Profound Grief: A Love Story

PROFOUND GRIEF

A Love Story

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Profound grief is as unique as the person experiencing it. I have as a consequence written this only for myself. I am a grieving, bereaved person who shared a profound love with a remarkable person named Lenore. This is the story of our love and my own profound, unending grief in the wake of her death. It is a chronological collection of expressions of my experience since Lenore died; a raw, honest diary of the ground encountered since her death.

There are some redundant expressions here because, depending upon what I was considering and how I felt, I would revisit things I had written earlier and cut and paste pieces into later reflections. Grief is not linear. It is a tumbling, chaotic round of turmoil. Ground passed over before returns; unbelief and the emotional horror of the beloved’s loss does not fade simply because it is acknowledged once.

I have left the redundancies intact. They are telling a story in the subtext of my   expressions; the most repeated expressions reveal my baseline experience, the deepest truth of what I have encountered and experienced. It is a pattern that has been with me my whole life. What I believe is the critical essence of what I want to communicate to another person I will say two or three times in different ways, hoping to spark understanding in the other.

There is no attempt here on my part to validate or resonate with any other bereaved and grieving human being about their own experience. I offer no techniques, no encouragement, no hope, and no navigational chart for others inhabiting the world profound grief has conducted them to.

In my experience there are no such things. Grief is a place where, in the end, each person discovers their own way and finds their own means. In my case there is no way out but death. Until that time comes for me I am a permanent resident in the world of grief.

I find it presumptuous and insensitive when I encounter those who assume that my life with Lenore and the grief I live with since her death might somehow conform to the definitions of a diagnostic manual, be assigned a category and then treated by calm, removed, informed professionals. Grief can not be located, defined and treated. It is never typical.

That being said, I feel obligated to also say that I highly recommend any form of quality grief therapy to everyone, without exception. It is a good thing to be self aware and conscious of one’s particular nature and the influences that come to bear upon them in their own time of grief. Sharing, speaking, expressing, learning of the experiences of others and listening to the thoughts and wisdoms of trusted others all contribute a fuller understanding to each individual and their own personal, unique experience.

In my own considerations and consultations and my exposure to the huge body of information about grief I was struck by how often grief is characterized as a passage through a condition which many people find their way back from, or heal from.

It’s not that way for me. I characterize my grief as profound because it is not a thing that can be passed through and beyond to a happier destination where loss and bereavement are balanced by participation in life. It has proven to be my destination. I have arrived here, I live here, and I will die here.

This book is being written in that world at a desk surrounded by unfathomable depths of darkness. There are times when I can think, and remember and feel. I write during those times. The rest of the time I neither think or remember or feel. I am null and void, a dweller in the regions inhabited by crushed souls.

It’s been said that one’s love cannot be measured by the depth of their pain. In the world I live in, that’s not true. The world humans perceive is dualistic, and between the poles of our perceptions there are degrees of light and darkness. There are degrees and levels of consciousness and connection and unions and yes, even love is experienced in degrees and at different levels.

Lenore and I both possessed and shared deep and powerful degrees of consciousness and connection and union and love. It is no surprise to me that the quality of the life we lived together and the quality of the love we shared is directly related to the quality of grief I live in now. It is equally deep and powerful. It is soul-searingly profound.

Lenore and I had a relationship that was literally unbelievable to many people. In the times when we shared the nature of our relationship with others we often sensed that most people didn’t get it. It didn’t bother us very much; we knew what we had was very, very rare. We both loved those times when we encountered people who could sense who we had become living together as two who are one, and often reflected to one another that we each wished there were more people in the world who could understand such a thing.

We always hoped others could find what we had found. We were ready to share it at any time with anyone who saw even a glimmer of what was there and asked us about it. Sadly there were few, but we never gave up sharing our experience whenever it seemed appropriate and helpful.

My simple purpose here is to share, one last time, the life and world and love Lenore and I shared together. It is all in pieces now. These pages hold what is left of a once whole, true, profound love between two people who found the secrets of the universe and the true meaning of life, together. It could not have happened for either of us any other way.

INTRODUCTION

April 1, 1984: The Thunderbolt

Thunderbolts – those invisible yet tangible and explosive sizzling arcs of welding spiritual fire reflected in the slight gap between the fingers of Michelangelo’s God and Adam in the moment of creation as seen in the famous fresco upon the vault of the Sistine Chapel – are those transcendental moments when we are indescribably connected to what is real and true.

In 1984 a thunderbolt hit us and welded us together for the rest of their lives. This is the story of that moment.

Running On Empty

 The days passed one after the other, each the same as the one before. He would leave the mountains and go into town and wander the streets looking into other eyes with his silent question, wondering how deep the soul might be buried in this one, or in what manner it might be chained to a weight within the heart.

 Once in awhile their eyes threw a certain light and he would study that person and wonder; how alive are you, what is your weight and how have you borne it?

In town they moved dully, they moved manically, always under the brunt of a nameless attack, always on the verge of a final capitulation. In his own time he had resisted and been defeated, had fallen sullenly and then attempted to take the ways of the town as his own, had savagely sacrificed himself in pursuit of a place among them.

 Always the desperate days of enforced busyness had ended and he went back to his own way, a way apart, back into a nameless, unknown seeking for a place he had rarely seen, a place where shadows faded in the burgeoning light of each successive passage.

 Now the aching harmonies that sounded in him were those of endless blacktop, a melodic mystery unfolding, unwinding in a high heaven far above him, a yearning for another beside him, an adoring heart, a deeply grown-in lover. These things were not in the streets of town.

They rang in the pale tenors of a high midnight moon over lonely hillsides, in the empty vastness of desert canyon lands and the flat floors of endless highways in the empty spaces between the western cities.

A shared love, a shared adoration, two who were one, each selfless and happily sacrificed to each, running down the road together in a cloud of brimming music.

 That was the dream, and the emptiness.

And then it became the reality, and the fullness.

PROFOUND GRIEF: A LOVE STORY

In 1979 at the age of thirty one I basically went into the full bloom of a multiple-rooted, childhood-related post traumatic stress disorder that had dogged me for many years. My first marriage failed that year, and there were a lot of reasons for that, many of which I was responsible for.

In what seemed to me at the time to be the irretrievable loss of my three children I sunk to the lowest depth of my life. I became homeless and for awhile lived on the beach in southern Oregon, eating from tidal pools and sleeping in a derelict car. I retrieved myself enough to work a few jobs over the next three years, but the demons were still with me and finally, recovering from a motorcycle accident in 1982 which gave me time to consider my situation, I decided to leave Vancouver, Washington where I lived and go to Boulder, Colorado.

In Boulder I found myself in an AA group. It consisted of writers, rock stars, physicists, engineers, artists, poets, authors, mechanics, carpenters, hippies, and even a former Chicago-mob tommy-gun slinger. The nature of the people in that particular group had evolved it into a university of sorts, something akin to an intense technical training institute which educated people in the art of being wholly human. It was unlike anything I’ve ever been exposed to. The curriculum there demanded honesty, openness and willingness from the student and was based in part on Jungian principles directed toward holistic healing. A non-specific yet intrinsic spirituality was an integral part of the healing process offered there.

I followed the pointing fingers and found myself on Aldous Huxley’s “divine ground,” exploring and then incorporating the mystery of human spirituality into my life in a practical way. There was also a tremendous amount of behavioral trench work that could best be described as in-depth self-healing, availed by the wisdom and guidance of others who had passed that way before me. All in all, it provided me with the foundation for the rest of my life and drew a clear line of demarcation between my past and future lives.

While I was there I lived in the mountains above Boulder in the loft of an A-frame house on Lee Hill Road. It was the home of Bob Emmitt, and in exchange for room and board I first felled about 40 diseased trees on the property and split and stacked them for firewood, then stayed on doing maintenance and remodeling on an as needed basis. During that time Bob and I became close friends, and to this day I count him as one of the best friends I’ve had in my life.

Bob was a grizzled, scruffy old cowpoke with a drooping handle-bar mustache. He had a love of black-powder rifles fired in the night when you can really see the flame come out of the barrel. He was also a biochemist, historian, author, editor, philosopher, journalist, and gifted raconteur. Among other things, he’d been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; had been a thoroughbred in Hiram Haydn’s New York City “stable” of gifted writers in the 1950’s; had been the editor of the Vanderbilt University Press; and conducted writing workshops at Colorado University and other literary venues.

In the early 1950’s Bob wrote “The Last War Trail.” It was published in 1954, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and became the standard reference work about an event in the history of the American west, the Battle of Milk River, otherwise known as the “Meeker Massacre”.

Initially seeking information about Native American medicinal remedies for a dissertation at the University of Colorado, Bob rode on horseback into White Rock, Utah to hopefully interview a recognized Southern Ute medicine woman. In a strange deliverance he found himself recognized as the “one who would come” to receive the oral history of the Battle of Milk River from an ancient Ute elder, Saponiche Cuch, who had actually been present when it occurred.

