Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New from Sudan

I encourage you to read the post at my Lui (Sudan) blog.
I am deeply committed to our Companion Diocese relationship with the Diocese of Lui (Sudan). I'm not going to say more now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wise Words ...

... from Brother Tobias of In a Godward Direction, commenting here on Scotty's death:

"The cost of love is pain."

Ain't it the truth?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scotty: The Die is Cast

Dear friends, you have walked with me over the last few days, and I am humbled by your kindness. It seems only fair to tell what is about to happen.

As I write this, I wonder how much more I can cry. I’m writing this here, but I expect I won’t spend much time online. I have spent this evening with Scotty. This is an odd thing I observe: I expected Scotty to nap. But he does not. He scarcely closes his eyes. I wonder: Is it the same as for me? I don’t want to close my eyes for a moment on our remaining moments.

This time tomorrow, Scotty will be in the presence of Godde, his soul knowing what is still hidden from me. He will pass from this life to the life of the soul.

An event happened this morning that told me “It is time.” I need to let Scotty go.

And so I made two calls. First, I called my priest to see about her schedule tomorrow. Then I called my vet and got on her schedule.

Here is what will happen: There’s a meeting I must attend at work tomorrow morning. Then I will come home at lunch-time and spend more quiet time with Scotty. At 3:45 [Central US Time], Scotty and I will be at church, where we will meet with our priest for prayers. … Thank you, 8th Sacrament, for making a suggestion that led me to that good decision. … Then we will come home and about 4:30, the vet whom Scotty and I call “Aunt Alice” – our beloved vet who brought Scotty back from near death in 2006 – will arrive at our home. She will administer the injections that will send Scotty’s body into death and his soul into the arms of Godde.

Alice and I had a good talk this evening. She, too, is grieving Scotty’s impending death.

Thanks to the prayers and liturgies I found, and those you sent me, I have no doubt that she will join me in prayer at that time.

I made the decision to ask Alice to come here to my home for two reasons. First, I know that Scotty finds vet visits stressful. More importantly, I believe the other two cats need to be present, need to know what is happening.

That is especially important, I think, for Mocha, who is Scotty’s dearest friend. She adores him, and I believe she needs to know what is happening to him tomorrow evening. It wouldn’t be fair just to take him away. She needs to be here with us, to see it, to sense it.

Let me tell you a couple of stories about Scotty and Mocha.

Back in 2008, when Alice and I put Shug to sleep, Scotty was there with us. He and Shug had been fast friends. He groomed her after the injection and after her death.

When Scotty and I were left alone, I didn’t plan to get a 2nd cat … but fate had another plan. A few weeks later, I had Scotty at the vet’s for boarding over a weekend. When I got there, the staff told me about Mocha, a young cat, and that she and Scotty had bonded. Mocha was a 6-month-old foundling, in need of a home. Scotty was “old man” by then. They took me back into the kennel area, and put Mocha into Scotty’s cage. Mocha immediately started grooming Scotty, then curled up tight against him. I could see that they were a good match. Mocha came home with us. And she has always been that way with Scotty. She adores him.

I’ve told you that Scotty has become very unsteady on his feet. He has adopted the bathmat as his favorite place lately. This evening, after the cats had eaten, Scotty wandered back to that bathmat. Mocha ran ahead of him, and lay down on the rug. Scotty tottered onto it, and was trying to do that “circling in preparation for lying down” that cats do. But he’s too weak. He just fell down – his torso directly upon Mocha’s head. And Mocha didn’t move a whisker. She just let him lie upon her. … Of course, this was one of very many moments that sent me to tears. What dear friends they are!

I went to do a couple more chores around the house … getting ready for tomorrow. When I went back into the bathroom, they were still on the bathmat, but with Mocha lying with Scotty, grooming him, and generally loving on him. I clipped this photo.

Click to embiggen.

I hope these stories will help you understand why I say I feel Mocha must be present tomorrow, when Scotty departs this life.

