Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa

Archive for the ‘DMN’ Category

Heartache.

In DMN on August 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Death is imminent. If you live, then inevitably you will die, and in the space in between, you are likely to see many others pass along before you.

Susan Cheever said it best: “Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.”

When I was younger, I had only personally experienced death in much older people – my great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. I wept for the family holiday events they would no longer attend and longed for the smell of their houses that I could no longer visit. After the funerals, though, I was left with what I now see as a very neat and tidy bit of grief. I’m able to think back on the joy their lives had brought me, and honor them through their traditions, which I can now pass on to my own children.

However, when I lost my brother in 2004, it was an altogether different experience. It was beyond any level of devastation I had ever known. It was messy grief, and from time to time it still fills me with overwhelming sorrow even now. Perhaps it’s because my brother was only 18, and I felt like he had been cheated out of a life, or maybe it was because he was the first really close person to me I had ever lost. All I know is that before my brother died, I handled grieving people much differently. I handled their bereavement as though it was that neat, tidy “celebrate the years they had” type of grief.

I remember someone relatively close to me at work losing their sibling tragically, and rather than offering my condolences, I thought it best just to keep their mind off it by making small talk instead. At the time, I assumed I was doing the right thing. I thought I was making their day easier by not asking them to acknowledge what they were going through. But once I experienced the full capacity of grief in my own life with the passing of my brother, I was appalled by how I had behaved.

I realized that you never stop thinking about that loved one for a second, especially when the loss is still quite new. The kindest thing others can do for a person in mourning is to offer condolences and let them talk about their loss if they choose to.

One shouldn’t force the issue, but letting them know that it is safe for them to cry, yell or even laugh with you if they need to is a kind act. Ignoring a person’s grief is only one step better than telling them, “God doesn’t ever give you more than you can handle.”

Seriously, never, ever, ever say that to a person who is grieving, or you’ll run the risk of taking one in the snot-box. A simple, “I am so sorry for your loss” is much better.

It might surprise some people, but the kindest words I received were not even from those closest to me, as they were also grieving, but from the people I barely knew who so compassionately offered me an ear. I didn’t feel as though I was going to cause them more pain by sharing my despair with them, because they were removed enough from the situation that I could talk unabashedly. Those people, those kind words, those selfless gestures are what helped me through a very sad time in my life, and to this day, that keeps me looking ahead.

I write these words as kind of a public service announcement, because it is only a matter of time before you are in a situation where you will have to choose your words, or lack thereof, wisely. As “ordinary” as death might be, you still have a chance to show extraordinary kindness in the face of it.

{Published in the Dallas Morning News and posted here on their website}

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I have two daughters.

In DMN, DMN Moms on August 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm

The weight of this truth in no way escapes me. My husband and I both are utterly terrified by this basic fact. It’s not that we aren’t worried about our son; it’s just different with him. He is different. We will be facing a whole different set of issues and decisions as our daughters come of age, and being the type A individual I am, I have already started planning ahead for those delicate teen years. At what age will we allow them to wear make-up? Drive? D-d-d-d-date?

You can see how quickly the duty of raising girls turns to their virtue. If it were up to my husband, the answer to all three of those questions would be much less numerical and much more, well, ‘no.’ As their mother though, and someone who faced her own teen pregnancy, I am expected to be the voice of reason- the one who jokes about crushing up birth control pills in their oatmeal as soon as they “blossom;” the one who suggest we get them injected, protected or prescribed something before they leave the house. However, having this gift of preemptive time on my hands right now, I find myself really thinking all of these options through thoroughly.

What happens if we are “the responsible parents” who get our daughters on birth control when they become of childbearing age?

Once we’ve had them safeguarded against the possibility of pregnancy are we out of the woods? What about that virtue I mentioned earlier? Is it not supposed to concern me now?

As I look at my sweet, innocent little girls playing in the sand box I wish I could just freeze time. I know that is not possible and they will not stay this way forever, but as their mother it is my duty to protect them; to keep them from being hurt-both physically and emotionally. Am I wrong to think that by ‘safeguarding’ them I am leaving them wide open to exploitation?

Now you can tell me all day long that being on birth control is a private and personal decision and that no one in their high school will ever need to know, but unfortunately I fear you are simply out of touch. I only graduated in 2002 and can tell you that in this day and age half the school knows who’s got a pre-prom pimple before the toxic smell of Noxzema’s even hits the air. Kids talk. Girls TALK. It would only be a matter of time before word got out that my daughter, MY DAUGHTER, was protected, a.k.a. up for a good time. Even if it’s for medical reasons, try explaining that to a 15-year-old boy.

