I am one of many who is grateful
to witness you father.
Kindness to you, dear friend.
you are the kindest of fathers.
you are the Bravest of fathers.
you are the Wildest of fathers.
father - the name, the title, the honor
is one that holds much ambivalence
in my life
as many have fathered me
as my own could not
as my own chose not to.
i, just a toddler, when he left
a young 18 month old frame.
Brave, a toddler.
a young 24 month old frame
missing from your arms.
the kindest of arms.
the Bravest of arms.
the Wildest of arms.
Wilder, a young 12 months.
learning to walk
balanced by your hands.
the kindest of hands.
the Bravest of hands.
the Wildest of hands.
i think of your fatherhood
colored with wisdom
aged beyond its young frame.
but you, Brave one.
you have been a father for many years
as you’ve first learned to father yourself.
i am sorry for this pain
i am thankful for your choice
only the Brave ones can do so.
only the Wild ones can do so.
i hold you as a father today.
in awe of your ability to dance
with such grief
and such joy
- to live
with such life
and such death.
i hold you as a father today.
stunned by your face that is marked
and laugh lines;
silenced by your capacity to parent
to care for
and learn from
the kindest of fathers.
the Bravest of fathers.
the Wildest of fathers.
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
my house your own
and me your person
my own dog.
The question cuts like a knife, as it slices through the cold Autumn air that separates us I take a deep breath and let thoughts and tears overwhelm me I think of Pastor Miller and the new Pope, my sweet grandmother and my kind husband. I think of Brave’s parents. These people, I believe them when…
“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting
their bad advice–though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–determined to save
the only life you could save.”—Mary Oliver
This experience forced me to look at one such statement that gets spouted often when people go through a lot: God won’t give you more than you can handle. If I may be so bold, let’s just call that what it is:
This may be a difficult read, as my prayer today for resurrection was not answered. God, I would, we would, give anything for Brave to be here with you all.
All my love to all of you,
It’s after five in my office and everyone has gone home for the day.
The stillness always invites me to think of Brave. Much throughout each 24 hour interval invites me to think of him, but nothing as loudly as the stillness.
I sit at my desk, my eyes glass over spreadsheets and financial projections and I let myself think of him.
And his beauty.
And his kindness.
And his humor (I think he’s funny).
And his stillness.
Today, the stillness is loud.
Today, his stillness is loud.
Brave. Still. Born.
Those words, never before broken into three in my mind, draw me out of my desk chair and slowly onto my knees. I haven’t prayed on my knees, much less prayed, in months.
But that is where I am.
In my office.
On my knees.
I know what I want to say. I know what I want to ask
But it is so hard today. So I just breathe and wait.
One deep breath.
Two deep breaths.
And then six deep breaths later, it finally comes
"Jesus." And it is not a whisper. (The few I have prayed have been silent or faint whispers, but this prayer-though faint-was not whispered.)
This name calls tears out of my eyes as it evokes such anger and hope, such life and death, from the depths of me.
I stay here long enough for my feet to fall asleep beneath the weight of my back.
Thirty one deep breaths.
Thirty two deep breaths.
And then sixty deep breaths later, the rest
"Jesus. Brave. Resurrection."
I feel much like a toddler, unable to put together full sentences with such a limited vocabulary. Or maybe I am a grown woman who has just grown to be particularly shy around this god.
I slowly gather up my thin, heavy body and give myself time for the blood to return to my feet (wondering if blood is returning to his feet, too). Within a few minutes I text my husband - I will be done soon. We need to go to the cemetery - and within a few minutes he is outside of my office waiting.
I slip into the car and no words are spoken as he drives us down traffic jammed Aurora. I glance up only once to see the trees that line the place on the highway where loved ones are laid.
Our car turns right, then left and finally stops.
The stillness is the only one to greet us.
The damn stillness.
The holy stillness.
I stopped attending church when our friends’ son, Brave, died. Because when Brave died, I asked the loudest why I’ve ever asked. I screamed why at your pulpits and your pastors. And their answers, their biblical answers, were anything but loving.
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
"Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if we will risk it on the precipice.
He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
I am wondering if all grief is accompanied by guilt. If they are siblings, or conjoined twins. Both loving and despising their dependence on one another.
I have not been able to go to the grave in over 6 months, since the day after Wilder was born.
