Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When Death Comes Again

I wished I would've been able to tell myself that when Death came again it was going to hurt less. But it didn't.

Sometimes I think having such a huge loss at a young age changed my perspective on life to being more hopeful. My earliest experience with Death labeled him as an intruder. Death had hurt me deep down into the core of my being... now he was back.

We lost my great-grandmother, Birdie Faye Brown, earlier this month and at first it didn't sink in how much this woman had meant to the family. A few of us had some rough patches with her, you see.

But she was still the reason I had a little bit of red in my hair. 

It happened almost 4 years after you had died, Howard. This was a fact that kept circulating in the kitchen at Grandma's. We couldn't believe it. We kept on saying it as if it were supposed to make sense. But of course it didn't.

Right before the funeral I drove with Angel to Kansas so she could coach some little girls that were on a soccer league. They had asked her if Death happened a lot in our family. Her answer was no.

"Right, Kate?" She asked me.

A dozen little heads pulled up in tight ponytails and buns turned around to hear me. I nodded back silently.

There was one little girl on the team with hair as auburn as the maple leaves in our backyard. It made me think of Birdie.

This time with Death was different. It was more like an ache. It was a realization that I was no longer part of a fourth generation that was living. We were three now... me, Momma and Grandma.

For the funeral we all gathered at Tupelo, Oklahoma and Birdie was buried right next to her papa, Aubrey. And there next to them were rows upon rows of family history.  There were Birdie's sisters, Lula Belle and Nino, her momma and some of her cousins.

After the service there was something that made its way through the air. I don't know if anyone else felt it, nor did I ask.

But as I stared down at the graves of my ancestors I thought it was like Birdie was coming home again, after all these years.

Written 9.20.17

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Changing Perspective

I finally started writing the book about you. Is it strange that it took me back to the beginning of this entire blog? It felt just like the first time I pressed the "publish" button on the introduction post.

Perhaps it is because it is a new introduction into this side of me? It's strange to be here, recounting all of this again.

First question that pops into my head that my mentor would ask: Does it hurt less?

I think my answer would be yes and no.

It does hurt less because I've finally began the journey into turning my memories and experiences of you into a book and it will probably feel a lot smoother to write.

It doesn't hurt any less because I still have to recount it. It still feels like pressing on a bruise or stepping on a sticker.

But it's a change in perspective.

I've been told not to put on the editor hat, because I've always been a writer to reread after I finish a chapter. I've been told to just write it out, to write from my gut.

We shall see how it goes.

I wonder what you would say about it all.

Written 7.30.17

Monday, June 19, 2017

After Rain

These muggy summers have me missing the fresh air of springtime. I miss the budding lilies in your resting place where the softest moss grows in place of tragedy.

Sometimes I run out there through the twigs leaving snags in my shirts and my hands feeling their way through brush. I know I get small cuts on my knuckles but it's worth it to talk to you.

I miss those days when the house would be quiet enough to hear the hum of the geothermal system you managed to experiment with. You would curse under your breath when you found that the basement had flooded (yet again). I would chuckle silently hearing you come up the stairs in a huff.

If you were here I'd ask you if it was alright that I had made all these mistakes in your absence. I would ask you what it is I'm supposed to be looking for.

I would ask you for help.

Mom called this my love letter to my father. I suppose it is, really.

I made my peace long ago not to discuss my pain in full detail with people. I never wanted to be a burden, just like I never wanted this to be for anyone who reads it.

I've waited too long again to write on here. I've been masking my pain again.

I didn't tell anyone how painful Father's Day was without you here. The house was quiet like it is around this time of year. I wanted to spend it outdoors with sunshine on my face. I wanted the warmth of the light to warm how cold I felt in mid-June.

How is it we still miss you like this?

I wish there was a storm that would pass through and wipe all of this away. Then there we'd all be after the rain had died down with a warm cup of tea in our hands and gentle laughter as we turned the pages of our books.

Written 6.19.17

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fresh Starts

I can breathe again after months of claustrophobic memories ruling my sleep. They're finally gone.

I am still me, but I'm different somehow. Wiser, perhaps. Maybe a little more safeguarded.

