Tonight

My Opa died this summer. At least, I think it was this summer… this whole year and a half+ has been difficult for me to separate into time periods beyond the bulk term “recently”.

Tomorrow is his wedding anniversary with my grandma, and my grandma’s 91st birthday. So, my mom and I are staying at their house tonight – despite the 78° thermostat in here, which is a big youch! – in preparation for a small gathering of family members tomorrow. This time, instead of celebrating with Thanksgiving, as we usually do with a two-day celebration, it is a whole week before our Thanksgiving gathering, and it is without my Opa.

And I don’t know how I feel about that.

I also don’t know how I feel about my having such uncertainty…

I think I stayed away more and more as he got close to dying, potentially out of self-preservation. It was hard to be with someone who was so close to death, who so soon would be gone permanently. But also who, more and more, was less himself, as though he was ever so slowly departing from this life, until just the final bit exhaled one early morning, and finished the departure.

Perhaps life is like that. Perhaps it is only a passing-through kind of deal, where we are born, and, from that moment, we begin slowly to depart, slowly to rise to our highest selves, returning to our core and our maker, returning to our home. And maybe some people are more in touch with that home than most, already with one foot in the door, so to speak. Perhaps they never fully left, or perhaps they quickly leaped back. And perhaps the ghosts we have walking these grounds are the ones who have lost their way, or who are just not yet ready to return home. Perhaps they are the ones who forgot that, like college, life is only a stepping stone, not a destination.

Obviously, I’m rambling off in an unexpected direction here. I’m still not ready to deal with Opa not being here in person with me anymore. He was already not really here for a while before he fully left. So, while it feels quite different, his not being in this house right now, I’m also accustomed to it, and even relieved by it, considering the struggles of his body shutting down over the final year or so of his life here.

Anyway… I want to love people the way I felt and sill feel loved by him. With him, I always felt worth it, and I always felt good enough. I always felt loved, just as I was. I want to do that for those in my life.

God, help me to do so, please.

Amen.

Post-a-day 2021

Tremble

O-o-o-oh, sometimes, it causes me to tremble…, tremble… tremble…

Perhaps one of the most powerful expressions of sadness and pain – an expression that communicates clearly to and elicits reaction from onlookers – is the unexpected tremble of the lips.

That powerful, easy, comfortable part of the body, somehow losing its ability just to hang out, hang around… it takes no effort for our lips just to exist. Perhaps that is what makes that tremble so powerful, so effecting… our pain is so great, that not even our effortless body parts can remain calm, they shake with the volume of such pain.

Post-a-day 2021

Mass

I did the second reading on Friday. My grandma’s cousin, the priest presiding over the Mass, had asked me to give a brief reason for and explanation of what I was going to do, just before I began. And so, with some trepidation, deep breathing, and many tears, I said, “My Opa’s first language was German. So, I will do the second reading in German, for him.” And then I did.

Der erste Brief an die Thessalonicher 
Das Schicksal der Verstorbenen
13 Brüder und Schwestern, wir wollen euch über die Entschlafenen nicht in Unkenntnis lassen, damit ihr nicht trauert wie die anderen, die keine Hoffnung haben. 
14 Denn wenn wir glauben, dass Jesus gestorben und auferstanden ist, so wird Gott die Entschlafenen durch Jesus in die Gemeinschaft mit ihm führen. 
15 Denn dies sagen wir euch nach einem Wort des Herrn: Wir, die Lebenden, die noch übrig sind bei der Ankunft des Herrn, werden den Entschlafenen nichts voraushaben. 
16 Denn der Herr selbst wird vom Himmel herabkommen, wenn der Befehl ergeht, der Erzengel ruft und die Posaune Gottes erschallt. Zuerst werden die in Christus Verstorbenen auferstehen; 
17 dann werden wir, die Lebenden, die noch übrig sind, zugleich mit ihnen auf den Wolken in die Luft entrückt zur Begegnung mit dem Herrn. Dann werden wir immer beim Herrn sein. 
18 Tröstet also einander mit diesen Worten!