Each week I drive by the darkest right turn and blow a kiss, my lips quietly mouthing “I love you Brave”, each time I pass. Hoping that is enough. That he knows how deeply I love and long.
I try to convince myself that he is not there, that he is not buried. But I remember the damn dirt, (I still have not been able to wash my dirt stained pants) my dirt stained hands, my dirt stained soul is never clean enough. I buried his little perfect body with my bare hands. I am sorry Brave. I wanted to continue to hold you, to hold you forever, Evil would not allow it.
I battle my guilt. I know if I drink its poison, it keeps me further from knowing you. I will not give into it, Brave, you taught me that, you taught me how to love through death, how light can squeeze through a cracked heart.
Most days I know I am a good dad. As I rocked Wilder to sleep last night, I prayed, I sung, I cried, to God, to Brave, to Wilder. It felt nice to let my grieve and joy kiss.
I am a dad who’s son has gone ahead of him, I am reluctant to embrace my 1 1/2 year old story. To celebrate Brave’s life, to mourn his death, to live between death and resurrection. To live into the Christian story, to learn to bless my story. How do I continue to wobble between such extremes?
Maybe they are no different from each other, maybe death and life are one.
“be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you win then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”—Rilke
I lay down beside the place that he was laid down and I start to color a bumble bee. “B is for Brave and bee” I write. Childish and silly but we do what we can when we grieve. I hear a car door shut and I glance over my shoulder, the sun beams off the white Mercedes that has parked within feet of…
“Hear this very carefully: you are not the missing piece to my happiness. I don’t expect you to magically snap me out of my depression and set me back into real life. I don’t expect you to know what to say or what to do. I don’t expect you to even want to be around me when I am in the middle of these hard days. But I need you… I need you because I have no other way to know Jesus. My faith is enough in these times of depression, but I still need Jesus. When I can’t find him, when I can’t feel him, when I can’t have faith in him, can you embody him and just be near?”—Aaron J. Smith with “When It’s Not Enough”
“Andrew, I believe God ordains death” he said, “I don’t know what to say but the truth of the Bible, I did not want to hurt you more, so I did not say anything. I am sorry your son was stillborn.” His words still echo in my ears 5 months later.
These are words from one of my best friends. I had not heard from him in over 6 months after my son had died. Until I wrote him and asked where he had been and why he had been so silent. These sentences were part of our first painful conversation. I have not spoken with him since. My heart is still to brittle to be in relationship with someone so clumsy.
It was when his commitment to his own interpretation of scripture got in the way of actually “loving” me or accompanying me in the ditch of heartache, that Christ got lost. I am familiar to this posture where the broken hearted become second to the notion of being “right” rather than being transformed by death.
What happens when theological positions become disconnected to the very people they are meant to redeem? For example he could not weep with me because he was convinced God took my son. I was in need of fellow soft hearted friend but all I received was that I was “theologically wrong and needed to be fixed, my salvation in doubt, my love for Christ all questioned” all during my grieve.
When God’s image is no longer honored in the face of another human being? When doctrine triumphs no matter the cost? What if theology and the the human experience are not split? That if I truly know you, lose my assumptions, and genuinely experience you in your fullness of your shit and glory, that I may know God more fully. That you uniquely bear God’s image, so if I stay distance, if I stay more committed to my political, nationalistic, theological corner then I miss parts of God.
My friend had chosen to be coward, to be silent, instead of wrestling with a theology position that has no place for “mystery”, no place for heart ache without neat and redemptive conclusions. His laziness and selfishness to wrestle with complex realities and with the unknown portrayed a cruel God, a God who knew better than me, so he took my son. Sadly I do not want to serve a God like that.
I am reminded of Dr. Stanley Hauerwas’s writing, “We desperately want to “explain” what happened. Explanation domesticates terror, making it part of “our” world. I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying.”
Though Hauerwas was speaking of literal “terror acts” this quote fits with my experience, to learn to wait, to listen, to sit and hear, to be God to those who question and are surrounded by darkness and terror. As Nouwen so accurately writes “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of confusion or despair, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing… not curing… that is a friend indeed.” In that moment this friend is not only a friend but truly the representing Christ in trenches, in the darkness where few have the courage to enter.