Scotty’s been by my side on the sofa as I have written this. We are intentionally together more fervently, more intentionally than we generally are. He refuses to close his eyes, as I refuse to have him out of my sight. Perhaps he, too, knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Dear friends, I know that many of you have sent words of prayer and support on the blog or via e-mail. I have read them and wept over many of them. But I just can’t reply individually tonight. Tonight, it’s just time for Scotty and me. I hope you understand.

I'm going to gather Scotty up into my arms and take him to bed with me. One more time. I want to feel him lying with me one last time. I think you all get that.

This time tomorrow, I won't have him with me. He'll be with Godde. I know it, but it's still so hard to accept.

So ... I'm going into "radio silence" for a while. I give thanks for the prayers I know you all are sending. I am blessed by your friendship.

As I write this, Mocha has hopped up on to the sofa, and she's grooming Scotty again. "Having loved her own ... " These kitties break my heart.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Animal Rites Collected

This is a follow-up to my post last night. As you will have gathered, I desperately need a liturgical resource for prayers over my dying cat, and I yearn for a sound liturgical guide for his death. One of the things I treasure about The Episcopal Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion is that we place a premium upon the Incarnation. We take a serious view of Christ’s incarnation as a sign of God’s plan to redeem all creation. And, my friends, you know in your bones that that includes the animal companions with whom we share our lives.

When Shug died in 2008, folks were very generous in sharing some liturgical resources for animal companions’ illness and death, and I found a few others thanks to Google. I’m going to put them here and add a new category in my sidebar.

I hope our Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will rise to this challenge before our 2012 General Convention. It is time – and well past time – that they provided liturgies so we Episcopalians don’t have to make this up on our own. They can provide some guidance and order into our theology of our relationship with our fellow creatures if they will just tackle this matter. I hope and pray they will.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on this since I got home this evening. It's long – probably too long. But for people seeking a liturgy for their animal companions, I hope it will prove to be a helpful resource.

Once I get this posted on my blog, I’ll check the comments there.

Here are the theological/liturgical resources I’ve located to help me as I contemplate Scotty’s death.

Andrew Linzey

Of course, I think the finest resource is Andrew Linzey’s book, Animal Rites. Some of you have recommended it to me. Trust me! I own a copy, but it’s currently on loan to a friend who lost her dog last month; she’s bringing it back to me tomorrow. Further, I have purchased several more copies, including ones I have given to our (now former) interim rector, our current rector, and a couple of other priests I know. It’s the best! … I hope someday our Episcopal Church will offer a liturgical resource that is as rich and deep as Linzey has shared with the world.

Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare

The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare is an excellent gateway. It has some of the links that I’m including here, but is more broad. It includes links to Liturgies & Resources for the Loss of Companion Animals, Animal Blessings, Animal Liturgy/Prayer Books, Resolutions & Statements of our Church, Organizations & Ministries by Anglicans, and Sermons. This is a wonderful first stop.

EpiscoVeg has offered funeral and memorial liturgies for birds, dogs, cats, and horses. Access them here. Thank you, Sue!

Rabbi Barry Block

Rabbi Barry H. Block (of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio) produced a brief “Prayer for the Death of a Beloved Pet,” which reads:

O Lord our God, we come before You this day in sadness.
(Pet’s name), who brought us so much joy in life, has now died. (His/Her) happy times in our family’s embrace have come to an end. We miss (pet’s name) already.
Help us, O God, to remember the good times with (pet’s name). Remind us to rejoice in the happy times (he/she) brought to our home. Let us be thankful for the good life we were blessed to give to (him/her).
We are grateful to You, God, for creating (pet’s name), for entrusting (him/her) to our care, and for sustaining (him/her) in our love for a measure of time. We understand that all hat lives must die. We knew that this day would come. And yet, O God, we would have wanted one more day of play, one more evening of love with (pet’s name).
O God, as we have taken care of (pet’s name) in life, we ask that You watch over (him/her) in death. You entrusted (pet’s name) to our care; now, we give (him/her) back to You. May (pet’s name) find a happy new home in Your loving embrace.
As we remember (pet’s name), may we love each other more dearly. May we care for all Your creatures, for every living thing, as we protected the blessed life of (pet’s name). May (his/her) memory bless our lives with love and caring forever. Amen.
The next two liturgies I found are more extensive. I am following the Book of Common Prayer conventions. The “rubrics” (or instructions) are reproduced here in red.