When I let myself be fragile to people who didn't mind hurting me, I had opened myself up for a battle of thorns.

I was growing a black rose garden in my chest, but I've somehow managed to paint them back to red again with forgiveness, watering them with acceptance.

I'm searching instead for kindness and understanding. I think I've seen it too, in a pair of deep brown eyes.

Fresh starts.

It's funny how you never see them coming.

Written 6.3.17

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Letters to My Father 11.22.15

Dear Dad,

Today I turned 19. It was the first time in 10 years that you weren't there for my birthday.

Remember when we used to always pick a restaurant to go to that no one in the family had heard of so they were forced to try something new?

I remember how you used to laugh so secretly. I thought it was such a diabolical plan.

Today feels weird without you here. My favorite part about my birthday became sharing it with you when I was 8 years old.

I would always memorize what day yours would be on before mine because I knew that whatever week of the day yours fell on, mine would be exactly one week later.

One thing I missed when I woke up today was one of your signature cat birthday cards. I loved how year after year you would go and find the craziest looking cat card and write something quite clever on the inside.

I always looked forward to your quips and you always looked forward to my reaction (which was usually faked annoyance). Secretly we both loved it.

So now I'm crying and laughing all by myself here on the other side of the house. Mom is already asleep and it's finally the end of today.

But I can't help but think about how I wish it was last year and how I wished you were still here.

Why did I have to love you so much? Why did you have to be so wonderful?

Written 11.22.15

Thursday, May 18, 2017

One Golden Memory

I know what it feels like to fly.

It feels like being held by your arms and being swung around in circles as we are both getting dizzy and giggling like crazy.

It feels like I'm six years old again in the backyard at Grandma's house.

Caleb is playing baseball outside with our cousins John, Angel and the twins, Tim and James. My hair is bleached by the sun a bright yellow blonde in messy pigtails and my skin is all tanned.

Our fort that we built out of the cardboard boxes that the new couches came in is set up with a sign that says "Home Sweet Home, Wecome" instead of "Home Sweet Home, Welcome."

"Again, Howie, again!" I laugh and scream with my arms stretched out towards you.

You smile back and grab my arms to swing me in circles more and before I know it my legs are off the ground and I'm flying again.

I can tell you love Momma and she loves you back. You are growing on me and I'm growing on you too.

I can tell you make Momma happy. I can tell Momma makes you happy too.  Maybe you use your strength to make her fly too. I want her to know what it feels like to fly.

The sun starts to set and the sky is painted gold with flecks of pink and orange. I am being scolded by Grandma to not sit on the grass because of the chiggers. I don't know what she's talking about though, I am too awe-struck by the sunset.

My golden memory matches the golden sunset when I remember that day. I keep it safely tucked at the back of my brain when I need to smile.

Today I needed to smile.

Written 5.18.17

Parts for Sell

These last four years have been just awful for my personal life.

I have felt loss after loss, picking myself up slowly just to be hit again.

I've felt each sharp stab and ache from the tearing and healing of my heart. With every new betrayal or loss I've felt like I've been auctioning off my parts. 

"You want my heart?"

 Take it, it's a wreck anyway. 

"Do I hear an offer for my lungs?"

That's fine, you can have them. I already feel like I'm drowning by making you comfortable with your ideas about love. 

"Any bidders for my arms and legs?" 

Take them if you must. I've grown used to comforting myself in silence and remaining in one place. 


The year after Howard died we saw who our true friends were. Some people felt very uncomfortable around us. We could feel it even though they never said a word.

It's almost incredible how dull you feel after loss but how sometimes you have this heightened sense of people's emotions.

Maybe it's like this because our bodies are craving more emotions like it used to have before what ever caused it to go numb. 

Not even half a year after the accident happened did one of my close friend's mother tell my mother about how moody I was and how she didn't feel comfortable being my mother's friend since her daughter and I started growing apart. 

She accused me of being jealous of her daughter for getting to move away to college while I would remain at home with my mother.

Mom was shocked. It was like the woman didn't know what kind of impact Howard's death had. I knew after it happened that I would be staying home with Mom. I had to look after her. We were going to look after each other.

