Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mo Reese

I started this blog two years ago, with a different title and a different story. The subject, however, remains the same. Nearly two years ago, I began to write my thoughts and feelings about a story in my community. A teenage girl had somehow met with the E.Coli bacteria, and struggled in that place between life and death for many days.

This girl was part of my church, and I nodded and smiled to her or her parents as we passed in the hallways. My church is so big that to stop and talk to each person would mean that nobody ever got to the sanctuary. We try to move in various circles that allow our family to interact with as many others as possible, but there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week to give us time with everyone. Also, not everyone is clambering to know us, so....there you go.

Because of our quasi-relationship with this family, I was shocked to discover how strong my feelings were when their daughter fell ill. I woke at all hours of the night, worried sick about how she felt. I prayed in snippets and paragraphs, at the most unexpected times. I prayed for her weary parents and younger brother, her big sister and friends. The thought that this girl's life would end was staggering. It couldn't happen. It simply couldn't.

Luckily, her story ended with life and restoration of health. The joy was as overwhelming as the fear.

As I said, I started to write an article during the time she was in the hospital. I wrote it almost in its entirety and then felt foolish and presumptuous. Who was I to talk so passionately about a girl I barely knew? How could I have claimed anguish for someone who probably didn't know my name?

I deleted the article, which I had tentatively called Katy's Community. I'm now going to tell you a different story, and this time I won't delete it, no matter how emotional or sheepish I feel.

Last weekend, a friend sent out texts saying that Maurice's family was looking for him and had we seen him?

Maurice Carter has been a staple of the church we attend. His voice is unlike anything you have heard (obviously we know from this statement that the brother has dark skin) and he was always recording backup vocals for one famous person or another who wasn't half as good as he. Maurice was also a professional friend. I'm joking, of course. But if you know Maurice, it makes sense! At his favorite haunt, Nippers Corner Starbucks, he could be seen holding court with a guy who needed counsel about his job, a couple who were trying to work on their relationship, a woman who wanted to write songs.

As the weekend went on and Facebook blew up with pictures of Maurice and pleas from his family, the horrible news came that he had (most likely) suffered a heart attack and died. For reasons I don't understand yet, the family hadn't been contacted in a way that made sense. Thus, the two nights with no news and an expectant community.

The news of Maurice's death remains shocking. Several days have passed, and as with all sudden deaths of young people, it seems more unreal with each passing hour. I stared at his funeral arrangements and it really seemed as if I had forgotten how to read. Surely this was wrong? Maurice would soon pull up for choir rehearsal in his garish yellow school bus-looking car. He would sing, and give words of comfort. I know there has been a glitch in the Matrix.

Though I knew Maurice ever so much more than Katy, I'm still amazed at the depth of my grief. I didn't meet with him weekly, like my husband. I didn't sing with him, like Lici. I never had him round for dinner, like Denise. I didn't buy him Christmas presents, like Lanee and Robert. But he was my friend, and he was part of something that I also am part of.

Christians frequently use the parallel of the physical body to understand how the church body, either local or universal, works. It has become cliche and passe and other French words. But it is the best I've got today, as my vocabulary has been eaten by my feelings of loss. We know that if even the tiniest toe is broken, the whole body focuses on that pain until the wrong has been righted. Likewise, we know that if the hand becomes lame, the whole body must work overtime to compensate for something previously worked without any thought. But when a part of the body is actually gone...the pain is so unbearable the body cannot recover for the shock.

Phantom pain, the pain experienced by those who have lost a limb, is what I am talking about. Part of our body is gone. We aren't expecting to find a replacement or even work out how to compensate for our loss. We simply hurt, and the pain is indescribable.

Like with Katy, I have been engulfed with the idea that this cannot be happening. I've attended multiple funerals of friends and family over the last few years, and it is one thing that gets progressively harder with practice.

Unlike some, I'm going to say that it doesn't make sense. I see no plan or reason, and I certainly don't want anybody to say that my friend is in a better place. If you believe in Heaven, as I do, you know that he is indeed in a better place. But it is only better for him. It isn't better for us.

