Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 24, 2011: Out of the trough... and back in again.


Ugh.  The pain of grief.  Man, it hurts.  First off, I want to apologize to anyone who has lost a loved one who I maybe rubbed the wrong way in those first two months after Bella died.  I am in so much more physical, emotional, and spiritual pain now than I was then.  I was in shock then, and I knew it to some degree, but this past week it has REALLY become clear how much so.  I haven't yet gone back and read what I wrote (really dreading re-reading ANY of this to edit for a book), but I'm sure I had some arrogant moments.  Please forgive me.

I am also pretty sure that I completely forgot to tell you about last Saturday morning.

Saturday was Founder's Day at my Alma Mater, Chapman University.  It is the day where we get together and have a reunion, share in worship, lunch, and some good speakers, and raise money for scholarships for kids from our churches, Christian Church - Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ.  Anyway, we have not been going to church since we returned home (big confession).  We went back I think twice, but it was far too painful.  (After my 5 best friends were murdered in 1995, it took me several YEARS before I could sit through church without balling my eyes out.) So, seemingly out of the blue, I got an email from Cisa, Associate Director of Church Relations at Chapman, letting me know that Dennis Short, the minister at Bella's CA memorial, was being awarded Church Leader of the Year, and she asked if I would introduce him.

First off, I literally forgot about Founder's Day.  Felt bad about that, because I really like going to Founder's Day.  That's just how disconnected I had become so quickly from my church.  Second, Cisa was the one who organized and gave me the green light to do the memorial at Chapman.  Third, Dennis is the man that married us, prayed with us through both births, and mourned with us in November.  How could I say no?  It would be my honor.

Then, I found out that the worship service where they were giving the award was no longer in Memorial Hall where I was used to it being.  Its new location?  The Wallace All Faiths Chapel where Bella's memorial was held.

We were going to be on the same dais again.  Me and Dennis.

Dennis wasn't told who was going to introduce him.  It was meant to be a surprise.

Here is my introduction.  I include it in its entirety because you should know Dennis like we do.  There is SO MUCH MORE to tell about him, but this is a start:

Dennis “Answer the Call” Short

It is said of leaders that they answer the call, whatever it is.  If this is the case, then this year’s award for Church Leader of the Year is well placed.

Dennis Short has answered the call his entire life.  Sometimes that call came from God, sometimes that call came from his fellow man. 

Growing up in a family active in its church gave Dennis early practice at answering the call.  Upon graduating high school, Dennis found his way to Chapman College on a –get this – athletic scholarship.  Two years into college, Dennis met Linda on the first day of school, and he certainly was wise to answer the call then!

Upon graduation, Dennis answered the call to ministry by moving to Indianapolis, IN to receive his Masters in Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in 1968.  Since then, Dennis has answered the call within church leadership to serve on the PSWR staff, and sit on or head up too many committees and councils and panels to even recount. 

He even answered the call from his Alma Mater.  Chapman College called Dennis to be Chaplain/Campus Minister in 1975.  In the late 1970’s Dennis was one of the founders of the Peace Studies Program. Dennis earned his M.A. in Counseling Psychology in 1985.  During his tenure at Chapman, Dennis always had a staff of two – seven student assistants.  Over 20 of those students have answered the call and gone into the ministry themselves.   Upon his retirement from Chapman, the Faculty voted to give him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Since his departure from Chapman, Dennis has answered the call as Interim Minister for the Garden Grove First Christian Church, the Community Church Congregational (UCC) in Corona del Mar, California, and a 15-year pastorate at Harbor Christian Church in Newport Beach.  After more than tinkering with the idea of retirement, Dennis answered the call yet again and is currently the Interim Transitional Minister at Downey Memorial Christian Church in Downey, California.

Why am I the one sharing all this with you?  Well Dennis has answered the call from me on many occasions as well, (by the way, Leaders also have to be able to “Make the calls…”  Anyone in here ever have to answer the call from Dennis?)

When my wife and I wanted to be married, we found Dennis over the internet and he answered the call and married us.

When I wanted to come to Chapman to get my degree in Music Therapy, Dennis answered the call by connecting me to D.O.C. and DanO and Cisa.

When I had my first guitar recital that I actually allowed friends and family to attend, Dennis answered the call and was there.

On the morning of my first daughter’s birth, it was Dennis that led the prayer with the nurse, Angelique’s mom, Ang and myself.

When my second daughter was born with a rare, fatal childhood disease, Dennis is sitting with my wife in her recovery room when I returned from the NICU for the first time.

And when it was time to mourn the death of our daughter, Dennis answered my call and led her memorial service from. Right. Here.

