Tag Archives: grief

Reflections on Grief: Observed (for my dog Spot)

Dear friends,

It’s been a sad and difficult week. Spot died at home on Monday, March 17; the vet came to our home and Spot went so peacefully, on the sofa, surrounded by love. It was time. Her work here was done. Today, March 21 is the third anniversary of my mom passing. She too died on a March Monday, at home, peacefully.

What follows is a lengthy anthology of grief and love. It’s long — even for me. It may be difficult to read, especially if you have lost a loved one. I understand if you’d rather not read, it’s okay, truly. But I believe so strongly in the healing power of words. I believe we find peace and healing in sharing them; I believe we find peace and understanding, even healing, in reading them.

“Suppose you are depressed and you read a poem about sadness. If your feelings overflow, if you find yourself crying, then your own sadness is reduced. You realize that others have suffered, and the communion of feeling is helpful. It is like being able to share your grief with someone else, someone who understands.” –Smiley Blanton, The Healing Power of Poetry (1960).

I did not, however, want to publish piece after piece on grief and loss. Even I know that gets old after a while. It takes what it takes though. So my week is captured here, in one post. If my words can help you, I hope they do. I know I was helped in the writing of them.

Thank you. I love you. -Christy

***

1.

Tonight I want to howl at the moon
I want to wail like a banshee
once and for all.
For all the good stolen from my life and
replaced with pain and
graveyards and
bone fragments and
tails that wag no more.

I want to scream and shout and
rage, rage, rage
against this swallowing night.
I want to bellow
why, why, why!
into the vast darkness.

Tonight I want to howl at the moon.
Tonight I want to wail.
Tonight I want.
Tonight I want.
Tonight I want.
Tonight I . . .

3/8/14

***

2.

The hurt continues.
It will never go away.
I am a wild animal in the woods
My leg caught in a vicious snare of
agony.
I howl and I wail.
My soul slams against walls
banging its head over and over again
wrought with pain.

My life is defined by loss.

My dog is dying.
I see it in her eyes.
Her days are numbered.
Aren’t ours all?

I choose this pain.
I choose this pain.
My pain is a choice.
The alternative is to drink, to numb.
I choose this pain.

I’ll take this pain over his.
I’ll be a fucking martyr in my head.
I choose this pain.

3/9/14

***

3.

Death rolled up in a white Explorer
followed closely by a black Avalanche.
She was a full hour early.

Death knocked at the door
not accepting the quiet of our response
for a “nobody’s home” or a
“not today, Death, not today.”

No, Death was persistent today.
She walked around the side of the house to the backyard
“There they are.”
As my baby wagged.

The white dog woofed in surprise
but my spotted girl wagged in glee
and ran up to Death,
wiggling and happily saying,
“There You are, I’ve been waiting for you.”

We all walk inside
Death, her aide, us
white dog
spotted girl
All through the same door

“Where?” Death asked.
Spotted girl jumped onto the sofa in response.

Death sat on the coffee table–
as I have done so many times before
and stroked my girl gently.
“Oh yeah, she’s ready.
She’s so ready,” said Death,
Not cruelly or darkly or maliciously
but lovingly.

One shot in the front leg.
“She should be hearing Jimi Hendrix soon,”
(excuse me, while I kiss the sky)
Death said, about the narcotic shot.

Between Death and her aide
I kneeled on the floor
as my girl and I looked in each other’s eyes
and sent each other prayers of gratitude and love
(there are a million ways to pray and kiss the ground)

Thank you, thank you, thank you
I love you, I love you, I love you
Thank you, thank you, thank you
I love you, I love you, I love you

the second shot

Thank you
I love you

A life departed,
gently, quietly
following the spark already gone.

No rage
she left that to me.
She fought so long
without anger or violence
She raged with gratitude
and love
and grace.

I wonder what Jimi was singing to her
or if he was just strumming on a weeping guitar.
Jimi Hendrix, an angel for death,
playing his Pied Piper guitar.

“Fly on my sweet angel,
Fly on through the sky…”

The sun is shining
And the wind blows gently
the final whispers of winter

“Will the wind ever remember
The names it has blown in the past?”

And the wind whispers and cries and screams.

