Category Archives: sadness

Death and Taxes

“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin, 1726

April 15th is known in the US as tax day, the day when tax returns for individuals are due. It is a date that leads to much crankiness and frustration.

The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday of April. Marathon Monday is traditionally festive occasion for the state of Massachusetts. Last year was a year when the two dates coincided: tax day and marathon day.

Flowers in Copley Square, from a late summer day several years ago.

With the anniversary the bombing of last year upon us, I find myself thinking back to that day, and the crazy week that followed. I wasn’t in Boston, but my close ties to the city, updates from my school, my colleagues, and my friends, kept me feeling tethered.

I was out with the kids that Marathon Monday, it being a state holiday and the first day of school vacation. Phoebe was recovering from a stomach bug, so we didn’t go far from home. We were parked at the music school before Phoebe’s and my violin lesson when I got text alerts from BU with notification of the explosions, and warnings to stay away from Copley. I couldn’t really process the news, and didn’t want to worry the kids. As the afternoon and evening wore on, I found more detailed reports of deaths and injuries. Like so many, I worried about the safety of my friends, and realized that my friends and family would worry about the safety of me and my family. It was very unsettling to learn that one of the dead was a BU grad student. (I, too, am a BU grad student.) I found myself wondering about the other BU grad students I know. Were they safe? The news that one of the people killed was a little kid left me feeling shattered. Even though I was many miles away, and my family and I were safe, it all just felt so horribly close and personal.

The view from Storrow Drive at dusk, from 2010.

That week, I remember reflecting on my fondness for the city, and spent probably too much time hunting for photos I’d taken there. (Naturally, I have hundreds of photos of Boston, if not thousands.) I am not a Boston native, but I have lived outside Boston for over 18 years. I spend a lot of time in the city. It feels like home.

Today I got caught up in memories, reading stories and articles of the many lives that were so deeply affected by the bombings. I was distracted and contemplative, and managed to get a time mixed up for something I’d committed to, which made me very cranky and off-kilter.

The day ended up rainy and stormy, which actually quite fit my melancholy mood. And probably also the cranky moods of so many faced with the frustrations of tax day.

Under my umbrella this afternoon, waiting to get the kids off the school bus.

the little gray hoodie on the hook

We wear hoodies in our family, all 4 of us. I am the mother of 2 young children, one a little boy. He probably has more hoodies than the rest of us, in a range of colors. He even has a gray hoodie, one that we got during our visit to my husband’s high school for a reunion a few months ago. Each day when we send him to his pre-K class, we have to send him in with a sweater or sweatshirt. Even on hot summer days, since New England weather can turn quickly, or the air conditioning inside can be excessive. This past week, I have found myself consciously avoiding that gray hoodie. I see it hanging there on the hook on the back of a door, along with the yellow hoodie and the blue one with the prints of cars.

I look at that little gray hoodie, and my heart hurts. I can’t even bear the thought of posting a photo of my little boy in his gray hoodie, because of the association with the vulnerability of being a target. Because of the association with a boy who lost his life, and a mother who lost her child.

One day my little boy will be the same age as Trayvon Martin was that night last year. He will be a teenage boy, with the range of moods and sometimes unpredictable behavior that come with that stage. He may be an honor student, or a rebel, or a little of each. He may choose to behave exactly as Trayvon did, buy the same candy and sugary drink. Want to walk out in the rain to get away from adult company. He may be the same height and build as Trayvon. He may choose to dress exactly as Trayvon did. And yet I also know that he will never be a target in the same way that Trayvon Martin was. The privilege of white skin will give him license to wear that hoodie, to walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood, to shop in a store, without being profiled by default as a potential threat.