When did it become this way? If we don’t do anything and expect our children to learn self-control through these trials and temptations then we are idiots, feeding them to the wolves. While if we do prepare, make them “safe,” them we are setting them up for auction.

What is a parent to do?

I love my daughters endlessly, unconditionally, and irrevocably. I will teach them self-respect, I will teach them right from wrong, and above all I will teach them that they can talk to me about anything and everything.

However, at some point, we must acknowledge that as parents in 2010 we are up against television shows, song lyrics, and billboards that glorify commitment free sex and exploit women as nothing more than consequence-free sex objects.

We must acknowledge that no matter how physically prepared, you can neither put a wise head on young shoulders nor a prophylactic on a vulnerable heart. And while, yes, we may be able to prevent pregnancy, birth control is merely damage control, like it or not. There is nothing at the drugstore that can safeguard my daughter’s self-worth or dignity

So I ask again, what is a parent to do?

{Posted on the Dallas Morning News website here and here}

Donation as default.

In DMN on August 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Three years ago, I met the man in whom my brother’s heart now beats. He was an older man, and I’m not going to lie, that bugged me at first.

My brother was only 18 when he died in a car accident, and I felt as though his heart should have gone to a person equally young. But as this sweet man began to tell me about his life after the transplant – about the daughter he was able to walk down the aisle and the grandchild he was able to welcome into the world – I realized how valuable every day is, whether it comes in your youth or during your more seasoned years.

Likewise, after meeting the man who received my brother’s liver and the woman with one of his kidneys, I was able to experience a small bit of joy as I walked through the desolate valley of my grief.

It turns out that choosing to donate my brother’s organs allowed my family to feel something again. We were able to nudge aside some of our pain and hopelessness and replace it with a bit of acceptance and purpose. My brother’s donation became more of a gift to us than to his recipients.

Last month, a controversial bill was introduced in New York that basically presumes that all people want to be organ donors unless they explicitly choose otherwise by opting out of the program.

I do not understand the growing controversy. Why would anyone fight a bill that could save hundreds of thousands of people a year?

Upon researching this issue, I found that one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that if you’re a donor, and the doctor knows it, he or she will let you die so they can harvest your organs for one of their other patients. To me this fear defies logic. First of all, we’re not living in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The physician removing a donor’s organ does not know the recipient, just as the doctor who transplants the organ does not know the donor. All of my brother’s organs were flown to different hospitals, so there was no way for the surgeons at Methodist to know who was receiving what, let alone hand-pick them for a patient.

Another apprehension many people have is that they think the transplant organizations are like vultures waiting to pounce on someone who is still capable of being revived. That is completely false. Organ donors actually undergo very extensive screenings to confirm that they are no longer viable.

My brother received a litany of tests to confirm his brain death. Painful for those of us waiting to hear the results? Yes. But at no point did we feel as if Southwest Transplant Alliance, the donation agency we chose to work with, was ever rooting for him to die or rushing us in our decision. They were there to answer all our questions and went out of their way to console us; listening to stories about my brother and suggesting support groups that could help us heal. They grieved alongside us. I remember one of the female representatives crying with me and sharing about a loved one she had lost.

We donated everything of my brother’s, and as a result, up to 50 lives were either saved or enhanced. Fifty. Nothing will ever make his death acceptable, but being able to give life to others gave my brother a legacy.

I can only hope that a similar opt-out bill is introduced here in Texas so we can see more lives and more loved ones who were taken too soon remembered as heroes.

{Published in the Dallas Morning News & posted here on their website}

What the pro-life movement means to me.

In DMN on August 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

The reformed pro-life movement is not about shouting at frightened women. It’s not about hate-filled debates or holding up signs containing graphic images at organized protests.

It’s about helping women utilize resources that will allow them the option of choosing life for their unborn child, plain and simple. It’s about education and assistance. It’s about cultivating informed and well thought-out decisions.

As a member of this movement, I don’t see myself as a baby savior. My apologies if that offends you.

I have a heart for women – especially women who are feeling terrified, alone and desperate. These emotions are all too vivid to me. Nine years ago, at the immature age of 16, I became pregnant.

My universe imploded.

Suddenly, the big-girl choices I had been making caught up with me, and the little girl inside was petrified. I was a good girl, a good daughter, a good student. How had this happened to me?

I quickly found myself single, humiliated and the hot topic of conversation within my sophomore class and beyond. I went from being a blip on the screen of social existence to a proverbial El Nino.

Though I was hardly the first to get pregnant in my community, I was certainly one of the few who would carry my baby full term. I was ridiculed and mocked, teased and judged. At one point they offered me the option of going to an alternative school across town, but I chose to stay at Allen High School to maintain that small remaining sliver of normalcy I needed so desperately.

