Friday, June 21, 2013

holding/letting go.

i think grief occurs in pieces. fragments.  someone said it unfolds in layers, like peeling an onion.  i agreed.  and added that some layers are more potent than others.

it's funny what happens when you don't take the time or have the space to truly grieve.  it creeps into your physical body.  suddenly your back hurts,  suddenly your stomach is more upset.  suddenly every fiber in your body is shouting at you, "hey, tough girl.  it's time to let it out, cause this s*** hurts."

so i'm gonna let a little bit out.  out here. in public. cause it's been a good six weeks in waiting.  six weeks involving going back to work (after almost a year of not working), trying to make sense of life and other people's (forgive me) shallow perspectives, and do so while also adjusting to having lost my best friend.  if you are someone who's wondered how i've been doing, this is a glimpse.  if you haven't wondered and are reading this, you will also get a glimpse.

i just watched a video of stephen colbert talking about his mother, whom he shared recently passed.  i knew going in to watch the video it was going to get me. but i didn't know it was going to get me so good.

he's an extrovert.  he looks at the world and shares his mind, his heart openly with others and does so with exquisite humor.  there is no fear in him. he expresses himself because he needs to.  i'm one of his "kind."  i need to share.  but the problem i've had is this: i have be so afraid to share because "sharing" ultimately means "accepting."  and i'll tell you, i am still having a damn hard time accepting my mother is gone.

i'm having a hard time accepting that when i call her, i'm not going to hear her voice.  ever. again.  and that makes me want to vomit.  but it's the truth.  i do, however, have 27 voice mails saved of her calling me and saying simple things like:

     "hiya Mo!  Just looking outside and thinking it's a beautiful day and hoping wherever you are, that you are enjoying it.  Call me soon.  I love you, darlin'."

and when i have the guts and the emotional strength, i listen to them.  and i weep.  and i remember what an awesome woman she was.

she was awesome. so very awesome.

i want to share one of the most tender moments i had with her in her last week of life.  because she always encouraged me to be open, especially with the things that would maybe open other people up.  so i'm gonna be open about the moment that was only made possible to me by my niece (who is more like my little sister than a niece being just a year and a half younger. we grew up side by side.)

in my mother's dying journey, she grew weak, rapidly.  one day she was able to get of bed, the next day she was not.  not knowing how much time she had left with us, comfort measures were critical.  the less movement made, the more potential for sores.  so we made serious efforts to turn her, to keep her comfortable.  and i have to say that turning her, ironically, became the most meaningful part of caring for her in her last two weeks of life.  why would this be so?

here's why.

when we turned my mother on her side, i would place her arm around my neck so that i could cradle her and hold her, while we fixed the sheets beneath her and put lotion on any tender skin.  while numerous family members worked in assembly line grace to make this occur smoothly and with speed, i held my mother.  or maybe she held me. i think we held each other.  and in a rare moment of spontaneity, my niece shared with her grandmother that she would give anything to hear her sing the lullaby she had sang to her as a baby.  it was the same lullaby my mother had sang to all nine of her children when she tucked us into bed.

as weak as my mother was, as difficult as her breathing was, she sang it.  but she first asked, "will you sing it with me, Mo?"

in an instant the lyrics "over in killarney, many years ago" fell from her mouth and from mine.

"Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral."  An Irish Lullaby.

there i was, holding my mother as she had held me numerous times as a child, holding her fragile body in my arms.  holding her with a peace and a love that i have never known to feel for any other human being in my life.

i sang with her.  and we harmonized.  with just a few days left of life, she had the ability to sing and harmonize to what will be the most sacred song i will ever know and sing in my life.

three days later, she was gone.  but that moment.  that delicate event, is not gone.

it will never be gone.

i'm a snotty mess writing this right now.  but i need to be.  sometimes it's in the mess that you find the most important things. and this event needed to be found.  and shared.

all i know from this pain, from this grieving, is that we have to hold the people we love close.  and let them hold us.  it turns out that these are the moments that will mean the most in the end.  true, compassionate, unconditional love is a blessing.  and it is rare. the essence of it should be held onto forever.