The discourse of the past 2 weeks reminds me of the privilege that I have and that my family has. The fact that I can be reminded of my privilege is itself a hallmark of privilege: I have the luxury to be able to regularly forget. Where I live, I can drive around my town, I can walk through my neighborhood, shop in any store, without once wondering if the color of my skin will attract negative attention. I know that I don’t entirely fit in where I live, and my hairstyle and clothes mark me as a bit different. But never in a threatening way. I can dress like a slob without worrying that it reflects badly on my heritage. I can drive a nice car without raising any eyebrows, or drive a beat-up car without people assuming that I am poor. As a white female, people make lots of assumptions about me, which may or may not in any way reflect who I am. But none of the assumptions put me at higher risk of being stopped by the police, or worse, someone like Zimmerman: highly armed but poorly trained, full of anger and self-righteousness and fear.

I have been feeling heartsick since Zimmerman’s acquittal. The messages I read from that verdict and some of the ensuing discourse just drive home to me how far our society has yet to go to achieve equality. I have the sense that this country is divided: those who see the systemic inequity and the harmful biases, and those who are unwilling or unable to see them. I know that I live in a society that continues to have systemic racism. I am ashamed to sometimes see evidence of that racism in my own thoughts, my own assumptions. Much as I sometimes find my thoughts reflecting sexism, ablism, agism, classism and so many of the other isms that are part of our society. But I call myself out. Sometimes I even have the courage to call out others when I see it.

I have had conversations with close friends and family members, and feel lucky that those closest to me see things much as I do. But I am realizing that these private conversations with like-minded people are not enough. I need to make a public stand, even if in my small way, by writing here. I know that people who are blind to what I see, to both systemic racism and the privilege that allows them that blindness, are not necessarily bad people. I know people, some of them even friends or family members, who fit into these categories. Even thinking about starting conversations with them about race and privilege exhausts me. But I am thinking about these things, and with this post, I am showing that I am willing to be part of this conversation.

I have been reading posts and articles every day since the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal. I have spent a lot of time reflecting. I have felt outrage and deep sadness, but also great hope that this conversation will continue, and will bring progress. I am busy and am protective of the time I need to spend on my work and family obligations. However, this conversation is too important to me. I need to be part of the conversation because I want my children to grow up in a world where no child’s life is cut short by others’ assumptions about race.

I want to live in a world where a mother’s worries about her son’s choice to wear a hoodie when he goes out on a walk will never be about anything more weighty than whether that hoodie will be warm enough.

I have recently read lots of post relating to the death of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman’s acquittal, and privilege. Here are some of the ones that have stuck with me:

If you have written things about these topics yourself, or read things that moved you, please feel free to share links in the comments.

I am weary

The past few weeks have knocked the wind out of me. I hardly know where to begin, there is so much to say. The biggest news, at least for my family, was that John’s father died. It was not unexpected. It was not fast. It was also not easy.

Just over 2 weeks ago, we got the call that John’s father was not expected to survive the night. As you might imagine, there was much travel, and rearranging of plans. John was able to travel to New York to be with his parents for his father’s last few days. I stayed home with the kids. Things were complicated by Theo having a fever one day, then getting pink eye the next, which meant missed school for him, missed work time for me, and more trauma than I would have expected dealing with the medication. (This was Theo’s first sick visit to the doctor, which itself was remarkable.) Phoebe managed to pick up her first case of poison ivy, a bad one, including welts on her face around both eyes. This led to a doctor’s trip and missed school for her, too. Then there was the funeral. Phoebe ended up missing a whole week of school. This week is her school vacation. And did I mention the stomach bug that hit Phoebe Sunday night?

These were the weeks that I was supposed to be working intensively to make a last push to try to finish my degree. Time is limited before my subject pool, the BU undergrads, is taken away by finals and the end of the term. I have now lost 2 full weeks of work time. The only day that was not taken up by sick kids or travel or memorial services and time with extended family was one that I spent shopping for something to wear to the funeral.

My days are eaten up. My energy is eaten up. My motivation and momentum for my research have all but left the building. I have been trying to push through, in the windows of time that open up here and there.

