11 May 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Art, grief, Inner Critic
Back in January I finally decided to sign up for a workshop with Seth Apter at one of my favorite little, local art shops, Collage. Today was the day.
It has been hard this past several weeks. Igal’s death has been a dark pall over the bright flowers of spring. I was really quietly pleased that despite the grief, anxiety, PTSD triggers, illness, exhaustion and busyness of April, I still managed to put together 30 poems in 30 days.
In the cleaning, sorting, distributing, and dealing with Igal’s apartments, which his closest friends took on, some of his things were sent to, or set aside for people. I helped in the initial days, the apartment was easier to deal with than the meetings to plan his memorial. In the final days our friends decided some things should be brought to us.
Japanese ceramics, a collection that seems to have no theme beyond being pleasing to Igal at some time has been brought to CK and I. I look forward to serving festive dishes, particularly Japanese ones, on these beautiful dishes. At future Thanksgiving dinners it will give me a way of continuing to include Igal, despite his being gone from this life.
Igal’s Lovely Japanese Dishes
In January, when I’d decided to attend the workshop, I had so looked forward to discussing my ideas about it with Igal. He had encouraged me to explore using acrylic medium for my artwork. At one of our infrequent, but wonderful Art at Koehler Haus days, Igal sat with me and shared his acrylics to help me learn how to use them.
Another gift of our friends was a decision to bring Igal’s art supplies to us. Today I had Igal with me; I brought his paint box with me to class and used many of his acrylic paints and glaze in the start of my project today. I am so humbled that our friends thought these things should come to me.
Beginning the Workshop, with Igal’s paint box.
I was so nervous this morning before heading to the workshop. All the usual feelings of inadequacy, of “pretending” at art. CK gave me a kiss before leaving, encouraging me.
Our instructor, Seth Apter, was great. He immediately assured us that we would most likely not finish! Such a relied to be assured that 54 small collage pieces was a tall order indeed!
We quickly got to work on applying black gesso to all 52 playing cards and a piece for the front, another for the back.
He reminded us right away to not forget to work on the cover and back pieces, on book board, pieces in addition to the 52 playing cards. The black and the beauty of metallic, gold acrylic inspired me to create a small Enso. I will admit that it felt really very good when Seth complimented it, showing it to the other workshop participants, and recognizing it as an Enso.
Cover with Enso
Next we were encourage to apply some layers, at least one, of acrylic paint. My colors were all fairly rich and dark, against the black gesso they mostly implied a suggestion of color, which was pretty lovely.
Layers of Acrylic Paint Over Gesso
Then we were to set aside one side for adding text. Eventually my book will have poems by Hafiz and Rumi appearing on these pages. To the other side we received instruction on how to mix the acrylic paint with glaze to make sheer, translucent layers of color over the black gesso.
Layers and Layers of Acrylic Glaze
Next came time to apply collage layers. Here’s where I felt a little lost. I’d thought I’d seen the boxes of paper and emphera I’ve collected these past handful of years, but I only found the small box of the smallest scraps. Given that we’re altering playing cards, it was really just fine, but I still wish I’d found my awesome paper stash!
Next Step, Collage!
All too soon the workshop was over! I am only a quarter or a third of the way done! I really can’t wait to get my office fully together, my chair out the box, so I can create!
Just Barely Begun!
Today is all “wrapped up” and I’m already thinking about making a book of Mary Oliver poetry in this form. I’m also really intrigued by Seth’s inspiration for this workshop; making one card a week for an entire year. Seems like a great way to combine collage, altered art and haiku into a project.
Hafiz / Rumi Altered Playing Card Book – Day One
13 Apr 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, EveryDayStuff, grief, Haiku, poetry
Still Pond – April 12, 2013 – Portland, OR
Today I helped with the sorting at my friend’s apartment. The packing, the sifting, the cataloging, analyzing, and inventorying of a life. It is so hard.
