My Boy’s Band and Maternal Inadequacy

I’m not a music person.

I’m just not.

Yes, I used to play the piano. Still do, when I happen across one, but otherwise? I barely even listen to music on the radio anymore.

I wouldn’t have said that my children’s dad was especially musical either, yet somehow we managed to produce Peter.

PeterDrumming

Who has been working on, working with, working toward music—specifically the drums—since he was about eleven years old.

Is he any good at it? I don’t know. Even when I do listen to the radio, I listen to classical (specifically Baroque). Left to my own devices, I would never listen to whatever it is that Peter’s band—Five of the Eyes— does. I know that when I go to hear his band play, I am mesmerized. All the wild energy that made Peter a challenging boy to have in the house or for that matter in one’s uterus (he was always Peter, right from the get-go!) make him compelling on stage, Or is that just maternal devotion talking?

Some of you, dear readers, must know about music. So I figured I’d provide this link to Five of the Eyes’ new album’s promo page and maybe those with ears to hear will understand him as his mother can’t.

Oh, by the way—there are two guys who look like Jesus in the band? Mine is the taller Jesus.

Sermons and Events, Summer-Fall 2017

If you’re in Maine July 8-9, Kate’s husband, artist Simon van der Ven, is holding an Open Studio
details at vandervenstudios.com

Sunday, July 16th Sermon, First Universalist Church of Rockland, ME
Sunday, July 23rd, Clam Festival, Yarmouth, ME
Sunday, August 6th, Sermon, Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Friday, August 11th “An Evening With Maine Authors” Benefit for Camp Susan Curtis
Stone Mt. Arts Center, Stoneham, ME

https://www.susancurtisfoundation.org/events/

Sunday, August 13th Sermon, First Universalist Church of Rockland, ME
Sunday, August 27 Sermon, Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Sunday, September 10, Sermon, Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Thursday, September 14th “Two Old Cops And An Angel” with Mark Nickerson and John Ford
Gray Library, Gray ME 6:30 pm
Sunday, September 24th Sermon, Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Sunday, October 8th Sermon Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Sunday, October 22nd Sermon Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church
Sunday, November 5th Sermon Lincolnville Center (ME) United Christian Church

Sermons and Talks, Spring ’17

Sunday, April 2, Lincolnville United Christian Church, Lincolnville, ME 9:30 AM
Saturday, April 8, Maynard Book Festival, Maynard (MA.) Public Library 3:30 PM
Sunday, April 16, Easter Service, First Universalist Church of Rockland, ME. 10 AM
Sunday, April 23, First Universalist Churches of West Paris and Norway, ME 9 and 11 AM
Sunday, May 7, Unitarian Universalist Church, Castine, ME 10:00 AM
Wednesday, June 7 Think and Drink Community Discussion Panel, Portland, ME 6:00 PM
Sunday, June 11 Lincolnville United Christian Church, Lincolnville, ME 9:30 AM
Sunday, June 18 First Universalist Church of Pittsfield, ME 9:30 AM
Sunday, July 16 First Universalist Church of Rockland, ME 10:00 AM

Modern Love with David Hlavsa

For reasons that are probably obvious to readers of Anchor and Flares, David Hlavsa’s book, Walking Distance: Pilgrimage, Parenthood, Grief and Home Repairs (Michigan University Press, 2015) found a place in my heart. Now, Hlavsa’s New York Times essay, “My First Son, A Pure Memory,” is featured in this week’s ‘Modern Love’ podcast.

http://www.wbur.org/modernlove/2016/08/24/my-first-son-a-pure-memory-modern-love

Emmy-nominated actor Sterling K. Brown does a beautiful reading of the essay, followed by interviews with NYT editor Dan Jones and with David and his wife Lisa.

Walking Distance was chosen as the Gold Winner for Family & Relationships in Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, and as a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2016. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at independent bookstores.

I Love Dallas

I am here with three Maine troopers, a sheriff’s deputy from Knox County and at least once municipal officer from Saco. When the members of our party introduce ourselves to Dallas police officers, they say “Maine!” in wonder, then thank us, with heartbreaking, humbling sincerity.

