Don Rowland Searle

Don Rowland Searle

January 14, 1942 – June 13, 2017

Loving husband and father. Doting grandfather. Engineer, gardener, Manchester United fan. Steadfast, gentle, honest, genial, determined, kind.

Grateful for the gift of his life, our hearts are broken at the loss of it.

Continue reading “Don Rowland Searle”

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Things to remember right now; AKA, the Coach Taylor principle

My father came home from the hospital last night, and his prognosis is uncertain. While I feel a deep sense of peace with the decision to bring him home and prioritize his quality of life, I struggle to express that peace meaningfully, especially with my children. I find that I am a pillar of strength except for the moments when I am not. This is a list of things to remember in the midst of uncertainty.

The short version:

Stay true to the Coach Taylor principle: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Even when you are, by definition, losing.

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The long version:

If your goal is to avoid death, you will eventually be disappointed.

Don’t give in to the temptation to turn grief into outrage. Every death is painful for someone, but not every death is an injustice. We’ve gotten so many good years with our dad; some people never know their fathers; some people’s fathers die much younger; some people’s fathers live to 101. Saying it’s not fair that your dad is dying is like saying it’s not fair that the stone you picked up isn’t a bird. Continue reading “Things to remember right now; AKA, the Coach Taylor principle”

Fast and furious

Every morning as I arrive at work, I make a right turn down into the driveway that goes under my office building to the garage. I have to cross the sidewalk, and am acutely aware that this very last part of my commute could be the most dangerous. The sidewalks are busy, full of people on their way to work or finishing their workouts, unlikely to notice an underground garage in the middle of the block. It’s true today, as always.

I look carefully to the left. No pedestrians. I look carefully to the right. No joggers, or women with strollers, or people with the earbuds in and music turned up. The way is clear; I make my way forward and turn across the sidewalk.

WHAM. On my right, out of nowhere, a man slams his hands into my car window, the rest of his body landing with a thud a split second later, his face up against the window, before bouncing backwards again. I roll down the window as he waves and turns around. “Are you okay!?” Continue reading “Fast and furious”

Sunday morning, on mercy and uncertainty

I’ve been away this weekend on a retreat in the mountains. The program has been centered on quiet, and on the works of Flannery O’Connor. And so, I re-read “Revelation” this weekend, and I am reminded of just how treacherous a trap it is to believe that you have sufficient good judgment to sort people into the deserving and undeserving. (If you haven’t read “Revelation,” you should.)

Recently, I eavesdropped on a debate my friend Jordan got involved in on Facebook. He astutely argued that if you’re interested in building a political party that can win elections, you should stop thinking of people as existing on a binary scale–you’re either a good person or a bad person–and instead think of each individual as a person who does a good thing, or a person who is currently doing a less good thing,  and even a person who is doing a bad thing.

In “Revelation, ” the protagonist Mrs. Turpin reasonably observes that she is fortunate to be middle class, but credits herself for responding appropriately: She is stewarding the resources given to her. She has manners. She isn’t rude, even to people who don’t really deserve her kindness. She’s a respectable, decent person by all commonly held standards of the time. But despite being a good woman, she is also, as a girl she encounters says, “a wart-hog from hell.”

The story is not about how someone who thought she was good was actually bad. It is about about both/and. Mrs. Turpin is both good and bad. She is herself and a wart-hog from hell, too. As are we all. Continue reading “Sunday morning, on mercy and uncertainty”

Early warning system

Last week, I worked at Welcome Table, a twice-monthly free dinner at my church, open to the public. Early in the evening, I went from table to table with a pitcher of lemonade, offering drinks to guests waiting for dinner to be served. At a table in the back, I spoke to no one in particular as I asked, “How are you tonight?”

As I poured lemonade into a plastic cup, the man to my left said, “Much better now!”

“Good!” I smiled. By the way the other men at the table laughed, I knew that he wasn’t talking about the lemonade, but I pretended he was.  I filled the glasses and moved along to the next table.

Later, I circled the room to help those who’d finished their meals, scanning for spills to clean up or for dishes to clear from those who’d finished their meals. Each time I approached that table in the back, there was more laughter. Probably just enjoying each other’s company, I hear an inner voice say.  The man called me over, even though I’d already bussed that table.

“Can I help you with something?”

“You already did, honey.” More laughter. Keep smiling. Keep working.

Continue reading “Early warning system”

The prayers of the people

img_0412.jpgI wrote this for church this morning, where I led the portion of the service called “prayers of the people.” Happy Easter!

So I interrupt your regularly scheduled joyous Easter program to bring you: the prayers of the people. Seriously—as I prepared these prayers, I worried about being huge downer. There’s a section of the prayers of the people where you’re meant to pray for the world, and nations, and leaders—and it was hard to edit down that list to a manageable size.

It wasn’t yet Easter—I was writing and praying during Holy Week: on Thursday, when Jesus was betrayed and arrested. On Friday, when he was crucified. And mostly on Saturday, when his followers scattered in disbelief and grief and hopelessness. On Thursday and Friday and Saturday, so many things in our world seem so far from what we thought God was going to be like. There is so much suffering.

But I remembered: part of the beautiful mystery of the cross and the empty tomb is that suffering is not evidence of the absence of God but that God is present— even and maybe especially—in our pain. The love of God is stronger and more certain than it maybe appears to be on Saturday— I remembered that as followers of Jesus, we must bear the good news to people living in a Saturday world that Sunday is coming!—in fact, Sunday is here! Christ is risen!

And so we can bring our suffering to God with confidence, and hope, and even some inexplicable joy. Continue reading “The prayers of the people”

Be cool, brain.

It is not a thought, it is an energy: It starts right at the center of me, just under where my ribs meet, and swells upward through my chest, buzzing into the base of my throat. It is a mix of anticipation, possibility, fear, excitement, and nausea. It is the millisecond at the top of the high dive between the moment you’ve really committed to the jump and the moment you begin to fall. It is in me but is not me. Every time I have followed that feeling, it has led me somewhere holy.

I felt it while I wrote that essay about my mom a couple of weeks ago. When I followed it, it seemed like the words were formed somewhere else, and all I had to do was write them down.

I felt it once at Costco when a lady browsing the same giant stack of sweaters as I was answered her phone and broke down into tears and shouted at the person on the line, and I wasn’t really listening, but whatever it was seemed bad. She hung up and hung on to her cart, which held her up as her legs looked unstable, and she made a noise that wasn’t really crying but was more like gasping for air and moaning in pain at the same time. It was at that sound of grief that the feeling rose in me, and I followed it and it led me to her. She told me her son was sick, her son was mentally ill, and he’d been arrested and they were trying to find him a bed at a hospital that could treat him, and they were supposed to hold him until they found a bed but now they called and said they’d moved him to jail and she was here and not there and there was no bed yet, and he needed medication that the jail wouldn’t provide and what would happen to him there?

“Oh, God! I don’t know what to do!” She was looking at me even though she was crying out for something better. And I realized that I was saying the same thing in my head. Oh, God! I don’t know what to do!  Continue reading “Be cool, brain.”