Before going to do that, while CK attended a planning meeting for our fiend’s memorial, I went out to skim the pond. It is a task that calls to me in our new home, definitely a work practice. Even as I lift pine needles off the surface of the water the wind blows new ones down, always more to be removed. I like the sound of the water dripping, the movement of the net made of silk screen material, finding the best method for collecting the needles and leaves.
Today I discovered that some of the water lilies we saw leaves for last summer have survived the winter and was lifting small, red leaves out from the murky bottom and up toward the sun.
Lily reaching up.
Emerging from dark water.
Spreading leaves sun-ward.
CK has written a very moving piece on her blog about our friend’s death and about living with chronic illness (mental and/or physical) here.
02 Apr 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, grief, poetry
Heard Billy Bragg sing Tank Park Salute live tonight. Although it came out 9/10 years before my Dads (step and biological) would die, it is the song I associate with their deaths, less than 11 months apart. Hearing it live is always something of a punch to the heart.
Neither of you
Were ever heroes.
Ever aspired to
Even in your
Well, maybe there,
In the wild space
Even then, you clung
To safer waters,
Not the unknown
Shoals of bravery.
Still, you were
The closest I had
To an in-person hero.
At the very least
I so wanted you
To be my hero.
All that Remains – April 6, 2013, Portland, OR
I have nothing
In tribute to
The hero you
Never could be.
Tried to be.
20 Jun 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: Beloit, gratitude, grief
2012 Eclipse as Seen from Cloudy Portland
The news came via Facebook, of course.
One of my college advisors (the one for my major), Archaeologist Dr. Daniel Edward Shea collapsed while on a summer research trip in Chile, never regained consciousness, and died.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain his students and staff there with him are experiencing, or the terrible loss to his family back home, his students, his colleagues. I do know some of the grief felt by students who left Beloit and moved on into our lives. It is of course a tremendous, tragic loss.
We all called him Dan. In his upper division classes coffee duty rotated and when it was your turn you made coffee & got up and brought the pot in for everyone. He’d wake me up for my classes when I’d fall asleep in the department lounge. I used to babysit his kids.
Dan let me down a few times and in some big, important ways. Seeing old friends at Jen’s memorial really brought this home to me.
Beloit let me down. I’m still working through the shame, the mantra that repeats in my head, endlessly:
You didn’t finish what you started.
Jen’s memorial made me realize I’m also still working through the anger at knowing that when I really, desperately needed them, my advisors didn’t advise.
All that aside, reflecting on Dan’s influence in my life, I want to acknowledge something very important. When I would get my courage up to sit down in his office and tell him my ideas and theories about Peruvian archaeology, I left those discussions feeling like he listened to me and respected me. Even when he occasionally, and rightly, shot those theories full of holes.
As a woman who’s been working in tech for well over a dozen years, and has gone through phone calls where a man asked me to put another man on the phone, doubting my skills and knowledge merely because I’m a woman, the experience of having my academic opinion respected was hugely beneficial. Hell, college was really my first experience at having my opinion respected or really heard much at all.
Having my advisor really listen to me, well it meant a lot and it still does. It also helps offset some of the anger I’m working through at being let down when I needed help.
Clearly ceremonies and observances are called for:
Incense lit and offered to Dan and the Kwan Yin statue in the herb garden.
To the lingering solstice twilight in the west, three bows for Dan.
Metta to those students and faculty with Dan, may you know ease.
Metta to Dan’s family, may you be at peace.
Metta to Dan’s colleagues and students at Beloit, may you be peaceful.
Metta for all Dan’s students who’ve moved on from Beloit, may we all be at ease.
Move on Dan. May your next life also be filled with adventure, learning, and joy. Thank you for the lessons you taught me and for listening.
17 Jun 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: Dad, grief, health, relationship dynamics
I don’t talk about my Dad much here, or my biological father. In 11 months, from December 2000 to November 2001, I’d lost them both.
