Death

 
 

Infamous Beyond Napoleon Dynamite

Today is a historical anniversary of a sad day in the United States. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it. I’d wager very few people have.

Last month my dad told me that when he was a little boy growing up in a small southern Idaho town, he’d occasionally find himself in the local post office staring at a large painting over a doorway. He told me he’d study that painting and wonder. It drew his attention like nothing else he’d seen.

I’d been in that post office last summer and didn’t notice the painting. To be honest, I’d never heard about it, and I was focused on buying stamps. I should have paid attention to the cool architecture of the old structure, the classic lines, the pillars, the traditional windows for each clerk to stand behind. The old formica square tiles caught my eye that day, but not much else.

This town looks like hundreds of others throughout the west, with one main street of businesses, lots of modest homes radiating out from the central part of town, and newer houses encroaching on farm and ranch land. Not much to set it apart from all those others. Although a small film made it semi-famous among teens for a while. You may have heard of “Napoleon Dynamite.” Or, if you didn’t have teenagers at the time you may not have heard of this little comedic gem.

Preston, Idaho has another little known but infamous event tied to it.

Just before Christmas I spent a week with my parents. In spite of the snowy weather we ended up doing some scenic drives. It’s one of Dad’s favorite things to do. He tells me about different places as we drive past, points out curiosities, shares funny stories and sad tales. He grew up in that part of the country and knows the history well, played and fished and worked in the area until his late teens. One story in particular caught his attention in grade school but he could find little information about it beyond the brief  mention of it once.

Driving north out of town he pointed out a little cove off in the distance and casually said, “That’s where the largest massacre of Indians in the United States took place.”

I was sure he couldn’t be correct.

But he knew details and he told me about the painting in the post office and his fascination with it.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. For some reason that story and that painting were on my mind. So I opened my computer and typed in a few search words and found out that Dad did know what he was talking about. In fact, in an odd coincidence, the anniversary of this sad and senseless event took place on January 29, that’s today.

I found out that just after dawn 153 years ago today, in 1863, the Bear River Massacre of the Northwest Band of Shoshone Indians took place. Over 500 men, women and children died at the hands of the U.S. Army that day. That’s more than double those who lost their lives at Wounded Knee.

Why would this be on my mind last night? I’ve never seen the memorial plaque, which is pictured in the link above, along with copious amounts of research and details that will surprise and haunt you. Besides driving past the site and dad’s brief telling of it, and the painting, which I paid serious attention to in December, this hasn’t crossed my mind.

Like my Dad, it caught at my heart and has obviously been tugging away this past month at my subconscious.