Post-a-day 2021

Day one

The visitation and rosary and family hangout afterward all went really well this evening and tonight. I kind of only touched my emotions on the sad part of the emotional spectrum, and I feel like they might kind of explode outward tomorrow…, but I guess that’s okay. Hopefully, I’m able to make it through the reading reasonably well. I’ll be doing it in German, which was his first language and our extra special bond, just the two of us. So, I shared that I would like to do my reading in German, and print the English in the worship guide. It was approved with flying colors by the ones in charge. However, our cousin the priest, who’ll be saying Mass, told me to mention what I was doing and why I was doing it just before I began the German reading… that part might just be my emotional undoing…, so, we shall see on that part. Perhaps I’ll be so nervous about its being my first reading in a Mass, I won’t even notice the emotions that usually would arise for such a statement.

Anyway, at the family hangout tonight, after everyone had been eating a while, I went around and handed out the party favors, as I called them to myself. They were pains au chocolat, the French pastry that I usually call chocolatines, which is the name used in Southern France. As I passed them out to everyone, I said on repeat, “Because everything is better with chocolate, especially pain.”

Some of them got it immediately. Others took a few seconds or a couple minutes, and got it once they realized I was repeating the same phrase to everyone, which suggested something important in the message and word choice. A few definitely did not get it…, but they did like the pain au chocolat I offered to each of them.

(The irony, of course, is that I actually don’t like chocolate. I do love chocolatines, though [pain au chocolat]).

Post-a-day 2021

Making music

I started writing another song last night. It was initially to help me organize and express some thoughts around the work situation within my life so far – how it isn’t exactly consistent in terms of title or finances, but it is always part of being my true self and being committed to making a positive difference in this world. But an unexpected line showed up right at the end of the session last night, and it was clearly part of the chorus. It was a line about listening to the angels around me. And it made sense, but seemed almost out of place for the content so far in the song…

Until today, that is. Today, for whatever reason, a deeper fullness arose for the song. My mom and I discussed the situation with my Opa, how he is dying, and how he might finish that process in the very near future. It is an uncomfortable thought, itself, but we both are ready to allow what needs to happen next in the situation. At least, as ready as we know how to be…

However, after she and I discussed their things for a while, and then got off the phone, I started working on the song again, as I had just begun before our phone call (I think I had, anyway). As I got reacquainted with what I’d written so far, I started feeling what ideas needed to come next. I was reminded of the encouragement my Opa had given me one day, and felt immediately that it was perfect to use for the song, as it expressed what I was wanting to express… and then the idea fleshed out a bit…, and, without realizing it, the song had a deeper meaning.

Not only am I listening to the angels around me, having them call me forward in life, but a new one has just joined them, and he has given me further encouragement to follow this path I am forging in my life. Every time I sang that part of the song, I could barely get words out by the middle of the verse, and had to stop altogether for the tears and emotion that arose. And I think the words communicate beautifully in the song, even without someone’s knowing the whole situation.

Anyway, I look forward to finishing that song, but, boy, is it going to be a tough one, emotionally speaking.

Post-a-day 2021

Just breathe

“I’m proud of you… everything that you do… Remember that.”

As far back as I can remember, it has been a bit difficult for me to be around very old people. If they are old and alone, that hurts me already, but , once they have reached a point that their bodies are beginning to fail them openly, it is as though a switch flips in my mind, and I suddenly struggle to breathe, to function, to focus.

My grandfather is at this point. Actually, he is much beyond it. As we talked today, I had to clear myself continuously in order to remain present with him. I have begun missing him more and more in recent years, as there has been less and less of him to see, with whom to speak and interact. I have seen him grow more and more frustrated with his own brain, his own body as a whole, as he has lost ability after ability… ones which he had is such intense abundance. Indeed, he was one of the smartest and most learned people I have ever known. And he didn’t even attend college. Nonetheless, he was the best resource we had growing up – even better than our teachers on most subjects, and more efficient and detailed in his answers than an encyclopedia. He was one of my greatest inspirations as a child and young adult, and I think so much of me longed to be most like he was. And he always made it so clear that we were loved by him. In almost very action, every phrase or look, every article or comic strip he saved for us or television program or clip he recorded for us, it was clear that he loved us.

