Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kevan Levi Braun: 18 September 1990 - 25 December 2008

Levi died today, Christmas, at about noon. He had a seizure, like many before, and his father called 911 when he found him with no breath or heartbeat. I got there in time to see them wheeling him into the ambulance. They worked on him an hour in the emergency room, but there was nothing to be done.

We've known each other for nine years, but I was never able to get to know Levi very well, although he always felt free to help himself in my fridge or try to take my coffee out of my hand. (Dude, get your own coffee, already!) He was severely autistic and couldn't speak, although he could understand and even read a few words. I'm pretty good with words, but not much good at getting beyond them.

It was hard for his family sometimes, taking care of Levi. Just trying to get any medical folks to notice things worth looking at was a nightmare. He had shingles at age 10, and I tried with Judy to get the doctor to see that the shingles didn't matter, but that when a 10 year-old is regularly getting shingles, that issue needed looking into. Judy faced that invincible stupidity every day. Judy even took him to New Orleans and Cleveland looking for help.

Now it will be very hard to live without him. Most people had no use for Levi, and he knew who they were, and without being mean sent them on their way. Those who stopped to get acquainted became more human.

Cold grey rain out of a dismal grey sky in his honor. Tough Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Farewell Kiss

It's a little early, since we have yet a month to endure them. And since those replacing them are already proclaiming their own intentions even before taking office, I'm not expecting them to bring a bright new day to the world, but enough for each day is its own evil. Then, too, it's not our job to banish evildoers from the world. We'll do a lot better than we have if we learn to obey Paul's instruction not to be partakers with them in their sins.

So how to see off the old fittingly, before we welcome the new for more of the same? I have no opportunity to throw shoes, and that's already been done anyway by one whose courage and clarity put me to shame. But this from Rudyard Kipling on the occasion of the siege of Kut in Iraq 90 years ago, in which the Ottoman army overcame a British invasion force, seems like a worthy sendoff to the Katrina Boys and the King Jehoram of our day, as he departs with no one's regret:

Mesopotamia 1917

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide -
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their friends,
To confirm and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us - their death could not undo -
The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Remember the Prisoners"

Today has been chosen by Jewish Voice for Peace and others as the day of solidarity with the Shministim, the Israeli 12th graders who choose to go to jail rather than act like Pharaoh in the occupied territories.

Here are some 16-19 year-old people who know that sometimes the only place a free person can be is inside, a truth which many never learn. There is some profound theology to that truth, and it is good, very good, to think about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Maggie, Cat and 4-footed Theologian

We were wondering last week how God might want us around if we contribute only problems, and no real help. Maggie can explain this one easily. She is useless. She doesn't do a lick of work around the house, ever. She never catches mice, cockroaches or any other vermin, as cats are ordained to do. She doesn't even catch flies, even when they are slow and many, like another cat we once knew.

She poops in the house now and then if she's mad about something, is very picky about her chow, and regularly misses the catbox when she pees. We don't need the Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia in our house. From an accountant's viewpoint, this family member is not a profit center.

But even though she has had some bad times, being left with strangers sometimes for years when Gayle couldn't take care of her, she knows that none of this matters. She knows that her place is in the house of Attwood, with Gayle and her other humans.

Of course she has to practice Paul's advice to put up with one another. She thought she finally had us trained, giving her delicious fish for a week. But then we backslid last week and opened a can of turkey, which we ought to know by now has no place under her nose. She is disgusted, but she still works with us - love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Even the wise are in some ways invincibly foolish, as we see in Solomon's case. I was remarking last week for the umpteenth time that she still hasn't figured out that standing right behind me when I'm working in the kitchen leads to getting her feet and tail stepped on, which she doesn't like at all - she issues the meow to prove it every time. But then I considered for the first time that she has only had 16 years to wise up, whereas in some things I've been just as immune to experience after more than 50 years.

Thus it remains as Isaiah said, "The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's manger, but my people do not know me, says the Lord." Maggie the Cat, Th.D., likewise has a few things to teach!