The world has caved in. 

The worst has happened. 

And I’m still here.

Yesterday marked three weeks since my father passed away. And if it’s even possible, I hurt worse as of today than I did then. 

I’ve had three weeks to stew on everything and yet I haven’t even had the chance to catch my breath. It was a week ago that the tears poured down my face on a car ride home, when the sky turned the clouds pink and I realized how much I missed my father. 

And that I could never tell him such a thing. 

The edges of the leaves are beginning to turn yellow, the grass is browning, and we are all nearly reminded that death is beautiful. Even though it isn’t always. 

We went to the ocean yesterday, the shores we all used to visit collectively as a family, and I flicked off my flip flops and carried them laced between my fingers as I walked barefoot on the boardwalk the way I used to. 

It was the way the smooth, wooden planks were almost too warm on the bottoms of my feet. The way the sand stuck between my toes pricked my feet, and the sound from the gulls floating on invisible ribbons of air.

It was a hurricane of memories, that hurt and healed at the same time. 

It was the pain and comfort of knowing that time keeps going, and we have no choice but to be beholden to it. 

It’s too soon for lessons. I haven’t grieved enough.

One moment, I couldn’t breathe because I was watching the elderly ladies in their wheelchairs as they made their way down the boardwalk, pushed by a caregiver, and I realized that one day,  I’ll be old, too. And it will seem that these days I am working so hard to appreciate now after all that has happened were gone any way in the blink of an all too fast, unseen eye.

Nothing we can do stops the sand from running out in the hourglass, the thread from unspooling. And yet, my aching heart fights against the currents of grief to find the meaning and realness in each day. Which is maybe why it hurts. The flesh and the spirit are at war. They dance around each other sadistically and methodically. 

The flesh says all is for naught, it’s no use. The flesh says that we all end up as dust, committed again to the earth, so what is the point, really, but to live for our own fleeting pleasure and selfishness?

While the spirit meanwhile says that we are made for, and of greater things. That we never really control the outcome even when we think that we do, so we should just accept what has been and what will be, before it even gets here. We merely get to make peace and try not to stand in its way. 

And somewhere in there, the memory of my time growing up punctures through everything that is spinning on a loop. Memories I want to crawl inside of and rest in. 

The way the rain drops dripped from the barn roof on gray, summer days, and pooled into a tin basin on the ground. The way the chickens huddled in the beams across the ceiling, beads of rain collecting at the end of their feathers as they hid. 

The way I could always look out in the yard, and somewhere, dad would be walking. Watching. Assessing. The grass, the shrubs, the limbs of the trees. The state of things. 

Before long, I’m snapped out of those memories, and my insides are screaming. Because they’re all over. Because we are walking pods of waking dust. Every one of us. Every president, every blue collar worker. All of us. We are flesh, and what and who’s around us are the negative space that makes up our lives and maybe that’s the best that we can hope for.

I turn sour. Will I grow bitter towards everything else that’s good?

Or will I let it heal me?

Right now, I rage and I storm. But flowers and trees grow after storms. Seeds that are planted in upheaved, raw Earth transform. I know that in pain, and suffering, there is glory. There is eventually life. After transition.

Now is the time in which I decide. 

This is when the devil reminds me, Did God REALLY say?

That our bond is unbreakable, that I would never be snatched from his hand? Who’s am I? Who am I?

Now is the time that I ask, while I wait. The waiting isn’t easy. The transition is hell. It can’t be assuaged by pretty words. It cannot be moved. It has to happen. 

That’s how we know we are still alive. 

 

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Letting It Be

I once said that Jesus is The Giving Tree….

Today, I told him that if that was really so, I was going to need some apples. Some branches. Something more from Him. It’s the same with all of the phone calls and messages. People who want to know what I need, but I don’t even know what I need. I have a hole blown through me that can’t be repaired, and I’m bleeding out slowly.

I have recalled the days leading up to last Sunday.

I can trace the line of those days, a bread crumb trail, pointing me to the truth that time was slipping away, a silver thread quietly unraveling before our eyes. 

It’s hard to think of a time where you aren’t here. A time where you won’t be every classic song on the radio, every sepia toned vinyl album cover lining the shelf. Where you aren’t the breeze on a golden autumn day; every cicada trill coming from the trees. I keep upturning all of these new memories of you inadvertently, like finding worms in the wet soil beneath rocks. I’m surprised when one thing begets another, the way the flesh of the earth triggers me.

I gather the things that I know to be true, and commit them to my secret heart. I woke up the other morning, and in those first few moments that I blinked myself into existence my body started rattling, and I realized that Sunday really did happen

It was the day after, the first day where we actually had to live out the truth that you aren’t here anymore.

