Images

Images, images…an onslaught of images; a constant replay.

What’s playing, “presently”, in the theater of my mind? My beautiful daughter being placed in that bag. Yes, it was just her shell! Yes, she “wasn’t there” anymore! Yes, yes, yes…I KNOW!!! It was all part of the “normal” process! I get it! I accept it! BUT the torture and assault of those images is relentlessly painful and gut wrenching!

Her frail, lifeless little body being placed on that gurney, with that black ominous bag. The zipper going up, up…closing…watching her little face disappear. I wanted to turn away, but that seemed “unloving”, and I wanted to “see” her face as long as I possibly could. I wanted to scream, “she will suffocate!” I wanted to STOP the process. I thought I’d vomit…maybe if I vomited that twisted feeling in my guts would be relieved…UGH!!!

I try to renew my mind. I try to “think” on things that are true, noble, praiseworthy. Really…I do! But somehow, the images return, over and over again. I am thankful for the times that the images are of joyful, memorable moments. I welcome the relief and joy they bring.

Always on the edge. People…noises…anything threatens to take me over the edge; to explode.

I wonder, “If the images stopped, would I stop missing her; remembering her?” “Are these horrid images better than not having anything at all?”

And so the journey continues…one day, one moment, one second at a time. Thankful for the grace to do just that…one second at a time!

“Cry whenever you need to. Scream. Shout. Lay on the floor. Sob in the shower. Be still. Run. Share without fear. Listen. Release your pain. Breathe. Be courageous. Throw away the map. Wander. Be real. Be compassionate. Read. Seek friendship. Be vulnerable. Don’t fear being broken.” ~ Zoe Clark-Coates

The Runaway

Running, running…always running. Have I ever stopped? Has it taken a different form? More than half a century of living, or attempting to live or what has it been? Am I still the same? Am I different?

Memories of a 9 (or was it 10) year old, “running away” cause her “no” wasn’t sufficient. Then shutting up about what happened because she was afraid of the outcome, of the repercussions.

Then her louder “NO” explodes into a cry for help, for understanding, for protection. She finally opens her mouth and speaks, only to be told to SHUT UP.

She runs away attempting to find a refuge, only to end up used and abused and cast away like a used, filthy rag. Really?! She was only 14.

My mind is filled with voices, lots and lots of voices…”SHUT UP!”, I scream.

I’m tired! I don’t want to run anymore. I just want to be STILL…

A Father

Remember the Dad I told you about?

Allow me to tell you another story. A story about a Father.

Once upon a time there was a Father who had two sons. His youngest son started to get an itch for seeing what was out beyond the home front. So he went to his Father and asked for his share of the inheritance. Funny thing to ask, don’t you think? The “normal” course of life is that one gets an inheritance when the person giving it to you has passed. Anyhow, you can see this son was itching to get out from under his Father.

The Father agreed and off the son went.

And, live it up the son did! Partied and squandered all that the Father gave him and then some. He ended up in the poor house, destitute. He “decides” to go home. He had no other choice. I believe if he did he would still be out “living la vida loca”.

He heads home, probably rehearsing what he will say to his Father.

“…while he [the son] was still a long way off, his Father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…’Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again’…” -Luke 15:20-23

The contrast between Dad and this Father is night and day.

One Rejects! The other Embraces!

For the “girl” in me, this contrast has given me HOPE!

“A father’s love for his daughter is a preservative against a thousand ills seeking to infect the innocence of her life.” – Byron Yawn

Dad

At 14 she already had her share of “life”. Just a little girl…her innocence a distant memory. She “decides” that home was better than the streets or was it?

Feet as heavy as led, step by step she makes her way to the front door of her home. Can she call it “home”? She hopes so…soon she’ll be rudely awakened. She’ll realize that this place will just be a “holding place” until her next escape. Where does she belong? Does she belong anywhere, to any one?

She opens the door…heavy as a bolder, stuck like glue. She manages to take a step inside, then another. “Oh, he’s sitting on his couch…his spot!” He doesn’t move, doesn’t turn her way, doesn’t even acknowledge her. It’s as if she didn’t even exist. Maybe he wishes she didn’t. Maybe that would take away the shame and disgrace she has brought upon the family name.

She manages to make her way to the kitchen. Mom is busy, as always. She’s quite the homemaker. With a side look, she acknowledges her, but the frown confirms that there is no joy in her coming “home”.