The insensitivity of that incident really upset my Mom for a long time.

Some of the others just didn't know what to say, and that's okay. Sometimes, though, just saying something is just what is needed for those who feel lost. 

Almost three years after Howard died I revealed my relationship with a woman to two of my friends that I had since I was a child. We grew up together. We were sisters, until we weren't.

Being bisexual made them uncomfortable around me. Over eleven years of friendship gone just like that.  I was no longer "straight enough" to be a part of their circle. They proceeded to tell me I was going to Hell. They said they didn't believe me or my relationship. They called me a liar. 

One of them apologized to me later and I forgave easily.  Months later I was again slapped in the face by reality of being told again that I was off to the fiery depths never to return. After my relationship with the woman ended, I was still being persecuted. 

What about unconditional love? What did I do to them that was so awful? After all I had loved them unconditionally for so many years. 

I know I'm supposed to give people second chances, I know I'm supposed to forgive. But when people take from you your safety, your compassion and your voice that's when you break in half and can either rise or crumble.

This time I'm not crumbling.

I'm sick of shadowing under you to make you comfortable. I'm sick of being friends with those who take and take just because they know I'm a giver. 

I'm going to be selfish this time. Instead of choosing to help you, I'm helping myself. 

No more. 

Written 5.18.17

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Blue Sparkles

One of my earliest memories of Howard was when I was around 5 or 6 when he was dating Mom. I was waiting up for her to come home, but I was really excited to see him too.

I had on one of those pink nightgowns with one of the Disney princesses on the front. My hair was a chaotic mess of curls and tangles, partially because I hated to brush it and partially because Mom always brushed it for me before I went to bed. 

Grandma had the fan whirling around in the kitchen at a medium speed, occasionally clicking when it rocked because a screw was loose somewhere. 

I sat in Grandma's chair at the table, leaning back and watching out the window for headlights. My eyes felt itchy and dry and all I wanted to do was shut them for just a moment. I knew I couldn't though. I had to wait for Mom to get home. 

I looked around the room, noticing the pictures of fruit all over the walls. Small ones, big ones, with the addition of fake fruit stuffed into wooden baskets for decoration. Perhaps they were appropriate for a kitchen, but I still found them odd. Why not real fruit?

 The wallpaper was also beginning to pull up at certain corners. I always wanted to tug on them, curious what I would find behind them,  but knew I would be scolded for doing so. 

As I was waiting I decided that my nails needed a little bit of sparkle. I got out my miniature sized combo nail polishes that consisted of pastel blue, green and pink, all of them with silver sparkles.  

It wasn't too long before Mom arrived back home, but back then it felt like an eternity. It wasn't too late either, probably around nine or so. 

 She came in with a smile on her face with her arms stretched out for me.  Howard walked in cautiously behind her, a little shy, but also happy. I knew there was something special about him from an early age. 

"Look Momma, I painted my nails," I squealed. 

"Let me see, baby," Mom said taking my little hands. 

Howard peeped over her shoulder to observe our interaction as well. 

"They're very pretty," Howard said. 

I looked at him proudly and exclaimed something along the lines of doing them myself and that I didn't need any help at all. He just nodded and smiled. 

"Would you like me to do yours?" I asked. 

Mom erupted with laughter and told me that Howard didn't paint his nails. I found this odd, but just went along with it anyway. Why wouldn't someone want sparkly nails? It just didn't make any sense. 

"You know, I would like some," Howard said quietly. 

Mom and I immediately looked over at him. She was saying that he didn't need to and he was saying back that it was okay, that he didn't mind one bit. 

So there we sat. My tiny hands grabbing one finger at a time to paint his fingernails. Mom tried to get me to at least do clear, but we went with the blue sparkles because blue was his favorite color. 

After years went by and Mom and Howard got married, I often wondered why he let me paint his nails. Was it to spend more time with Mom and get to know me? Was he trying to get brownie points?

Did he know then he would be my father?

I wished I would have asked him. I wish a lot of things nowadays. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Hesitant Hello

It has been a while since I wanted to talk to you. I have been having a lot going on recently and have felt overwhelmed by all these changes.