We stand at the door and watch
Death roll on down the driveway
with our baby girl.

The white Explorer follows the black Avalanche
A mini funeral procession
as the cows and donkeys graze
bending their heads in prayer.
As the white dog watches stoically from the window.
As I feel myself sinking slowly
to my knees again
in angst and gratitude

Thank you. I love you.

For life’s stolen moments
For death, cheated again and again.
For mercy and peace and the ultimate persistence of
Explorers and Avalanches.

The quality of mercy.

Thank you. I love you.

Death knows this.
I saw no joy, no elation, in Death’s eyes.
Only tears.
“It’s time, it’s time.”

Death is a god, ’tis true, but maybe not the only god.
She holds the answers
in her plastic Ziploc
With Jimi Hendrix beckoning drugs
and white cotton balls and alcohol.

The gravel crunches.
The gate swings open.
The gate swings shut.
The caravan makes its way.

“And the caravan is on it’s way
I can hear the merry gypsies play
La, la, la, la…”

This is the natural progression of things.
This is the timeless order of the universe.

Death arrives in white.
Life leaves in black.
Or in a blue mini-van.
Or a big yellow taxi.

This is the way of the world.
The wind cries.
This is the way of the world.

***

4.

Grief is like playing Statues.
You move throughout your day
Until grief yells, “Freeze!”
And you find yourself staring blankly at the carpet
the dirty window
the half-filled coffee pot.
At chunks of time –
lost now –
never coming back.
Lost.
Like your love.

You think beforehand that there’s no way you will get through something like this.
No way you will survive.
But then it happens.
And you do.
And you feel queasy. Nauseous even, that part of you is glad it happened
how and when it did.
You survive.
But your love does not.

***

5.

“Not today.
Not today, Death,” you say to me
over and over again.
I indulge you,
for, contrary to what you may have heard about me,
I am kind.
I am merciful.
Unlike Some.

“Not today,” you say
and I oblige.
I know what will happen.
I know one day, you will call me.
And you will say,
“Today.
Please.
Come today.”

And because I am kind
and merciful,

I will oblige

today.

And you will thank me.

***

6.

And what now?

(as I scold the cat to stop eating the mail
to get off the kitchen counter)

And what now?

(as my husband asks where I put the new phone book.
Under the counter, in the laundry room.
On the right.)

And what now?

(as the heater kicks on
and the clock ticks tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock
and I see my now cold cup of chai tea
sitting forgotten at the coffee machine.)

And what now, life?
What now?

(“The vet came here,” says his voice to someone else.
“Oh, she could walk, but she couldn’t breathe.
Eight.
Yeah, it is pretty young.
Yeah. Yeah.

It’s what we had to do.

She’ll eventually get better.”)

Yeah.
Yeah.
And what now?

***

7.

She loved to sneak into the cat’s room and eat cat food.
She knew it was wrong, but couldn’t help herself.
I knew that feeling, that compulsion,
I never got mad.
She thought she was a cat.

She was only half cat,
so she only got half the lives.
What? Four? Maybe five?
No matter.
Enough to make a difference.
Enough to matter.

***

8.

Thursday, she was knocking on Death’s door.
Monday, Death knocked on ours.

Friday was a good day though.
Swelling down. Energy up.
She even chased a squirrel
running fast and furious
as only dogs chasing squirrels can run.

Saturday was good.
Even less swelling.
We walked to the mail box – twice even –
and fed the cows,
the crunchy corn of cattle cubes – her favorite treat.
Less energy, but hungry, for chicken and snacks and love.

Sunday I could tell the light was going. I had hoped she was fatigued from the chemo working so hard.
No mail box walk – too cold and windy – but she sat on the back porch, in a sun spot, while I walked on the treadmill.
After I walked, I came to her side and laid down on the floor beside her.
I looked to the yard to see from her view.

Birds and branches and puffy white clouds against an expansive blue sky.

We laid side by side like that
savoring the view
savoring the company.

((my heart hurts))

A friend did Reiki on her Sunday afternoon.
Said she was not in pain.
Said she was just tired, so tired.
Said many hands were holding her.
Said to keep water nearby.

((I moved a water bowl to the living room, and she drank sips out of my open hands.
Taking water, giving kisses, at the same time.
Her soft little tongue felt warm against my opened hands.))

