2009 Passages

I keep a page on this blog for Inspiring Lives where I post links to obituaries for people whom I admire. In a past professional life, one of my assignments was to read obituaries, and it was a task I began to enjoy. I find them to be beautiful tributes written with care and love. Over the years I have read many that truly are inspiring, so much so that from time to time I would cut one out of the paper and tack it too the cork board above my desk. Friends have observed that they feel sad when the read the obits, but I also find joy and celebration in the words.

I am no longer required to read the obits, but I have kept the habit. I subscribe to a few obituary blogs, and I will share my favorites on Facebook and Twitter, and of course track them here.

2009 has marked many passings, and honestly I haven’t been able to keep up. Today, as I begin a New Years resolution to write and blog more, I am updating my page and remembering all of the wonderful people who we lost in 2009 who made life on this earth a little sweeter. Even in their passing we can be happy that they lived, and honor them with acknowledgement and celebration.

This year, these death hit close to home. I shed tears as I watched the telecasts of the memorials for Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson, sharing in the popular grief of the rest of the Nation as we witnessed the end of an era. My family lost our beloved uncle, Ted Larson, in February, and on Little Christmas Eve Lula Maria Walker Smith, my wife’s mother, passed away after a long illness.

The nine-year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up on January 10th. The profundity of her passing, continues to teach me that death is a gift, if you are open to to receiving it as such.

For every life that I cite here, I am grateful. Namaste.

Here are some of the collected tributes for 2009:

Beat Cancer! #beatcancer

In honor of my brother, David, who is fighting cancer, an my mother, Anne who passed away from cancer nearly ten years ago, I am joining the social media campaign to fight cancer today. For every blog post, Facebook update, and Twitter post with the hashtag #beatcancer, $.01 is donated to cancer charities. I’m helping to raise funds to #beatcancer, by blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook status updates. Click here to join me!

A Matter of Semantics

I was discouraged a few weeks ago after the California Supreme Court hearing on Proposition 8. While it looks likely that the court will not rule in favor of civil rights for the LGBT community, things are looking up in other parts of the world for marriage equality. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that marriage is a civil right for same sex couples. The Vermont Legislature overrode Governor Douglas’s veto of the marriage equality bill in that state. Same sex marriage was legalized in Sweden.

Friends and acquaintances have suggested to me that perhaps we should be fighting for civil unions for all couples, ending state-sanctioned marriage altogether. It’s a nice idea, and it supports the separation of church and state, if you subscribe to the idea that the word “marriage” means a holy union sanctioned by God. However, this seems like an even bigger undertaking to me than simply fighting for marriage equality for all couples. Trying to enforce a paradigm of civil unions, no matter what the gender of the couples involved, would work in the US about as well as converting us all to using the metric system did back in the 1970s.

We can debate the merits and drawbacks of what we’re going to call our committed, consensual, adult, two-person family units and whether the state should recognize us as married couples or civilly unionized couples. Cultures and languages evolve naturally, and like it or not, marriage is the dominant paradigm. Additionally, the anti-gay activists will oppose any protections for same sex couples whether they’re called civil unions or marriages, so the struggle remains the same.

It is how people live and speak about their day-to-day lives that ultimately gives shape to our identities and our family units. Same sex couples live in the world as opposite sex couples. We have careers and families, and we are productive members of our communities. Our parents, friends, siblings, and neighbors respect us and count on us. Some of us are vulnerable and need protections of the state like any other citizens. The people of the United States believe in fairness and equality. In the fight for marriage equality we are on the right side of history, and we will one day win our civil rights and be able to legally marry.

Marriage Equality Is About Marriage. Period.

I want to be legally married to my wife. I don’t want special rights, just the same rights that are granted to all heterosexual Americans. I don’t want to redefine marriage, rather I want my relationship with my spouse to be recognized and respected as a committed relationship just as other legal spouses are, with the same rights and responsibilities.

Within any same-sex union, marriage is marriage. In terms of how married couples live in the world, being in love, being committed, being responsible to and for each other, some times raising children, certainly working and paying taxes, being there for one another through sickness and health, prosperity and poverty, same-sex couples are no different than opposite-sex couples.