I suppose I've gotten used to changes again. But I admit that I have been one to hold on a little too tightly to things, especially when there isn't much to be done.

To be honest I don't really know how I am feeling as of late. It comes in waves. I am happy then sad, then stressed, then elated, then somber, then exhausted. The cycle of this has been on repeat the last couple of weeks.

I haven't been writing to you lately. This makes me sad. It isn't that there isn't anything I wish to say or anything. I've just been consumed.

Consumed has always been an interesting word, especially as an excuse. But I suppose that is what this hesitant hello is... an excuse to tell you everything you've missed.

I accomplished a goal, Howard. I've met a goal that I didn't know I could accomplish. But now I'm left with the "now whats" and the "what comes nexts."

Do I graduate early? Do I act my age and do something completely spontaneous and out of character? Do I work harder and harder not knowing exactly where it will lead me? Do I stay focused or loosen up?

What is it? What do I do?

The insomnia has come back again. I know my body is trying to tell me something. I can feel it burning in the back of my brain, screaming its way through the organs and flesh and bones.

Sometimes I want to tear off this skin because it feels heavy. When I write I occasionally forget to breathe until I finish the sentence I am working on and then my brain starts to panic.

"Breathe for Christ's sake!"

Through the gasps and choking I feel the humanity of my short lifespan. I'm a blink of an eye, really. We all are. You were.

But I don't ever think I will get over that some sort of magic that is within us. We heal. We are self-healers. I healed partially after you died. Not halfway or anything impressive, but just a bit. Just enough to remember.

So there it is. My hesitant hello. I said not really much of anything, I suppose. But somehow I feel okay for now.

Written: 4.25.17

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Jane Austen Plague

"I can't ever escape Jane Austen," He would say in exasperation.

There we would be, Mom and I, on the couch with popcorn in our hands and tissues on the table. We were (yet again) watching the BBC versions of the Jane Austen novels.

We'd smile hesitantly, almost guilty, for watching Pride and Prejudice for the third weekend in a row. Mom and I basically had the lines down for some of the scenes and were not ashamed to practice them in public, laughing and smiling uncontrollably.

"Howard, we cannot help it if Colin Firth is perfection," I would say to him. He'd lift one of his thick grey and black brows and cross his arms.

"How is this productive?" He'd say.

"You're the one who bought these DVDs!" I'd say back. Mom would laugh at our bantering.

And of course Howard would just mumble something under his breath and make a break for it to escape the English romantics. I always thought that was a little odd since he was the one who gave me the actual novels in the first place.

He was a true romantic at heart too, no matter how much he liked to fake it.

And then the week after it would repeat over again. This time Mom and I would be marathoning Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. 

"Not again," He'd mumble.

I would point one finger at him and say something like, "Shh this is the best part."

And there he'd be, watching the scene play out with us. 

He could never escape Austen. Our eldest cat is named Jane, if that is any indication. 

I believe I first read the novels when I was 13. I would lay out in the woods under the sycamore trees on summer nights, letting trees become the sound effects for the scenes. 

What was that quote that I liked? From Pride and Prejudice?

"What a shame for I dearly love to laugh."

How all of us used to laugh.... His laugh was one of the most contagious and comforting baritones. I wish we laughed more like that. It almost feels wrong to laugh without him here sometimes. He would think that was silly, though. He'd tell us to laugh. 

I hope I don't forget what it was like though. I hope I don't forget how to laugh as fully as we did. That would almost be as sad as losing him in the first place.  

Written: 4.18.17

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Heartbeats and Crumpled Shirts

Running with him was as much a part of me as my bones or my heart. The day he died my heartbeat seemed to slow to a melody I didn't recognize.

I kept trying to find the tempo, the exact moment my inner conductor decided to signal a molto ritardando. 

I couldn't do it. 

I was too slow to rewind myself backward. I was stuck in slow motion, moving from room to room with dragged feet and crumpled shirts.

My body forgot what it felt like to hit the ground hard and confident, pushing against it to move forward.  I was used to my heartbeat being synchronized to his when we would race towards the finish line. Now that he was gone, who was I going to run next to?