Maybe this painting, and the story will tug at your heart and mind as well. I hope so. Such a thing ought not be so quietly dismissed or forgotten.preston post office

~~~~~

“In Shoshone, there’s a saying. It’s a long one, and it doesn’t have an English equivalent, so bear with me.  Sutummu tukummuinna. It means, I don’t speak your language, and you don’t speak mine. But I still understand you. I don’t need to walk in your footsteps if I can see the footprints you left behind.” ~ Rose Christo, Why the Star Stands Still

 

 

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Categories: Death, Holidays, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Just Called to Say I Love You

FullSizeRender-3 copyFew things in life cause a person to contemplate their own mortality more than the death of someone they’re close to.

My friend, Kathy, was only ten years old when her parents were killed in a drunk driving accident. Needless to say, death sort of hardwired itself into her head at such an early age. That explains why at the back of every journal or diary she ever had she wrote out her funeral plans. They changed a bit over the years. Those plans got more specific at a certain point in her life.

Irony stepped in big time with Kathy when multiple myeloma kicked in. I hate irony. And I hate cancer. But those are two different topics altogether.

Having terminal cancer will bring up the topic of death and dying in an unrelenting way. Kathy and I chatted about it the way most people talk about plans for the weekend. Mostly I was always in denial. She never was. Not ever.

Why do I bring up Kathy? It’s been two years today since she passed away. Two years to think about her, to avoid thinking about her, to process what she taught me, to avoid processing what she taught me. Have I come to any conclusions? No.

I know this much. She wouldn’t want me moping around and being gloomy. She’d want me to celebrate life and live it large and crazy. She’d kick my butt if she thought I was sad in the least bit today.

So, fine. I won’t mope or mourn. I will, however tell you the two things that keep popping into my head.

The weirdest of the two is a Stevie Wonder song. As far as I remember she wasn’t a big fan of Stevie. It’d make more sense if a Beatles song kept running through my mind. But no, no Beatles. It’s this one:

“I just called to say I love you.”

At first I thought that’s what I’d say to her if I could call her up in heaven, collect, of course, and have a chat. “Hey girl! What’s up? I just called to say I love you.” After all that’s how I’d say goodbye whenever I left her house. “Love you! I’ll see you later.” It’s even how I said goodbye the last time.

But then, I thought, maybe she’s trying to call me! Now there’s an idea, huh? I’m sure they don’t get unlimited calls and texts from heaven, but maybe an occasional one on special occasions?  Who knows. It could happen.

The other thought for today is from a photo I took on a snowy walk about three weeks ago. It’d be what she’d tell me to do. What she’d tell everyone she knows and loves to do.

It’s this:

FullSizeRender-3

She was always all about the happy.

So to honor her, I’ll try to be all about the happy, too.

And since we’re on the topic, I’d want to be remembered as a happy person too.  But don’t go playing any Stevie Wonder songs at my funeral.

 

 

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Happiness, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

That Fuzzy-Eyed, Staring at Nothing Buzz That Happens

You know that fuzzy-eyed, staring at nothing buzz you feel when you’re running about a week behind on your sleep?

Yeah, that one.

I’ve felt that for a few days now. Seems like a less than stellar way to begin a year. I’m betting I could sleep for three days in a row and still not feel rested. Not that there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades of putting that idea to the test.

wonder woman

To the invisible jet!…Dang it!

I’d be thrilled to get eight or nine hours of sleep at this point. Two nights in a row of eight hours worth of shut-eye and I’d be a new woman. Heck, I’d be Wonder Woman.

It’s not post-holiday letdown, or shopping burnout. Hardly. This year I experienced exactly the opposite of what normally occurs at Christmas, which turned out weirdly good. And, no, I didn’t overindulge with New Year revelry nonsense.

I think, more than likely, I owe this numb brain sensation to more than sleep deprivation. I’m pretty certain I’m in denial about a few things.

Saturday marks one year since my best friend Kathy passed away. All through December she’s hovered in the background of each day. It was a month of “lasts.” Of course, at the time I didn’t really  know they were all lasts. The last time we had a normal day together, the last time I had a conversation with her, her last words to me, last texts exchanged, last soda run, my last “see ya’ later,” her last month of life.

Add in that I did this lousy job at grieving during the year. I did a way better job at denial. I was always in denial, even when we talked about her funeral plans over the years. It was always something in the future. Now it’s all something in the past.