He, every so often, would call me “Honah Lee” (from “Puff, the Magic Dragon”), and still does. He’s always played around with pronunciations of words, both of English nature and foreign (e.g. jalapeños with a hard j and firm n). So, it was an easy step to get to calling me Honah Lee. After I had learned German, and we had long since begun to use it with one another (college and onward for me), he called me one day, and said that he wanted to share what he’d figured out so far. He then sang to me “Puff, the Magin Dragon”… in German. He had done his best to translate the lyrics. I think I might actually have cried while he sang to me over the phone. There was just something about it, I was quite overwhelmed with the expression of pure delight and love in that act. Indeed, any time he used German, I always noticed how he sparked to life, as though becoming, just for a few moments or minutes, a young child, excited for the unexpected adventure that life could and would unfold. He hadn’t been allowed to use German in school as a boy – it was forbidden by the school. It was his language of home, fun, love, and self-expression. But he hadn’t used it much beyond his childhood. And, by the time I was born he had almost never used German at all; not until I had begun learning and using it with him. And so, every time we used German together, it was like I got to know him as a child, free from the many pressures and stresses that naturally arise from adulthood, from aging. I just got to be with him. And I reveled in that.

And I still do.

However, talking with him today, discussing how, though he is to turn 91 years old in a few months, he hopes yet is not sure he will make it there, it was somewhat terrifying how easy it was to be with him. He was 100% present as we spoke about that, though is isn’t always these days. He said that he has lived a wonderful life, that he is grateful, and that he is not afraid of dying (despite the fact, as he said, that people say not to say that). I merely nodded, and cried as I said that we very much would miss having him here with us. I held his hand for a bit, and we shared multiple kisses on the cheeks and I love yous and Hab’ dich lieb’s before I had to leave.

And then, just before I had to leave, he said to me, slowly and intentionally, looking me directly in the eyes, – something he has struggled to do lately – “I’m proud of you… everything that you do… Remember that.”

And I will.

And I would not be surprised if today was the last time the two of us see one another in his life. We might see one another again, but it is not very likely. He cannot seem to eat almost anything anymore, and his body is, frankly, falling apart and shutting down on him. A could be causing B, and B could be causing A, but both are contributing to the other, and the result is the same: he does not have much likelihood of living in his physical body on this Earth for much longer.

And it’s terrifying for me.

My paternal grandfather died when I was in middle school. It was expected and not. And it was difficult yet not. The same was true of my paternal grandmother. I was in college when she died, but I was still very much in the child mentality, much more so than the adult mentality. Now, I am very much more on the adult side of life than I am on the child side, and it is an entirely different kind of experience to have this happening now. I suppose that, since my maternal grandparents had survived my childhood, something in me had felt that they would be forever present in this life. They had made it to adulthood with me, so to speak, so they were here to stay.

But they aren’t. No one is, really. But they are more obviously likely not to be here for that much longer. A small part of me had felt disappointed in myself for not providing them with what feels like would have been some of the greatest gifts I could have given them. I do not have a stable career. I do not have a partner in life. I have no children. I don’t even have a pet. I know they do not need those things for me. But that is why they would be gifts.

However, when Opa said that to me today, that he is proud of me… of everything I do…, it reminded me of why those other things have always seemed to matter. They are most often expression of success in living one’s life fully. At least, they are mostly seen that way. But, when the ultimate goal is that we live life fully… that we be true to ourselves and fully self-expressed…, I cannot say that I have failed my grandparents or that I have let them down. Indeed, I have fulfilled every wish they could have for me in relation to success in my life. All the other stuff – the marriage, the children, the house, the career – are tiny details by comparison.

I do not say this lightly nor boastingly when I say that I am one of the most loving people I know. I do not do well with keeping people at the standard ‘comfortable distance’ in life. I do not chat about the weather easily. Either I do not know you at all, or I want to know you, embrace you fully. Like Ender Wiggin said, the moment I get to know you, I get to love you. And I love loving people. It is terribly difficult and stressful for me to ‘try to get to know someone’. Just be yourself with me, let go of whatever you are hiding, let me see you, be with you…. let me love you. That’s all I want from the people around me. And that’s how I want them to see me, too – see all of me now, so that you can love me for me. Let us not waste time on pleasantries and weather. Let us dive right in, and have an absolute blast together. Indeed, that is exactly why dating is so difficult for me, why I cannot seem to ‘figure out’ how to interact with this guy with whom I went on a date recently. I don’t do surface level. I do the real you, the real me. And when people avoid that, turn or step away from it, usually in fear, it is so hard for me… it only makes me want to come even closer, that I might love you even deeper. And though this might sound like I am socially awkward, I truly am not. I can be quite quiet in certain circumstances, but I probably am the only person at the party who will know everyone else by the end of it.

