Tag Archives: death

I Hate Change.

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I hate change. I hate surprises too.

I even hate good surprises – like surprise birthday parties.

When my man planned my last birthday party, he consulted with my (grown) daughter ahead of time and later he relayed that during that conversation she agreed with him that they couldn’t do a surprise party.

She demonstrated excellent mom knowledge and even better judgment when she replied, “Yeah, don’t do a surprise party. She would probably get there and start crying because she wouldn’t be able to handle it.” He agreed.

Embarrassing.

But also comforting to know the two people I love the most in this world know and understand me to that very embarrassing and vulnerable degree. And it proves I raised a child who pays attention and makes good decisions—and those are good things.

I also hate change—even change that turns out to benefit me—and even when I know, ahead of time, that it is a good change, a change that will bring me good things. Welcome to life, Grace—geez.

A few years ago, I heard a friend describe herself as a “rut queen”—meaning she gets in a rut and she likes it there—and I instantly recognized that in myself too. For instance, I have been known to eat the very same food, everyday, for over a year—because I like it, and it’s easy to fix. It’s no wonder I have so many bloody food allergies! I also like routines and familiar people, places and practices.

Change is scary for me. It always has been. I don’t like it. I resist it. I drag my proverbial heels. I avoid it. I dread it. It terrifies me. I don’t like feeling out of control of my life. I’m just wired that way:  jumpy. I get anxious and feel overwhelmed when I think about changes happening. When I get overwhelmed, I pull into myself and become even more introverted than usual.

I get short-tempered, blunt and “hard,” because I’ve gone so deep inside myself, I find it difficult to surface in order to interact with those around me. It is not that I don’t want to come up and out and be with other humans (I do), it is that I cannot come up and out—I am unable.

It is one of the things I like least about myself.

I think it’s because I value comfort, certainty and security over variety. Tony Robbins talks about the six human needs: certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution, and I hold on to “certainty” long after I’ve fearfully choked the life out of it.

My poor man. He has to put up with this.

He has learned well how to combat this in me, though. Hat’s off to him. He grabs me and holds tight. He repeats, “Everything is going to be okay,” until I can breathe normally again. And when big changes are likely, sometimes it is a long time before I can breathe normally again—sometimes it takes months. This last bout has taken about six months of whining, crying, foot dragging, dread—and not breathing normally.

I know change is inevitable in life. I know I can’t stop it from happening. I know I should get over it. I know I sound like a big baby (I feel like one too). I know I should suck it up and be an adult and “Just Do it.”

So after a lot of self-encouragement—and patience on everyone’s part—I do eventually come around. I get to a state where I can actually think and talk about it with something close to normalcy. I finally get to this state, because I have forced myself to sit with it long enough and often enough that I get accustomed to the change/idea.

And then suddenly…I’m ready to go. I’m ready to change. I’m ready to move in the new direction. It always takes me too long to get there, but once I’m there and ready, I don’t back down or second-guess myself. I just do it. I have to have time to get past the fear and into the this-is-going-to-be-a-great-adventure mode, but once I’m in the big adventure mode, I’m mostly good—mostly.

My next adventure? Well, most probably, I am going to have to get out of my house of ten years. We’ve tried to refinance, but the Universe—in very weird ways—seems to be conspiring to take a short cut I hadn’t seen before now, to move us from point A to point B without the refinancing step that I was assuming was absolutely necessary.

So big change is on my personal horizon, and I need to jump on that moving train and stop crying about how I don’t like train rides, and about how it’s moving much too fast, and do we know where it’s headed, even?

How do you handle change? I sincerely hope you have a better handle on it than I.

The elephant journal version:  Even if You Really Hate Change There’s Still Hope

From Death to Forgiveness.

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I have a few things that I can’t seem to forgive.

I live with these things bumping around in here—bruising and hurting—have lived with them a long time—some longer than others.

I, like Brene Brown—who says she worked on forgiveness for 10 years—have been letting the notion of forgiveness steep inside me for a long time, mulling it over, periodically pulling out my still-needs-to-be-forgiven incidents to see if I can fit a square peg into that round hole once more.

I was relieved when I heard her say she had been rumbling with forgiveness for ten years. I was beginning to lose hope for myself and forgiveness, beginning to think we would never hook up, never even be able to be in the same room together. To find out that someone else had also been struggling with it for so many years, put me in good, albeit stubborn, company.

