Death, Grief, and #Outlander

Books.  Are.  Refuge.  I believe this.  I believe they offer hope when it is hard to come by, that they offer respite when the world is “too much with us,” and they offer knowledge to combat the ignorance of prejudice.

So I was not surprised when, after my mom died on Christmas Eve, I eventually turned to my books.  I was surprised, however, that it took me so long to reach out to the solace of their well-worn pages.  There was an answer for that, of course, a reason for my hesitancy to slip into the relief offered by a good story; it just took me a while to work it out…

{SPOILERS AHEAD:  If you haven’t finished the Outlander series to date, you might want to book mark this page for later.  Otherwise, read further at your own expense.  You have been warned.}

Grief is a very personal thing.  It varies so much from person to person, and even from loss to loss.  There is no “right” way to grieve.  (Although, of course, there are some very unhealthy ways to do so.)

In the first book, we get a glimpse at Claire’s grief at losing Frank.  Despite the protests of some Frank Haters, Claire most certainly does grieve the loss of Frank.  She weeps for him at Castle Leoch after tending to Jamie’s injuries.  And, trust me, if a woman can sit on a certain ginger’s lap and sadness that, my friends, is some serious grief.  Some readers minimize the depth of this grief, since Claire doesn’t curl up onto the fetal position or rock back and forth.  Our heroine, however, if made of stronger stuff.  Her turns her grief to action, to purpose, to finding a way back to Frank.  Sometimes, grief spurs us on.

There is more grief, of course, grief over the Wentworth and what it does to Jamie.  Because sometimes, the grief that hurts is the most is the unrelenting pain of someone we know…a pain which we cannot ease for them.  The pain of loved ones can rub and gnaw until it creates a wound on our own soul–as if, by adding our own pain, we can lessen their burden.  Helpless in the face of Jamie’s pain and shame and guilt, Claire finally shares her own pain in the quiet of the abbey.  And, in that sharing, she finds hope.

Sometimes grief more resembles anger, like when Jenny lashes out at Claire for not raising a finger to save her beloved Ian from death.  Why him?  Why now?  Why like this?

Death, like any visitor, can be fickle.  Sometimes you know; you plan for him, wait for him, and are ready to receive him.  Other times, he catches you unaware.

Ian Murphy saw Death coming for a great distance.  There was time to make sure that there was nothing left unsaid.  Time to prepare.  To set things to right.  A blessing to be sure, but also a burden in its own way.  Everyone gathers.  Everyone waits.  Life stands still in the long moments between breaths.  Until finally, the breaths cease and, slowly, life starts back up again.

Other deaths seem to strike like a crime of opportunity.  One moment’s hesitation, a moment too long at a stop light, a skipped mammogram, an unknown allergy…  Unfortunately, life—much like a good book—has periods of unrest…dark times to make the reader appreciate the light…tragedy to make the happy ending that much sweeter.

And that, of course, it why I didn’t immediately return to the Outlander books.  I cared too much about the characters to risk losing anyone else.  Dealing with the loss of Mrs. Bug and also Young Ian’s guilt, seemed too much to take on.  Watching Claire drink herself into a stupor instead of contemplating a life without Jamie felt too raw; to witness, again, Claire’s feeling of maladroitness in the face of Ian’s illness, felt too eerily relatable.  I wanted something else.  I wanted escape.  I wanted love without the pain.  Light without the dark.  Good without the bad.

So, for a while, tended to things.  Arrangements, loose ends, the sorting through of things.  Busy work.  Work to distract the mind.

But that is not balance; it cannot be maintained.

So, now, finally, I venture forth.  I write a little something.  I read a bit.  I try to put one foot in front of the other.  Something akin to walking.  Something like moving forward.

At some point, though, I hope for more.  I hope for something better that just forward movement.  At some point, I want a measure of peace.  The peace that comes with acceptance.  Something past the blinding pain of loss, something past the anger, something past the empty void.  At some point, I want to have the grace and wisdom to, instead, whisper:  That she may be safe, Lord.  