When I was not in school, I was working, saving every dime in case I chose to keep this child rather than placing him for adoption, a decision which I did not make until I was in my sixth month of pregnancy.

Throughout this I had something many girls did not, though: a heroically supportive family. They discussed all of my options with me at length and vowed to support me in whatever decision I made. There is not a day that goes by that I do not realize how incredibly blessed I was to have that wise counsel available to me. Based on the grace with which my experience played out, I have dedicated my life to making sure other women are also given this gift.

It’s not politically correct, but it’s where my heart is, and logical or not, I feel like I am commissioned to pass it on.

Too often in our community, low-income, minority and teenage mothers are bullied into the “logical” choice without first being able to weigh all their options. Peers, parents and well-intentioned people might tell them the only answer is termination. They might say that if they choose to keep the baby it will prevent them from reaching the success they expect in their lives. I am living-proof that this is simply not true.

On Jan. 16 in downtown Dallas other members of the reformed pro-life movement will march in a unified belief that women deserve better options. I am well aware that this event strikes a nerve with many in the community, but I choose not to judge pro-choice activists by their extremists, and I ask that you not to judge us by ours.

I have shared my story so that you might understand who that is in front of the Earle Cabell Federal building, where Roe vs. Wade was first filed 37 years ago. I hope you see past our chants and into our hearts, where our true intentions reside.

We want to help. We want to do good, and while, yes, a few of us may be Glenn Beck-droids merely set out for world domination, many of us are simply the victims – or victors, rather – of our own experiences here to give others what we have so mercifully received.

{Published in the Dallas Morning News & posted here on their website}

Uninsured is not the same as unemployed.

In DMN on August 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Recently I attended a town hall meeting, because that’s what Republicans like to do. Congressman Pete Sessions was discussing the hot topic of health care, also something Republicans like to do. He took his point a step further though by asking everyone with health insurance to please stand up. Suddenly there was a wall of people all around me, standing.

I remained seated, not something many Republicans did.

Sessions made a comment along the lines of ‘wow, what a very blessed community we live in’ and I couldn’t agree more. The residents of my town are abundantly blessed, although I doubt many of them know it; a point proven by what happened next.

This united moment of health care comradery was soon shattered by the voice of an older man who shouted out ‘Why don’t you ask those of us who DON’T have health insurance to stand up?’ I had the same thought, but upon realizing I would personally suffer at the hands of this question, chose to keep my uninsured trap shut.

Before the man even had time to reclaim his seat, one of my fellow Republicans hollered back “Get a job!”

I was astonished. You really think not having insurance means you are some sort of lazy, unemployed bum?

Perhaps someone should have told my gainfully employed husband that. He worked for a small recruiting firm last year and because of their size they were unable to provide insurance benefits to the employees. Instead they gave him a $200 monthly allowance for health insurance. After discussing our options at length with a reputable broker we decided on a plan that would cover my husband (the employee) and our 3 children for $256 a month. Adding me would have upped the price exponentially. Co-pays were $40 a visit and we had a $1,000 deductible. Hardly a steal, but it was what we could afford based on the allowance, plus a bit more. Over the next 6 months our premium raised 3 times. No major injuries or illnesses, just a well baby visit and some vaccinations. But yet, here we were paying a hundred dollars out of pocket on top of my husband’s allowance for insurance that we barely benefited from, all the while our premium’s rising.

I was fed up, but couldn’t shake that voice in my head saying, “You may need it one day, and then you’ll be glad it’s there.”

Two months later our middle child fell and needed stitches. Of course it was on a Friday. Of course it was after 5pm. Of course it was at the end of a very healthy year where we had yet to touch our deductible. Finally we had a need, and was it there? Absolutely not. Our insurance covers cancer. It covers heart attacks. It covers life threatening illnesses and really nothing else. Sometimes I wonder if our money would be better off crammed into an empty coffee can.

At this point, my husband is with a new company and we are considering a health savings account. However this does not change the fact that my generation-young, middle class, WORKING families- are receiving so much less from their insurance coverage all the while paying so much more. And my fellow Conservatives, most of whom grew up during a different era of health coverage, have no clue. To them, being uninsured is the same as being unemployed, because that’s what Republicans like to think. Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise.

I know socialized medicine is not the answer, but ignoring this growing number of uninsured middle class families is not the solution either.

The fact that I am trying to telekinetically focus my bitter health insurance hating energy into the formation of cancerous cells within my body just so I can finally have the last laugh when they are forced to pay for my chemotherapy, is a sad sign of our times.

{Published in the Dallas Morning News & posted here on their website}