She fed cows and ate cubes and
Sunday night she ate chicken off a fork and from my fingers

Monday she greeted me with labored breathing.
Gurgly like fluid had built up in her lungs or had caught in her throat.
Her tail wagged to see me, her person!, and she went to the sofa
and I sat on the floor and petted her
her eyes looking at me, but mostly not.

Her throat swollen to a softball
overnight. So fast! So furious!
Like only relapsed lymphoma can.
Like only relapses can –
speeding down a dead-end road.

And I knew, as did she, that we had come to the end of the line.
The end of this line, anyway.
There will be other lines for her now,
of this I am sure.

I asked her to send me a sign. To come back and see me when she could.
What could her sign be?
Chickens? Birds? Bacon?
I said she would think of something, and I would know it.
I would know it was her.

Less than an hour after she had gone
a cattle cube
a piece, not full, a piece, like she would eat
found on the back of the feeding cart, beside the buckets
Where no fragment had been the night before.

She thought of something
and I knew it was her.

So sad. But so grateful for her short purposeful loving life. She was the most determined spirit I’ve ever met.
She never quit.
She would put her head down – eyes up – like a soldier
and carry on.
Like a solider of love.

And she was so smart. Soulful. Her head would tilt when you talked to her, and she would listen.
Truly listen.
And every morning she would sit beside me and help me eat breakfast — Belvita cookies – even when I was not hungry.
Even during chemo when she would eat nothing else, she would eat Belvita – blueberry – with me.
A bite for me, a bite for her.
She loved me so much, and I loved her.

Outside in the Monday morning sun, standing with my girl
before the white Explorer arrived
early
I said this is a beautiful beautiful day.
And it was.
The sun shined on her back – her hair glossy and smooth and warmed from the sunlight
and I sang to her …

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Beautiful Girl
Darling, darling, darling, darling Spot.”

Full of mischief and determination
and spunk and sass
and tail wags and frenzied kisses
and the sweetest Buddha belly ever.

Her name was Spot.
And she was my beautiful beautiful beautiful baby girl.
And I miss her terribly.

“Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old — or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.” –Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

***

9.

I often wonder what C.S. Lewis meant by “a grief observed.” He wrote all about it, I guess I could re-read it.
It’s been a while.
But I know my grief-addled brain would simply look at words, without comprehension.

I look in the mirror, today, at 10:40 pm.
12 hours since my Spot died.

And I understand.

Grief is a puffy face.
Red cheeks that sting when touched
A nose that perpetually drips.
Dried tears and salt stains on my cheeks.
Eyes, red and weary
Dark circles that look like black eyes
to match the red, slapped cheeks.
The corners of my mouth try, but fail to rise.
My eyes, so tired, yet won’t close.

I move – no, I shuffle – room to room.
Either staring blankly at walls or mirrors
or putting up dishes, microwaving food I won’t eat, or some other programmable, robotic, rote action.

The house still and quiet as I listen
for a snore that doesn’t come.

3/17/14

***

10.

Dear Mom,

What are they doing in heaven today?

Please pet my little girl for me.
She likes bacon, but she likes chicken more–
chicken baked all day in the crockpot, so tender you can cut it with a fork,
and chicken jerky too
(but not the kind from China)
and blueberry Belvita — broken into little tiny bites.
And she likes when you sing to her
and will sometimes join in.

Please kiss my girl for me.
Thank you.
I love you.

-Christy

3/18/14

***

11.

It’s a process.
A new beginning
Each morning waking,
rising into this new world
this dystopian barren landscape.

A world where I am a daughter
without her mother.
A mother
without her little girl.

I hunger for what I can never have.
I will never be quenched.
I will never be satiated.

3/19/14

***

12.

The white dog and I shuffle step down the long gravel driveway to the mailbox.
The south winds and the Spring sunshine doing their best to snap me from my sleepwalk.
It almost works except as we turn to head back I absent-mindedly say,
“Okay, Spot, let’s head back.”
The white dog looks at me with a look that is part surprise, part hurt feelings.
“I’m sorry, I said the wrong name.”
She decides to forgive me and stops to smell a patch of grass where she and her sister had often peed.
I think, well maybe she is here. Just act like she is.