After his Pulitzer nomination Bob brought his deep knowledge of the American West to New York City, and later authored a novel described by one reviewer as a “literary western.” He was a descendant of Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, and during his association with Hayden’s “stable” Bob was an early source of inspiration for William Goldman, another promising young writer in the group, who later wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Bob became my landlord, friend and mentor, and after the day’s work was done our conversations wandered wide and far. It was a wonderful time for me. I was writing then, mostly therapeutic workings-out in the form of short stories, poems and essays. Bob’s wisdom, humor, and intelligence were invaluable to me. I didn’t write for publication, I wrote to clarify my past, exorcise demons, and seek the kernels of truth in the fields of my past. It made for a remarkable time of growth and healing for me as a person.

Bob found his own desire to write rekindled by what I was doing, and we became editors for one another – although I definitely got the best of that deal. I learned a lot there, but I never have written professionally. Writing became a life-long avocation, but my workshop of words is like DaVinci’s studio; miscellaneous bits strewn here and there, scraps of paper with incomplete drawings of humanity and flying machines, madonnas and gargoyles, flayed frogs and caricatured princes. In the absence of an editor and a publisher it’s a place where gerunds ring loudly, infinitives are split infinitely, and dangling participles swing freely through the trees. It’s a lot of fun, has never proven to be worth a nickel, and is priceless to me.

After spending most of a year in Boulder I returned to Vancouver for a short time and then went back to Bob’s place in the late fall of 1983 because he needed some help. His mother and aunt, aged 92 and 98, were coming to live with him and he needed a wheelchair ramp built and other modifications done at the house. I did that and when the ladies arrived Bob realized he wasn’t going to be able to care for them by himself even with my help, so he posted an ad on the bulletin board at Unity Church in Boulder.  Bob and I used to go there because at that time the ministers there, Jack and Norma Groverland, were gifted with the ability to speak about the principles of human spirituality without the attendant nonsense that religion often obscures it in.

The upshot of that bulletin board card was the appearance of Lenore. She had come to Boulder from Moline, Illinois where she had been living with her sister, a Unity minister. Lenore had decided to move on from there and start a new life in Colorado, and was staying with a friend when she found Bob’s notice offering room and board and a salary in exchange for live-in home care for his mother and aunt.

She appeared in early February. The day she came to meet Bob’s mother and aunt and find out more about what would be involved in their care I met her at the door. I did my best to reassure her that she was safe and not moving into danger or a dead end in a household which included a couple of scruffy-looking mountain guys, five dogs, and a kitchen that looked like it had been wiped down with a slab of bacon. Later she told me that she was worried after that first visit, and while considering her choices had asked herself if she thought she was too good for where she had been delivered. She decided to accept where she was, took a leap of faith, and moved in on Valentine’s Day.

It didn’t take long to realize Lenore was a rare and extraordinary person. She joined our evening conversations and not only kept up with us as we wandered but brought keen insight, a highly developed spiritual consciousness and a remarkable intuitive intelligence to the mix that enriched it all the more. She was a lovely person, a person awake to the spiritual nature of being and living in it, walking with a breathing grace and tenderness, embodying the insight and knowledge of experience and the wisdoms gained therein, emanating daily the simple, practical essence of love.

Bob and I both held her in high regard and she found herself the recipient of a sort of old-school gentlemanly respect. We both took pains to make her feel safe and secure there. It was easy to do, because by that time I’d recognized that pursuing a significant other by my own means hadn’t worked out so well, and I’d decided to let that be for awhile. As a result I found a good friend, one whom I learned more about every day, and our friendship grew and deepened..

On April first in 1984 I asked her if she’d like to go to the Denver Art Museum with me to see a new exhibit of Native American art and artifacts there and she said yes. It was a great day, sunny and beautiful, we’d enjoyed the exhibit and walked the grounds afterward, and on the way home I timidly reached across the seat to hold her hand – and the universe exploded. In that moment an indescribable fullness beyond filling poured in and permeated us both simultaneously. I wish I could describe it better, because it was the single most transcending experience I’ve had in my life.

In that instant we became one whole and indivisible person, mysteriously bonded by the unknowable essence of wu wei; a natural, wholly harmonious and inexplicable union. It was a heaven of a thing. After that moment I could no more turn from her presence than the earth could flee the sun, or the moon spin away from earth. We went from that moment together on the karmic path, cosmic wolves mated forever, loping down from the high places into the rest of our life.

I always thought the “thunderbolt” was a metaphor. It isn’t. Perhaps it’s just the suddenly occurring awareness of oneness between two people, but that description really doesn’t do it justice. It was instant and mutual, and the bond formed there only grew stronger through the years. By the time we got back into the mountains the cymbals of God had hammered us together forever. We were married on Easter Sunday in the Spring of ‘84.

 

February, 2016: The Human Being Behind All Anatomy

In the short story “The Anatomy Lesson” by Evan S. Connell, Andrev Andraukov is an aging artist and art teacher in a college. He is eccentric and obsessed with his vigil for a student who will “understand what it meant to be an artist; one student, born with the instinct of compassion, who could learn, who would renounce temporal life for the sake of billions yet unborn, just one who cared less for himself than for others.”

As his class attempts to draw a female model, Andraukov lectures them, instructs them, and initiates them into seeing anatomy as a vehicle to understanding the human being behind the anatomy, the particular human. Andraukov as mentor takes them deeper into the particular to see the universal: “He spoke of how Rembrandt painted a young woman looking out an open window and said to them that she did not live three hundred years ago, no, she was more than one young woman, she was all, from the first who had lived on earth to the one yet unborn who would be the final.”

Today I am grateful for the many years I have lived with that very woman. For a long time I have seen her look out that open window to behold this life and then walk out to meet it daily with passion and gentleness and strength and goodness, being cheerful in all weathers and truly more interested and concerned for others than herself. She is the one I kept vigil for in my own life. She is the human being behind all anatomy, and from her I have learned to care less for myself than her. She is, has been, and will always be my greatest blessing.

March 30th, 2017: Written 4 days after Lenore died. I wouldn’t write again until May 8.

Today I have driven to Cannon Beach, a coastal town on the Oregon Coast and a place Lenore and I often went. On the trip here I found myself looking through Lenore’s eyes, or her through mine, I couldn’t tell you which. At times it seemed the first, at others the second.

Before she died we agreed to meet on the beach there after she had gone. I would bring a bottle of wine and two glasses. We would meet there, she on the other side of the curtain, me still here. And we would see what happened.

Everywhere, as I drive, I am looking for the light she saw here.

The grass on the hillsides and in the fields and orchard lands east of Portland is a brilliant green this time of year, glowing in the spring rains with life and new growth. It is farm and wine country, and the barns and farmhouses and wineries roll across the countryside with the grace of the undulating land. Under the cloud-scattered sky as I drove, gray chiaroscuro shades in the landscape filled with brilliant color and sharp definition in patches of sunlight drifting across the landscape.

On the winding highway through the coastal mountains sudden vistas of valley and forest appear, spread out for miles. I stop at an overlook and a swath of sunshine floats across the valley below.

The first week of last September we were here. She was able to walk short distances with her canes, in a wheelchair the rest of the time. We did what we always do, wheeling her all the way. We bought fresh salmon and vegetables and salad and fudge and wine in the markets and took it to our room overlooking the ocean. We prepared our meal together and drank the wine and ate together and afterward went out on the balcony and gazed at the ocean and talked for a long time about life and death, and beauty and joy and sadness and loss, and about how important every moment is.

On the coast today, driving through town, sunlight drifts between cloud shadows on the ocean. Light and shadows. In the sunshine the roiled surf glistens like foamy, hammered glass. The clouds are white on top, and gray beneath. Their reflections on the wet, tan sand create columns of soft white light with stretches of faded charcoal between. Light and shadow.

SittIng in the truck after arriving at our hotel, I was looking down the long, gray, weathered-cedar shakes on the side of the building and wondering if – even after the drive here, even after all the beauty and light seen in new ways and even after the presence of Lenore in me and with me as we rode together – if there is enough here in this world to hold me here. I wanted to be with her so much in that moment, to be with her where she is.

She spoke to me then, telling me that as long as I am here she can be here too, seeing through my eyes and feeling in my heart the beauty and joy of this life she loves so much. I asked her if she would fault me if I took that from her and broke my promise to stay here and shine my light, and she said, “Oh no, my darling. I understand.”

The sadness here is terrible, the grief worse. This coastal town we enjoyed so much together has become a place of shadows and sad memories and suffering for me now. The condolences coming in from many feel rote and superficial even though I know they come from good hearts, reaching out to connect, to touch me with love in the best way they know how. Some grieve with me, and I do my own best to connect with them and touch them with my love in the best way I know how. A few see how devoted I am to her, how very much I love her, how I honor her and how I cared and care for her. They touch me the most, they break my heart, they see and say the truth and in those moments I break down and cry, inconsolable.

I will go on but I don’t know how right now. I am leaving this place today and won’t come back. Instead I will hold the memories of our earlier days together here; the gulls arcing through the air; our walks together on the wet sand next to this great ocean; the clouds of tiny birds sweeping and turning in unison over the waves; the sunny times when two souls wandered together as one through this wonderful, beautiful life.

 

May 8, 2017

We had a little sailboat for awhile and used to sail it on a nearby mountain lake. Lenore loved the idea of sailing in the mountains, and we had some wonderful times up in that high country.

