Tag Archive: Death


Atonement

Last night was beautiful.  It began with a walk.  I took the dogs out for their usual hike through the wilderness when I realized the silence all around.  While the dogs sniffed and dug into a snowbank, I stopped and listened for the slightest sound beyond them.  Nothing.  Just a clean white crispness to the landscape and a feeling we were completely alone in the world.

I began thinking about how this death has affected me.  I’ve been feeling vulnerable, depressed, melancholy, and unable to sleep.  I keep thinking about those moments before his death and his body disengaged from any soul or life-force similar.  I began to feel regret.  I began to realize a sadness I had not felt earlier in the week.  By the time I got home, I began talking with Erick about what this death means.  

It means firstly and most obviously the end of someone’s life.  Beyond that, it wedges an artificial gap between his own life and the life of his children.  It defies explanation and begs the question, “What if.”  These are obvious.  What wasn’t as obvious was my own disillusionment over our former life together.  The feeling I was not at fault for anything that went wrong and suddenly the overwhelming realization I could have ended things better.  I could have stayed in touch.  I could have cared more and been a bit less selfish.  

This began a conversation between my husband and I that lasted well into the evening.  I sobbed over Bill’s death.  Not just because I feel badly about the loss his family is feeling right now, but because I can never make it right with him.  And in this thinking, I came to realize it might never have been okay anyway, but what matters now is that I forgive myself for all those things I’ve done in this lifetime far-reaching and having nothing to do with Bill or his death.  

The word “atonement” popped into my head.  I’m not religious, so I don’t think about it in the religious sense of the word, but when I looked up the definition, I found the word broken up into: “At one-ment.”  And I realized in another burst of healthy sobs, that I was beginning to find peace in this whole messed up death.  I was beginning to feel whole in some way I hadn’t before.

It’s strange to say, but when I went to the store last night on my way home, I noticed people differently.  I realized how fragile our lives are and how cruel we can be to one another.  And I felt love for the people around me knowing they are equally capable of great things and moreover, of love.  

If I could have changed one thing with Bill, it would have been to remind him how much I still cared even though things didn’t work out for us.   I would have reminded him every day of his life, had I thought to do it.  And now that lesson is learned.

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Swept up in the current

I still keep track of my dreams on another blog.  I use the blog as a reference and don’t normally encourage people to read it, but last night I had the strangest dream about being dead.  If you’re interested, please visit My Life in Dreams.

Erick joined us right before the march began and the whole family (including Celli Belle) walked to raise money for research to beat cancer.  We met so many nice people and beautiful pups.  There must have been over a hundred dogs and their families.  Along the walk, there were water bowls and wading pools.  The police escorted the march, so we were able to spread out across the street and it was then you could see just how many people were out early in the morning heat in support of a cure.  Warm fuzzies all over.

Later, Erick, the girls and I walked down to the festivities in Uptown.  We saw the Calypso Tumblers performing on the street – VERY cool and wild.  I hadn’t heard of them until yesterday, but they’re amazing stage performers.  We watched them jump over a line of people about 10 deep.  Crazy stuff.

After a few hours in Uptown Erick and I thought it might be fun to take the train down to Pineville, so we purchased day passes and hopped the train.  We had to stand the entire 20-minute ride, which at 70mph, was pretty exciting and when we arrived in Pineville the temperature had soared to 100 degrees, so we were pretty slow-moving, but nonetheless determined to have a good time.  We meandered through shops and enjoyed milkshakes and a lot of water before boarding the train for home.  And this is when things got strange again.

I’ve mentioned openly before seeing “ghosts,” but I haven’t had the pleasure while here in Charlotte to see much other than the overriding face of fast-paced life all around.  Maybe it was because I was more relaxed than usual, having found a seat for the ride home; or perhaps I was suffering from a heat-stroke induced hallucination, but regardless, yesterday I saw my first “ghost” in Charlotte.  

I heard a boy laugh and I turned my head in time to see a little boy, about nine-years-old, approaching my girls.  He wanted to engage them, but clearly they couldn’t see him.  He faded out, but I remember him clearly.  He was black, wearing a little-league uniform with the colors green and yellow.  The cap had a lot of yellow on the front and he showed me a ball – the ball also had a lot of yellow.  He was connected somehow to a man seated behind me and I got the feeling he was someone’s brother.  I didn’t get the feeling of grief that might accompany a parent losing a child, but rather one that might accompany someone losing a peer.  I also felt like his passing was sudden – so accident or sudden death by other means – not a drawn-out illness.  I also felt like his death happened some time ago – more than 10 years.  

