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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
I sat beside her bed and saw a stranger and realized I had fallen asleep. While I was asleep, something had happened. The woman I knew who cooked three meals a day, who sewed all my clothes as a young girl and then taught me to sew, who polished hardwood floors on her hands and knees, who served as sacristan at our church — ironing fair linen and polishing chalices — who still put clothes out to dry on a clothesline and ironed sheets, who preserved vegetables from the garden — that woman was gone. In her place was another who had vacant eyes and hands that fell uselessly by her side and were empty of all occupation and all strength and all purpose. The woman I knew as my mother was gone.
- Gloria Jean Bubba, from this meditation on the grief and the loss that comes slowly from losing her mother to Alzheimer’s disease.
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Kate Braestrup with Game WardensThis week we feel especially privileged to do the work that we do. A brief post by our senior editor about the decision-making behind this week’s show and why it matters to us. From trentgilliss:

For those of you who don’t know, I edit and produce a national public radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. It’s played on about 250 public radio stations at different times throughout the week. Part of my gig is deciding our programming line-up. Why do I tell you this?

About a week ago, we had a gap in our schedule and I suggested rebroadcasting our interview with Kate Braestrup, a UU chaplain who works with Maine’s game wardens on search-and-rescue missions and such events. She also lost a husband early in her life. For some, it seemed counter-intuitive to put a show on about death, loss, and grief during this festive time of year. But we know that the holidays can be a lonely time of despair, depression, and loss for many; I hoped our program could meet those people suffering in some minor way — and remind all of us the gift of grace and happiness during this season.

I never could’ve envisioned (nor wanted to) this horrifying scenario before us. And so I worried about the programming decision.

Well, my beloved wife Shelley and I just finished listening to the production on MPR News (yes, believe it or not, on the radio). Kate Braestrup’s stories and insights on love, death, and loss are profound — and more relevant than I could have ever imagined. It’s wise people like her who are most needed during our country’s darkest hours and brightest holidays. Bella and I cried a little; we danced.

This show doesn’t make sense of the tragedy in Connecticut; nothing can. But, Kate Braestrup offers a framing for how to think about love and tragedy, how we live forward. If you’re looking for something to listen to with your loved ones, listen to this show. And, if you do, please write me and share your thoughts. It would mean a lot to me: tgilliss@onbeing.org or @trentgilliss.

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parkstepp:

Today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of my oldest son, Nathan. He would want me to be strong…to laugh, to free myself from the stuff that has hurt us all. And I am….But I cry also..because I miss him…
But my little one is married and soon to be a father…and me a grandfather… Life has a way of moving us toward that Place, where we can Be. The lessons learned from the passing of my son are overwhelming sometimes…but lessons they are. And we let go…and move on.
parkstepp

A virtual big hug to you from all of us here.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

parkstepp:

Today is the 5th anniversary of the passing of my oldest son, Nathan. He would want me to be strong…to laugh, to free myself from the stuff that has hurt us all. And I am….But I cry also..because I miss him…

But my little one is married and soon to be a father…and me a grandfather… Life has a way of moving us toward that Place, where we can Be. The lessons learned from the passing of my son are overwhelming sometimes…but lessons they are. And we let go…and move on.

parkstepp

A virtual big hug to you from all of us here.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Valentine’s Day is as much about love and loss than romance, isn’t it? Adele’s cover captures Bonnie Raitt’s intention perfectly.

producermatthew:

Adele - I Can’t Make You Love Me

(Bonnie Raitt cover performed Live at the Royal Albert Hall)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Grieving and Remembering Family Members of 9/11 Victims at the South Pool
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A moving site in New York City today as family members of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks visit the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies.
(photo: Todd Heisler-Pool/Getty Images)

Grieving and Remembering Family Members of 9/11 Victims at the South Pool

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A moving site in New York City today as family members of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks visit the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies.

(photo: Todd Heisler-Pool/Getty Images)

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A Father Mourns His Lost Son
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son’s name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011, in New York.
(photo: Justin Lane/AFP/Getty Images)

A Father Mourns His Lost Son

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son’s name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011, in New York.