Now I’m adrift on an emotional ocean. There are peaks and troughs and breakers; sometimes I can see a horizon, sometimes I’m down in shadowy depths surrounded by walls of dark water and can’t get a point of reference because everything shifts and changes. There are times when breakers hit and the world is turmoil and tumble and I’m drowning and my chest aches and everything washes away in tears. I’ve sailed beyond some mapped boundary into unknown waters, alone, where the only truth is the storm.

Her death has unmoored me. Together, for each other, we were anchor and tiller and sail on the sea of life; we found our way together in the winds and under the sky and sun and moon. We navigated as one. Now she’s gone and I’m trying to find my way alone.

I’ve been willing and open and cooperative in seeking out help and information about grief. I’ve reminded myself of my spiritual beliefs and knowing, my learned wisdoms, and previous experiences with loss and grief. I’ve done my best to use it all.

People tell me what I’m experiencing is normal, and with the best of intentions offer me the conventional remedies and wisdoms. They say it’s normal to feel this way, that love and loss are the same for everybody, that the bereaved always regard the love they had as truly special.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t apply here. Head-tooling and heart-tooling fail; it all proves to be nothing more than feeble attempts to rebuild this world so that Lenore is still in it. I tell myself she is here with me, she is in me. I tell myself we are one and that can’t ever be undone. I tell myself we can still be here together. I tell myself it just takes time and is hard and eventually I will find a way to live here. It is all desperate and removed from the truth that howls beneath. She is gone.

Recently I looked at a photograph of Lenore and only saw a picture of a planet that no longer exists. It’s an entire world gone, lost in time, a memory fading into history. I’m far away from that place, alone in an ocean of deep space in a dark capsule, moving ever further away. The only remnants of the world we shared are these faded pieces of photo paper, archiving a light which no longer exists in the world.

This is not normal, this is not conventional. We were not normal, we were not conventional. We were extraordinary, we were rare exceptions to the rules that define normal and conventional and typical. A few people know that. They saw it, they recognized us, they knew who we were together. They fear for me because they understand that. I reassure them, telling them not to worry, that I’m taking my best shot at living here alone, without Lenore.

I am. But none of us are certain of anything other than it will go where it goes, and be what it is.

May 13, 2017

I arrived on the Oregon coast three days ago. Yesterday I drove north, today I drove south. In two days I’ve explored about 65 miles of what must surely be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

The drive north was on a day of rain showers beneath billowing clouds riding easily inland on a gentle sea breeze. Today, going south, a spring storm hammered the capes and beaches under dark skies and storm surf. Hammering winds across the headlands curled down into the lees and drove deluges of rain across isolated bays and coves and the highway.

Both days spent in some kind of existential netherworld where I am there but not there, aware yet numb, moving yet isolated; and behind it all there’s a subtle, subliminal urgency to just keep moving.

Strange things happen on these journeys. I drive past places we have been together and forgotten about. Fragments of memory appear. On the journey north when I pull into a beachside place where we played with children on the beach and flew a kite and explored a tidal pool and lay on towels in the sun and had a picnic, the sun breaks through as I pull into the parking space. It filters down through tall coastal trees and I wonder if it is her, happy to be here again.

When I leave the sky goes dark, and as I pull onto the highway a cloudburst of rain floods the windshield and I wonder if it is her, feeling my sadness, sharing my sadness; or is it her own sadness at not being here anymore. And I am crying, and driving on.

On the drive south a beautiful panorama of stormy coastal beach appears and the unexpected, sudden beauty of it all is first an unbidden, joyful surprise we are sharing together – and then I remember she is not there, and I am crying yet again.

Standing on an overlook at a place so beautiful and perfect all I can do is be there with it and experience it, I remember how we stood together in those moments and places, her arms wrapped around my arm, snuggled up next to me. And I break, and cry, and move on.

This is how it is. This is what grief is.

May 14, 2017

“It is time for people to be allowed to speak about anything and everything without judgment. It is time for the “it’s all good” crowd to realize that to discount the honest suffering of people is cruel and hurts rather than helps. My goal in life is to be authentic not blissful. We are given a full rainbow component of emotions for a reason. None of them are negative – all of them exist to teach us something.”

Jan Warner, Grief Speaks Out

I’m messy, sloppy, angst-ridden, self-pitying, profoundly wounded, in grievous pain, thrashing in agony, wailing without constraint, hopeful, thoughtful, insightful, crazed, enraged, demoralized, shattered, inconsistent, and everything else that comes with grief.

Some folks just want me to get through all that as soon as possible. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Profound loss and grief aren’t temporary conditions. They’re permanent. It’s been that way for me in the past and it’s that way for me now.

This is a passage, an experience. There’s no map for it, there’s no process for it. It can’t be directed, it can’t be broken down into waypoints or steps. There’s no control here, no way to order the chaotic, swirling fullness of everything in me now.

When we were together here Lenore and I strove to be both authentic and blissful. We put our minds and hearts and souls together and achieved both between us. The thing is, we did it because above all we valued honesty and authenticity between the two of us. Bliss came as a result.

It’s not all good for me right now. I’m in pain, I’m suffering. I don’t say that to elicit sympathies or responses. I’m just saying it, that’s all. Saying it out loud.

Bliss is far away. I’m not sure it’s possible to ever feel it again. I do remember how we found it together, and peace in the bargain, and I’d settle for just a bit of that.

We were honest. We were authentic. We confronted everything head on and never discounted or put away the awkward, the unattractive, or the uncomfortable feelings and experiences we had in this life. There was no pink paint or hopeful homily applied to uneasy existential realities when we experienced them. We looked straight at it all and told it like it was. Out loud. In front of God and everybody, as they say.

I don’t know why I post stuff like this here. I don’t know how long I’m going to be caught up in this simultaneously articulate and incoherent weirdness. Lenore and I were each other’s emotional life spell-checkers. I’d ask her, “What do you think, Honey? Is this too over the top or fruity for public consumption? Should I post this or throw it in the drawer? You think somebody could use this stuff, or has it done its work in me and that’s all it was ever meant to be?” And she could tell me, because she was me. All I know in this moment is honesty served us well. And here you have it, for what it’s worth.

May 17, 2017

She died. We all die, and when I take the steps backward that are necessary to see the bigger picture, I’m glad she died first. I’m glad I’m the one taking the blow and not her. She died well, it was a good death. She was herself to the last; unafraid, enduring terrible pain, yet ever who she was to the bone – a sweet, loving person willing to hug everyone she met and learn what their story was.

Bereavement is a shattering experience. They say the pieces of the shattered self come back together slowly, and a person is never the same as they were before. I wonder how that will look, that changed self. In our case that self, that person, is actually two people who are really one self. Lenore is still as much a part of me as I am, even though she has died. How can that ever come back together? It can’t.

She died, she’s gone from the body, and I’m here without her. That’s truth, plain and simple and clear. Her loss is in me forever. Wherever I go, it will go too.

Tears are a part of every day now. They come with thoughts, they come with memories, they come suddenly, unbidden, when I least expect it. Yesterday I was grocery shopping and when I turned a corner on my way to the next item on my list, without warning, an empty, overwhelming sadness welled up and just gutted me right there.

I live in some sort of exquisite, poignant, crushing alternate reality these days. Life is so beautiful and full and so colorless and empty. When I see couples together I don’t listen to what they are saying to each other anymore. I don’t listen and look for the nuances in their interactions that would inform me of the nature of their relationship. I’m just glad they have each other.

I hope they are making the most of their love, hope that they are aware of the perfect, terrible beauty of this life. We are born here, we live here, and we leave here. The love we find and share is here, now. One day the person or persons we share our love with may not be here anymore. It’s so easy to push that fact into the background of our lives.

I’m grateful Lenore and I knew that. I’m grateful for every moment when, unbidden, just like the grief that comes and engulfs me now, one of us went to the other in a moment of spontaneous, inexplicable joy and said to the other, “I love you.”

“How sweet,” we’d say, pleased and touched. Then we’d say something like “Why? What brought that on?” It’s always nice to know why you are loved. And the answer was always the same. “No reason. Just because.” We’d smile at one another, and kiss, and go on about our business in the glowing warmth and light of those moments.

No reason. That’s it exactly. It’s not a head thing, it’s a heart thing. The mind is a useful thing, yet when it comes to matters of the heart it only holds processed shadows of what the heart knows; it’s a repository of annotations, a reference source which may or may not be able to conduct us back to the source of true knowing.

There’s a Mary Englebreit card Lenore saved on our bulleting board here and it says, “The heart is the temple wherein all truth resides.” It’s true. Soaring love and desolate grief are the truths which live there. Joy and mourning live there. The perfect, terrible beauties and facts and realities of this life live there.

If you have a loved one near, go to them and tell them so now. Don’t do it from your head. Do it feeling the poignant sadness and fullness and joy of the real facts of life, the real truth of love that’s in your heart. Feel the perfect clarity of the wisdom in your heart; know how important and transient and beautiful love is. Go to them and tell them that.

You’re both here now. It won’t always be so.