if you've known it, you know it's better to have had it and have to it let go, than to have never had it at all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

finding the toreadors, first draft

when i think about my mother's passing
i think about Dali's Hallucinogenic Toreador.
i can see both vividly in my head.
one masterpiece was oil and canvas,
the other
freckled skin, tender shallowed breath, and a calm pulse.

the trick about Dali is that he teases your perspective.
he slaps you first with awe,
a strike behind the knees
so you wobble,
dumbfounded and gasping,

"how beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful!"

and you think you get it,
you think you understand
you think you realize everything that exists in the painting,
until the guide at the museum points out:
   "you don't see it all upon first glance."

hidden within layers
there is more.
beauty, mystery, emotion, tragedy, life.

"Hallucinogenic Toreador takes careful examination," said the museum guide,
"it takes training your eyes to see the dual images."

one month ago this morning,
i held your hand and rested my index finger upon your wrist
upon your pulse,
and i felt the rhythm of your life in my fingertip.
i felt it diminish.
i felt the last beat of your heart.
i felt you die.

"how beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful!"

wobbling, gasping, dumbfounded,
i believed i understood,
i believed i got it.
i believed i saw the entire picture.

but the first month is just the first glance.

your passing, your death, your absence
strikes me behind the knees at least three times a day.
i would fall over every time if i didn't have the dancing balance you instilled in me.

there are so many layers in this, Mother.

layer one: death scares me.
layer two: i am angry with god.
layer three: i am bitter with the world.
layer four: i am fragile.
layer five: i am frustrated because Cher's mother is somehow still alive and looks forty.
layer six: i am not ready to accept that you are gone.
layer seven: i am certain merlot tastes better than it ever has.
layer eight:  i am ready to shove every cigarette of every loved one into the ground.
layer nine:  i am trying to keep you alive within me.

where is your calming spirit?
where is your soft voice telling me negativity serves no purpose?

Mother, i needed help to see the toreador.
i'm afraid i would have never seen him had he not been pointed out.

i must train my eyes to look deeper than the surface.
i must train my eyes to be more like you.

i promise to find the toreadors.
with and without you,
i promise.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

silent ovation

Listening to the rise
and the fall
of your breath.

Your life makes an orchestra of beautiful sound.

I don't want to sleep.
I want to listen to you,

When the orchestra stops,
I will stand silent
(my bones will scream 'encore')
in the silence.

Ovation, Mama.

Ovation. Ovation. Ovation.
Ovation. Ovation. Ovation.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Two years. Nine stickers.

Today. Today marks two years since you took your last breath.

Two years.

At 4:27 this afternoon, it will be exactly two years.

Dad, I felt the urge to run to you yesterday. Much like the urge I felt back in kindergarten. There was a bit of magic in that run from the school bus to the house, feet going with all the speed my little hushpuppies could muster.

Thirty years later, and I'd give anything to sneak up our broccoli green living room stairs to find you. Up, up, up six mighty big stairs, holding my breath with anticipation. I knew you would jump out to surprise me. I knew I would screech regardless. It was our routine. It ended with us running in circles around each other until you picked me up and listened to me gush over the stickers I had earned.

So here's the deal, Dad. I miss you. I miss you in so many different ways. But mostly I miss you being here to witness all that has gone on. You were the biggest proponent of education I know, so it seems only fitting that I yearn to share with you all I have learned since your passing. I have taken some of the biggest courses life has to offer and I want you to see my stickers. They're not scratch n' sniff, not fuzzy or furry or bubbly. But they glow. All nine stickers really glow.

Sticker One: I saw an anemone in an aquarium in Florida. I gazed at it and felt my spirit shake. I gazed at it the same way I gazed at the exposed roots of an old banyon tree the night before. My spirit shook then, too. I'm not sure what exactly happened in these gazing contests with life, but during them, it felt like you were whispering to me. Whispering and reminding me how fantastically huge and glorious every living creature is. And then there there were those itty bitty details on that sea-dragon!!! Damn little thing brought tears to gazing! How does all this gazing gain a sticker? I have earned and learned that there is dramatic beauty in this world when my eyes are open enough to see it. After all I have faced in the past two years, I am now gazing more intently than ever. Being deeply awake. Sticker One.

