267. So Long, been good to know you, Eric

Lots of soft hearted, wet eyed folks gathered at King Street Church this past Saturday to say good bye to one of our favorite persons. It dawned on me at church the next day that Eric never preached a sermon or won a theological argument with anyone, but he won over many hearts for Jesus with his unbridled joy. Who plays “Joy to the World” at a funeral?  Eric.

I was asked to speak about Eric. I made the following comments during a celebration of his life.

Eric was a pure gift of love…

from a loving Father to a loving family. He blessed our community.

He was like a shared golden retriever who canoodled his head under your hand.

Before you knew it you were petting him and feeling better.

Eric had that giving spirit and knew where he was loved.

He tenderly blessed us all.

 

That blessed gift returned to the Giver last Saturday

Leaving us bereft:  stuck between breathing deep sighs of sadness

Or not breathing at all.

All good things come at a great cost.

The great pain and deep sadness we all feel today

Are measures of that big hearted guy, we knew as the Sexy Cowboy.

Yeah Buddy!!

 

You know, in Texas they have an expression for fake cowboys–

They say, “He’s all hat and no cattle.”

Well Eric was all HEART and no cattle.

I think he was afraid of cows.

 

Humor me for a moment and close your eyes:

Picture Eric sitting next to you with his crooked grin

With that bird swoop thing he did with his head,

 his bright eyes peering at you through his Harry Potter glasses.

 

Take a long look and smile back at him

And hold to God’s promise that we will meet again

In glorified bodies

Minus the pain,

minus the ills of this world.

 

Give thanks for what Eric’s life was… a loving gift.

 

Take your last hug and exhale.

Eric has a poker game to play with Evie

And everyone knows that she cheats at cards.

 

Well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, pardner.

And this is the hard part:  it’s time to say farewell.

 

God bless you and So long, Sexy Cowboy.

Like the God who made you, You are unforgettable.

I did not realize how important Eric was until he was no more. In the eyes of the world he was in the margins, out on the periphery. However, I believe in God’s eyes he danced at the epicenter of what we call love.

Image result for blackbird in a loaf of bread picture

An odd image kept coming to me when I thought of Eric’s death. I saw a black bird pecking his way out of a loaf of bread.  It had been baked into the dough, I suppose. I knew the black bird was Eric and the bread was God’s word, the  Bread of life. I knew this was a resurrection and not an entombment. Surely, Eric brought God’s word to life for those who knew him. In Isaiah 55 verse 12 Isaiah gives this supernatural vision:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I will remember the Sexy Cowboy riding off into the sunset. There’s a party in them thar hills. Eric will save you a table near the dance floor.

 

 

 

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235. Dry eyes

 I’ve had numerous clients over the years who have complained that they cannot cry or sustain weeping if they ever do have tears. What’s up with that?  The problem is not a lack of sadness, fear, trauma, or chaos. It’s a lack of direct connection to their feelings. Crying is a natural physiological reaction to certain stressors or mood states. How then do some folks manage to override nature and shut down the crying reaction?  You can find out about types of tears on the internet. Go ahead, no, wait, well I’ll just tell you. There are three types; the first two are not connected to emotions but to basic physiological functions of lubrication and defending against irritation. The third type, emotional tears, is what I’m talking about.

One person I know claims that she cried so much when her father died that she resolved to never be that vulnerable again. As a result she built up psychological walls and filters to prevent her from crying at all. If a tear should ever surprise her, as it has on occasion, she distracts herself, looks away, and reverses gravity somehow to reel her tears backwards, like rewinding an old videotape.  Any emotion in the sadness neighborhood is locked down also, so her range of emotions is narrower than most folks. You see, you can’t just trap one emotion without trapping a cluster of them, a constellation if you will. Emotions are like mice scurrying about your psychological cheese. Think about that for a moment. As a result she laughed a lot and maintained a helium balloon persona for the world to witness. Something was/is wrong, though. When adults strike you as cartoon characters, something is missing.

PhotoThen there’s Justin. He is proudly stoic. “Tears are weakness”, he says without any hesitation. “My mother abused me as a kid with anything that was handy… a wooden spoon, clothes hanger, toys. It didn’t matter. She was determined to make me cry. I refused and it made her all the madder. She’d say, ‘ I’ll make you cry!’ But I just bit down on my lip and gritted my teeth. I was not gonna let that witch see tears on my face. Not then not now. Nobody makes me cry, ever. When I was older, I’d laugh in her face. It pissed her off so much. It was like me spanking her.” Well, that’s the mechanism to shut off the tears. Problem is that emotional tears need to be shed. No matter how many you suck back or blink away, there are millions ready to burst forth. Tears have a job to do

Emotional tears are different from lubricating or anti-irritant tears. Apparently they are full of components lacking in  the other two, like red wine compared to plain water. It’s funny that such tears would be chemically different under analysis, something we know intuitively when somebody’s eyes are smoked out or under the influence of onion vapors. Emotional tears work in conjunction with facial expressions and vocalizations, body language and gestures that tell of the feelings connected to the tears. There is a matching context usually. Tears are the blood of emotions.

Sometimes at death tears won’t come to the grievers. Some may be in shock while others are tangled up in complex mixtures of fear and anger and love. At my father’s funeral I could not find a tear. I was stoic and reserved. My conscious mind was in “fix it” mode. What to do with our mother? What were the new expectations after my father’s death?  He was such an odd duck that it would be hard to grieve his passing at 68 years of age.  He smoked himself to death with Camel cigarettes over 50 years. My mother labeled him “an emotional cripple”, incapable of appropriate emotional articulation. He did not, however, cripple himself; he had help.

I think it was two years later that I was overcome with a delayed wailing  and whimpering of grief while watching the baseball movie “Field of Dreams” in my family room.  I got sucked into the story and the emotions involved as the protagonist tried to fulfill a mission given to him by an other worldly message coming out of a rookie farmer’s cornfield. “Ease his pain.” “If you build it, he will come.” “Go the distance.” My father was my baseball coach and originated from Boston. One of the clues involved in solving the mystery was obtained at Fenway Park… and I came unglued. Thought I was losing my mind. Fortunately my wife was consoling and wise. She sat with me and said, “You never cried at your dad’s death.” However this attack was not only tears but an intestinal tearing of emotional tumors that I spewed up. I was prostrate, gagging, emotionally vomiting.  I could not understand this horrific upchucking of undigestible dead animals dislodged from my stomach walls.

I asked God to take it from me; I didn’t want it anymore, though I was not certain what “it” was at that time. My head throbbed; my throat was raw; and my tear ducts were pumped dry. How could this be? Well, there’s a lot more to a human being than the conscious world, folks. You can carry disease or tumors or parasites in you all your life and not know it. It’s not such a big jump to memories and ungrieved losses hanging around the storage bins of your mind. Remember the mice analogy?  Well they were running wild all over my being when I saw Burt Lancaster tip his hat, knowing that he was dead and the heroes of this ballgame were all long dead. The infamous Black Sox of 1919, my dad would have known that story well. He would have known the weirdness of unfulfilled dreams that Lancaster’s character portrayed. He would have wept easily and often throughout this film, completely unable to articulate his feelings further than lachrymosity.

I watched the movie again a couple of nights later. I had a similar reaction at the same places in the movie. I was convinced that I had tripped onto something profound in my psychic life. Grief pressure poured out the second time, but it was not as crazy scary as the first go around. A little finch of wisdom sat on my shoulder, chittering, “It’s okay”.