Can we resist the easy answers? “God did it for a reason”, “All things work for good, to those who believe”, “Well God gave you another son”, these are not answers but simple dismissals of my suffering that make a mockery of my suffering.
Dr. Allender says “You don’t look at atrocities and ask, “What is God trying to teach the world through this horror? There are kinds of suffering that your effort to bring meaning, ineffability distorts and destroys the potential for any meaning whatsoever. If you think suffering can be quantified in some type of learning principle, you have made mockery of your own suffering, let alone the suffering of others. Don’t look for meaning, meaning will come to you, frankly meaning will come knock on your door in ways you do not need to be looking… You don’t have much to do with God, He has much to do with you.”
Much meaning has come in my constant war with the loss of my Brave son. It does not mean that even for a second I would not give it all back for one second to hold and kiss my boy again. Not one second.
I believe God weeps with me, she longs as I long, hopes as I hope, curses as I curse, and loves as I love.
All this talk of resurrection. My son is still gone, he has not risen, death still stings. I miss you Brave. The grave has been to harsh for me to visit, I hope you understand.
Your brother has brought so much joy, and nearly everyday we feel you should be right there next to him. Taking naps, making each other smile, screaming your heads off for no apparent reason.
Oh Brave how much we have lost when we lost you. Our strong boy who blazed a path for us all. I wanted to talk to you today, tell you Daddy loves you and misses you dearly. Easter is a difficult season, we have so much resurrection in our lives except you.
I just want to hold you again, see you in my arms, smile back at your beauty, just one day of resurrection, just one damn day is all I ask.
Even though we never really chatted all that much I have a pretty distinct memory of you. When I was going to the Seattle School (Mars Hill) preview weekend I remember you doing some of your slam poetry. I remember being profoundly inspired by it and it was one of the very things that made me enroll in Mars Hill.
I have watched you struggle over this year with the loss of your son Brave albeit through your blog and facebook. What you choose to share, I think other people would dare not. It causes you to be that which you named your son. Brave. That which this world so desperately needs, honesty and bravery to live authentically.
On Graduation day this year I saw at the court house something really profound. In the joy of graduation I was watching you. (That sounds profoundly creepy but it is true) I watched as you chased children around the room. Children that weren’t your own. I saw the joy in your eyes as you did it. I wondered to myself how a person who experienced and expressed so much pain was willing to chase that, (the children), when one had been so cruelly taken away.
How does one engage in that type of play in the midst of sorrow?
As I watched all I could think was, that man will be a hell of a father but it was more than that. It was a testament to engaging in fear, engaging in hurt and being painfully torn between that which gives joy and that which also brings pain.
In struggling to live life outside of The Seattle School right now it has been easy to slip into past habits. To forget what relationally we had been taught. You live it and so does your wife and it is encouraging and inspiring to see that it can exist outside of the school.
Cheers Andrew and thank you for living how you live. It is inspiring.
This past year you contributed to the Brave Bauman Scholarship Fund in order to honor the life of Jackson Brave Bauman and to support brave students at The Seattle School. Thank you for generous gifts. The following is an update on what we’ve done with the scholarship as well as a request to continue to support it.
The Brave Bauman Scholarship Fund (Explanation)
On December 8, 2011 we witnessed the birth and death of our beautiful son, Brave Bauman. His story is my story, his story is our story, as students and sojourners we all must learn to live into Brave’s name. We long for his legacy and his name to live on through brave students at The Seattle School. This is why this scholarship exists, to honor both our son’s bravery and your bravery for fighting for resurrection in a life full of death. — Andrew & Christy Bauman
The Brave Bauman Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship awarded to first year MACP students to assist in covering the cost of the 40-hour personal counseling requirement. This scholarship is evaluated and awarded based on the applicant’s ability to articulate how tragedy has shaped their sense of identity, calling and relationship to God.
Christopher Byers, Brave Bauman Scholarship Recipient
“As the first recipient of the Brave Bauman Scholarship, I am incredibly thankful and profoundly honored for this provision. To embrace tragedy is difficult in and of itself. However, to write about the pain of my journey and share that with others is terrifying. In embracing the tragedy of my own story, I pray that hope would arise and that others would experience the same. As a family of four, living on a single income, this scholarship is such a blessing and will help cover my mandatory and much needed therapy requirements. Thank you Andrew, Christy, and Brave for not only sharing your story, but also your generosity.”
