Archives For God

A Brother’s Farewell

November 10, 2016 — 2 Comments

The plan is to have a Celebration of Life event for Matthew. Since I’m far away, the extended family is point for the arrangements. Hopefully, they do what’s right in a timely manner and respect the wishes of the entire family. Anything short of that dishonors Matt – as a former Marine, honor is fundamental to my worldview.  But I have to say I’m not encouraged by their efforts. So, as I’m sitting here, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to eulogize my brother, at least in the traditional sense. It appears we’re heading for a Hatfield McCoy inevitability.

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But I’m writing one anyway … warming up in the bullpen just in case. And if the baton is dropped and languishes in the dirt, this eulogy will nonetheless be out in the cosmos.

You see, there’s nothing else I can do for Matt other than share memories for those that loved him – or would have had they met him. In the scheme of my life, it is a very important job and I want to do it.

As I begin this, it’s been two weeks exactly since that dreadful bike ride in Ojai. The healing process has sputtered along, but I’ve been startled by those quiet and alone moments in my otherwise busy days. Matt crashes through the normalcy, I see his face, grief pours over me as if from a cloudburst, and I cry. And then the sorrow quickly retreats as though my subconscious – or God’s grace – yanks it back to spare me the pain. I’m left with red swollen eyes as a searing reminder that my brother is gone.

I remember 1991 when our mother died. The Steele boys managed to get through that first week dealing with her affairs, concerned friends and the logistics of death. We laughed, reminisced, cried, took pills, drank beer and playfully split up her treasures – not the material stuff like lamps and couches, but the cherished things in her life; family pictures, letters from Dad, her sons’ baby shoes and report cards, her silly tools, her favorite ice breaker. In fairness, the pill popping, beer drinking and wailing like a newborn may have been all me but those seven days were an absolute blur.

The brothers didn’t argue that week, but we might have been tempted when it came to the expense for Mom’s funeral. We were sitting around a conference table, the typecast funeral director mumbling something quasi consoling, he looked like Lurch, and he placed the invoice on the table. As an aside, for you young mortuary entrepreneurs, hire grief counselors that look like Hooters waitresses; you’ll have bodies stacked like books in the prep room as the bereaved jockey for facetime.  Continue Reading…

I have been asked to write the obituary for my younger brother Matthew. I just checked my bucket list and confirmed that this particular item was not in the top 42,000. But, I can’t punt this away. I have to do this for Matt.

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The usual obit methodology – or death notice to be precise – is a placement in the local newspaper, and we’ll do that. That will be the formal one. In that case, the writer is on a mission with limited time, a broken heart, pure motives and a checklist of obituary do’s and don’ts. One might be inclined to write a biography but buying a Tesla would be cheaper (death notices cost money).

But I think we also need an informal, unpretentious one. A similar mission but with a bit of a twist, and less constraint. One that mirrors Matthew’s personae and one he would encourage me to write.

And I might as well combine both here.

Matthew Raymond Steele, 59, died unexpectedly on October 22, 2016 while riding his cherished mountain bike near Ojai, California with a friend. Not far from his home in Ventura, he was able to spend his last moments experiencing two of his great passions, the splendor of nature and the exhilaration of working out.

Obit mistake #1 – Writing about the loss rather than writing about the deceased. Well, Miss Manners, your point is well taken but maybe we shouldn’t be so strict. Matt is absolutely my focus here but acknowledging our broken hearts is not just stating the obvious. I just wrote “MATTHEW…DIED…UNEXPECTEDLY.” Three words that are usually harmless but taken together are devastating. Continue Reading…

My brother Matthew is the handsome man in the middle – it was his wedding day. He’s younger than me so he’s my kid brother whether he likes it or not. Our oldest brother is Greg who would rather not be getting his picture taken.

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I once coerced Matt to get on a sled when he was six and dared him to make it to the bottom of the hill without falling off. Of course, the challenge lay in the path we had selected. We had pounded down the snow, created little snow banks to help maneuver in and around the minefield of trees, and it was definitely going to be a speedy run. He climbed on, looked at me, trusting as always, and away he went. A little dude in a puffy winter coat screaming down the hill.

He did a great job on the first turn, a real pro, probably a thirty degree change of direction to the left. I was really impressed as I ran and skidded after him to see how he would manage the next corner. Yep, you heard it right. Corner. I think it’s safe to say I did not do a good job in setting up the course. I had zero training for god’s sake! Ninety degrees to the right was a bit much – okay, impossible. But how did I know he would be breaking the land speed record as he hit that next turn.

So, since the laws of motion are what they are, he and the sled parted company. The sled did okay as it turned out, but my baby brother slammed into a rather large tree trunk. He was definitely airborne when he hit and as I got to him, his little burrhead exposed, his snow cap beanie ten feet away, he was holding his arm.

I told him he was fine, you can’t just walk away after a crash, you gotta stare that demon right in the face and get back on the horse. Even a pained six-year-old can roll his eyes at trite clichés, so back up the hill he trudged. Two hours later he’s wearing a cast.

Mom and Dad were not happy.

About fifteen or sixteen years ago, for no real reason that I can remember, we spent a weekend together. We went hiking and as the endorphins kicked in, Matthew asked me if I was proud of him, again trusting me in what I might say. I won’t share why he felt compelled to ask me that. But none of our lives are straight tranquil lines; events and choices – good and bad – that characterize the human experience always create a succession of peaks and valleys unique to every one of us.