Maybe someday, for the moment, that will be enough.   Until, we just hold on as best we can…

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Mom and Dad (Thanksgiving, 2016): our last holiday together
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Auld Lang Syne

My mother was a faithful woman.  And in the early hours of Christmas Eve morn, she went to be with her Lord and Savior.

Yesterday was the Celebration of Life for her, and tomorrow starts a new year.  My first year without her.

My very talented sister in law put together a beautiful photo retrospective.  She included one of my favorite photos of my mom.  Still glowing with youth and full of life, it perfectly captures her joy and fiestiness and her grace…

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Charlene Zeller (1935-2016)

 

In honor of her, I will recount the words I said at her service–mostly so those who never got a chance to know her might at least know of her.

Those gathered here today undoubtedly knew of my mother’s grace and generosity. One of the ways her love manifested itself was through giving. It was undoubtedly her Love Language, and she was fluent in it. She loved to go shopping—she considered it a quest of sorts—a quest to find the Perfect Pairing of Gift and Value. (She came from Scottish ancestry, and their renowned thriftiness was a trait she bore with pride.)

In her quest to find Just the Right Gift, my mother hunted all year. The only problem was that, once she found that Perfect Gift, she simply couldn’t bear to wait to see the expression of joy and surprise. Many times she would call me at work and tell me that I needed to stop by on my way home so she could present me with one of her finds.

Even once she started chemo, she often sweet talked my father to run her by some store or other on the way to treatment, or afterwards, so that she could pick up something special for someone. I still have the text on my phone from this past Spring when she had located something special…you see, Mom had passed on to me her love of plants, and she had found a certain plant which she knew I wanted for my garden. She was eager to surprise me with it and couldn’t wait to tell me about it. Her text said: Hint: Witch Hazel, come by and get it tonight, OK?

When I picked up the plant that evening, I was shocked to find that it barely fit in my SUV. As always, when Mom did things, she did them big.

A lot of the flowers and herbs that grace my garden were gifts from my Mom. They are a living reminder of her and, soon, when Winter gives way to Spring, I can walk among the plants and feel her near.

Once of the reasons she loved plants so much was, along with their beauty, they had purpose…they had meaning.

One of the last plants she gave me was that Witch Hazel….in ancient times, it was believed that Witch Hazel could ward off evil…and soothe a broken heart.

It seems that, even as the end drew near, Mama was searching for one last perfect gift.

Thank you, Mama.

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Go mbeannai Dia dhuit.

 

 

Books, Grief, and #Outlander

Sometimes you just know things. A thought, unbidden, rises with certainty. Not something hoped for. Not something expected. But something Known.

When I heard my mom had a mass in her lung, I knew it was cancer. And before the radiation and chemo and pet scans, I knew–just as sure as autumn’s days grow shorter–that when the season’s chill gave way to cold, she would also give way to something, to whatever comes After.

This brave, wise, and faithful woman taught me to live. Now, as these numbered days march on, she teaches me the Final Lesson. How to die.  The one thing that she cannot teach me is how to go on without her.  This lesson I must figure out on my own, and a lonely, stumbling journey it is.

Raised with books as I was, I look there for solace: I try to find escape; I try to find guidance.  Something to hold onto when I can no longer hold her.

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A pile of books waits for me next to my bed.  The spines cracked with use.  Pages dog-earred.  C. S. Lewis shared his own journey in A Grief Observed, and I cling to it like a map out of the abyss.  I spare a thought for the repose of his own soul, and in the next ragged breath I say a word of thanks for Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series.  Mere words on paper, to be sure, but words that have helped me untangle thoughts, find hope and faith, soothe both anger and fear… Now I turn to those beloved books in the blind panic of a grief much dreaded.

