My brother is gone

Last week, I received a shocking phone call.  My little brother had died.  He was 33 and was killed instantly in an accident on the job.

My first reaction was to cry out, fall to my knees, and will it not to be true.

After that shock had run its course, a deep despair and emptiness settled in.  It remained throughout the long road trip to his funeral 500 miles away.  

The kind of silence that held me reminded me of the few other times in my life when I had born witness to someone's passing.  This pain was more acute and took my breath away.

During his visitation and funeral I had the pleasure of meeting people that interacted with him on a daily basis.  They shared stories of how he made them laugh, of the kind of person he was apart from the little boy I remembered best.

Those stories are precious to me.

I was finally able to put words to my feelings after the funeral had ended.  We were driving to bury my baby brother in the dry, dusty earth of East Texas.  His body would rest there.  His grave would mark him as a beloved father, son and husband.

The days around his death were punctuated by so many conflicting emotions.  It's true what they say:  Every time you think you are done grieving a new wave of sadness will wash over you.

Tears and Laughing

Togetherness and Solitude

Pain and Healing

Confusion and Love

Old Family and New Family

Fresh Hurts and New Forgiveness

Darkness and Light

Sorrow and Remembrance

The other thing that stood out to me after I had returned home to my own little family, was that we should never let important words be unsaid.  We should never miss the opportunity to speak our hearts and give hugs.  

My brother's death and all the people who gathered to send him home in a beautiful and peaceful ceremony was life-affirming.

Another apparent conflict, but not really.

This is the description of my blog that appears on the homepage:

I believe in the ability of stories to teach, amuse, widen our perspective, and heal. I seek the divine in people and want them to see it in themselves and others, in turn. This is a place to help remind people of the lightness and beauty that life can hold even through chaos, depression, and loneliness. 

I believe this even more strongly now.  I am going to hang on to the happy stories that my brother's friends shared about how he lived his life.

Even though it ended too soon, I choose to learn from his stories because in doing so I find truth and peace.

Free to Learn?

I don't blame schools.  I think schools are marvelous at managing hundreds of curious, energetic, squirmy individuals.  They are generally full of professionals with a passion for serving others who are dedicated to guiding children in the best way possible.

I point instead to a strange, unnatural mindset rooted in competition, arbitrary skill mastery, and schedules created for crowd management.  This is the one that underlies institutionalized education. It is the mindset that points us away from letting kids take the lead in learning and points us toward trying to put them each in the same exact box for measurement, ranking, and funding.

This process sounds like something out of a science fiction film.

Even directing the learning of my own three kids is impossible.

I mean it.  It's impossible. (Ask me how I know.)

That's why they direct their own learning.

It's messy.  It doesn't stay on schedule, and it definitely does not fit into any box.

It's also kind of amazing.

This is also the answer I give to people who ask me what I plan to do when they need to learn things I can't teach them.

First, they already do!  As much as I loved math as a kid, my acute and obtuse angles are all jumbled up with improper fractions and covered with cobwebs in some dark corner of my brain.

                All grown-ups were once children... but few of them remember it.
                                                               -Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

This means that my daughter and I learn together.  She has to make sense of it in her own way.  As much as I wish I could somehow imprint the multiplication tables on her, she has to learn them herself.

My job is to look for the connections between these math concepts and something she's naturally engaged in.

I have made a difficult choice to commit time and effort to helping my children pursue their own academic interests at home.  I have chosen to risk them "falling behind" in certain subjects so they can stay happy, and not feel adult pressures at the ages of 5, 7 and 9.

I don't believe it's easy to be happy and stay happy as a kid.  I think adults take for granted that kids should be naturally joyful.

They can only stay that way if we guard that joy and show them how we, too live in that joy.

Grown-ups love figures... When you tell them you've made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? " Instead they demand "How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? " Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

                                                                   -Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This post was inspired by Peter Gray's book-