September 22, 2010

  • The Bonaventure + Florence Nelson + A Long Rope = ??

    I don't mean to steal any thunder from NWNW (and there is plenty of thunder rolling through the blogosphere), but in just one week and one month, I will leap backwards off the top of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, clinging to a climbing rope. It's high time I explained why. It's complicated.

    My mom, Florence Nelson, died September 25 of 2009. The first anniversary comes in a few days, and I have simply not been able to grieve much for her over the past year for some reason.  Her final illness was a long one, so I did a good deal of pre-grieving in anticipation of her passing, but afterwards... I was willing to grieve, and tried to do so a couple of times, like while my brother and I were sprinkling her ashes from a tall rock outcropping overlooking one of her favorite stretches of Sonora desert. But there was just a blankness covering up where I knew the grief was hiding. I was able to celebrate her life, but not able to do the other thing. Whatever that was.

    There is no sense trying to force something that isn't ready to happen, so I got busy with life again.  Probably what my practical mother would want me to do.

    This past Sunday I rediscovered this book, one of the best I've ever read about the grieving process, and one that I had completely forgotten about until now. I find metaphor and story are often far more helpful than cognitive analysis, with things of the heart. Tear Soup's story is touching, its metaphor robust. Something tipped inside me, and I quietly wept for the first time since the memorial service. My grief has peeked out from its hiding place, pushing the blankness aside, just a bit.  I think I'm ready to begin my own batch of Tear Soup.

    This will be an unusual batch. I'm not a maudlin person, so I don't expect there will be a lot of actual tears (although I might be wrong, we'll see-- grief is a funny thing, and can play tricks on you sometimes). After sitting with my rediscovered grief for a few days, I am sure of some of the Soup's ingredients:

    • Solitude, humbling myself before God

    • A Party, taking pride in something worth celebrating

    • Study, learning new things from a master

    • Teaching, passing along something I've learned

    • Adventure!

    • Philanthropy!

    All of these are intimately connected to my mom Florence, and I'll make those connections & their expressions clear as they unfold. But on Monday morning those last two ingredients' expressions sprang to vibrant life, fully-formed, via an email from the Los Angeles Area Council (LAAC) of the Boy Scouts of America.

    I serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 848, where my son Armando is a Scout (Second Class). I am also a member of the National Eagle Scout Association. When the LAAC wanted volunteers to rappel off the Bonaventure Hotel to help raise money to support Scouting in the City of Los Angeles, they approached local and active Eagle Scouts first. Mom's qualities of Adventure and Philanthropy popped promptly into place in my mind and I signed up immediately, with my wife's enthusiastic support.

    Mom loved adventure, and she loved giving generously of her time, energy and money, to worthy causes. She was especially devoted to education and various kinds of mentoring for character development, maturity and wisdom. Scouting is all about those things. Scouting in South Los Angeles is especially strategic, and anything I can do to support them will honor my mom's memory and add to her legacy.

    Please join me in this.

    You can rappel with me, or volunteer at the event (probably the best deal), or contribute toward my goal of $10,000, or just come to watch and join us at the After Party at the Bonaventure.

    I give as much time and energy as I can to serve Troop 848, one of the very few African-American troops in Southern California and a highly respected outfit. (I'll tell you more about them as "Over The Edge"-Day draws near.) I don't have the resources to be a philanthropist of Mom's caliber, but financially too, I give what I can. I am not asking more from you than I require from myself.

    Will you help me in my crazy attempt to honor my mother, and to strengthen Scouting in Los Angeles?

    This will be a great way-- a healing way, for me-- to mark the first anniversary of her death.

    Mom will love it.


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