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It was one of those days when my depression got the best of me and I was enveloped by blues – and not the good tropical kind of blues either. I jumped to erroneous conclusions, berated myself for everything, and questioned the choices I’ve made in my life. I felt all my losses and all my regrets and relived pain in excruciating detail in my head. I was too cold. I was too hot. I was just all wrong.
MKL made things a lot better. He gave me a biiiiiiggggg hug at lunch. He helped me remember who I am and what I am and how loveable I am. That I am worth having as a partner. That my ability to love and that the love I give is as deep as the space beyond the stars. And for all that, I thank him. I feel better.
Quote of the day: “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” — Louise Erdrich
Feelings that pass like storm clouds
Happy bus drivers
Giving little old ladies directions downtown
On top of my own scare today, my heart is aching for the families of Moore, Oklahoma who lost homes, loved ones, and children. This image of the children’s garde at the lovely Oklahoma City Memorial seemed fitting today. Wishing you all as much peace as you can find tonight.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Quote of the day: “What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.” — Suzanee Collins
People who stand by me
I once gave you a two-headed coin
to protect you from fates that hurt you.
Now, you choose to hurt me with your words,
And I am thrown into the River Styx,
I do not want to be here,
trying to breathe.
I hope the ferryman
will accept that coin as payment.
Please ask him to take care
not hit me with his oars
as you pass by
for I have been hurt
Three Yellow Balloons (For Boston)
Three yellow balloons drifted away.
This city that took much of my naiveté
Lost some of its own innocence today.
My old city shines and celebrates.
This day is a vacation day, a play day.
Everyone is your new friend,
The chill of a New England winter
finally shaken off our shoulders.
Music plays at the bandstand,
And the Charles sparkles with
Little jewels from the sun.
It is Race Day.
Runners start far away, but still
the streets are lined with people,
cheering on strangers.
We set up chairs on the roof of a brownstone,
Bask in the almost-forgotten sunshine.
Skip class. Skip work. Skip under the blue sky.
Runners start arriving
At the foot of Heartbreak Hill.
We yell and shout and clap and encourage
and find our favorites to root for.
The runners struggle on with an end in sight,
Worked for and earned with sweat and time and pain
In an instant
In a blast
In leftover puddles of blood.
three yellow balloons
drift into the air
above it all.
Released by the hand of a person whose life will never be the same.
She looked and saw
and silently loved,
outside of confusion,
understanding only what lived in her heart
though others were dismissive.
She tried to stop,
but there is no stopping
a true feeling;
only time can do that.
But time, for her,
feels like an ancient turtle
crossing an L.A. freeway.
Never gonna happen.
She reached out,
that whole heart
carefully and cautiously
crafted into well-placed
words from the soul
which were met with silence
And now, she nestles,
Against my shoulder,
A few teardrops being
the only words she has to say.
This was a week of nightmares, destroyed dreams, and lives forever changed. The damage done this week to children, parents, families, and communities is irreparable.
Many of us who are not intimate with this tragedy will go on with our lives, the holidays, and return to joy. A small piece of my heart has left me now, and is with those parents who are going through unthinkable. Yes, their little sons and daughters experienced unimaginable fear in their last moments, and the thought of that is impossible, especially for those parents.
Those little people are little souls looking out for their parents now. But those parents, agonizing over what their child must have been feeling, and devastated by all the reminders of future and promise, now nothing but dust – for them, there is no peace. Christmas presents never to be opened. No more bedtime hugs from a small warm body made from the love of two people. No more laughter. No more hope. No more….anything. Just pain and tears and loss.
I am grateful every day that my daughter is still here, and that I have the privilege of having her in my life and in this world. Not every parent is as fortunate, and for them, my heart bleeds. I wish I could make it better, but I can’t.
December 12, 2006:
My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.
We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart. I could still feel her. Still feel her. Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things. Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.
It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on. I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes. They wouldn’t stay closed. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes. I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face. I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea. She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.
My aunt came. She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.” And she said to me, “She’s already gone.” I did not know what I was going to do. I loved her so. We were such a part of each other. I just did not know what to do. As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied. I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring. Leaving me behind.
Things happened then. My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of. I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant. I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over. The night nurse had slipped out. She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours. She never even came in the room. She was afraid of dead people. Everything just felt so surreal.
The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag. Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her. I don’t know why. But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag. Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too. I could never have that sheet back. That action was the worst part of this whole memory. I should never have done that.
Then everyone left. It was morning. I called my best friend at work. I started making calls to the people who needed to know. It was horrible. I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said. I let her go to him. I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried. Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break. But it was too late, it was already broken.
I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator. I could do it. Could do it so easily. Just take the rest of it and follow her. I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea. I wasn’t thinking. I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live. I didn’t want to live. I was tired and tormented. I was mad with grief and exhaustion. I wept myself to sleep.
Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing. We started to pack up her things. We went out to dinner. We didn’t feel normal. We were orphans now. At least we had each other.
Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time. But it has happened. I still miss her. I know she’s still with me in her own way.
And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.
December 11, 2006:
You had slept. I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row. I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant. You would moan every so often. When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me. “Am I still here?” you asked. “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.” “Damn,” you said.