“C’mon Spot girl,” I whisper to the empty space beside me.
“You’re doing good little girl.”

The words echo in my mind
as if it were not I who spoke, but
as if whispered to me from beyond.
And I think of my mom,
leaning down and petting my hair,
“You’re doing good, little girl.
You’re almost there.”

I tuck my head down,
ignore the ache in my chest,
and trudge forward.

3/20/14

***

13.

And still.
This “new” normal feels alien,
like a foreign parasite.
A virus trying to invade,
my host body rejecting and refusing.
This new skin suit of leather,
hard, crisp, unyielding.
Chafing, blistering, uncomfortable.
Like new shoes.
“They’ll break in,” they promise. “They’ll fit.
Wet them.
Let them mold to you.”

I am running out of tears.

3/21/14

***

14.

“I haven’t told Jan yet.
I don’t know if I should text her or just wait for her to get here.”

How would you want to be told if you were Jan, he asks.

“I don’t know.”

A text seems so short.
“Just wntd to let u know. We put Spot down. K, thx. CU.”

No, if I had my preference, I would want to read …
I would want a poem …

something long, something I could digest and process
something I could cry with or maybe even smile.
something I could turn back to time and time again.
something I could hold on to and know I was not alone in my grief.
something I could pull up to my chin, like a crushed red velvet blanket, and look out the window, to the heavens and the trees, and feel

“Death is just so full, and man, so small.”

That’s how I would want to be told.

In a poem.

“You know, this feels devastating to us, but, you know, others …”
his words hang in the air,
“They won’t feel the same,” he says.

I want to say that yes, they will. They loved her too.

I just have to open.
I just have to unfold.
I just have to write them a poem.

Instead I say, “We’re closer to it.”
And he says, “yes.”
And I don’t hear him
because I am already writing the poem in my head.

I am writing something I can turn back to, time and time again.
I am writing something I can hold on to.
I am writing something so I can remember.
I am writing you …
no, I am writing myself …
a poem
for her.

3/21/14 – World Poetry Day.

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” –Emily Dickinson, The Letters of Emily Dickinson.

***

15.

And this is what grief looks like.
As I look at my reflection in the mirror.
This is what grief looks like.
As I look at framed photos on the wall —
gone, and gone, and gone, and gone, and gone, and gone, and gone.
This is what grief looks like.
As I write words that flow from pits of despair and dark corners and sleepless nights.
This is what grief looks like.
As I look at photos of my girl.
This is what grief looks like.

As I look at the last photo of us together.
This.
This is what love looks like.

Spot 2/11/06 - 3/17/14

Spot
2/11/06 – 3/17/14

***

16.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

***

17.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

***

Full playlist of referenced songs HERE.