I am reproducing these two liturgies in full because they are not longer readily available on the Internet. Everytime I look for them, they seem to be at a different URL. It takes much searching to find them, and I fear they will migrate to new sites yet again. When I went searching for them tonight, I found “dead links” – leading to that dreaded “HTTP 404 – File Not Found.” If either of these authors objects to my posting their liturgies here, I will take it down, but I think they are worth sharing before they get lost or disappear from the Internet. As President Jefferson said, the best preservation strategy is to keep many copies in many different locations. I hope I am working in keeping with his philosophy and that these authors will not object.

The Rev. Frank Logue

The Reverend Frank Logue produced A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet from King of Peace Episcopal Church (Kingsland, Georgia).

A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet.

The service which follows is for use with the burial service of a pet. Please adapt the service as needed to fit the needs of the particular service you are conducting. The N. marks the places where you will need to insert either the pet's name or the owner's name as is appropriate.

A Liturgy in Remembrance of N.


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father, and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we ourselves received from God.-2 Corinthians 1:3-4


God is with us; God's love unites us, God's purpose steadies us, God's Spirit comforts us. Blessed be God forever.


Merciful and compassionate God, we come to you with N. in grief and ask for her the strength to bear the loss of their companion N.. We bring you our thanks for all you give us through our pets; and we bring you our prayers for peace of heart in the knowledge of your mercy and love, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills:
but where shall I look for help?

My help comes from the Lord:
who made heaven and earth.

The Lord will not let your foot stumble:
the one who guards you will not sleep.

The one who keeps watch over this people:
shall neither doze nor sleep.

The Lord is the one who will guard you:
the Lord at your right hand will be your defense,

so that the sun shall not strike you by day:
nor yet the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil:
yes it is the Lord who will keep you safe.

The Lord shall take care of your going out,
and your coming in:
from this time forth and forever.


And if thy heart be straight with God, then ever creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God. ~Thomas à Kempis


The reason why God's servants love his creatures so deeply is that they realize how
deeply Christ loves them. And this is the very character of love to love what is
loved by those we love. ~Catherine of Siena

All singing

All Creatures Great and Small

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great
and small. all things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours, He made their tiny wings.
The purple headed mountain, the rivers running by,
the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden, he made them every one.
He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.

Almighty God, your Son taught us that though five sparrows could be bought for two pennies, they are not forgotten before you. We thank you for N., and for the companionship N. offered to N.. And we thank you for all the pets who share our homes and our lives. We ask for comfort for this family in their loss, knowing that you grieve with them for you care for all of your creation as you care for us. May we live more peacefully because of today, and come at last, in the fellowship of all your people, to the haven where we long to be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Officiant May Christ the Good Shepherd enfold us with love. Fill us with peace, and lead us in hope, this day and all our days. Amen.

The Rev. Robert Stiefel

It has taken some sleuthing, but I have finally located again the liturgy crafted by The Reverend Robert E. Stiefel, Ph.D.(Episcopal) of Dover, New Hampshire. God bless him for crafting this liturgy! I am reproducing At the Loss of a Pet or other Animal: A Service of Grieving and Thanksgiving here for the same reasons mentioned above. If I have violated copyright, I will remove it. [Addendum: Ann Fontaine alerts me that the liturgy is also available at the Diocese of New Hampshire site. Thanks, Ann!]

At the Loss of a Pet or other Animal:
A Service of Grieving and Thanksgiving

Concerning the Service

All living creatures share the same source of life and are equally subject to death. The very love we have for each other in the risen Christ is extended as a ministry of stewardship and a gift of love to the pets and animals who abide with us as fellow creatures and companions. Therefore, it is appropriate for Christians to come together in worship at the loss, whether by death or disappearance, of a pet or other animal entrusted to their charge and care.

The family, household, or person(s) who have suffered the loss may make use of this service without the participation of ordained clergy, but it is appropriate that a priest be invited to preside or take part in order to give the absolution after the confession, if such is said, and to bless the people at the close.