Sticker Two: There are some things that logic and/or science can not explain or ever define for me. I realized this after trying endlessly to make sense of things that just seemed too big for the human brain to patent. These are the things that have changed me, that charge me, and keep my soul buzzing with electricity. Forever. They are the signs that remind me there's so much more than the 9-5, the impressive house, the fancy car, the latest trends, the television. Yes, Dad...there IS so much more than that boobtube. I now pay serious attention to these signs-I welcome, honor, and feel grateful for them. Maybe this is part of sticker one too? It seems big enough to hold its own. Awareness. Sticker Two.

Sticker Three: I got a new kidney. I got a second chance at life. Everyone here got more quality time with me. The glory of a second chance may be the most beautiful thing I've ever known...and I'm trying quite hard to make sense and make the most of it. This sticker was made possible by someone I met just weeks after your passing. I truly believe you had a hand in sending her my way. Miracles don't happen without the aid of an angel, and I really believe you tickled time and space to bring us together. If you already don't, you would love her. She has a welcoming soul like mom, and her warmth and goodness radiate. I'm more alive than I've ever been. Alive. Sticker Three.

Sticker Four: I learned to reduce the bull****! I accepted that I (we as humans) have very little control over things (how does one not accept this when one's health is deteriorating before one's eyes and there is very little one could do?) I started to understand what's really worth my time and what's really not worth my time. I suppose it's the art of letting go? I'm still working on my brush strokes, but I realized the need to do so on a gut level after losing you and facing my own mortality. Life, in every cliché way, is too damn short to care what other people think. I am working to delicately protect myself from bull**** and gently call it when I see it. In EVERY circle of my life. Even with the doctors, Dad. Just last month during a procedure, I gently shouted at the urologist, 'you're not in my urethra, you're in my vagina!' I did so with rich confidence, Dad. I know my body. He obviously did not. I needed to help him help me. The bottom line: bullshit hurts, and the less I have to deal with, the better. Sticking up for myself with grace. And guts. Sticker Four.

Sticker Five: I learned some of my family may read this, and some will never read the first sentence. Regardless, I love them all. I'm at peace with knowing stuff like that. Peace. Sticker Five.

Sticker Six: Love is unavoidable. The key is being open to it. And being a mindful driver with it, along with all the cars that share your road. It also takes knowing which cars are healthy and good for you, and staying in a lane full of them. Find love. Plaster it all around you. Sticker Six.

Sticker Seven: Only a thin veil keeps me from the space where you exist. I don't know what that means, but it became my truth days before the transplant and my reality the night following it. I was so potently aware of the fragility of life then, and that awareness will always stay with me. Vulnerability. Sticker Seven.

Sticker Eight: I am engaged. To a very special woman. Together, we have a dynamic life and home. We have two dogs and two cats and lots of fish. She has been by my side since your passing, and promised from day one to offer me the most flexible love she could. She is courageous and she is driven (she must be knowing the complexity that exists in loving and understanding someone like me.) We have a HOME, Dad. I don't really know how you would have embraced this if you were alive. I do hope in passing, love becomes the most important aspect in having lived...regardless of surface details. Love. Sticker Eight.

Sticker Nine: Faith. I don't know where you are. I don't know if you hear me when I talk to you in my car. Or when I'm unable to fall asleep and ask for your guidance. Or when I say hello to you when the sun graces me with warmth. I don't know if you hear me. But, I BELIEVE you do. I wrote this believing it. I had to. And I have to believe that somehow, somewhere you are going to read it. After you get done checking the grammar, of course. I know you're somewhere, and you will feel proud of the growth in these words. And you will feel the love that radiates for you. This perhaps is the most important sticker earned. Faith. Sticker Nine.

I know there's more stickers. Many many more. But nine felt like a good number to close with.

I miss you, Ronald Rogers. I miss your smile and your wisdom and the strong faith you sought in in ourselves, in humanity, in God.

Two years without you has become two years of keeping you alive within me.