And I am grateful for that. So much of who I am is love. And I have no idea what comes next for me in life. (Like… genuinely, I have no idea… please, grasp that for a moment…) But I know exactly who I am stepping forward into that unknown. And I love her and I am grateful every moment for her and for all that she is and for all that she is not. And I learned today that, more than I ever saw, my Opa feels the same way about her. He knows I’m not married, not settled in any way, not career-stable or financially stable. But he knows that I am stable, and that I am ready for whatever is through that next threshold as I step forward into it. And he is proud of that, and all that it involves. He is proud of me, of who I am, of all that he knows I will create out of who I am in this life, even though he will not be here in person to see most of it with me.

I pray only that his love, his support, his guidance help me to move forward confidently and comfortably throughout the rest of my life. I am grateful for him always. And I love him dearly, deeply, truly. Thank you, God, for allowing us the opportunity to spend so much wonderful time together in this life.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Danke, Gott.

Post-a-day 2021

P.S. Frohe Ostern, folks!! Happy Easter, allen!! (Not to deny the weight of all of that ^, but it was because of Easter that I was able to spend the time with my Opa today at all. And I am grateful for that. And the Easter Egg Hunt in which I got to partake. Today really was a great day, filled with silliness and love and fun. But it also was very real one, in which, I believe, God was helping me to prepare for part of what comes next.)

Unprepared

I don’t really want to write about this right now, but here we are and here I write.

I am taking care of myself like a mother to myself, because my mom is on the other side of town, likely long asleep for the night, and I am up here, house-sitting on my own. Even the dog is wiped out asleep.

But I am sitting on this bed, preparing to go to sleep – for as long as my menstruating will allow at once, or course – with eyes burning from the tears shed during my shower… my throat just a little sore from the sobs released… my brain struggling to see straight with this potential upturn of its outlook world. I have myself a glass of ice water, and it has already helped with my burning eyes and shaky throat and hands, soothing everything like a balm…

You see, I watched the film Remember Me tonight, the one with Robert Pattinson wearing the same bracelet watch he wore in Twilight. I didn’t know anything about it but that it had him in it, it was some sort of romance, and, due to the title, this romance clearly was going to end before the film did. Usually, it is death of some sort, but this film was giving vibes that it potentially could be just that death brought them together and they helped each other heal and move on in life, though now without one another.

…. Yeah…

(*****Spoilers coming up here, so stop reading the post, if you want to watch the film without a super major spoiler.*****)

Okay, so, the moment they showed the date on the board, I was stressed. I was already stressed-annoyed at the film in various ways at this point, how there just wasn’t enough of anything. But, at the date, I was beginning really to stress. I was extremely grateful there was no footage or re-enactment or anything of the sort of the buildings or the smoke-dust-rubble clouds. There is that. However, I was actually angry at the turn of events. At the obvious phone call. At how it no longer felt like a poorly done feature film I had just been watching, but like a small glimpse into what could have been someone real’s real life. And that that was how it actually might have gone for someone real.

And it just felt so real, I couldn’t let myself face anything other than anger at such an ending being sprung upon me like that – how dare they? This was supposed to be a film, not a sop story about our misery that day… and forward…

I was only a kid at the time. I didn’t remember that it was a Tuesday, but I remember that we were coming back to our classroom from gym class, and Kristen and Trish-Anne and I stopped to look at the television that was on in the ESL classroom – the televisions were almost never on, except for a rare film. But it wasn’t a movie.

What is it?? we all wondered and asked each other and no one in particular. Kristen had seen the longest view of the television. “Someone bombed the twin towers,” she said as she turned back to me. I quickly reviewed what I had glimpsed on the television: tall buildings, smoke and fire somewhere in the middle near the top. Her words make sense in such a way that they do not. She was wearing overalls that day. With her words, I didn’t understand how to feel, nor how I felt anyway. But I knew none of it was good.

Our teacher sat us down and explained what had happened. So far.

The buildings still stood at that point in time. That’s why it had looked just like a bomb had gone off. Not what had really happened.

I only remember near the end of the school day onward, now. There is nothing after the beginning of our teacher telling us what had happened. I don’t remember if we had the live news coverage on or not, but I know I saw it somehow… it is brandished in my brain, so I know I saw it eventually.

(**** Another warning: Graphic references coming, so be careful.*****)

While it was difficult to see such beauty disappear so suddenly, like a game of Godzilla at home with our massive cardboard building bricks, although more effectively, as they even went to ash instead of merely falling down everywhere, what probably hit me the most was – and this is difficult for me even to write right now – the people…. It was seeing those people, desperate in their last hope for physical salvation, jumping, as the building shrank toward gravity’s command. That and knowing how so many people had been able to phone their families and friends to share their verbal love one final time while living on this planet… knowing one’s impending doom, and having to say goodbye while still so seemingly whole and safe and well.