My Mom was married to my step-father for nearly 25 years, so he’s really the person I think of when I say “Dad”. He died in December 2000. I was outside, fixing his reindeer lawn ornament, when he actually died. I held his hand for several minutes when I came in before taking off his wedding ring and putting it on my own hand.
I wore it for a few years until I’d lost so much weight I was afraid I’d lose it. I still have it and a small handful of his other things. I continue to miss him, including his inability to express his emotions well.
When I was 24 my biological father got back in touch with me and we had a strained, uneasy relationship for about 6 years before he died in November 2001. I have his discharge papers, some slides and a handful of photographs. Mostly all from before I was even born.
Both of them died because they wouldn’t give up the things that were killing them. Both of them were alcoholic smokers. Dad was a Seagram’s drinker and he went from unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes to filtered Camels. My biological father was a vodka man and I can’t recall what brand he smoked, but a cigarette was never far. I’m sure also had an addiction to the array of prescription pain medications he took.
My Dad felt a real sense of entitlement about his addiction, particularly to alcohol. He felt like he worked hard and he paid the majority of all the household bills, so he deserved that bedtime drink. As the size of that drink grew, the Seagram’s nearly filling the glass and the 7-Up just floating over the top, he told us he just needed it to relax so he could get a good night’s sleep before working hard the following day. He never tried to excuse the cigarettes this way, but in the end he was hiding them and sneaking around for a smoke as CPOD raced with cirrhosis to kill him. The coroner’s statement said his liver “won” the race to the end.
My biological father had similar ways of excusing his drinking. His drinking was actually far worse than my Dad’s, who was a bedtime and weekend drunk. My Father often nursed a vodka all day long, took his Oxycotin with it. Once I realized this, I stopped riding in a vehicle with him. He would wax poetic on being a vet. Vietnam was his entitlement to his addiction. A massive coronary in his sleep would take him out.
These men play into my life tremendously. If you ask me about becoming a vegan and choosing health for myself, my Dad and my Father are certainly behind it. They left me in this world feeling like I wasn’t important enough.
Yeah, they loved me in their own flawed, dysfunctional ways. I know that. I also know that when it came down to choosing health and being a part of my life, they turned again and again to the things that were clearly killing them. Sure, quitting is hard, I get that, but if you don’t even try what kind of message do you send to the people who love you, particularly your kid?
The lesson they taught me is that the best thing you give to your family is your life. You do the hard work to make sure you’re here for them. Sure, sometimes we get caught unawares and no healthy choice we make can fix it. That said, if you’re out there choosing something that’s killing you and not even trying, well there’s a good chance that when you’re gone there will be someone feeling like they weren’t worth the effort.
I never want to leave my wife, my kid, my friends, my mother, or anyone who loves me feeling like I didn’t care enough to do the hard work for them. It is what we should do. We show up, we do the hard work so those people know that they’re worth the effort of living for them.
10 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, grief, poetry
Paper Memorial "Stupa" - Westminster, Colorado - May 2011
Season of Loss
In my dreams
You were there.
Was as as bright
As I remembered.
When I awoke
Vibrant and alive.
I was dreamed of my friend Jen last night, who left us just over a year ago.
11 Jul 2011
in Uncategorized Tags: anger, grief, history, PTSD, shame
I did go to Denver for Jen’s memorial. There was never really any question in my mind that I wanted to be there, but it was a hard decision in many ways. Difficult in large part because CK was co-chairing an event in Portland the same weekend and wouldn’t be able to travel with me. A good friend offered to travel with me and I lucked out in being able to get her on the same flights that I was booked on, particularly for the flight home to Portland out of Denver International Airport, which has the “advanced imaging systems” well in place.
