The day is dim Though the sun should be soaking us in a warm spring This sky is sullen, stormy, chilly, weeping,
In memory of you.
This week, the world struggles to recall your light, your tall sunflowers cloaked in a shroud of
The loss of you.
Those fires that destroyed you, their causes unknown linger, their scent caught up with yours behind those doors we try to keep closed from
The loss of you.
I try and fail not to replay that morning on a loop in my head, not to board that grief train. Instead, I find myself grabbing a passing rail, missing falling my heart cut to ribbons under tons of heartless steel weighted down by
The loss of you.
The air ripples in the darkness, in my line of vision, as I try to see the world through
The loss of you.
Daily gratitudes: Sleep when it comes Getting accustomed to some hard truths A successful truckload for the move My great-nephew’s birthday tomorrow
Quote of the day: “Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It’s just too much for them.” — Phoebe Stone
The massacre at the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder happened one week ago today. Who has forgotten? It’s certainly not a news item anymore, surpassed by the trial of George Floyd’s murderer, the boat that blocked the Suez Canal, and the endless discussions about COVID-19. We’ve held vigils, put candles in our windows, and been to the memorial fence. We’ve gotten over our initial reluctance to visit the grocery store — any grocery store. Our first responders have held space for the body of our slain police officer as hetravelled from the scene, and for his mother as she drove here from New Mexico, standing silent and vigilant at overpasses all along those routes. Officer Eric Talley’s funeral will be held tomorrow.
While our flags fly at half-mast and rock cairns stand in Boulder Creek as a tribute to the victims, our lives go on. Their lives do not. For those of us who did not know any of them personally, things seem the same. For their loved ones, and for those who were in the store and survived, things will never be the same. Once the initial outpouring of shock and attention fades, those who are emerge from this tragedy may find themselves rather at sea, left alone for the first time in a week, the first time in what likely stretches long before them. It is a struggle to find whatever peace looks like on an individual level after something like this, after such a trauma, such a loss.
I was about to say that talk on social media has turned more political — more about gun control reform — but I realized that there is no more talk on social media about this event. It has been swept downstream by other topics and our short attention spans, fed by 24 hour news cycles and networks greedy for the next sensational thing. There are those in our community, such as the Moms Demand chapter who hosted one of the candlelight vigils last week, who maintain their laser focus on the issue of gun control, and I very much appreciate their dedication.
In the community, we can’t help but notice the approach of spring. It’s warmer. Robins congregate in gangs in grassy spaces. Trees are just starting to bud. We know we’ll have one or two more snow storms, but there is hope. Hope that we will be able to luxuriate in this season the way we couldn’t last year. That doesn’t change my awareness that for a number of people, those whose lives were altered forever last Monday, there is no joy yet. But like spring, it will one day return.
Daily gratitudes: Feeling post-vaccine better Ginger Dram Books My newly replaced kitchen light Chainsaws
Quote of the day: “You can’t unwrite the tragedies life engraves into your bones; you can just give them a voice.” — Nitya Prakash
The past hasn’t changed. We all wake up and in those strange waking moments when we bring ourselves back to reality, we remember. We remember what happened in our community. We remember the grief that we might have shielded ourselves from in dreams. We awaken to the pain, to that sinking feeling of what we’ve lost. People. Security. Peace. Illusions.
We get up and make coffee. We get on with our day, with our jobs, with our lives. At the back of our minds, we are tragically aware that there are 10 people who are not doing those things today, and who will never do those things again. That their families are waking up to their new worlds and feeling the devastation that comes from having someone you love ripped out of your life. And in the midst of their pain, they have to do practical things and procedural things. They do those things on autopilot – this I know, from my stepson’s suicide.
Our Boulder world looks the same on the surface. We still go to the grocery store, but now there are police officers in the parking lot. We still buy flowers, but now they are for the memorial and not the bookshelf in our living room. We still pet dogs, but now they are therapy dogs trained to comfort us. We still sit on grassy hillsides, but now we’re restricted by yellow police tape. When we see a police car speed past us with its sirens blaring and its lights flashing, our first thought is “Is it happening again?” When we hear glass breaking, we think “Is that a shooter breaking windows?”
As the reality sinks in, we still don’t care why. Only that. Not why. But we are starting candlelit vigils. We have a memorial that spans two blocks, with flowers and candles and signs and crosses in front of the chain link fence that keeps us away from where the shooting happened. I went there today, and left flowers. Hugged sobbing strangers. Video chatted with K, showing her what I saw, so she didn’t have to feel so alone, distant, and removed in her grief for her town, for her younger self, for her memories.
