A Life

Robert Bob Andy Grandpa Papa
July 25, 1935
October 21, 2010

Son
Brother
Uncle
Friend
Husband
Father In Law
Step Parent
Grandfather
Member of the military
Railroad switch-man
Pilot
Flight instructor
Helicopter pilot
Glider instructor
Target Shooter
Marksman
Hunter
Handyman extraordinaire
Tool maker
Wine maker
Brewer
Gardener
Volunteer
Re-loader
Wood craftsman
Fisherman
Frugal spendthrift
Collector
Avid reader
Loner
Beloved
Ox Strong
Mule Stubborn
Gentle
Tender
Full-time generous heart
Part-time major grump

Full time searcher of new knowledge
Part time stubborn stick-in-the-mud

Aficionado of music
Refused to dance
Amazing smile hidden in a protective cover-up frown
Tolerant, accepting yet held his prejudices close to the vest

Not much of a listener and less of a talker
Loved his ready-made family to the core of his being
And more…so much more…enough man for multiple lifetimes. I miss him.

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Never Lonely

The dead are never lonely.
Dead is gone. Maybe in an eternal bliss, no matter the name. Maybe in that down side of bliss. Maybe just gone, no more–dead. Universal destiny, the sure and certain agent of change.

Because death is, life surely must evolve out of pretense, of false pride, of ignorance. Surely we recognize the life requirement to face the mirror with honesty, with a grasp of the reality of death.

This was a drive-around-and-pretend-to-have-a-destination day, one of those days that can suck the good out of the best of work intentions. Air so sweet with autumn, colors random, filled with splash and zest. My favorite season of layered clothing, sun and shadow, wood fires to warm old memories.

Without warning the tears came, blinding me. I was driving. I was not the passenger in his big SUV. Was not reacting to his hand as he reached over, touched my cheek. Such a brief and private moment, one I perpetually took for granted.

My thought was so odd. “Please don’t be lonely. Be OK. I don’t want you to feel like this. Please don’t be lonely.”

So I am grateful. I am. He is dead but he is not lonely. That is a good thing.

Keening

A ramble…
Grief is universal.
We all experience the suffocating moments that change lives. There are no bromides that actually move the process along. Cultures build the box and most times grief lives in that box.

In our home we joked about the John Wayne School of Communication, the stoicism that pushed grief down and never let it heal in the light of other humans. Prayer is a common crutch offering the illusion that something helpful is happening. Moments of gasping for breath as the sobbing overtakes are inescapable.

Keening isn’t often part of our culture. The sound is animal like. Men and women give over to being consumed, lost in the grief. Maybe keening is a hedge against depression of unresolved grief, of grief swallowed not sounded, of self medication to bearable.

Men and women lose a job, a home, a life time of expectations. They, as they knew themselves, are gone, emptied out of all they found dependable. Nothing works, no boot strap pull matters.

A person hears the partner’s declaration that the union is over, the love simply isn’t. A maze of hurt, insecure and confused, marks the lives within the ripple.

The devastation of illness is a grief played over and over, every day a family tears in the grip. Long range plans dissolve. Hope in a different future becomes one-foot-in-front-of-the other. Joy shuts down and pretend takes over.

Maybe we do keen, but not in a way that helps. Too much silence, too much John Wayne and not enough bellow against the pain. Too much stiff upper lip and not enough rage.

Last evening, a conversation about healing from cancer ended after an hour but the thoughts continued most of the night. A compassionate doctor told the patient that some of the most difficult times were the days, weeks and months when other people pronounced healing over, but it was not. Times when fear, loneliness or depression still shadowed every day, but other people felt enough was enough. Time to move on…stop dwelling on fear. Get over the grief compelling acceptance of a new life, a life of threat. Keening seems so very much in order.

Know what matters? What helps? What heals?

The touch of family/friendship, understanding of new ways that seem to mock what was once a life. The touch of family/friendship that is the knowledge that someone hears the silent keening, someone reads fake words and finds the truth, someone would respond…even when it feels impossible to ask. Someone is willing to give all the time needed. Talk about wonderful creatures!

I Believe

Alan Stark wrote I Believe.

On page 128, Stark wrote:
“I believe the definition of a friend is someone you call when you have really great news or really sad news.”

On page 111, Stark wrote: “I believe couples should hold hands at least three minutes every day.”

On page 156, Stark wrote: “I believe that memories are treasures worth more than gold.”

Three is that good number, the one that can mesh the unrelated and find a new truth. So I have an addendum to Alan’s beliefs, my big three for today.