The service is intended for celebration in a home or other suitable gathering place, including the chancel of a church or a small chapel or in the out of doors at a burial site. It is not intended for inclusion in a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

If the animal is to be buried at the close of the service, the remains are to be
suitably covered before the service begins.

At The Loss Of A Pet Or Other Animal

The Officiant begins by saying

Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
People: Glory to God for ever and ever.
Officiant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Officiant: Let us pray.

Silence may be kept, after which the Officiant says one of the following Collects.

At the Burial of a Household Pet

0 God, you created all that is, and you love all that you have made: we come to you this day in grief and with thanksgiving. We grieve the death of our beloved N., who has been our companion on the way, and we thank you for the gift of (his) her presence among us as an effective sign of the richness of your creation and of the generosity of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

At the Disappearance of a Household Pet

All knowing God, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and all the animals of the earth are yours: be with our beloved N., who has disappeared from our view and from our care. Protect and defend this your creature from all harm in this world, and in the world to come preserve (her) him in the heart of your love; for the sake of your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

At the Burial of a Farm Animal

Most gracious, good Lord, we are the people of your pasture and the sheep of your hand: We thank you for placing us among the beasts of the field and allowing us to care for them and to receive from them food and clothing to meet our necessities. We grieve this day the death of N., and we return to you a creature of your own making, one who served as an effective sign of the generosity of your love for us; through Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

At the Burial of a Wild Animal

Almighty God, who made the beasts of the wild to move in beauty and show forth the glory of your Name: we grieve the death of this creature, in whose living and dying the power of your Spirit was made manifest. We stand in grief and awe, and we reverence the loss of that which was ours never to claim but only to behold with joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

When appropriate, the following may be added

Most merciful God, comfort NN. in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

One or more of the following or other appropriate passages from Holy Scripture may be read. A reading from non-biblical Christian literature may follow the biblical Reading(s).

Genesis 1:1-3; 19-25(26-31) (God creates all living creatures)
Genesis 2:18-20a(20b-25) (Adam names the animals)
Genesis 7:1-5; 8:1-19 (Noah's ark and the great flood)
Genesis 9:1-17 (The Covenant with Noah)
Numbers 22:21-35 (Balaam's ass speaks)

Between the Readings, a Psalm or hymn may be sung or said. Appropriate selections from the Psalter are 23, 42:1-7, 104, 121, 131, 145:16-20, and 148:7-14.

The Prayer of Azariah 52-65 (Let the earth bless the Lord) also found in the Book of Common Prayer, pages 47 or 88, as Canticle 1 or 12 A Song of Creation (Invocation, II, III, and Doxology)

Revelation 4:(1-6a) 6b- 11 (The four living creatures)

Matthew 11:28-30 ("Come to me")
Matthew 18:10-14 (The lost sheep)
Mark 12:28-34 (The First Commandment)

After the Reading(s), the Officiant or other person appointed may give a brief homily. After or in place of the homily, those who are in attendance may be invited to speak words of remembrance or consolation.

The following form of the Prayers of the People may be used, or other appropriate prayers may be said.

In peace, let us pray to God.

O God our Maker, from the beginning you have permitted us, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, to name our brother and sister creatures of earth, sea, and sky: We commend N. (or this n.) to the arms of your everlasting love. Amen.

OChrist our Savior, in your love you gave yourself to death that the whole world might have life: Console us who grieve, and by the sign of the rainbow help us to trust in your everlasting love. Amen.

O Spirit and Giver of Life, you abandon no creature that the flame of your presence has enlivened: Abide with us in this world and sustain in us the hope that we may yet again rejoice in the companionship of N. (or this n.) in the world to come. Amen.

As our Savior Christ has taught us, we now pray,

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

The traditional form of the Lord's Prayer may be used instead of the above.

If appropriate, the following form for Confession and Absolution may be added.

Officiant Let us confess our sins against God, our fellow creatures, and one another.

Silence may be kept.

