How Do You Go On?

How Do You Go On?

Two days after the earthquake, the entire board of the orphanage got together by phone to discuss the question that no one likes to ask……

How do you go on? How do you go on when you’ve never been this way before?

How do you go on when you don’t even know what questions to ask?

How do you go on when you don’t know what you can rely on?

How do go on when everyone is struggling with grief and loss. I can’t verify that it’s true but I’ve been told that everyone in the Port Au Prince area either loss a family member or friend or they are close friends with someone who lost a family member or close friend.

How do you go on? I don’t know how we did. Those of us in Canada and the US who were on the board had the easy part. We had more busy, more planning, more worry, more phone calls, more anxious parents. We didn’t have to worry about running out of water, about whether the roof is going to cave in, about whether our co-worker who isn’t scheduled to work for 2 more days yet will show up or not. We knew our government was still there, that there were rescue teams attempting to rescue and recover the missing. Our people in Haiti didn’t know that.

But the urgency of the situation in Haiti translated to urgency here in the first world. We decided to send an emergency medical team and to set a goal that the whole team be in Miami on Monday (6 days after) and we would work to get them on a charter plane on Tuesday or Wednesday. My wife was on that team. So for 2 1/2 days, we had people dropping off medical donations at our house and we tried to pack in as much as we could. We didn’t really know what we would need, but we knew that there would probably be someone who could use them.

Examples of the “urgency” that we all felt in that first bit…..
– Getting an instant message from my boss asking me if I was working right then – at 3:35 in the morning.
– Waking up an adoptive parent at 1:30 in the morning telling him he needed to be on a plane by 10:00 the next morning.
– Having a fundraising conference call at 11:00 PM Pacific Time (2:00 AM Eastern Time)
– Getting 3 hours of sleep the night before my wife left for Haiti and having that be 50% more than my shortest night for the week.
– Getting e-mails from very nervous adoptive parents that they couldn’t get through on my phone and my voice mail was full. E-mailing them back telling them I was attempting to do that but the e-mails were coming in faster than I could answer them and then the voice mails too……

I want to make something very clear. While I was the only one “officially” involved located in Michigan, I was in no manner unique. Everyone on staff and all of the friends that I know who were working with organizations in Haiti said that it was encouraging how many people wanted to help.

A friend of mine runs an organization that advocates on behalf of orphans with HIV/AIDS. They have a slogan which became very apropos during the first part of the, well, I’m going to use the word recovery, but the case could be made that it hasn’t gotten there yet.

That slogan? “It’s Not About Me.” I keep telling her that I think the back of their t-shirts should say, “It’s Not About You Either.”

How do you go on in light of the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere?

How do you not go on?

You go on because you have to. You go on because that’s what God wants. You go on because you can.

Unfortunately, not everyone who could and said they would help did. But we’ll get into that later.

TV

Haiti – a Decade Later

Haiti – a Decade Later

I’ll always remember where I was on January 12, 2010 at 4:53 PM.

I was sitting on one of the bar stools that we had around the island in our house that we owned at that time. At that time, I was a banker and I was done with an appt outside of the office that didn’t give me time to go back into the office. So I came home and got caught up on some work stuff there instead

At that point, I was lurking on Twitter a lot. I say “lurking” because I was really only talking to a few people on a consistent basis. Most of what I used twitter for at that point was to follow a bunch of news people and organizations to keep up with what was going on in the world. Why?

Well, it was very simple (or I thought so), the market that controls interest rates does best when what it thinks will happen actually happens. So, the market thinks that oil prices are going to go up and they do, not a big deal for the market (speaking in grossly simplistic terms) because that’s what they were thinking would happen. So keeping track of those type of movements in the markets was very beneficial to my clients because it helped them with at least an inkling of what mortgage rates might do.

So, back at the ranch, I’m returning e-mails and such and I had a program called Tweetdeck running. You can specify certain twitter accounts and any time they tweet something it will show up on there. You can also specify certain names, phrases, terms etc. for it to search on. I had put in Port au Prince, Haiti – because that is the capital city of the country where two of my children were born.

