on taking life
April 30, 2014, 5:53 am
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The first time I had a clean shot at a deer, I missed on purpose.

My brother and I had hunted since early morning, starting as the sun broke over the ‘wannabe mountains’ Manitoba hilltops. I still remember not really being certain if hunting was for me. All I knew is that my dad loved it, my brothers did too, and I had fun pushing bush with my cousins when I was a little guy. If I didn’t try, I’d never know. Plus, I hoped to discover the first evidence of a Sasquatch, and I thought hunting might lead me to meet our future overlords. Trust me, it’ll happen. They are just biding their time until we are too fat from Cheetos and McD’s that we can’t fight back. Oh wait…it’s too late.

This time was my first actually holding the gun. The first time feeling the weight of the weapon, trying to be ready for the moment of truth. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to be the hero.

Instead, we got skunked. We only saw one Buck, which ran out of the trees in the opposite direction before we could get a shot. The rest of the day was spent sitting quietly and walking through empty bush. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and dark fast approached. To increase our chances in the final minutes, my brother dropped me on a hill where he had shot a buck the year before, then he drove off to scope another spot.

After waiting for about 15 minutes and darkness nearly upon me, my teenage brain couldn’t comprehend sitting still any longer. I walked the dusty mile road back to the highway. Just as I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw her. A beautiful doe. Medium size, nothing spectacular by trophy standards, but a beauty nonetheless, especially based on the lack of luck we’d experienced that day.

I lifted my gun. It felt heavy from carrying for hours, and I couldn’t keep it steady. It could have also been that my scrawny boyish figure weighed about as much as the gun, but we’ll go with the ‘tired’ excuse. I tried lowering to my knees to get a better stance. She saw me move and froze. She must have thought to herself, “what is that strange, tiny, gangly creature that I could definitely snap like a twig with one kick?”

We stared at each other. It wasn’t nearly as intimate as I paint it out to be, but I imagine that she knew my fear as much as I knew hers, and wanted to call truce. I felt as if she could sense my anxiety and desire to be a man. Of course she couldn’t, but my mind raced on. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to kill her. I looked to make sure my brother wasn’t nearby. She had eased from my initial movement and was walking towards the tree line, believing I wasn’t a threat. She had no idea how right that was. I took a couple shots, close enough that I could pretend I actually meant to hit her (in case anyone was watching), but knowing it would miss. Mostly so I could say I tried and tell a tall tale of ‘almost got one!’ to my friends. The truth is, even if I wanted her dead, I’d have missed anyway. I was a 16 year old punk kid who could barely hold a rifle, let alone load it. I’m sure there are many worthy teenage hunters, but I was not one of them. So I missed, and felt a strange mix of shame and peace as she ran away from the noise.

When my brother picked me up, I’m sure I claimed it was a buck, hundreds of yards away, so far away that an expert marksman would have surely missed. We cursed our luck and drove home.

14 years later, I’m still a terrible hunter. Last year, I went again, had several shots, actually tried to hit several deer, and missed. My best chance was from about 50 yards. A young, love drunk buck had been chasing a doe that was running away from us. He was thinking with his nether regions, so stayed in the wrong spot just too long. You know what I’m saying, gentlemen. We’ve all been there.

I opened fire once, twice…thrice. I was out of bullets and hadn’t come close as near I could tell. My brother was about 50 yards behind me and to my right, and got him. We watched the handsome beast breathe his last, and I had a hard time holding back my tears. I acted excited, and was for my brother, but truthfully felt unworthy of the gift this beautiful animal had given us.

I’m not cut out for hunting. It’s not that its wrong. It’s just that death breaks me. A loved one. A stranger. An animal that could feed a family (Insert vegan-power comment here). It’s so real and final, no matter how much I rationalize or justify it, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s the broken place, and I don’t know how to deal with it.

As Mufasa would say, it’s the circle of life, or some crap like that. But it doesn’t mean it feels right just because the Lion King says so. People die. Animals die. There’s a time for everything under the sun. Until then, I’ll avoid it like the plague. Coincidentally, the plague also causes death.

I don’t know what to do with deaths reality in my world. As a Christian, I know I should be less afraid to die and for loved ones to go, but what I should feel and do feel rarely align. In the meantime, I’ll miss shots, both on purpose and because of my poor skills, hoping to cling to life in all her forms.

I’m a bad hunter. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, they say. Well don’t bring me to one either, because I’ll cower and cry and miss on purpose.


goodbye, my friend.
March 4, 2010, 4:06 pm
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i don’t do well with grief. i never have. i’m like my father in the sense that when i am talking about something emotional in front of a group of people, i can’t control myself. but when i’m in private, or with a close friend, i have trouble letting my true emotions show. it’s almost as if i want to force it out, but it’s stuck. which isn’t a good combination because that means in order for me to grieve, i have to do so in front of mass amounts of people. there is something about facing others which makes reality hit harder than it would otherwise.

i also don’t do well with reality. i often like to live as if i’m in a movie. i want every word i speak to be perfectly scripted. every sentence to be well written as if it will be marked down in a book someday. every thought that comes through my head to be worthy of a great screenplay. so i live in a fantasy world, pretending that people actually care what i have to say when it’s meaningless and monotonous everyday routines. as if somehow the thoughts in my head as i brush my teeth somehow matter.