I slid the glass door closed in the ICU where I left you, and realized that it was time to let it be, but that we were going to have to figure out what that looked like for each of us.

When the course of a life stops, even if you know it’s happening you don’t realize what’s coming. You still aren’t ready for feeling like you have been swallowed by grief; you aren’t ready for the crushing feeling while it pounds and digests you, melts you down into nothing for its own use.

I see every moment like it was a photograph. The hands holding on to yours. The heads bent over you, leaning against you. I put my nose to your ash-colored hair to smell you one last time, the way I want remember you. I forced myself to remember that your hair used to be golden. I reminded myself that once your skin was tan, and warm with the sun. I remembered that your hands used to be calloused and hard and strong.

I looked at the weight of you, now less than me. The body, used and abused. Bruised. Skin paper thin, gray. The narrow shoulders I once sat smiling on when things were a lot simpler, times a lot happier. But then I recalled the hurt and the anger. I recalled how we all disappointed each other.

When the floor drops away, stuff like that isn’t what’s going to keep someone afloat. It’s those silent things that drag you down. 

We watched all the lines on the screen turn linear together, and Dad, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. 

I see those last minutes like photographs, but I also see these last few weeks. When I didn’t pick up the phone to talk to you about the weather, or just about how the kids were doing. I see where I didn’t hug you one last time before you shuffled yourself to the car. I see how I sometimes saw you as a burden. 

But nobody tells you that burdens don’t last forever. Whether it’s tiny handprints smudging your hallway walls and mirrors, or spending a few minutes on the phone with your lonesome dad who just wants to talk about…nothing. Burdens that mark you aren’t always here, and then you’re naked without them. 

Now I’m near the pit, and I’m trying to hang on because all that I see down there is darkness. Sometimes, I decide that maybe I’ll just let go and fall down into the dark. Maybe that’s easier than trying to resist. Trying to resist is tiring. Choosing hope is what breaks you into a thousand pieces while everything else inside of you bids you to just let go as it tries to rip you to pieces on your way down. 

The heart of hope is lined with pain, and with every thump it hurts so bad. 

I’m not sure where I am going anymore. I’m not sure which direction is through. And I just want to get through. Mangled, twisted branches are covering the way, fog is blotting out the sun in a gray haze, rotting wet leaves beneath my feet slow my step.

What is the way through this forrest of grief to the giving tree, through all of this decay? 

We have to choose life over decay. We have to let the body rest when it’s time, and choose the hidden life that remains in everything. But the pain feels more comforting because it’s a blanket that you can wrap yourself in and hide. Choosing life means choosing to put one foot in front of the other to find your way through to something new. It means having to decide that maybe there is something good still left. 

But that’s what you did so often. You never let go until your body gave out on its own volition. How I wish I had the tiniest bit of what you had. I hope that I do, planted somewhere that I can’t see just yet. 

Maybe it just needs time. I just need to let it be.

 

 

 

I remember Robin Williams…

Believe it or not, but in the age of celebrity, there are actually very, very few celebrities who are nearly universally recognized all around the globe.

There aren’t very many Tom Cruises, very many Julia Roberts, very many Harrison’s Fords. There are very few that when you mention their name, nearly everyone around you has seen at least SOMETHING they’ve starred in. It’s very rare to be that well-known of a celebrity. They are not a dime a dozen.

There certainly weren’t very many Robin Williams.

I grew up with Robin Williams. I remember being mesmerized by that seemingly manic, small, hairy man. Even as a kid watching Aladdin, I knew who he was. And I knew that he was pretty special.

I remember my dad and his fondness for Robin Williams. Okay, maybe saying “fondness” puts it too lightly. But dad loved Robin Williams. It was a given that if Robin was in a movie, dad would probably quite possibly definitely watch it.

Patch Adams. Jumangi. Man of the Year. Good Morning Vietnam. Dead Poets Society. There are plenty to choose from.

I also remember a little diddy of him, with a Scottish accent, with lots of uses of the “f” word, talking about golf. And I couldn’t believe that Patch Adams knew those kinds of words! Ah, well, neither here nor there. 🙂

I have to say, there were times I didn’t give Mr Williams as much credit as he was due. It was foreign to see him tackle darker, more serious roles later in his career. I wanted to see him dance around with the vacuum, wearing Panty Hose like in Miss Doubtfire – probably one of my personal favorites.

Truth is that as an audience, we can become so caught up in what we want and expect from a celebrity that we really, truly forget that they are people, too. Not all of them are attention seeking moguls like a certain reality show family. And many of them behind closed doors are far different from how they portray themselves on-screen.