Have I mentioned how much I hate that?

I think I’ve expected some sense of closure by now and it hasn’t happened. But then, I haven’t really done any “work” to make that happen. It’s been a year of life happening to me, not me actively living life.

Abnormally normal, actually. That’s how the year’s gone. Have I mentioned that Kathy used to tell me that she’d keep her battles against an incurable cancer over the weird life I live? Yeah. She said things like that to, what, make me feel better about my life. Or maybe to feel better about hers.

dart boardIt’s been a helluva year in a couple of other ways as well. Which I won’t bore you with or share publicly. Just take my word for it. Crap hit the fan and has stunk up the place. Still digging out. Not sure the smell will ever go away. Sorry for the vagueness. Imagine some things you’d never want to deal with that doesn’t involve death and you’d probably hit the dart close to center.

It’s been an amazing year in some phenomenally great ways, too. Ways that seem to prove that the universe works on some sort of cosmic yin and yang, balancing between good and evil, positive and negative, ridiculous and, yes, sublime. Take my word for it, imagine some of the best stuff ever that could happen that doesn’t involve money and you’d maybe come close to how wonderful life felt at times this year.

Odd, huh?

Throw in a side trip, too.

Throw in a side trip, too.

A yo-yo on a string. That’s me. Spinning, spinning, spinning, hard bounce at the bottom, more spinning, spinning, spinning, abrupt halt at the top. Repeat.

Maybe it’s like that for everyone.

Or maybe, I’m just lucky that way. (Sleep-deprived, brain fuzz, and off-kilter, remember?)

Happy.

New.

Year.

 

 

 

Categories: Death, Family, Friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Best Advice I’ve Gotten In the Past Year? “Practice Radical Self-Care”

Great recs found here.

Great recs found here.

The best advice I got during the past twelve months wasn’t directed at me. And it arrived through an unlikely source, a Goodreads question and answer session.

I don’t usually follow or sign up for these sorts of things. I think the author’s work normally speaks for itself. But I made an exception this one time.  When Anne Lamott, the author of “Help! Thanks! Wow!” among other hilarious, heartfelt and honest books, accepted a stint on the Featured Author Chat over at Goodreads, I jumped on board eager to pick up some writerly advice and a few laughs.

The directness in Anne’s writing reminds me of my best friend who passed away early this year. They both have a no-holds-barred approach to communication. Say it like it is. Don’t worry about offending anyone. Speak truth. Let it all fall where it ought to.

Feels like I get an infusion of new oxygen in my blood after reading Anne’s books. I figured I’d more than enjoy reading what she has to say in a different medium.

Little did I know how helpful it would be.

Sure, she answered queries about writing and about her personal life. But then, a surprise question and an even more surprising answer came through.

In response to a reader’s question about how to deal with depression and discouragement, Anne Lamott’s answer jumped out at me as if it’d been highlighted with fluorescent green marker.

“Depressed and discouraged is really hard, and plenty to deal with. My response, if it was me, was to practice radical self-care, by being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself, exactly as I would be with a friend. Love and gentleness are always the answer. “ – Anne Lamott, from a Goodreads discussion 12/12/13

“Practice radical self-care.”

I’ve said that to myself over and over ever since I read it. Even more so since a funeral and burial and the ensuing grief that’s hovered all year.

So we’ve all heard that “self-care” part of the equation over the years, right? But “radical?” And how do you care for yourself in a radical way?

I turn to my usual sources. I like the third Merriam-Webster definition of radical.

“Radical: very different from the usual or traditional : extreme.”

So I’ve looked at how I normally care for myself and I attempt to do the opposite, or at least a ninety degree shift.

Sounds difficult. But I’ve given it a try anyway.

So how do I “practice radical self-care”?

  • Letting myself ignore all my lists occasionally and the usual side of guilt they’re served with
  • I say “not right now” instead of “sure, anytime, anything”
  • Simply sitting and letting my mind go blank, often
  • Crying when the tears want to leak out
  • Laughing even if it goes against all reason or feels wrong
  • Planning something unprecedented, like getting a manicure, or a spur of the moment trip
  • Saying “No”
  • Reminding MSH that I’m not depressed, just grieving
  • Practicing my depression treatment steps, just in case
  • Accepting that sorrow and faith can coexist in the same brain
  • Journaling, several times a day if necessary, letting words carry some of the weight
  • Napping, earlier bedtimes, later wake times
  • Talking about how I’m feeling