Considering the span of years (and the time period) which Gabaldon’s books cover, it is only natural that death and loss occurs.  Claire’s parents.  Jamie’s parents.  Murtaugh. Ian Murray. Frank. Mrs. Bug. Faith. Even merely presumed deaths cast a long shadow across the page.

We see death through the eyes of so many characters.  And, in them, we see ourselves  Every stage of grief is represented:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then finally…acceptance.

Last night I reread the pages of Ian Murray’s death.  I grabbed the book off the pile and took it with me to my son’s football practice.  The heat of the day had dissolved into a crisp breeze, and the Oklahoma sun was blazing pink and yellow behind the black of the shadowed tree line.  Under dusk’s shadows, I flipped through the pages until I found it.

The death was neither easy nor poetic, but his soul’s final passage was a gentle slipping away.

He didn’t speak again but seemed to settle, his body diminishing as life and breath fled from it.  When his last breath came, they waited in dull misery, expecting another, and only after a full minute of silence did they begin to look at one another covertly, stealing glances at the ravaged bed, the stillness in Ian’s face–and realized slowly that it was over at last.

Despite the fact that we know it is coming, we never quite expect it; we wait for a breath that never comes, and glance at one another for confirmation.  Is this it?  Is this all?  We always want there to be more.

They move on.  Then we move on.  We proceed with preparations.  Busy ourselves with What Must Be Done.  But realization finds us in the quiet moments.  It always does.

When Jamie and Jenny find a quiet moment together, Jenny asks her brother the thought that has lingered in her mind despite her distractions:

“Where d’ye think he is now?” Jenny asked suddenly.  “Ian, I mean.”

He glanced at the house, then at the new grave waiting, but of course that wasn’t Ian anymore.  He was panicked for a moment, his earlier emptiness returning–but then it came to him, and, without surprise, he knew what it was Ian had said to him.

“On your right side, man.”  On his right.  Guarding his weak side.

“He’s just here,” he said to Jenny, nodding to the spot between them.  Where he belongs.”

This is what I am holding on to…that long after I stop waiting for the breath that never comes, I will always find her, just there, guarding my weak side.

#Outlander, the Icky Bits, and Nutella

I haven’t weighed in on Season 2 of Outlander yet.  Maybe I was letting it sink in, perhaps I needed to process it a bit…to decide just what I felt about it.

Other fans shared their thoughts and opinions.  I heard talk about how Episode 1 Jamie seemed remote, hard to relate to, almost wooden.   They bemoan the change and how Season 2 Jamie isn’t “their” Jamie–how he’s not the same as Season 1 Jamie.

And, of course, they are right.

They mention the rape, talk about his PTSD, and how he is traumatized.  Yes, yes.  Of course he is.  But a lot of these comments are followed up with the something like, “I’ll be glad when the old Jamie is back.” 

What they likely mean, of course, is that they will be glad when camera focuses less on Jamie’s pain and trauma and gets back to the good times.  They want less screen time that focuses less on his nightmares and more on his smile, his wit, and his cute tush.

And I get it.

I do.

Or maybe they simply mean that they want his suffering to end.  That’s not bad, right?  I mean, they really like Jamie.  Who wants to see someone they like in pain?

But, really, if one of our BFFs suffered a trauma, would we try force “normalcy” on her so quickly?  Or would we give her time to cry, to grieve, to bury her pain in a pint of Ben & Jerrys (or a pint of Guinness, I won’t judge), and to curse the son of a bitch that hurt her…all while we planned his very painful and humiliating demise?

Sometimes you need to hang out in your sweat pants and watch bad Lifetime movies while eating Nutella straight from the jar.  Sometimes that chocolate-hazelnut goodness is all that gets you through the day.

These episodes…they are Jamie’s Nutella Days.  The guy has earned it.  Don’t try to take the jar away just yet.

Yes, broken Jamie is painful to watch.  Broken Jamie doesn’t want to think about Sexy Time.  Broken Jamie is short tempered and doesn’t whisper sweet nothings in Gaelic.