I am aware of the famous quote: “Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I know I should forgive. I know it only hurts me and not my forgivees. I want to forgive. But I just can’t seem to make/let it happen in some situations.

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.” ~ Rev. Joe Reynolds

So, a few mornings ago, when I once again heard Brene tell the story of how she had worked on forgiveness for 10 years and then heard her pastor in church say the “something has to die” line, so that the pieces finally fell together for her, I found myself wondering if maybe that was the piece that was missing for me too.

I felt some hope—mixed with dread at the thought of death and grieving—that forgiveness might be possible for me. So what is it that needs to die so that I can forgive?

Three days later I was still thinking about the dying and trying on the grief that must necessarily follow death. I didn’t want to grieve. But I thought Joe and Brene might be correct. I think I might have to let something die in order to be able to forgive.

There are incidences from the past that still bring up pain and anger, even though I understand why the person did what they had to do. Is that forgiveness, the understanding of the cause? Or maybe some form of forgiveness? When I agree with them and see their point and am even kind of glad they did it that way, but still feel the pain it caused me at that time?

Maybe I don’t understand what forgiveness really is. A quick search brought up:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

I am finding that there is in me a small, hard-to-pin-down, part that thinks my lack of forgiveness provides me with something useful and justified. It provides me with a type of book/place mark, a reminder, of sorts.

By hanging on to the resentment, pain, anger, etc., so that it brings up the pain every time I think of it, I don’t ever allow myself to forget to protect myself against such instances. I think, after many years of working on this for myself, that that is what lack of forgiveness means for me.

And indeed, to let go of my pain and anger, almost seems like a betrayal of myself. Because if I succeed in letting those place markers die, mourn the loss and manage to be able to forgive and move on, don’t I leave myself wide open to further pain and possible hurt?

If I forgive that person, then what defense do I have to stop them from harming me again? What reminds me that I must keep my guard up against them and those like them?

And why do I think that my defensive stance would stop anyone from hurting me again? That’s not going to stop anyone from offending or harming me. It’s just stopping me from living fully.

Lack of forgiveness holds the pain that never lets me forget—and never lets me rest. And I am tired; I want to rest from this lifelong vigil.

Lack of forgiveness also allows me to feel superior to the offender. Even if I never say it out loud, I get to think things like, “Well at least I never did that!” when I somehow hurt someone else. So apparently, I have degrees/hierarchies of offense, and if I judge their offense/faux pas as worse than mine, then in some sick, convoluted way, I win.

Is it a simple tit for tat, then, for me? I can’t let go because I might need that pain for ammunition some time in the future to use against them—even if it’s only in my own mind?

Wow. Yuck.

So, more determined than ever to resolve this lifelong dilemma after those lovely discoveries, I am still exploring what might need to die. After much thought this last week and after watching Brene’s video several times, I think it is ideas I hold that have to die.

Here’s the first list:

  1. The idea that those who love me will never hurt me.
  2. The idea that I will always be able to avoid hurting others.
  3. The idea that people who hurt me are always wrong.
  4. The idea that if they do hurt me, they must not love/like me.
  5. The idea that anyone who hurts me is against me and is out to get me and must be my enemy.
  6. The idea that anyone who hurts me is doing it deliberately (it must be personal).

Why has it taken me so long to realize and face the fact that it is not possible to never hurt anyone?

Sometimes we must make difficult, hard-won, unpopular decisions based on our ethics, morals, obligations and beliefs. When we make these decisions, perhaps choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils, we can expect that not everyone is going to like our decision. And we can also expect that our decision may hurt someone. That someone may be a person we dearly love, respect and admire—someone we are close to.

I cannot ask anyone, even someone I carefully love, to go against what they know is right for them, in order to keep from hurting me. I just can’t justify that in any way—even when the pain it might cause may be bumping around in here for years afterwards.

Enter Death. Grief. Pain.

Hopefully followed by Forgiveness and Release, those two bedfellows who travel closely, gracefully and mercifully together.