The other part of what Anne said, I’d applied in situations involving others, but rarely with myself.

“Being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself.

The key word there: “exquisitely,” as in “acutely perceptive, discriminating, intense.”

Kind, patient and gentle with myself. How could I go wrong? That was easier the first month or two after my friend died. But then I hit some preconceived notion of “times up” on the grieving thing and stopped being so easy on myself.
Photo by Kettie Olsen

Photo by Kettie Olsen

So I try again and again. And I remind myself again, as Anne said, “Love and gentleness are always the answer.”

I get radical. I care for myself. Practice exquisite patience and gentleness. I apply the concepts of love and kindness to myself. Kind of extreme ideas for me.

It’s a daily, sometimes hourly process working through depression, discouragement and grief.

I owe big thanks for such unusually worded advice from someone who’s been there to someone still wandering the path toward a new normal.

*~~*~~*

Categories: Cancer, Death, Hope | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haunted by Dinosaurs and Other Big Scary Things

Illustration by Charles R Knight - http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras.

Illustration by Charles R Knight – http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/history/extras. (No, this isn’t from the movie, sorry.)

Friday Letter to My Kids –

Dear J, J, L and L,

You’re gonna think I lost my mind.

I’m haunted today by the movie “Land Before Time.”

I tried to drive it out by singing my super-shortened version of “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, but it wouldn’t leave. I tried eating chocolate, but that didn’t help. Homemade french fries might drown out the image. Maybe I can exorcise it by watching all three extended versions of “Lord of the Rings.” (That’d probably do it, but it would take all night and half of tomorrow.)

I think I just have to face the music and the script and see where it leads us.

I’m fairly certain that L and L have the dialogue and the songs committed to memory. In fact, a mini-soundtrack probably resides in every cell in your bodies. Or at least in your bones. You watched that movie so much I think we very nearly wore the tape out.

The main melody, the very first time, sounds nice and sweet. The four-hundredth time grates a little. I kept  getting bits of that song sneaking into my head today.

Then I could hear Little Foot yelling, “Mother, mother!!” like he does, in that happy I’ve-found-my-mother-after-thinking-I’d-lost-her-forever way he has. And then I’d hear her answering him by simply saying his name, “Little Foot,” with a lilt to her voice that any child would cherish. But that was all I got all day. No other dialogue. No words beyond them calling each other.

So I had to look up some quotes and figure out what I’m supposed to get from this little haunting from your young past.

And there, as one of the first few lines of dialogue,  my answer presented itself. I’ll share.

Littlefoot’s mother: Dear, sweet, Littlefoot, do you remember the way to the Great Valley?

Littlefoot: I guess so. But why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?

Littlefoot’s mother: I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.

Littlefoot: What do you mean I can’t see you? I can always see you.

And then, I understood why this little animated film from 1988 dragged itself out of the dusty recesses of my gray matter and danced around on the surface of my brain all day.

My mom, your grandma, just finished a weeklong visit here and, as you know, on the drive home had another stroke or something very much like it. When I got the call my heart stopped. Oh, she’s okay now, but once again I had to face that void, that inevitable nothingness. I don’t like that.

The Great Valley, for me anyway, serves as a metaphor for everything my Mom taught me and hoped for me. The directions for getting there, a symbol of her caring, all that she’s given me and her enduring love in spite of it all.

Poor Little Foot, so young and naïve. Oh, to be like that, completely oblivious to the possibility of loss, of death, of sorrow so deep you’re sure you can’t ever climb out.

“Why do I have to know if you’re going to be with me?”

Mom has always been with me. She’s in my bones, in my skin, in the way I hesitate before I answer. Even though I moved away from home a zillion years ago, she’s still a vital part of my life. Yes, she really is, even if we don’t talk on the phone very often or see each other more than once or twice a year. Just knowing she’s a phone call or a day’s drive away makes life okay. Some day things won’t be okay. Ouch.

I guess what I want to say is this:

“I’ll be with you. Even if you can’t see me.”

That’s what I want to feel and believe about my own Mom. That’s what I hope you feel and believe about me. Although, I plan on sticking around and haunting you, in real life, for a long, long time.

Also, be careful what movies you let your kids watch a gazillion times over, it’ll probably come back to haunt you in some very strange ways.

Love always,

Mom

