Writing. Story. Journey. Life. Epiphany. Grief. Memoir. Flaws. Kindnesses. Yes.
“Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”
― Dean Koontz,
When something shocking happens in life our world shrinks down. Everything we know somehow narrows, magnifying the thing in the center that is our pain, our sorrow, our grief, our fear, our shame. Suddenly we do not see, cannot see, anything outside of what we feel. We begin a sort of sleep walk. Moving around, going about the necessities of life, unaware of anything outside of our immediate place in time. We see ourselves putting on shoes, getting something to eat, talking to friends, paying our bills. Yet, we are disconnected from all of it. Suddenly apart from the world, in a cocoon of emotion we can’t even begin to know how to escape. Everything feels like a dream, as if there is a veil between us and the rest of the world.
Slowly though, the world returns to us. We start to wake up. We notice the rain, or a bird, we are aware of the smile of a friend. We begin to find interest in things we’d forgotten we used to love, and still do. We look up, and out. We feel the warmth of the sun and feel the rhythm of the world. We learn that life moves on, moves forward, one small moment at a time. Until, finally, we are mostly ourselves again. A piece of us utterly changed by our experience, but still, ourselves.
The whole of this experience, though usually terribly painful, is beautiful. The feeling of it, the pulling away, the return, all bring a deeper meaning to our lives. It can, if we let it, help us to find a peace and a grace we didn’t know before. It can help us to see more deeply into things.
Life is a gift. Our friends and family are gifts. We are lucky, even with the pain and sorrow that inevitably come. After all, pain and sorrow only come because we were brave enough and our souls beautiful enough to love someone or something.
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
― E.E. Cummings
M, my friend, I love you. I know your heart is breaking as you get ready to start your journey. This trip, in one sense, signifies an ending, but I know in my heart it will also end up being a celebration of a life well lived.
I believe the people we love never truly leave us. She lives in your heart, she lives inside of you. Her spirit is with you…
She’s there in the sound of footsteps and the rain falling on roofs and the feel of the wind on your cheek. In the rushing of the waves and the ceaseless movement of the tides. In small kisses and the purring of a furry friend and when you are wrapped up in a warm hug. In the emotions brought on by the pages of a good book and in the beats of great songs. In hope and joy and laughter and in the sunlight through the trees. Inside deep conversations and thoughts of love. During moments of celebration and sadness. In the quiet space on either side of a breath. In the flapping of birds wings overhead and in the lightly falling snow. In the moonlight, the moving of the planets, the rushing of the blood inside of you. She resides there. In all those moments. In so many moments. Strong, eternal, full of grace, and overflowing with love.
Love surrounds you my friend, as it surrounded and surrounds your Mom as she steps to the next place on this amazing cosmic adventure.
I love my Mom. It’s not just loving her though, I admire her. When I think of some of the best qualities a person should have… truth, trust, honesty, integrity, acceptance, humor, a non-judging attitude and spirit, honor, fun, smarts, strength, an ability to keep moving forward no matter the circumstance, and grace… she has all of that in spades. I have known this, and looked up to her, my entire life. She’s a fantastic role model, someone to aspire to be like, and then on top of that, she’s also my friend.
Mom and I sat at a restaurant I like while I was in Oregon this sad month and she said to me she was glad we could talk to each other about most everything. I agree. The truth is Mom and I have been friends most of my life. I’m lucky. I watched her while I was there for those 19 days and I, again, was amazed by her. She is no stranger to sadness and heartache and yet she shines. She keeps moving, keeps making sure those around her are OK as well.
I saw Mom with Don’s kids, who are fantastic people by the way, and I loved her all the more. Was so proud to be her daughter, yet again. Mom has a way about her. A way to calm and make you feel like you matter and that you are important. She does this effortlessly. She does this naturally. She does it with everyone she’s around. It’s why people love her. My friends, throughout my life, have loved and do love her. And over the past three weeks she was these things for Don’s kids, without even trying. She probably doesn’t even know she has had this effect her whole life. The feeling she instills of calm and peace combined with that smile, the famous smile that beams light and love, it engulfs you. Her presence says everything will be alright.
Somehow, through tears and sadness and heartbreak, she manages to keep that wonderful smile. She manages to see that there is still beauty and love and hope and reason in the world. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hurt and sad and angry in the last three weeks, or at other times in her life, it just means she knows how to feel that and still see the love around her. She looks at the world with the best eyes… eyes of hope and love and possibility. She doesn’t let circumstance weigh her down, change her outlook, make her cynical and hard. She never plays the victim and has never been one. It’s spectacular, really spectacular.
Mom has had her share of sadness and loss. My heart aches for her now, as it has in the past, as she deals with this heartbreak. But I know something, something she knows too, something she said to me herself, I know she will be OK. And she will. Knowing that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of her many many times a day and trying to will my love to her over the miles between us, I am and I do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug her and tell her over and over that I love her and that even though I am miles away I’m holding her. I think she knows this. I hope she feels it. But knowing it helps me, and her too I think. Because it’s true. As she gets through the hours, and days, and the next few months, she will keep her life moving forward. She will love and be loved, she will have happiness and joy, she will laugh and have peace again. She will be OK because she is grace under pressure. She will be OK because she knows there’s more good than bad in the world, and that light always shines it’s way into dark spaces. She will be OK because Mom is strong beyond measure. She’s stronger than even she is aware of I think. She will be OK because it’s who she is.
I love my Mom. But more than just love, I admire her. That admiration causing tears to stream down my face and my heart to swell with pride. I love you Mom.
I can’t believe it’s been a week. A week. Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel. To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has. Yet all in slow motion… stretching. It’s strange.
It’s strange what emotions do to you. Sad ones anyway. A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep. She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital. He couldn’t be revived. She was sitting with him when she started making calls.
I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it. I was just here visiting a month and a half ago. Just here at the house hanging out with them. Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit. I really liked that grin. I really liked how he made my Mom happy. Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.
Don was a passionate man. Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm. He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.
Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down. Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.
He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren. He had friends he cared about and who care about him. He knew what life is all about. He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you. And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me. I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination. I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people. His legacy is vast and far reaching. His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.
Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…
And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.
“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass
Don, you will be missed.