A note from Andrew & Christy
“As we left the small room from choosing this years recipient something felt right even though what we were there for felt wrong. I wish my son were here. In the face of the tragedy and so much darkness of losing our little Brave boy, in this moment I felt him and it was good.”
If you are willing and able, I invite you to make an end of year gift towards the Brave Bauman Scholarship Fund. Together, we can continue to honor the life of Brave and to support brave students at The Seattle School.
You can make gifts online. Under program designation please select “Brave Bauman Scholarship Fund”. Of you can send checks in the mail. Make payment to The Seattle School, in the memo line please write “Brave Bauman Scholarship Fund”. Send checks to The Seattle School, Attn: Development, 2501 Elliott Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
You have been Brave with grieve, Will you be Brave with joy?
I have not been able to write with any sort of regularity.
Breathing regularly is rare these last few months. My small family has been bracing ourselves, for yet another child, for another unknown. We had to go into hiding. We built a bunker, gathered few weapons, and held onto the few things we weren’t terrified to lose.
Now it has been 3 weeks since Wilder Oak Bauman was born. He is stunning. A jewel. I am finding my soul beginning to trust again. To trust that he may actually be staying with us. Trust that he may live, that we all may live.
I have been smiling much more. We took him to his first church service this week, I sang with him sleeping on my chest, I wept.
My face feels light.
Joy is odd. It may take me sometime to get use to it.
“You have been Brave with grieve will you be Brave with joy?” Christy felt God whisper to her. This sentence holds much.
We have already carried the impossible, this feels the equally rare.
What does it mean to face my joy with the same fierceness and tenacity that I have confronted my grief?
What does it mean to still miss my first son as I hold my second?
What does it mean that I call Wilder, Brave, on accident (or is it on purpose)?
I wonder about Brave. I miss him and love him so much. I know he is suppose to be here with us. We feel incomplete.
I love Wilder, he wows me.
Wilder is a mystery to me, I am honored to be discovering our world together.
“We desperately want to “explain” what happened. Explanation domesticates terror, making it part of “our” world. I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying.”—Stanley Hauerwas (via mshedden) speaking the truth again. (via elnellis)
December 7th 2011 was the worst day of my life. The scenes still haunt me. They are still to harsh to bear.
My desire for Brave still burns strong, forever unmet desire. Damn you desire.
Tomorrow is your birthday Brave. We honor you strong boy, we will light over a 100 lanterns and send them into the sky over the puget sound. May you, may we see the light. May you know you are deeply loved and missed.
We celebrate you baby boy. Your 1 year. Our 1 year of broken hearts. Your new 11 day old brother Wilder misses you too. He sleeps, poops and makes funny faces a lot but something tells me he already knows you.
He brings so much joy to our hearts Brave. It is an impossible task to hold the tension of joy and sorrow, yet that it is what we have been ask to carry. You are a good big brother. I know you are suppose to be here with us, many days I feel you buddy. Many days it still hurts that I cannot touch you.
When you have a moment, whether it’s next month or next year, please read this letter to your littlest one for me.
Oh how your family touches me.
Love to you all.
Just after 8 pm on November 27th, we arrived at the cemetery. We dipped under the locked gate and made our way to your brother’s grave. The last update we had heard was that your parents were still waiting on you. I didn’t know how to join them in this waiting, other than to go to the place where they have been asked to wait
So, there we were – waiting on Wilder, waiting on Brave.
The flicker of candle light met our eyes and as we laid down, I lit the candle that sits in Brave’s windchime. Four lights. Three on the Earth, one just a little bit higher.
I have to confess, Wilder, I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to wail
But I couldn’t.
Through my foggy breath, I whispered to Casey, “I feel warm; I feel warmth. Do you feel that?” I was aware that the top layer of my skin felt the reality of the November chill, but I couldn’t escape the heat that engulfed the air.
“I think he is here — I think Wilder has been born,” I told him.
The sweet aroma from the candles filled the air; the warmth, the light, the life. We felt you.
The sweet aroma from the candles filled the air; the warmth, the light, the life. We felt Brave.
For the first time in eleven and a half months, I felt Brave’s elation. I couldn’t be mad. I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t wail.
You were here and he was happy.
Wilder Oak Bauman, I love you.
And I didn’t know that I had the capacity to love so Wildly