Mom barks a command, “Go! Kneel before your father and ask him for forgiveness!” The girl turns and walks back to the living room, her feet even heavier than before. She approaches the strong man, still sitting in his favorite spot. She kneels. Through tears she manages to speak. Her shaky voice comes out in a whisper, “Dad, please forgive me for running away.” Silence! No movement, not even a flinch. Her mind raising with thoughts, “What will he say? Will he forgive me? Will he slap me? Well, if he did, I deserve it!” Finally, a slight movement of his head…only to dismiss her to her mother. Not a word…not a look…just a small gesture.

The heaviness! The hurt! The disgust!

She stands…walks away…her mind assaulting her with more thoughts. “Did he forgive me? Can I stay? What happens next?”

The Graveyard

Normally, I would say cemetery, but today I will use a more unpalatable word, GRAVEYARD!

The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “a place, often next to a church, where dead people are buried.”

I spend lots of time here. Somehow, I find solace and peace in the midst of pain. Somehow, my moments of great anxiety are calmed and eased as I sit in the place where the shell of my daughter’s body remains.

On one of those visits…

I see a handful of people sitting under that “dreaded” green canopy. Those chairs…they make your already achy body feel even more stiff and unsure. That green “carpet”…really?!?! Why? Is all this to make an otherwise unnatural setting look a bit more, don’t know, natural? Would it be better to keep it “natural”? Would that make the process easier? Yeah, probably not!

I wonder what makes for the size of the gathering? Popularity or can it be that this family wants a private moment, with their loved one, to say goodbye? Brings back to mind past experiences. The onlookers, the huge crowd, the whispers…my mind all over the place. At times, having been told “not to cry”, holding my breath until I would pass out. Another time, everything in me wanted to run…to never stop running. The crowd, the accusatory looks, more whispers, the looks of disdain.

Many experiences, each with its own story. However, NOTHING ever prepared me for the day I would sit before a beautiful white casket which held part of my heart. Yanked, torn, pulled apart! Can one ever be prepared for such a gut wrenching departure? I think not!!!

Sitting, standing, knowing what’s next. Realizing that eventually that white container, with such precious cargo, will be lowered down into that cold, damp dirt.

Stomach tight and heavy as rocks. Chest heavy, unyielding, yet ever so full of an ache that threatens to explode into a cry that will shatter every glass house…that will never end. The sobs, the wails, yet nothing calms the reality of an absence that is so deep within my soul. This side of heaven, this is my reality…this is my journey.

How? Why? Who invented this torturous process? Can it be done any other way? No! The pain is the pain no matter how kosher the process. There is no way of making “this” look pretty. Hey, maybe, we could all sit or stand like statutes – emotionless, unyielding? Maybe, we could make everyone around us think “this is normal”, “everything is ok”? Yup, no! Been there, done that…know the drill…it doesn’t work!

The “duct-tape” has been yanked off! Reality…feeling it all is much better than the alternative.

I have learned that grief is another name for love. ~ author unknown

It is impossible to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have. ~ Cheryl Strayed

The Writer’s Club

Moving forward one step at a time. Sometimes the steps backwards are more than those forward, but, hey, I’m trying.In my quest of forward moving, I decided to go to a Writer’s Club. Something new, yet familiar. I’ll let you in on my visit. Here we go…I’m here. No ones talks to me. No one says hello, or even makes eye contact. Do I leave? Do I stay? “Hey, you are already here”, I tell myself. I sit and wait for whatever is next. Wow, this takes me back to my school days. I feel like I’m in the not-so-popular-table…awkward! Finally, someone is at the podium and is getting this meeting started. She introduces herself as the club’s president.  She gives us a “writing exercise”. For 10 minutes write about a “donut”.  This is what I write:At the writers club-my first time! People are snotty and to themselves. If they know you, they talk to you, if they don’t, well you just sit in the corner feeling like you are back in school. Funny, did we ever grow up? I know each of these people has a story or a dream (to be a famous writer) but they rather write it on paper than talk. Is that called being an introvert?Assignment: pick a donut from the box being passed around. You can eat it, observe it or throw it away, it doesn’t matter. Just write something about the donut for 10 minutes.Watching people pick their donut was very interesting. Some picked their favorite, others just a prop. The grumpy man sitting in front of me – who by the way didn’t even say hello –  decided he didn’t want a donut. Thinking I was helping I said to him, “She said you didn’t have to eat it. You can even throw it away.” He growled at me, “I don’t need a donut! In fact, I have a story why I don’t need a donut!!!” Well, okay then…Times up! Some volunteered to read what they wrote. I might say that there was really creative writing and stories. I enjoyed that. I, for obvious reasons, opted out.The meeting ended, I quickly made my way out. Yeah, I tried…not my thing. But it was interesting.