Leaders answer the call whether morning or night
Leaders answer the call whether they are busy or tired
Leaders answer the call no matter the cost.
Leaders answer the call whether afraid or not.

My friends, Dennis Short has answered this call his entire life, and for this reason, it is my HONOR to introduce him as our Church Leader of the year.

Well, before the service, I found myself out back sobbing, and I certainly didn't make it through this speech without crying either.  I couldn't even fake it or hold it back.  I just plowed through, and when he rose to receive his award, I gave my wonderful friend Dennis a hug very few get from me.  If my dad were still alive, he might get the hug I gave Dennis.  What that man has meant for Ang and me over the past 8 years, wow.  I always said that I wanted us to have a relationship with the man that married us.

Boy howdy did THAT ever work out.

It was quite poignant that the service was in the same space as Bella's memorial.  Full Circle.  I got to contribute to Dennis.  Oh, and the preacher that gave the sermon of all sermons shortly after me?

Alvin Jackson.

We shared compliments on each others' speeches afterwards, and I told him that we weren't called to that spot by Cisa to minister to each other necessarily, but that was what God had in mind.  After listening and watching him, I said to myself, "I WANNA PREACH LIKE THAT!"  After the service, another preacher from our region who is quite a preacher himself, asked me, "Are you sure you're not a preacher?" to which I responded, "No, I'm not sure."

To bring the hope, the warmth, the light, the energy, and the love of God into people's hearts through my words... spoken, written, or sung.

This is my purpose.  This is what I am built for.  This is what brings my ULTIMATE JOY.

Thank you for letting me 'preach' to you.  For those of you still with us, you may not always agree, but you listen.  Thank you for that.  Thank you for sharing your attention, time, prayers, thoughts, wishes, intentions, and energy with us.  I just write, but you come here and read.  That means so much to us, you don't even know.  You don't even know.

Now, here are two other items I threw up hastily the other day when I wasn't supposed to be on the blog.  Sorry, couldn't help myself.  In the chance you didn't accidentally check the blog, here they are for you now...

1)  The chromosome tests for Julian all came back normal!  So far so good.  That rules out the chromosomal disorders like Down, Fragile X, and the various other Trisomy ___ syndromes out there.  One set of scary tests down, one really big one to go.  The genetic counselor had more info to share, so Angelique hopefully will catch up with her today.  We're hoping she knows more accurately when we'll hear back on the EB test.

2)  We are building a suite of products, services, and information that are going to be initially tailored to parents of children with special needs, critically ill, and deceased children.  We will be donating half of every dollar we make to PUCK.  If you have been positively touched by our journey and my writing, we would be honored if you would be willing to write a short 3-4 sentence testimonial we could use to help launch our services.  The testimonial could be about how the blog has impacted your family relationships specifically.  We want stronger families.  We want stronger marriages.  We hope that at the end of our life, not only did we work to this end through our own marriage and family, but also positively impacted scores of others as well.

Really, if you feel called to write a testimonial, it can be about any area that may have been impacted in case you don't fit the above description, and that will help us at some point, so please, we welcome any testimonials here!

Please send your 3-4 sentence testimonial with your name could Just be First name and Last initial if you want), city/state/province/country, and please, if you are willing, send a picture as well.  Photos exponentially help with testimonials!  If not, no worries, text only will be gratefully received and appreciated as well!

Send them to

Thank you very very very very much for this.  We really appreciate your support!

God night.


  1. Love that picture of your sweet Bella. I'll try to come up with something to send you as her story has definitely made an impact in my life and that of my family. Hope you are feeling better today!

  2. oh my! Maybe nobody checks the blog except for when they KNOW you'll write. I caught your post last night and have been thinking of how to put it. Stay tuned.

    p.s. Always glad to have good results on the testing. :-)

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  4. Great news about Julian's tests! (LOVE THE NAME BY THE WAY) Praying for more good news to follow. I too will be searching for the words to describe what this blog and all your writing has done/is doing for me. I'm not sure if I can find the right ones.. but I will definitely try! :)

    I wasn't able to comment before..but I had the idea to log in before I came to the blog and it looks like it worked this time!

    You and Ang are both AMAZING parents! EB or NO EB - What BETTER parent's would there be in the event of that happening? I can't think of anyone.. =)

  5. Wonderful. I am sure God had you in that spot on that day for a specific reason. Maybe God is indeed calling you to preach!

  6. Interesting post, Tim! It struck me that you have been on perhaps this journey to find your calling all along... and this blog has been a sort of transition to that~ how you help others with your words and the way you CONNECT with us. You inspire and help others heal. I will work on a testimonial this weekend to email over to you. I think you are really on your way to some more amazing things. Please tell Ang that she is an inspiration as well. What you have shared about her as well as the strength I saw in some of your videos, she is a special lady and that just shines through.

