Take a Knee

There are three things
in this life I will never forget:
The sound that is the
sad lamentation of the sea,
that spaghetti was
my brother’s last supper,
and the sight of my father
kneeling before his fallen son;
Weeping.

Take a knee, for those
who suffer silent grief.
Let your heart be opened
by their stories untold.
Let it rearrange you,
this finite sense that’s loss-
And when your sorrow comes…
still life for awhile,
and take a knee.

There are a few things
I wish I could have said:
that I’m sorry for the time
I broke the lamp when we
were kids and blamed it on you,
that I thought it was really cool
the way you couldn’t be anybody
other than yourself,
and that I always loved you;
even we were unlovable-
And I wish you could
have felt that.

Take a pause, for those
who stumble in the dark.
Learn to walk in shadow,
to better know the light.
Don’t be afraid of pain of soul
it’s how our spirits grow-
And when your own pain comes…
allow it gracious entrance,
and take a pause.

There are some things
I’ll do to keep your spirit live: 
I will always keep your
light saber close by,
I will take good care
of Mom and Dad per
your whispered last request,
and I will try to live for
both of us and take
you where I go.

Take a breath, for those
who go too soon.
Honor their passage by
living well and true.
Learn to keep them in your heart
for love lives on and on-
And when your memories come…
cherish them,
and take a breath.

And when your sorrow comes…
cherish it,
and take a breath.

takeaknee

Odyssey of Love

I wrote last week that the tasks of grief are considerable. I am finding the tasks of death even more so.

Life has taken on a bizarre pattern of surreality as we prepare for my brother’s memorial service. Write an obituary, weep over old pictures, put pictures in chronological order and place to poignant music for the video tribute. Watch it and weep more.

Start working on the eulogy. Talk to your brother’s best friends and learn a beautiful side of him you never knew- take comfort in this gift. Have silent objections to the content of the memorial service since you and your mother have very different perspectives on spiritual matters, but in the end, realize none of that matters anyways if that’s what she needs to say good-bye to her son… a traditional service in the Baptist fashion isn’t going to change the bottom line that your brother is gone and her son left before her… She deserves comfort where she can take comfort.

Order tasteful Star Wars shirts for you and your husband to wear to the service, because your brother would have loved that and somebody has to represent. Order and print pictures for the memorial table. Buy frames. Say goodbye to the body for the last time, comfort your weeping parents and realize all over again the finality of things.

Take a phone call from a friend who recently lost her nephew- offer what comfort and words you can. Hang up the phone and go back to working on the eulogy, you so want to get it just right. Help clean his room. Take advil for the headache you’ve had the last two weeks. Make pot roast in his honor. Write letters to him as if he’s still here. Write a poem for the service program. Grieve.

Move through life in this strange sort of bubble that separates you from everybody else. Not because you want to be separate, but because this kind of grief is so profound it usurps the everything else and demands immediate attention: life keeps spinning on around you- both tragedy and joy- and there you are standing in motion. Be a professional and go to work, because in the middle of this upside down world, which feels like you are living somebody else’s life, work offers its own odd sort of anchor. Besides, you know when the memorial service is over you are going to have plenty of time on your hands to not work. To think. To feel. To sit around and… wait.

Wait for a resolution. Wait for an absolution. Wait for conclusion that doesn’t seem to come.

You realize the process of grief truly is like the ocean. One moment you are standing on the shore and the ground feels solid- you are making it through this, you are going to be okay. Then a rogue waves unexpectedly pulls you in, and you are floundering in the middle of the sea, drowning for all your worth… until you realize the ocean has spit you back out and you are once again on the shore. And though you don’t know how you got there, there is solid ground beneath your feet.

They say there’s no right or wrong way to go through this process, and in upside down land, it’s hard to make sense of anything. The only thing I can figure is that I have made my life’s odyssey about love, so this too can be about love. This is a chance for me to stand at this extreme cross roads and keep my heart open. It is a chance to feel the strange light of grief and allow it to rearrange my heart into a more compassionate, deeper shape. It is a chance for me to sit in a church, which I have old baggage with, along with a few people I have old baggage with, and love on anyways.

It is a chance for me to find peace towards my mother and her process and practice radical compassion that we are all allowed to remember and mourn in our own way. It is a chance for me to sit and walk and be with my father, and remember the good and the bad and the beauty- the totality- of the person we called family. It is a chance for me to look at old faces I haven’t seen in years and nurture the energy of peace inside of me.

And when it comes down to it, at least for this weekend, it is a chance for me to stand before whoever gathers and tell them who my brother was. I have spent the last two weeks piecing together all I can find from family and friends and a treasure trove of memories about the sum of his life and the gifts he brought to this world. Somebody should speak to that. Somebody with an open heart that is big enough to simply love over it all and represent his truth.

Life is infinitely short, I am trying to live it well. And while you can’t stop the cataclysm that is grief when it comes or keep yourself from being pulled into that tumult of an ocean or ignore the difficult and necessary tasks that go along with this kind of loss; you can choose how you go through it. You can choose to fill in the gaps and cracks and in between moments with as much compassion and kindness as you can. You can learn to let your giant heart and your fervent faith in the process of life be a lighthouse in the storm. And you can love over it all.

Even in the middle of that ocean.

You can learn to love over it all.

bygones

I’ll Carry You

My friend, My friend,
Oh where are you?
You went away, you left too soon.
The good we shared
I’ll hold onto.
And in my heart I’ll carry you.

My brother, My brother
Oh where are you?
Where there’s now one, there once was two.
This song of grief
Sings clear and true.
And in my heart I’ll carry you.

My son, My son
Oh where are you?
The love we have, naught can undo.
Our lives forever
Bound to you.
And in our hearts we’ll carry you.