hudson quit eating on saturday. he just laid on the floor, with little energy. we took him to the vet, and they could feel something hard inside his intestines. we were sure he had just swallowed something. so we took him home, and waited for it to pass. we took him for walks and runs to help move things along. when it didn’t, we went back to find that the hard mass they had found hadn’t moved at all. surgery was the only option, and they couldn’t tell us whether it was a toy that was stuck or something worse. they couldn’t tell us. there was no way to know. so we had to send him off to surgery unsure of whether we would ever see him again. they prepared us. they said it could be cancer, that it could be a tumor. they told us to say goodbye, just in case. because once he was in surgery, if it was that serious, there was little sense in waking him up and putting him through more pain. but i didn’t believe it could be that serious. he had only been sick for 3 days. he’s not even 5 years old. it couldn’t be cancer. so we said goodbye as if it would be our last. and even though i didn’t believe it would be the last time we saw him, it hit home that it just might be the last time we would pet him. hold him. hug him. kiss his head. and so melissa and i said goodbye the best way we could. with tears and hugs, we sent hudson to surgery. when the phone call came 2 hours later, i was in shock. and i have been since then. it was cancer. it had spread through his intestines and into his lymph nodes, and was taking hold of his body. i can’t believe my friend is gone.

i don’t do well with grief. i don’t do well with reality. so when my good friend, hudson, slipped away from us a couple days ago, i sunk. i’ve hit the metaphorical bottom of the hole i’ve dug myself into. because it’s hard right now to imagine feeling lower than this. it’s hard to deal with grief and reality all at once when i’m so used to running away from both. people might say he’s just a dog. and if you say that to my face, i will quite literally punch you in the mouth. but he’s more than that. he’s my friend. my protector. my confidant. i could talk to hudson about anything. yes, that’s crazy. no, i don’t care. but i would often find myself in a struggle for wisdom, and hudson would be by my side offering friendship the way no one else could. and seeing his tail wag at the mere mention of his name, the joy of a pet along his back or a scratch behind his ear, the peace in his breathing as he slept beside us and cuddled on our laps…he was one friend who could always make me feel better. without words, without a solution or answer, and without putting himself first…he was there to hear me. it’s hard to write about your dead dog. because when i think of people doing that, it usually comes across as a cheesy chicken soup for the soul type story. i hate chicken soup for the soul. and anyone who doesn’t have a dog or connect to dogs can’t understand that he was a part of our family. i grieve as if he is a family member. i don’t have words to say right now that can properly honor him. and part of me wants to deal with grief and reality by telling you all the story of hudson, as i’m doing now. and another part of me wants to deal with grief and reality by never talking about him again. because grief and reality have met, and i don’t really know what to say or do anymore. i will cope. and i will move forward with my beautiful family by my side. but a piece of me has died this week. and it feels good to talk about my friend, hudson.

the screaming silence
April 4, 2009, 4:08 pm
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the silence screamed as he made the announcement. people frozen in place, unsure of how or what to feel.

there is something strange about silence. it can be both beautiful and terrifying. i can’t think of one single thing that can bring out so many different emotions depending on the circumstance. in that beautiful sunset in the middle of nowhere we can lose ourselves and find peace. in the awkward pauses of a broken marriage, the silence is a constant reminder of what has been lost. silence is terrifying and awe inspiring. but silence never lasts.

in this instance, silence soon gave way to tears as 1oo+ people began weeping. some softly. some uncontrollably. a young girl has killed herself and there isn’t a person in this room that it doesn’t deeply impact. there isn’t a person in this room who isn’t hit by the dark silence.

for her dearest friends, they mourn the loss of a loved one and torture themselves with questions. what could i have done? why didn’t i see this coming? for those who didn’t know here, but just passed her by in the hallway, they were haunted by their own set of what if’s. what if i had reached out to her? what if i had befriended her? for those that bullied and pushed her around, or even those who had just made one passing comment, feelings of deep remorse and guilt coursed through their body. what if i had been nicer? what if i hadn’t said what i did? for the teachers, a profound sense of loss and disappointment. what if i had helped her with her school work? what if i had gone above and beyond the role of teacher? for her family, the deepest pain they will ever feel. what happened? this can’t be real. but it is. and everyone feels it.

of course, for them to ask these questions of themselves is a pointless endeavor. feelings of guilt, remorse, shame, anger, hurt, and many others will only be followed by stronger feelings of the same stripe if they blame themselves. and i could tell them that. i could tell them that blaming themselves would only hurt them more, and that it wasn’t their fault anyway. after all, i was an outsider. brought in by the powers that be to try to be a presence in the midst of unspeakable pain. i didn’t know the young girl that gave up her life, and i didn’t even know most of the kids. so i could tell them.i could use my reason and logic to bring them to some sense of peace. but in these moments of screaming silence where the pain hits you like a curb stomp to the teeth, logic and reason are thrown out the door.

all these questions are okay, however unfair it might be to ask them of ourselves. all these feelings of pain, doubt, fear, anger, guilt…they are all okay. they are not fun, and they do not feel good, but it is okay to stay there for awhile. and all you can do is move into that space with them. your words won’t help you. your bible classes won’t do a thing. reason and logic make no sense in the midst of tragedy. but your hugs will help. your shared tears will help. your prayers for God to bring light into the darkness will help. and so you sit. unable to do anything but utter weak prayers and hold someone. to feel the pain these friends and classmates are feeling is the best i can do for them. and in these moments, the screaming silence can still be found beautiful.