Geez.  Next thing you know, Broken Jamie will start talking about bills, and carpool, and he’ll leave the toilet seat up…

But the thing is, people are like that.  Life is like that.  Love is like that.

There are things you simply can’t rush.  You can’t rush healing.  You can’t rush forgiveness (of yourself or of others).  You can’t rush growth, or understanding, or love.

One of the things I love so much about the books is how Diana Gabaldon doesn’t rush things.  She doesn’t write Jamie’s rape and then pretend it never happened.  We are reminded of it– Jamie is reminded of it—over and over and over again.

Diana Gabaldon did not merely craft a character and a scene.  She crafted scars for him to bear, specters to haunt him, guilt to chain him, and faith to heal him. Her books gave Jamie—and the readers—time to work through what happened and its implications.  She breathed life into fantasy.

Jamie’s rape casts a long shadow, and it reaches through the books and colors events for many years to come.  I appreciate that what he endured was not a simple plot device that, once used, is swept under the rug.  The thread of Jamie’s sacrifice is woven through all of the books…through each page (oh, so many pages) of all of the books (those wonderfully long books!).

Have I mentioned that I love long books?  (Thank you, Diana!)

I do.

Because you can’t rush a good story.

Stories are more than just the good parts.  Life is more than just the good parts.  Love is more than just the good parts.

So I will watch patiently.  I will bear witness to the painful bits, the heartbeats of sorrow, and the moments of aching longing, because these times are the building blocks for what is to come.

Things get better.  They do.  Wounds heal.  Disappointments fade.

Both on screen and on the page…and in life.

Until then, pass the Nutella.

Depression, #Outlander, and a New Year’s Wish

When you take away the twinkling lights and beloved carols, the bustle of family underfoot, and the sweet anticipation, winter can seem just…cold. Maybe the feeling is held at bay until after the last of the wadded up wrapping paper finds its way to the trash bin, or perhaps it creeps in not long after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. But it comes. It always comes.

The frightful weather outside no longer seems delightful, instead of throwing another log on the fire and shouting for the storm clouds to do their worst you wonder just how much firewood there is left, and worry how the roof is holding up, and if your pipes might freeze.

Laundry piles up as you put off the wash until the temperature can fight its way back above freezing, and suddenly the same four walls that seemed so cozy and inviting now seem to close in around you. The family you love seems to get on your nerves, and you spend an inordinate of time hiding in the bathroom just for a moment’s peace.

You start to notice the gaps . . . Those dark spaces that used to be filled by someone you loved. You are reminded of the traditions that fell away this year, since the one who carried them out is no longer around to do so. Perhaps there were angry words before the absence, or maybe there was no time for words at all. The were just . . . gone. Or maybe they lingered until there was nothing left to remind you of the person that once was, and you wished you could recall something more than the weakened shadow with which you were left.

For all the joy the holidays bring, too often they also bring sorrow. Maybe this is why I read so much around the holidays. It isn’t because there is more time (because there isn’t), or because the cold keeps me nestled indoors (because I tend to get cabin fever), but maybe it does have something to do with the fact that books remind us that we are not alone.

Books remind us what adventure feels like, the joy of possibilities, and the intimate pleasure of a story well told. They give us a taste of love when our own life might be lacking it, and a sense of justice of which the world too often seems sadly devoid. Books remind us what honor looks like, and loyalty. They can show us joy, and peace, and light.

But some books, daring books, also remind us what darkness is . . . and how to find our way out of it.

Harry Potter reminds us what true friendship looks like. Friendship with all of its faults and flaws. Friendship that acknowledges both selflessness . . . and jealousy. Friendship that has room for shortcomings, for missteps, and that still finds its way to forgiveness and loyalty. The series shows us love in all of its myriad of forms: the love of true friends, yes, but also the love of brothers, of parent and child, and of mentor and protégé.

But, in these dark days of winter, sometimes love and joy can seem as scarce as the fleeting daylight. Sometimes the emotions more easily identified with are those that mirror the steely grey sky.

