A Dying Man’s Last Breath

A DYING MANS LAST BREATH

A Dying Man’s Last Breath
As the ripe November moon rises
The not yet old man lays dying.
Not on his bed, nor on his floor,
Somewhere in between.
Discerning his last breath,
For only a moment, with gravity and importance.
Fragrant childhood fields of tiger lilies
Begin to bloom in his married room,
And the smell of old red and rotted barn doors.
Fantastic is the taste of a sweet and plump tomato,
Round and robbed right out of his mother’s garden.
The only background music,
A soft hum of Indianian wind through cattails.
Endless sunshine soaks his skin which now is filled with absolute youth.
Thousands of unreserved sunsets
That turn to a lifetime of coruscating evening skies.
66 years of first kisses grace his lips,
So does that bitter bathtub gin from senior prom.
Accomplishment arrives in his chest,
Inflating with words from his father, “I’m proud of you, son,”
Awakening in his fading ears.
Then he sees her.
In a form of remembered innocence,
With fiery hair
And a fiery soul that burned his taste for anyone else.
Anyone else but her.
Looking down, now dressed in his bridegroom clothes.
And her,
In a springtime of white and wonder.
Hearts hopeful with promise and eager to begin
His hands idle to build something.
A home.
Seemingly no time passes before she is quick with child.
And then he sees her.
With fiery hair
And a fiery soul that burned his adoration for anyone else.
Anyone else but her.
Feeding her watermelon with salt sprinkled on top
Just to watch her little nose crinkle.
The smell of fresh-cut, summer-kissed and dewy dawned grass
And her little toes.
How could anything ever be so tiny?
His arms warm with heavy bodies of wife and child.
A warmth that cascades
A warmth like a waterfall of tenderness over steep rocks of stoic features.
Seemingly no time passes and yet another miracle is delivered.
Then he sees her.
With fiery hair
And a fiery soul that burned his thanksgiving for anyone else.
Anyone else but her.
Pink satin swirling in his room,
His girls dancing in princess costumes.
His hair, now, a black and white photograph
As his girls all shine with vibrant hues of tenacity and resilience.
Flying and soaring over his perfectly manicured landscape
He planted over 100 pine trees,
His living picture frame proudly displaying what he had built.
Hands now lined, scarred, tattered and weak
As they grasp the bedside table in preparation for his last exhale.
His final act as a husband.
His final act as a father.
His final act as a man.
As millions of others have done before,
But not quite like him.
No, not quite like him at all.
He stood, so very tall,
Overlooking his kingdom,
On the sanded, stained and decades-old porch he built with his own two hands,
And the hands of his wife,
And the hands of his daughters.
Gentle snow or ash or princess glitter falls, tingling on his not yet old skin
As he smiles,
Welcoming the warmth of a new day.

THE OLD WOMAN AND THE OLD BICYCLE

THE OLD WOMAN AND THE OLD BICYCLE

The Old Woman And The Old Bicycle
The breeze is cold and sharp and honest on my walk without you.
Confusion wells up in my eyes
As I sit uncomfortably in the patience of universal design.
I feel lost, as I usually do right before I am found.
Cars blur past,
Some rattling with age
While others flaunt their shiny newness.
My idle hands crimp and fuss.
Absent is the hand that held them steady.
Touching my face to remember I’m here
And I’m real and I feel,
As the crisp air blowing on my sore neck wasn’t enough.
The marks of my strain and stress now visible.
Between my vacant family,
My lost husband,
My insurfuckingmountable depression,
And my god damned dead dad
I want to step in front of that shiny new car and stop it.
Stop the 30 years of abuse
Stop the nightmares
Stop the tears
Stop the loss
And stop the unheard, maddening loneliness.
I tried to call so many people and no one answered.
I’m reminded of the time I told my cousin that when no one answers
That means it’s time to call to the universe.
So I called to her.
Please guide me to joy.
Please carve a lighter path.
Please take pity on my tired and bruised body.
I’ll stay!
I’ll keep walking!
I’ll walk night and day and day and night
Just please stand beside me.
In all your warmth and rapture and rage
Show me some kindness.
Show me your mercy.
My trembling hand pulled a card from a deck earlier and it said, “Power.”
Was that meant for you?
For I cannot see mine, but yours is surely in the air.
Is mine hidden in the hand behind your back?
Or is it in my footsteps?
Maybe my legs will grow stronger with every mile.
Maybe the rhythm of my movement will steady the equilibrium of my breath.
Maybe my hands will effortlessly fall to my sides as my head dizzies with quietness.
And then, maybe, I’ll hear her.
In the lemon tree,
Or the hazy far off police sirens,
Or in the melting background hum of rush hour traffic,
Or in the soft paddle of an old bicycle wheel.
And as the street lamps flicker on,
And the dusk settles in,
And as the misty Olympic clouds blanket the Pasadena mountains, maybe,
I’ll hear her say, “take another step.”