The couch became my coffin for a year. My eyes were constantly in motion, shifting from the television to our old cat that would stare out the window, wondering when he was going to come in from outside.

I would have to tell her to come away. I would try to shelter her under the blankets and hold her tight, but she didn't want to. She would jump out and run back to her place, waiting. 

Her all-knowing eyes would look over at me - a slow blink, a deep breath- and return to stare longingly out the window. She was sad. She got thinner and thinner like the rest of us. 

The only time I ventured out to the track we ran on was on foggy days. It matched perfectly with the haziness in my brain and the aches my bones made, as if I hadn't moved in 100 years. 

Out there walking on the track, the grass was over-grown- another reminder that he wasn't here, another reminder that what we had with him was history. 

My eyes searched the pasture for any type of apparition. Maybe he would whisper something to me, maybe he was right beside me walking along the path. Or maybe I was going crazy. 

But the ground was never my friend. The ground was a support system that I abused time and time again without paying much attention to it, forgetting how much I needed it to move forward.

I hated myself for not telling him every day how thankful I was that he was my father. I hated that I didn't tell him how much I appreciated a man, who was not biologically related to me, taking an interest in my life and offering a shoulder to cry on or give advice when he knew I was ready for it. 

But a father isn't always made of the same DNA. He is made of the same love and heartbeats. He is made of the drive to be there for every concert, every play, every dance, every heartbreak, every accomplishment, every night, every day, every moment. 

Written: 3.27.17

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Last True Snowstorm

Photo I took of Howard during the 2010 snowstorm.

The storm came in quick and covered the forest in a thick blanket of snow. It shrouded the house and weighed down the branches. It went up past our ankles when we marched through it.

Howard took out his camera to get some pictures of the house and the trails. We stopped periodically to make snow angels or have a snowball fight.

 The rainy blizzard stuck to the silver hairs on his beard making him look like a snow giant.

Mom's purple hat was slowly collecting snowflakes too. Both of their cheeks were stained pink. When we laughed our exhales were visible.

"Mom, kiss Howard in the snow," I said. I took my own camera and began snapping as many photos as I possibly could. When it snowed over five inches the house ended up looking like something in a postcard or a wintery wonderland. 

Photo I took of Momma and Howard during the 2010 snowstorm.
Sometimes when we walked through the forest we would hear the cracking of branches falling to the ground. The weight of the snow seemed to prevail over the branches strength. I couldn't help but feel a bit somber every time I heard one of the big branches break and fall to its demise. 

I looked over at Mom and Howard who were holding gloved hands and strolling along quite peacefully. They looked as if they were in their own little bubble, not caring one bit about the forest's destruction. 

Looking back on that feeling, I don't know if it was because I knew I was missing something that they had, or if I was too scared a branch would fall on me as we walked further. Probably a little bit of both. 

We all ended up wearing two coats a piece to prevent the chill from seeping in faster. We all joked that we looked like human marshmallows. Howard said that we should recite an on the spot poem about people walking through the snow storm. 

I ended up obliging this request, knowing that the poem would probably include some sort of dry humor aspect. Howard loved dry humor. 

Photo I took of Momma and Howard walking out on the trail during the 2010 snowstorm. 
"I'm pretty sure my toes are frozen," I yelled. Mom and Howard began to get further and further ahead of me. I didn't really mind though. I always had a good time watching them be in love. 

I grew up with parents who adored each other. They were intellectual, funny and always kept each other on their toes. I knew if it was in the cards for my life plan, I would want a romance like theirs. 

It hasn't snowed at the house that much since then. I feel mixed feelings about this. One aspect would be that it makes me sad I can't experience the forest that way anymore, like it will remain a distant memory forever. The other is that I'm happy I don't have to relive how happy we were then and how different it feels without him now. 

Written: 3.23.17

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rewind It to the Beginning

Many people who I have shared this blog page with are aware that I am in a class for blogging. They usually ask me why I decided to take on such a personal topic for a class. My answer to this ranges from "Yeah, I guess it is kind of crazy" or "My advisors made me do it." The latter is obviously meant as a joke, but they really did have an influence in my decision. 