It will be same tomorrow. I know grief and loss so intimately that I understand how it will play out for me. While it’s different for everyone, there are some constants for all of us. Time is kind enough to help our sorrow nestle into a place in our souls. But it never allows us to forget.
Daily gratitudes: Blue skies K Dogs Community Flowers
Quote of the Day: “She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” — Jonathan Safran Foer
I spent a long, long time in the shower this morning. Wishing I could find beautiful, lyrical words to express my sorrow. Wishing that those words would unfold from me, like the unfurling of a fiddlehead fern in spring, and spill from my fingers onto a page. I felt like I was not really a writer, because I don’t have that gift of spinning words that mean something, that touch others, from a silken tangled web of thoughts and feelings. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
The media released the names of those killed in yesterday’s shooting. Was I a friend of any of them? No. Were some names familiar? Yes. Even though I’ve written about how this town has changed over nearly 40 years, today it feels like a small town. Between K and myself, we have some second or thirdhand connection to someone who has been deeply wounded by this tragedy. (After speaking with K, she does indeed know some of the victims as friends of friends.) Speaking to us, the Mayor of Boulder, the Chief of Police, the Governor, all hold back tears – you can hear it in their voices.
Our community feels just numb. There are so many feelings and thoughts that it’s hard to even separate them. Thankful it wasn’t one of our friends or family. Guilt because we’re thankful. Struck by the names of those who were killed, as we run them through our minds…did we know them? Have any mutual friends? Do I deserve to be struggling with any feelings at all, since I didn’t know any of the victims, just the place? Why did the police treat the shooter with such tenderness? What if he had been black? What about gun control? One of the dead is a policeman who was known for rescuing baby ducks. He was the good guy with the gun. Why is he dead? Am I overreacting? So much. Too much.
Focus is a challenge today. Empath-me needs to immerse myself in media coverage, but I don’t have time for that. I want to sleep, a reflection of internalized grief. I have no appetite. My stomach is upset. My Mother used to say I always put my stress in my stomach. I guess that’s true. I continue to leak, just a glaze of small tears creeping into my eyelashes.
As the day progressed, I realized that this is personal. It’s happened to a community that I’ve been a part of for almost 40 years. Not in the community, but to the community. Today, we don’t care about why he did it, what his nationality is, what religion he follows, whether gun control is stronger…we don’t care about any of it today. We care about the people we’ve lost. The only thing we want is for this not to have happened. And that’s the only thing we can’t have.
Daily gratitudes The hawk that accompanied me right by my driver’s window today – I could have reached out and touched him Getting my vaccine (ouch) Getting all of my old (and I mean old) journals back from my ex-house Talks with K Halo Top
Quote of the Day: “We cannot change fate and the tragedies that enter our lives but we can choose how we want them to change us.” — Nikki Rowe
Today has been a horrible day. Just up the road, a gunman walked into the grocery store I’ve been in hundreds of times and opened fire. Just walked in and without a word, opened fire. The police won’t disclose how many people died. A YouTube video of the first few minutes of the massacre showed two bodies laying in the parking lot and one just inside the store, by the shopping carts. Those souls lay there on the cold ground for hours as SWAT teams broke windows and rescued people through the roof, as news crews swarmed. The thought of them there breaks my heart. This store is the one all the high school kids hung out at — K was one of those high school kids, not so long ago. Today, her high school parking lot was used as a staging point for MedEvac helicopters, but there were no injured. Only bodies. If there is a single severe mercy, it is that this is Spring Break, so even though the kids are back at in-person school, they weren’t all congregating at the store’s Starbucks after classes, just when the shooting started. A Law Enforcement Officer lost his life. Police vehicles from multiple counties are sitting silently with their lights on in a long line, waiting to escort him out.
I remember Columbine vividly. Then, too, I was stricken by the thought of bodies left on the floor for hours. As a new parent, I could just imagine what those mothers were feeling. I remember Aurora all too well. K was at a midnight showing of that film, just at a different theater. The Walmart shooting? About 10 miles away. I have checked in with all my peeps who might have been in the vicinity today and all are accounted for. But my heart grieves for those families who cannot say the same, for those people who were just trying to buy some groceries. You really never think it can happen in your community. But it can.
Daily gratitudes: (tough today) Chicken noodle soup Cuddly cats The comforting reporting of Kyle Clark The woman I made friends with at the store yesteray The beauty of silver hair
Quote of the day: “Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.” — Fredrik Backman
Today, my youngest stepson would have turned 26. We lost him to suicide almost two years ago, another date that we mark with grief as we pass through the years. He was a complex and magnificent soul, with so much to offer. But as we all do, he found it hard to get out of his own way. The hopelessness and futility that feeling can engender became too much for him to bear.