Her

her

Cry for the little girl whose mommy always cries
Cry for the little girl whose daddy is never home
Who overhears loud fighting
And crashes in the middle of the night.
Cry for the little girl who stopped getting lullabies.
Cry for the little girl who had a nightmare one night
And who crawled into her mommy and daddy’s bed for comfort.
Cry for the little girl whose daddy touched her between her legs
Cry for the little girl who didn’t want to hurt her daddy
but she was getting hurt, too
So she hit him
And hit him
And hit him.
Cry for the little girl who went back to bed
Cry for the little girl who woke up confused, wet with urine,
And no one talked to her.
Cry for the little girl who made herself believe it was just her nightmare
The nightmare that she will have for decades to come.
The nightmare that will come back
Again, and again, and again, and again.
Cry for the little girl whose mommy started drinking
Whose lungs are burning and aching with smoke.
Cry for the little girl whose sister began to get angry
Who was placed in a dryer and had it turned on
Who was locked in a meat freezer
Who was electrocuted
And drowned
And beaten with a rock
And still has all the scars to prove it.
Cry for the little girl who slept outside one night
And no one noticed she was gone.
Cry for the little girl who slept outside for three weeks
And no one noticed she was gone.
Cry for the little girl who lost her virginity
And then he broke her rib
Cry for the little girl who was spit at, beat up and locked in lockers at school
Cry for the little girl whose mother threw chairs
And thought she was branded by Satan
And choked her daughters if they got out of line.
Cry for the little girl whose father was home now but too drunk to care.
Cry for the little girl who was drugged by boys
Again, and again, and again, and again
Cry for the little girl who started fantasizing about her father
Who loathed her own sexuality and was disgusted with her skin.
Cry for the little girl who fooled around with an older boy in a hot tub
Only to realize his friends were filming nearby
And what about that boyfriend that uploaded that video
The one of her going down on him to that porn site, cry about that too.
Cry for the little girl who was called a whore, a slut, easy, a piece of pussy, trash, loose, a bitch, a cunt, and such a fucking tease.
Cry for the little girl who had six,
Or was it seven
Fraternity boys attack her, rip her clothes off and throw them out the window.
Who went back home and had no one to tell.
Cry for the little girl who was raped by the neighbor boy
And still, 13 years later can’t drive down his road.
Cry for the little girl who was brave enough to leave and never look back.
Cry for the little girl who was raped again only one month later.
Remembering his piercing cold blue eyes, but was a total stranger.
Cry for the little girl whose doctor came in without gloves and forced himself inside her
Cry for the little girl whose masseuse went too high up her thigh
And wouldn’t stop, even when she cried.
Cry for the little girl who was assaulted three more times.
But can’t remember.
A silhouette of a person, an outline, a negative space cut out from reality.
Cry for the little girl whose memories began to evaporate from time
Cry for the little girl who was convinced by an older man that he could save her
Who just wanted to play with her
Who just wanted to use her, abuse her, degrade her, defile her, torture her and scar her
Again, and again, and again, and again
Cry for the little girl who was brave enough to leave and never look back.
Cry for the little girl who sought recovery.
Who faced her suicidal tendencies,
And her instincts to hurt and to hate.
Cry for the little girl who finally found her voice.
Once meager and weak
But now she could speak,
What a beautiful sound.
Cry for the little girl who learned about trust.
Not just in others, or herself, but in all of us.
Cry for the little girl who wanted her family again
And realized they were in more pain than her
So she cried for them.
Cry for the little girl who learned about love.
For the first time, feeling genuine care.
For being fearful of what she owed in return,
Realizing love is not a debt.
Cry for the little girl who learned how to make love.
With her spirit, her mind, her conscious body and her ever-grateful heart.
Cry for her joy, her returning childlike wonder, her intrigue with life.
Cry for her rejuvenation,
Her renewed sense of innocence
And Her resurrection.
Cry for the little girl that learned how to forgive.
Who prayed and cried for those who hurt her
For seeing clearly their pain like mountains over Her calm valley of water.
And once the tears have fallen, once they have rained into Her river
Watch them drift back to the sea
The vast horizon that is Her love
Not just for you, but for everybody.
Do not cry for the little girl, not anymore.
She does not want your tears.
This little girl has now lived for many years.
Cry for the sick, the disturbed, the tormented and weak.
Cry for their souls some refuge to seek.
Cry for their reflection, their need to introspect.
Cry for their lack of empathy and their inability to connect.
Cry for their healing, their cold and confused hearts.
Cry for our sake, for without their health we’ll all be pulled apart.
Our people are a hurting one, place your weapons down.
Speak up, trust, love
Only Her peace will be found.