But next comes a terrorist attack in Boston, and the wind is knocked out of me again. I was not there, but I am shocked and grieving. 3 dead and over 170 injured in a blast at Copley Square, a place I know well. The news that one of the dead was a child of 8 hit hard. The news that another was a BU grad student hit hard again. The realization that my friends and family from far away might be worried about my family hit me again. We could have been there.

I am steady in times of crisis. Strong and reliable, I keep pushing through. I know that I have to keep going until the crisis time is over. But I am strained and drained. I am edgy and touchy. I am slipping.

This is not the worst crisis I can imagine. This is not even the worst crisis I or my family have lived through. I remind myself every day how lucky I am to have John and my children here with me, safe and (largely) healthy. My mother and my sister and her family are safe and well. I have financial stability, a home, and wonderful friends. I am very, very lucky. But I admit that I am tired, and I just wish I could have a few days to catch my breath. At this point, I’d settle for one.

The past tense, and other grammatical implications of death

One of the things that often strikes us, after someone’s death, is that we have to make a shift in how we speak of that person. It suddenly becomes an error to say “he loves popcorn.” Indpendent of the subject’s history of affinity for popcorn, there is that crossover point between loving popcorn, and having loved popcorn. Survivors undergo a transition where they find themselves using the wrong tense, and self-correcting. The realization that we have erred nags at our minds like the red ink marks of a high school English teacher urging consistency in an essay.

Then there is the loss of conjunction. For years, you go to visit Grammy and Grampa. The conjunction and serves to join two noun phrases [Grammy]NP and [Grampa]NP into a single noun phrase. That noun phrase can then serve in a variety of grammatical functions: subject, with nominative case ([Grammy and Grampa]NP called), or various object positions, with accusative (Let’s visit [Grammy and Grampa]NP), or genitive case (We need to remember to bring that book to [Grammy and Grampa]NP‘s house.) With the absence of one referent, the conjoined noun phrase loses both the conjunction and the second noun phrase. It is a simplification of structure that belies the complicated nature of the end of almost 6 decades of married life, a conjunction of law and love and life together that are only hinted at by the word and.

With this loss of the conjunction, too, comes a shift from the plural to the singular, which of course brings its own implications for subject-verb agreement. In the present tense, English requires a different verb inflection for most third person singular subjects than for plural ones. Grammy and Grampa love it when we visit must change to Grammy loves it when we visit, with the inflectional affix -s added to the verb to reflect that singularity. This, of course, reminds us once more that there is only one of the two members of that former conjoined phrase whose actions, affinities and attributes will, by and large, be discussed using the present tense.

We mustn’t forget, though, that we can hold onto the present tense, and even the future; A whole host of constructions are available to us by keeping Grampa in object positions. I miss Grampa. It’s okay to be sad about Grampa. We will hold onto Grampa’s memory.

Too close to home.

Today marks one month after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Below are some of the things that I wrote in the days following. I revisited this post several times over a couple of weeks, editing to update the time references, but ultimately still felt too raw each time to post. One month later, I am ready to try again.

It’s probably for the best for me that I learned the news in stages. The first reports I heard of Friday’s shooting were that there were several people injured. I saw murmurings on Facebook late morning, and the links I followed had no more information. I saw that photo, the one that seems to be everywhere, of young kids being walked away. Some with their eyes closed, some obviously crying. I quickly looked away, feeling pangs from seeing the troubled faces, and went about my business. From what I’d read, there had only been injuries. I had things to do to get ready for our planned weekend trip to my in-laws’.

A bit after noon, I talked to John. I don’t remember why I called him. Probably something about our trip. He asked if I knew about the shooting in Connecticut. I said I did, but as we spoke I realized that I didn’t really know. He mentioned that the town was one we’d recently driven through, and even stopped for dinner. A pretty town with a little river running through it that we had both admired. I hadn’t made the connection, hadn’t retained the name of the town. We got of the phone and I went back to my laptop, and learned more.

With every update, the news only worsened.

On Saturday morning I woke up in the uncomfortable monstrosity of a fold-out bed at my in-laws’, and I understood my body’s achiness. But my eyes were sore, too, with the soreness that I get when I have been crying. Instantly I remembered why I had been crying, and the tears and the heaviness in my heart began once more.