We were shown around the scene of the shooting by the Texas Highway Patrolmen and officers from neighboring agencies who were providing scene security so their brothers and sisters from the DPD could attend the ceremonies. It is smaller than I thought it would be, even weirdly intimate—there are the pillars we saw on television, chunks of concrete removed by the shooter’s weapon, small pings marking the places where police officers’ sidearms returned fire, right over there is the 7-11, where Officer Mike Smith was gunned down. Shattered windows and a small bulge in the building’s skin show where the bomb went off. There’s crime scene tape lying around on the sidewalk, and I have to restrain myself from gathering it up to take with me, as a kind of relic.

Four funeral services in as many days, with each of the dead receiving the temporary resurrection a memorial service can provide: we get to hear the stories, see the family pictures and share the same space with the widows, mothers, fathers, siblings, comrades and the little kids gazing wide-eyed at the sudden, surrounding sea of police officers (five thousand or so at a rough estimate at each of the funerals I attended) from all over the country.

I am trying really hard not to be angry. Trying not to snap when a relative eagerly asks, “Did you get to see Obama speak?”

“I got to hear Chief Brown speak,” I reply.

I got to hear Officer Krohl’s girlfriend speak. One of Krohl’s nicknames was BWG —Big White Guy. His girlfriend is small, and Latina. “He ignored prejudice to love me,” she said. “And now hate has taken him away from me.”

No one expressed the anger that I feel. This is more than okay—it’s inspiring; every cop and pastor (Republican Christians all, of course) expressed forgiveness, empathy, the desire to understand and to love.

After the services, we lined up in rows outside the churches, in our thousands. I don’t know what the others thought about as they stood in silence, at parade rest.

I thought about how much I love these people—all of them. And how unutterably proud I am to be allowed to stand beside them. We stand for as long as forty minutes, however long it takes for the family to emerge from the church. The buglers play “Taps.” There is an amplified sound of radio static, then the dispatcher’s voice is calling out the unit number. “Car Four One One…Car Four One One…” All of us, in our thousands, are waiting, illogically, for the answering voice. It does not come.Attachment-5390CB6D-1652-487D-8860-B0D57B164254Attachment-C80BA69C-4209-4EBE-A187-8D23C9C9E0D2

What My Daughter Said

This is the speech my daughter gave at the Maine Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial last month!

“Good morning,

My name is Anne Griffith. I am the youngest of four children of Maine Warden Chaplain Kate Braestrup and fallen Maine State Trooper Drew Griffith.

It is a privilege to stand with you, and honor my father today. On behalf of the families of the fallen, I thank you all for being here.

As the youngest of Drew’s children, I was three years old when my dad died, too young to form clear memories.

I did not have much of a chance to experience him as a father, and my memories of him are vague and uncertain.

What I had, growing up, were stories — stories of his intelligence, his kindness, and his humor— told to me by those who had known him well: my mother, and my siblings of course, my family…and my blue family, too. Law enforcement officers who worked with Dad supported us, shared our sadness and kept us close over the years, caring for him by caring for us. They, too, gave me my father in stories.

And so, two decades later I am still a part of that blue family.

In 2014 I worked as a Reserve Patrol Officer. During this time, I thought often of my dad. I got a glimpse of him—his sorrows and satisfactions— through performing the tasks that he performed; I placed handcuffs on offenders while they fought me.

I performed CPR on two victims… and could not save them.

I helped in preventing the suicide of a mentally ill woman.

For the past year, I have worked as an Investigative Analyst for the Computer Crimes Unit. During this time I have assisted in a variety of cases from child pornography possession to child molestation offenses.

Because of the nature of my work for the Unit, I can definitively point to particular cases and know for certain that I made a difference in the outcome of the investigation. There is a satisfaction in this that my father felt…and I have felt it, too.

I know there is no greater sense of honor and purpose than participating in the protection of innocent human lives. This is what my father died doing.