Here’s what I didn’t say, but I should have.

Matthew, of all the people I’ve known in my life, no one has a more magnificent heart. A soul is our greatest treasure and God blessed you with a remarkable one. Unfortunately, like so many blessings – and you are a cherished one – they get lost in the fog of life, such as mine I’m disheartened to say. But please know that I’m not only proud of you, I’m in awe. You’re a very good man.

Lord help me. Our Matthew died today. No warning, he was mountain biking. His glorious heart gave out – mine is broken.

Mom and Dad, he’s yours now. He’s going to need all your comfort. Brother, I know you’re watching. We love you.

Out of control–in stormy instrument flight conditions with broken navigation gear, overwhelmed by vertigo not knowing up from down and plummeting toward the concrete ocean–Diamond knew how this was going to end.

AV8 Aerial Refueling - USMCIt was an impossible situation. He would crash into the Pacific 1,500 miles away from family and home. In the best situation, his “tombstone” would be scattered debris from a Harrier jet; flotsam for a bar-tailed godwit to perch and rest on his own transpacific journey from New Zealand to Alaska.

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To a rookie naval aviator, Diamond seemed larger than life. I have one standout memory. My squadron had participated in a major air combat exercise near Las Vegas and a group of us Marines decided to feast on the garish temptations along the Vegas strip. Later on that evening, we ran into Diamond at Caesar’s Palace.

He was a distinguished combat veteran, the squadron’s operations officer and was loudly exhorting the dice as they tumbled across the green felt of the craps table. Wearing a silk shirt, drinking his fair share, sweating the yet to be revealed number and chatting up the blonde to his side, he was a piece of work. A terrific fighter pilot but a wild man nonetheless. I didn’t know him well but he could have been a character out of The Great Santini.

He was complex, no doubt, and driven by what, who knows, but it wasn’t God.

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Dead Baby Talking

July 5, 2013 — 10 Comments

A poem. A song. A scream toward heaven. Anything, something. A way for me to communicate the sorrow and shame I feel for the monumental regret of my life.

Dear child, if only I could sacrifice the god of I to the God of Mercy who is blessedly with you, comforting you. To bring you back. On behalf of all those who killed innocence in the womb.

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You are my father and you abandoned me. Why?

“You weren’t important. I had other priorities. Hell, you weren’t even a ‘you’.”

But I am, you know. We all are. It’s undeniable.

“That, dear love, was an inconvenient truth that I couldn’t handle.”

I was inconvenient?

“You were responsibility, commitment, disruption, expensive, awkward, burdensome, enslaving. Unwanted things.”

And my mother felt the same way?

Silence.

Father?

“I don’t know what your mother was thinking. I’m only assuming. I barely knew her.”

I don’t understand.

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The duality of life never ceases to amaze me. We live in a universe of good and evil where virtue and savagery constantly compete for man’s passion. As a child, a tarantula frightened me yet it’s a flawlessly engineered creation.

Cross and MeadowAnd most remarkably, in God’s plan for man’s salvation, He walked among us as the Incarnate Word nevertheless He was rejected, vilified and mocked by scores.

His reward as the Redeemer was crucifixion.

I’m in my favorite leather chair, my legs and feet comfortably resting on the ottoman. My dog Lani is positioned as usual, snuggled between my legs. I’m looking out at the spectacular vista beyond my windows. I love these moments with her. They’ll be part of my memory forever.

She stirs and moves to another of her favorite locations, the couch. She looks over at me for an okay and climbs on up. Three spins, situating herself perfectly, her eyes rolling back in her head, my beautiful black Lab slowly exhales and sleeps.

The quiet allows me to think. I seem to be on two paths; survival in this world and preparing for the next. I guess one could technically prepare for Hell, but I’m aiming more North. To be with Him.

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The Journey Continues

March 20, 2013 — 1 Comment

Hi folks. This will be brief.

I have a new job in Northern California and I’m very excited about this next stage of life. I also can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for all the wonderful people who have prayed for me. It’s been a tough road but a necessary one.

It will take me a bit of time to get acclimated but I will start-up my regular blogging shortly. See you soon.

May God bless all of you!

Fanaticism In The Name Of God

February 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

Believe it or not, as I begin to get ready for the Papal Conclave–yep, Super Bowl-like preparation except with less beer–I’ve been thinking about fanaticism in the name of God.

fanaticismI love the trajectory of the Church under JP2 and B16 but I wonder if the dark forces, using fanatics as proxies, will be successful in derailing their work. Am I suggesting that the Conclave will be infiltrated by evil? Not at all. But can evil disguise and exercise its influence in some other way? To an unsuspecting but powerful dupe? Always a possibility. Let’s see how events unfold.

I’ve talked before about my foray into screenwriting. Creative process – good. Earning no money – bad. Most recently, an acquaintance volunteered to send my latest spec screenplay to someone who might be helpful. It deals with fanaticism. So far, I haven’t heard anything in reply. Not surprising. I’ve reached out before without results. Add to that, I just read an article in Vanity Fair that talked about the state of affairs for spec scripts (a speculative script is not owned or commissioned by a studio). Not good.

So, I’m reminded of a time, not so long ago …

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My beautiful, perfect dog made me smile today; as she does every day. I lay on the couch reading about Mao. There’s a piece of work. One man, a classic megalomaniac, responsible for seventy million dead Chinese. I wonder what his tombstone reads.

Lani came over and put her paw on my chest. Can I ask you a favor?

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