Thursday, November 24, 2005

My friend, my baby. My cat. Melodramatic as it may seem, I loved this animal. And he loved me back.

Radley, you were calm, calming, loving, friendly, well-behaved... a beautiful cat and my first "baby."

I love you...
I still have a little bit of dirt underneith my fingernails from when I pushed the dirt into his grave.

Not Kyle's though.


I watched Chris dig a hole as I huddled, shocked, sitting slumped on the floor by the bedroom window with tears running down my face. I could hear Chris coughing and saw him drop the shovel and bend over as if to get sick. Did he have a cold or did Radley's death make him vomit as it did me?

I sobbed in the shower, choking, getting sick.

I had called for him several times after I had put them both outside at 1:30am. Radley'd been misbehaving. Not sleeping, eating paper, knocking stuff off my desk: the usual. So I got out of bed and opened the back door. Zorba scurried out and I tapped Radley's bottom with my foot shooing him out as well. At some point, I awoke to a cat fight and opened the door to call both Radley and Zorba in. Only Zorba the scaredy cat came racing inside. At 7:30 I called again. I'm so used to Radley sleeping on my legs in the early morning, I wanted to spend the last few hours in bed this Thanksgiving morning snuggling with him. But he didn't come. At 10:30 Chris phoned and woke me up. So I arose and called for Radley again. He didn't come. I went to the front door to call again. A little girl across the street hollered over to me, "Do you have an orange and white cat?"

"Yes." Oh good. His collar must've fallen off, and they thought he was lost, and he's inside their house.

"Someone hit a cat with a car and put it in our yard."

I saw the cat in the grass. Breathe. It's not Radley. I can see from here the colors are too faded.

"Hold on, let me put on some clothes and I'll be over."

Breate. Don't panic. Don't cry. Breathe. Don't panic. Don't panic.

As I approached him though I saw Radley's gentle face. Then I saw the indent around his neck where his collar usually lays. I dropped to my knees as tears began to drop down my face. Oh Radley. I stroked his body. His paws were folded one across the other like he sometimes used to do when he was alive. Poor baby.

"I'm sorry," the little girl said. "We have cats too."

Her mother or aunt came out and gave her condolances and said something about a box.

I looked in his eyes which were still open. Oh Radley. I cupped the end of his tail which was the only part of his body without rigamortis. I pet him over and over again, crying.

I lifted him into my arms, stiff as he was and looked at the other side of his body, searching for clues to his death. All I saw was a little scrape on the back of his heal as if he'd been in a small brawl. No bones jutting out, no skidmarks, so "flat" anything. Just Radley, sleeping, stiffly.

Another neighbor arrived with a towel and I wrapped him up. We put him in a trash bag because we couldn't find a long enough box. I returned to my house and noticed how soft and fat his belley still felt. No rigamortis there either. I set him beside the trash can though I could never "throw him away." I looked up and saw Zorba watching us from the window. I began to sob and walked inside and into the shower I'd already started. That's when I got sick.

I've hyperventelated three times in my life. Twice over a man and once over a cat. All three over an empty heart.

I dressed, still wet and picked Radley back up. I drove to Chris and Michelle's.

All I could get out was, "Will you please bury him."

"Of course."

And that's where the dirt came from. I handed over my baby and went inside sliding to the floor, staring out the window. I watched Chris jump on the shovel to break the groung. He eventually pulled over the water hose and even had to grab the machete. The ground was hard as a rock and obviously unwilling to bury another creature prematurely.

Finally, Chris motioned for me to come out. I picked Radley up and laid him in the shallow grave.

I burried him in tears and dirt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dear David,

I won't read your xanga anymore because it makes me cry. I go to work for 10 or 11 hours a day, and I laugh because no one there reminds me of saddness. They don't know, they don't remember and it's a totally different world from the one I came from. But it is still the church and inevitably someone mentions a baptism or someone jokes about getting shocked. And only then do I experience a brief wave of pain, soft pain, the kind that makes your eyelids droop. They and the smile that momentarily lapses are the only visible sign that I remember.

But I do.

Just not much at work.

When I come home, I remember. When I am alone, I remember. When I pray, I remember. When I return to Waco, I remember. And when I read your blog, I cry.

And I don't want to cry anymore.

Why someone says, "God is good," I remember. When someone says, "I could just die!" I remember. When someone asks, "Any prayer requests?" I remember. And because I don't know how to feel, I feel guilty.

Don says Jen is doing so well. That makes me cry. But talking to Don is community. Reading your xanga on my computer at home at night is just me. Well, me and "the babies." I think you remember them. Kyle used Radley in a sermon one Sunday. You were probably on tour that week. But the babies aren't community that I can flesh out my saddness in, or cry and have someone notice and remind me it will be okay.

It's just me.

And I don't want to cry anymore.

I try so hard to remember so many things: names, dates, events, love, laughter... but this I want to forget.

Is that wrong?