I believe it was 5:02 PM on January 12, 2010 that my computer scrolled a little box up in the upper left corner that said the following:

LA Times reports massive 7.5 earthquake in Port Au Prince Haiti at 4:53 PM EST. Casualties expected to be massive.

My heart sank. I had a lot of friends there. I had/have a lot of friends who had or were adopting from Haiti. I was on the board of the orphanage – with lots of employees in Haiti – many of whom were not at work. This was bad. Really bad.

As in, God, why are you allowing this? Bad. As in, “I shook my fist at heaven and said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

Within an hour, darkness settled over Haiti but from what I’ve been told, quiet didn’t come. Sobs of grief, the cries of the wounded, the sounds of impromptu rescue teams trying to pull people to safety. All night long.

Depending on who you listen to, anywhere from 80,000 to 300,000+ people lost their lives on that day or would soon because of injuries sustained on that day.

And while the people on the ground in Haiti were working in horrific conditions trying to figure out what happened, what’s been damaged, who can be rescued and more, all night, there was another group of people who weren’t in Haiti but were burning up the internet trying to figure out how bad it was, what was needed to help and how to get there.

I remember, about 1:00 the next morning, all of the kids from the orphanage were sleeping on the driveway (imagine trying to get 90 kids to sleep on a driveway?) I was able to connect on Facebook with one of our volunteers. When they ran out of the building, she had her computer in her back pack, so she had it. She spent quite some time but located a spot just outside the main building where she could get a weak wifi connection through the router in our building (our buildings were shaken but remained standing.) She and I talked for about a half hour and the information she was able to share with me turned out to be a great comfort to the adoptive parents whose kids were at the orphanage and were worried, literally sick, about them. No one was hurt at the orphanage. We found out later that one of the orphanage’s employees lost 11 family members that day.

Finally, at about 4:00 in the morning, after spending a couple of hours on the phone with another board member trying to wrap our heads around what happened and what to do next. I fell in bed knowing that the sun would come up in a couple of hours and with it a “better” chance for those in Haiti to see how bad it was.

What they saw when the sun came up, it was worse than you could ever imagine.

Tom

On the Importance of being Quiet

(I wrote this last month while spending time with my family at the cottage of some friends of ours.)

Quiet

Shh…..

Can you hear it? Uh, no?

That’s the point!

Quiet

It refreshes the soul

It helps you notice different things.

I went for a walk

And saw three deer standing in the road.

I stopped and watched them.

They stopped and watched me.

Would I have seen them in the car?

Nope – because scared by the noise, the second and third deer wouldn’t have came out on the road.

Looking down the road to see this guy walking and being quiet.

I slowly walked closer but was still a ways down the road.

“That’s close enough” and off they ran into the woods.

I turned and resumed my walk.

Taking notice of the quiet.

Sitting by the lake as the sun sets

the boats are all in for the day

And then you hear it.

Quiet conversation around a campfire – but where? 

Oh look – it’s from across the lake.

In the quiet of the evening, 

important sounds no longer get drowned out

by sounds that don’t matter

By sounds that don’t matter.

Laughter is no longer covered up by the sound of noisy boats.

The need for TV noise is replaced by the desire for outdoor quiet.

Quiet – it’s something we all need.

Quiet – it’s something we rarely get.

I’ve come to appreciate quiet a lot more since January 30, 2018. That’s the day I lost most of my quiet.

Tinnitus is what they call it.   

Constant sound in my head – that’s what I call it

sometimes loud and obnoxious, sometimes softer and just annoying.

When my damaged ears have to compete with the noise in my head, 

there really is no winner.

So what do you do?

I’m still working on that one.  

But you value the quiet you have

Even when there is sound trying to get away.

Enjoy

The

Quiet

TJV

Facebook says….

“So what’s on your mind?”

So what do you know?

What’s happening?

How are ya doing?

Lots of people ask those questions.

I don’t think they really want to know the answers.

I’m not sure I know how to answer them.
What do I know? How much time do you have?