Minister and People

0 God of compassion, have mercy upon us; forgive us for our mistreatment and neglect of the creatures with whom we share this garden earth, for what we have done to harm them, and for what we have left undone to help them; we are truly sorry and fully repent, and we ask you to fill us with your Spirit, that we may care for one another, and for all your creatures, according to your will and in the fullness of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If a priest is present, the absolution is given as follows

Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

If no priest is present, the Officiant uses the preceding form and substitutes "us"
for "you" and "our" for "your".

Other prayers may be added in place of or in addition to the Confession and Absolution. Except in the event of a lost animal, the prayers conclude with the committal. In the event that the animal being buried is of the wild, the words "we thank you" through "our care." are usually omitted.

Most merciful God, we return to you N. (this n.), a creature of your own making and your gift into our lives. We praise you for his beauty and strength, for his grace and power; we thank you for his faithful companionship in our joys and sorrows; and we bless you for the time during which you entrusted him into our care. Receive now N. (this n.) back into the arms of your everlasting love, 0 Giver of life, through whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ all that is lost to death is restored to life, and in whose Name we pray. Amen.

Then may be said

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The Officiant concludes with one of the following

The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen. [2 Corinthians 13:14]

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of
the Holy Spirit. Amen. [Romans 15:13]

In place of the above, a priest may bless the people.

Note: the prayer of committal may be reserved for or repeated at the burial site, if the service is held elsewhere.
So that’s it for now. At last I have done what I intended to do two years ago. Now I’m going to put these on my sidebar … and then I can rest.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Animal Rites

An Appeal to the Bishops & SCLM

While I contemplate Scotty’s probable death, I thumb desperately through the Book of Common Prayer. I search the Web. I find no prayers that I can pray with him while we nestle together on the sofa … with me knowing he is near death. I find no prayers I can offer while we are at the vet’s before his death. I find no prayers that I can pray at his death. I find no prayers that I can pray at his burial. Nor are there any other books in which I can find fitting prayers. I went through this same exercise with Shug in 2008. Two years later, my church has still left me without resources.

And that is the fault of the Standing Committee on Liturgy & Music.

Sue Grisham and others have begged our Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to craft liturgies for our lives with our companion animals, including the adoption, illness, or death of an animal companion. We liturgical people yearn for theological guidance in those moments. But the SCLM has refused to do offer such guidance.

The BCP and the Book of Occasional Services have prayers and liturgies for most of the passages of our lives. But nothing for the loss of a companion animal.

I remember when Shug died … and I searched the Web for appropriate prayers. I searched fervently. But there was nothing that our Church had crafted. I had to cobble my own rite from prayers offered on a few parish websites.

A weird irony has arisen since the 2009 General Convention. Now, you can find a bunch of prayers for human birth, miscarriage, and abortion. The SCLM crafted Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes: Liturgies and Prayers for Healing from Loss Related to Childbearing and Childbirth to the Enriching our Worship, and it was adopted by the General Convention. I’m glad it was adopted. But …

I recognize that this is an unfair comparison, but because I have long-term animal companions and don’t expect ever to give birth, I cannot help noting the incongruity: I am looking to the death of my animal companion of 19 years. My church offers no guidance, no liturgy, not one prayer. But if I discharged a 4-week-old cell, “Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes” would offer me a liturgical resource. I think something is wrong with that.

I should not have to craft my own prayers when I cradle Scotty here on the sofa, or when I hold him just before the vet administers the lethal injunction. I should not be left alone when I bury him or scatter his ashes. I count on our prayer book – or at least our Book of Occasional Services – to give me guidance in the critical moments of my life. I yearn for appropriate prayers, crafted by people of prayer whom I trust, when it comes time to trust my Scotty into God’s hands.

I beg our bishops and the SCLM to craft prayers for animals who are suffering, those about to die, and those who have died. Our incarnational theology tells me that God created the whole world and yearns to redeem the whole world. The whole world! Without a theologically solid liturgy, I am left to craft my own from whatever sources I can find. I would rather have one that has been pondered by theologians.


Dear friends, this is what you might call a premonitory note. I write it here with Scotty, my orange tabby lover-boy, by my side.

Scotty, my stud-muffin, in 2006

I know that many of you are keeping more serious, human vigils. I know of your battles and trials. But I must ask that you also keep Scotty and me in your prayers.

