Handling Grief With Grace

    By Dave Miller

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." --A.A. Milne.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –A.A. Milne.

I knew I would have to write about this sooner or later. I’ve been able to get a lot of it out on my Facebook posts. (What a surprisingly effective tool Facebook has become for allowing us to bear one another’s burdens!) A college friend commented on one such post, “Being your Facebook friend has been a crash course in how to handle grief with grace. God’s blessings will continue to sustain you and your family, David.” And so it is and so they have. So now I’m putting down a few of the ways that, by God’s grace, I’ve dealt with my own grief.

It is certain that no one is immune from loss. Who has not been touched by the death of a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a parent, a sibling, or a close friend? For the youngest among us, the passing of a cherished pet ushers in the knowledge of “the way of all flesh.” May my own crash course help in your own grief observed or to come.

The inexorable facts:

At 11:46 p.m. on Friday, February 15th, the cell starting to play my ring tone. I remember thinking, “Who could be calling at this hour?” It was the phone call no parent ever wants to get. Renee and I were in bed watching a forgettable movie that we’d downloaded from Amazon.com. We did not finish the movie that evening and I doubt we ever will.

“Are you the father of Marquelle Miller?”

“Yes.” I’m thinking this is not good.

“This is ____________ from Victim Assistance.” My first thought was Kellie had been assaulted. What else could this be about? She was living with her friend in Denver, a big city with more crime than in our little town.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you that your daughter was killed in a car accident this evening…”

“No!” I slam the laptop shut. By now Renee is standing up with the realization that something is seriously wrong. I speak out the words that will change her life forever, “Kellie was killed in a car accident.” As the sentence, like electricity, flows into her being, her legs buckle and she kneels on the floor crying out, “No God, please, no, not my little girl, not my Kellie…”

In incoherent sentences, I try to talk to the victim assistance woman. (She came over a half hour later, and was very kind to us in our grief.)

This was the beginning of a journey that we–and many of you who knew and loved our daughter and Malachi, the young man who was also killed–have been shoved into. It’s one we would never choose nor wish on anyone, but our path is irrevocable. As is all of ours…

Marquelle "Kellie" Miller and Malachi Bilson.

Marquelle “Kellie” Miller and Malachi Bilson.

Though it’s excruciating to remember those first traumatic moments, I’d like you to have a window into such a gut-wrenching loss and how I dealt with the events that followed. I can’t go into much detail here but hopefully enough to reassure you that you can handle more than you ever thought you could, even the death of a loved one.

In this kind of a loss, some of the things you do will be automatic, some will take more thinking, but be at peace with whatever you do or decide.

We drove through the night with our family to be near Kellie. We stayed at our niece’s house in darkness. In the morning, I contacted the insurance company, spoke to the coroner, made a decision about seeing the body—he advised me to wait. Try to sleep, drink water, can’t eat. My son-in-law proved to be a godsend as he made calls to the towing yard and the police when the grief would overcome me.

Arrangements have to be made: Transportation of the bodies (both Kellie and Malachi came back over the mountains for the last time together in a van), funeral preparations (some funeral homes require payment upon services rendered. Ours let us pay later), burial or cremation (burial), open casket or closed (open). Will the graveside burial be for close friends and family or open? We decided to have the burial be small and the memorial service be for the community at large. Upwards of 700 people filled the local high school auditorium to remember Kellie and Malachi.

Dealing with the raw grief in the first days: I built Kellie’s coffin. It seemed the right thing to do. Activity is good. A dear friend helped me design and build it along with his son, my son, and son-in-law. My two brothers helped put the finishing stain on the Alderwood casket. It turned out to be beautiful beyond words, a worthy container to hold such precious contents. Her cousins made the cushion and found a suitable blanket. They wrote poems and verses on the cushion and the boys wrote and drew on the boards below. With every board I cut came a little healing, even though the realization of what I was building would force its way in.

casketbuilding1

notesoflove

casketbuilding group

There is so much more to say. Just know that people will come around you, help you take care of details, support you, love on you, feed you, say well-meaning but sometimes insensitive things to you. Let them. This is their way to help you deal with your grief. It will also help them heal from their own sorrow.