Besides working with an incredible team, I am fortunate to work closely with those who knew and loved my father- Lt. Glenn Lang who helped to carry his casket, Sgt. Laurie Northrup who once told me her last conversation with my dad was of how much he loved his wife and children; Computer Analyst Andrea Donovan, who worked as a State Police Dispatcher and heard my Dad sign on 10-8, and sign off 10-7.

I am able to know my father through them, just as they are able to know him through me.

April 15, 2016 marked the 20th Anniversary of my father’s line of duty death.

To mark the day, I went for a run.
A sergeant of the Maine State Police K9 Unit, and a recently graduated State Trooper ran with me, in the area where I grew up—and Dad’s patrol area.

We ended up at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, where a bench dedicated in my father’s name is placed. The sky was clear blue and the air was crisp with salt from the nearby ocean.
Neither the sergeant nor the brand-new trooper had ever shaken my father’s hand, or laughed at his jokes. Still, they are his family, they are his brothers. They ran with him by running with me.

The law enforcement family is large; it crosses state lines and international borders. Though my siblings and I lost our father, we did not lose our connection to his legacy, nor the family he became a part of when he joined the Maine State Police in 1986. I know who my father was because I know you—his brothers and sisters in uniform, intelligent, good-humored and kind—who continue to serve and protect the people of Maine and of the United States. In honoring my father today, I honor you.

Thank you. “

Twenty Years

Tomorrow, it will have been twenty years since my first husband, Trooper James A. (“Drew”) Griffith of the Maine State Police was killed in the line of duty. This is the last picture ever taken of him.

DrewpictureIt appeared in the local newspaper to illustrate a story about the Maine State Police’s pilot project in community policing: Drew was going to be the first Trooper to try it out.

A friend cut the picture out of the paper and brought it to me at church in case I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t—and throughout the sermon I kept taking it out of my pocket, unfolding it and looking at it, then putting it away again. He was, I thought, so handsome and looked so happy.

That evening, I pasted the clipping into our photo album and then—uncharacteristically—I wrote a prayer around it. “Dear God, take care of him.”

The next morning, he was killed instantly when his cruiser was struck broadside by a fully-loaded box truck.

I suppose I could have said that God did not answer my prayer. Or that there is no God. But I believe in God-is-Love, and God-is-Love is who I prayed to, that night and ever afterward.

God-is-Love came flying down the roads, blue lights flashing, to bring Drew’s comrades to the scene of his accident; God was present in the tender hands of the paramedic (a neighbor and friend) who felt my husband’s last heartbeats; God was there in the prayers of the truck driver who could have been defensive but instead took on more than his share of responsibility for the tragedy and let it break his sweet, good heart.

God was baked into every casserole brought by my neighbors and steeped into every cup of Tension Tamer tea my friends and I shared. God was in the funeral home, where Mr. Moss, three troopers and Mom helped me get Drew dressed and ready for his funeral. God was the strength in the arms of Drew’s pallbearers, the crispness of their last salutes, the grace with which they folded his flag into a tidy triangle of stars, God was the governor slipping off his suit jacket, draping my youngest in it because she looked chilly, before handing that flag to me.

God-is-love took good care of Drew, and has taken good care of Drew’s children. God has brought me safe thus far, and God will lead me home.
Drewpicture

Kate’s Dates and Appearances…Summer 2016

Sunday, June 12th Unitarian Churches of West Paris and Norway, Maine Sermon
Sunday, June 26th United Christian Church of Lincolnville, Maine Sermon
Sunday, July 17th First Universalist Church of Rockland, Maine Sermon
Sunday, July 24th Unitarian Church, Great Barrington, MA. Sermon
Sunday, July 31 North Chapel, Woodstock, Vt. Sermon
Sunday, August 14th Hancock Point Chapel, Hancock, Maine Sermon
Sunday, September 25th United Christian Church of Lincolnville, Maine Sermon

Check out Kate’s new Moth Radio Hour story at http://themoth.org too!

My Tribe

This is going to be a little schmaltzy. Can’t help it.