I haven’t wanted to fly anywhere at all since TSA began their policy of doing invasive pat-downs if you opt-out of the full body scans. As someone who had at least one set of chest x-rays a year throughout my entire childhood and well into my 20s and 30s, I am mindful of how many times I get exposed to those kinds of radiation levels. Being asked to submit to a full-body x-ray type blast in order than some person in a dark room somewhere and peruse my nearly-naked image really kind of bothers me. It bothers me more to have a complete stranger, regardless of gender, touch me in my genital area and my breasts. It bothers me a great deal that to travel I must submit to being seen by a stranger nearly naked or submit to a level of touching that would be considered felony sexual assault if someone not in a TSA uniform attempted it.
So I felt I was faced with two choices that were not good for my physically or mentally. Given that I have a very small number of very private, but very meaningful, piercings, I worried that these appearing either on a full-body scan or during an invasive pat-down would be cause for even more invasive, triggering, traumatic treatment. By biggest concern was clearing security to come home and I was very worried that if things were traumatizing that I wouldn’t be mentally capable of getting myself onto my plane. Having a friend travel with me helped alleviate these worries to the point that thinking of the travel didn’t make me feel nauseous with anxiety.
As it was, I was on full-alert mode by the time we passed through security at PDX to board our plane to Denver. It was the way a TSA agent was telling a man in the security line behind me that he was going to give him a pat down. The agent carefully and clearly explained to the man traveling that he’d be running his hands over and around the buttocks, groin and genital area.
My travel companion hadn’t even noticed. I had noticed and it made me shiver with anxiety despite my own uneventful trip through the security line. We made it to DIA without any problems, got our rental car, some amusement ensued around using the map function on my phone to try to get to a Whole Foods; we ended up at the distribution center near the airport.
We found the house and it swiftly filled up with college friends who had all come to Denver to honor Jen’s life. I was so grateful for the simple lentil-based spaghetti sauce BD & VD had put together upon arriving to the house first. It was a huge relief to get there and have tasty, vegan food waiting for me.
It was on my third gin & tonic that I realized that my hyper-vigilance, which almost never turns all the way off, was out-of-control. I don’t make ridiculously strong drinks, but under “normal” circumstances I’d certainly have noticed the affect of 3 drinks. I wouldn’t have been so foolish as to get in the car and drive to prove to myself that I wasn’t affected, but I know that if some emergency had arisen I would have been perfectly focused.
Even much later, after taking Xanax to help me sleep and give my muscles some relief from the tightness and muscle spasms, I was still completely wired. I was pretty much that way all weekend long and didn’t manage to drop off into fitful, troubled sleep any earlier than 4AM. The first real sleep I managed to get was on the plane back to Portland.
The trip itself, seeing many friends from college, was bittersweet. I really enjoyed connecting with folks again, and it seemed right to share our sorrow about losing Jen. However, I felt I never left a state of hurt and shame. Many times I found myself feeling like I was not really a part, having not returned for my senior year.
Seeing my EMDR therapist a couple of days following we started to look at why talking about college just leaves me stuck in so much suffering. There is just so much shame for me around not finishing, feeling like I let myself down, my family down and my friends. Jen went through so much hell during what would have been our senior year. I feel like she’d tried to help me during my big crash our junior year, and my not being there for our senior year let her down.
I often felt like I kept monopolizing the conversation while in Denver. I just felt so awkward. I felt a lot of anger too at the advisers I had who utterly failed me. In hearing about how the school psychologist made some demands upon Jennifer her senior year I was angry for how she was treated, but even angrier that I never even know our college had any kind of mental health office at all. I was never told about one, referred to one… I don’t know if it would have kept me from having a nervous breakdown, but it sure has hell would have been nice to know then that there was any kind of option.
VD, my other college best friend, reminded me that my two academic advisers were known assholes. While it was good to be reminded, it was also a reminder of just how little they did to help me. If I wasn’t giving it my all, they didn’t have much time for me. If I was floundering after being raped… they never asked. Not once. Instead I was told by both of them to get my shit together and get my grades back up.
Everything about college brings me around and around to being hurt, betrayed, and having my faith in men destroyed. From the fiance who raped me to my advisers who never tried to help in anyway. With that there’s this constant feeling that all of that was my fault. My bad choices, my not saying “No” loudly or forcefully enough, my not standing up to my advisers.
