This past week has been nothing short of horrendous. Personal and familial tragedies have left me feeling drained, hollow and empty. I sleep for ten or twelve hours and when I wake, I am somehow still tired. I have had a headache for about a week. However, despite the previous litany of complaints, I want to stress the fact that this post is not an invitation to a pity party for me. I am also not fishing for compliments or sympathy. I am a writer; I observe and am compelled to share these observations with an audience.
Today is Sunday and I went with my family to Mass, as I always do. Every once in a while, the readings and/or the homily hit upon an aspect of my life and of my current personal experience; they can be uncannily apt. I have always taken these occurrences as a sign from God that either I am doing okay, that I will be doing okay, or that He is answering a question that had been on my mind. Today was no exception; two of the readings dealt with two deceased sons being raised from the dead. It made me think of the funeral I recently attended, and of the family who lost a son and a brother. I spent two days with them for the viewing and the funeral and the repast. Time and again I witnessed the family struggle to cope and understand and even function. But time and again I witnessed this same family gain composure, stand rock solid, and support one another. The love shared was palpable, nearly tangible and it was invigorating. While the liturgy dealt with actual resurrections, I came to the conclusion that though their son will not rise and walk from the grave, he is still as present as ever because of the love of his family. They love him dearly, and love each other dearly. They love all those who came to their son’s viewing and funeral, and love all those who sent kind words and kept the family in their prayers. I honestly believe death can be conquered by love, and this family is living proof. I am so blessed to know them and have them in my life.
I attended mass at 11:00AM with my mother at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Lakehurst. Father Bernie, the pastor, spoke for a few minutes before mass began and described how the church had been employed as a makeshift shelter and had accepted donations of clothing, food, and other needed items. The church is still accepting donations which workers from the Red Cross are delivering to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Father Bernie’s message was quite appropriate as the Gospel reading explained that essentially, there are two rules one must follow to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: 1) love God with one’s entire being and 2) to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self. While not everyone shares similar religious beliefs, the latter half is pretty much universally accepted as a golden rule. Everyone can agree it is important to care for neighbors because everyone is a member of the brotherhood of man and this life is a remarkably long trip to make alone.
The message weighed on my mind as I met my friend Kalie for a brainstorming session at a local restaurant. Kalie went to school for marketing and is vivacious, intelligent, and loyal. Naturally, I enlisted her in assisting me to get the word out about my debut novel Her Beautiful Monster and to drive sales. We both agreed that word of mouth is the greatest tool currently at our disposal and that generating a local fan base is crucial. We swapped names of local, friendly musicians and I spoke of Melanie Wagner.
I have known Melanie since the fifth grade, but we did not become close until high school and into college when we decided to live together. One night during our freshman year, Melanie was secretly playing guitar and singing while I was in the shower. She was not expecting me to emerge from the bathroom when I did and I caught her and her incredible talent. We find ourselves three years later and Melanie is a part of a duo that plays out regularly at various, local venues. She has released an album and a music video. I am truly in awe of her because she is living out her dreams. She inspires me on a daily basis and I am honored to be able to call her a dear friend. I would be remiss if I did not encourage anyone reading this to give her music a listen and support her passion, as she has done for me.
Local artists NEED to support local artists, just as local citizens need to support local citizens. That being said, below is a link and brief explanation to an organization doing its best to restore the Jersey Shore through supporting local businesses. Every little bit helps. Please do what you can for New Jersey, the Garden State, my home.
This is a page dedicated to bringing Jersey together. Buy locally while you recover from Sandy. Let’s turn tragedy into success!
Our goal is for everyone affected by the hurricane to use local businesses for replacement purchases in order to put some money back into our town’s economy. We all need to come together during this time of need and support those around us.