Eulogy or Effigy, that is the Question

His sanitized obituary might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Booth was born May 5, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY, to Harold and Hilda (Squires) Booth. He graduated from Oneonta High School, served in the Unites States Navy during the Korean War, and then attended and graduated college at Syracuse. He moved to Annapolis, Maryland to work for Arinc. He retired in 1993 at age 60, moving back to his upstate NY home in Erieville, NY.

Mr. Booth was a member of and trained lay-speaker for the Methodist church. He enjoyed hunting, camping, hiking and reading.  He loved poetry, especially the chiefly Scottish dialect of Robert Burns. He was an avid member of the Robert Burns Society of Annapolis and recited many of Burns poems from memory at their annual meetings. He was a member of the Fenner Conservation Club and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)  Club in Cazenovia, New York. He is survived by 3 children and 10 grandchildren.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound. The scathing obit might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure brought on by years of indulgent excess and gluttony. He loved his cholesterol-rich diet with a slathering of sugar and hard liquor. Well aware of his weight problems, Mr. Booth bought all the weight-loss programs advertised on TV over the past 50 years, including but not limited to: DVDs, Nutrisystem, ellipticals, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and a vinyl 78 rpm 3-record set claiming a Guaranteed Reduce Plan. All of these items may be found unused and, in many cases, unopened, in his home in Erieville.

Mr. Booth’s first 2 wives left him because he abused them. Information on his 3rd wife is sparse, although, she did abandon him as well. Mr. Booth had 3 children from his first marriage and deserted them when the divorce was final. During this time, he turned his brilliant mind to the realm of divorce and custody law, successfully minimizing the financial burden of being a father. Mr. Booth’s career never miss a beat through all this turmoil. He served in intelligence in the US Navy aboard the USS Witek during the Korean War. He went on to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

Mr. Booth loved dead poets more than his living children. And his poet of choice was Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish Bard. Booth spent much of his time and money learning, reading, and memorizing Burns’ poetry and life.  On any given month, he would send the court ordered fifty dollars of child support and zero dollars in alimony while spending hundreds of dollars and multiple weekends on collecting antique poetry books and traveling to the latest Burns society gathering on various continents.

Mr. Booth would be remembered best as one who served his country; loved reading; valued education and learning; appreciated good poetry; enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping;  and ate, drank, and made merry on every occasion possible. He will not be remembered as a devoted husband or loving father. As such, there are some in this world who will remember him as an abusive husband, who traumatized and abandoned his children.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound.

Not because this is untrue but, rather, because it is unfinished. As with most things in this world, the truth of who we are lies somewhere beyond the sanitized and the scathing.

Yes, it is true, the two most organized areas of my father’s home were his library, where he attempted to quell his insatiable appetite for knowledge, and his liquor cabinet, where he attempted to quell the screams of his daemons.

Between these two rooms he would stop to rest in his living room. There he would take part in daily devotionals with a televised bible study leader. When both knowledge and alcohol failed to bring peace, Al, like many before him, turned to God. He did not arrive at the Christian God lightly, as his library boasted books from many, if not all, religions, including witchcraft and occult. Al arrived at the cross. Jesus met Al bearing much needed grace.

Al suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of his mother. Although he never called it sexual abuse. In this way, Al became stuck in grade school. Stuck is a word therapists and psychologists use to describe a psychological and emotional response to trauma (a.k.a, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Moving past such trauma is like voluntarily walking across a bed of hot coals. Children are especially susceptible to becoming comfortable with being stuck in a state of disorder for long periods of time. In Al’s case, that period lasted for the remainder of his life.

Becoming a functional, emotionally-balanced adult meant walking across that bed of coals. Becoming a loving husband and parent meant acknowledging and experiencing searing pain. Trusting anyone again, especially women, meant the impossible. Freedom lies on the other side of the bed of coals. Of course, the bed of hot coals works both ways, that is, anyone attempting to get too close to Al will inevitably experience the same pain.

It is on the dark side of this bed of hot coals, where I found Al — a cowering, weak, trapped, and traumatized boy who was too ashamed, too afraid, and too emotionally immature to show himself but for an few fleeting glimpses in his living room.

For example, there was the time, when we were talking about Christian theology in his living room, and he abruptly got up went into his library to retrieve one of the 14 different bible translations from his shelf. Opening it, he began reading aloud:

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Al’s emphasis, not mine.)  After flipping some pages, he continued.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As he read, tears filled his eyes. Jesus brought Al grace.

Then there was the time I wrote a poem for him for Father’s Day in 2005. As he silently read, what is probably his first home-made Father’s day card in over 40 years (and quite possibly the only one ever), he began trembling. Then crying. Then sobbing. He hugged me and then opened the card again and read the repeating verse aloud while sobbing: I was walkin’ in the dark in broad daylight.

Then there were the two times he insisted on me watching a taped episode of JAG with him. The episode, Second Sight, explores forgiveness. In Second Sight, Sarah MacKenzie’s father is dying and she must deal with the forgiveness of her abusive, alcoholic father. This worn VHS tape had obviously been played numerous times in Al’s living room. Here is a poignant clip from that episode.