……

We have a few major incidents in our lives, ones that give us a kind of foundation to our ways of being going forward. Something happens, and it is mentally significant for us – we are usually extremely disturbed by it – such that we decide then and there that we never want to have to feel that way again, and so determine never to be such-and-such again. Therefore, to avoid such-and-such, we will do this or be this going forward. I have never been able to figure mine out. Not ones that really stand out above the rest. Not ones that show me the source incident for my desperate need to be right, or, at least, to know, whatever it happens to be.

But, in my shower tonight, as I gave in to the rising emotions within myself, and allowed them to surface and release, I began to wonder if one of my incidents just might have been somehow around September eleventh. Around that footage of those people, falling…. falling… hopelessly falling. It wasn’t exactly anything that happened directly to me, but seeing that footage happened to me. For days and weeks, and possibly months and years afterward – actually, yes, years, because I still do it today, both in the original way and in other ways – I would have these visions and thoughts of how people could have survived, what they would have had to do to get out okay, to make everything okay again in so many ways…. to make it just buildings and lost architecture. I had so many plans, mentally tested to every degree. Not everyone would make it out, I knew, but I would. Even if I had been on the upper floors, I would have. Because, perhaps in that moment, I became a sort of MacGyver. I had to have a way out of there. I had to…

I even had one idea – and this is big for such a little kid, I think – that involved rappelling myself down after Spider-Manning it to some nearby buildings and careening down a makeshift zip line… possibly even making several back and forth between the two towers, having people work together to get more of us out of there, and fast.

But why did I have to do this brainstorming? I didn’t lose anyone directly in the event, so I had an odd connection to it all to be so strongly enveloped by this idea. For me, though, it made life suddenly real, the danger of it real. I had recently been in New York City. We had gone into those buildings. But it was raining that day, and hard, so the observation decks were closed. So, we didn’t go up all the way. But we could have. And we could have gone later.

Why did those people die? Why didn’t they find ways out, or ways out in time? My answer back then, whether I ever said it aloud or not, was, “They weren’t prepared.” And, so, I would be. This was my wake up call and the beginning of my own preparations.

Preparations for what, you ask? For life. I was saying today how I kind of have a rough ten backup plans for any specific thing. And, though I was slightly joking, I know that I could start listing and probably reach ten rather easily. And that’s for anything I do or intend to do. And, also, for things I have done. I have evaluated them, too, and determined how I could have done them better… in myriad ways.

What’s more, to this day I take any scary scenario I see in a film or show, or just hear about, and end up going through, in the side of my mind, the best ways to get out of it safely… even though it has nothing much to do with me and my life. I cannot face a scary scenario in anything without automatically doing it. I just have to figure out how to get out of it, get out of there, and survive, stay alive, be safe again.

Anyway, my stomach is hurting in an achy, sleep-needing type of way, so I’m going to close this out and get to sleep already. All of this has been just some brainstorming on my part. I have always held a weird space with this event, especially in that whole reliving the crashes and shrinkings of the buildings and how to get out of them safely and effectively… in my fear to accept that there might be nothing that can be done when it is truly one’s time… in my desperation to make sure I am ready to face whatever comes my way. There is a shaking terror within me at the idea of being unprepared, caught off-guard… a life-threatening terror. And seeing this in this new light has shaken me somewhat tonight (and also a lot quite physically).

We didn’t go up all the way that day. I had figured and intended to go back and go up another time, on a clear day. I would be like in the Godspell film.

Except, now, I never would be. And neither would anyone else be…

Instead of crying myself to sleep, though, I determined that I wanted to be held and taken care of and loved and accepted. So, I am doing that for myself, instead.

At that, goodnight. 🙂 ❤

Post-a-day 2020

Perspective

Today, one of my best friends from college told me that, though it is a vague idea, she knows what kind of book she would want to read if I had written it. She told me that I am the only person she knows who lives for the journey, and not the destination. Most people plan out their lives based on where they want to be down the road…, But then, as she mentioned, I take a two-hour detour on a 14-hour drive, simply because I saw something that interested me…, And it doesn’t bother me one bit that it added so much time to the already long drive. She gave other examples, too, that illustrated her point quite well.