In reality I didn't know at the beginning what I would learn from writing about all of this. I didn't know what it would feel like to share such personal details of my life with friends and strangers. 

The overall feeling I have about posting is relief. 

I went back to the start of this whole blog decision and I looked at some of my earliest posts. It is there that I see the hesitation in my writing, which I eventually ended up writing about (Thanks, Mom). 

I think everyone could tell that I was very unsure at the beginning. I think they knew that I had become accustomed to keeping this part of my life tucked safely away and that I was daring to be bold, something my extremely introverted self doesn't do too often. 

I think my posts started to change when I knew that I would publish some of the letters that I wrote for Howard. I never got used to keeping a regular diary about my life because I didn't particularly see what was interesting about documenting the most mundane characteristics about myself... but when it came to the pain I felt, it was almost effortless. 

When people ask me how I write so often, I usually tell them it is like therapy. I tell them that it hurts if I don't write. Writer's block is very real and it is also very painful. Ask any writer you know this and I am pretty sure they will tell you something similar.  

Since I started my career track in journalism I think I lost sight of what it meant to write creatively. I got used to writing about the news and detailing facts in a easy and straightforward way that I forgot what it meant to lose all track of time when I started jotting away ideas and phrases. This class brought me back into that creative side of myself. 

I decided I didn't want to keep it in anymore. 

Since I started this blog I have received many messages and calls from people who are dealing with the exact same thing that I am. They say to me that they are glad that I am doing this because they don't know how to put their emotions into words. I sometimes say that I don't know how either, but I'd like to think I'm helping in some way. 

I do think that the diligence to keep this up is probably the hardest thing. I sometimes feel the pressure to organize my more depressing posts with something that is a little more light-hearted. After all, I am not the sort of person that is constantly looming from place to place unsure of what I am feeling or where I am going. 

It is important for you all to know that I do have good days. 

So how am I doing? I suppose the answer is I'm doing pretty well. I have figured out that I do have fragments of myself before Howard's death that I thought I lost. I am still in the process of piecing them all back together to try and figure out where I lost myself along the way. But I think that is the point. I am trying. 

Written: 3.21.17

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is Culture Independent to Grief?

Grief will find and affect us all one way or another.  For me, the inevitability of that statement was disturbingly profound. 

Researching grief and coping mechanisms felt like wading through a pool of murky water. I first started out looking for blogs like mine that talked about a specific loss. Most of the blogs I found I couldn’t relate to because a lot of them were about spouses or people who lost their parents later in life.

I then moved on to watching Ted Talks to see what some of their speakers were saying about grief. I even searched the self-help section of Barnes and Noble for information. 

What I did find got me meditating on an assumption that grief can be very reliant on culture. Thus begging the question: If culture really is a independent factor, how are we supposed to grieve?

When I started researching grief I found there were some cultures out there that, in a way, celebrated the end of life—one with jazz music.

An article on the Ted Talk by Kelli Swazey, a cultural anthropologist, titled “Life that doesn’t end with death” noted that in New Orleans where the culture is a mix between West-African, French and African-American, they have funerals that find a balance between sorrow and joy.

A marching band begins by playing “sorrowful dirges” which leads the mourners in New Orleans in a procession. After the body is buried, the musicians shift to a more upbeat note which is often a precursor for "cathartic dancing" that is done "to commemorate the life of the deceased."

We didn't dance at my father's memorial. Would he have wanted us to? Was how we honored him something that was predestined in our minds of how his service was supposed to be?

I found myself reading books such as "The Book of Calamities" by Peter Trachtenberg or "Grief Is the Thing with Feathers" by Max Porter. There are plenty of books out there that deal with grief and loss. Sometimes these books will delve into religion, philosophy, psychology or are just memoirs.

In the short novel "Grief Is the Thing with Feathers," Porter personifies grief as a character that many might not think to use- the crow from "Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow" by poet Ted Hughes. 