But for these fleeting glances of the scared, insecure, little boy, Al’s life remained safely hidden in the dark while walkin’ in broad daylight. However, he was not cowering alone. It appears Jesus did the same thing for Al that he does for us all. He left his throne, walked across the hot coals, away from freedom and into darkness, to meet Al where he hid from the rest of the world.

Did my father, Al Booth, deserve such kingly treatment? Absolutely not. But then, this story is not about Al Booth. This story is about his rescuer, Jesus, who, in the early morning hours of Friday, September 17th, 2010, picked up a cowering, lonely child and carried him out of his dark world, across the hot coals, and into freedom.


Its hard to give. Its hard to get.

This is one of my favorite songs (for several years now).

by Patty Griffin

We are swimming with the snakes
At the bottom of the well
So silent and peaceful in the darkness where we fell
But we are not snakes and whats more
We never will be
And if we stay swimming here forever we will
Never be free

I heard them ringing the bells
In heaven and hell
They got a secret
Theyre getting ready to tell
Its falling from the sky
Calling from the graves
Open your eyes, boy, I think we are saved
Open your eyes, boy, I think we are saved
Lets take a walk on the bridge
Right over this mess
Dont need to tell me a thing, baby
We’re already confessed
And I raised my voice to the air
And we were blessed
Its hard to give. Its hard to get.
but everybody needs a little forgiveness

We are calling for him tonight on this
Thin phone line
As usual were having ourselves one
Hell of a time
And the planes keep flying right over our heads
No matter how lond we shout
Hey, hey, hey !
And we keep waving and waving
Our arms in the air
But were all tired out

I heard somebody say
Todays the day
A big old hurricaine
Is blowing our way
Knocking over the buildings
Killing all the light
Open your eyes, boy, we made it through the night
Open your eyes, boy, we made it through the night
Lets take a walk on the bridge
Right over this mess
Dont need to tell me a thing, baby
We’re already confessed
And I raised my voice to the air
And we were blessed
Its hard to give. Its hard to get.
Its hard to give.
But still I think its the best bet
Hard to give
Never gonna forget
But everybody needs a little forgiveness
Everybody needs a little forgiveness

Here’s the song set to House (TV show). This is not meant to be an endorsement of House. I just could not find Patty Griffin singing it in a video on youtube.

Poetry Compilation, er… ahh… List

For the poetry lovers here is my first e-compilation. Most of these are committed to memory so that I can slam ’em at local open mics. You can check out my planned outings on my Events page.

  • I so loved the wolf (Off-site link)
  • An arrangement of 80 one syllable words you can find just lying around the house!

  • Crashing Utopia
  • What does utopia look like? Before and after the crash … oh and during.

  • our turn (Off-site link)
  • Why turning to God is more like not turning away.

  • the rich young american
  • Who was that rich young ruler? And what was he thinking!?

  • life was so simple before i died
  • Ahh.. the simple life. Not about the tv reality show– just reality.

  • my friend
  • So when we say, “I love my friend” what exactly do we mean?

  • cast•a•way
  • Castaway attempts to answer the question, “What does the cycle of evil look like?” A follow-up question might be, “And why does Ric seem know so much about it?”

  • The Prettiest Shackle
  • An indictment of the 14k gold WWJD bracelet. If you are thinking of buying one you should read this first. You can send me the money you save.

  • the f-word
  • A story of forgiveness.

  • the canvas of your mind
  • Excuse me, would you mind if I paint a picture in your mind? Yes? Cool! This might sting a little.

  • Jesus is my Garbage Man
  • While doodling one day I wrote this sanctification how-to manual.

  • ‘Twas the Very First Christmas
  • A truth-ladened variation of The Night Before Christmas.

  • The First Christmas Tree
  • I was on a roll of firsts.

  • Nothing Special
  • Why is there so much nothing? It like, EVERYWHERE!

  • Birth Day
  • Not to be confused with birth day anniversary.

birth day

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” –John 20:22

birth day
upon a dark time
there lived a dead man
alone in his mind,
relying on sand.
as branch he’ll just die,
so wistful, forlorn
in secret he’ll cry.
not buried nor born.
as fetus can’t breathe,
he loves the dark room.
he stays, will not leave.
so cozy. sow doom.
upon the right time
there died a live man
alone yet sublime,
a rock among sand
sow wages to pay,
he enters this womb
a fetus parlayed,
surrendered, entombed.
first gasp of His breath,
born dripping His blood
as Life took on death,
a rose in the sun.
upon such a time
there died the dead man
now born in the vine
and breathing I am!

birth day is a poetic rendition of The Atheist ‘n Me (or vise versa)

Are We Stockholm Christians?

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. — Isaiah 44:22

In 1973, four Swedes held hostage in a bank vault for six days during a bank robbery attempt became attached to their captors, a phenomenon dubbed the Stockholm Syndrome. Even though the captives themselves were not able to explain it, they displayed a strange association with their captors, identifying with them while fearing those who sought to end their captivity. In some cases they later testified on behalf of or raised money for the legal defense of their captors.