We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here. You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today. Which told me how much you were hurting. We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine. I would have done anything for you. But I could not commit to killing you. I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.” I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.
The quality of the day changed after that talk. It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were. We were down to just the orange sherbet now. I would slip a little between your dry lips (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile. We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way. How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.) How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry. We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child. That seemed to ease you greatly.
You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often. More people came and went. We talked about your excitement about whatever came next. And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.
More people came and went. I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born. It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.
We talked and talked. You were getting…frisky? Cocky? Rambunctious? You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass. I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.
You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come. You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew. And you let it go.
[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference's to my Mother changed from "you" to "she" about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]
The hospice chaplain came. I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t cry much the last few days. Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t. But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow. I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go. After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace. I never knew what was spoken between them. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that she had released that last burden.
Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly. Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit. It made her so happy. “It’s my angel,” she said. She always thought that way about Jackie. Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time. “Have you noticed that smell? It’s the smell of death,” she said. “I know that smell.” Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman. She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry. She hugged me.
As the afternoon faded, she started to fade. She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much. She was hurting more. I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often. I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands. It was getting late. We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other. She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine. I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.
The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light. We did. We sat and talked quietly. We sat in silence. We sat through the night. E-Bro went to rest of a while. It was calm. I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free. Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed. Maybe it was her breathing. Something. My uncle went to get my brother from the couch. We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go. I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart. It slowed. Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.
Until they stopped all together.
I choose to remember the days of light.
I choose to remember the sun shining off silver.
I could remember the confusion, horror, fascination, and fear. I could remember the devastation that an empath feels on such a day. And of course, I do remember those things. I remember them viscerally. They are likely contributing to my bout of depression.
But today, I will choose to remember a day, years and years ago, when I emerged from a subway station I had never been in before – one of my rare forays into the New York City subway system – and looked up. It was a bright and beautiful day, full of sun. And I looked up. And up. And up. Yes, I knew I looked just like a tourist, craning my neck, bending half backwards, trying to see the top of those silver pillars playing with the brightness of the day. But I didn’t care. I was amazed and wonderous. And oh-so-touched with joy that I was finally standing at the feet of this sterling place that I had only before seen from the air or a distance. I just stood there, letting people bump around me, with a goofy smile on my face. A goofy smile that carried to my eyes and exuded childlike joy and light itself and that made all the rushing bumpy New Yorkers who had to interrupt their steps soften just a touch and not mind quite so much having to rearrange their hurried pace.
I remember going across the street to the old church, St. Paul’s Chapel. It was closed, but I wandered around the graveyard, as graveyards are favorite places of mine, examining the headstones, and soaking in the peace of the place. I was amused by the incongruity of something so historic in the shadow of something so modern – these crumbling, weather-worn stones side-by-side with the sleek, silver, glassy skyscrapers. I remember how hot the afternoon was, and how I sought shade and shelter in the cemetery. I was not taking many pictures in those days, so the pictures are only captured in my mind’s eye. I wish that were otherwise.
Today, the interior of my body aches and weeps and quietly wails in memory of losses. It is how my spirit works. But I am going to choose to remember the sunshine of that day, and other days, and days to come.
My daughter was at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” here in Colorado last night. So was my niece.
Thank God they weren’t at the midnight premiere in Aurora some forty miles from home.
Like much of the world, I awoke to news of the mass shooting in a theater not too far away, a similar crowd to the one my darling girl was a part of last night. This morning when I left for work, she was still sleeping peacefully. I kissed her sleepy little self and told her I loved her. I don’t think she’ll mind if I share her Facebook post from about 4:00 a.m. this morning. She must have found out about this after she got home.
“I, much like thousands of other people across Colorado, went to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. But while so many of us were sitting comfortably watching the movie we were all so excited for, at least 14 people, who were expecting a night like mine, were killed in a mass shooting in another midnight premier at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado. My heart and thoughts go out to all of those who were injured or who lost someone in this senseless act of unprovoked violence. There really are no words to explain what happened this morning…”
I wish she had awakened me.
It breaks my heart, and as a parent, it terrifies me. MKL and I were driving through the Columbine neighborhood a week ago, and I got very quiet. I can’t go near that area without remembering the pain and terror and permanent destruction of lives and hearts and families that happened at Columbine High School. Ever since Kelsea started school, an incident like that has been hovering in my fears that live in that place in your brain that you can’t let go of, but can never bear to face.
Last night struck too close to home.
You can’t protect your children from insanity. You can’t lock them away so they’ll be safe forever. Life is unpredictable. And sometimes it is indescribably tragic and agonizing. And so often, so random. All you can do is, sadly, play out scenarios with them – “What would you do if…?” – coach them, and hope they never find themselves having to actually experience those moments, and put those practice scenes into action.
From the empath’s perspective, I am trying hard today NOT to go to the place where I feel the overwhelming pain of those who lost someone, or the staggering fear and panic of the people who were there. That’s my automatic response. But I don’t want to do that.
Today, I want to just say a prayer for those people, and for my own daughter.
As she said, there really are no words.