The Magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Over the past months, my parents have been ill, and I've battled the
overwhelming emotions connected with their inevitable deaths. So I opened
the July/August World with trepidation. But when I read it, I saw I had
no reason to be apprehensive. The articles were written well, and your
resource list led me to a number of books that helped give me a new understanding
of how to deal with my grief. Thank you for the renewed sense of peace.
I just turned 90, so quite understandably, I've been giving some
thought to death and dying. Thanks for the good messages in the July/August
When I pulled the July/August World out of the mailbox, I knew a higher power was watching over me. My stepfather is dying of bladder cancer, and our family is struggling with myriad emotions.
I found Jane Dwinell's article on her work with dying people ["Seven
Final Chapters"] especially comforting. Although I've been a hospice volunteer
for years, I'm scared of what we might face when my stepfather dies. Dwinell's
piece showed me that while every person's death is different, we can learn
something from each death. Likewise, death need not only be about grief.
I hope that when my stepfather dies, we can celebrate and honor his wonderful
Jane Dwinell's article was very instructive, but I was troubled by her references to New Age beliefs in the section on the dying man named Paul. She writes that after losing his "New Age visions of a peaceful death," he wound up "in spiritual pain [because] he could not find a belief that would hold him in his sorrow and anger."
Would Dwinell say that, as one of many UUs influenced by New Age ideas,
I lack a sustaining belief system? I hope not, for I've sought spiritual
insight from diverse sources, including the 23rd Psalm and Ecclesiastes.
I'd like to hear in more detail about the aspects of New Age beliefs that
might undermine strength and courage in the face of death.
I liked the article "Bringing the Dead to Life" [July/August],
about Día de los Muertos rituals in UU congregations, but I was
surprised it didn't mention an identical ritual, called Samahin, celebrated
for hundreds of years by pagans.
I agree with Earl Grollman ["Coping with Loss," July/August] that young children should be allowed to go to funerals. My own father died when I was six. Many people told my mother I should stay home from the funeral, but she insisted I go. That experience allowed me to accept death as a natural part of life. Later, when I was a young adult, a friend who had contracted a potentially fatal illness theorized that because of my early experience with death I could listen to her worries without trivializing them or changing the subject. Meanwhile, many of her other friends avoided her.
My own four children have attended several funerals, starting at age
four or five. I tell them in advance to be dignified, not to stare, and
to save their questions for afterwards, when I will answer them. They never
seem to feel out of place.
Thanks to Earl Grollman for saying that grieving is not a disorder.
After a host of devastating losses, I realize that each of us experiences
loss and grief in his or her own way. In a culture where many people are
intent on reprogramming other people, Grollman gives us permission to be
Earl Grollman's thoughts about grief rang true for me, but he does leave
something vital out--the loss of a living, caring other to hold and comfort
and share with. I'm in no way referring to sex. I'm talking about the blessedness
of having someone to feel a human sense of belonging with.
Racism and racists come in every color of the rainbow. As a white woman who once worked and lived where I was in the racial minority, I was snubbed and insulted in the workplace, told I couldn't sit in the back of a bus, and robbed because I was white. This was the behavior of a few people only, but it does leave a bad memory.
If "racist" is going to apply to white people only, we're simply creating
a new double standard. And if that's racial justice, count me out.
It's simply nuts to try connecting alien abductions to earth-centered
spirituality. I feel a bit less UU each time our national headquarters
slips a little further into soft-headedness.
In the past year, I have heard in my church that auras and tarot cards are "earth centered," that the universal laws of physics somehow obey the pagan calendar, and that scientists will someday figure all this out. Now we must also entertain the notion that extraterrestrial alien abductions are earth centered, too.
I joined my church because I thought UUism was a religion with a mind.
Now I'm afraid it's losing it.
Although Robert Begiebing's article uses aliens as a metaphor for rising
environmental awareness among humans, those of us who have studied the
UFO phenomenon can tell you in no uncertain terms that we have been, and
continue to be, visited by non-human intelligences possessing technology
unimaginably superior to our own. The evidence for this will overwhelm
anyone who looks at it objectively.
Things by Their Proper Names
Similar experiences dogged me the whole week of that GA. The theme of the assembly was Fulfilling the Promise. ("What promise?" I wondered. "Did I make a promise?") Many people at the GA were also discussing the Our Whole Lives, or OWL, program, which was al-most ready to begin. My first guess was that OWL must have something to do with the elderly--the owlish wisdom that comes from having lived a long life, etc. But, no, it turned out OWL is set up to teach young people about sex. (Strangely, my whole life has a lot more to it than sex.)
Why do we do this? Is there something wrong with names that describe
the things they denote? It's time we recognized our jargon for what it
is: a barrier that keeps out newcomers. I wonder how many people walked
up to that Journey toward Wholeness table in Rochester, shrugged in puzzlement,
and continued on their way.
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This page was last updated November 21, 2000 by email@example.com.