The elephant journal version: I Can Never Forgive You

after the funeral

a wilder grace

In response to my last, I want to be kind, my alter-ego writes:

I do NOT want to be kind
fuck kind
kind can yudu na hooey
I want to be inconsolable
irrational
throw some expensive stuff
make some noise
stomp some toes
split some wigs
yell obscenities

I want to laugh nervously
and loudly
like the villain-ess
in the movies
and then catch your
discomfort and fear in my hand
as it comes flying off you
take a bite and then
smear it back in your face
while I laugh again

no apologies
not even in my head
no whatifIgetintroubleforthis
allowed

I want to rip the bandaid
off your dirty
stinking
festering
complacency
and lick it
before flinging it at
some innocent
surprised
horrified
passer-by

I want to snarl
with feral eyes
and snap my teeth
bite
the hand that tries
to feed me
tame me
I won’t…

View original post 352 more words

Breathing Underwater.

underwater1The water was freezing and violent and I was filled with fear, but I knew that was where I was supposed to be.

I found after that day of being ambushed by grief that the only way I could do my life was to stay in meditation as much as possible. When I couldn’t do that, I walked around crying, the pit of anxiety in my gut sometimes doubling me over in pain.

Even writing didn’t help, which is bloody unusual for me.

Sunday I sat and meditated for at least four hours. It may have been more than that, but I know it was at least that. I suck at tracking time, so I’m not so sure.

I was determined to sit and meditate and not sleep, even though the sleep deprivation for the past few weeks was hard to ignore. I didn’t want to set myself up in the cycle of taking naps so that I couldn’t then sleep at night.

As I sat in meditation, breathing into the panic and heaviness, I was aware of sliding in and out of dream-like states in my fatigued condition. When I was aware enough, I kept the focus on my womb space.

Wanting to stay in my body as much as possible, I concentrated on breathing into my womb space and seeing the fire in my belly glowing brightly.

The get out-of-the-body type of meditation is a very Masculine way of meditating. I admit to using that type of meditation for most of my meditating life without really knowing there might be another way. When I began exploring the Feminine way of spirituality is when I began to focus on staying in the body while meditating.

Focus on the body, emotions and senses is the Feminine way.

While I sat that day, determined not to sleep but to actively process emotions, not just sit and enjoy a ride out of my body, I went into some sort of visualization. I don’t know if it was a past life, a dream, a metaphor—perhaps I fell asleep? I don’t know. But if I did, it was a type of lucid dream.

I was looking down at a blue and white ocean, boiling and spraying. It was violent. It filled me with fear to look at it. I was high on the cliff looking down at the violence.

I knew I needed to get to the water, but I was looking down from the high cliff and everything between the ocean and me was a steep boulder field of huge, sharp, black, slippery rocks and crags.

The waves continued to throw themselves up and against the cliff and the huge, sharp boulders. The water and spray were freezing me.

I started down, and somehow I was able to make progress down the steep, black, slick, rocky incline. When I got close enough, I launched myself out and down into the ocean by pushing off in a jump to hopefully make it out past the rest of the cliff and into the water.

The water was freezing and violent and I was filled with fear, but I knew that was where I was supposed to be.

From my high jump, I sank easily down past the foam and spray and whiteness and then kept descending without trying. It was a beautiful, clear blue-green down below the violence. I was holding my breath.

Down there, it was not as turbulent and I felt like I was being gently rocked back and forth. My feet were down, my arms out, like I was standing in the water. I looked up and could see the violent whiteness above me, but it was silent and almost calm here.

That’s when my sister appeared in front of me, smiling, her long, beautiful, curly red hair spread out all around her like seaweed. I noticed it moved to that same rocking rhythm, waving softly around her, her skin so lovely and pale, her blues eyes somehow warm in all this freezing blue water.

I was so happy to see her again! We smiled at each other and held each the other’s arms, so that we were together, but had room between us to look into each other’s eyes.

I was beginning to notice that I needed air.

She smiled a small, kind of sad smile and shook her head at me—slowly and lovingly. I pointed up and motioned that I needed air. She shook her head at me again, still smiling—patient, understanding.

I began to get frantic, but she wouldn’t let me go so that I could rise to get more air at the surface. She took my face in her hands and looked at me intensely, conveying to me that I must stay. Some part of my brain thought of the drowning scene in The Abyss.

And indeed, she held me there just like Bud held Lindsay in the movie, looking into my eyes softly, with the water beginning to fill my lungs in stabs of scorching pain as I fought her, thrashing about trying to get loose.

Even though the water was freezing, it hit my insides like white-hot heat, searing me, burning.

Finally, with my lungs on fire and with her still holding me in front of her, I took in a deep, lung-filling inhale and completely filled myself with water. Horrified and still looking at her, I realized I was breathing water instead of air at that point.

It felt heavy and laborious to breathe this way.