***

For a special tribute to our lost dogs, don’t miss Words for the Weekend tomorrow, March 22. This is the post link; though it won’t go live until 8:00 am central on Saturday.

~~~

I Am Slowly Learning (On Mary Oliver and on the loss of my dog)

spotfront

Beautiful Spotted Girl.
Spot, 2/11/06 – 3/17/14

Mary Oliver will save my life this year. That’s what I wrote a couple of months ago. While her poetry comforts me, Mary Oliver has yet to call me or email me or even text me. I’ve no doubt she’s a very nice lady—she loves nature and dogs, how could she not be?—but she’s not checked in with me to see if I’m okay. She hasn’t said, “Oh Christy … I’m so sorry.” She hasn’t sent me funny pictures over email or offered songs to comfort me. She hasn’t licked the tears off of my face or purposefully left me alone to lick my own wounds. She didn’t hug me after the vet said, “she’s gone.” The year is still young, but I’m not sitting by the phone awaiting her call.

Rather, like her poem “The Messenger,” Mary herself is a messenger. Her words are full of grace; they soothe frayed nerves and constricted throats like warm hearty soup on a cold lonely night. Mary is a messenger of grace.

My work is loving the world, she writes in “The Messenger”:

Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.

Rejoice. Find gratitude. See beauty. Look around you. Don’t just stumble, don’t live “just a little and call it a life.” And when you find that joy, that beauty, share it—again and again—with others, even with the cows and the Live Oaks and the robins. Give shouts of joy “to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam.” Remind them, she urges. Remind them all, “over and over, how it is / that we live forever.

And so in between the phone calls and the texts and the emails and the kindness of strangers—which save my life every day—I am reminded to carry on in my work. To love the world, the beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful world, even if “this emptiness persists,” even if “this is as good as it gets.” I can still find grace, it’s all around me: in the smile on my white dog; and in my black cat’s purrs; and in the donkeys’ brays; and in the rustling of the Live Oaks’ leaves; and in the roughness of cow tongues; and in the sun on my neck; and in the soft cool winds of the departing Winter; and in music, oh so much in music; and in the glowing red orb that still manages to rise up—even when she must be tired—so that the world can keep its promise, “the sun will come up tomorrow.”

And Mary reminds me to write. Write it all down. Record your astonishment, leave a marker of your love—even the anguish and the pain, which I would not feel if I did not love—remind others, as you so gently remind yourself, this is the way of the world. This and this and this and even this. This is how we live forever. Through love.

And so I persist and I carry on and even though I know the price of love is pain and anguish, still, I choose love.

I choose to love the world.
And this is how it is that we live forever.

Mary Oliver will save my life this year. I was right about that, but not how I’d originally thought. Mary is simply the messenger, the bringer of warm soup and life rafts. Here, keep your mind on what matters, she urges. Save your own life—love! be astonished!—and you will live forever.

From “The Return”:

Sometimes I really believe it, that I am going to
save my life

a little.

It’s a process, and Mary knows this too, having experienced the pain and anguish of loss in her own life. She writes in “Thirst,” Another morning and I wake with thirst / for the goodness I do not have. … I am slowly learning.

From “In Blackwater Woods”:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

I am slowly learning, Mary. I am slowly learning how to love, how to let go, how to live forever, how to save my own life.

I am slowly learning.

***

Friends, I will be closing comments on this post while I gather my thoughts and pick up the pieces of my broken heart. I’ll be sharing some reflections on Spot and my mom and loss on Friday, or maybe this weekend. My thoughts may prove to be grief-addled and scattered, but recording them has been life saving.

I am slowly learning.

I know many of you had grown to love Spot, and I love each one of you for thinking of her over the past fifteen months as she battled lymphoma. And to those of you who have recently comforted me, thank you. You–maybe even more than Mary Oliver–have helped me save my life.

"The Sweetness of Dogs" by Mary Oliver:

From “The Sweetness of Dogs” by Mary Oliver:
Thus we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.

***

Poems and lyrics mentioned in this piece:

“The Messenger” by Mary Oliver from Thirst (2006)
“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?” by Mary Oliver, from West Wind (1997)
“Beautiful World” by Colin Hay, from Going Somewhere (2005)
“The Return” by Mary Oliver, from What Do We Know (2002)
“Thirst” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst (2006)
“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive (1983)
“The Sweetness of Dogs” by Mary Oliver, from Dog Songs (2013)

Words For The Weekend (Dear Someone Struggling With Grief and Pain), Volume 46

Another unconventional Words for the Weekend post (for the weekend of 08/31/13, Volume 46) and an unexpected one as I had said I would be taking this weekend off. However, I received such an outpouring of support from “My Grace is Gone” and discovered so many of you are struggling right now with grief and with alcohol abuse, some of you with both.

