This American (after) Life

After thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to do so, I re-arranged my schedule a bit on Saturday morning to catch the local airing of the first story I got produced by “This American Life”.

Because I didn’t edit it or work on it myself, I didn’t have any idea of how the story would turn out so I’d be listening to how it all came together just like everyone else would. Perfectionist that I am, the very first thing I noticed is that I have a tendency to mumble, and I wonder if that’s a result of growing up with a speech impediment that has never completely gone away. At least I know how to read out loud and give a passage some decent inflection.

I’ve listened to it maybe two or three times since then, and what I really enjoyed about how it turned out is how fair it is to both myself and Kris and how respectful it is to each of our positions. Because I’m the one who brought to story to the TAL producers, the listener gets to hear mostly my interpretation of how the conversations went, but that was to be expected.

One of the perhaps unintended consequences of choosing the degeneration of my faith in God as my first story pitch is that more people want to talk to me about God. I’ve told two strangers so far (one forwarded to me from Kris, the other is someone who did some sleuthing and found my Gmail address) that I don’t mind listening to how they feel about God, just as long as we treat each other with the same kind of respect that Kris and I shared during our conversations.

And speaking of Kris, after thanking him for participating in the interview, he and I are going to remain in contact because even though at the end of the story we didn’t see eye to eye on God, I can’t think of any good reason to discontinue having a productive discussion about the nature of faith.

However, the part that’s the most gratifying is that Kelly’s best friend listened to the show and told me some particulars about her case which helped me to see that it was actually a good thing that my prayers didn’t get answered back then.

At least that’s one mental barrier down.

24 Responses to “This American (after) Life”

  1. Richard Morgan Says:

    Dear Trisha:

    I heard you story on the podcast recently, and because of it, it has caused me to re-establish a connection with a God that I had wandered away from. It was not so much the words that you said as the pain I heard in your voice when you spoke of wanting to connect with Him. In that moment, in that one flash of time, the emotion inside of you struck me with an almost palpable force.

    I wept — and in the pain that I felt, I also began to feel God.

    I’m a freelance writer, and when I heard your story, when I experienced your turmoil, it awoke something in me that I hadn’t realized. It made me understand something of the nature of God and to understand a little of what you were going through.

    It also created within me something called “Jesus 2.0.”

    The idea came to me when I heard you — and I realized that there are so many people out there that want to understand and to connect with God.

    What if Jesus came back and entered the life of just one person — and it was not the Jesus that might be expected?

    (Sorry — the writer in me overpowered the man and I got off track there.)

    Trisha, I think that you’re going to find that you have found your answer within you — and that you are passing it along to others.


  2. Jane Irwin Says:


    And dang, girl, you did a fantastic thing in the first place, and then did a fantastic story about it.

    Now I want a comic about it. Hint.

    And hey, I’m going through a whole lot of the same things you are right now, so if you feel like calling and talking about it, give me a call.

  3. Anna Lemma Says:

    Hi Trisha. Great interview on NPR. It’s hard getting through the death of someone you care very much about. It seems that only time and those you care about help get you through the worst of it.

    In the interview, Kris seems to talk at you rather than to you. As if you were simply another potential convert for Jesus instead of someone wanting a deeper discussion about faith, the meaning of life, and death.

    Again, great interview.

  4. Hannah Says:

    Oh my. Serendipitous is the term exactly. I was so surprised to see your comment but, I was also really happy!

    I couldn’t believe it –I had been talking about your story on TAL the night before, going on about how Christians sometimes don’t listen, etc. etc. I totally agree with Anna I felt like Kris was just talking at you. It’d love to chat about that with you if you want but, it seems like you’re having a lot of those conversations these days so, you may not be in need of another one.

    Anyway, I had never been to New York until a couple weekends ago and ‘Orange Sky’ is definitely a new (to me) favorite. Two good things to share with you, I feel like we’re friends already or something. If you happen to be in DC anytime, let me know maybe we could meet up!