She was still smiling. I opened my eyes wide and shrugged to ask her how the hell this was happening. She just smiled wider, holding my gaze with hers.

I relaxed as much as I could and looked at her, ready to “talk” to her and find out why we were both here.

That’s when I noticed she was dying in my arms, becoming limp. Her gaze left me and became unfocused and her eyes slid away and over my right shoulder. I began to shake her and was yelling, “No!” at her through the water.

She was already gone though, limp and beginning to sink deeper into the darkness below. I grabbed her and held her to me there in that cold, gently swaying blueness and looked at her face. It was pale and lifeless, her eyes still open and blue. Her long, seaweed hair surrounded us in the water, weaving itself all around both of us.

My tears were indistinguishable from and lost in the ocean water.

She looked like a blue-tinted version of the body I had witnessed in her coffin—deflated and flat and thin, wearing one of her favorite pink sweaters that was now heavy and pulled downward by the weight of the water. The never-to-be-healed knife slashes and stab wounds were now apparent again on her face and neck, showing the tiny stitches.

She had kept me here and helped me learn that I could survive in this “foreign” world below the violent waves above. Then she was gone, reclining now in my arms, both of us swayed and rocked by the water, surrounded by her long, floating, seaweed hair.

I “woke up.” I didn’t know if it had been a dream or a vision or what. I concluded it didn’t really matter.

I use Bing as my home page on my computer because I love their photos. The next day when I opened my laptop, Bing’s page came up and the underwater ocean scene was the exact color my underwater “dream” had been.

The Autumn of Grief.

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I couldn’t keep from crying; the sadness kept coming in ever-increasing, confusing waves.

I had biked to work in the morning as usual, only to have to leave work after a couple of hours.

The transition into Fall has been triggering sadness and regret in me, but I couldn’t get a firm grasp on why it was so intense this year. My usual bike ride to work that morning was filled with tears and feelings of dread every time I looked up at the changing colors of the leaves on all the trees.

I found myself avoiding looking up at the trees—the exact opposite of my usual joyful practice.

Autumn used to be my favorite season, but in the last few years, I’ve noticed my reaction to the season becoming progressively sadder each year.

I’ve been obsessed with death and dying for the past few weeks. I even completed my Five Wishes, Living Will and shared it with my daughter. And while I recognized I was obsessed, I couldn’t figure out why, even though I was constantly searching for the answer.

I hadn’t been sleeping well, and when I did get to sleep, I was waking up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep. I love sleep, and I usually sleep a lot, so the sleep deprivation that was piling up was no small problem.

I could barely express my need to leave work, I was so overcome with grief and sadness. When I left to go home, I took my usual bike route down by the river, thinking it would assuage the grief and comfort me into healing as it usually does.

But I discovered that was not the case that day. In fact, as I squatted by the moving water, sheltered from view from the bike trail by the high, sandy riverbank against my back, I found the grief multiplying, and I was growing more desperate. I felt panicky.

With my face against my knees, I sobbed seemingly endlessly, my body jerking and pulsing with the those deep, silent sobs that rhythmically shake the entire body, and I was grateful for the river’s rush and roar to cover the noise of my loud, ragged, intermittent, desperate inhalations between those silent bouts of shaking.

I couldn’t seem to stop crying; there seemed to be no end to the sadness. At one point, some autumn leaves fell into the water in my line of sight, landing on the water to be whirled downstream by the river. That’s when it hit me. My sister’s death—her murder—twenty-three years ago, had occurred in autumn.

But how could this be effecting me so severely now, so long after the fact?

I suddenly and spontaneously began experiencing the shock and grief I remember going through when her murder actually happened all those years ago. I felt the panic at not knowing how I could continue life without her. I felt the hopelessness at knowing I would never see her again.

I found myself angry at the leaves for changing color and falling. If the leaves would just quit fucking falling, all would be well! I was sure of it! I cursed the leaves, yelling at them as I stood there by the river to stop falling, gawd damn it!

We had plans together; she couldn’t be gone yet. We had always said we’d live near each other and raise our children together. We’d run them all outside each morning to play and then just hose them down at the end of the day before herding them back inside for the night, not really keeping track of who was where—just as long as everyone was happy and fed, healthy, sleeping and loved at the end of the day.