Together with about 400 police officers, I’m attending a seminar put on by the Concerns of Police Survivors, an organization begun and operated by the widows, parents and adult children of fallen officers. (Bless them, they’ve been keeping me glued together ever since my first husband died in 1996!) They provide many services to survivors, and excellent training for law enforcement officers in law enforcement wellness and trauma.

As the flags are borne in by the color guard , times being what they are, I can’t help but notice that, unlike so many of my usual liberal haunts (my denomination, to name just one), the hands placed devoutly over all those hearts are of as many possible human skin tones as the most enthusiastic multiculturalist SJW could possibly desire. Speaking in every American accent you can imagine (and a few I couldn’t place) we are saying the the pledge in unison…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Officer Jason Collins of the St. Louis police department, the first three-time winner of their Medal of Valor (and a sweetheart!) is here.

jasoncollinsjasoncollins

So is Orange County (Florida) Deputy Curtis Barnes, who was shot in the right arm by a trio of car thieves in 2007, returned fire with his left hand and apprehended two of the three before back-up arrived. Barnes is the guy on the right in this picture—splendid man.

curtis barnes
curtis barnes
Also present; a lot of terrific, humane and funny veteran officers giving presentations on PTSR/PTSD, line of duty death, fatal force encounters and (times being what they are) how to cope with a negative social and political environment and intense scrutiny. (If you haven’t seen this video, of an anti-police activist going through shoot/don’t shoot scenarios it’s pretty good.)

On the plane home to Maine, I’ll read the scribbled notes in my notebook: “Try to make a positive difference in someone’s life on every call for service…” “Compassion is the DNA of our profession…” “Chaplains—you don’t push, you don’t pull, you don’t proselytize…””An estimated 15-18% of police officers have PTSD…” “suicide is the #1 killer of police officers…” “a Harvard Medical School study found that most police officers average only four hours of sleep per night…” police officers should be trained to minimize failures of kindness…”

This is my tribe: tall, short, straight, gay, teetotalers, drinkers, all religions including none, Democrats, Republicans and fierce Independents, sheriffs’ deputies, troopers, game wardens, chaplains, small town officers, big city officers

All of us watching the slides click past, image after image of the faces of the law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty thus far in 2015.

Liquori Tate.Police-Officer-Liquori-Tate-webPolice-Officer-Liquori-Tate-web

Miguel Perez-Rios. Policia-de-Puerto-Rico-agente-caido-Miguel-Perez-Rios-Foto-via-Policia-de-Puerto-Rico-2

Policia-de-Puerto-Rico-agente-caido-Miguel-Perez-Rios-Foto-via-Policia-de-Puerto-Rico-2

Rosemary Vela.
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Steven Martin Sandberg. Investigator-Steven-Sandberg-web
Investigator-Steven-Sandberg-web

Aren’t they beautiful? There are 109 altogether… so far.

We’ll be seeing their wives, husbands, children, parents in Washington, DC in May, to welcome them into the club no one wants to belong to. For now, the faces click past and Topeka Kansas Officer Jayme Green gets up with a guitar slung across the breast of his dress uniform. He strums and sings the song he wrote for his own fallen comrades. It’s called Sacrifice and it’s a killer.

They’re the finest. That’s all. Just the finest.

Appearances and Apparitions

Sunday, October 18th, 2015— Sermon Lincolvnille United Christian Church, Lincolnville, Maine 9:30 am
Saturday, October 24th, 2015—Sermon, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY 220 S. Winton Road 4:30 pm
Sunday, October 25th, 2015—Sermon, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY 9:00 and 11:00 am
Sunday, October 25th, 2015—reading and signing, 3:00 pm
Sunday, November 22nd, 2015— Sermon, Lincolnville United Christian Church, Lincolnville, Maine 9:30 am
Sunday, December 13th, 2015—Sermon, First Church of Boston, 66 Marlborough St. 11:00 am

Note: it is possible to hear the sermons Kate has preached at First Church in Boston by going to their website and scrolling down through the archives of what are, we admit, a whole lot of other pretty spiffy sermons offered by some fine preachers. If you are in the Boston area and want to listen in on the day-of, Emerson Radio WERS 88.9 FM carries the service live on Sundays.

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