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November/December 2000

My mom died a week ago. A few days later, I received the July/August World. I can't tell you how comforting it was to know that other people were talking about grief and loss. I still miss Mom a lot, but your articles, along with my fellow UUs, helped me pull through a rough week. Thanks.
Derek Belt
Attleboro, MA

Over the past months, my parents have been ill, and I've battled the overwhelming emotions connected with their inevitable deaths. So I opened the July/August World with trepidation. But when I read it, I saw I had no reason to be apprehensive. The articles were written well, and your resource list led me to a number of books that helped give me a new understanding of how to deal with my grief. Thank you for the renewed sense of peace.
Kristen Lauster
Schenectady, NY

I just turned 90, so quite understandably, I've been giving some thought to death and dying. Thanks for the good messages in the July/August issue.
Margery D. Mcintire
St. Augustine, FL

When I pulled the July/August World out of the mailbox, I knew a higher power was watching over me. My stepfather is dying of bladder cancer, and our family is struggling with myriad emotions.

I found Jane Dwinell's article on her work with dying people ["Seven Final Chapters"] especially comforting. Although I've been a hospice volunteer for years, I'm scared of what we might face when my stepfather dies. Dwinell's piece showed me that while every person's death is different, we can learn something from each death. Likewise, death need not only be about grief. I hope that when my stepfather dies, we can celebrate and honor his wonderful life.
Kris McVey
Spartanburg, SC

Jane Dwinell's article was very instructive, but I was troubled by her references to New Age beliefs in the section on the dying man named Paul. She writes that after losing his "New Age visions of a peaceful death," he wound up "in spiritual pain [because] he could not find a belief that would hold him in his sorrow and anger."

Would Dwinell say that, as one of many UUs influenced by New Age ideas, I lack a sustaining belief system? I hope not, for I've sought spiritual insight from diverse sources, including the 23rd Psalm and Ecclesiastes. I'd like to hear in more detail about the aspects of New Age beliefs that might undermine strength and courage in the face of death.
Robert B. Smith
W. Friendship, MD

I liked the article "Bringing the Dead to Life" [July/August], about Día de los Muertos rituals in UU congregations, but I was surprised it didn't mention an identical ritual, called Samahin, celebrated for hundreds of years by pagans.
Joann Allard
Falmouth, MA

I agree with Earl Grollman ["Coping with Loss," July/August] that young children should be allowed to go to funerals. My own father died when I was six. Many people told my mother I should stay home from the funeral, but she insisted I go. That experience allowed me to accept death as a natural part of life. Later, when I was a young adult, a friend who had contracted a potentially fatal illness theorized that because of my early experience with death I could listen to her worries without trivializing them or changing the subject. Meanwhile, many of her other friends avoided her.

My own four children have attended several funerals, starting at age four or five. I tell them in advance to be dignified, not to stare, and to save their questions for afterwards, when I will answer them. They never seem to feel out of place.
Valerie Petersen-Beard
Silver Spring, MD

Thanks to Earl Grollman for saying that grieving is not a disorder. After a host of devastating losses, I realize that each of us experiences loss and grief in his or her own way. In a culture where many people are intent on reprogramming other people, Grollman gives us permission to be ourselves.
Marcia Wala
Rock Island, IL

Earl Grollman's thoughts about grief rang true for me, but he does leave something vital out--the loss of a living, caring other to hold and comfort and share with. I'm in no way referring to sex. I'm talking about the blessedness of having someone to feel a human sense of belonging with.
C. Lee Hubbell
Chicago, IL

Not Comforted
It doesn't comfort me to hear that because of "the level of trust" in the room at a UU church forum on police brutality ["Among Ourselves," July/August], a black activist felt "comfortable enough" to say he had "never met a good white person." If I said, "I never met a good black person," no one would be applauding--and no one should. Statements like this, and the behavior that follows from them, destroy trust, relationship, and community.

Racism and racists come in every color of the rainbow. As a white woman who once worked and lived where I was in the racial minority, I was snubbed and insulted in the workplace, told I couldn't sit in the back of a bus, and robbed because I was white. This was the behavior of a few people only, but it does leave a bad memory.

If "racist" is going to apply to white people only, we're simply creating a new double standard. And if that's racial justice, count me out.
Mary J. Marsh
Chehalis, WA

Robert Begiebing's article "The Environmental Message of the Aliens" ["Commentary," July/August] so embarrassed me that I couldn't show the issue in which it appeared to anyone outside my church.

It's simply nuts to try connecting alien abductions to earth-centered spirituality. I feel a bit less UU each time our national headquarters slips a little further into soft-headedness.
Harvey H. Madison
Lubbock, TX

In the past year, I have heard in my church that auras and tarot cards are "earth centered," that the universal laws of physics somehow obey the pagan calendar, and that scientists will someday figure all this out. Now we must also entertain the notion that extraterrestrial alien abductions are earth centered, too.

I joined my church because I thought UUism was a religion with a mind. Now I'm afraid it's losing it.
Peter Westfall
Lubbock, TX

Thanks for Robert Begiebing's heartfelt article. I feel the same way Begiebing does about alien abductions. Wouldn't it be great if we could just say "aliens" and teach their message, along with other great messages, to the human family without the usual looks and snickers?
Cherry Muhanji
Kansas City, MO

Although Robert Begiebing's article uses aliens as a metaphor for rising environmental awareness among humans, those of us who have studied the UFO phenomenon can tell you in no uncertain terms that we have been, and continue to be, visited by non-human intelligences possessing technology unimaginably superior to our own. The evidence for this will overwhelm anyone who looks at it objectively.
Paul Nahay
Assistant Director
Extraterrestrial Political Action Committee
Silver Spring, MD

I'm troubled by letters in your July/August issue from white readers who refuse to believe that implicit or blatant racism exists in UU communities. Though it's true, especially in the South, that most African Americans are traditional Christians, it's also true that even those who may embrace the UU philosophy and the UU dedication (sometimes nominal) to action against racism do not come to UU congregations, because they're known as "white churches."
E.K. Daufin
Montgomery, AL

Elsa Baer's letter [July/August] shows us all how much we have to learn in order to be a truly diverse organization. Allen Pérez Somarriba's surname, like all names of people of Hispanic origin, is composed of Pérez, his father's name, and Somarriba, his mother's name. To ask him to change it to "fit into application forms" denigrates his culture and bespeaks our Anglo hubris.
Elizabeth McMaster
Roanoke, VA

Things by Their Proper Names
I first learned of the Journey toward Wholeness program at my first General Assembly, in Rochester, NY, where a table in the exhibit hall was devoted to JTW. I picked up a pamphlet and read halfway through it before I realized the program had something to do with racism.

Similar experiences dogged me the whole week of that GA. The theme of the assembly was Fulfilling the Promise. ("What promise?" I wondered. "Did I make a promise?") Many people at the GA were also discussing the Our Whole Lives, or OWL, program, which was al-most ready to begin. My first guess was that OWL must have something to do with the elderly--the owlish wisdom that comes from having lived a long life, etc. But, no, it turned out OWL is set up to teach young people about sex. (Strangely, my whole life has a lot more to it than sex.)

Why do we do this? Is there something wrong with names that describe the things they denote? It's time we recognized our jargon for what it is: a barrier that keeps out newcomers. I wonder how many people walked up to that Journey toward Wholeness table in Rochester, shrugged in puzzlement, and continued on their way.
Doug Muder
Nashua, NH

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Please address to "Letters," UU World, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108, or email us. Include your name, address, and daytime phone number on all correspondence. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret that we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

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