Songs Dead Men Sing

Guest Post Scott Warner headshotby Cathy Warner

In the backseat of our minivan I swig an individual serving of white zinfandel to numb myself from the terror that is I-5: long sweeping curves, cement barricades, and massive trucks pulling two and three trailers that sway and rattle.

When I’m in the passenger seat, my husband can’t help but react to my cringing, so we agree a sleeping pill and $1.49 bottle of wine are reasonable for the five-hour trip from Eugene, Oregon where our daughter attends college, home to Puget Sound.

Ten years ago, living in San Francisco’s Bay area, I tried therapy. “You’re afraid of death,” the counselor said as if I thought being plowed into by tons of steel would result in a chipped tooth. I wanted driving—and life—to be predictable and safe.

Tonight, when I awake after two drugged hours, my husband’s brother serenades us from the grave. Scott died eleven years ago yesterday of liver failure at age forty-five, the slow suicide of an alcoholic. [Read more...]

A Christian Writer Drops the F-Bomb: 25 Years of Image

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays by people who have encountered our programs over the years.

Guest post by Cathy Warner

It was a reading at a memorial service that got me riled.

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room.” Don’t be sad, my pastor read, “All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.”

Watching the tearful widow, who’d now be living alone after forty years, I was unconvinced and angry the dead man’s missive denied the living their grief.

I penned an alternative letter, then another, and another, until I imagined half a dozen dead—an aged father, alcoholic wife, young solider, child molester, husband who succumbed to cancer—writing from the beyond to those they’d loved and those they’d wronged. [Read more...]

Avoiding the Mirror

Guest post by Cathy Warner

I have circled around this story several times, trying to write my way into it.

I begin with an inciting event:

An eighty-nine year-old man lies unconscious, unresponsive in intensive care in a California hospital. His name is Vince and he was hit by a car in the town he’s lived in near forty years, the same town that was my home for twenty-five.

I am now nine hundred miles north, but in my mind I see the pharmacy he left, the crosswalk, his wife waiting in their minivan parked outside the beauty parlor. I picture her stumbling from the car with her uneven gait, pedestrians rushing to her side, to his aide, sprinting to the fire department down the block for help.

I read the news on Facebook first, that “an elderly gentleman” had been hit, and stopped at this description of him. Though he’d been retired from his work as missionary to Pakistan the twenty-five years I’d known him, he was far from gentle.

From there my words add up to a litany of how hard this man—who died days later from his injuries—was to love, a long complaint about our relationship.

It doesn’t work. My editor tells me: “Basically you still believe he was deeply misguided about most everything and that you have the correct ideas, so the piece just becomes a ‘He was wrong and overbearing and fearful but we’re still all one in Christ.’”

[Read more...]

Falling Upward: Don Draper Meets Richard Rohr

Guest Post
By Cathy Warner

 

The opening credits of Mad Men have always disturbed me: Don Draper falling out his Madison Avenue office window sinking past billboards and ads, past a stocking-clad woman’s leg, past his family. It’s a long free fall and he never hits bottom.

If only somewhere during his downward tumble, Draper grabbed onto a copy of Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, then he might read this small, wise book while cocooned in a body cast, broken bones mending. With some sexy nurse or his second wife standing by to turn the pages, Draper might begin to understand that there’s a reason neither his career success nor his marriages nor his affairs satisfy him, a reason that speaks to the needs of his soul.

He’d discover that it’s time he entered the second half of his life. [Read more...]

Love Thy Neighbor…and Her Lice

Guest Post
By Cathy Warner

I’d only known her a month when Blythe called with a problem: The family puppy had parvo. She needed money. Would I pay her twenty-five dollars in exchange for a massage?

Blythe lived in a run-down cabin up the road from our remodeled cabin. She had three grubby kids whose noses always ran, a grimy husband who drove a rusty van, and was missing two teeth (my eyes always focused on the gaps).

I didn’t know what parvo was (expensive and deadly) and I’d never had a massage. My husband drove a company car and worked in Silicon Valley, we had two clean and intelligent daughters, and I had all my teeth—straightened and shiny.

I was used to rescuing struggling family members, doling out advice and funds. But I didn’t do so with the cheerful heart God apparently admired. I gave fearfully. My checks were readily cashed, but my advice was never taken, trouble always returned, and somehow I felt responsible. If only I’d done more…. [Read more...]


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