Saturday, September 28, 2013

Symbols are Imperative During the Grief Journey: A Story About a Putter

Today we hosted The First Annual Sgt. Lance McClean Memorial Golf Tournament. It was a great event. Sgt. McClean was murdered in the line of duty after confronting an accused sex offender that was threatening the person he allegedly victimized. The proceeds from the tournament will go to Lance’s family.

When I got home this afternoon, I went to my closet to make sure my trench coat was hanging in its place. I realize that sounds like an odd thing to do on a warm afternoon in September. But whoever said I was normal?  It just seemed like the thing to do.

During the live auction following tournament play people paid premium price for golfing getaways and other appealing items. As the auction reached it climax, Sgt. McClean’s personal putter was put out there for bidding. One of his closest friends and law enforcement colleagues, Lieutenant Steve Smith, made it clear that he would love to have that putter.  The bidding began.  It soon became apparent that there were two individuals that were determined to purchase that putter. (Neither of them was close to Lance.) By the time the final bid was settled, the putter sold for $2,000.00.  The man that purchased the prized item promptly gave it to Steve. And the woman who bid against him had the same plan in mind.

I have seen people bid against each other at auctions before. In fact, I have seen items purchased for far more than they are worth following such bidding wars. Those scenarios are generated by greed and huge egos. Today's bidding battle was prompted by generosity and compassion.

Steve played golf with Lance on a regular basis. Just days before Lance was shot and killed they were on the course together. Lance made his final putt in this life that day. He put his clubs in his truck. And I am sure he told Steve that he would beat him the next time they played.  Within days Steve knew that round would turn out to be the final one with his friend, Lance.

Steve went home with Lances putter today. And I am glad. I am glad because I know in the grief journey that symbols are important. That putter is a tangible reminder of friendship, mutual respect, and love among brothers. Steve needs something he can hold and look at and putt a golf ball with, if he chooses.  And he needs to be able to think about a bidding war that happened on an afternoon in September that led the putter to landing in his possession. That war between two generous souls stands in stark contrast to the total disregard for human life that led to Lance’s death. Symbols are imperative during the grief journey.

When I got home this afternoon, I went to my closet to make that my trench coat was hanging in its place.  That trench coat belonged to my father. He wore it on the commuter train in Chicago in the 1960s. When I was a little boy, I tried to pick him out from a large group of men get off the training wearing black trench coats. I rarely wear that coat, but it remains an important symbol as I think about my deceased father. I hope the putter that was put on the auction block today will be as meaningful to Steve as the coat has been to me. I am confident that Steve is about to learn that symbols are important components of healing as the journey of grief continues. After all symbols are imperative during the grief journey.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Day I Did a Con Job on My Mother...

Almost exactly 22 years ago we moved into a new rental house that would give us the opportunity to buy our very own refrigerator.  At the time, we had an active 2-year-old running around who needed a place to keep the milk in his sippy cup cold.  But, of course, we were living on a shoestring budget.  My little conniving mind formulated a plan in short order.

I called my mother and said, “Can we have the 1970s gold refrigerator that is storing cokes in your laundry room?”  It seemed like an inexpensive solution to our immediate need.  But here is where I feel compelled to confess….I knew that my mother would view that classic 1970s gold appliance in her laundry room as an inferior solution.  Her grandson needed something that was new and dependable.  I will take my confession even one more step.  I knew that she would most likely offer to buy a refrigerator for us as we prepared to move to a nicer home. My hunch proved to correct.  She said, “Now suga (that is southern for ‘sugar’ by the way.) you go down and buy a quality refrigerator (she was big on buying quality). 

I evidently found a quality refrigerator because it worked great until this week. My mother passed away about three months after sending me a check for that refrigerator in 1991.  At the time of that conversation, I had no idea she was even sick.  I don’t think I need to be at home this week when they haul off the 1991 model refrigerator and replace it with one that has yet to prove whether it too is quality or not.

Here is the question: Did my mother know that I was pulling a con job on her when I asked about the gold symbol of the 1970s in her laundry room? Of course she knew…She was nobody’s fool.  But sweet southern belles don’t always point out that they are being conned.  Besides, there was no time to confront me. Her 2-year-old grandson needed a place to keep his food safe and edible.

In honor of my mother’s generosity so many years ago, I contacted that same grandson of hers and offered to buy him a planet ticket from Los Angeles to Dallas for Christmas this year.  She would be pleased. My mother was a very generous lady.  When the old refrigerator is loaded up to be taken to the appliance graveyard this week, I need to consider changing my conniving ways and become a generous parent like her.  Perhaps it will even spare me from being conned in the future….I feel better now. I have confessed to conning my sweet southern mother.