I can’t count the number of times I cried that week, especially over that weekend. At the same time, I was careful to hide my grief from Phoebe and Theo. I’d cry in the bathroom. Or in the car by myself. I felt glad that my recent cold would mean that my red eyes and nose would be unremarkable. I felt glad that I am liberal with my hugs and physical affection, so being held tight by Mommy is nothing out of the ordinary. I don’t think that they could feel how deep my need was for those hugs.

That Sunday, we drove home from my in-laws’, but took a different route. Our usual route, the one that we take every month or so, goes right through Newtown on Route 84. We were concerned that there would be heavier traffic along the route, especially with the planned visit from the President that night. It felt right, too, to give them that extra space. But my thoughts and heart were there, and my eyes watched Sandy Hook on the map.

There have been other mass shootings, recently and in past years. Other tragedies. I have grieved many times before for those I’ve never met. But in my life as it is now, this feels like the worst possible tragedy. I can’t even begin to make sense of it. I can only compare my feelings to grief to the loss I’ve felt when someone close to me died, and to the shock I felt after September 11th.

I think of those parents in that little New England town, a town like my own in many ways, who sent their kids off to school that morning just as I had, never dreaming how the day would end. How could they? It was unimaginable. It should have been unimaginable.

Innocent people. Teachers. School administrators. The death of any one of them would have been felt as a great loss for the school and the community.

But children. Twenty little children. The loss is immeasurable.

First graders.

The same age as my Phoebe.

A week later, I felt the tension of grief ease, with a mixture of relief and guilt. I found myself laughing more and crying less. But I know that for those other parents, family members and friends, the healing will be a much slower process. I have lived through grief, the ordinary grief of losing a loved one, and it still can knock the wind out of me many months or years later. I use this familiar grief as an inadequate yardstick to measure the grief I imagine those others to be living through, and to have ahead of them.

I have felt so many strong emotions these past weeks. Horror. Anger. Immense gratitude that it was not my town, that my own children are safe.

I’ve sensed that there are those around the country and around the world who feel that enough energy has been spent on this tragedy, that we need to move forward and focus on change. But this is one of those events that has changed me. Like many the world over, I’ve still needed to process and to grieve.

Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

the state of Israel mocks humanitarianism

Tonight I saw a photo that may haunt me for the rest of my life.

I was sitting on the couch, holding my nearly sleeping 4-month-old baby, while my husband was upstairs putting our 2-year-old daughter to bed. And jen directed me to a post at No Caption Needed. It featured an image, under which the first line of the following paragraph reads:

A child’s arm protrudes from the rubble of a building destroyed by an air strike.

The hand is tiny. A toddler’s hand. There is no hope that the child in the photo is alive.

My stomach turned. I found myself crying onto my baby’s footie pajamas, scooping him up and squeezing him tight. I found myself glad that it was not my daughter sitting on my lap, because she would have seen the photo. She would have seen my tears. She is not yet 3 years old, and I cannot yet explain these things to her.

I cannot explain these things to myself.

The International Rescue Committee, an organization that provides aid to refugees, describes the current crisis:

News reports today indicate that more than 570 Palestinians, many of them women and children, have been killed in the violence that began on December 27 following the breakdown of a six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Thousands have fled to safety, but most of the 1.5 million people in Gaza have nowhere to go as both Israel and Egypt continue to restrict access to their territories.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis is growing as food supplies dwindle, access to clean water diminishes and hospitals fill up with the wounded and dead. More than a million people are said to be without electricity.

Let it not be said that Israel is completely oblivious to this growing humanitarian crisis. According to the New York Times:

Israel suspended its military operations in Gaza for three hours on Wednesday to allow humanitarian aid and fuel for power generation to reach Gazans, who used the afternoon break to shop.

You know what’s more humanitarian than allowing humanitarian aid?

Not bombing people.

