Sorry to get so Catholic on you but we are in the Lenten season. For those not of the Catholic persuasion, parts of the world are locked in a 40 days and 40 nights spiritual closet, excluding Sundays, with only bread and water as creature comforts.
In the Hook household, we’re off sugar and alcohol. Those have always been our creature comforts but giving them up hasn’t been the challenge I thought it would be. After reading some of my older posts, I realized I’ve written about drinking champagne, beer and wine and tequila a lot. It was hard not to think, Wow, I sound like a drunk. Somehow I needed to reassure myself that I was still an upstanding citizen or a citizen standing up. One or the other. When choosing my penance during this time of repentance, I chose to give up alcohol for Lent. Yes, even cafeteria Catholics like me practice Lent. The Pope said cafeteria Catholics are ignorant, but since he quit his day job and I still have mine, let’s pretend I know what I’m talking about.
Penance the Punishment
pen·ance [pen-uhns] noun
1. a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.
For those not in the U.S., there’s been a story in the news about a drunk driving accident in Austin that occurred almost two years ago. The case only made it to trial in the Texas court system earlier this year. Fresh wounds have been re-opened as the State of Texas versus Gabrielle Nestande closed just yesterday in the hit and run and fatal death of Courtney Griffin.
I’ve no opinion on this case that I plan to share here. No worries that I’m going to spew rabid thoughts on Nestande or try to wrangle your heart for Griffin or vice versa. But since timing is everything, how odd that during this horrific trial we are also in the time of Lent, a time of doing penance for repentance. My own penance is the absence of alcohol while the overabundance of alcohol was at the root of the Nestande-Griffin accident.
Repentance the Sorrow
re·pent·ance [ri-pen-tns, -pen-tuhns] noun
1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, or wrongdoing.
2. regret for any past action.
It is not for me to judge what penance Nestande should have to bear or even whether her regret is genuine. It is toward the Griffin family I find myself drawn in almost an involuntary way. I empathize with the siblings of Courtney Griffin while at the same time wishing I were unfamiliar with such sorrow. The reminder of Griffin’s death brought the tragedy of my brother Paul’s death back to me from 15 years ago.
Paul wasn’t hit by a drunk driver. His was a hit and run of another kind. But time really does heal the deepest of the wounds. It just doesn’t do it overnight.
I can still hear Paul’s laugh, that boisterous bubbling that came from deep, strong lungs. People would laugh with Paul even before they knew why he was laughing; it was that infectious. His Hollywood smile was my personal envy: perfectly straight, pearly whites. My parents paid an orthodontist to fix my teeth, but they didn’t have to do that for Paul’s. His trademark smile is now found on the face of the eldest daughter he left behind.
In tribute to the Griffin siblings, I share this poem from so many years ago:
Just Not Today©
It always takes me by surprise
When I allow myself to remember
A rising thump of panic sets in
Worse than that first day
I’ve had to learn what it means
Not to have you here anymore
Feeling those memories surface
Your absence like a blanket over it all
Still, I know you understand
As you watch from your new place
While fear sometimes engulfs
And a fire begins to rage
Regrets and promises and sorrow
Of a life so unfulfilled
What Ifs and Whys and Wonder
Had you chosen a different way
Then as though with a hose of water
I wear down a burning flame
Instead of an empty shell leftover
I construct from the pain
Your death did not leave me hollow
In foundation or in frame
Losing you gave life new meaning
Only not today,
Just not today
Rosemary Guzman Hook. Copyright 1998. Poems for Paul
Let’s End on an Upper
I don’t want to end on a downer so let me share some good news:
- Hook’s CAT scans came back clear and clean. This means that so far no leftover tumors can be seen lounging around his insides. The question of whether he’ll resume chemotherapy treatment is TBD. His body is not strong enough today to withstand the treatment short term. My vote is no more chemo no matter what, but Hook will be the final decision-maker.
- Hook has resumed taking supplements to strengthen his body back up. He stopped taking these a week before the surgery in December but now that his body is healing and he needs the extra oomph, his surgeon said it was okay for him to start taking these again.
- Hook’s university re-approved his sabbatical and the receiving university in Perth, Western Australia has indicated they are still interested in sponsoring us for a year.
- As of today, we are on for Austin to Australia in August 2013.
Lent or no Lent, Catholic or non-Catholic, the goal for all of us is to one day find joy again. That’s what the Hooks are inching toward as we make our way through this alcohol-free Lenten Season.
This blog is dedicated to the memories of Courtney Paige Griffin, Austin, Texas, 1981 – 2011, and Paul Joseph Guzman, Saginaw, Michigan, 1963 – 1998.