Thursday, March 27, 2008

Death -- Real, Not Imagined

I felt a visceral jolt when I saw his face from several feet away, not intending to go up to him, not sure what to do ... his too-young face, his young blond head, lying in his coffin, his mother bent double with racking sobs next to him. The unnerving resemblance of his death repose to sleep hit me next; it felt stereotypical to even think it, but I was positive he was about to move. It wasn't possible for this all to be real. How could a whole mass of people be standing, talking, grieving, right next to his actual body?

The intellectual processing went something like: This is wrong. No left, right, up, down, two ways about it. We all know it's wrong -- young death -- on some instinctual species-survival level. But knowing it and witnessing it are two different things.

And I didn't even know him. I do know the heartbreak of losing a brother. And I now know how the heartbreak of watching a dear friend and her family mourn such a devastating, impossible loss.


I didn't intend nor plan to kick off a fresh new blog with a string of grimness, but so goes life, and so can be the bleakness of March. Originating from an everlasting warm and sunny place, I never knew the toll of March, the bleak of March, the boring of March, the endlessness of March. But all of that pales to nothingness next to the screaming void of a young death -- unexpected and inexplicable.


Waking up the morning after she called and said, "You haven't heard?", sadly, quietly, "Ohh ... my brother died last night." First awakening to the bare glimmer of dawn, barren branches against the sky, a moment or two of my brain stirring, thinking about my day, and then the news falling anew like those proverbial bricks. Crashing. And then knowing she would be waking up to something similar, but far, far worse. It's reminiscent of waking up Christmas morning or the morning after a breakup -- to something either so anticipated and delightful or so crushing and dreadful -- you either wake up directly into the emotion of it, or you wake up, there are a few beats of time, and then the emotion descends and envelops.


A church of young people, struggling to come to grips, let alone understand. A family's devastation. A friend's quivering-voiced eulogy of her younger brother. A father, breaking down before the congregation, unable to go on. His remaining son, stepping up to read his father's words. A mother, laying out her child's loss alongside his birth, the imagined, the real. The hymn, Amazing Grace. A pastor, trying to shed light on such a loss, on Easter's eve. How is any of it bearable? It's not. It nearly wasn't.

And yet. And yet. I never could've understood before losing my brother Michael and taking part in his funeral, just how critical funerals are. In the midst of a loss that could wipe a person out, standing alone, shared grieving and bearing witness -- it's all we have. It's not even remotely enough, but it has to be. It's all we have.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Grey of Loss

How do you face the thought of living without a something or someone that has been a part of your daily existence for 15 years?

The grey of implacable granite, the softest grey imaginable, the bleakest grey of a pre-storm sky, the warmth of a living grey, the chill of flint grey, the softest, sweetest of greys, the grey of grief, the grey of life.

Large or small, deeply significant or a minor note - does it make a difference? Of course it does. But emotional weight is relative, right?

When I lie in bed at night, tears sliding down my face at the thought of such a loss - just its contemplation painful - without instigating a deeper reaction, I calmly know the actual loss will be impossible. Too much, too hard. No, I do not choose that path. As if I could control.

I move between calm philosophical realism to an unholdable emotion that nudges its neat cover aside. From a flat calm, because what can I do, to a reasoned calm, maybe I'm not on the brink of such a loss ... to tears surfacing because I know someday its day will come.

You probably have gone through such a loss or maybe are facing or are dreading such a loss. Of a love, a home, a parent, a pet, a job, a way of life, a friend, an irreplaceable memento, a limb, a relationship, a freedom, memory itself ... whatever it may be, what do you do? What?

Is that more intellectualizing? Or is that coping? Grasping at broken or cracked or used straws, because it's all we have in the end, when facing a devastating loss.

It's not even the first blow, although that is weighty. It's the day after day after day for the rest of your life without what you once had. Then the calm, flat rejection that implies some power, some agency you still hold, but then yields its true nature: No, I don't WANT that (palms flat on table). I don't WANT that life (hands clenched). NO (fists pound)! Childish, impulsive, true. A scream beneath the calm. A yawning disbelief at such a reality. Suddenly feeling your insubstantial size and weak humanity before the soaring grey granite wall you hit when you know absolute loss can't be bargained, reasoned, or necessarily held off. Its cold graniteness doesn't know you, feel you, acknowledge you, care about you. And that's what a loss is. Impossible, uncontrollable, terrible, uncaring, crushing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Directions (as in, Numero Uno). And Other Crazy Crap.

Here would be my first unedited line, not intended for viewing outside my own, but now (maybe) saved for posterity, not to mention perpetuity (well, unless I just up and delete it ... welcome to the strange, wonderful world of self-publishing via blog):

"A test post for a test blog. Golly."

OK, OK, futile honesty forces me to reveal my very first blogged words were actually something like:

"Green. Green. Green."

Hey, we all have to start somewhere. So here I start.
Just where here is, I'm not so sure.
Where I *want* here to be, I'm not so sure either.
Where does this leave us?
Still not sure. With a less than terribly fascinating first blog.
And a cat trying to eat my power cord.
It's a life someone's gotta live.

So, for a grander summation: beginnings. Beginnings, and a blog I don't know what to name, or what its survival odds will be.

This may not be the most auspicious beginning ever.


To get a sense of how others launch their blogs, just spent quite a chunk o time hitting the "next blog" link over and over. Crazy. Fascinating. Little snippets of the whole world, right here under our fingertips. Amazing photography, a multitude of languages, an awful lotta babies, family news, quirky people, religious quotes, a nude pic.... Yep, think it's all here.

Another launch dilemma - naming - it's huge! Anyone who's had to name a child can probably attest to this, but those who have named pets or plants or rocks have still struggled with the mighty weight of naming. And, naming a blog, on the spot (ha, get it? that was unintentional), when you had no idea you were even going to create one, and no idea if it would be public or if it would last a day, a year, or a decade, and meanwhile the little name box was just sitting there, waiting to be filled so you could get on with it ... "To Be Named" is what emerged. I might kinda like it, tho. We'll see.

[One cat hairball incident later....]

So, the obvious upshot here: For the moment, and maybe eternity, I'm talking to myself here, so I can do whatever the hell I want, can't I? Including asking myself rhetorical questions. What's that Grace said? Have fun, entertain yourself. Indeed. Ooh ... a late-dawning just-breaking thought ... blog as a venue for my long-awaited (by me at least) advice column! At long last! Mabe not Ann Landers (rest her soul) nor quite Dan Savage ... somewhere in between will be my zone, I do think.

Good thing I'm just talking to myself here. What kind of first post is it to wander off onto an idea for an entirely different project?! Like I said, Crazy Crap....