Our love forever
Bound to you.
And in our hearts we’ll carry you.

And in our hearts,
We’ll carry you.

carryyou

moonwalk 

The moon’s mysteries
are insurmountable-
They sent a man
to walk on her,
and he still never
figured her out.
Her bright transcends
measurement.

She’ll remind you
there is always
a way…
Even in darkness.
And though she may
wax and wane,
she will always
return to the light.
She changes
effortlessly,
accepting life’s
cycles as they
come, never trying
to fight them.

She embodies
what it means
to be real in this place.
Never pretending
to be anything other
than who she is-
Whether it’s vulnerable
turn of void,
or quiet curve of
crescent,
or dazzling star sprayed
gloss of full.

She will tell you-
if you stare at her
long enough-
the truth of who
we are.
That our truest
treasure awaits
in the space of
our authenticity.

  

Elysium 

I write a lot of poetry on this blog. Words of wisdom, perspective and change packaged into simple stanzas with touches of nature and spirituality thrown in. Each word I write is always a reflection on the way I see life and how I aspire to entreat with my relationship with the world. I want to live my own words, be an ambassador of my own truths of heart.

This week I have been challenged to live my words of becoming and change. I came to Kauai for respite and healing after a busy, dark season in life and instead have spent my time grieving the loss of my brother. He died last week, passed away unexpectedly from a medical condition we all believed was under control and nothing to worry about. I guess we were wrong. He was only 39.

It will never cease to amaze me how life can look so different than you expect. How you can have a certain vision and sense of the way things are; and in a second it gets flipped on its head leaving you scrambling to find your footing in a bizarre upside down world. You try and orient yourself to something for which you have no sense of orientation, whose rotation keeps changing moment to moment.

My brother and I had our ups and down. All siblings do I suspect. Families can be terribly complicated with all the dynamics and history and roles we’ve played out from childhood on. We had good moments and bad moments in the history of our relationship. It is bittersweet that things ended with the good. I will always wish we had more time for more of that good.

We don’t always realize the space somebody fills in our lives. Physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically. We get used to arranging our gravitational orbit to accommodate their presence and learn to revolve in accord with them. We develop a unique emotional set point towards them, feelings and an affective space we only hold for that relationship. We form an introject in our mind that represents our thoughts and perspective of them. We create memories and stories and narratives about who they are and what they mean to us. We get used to them occupying those spaces.

Then one day they are gone.

And there is nothing left but a void of empty space they once filled and a lingering sense of feeling lost at sea.

I am finding the tasks of grief are considerable. You cry a lot. You fervidly wish for just one more time together. You hold your parents in your arms and let them cry. You try and process that your family was always four and now it is three.

You worry about your frail, sickly mother and wonder if she’ll make it through this. You cry some more and buy waterproof mascara, because you realize you are tired of looking like an ugly, bloated raccoon. You start organizing all the practical and awful tasks that have to be done. Telling people of the news. Researching how to write an obituary. Planning a memorial service. Asking the Universe for dry eyes and a clear voice when you offer the eulogy: since in the end, you were still the person who knew him best, and you are the strongest one in your family- the only one who has it in them to speak of something that feels unspeakable.

You realize that when it comes down to it, the main task of grief is trying to accept and conceive something that feels unacceptable and inconceivable.

I had a future vision of my family living in Hawaii. My parents already live over here part time and will move to fully someday. My brother was still very attached and connected to them, I always assumed he’d end up here sooner or later. Kauai is where he always seemed happiest. My husband and I have plans to move here in a few years. I saw us over here together and believed there was something in this land that would bring warmth, peace and healing to my family, who sometimes struggled to find harmony and unity in our younger years.

And now, I cannot conceive he will never set foot here on this magical island again. Never see the marine ocean or eat disgustingly rare prime rib or drink a scratch margarita or take a walk under the clear, bright stars. Never send me random texts on Star Wars lore and recommend Sci-fi books and call me Sister Leia. Never cheer for his beloved Patriots. Never fight with me and drive me crazy. Never do something kind and make me proud to call him brother. Never have the chance to live out the second part of his adulthood.

We were supposed to lay our parents to rest first. Not the other way around.

A few years ago I stopped asking why. There are a lot of whys in this world- such is Life. We live in a beautiful world, but there are rips and cracks and tears in its fabric that any of us can get caught in. Life happens. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s tragic and sad. And the better question becomes the question of how we choose to navigate it.

Do we do something destructive or choose to construct something new? Do we stay open to life or close ourselves off to the world? Do we remain in the broken pieces of what was or try and move into the new space of what may be? We don’t have a say in the things that break us, we can only choose to say what we’ll do with our pieces.

I sat on his favorite beach the other day- always sunny, turquoise waters, endless blue spanses of sky- and tried to feel my brother. We all have our views on what may come after this life, I believe there is something more and that he goes on. Death is not the end, just a new part of the journey. At first I couldn’t find him, but as I watched the waves go in and out I realized I was thinking too small, that he as I knew him- with all the struggles and anger and sadness he accumulated in this world- was no more. I chose to trust his spirit is happy and free.

I felt it then. A sense of a presence laughing joyfully on that beach. Young, carefree, riding the surf and giggling with glee. It was the most euphoric feeling I’ve ever known. Like Elysium.

I couldn’t see him.

But I believed.

I believe.

  

Reach

Life can be
terribly fragile;
they say to
live it with
no regrets.
But how do
you live with
another’s regrets…
all those mets
not met?

The trees
will tell you,
there are
no perfect lives.
We plant
our roots as
best we can,
and no matter
how gnarled
and twisted,
try to stretch
for the sky.

In the end,
we can’t unmake
what has been made;
we can only be
as the trees.
And find a way
in the fragility
of this place,
to keep our
feet grounded
and faithfully
reach towards
the light.