I’ve used here a photo from a while back. I do not want to post a current photograph of Scotty. He has lost too much weight. His eyes are too sunken. His coat has lost its sheen. He is too unsteady on his feet. I am too worried.

Scotty turned 19 in April. He came into my life as a tiny kitten when was living in Atlanta. He has lived through most of my professional career … through most of my whole adult life. He’s the only one who has been with me through all of it.

He stayed with me when my life went topsy-turvy and I moved to Philadelphia in 1996 … and then to Missouri in 1998. In those two years, we lived in at least 4 different homes. But he hung in there. Back then, it was just Scotty, Shug, and me. You may remember that I lost Shug in 2008.

In a nutshell … Scotty has stayed with me from the dawn of my professional life into what feels like its dusk. Sometimes it feels like he is my oldest, most steadfast friend.

This evening, browsing through my blog, I was reminded of what a friend said a few years ago. She reminded me of that Gospel passage that reads something like, "Having loved them … he loved them to the end." My friend reminded me what a great honor it is to love my cat even to the end.

A few years ago, Scotty became seriously ill. He spent about 10 days in the vet’s ICU. I visited him every morning and evening, holding him, whispering to him … calling him back to life, it seemed to me. My vet didn’t expect him to come back, but he did, and she still calls him her “miracle kitty.”

Scotty became diabetic, and I have attended to that. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you may remember the frustration I felt when my right hand was paralyzed and I needed to take his glucose readings and give him insulin.

In short, Scotty and I have been together through thick and through thin … when he was frail and when I was disabled. While others have come and gone, Scotty has been the constant.

But I do not think I can call him back to life this time.

In the past month, I have begun to realize he is failing. I have spent as much time with him as I can … as close to him as I can. I have showered as much love on him as I can.

But this weekend, when I bring him to lie with me on the sofa, he soon leaves me to hide again under the guest bedroom bed. He does so on very wobbly legs. … And when I cradle him in my arms, I realize his breath has That Smell. Some of you know That Smell. It’s the smell that tells you that your beloved friend’s systems are shutting down.

I have been saying that I wanted to keep Scotty with me as long as his life had pleasure. Tonight, I am beginning to question whether that time has come – whether perhaps the suffering or misery is now outweighing the pleasure. He comes to me often now with a plaintive “meow” that sounds markedly different to me than his usual “meow.” It sounds mournful. Is it a request for cuddling? I certainly respond by holding him and loving him. Or is it a plea that I let him go? I do not know.

I will confess this selfishly: I have observed his decline for a few weeks now. And I have neglected to take him to the vet. Mind you, the vet and I have had such conversations that I know there’s nothing she can do to “fix” him. Taking Scotty to the vet means handing him over to death. I’ve known that for weeks, and I’ve therefore delayed it. My schedule has been such that I have had an excuse every week. For I know that the day I take him to the vet will be his last trip there. And I know that I’m going to be a complete wreck for days afterwards. I will be saying “goodbye” to my last, most stalwart, most faithful companion.

As I have written this, I have been sobbing deeply at times. Sobbing even before I make the odious appointment with the vet. If I am weeping this much prospectively, I shudder to think how I will grieve after the fact when I lose my old friend.

And I suppose that is why I am writing tonight – so that when/if Scotty dies, I can simply announce the fact and refer you to this.

Scotty has been the best, most longsuffering companion I have had in the ups and downs … the tumults of my life over the past two decades. If – or, as it now seems, when – I lose him, something very deep and intense will be lost.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Confessions of a Junior High Idiot

I probably would not tell this story, were it not for Grandmère Mimi’s insistent reporting on gay kids … or kids who are thought to be gay … like this one and this one.

In the more recent story, Grandmère Mimi raises the questions of the school’s culpability. And there is much to question there.

In telling my story, I certainly do not mean to minimize the horrors that these kids today are suffering. I simply want to underscore that it is an old, old story.

Quite a long time ago, I told the story about being attacked for being a “hobo” … and how it took decades for me to realize my attacker was calling me a “homo,” not a “hobo.”