Is it wrong that when I think of UBC all I think of is loss? Loss. Loss piled on top of loss like the flowers on Kyle's grave.

Doesn't that make you sad? How do you keep writing? How do you keep crying "victory"? I don't feel victory. I feel loss.

So I won't read your xanga anymore.

Much love and apologies for your loss that I know exists so much deeper than mine,


Sunday, November 20, 2005

I like my job. I just don't like my hours.

Sunday: 11-12 hour days and I haven't been to Mosaic in over 6 weeks...

Monday: not too heinous except that we have a lot of meetings on monday nights. so there goes monday nights, and not to something fun like friends or dinners or movies, but to meetings. boring. and the people aren't always even nice to each other. lame.

Tuesday: 12+ hour day. But I love this day. Staff meeting is fun for me, so is staff lunch and worship planning. Then Tuesday nights, I teach my literature small group for Mosaic which I treasure. But it's still a twelve-hour-plus day and another evening not given to relaxation or going out.

Wednesday: I try to come in late to work because Wednesday is church night, and First Baptist is very Baptist in this respect. I'm usually home by 8 but in bed by 10 cause by now I'm emotionally exhausted from Sunday thru Wednesday.

Thursday: This is a normal day. I try really hard to have Thursday night off, and just work during the day, but if I haven't spent a lot of time with my students, then this is a good evening for them... or for something else I need to do for work. It's been a couple weeks since I had Thursday evenings free.

Friday: Supposed to be my day off. Often I work on Saturday because of football cames, college students or preparing for Sunday. So I try hard to take Friday off. This past Friday I spent all day cleaning house, grocery shopping and preparing for a bridal shower. Not the funnest day (funnest, you like that? yep, English major.), but a day when I didn't have to stress out over work. But the Friday before that I had to go in. Special meeting.

Saturday: as mentioned before, this is a come and go day. Sometimes I don't work, sometimes I do. Yesterday I was sleepy with an earrache and a sore throat. Not a fun day off. Plus I had to research Ecclesiastes, which I like, but still, not fun work when you want to be in bed or out with friends.

Friends. I still have those right?

I know, I've neglected you. My days off aren't your days off. My lunches fill up quickly with appointments. And I get off work late in the evenings, but you work early in the morning. Or I'm having dinner with some stranger or going out with my new roommates. And when I am free, I'm tired, or sad, or unmotivated to go karoke-ing, biking, dancing or to a movie or whatever.

So friends, I'm sorry. I love you, I love my job, I'm finding my new roomies fun, and dating is always. . . well . . . dating is dating. You don't remember probably. You're all married. But I don't hold that against you. All this to say, I will try hard to balance these different parts of my life. I will try to adjust my schedule to allow much needed time for you and me. I will try to prioritize. I will try to wake up early so I can take afternoon breaks. I will try not to get a boyfriend so that you see me even less (although I won't try as hard on this last one).

I love you. I need you. I'm just a little busy right now.

Thank you for your grace...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I attended the Baptist General Convention of Texas conference briefly yesterday and Rockhurst's Women in Leadership conference today. I am conferenced out.

But I saw old friends at the BGCT, and that was good. I hadn't been back to the convention center since Katrina and Rita, so that was a little weird, but everything looked so different, I quickly forgot about it.

We often do.

Kyle's funeral brought old friends together again.

So did the Baptists.

Jeremy Everett, Chris Thacker, Jamie and Sean Allen, Carmen and Aaron Conaway, Chris Jones, Velma Porez. Old school Truett. Well, not Velma, she's covenant group Truett. But the others: old school. I miss them. They were a challenge and I was a spark. Then the tide went out, they moved on, and we got a new dean.

No comment.

So I stayed out until 2:30 am last night with them cause we just couldn't seem to pull away and make the night end. Unfortunately, I had to be at church at 8:30 to meet the painter who didn't show up until 9:30. That was not a sufficient amount of sleep. But the woman's conference today was interesting and I was reminded of good leadership skills, how to handle conflict and managing stress. And that reminds me of Professor Treadwell.

Speaking of remembering, I also saw a friend from High School, Erin Moore this weekend who drove in with her boyfriend to see the KU/UT game. It was like old times, and I was refreshed by her voice, her laugh, her facial expressions. We caught up on all the old crew. Who has how many children. Who's still single. Who's still in Missouri. Who's going to plan our 10 year reunion since Rick never will...

I'm only 27 but I feel already as if I have lived forever. And I'm already forgetting it all. I want to remember the smiles, the books, the challenges, the ambition, the love, the sermons, the travelling, the parties, the papers, the thoughts, the spirit of everything: high school, Jewell, Truett, Waco, UBC.

I don't want to forget anymore. God help me to remember.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My fortune cookie fortune is gone.

I'm not amused.

I blame the cats.

"Time heals all wounds, keep your chin up," it read. I pulled it out of what we always joked were "Bwack's brother's fortune cookies" cause Jay used to work at the factory that made the plastic wrappers.

But it's gone.