May 19, 2017

I’m no stranger to profound, soul numbing, mind shattering grief. I’ve experienced it twice before in my life. I know those earlier experiences of grief woke me up to the facts of this life and had a hand in shaping the person I’ve become. I remember a few things about them, but they’re just annotations in my mind. They happened, they were painful, they changed me, there was finally a time when I was able to live with them but never a time when they weren’t part of me.

What I’m experiencing now is new and unique; the here and now is always that way. The past is in me and will never leave; the future is an irrelevant fiction, it’s never been what I think it will be. Here, now, is where I experience every true thing that lives and breathes in my heart; all the things that connect me and break me and separate me are here, now, in my heart.

(Posted on Grief Speaks Out)

I’m experiencing grief after the recent death of the love of my life, my wife Lenore. I can’t write her name yet without hot tears welling up suddenly in my eyes. So far here are a few things grief is teaching me.

Grief is showing me the “big picture” of this life.

The fullness and truth of life includes brutal pain and savage suffering as well as unfettered joy and unbound goodness.

Loss is death, connection is life. Doing what I can to keep my connection and our life together alive is a good thing.

The present is all I have – and it’s terrible and poignant and beautiful and colorless and full and empty and joyful and anguished, and my grief connects me to all of it.

Grieving openly and without restraint helps me.

 

May 19, 2017: The Swallows

Six days ago barn swallows started building a nest on top of the porch light above the entry door of the RV. It felt like both a reminder from Lenore and a hopeful sign; life goes on, and our life together will too. I thought of how delighted she would be about swallows nesting with us in our nest. It was a good thought, and I didn’t feel sad.

I thought about it all through the day as I watched the swallows come and go, bringing mud from the river bank and tiny twigs from the forest and earnestly building the nest of this new season. I knew they had chosen the spot because it was under cover of the RV awning in a seeming eave on a human-built habitation – those are the conditions barn swallows in the northwest seek first for their nests.

I recognized it wasn’t a place that would be permanently that way for them. The eave is not always there, I have to retract the awning during strong winds. The Mystic Wind is not a fixed habitation, it moves from place to place. I still wanted them to be there anyway. I started trying to devise a plan that would make it work for them.

These days I look directly and unsparingly at a lot of things. I looked into the length of time it would take for them to accomplish their aim. I sadly realized it would be better if they found another, better place to nest. The next morning at sunrise, before they returned to continue building, I retracted the awning and removed the beginnings of their nest.

I watched when they returned. One in particular with a small twig in its beak flew in again and again, looking for the home no longer there. It would approach, and hover, and then leave and fly in a tight arc about twenty feet out, anxious and confused. Finally it landed on a perch about a foot away from where it had placed the nest, had a good look at what was not there anymore, and flew away. It hasn’t come back since. I miss their wings fluttering purposefully under the awning and am sad that they won’t be back.

They’re in a new place. So is Lenore. I miss her angel wings fluttering purposefully here in my life and our nest.

 

May 19, 2017: Broken Glass and Madness

I go through moments when I feel like I’m walking through a world of broken glass where everything is in pieces and everywhere I look and everything I feel is fractured and hard and sharp and cuts deep. Darkness, even madness, is part of the ground of grief. It’s something that needs to be looked at directly and confronted, for better and for worse. The only way past it is through it is how it seems to be for me.

Death. My death, now, self-inflicted so that I can be with her wherever she is, now, regardless of where that is – that’s a piece of the dark, broken world.

The future. My future, here, without her. It’s in shards now and pieces are missing, gone. What does that look like? Is there any hope at all which could fill the voids and bridge the gaps and bring my life back together in my future as a whole picture?

When I fall into the madness and insanity and dark side of grief this is what I see, this is what I remember, this is what I think about:

It’s hard to kill yourself. Anyone who has sincerely taken it as an option knows that. In my life I killed myself twice. One time I took pills and laid down in front of a gas stove with the oven valve wide open, passed out, and woke up the next morning with hell’s own headache and so toxic my face was swollen to twice its size. The oven had been turned off. I had to be the one who did it – the house was locked up tight.

I figure I did it sometime after I wasn’t alive but before I was really dead, because there’s something in that place between life and death which will afford you the time to make one last choice under certain conditions. I don’t remember being in that place that time, but I know it’s there because I’ve been there.

When I was in my mid-20’s my heart stopped after I took a sharp blow to my leg bone and went into shock because of the pain. My life passed before me, I saw the oft-spoken-of light at the end off the tunnel, and in front of it the shadowed silhouettes of people I knew who had died, some waiting for me in front of the light, others moving slowly forward to meet me and take me in.

In a kind of waypoint halfway between life and death I was given all the time in the world to make my choice: go on, or go back. I went back. My heart started back up. That wasn’t about suicide, though. It was about life and death, and how both are good and it’s not necessary to fear death. After that I didn’t, and still don’t.

So fear of death isn’t going to keep me from suicide. If anything, what I know about where it leads is a plus, moderated by the fact that I don’t know where it ends. And Lenore hasn’t been a whole lot of help with that. Apparently that’s up to me on this side.

The other time I attempted to kill myself I floored my vehicle in a rage of pain and tears and when I got it up to top speed I wrenched the wheel as hard as I could to the right. I made the decision, I made the move, I felt the electric nerve impulses moving down my arms – and nothing happened. My arms were paralyzed, the electricity disappeared somewhere in my wrists. Instead, through the windshield I saw two iron gates coming down fast at me out of the sky. They slammed shut in front of me and a loud, resounding, reverberating voice shouted one word: “NO!” I was not allowed to do that.

Maybe it was me, but I don’t think so. My decision was made and I acted on it. I was committed without reservations to my actions, and I did it. And something stopped me. It’s the only time in my life when my free will was suspended, denied, and what I had chosen to do was not allowed to happen. I think it was pure grace, given unbidden by the greatest mystery in the universe.

I think I could manage suicide now, considering I have some experience at it. I know Lenore would understand and not fault me for it, and the mystery would feel the same way. So for me suicide isn’t a problem as far as being afraid of “hell” or separation from Lenore because of violating some religious convention. It’s just hard to do. Plus, I need to know without a doubt that it’s the right thing to do for me. I don’t know that yet.

I’m still finding my way, still waiting for a coherent big picture to form up.

For now this writing stays buried deeply in my archives with other works which open up and expose rooms in the internal palace of my psyche which others are strictly prohibited from entering or even knowing about. To put it bluntly, I think most people can’t handle the truth, neither mine nor their own, and allowing them to see and reflect on mine would be foolhardy and dangerous. It’s a small, undignified thought and likely an illusion as well, I know. But it’s mine and for now I own it.

It feels a bit risky just exposing others to even a scant view of my strange, weird internal landscape…  But being in the moment and fresh from a place where nothing is held back,  I am reminded of and able to share a couple of sayings which help me through times like this. The first is tailorable to fit a given situation:

“You know that feeling you get when you think your internal landscape is a strange, weird place? You know what that is? That’s just a feeling your internal landscape is a strange, weird place –that’s all that is.” And it’s followed by a great laugh. Because it’s true, it’s just a feeling. Truth be told, I think almost everybody must have that condition on board, so even if it’s strange and weird it’s also normal.

The second saying is more direct and clear. “Have you ever noticed how ‘What the hell’ is always the right answer?” Yeah, I have. It’s a thought that precedes most of my questionable leaps into risky places.

The benefit from these written workouts is in coming consciously closer to the totality of who I am really, now, and what is present here. There’s a good argument for sharing it – nothing throws more light into the lives of others than shining it into the guarded, sealed places I fear to share and exposing what is there.

I demur from exposing my deepest self to others because it is not a familiar view. People rarely look at that place within themselves, let alone look there in others. When that viewpoint is mounted the view is often distorted and deflected by personal qualms, acquired judgments, conditioned responses embedded deeply in the gut, just plain fear, and other things which restrict and limit our view of what is truly in us and around us.

When I can look at those places the process illuminates me to how wonderful and miraculous and strange and great the universe is, and my life is, and how wondrously unique and great I am. That’s usually a view killer right there for most folks, because somehow we become convinced we are small and not great, and come to believe recognition of our personal greatness is an egotistical disease and a spiritual mistake.

Once we are convinced of the smallness of our self and reality there is no way to behold greatness either in the self or the universe until our perspective becomes broader and saner and more inclusive and less exclusive again.

The only reason I’ve gone on this long about this stuff is to do what Lenore asked me to do. Shine my light. It wasn’t a request, it was a reminder of what our mission here, and everywhere, is and has been and will always be. This is an odd ray of that light for most people but somewhere, perhaps, what I have described here will go where it needs to go and do what it needs to do for someone else, and help them gain a fuller perspective on their own grief and find peace in their life.

May 21, 2017: Respite

I’m experiencing a respite from the terrors and pains of grief. The last two days were relatively tear-free after early morning writing workouts where I took a ruthless, honest, intensely personal look at the unspeakably dark side of my grief. I found and removed a couple of life-eating worms involving the merits of suicide, the emptiness of life, and the belief that death is real which were distorting my perspective of Lenore’s death and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. It helped me quite a bit. Sometimes looking at the small, dark stuff can help me see the bright, big places again.

Lenore is not lost to me. She is where she has always been; in the past, and the present, and the future. She is alive, in me, in this world, in the universe at large. She is in my life, my heart, my memory.