  5. Ernesto Tinajero Says:

    I was moved by your story and wrote about it on my blog. I was reminded of what I heard African theologian Kwame Bediako say about suffering. He was at Fuller theological seminary, and to the questions of suffering he said in West the question is why is there suffering. In Africa, he said that in the midst of pain and suffering can you understand the spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody but Jesus.” He was a man confronting the pain and suffering of his people due to war, exploitation, and death, who found the strength to love. I saw in his eyes the beauty of God. The coach seems to be a good man, and throughout your story, I could hear the spiritual: Sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m down
    Yes lord, you know sometimes I’m almost to the ground
    O yes, Lord, still

  6. Phil Says:

    Hello Trisha,
    I was also moved by your story on The American Life. I’m a person of faith, and when I listened to your story, a few things came into my mind that I thought might be helpful to you on your journey.

    First was the part in the bible where Jesus raises Lazurus from from the dead (John chapter 11). If Jesus really is God, then this story shows us the heart of God towards death, how much it saddens him, and how he wants to, and promises to, abolish it. The two woman in that story both say the same thing to Jesus–that if he had been there, their brother would not have died. I won’t presume to understand what you’ve gone through emotionally in this process, but it strikes me that this is perhaps not unlike how you feel.

    I also thought of some books that deal with death and grieving, that I think are particularly good…that are written from a Christian perspective, but deal with the painful questions and don’t give pat answers. Here are the amazon links:

    The first two I especially recommend because they are written by real people facing real grief. Anyway, I hope this is all helpful to you.

    • Trisha Lynn Says:

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendations.

      If Jesus really is God, then this story shows us the heart of God towards death, how much it saddens him, and how he wants to, and promises to, abolish it.

      You’re assuming that I believe that the Bible is a book of historical fact when that’s not the case. I don’t believe that the Bible (or any historical text on religion) contains the 100% truth, because I know that language shifts over time and what we’re translating into our speech now may not be exactly how it was written down. For example, you do know that the word “virgin” used to mean “young girl” and not “female who has not experienced intimacy with a male” right? Kinda puts some new light onto the Mary mystery, doesn’t it?

    • Phil Says:

      Hi Trisha,
      Thanks for your response. I don’t mean to assume anything about your acceptance of the truth of the bible; I only mean to say that if Christianity is true, so that Jesus really does reveal God, and the bible is a reliable record of that, then the passage I quoted tells us something about how God looks at death. I agree somewhat with what you say about the shifting meanings of words, but I don’t think this means that the bible we have (with God’s help of course), in it’s imperfect translation, can’t convey to us important truth about God and Jesus.

      I have what I think is an adequate an answer about the virgin birth thing, but I’m only going to write it here if you want me to…I don’t know if you want to hear my “apologetics.” I know Coach Hogan gave you a lot of that, and it didn’t seem like the right thing.

      • Trisha Lynn Says:

        …only mean to say that if Christianity is true, so that Jesus really does reveal God, and the bible is a reliable record of that…

        That’s a lot of assumptions for one person to make (if the Bible is true, if it’s 100% accurate, etc.) when most people tend to think in terms of Occam’s razor when it comes to explaining how the world works… which incidentally is how primitive religions were formed. As in: “The buffalo hunt went well after I did this certain thing, therefore every time I do this thing, I will have a successful buffalo hunt.”

        And so on and so forth.

        I have what I think is an adequate an answer about the virgin birth thing…

        I honestly don’t think I need to have it “explained” to me. However, what I would like explained is why so many Christian people seem to think that because Mary was “virgin” then all sex for purposes other than procreation is evil. But that’s more of a “what people who believe in God think” question/discussion and less of a “what the Higher power” thinks (if it thinks at all) question.

  7. Matt Says:

    Hi Trisha- I was moved to contact you after hearing your recent “This American Life” segment regarding belief in God. First of all, I am very sorry for the pain you are experiencing regarding your friend’s death. It was very courageous to talk so openly about it and I am very lucky to have heard it.
    Remember- God does not have to exist through the Bible or through moral and ethical battles between believers and non believers. Convincing you that evolution is not true will not bring you closer to God. Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians cannot stray one bit from biblical ideas of God, and I believe this is what causes many to stray away.
    God is everywhere- in everyone and everything. He is that feeling you get when you hear a great song, he is the warmth of the sun, he (Or She!) is the happy feeling you get when you see a loved one for the first time in a long time- and yes, he is in the sadness. The mere fact that you are questioning proves that you will be okay. Never lose faith that there is meaning in all life and in all death.
    I love all sorts of spiritual thoughts and beliefs- I am currently reading “A New Earth” by Eckard Tolle. It is amazing and eye opening, and explains God and our existence without promoting or discouraging any religion. Pleas read it!
    I hope you find what you need-


    • Trisha Lynn Says:

      Thanks for the book recommendation.