Some of you are barely hanging on right now.

I received a touching e-mail from a lady who recently lost her mother. She was so brave to reach out and share some of her pain with me. What follows is a portion of my reply.

This week I also include some songs, quotes and a poem, some previously shared in past volumes, that bring me comfort. I hope they do the same for you.

This weekend’s volume is dedicated to her and to others in pain. It will be sunny one day. 

***

Dear __,
Bless you.
Thank you so much for reaching out to me and sharing your pain.
As much as I want to tell you “just don’t drink,” I know it’s not that easy. I know the pain is unbearable, and I know that desire to make it stop at any price.
It will get different in time.
Not necessarily better or easier, but it gets bearable. Scar tissue forms.
I do know drinking doesn’t make the pain go away. Nothing will, honey, so embrace the pain. If you used to run, you know this concept. You hurt and ache and you want to stop, but you keep going anyway. You run through the pain.
And that’s what grief is. You feel the pain, but you keep going anyway.
Embrace it and know it hurts because of how much you loved. The pain is a link to that love.
View the pain as a good thing. A reminder you are alive, a reminder of love, a reminder of your mom.
It hurts to do things sober.
But you do not want to vanish. You cannot. Your mom needs you to stay here, stay present. Remember her, you will feel her in your heart the longer you stay sober and clear-headed. You will see signs if you look for them…
Find solace in that love, find grace in the pain, and find comfort in knowing you are not alone. You’ll find no answers in a wineglass. I tried for years.
You are your mother’s living legacy. Use her grace to live well.
With love,
Christy

*

letter page 1April 10, 2006

Dear Crystal,

I’m so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I’m not sure there’s any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it’s sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don’t love yourself that much.

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one’s moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.

BUT

It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.

It really is the same with one’s moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness – these are as real as the weather – AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE’S CONTROL. Not one’s fault.

BUT

They will pass: they really will.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. “Today’s a crap day,” is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. “Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.”

I don’t know if any of that is of any use: it may not seem it, and if so, I’m sorry. I just thought I’d drop you a line to wish you well in your search to find a little more pleasure and purpose in life.

Very best wishes

(Signed)

Stephen Fry

From site: Letters of Note, originally appeared in Volume 28. Letters Of Note: The Book will be published October 2013.

*

“But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.”  ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, originally appeared in Volume 35

*

“We stumble on… bring a little noise into the silence, find in others the ongoing of ourselves.  It is almost enough… The world spins.  We stumble on.  It is enough.” ~ Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spinoriginally appeared in Sunday Words

*

“There is no escape from the slave catcher’s songs
For all of the loved ones gone
Forever’s not so long

And in your soul they poked a million holes
But you never let ‘em show
Come on, it’s time to go

And you already know
Yeah, you already know how this will end”

How It Ends by DeVotchKa

*

“Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.” ~ Dean Koontz, “Odd Hours“, originally appeared in Volume 9

*

“Hold this heart when I go
sing my song when I go
sing it loud when I go
sing it proud when I go
some people are learning to die and some people are yearning to fly…

Oh the thought of death has yet to make me afraid
’cause I will march right off this world into the next like it’s a grand parade
but if you feel lonely just like you want to run and hide
then I’ll wrap my wings around you and give you strength and I won’t leave your side
and I’ll watch over you
I’ll watch over you
oh, my care will cover you just like the moon’ll do

you know I’d love to get to heaven
you know I’d love to see the view
but first I think I’ll stay and watch over you”

When I Go by Brett Dennen

*

“Whether you’ve seen angels floating around your bedroom or just found a ray of hope at a lonely moment, choosing to believe that something unseen is caring for you can be a life-shifting exercise.” ~ Martha Beck, originally appeared in Sunday Words

*

“If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll thank you for all the things you did in my life
If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll come back down and sit beside your
feet tonight
Wherever I am you’ll always be
More than just a memory
If I ever leave this world alive

If I ever leave this world alive
I’ll take on all the sadness
That I left behind
If I ever leave this world alive
The madness that you feel will soon subside
So in a word don’t shed a tear
I’ll be here when it all gets weird
If I ever leave this world alive”

If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly

*

nobody but you – by Charles Bukowski

nobody can save you but
yourself.
you will be put again and again
into nearly impossible