We said we’d grow old together, and sit out on the back porch, drink iced tea and gossip, laughing at the memories of our early, wild days—the copious amount of alcohol consumed during our college years, the basketball and football games in high school, cheerleading, almost burning the new gym down, growing up on the farm, hoeing cotton, sitting in the sweltering heat under a swamp cooler shelling peas to get them all frozen and canned for the winter with all the women in the extended family, riding horses, showing pigs and lambs at the stock shows, riding our bikes down the dirt road to visit the two Keith boys and play 2-on-2 baseball with them.

Everyone always knew that whoever had Mickey on his or her team would win; it was just a historical fact. But we also knew Murray, the younger, funnier one, on the other hand, would elicit more laughter. Which one to choose? It was the usual pleasant dilemma.

brenda2

We’d grow old together and have way too many cats and maybe we’d even die together on that back porch, sitting in the shade and just nod off back into the infinite again, keeping each other company even then.

At the river, the panic growing ever stronger, I was beginning to worry it would never stop—the same sensation I had those 23 year ago. Some sane part of me recognized I needed help, but I was unable to focus, so didn’t know from where it would come. Panicked, it was getting more and more difficult to herd my thoughts in a good, positive direction and think; I was getting desperate.

And suddenly I knew where I needed to be. Fortunately, it wasn’t far away either. I jumped on my bike—tears, snot and sobs still all flowing freely and headed for church.

My problem was this, though: I did not have a phone or a watch, so I had little idea of the time. It was a weekday morning, and I knew the office hours, but didn’t know the current time, didn’t know how long I had squatted there by the river.

So I didn’t know if the office was still open or not—didn’t know if anyone would still be there. I tried not to think about the possibility of it being empty already—that only brought more panic.

I just pedaled—and bawled.

At one point on the way there, I was surprised to hear my own voice and realized I was praying out loud like I was repeating some sort of chant or a rosary of sorts, “Pleasestillbethere. Pleasestillbethere. Pleasestillbethere,” repeatedly and over the top of sobs, loud, jagged in-sucks of labored biking breath and wiping snot on the back of my gloved hands.

I met plenty of people—in cars, on foot and on bikes. I was careful to avoid eye contact at first, but then lost all semblance of propriety in my desperation, gave up caring and continued chanting/praying and crying.

I’m certain I was scary. I’m glad no one stopped me. I was incoherent by then anyway and couldn’t have explained anything to anyone.

I finally reached the church and felt relief flood through me to see Peggy and Leane’s cars still there. I dismounted and ran in, calling for Leane. When she looked up from her desk at me, a stray, coherent thought wormed its way to the surface, and I knew my wild, hysterical state would scare her.

I didn’t want to scare her, but the only thing I could think to say as she ran to me to take me in her arms was, “Madi (my daughter) is okay,” just before she enfolded me.

Then all hell really did break loose, because I finally felt safe enough in her arms to soften enough to allow it an opening—to let it come get me and take me away.

I wailed and sobbed and cried, and the pain and intensity of it doubled me over into her body, my chin on her shoulder, as she took the weight—both emotionally and physically.

As Leane held me, I remembered how at the news of her death, we had traveled to my parent’s house and then to the funeral home. And I saw my sister in her coffin for the first time. At my reaction, Joey, her husband, grabbed me and kept me from falling. I realize now he was expecting that, had stood there for that very purpose, ready.

He held me tightly and securely as I cried and struggled against him, unable to cry politely at the sight of her marred face, by the attempts to stitch her freckled-face beauty back together, showing the scars that would never heal, never need to.

It was not easy to look at, but I remain grateful that I got to see her lifeless, scarred body. I needed to see her that way to be able to believe it, somehow.

I knew he understood my reaction to seeing her. His sad, determined firmness as he supported and held me told me this. I knew he was already in the place I was just entering.

Did he feel, like me, as if he had failed her? I was the big sister; it had always been my job to protect and shield her from harm.

I felt like I had let her down; I hadn’t been there when she needed me.

My mind returned to the church office as a part of me registered that someone else was there with Leane and I. Someone had come to help and had their hands on me, one hand on my heart in front and one in back.

Whoever it was held tightly, pressed hard. I needed that pressure. Needed the support. Needed the strength to hold me together, because I felt like I was flying apart, little pieces of me spinning off and out in all directions.

I could feel that person breathing deliberately, pumping that breath and energy into me through her hands, through her prayers. They shuffled me in this manner to Peggy’s office and sat me down, still holding me, still breathing for me.