      Unfortunately, many well meaning Christians cannot stray one bit from biblical ideas of God, and I believe this is what causes many to stray away.

      I think it’s possible to think that there is a God and still believe in scientific principles, just as long as you don’t believe that the written texts that have survived are statements of fact.

  8. Dru Morgan Says:

    As an evangelical Christian, I was very moved by this segment, and also, like many here, was disappointed by the coach’s answers and his inability to listen and relate to Trish as a person.

    We have a radio show that deals with answering questions people like Trish have about God, and in two weeks (13 Jun 2009) we are going to play the clip from TAL in its entirety and see if we can help the coach out by trying to answer Trish’s questions.

    I sympathize with people who just can’t believe and also with “believers” who can’t convince others, and hopefully, we are able to add something that will help both sides out.

    • Trisha Lynn Says:

      I’m really looking forward to hearing this segment; do you have a podcast of your show that I can point to?

      • Dru Morgan Says:

        My name (in this reply) is a link to our web page. Here is the link to add the podcast directly to iTunes.

        We normally take a call and share the gospel with a stranger on each episode. This Saturday, the whole show will be dedicated to trying to answer your questions from TAL and giving a succinct presentation of the gospel.

        • Trisha Lynn Says:

          Dru: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what your ministers have to say about the questions I had, and this will definitely become the topic of a future blog entry.

  9. Philip Says:

    Listen to the clip again.
    Right in the begining there is a quote from a boy who ran through the spirit line.
    He says he felt like he was being carried by angles.
    I was on a public bus headed downtown when I heard him say that.

    I pulled my stocking cap down over my eyes, not so much to hide my tears but to create a space for my sobbing.

    I admit I missed the first part of what you said, still lost in a world where people cry when criminals are held by angles. I tuned in when you said that what got you about the story was that after the game the boys were handcuffed, shackled, and carried back into isolation.

    Your story, in my veiw, begins with a boy being lifted by angles then bound in shackles.
    And what calls me to write this, is I see you as that boy.

    Shackled to a belief, isolated in thought, refusing to cross the spirit line and be borne by angles.

    This I believe, when Kelly crossed Her spirit line, she was that boy, and 10,000 Angles cheered for her and carried her on to a playing field beyond imagination.

    Kelly is a women I never knew and never met, I pray that when I cross the spirit line she is there to cheer me on.

    Your doubt in God is laughable, how Godly of YOU to share your friend in such a way as to make a stranger love her.
    How Godly of you to honor someone’s life and someone’s death in such a way that it can not be forgotten.
    Your love, is beyond reproach.

    You are a writer so I pray that you are careful.
    You deal in words and language, which is where our lives are created.
    Look to the Bible, John 1:1
    In the beginning was the Word,
    and the Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.

    Kelly lives in your words, she is being talked about by loving strangers all across the internet because of your words.

    I leave you with this, God answers ALL prayers, sometimes BEFORE we ask, and sometimes in ways we refuse to see.

    Philip (the Word was God.) Berens

    • Trisha Lynn Says:

      Kelly lives in your words, she is being talked about by loving strangers all across the internet because of your words.

      Thank you for this, because this is one of the reasons why I wanted to do the show in the first place.

      And yet I still can’t help but feel as if the world would have been better served if she were still here just being Kelly and helping out other awkward people like me instead of me just being here and talking to you about her.

      It’s not the same.

  10. Reuven Spolter Says:

    Hey Trisha,
    I read your moving – very personal story of TAL. I haven’t dreamt about you, but just as you connected to Coach Hogan kind of randomly from a media report that you heard, I am reaching out to you. As a warning – I’m not a Christian, so I can’t help you find faith in Catholicism. But I heard the pain in your voice and would be happy to speak with you.
    Sometimes it’s not so much about the answer, but maybe about dealing with the questions.

    • Trisha Lynn Says:

      I don’t mind you chatting at me. I checked out your website and I will say that you’re the first person who’s contacted me and to whom I’ve spoken to about this part of my grief who’s Jewish. I can’t claim to know much about your religion, but when one of the people whom I met through Kelly lost her mother and I got to research what sitting shiva meant, that whole process made a lot of sense to me.

      If you’d like to email me directly, you can do so using the link on the “About Trisha Lynn” page.

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