J. K. Rowling gave the dark emotions form in the Dementors. These creatures sucked the joy out of those around them, just as depression can steal away whatever joy we try to embrace. If only chocolate could stave off the effects of depression as well as it did the after-effects of a Dementor attack . . .

While Harry Potter may have personified depression with its Dementors (and while a dear friend and I often refer to ourselves during inexplicably cranky/depressive moods as feeling rather “Harry Potter Book Five”), few stories summon forth the darker side of humanity better than the Outlander series.

Diana Gabaldon allows us unimaginable intimacy with her characters. We bear witness to violation, to self-loathing, and to grief. But, more importantly, she leads us through to the other side of the dark journey.

[SPOILER WARNING….]

JAMIE ~

From the beginning, we know that Jamie has had to endure Dark Days. His mother died in childbirth, he believed his sister to be in ruin, his father died of a stroke during Jamie’s flogging, he believed his uncle to have tried to kill him, his wife is nearly burned at the stake, and he tried to return her to her rightful time even though such a move would mean losing his true love. Later, he endures unimaginable brutality to try to save his beloved Claire. And that’s all just in the first book!

The end of Dragonfly in Amber always results in an ugly cry. (Yet I keep reading it, again and again.) Whatever joy he found is ripped from him as he is separated from Claire for twenty long years. In her absence, he fully expects to die and does nothing to try to avoid death. Instead, he embraces the relief he expects it will bring.

Slowly, his life finds purpose again. First, as a de facto chief of the prisoners at Ardsmuir. later as provider for Laoghaire and her daughters. He is uncle to Young Jamie and surrogate father to Fergus. Sometimes, we are reminded, it is enough to keep going for the sake of others until you can find your own reason to continue.

CLAIRE ~

Claire’s strength is one of her defining characteristics. When ripped from her husband and the life she knew, she did not fall apart or expect to be rescued somehow. Other that one brief moment of tears while perched on the lap of a certain highlander, the woman was unwaveringly strong. But even Claire has her limits.

In Dragonfly in Amber, when Claire lost her Faith, her beloved first child, she did in fact seem to have a crisis of faith. The darkness surrounded her and she found little reason to go on. As angry as she was with Jamie, she felt ungrounded and without direction or purpose. Only after she realized that she was needed, that he needed her (what with being imprisoned and all), did she start to regain her sense of action.

In a later book, even when Claire was brutalized at the hands of kidnappers, she did not succumb to the darker emotions that might easily have drowned her. Although there was still much to be dealt with and worked through, she did not give up. As long as Jamie was by her side, she seems able to withstand nearly everything. He is her strength, as she is his. In fact, it seems that Claire is most vulnerable when Jamie, her emotional bulwark, is absent.

Undoubtedly the lowest point for Claire was when she feared that Jamie was lost at sea. Without Brianna to care for, there seemed little reason to continue. She contemplated suicide and found what solace she could at the bottom of a bottle. And the readers bear witness to her nearly ruinous grief. We want to shout to her that Jamie is alive! We want to tell her to hang on, that things get better, and that there are still so many others to live for . . . just as, in real life, when we wish to whisper these same consolations to our own real-life friends and family members who suffer from depression or who are struggling with grief. Hang on. Just hang on . . . it gets better.

YOUNG IAN ~

Young Ian suffers from his own grief. The pain of being separated from his family time and time again has to weigh on him. He also confronts the nearly unbearable struggle of trying to do the “right thing,” and of trying to put others first as he offers himself as a substitute for Roger and, in doing so, must turn his back on his family, his faith, and his heritage. Then, when he finally builds up a life with Emily and they try to start a family, to then suffer the loss of child after child until finally his own wife turns from him. And the aching loneliness he quietly endures as he tries to make peace with his loss . . . only to see in his Uncle Jamie and Auntie Claire the kind of love that he longs for. Remarkably, the constant reminder of their joy doesn’t call forth bitterness, but rather hope. Hope that if they can find their way back to one another, that perhaps he, too, can find his way back to happiness. Young Ian still has the soul of a poet and there remains in him the young lad that, on that day long ago in a brothel, when confronted with his Auntie Claire, long since presumed dead, finds the whole thing to be incredibly romantic. Although he faces his own torments, Young Ian meets them like the poet-warrior that he is.