She is in the trees and the birds and the rocks and wind and ocean and sun and stars. She is in me, we are not lost to each other. We have always been connected and always will be. In this short life we looked for each other and didn’t stop until we found each other.

We have always and will forever be connected to one another. It will be the same in the next life, and the next, and all the places in the universe we will be in. Always, we will be together. Always, we are together.

And if I cry now, it’s not for emptiness and loss and loneliness. It’s for the poignant, beautiful reality and fullness of who we are really. We are together, unbound of all shackles, free and whole and holy beings living in a universe without end.

Together.

The passage through grief is a journey along a rocky coastline much like the one here. There is no guarantee that on the next leg of this journey I won’t find myself trapped in some low, dark, rocky place yet again. In this moment, however, I am standing at the top of a rocky promontory looking far out into an ocean and sky and universe without limits, and the view is perfectly clear. I won’t forget this place. It’s where we want to be. It’s where we are.

May 22, 2017: Alchemy

When everything changes it takes time to figure out where you are. When world-shattering grief and loss are part of that change it takes time for essential pieces of heart and mind and spirit to come back together. It takes time to regain consciousness, to remember who you are and what you know.

When that begins to happen you wake up in a strange, new world. The immutable realities and truths of the universe which exist at the focal point of all perspectives are there, unchanged. It’s the view that’s different. You find yourself compelled to sort it out and make sense of it again.

When I was a kid and young adult I was drawn into several brawls with bullies bigger than me. I was young and stupid, which is of course redundant, and I was also afflicted with a childhood-based form of PTSD involving the death of loved ones and abuse from a stepfather who was – you guessed it – a big guy.

In one of those brawls as a young adult I was knocked unconscious in a tavern by a boxer who caught me with a powerful uppercut. It lifted me off my feet and then sent me sliding on my back under a pool table. When I came to the first thing I saw was the underside of the pool table, and I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. I can remember my first coherent thought as I came back around: “What in the hell is that?”

That’s what this part of grief feels like, this part where consciousness begins to slowly return after the knock-out blow.

I first look for the view that was here before I was knocked out. It’s not there. What’s here instead looks like a field of empty buildings and wreckage and debris. The bones of my former life are scattered across a new landscape. Lenore is missing. The uncountable images, the mutual expressions and definitions we created together, the very identity we shared together all seem to be gone, broken.

I need to reconcile this new view, sort it out, and make sense of it. And it comes to me. If I can remember who we were together I can remember who I am, and who she is, and I just might be able to begin to regain my grip on what all this is about really.

So here I am applying my alchemy, writing, trying to transmute the dull grey sheen of this leaden place of mixed up thoughts and feelings and infuse it with the light and luster and immutable, unchanging, fundamental essence of what is golden in this life and this universe.

Nobody has ever done that, you know – turned lead into gold. In that respect there’s never been a successful alchemist in the history of the world. The thing is, when you try to do that it does give you a very clear knowledge of the natures and differences of the two elements and that’s good stuff to know. It’s collateral wisdom. You don’t ever accomplish what you set out to do and made plans to accomplish if you decide to use writing as alchemy. There are no words that can truly recreate and perfectly transmit the essence they represent. Life happens, truth happens, and what you get is what you never really thought about in the beginning. You don’t get the manufactured item, the fake stuff, the heavy ball of lead varnished in gold paint and then pressed flat between book covers and remanded to a shelf. You get the real thing. The gold.

My writing is as loose-limbed and rambling as my thoughts today. That’s OK. They’re true; they represent my condition in this place and time. I’m wandering in the debris field, stopping here and there to run my fingers across the face of old touchstones that mark truths learned, realities seen.

So. Remembering who we were together on the way back to knowing who we are together…

The internal landscape we shared…

I can no longer say that in this life there aren’t many loves between two people as unique and special and rare as the love Lenore and I shared. Maybe there have been uncountable such connections between others. All I know is what I know about what we shared.

This is her, helping me heal, restoring me, leading me, comforting me. She is alive, she is real.

Joy. Sadness. Tears. Fullness beyond fullness, brimming over.

It’s good to know where I stand in this place, in this maelstrom of thoughts and feelings.

It’s good to know I did what I was meant to do in this life.

I solved the mystery of the universe; I uncovered the secret of life; I beheld the truth of everything which is.

I found it all in one of the infinite names of God. I breathe it with every breath and will breathe it even when I breathe no more:

Lenore.

…And then, stepping outside, suddenly all thoughts and cares and reflections vanish in the small white and yellow flowers in the grass and in the warm spring sunshine washing the world fresh and new again; and everything is as it should be. Here we are, together.

May 22, 2017: Take a Giant Step

“There is just no percentage in remembering the past/ You’ve got to learn to live again and love and laugh./ Come with me, Leave yesterday, leave yesterday behind,/ And take a giant step outside your mind…”

These words from a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and performed by Taj Mahal have come around in my mind a lot.

It’s been that way ever since I shared it with Lenore a little over two months before she died. She liked the song. It became a focal point for many of the things we talked about in the days that followed as we looked directly at our present and future and affirmed together what we knew, and recognized what we would have to wait for and see when it happened.

She told me the song spoke to her mind and heart about death and what was soon to come for her, when she would take that giant step and go to where the universe takes us all. The place where all the yesterdays of this life are left behind and we make the leap into the very heart of the real, true thing outside and beyond our life in this body and mind; the leap into pure being.

She told me it was a good song for me, too, to remember in the days to come. That’s probably why it keeps coming around so often now. She told me to stay here but come with her too, to be with her wherever I was, in the moment, in the present. She told me to go on living my life and not get caught up in grief. She told me to remember that even though we didn’t know what it was, there’s something beyond death, and it’s real and bigger and fuller than we could ever know.

I always thought we’d be doing a Thelma and Louise together into the Grand Canyon before she told me all that. That’s the honest truth. We spoke about it several times, laughing yet seriously looking at it. We never really could decide on it one way or the other. It was pending; awaiting a decision when the way was made clear and certain.

I was so good with that plan. I was ready and willing to die with her, to go out together, to enter the next life together, to always be together. She knew all I was waiting for was her word that it was time to go. It actually surprised me when she told me I needed to stay here. She knew being with her was all I wanted and it meant more to me than life itself.

I know she considered my thoughts and feelings about that along with all the other things facing her, and us, and I know that when she told me to stay here and shine my light she meant it with all the knowing she had in her wonderful heart.

It hasn’t been easy.

This morning after the sun was in the eastern sky I went down to the river and sat on a bench there. In front of me tall, thin stalks of grass, heavy with the seed-sheaths of springtime, bent and swayed in a soft land breeze. The river ran smoothly toward the ocean and light flashed on small breakers in the water above sand banks just below the surface, rising in the ebb tide. The contoured horizon of the treed hills on the other side of the river felt eternal and everlasting.

Down river toward the bay I saw the town crowded on the shoreline and the houses on the hill above and thought about how human beings don’t really have dominion over the earth at all. They nestle up to it and draw their sustenance and the food of their souls from it.

I watched a blue heron hunting on the sand shoals of low tide, seemingly walking on the water in the middle of the river. Its paced, majestic stroll and sudden, quick spears into the water caught something deep in me and I watched it with a peaceful, patient fascination for a long time.

And everywhere, everywhere – light and shadows. The heron’s beak gleaming silver in the sun; the eternal shadows in the trees on the hillside; the brilliant green moss on old stumps, ancient river snags, dark with age and twisted roots and branches. The impermanent buildings and houses in the town washed bright in light older than the ages.

On the bench I imagine Lenore is beside me, seeing what I am seeing. Yet again I feel her arms wrapped around my arm, her cheek snuggled up to my shoulder as it was so many times when we beheld the beauty of the earth and this life together. I lean into her embrace and there we are, together.

Later I get up slowly from the bench. In all this beauty I am again alone and she is gone. I walk back up the treed path from the river with tears in my eyes and I hear the words of the song again, and her voice. I want to do what she wants me to, to take her with me through the rest of my life, to go with her down the short trip left to me here on the long road, to live and love and laugh again here with her.

There are moments these days which end with a wail, and moments that give me peace. There are times when grief pierces my heart and I bleed, when sorrow crushes me and I cry, when love comforts me and I rest. This is what it is now. Love in pain, joy in sorrow, peace in turmoil. The full, terrible beauty of this life is what’s real. All I can do is let it all go down, let it lead where it will lead and do what it will, let it be what it is.

My God, how I miss her!

Grief is tidal; it floods and ebbs and rips…

And suddenly, fiercely, it all comes together and flies apart in a confusion of the pieces there and my truth howls its own heart: I can’t go on without her here. I can only go on with her here. Only with her. And god-damn it, I can’t leave yesterday behind. I won’t. It’s as much a part of me as all my tomorrows with her are. I can’t find a place to stand, can’t form one. I don’t know anything at all, nothing.

We will share more moments together like the one on the bench down at the river this morning. But sweet Christ, how I miss her!

It just kills me now. I miss our talks together so much. We were one whole mind in those moments.

 

May 22, 2017: Odd Things

Odd things I’ve noted along the way. A little dark humor and a little dark not-humor.

