over the course of the next four weeks or so, I spent as much time with her as possible, and watched as she hurried to do things for family and strangers alike that demonstrated her selflessness and concern for others. She struggled to do right by her children with what she was leaving behind, as she wrestled to manage the pain in her ailing body. She said many times that she knew she was going to die, but I’m not sure if she believed it, or wanted it so. I know I didn’t.

Not only was I her youngest child, I was her only biological son. As a boy, she instilled in me the values I still hold true today. Be honest, fair, just; forgive those who wrong you, turn your other cheek, help those who can’t help themselves, etc. When I became a man, and began to evolve spiritually and mature mentally and emotionally, our relationship changed, but never did the mutual love and respect we had for each other. My father’s death, my divorce, and the death of my faith were the three things that greatly challenged our relationship, however, we made it through all of it by communicating how these life events shaped what we needed from one another. In all my years as my Mother’s son, I’m grateful that I never allowed our differences to compromise the relationship that begun when I was just a boy.

Here is what I wrote and recited for my Mom’s Eulogy:

If I only had One word to describe my mom it would be…Selfless

Never did she live a day without serving others. Even in her passing,
she served those closest to her and remained concerned with those who
depended on her stability most.

She lived a life of purpose. A lighthouse to her family, friends,
church and community.

Her faith was immovable. Even for those who didn’t believe as she, her
genuinity and conviction was irrefutable and undeniable. She was in
love with the one who loved her most, and who have her purpose.

She served family and strangers without prejudice. She was a giver.

She was strong. Not only could she outwork most men in the room, she’d
do so without one complaint.

She was rich. She would always remind us that her father owned the
cattle of ten thousand hills.

She was wise. Life experience, street smarts, and some attitude made
her a person of interest. Never have I met a person that knew her that
didn’t love her, respect her, and was touched by her testimony or act
of kindness.

To the family:

She is gone but not forgotten, for she lives on in us. I can see her
in each of you, in me, and those who will only know her through the
stories we tell of how they remind us of her. My challenge is that we
become half the woman she was. For us, for our children, and for her.

No words will take away the pain, or the loss, and time has met its
match. So we grieve. Our hope is that what she believed so deeply is
true.

Since her death, my heart is filled with sadness. That she will never meet my soon to be born son August. Never will she sleep in the room we built just for her. Our Tuesday afternoon calls have ceased, and there is now a hole in my heart that I will attempt to fill by sharing stories about her with those who will listen. Whether I see her again is something I am unsure about, but then again, all I have to do is close my eyes, look in the mirror, or in the faces and actions of my children to see her legacy live on. In honor of my Mother, we’re naming our son August.

Jesus was a Badass

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When I was four years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. This is of course what I was told anyway, because I certainly don’t remember it. I do remember however vaguely a time when I was about ten or twelve feeling compelled to recommit my life to Christ. It was very emotional, as was most experiences in my church growing up. Many people cried during worship, and then after the preacher was finished with his thrashing, everyone one go to the alter for 15-20 minutes to pray, and cry, and in some cases speak in tongues, or perhaps be slain in the spirit. If you’ve never attended a service in a Pentecostal or Assemblies of God church, this may all sound very foreign to you, but for me, growing up, it was very normal.

I was taught not to lie, cheat, steal, curse, drink, dance, lust, among many other things that were thought to displease God. So, I worked very hard to be a “good Christian,” by following these teachings, and many others that I understood at the time to be “the Truth” and what would lead to an eternity in paradise with our God and Savior.

Over the past ten years, I have experienced a great deal of spiritual evolution. In other words, most of what I believed to be true as a child and young adult, I no longer believe to be true. Specifically, and most disrupting to most, especially those close to me, or who have strong Christian convictions; I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, which disallows me to profess Christianity as my religion of choice. Before you judge, please understand that for me to say that has required a death of my own faith, years of soul searching, traveling the World, hundreds of hours of study, research, discussion, and prayer. In other words, it’s a much bigger deal for me to say that and mean it, than to be concerned about the consequences of doing so. In other Words, don’t email me, call me, or pray for me in hope that I will return to the Faith. I’m happy, whole, and convicted in my own belief system. Keep reading, and you may be surprised that we’re not as different as you think.

Very simply, I believe that if what the Bible says is true; that no man will enter Heaven that has not accepted Christ, the rest of it questionable. The acceptance of Christ as God in the flesh, and Savior of the World is the most important and most fundamental part of the religion, which is what so many overlook, and so few truly understand.

If you ask most Christians the question; “Do you believe that if someone doesn’t accept Christ, they will go to hell?,” their answer will be “no,” or “probably not,” or “I’m not sure.” The reality is that the Bible is very clear; death and eternal damnation. This is where I draw the line, as it would mean that every friend I have that is a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Mormon (yes I said Mormon,) or of any other religious flavor is going to hell, which I think is ridiculous.

Although I would very much enjoy providing life experience, logic, historical evidence, and opinion to support my position, I will just say that I very much agree with Mark Twain when he said; “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.

I’m not arguing Jesus’ existence, or the fact that he was and is to this very day, the most influential person who has ever walked this Earth. Jesus was in fact, a Badass by anyone’s account, including religious leaders and scholars of many other faiths and religions.

I aspire to be like Jesus, and can’t imagine why anyone in the World wouldn’t want to do the same. He was kind, compassionate, selfless, generous, and exemplified true Love and Acceptance. I’m grateful for many of the things I learned as a result of growing up in Church, and I’m equally grateful for God giving me a mind and a will of my own, that has allowed me to remain curious, and develop my own set of beliefs, that stem from experience and personal conviction.

All religions; there are thousands, require Faith, not just Christianity. My challenge to those of you, who call yourselves Christians, is to open your eyes and your hearts to those around you who believe differently than you. You don’t have to agree with us, but the World would certainly be a better place if we all could learn to accept others as they are. Standing up for what you believe, doesn’t mean forcing those around you to lie down. Jesus invented Christianity, disrupted the World’s religious community, told everyone he was God, and never raised his voice, or his hand. He hung out with tax collectors, lepers, and whores, only to be later hung on a cross. I’m not making this up, it’s in your Bible. Let your life be your witness, not your tongue.