Coventry Carol

When I was growing up, I got to spend quite a few Christmases at my grandmother’s house in Colorado. Each year, she would bring out the collection of Christmas records, and play them on her great big stereo, the kind that’s about the size of a buffet table. It had a phonograph inside that could take a stack of records. I used to enjoy watching the mechanisms in action when it would change records; the arm with the needle would lift and move back slowly, and a single record would be dropped from its position in the stack above the turntable before the arm would reposition itself and lower the needle once more.

I didn’t know any of the identities of the albums in the Christmas stack, but I know at least some of these were recordings of chorale ensembles that included my grandfather. (He was a baritone, I believe.) I loved the songs from those albums, which included traditional carols as well as more “modern” holiday songs. I knew most of the songs from other places, whether it was “Silent Night” or “The Little Drummer Boy.” But there were two favorite songs that I never heard anywhere other than on my grandmother’s phonograph: “I Wonder as I Wander” and “Coventry Carol.”

“Coventry Carol” was always a particular favorite. I have always been a sucker for a melancholy tune in a minor key, even though I couldn’t have told you what that was when I was 7 or 8. For that matter, I didn’t know what it was called. It just sounded so pretty to me, so lullaby-like, with its “by by lu-lee lu-lay” and “little tiny child.”

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I rediscovered this song, having used the magic of the internet to track down the song title. A couple of versions made their way onto my Christmas playlists, shuffling in with the cheery holiday tunes and more somber traditional carols. It’s still one of my favorites.

I recently looked up the lyrics to the song, having never really listened to them.

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

I had always assumed, as I think most people hearing the song at Christmastime do, that the “little tiny Child” was the baby Jesus. Really, though, the song is from a 16th century pageant from Coventry, England, about the Slaughter of the Innocents, in which King Herod is said to have ordered the murder of young male children in Bethlehem:

In The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, this gentle lullaby was sung by the women of Bethlehem to their babies, urging them to “Be still, be still, my little child,” just before the unwilling soldiers of King Herod came to slaughter their infants in Herod’s attempt to eliminate a competitor, the newborn King of the Jews. In the liturgical calendar, those children are commemorated on December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

It’s hard for me to express how this story affects me now that I am a mother, and especially with a new baby. I sometimes get choked up singing some of the lines, when I pay attention to the words, as I imagine mothers grieving the loss of their small children.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Many believe that the Slaughter of Innocents was fictitious. Whether or not that story is true, it is sadly true that there have been far too many times, both in ancient and recent history, when young children have fallen victim to the senseless tides of war and politics. Thousands of innocents die each year from violence or from hunger or from preventable poverty-related illness¹. And countless mothers and fathers forever mourn their loss:

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.²

So now I see the Coventry Carol, the beautiful lullaby of a Christmas song from my childhood, as a song of mourning and remembrance. I see it also as a reminder that there is much work still to be done to protect the lives of the innocents.


¹ According to Unicef, “25,000 children die every day from preventable causes.”

² Typically, the lyrics show the words “Thee” and “Child” capitalized, as if referencing a deity. However, I choose to leave them here in lower case, as I feel the words better represent the common children about whom the song was written. Full lyrics can be found at sites such as this one.

Note: I drafted this post about a week ago, in conjunction with my contribution of a song to the 2008 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, at Citizen of the Month. It seemed a bit gloomy to post in conjunction with Neil’s festive event, so I decided to hold off. Today, December 28th, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which seems a fitting date to beat you over the head with my gloominess.

Incidentally, I saw another post about Coventry Carol just yesterday, “The Children of Coventry’s Carol” at The Task at Hand, a thoughtful and beautifully reflective essay.

wearing my serious pants

Society for the Prevention of Pants
The Fund for Pants Awareness
Pants Across America
The Right to Pants Association
Friends of Pants

This week’s Monday Mission solicits donations in the form of posts about a charity, real or imagined, serious or humorous. (Wow, I just started to type “humourous.” I think it’s a side effect of reading so many blogs by Canadians.) With so many options, it’s hard to narrow down. How can I pick a favorite? Usually, I take every opportunity for silliness. But with things going on in my personal life right now, I’m moved to actually write a serious post, and mention a real charity.