It was only then that I realized it was Peggy breathing for me.

Finally, the panic and depression lessened some and I looked up at them and tried to explain. They sat with me, quietly and sweetly, listening to my memories and stories, asking gentle questions—just absorbing—letting me work my way back to something like normal for me.

I eventually ran out of stories, memories and energy; I felt dry and used up—empty and exhausted. It was a blessed feeling to be so empty after having been way too full of grief. I thanked them; I can’t express enough gratitude to them for their kindness and love and patience.

I rode home somehow—I don’t remember the journey—curled into bed and slept for three hours.

A friend called me later and when I told him what had happened, he suggested I had been ambushed by grief. I had never heard that expression before, but instantly when he said it, I knew it described my day—in fact, it described the slow sneaky ambush that had been approaching for several weeks and had only finally just pounced. I could see it in hindsight.

Saturday I called my daughter and told her I was basically useless, but that I wanted her to come to lunch anyway as we had planned because it had been so long since I’d seen her.

I needed groceries and wanted to wait until the crying stopped that morning before going, but it never did, so I ended up going to the grocery store and walking around shopping while bawling still.

I didn’t know what else to do. How was I supposed to do my life? How am I supposed to do my life?!

While doing research on the subject of being ambushed by grief, I must admit to not finding a lot of information. But I came across a blog that describes it thus:

“Even as I write now, I continue to learn that grief is not a short-term spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical struggle that you just “get through”. Perhaps, this will be a lifelong journey until I reach my eternal home.”

Another one:

“You will be ambushed by grief. Count on it. If you have ever experienced any sort of loss or heartache in life, grief will surprise you from time to time.

Sometimes you can come to expect it, and then you’re somewhat prepared. Sometimes not.”

How am I supposed to do my life now? How long will this continue? Will this happen every Fall? I am trying to honor this grief and my sister by allowing myself to feel the emotions that perhaps I never allowed myself to feel before.

Why else would they return so strongly, so insistently?

I don’t understand it, but feel I must respect it as best I can and just somehow continue to walk through it. I am grateful to have such a wonderful group of friends to help with this trek.

Have you experienced a grief ambush? How did you handle it? Does it continue to happen? Is there any way to prepare for it?

A version published at elephant journal.

If the Leaves Don’t Fall.

fallleavesbark1

The leaves are falling,
but

If the leaves don’t fall
You’ll sleep in that morning

If the leaves don’t fall
Joey will kiss you goodbye one more time,
changing the timeline

If the leaves don’t fall
You won’t even go into work that day

If the leaves don’t fall
The pastor will decide to delay his trip to the bank to make the deposit

If the leaves don’t fall
You won’t hear the knock on the office door

If the leaves don’t fall
You won’t be your usual kind self
and open that locked door for them

If the leaves don’t fall
You make to the storage closet,
the one with the deadbolt

If the leaves don’t fall
The pastor comes back in time

If the leaves don’t fall
They don’t decide to rape you while you bleed out

If the leaves don’t fall
I don’t get that call that sends me flying up
and out of my own body to try and find you

If the leaves don’t fall
Your daughter doesn’t search my face to try and find you in me,
wondering where her momma is

If the leaves don’t fall
My other niece doesn’t have to spend months at the therapist talking
about the “two bad men with a knife who killed Aunt Brenda”

If the leaves don’t fall
Your now grown daughter’s face,
just like yours,
doesn’t cause me pain

If the leaves don’t fall
We get to grow old together as we planned.
Two old ladies in houses next to each other
With too many cats
Sitting on the back porch each night cackling
just like Big Momma used to
To our own juicy, irreverent, wild-woman jokes

If the leaves don’t fall
You could even be here tonight,
sitting at my kitchen table,
smiling at me,
making me laugh

If the leaves don’t fall
I won’t have to leave work early yesterday

If the leaves don’t fall
I won’t ride to church,
snot and tears flying,
praying that my friend,
herself a church admin,
is still there to break my fall

If the leaves don’t fall
You tell me why you are so angry at me

If the leaves don’t fall
We never have that last,
disagreeable,
conversation

If the leaves don’t fall
I am no longer the most selfish person you’ve ever known

If the leaves don’t fall
You forgive me for whatever it is that causes our argument

If the leaves don’t fall
I don’t dread Autumn each year

If the leaves don’t fall
I still have you,

my sister

It Takes One Person to Die.

stormyweinermay2013

Wouldn’t it be more about the dying person and not the living at that point?

