“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
This day 6 years ago I faced the scariest, most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced in my life. I sat at the bedside of my step-father as he died. It was frightening to watch him leave us forever. It was frightening to be face to face with death in such a way. But on the other hand, it was also the most profound and life changing moment of my life, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
While the time between grief stretches out a bit longer these days, it still hurts when I think about it.
I don’t ever want it to ever stop hurting.
If you are a reader of this blog you will know that my family lost my stepfather to cancer around 4 years ago. At first the grief was almost unbearable but as the years go by healing happens. Grief is still there but it becomes more of a dull ache. Every once in awhile the wound is poked and it hurts and you feel it and deal with it when it hurts but then the pain goes away again for awhile.
One of the hardest things about losing my stepfather, for me, was watching my mom in pain. My mom and I are really close and it was hard to see her suffer.
Not long after Doug died she made friends with her neighbour across the street. They had something in common: he also lost his wife to cancer and could relate to what she was going through. They got along very well, made each other laugh, and looked out for each other. Eventually they fell in love. Last weekend they were married in my mom’s backyard.
I am so incredibly happy for my mom, that she has found love again and she has found such a wonderful man. I really like Gervin a lot and can’t imagine a better person for my mom.
My mom asked me to take photos. Here are few from the day.
My mom and me, photo taken by my niece, Leslie.
My brother gave my mom away.
Mom and Gervin with the minister.
“You may kiss the bride”
My mom and Gervin.
Last year was so full of tragedy, but this year is the opposite. Full of joy and happiness.
As you can see, I’ve had a very emotional week. I rode this really awful wave of sadness, despair, and depression on Tuesday without really understanding what it was all about. This is a hard time of year for me for reasons you all know by now if you read this blog. In my head I know that and I was expecting it. But, wow. I was really emotional on Tuesday. It felt out of control and scary. When I posted that Neko Case song a few Twitter friends cheered me and made me laugh by posting happier songs. It really, really helped to move me back in a more positive direction in my head. Then last night as I was talking about my experience another friend reminded me that what I was going through didn’t sound like depression but sadness. She reminded me that we are all human and, because of this, feel a range of emotions: Sadness being one of them. And since it is “that time of year” it is appropriate to feel sad. I felt like the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders when she said this. It’s OK, and sometimes even appropriate, to feel sad. What a concept. Why do I beat myself up for feeling this emotion?
On Tuesday grief rose up in me and made itself known and I had to feel it – I had no choice. It bubbles up and you have to go through it. And I did. I cried cathartically several times Tuesday and I am glad I did. I felt better yesterday and I feel better today.
I just realized why Tuesday was so weirdly emotional. Yesterday was the day that Doug died 4 years ago, but the day before I was up with him at his bedside basically watching him die for hours and hours. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. I loved him and he needed me in those moments and I was there for him. There is just no question that I would be there for him. The pain doesn’t even matter.
I wonder, though, if pain can echo through time? I kind of feel like that is what happened on Tuesday.
Today I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for you. Thank you for helping me through this darkness with your good thoughts and your jokes and your kind words. Thank you Thank you.
I was reminded* that yesterday and today is Dia De Los Muertos. This is is very interesting because, as you know, I found myself thinking of Gary, the boyfriend who died in a car accident when I lived in New York. It is weird that my mom sent me the photo that was taken the day I found out he died, and also weird that he died around this time of year. His birthday was also the end of October. So he has been on my mind. I feel like I should write about him more, but I don’t even really know where to start.
I remember our first date. It was summer and he took me to a party at a friend’s house. We had the best time together that night, innocent fun! Laughing and joking with each other as we had a few beers from the keg. Alphaville came on the stereo and he remarked that it was his favorite band. I’d never heard of them, so he went to the record player and put on his favorite song, Forever Young.
It kind of gives me chills that THAT particular song was his favorite, since he died two years later. But every once in awhile it will play on my iTunes and it will make me think of him, which is nice.
Along those same lines, this morning as I was walking to work, “A Song For You” played randomly on my iTunes. This song has special meaning to my mom especially, and to me since my mom told me her story about it. I only hear it if comes on randomly so when I hear it I feel like it is Doug, trying to get my attention. It was strange that it played today on my walk, but it was nice to think about my Step-father this morning as well.
I wish that American culture embraced The Day Of The Dead. It is a beautiful holiday and it is a beautiful thing to remember those who have passed over. I am glad I had these moments to think about Gary and Doug. Their stories and their spirit will forever live on.
*P.S. Go read Inge’s moving post on Pinhole Obscura!
Today is my stepdad, Doug’s birthday. I’ve really been missing him a lot lately. I miss our conversations and I miss his funny stories.
Here is a photo of him and and mom around the time they first met. I love this photo of them. I love the smiles on both of their faces. The old guy photo-bombing in the background is pretty great too.
I was getting ready for work this morning and was putting the last touches of makeup on when this song played on my iTunes. I had to re-apply, needless to say.
Doug often speaks to me via music. I know that may sound weird to some of you reading this but it is as real to me as you are on the other side of that computer screen you are reading this on. The right song will come on at the right moment in a very obvious way and I know it is Doug. That is what happened this morning. It is really nice to know that he is there.
Mikey Jones is on the left.
An old acquaintance from my born-again Christian days died last week of a drug overdose. Good old Mike Jones. He was a punky little skate boarder. I had forgotten about him and I am sure he forgot about me, as well. But this past weekend I ran across this picture I took of him the day he was baptized. He had a great smile.
Last week was hard. Again, I was reminded of how short our lives are and how death can come and take us away in any way it sees fit. This will always and forever be a hard lesson for me: the impermanence of life. The word “impermanence” eludes me. As I was typing that sentence I had a hard time thinking of that word. It’s as if I am trying to deny that this is a thing that exists. It is a lesson that is sometimes too painful to endure.
Which leads me to the other thing that I have had to deal with and thoughts about it. I am not going to go into detail about that other thing because it is not something that is personal to me. It is something that is happening to someone I care about. However, watching this person go through it has made me realize something about myself. I think it is harder for me to see people I love go through pain than it is for me to endure pain personally. Or maybe the two things are equally as painful. But I don’t know. Watching my loved ones go through things is really, really hard for me. For example, the thing that hurts me the most about watching Doug die is having to watch my mom’s heart break as she said goodbye to her soul mate. I can’t even write that sentence without sobbing, four years later. Watching her say goodbye to him is the most painful part of that memory for me.
I don’t know why I am thinking about this today. This is just an observation about myself. Thinking out loud I guess. I don’t really want to be tested in this theory again any time soon, though. I am ready for happier times.
I used to drive a Ford Pinto. In fact, it used to be Doug’s car. He actually gave me his old car when I learned how to drive. I think about that and it makes me cry. He taught me how to drive! He was the only person in the world who had the patience to teach a 15 year old girl how to drive. What a guy.
Anyway, my pinto. It was orange. Bright orange with racing stripes. Yellow racing stripes. I bought two funny bumper stickers for it. One of them said, “0 to 60 in 15 minutes.” The other one said, “Warning, this car explodes on impact.” Yes, even as a teen I had a sick sense of humor. But then again, someone actually made the bumper sticker so I guess I am not the only one. I loved it when people pulled up behind me. I would sneak a look in my rear-view mirror and smile at the reaction. They would usually be laughing.
I don’t have any photos scanned of my old car so, instead, here is a photo of me on my 7th or 8th birthday.