Not everyone is as lucky.

FERGUS ~

Perhaps that is why, for me, the character whose struggle with his own internal demons touches me most is that of Fergus. Fergus, who in his youth made light of his missing hand and joked about finally being a gentleman of leisure, who never complained about his motherless childhood, who always seemed confident and jovial . . . that this is the character who tried to take his own life, that we didn’t see it coming, THIS is the character, the moment, the desperation that I feel sharpest. Because sometimes you DON’T see it coming. Sometimes, no matter how well loved they are, no matter how many people care, sometimes we just don’t see it.

That is why, in these dark days of winter, as we take down the tinsel and tuck away the garland, it is well to take stock of ourselves and those around us. Depression can set in like winter’s chill, and sometimes you don’t realize how cold you are until you can no longer feel.

A new year approaches. Perhaps instead of resolving to fit into a size four dress or buy something bigger, better, or more expensive, we could resolve to take better care of ourselves . . . and of those around us

My wish for the new year is simple: May your home be filled with books that speak to you, friends who care for you . . . and time enough to enjoy both.

Finding the Quiet

treeIt just doesn’t feel like the holidays yet.  Perhaps it is because the past week or so has been nothing but obligations: running errands, tending to unforeseen things that have a tendency to arise when there is no time to deal with them, and trying to “get ready” for the festivities (or rather, stress about buying all the things that have not yet been bought).  The end result, however, is more Bah-Humbug than Happy Holidays.

The days slip away, and each day I count down how many more days before the holidays are here.  I contemplate what event I can mark off next, as if they are hurdles to be overcome rather than moments to savor.  I—so caught up in preparing for fifteen minutes of unwrapping—have forgotten to slow down and enjoy the quiet sense anticipation of the season.

I do know how to manage it, which helps.  I need to find the quiet.  Sometimes I need to go outside and stand in the winter’s chill and lift my eyes to the heavens.  Or perhaps it is enough to wrap myself in a well-worn tartan and, with a wee dram in hand, sit before the flickering fire and let the stress rise and float away like the crackling embers.  Or solace may come to me in the still of night, while I listen to the rise and fall of breath next to me, and—reaching over and laying my hand across his chest–find blessings enough in the warm and solid presence of my husband.

There are too many commercials, too many parties and luncheons, too many forced celebrations.  I will find my joy in the quiet moments in between.  In the twinkle of Christmas lights in the darkness and in stars overhead, in the smell of gingerbread baked “just because.”  And in ancient carols spilling from smiling lips…rather than tinny sounding sounds blared over department store speakers.  I’ll take comfort in the pile of wood next to my hearth, in a pair of warm mittens when I tend to the chickens.  And, as I add more hay to their coop, I’ll recall another manger, another night, another twinkling star…and I’ll remember what is important.

His Name is Raif Badawi

When you are born into a freedom, it is easier to take it for granted.  The past week has reminded me that my ability to write is not a freedom that everyone enjoys.  The terrorist attacks in Paris were a call to arms, or rather pens, to many in the writing community.

The ability to convey emotion, to rally people, to create a community with a stroke of the pen, with a collection of words, is a powerful thing.  And that power is scary to some.  As a writer, I know that a good book can aspire, motivate, and create stirrings within the soul that last a lifetime.  Great books, well, they can change lives.

There are different books that have spoken to me over the years, books that have taken root in my soul.  My family teases me that I can relate anything to Outlander.  Diana Gabaldon should be proud, because my family is quite right.  And the reading of the books has changed me.  It reawakened in me my love of all things herbal, it made me want to start learning the Gàidhlig, it made me want to be a better Catholic, and to delve deeper into history and heritage.