Perhaps you’d like to get more of the “raw footage.” I aired my grief to the public on Facebook. Scroll down to February 15, 2013. I’ll warn you, though, the cost of tuition is your tears. For it is in your tears that healing comes. http://www.facebook.com/davidjoelmiller

Feel free to add your comments either below or on the FB posts.

casketbuilding2

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    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

Of Hope and Hope Chests

    By Dave Miller

For this special Father’s Day blog, I would like to start with a big hypothetical high 5 to all the dads out there who are doing what you’re called to do. And, if you’re not getting it done as a dad, fix it! After all, you’re a dad—that’s what we do: fix things!

I will also spare you the usual platitudes about being a father–leave that to the Hallmark cards you’ll hopefully get next Sunday. And I’m not going to tell you how wonderful you are or how rotten you are. You probably have a pretty good idea where you stand anyway. Instead, if you have been blessed with a daughter or two (or in my case, six!), I have one practical piece of wisdom to impart: By the time she’s thirteen or so, be sure your daughter gets a hope chest.

You may not even know what one is. I didn’t really until my wife Renee told me about them and, “Didn’t I want my daughters to each have one”? (She’s good with ideas like that.) I learned that hope chests are a special place where my daughters can start secreting away the things they will need one day to start their own families. Things like bedding, china and silverware; books, diaries, and family photos; and the mementoes of their growing up years. Hope chests are usually lined with aromatic cedar to discourage moths. This gives it that distinctive scent whenever it’s opened.

You can Google “hope chest” and find many examples in all different price ranges. I paid a friend of mine to make my daughter Kellie’s hope chest. It came out beautiful. Better yet, if you have the skills, make it yourself. Your daughter will treasure it forever.

A hope chest casts a vision for your daughter. It says to her, “Your mom and I have great hopes for your life. You’ll be out on your own soon, maybe even starting a family of your own. These are the things you will need and want.” This is such a positive message to give our daughters as they begin to think about their future apart from us.

Moms: What would you suggest your daughter puts in her hope chest? If you had a hope chest, what did you keep in it?

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    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

Grammar Stage: Little P Explores the Old Upright Piano

    By Dave Miller

    Kid at PianoMy tenants moved out and had no room in their new apartment for the old upright piano. I told them I’d “buy it” for $200 as I had no stomach for rounding up the manpower to move the behemoth. Besides, I thought, it just might be a selling point for a new tenant. It was.

    A new set of tenants moved in as the old ones moved out. In the transition, I’m doing repairs and remodeling, and casually listening to 2 year-old little P get acquainted with this musical piece of furniture. In the classical model of education, the beginning of learning is called the Grammar Stage (followed by Logic and Rhetoric). Lasting until age 7 or 8, children learn the “grammar” of the world in which they crawl, toddle, walk and run. They learn the ABCs of just about anything they can. They love nursery rhymes, learning things by heart, parroting back what they — “Little pictures have big ears.” Patterns are established that will last a lifetime.

    Little P is exploring what the piano does. He pushes on the pedals. Nothing happens. (One of those pedals will make the note he plays sustain, but he’ll learn that later.) He tentatively pushes down on a white key. It makes a sound! He presses it again with a little more force. Again, a sound, this time a bit louder. Now he presses several keys with his right hand. If one hand can make sounds like this, what can TWO hands do?! Cacophony! Like chickens cackling in a henhouse at feeding time he goes Bang! Bang! Bang!

    So this is when mom or dad or older sibling has a choice: Scream at Little P to STOP THAT RACKET! or firmly remind him that a piano is an instrument and needs to be treated gently (while demonstrating a few pleasing chords). I’ve found that a two-year-old banging on the piano really doesn’t hurt it. After all, didn’t Jerry Lee Lewis make a whole-lotta money banging on a piano? Great balls of fire! I’ve just found that saving my sanity is important, too. Besides, screaming at Little P to stop is likely to squelch the exploration process.

    (This is a good place to interject that “re-directing” rather than “squelching” the discovery process is almost always the best tack to take in parenting a child. You could even use a little Cline-Fay Love and Logic, “Now Little P, I love to take little boys to the park to swing who know how to treat the piano like an instrument without banging on it.” Or something like that.)

