Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The night Huey, Dewey, and Louie died

Thursday April 21, 2022

 

I remember the night like yesterday. Our daughter Sharon called from Edmonton. “It’s over,” she said, and started sobbing.

            Sharon was in her mid-thirties at the time. She could feel her biological clock ticking. If she wanted to be a mother, she had to do something. 

            “A couple of my male friends actually offered to help me,” she laughs. “But I declined. When genetic testing for Cystic Fibrosis was introduced, I knew there was a high probability that I was a carrier, given that my brother had died of CF. 

            “I was correct. That meant that any donor I used would need to be a non-carrier to ensure that my children were not born with a life-threatening illness.”

 

Last chance

            Artificial insemination did not work. So she opted for in-vitro fertilization. The hormone treatments were, she recalls, “a miserable process. Getting poked and prodded inside and out, and an emotional roller coaster of hopefulness and despondency over repeated failures. 

            “Finally, one of the in-vitro fertilizations worked in a petri dish. Three cell blobs were implanted and my body registered the appropriate hormonal response. I was pregnant after almost a year of trying.”

            She named the three “blobs” – properly, blastocysts – Huey, Dewey, and Louis. Because A, B, and C, or 1, 2, 3 sounded too generic.

            Because of her age, hers was considered a “high-risk” pregnancy. She had ultrasound tests almost weekly. 

            And then one week, there were only two blobs left. 

            And about a week later, the ultrasound showed no blobs at all. 

            That’s when Sharon called to say, “It’s over.”

            Sharon sobbed. Joan and I sobbed. Gloom fell around the house like a Winnipeg blizzard.

            Eventually, I felt I had to go outside. Or maybe our dog told me she needed to go out. 

 

False expectations

            Somehow, we expect nature’s moods to mirror our own. It should have been “a dark and stormy night,” to quote the opening line of an infamous novel. 

            I felt that the wind should have been lashing up the valley. There should have been thunder and lightning. Or at the very least, sheets of rain sluicing down from a black sky. 

            Nope. It was a brilliant moonless night. Myriads of stars glittered like diamonds overhead.

            And I remember looking up at those stars, and thinking – pardon the expletive, but these were my actual words – I thought, “The universe doesn’t give a shit!”

            That night, I lost my faith in the God I used to know, the God who intervenes in human affairs to make things work out right.

            I’ve since realized that the problem wasn’t God, but my understanding of who God is, how God acts. 

            The universe does “give a shit” – just not in the way I might have expected. 

            For billions of years, trees have turned sunlight into oxygen that we need to breathe. Oceans have sent rain to water the land. Insects have cleaned up the detritus that would have poisoned us. The planet has provided gravity to keep us from floating off into space. 

            All of these work together, for our common good. 

            The universe – call it God, or anything else – is not hostile. It does care about us. If we have the wits to see the evidence. 

            Hallelujah!

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Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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YOUR TURN

 

Cliff Boldt wrote about my collection of thoughts on Easter morning: “Especially appropriate on Earth Day.”

 

Louise Burton: “Yes, it was wonderful that the sky cooperated to let us enjoy the moon setting -- and then not so long afterwards, the sun rising.  So many Easter Sundays have been met with heavy overcast or other uncooperative sky conditions.

            “We sang the same hymns you did out at a farmer's property, facing the rising sun. It was a lovely start to Easter Sunday.”

 

Mimi Zuyderduyn: “I receive your Soft Edges each week and always learn something; often am inspired; many times laughter, often shared with friends ( always give my source) and never write to you to say how much I enjoy your weekly, topical, personal stories.  So now here I am to do just that and to show appreciation for what you contribute to my life.

            “I have learned that feedback is important.  I better add about your ‘Everyday Psalms’ – I can read those over and over.  Keep sharing your words and we’ll keep reading them.  

            “Love your bird recovery story, too.  For being so small and delicate, they are amazingly resilient. (God sees the little sparrow fall. Quails, too.)”

 

Tom Watson found my column “very moving. In reflection I wrote this poem.” (JT: I’ll include one verse, as a sample. If you want the whole poem, write tomwatso@gmail.com)

As thirty people gather in an

idyllic setting, where willows

weep and grass slopes down

to glass-like water, my thoughts

remain with that quail. Yet, on

we sing—morning has broken,

joy comes with the morning

sun—our voices thin against the

vastness of the dawn. Bread

is broken, grapes crushed

in waiting mouths.

There were two different views on resurrection. Isabel Gibson noted my comments about the quail's survival, where I had asked: “Is that a resurrection? Or just a recovery? Does it matter?”

            “I think it does matter what we call it,” Isabel replied. “Recovery can be marvelous indeed and even miraculous. But I think the Bible writers and early believers were onto something different -- something that cannot be killed. We don't have to believe that message, but I think it lessens the good news of their message of resurrection to equate it with the lift we get from seeing recoveries.

            “But maybe the latter can point us to the former.”

 

Laurna Tallman, on the other hand, liked the resurrection metaphor. She wrote about a number of people in her care who are dying or struggling with other issues. I don’t think she intended that information for publication. 

            But she went on, “In many ways, your blog pieces keep me grounded and turning outward to common problems and questions in the world so that I feel less isolated. I appreciate the effort you put into your writing. I especially liked your resurrected Easter quail. For me, the great miracle of Easter is not just that Jesus returned to life -- I have heard many stories of people dying and coming back into their bodies and living for some time. But that he knew he was going to die and come back to life and that happened. And it really was a game-changer.”

 

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Psalm paraphrase

 

As a psalm for one of the Sundays of Easter, Psalm 30 is commonly treated as a celebration of resurrection. Resurrection is usually imagined from the standpoint of the women, or the disciples.I wondered how Jesus might feel as he stepped out of the tomb into a bright Sunday sunrise. 

 

“Blue skies, smiling at me…”

Never thought I’d see blue skies again.

There was nothing but nothing;

For two days? Three days? Eternity?

Does it matter?

Nothing has no time, no space, no shape, no matter -- 

just nothing --.

both never and forever.

Now I get a second chance.

My spirit rises to see the rows of redbuds blooming, 

to smell the orange blossoms, 

to feel a warm wind blowing the clouds around,

to taste the sweet and salty tears of love and loss.

Before the nothing, I was driven.

I had to fulfill my responsibilities,

to complete my tasks,

to do what was expected of me. 

I let doing get in the way of living.

But now I have known nothing;

I have been nothing.

Then nothing evaporated like morning mist;

the sun shines bright. 

I dance, I sing, I celebrate the miracle of life.

I am something, I am someone, I am me!

 

You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.

 

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

                  To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                  And for those of you who like poetry, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry I posted several new poetic works there a few weeks ago. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

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PROMOTION STUFF

 

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.

                  Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

 

ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE

                  I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.) 

 


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