I know that we live in a very noisy world and if you can’t hear it all, you miss out. Even if you just miss the part you were supposed to hear.

I know it’s an oxymoron to be hard of hearing and overly sensitive to loud noises at.the.same.time. (But it’s true)

I know that saying, “no” is hard to do. But saying no to some things enables you to say yes to others.

I know that the kindness of strangers is a powerful thing.  So be one.

I know that…..

What’s happening?

My youngest started her senior year in high school. My next oldest starts college next week. 

How did they do that without me getting any older?

I know that “denial” is more than just a river in Egypt. 🙂

I know that every day there are people around you and around me who are hurting. 

They don’t need us to solve their problems (at least not some of them), they just need someone to see them, to hear them and to say that they matter.

Kids are starting school – which means people who drive cars near schools need to be extra careful.

Kids are starting school – which means there are a lot of kids who are stressed out – be nice to someone today – they probably need it.

Unseen medical conditions often lead to misunderstood and lonely people.

Someone with a chronic illness, especially an unseen one, is more than their illness and deserves to be seen that way.

Relate to them as people first, medical condition second.

If you ask “how are you doing?” Be prepared for an answer. 

It’s worse to ask the question and not wait for an answer than it would be to just say, “Hi!” Or “Good to see you!”

The ache to be “normal” is very strong – especially in those battling chronic illnesses.
When your “normal” is changed by a chronic illness, it’s a tough thing to have to work through.

When your answer to how you are doing includes a reference to Google, then you know that you are “special” – “I’ve been dealing with an AVM for 41 years.” “What’s an AVM?” “It’s a problem with the blood vessels in my shoulder, neck and up into my head. Google it if you want to know more.”

And we put one foot in front of the other….

TV

For Such a Time as This – I Miss my Dad

For such a time as this….. I wish my Dad was here.

For the joys of graduation celebrations….I wish my Dad was here.

For the relief but also the stepping into the unknown, I wish my Dad was here.

Dad was a wise man. But that’s not where his true gifts lied. His true gift was his ability to listen to people and know and affirm their value. Their value in God’s eyes.

For the calming sense of someone walking with you through anything, I wish my Dad was here. I can’t tell you how often I have wanted to discuss my medical issues with him and get his opinion on something. I can’t do that right now and I miss having those times.

For milestones missed, though I’m convinced that those who have gone to heaven before us are still taking part in the milestones. I still wish my Dad was here.

For discussions about the state of the church and the message it sends to those who don’t regularly go to church. I wish my Dad was here.

For witnessing the tear stained bear hug that Grandpa and grandson would have shared on that Graduation day, I miss my Dad and I wish my Dad was here.

For the conversations we’d have about things that he was doing at Seminary (because if he was still here, we all know he would still be working at the Seminary pouring his heart and soul into the future church leaders.) I wish my Dad was here.

For ending out the work day with a soft drink and a chocolate chip cookie at Panera, I miss my Dad.

Many people have asked how we’re doing now that it’s been 14 months. Invariably in the discussion,, something attune to “Your Dad was a great man,” would be said.

But he wasn’t. He was an ordinary baptized little boy from Muskegon, Michigan who was given, very early in his life the call to follow what God’s up to. He let God use him and God gave him more than he could ever have asked and imagined.

God called. Howiie answered, and answered, and answered. He continues to answer God’s calls in the body of written work that he left us.

I miss my Dad. I miss him for me but I also miss him for my kids, for my wife, for my mom, for my siblings and their families too.

Thank you for reading, thank you for allowing me to share the grief struggles that come in ebbs and flows over time. I’ve heard it said that grief is not a process it’s a journey. A process moves smoothly and progresses from step 1 to 2 to 3 etc. until you get to the end and you are done. A journey doesn’t work that way. You don’t do step 1, cross it off the list and go on to step 2. You can be all over the place and all at pretty much the same time.

And it’s okay. And it’s okay to not be okay.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

P.S. Some medical issues of my own have sucked up more time lately and so I haven’t gotten into my dad’s writing nearly as much as I expected. It will come soon.