Some of them really are passionate about turning in great performances and making their audiences happy. I honestly believe that Robin Williams was one of those celebrities. I think I may have always known that by watching him. Even for the first time in Aladdin when I was 7.

Some celebrities just seem touchable and accessible. Anyone who can dance around in women’s clothes or a clown nose and shoes has to be, right?

While it may sound like I’m jumping on the bandwagon and “mourning” for someone who I don’t really even know because it seems like the right thing to do….well, maybe that kind of is what I’m doing, I think that’s totally okay with me, though. When you love an entertainer, when their work means a lot to you in some form or fashion, it’s okay to admit that you’ll miss them. And when their death leaves you just a little bit shattered, because what you thought you knew about them turns out to not have been entirely true, you have to process that.

For so many, the image of Robin Williams chewing the scenery, turning lines into comedic gold was far from the actual image of someone desperate and lost enough to take his own life. I think perhaps that is why so many people are utterly shocked.

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Like I said, perhaps there are celebrities who are more familiar and accessible than we give them credit for. Maybe this just hits too close to home, to lose Mr. Williams this way. We all wanted something different for him. Maybe because we know that there are so many people who suffer in this way, and he was no different from the next guy, despite wealth and fame and power and prestige – he was still lost. He had it “all” and yet it still wasn’t enough for him.

The reason that perhaps his passing is more personal to me, and maybe even for many others, is the nature of his passing.

I have personally been affected by suicide in my life. And I know many who also have in an even more direct way. Suicide is real. Mental illness is real. The fact that people give up, lose hope, and hand themselves over to that kind of darkness – it happens. It happens even when people don’t think it’s possible. It happens when we don’t expect it to.

It is enormously morbid, and especially dismaying. To me, it isn’t that someone loses the battle to depression, or bipolar disorder, or anything other clinical illness. It’s the idea of a person so void of hope, so wrapped up in darkness, trying to fill a hole that cannot be filled, and surmising that only death would fit the bill. That their soul hurts so bad, is so lost that there is utterly no hope.

It doesn’t happen because someone simply can’t hack it. It happens to someone who gives in to viewing destruction as a viable option. Suicide isn’t freedom. Suicide isn’t a viable option. And it is certainly never the only option. 

And as much as it may leave those behind in anguish or feeling angry, it is devastating and heartbreaking for them. Devastating to think that there is something that could have been done. There are so many people who live with that reality every day. That maybe if they’d seen something or noticed something, the outcome could have been much different. And they carry that thought like a burden, always with them.

Always there. Always gnawing at them.

I am certain that as they see their husband and father turned into headlines over these next few weeks, and watch what will soon be constant speculation on his life and where things “might have gone wrong” for him, that Robin’s family will indeed be examining everything and playing things over and over from these last few weeks and days in their minds.

I know that if it were me, I would be.

But I can say this: I really don’t know if there is a moment in someone’s life where it all “goes wrong.” Chances are, this is a demon that they have battled for a long, long time. Something that perhaps has rotted them away from the inside like a worm through an apple. It’s never about just crashing and burning. Sometimes, it’s a slow fade.

I write this to be on my soapbox if only for a second. We all probably personally know at least one person in our lives affected by mental illness. Perhaps even someone who has contemplated suicide. These people battle quietly. We don’t always know the fullest extent of their inner anguish. Perhaps this person is even you. 

If either of those statements are true, then please keep reading.

If someone you love may be contemplating suicide and you know as much, talk to them. Reach out to them. And reach out to someone who can help. Your loved one is worth it. Don’t do it simply because you don’t want to regret anything later. Do it also because you love them and want to reaffirm the fact that they mean a lot to you. That every life is worth living. Even their’s. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when it feels contrary to every other emotion running inside of them. Even when it hurts. Point them to the light. 

If you have personally contemplated suicide or are. If you’re lost. If you think no one cares. If you think you aren’t worth it. If you think life isn’t worth it. If you think this world would be better off without you. If you think you’re too weak. If you think that there is only darkness, only voids, only destruction. I have two words for you: you’re wrong.

Those thoughts are lies. And there is nothing better to counteract the lies than with the truth. Those thoughts are utterly contrary to what our Father in heaven tells us. You have a soul, you were created with purpose, you were created intimately and uniquely. You were made for more. Your life is worth it.

You are loved infinitely more than you realize. Someone loves you, someone cares for you. Even though it hurts, even though it doesn’t seem possible, life is worth living. Even when it seems wholly dark, darkness doesn’t win. There is always light.

Please consider talking to someone. There are so many people who want to help you.

 

If you or someone you love has or is contemplating suicide, reach out.

There is always a lifeline. 

 

 

Genie, you're free.

 

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.