Saturday, March 26, 2011


In the late 1970s, fantasy novelist Stephen R. Donaldson wrote the following dirge, sung by a character in a novel after that character had lost both of his parents:

Death reaps the beauty of the world--
bundles old crops to hasten new.
Be still, heart:
hold peace.
Growing is better than decay:
I hear the blade which severs life from life.
Be still, peace:
hold heart.
Death is passing on--
the making way of life and time for life.
Hate dying and killing, not death.
Be still, heart:
make no expostulation.
Hold peace and grief
and be still.

I come back to this poem now and again. It's been that way ever since Mom's death. Over a year has passed since she left us, and the wounds haven't healed. Part of the reason has to do with events that occurred after Mom died-- events that have prevented grief and healing from proceeding at their proper, natural pace. A member of our family chose to be selfish, and to lie for months about his selfish behavior, and about his cowardly betrayal of Mom's memory. The rest of us no longer speak to this family member, and he has, thus far, chosen to do nothing to repair the damage he's done, despite knowing what he needs to do to make amends. Forgiveness isn't the issue here: love and trust are. Forgiveness is easy, but if you can't trust someone, you can't love them, and never let anyone tell you differently. For now, I'll let you speculate as to who this family member is (many of you already know, since I've spoken with you or emailed you about this disaster); perhaps later on, much later on, I'll provide more details. Right now, what matters is that we're all moving on with our lives and coping as we can.

Mom died last January 6th. Later in 2010, I finished my part in the ongoing effort to renovate Mom's house, an effort she never saw come to fruition. Over the course of several months, I slowly but surely organized, packed up, and brought to the attic the enormous mountain of possessions that had lain in piles in our basement/family room. In the fall, I moved out of the northern Virginia area to a place that's greener and that offers a bit more peace and quiet-- something I felt I needed after Mom's death and the bitter aftermath. I got a job with ETS as a TOEFL essay rater, but after two decent months of work, the job petered out, and I found myself struggling to pay the rent. I've been helped by my brothers David and Sean, as well as by my best buddy Mike; all of them have contributed time and money to keep me afloat, and I can't thank them enough.

Just a couple weeks ago, I became a tutor at a special center that caters to young people from grade school through grad school. I was grateful to get the job, which promises me plenty of steady, stable work, unlike ETS. What I do now is also far less boring, and that's a plus: rating TOEFL essays was mind-numbing work.

So I'm doing what I can to get financially back on my feet. As always, I have a mountain of scholastic debt, not to mention bills that need paying, but I'm lucky not to have a single penny of credit card debt to my name.

To be sure, life after Mom hasn't merely been about righting the fiscal ship. I've also had the chance to make the acquaintance of the Parks family over the past month or so: Marissa Parks, a young and happy 24, was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the same type of brain cancer that took the lives of my mother and, more famously, Senator Ted Kennedy. I learned about Marissa and her GBM from the strangest of sources: an article at The author of that humorous piece is a friend of Marissa's, and he linked to her blog. I left a long comment on her blog offering some advice about GBM treatment, and thus began a correspondence that has expanded to include Marissa's intrepid father, Brad. Marissa tells me she doesn't want pity, but her energy and optimism have instilled in me a desire to help her and her family out in some way, as well as to honor my mother's memory and to reach out to other victims of GBM. To that end, I've finally come around to the idea of returning to my trans-American walk. This time, though, the purpose won't be to explore American religious diversity: it'll be to raise consciousness about this deadly form of brain cancer, and to raise money for GBM research.

The upshot: Kevin's Walk is starting again, with the same goal of going from sea to shining sea. Over the coming days and weeks, I'll be writing more about what this means in terms of training, fundraising, route planning, and all the rest. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

ADDENDUM: Check out the Kevin's Walk Twitter feed here.