I can believe that an All-Knowing God has a better idea of what is going on, and I can understand that I don't understand. I'm not mad at God. I'm mad at the world that 'became subject to evil and to death' and the knowledge that nothing will get any easier. Life goes on, and we can revel in the balmy evenings with friends, eating ice cream and watching our kids torture cicadas. But then another glitch, another hiccup in the delicate pattern of life, and we once again find ourselves clinging to those we call friend. We realize how fragile are these threads we weave.

I've taken enormous comfort in the friends I have this week. I've also bumped up the outward emotions and communications to those whom I might normally just nod and smile. We are all hurting, even those who aren't really sure why they hurt. If you are one of those, just feel the grief. Maybe you didn't lose your best friend, but you did lose part of yourself. Each person is valuable to the community in which they have been placed. We notice if you are gone, or even if you aren't pulling your weight. Don't tell yourself that you don't matter, or that someone else doesn't matter.

In closing, I want to include the last conversation I had with Maurice. He told me how glad he was to see that I joined choir, and that I had a great voice. (Told you he was nice. Compared with Maurice and his ilk, I sound like an angry cat eating a scared cicada) He then told me that he wanted me to write for him. "I'm going back to school!" he said. "I'm going to be a life coach."

I expressed my excitement at his offer, because I love to write, because I loved him, and because I was honored that someone who had access to The Best Writers Out There would want me. He told me that he didn't want his business to be overtly Christian, and then he started apologizing and back pedaling.

After laughing at him, I told him that I thought it was a great idea. The world doesn't really need more Christian Businesses as much as businesses that act the way Christ said to. "After all," I told him, "nobody has to be looking for Christ in their life coach. If they get you, they'll get Christ anyways."

At this point, Maurice teared up. I had hit a nerve. "Thank you," he said, "I've been doubting myself and feeling like I was going back on my beliefs or hiding myself."

"Ha! You can't hide your beliefs, Maurice. You just love people and coach them in whatever they want coaching in. Your faith in Christ comes through even when you don't say anything."

We left the choir room, with him promising to call me soon to set up a meeting. We'd talk about what to write, we'd brainstorm, and we'd probably meet at Starbucks. 

Instead, I'm writing an article about how horrible it is to lose someone, even someone you didn't realize you loved quite this much.

Maurice, I kept my end of the deal. I wrote for you. Now keep yours, and meet me one day.

Until then, my friend.


Shelly Miller said...

Lovely tribute Tiffany. Especially loved the last paragraph, great ending!

Talitha said...

Beautifully written. I am tearful for several reasons and hurting for all of you.

Jessica said...

This is truly beautiful, and so helpful. As a relatively new member to Christ Church I can't say i knew Maurice very well, but i acutely feel the pain of his loss, and i appreciate your validation of that pain. And while it isn't really about me, it is actually all about me. Maurice is gone to a beautiful place where he is comforted and fully loved, and we are left to learn from his life and death, make the most of the rest of the life we have been given, and continue to strive to be ready for the day we are called to meet him again. Thank you Tiffany.

Sarah A. Conley said...

Tiffany, this is so beautiful. You are an incredible writer! I could never begin to put words together the way you do. You know this, but it bears repeating: You are so gifted!

I have grieved so much this week and have also been surprised at my intense emotions. I don't think I ever really considered the impact Maurice had on my life. I am so mad at myself for not letting him know how important and precious he was to me.

Thank you for sharing this!

ReflectionsByPj said...

Maurice has been part of my life for the past 9 years, playing different roles in different seasons. He was there with me during my marriage, helping with various ideas and projects, and he's been there after the marriage... life-coach, counselor, and friend. He was an inspiration on platform, and more of an inspiration in my day-to-day life.

There was a moment not that long ago, when he and I met, that was a true God-Moment for both us. I'll never forget it... it affected me then, it has changed me forever now.

Thank you sharing your heart, my heart, the body's heart... you've captured it, so beautifully, so perfectly... thank you for not burying your talent but instead multiplying it.

Darlene Rappette said...

What a beautiful tribute from a beautiful lady - inside and out. Thank you, Tiffany, for reminding all of us that it is OK to feel the loss and the emotions that are involved in losing someone that has had such an impact on so many lives. I even heard Amy on the phone talking with another 8 year old friend and she asked her to please pray for Maurice Carter's family because he died from a heart attack and went to Heaven just like her Papa. Thank you for putting words to our grief and for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

cissy said...