~~~~~

p.s. Here’s the song “If We Hold On Together” if you want to listen to it.

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

“Let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen closely.” ~Land Before Time

Categories: Death, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

There is No Measure for Sorrow

Mom used to do this thing that I found a bit creepy. But then, I was quite young and had half a lifetime yet to live before I’d begin a journey of understanding.  It’s been half a lifetime at this point and I think I’m starting to understand her behavior.

The first thing Mom looked at when the afternoon newspaper arrived, oddly wasn’t the comics, which I went for. Nope. Mom looked up the obituaries. First thing. Every day.

Bizarre.

That’s what I thought at the time.

What more is there to say?

What more is there to say?

I know now that she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to express condolence to someone she might know who could use the support and love. An old classmate, a church friend, a distant relative, a former neighbor, parents of her friends.

My second older brother died before he’d reached a year.  The support and love Mom received after Brian passed away must have been invaluable. She saw the value of others reaching out to comfort her. It stuck with her, this desire to give strength and support to the broken-hearted.

"Hennes Grave" by Picasa.

“Hennes Grave” by Picasa.

You’d expect I’d naturally have picked up her empathy and kindness, since not long after that, I was born. Born into grief, born to lift and cheer, born being needed, born to fill an unfillable space.

It took a while.

I went through a phase when my own babies were tiny where I scanned the obits briefly, looking for children that had died. I think it served as a kind of mental inoculation or talisman against the possibility that my own little ones might wander into print in such a horrible way. Strange thinking, I know. We do odd things as mothers to protect our brood.

Then I passed through a phase where I’d skip that page of the newspaper as quickly as possible, as if not acknowledging it made it unreal, an un-possibility.

If only.

I simply don’t read a print newspaper anymore. Solved that problem, didn’t I?

Hardly.

I’ve been to far too many funerals in the past ten years. And not just older people either. Babies, young men, mothers, fathers, young adults, college students, children, teens. Disease or accident, anticipated or sudden, self-inflicted or battled, tragedies every one.

Oddly, older people dying doesn’t carry the same tragic heft and horror for many of us. Although the loss feels every bit as painful, I would think, for those closest to the departed. But who am I to say?

There is no measure for grief, loss or sorrow.

I’ve been at crowded standing room only funerals and those with barely anyone in a tiny room. I’ve felt comforted and I’ve felt bereft. I’ve been strangers to the grieving and close friends with the heartbroken. I’ve been one whose heart went missing when the death occurred. And, I’ve held my own tears in check for later as I offered a hug and spoke what little one can say.

Photo: "Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)" by Natalie Maynor

Photo: “Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)” by Natalie Maynor

Obituaries, along with the newspapers they used to appear in, are dying their own slow death. For whatever reason fewer and fewer obituaries get published. Facebook and other social media now serve, rather inadequately, as death announcement venues. I’m not so sure I’d want the notice of my death to run squeezed between a “stay calm” meme and a “you won’t believe what this cat and dog did” video. Lacks dignity and appropriateness wouldn’t you say?

But then, whose to say what’s appropriate nowadays?

We celebrate births and weddings. We mail out invitations and announcements and ask others to join us in our happiness. The only other significant major life event, death, has been left to dangle precipitously like so much bad press we want to avoid reading, let alone acknowledge.

I hope we figure out a better way to help the grieving. I hope we don’t simply hold our breath waiting for their response to our queries of “How are you?” to become “Oh, I’m fine.” I hope we don’t believe that pat answer. I hope we pray for them, handle with care and know that all is not well, not for a very long time.

Mortality reaches us all eventually, no matter how we try to dodge it. How we cope, how we grieve, how we celebrate a life, how we avoid its ending. It’s all part and parcel of the whole life experience.

I, for one, want to help ease whatever pain I can. After all, I was born to it.