The father in the novel, who is a Hughes scholar, loses his wife and has two small boys to take care of. The crow "moves in" with the family and says he will stay as long as he is needed. The following quote is an excerpt of one part of the novel's imagery that really stuck with me. 

"I opened my eyes and it was still dark and everything was crackling, rustling. Feathers. There was a rich smell of decay, a sweet furry stink of just-beyond-edible food, and moss, and death, and yeast. Feathers between my fingers, in my eyes, in my mouth, beneath me a feathery hammock lifting me up a foot above the tiled floor."

This is at the very beginning of the book when the crow moves in with the family. It is told from the father's perspective at this point (it goes interchangeably between the boys, dad, and crow). 

After this, the crow comes unexpectedly into the house and makes the father say hello to him multiple times. The crow asks the dad to say hello "properly" when he senses his reluctance.
This passage highlighted for me what it was like the first couple of weeks after Howard's death. 

Everything felt odd, as if it was out of place. It felt foreign and like all of us were living in another dimension apart from everyone else around us. The world seemed gray in a sense. Grief had moved in with us. It was unwelcome, just like the crow was.

I think that is what Porter is trying to say here. Everything is shadowed, covered, stained, dirtied by grief. Happiness is absent in moments like those. But again, after everything I have researched, is it because of our culture?

I found solace in another Ted Talk I watched; partially because the speaker had lost her parents in a tragic way and had studied journalism.

This Ted Talk was a personal story by Marieke Poelmann, an author and freelance journalist. At 22, Poelmann lost both of her parents in a plane crash in Tripoli in 2010.

She spoke how, at first, she didn't know what to do with herself. She felt that because they had died, she didn't have a life anymore either.

"I thought, 'if everything I used to know is broken, it doesn't matter anymore. I might as well do what I want.' It changed my focus. Why waste time on things that don't feel right?" Poelmann said.

Poelmann said it took her several years to understand that bad things do not have to define you. She also truly believes that life has a way of always coming through to the other side. She wrote her novel "Everything around them is still there," about her experience with grieving.

"After the crash people kept saying to me 'there are no words to describe what you are going through right now,'" Poelmann said. "But at a certain point I thought, 'What if those words are there? What if I start trying to write those words down?'"

Why do we assume that people cannot describe their grief? Why do we try and downplay peoples’ pain to justify our words? I don’t have any answers to this... but that is the rub about researching culture and grief.

American culture, as well as many other Western civilized countries, seems to suppress grief, loss, coping and death in general. The consensus seems to scream, '"Well, if we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist."

This is just false.

Anyone who has gone through grief will tell you otherwise.

In short, there are multitudes of ways that people honor their dead. Research them. Learn about different cultures. Not all of us have to have caskets and dress in black. After all, the last thing any mourner wants to be told is how to grieve.

"Grief is the Thing With Feathers" by Max Porter (page 6)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Letters to My Father (1.14.17)

Dear Dad,

I trusted someone. I really trusted someone and they broke it. 

“You’re only broken if you choose to be,” You said to me after my first heartache.

“I know, I know,” I say to you out loud in the heavy darkness of the guestroom. I can’t sleep in my room. I can’t spend more than two minutes in there.

“Get out of your head. Stop replaying that part. Stop thinking about it. You didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t let this break you,” You say.

But it has.

“What if I can’t do it on my own?” I ask you. 

No reply.

They come over, one after the other, in the afternoon when the sun is setting just below the treetops. The living room is painted pink by the sunset. That used to make me smile.

They tell me they can’t see beyond the wall I’ve put up. They say when they search my eyes for recognition they can see I’m inhabiting some other world.

I remember this world. I remember it too well.

Their arms are like anchors around my body trying to pull me out of the heaviness of my heart.

“I can’t do it,” I say to myself.

I squeeze my eyes shut and imagine I was never heartbroken. I imagine I don’t know what I know now.

I imagine I am free.

My throat feels tight. My eyes are sore from being washed out over and over again.

I dare a breath. It’s small but it’s there.

“You can do this,” You say.

I sit up and I feel protected. I feel you here with me.

I can sleep again.

“Thank you. Thank you,” I say. 

And I sleep. 

Written: 1.14.17