It used to be taped to my computer, right below the built in mouse that doesn't work.

Five bucks says Radley nibbled at it until it fell loose and then ate the scraps. He does that with papers, receipts, bills. But, I don't know, it's just gone. I looked at my fingers yesterday doing their thing on the keyboard, and noticed it no longer resided alongside my wrists.

Maybe Radley ate it.

Maybe God knows I don't need it anymore. And maybe I don't. I'm so mature and wise and never let boys hurt me.

Maybe Radley ate it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

okay, i'm late.

not that kind of late.

just blog late.

There's just been so much to process over the past week and a half.

I drove up Sunday the day of the dreadful event and attended the immediate service that evening. It was mainly designed for the college students. Baylor's former president, and interim president and chaplain spoke. The good part was that the chaplain is the former community pastor at UBC and so he knew Kyle well. He said if he'd flip Kyle the bird for leaving everyone in this position if he didn't know Kyle was standing next to the Great I Am. But that service was hard. I kept seeing people I knew from the past and present . . . Kris Freeman, Dorisanne Cooper, Jen Alexander, the band wives. To start the "service" Crowder's All I Can Say song came on and I broke into tears. That was Kyle's favorite song. Every time Crowder came out with a new album Kyle would say, "You know a band is good when you're still in love with songs from two CD's ago..." When I walked up to Ben after the service to offer my condolences and my services, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "It's so good to see someone who's not 18."

"As soon as I get my shit together, I'd be happy to help."

The next night wasn't much easier. Fortunately, I was staying with the Eades and Wes was in a reading group with Kyle and other local pastors, so he went with me to everything. Monday night was the viewing. Everyone waited in a 30 minute or longer line only to round the corner and be confronted with a table full of pictures. Cue tears. Then Kyle's brothers and then his parents.

"I'm Ann Pittman, I used to preach for Kyle." My eyes welled up. I tried to remain calm, as calm as Kyle's parents, but it was hard. "Oh honey, we know. He spoke so highly of you."

"Thank you. I'm so sorry," was all I could get out. "You're so gracious."

Then you entered a room floor to ceiling with flowers and a coffin. I stood behind the Wilibanks in line (another blast from the past - and she's pregnant with her fourth!) I walked up to the coffin and burst into tears anew. It was so wrong to see him there. I could hardly see him through my tears, but it was him and yet it wasn't. Kristi grabbed me around the shoulders in a hug. "We can't do this alone," she said.

Jen was not with the family, but in a room off to the side. I wanted to see her, hug her, let her know I cared. When I found her, she grasped me in a hug and then stood looking at her hands which nervously folded and unfolded a Kleenex.

"Keep praying for me Ann," she said. "What if in a few days when this becomes real, my hearts breaks?" My heart broke. "And the children. That they remember. I know the boys won't, but Avery, that she remembers."

"I love you," was all I could say.

Her heart will break, said Holly later that night as I laid in her bed crying. And it will be a long several years.

But Jen has such loving parents and a great family on both her and Kyle's side. And I believe she has the strength to make it through this. It will just be miserable for a long time.

The funeral brought some relief, and more friends. Jason Jenkins, Mars and Jason Mueller, Robert Pilgram, Kristi Sikes, Bushwar, Monte, Phil, Lynnette . . . For the first time, I felt good. Thanks to Crowder.

It started off painful. The family processed in, the organ played; it seemed very wrong and very un-Kyle. Then the speaker led us into the hymn, but David stopped the music and opened his mouth.

"I shouldn't be speaking. They told me not to, but they gave me a mic, so I just gotta." Then he relayed a story about Kyle always poking and hugging him (despite Crowder's distaste for physical affection or even contact) and it spoke volumes about Kyle's attitude toward life and reminded us of Kyle's playfulness. "Death has not won," David spoke into the mic. "It thinks it has, but it has not."

Finally, a step toward healing. Laughter. Theology. Familiarity.

And the road goes on.

I stayed in Waco until Wednesday night. I tried to work Thursday and Friday, but only managed a few hours. The rest of the day was spent in bed. Saturday brought funeral number two, the death of a beloved deacon of First Baptist and influential civil rights leader in Austin. He deserves a blog entry of his own. Sunday FBC celebrated All Saints Day and called out the name of every congregation member and loved one who died this year. After each name the congregation spoke in unison, "Thanks be to God." I think Roger called out "Kyle Lake" because he knew I couldn't. I stood next to Leigh Jackson and cried with her arm around me. I knew Leigh in seminary and never pictured us in that setting together, but God provides.

From Monday on, I've been better. I feel a little guilty because I know Jen, Craig, Ben, David and others are not better. But I know I can't stay sad either.

Yesterday I had lunch with Shanna Beth and we laughed at some of Kyle's sermon illustrations that were sometimes so funny, so creative, or even so bad. He was such a lively, beautiful pastor and father.

We will miss him.

As we approach this week may we love God, embrace beauty and live life to the fullest.

We will miss you Kyle. Amen.