I check myself off the definition of a friend. Today has been one of the saddest days of the last 11 months. There is no one I will phone to share the sadness. There is no one with whom I have that kind of comfort. There is no one to whom I could even begin that conversation, share that deep and penetrating loss.

Holding hands is vital, an intimacy to be cherished. Going out alone today, I did a virtual hand holding via four area wide garage sale events. Bob loved them. We trudged up the driveways as he searched for his bargain of the day and until he was too worn to continue. I bought three things just so the experience would be true, a book, a light switch, a leather purse. Three dollars ventured and a memory gained.

That brings me to those memories worth more than gold. My brain is odd. My memories are rarely specific in detail but definitely specific in feelings. Bob and I had two love stories, one in youth and the second in middle age and onto his last years. Between those chapters, I had another love story with a good man, the father of my children.

Today is not really an empty day. It is a day of far too many memories, far too much emotion, far too heavy with a sadness I cannot shake. I feel ashamed, weak, to be as I am today. Wonder why the amazing goodness that is so much a part of my life cannot handle the overflow of memories?

I believe that time as healer is a ruse. What really happens is that we get really good at covering over, pretending and doing make-believe. Today is my birthday and I want what I cannot have. I miss him.

Yesterday’s Gone

Yesterday’s Gone. Song lyric? Think it is. Know it should be. Yesterday.

Everyone has a yesterday, one to touch with nostalgia. Even an unfulfilled yesterday is a respite from the newest today.

Yesterday’s blog was lame. It didn’t come close to what was waiting.
For weeks, this spot stood fallow, lost in the yesterdays of so many people who I love–family/friends, the church of my formation, the community both local and global.

When there is nothing to say, we don’t seem to know silence. We grasp at the inane rather than simply hold a hand or hold the phone. That is a good thing even though it shouts at our inadequacy to do much more than care.

Valiant has a tradition of matching with war, with swords and guns and horrible battles. That is not right.

Valiant is a word for keeping on keeping on, for men and women who step up when slipping away would be so easy. Valiant is day after day after day of staying because leaving would simply trade pain.

There are no words to sooth the deep depression of those we love. We try. We stumbled along, but there are no words. When distance means that words are all we have–and there are no words— we feel the depth of inadequacy. So we talk along, trusting that our love and support are felt, knowing that more is required.

Mindfulness

No intake of breath.  The last air releases and a single moment closes a life,  responsibilities, obligations, joys evaporated in a click.

The world continues.

Sobering?  Maybe.  Liberating, too.  Looking at that last breath could be a way to go into our deepest and most profound emotions.   Accepting and trusting that we ‘get’ the whisper that is our life might balance what we want to have…what we want to hold dear.

If we think about the last breath, we might be more inclined to give way to mindfulness.  We might embrace what is rather than harboring what was or preparing for what might be coming.  We might discover how much fear and insecurity control behaviors pegged by a past that cannot be changed or a future that cannot be clearly predicted.

Integrity,  character formed through  lifetime moments, built by instant choices that match with our mindfulness is our becoming.

Regrets rarely focus on wishing we had not shared those moments of love and joy with family and friends. Rather, we want more.

Regrets rarely focus on  efforts to understand the truths of others unlike ourselves.  We  could learn.  We could expand our grasp of truth.

Regrets rarely focus on reaching out to others in need of our attention and care.  Rather, we want to go back and give what we withheld because we were too busy in the moment.  Retrospect erases the excuses allowing the mundane to overrule compassion.

Mindfulness is being in the moment, attending to the now of our life.  Sounds so easy.  It isn’t.   Distractions pace and push in constant movement.

We have had teachers, men and women, who understand a part of mindfulness.  Thoreau taught by retreating to his quiet.  Gandhi taught by giving away.  Mother Theresa taught by seeing the Jesus in others.  Pandit Rajmani Tigunait taught by seeing death as birth.  Some  religions actually do teach by sincere search.

And so we are back to the truth that finding our integrity and character through mindfulness IS simple, but never easy.

Sam and Papa’s Snowman

Raymond Briggs made a beautiful video called The Snowman. Sam and Papa loved it together, watching with Sam sharing Papa’s chair.

Sam awoke this morning, dragged a blanket to Papa’s chair, clutched a shape book based on the video and quietly snuggled in to remember his Papa.

“Nana, you can never leave this house…never leave this place.”

Why?

“Because maybe Papa will figure out how to get loose from heaven so he can come back to us.    If you leave here, how will he know where we are?  Papa has lots of jobs to do here so when he gets loose, he will fix stuff.  Besides Papa misses me.”

Wish me a wish.