What stuck out the most for me, though, is that I have never considered my life with these words…, Yet they seemed absolutely true. In the past six months, I have been struggling with a regular question of whether I am living my life all wrongly, if I’m messing everything up by doing things the way I am doing them. And I see now: the whole reason I’ve been feeling that way lately, is because I have been comparing my life to everyone else’s lives… But that is like comparing bananas to chairs – they are not comparable, not in the least.

I am not playing the same game as everyone else, and when I compare where I am to where they are, I am certainly failing their game…, But, as I said, I am not playing their game.

Some might say that I take the road less traveled, but I really think that I often don’t take the road at all… I explore the detours, and end up somewhere completely unexpected.

(This point can be quite literally illustrated by a recent hike I took with a friend of mine… She wanted to stay on the main path, and I was curious as to what this possible detour path would show us… Where we ended up was spectacular, and completely unexpected… And then I found another semi-path back to the main road, way up ahead, while my friend went all the way back the way we had come…)

I’m beginning to think that this is a huge part of why, whenever I have been asked the question of where I see myself in five or ten or 15 or 50 years, I could never quite provide an answer… It’s not that my imagination isn’t great enough, but that I genuinely have no clue as to where I will end up and what I will be doing. I know the person I will be, I know that I will love and I will be loved. Beyond that, though, there’s a world of possibilities, and each one has an innumerable set of detours I might explore. It is likely that, in this moment, my wildest dreams couldn’t tell me where I will be in five or ten years… Or even in one…

When I considered jobs growing up and throughout college, and even now, I’ve always kind of had the feeling of, ‘Why pick one? Let’s give them all a try,’ though, without actually putting it into those words.

It’s funny to me how much sense this all makes, simply because of two sentences that a friend of mine said to me today… Let us remember that I words carry so much power – whether we realize it or not, whether we feel it or not, someone feels it more than we likely ever will know.

You know, for the first time in several months, I think I can breathe fully easily now… I was right that I am failing at this life…, But I had forgotten that that life was not the one I ever wanted to live…

Now, I am free to live my life…

And that is just about the most exciting thing I have ever considered or said… 😀

P.S. Early, early this morning, the world lost the physical presence of one of the greatest people I have ever known, and possibly ever will know… I haven’t talked about it with anyone, and I don’t want to yet – I’m not ready for that. However, I feel like she was with me today in this whole realization… She has been a huge part of almost every major moment in my life since I began college, and I swear she was here this evening. 🙂 I have a feeling she will continue to be here in my life.

Post-a-day 2020

Oblivion

A friend of mine today shared with me what felt like a somewhat desperate opinion about death.

He said that, since someone important to him died a while back, he is now the only person who knows certain things about her… there is no one left on the planet to carry forward these pieces of her, these memories of her… and, when he dies, all of these parts of her – parts that he finds to be spectacular and worth keeping alive – will be lost to oblivion… much like the great Augustus Waters feared for his own life.*

I, however, have found that I do not see things so desperately as my friend does.

For one thing, I never fully understood Augustus Waters’ fear of being lost… In everything I do, I affect the whole world around me… Whether people know my name or not, whether the trees talk or not, part of me exists in all of them, simply because our paths have crossed… Whether I like it or not, parts of me are spread throughout the world, and those parts will travel on forever, no matter whether my physical body is still breathing and pumping blood.

In a way, I always will exist in this universe… and I do not feel separate from the rest of what is here within it now, nor do I feel like a spectator – I am part of this universe, and it is part of me…

A single drip onto a pond sends ripples that change the whole… even if the fish doesn’t know it, his path was altered because of a drip on the far side of the pond…

And I already know that most of my ripples are more like waves in this life…

Now, for another thing, if things are as this friend expressed them to be, is that not all the more reason to value the unparalleled opportunity it was for him to have been witness to these parts of her?… these beauties are only in existence for this short and brief time in the world… let them not go to waste by brooding over their eventual loss… instead, embrace and love them while they are here now, and be grateful that he had the opportunity to be the one to know them.

Otherwise, it is almost an insult to the beauty of the memories and to the person of whom they are remembered – she was amazing, so let us be amazed…. and the memory of her only lasts so long, so let us embrace it while it lasts, and be grateful that we were honored with such a unique and limited experience.