Grieving with Gratitude

GRIEVING WITH GRATITUDE

I miss my dad so much right now.  Today it’s been exactly one month since his passing.  I miss so many things and it all floods into my awareness at the same time.  I miss his voice, and the way he said, “I love you.”  The other day I recalled how my dad would congratulate me for doing something good at work.  He used to always say, “You’re kickin’ ass and takin’ names, sweetie.”  Tonight, I miss how he would tell me everything was going to be okay and that he knew I’d figure it out because he raised a strong young woman.  I miss his confidence in me.

We only really got to know one another over the last 8 years and that time together meant so much to me, especially now in retrospect. I remember that evening so well.  I was standing out on our back porch by the pine tree that sits outside of my window.  It was summer, one of the last summers I spent with my family in Michigan. The sky was glowing lava red with splashes of blood orange and yellow.  I miss those summer sunsets.

My dad walked out, cocktail in hand.  At the time, his cocktail of choice was a large glass of vodka with about a teaspoon of club soda and grapefruit juice.  He walked right up next to me, stood silently for a few minutes and then very clearly asked if I thought he was an alcoholic.  I said, “I can’t answer that for you, Dad.  Do you think you have a problem with drinking?”  He said “no,” with a sweetness that came across as quite genuine.  I said, “Well then, turns out you’re not an alcoholic.”

He then proceeded to apologize for not being a very good dad but that he’d like the opportunity to try.  I told him I’d really like that.  That all I wanted was for him to be interested in my life, and to participate in my life with me.  The sunset faded to a haze of purple and pink, and from that day on, my dad was more present with me than he ever had been.  He asked me questions about work, my friends, my boyfriends and never gave me suggestions unless I asked.  He was a very good dad.

Alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking is what inevitably killed my father at the young and abrupt age of 66.  He had advanced cardiovascular disease that went undiagnosed and his body just shut down.  I do believe my dad drank too much, and I believe it was an old and bad coping mechanism.  I think he did it to relieve stress, to not feel, to entertain himself, to numb his boredom, to forget even.  Because of some of the tragic things that happened throughout my childhood, I think he bore a lot of guilt and shame. And unfortunately, he was not willing to confront those demons.

