Posted in Current Events, Faith, Nonfiction, Parenting, Pop Culture, Prayer

For Bobbi Kristina.


I hope there is a meadow and treetops without end where you are, the grasses beneath you so thick they catch and hold the voices calling out to you from your bedside. I hope you hear your mother, too, ululant on the wind. You are not alone; hear the voices. You are not alone; tell your demons. You are loved, even by us, the fickle, cruel-faced public. You are loved by the Maker you may be poised to meet. Wherever you are, girl, I hope you are climbing, and from an uppermost perch, I pray you can see clearly the truth of who you are.

We remember the girl you were, the woman we prayed you’d become — even if the becoming itself would’ve required a miracle. Instead, the miracle is that you’ve held out as long as you have. Instead, the miracle is that you still have time.

Over the years, we lamented your odds, raised as you were with parents whose wealth often waylaid their efforts to keep lucid and clean. We rooted for you in spite of them and rooted for them, in spite of themselves. We are still rooting.

But I also understand where you are: someplace distant and exacting. You are hanging from a limb that you are no longer gripping. The snag and the crack are conspiring. Soon that limb will turn you loose. There’s no telling where you will return. Perhaps you will be here, awake, surrounded. Your father weeping, your siblings sighing, your truest friends deeply relieved. Or you may open your eyes elsewhere, a flatline braying in the breeze.

I am unbiased. I believe you should float toward the sounds that bring you greater peace. I believe you should be where you feel you most belong.

I was 14 when you were born, the embodiment of your parents’ frenzied, fully public love. You were born under the glare and pop of flash bulbs, the light too harsh for your soft brown eyes. You were pulled toward center stage with pride, and you stood under the beam of your mother’s spotlight. But you were always timid there, waiting where she asked you to, unsure, but echoing the words you were told. It was clear that she wanted to build your confidence. It was also clear that you would’ve preferred those lessons to be meted out in the privacy of someplace sacred and silent.

I remember worrying, in those moments when it was most obvious that your parents were unwell. You were a family, laughing, traveling, spending. You were a family, unraveling. We all worried over you, some of us even voicing unkind predictions. Armchair clairvoyants that we we were, we saw your future forging itself with sorrow.

But this is not what any of us wanted for you. A tub, a tomb, like your mother’s. There are other ways to get back to her. There are other ways to get back at her. I wish you’d found the healthier ones. And maybe you may find them still.

If there is, in fact, a meadow, if there are towering trees and voices in the grass, if there, you can understand how much you are wanted, how imperative it is for you to be well, then where you are is where you should be. And when the bough breaks, may the arms into which you fall be loving, baptismal, and warm.

Posted in the Nine series (novel excerpts)

Do Disturb.

Contrary to her family’s expectations, Nine had made herself at home in the sterile, freakish underworld of St. Mary’s Hospital. She liked the crinkle of the accordion tubing and sacks that wheezed and sighed as often as she did. The rubbery footfalls of the nurses and the snatches of their gossip and gripes she’d gathered since her arrival provided a great distraction from the constant cinema flickering inside the dark cavern her brain had become. Nine also enjoyed the metal clack of her chart whenever the doctor opened it, the perfunctory snap of the occasional latex glove, and the understanding that, ever so often, needles and chutes were curled into her veins like crochet needles, eliciting a pain that would be excruciating if she were still able to feel it. While, for others, the constant drip of saline may have seemed ominous, she rather relished the music the liquid created. And the warm sponges squeezed into basins beside her daily reminded her of a woodland stream and, by extension, she often imagined a red-cloaked heroine in the Hans Christian Andersen tradition, foolishly courageous, skipping through a slalom of tall, barren trees.

But there were also sensations she did not favor. She did not, for instance, enjoy the company of visitors and willfully closed her ears to their nervous chatter. She did not like their nostrils and the suddenness with which they honked or slurped back snot. She detested the soggy, germ-soaked Kleenex they left to harden in her only wastebasket. She did not like the smell of the carnations they left behind, once the water grew murky and the velvety petals browned. And there were other agitations, far less superficial and more alarming than these others: the strange awareness that preceded her heart’s intent to stop; the sizzle of defibrillator panels as they shot electricity through her greasy skin; the jolt of expectation to open her eyes when her sluggish heartbeat reluctantly returned; the firmness of her boyfriend’s touch, waning with each increasingly infrequent visit.

These were the occurrences that reminded her. There are decisions to be made, came a voice over the PA system of her subconscious. The store is closing.