(photo: Justin Lane/AFP/Getty Images)

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God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
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President Barack Obama, who read this passage, Psalm 46, at the ceremony to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. 

President Obama and President BushFormer U.S. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama visit the 9/11 memorial on September 11, 2011 in New York. (photo: Mandel Ngana/AFP/Getty Images)

~by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Complicated Grief: How to Lessen Pain that Persists

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Angel of GriefStatue of an angel grieving in a cemetery in Houston, Texas. (photo: Timothy Faust/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief. ~Aeschylus

UCLA researchers found that grief over losing a loved one can take an extreme form of bereavement, stimulating the part of the brain normally associated with reward and addiction. This is called “complicated grief” and the name alone gives more weight and depth to our varied experiences of loss.

This phrase is being considered for addition to the 2012 DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook for diagnosing mental disorders. There is no formal definition, but The New York Times describes its symptoms as:

"… a yearning for the loved one so intense that it strips a person of other desires. Life has no meaning; joy is out of bounds. Other symptoms include intrusive thoughts about death; uncontrollable bouts of sadness, guilt and other negative emotions; and a preoccupation with, or avoidance of, anything associated with the loss."

Observed differences in brain scans

The nucleus accumbens (NA) is the part of the brain associated with reward and addiction. Participants in the study were asked to view images of their lost loved ones paired with words about their loss. The people who showed the most devastating patterns of grieving also showed more activation in the NA.

Mary-Frances O’Connor, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor brain activity told the Times: “It’s as if the brain were saying, ‘Yes I’m anticipating seeing this person’ and yet ‘I am not getting to see this person.’ The mismatch is very painful.”

Hope for treatment

Though bereavement research and training is very limited, there are some clinical trials in the works modeling treatment of victims of PTSD.

The patient undergoes the painful task of recalling the death in detail while the therapist records the session on tape. Then the patient must listen to the tape at their home daily with a goal of learning that their grief can be put away or picked up again on their own terms, just as one can do with a tape. Also patients are asked to focus on future goals without their loved one.

Asking a bereaved person to compartmentalize and relive their pain in this way sounds painful, even insensitive. However, the method has shown signs of success and is an important early step in understanding this underserved population of sufferers.

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Gazan Doctor Renews Commitment to Forgiveness and Peace after Losing Three Daughters

by Kate Moos, executive producer

Executive Producer Kate Moos and Dr. Izzeldin AbuelaishAs we began to drill down on our editorial planning for next month’s production trip to Israel and Palestine, Trent asked me to sit down with Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician who has written a new memoir about growing up in the Gaza Strip, his struggles to become a doctor, and the loss of three of his daughters to an Israeli mortar in the hostilities between Hamas and Israel of 2009. I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity is recently published, and he was making a swing through the Twin Cities on book tour.

So I dusted off my rusty interviewing skills, tried to emulate the masterful Krista Tippett with my deep listening, and the 30-minute conversation above ensued.

Abuelaish’s story would be heroic in many ways without his personal loss, but is even moreso because, in its wake, he renewed his commitment to forgiveness and acceptance, and now travels the world on a mission for peace in the name of his daughters, for whom he created a foundation.

Let us know what you think about this interview, and share your thoughts on others you’d like to see, in what we hope will be a regular feature here on the blog.

(photo: Trent Gilliss)

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StoryCorps Moms: Myra Dean and Gary Jamison
Shubha Bala, associate producer

"In the story of Job, Job lost everything, and he got everything back twofold. … I’m blessed and I’m loved, and I know that I’ve made a difference."

In honor of Mother’s Day, this touching story of Myra Dean, who lost her son, at age 10, to a reckless driver.

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"Life is But a Memory"Andy Dayton, associate web producer

"There’s a harvest time for everything in the world. When an orange gets ripe, you either eat it or it rots. When a tree get so big it should be cut and used, because it’s gonna decay or rot back into the soil. And a human life is the same way — you have to learn to manage and take care of everything you have, or you don’t have anything."

Tom Rose is a 63-year-old farmer, father, and recent widower. This video profile of Rose by Soul of Athens — a project documenting the lives of the people in Athens County, Ohio — is a difficult but powerful tale of grief and loss. His reflections on memory combined with the video’s stark images reminded me of our Alzheimer’s show.