 

~~~~~

“My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies.” ~ Bill Paxton

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Still Crazy After All These Months

Seven months today.

I thought by now I’d feel better, be on the upswing.

But no. If anything the cycle of grief leaves me reeling from an upside down outside loop (is that even possible?) and rockets into this cavernous roiling flame-filled pit of wild emotion I don’t even recognize. Anger, tears, blame, sorrow, regret; those words only skim the surface some days.

Sounds stupidly dramatic.

Kathy would say, “Oh, get over yourself woman.” Then we’d drive over to Freddie’s for their super skinny fries and epic fry sauce and a concrete mixer with caramel and nuts and fudge and two days worth of calories in one sitdown whine fest.

What an awesome listener. The world needs more listeners like her. What an honest, straightforward tell it like it really is talker. We need more of that, too.

If I were to follow her example when someone asks how I’m doing I would NOT say, “Oh, I’m fine!” Instead I’d say, “I’m a wreck!”

I miss her like crazy. I miss us. Our friendship. Our uniquely bizarre mix of humor, life’s experience and often wordless communication created five years of something beyond special.

Now, months later, there’s still this gaping hole of her absence. And I keep tripping and falling into it. Hurts every time. I just can’t seem to navigate away from the edge, yet.

Maybe someday. Maybe at the one year point. Y’think? I don’t know.

She’d be mad at me if I left this post hanging on a negative note. She’d be mad at me for the whole post, honestly. Oh well, she’ll have to come haunt me to shut me up. So there.

Here’s where I insert the jokes.

But just to be safe, (I don’t really want her haunting me) here’s a few fairly good, clean George Carlin one liners. (Hint: it helps to say them out loud in your best comedian voice, with a nice pause at the end for a rim shot, pa da, pum! )

  • If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
  • How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign?
  • Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
  • Is it true that cannibals don’t eat clowns because they taste funny?
  • If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Alright already, I’ll stop now.

Laughter? Really?

I’ve found salvation and solace in laughter the past few months. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. It’s like medicine, without the weird side effects.

I’m fine. Really. Most of the time I am. I just have these moments that last a day or two or three. It helps to write it out loud, kinda gets it out of my system.

I’ll sign off today the same way I used to tell her goodbye. The same way I said goodbye for the last time.

“Love ya, Kathy. See ya later.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The title for today’s post is a take off on a song by Paul Simon, “Still Crazy After All These Years.” It speaks to me on so many different levels. You can listen to it here.

 

 

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Serendipity of Your Birthday On Memorial Day

Dear Kathy,

I find it interesting that your birthday this year also happens to fall on Memorial Day. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had planned it that way.

I’d really wanted to visit you on your birthday but I’m afraid it’ll be crowded and noisy and I just wanted some quiet one on one time with you. I’d even thought of bringing along some hummus and pita bread to munch. And, of course, a forty-four ounce diet coke, easy ice, with diet cherry flavoring and handful of real cherries.

Instead, I think I’ll come by for a visit in a few weeks, when the crowds have died down (no pun intended) and it’s quiet and peaceful. Hoping it isn’t too hot by then, or too windy. I suppose if your geraniums survive the summer at “your Sarah’s” house nearby then I’d do okay with the summer heat on “the mountain.”

pieces-of-the-puzzleI have to say I have mixed feelings about visiting you. It just won’t be how it was. Of course, what is anymore? Seems like someone took the puzzle that was my life in January, threw it up in the air and let the pieces fall wherever. I think the wind caught a few pieces and carried them away.

Can I also admit something horrible? I’m kinda angry. That sounds really stupid as I write it. All those conversations we had for years about what “now” would look and feel like, all those assignments you gave me, all those things in the far distant future actually happened. At the time of those conversations none of it felt real.

Surreal, yes.

Real, never.

“Now” is here and more real than I imagined and I don’t like it one bit.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

See the paisley shape in each one? Not as cool all by itself.

I’m also a bit aggravated because you set this gold standard for the perfect friendship. Nothing else will ever measure up to that. That’s not really your fault. You couldn’t help it that you were the friendship yin to my yang. Now I’m just a funky looking squiggle, a paisley shape. Dumb and boring.

I keep expecting to run into you. And yet, I avoid going to your house. I’m not following through with those assignments you gave me. I’m a slacker.