Whether between a man and a woman, two women, or two men, Marriage isn’t straight or gay. Marriage is marriage.

The marriage equality movement is about civil rights, not special rights, as our opponents continue to bark. As long as the media and popular culture continue to frame the marriage equality movement using the term of “gay marriage,” there will be people who see it as an issue of special rights and redefining marriage. This is simply not the case.

The other day on Twitter, the LA Times tweeted a headline about “gay marriage. ” I tweeted back asking that they use the term “marriage equality” instead. I was pleasantly surprised that someone actually tweeted back at me that “gay marriage” is actually in their style guide. This would never have occurred to me!

It turns out that the Associated Press Style Guide recommends using the term “gay marriage” (scroll down to the section on “Debates Over Terminology”) in articles about same-sex marriage, sometimes simply to save headline space! To their credit, they also recommend simply using the term “marriage” in articles about marriage equality. But clearly some education still needs to occur.

Since it’s updated every year, I think that supporters of marriage equality should lobby the AP to update that recommendation. I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing this, so I’m open to suggestion. However, I’m going to start simply by emailing their general info@ap.org address.

We started a civil rights revolution five years ago. We can certainly continue to influence this positive cultural shift.

Counting Our Blessings

This week has been a doozie for my family; a death in the family; a divorce; a lost job; and many serious health problems.

In response to all of this, Dad sent out an email to all of us this week asking us all to share good news, he being the first to collect some really choice pieces:

  • Noah had a successful piano recital
  • Alex won an important prize at art school
  • Max got a sports casting internship
  • Phoebe will be in an ice skating show this May
  • Faye is having an art exhibit in New York
  • Sarah (my niece) was elected Student Body Vice President at her college
  • Rick received an Eagle Scout award
  • Elizabeth was recently reacquainted with an old family friend who has published a book
  • Elise got a part in the school play
  • Dad recently celebrated his 77th birthday, where Rachel helped him unwrap his presents. Daughter Sarah (me) was also there from out of town to help celebrate.
  • Martin learned how to whistle (his dad still can’t)
  • Andrew read a poem at the MLK celebration at his school
  • Robyn and Charlie finally replace the 20-year-old linoleum in their home
  • Margaret and Sarah (me) both had positive reviews at their jobs
  • Sarah (niece) won some sort of spaghetti wrestling competition at college

You can probably tell that these are mostly grand kids and young nephews and nieces. Children most certainly are a blessing and a joy, and I think that we grownups need to learn from them to look within us and around us and count all of our blessings. It makes me realize that it is the small things that are bringing me joy and satisfaction, as well as appreciating the larger things that I take for granted.

Last week, my new friend Jean made me aware of a gratitude meme on Twitter, asking people to participate in an online and real life dialog about all the things they are grateful for. I have been thinking about all that I’m grateful for ever since, so when Dad sent out the email calling on us to share everything positive that is happening in our lives, it really resonated with me. Even the small things that seem mundane can make a difference in the right direction. Here are some things that I am grateful for:

  • A job and career that provides for my family and gives me personal satisfaction
  • An exceptionally strange and wonderful family that I adore, whether they realize it or not
  • Getting acquainted with old friends through social networking tools, many of whom I wouldn’t have any idea how to reach
  • Five years of marriage to the love of my life, and the community that supports our relationship
  • My yoga practice that is making me increasingly mindful, open-hearted, and grounded
  • My beautiful home in my favorite city
  • Watching the drama of the change of seasons
  • Challenges, past and present, that make me stronger, and life lessons that I continue to learn from years later
  • The incredible generosity of my parents who provided me with everything that I need (and then some) to lead a meaningful life

So when the stress of my job rears its ugly head, making me cranky and moody and blue, or when personal drama threatens to bring me down, I now react by taking a step back, breathe deeply, and think of all of these the wonderful things in my life. This is not to deny the reality of the things that are hard, and sometimes suck, but to simply look at the good stuff along side of those challenges recognize the opportunities.

What are you grateful for?