"Life is But a Memory"
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

"There’s a harvest time for everything in the world. When an orange gets ripe, you either eat it or it rots. When a tree get so big it should be cut and used, because it’s gonna decay or rot back into the soil. And a human life is the same way — you have to learn to manage and take care of everything you have, or you don’t have anything."

Tom Rose is a 63-year-old farmer, father, and recent widower. This video profile of Rose by Soul of Athens — a project documenting the lives of the people in Athens County, Ohio — is a difficult but powerful tale of grief and loss. His reflections on memory combined with the video’s stark images reminded me of our Alzheimer’s show.

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Speak, Memory
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Phillip Toledano’s "Days with My Father" is a moving, personal photo essay. To call Toledano’s work a “photo essay” is simply inadequate; it’s so much more than that. It’s a reflection on memory and relationships, on absence and loss, and on the frail, tender spaces between the love of a son and a mother and a father.
It lacks pretension. I’ve imbibed this son’s portrait of a 98-year-old man many times — the first at three in the morning, the last reading Toledano’s simply worded tales of remembrance and observation to my 'tiny' family during supper. We laughed. We cried. We sighed. We kissed our boys.
Yesterday, we had our first cuts-and-copy for a show addressing Alzheimer’s disease (podcast release, March 26th). While listening to Krista and psychologist Alan Dienstag’s conversation, the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir kept swirling around in my head, “speak, memory.” I even found myself mouthing the words in some strange poetic manner.
Why? Dienstag’s insights into Alzheimer’s became universal quite quickly. His experiences speak to memory writ large. They speak to me in my life as I try to remember all that is good, and even my failures.
Nabokov spoke to this in his writing about his own life. And I’m learning that there is this indistinguishable line between the autobiographical facts and events of one’s life and the stories that surround them, that build on them, that transcend them. That includes the stories we tell to our loved ones. They become as true as any recordable event.
Sharing these stories is a way to communicate when all else is lost. Giving away these memories in some recorded form ensures that these memories endure — even as the person holding these memories loses contact with them.
And although Toledano’s father has short-term memory loss and not Alzheimer’s, a common silken thread of factual events mixed with stories fill the gaps where memory ceases to exist. And from this necessary mix a new story emerges. As his son records these memories, remembering begins again. And that gift of memory is given to us. I’m incredibly thankful for that act.
(photo: Phillip Toledano)

Speak, Memory

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Phillip Toledano’s "Days with My Father" is a moving, personal photo essay. To call Toledano’s work a “photo essay” is simply inadequate; it’s so much more than that. It’s a reflection on memory and relationships, on absence and loss, and on the frail, tender spaces between the love of a son and a mother and a father.

It lacks pretension. I’ve imbibed this son’s portrait of a 98-year-old man many times — the first at three in the morning, the last reading Toledano’s simply worded tales of remembrance and observation to my 'tiny' family during supper. We laughed. We cried. We sighed. We kissed our boys.

Yesterday, we had our first cuts-and-copy for a show addressing Alzheimer’s disease (podcast release, March 26th). While listening to Krista and psychologist Alan Dienstag’s conversation, the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir kept swirling around in my head, “speak, memory.” I even found myself mouthing the words in some strange poetic manner.

Why? Dienstag’s insights into Alzheimer’s became universal quite quickly. His experiences speak to memory writ large. They speak to me in my life as I try to remember all that is good, and even my failures.

Nabokov spoke to this in his writing about his own life. And I’m learning that there is this indistinguishable line between the autobiographical facts and events of one’s life and the stories that surround them, that build on them, that transcend them. That includes the stories we tell to our loved ones. They become as true as any recordable event.

Sharing these stories is a way to communicate when all else is lost. Giving away these memories in some recorded form ensures that these memories endure — even as the person holding these memories loses contact with them.

And although Toledano’s father has short-term memory loss and not Alzheimer’s, a common silken thread of factual events mixed with stories fill the gaps where memory ceases to exist. And from this necessary mix a new story emerges. As his son records these memories, remembering begins again. And that gift of memory is given to us. I’m incredibly thankful for that act.

(photo: Phillip Toledano)

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