    Now, Little P resumes his exploration. He presses two keys next to each other down at the same time with one hand. Then two separated by a key. Hey, that sounds better. He wonders what the skinny black keys sound like. He bangs on them with his fist. Mom says, “Gentle, Little P.”

    There’s so much to explore on this instrument when you’re two. Wise parents or siblings will allow for some dissonance in their life in the hope that Little P will move on to the Logic and Rhetoric stages of making music.

    The scope of this blog is not to show you how to teach your child piano. There are lots of books and methods on how to do that. In fact, in the comments section below, would you list any resources that you’ve found helpful in teaching your child to not only learn to play but to LOVE to play?

    Another quick story to illustrate the Grammar stage of learning, this time in drawing:

    My wife Renee decided to take a beginning art class at the local community college when she was in her 30’s. The instructor pretty much told the class to take up their pencils and create something. Not having any formal art training (Grammar level), she didn’t have the slightest idea where to start. Visions of stick figures danced in her head. How do you even hold the pencil?

    When the second class proved to be as dismal as the first, she called the instructor over and asked, “Do you play the piano?”

    “No,” he answered.

    “I do,” she said. “If I sat you down in front of a piano and asked you to ‘Just play something that sounds good,’ do you think you could do it?”

    “No.”

    “That’s exactly how I feel when you tell me to ‘just draw something.’”

    “Oh, I had no idea.”

    Unwilling or unable to change his methods, Renee did not return for a third class.

    Since then, she has found some very good Grammar stage art books that have helped her become pretty decent at drawing:

    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards
    Drawing Textbook, Bruce McIntyre
    The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron

    Feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.

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A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

Population Bomb Fizzles?

    By Dave Miller

(So we’re better than three weeks into the new year. How many of you have already reneged on some of your New Year’s Resolutions? I know I have. Blast that old human nature! Nonetheless, one that I am working hard to keep is to post a blog here as often as Lizzie will let me.

While this post is not specifically a “how-to” on homeschooling, it really illustrates a key tenet that most homeschool families will want to adopt; that is, “A faulty understanding of history can lead to an incorrect or downright destructive worldview in the present.” In a quote credited to Sir Acton, “He who knows not the mistakes of history is doomed to repeat them.” One of those errors is the one I have written about below. This would be a great lesson to talk through with your older students. The main idea I want to get across is-as the follow up essay brings home-“With every new mouth to feed comes a mind to think.”

–Dave)

PopulationPopulation Bomb Fizzles? (A history lesson for your Junior and Senior High students)

Have you heard of Thomas Malthus? Here’s a brief bio:

Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766–1834), English economist and clergyman. In “Essay on Population” (1798) he argued that without the practice of “moral restraint,” the population tends to increase at a greater rate than its means of subsistence, resulting in the population checks of war, famine, and epidemic.

Problem is, his theory (Malthusianism) has been proven wrong over and over again ever since he came up with it. In fact, great damage has been inflicted upon the human race in the name of the “population bomb.” Even in Malthus’s time, this “bomb” threatened to explode in England and cause unspeakable devastation. In some instances of government intervention-or lack thereof-disease and squalor were allowed to run rampant throughout poorer villages in hopes of slowing down population growth, especially among this less desirable segments. Then the industrial revolution happened and increased the amount of food available to the population a hundred-fold.

In the early 20th century, Margaret Sanger mixed Malthusian ideas with a generous portion of social Darwinism to create Planned Parenthood. Few are even aware that the vast majority of abortion clinics are located near high minority populations. In Sanger’s writings, her goal was to control the less desirable races, kinda like old Adolf himself.

Do you remember the “vicious beast of Angor” with its “huge and nasty teeth” in one of my all-time favorite films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail? The beast was nothing more than a cute little bunny rabbit. But as Tim, the Enchanter, warned, and the knights of the Round table discovered: “That rabbit’s dynamite!” So were the filmmakers just being silly, or were they interested in pointing out that something so cute and cuddly as a rabbit could really be a ferocious threat? For what is it that rabbits do prolifically? They multiply. And how is the beast of Angor destroyed? With the holy hand-grenade of Antioch, of course! A bomb if you will. And what was one of the issues in the 70s? The coming population bomb!

puzzle brainWhile the world’s population continues to increase, at least in the third world, the food supply has more than kept pace. By and large, starvation is a political crime, as the following essay mentions. I hope you will take the time to read this fine piece of journalism by the folks over at the S & A Digest. If you can’t take the time to read the whole piece, I can sum it up in one sentence: “With every new mouth to feed comes a mind to think.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your answer below.