When I cry, it’s not just tears. At times during the day I take my glasses off to clean them and notice a field of fine, dried salt drops sprayed across the backside of both lenses. Tiny dots, a lot of them. I think it’s because when grief hits me the explosion blows a fine spray of tears straight off my eyeballs.

I don’t get thoughtful or mildly uneasy anymore about the potential, low-probability dangers present in places I drive – like high, long bridges or roads along steep cliffs, or tsunami zones, or high-speed two-way traffic. Instead I feel a tiny, wistful measure of hope that catastrophe and deliverance are both just around the next corner.

Sometimes I suddenly come back to myself and realize I’ve been staring at the same place for several minutes, seeing nothing, feeling nothing; just numb and fixed in a state of suspended animation – which is a good description for it. Life, stopped in its tracks. It’s like the dark side of meditational bliss, the opposite number, the evil mirror-sibling. No-bliss, no-life, no-nothing. It’s Perfect Endarkenment.

I have no health worries anymore. See #2, the hope thing. There’s a rib-eye and real sour cream on my shopping list and I’m thinking about Miracle Whip more than Veganaisse. I may make my own; all it takes is Crisco, unrefined white powdered sugar, raw eggs and a squirt of lemon juice. I might leave the lemon juice out because maybe salmonella enterica or clostridium botulinum bacterias don’t like that. I eat all the bacon when I go out to breakfast now. I wouldn’t mind seeing my cholesterol level so high that it was actually stoned off its ass.

Headache? Cool, maybe it’s a stroke. Chest pain? Oh, could this be it? Please? I don’t exhale cigarette smoke anymore, I fart it. For relaxation I’m whittling a wood IV needle for intra-cranial delivery of thick, days-old coffee. I’m weaving a welcome mat for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I want Donald Trump to mistakenly tweet with the big red nuclear button.

Sometimes Lenore and I kid each other and I’ll say something about how she’s the one in the box of ashes next to me and I’m the one left in a damn body to deal with all this shit. She’ll reply, “Yes honey, that’s true – but you’re the one hanging on to every word I say.” Then she flutters her wide-open eyes at me and gives me a big, sweet, innocent smile. She’s right, as usual. The authorities here are more likely to frown on my condition than hers.

I don’t know what it all means. It’s just odd things that I’ve noticed. One time I told her it hurts, and she said she was sorry I did. Other than that, it’s been a barrel of laughs.

May 24, 2017

“I spent time then soothing Mike down and trying to make him happy, having figured out what troubled him – the thing that makes puppies cry and causes people to suicide – loneliness.”   Robert Heinlein, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”

Loneliness is a powerful thing. It’s certainly a formidable void to find myself floating in, a vast part of the grief and loss I feel. The defenses and actions I take to mitigate it are pitiful and small in comparison to its magnitude. I can form no bastions against it. It leaks into everything; it permeates the air wherever I am.

I try to keep it at bay. I stay busy, I hold to a loose but fairly consistent daily schedule that provides structure to my days. I keep up with mundane daily duties of taking care of basic needs. I shop, I do laundry. I make sure I get enough good food and sleep to take care of myself like Lenore told me to do. I keep our home clean and ordered and maintained.

I read, and think, and learn, and write. I go down to the river or to the ocean or mountains and spend contemplative time beholding and experiencing the eternal perfections of nature and this earth. I go fishing, I eat out, I treat myself to special meals.

I meet new people and shine a part of that light she told me to share, smiling, looking them in the eye, communicating the countless nuances of connection she and I learned together, projecting energy which helps them feel safe and comfortable and invites them to join us – now me – in the moment.

It’s about connection, and up until now it’s been my experience that connection brings peace. Now there is no peace in the connections I make with the people and places and things in my life. The moments come, the moments go, and even in those moments of connection the loneliness I feel in her absence lurks like a dark, empty shadow in my mind and heart and gut and life. We’re separated, and there’s no peace in that.

We’re connected too, of course. I remind myself of that; others remind me of that; and we all hope it will be enough to meet the terrible fact of this separation by death and in some way help me to once again be connected with this life.

I honestly don’t know if it is. Memories, and the presence of her in me, and the thing that became us and still abides in me, and the spiritual knowing we gained together of who and what we are really in this universe – none of that comes forward to stand strongly against this loneliness.

I’m seeking to honestly understand what’s in play here. It doesn’t conform to normal notions of grief. Every experience of grief is unique to the individual of course, so in one way there is no norm of grief.

I think the information gathered by the sociological and psychological sciences as well as the anecdotal shared experiences of others involving grief does provide a general viewpoint that is helpful. That information does form a basic matrix of understanding describing a norm of sorts, but it certainly does not address the individual complexities of the unique, personal experience, especially in the effects of grief on the soul and the spiritual part of one’s life.

I think there’s a difference between being heart-sick and being soul-sick. Both are real and have to be met. Realizing that each is a different aspect of grief is turning out to be a revelation for me. I’ve recovered from the heart sickness which comes with the death of loved ones before. I’m familiar with that. It wasn’t easy, it was hell, and it held the pain and grief of loss, too.

The soul sickness I’ve been experiencing after Lenore’s death is something different. This is like standing alone outside the godhead that together we were immersed in as one spirit. I have no idea what it means or where it leads yet, but I think that in finally recognizing it I’m on to something that will carry me through to the end of this particular journey, to a place of reconciliation and peace where there is no loneliness or separation from her.

I have no idea whether my life here will end at that conclusion or continue on. Either is a possibility. Both prospects are troublesome to me right now. All I can do is be submitted to the truth revealed at the end of the journey. I definitely look forward to arriving at that place where I will be lonely no more.

May 25, 2017: The Fragile Edge

Two months ago Lenore died. The 25th day of the month. Every time I look at a calendar my eye involuntarily glances at the date. Last month and now this month it’s been a day on that fragile edge that Lenore spoke about at the last, a place that sometimes just won’t hold you. I don’t dare think or feel freely or my heart just crashes and burns.

I opened a cabinet door and there were the things she used to bake bread and muffins, and all the spices, and her shadow is in the kitchen, baking and cooking.

I went shopping to stay busy and I found myself turning the same corner in the store as the last time I was there when grief came out of nowhere and hit me as hard as it can. I thought, uh-oh, and got a grip on myself and made it through, the apprehension and remembered pain palpable. Then it hit down in the produce section.

It’s a beautiful day here and I can’t get into it at all. All the beauty and she’s not here. She said she wanted to die before me because she wouldn’t know what to do in this life without me. Hell, I don’t know what to do in this life without her, and I’ve been working my ass off at it.

Every point of purchase gained doesn’t last and I am constantly back at the beginning, crying, driving away from the hospice center, dead, a robot on automatic pilot going forward out of habit without her presence in this life anymore.

I actually reset the trip odometer on the truck before I put it in gear in the hospice parking lot that last day. Mile zero of the road ahead. I have no idea why I did that or what it reads now. Today it’s still at zero as far as I’m concerned. Or it reads a million billion miles away from where I want to be.

May 25, 2017: The Ones Who Don’t Survive

Healing, recovery, moving on, moving forward, learning how to “dance with a limp” and “fly with one wing” – it’s all good information. It offers hope and support and understanding and, most of all, a poignant shared pathos from those who have survived grief no matter how recent or longstanding their loss, no matter how raw the wound or how present the scar.

The thing is, it’s only a subset of all the human beings who have experienced the loss of a loved one and survived. The survivors of grief tell their stories, share their pain and loss and hope and wisdom and the nature of their lives after the blow. They’re still here, life goes on, kindness and caring and serving others and survivals are all confirmed and present. We are reassured, and since we are not the one dead and we have turned again to our own affairs, albeit with the enduring presence of the after-effects of our loss, we carry on.

I want to hear more about the other people, the ones who didn’t survive, the ones who died of broken hearts, the ones who ended their own lives. They couldn’t all have been weak, or sick, or clinically diagnosable, or in some other way conformed to the viewpoints and judgments the general consensus assigned to them and then comfortably filed them away under.

Were they just unexplainable anomalies? I don’t believe that. I think they were probably unexamined, but not unexplainable. I think that happens because there are things people don’t like to look at if they can be avoided, and death is one of those things, and most certainly suicide. Religion condemns suicide, pigeonholes it neatly as a sin that earns the curse of separation and damnation. People seem to want to take the loss of another person to suicide as more painful than other losses to death. Voluntary death-with-dignity laws make people uneasy, they don’t want to think about it.

There’s just something about suicide that inspires a human being to look away, to quickly write it off with a neat label and push it out of mind. Is it fear of the possibility that rational reasons may actually in certain cases and conditions be present there? Is it because doing that is dangerous for the temporarily despondent or depressed individual who might see rationales and justifications in that knowledge which, in their condition, are neither rational or justifiable, but merely seized upon to be the vehicle which conveys them to the end of pain and suffering?

Why not simply have a look at it and regard it calmly as an honest fact of life and seek to understand it?

May 27, 2017: Ghosts

It’s a contemplative morning on the river here; the sky is gently overcast with cloud. Inland heat pressed in from the east last night and condensed the cool, wet sea air. Sound is muffled and colors muted and the slowing of sensory input gives rise to thoughts which ride just beneath the surface of louder, brighter days.