Grandmère Mimi’s stories about the school administrators now force me to another recollection.

I was in junior high school – 7th or 8th grade. This was in the late 1960s.

From before I went to 1st grade, I knew I was attracted to girls. I had fantasies of marrying a girl and making a family. But, of course, that was in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, I never told anyone about that.

By the time I got into junior high, I suppose I was experiencing all the hormones that one did at that age. Of course, I didn’t know anything about being gay. I certainly didn’t know one could do anything about it. I was completely ignorant about sex of any kind.

I just knew I “loved” girls. And I had my schoolgirl crushes, with no idea about what one might do.

And, of course, I had my share of crushes on women teachers – especially women who taught Physical Education. [Didn’t we all??] I was tall, strong, athletic, and good at sports. P.E.. teachers paid attention to me, as I excelled in so many sports.

I’ll never forget one P.E. teacher from that time. Her name was Gay Sievers. … Of course, that’s a cruel irony now.

She befriended me. Not just as coach, but as friend … or so I thought. As adolescents were wont to do, I poured out my hear to her … in her office, in her car as we rode to games. She was a trusted soul. She understood. She supported me.

Or so I thought.

One day during 7th or 8th grade, I was called into the principal’s office. He was there, along with the guidance counselor and “Miss Sievers.” It was almost like a pastoral intervention. I don’ remember the details. But I remember that he used words I had never studied in my vocabulary tests. He began talking to me about my “aberration,” my sickness. He told me that “Miss Sievers” had been assigned to explore my aberration, to determine how aberrant I was. He used those words – “aberrant” and “aberration” – which I didn’t then know. Then he moved in for the kill: accusing me of being a “lesbian” – another word I had never heard. Of course, good fundamentalist that he was, he assured me these were sins that I could overcome through JesusChristOurLord – a term he spoke breathlessly.

The betrayal was clear to me: He had assigned “Miss Sievers” to befriend me, to explore just how sick I was. And she had handed it all up to him.

Of course, I left that office feeling flayed, betrayed, stripped bare. I am just lucky that I went out of there strong. Another kid in my place might well have gone home and killed herself. I certainly contemplated it as I rode my bike home. I was overcome with the feelings of shame that that principal had tried to pour over me.

But he and Miss Gay Sievers didn’t win.

This was the funny part: I was a curious kid who loved vocabulary. When he used the word “lesbian” against me, I marked that as a word I had never heard in my life. But, I thought, if there’s a word for people like me, maybe I’m not the only one. I remember I kept repeating that word – “lesbian … lesbian … lesbian…” until I could get home and find the family dictionary. I found the word in the dictionary, and I embraced it. If it’s a word, I can’t be the only one. “Lesbian.” I finally had a word for myself. It was clear that this was a shameful word, a word I should not share or claim. But I knew that day that I was not alone.

I hear these horrible stories that Grandmère Mimi has shared about kids who kill themselves. And I think back to my own experience. I was abused by my classmates and betrayed by the teachers and administrators whom I trusted. But I survived. Perhaps through sheer cussedness. I grieve that kids now – three decades later – are still suffering through things like I suffered.

The best day of my adolescent life was when a mean principal and a vile teacher let me know that the word “lesbian” existed … which let me know that I was not alone in the world. I thank God that moment led me to strength. I grieve deeply for the kids who are called “gay” and commit suicide. I wish I could say to them: “Claim it! You are not alone!” But I cannot. I do not know what to say to save them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Road Trip

I’ve had a good couple of days, thanks to my day job. I’m just returned from two days and nearly 600 miles on the road. One fine digitization project, and visits to eight courthouses.

I love road trips! But I prefer the ones that are bathed in sunshine. Unfortunately, this one fell during the monsoons that are the remnants of a hurricane, so it was more a “pontoon trip” than a “road trip.” I have the soggy shoes and socks to prove it. Yuck. :(

But on the positive side, this was a trip spent almost entirely on “blue highways.” After getting past St. Louis, I was exclusively on the state and county roads that I enjoy.

Meanwhile, I have finally purchased a digital camera and am beginning to learn how to use it.