So, strange as it may sound, when I first heard of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi I realized that apparently the books had also provided a tiny glimpse into the horror of the punishment which has been (and will continue to be) inflicted on him.  Raif Badawi is one of the co-founders of the Free Saudi Liberals website (which has since been shut down).  In 2012 Badawi was arrested and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison.  His crime?  Insulting Islam on his online forum.

After Friday prayers, Badawi was the Al-Juffali mosque in Jiddah (which has been dubbed ‘Chop Chop Square’ due to its use as the site of executions).  The first fifty lashes was carried out Friday, and he will receive another fifty lashes each week for the next twenty weeks.

Because I had no other mental point of reference, nothing else with which to provide a visual framework for the horrors which this man must endure, my mind went to the only point of context available.  James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.  Readers of the book will know perfectly well which scene was called to mind.  I didn’t need to remind them.

The idea of this punishment being inflicted, week in and week out, fresh injury on top of unhealed wounds, was unimaginable.  Or rather, it might have been.

I cried when I read the scene in Outlander where Dougal MacKenzie describes in graphic detail what happened to Jamie at the hands of Black Jack Randall.  I cried even more when I saw Sam Heughan’s agonizing portrayal.  Without this, I would have had no point of reference for the horror facing Badawi.  My mind simply would not know how to frame it.  Of course, as Dougal points out, “Imagination is all verra well, but it isn’t equal to the sight of a man having his back laid open.  A verra nasty thing–it’s meant to break a man, and most often it succeeds.”  I have no true knowledge or experience, just my imagination and the framework provided by a book.  Admittedly, that makes me ignorant…and also quite lucky.

At the second flogging, Dougal notes, “A pitiful sight, it was, too–still raw, no more than half-healed, wi’ the weals turned black and the rest yellow wi’ bruises.  The thought of a whip comin’ down on that soreness was enough to make be blench, along wi’ most of those watching.”

And, to think, Badawi will endure this every week, for twenty weeks.

Claire asks Dougal why he told her the horrible and very graphic depiction of what happened to Jamie.  He replies, “I thought it might serve as what ye may call a character illustration.” At first Claire thinks that Dougal means of Black Jack, but he clarifies.  “Of Randall,” he agrees, “and Jamie too.”

I read that Badawi (like our hero Jamie) endured the first fifty lashes in silence, his eyes closed, stoic.  And again, I wept.

My ten daughter saw me reading on my phone yesterday and rolled her eyes.  “Are you reading Outlander again?” she asked with a tolerant grin.  “Those books always make you cry.  And the television show.  You cry during it, too.”  I shook my head.  No, this wasn’t Outlander, this was real life.

“Honey, do you remember the part where they flogged Jamie?” I asked.  “Well, that really happened to someone yesterday.  In real life. Someone really had to go through that.  And he’ll have to go through it every week for the next twenty weeks.  And it makes me sad.  It hurts me to think about it.”

“Don’t read it then,” she said, looking at my phone like she would not tolerate its part in making her mommy cry.

“Even if I don’t read it, honey.  It still happens, and I can’t pretend it doesn’t.  The man who was flogged wrote a blog.  Just like me.  That’s what he was flogged for.  What if I were flogged because someone didn’t like what I wrote?” I asked.

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Raif Badawi with his children in a picture supplied to Amnesty. Photograph: Amnesty

Her eyes grew big.  “What’s his name?” she whispered.

“His name is Raif Badawi.  He lives in Saudi Arabia, and he has three kids…just like I do,” I told her.  “And there is nothing I can do about it.  On Friday, it will happen all over again.  Every Friday.”

“We can pray for him,” she offered, searching her ten year old mind for something helpful.  “And…you could write about him.  In your blog.”

And so we did.  And I am.

And it seems so painfully, horribly inadequate.