Truth is, it hurts too dang much to go over to your place now. Even driving past twists this pain through my back and into my heart and makes an ache that takes days to breath away. I should get over that. Eventually.

I also expect to see you in dreams. I did, a couple of weeks ago. I wrote the dream down in my journal. Reread it a few times. Gave up trying to understand it. Too much like real life. I was hoping for revelation, insight, wisdom, healing, and yes, maybe even laughter. This dream didn’t have any of that in it. But I did see you, your face, that light you have in your eyes. And I heard your bossy, take charge voice, sort of. It had softened some.

This letter probably gets your dander up. You’d tell me to suck it up. You’d say…I don’t know. What would you say?

I can’t remember now. I don’t want to remember. And I do want to remember.

photo-24 copy

translation: quit your belly aching

Actually, now that I’ve thought about it, you’d say, “Kwitchurbelyakn!” Just like that little sign on your stove said.

This was meant as a perky, happy letter. One to let you know I’m okay, even though I miss you. I’d planned it out in my head to start with a great joke, share a couple of funny memories, finish with another good joke and then sign off with some witty remark.

You know me better than that. You’d see through the smoke and mirrors and would call BS when you got done reading a letter like that.

What advice would you give me? Can you just drop me a line somehow? You’re one of the most resourceful, innovative women I know. Surely you can do a workaround to get word to me. A mystery text. A phrase in a book I’m reading jumping out at me. A glimpse of your big smile on someone’s face. Be creative, I’m pretty open-minded about however you reach me.

Tall order, I know. Plus, you’re probably pretty busy reorganizing heaven so it runs more efficiently.

Just so you aren’t completely irritated by my whiney letter I’ll let you know I’ve trolled the internet for jokes and I share them, almost every day. Just trying to stay on the sanity side of the grief thing. It seems to help, some.

This quote by Bill Cosby caught my eye and, of course, I thought of you.

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive. it.” ~ Bill Cosby

You did that really well, so I’m trying to keep up the tradition. Laughter, even in the crappy times. So here’s a parting joke, or a party joke. Whichever.

Little Johnny’s new baby brother was screaming up a storm. He asked his mom, “Where’d we get him?”

His mother replied, “He came from heaven, Johnny.”

Johnny says, “WOW! I can see why they threw him out!”

You’re a keeper, no matter how demanding you might get. Try to stay out of trouble, if you can. I know you like to stir things up, have things your way. Try to remember you aren’t the one in charge anymore.

This was probably two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

This was two years ago or more. An eternity and just yesterday.

Here’s that picture I took a couple of years ago that you photoshopped and sent back to me. I should frame it to remind me of your sense of humor, your ability to laugh in life’s toughest situations. Not to mention, I’d get to see that mischievousness in your eyes. And it’d remind me to be happy anyway.

I miss you a ton.

Happy Birthday!

With love from your bestie,

Kami

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Death, Holiday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving In and Saying It Anyway

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

I’ve resisted as long as I can.

The voices have occupied my head for a day or more now. Ignoring them makes them grow louder. Sometimes what you want and what you need oppose each other like two big scary dogs, teeth bared, back hunched, a low growl, narrowed eyes, hackles up.

Fine. I give in. Here it is. The thoughts that have raced through my head the past twenty-four hours.

I’m not a Mother’s Day fan.

There. I said it.

What?

You want an explanation? Do I really need to give one?

Seriously, this year I decided to let go of that whiney, complaining, high expectations, nonsense that surrounds a holiday to celebrate motherhood. I had determined to embrace the joy, the beauty, the gift of life attitude of this greeting card holiday.

I nearly lost my Mom this past year. Twice. Heart stopping in its possibility, that thought has haunted me the past day. Haunted me since last July the first time it happened.

I’m sorry, but I can’t let my mother die. That can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t ever never ever never happen. My life would come to an end if that happened. You see, there’s this spiritual umbilical cord-like thing that attaches her life to mine and mine to hers. Her blood beats in my body. I’m part of her and she is part of me, in more ways than the merely physical.

We might go a week or two or even a month without talking on the phone and six months or more without seeing one another, but the connection of daughter to mother is strong and undeniable and filled with comfort and power and this undefinable somethingness I can’t find a word for.