M marks his birthday by dining at our son’s favorite restaurant, accompanied by his picture. He buys our son a glass of wine, and leaves it untouched. To date, M does not want me to accompany him on this modest pilgrimage.
I feel somewhat detached from my own grief about his loss. I think that’s defense mechanism that I have built, particularly around losing him. I have seen my hopeless, raging grief spill out at sunset by the side of a mountain river. I know it’s there. I just don’t know how to manage it, particularly in the face of M’s deeply painful, life-changing sorrow. My grief lives tucked away on a shelf so that I can be strong with him, for him, in the face of his.
Losing a child, at any age and regardless of the relationship you have with them, means losing so much more than just their being, their day-to-day existence, your interaction with them. It means losing the future. Your hopes, prayers, and dreams for your child vanish in an instant. You grieve that loss as well. I chastise myself for the opportunities I missed with our son, the promises I didn’t get around to keeping, the unintentional hurts I may have caused him. It’s impossible not to ask myself if I contributed to his choice. Or if there was something I might have done that could have prevented it.
His joy in his life was as real as his struggle. I hope with all my heart that where he is now, he can freely feel all the joy, and that the struggle is gone. As my belief supports, I trust that he and I will have a chance to get it right in some other life. In the meantime, M and I honor the day of his birth in our own ways, and honor him daily with remembrance, and prayers that his spirit has found some peace.
Daily gratitudes: Jasper the Great Pyrenees Two horses playing “I’m gonna eat your face” Wind chimes Having Ice Melt on hand for our upcoming snowstorm Sending presents
Quote of the day: “May the stars carry your sadness away, May the flowers fill your heart with beauty, May hope forever wipe away your tears, And, above all, may silence make you strong.” — Chief Dan George
Today is the 16th anniversary of my Father’s death. It feels strange to call it an anniversary, because I associate that term with happy events, despite the fact that I’ve lost an inordinate number of people I’ve cared for in my life, disproportionate to my age. My body is aware of today. I have felt ill for a week. This is not new to me. My body has a physical memory of events, moreso than my conscious mind. There comes a point, usually before the anniversary of the event, when my body and mind catch up with each other and I figure out why I’m feeling like a cow turd in a remote Highland field.
I remember most of this day as it happened 16 years ago. I knew Daddy (yes, I’m a Southern girl) wasn’t well. I had talked to him the day before, and the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”. That’s as it should be. I was still in bed when ex-Pat came in with the phone, and said it was Larry, my parents’ best friend. I knew then. My Mother couldn’t talk to me. I don’t even know if she called my brother or if Larry did. K was going to up to see ice sculptures in the mountains with her aunt and uncle that day, and to a classmate’s birthday party. I was supposed to go with her, but we decided we didn’t want to spoil her much-anticipated day. So I stayed home and her dad went with her.
What I don’t remember is what I did after they left. Did I cry? Did I call my brother? Did I talk to my Mother? I don’t know. In the afternoon, I called my friend Denise. She is one of those friends who you know will always be there for you, even though now we’re quite distant. (But my phone Facetimed her about a year ago, all on its own when she was trying to talk to Comcast, and we caught up after a decade. It was lovely.) When my Father died, she dropped everything, and came and drank martinis with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. She helped. I wish I could have been within a thousand miles of her when she suffered a similar loss, but that’s life. Or death.
I was a Daddy’s girl, for sure. I still miss him every day. I wish he could see who I am, what I’m doing, what I’ve become. Who I’ve become. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me. Neither of my parents was ever effusive with pride over me, to me. In the course of the last year, I’ve thought about that a lot. Been angry about it sometimes. And recognized that there are things that just are, that I can’t come to terms with, not without a dialogue with them about it. That’s how it is, and I think that’s part of how I grow as a person as I continue to age and look through the glass darkly at my past, my relationships, my perceptions. I also think that’s an important step to take as I move through the years towards the next place. Acceptance. Of my parents. Of relationships. Of myself. We can’t always have answers or fix things. Sometimes we just have to settle for an unfinished peace.
The sense of loss of Daddy never leaves me. It’s not at the forefront of my days as it was for a long time after he died, but it’s always there. When I make a huge change in my life, he (and my Mother) are the first people I want to tell. I think it’s important that I’ve had to make changes without their guidance and input. I think that’s a sign of strength, of growing up, which is a journey not limited to our childhood or teen years — it is a lasting adventure in our lives, if we’re lucky.