My friend Elizabeth was a beautiful person. It hurts me to write about her in the past tense. But there it is. She died on Friday after a 2-year valiant fight against cancer.

I saw Elizabeth on Tuesday at the hospital. She was still herself, in many ways. Quieter. It was an effort for her to talk. But she still had her sense of humor intact. A close friend of hers flew in from out of state, who I got to meet for the first time. We sat around talking, then reading questions from Trivial Pursuit. Elizabeth and her husband and parents, who had spent much time in hospital rooms with her, had devised a variation of the game. They’d gotten rid of the board ages ago. Instead, they’d read and answer all 6 questions on 6 sequential cards, and total the score out of 36. When an awkward silence started to creep over the room, Elizabeth called for a round of questions. “With three smart women like us, we ought to be able to beat the high score.”

When it was time for me to go catch my train home, I hugged her and told her that I would see her again once she was back home, but I didn’t want to be a pest. I told her she should tell me if I was being a pest. And I hugged her husband, and told him that he should tell me if I was being a pest. And then I turned to the friend, and said “I just met you, so you don’t get to tell me if I’m being a pest.” And we all laughed. Elizabeth, too. I said my good-byes and left. I didn’t dream that it was the last time I would ever see or speak to Elizabeth. I worked on a letter to her that night, determined to share things with her about how much her friendship has meant to me.

She did get to go home. I called on Friday, hoping to make plans to see her over the weekend. When I got the answering machine, I was worried that perhaps she was still in the hospital, that there had been more complications. But then her husband called me back a bit later with the news. Elizabeth had died that morning. It was a huge shock to me, and I dissolved into a blubbering wreck on the phone. “I’m sorry. You don’t need this from me,” I apologized to my friend’s husband through my sobs. But maybe that’s what I’d want in his shoes. To know that my grief and pain were shared.

I’ve had a bit of a rough few days. I’ve had to share the news with our mutual friends, most of whom were not in regular contact with Elizabeth. Some of whom had not even known she was sick. This was a new job for me. I can only imagine what my friend’s husband is going through. He has so many things to take care of. I am so sad for him. And their little girls. And the rest of her family.

I’m still in shock that this has happened. My friend was 35 years old.

She underwent 2 years of procedures and treatments, including chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. She showed an incredible amount of strength through it all, even as her body became weaker. She didn’t give up hope. She kept living. Kept being a wonderful mother to her 2 beautiful little girls. She was wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend. And she played all these roles amazingly well.

Time after time, she got bad news from the tests. She would share the news with me at times. The cancer was spreading. The chemo drugs weren’t working. Then the next chemo drugs weren’t working. That she had basically maxed out for radiation. Two weeks ago she told me that they had reached the end of the FDA-approved treatments. She still had hope for the experimental treatments. It turned out she didn’t qualify. Just last Monday, she was told that the next step was hospice.

I found myself very angry that she couldn’t get those experimental treatments. I find myself thinking that things didn’t have to be this way. Science is making great strides in determining causes of cancers. Strides are being made towards the prevention of certain types of cancer. Treatments are much more effective than they were even 10 or 20 years ago. Or 30 years ago.

My own father died of cancer 30 years ago. And I’ve lost others to cancer, too. My much loved grandmother, who was a powerful force in my life. The father of a close friend, who treated me like family and called me “daughter.” A dear stepfather, who I only knew a short time. Even my beloved dog. With my new grief for my friend, I revisit the past grief. I think especially of the loss of my father, how I not only miss him, but missed getting to know him since I was so young when he died. And I think of how Elizabeth’s daughters will miss out on getting to know Elizabeth as the friend that I knew and loved. Cancer robs us of people that we love, of their contributions to our lives and our world.

And I find myself thinking that things could have been different. That with more research, things will be different.

So I end this with a nod to the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.