I wonder why this world is not overrun with ghosts, because I live with one these days.

Ghosts – the fading, ephemeral essence of those who once were here with blood burning in hearts which rose into the throat for a swallow flying, a morning rising, a lover’s touching. Why would they not linger here in this place where earth and air and fire and water burn and freeze, where the sun and moon and stars hold fast and turn, where connection and loneliness abide together and an exquisite fullness is present in every moment?

Ghosts fade and eventually disappear from our history. We all do. Each day, all around us, the vast, dynamic, organic continuum of human life is filling with new arrivals, filled with lives living unique legends, and emptying with constant departures. Where are the ghosts of the ancient people who lived in what are now the ruins of history, the long forgotten everyday citizens living long forgotten everyday lives in Akkadia and Babylonia, Troy and Pompeii, living in the cliff caves of the Dead Sea, and the cliff dwellings in Mancos Canyon and Mesa Verde?

Where is Lenore? She burns bright in my heart and memory. Yet soon at some unknown time I too will leave here to join her where she is now. My memories of her will leave here too and sooner or later, in a hundred years or perhaps more, a final article of her particular, unique life – maybe an old photograph hung upon a wall with no memory of the particulars and personality of her life – will be taken down, and put away, and lost.

Where are the ghosts? Where is she?

And an answer comes. It comes from her.

We are here. We are in the earth and air and fire and water; in the rocks and sand, in the cloud and winds, in the sun and flames, in the river and the ocean and the tears and life in rain.

The physics of the universe is not confined within the overlay mind presses over it.

 We are here.

May 28, 2017: The Final Season, The Stripping Fall

I have entered into the final season of life here. There’s calmness in me, an acceptance of things as they are. It is my time to be here, near the end of the long road, remembering and taking stock and looking at the road ahead in the next life. I am at the culmination of my life. It’s part grief, and part about my age, and all about the final season of every human being’s life.

There had always been uneasiness with the writing, the manipulating-god aspect of it, the contrived chiaroscuro biases between the poles of light and darkness, the forced orchestral constructs. A growing discomfort with profane fragments as a singular wholeness welled up around him everywhere. For a time he had traced; drawn and shaded as honestly as he could, seeking tones that were not contrived or certain. Even his slightest touch, he found, had shattered his subject into pieces, and finally he had stopped.

 It had been a portion of his path. It had been good to catch the exquisite images whirling in the world of emerging youth, had been a necessary step into the greater mystery which followed when each shattered piece began to fit with every other.

 He felt now as though his path had been more of a free and dizzying fall, where the velocity of wind had stripped him clean on his way to an absolute destination. A fall still in progress. He thought of the shards that had so far been torn away, wondered what fastenings now unknown would prove to be more excess, to be flung away too in this constant, inexorable cleansing…

 

May 28, 2017: A Creature of the Tides

I am a creature of the tides now, who loved a creature of pure grace. I wait for that final gentle flood to carry me into the eternal sea.

May 29, 2017: Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. I spent my early childhood in a small prairies town in northeastern Colorado and there they called it “Decoration Day.” It was a day of celebration and remembrance not only in honor of those who had served our country in the military; it was also a day of remembrance of the dead.

In addition to a parade down Main Street featuring service veterans wearing their uniforms and medals, and a town picnic in the park, we would go to the cemetery and lay flowers at the graves of loved ones and friends. I can remember riding my bicycle through the cemetery a few days later by myself. The memory of all the fading flowers on so many headstones has remained with me all these years.

Today is the day when we remember the legacy left to us by others. The legacy of an individual life fades with time; the principles of their legacy do not. Whether it is in individual feats of arms and military service or in the way an individual lives their life, the principles and qualities and virtues they embraced and embodied and lived and died by are what we remember.

Today, as every day, I remember Lenore. I remember how she lived, and how she died, and the qualities and virtues and principles she embraced and embodied, and the legacy she left behind in the hearts and minds of those who knew her, and in the collective consciousness of humanity at large.

Lenore and I were matched souls. We were dwellers in the borderlands and boundary country of existence; removed at a distance to a place where the view of humanity and the view of the universe is broad. Simultaneously we were passionately connected to life and sought wisdom and truth through direct experience and total engagement with what life offered to us. We had good hearts and good minds, were curious and compassionate, and we enjoyed life.

The particulars of who we were are lovely to me; yet those particulars were rarely seen even by the people who knew us here. Our shared bliss is for the most part ours alone. Our legacy, on the other hand, is for everyone.

If there is some sort of great book in the afterlife which contains the full record of all lives ever lived and everything that was present and every moment that occurred in each, there will be two dog-eared pages marking the life we led together between the time we met here and the time when we will meet again in whatever life comes after this one.

Her personal legacy will be its own book, and it will have an honored place in the library of the angels.

May 30, 2017: Time to Wail

Time to wail. Today is not a good day, and yesterday, Memorial Day, wasn’t either. Reason and equilibrium disappear in these waves and I think it’s time to say it like it is. I wait usually until I have a balance after these days until I can look at it, and think about it, and write and speak at a distance from it. My expressions sanitize it, my temporary distance or emotional numbness or whatever it is that allows me to be able to think at all creates the illusion for me that I have a grip on this and I don’t. This is hard! I miss her so much! The memory of the last day just kills me, I remember stroking her face and being so appalled and heartbroken for her and all I could do was kiss her face over and over and stroke her cheek and whisper Be at peace, be at peace, oh, Honey, be at peace. I love you. She died at 3 am and I had gone home to get a rest and they told me there was no hurry and I said no, I’ll come to her now. Shit, these memories when they come just kill me.

June 4, 2017: A Time to Die

Any conclusion can be reasoned out. But you have to ask yourself: What does the heart say? My heart says Go. Go now.

Though life is what I want, there is something I want more than life. I wish to go on. I want to die. I’ve considered my options. I’ve had the very best that life offers. People tend to avoid all things unhappy or undesirable in the belief that this improves their contentedness. Avoidance is fine, but why would we want to live in a constant state of denial?

I’ve always been one of those who can do what others don’t, or can’t, or won’t. I can’t say how or why I am what I am exactly. I have a good heart and a good mind. I’ve had a very full experience. I know that the choices I made, good and bad, and a willingness to learn from my mistakes and missteps helped me gain the life I desired. I know that a mysterious grace helped with the rest. This is my final choice. It is my hope that with the help of that grace I will gain what I desire yet again. And if dead is dead and all we believe is dust then so be it. I will be with her. That’s what I want.

I choose to not avoid or deny my circumstances, condition, or prospects. I have had a good, full, complete life. I am not compelled by incompletion to fulfill myself. As a matter of fact, everything still available to me here in this life I have already visited. I have no need to retrace those tracks or engage in future facsimiles. I am content with my history, it is enough.

I am old and my body has lost much of its vigor. I don’t care to deteriorate a piece at a time until death comes. I prefer not to wait on death.

Lenore’s loss and my resultant grief and sadness and despair are a part of my perspective, and I have reckoned with that. It is real, and it is a large part of the choice I make. It is not the only factor. When I consider everything, I’m certain of the choice I’ve made. It’s time to go on.

To many my choice will be a weakness, a sin, a failing, a tragedy, or the result of a temporary derangement. It is none of these. I know what I want, and I know what to do. It is an act requiring strength and resolve and certainty. It is an act of faith, and hope and love. It is an act of faithfulness and devotion. It is an act of completion. I go to her; I go to join her where she is. It is what I want more than I want this life itself.

Those who know love, and know me, will know this is my time to go on. They will know their love didn’t fail me and will not suffer wondering if they could have done more. They will know this is my time to go, and nothing could have held me here.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time of war, and a time of peace.

A time to be born…

Been there. Done all that.

… and a time to die.

Listen: I solved the mystery of the universe; I uncovered the secret of life; I beheld the truth of everything which is. I found it all in one of the infinite names of God. I breathed it and will breathe it even when I breathe no more: Lenore.

All our moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. All thoughts and cares and reflections will vanish in small white and yellow flowers in spring-time grass and warm sunshine washing the world fresh and new again.

I won’t wait to be lazily delivered to her by time and fate. I want to run to her. It’s time to die.

June 4, 2017: I Find Myself Searching

I find myself searching
Through the ashes of our ruins
For the days when we smiled
And the hours that ran wild
With the magic of our eyes
And the silence of our words

Tim Buckley, “Once I Was”

 

She is the day that gives me time
To love and linger, love my life
’Til night comes on with sundown scythe
To end the pause of pantomime
She is the day of love

She is the bridge on which I wait
To watch the river ‘neath me flow
All swimming and surging far below
Along the deep and bending straights
She is the bridge of love

She is the air I breathe entranced
Awake or sleep, in storm or cold
A wind to wash my lifted palm
A sky that calls me out to dance
She is the air of love

She is the day through which I walk
Towards the bridge where she stands
She is the air I breathe to sing
She is the smile without demands

She is the smile that keeps me warm
With matchless laughter, eyes ablaze
No mischief mystery she plays
Upon the flute of early morn’

She is the smile of love
She is the air of love
She is the day of love

Tim Buckley, “She Is”

June 8, 2017: The Hard Edge

I don’t know how flaky grief makes other people at times, but I go some pretty strange places. I’ve decided it’s better to own up to how crazy I can get because it might help somebody else know they’re not alone, and because I’ve been getting sick of sharing “sanitized” versions of my grief with people who are doing their best to support me but would try to fix me rather than allow me to go where I need to go if I revealed some of the things that are going through my head and heart these days.