I’m grateful I said everything I wanted to say to him.  I’m grateful I had the courage to heal myself, confront my own resentments and hurts and then love my dad wholeheartedly for 8 years.  I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy his company, his humor, his mocking my “libralism.”  I’m grateful that he put in the effort, something I noticed every single day.  And just two days before he passed, he left me what might have been his first voicemail ever, where he congratulated me on my new apartment and how everything was going well over there.  He called me sweetie one last time.  He said I love you one last time. I’m so grateful for all of that.

There is a special bond between a parent and their child.  If you currently have an estranged or messy relationship with one or both of  your parents, but hope in your heart that you can somehow make it fruitful, I would like to stand up and say that it is possible. I worked tirelessly at reestablishing my relationship with my father and I was able to.  And then, I was able to enjoy him for the remainder of his years.  A gift I wish I could give everyone.

Gratitude for the shiny moments you get with someone truly special is what turns grief into happy remembrance.

The Original Song

THE ORIGINAL SONG

Inspired by Robert Frost’s poem yesterday, I wrote the following poem.  But before we get into that, I want to share a little bit about silence.  I spoke with my cousin last night who was distraught upon finding out her best friend had been hit by a car.  He was seriously injured, but alive.  She told me about how when she found out, she called multiple friends but no one answered.  She felt “alone in the universe, I just felt like I was left floating there.”

I remember this feeling back in my depression, I felt so alone and unheard, unwanted and living in fear.  Just as she was.  I explained to her that the unhealthy side of our brains, the parts of us unhealed, hurting, the addictions, the self-indulgences, the justifications, the instant gratifications, etc. That side always tells us bad things.  Our brains are hardwired to make us feel better – at whatever the cost.  When we were hungry as primal creatures, our brains would solve problems to get us nourishment.  When we needed shelter, we would creatively find a solution.  That has not changed, only our problems have.

We now need to be “perfect;” warm, comfortable at all times, loved by everyone, successful, eat the most balanced diet, post only the most beautiful pictures on Instagram, and have the most loving and adoring relationship.  This list goes on and on.  Our brain is constantly trying to give us the best solutions to all of our problems.  For those of us who have unhealthy tendencies; eating to cope with stress, suicidal thoughts, using sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. It’s very easy to let that side have the loudspeaker.  But there is another side.

The healthy side, in that moment for my cousin, was telling her to take some silence.  No one answered the phone calls, but the universe answered the real call. Be quiet in your grief, in your fear, in your hurt.  She wasn’t alone in the universe, because she was WITH the universe.  And this beautiful world wanted her to make a healing wish for her friend and for herself.  Sometimes, silence is the answer.  That is where we grow, evolve, learn and understand ourselves more fully.

Our greatest strength, our greatest wisdom and our greatest kindness is silence. That is our original song.  Silence and love.

The Original Song
Never have I met someone like you
Apologetically heroic while healing hearts.
Kind severity that stares straight through
Unabashed, unadulterated, a destiny long overdue,
Spoken softly, a secret of honey burns at our hearths.

Love letters left on pillowcases,
Sunsets seeping from the text;
A humanity overwhelmed with familiar faces,
Flowers filling up the blank spaces –
In between the places like lovers might suggest.

Words falling short and gracelessly falling out,
Inexplicable in nature, what a marvel you are
Like God himself is even devout.
The land lacking light, without and in drought
And then you, like Renoir, painted the sky with heaven’s first star.

 

Rock Bottoms

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It’s hard watching other people hurt.  I was in Al-Anon for 5 years, a 12-step program to help friends and family members of Alcoholics, and while I was attending meetings I heard so many rock bottoms.  Every story is unique to the person. To one, it could sound as mundane as just losing a job, while others could make you question how a human could degrade themselves so severely.  In all of my years of hearing the hurt of rock bottoms, one thing I’ve learned is that they all feel the same.