Seeing my college friends kept me in a constant state of shame, hurt, and anger. On top of that the profound grief around Jen’s death and terrible guilt that I should have done more to go see her while she was living. Stir in a good dose of awkwardness and the feeling like I was talking way, way too much…. Yeah, no wonder I didn’t really sleep at all there.
Ultimately I am glad I went despite the deep discomfort I felt while there. Also despite the EMDR appointment afterward that left me totally unhinged in looking at all the stuff that’s wrapped up in not finishing school. Reliving and pulling this stuff out into the light of day is contrary to everything I was taught (via intimidation, isolation and shame) as a child, but I do really see the correlation between the chronic pain I’ve had for over 11 years as well as a lifetime of insomnia.
I’m also glad I went for the time shared in the afternoon before Jen’s memorial. We hung out in the morning and chatted. I made a paper memorial and MK told us about letterboxing. We set out to find a couple of letterboxes, only finding one. We gathered and did a small memorial of our own alongside a stream. We hung tokens we’d all brought and/or made into the tree above the stream. We hid a letterbox as a memorial for Jen. Then we all rushed back to change and go to the “official” memorial. These moments were the small window during which I felt a little more myself, and not emotionally raw and wired.
Stupa-inspired, ribbon & paper memorial with verse from the Diamond Sutra
17 Mar 2011
in Uncategorized Tags: grief
Last night I got some sad news, mostly unexpected. Although when I saw two words, “Call me.” posted hastily to my Facebook page I already knew the worst news was about to hit.
On one hand, we’re constantly surrounded by the worst news. Dictators inflicting violence upon people. Heads of state trying to legalese their way out of having sex with minors. Nuclear reactors on the brink of catastrophic meltdown. Thousands of Japanese lost in the earthquake and tsunami. Children being raped by gangs and then blamed for it. Children being tortured to death by the very people who should cherish and protect them.
Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.
Just go sip the daily news and be prepared for the worst. In fact we get such a steady stream of the worst that we’re partially numb to it all the time.
On the other hand, it is the personal worst that still gets us.
It got me last night in the form of a phone call with one of my two closest friends from college. She asked me to phone so she could tell me that my other closest friend had lost her fight with cancer.
These two women were the ones that really helped me keep limping along my junior year. They were the ones I went to with the terrible letter from JM saying how sorry he was for raping me. The letter that stripped off every bit of disassociation my brain had put into that horrifying weekend and left me utterly shattered and suicidal.
Jen had been fighting cancer for months and months. The lack of clear understanding of where exactly it had started and how to most effectively treat it led her to refer to it as her “Special Snowflake” cancer. From the very beginning she’s tried to keep positive and focused on kicking this cancer’s butt. She’d even just posted an update to Facebook about her excitement about having tickets to see Duran Duran.
Front of shrine I made for Jen
And now? Now she’s gone.
Yes, of course she lives on in our precious memories. Yes, I do believe that her indomnitable spirit, humor, creativity, and outspoken nature will most certainly move onward to her next incarnation. Yes, I know we’ll all keep on humming and drumming through today, the next day, and so on. Until each of us is gone.
At the same time I am filled with anger for not going to see her. All those months I wasn’t working. Flights to Denver are cheap. Jen’s husband certainly would have come and fetched me from the airport. Heck, I could have even rented a car. Had I asked, CK would have helped me make it happen. But I didn’t do any of those things. Instead I stayed home with my fear and dread.
Right now I’m still cycling between profound grief and being entirely awash in all the anger I’ve felt for letting connections falter and fade away. I am angry for all the missed good-byes. Angry for all the unfinished conversations. Angry for the good-byes that ended in recriminations that were never resolved and never can be resolved.
And I miss her. I miss every single conversation. Every single crazy idea, especially the ones we went through with. I miss the late night insanity. I miss the silly books, the music, the cooking, the sarcasm, the compassion. I miss her laughter.