Those were the feelings that accompanied the vision.  I’m sharing the experience here for future reference.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is my belief that these visions may be a glimpse of someone else’s projected thought.  The strange thing was I saw the boy before the man connected to the boy got on the train.  

 

Silent Night

A few minutes after I gave our Emma bird to a new family, a major crash occurred on Cedar Run in front of our road. Within a half hour lights and three ALS units showed up along with an extrication vehicle. The dogs began crying and whining and I wondered if they sensed the tragedy unfolding so near the house.  In contrast, our girls skipped about blissfully unaware of the seriousness behind the dancing lights and sirens outside.

As I tried to fall asleep on the couch, listening to the large trucks outside, unable to sleep while I knew they worked in the bitter cold to free some unfortunate soul or body, I remembered suddenly this was the anniversary of another fatal crash.

While in the eighth grade, waiting for someone to pick me up, after all the buses had cleared the parking lot and the school had quieted. In walked a young boy, Nick, who was in the sixth grade. He played around the trash barrel and amused himself while he waited for a ride. I smiled and watched him. He smiled back.  His eyes were a remarkable blue hue. I thought to myself, “You have a full life ahead of you.”

The next morning, my stomach hurt and I stayed in bed. A call came in around 8am. It was a friend who told me a boy had been struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed. Another boy was in critical condition. The boy who died was the same boy with bright eyes who played before me without a care in the world. The same boy with a future before him.

It just so happens, I was with someone involved in the crash yesterday. The crash did not come up in conversation and yet later that day I was reminded of the fragility of life and reminded of the little boy who first taught me about the finality of death.

At Nick’s funeral, they sang Silent Night while they carried his casket out of the church. To this day, I cannot hear that song without feeling the same sense of horror and sadness I felt in that moment watching the casket; not a large casket like I had seen at funerals of relatives, but one that was my size; small, thin, fragile passing in the quiet space filled with the mournful voices of a community grieving.

Capturing Life

There was a photographer, H.P. Robinson, who took took a series of shots of a young woman dying and overlaid the negatives to capture those grieving for the girl. He called the image Fading Away.

This image is haunting and familiar because in each expression on the face of the grieving relatives is a feeling capable of stretching through time and space to touch us similarly. We grieve along with the girl’s family.

While visiting a Civil War era graveyard last October (following my diagnosis), the girls stumbled upon two tall white gravestones of twin siblings who died a day apart. We stood there together considering the lives of those lost so long ago, I lost in my own meloncoly and the girls in a semi-morbid curiosity. My oldest asked, pointing to a nearby gravesite with fake flowers standing in a make-shift metal vase, “Does someone love that person?”

I said, “Yes, someone loves that person.”

My child seemed distraught then as she looked down at the children’s graves and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone love the twins? Why don’t they have any flowers?”

And I reached down and hugged my daughter and explained that the children died many, many years ago and they were probably loved very much. “I love them,” she said. “We’ll bring them flowers,” I said.

Flowers are like the many cards we’ve received over the last year. Some line my cupboards along with photos of friends. And I’ve noticed how unique and lovely each one is – obviously selected thoughtfully. None of us will escape death phsyically, but we live on in other ways.

There’s something in this connection we share between us that makes the idea of death seem less permanent. I sat in bed this morning reflecting on death and my worries of death when I was initially diagnosed. I wrote: “The only real difference between a cancer survivor and someone without cancer is the change in our perception of our own mortality. Someone without cancer is equally as susceptible to death, but they are blissfully unaware. And yet, I found great strength in facing death, in reconciling my feelings about living and the thoughts of dying until both were familiar and in this I felt enlightened.”

Four hours later, I learned that a close friend’s mother was killed yesterday morning in a head-on collision. It was a shocking, sickening feeling to register her death. I didn’t know her, but I know her daughter and all who know the family will grieve with them in this time. I hope this brings some sense of comfort – I hope when faced with the unexpected tragedy of death, we might all find comfort in those little things that connect and unite us.