Weekend Edition
The Best of The S&A Digest

The streets of Mumbai, India, are so congested, you can’t walk on them. So the city is going to spend $300 million to build 50 elevated steel walkways to allow pedestrians to get where they’re going. Mumbai has nearly 18 million people and its sidewalks are crowded with street vendors, some of whom have been selling their wares on the same spot for 20 years or more, according to the Wall Street Journal.

I hear the word “infrastructure” thrown around a lot, especially when investors talk about China and India. But I rarely hear anyone tell me what it really means in simple terms that anyone can understand.

A city of 18 million without enough sidewalk space… that I understand.

Mumbai’s space problem reminds me of Julian Simon, economist and author of The Ultimate Resource II. The ultimate resource Simon refers to is human beings. Peak Oil proponents and other environmental alarmists don’t get that with every new mouth to feed comes a new brain that thinks. Though there can certainly be short-term shortages of various goods and services – like walking space – over the long term, the rule for humanity has been abundance.

Think about New York City. Today’s population (19 million) is roughly similar to Mumbai’s. But 150 years ago, the population of pre-Civil War New York wasn’t near its current size, and the city would be hardly recognizable compared with today’s metro area.

Given Mumbai is starting off with enormous population resources, imagine what 150 years of progress will look like there. New York to the 10th power? It boggles the mind.

From a reader: So exactly why do you feel ‘Peak Oil’ is rubbish?

Some concepts we simply get tired of explaining in detail because to us the ideas have become like part of the furniture. In the same way you wouldn’t explain in detail how to use a chair, when discussing economics, we sometimes forget to explain the inter-workings of supply, demand, price, and replacement (human ingenuity).

The germane fact about Peak Oil is: It doesn’t matter. We are not going to run out of energy – that’s all you need to know. We have already discovered vastly more efficient sources of energy (uranium). Thus, were we to “run out” of oil, we would simply become far more reliant on electricity, generated largely by nuclear power (if not by coal or natural gas). This might happen even if supplies of oil increase, simply because uranium is a better (more dense) source of energy and, in theory at least, ought to provide lower-cost energy.

The prophets of doom are always wrong because they truly don’t understand how economics works.

Consider the fate of the worrywarts who said we would run out of copper by building telephone wires. It never occurred to them we’d discover a better way to transmit information. Well, of course we did – light waves through pure glass tubes. As recently as the early 1970s, Paul Ehrlich – a tenured professor at Stanford University – was predicting widespread famine by the end of the 1980s in his book Population Bomb. Why people believe this nonsense, I’ll never understand. (There hasn’t been a famine in modern times that wasn’t caused deliberately as a war tactic. And there won’t be: We’ve gotten vastly more efficient at growing crops, thanks to better farming techniques and better seeds.)

Whether or not we will literally run out of oil produced with geophysical tools simply doesn’t matter. Assuming people are free to invest in the creation of alternatives, we won’t ever run out of energy. That’s all that matters. Free markets and the laws of economics provide all that we really need. The supply of everything actually flows from human liberty and free markets. These are the forces that create innovation and technological replacement.

You see, the folks working on better energy sources aren’t limited by the physics of geology. More importantly, they aren’t hamstrung by the lack of Hubbert’s imagination. (Hubbert was the original Peak Oil theorist.) Scientists like Craig Venter have already proven algae can be genetically altered to produce oil from sunlight and salt water. Whether this is commercially viable in the next decade or not remains to be seen. The point is, supplies of oil and other useful forms of energy are not truly a matter of physics. Supplies of useful energy are a matter of economics, where human ingenuity comes into play. That is what is so important about human liberty and free markets.

As long as people are allowed to save, invest, and invent as they choose, the problems of the world will be rendered into what they really are: opportunities.

Regards,
S&A Research

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    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.