situations.
they will attempt again and again
through subterfuge, guise and
force
to make you submit, quit and /or die quietly
inside.

nobody can save you but
yourself
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless
being?
do you want to experience
death before death?

nobody can save you but
yourself
and you’re worth saving.
it’s a war not easily won
but if anything is worth winning then
this is it.

think about it.
think about saving your self.
your spiritual self.
your gut self.
your singing magical self and
your beautiful self.
save it.
don’t join the dead-in-spirit.

maintain your self
with humor and grace
and finally
if necessary
wager your self as you struggle,
damn the odds, damn
the price.

only you can save your
self.

do it! do it!

then you’ll know exactly what
I am talking about.

“nobody but you” by Charles Bukowski from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way, 2002

This poem was recently shared in last month’s Volume 41 (Sometimes I Wish), but I felt it a perfect closing for this week. Save your self. Do it! Do it! You’re worth saving. Do not drown in your grief. Do not drown your sorrows. Your sorrows know how to swim. Better than you do. Save your self. Do it! Do it! You are so worth it. ~ Christy

(I won’t be responding to comments right away due to my marathon training (in fact, if you see me on-line this weekend, tell me to back away slowly from the computer and to take my “baby donkey” for a run) but if you have a song or poem that comforts you or some thoughts to comfort anyone else hurting, please, please feel free to share. Have a peaceful weekend, and for those in the U.S., a fun Labor Day holiday.)

Preparing Myself For the Probability of Cancer

“You need to start preparing yourself for the probability of cancer.”

One week ago I heard those words in a small, stuffy, spinning veterinarian exam room.

One week ago my stomach lurched into my throat–and hasn’t budged since.

One week ago I started crying at the drop of a  hat.

One week ago I started giving my dog the anti-biotic Cipro twice a day–just in case she has a rare liver infection that is causing the swollen lymph nodes I felt under her chin while I was routinely petting her one evening.

One week ago I started googling lymphoma in dogs.

One week ago I learned that there is no cure for canine lymphoma. Untreated, a dog may live sixty days. Treated with chemotherapy, she has good odds to live twelve to fourteen months, but has only a twenty percent chance of living two years.

One week ago I wondered why the hell I made a vet appointment on a Tuesday? I hate Tuesdays. Bad news happens on Tuesdays. Cancer diagnoses happen on Tuesdays.

One week ago I sat alone in my bedroom eating leftover Christmas candy, piece after chocolatey piece, consciously throwing my “No-Sugar January” out the window. I wanted to numb the pain. I wanted to forget the world. I wanted to feel anything other than what I was feeling.

One week ago I felt the same feelings I’d had when I learned my aunt and my mom were both diagnosed with cancer.

One week ago I started preparing myself for the probability that my sweet little furry baby has cancer.

It’s been a hell of a week.

I haven’t drank. Though I’ve wanted to. If I’d had booze in the house instead of chocolate, who knows what would’ve happened. They were the same feelings when I saw the chocolate in the pantry, as I’d had when I gave into past drinking temptations. Same-exact-”fuck-it, kill the pain” feelings.

Next steps are a biopsy on Friday to confirm diagnosis. Antibiotics haven’t reduced any nodes’ swelling. I’m hopeful for a miracle, but not expectant. Decisions will need to be made; my gut says, “fight it, fight it!”, but I know there are many factors to weigh. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Today, I am still preparing myself.

I’ve been wondering where to take this blog–do I focus on sobriety? On quotes? On running? On new recipes I’m trying? Do I even continue blogging this year? I really wanted to be done writing about cancer and grief and fear and learning to live again. But we don’t always get what we want, do we?

I guess I’ll answer those questions too when it’s time.

Today though I am still preparing. God, how do you ever fucking get used to cancer??? Sometimes life isn’t very fair.

But I won’t live in denial. Not anymore. I’ll make it through today without drinking, and hopefully I’ll make it through tomorrow too.

I doubt I’ll be writing much, at least not on a regular schedule. I’m going to try to maximize as much time as I can with my little girl. To my fellow blogging friends, thank you for your posts–I read them via email and enjoy your words with my morning coffee.

I have a cute little dog looking at me with expectant eyes waiting for her afternoon walk. So I guess I’ll go for a walk and love on my girl and soak up every smile and tail wag and funny expression and happy moment that I can.

Cancer has taken so much from me. I’ll be damned if I let it take away today.

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Sunday Words on Hope, Guns, Annabelle and Hands

I could not find appropriate words for yesterday’s Words For the Weekend post. But while words failed me, some of you have shared poignant thoughts that I would like to share.

Please enjoy the following selections: a poem on hope submitted by kind reader Elle, a few quotes on hope, links and further reading on the delicate subjects of guns and issues facing The United States in the aftermath of tragedy, and a couple of songs that have been echoing in my mind this weekend.