Just my thoughts from this morning… I think they are part of why death has always been a sort of mixed bag for me… I simultaneously and terrified of it, and feel oddly connected to it and rather unafraid… when it is time, it is time, because a body is ready to move on to the next stage of things… it’s almost not even personal…, even though it is…

::sigh….. oh, well… that’s all I have to say on that for the moment…

*If you don’t get the reference, Google it, and help yourself onto the young and hip bandwagon. 😉

P.S. Turns out that I had something else to say on this… I remembered just now what a friend of mine shared years ago, after her mother died… it is something that resonated with me then, and still does today (specifically the sections in bold, with a big bam on the underlined part at the end)… it is from 2005 by Aaron Freeman:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

-Aaron Freeman.

Here’s a link to the piece of NPR for “All Things Considered”, one of my favorite segments on NPR, in which this all was originally said publicly by Aaron Freeman… it is a lovely three-minute listen. 🙂

Post-a-day 2020

Yearbooks

***Update on the ant bite: My bicep still rocks, but the bite swelled and split open this morning, only to close up, turn green in the middle again, and start swelling again… we’ll see how it looks in the morning, now! (And the coach’s bites did not turn green, he said, but one was hurting a lot.)***

We now return to regular programming.

There is a guy working with me who graduated high school with my youngest brother.

I pulled out the yearbook from their senior year today, and had a brief look through the senior photos.

I enjoyed how much hair this guy and my brother both had in their photos, and how they both have almost none now, and both keep their heads shaved (though my brother uses a razor, and the other guy only seems to buzz it as short as possible).

One thing I noted was that their service work locations seemed almost stereotypical for each of them…. interesting, perhaps.

Something bigger, however, was the other people I found in the yearbook.

I crossed names of people whose faces I knew not, but whose names I knew well from my brother – how fun to put faces to the names, even almost two decades after the fact.

And then I realized that I finally had the opportunity to look up and remember my brother’s best friend’s full name – I forgot his middle name a few years back, and haven’t recalled it since…. I just always thought it was fascinating, because he was the fourth with the name, so he had a “, IV” at the end of his legal name.

And I use the past tense here, because he died at the start of their sophomore year of college.

It was drinking and a bit of drugs at a party, and everyone thought he’d simply fallen asleep, but, of course, he hadn’t… I’ve always remembered most that my brother was invited to that same party, but chose to work on his absurd amount of homework, instead (thank you, UT Architecture program [not for the first time]).

And so J—– died at the party, and my brother spoke at the funeral, at the request of J—-‘s family, and he did a wonderful job.

My mom and I also attended the funeral, along with a lot of people.

After the funeral, since J—- had always said that he wanted to go out with pinwheels and fireworks, we (a handful of select people that happened to include my mom and me) went to an open land area across from a movie theatre, and set off a bunch of little rockets and a few big shebang fireworks (the pinwheels had decorated the casket) – it was a true party and celebration to send off J—- and to say goodbye together.

When I came across his name today, I was delighted – I finally have it(!).

And then I gave his photo a good look.

And it was almost terrifying as an experience, though terrifying just is not quite the right word…

It suddenly occurred to me that this was the first time I’d seen a photo of J— since around the time of the funeral – I’d only had mental visions of him since then.

It was weird to think that, u like my brother and that other guy, J— had not aged from this photo… maybe two years’ worth of aging, but that was little different from the boy who sat in the frame that is in front of me now.

These were posed senior portraits for the yearbook, and so they each are looking directly at the camera…, directly at the viewer of the photograph… J—- was no exception…

And it was spooky, knowing that those eyes, so true and almost penetrating in this photo, were no longer here, no longer existed.

And then, it had me wonder how many people in this book, this yearbook are no longer around?

And that was perhaps even spookier…

I had to move on to other things then, both in terms of productivity and in terms of an emotional desire to step away from the increasing discomfort and potential sadness of what sat before me, visually and mentally, at that moment, and so I closed the book, put it back in its place, and walked away.

I soon had tears in my eyes, and the feeling of hollowness just behind the bottom of my ribs was growing.

Now, hours later and many tasks and conversations later, I feel less afraid, and more aware of the fleeting aspect of life, the circumstances that allow us a promise of a chance at everything, and at a chance of it all going away at any moment, in a moment’s time…

On my way up to the house where I am housesitting tonight, I passed their church, where J—-‘s funeral had been… I think of him every time I pass it (though that doesn’t happen too often), because it’s the only thing I’ve ever attended there…

……

I don’t have anything insightful about this… I just wanted to share…

Post-a-day 2019