My life looks nothing like what it did when Daddy was alive. But I know he’d support me in the changes I’ve made. I know he’d have so much to talk about with M. I think M would be one of those guys he’d actually have approved of. And he’d be so proud of K.
He didn’t want to go, and he made that clear to me after he died. It took some time for us to work through that. I may write about that later. We talked a lot in our lives. We had a unique relationship. Ex-Pat always thought that we were too close. He didn’t understand how a father could tell his daughter that he loved her so often, that he would always look out for her. That’s a refection of the relationship he had with his own father.
I try hard not to catch the grief train when it pauses at the station these days, but I still step aboard, look around, feel. It’s how and who I am. It is woven into my curious relationship with death and the afterlife, a thing which I am still holding close, trying to feel how it nestles into my daily existence. I don’t wallow as I did a decade ago. But while years according to the calendar have passed, my partnership with my Father, and what today signifies, are still as fresh as they were 16 years ago. My heart, today, around this, his death, is like a statue that has stayed in place outdoors through seasons and weather for all these years. It has changed in appearance, grown mossy and tender and tougher all at once, but with its core solid and intact.
How did I celebrate my Father today? I worked. As he always did. I had a couple of glasses of wine that he would have liked. He was not a drinker, but he enjoyed trying wine with me. I went to my local library’s book sale and bought 11 books in honor of his lifelong career as a librarian. I picked up some yellow roses at the grocery store, which were my Mother’s favorite, but he would have approved. I wrote this post, which he also would have appreciated, because he always loved my writing, and he was the first person to introduce me to the blogosphere, when he asked me, “What is a blog?” and I didn’t know, so I looked it up. And while he so very seldom visits me in my dreams, I will fall asleep tonight thinking of him, and having recited the prayer that he always said with me at my bedside when I was a child.
Love you, Daddy, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time.
Daily gratitudes: Birds in the out-of-place tree, a sure sign of Spring The squirrel that made it across the road Cooper the Beagle mix at the Dog Bar A clean oven My red shoes
Quote of the day: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges
While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.
In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.
Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.
I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?
Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.
The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?
I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.
Daily gratitudes: The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus Beating the snow home Talks with K A good night’s sleep Wind chimes
Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer
Because not a lot of people want to. I am not one of those people. I’m not what would classically be called morbid, but I have an affinity for death. I’m not afraid of it. I feel like I’ve lost an inordinate amount of people in my life. It’s something you expect when you’re older, but honestly, I’m not THAT old. It may be that when death touches my life, it leaves a fingerprint that is never erased, that I am always aware of, even if it fades a bit. I’ve never met another person with whom I have this in common.
The suitcase of death is more like a ship-size steamer trunk — or maybe like trying to move an entire house one pickup truckload at a time. There’s a lot to pack and unpack, so this will no doubt be the first of many such chats. I’m not even sure where to start. I think I’ll start with today.
I’m losing a friend. She’s dying. She has been dying slowly for years, not in the way that we all are, but from an illness that has gradually robbed her of her zest, her boundless enthusiasm, her sharp wit, and her tremendous artistic skills. She fought her illness for years, and she fought hard, but there was no way to stop its progression. She is tired of it. She’s ready to go now. I think that readiness to go is often what ends up allowing death to come. It is a different experience from sudden death by accident or violence, or from suicide. It is not quite making peace with dying, but just being ready to stop living. Those two things are not the same.
She was awake and “with it” the other night, and so I had a chance to say goodbye. Even though this is what she wants, and she knows what’s happening, her family told me that we’re not actually “saying goodbye”. Just visiting her and telling her we love her. Which is what I did. But it felt so awkward. Somehow incomplete. Death has walked by my side for so long that, in situations where it’s right at the door, telling it to stay outside just seems wrong. However, I will always honor a family’s wishes. I listened to her sons tell stories of growing up. And I told her I’d see her again. Which I will, somewhere, someday.
Driving home, I shed a few tears. I wasn’t exactly crying — I was leaking, as I did for days before my Mother died. I was thinking about how my ability to vocalize death’s thoughts and comforts had been silenced, and how, in that situation, I was at rather a loss as to what to say. I questioned whether my plan for my next career as a Death Doula is the right choice for me, given the awkwardness I had just felt. (I still think it’s the right choice.) Every death is different. It’s a different experience for every person, whether they are the one who’s dying or one who’s left behind. This death is a different experience for me — which, when you think about it, makes it absolutely normal. It’s just another step along my path. Along all of our paths.
Daily Gratitudes: Blue skies My pumpkin bread Friday Coffee (even if it has to be decaf) That my blood donation was sent to a hospital to help someone needing a transfusion