**My reference to our lives going on “humming and drumming” is inspired from a poem by Northwest poet David Wagoner. Although Jen wasn’t killed by violence her cancer surely killed her, so it seems fitting to include the whole of the poem to honor both Jen and the poet.
Jen would have approved of honoring the poet.
Plainsong For Everyone Who Was Killed Yesterday
By David Wagoner
You haven’t missed anything yet:
One dawn, one breakfast, and a little weather,
The clamor of birds whose names
You didn’t know, perhaps some housework,
Homework, or a quick sale.
The trees are still the same color
And the Mayor is still the same mayor, and we’re not
Having unusual for lunch.
No one has kissed her yet
Or slept with him. Our humdrum lives
Have gone on humming and drumming
Through one more morning.
But for a while, we must consider
What you might have wished for
To do or look like. So far,
Thinking of you, no one has forgotten
Anything he wanted to remember.
Your death is fresh as a prize
Vegetable- familiar but amazing,
Admirable but not yet useful-
And your in class
By yourself. We don’t know
Quite what to make of you.
You’ve noticed you don’t die
All at once. Some people, like me,
Still offer you our songs
Because we don’t know any better
And because you might believe
At last whatever we sing
About you, since no one else is dreaming
Of singing: Remember that time
When you were wrong? Well, you were right.
And here’s more comfort: all fires burn out
As quickly as they burn. They’re over
Before we know it, like accidents.
You may feel you were interrupted
Rudely, cut off in the middle
Of something crucial,
And you may even be right
Today, but tomorrow
No one will think so.
Today consists of millions
Of newsless current events
Like the million of sticks and stones
From here to the horizon. What are you
Going to miss? The calendar
Is our only program.
Next week or next year
Is soon enough to consider
Those brief occasions you might rather
Not have lost- the strange ones
You might go so far
As to say you could die for:
Love, for example, or all
The other inflammations of the cerebral
Cortex, the astounding, irreversible
Moments you kept promising yourself
To honor, which are as far away
Now as they ever were.
17 Feb 2011
in Uncategorized Tags: grief, healing, metta, practice, PTSD, Zen
I learned the art of “checking out” early. I would shift my attention from my body to some small detail of the moment. The vivid colors of cartoons on the television. The quality of the morning sunlight coming in through the north facing windows of my Mother’s bedroom. The pattern of the paint and plaster on a ceiling. Code. Work. Writing ideas.
You get the idea. Something I could make so deeply engrossing that I was no longer connected to my body. I was outside of what was happening to my body. It is a pretty useful defensive tool and it has got me through abuse, doctor’s exams, and dental work.
As a Zen practitioner we work toward being present to the moment. Fully conscious of the whole moment. The sensations of the body. The speeding of the mind. The sounds, textures and entirety of the present moment.
When I first was given the practice of Metta from my teachers it was profoundly difficult for a long time. I could send Metta all the live-long day to people I knew, people I was neutral toward, and even became more comfortable cultivating loving-kindness toward people I found difficult.
Where I got stuck was cultivating loving-kindness toward myself. The idea with Metta is that you start with yourself, filling yourself with so much loving-kindness that it very naturally extends outwards to benefit all living beings. I was right there with the benefits to all living beings, but not myself.
I realized with some shame that when I tried to focus on myself I’d “check out”. Many people have a struggle with their inner critic who finds any number of reasons why they don’t deserve loving-kindness, but I didn’t get that. I just left the scene.
My teachers gave me all kinds of ideas on how to stick with myself. After many months, well over a year, of working with Metta practice, I can finally stick with myself. I built up slowly through the phrases, getting stuck on wishing myself happy for quite some time. Now though I can even find myself truly wishing that I be free from fear and anxiety, may I be peaceful and happy. I also sometimes add an additional loving wish that I be free from shame.
