August 12, 2010

Tragic Tales 2: Lies

In our last installment, I told you about a death, and the way people act. Some show their true colors and get greedy for the possessions of the deceased, others put aside their differences and can actually begin a process of reconciliation.

Truth comes out; you can't hide it forever. And a great deal of what happened is knowledge rapidly gained "after the fact".

" sure your sin will find you out."
— Numbers 32.23b (NASB)

Now I have to be cagey. As I already told you, I am calling the deceased "Monica", and (with certain obvious exceptions), I do not use real names in my article.

She did not live to see her thirtieth birthday. Monica's parents were divorced when she was young, and each had remarried. That is very important to this narrative.

Monica's mother, Martina, married Larry. Her father, Jimmy, married Faith. Monica had mental problems (and my personal suspicion is that those were complicated by demonic oppression, but never mind about that now). She treated her mother, Martina, like garbage and she hated Larry. When she would go to visit her father (Jimmy), she told him all sorts of tall tales about her mother and stepfather. And Monica would come back and tell more tall tales to Martina about Jimmy. Well, sometimes she praised him (especially if he gave her what she wanted), but most often, she acted like she loathed him. This sort of thing went on for years, and when Monica got her own apartment, the lies became more pronounced and more frequent.

Monica liked to get people suspicious and even disliking each other. That way, they did not communicate...

Now I have a real eyebrow-raiser for you. She reported to Martina that Jimmy just found out that he was illegitimate. Monica's father told her that he learned that his mother had had an affair with a man who was half black, half Puerto Rican. But it was a big, shameful secret, don't tell anybody, Mother! Monica's real grandfather's name was given, and her relatives in Puerto Rico were shown with names, pictures, occupations, etc. Also, the family in PR did not like Jimmy.

When Monica died, Martina confronted Jimmy about his relatives, he denied it. After getting some of Monica's friends together with Martina and Larry, stories were compared and suspicion was raised. One telling moment was that Monica kept greeting cards that were sent to her (including a birthday card from Larry), but there were no cards from the family in PR of which Monica was so fond. And the pictures were not "candid" or "action shots", but posed, as if they were profile pictures. The friends and Martina had been told conflicting stories.

Larry got into two of Monica's computers. Nothing in the address books. The e-mail accounts were hacked. Nothing there, either. It was concluded that the affair with Jimmy's mother never happened, and there was never a family in Puerto Rico! Yep, she had fooled several people for a couple of years on this.

Many people have been hurt by all of this. People find out that they have been lied to and lied about, tricked, manipulated and deceived in a number of ways. Sure, Monica kept some rather elaborate secrets. But now the truth is out; it did not stay covered up forever.

This kind of stuff escalates, people. You start telling lies, then more, then more, and wind up with the "tangled Web" that Shakespeare mentioned. Lies become a habit. Monica told them as a matter of course, and many people knew her as a chronic breaker of the Ninth Commandment. But she was so skilled that even the big lies could be convincing.

What about us?

Are we getting careless? Are we finding it easier and easier to tell lies, even "little white ones"? More and more will come along. Who are we hurting? If we're found out, we have to apologize. Sometimes, relationships are destroyed. If, as in this case, the lies are discovered after death, we leave behind a great deal of pain and resentment.

I just wanted to point these things out to you, to caution you. And to remind myself to keep in line.

Part 3 of this series is here.

August 10, 2010

Tragic Tales 1: Death in the Family

It's not that I'm afraid to die,
I just don't want to be there when it happens.
— Woody Allen

Looks like I've found a new series to write about. I'm going to ask you to tolerate awkwardness in this post because I'm running on fumes. With all of the deaths that have happened around me, including recently, this is the first time that I've been in the middle of helping with making arrangements for a funeral, burial, cleaning out an apartment and so forth.

On Saturday, July 31, we went to the scene of a death. Lots of shock, hysterical crying, getting people notified, talking to police, all that. No foul play, it seems to have been a matter of losing track of how many prescription pills and how often to take them, and it became fatal. She was in her mid to late 20s. That's all you need to know.

As my regular readers well know, I do not use real names for the protection of people; I can make my points without risking anyone's safety or causing embarrassment. I'm going to call the deceased "Monica".

This situation is typical of so many, including some that I have experienced myself. The girl had not even had a funeral yet, and the vultures were circling: "Can I have the big TV?"..."Can I have the coffee pot and microwave?"..."Can I have...?" I have no problem with a fair dispersion of the goods, especially after the people closest to the deceased have their say in the matter. But to call the grieving mother and make demands, or deny the grieving companion treasured things — I want to use the bad words that God wants me to stop using. But all of this really angers me, capice?

Worse, I saw — and still see — people using this girl's death for their own ends. They are not only trying to get "stuff", but to lash out at people they don't like. Wow, I want to scream bad words! This is a time to put differences aside, not for jerks to use for their selfish goals. 

I'm reminded of Matthew 12.34b (NIV), "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." I've heard it used to teach against using profanity, coarse jesting (I know, I know, still trying to stop doing that myself) and so forth, but think about what I'm saying. "I want! I want!" That shows a heart full of selfishness and greed, don't you think?

Believe it or not, there is also good news in all of this.

The other side of the equation is that people start communicating again. Aside from sharing fond memories and sorrows from their loss, sometimes there is reconciliation. I have seen it, and I have seen some opening up and honesty. If people use all that, it can lead to new beginnings.

I pray that it is so.

Part 2 of this series is here.

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