“As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.”
~ Homer, The Odyssey.

My female Dachshund, Miss Weenie, turned 12 years old in January of this year, so she’s an old lady weenie dog. I can call her that only because I am an old lady now too. Dachshunds don’t live as long as some dogs, so I’ve really begun to worry about her in the last year or two. The vet is not really able to help her out much.

She is just getting old.

She’s a bit wheezy and overweight (even though she doesn’t eat much), and she doesn’t get around as easily as she used to. I built ramps for the bed and the deck a couple of years ago to help ease her life some.

She was gifted to me as a puppy on Valentine’s Day by my, then, husband. She remains one of the very best gifts I have every received. She was my first dog as an adult. We had dogs on the farm when I was a kid, but they were big dogs that stayed outside, although I loved them completely.

She has always slept on the bed with me (she with her weenie dog “brother,” Stormy). They both burrow under the covers every night—even in summer. Lately, she’s been having accidents—from both ends—sometimes on the bed.

I’ve always had two good mattress pads expressly because I had a daughter, cats and dogs and know that a middle-of-the-night bed clothing change is sometimes necessary with so many bodies. Lately, it’s been a challenge to keep them clean and ready.

I used to be a CNA working in home care. Every time she soils the bed, I think of the bed-bound folks I used to take care of. Just like them, she requires a lot of cleaning up after at her age.

I keep telling her to just do whatever she needs to do, that I love her no matter what. When she is ready to go, I don’t want her hanging around, in pain, because my fear of losing her is holding her here in physicality.

I will miss her more than I can possibly understand right now, but it would be much worse to have her not go when she needs to.

Today, as I sat on my bed with my laptop writing, I noticed she was coughing and trying to clear her throat. I looked over at her to see if she was okay (and to quickly pick her up and whisk her off the bed if need be), and I experienced such a profound feeling of helplessness looking at her old, knobby and weary body and cloudy eyes.

I asked her if she was okay, and we made eye contact. As I watched my sweet, sassy weenie dog coughing, I suddenly though of my daughter—my only child. My daughter is grown now, doing her own thing, living her life—and this is as it should be.

The thought came to me, that this is how my daughter is going to feel one day about me.

She is going to look at me, making messes on the bed every day, in my old age with my cloudy eyes as I’m circling the drain, and know there is nothing to be done for me except to release me. She will feel helpless too.

And I began to cry, because I did not want to be the cause of my girlie ever feeling helpless like that.

I remember when my mother’s mom, Big Mama (yes, I was raised in the south), was dying. I was living in Berlin, Germany at the time and was not there when she passed.

My mother later spoke of spending those last days with her in the hospital and how she would periodically ask, “Momma, do you know who I am?” Because she couldn’t tell if she was lucid or not just by looking at her.

She said Big Mama responded each time with an impatient, disgusted look and with her characteristic spunk, “Of course I know who you are, Sissy,” using my mother’s nickname from childhood—given to her by my aunt Linda who was born after my mother.

“Because I just had to know,” my mother explained with such a desperate look on her face. I remember wondering about her desperation. What would it matter, exactly, even if she didn’t remember?

Wouldn’t it be more about the dying person and not the living at that point?

“It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.”
~ William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying.

Would it somehow diminish me if my mother, on her deathbed, could not remember who I am?

If she were fading in and out, test-driving the spirit world to be ready when she finally decided to call it complete, would I expect, need, her to remember me?

I’m not sure I would expect her to be concerned with me at all, as I should think she’d be awfully busy orchestrating her own exit.

Would it make me feel desperate? I’d like to believe I’d feel okay if my mother didn’t remember who I was on her deathbed. I wonder, though.

And what about my own dear Chickabee, my daughter? Will she be offended or upset or sad if and when I am casting off my humanness, my bodily control, and I’m making messes too, just like Miss Weenie, in the midst of rehearsing for my return to spirit, that I cannot remember her sweet, lovely face?

Because that thought brings tears again and a sort of deep, wild pain starts up in my chest. I cannot stand to think, for even one second, of somehow forgetting my own girl-child.

Maybe that is what’s so desperate about it. Maybe my mother was thinking not about being forgotten, but about the possibility of forgetting.

Originally published at elephant journal as As I Lay Aging

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet—yep, they do exist. She writes for The Scarlet Orchid and elephant journal. You can find her blog here and her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.