In this case it has felt like a victory to not “check out” (such a gentle way of saying “disassociate”). However, I’ve noticed in the past few months that I don’t really check out anymore. I’m going through a period right now where it doesn’t feel like progress or healing at all. It feels like I’ve lost one of my best allies.
I find myself fully, wholly present to what is happening to my body and mind. While at times it is great and other times tedious (chronic pain is, above all things, tedious), there are other times when it is truly horrifying and awful. I feel utterly defenseless against memories both mental and somatic. At those times I really grieve the loss of my ability to disassociate.
Don’t know when or how it happened, but I feel bereft. I’m sure there’s some combination of Yoga, Zen and EMDR therapy at work in this.
I am assured by both therapists that it is very certainly progress even though it feels like a terrible loss. They’ve also pointed out the progress I’ve made in being my own advocate and asking for what I need. My cognitive therapist even noted that I’ve been able to more clearly articulate events that have happened.
At this point I’m just going to accept that it is progress and stick with things. But I miss it.
24 May 2010
in Uncategorized Tags: grief, practice
I’ve been to the two memorials for AH in the past couple of weeks. First was a public one that took place the last morning I was in San Francisco. The second one took place for our Sangha the week following. Immediately following each departure something kind of special happened.
First was trying to leave the public memorial at a chapel inside of cemetery grounds set above the Willamette River along a road that wound through cemetery grounds. In leaving CK waved me ahead, calling out, “since you know your way better.”
I would then proceed to get the two of us lost. Plus another car behind CK who had the mistaken notion that the person in the lead car (me) would know what they were doing (wrong). So around and around we all went.
At first I was so demoralized by this. Not knowing where I was going. People thinking I should and now I’ve let them down. All that “Blah, Blah, Blah” of the Inner Critic layered atop my feeling beyond exhausted by the day. I’d slept fitfully, awoke at 4:30 to drive hard, fast, but safely, in order to make it just on time to the service. The incense offering, while beautiful, had me coughing painfully and my whole body ached.
Tears came to my eyes at this indignity of being lost in the cemetery. Soon however, the absurdity of the moment sunk in. Her we all were in our cars, in mourning, and unable to figure how to get away from the memorial chapel. It was as though we were in a comedy.
For several moments, as I tired to sort out the maze of the winding road, I would burst out in loud, helpless laughter.
“How inappropriate” I could hear my Inner Critic remark, perhaps in my Grandmother’s voice.
Since I was the only one in the car, and a part of felt like AH would appreciate the absurdity of the moment, the voice didn’t take hold. I laughed some more, wiped tears from my eyes and eventually sorted out how to get back onto the bit of winding road that lead out.
The next memorial was a week later for our Sangha. Several members of the women’s practice group had decided to read some of AH’s poems. I had picked one to read and doing so just depleted me of all the energy I had for the day. I left immediately afterward, feeling crushed, leaving behind the carrier I use for the cupcakes I’d brought, and going home to bed.
On the way home, my face pale and my eyes red from crying, I had to stop and get gas. The light had come on in the car and I didn’t want to chance running out. I pulled in and asked the attendant to fill the tank. His face was worn down, he’d seen a lot of living, but his eyes were bright and compassionate.
He came back to ask me if I was alright. I said I’d just been at a friend’s memorial service. He asked if she was young or old, was the death expected. I told him she was young and her death was unexpected. He shook his head in sympathy and compassion, said how sorry he was, and he then said he was going wash my windows.
When he came back again he told me his name was Ben and told me a really sad and terrible story of losing his wife of 2 years to a car accident. He found out as the driver of the tow-truck called to the scene to retrieve the vehicles. Truly a tragedy.
Ben made sure I knew that he hadn’t told me to cause me more pain at hearing his awful story. He said that he told me so I knew that when he said he was sorry for my loss that he truly understands what it is to loose someone precious. I thanked him for his willingness to share with me, to make sure I felt his compassion for my suffering. He patted my hands with his beat up ones before I left and told me to drive safely.