Jesus, our redeemer, has indeed swept away our offenses like a cloud and our sins like the morning mist. Two-thousand years ago when Jesus died on the cross, the walls of our prison crumbled, the doors swung open, and the chain of sin broke loose. Our rescuer stormed into this world to ransom us from our captor, sin. We were slaves to sin [Romans 6:17] but now, we have been set free from sin [Romans 6:18] through the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.

Now here’s the really sad news. We have been held captive to our sin for so long, we have become attached to it. We rationalize our sins. We defend our sins. We begin to fear any rescue attempt by Jesus will just make matters worse. We even begin to think our rescuer must not understand our situation as it is today. We begin to sympathize with our sin and to vilify our rescuer. We become what I call Stockholm Christians.

We are ransomed. The chains of sin no longer hold us. However, we continue to hold onto the chains. Hold onto our sin. Hold onto our guilt. Hold onto our shame. The second part of securing our freedom is found in the middle of Isaiah 44:22: “Return to me.” Jesus does everything except decide for us. We must decide between our captor, sin, and our redeemer, Christ.

God will not drag us home kicking and screaming. He came here to set us free and to show us the way home. It is up to each one of us to let go of our chains and pick up our cross.

When God beseeches, “Return to me” will we respond? To what chains are we clinging? Will we let go of these chains and reach for Him?

Forgiveness is the new F-word

Just over a year ago on October 2, 2006, a gunman entered West Nickel Mines School and shot 10 young Amish girls (ages 6-13), killing 5 and critically wounding 5 before committing suicide. The news reports that followed showed us a picture we cannot understand. No, I am not talking about the tragedy. Rather, I am referring to the scandalous acts that followed.

“We must not think evil of this man.” Grandfather of one of the murdered school girls on the day of the massacre.

…an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.

…the Amish have set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.

…The fathers of the Amish girls who had been shot went to the killer’s parents and asked what they could do to help them.

Today, October 18, 2007, more than 6 years since 9/11/2001, I received the following email joke from a friend:



This sign was prominently displayed in the window of a business in Philadelphia. You are probably outraged at the thought of such an inflammatory statement. However, we are a society which holds Freedom of Speech as perhaps our greatest liberty.

And after all, it is just a sign.

You may ask what kind of business would dare post such a sign.


A Funeral Home
(Who said morticians had no sense of humor?)
You gotta love it!!!

God Bless America!

I wrote a poem last year and titled it, the f-word. I have held off sharing this particular poem due to its self-convicting and offensive nature. Its not very good from a literary sense but it is my heart.

the f-word

why do i hate the f word so much
i think those amish outta of touch
he killed your children! WTF?

demand justice for them. beg mercy for me.
i’m not the bride i’m pretending to be.
caged by fear, will i never live free?

i savor the news… I am dialed-in
i loathe the sinner… i love the sin
can i f the sinner and follow Him?



Castaway attempts to answer the question, “What does the cycle of evil look like?” A follow-up question might be, “And why does Ric seem know so much about it?”

In our typical fix-it mode, we ask, “How on earth can we stop this!!??” Of course, the sobering answer is, we cannot. We lack that kind of power. Even more sobering is the fact that even if we could stop this cycle, we would not.

Fortunately, we are not the ones in control.

castaway, cast•away, cast•a•way

i know how to lie, my dad i would be,
i learned how to hide from hope and all dreams
i know how to be the nicest of whores
i learned how to see your love as a chore
i know how to whore my heart without shame
i learned how to store my guilt and my pain
i know how to shame the thief from my cell
i learned how to blame this world for my hell
i know how to sell the lies that can kill
i learned how to tell these lies from my will
i know how to kill with words from my tomb
i learned how to till my pain in the womb
i know how to tomb a child’s lone hope
i learned how to doom; give judas his rope
i know how to hope you die while i seethe
i learned how to cope to stay off my knees
i know how to seethe; so scared i would rage
i learned how to teeth on bars of my cage
i know how to rage, the screams in my mind
i learned how to wage my war on your kind
i know how to mind my p’s and my q’s
i learned how to find my time without you
i know how to queue my vilest of deeds
i learned how to lure my friends in the weeds
i know how to deed all evil i know
i learned how to seed a child’s lost soul
i know how to know when teaching my hate
i learned how to sow the lies of my fate
i know how to hate the one i should love
i learned how to bait my lies with your dove
i know now your Love.
your death for my sin.
i learn from above
now living in Him.
i feel all my sin.
i spit in your face.
i’ve learned i can’t win.
i’m quitting this chase.
i hear now and face
my echoes roll past.
i’ve learned not to waste,
the years go by fast.
i see now my past.
i cringe at my lies.
i’ve learned just how vast
my sin is and cry.
my children know lies.
it’s me they would be,
they learned how to hide
from hope and all dreams.

dead me i can’t be,
seen tied to my stone.
cast me to the sea
then bring them all home.

And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
–Mark 9:42 (ASV)


© 2007

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