A person is standing in front of you; broken, shattered and feeling unfixable.  Their pain is palpable.  Tiredness is heard in every breath.  On-lookers can see lifetimes of sleepless nights, restless days and impossible amounts of solutionless problem solving happening behind their eyes. They are beaten and they appear to have lost any resilience or faith they once had.

My husband is in his rock bottom and my heart is breaking for him. While I’ve been confessing my pain about my father here on these posts, I’ve been witnessing the slow and yet so steady debasement of my husband’s once uncompromising joy for life.  There are so many things I want to say to him.

There is a moment in our lives when we get introduced to ourselves.  It could be the moment you won an award for a Science Fair project, the time you played too loudly over the jazz band, when you finally gained enough courage to leave your abusive boyfriend, or when you – for the first time – danced naked in your kitchen while eating a pie you baked just for yourself.

Or, when you hit your rock bottom.

Humans are not immortal, but hell, we have a remarkably strong will to survive. I am consistently in awe of our strength, perseverance and this basic human instinct that is so deep-rooted in our genetic makeup that it has kept our species alive for roughly 200,000 years.  If when we feel weak, may we find the sliver of energy remaining to access this gift of fire that burns from our ancestral roots.  Then feed it with your tenacity.

Meet yourself; the naked, vulnerable, and bruised warrior that has been living in your skin since the dawn of time and hear the lesson that has been whispering in your ear since you were born:  You are love.

A Color Darker Than Black

Sky

These last 14 days without my father have been the hardest days I’ve experienced in a long time.  I’ve been a witness to death before, but this one is a new breed of aching.  It’s a depression that strikes at any moment.  It takes my breath away and then fills my burning eyes with salty tears that I thought were dried up. My thoughts are consistently scattered and I am leaping from one feeling to the next, like bullfrogs on lily pads, careful not to fall into the water.

There is so much comfort in my world that there have been moments where I feel like I could become a lighthouse directing all around me to the beacon of love itself.  And then almost instantly, my heart collapses and I feel cold metal sludging through my veins, fearful I will be numb forever.

My faith is unwavering though and I know that I have seen darker hours.  And even if I hadn’t, I realize my purpose is to be a vessel for the universe to use as she wishes.  I am a constant student, unlearning everything all day long so that I can become empty for her to fill me up again and again. Bring me pain, bring me beauty, lead me where you need me.

My dad is a cloud and he turned into snow – he continued on to his next and newest form.  A form that is unbeknownst to me. But in my reflections of him, I feel his peace, his lightness of heart, his youth and above all – his love.  As a friend recently said to me, “…there would be no day at all without love. There’d certainly be no night. Or any other infinite thing.”

My human mind can’t comprehend why pain is necessary, why “bad things happen to good people” or why there can be so much savagery in the world – but I do understand balance. I see the pendulum. I’ve swung from one extreme into love and light. Everything is temporary, and so is this hurt. I have a choice to live well and love through the ache and I will always side with love and allow the brilliant universe to continue to show me the way.

A Color Darker Than Black
I dreamed of driving alone in the desert
taking pictures of shadows.
I never expected to know people.
Loneliness felt like enough until it wasn’t.
I was enough until I wasn’t.
I am not weak in my worship, oh world.
My eyes are simply weighted and my body does not feel of my own.
Lead me, use me and I will grow vibrantly like a wild tiger lily.
No explanations required.
Venus has had fewer men than I.
Speaking their words, fueling their desire with my primal fire.
Still, the empty hollow in my chest begs
Whimpering and broken I plead for peace
Not yet ready, there is a color darker than black.
Clawing and grasping for breath this darling girl has resilience.
You see, I am a time traveler.
I can see all of the parallel universes, the past expressions,
the future is not unknown – it is written.
This blackness does not hurt me
it wets my appetite and forgetfully reveals the opposite side of the spectrum –
the blinding, effervescent light.
A kaleidoscope of color – timeless, limitless.
Will you feel it all with me?
Sit by my fireside,
and read the most elegant love letter ever written.