In the last couple of hours of this trip, the sun finally came out, and I was approaching a site that I have often wished to document. I always chuckle when I pass this site, but this is the first time I’ve stopped to snap a photo. So here you have it.

It’s a tiny little cemetery, this Useful Cemetery. It’s not owned by any city or congregation. I wonder who owns and manages it. Looking at the graves and markers, I found ones dating from the late 19th century until just last month.

Perhaps I’ll someday have my ashes interred in a Useful Cemetery.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Listening to NPR’s interview this morning with Ann and Nancy Wilson, who comprise “Heart,” I heard a marvelous comment:

The hardest thing you’ll ever learn
is which bridge to cross
and which bridge to burn.
Ain’t it the truth?

Now in my mid-50s, I find myself less and less clear about which bridge to cross and which to burn.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Glenn Beck Invokes George Washington … And Lies

The care and preservation of historical documents is my life and my work.

When I heard Glenn Beck claim he had held George Washington’s 1st inaugural address, I was suspicious. Even a state archives guards its treasures. I know that the National Archives would do more so.

The story is now out at Mother Jones. Beck never touched the document that he discussed in a nearly-tearful moment in his rally last weekend.

Mother Jones tells the story:
During his much-ballyhooed "Restoring Honor" rally on Saturday, Glenn Beck told a whopper involving the founding father who was supposedly unable to tell a lie: George Washington.

Speechifying at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, the controversial Fox News host highlighted the legacy of the nation's first president to drive home his claim that encouraging honesty and integrity was a main aim of the event….

Beck also invoked Washington while describing the inspiring experience of visiting famous tourist destinations around the nation's capital. "I have been going to Mt. Vernon," he explained. Holding out his hands for emphasis, he declared with emotion, "I went to the National Archives, and I held the first inaugural address written in his own hand by George Washington."

It was an eyebrow-raising revelation and certainly an original image: Beck cradling the actual words of the first president. But would the persnickety gatekeepers of the nation's historical legacy at the National Archives allow some talk show bombthrower to put his mitts on a rare (and fragile) artifact? The answer, it turns out, is no way. Beck was not telling the truth.

Beck did receive a special VIP tour of the archives, arranged by an as-yet unidentified member of Congress. During that tour, he did get a peek inside the "legislative vault," which isn't open to ordinary visitors. But [U.S. National] Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper insists that Beck didn't lay a finger on any precious documents, much less George Washington’s inaugural address. That would be a major violation of policy. "Those kinds of treasures are only handled by specially trained archival staff," she explains. Cooper acknowledges that someone at the archives did show the document to Beck, but that was the extent of it….

…Beck's whopper gave his speech more heft and rhetorical flourish. It was high patriotic drama. But his fib stands in stark contrast to the point of the rally, which was all about restoring the principles of courage and honor that the nation was founded upon. In fact, one of Beck’s only prescriptions for fixing the country was to "tell the truth."
You can see the clip here.

But the long and short of it is: Glenn Beck is a liar.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

GUARD the sheep???

I've recently been pondering the possible forms of clergy abuse, clergy boundary violations, and when and whether one should confront the clergy person or speak with one's priest.

So I was pleased to see Kirkepiscatoid's blogpost: "Oh, you wanted me to GUARD the sheep?"

She raises good questions about the sick games some clergy play.

There's no doubt I agree with KirkE that sick clergy need to be reported. But where does one draw the line? The new disciplinary canons in the Episcopal Church are strict and harsh.

Image courtesy of KirkE.

I have wonderful relationships with several priests and deacons in our church, and I don't want them to withdraw because of the Canon IV possibilities. On the other hand, there are some sick clergy out there who need to be brought to discipline.

When push comes to shove, I wonder if I would be among the silent 8% whom KirkE mentions?

Would I have the discernment that is necessary to avoid a witch-hunt? I certainly hope so!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Defending Marriage

I'm grateful to my friend Tom Woodward for sending this one along to me.

As Tom writes: "If you're not aware of who Maggie Gallagher is, she's the in charge of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a particularly vicious and hateful anti-gay group."

I love how this cartoon exposes the hypocrisy of the typical people who oppose same-sex marriage.