    LOVE the photo of Ali & Bella! I always show your pics to my son Mason and we say a special prayer for Bella.

    Hope this doesn't sound strange, but I drive past Sullivan Drive each day on my commute to work and I do not pass it without saying my mini prayer, "NO EB!" ... as a shout out to you & your family. Some days I say it with a hopeful heart and other days I yell it with tears in my eyes.

    When I read what you wrote about preaching being your purpose, I felt a profound, "Ah yes" moment... like something in the universe clicked.

    Redding, CT

  7. I am so glad to hear the first tests were alright. :o)


  8. Tim,

    I don't think I've ever talked about this and I mean no offense by it, so hear me out: I don't attend church. I consider myself agnostic and somewhat spiritual but really don't buy into organized religion for a great many reasons. With that said: I think if you moved to my town and became a preacher, I would be compelled to attend and at least give it a shot. Very few people in this life have given to me the kind of spiritual/soulful gift you have given, simply by writing in a blog; just for that, I would come listen to you preach.

    I'm sorry you're hurting. Being a mother, today I was trying to wrap my head around Ang's situation: grieving one child while growing another - I can't figure out if would make it easier or harder, I imagine both in different respects. My heart goes out to all three of you and I am still hoping every day that the test results come back EB-free.

    Because I haven't mentioned him lately: Ari is getting BIG. 20.5 months old, talking more and more, getting into everything, throwing some impressive tantrums, making us laugh every day. He is obsessed with wheeled things lately, especially semi trucks. He is also the sweetest, gentlest boy - he loves babies and is so tender and gentle with other babies and toddlers, patting and petting them and freely handing over all of his toys to his little friends. I never knew I could love a person so much.


  9. Teared up and aching for your Bella....thank you again for giving me the honor to speak @ Bella's memorial. As I was reading through the post above, the feeling of that day just rushed through me. Like my Grandmother says (she too lost a child), the pain never goes away.... 38yrs later, she still tears up and her voice crackles when she talks about her son. I think of Bella daily...everything reminds me of her... I love her.

    So glad to hear that the first set of test results all came back great! Praying that the rest of the test follow with great results :) Either way, I will be here for you guys.

    Great always.


  10. I just read the previous post and checked the link to Viktor Frankl, i ADMIRE SO MUCH all victims of the holocaust, and as much as i would like to read and learn more about it, it simply makes me HURT too much. When i have watched documentaries on tv i've always ended up crying. I saw Schindler's List and was left in schock for severeal days. But I WILL give it a try with Frankl's book. I find myself in some sort of crossroads in my life now and it may help me. Thanks for sharing.

    I am glad Julian's results are positive so far. Let's just wait with optimism for the BIG RESULT!
    (I don't pray nor pursue luck - i just think whatever will be, will be and we'll take it as it is, and it works for me this way :-))

    I'm sorry you feel down, don't feel bad for it,don't get anxious about wanting to feel better, losing a child is no easy pill to swallow. Peeps, lurkers, followers and the like are here for you for as long as you need us!

  11. Your posts really touch me every time, and I wish I could find more to say than that I am thinking of you and your wonderful family. And that God equipped you to get through this, that He is always with you (like a friend once told me; He is above you, under you, around you, but most importantly, IN you!) Ok... maybe I had a little to say =)


  12. Seriously, the last thing you need to do is apologize for the way you grieve the loss of your daughter. Since I can not relate, nor can I pretend to do so, I'll end this comment here. I know the feeling of grief, although I can not comprehend losing one of my children. Do it as you need to.

  13. Agreeing with "asplashofsunshine"...we all grieve in our dont apologize. What happens to one person in the grief journey is never the same as the next. Sending you hugs...wishing I could hug you in person.

    Thrilled to hear all is ok with Julians tests so far. I hope the other results come in soon. Waiting can be so very hard.

    LOVE Bellas pictures from the last two posts. Especially the one from the post before this. It was like I was looking into her eyes...her beautiful, beautiful eyes. I must admit that is one thing I miss most from your daily posts...the daily pictures of Bella. I miss your daily "ramblings" too. ;)

    Sending my love to all and the sweetest of kisses for Ali.

    Denise WI

  14. "Sometimes that call came from God, sometimes that call came from his fellow man."

    Don't you believe that the call from his fellow man and the call from God are one in the same...God using his fellow man to call Dennis, no?
    "Your call" or anyone elses call to Dennis first came from God??

    Blessings on all the ways God has called you & Ang to touch the lives of so many! Hugs, Donna/NJ