How does anyone survive the death of their own mother? And then, how much more pain is there on Mother’s Day when your mother isn’t there to call on the phone, or have over for dinner, or send a card to?

I don’t ever want to find out.

When my best friend died five months ago part of me broke loose and has rattled around inside me trying to find a landing-place. So far it just keeps banging around, running into things, pinching, jabbing, stabbing, clanging about.

She left behind four children who today celebrate, mourn, cry, thrash, scream, yowl, sob, pretend, remember, deny, cherish, ache. My heart hurts for them, for their unspeakable pain and loss.

Then I think about all the mother’s that might have passed away this year, last year, all the years and such sorrow washes over me. How does the world keep spinning in the face of such things?

I have no idea.

I do know that Mothers possess a singular sort of magic.

Maybe it’s sort of like this. Some thing in the power of motherhood pushes life forward, keeps this impossible ball spinning on its axis, gives us strength and will to put one foot ahead of the other, and whispers in our ears, “Live!”

 

 

Categories: Death, parenting, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Can Nothing Feel Like Something?

The pass I’d given myself to wallow, read, sleep, and grieve, expired its “use by” date about a month ago.

“I’m sorry ma’am, that coupon isn’t valid anymore.”

Somehow things suddenly kicked into high gear a couple of weeks ago and my mind and body filled up the space and time I rent from the life library. I went back to the gym, put away my pile of “to read” books, started a new volunteer project, began cooking dinners, even made bread, and made headway with the  stuffpiles that inhabit every room in the house.

photo by Sarang

photo by Sarang

In other words, my life shifted into a new normal. At least I thought so.

Two nights ago, MSH said something completely innocent and ordinary, and with his words the doorknob to my emotional storeroom clicked.

The door opened.

The air changed not in a physical sense, but just as clearly as the temperature and smell in a house changes when a door gets left open in midwinter, I knew something was different.

Can nothing feel like something?

Yes. Without argument. Absolutely yes.

I felt the loss of my best friend as raw and new as January. Instantly.

That emotional door allowed an onslaught of emptiness and loss to escape. I could no more push it away than a person can shove the cold air back outside and slam the door on it. The cold inhabits the room. It takes time and effort to reheat the inside air.

Two days, almost three, and I’ve felt lost again, unable to force away limbo and hurt and sorrow.

It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about her. Not at all. It’s more like her absence inhabits me. How does an emptiness fill something? I have no idea. I just know that’s what it feels like.

There’s a mental numbness involved as well. I find myself not engaging in conversations, barely following the words, the back and forth of it. My body’s in the room, but my mind, my focus, simply isn’t anywhere.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

What do I do about it?

I don’t know. Keep breathing. Keep moving. Do.

Or maybe I need to not do anything. Maybe I give myself over to the feeling of loss, all over again. Sit in my porch swing and stare, again. Cry randomly, again. Pray more than normal, again. Muster up energy to respond to texts and emails, again. Sleep way too much, again. Stand around aimlessly and unproductive, again.

I’m guessing this sensation will go away eventually. I’m expecting that writing about it, out loud, here, might help.

It might come back again, too. I think grief does these looping things. It’s not a linear, stage by stage processing of the loss, but a kind of wandering path of varying emotions or lack of them. Occasionally the paths cross, I wander on to a different one without even realizing I’ve changed direction.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t feel hopeless.

That isn’t it at all. I just feel lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. Or empty. Very empty. Very very empty. As if I’ve been poured out on the sand and absorbed.

Wow. That sounds horrible. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but then it isn’t really great either.

I’m fine. Really.

It’s just…grief.

This thing:

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.” ~Wikipedia

Sounds complicated.

Multifaceted response?

Dimensions?

Ten dollar words to describe and define sadness, sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and the left-behind perspective.

It’s today’s normal for me. And apparently yesterday and the day before. Maybe tomorrow and the next. We’ll see. Like a lifeboat on the ocean I’ll just drift about and see where the current takes me.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best imitation of a normal person when I’m in public.

There’s this last thought, which I like because it feels hopeful, and it acknowledges that there’s a process in play that I can give myself over to.

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” ~ Emily Dickinson

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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