Wow...Tiffany...this blessed me so much. The way you conveyed how when you lose a part of the body, it really does impact you. I find myself missing something that can not be replaced. Maurice is a loss and we must recognize the loss. He had such a way of seeing the gift inside a person regardless of the many he saw with gifts around him. His validation and recognition is what made him a natural life coach. Its like he had the eyes of Jesus...seeing the potential realized and saying....very good! And you felt as if God said it to you. Special indeed. I have cried some, slept hardly at all at night and remembered alot. He left a space on the planet. It probably is a chair in starbucks:)

Jennifer said...

This was amazing and beautiful. You made me wish that I had the pleasure of knowing him.

GingerSnaps said...

So beautiful, Tiffany...

kaciallen said...

LOVE & completely agree! Thanks for sharing! It was great seeing you tonight!

"Unlike some, I'm going to say that it doesn't make sense. I see no plan or reason, and I certainly don't want anybody to say that my friend is in a better place. If you believe in Heaven, as I do, you know that he is indeed in a better place. But it is only better for him. It isn't better for us."

shannanparker said...

Tiffany, Thank you for reaching into the hearts of so many and giving us words for our grief. Most of all, thank you for being real with yours so we can have a safe place to express our hearts pain also.

In your few words written here, you've extended Maurice's legacy of love - both yours and his.

You and Austin have my prayers in a very special dose right now. The staff of Christ Church have not been forgotten in this season of sorrow. May God hug your hearts today.

Much Love, Shannan

Colleen said...

I loved the way Maurice led us in worship. I didn't know him well, just the casual hellos as we passed in the church. But I find myself gasping for deep breaths because of the grief. Thanks for your blog, Tiffany. It correctly explains just how I feel.

the beam team said...

Tiffany, thank you for saying what I cannot put into words. Thank you for blessing us all for your gift of language and love for Maurice. He and his family have been constantly on my heart, I dream of them every night. It brings comfort to my heart that I have a "body" to mourn, share, and love through this really crappy time. Thank you for honoring our friend so well.

Rick said...

God has a way of letting us glimpse His love for us through the pain we feel when we discover the depth of love we had for one who had passed on. Tiffany, you have written a fitting memorial to a good man that we knew, and discovered we loved, from afar.

Christy Tullos said...


This is so beautifully written and it touched my heart so much. I'm so grateful for you to share this with us. Hearing the details of some of his last interactions is so sweet. His precious life made profound and deep footprints all in my heart and I will never forget.

Again, thanks for sharing and I'm praying for you and your family in your time of grief.


Rick Nelson said...

Written as only you can, Tiffany. I cannot imagine how many of these stories will be told over the next few months/years. It is an amazing legacy that the number one thing people remember about you is not the talent with which you sang, but the personal touch which made the music penetrate the soul. I want to be like Mo-reese when I grow up.

Jeni Chase said...

and on that day you coached Maurice.... keep writing...agreed of it all yet speachless and crying through it all. I loved your ending, your promise kept, very endearing =) Keep writing you have a good voice & keep singing Maurice would not have steered you wrong in that area either. =)

Bree said...

Tiffany, let me add to the many "thank you's" that have all ready been said and to the countless others coming. I never knew him on a personal level, so I was very bothered and surprised and... ashamed, somewhat, for my seemingly inappropriate emotions and grief stricken moments. Thank you for not just validating, but explaining to me, that I'm ok. It's not freakish. It's not vicarious. It's real. And it hurts. Maybe not the way that someone who knew him intimately would hurt. But, it's my pain, my heart. And, now thanks to you, I can own it. I'm part of a community that didn't exist until now. Thank you for making me feel welcomed and accepted.

Jerry Diaz said...

What depth of real love and insight you project in your writing. Great tribute to Maurice.

Hazeline Long said...

Thank you, said it so well. I wish I had told him how much he blessed us, but I think he knows...

Antonia (Toni) said...

Tiff, your words regarding "Each person is valuable to the community in which they have been placed" - IS exactly what Maurice lived, walked and gave to all who crossed his path.

Maurice spoke words to me just a few weeks ago that seem to echo within my spirit even though he's gone. I will miss him.

Thank you for helping the Body of Christ to grieve!

Beatrice Blount said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, friends. I appreciate you all so very much.