If you have any quotes, poems or songs of hope or encouragement, please feel free to share in the comments; I will include them in next weekend’s Words post.

I wish you all a week of peace and healing.

***

HOPE (shared by reader Elle, written by Elle’s beautiful poet friend)

“Please help me to remember when my heart is dark with sorrow
that even this most pressing grief will ease on some tomorrow,
For so the cycle always goes, if I could just remember;
but I forget that spring exists when I am in December.

As part of life is pain, so surely part is also pleasure,
won’t happiness that follows tears seem all the more a treasure?
So mourning, help me please believe that there will yet be laughter,
for after all, the darkest night has sunrise follow after.

I know I look too closely at the trouble life is giving;
Yet take for granted many things that make my life worth living.
As if the fact that bad exists, means goodness cannot find me;
Yet good things happen every day, won’t someone please remind me?

It matters less what happens than it matters how one views it,
but life looks dark and cold to one whose grieving heart imbues it.
And it is winter in my life; but please don’t let grief blind me
to the good things and to hope of spring once sorrow lies behind me.”

***

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

*

Sorrow fully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmitted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness. ~ Pearl S. Buck, The Child Who Never Grew

*

Whether you’ve seen angels floating around your bedroom or just found a ray of hope at a lonely moment, choosing to believe that something unseen is caring for you can be a life-shifting exercise. ~ Martha Beck

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We stumble on… bring a little noise into the silence, find in others the ongoing of ourselves.  It is almost enough… The world spins.  We stumble on.  It is enough. ~ Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin

***

In his blog “Better Living Through Beowolf: How great literature can change your life”, Dr. Robin Bates quotes Matthew 2:18 on The Massacre of the Innocents and then shares from Melville’s Moby Dick:

“But by her still halting course and winding, woeful way, you plainly saw that this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without comfort. She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.” 

Bates goes on to write:

To this oceanic sadness I add my anger at anyone who, because of political expedience, avarice or other base motives, refuses to seriously grapple with America’s gun problem, especially the easy access to automatic weapons.

I’ve read many outstanding posts about the need to address our nation’s current gun laws. I do not know the solution, but I, as I’m sure the following bloggers, would agree that something is broken:

Gus at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run shares in “When Is The Time To Have That Discussion on Gun Control?“:

Now is not the time for hysteria and finger-pointing. There are 20 dead children to be buried, 20 pairs of parents whose grief cannot possibly be measured. Not to mention the grief and confusion the father of the shooter and the husband of the shooter’s mother must be feeling right now. Now is not the time for empty rhetoric and false promises. But the time will come, and it’s incumbent upon all of us, parents and spouses, voters and elected officials, lobbyists and concerned citizens, to have a measured, intelligent, and MATURE conversation about what gun control means, without compromise, without the taint of lobbying and money.

Susan at Recovering Life shares in “A country gone awry:

Gun control would help, wider availability of treatment for mental health problems would help. But the increasing massacres of innocents are only one of so many indicators of things gone awry–homicide rates, suicide rates, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, poverty, school drop-outs, homelessness, joblessness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, child abuse, and on and on–that I wake up in the night afraid.  Something is rotten at the core.

Caitlin Kelly, author of Blown Away: American Women and Guns, at Broadside Blog shares in “Why the next shooting massacre is (sadly) inevitable“:

– It has been said that 25 percent of Americans will suffer from mental illness during their lifetime. On any given day, then, there is a percentage of the population for whom ready access to a weapon and ammunition is deeply unwise. Co-relate this statistic with the number of Americans whose home contains a gun.

– Forty-seven percent of Americans own a gun. This is the highest rate of gun ownership since 1993. (source: Gallup poll.) There is no way to know when or how these two factors intersect.

***

As always, when I can’t seem to find words for my feelings and emotions, I turn to music and song. The first speaks to a parent’s loss and being left to wonder “why?” The second speaks to the buoyancy of the human spirit. Yes, we are heart-broken, but we cannot stay idle with despair–we must carry on, we must.

“Annabelle” by Gillian Welch (video)

I had a daughter called her Annabelle
She’s the apple of my eye
Tried to give her something like I never had
Didn’t want to ever hear her cry

We cannot have all things to please us
No matter how we try
‘Til we’ve all gone to Jesus
We can only wonder why

*

“Hands” by Jewel (video)

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And we are never broken

~~~