Here’s an interesting development. An old internal persona I thought was long gone has surfaced. In one way the hard-ass edge of that guy is a help to me right now. It was a long time ago, but some people in my life can remember the time when I didn’t give a shit about life and was a crazy asshole on a motorcycle right up in death’s face challenging it to take me on the road or in a bar. There’s something very empowering about not caring.

The attitude frees me up a lot right now. It feels good, I feel like I’ve been living with an anchor on my heart ever since Lenore died. She knew what I’ve got in me, all the different personas and past shit, and she always knew the hard edge I have in me is what got me through the worst times in my life. She knew I was hard in my judgments and that when I made them I held to them, and if that meant turning my back on somebody and not looking back I’d do it. She was sort of in awe at that part of me, liked me for it, and was not afraid of it at all. She was the one who gentled the beast and put him to rest for all those years with love and acceptance and understanding. She was so amazing. She saw the love I had in me, the patience and compassion and all my virtues. The first time I kissed her I knew I could never be anything but gentle with her. And I always was.

Now she’s gone and this not caring is back.

It’s not about letting her go, that can’t happen.

It’s about letting this life go. I have no idea how strong this part of me is after 33 years with her. The only thing I do know is that no matter where it takes me, she’ll understand. I’m thinking it will see me stepping out of this life to be with her wherever she is.

I find myself sometimes “sanitizing” the things I’m experiencing in my grief. There are many people in my life who are doing their best to support me with only the very best of intentions, but if I get too open and honest about things that to me are a natural part of the territory a grieving person passes through – like loss of faith and a crumbled belief system, absence of joy, thoughts and consideration of suicide, and feelings of frailty and weakness and being on that thin edge between living and giving up – most people jump in with a natural reflex to “save” me.

I understand that, but it’s not what I need. I’m hurting. My grief is a unique, personal path and a process that goes through dark valleys and falls into deep holes. What helps more than anything else is the person who responds with empathy and understanding and simply says in one way or another, “I know. I understand. You’re allowed.”

I’ve gone over the “acceptable” edge of sharing what’s going on for me a couple of times on Face Book and some of the responses were so counterproductive and directive and instructive that I immediately changed those shares to posts for me only.

I basically felt like I had to dive back into the hole I’m living in because if I venture out in too bad a shape I will get shot rather than hugged. And really that’s all I want most of the time. A hug in some form. I want to be included in the hearts of others with compassion rather than excluded by their fears for me or their judgments about my condition.

Whether I survive here or go on to be with her where she is now doesn’t mean a thing either way. The few friends who do help are those who understand and accept what I’m going through; they’re the ones who do know that I’m at risk here and who will understand and accept whatever happens.

June 9, 2017: The Vanities

Early this morning having my first cup of coffee and watching the sunrise and the birds and trees and clouds and river, my head laid back against the wall of the Mystic Wind, I had a chest pain and thought it would be perfect to die right there. It was only my hiatal hernia acting up and I was disappointed. I’d braced myself for the pain and wanted it to come. I want to die. I’m simply waiting for it to come.

Everything has changed for me. The breakdown of my belief system which has come in the wake of Lenore’s death no longer embraces the spiritual beliefs and understanding I developed over my lifetime. The matrix of understanding I put together has proven to be  a collection of learned and taught bits. It’s the result of my nature as a human being, that adaptable creature who adjusts to relative conditions. I observe and experience life and then incorporate that into a relative reality.

The things within my ken which are real and true have dwindled. The planet and the life force, both of which persistently and habitually continue on, are still in the remainder of things which I see as being true. The rest is fading fast.

It’s been observed that there are seasons which have a purpose, and vanities of life. My season now is in a land where old men dwell. It’s time to recognize the vanities of my life, time to own and admit that those pieces which formed the aggregate of my personal identity and my matrix of understanding and my navigational map were useful and necessary when I was young and not so useful now.

There is a time for vanities, for constructing and then living by belief within one’s particularly assembled matrix of understanding. There is a time when we learn about the virtues and vices of human conduct, about the things which fulfill us and the things which empty us, and navigate according to the map we assemble. And there’s a time to see the essential vanity of it, to admit the uniquely personal construct which we formed was merely a useful tool for the self while it existed in a certain season of particular conditions and circumstances. It proves to be only a substantial, serviceable, useable – and temporary – application.

I no longer believe in a personal life after death. I believe that when I die I will be dead. I believe that all the temporary perfection which Lenore embodied was just that – a temporary, exquisite, embodied perfection which existed then and does not exist now. She is a part of the essential material of the universe now. It will be the same for me.

What is true for me now is simple. Life goes on. The universe goes on. There will be, for eons to come just as for eons passed, earth and air and fire and water, the mountains and the trees and birds and clouds and sky, the sun and moon and stars – and human beings who encounter them.

My time here is nearly done because I’m old and my body is more used up than anyone knows. I’m glad of that. I am glad I was here, too. Because here I solved the mystery of the human universe. I uncovered the secret of life. I beheld the truth of everything which is. I found it all in one of the infinite names of God. I breathed it and will breathe it even when I breathe no more. Lenore.

It no longer troubles me that all our moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. I’m content now. All my thoughts and cares and reflections will eventually vanish and what will remain will be in the small white and yellow flowers in spring-time grass and the warm sunshine washing the world fresh and new again. I’m good with that, and I know she is too.

June 11, 2017: An Existential Milepost

Memories come unbidden now; they’re random emotional tics that hit my heart like a spear point. I wrench my mind away from them and go do something that requires my full attention. They return.

My external impartial observer notes daily that I’m living dead. Everywhere I go my face is numb and my mind barely engaged. I don’t smile except when it happens reflexively, when I meet and talk with other people.

The behaviorally conditioned responses of politeness and cordiality during engagement with another human being bring a smile here, a sympathetic agreeable nod there, all the appropriate requirements of the rite. I am merely an automaton, but a good one. In those moments I am engaged, registering, responding, identifying, sharing. Without joy.

They say every grief experience is unique. I’d take that one step further and say that every experience is unique. This is about my experience, and it’s about much more than grief.

The aftermath of Lenore’s death began in a state of shock and grief. Grief led me to considerations of what death is, and what it means and what it involves, and whether or not it had limitations and was simply a passage to a higher state of conscious being. Those considerations led me to look at my own death and the what and when and how and why of my death, including suicide. Those thoughts led me to examine how I felt about my life up until now.

I’ve had a good life. Unusual, a rare mix of gifts and graces, a nature and nurture and experience that removed me so far from any norm or mean that I found myself a dweller on the outside edge of human society. I found few peers but those few were a joy to me. The one person I found who was my equal in intelligence, passion and insight was even more than that. She was the complementary fit to every aspect of my life, and I was that for her as well. The result was that two-who-are-one thing that everybody claims for themselves but few have.

Sooner or later the people who know me realize that I operate at a high level of complexity. Lenore would caution me about over thinking something every once in awhile, so I’m vigilant for that now.

I’m just trying to see where I stand now that she’s gone.

It’s my nature to look directly at people, places and things I encounter and inform myself about what’s really present there. The ground of grief is an unsteady place, heaving up and down daily. There’s a place there where I find myself looking directly and honestly at the option of ending my life. It’s part of the ground, and I can’t and won’t shy away from having a good long look at it.

I’ve been studying the literature available on grief as well as suicide. I find the information about each incomplete.

As far as grief goes, two things stand out for me. First, there is an underlying basic assumption that the life of a survivor goes on, and while hopelessness and despair are part of the grief process it still is nevertheless a process, a path, an experience which will eventually lead to another life experience, and the individual will go on after the loss of a loved one because they have a life to live and fulfill. It seems to me as though in every grief story there is a hint of the presence of that assumption.

The difference for me is that in my loss I also have a sense of fulfillment and completion about my own life. My purpose is accomplished; my life has been lived and fulfilled. It is finished.

Where suicide is concerned, the same absence prevails. The general consensus supporting what you’d call “justifiable” suicide is based on a general formula that when misery is irreversible and permanent and there is no possibility of hope then it is the right of an individual to exercise their free will and end their life. There are elaborations and variations on the theme, but that proves to be the essence of the thoughts on the subject I’ve looked at.

That’s all good and well as far as it goes. It just doesn’t include the whole picture of what conditions could be present which would define an act of suicide as reasonable if that particular set of conditions was not in play.

My misery is not an easy sum. It does include a profound element which is irreversible and permanent and without possibility of hope. Lenore is dead and will not return to be the integral and essential part of my life she was. The pains of that fact alone are enough to compel me to contemplate suicide as an option, and it has. Here I am, doing just that.

The thing is there’s something included in my sum that is not usual. I have a sense of fulfillment and completion. My life has been everything it was supposed to be. Everything that I was supposed to experience, and do, and be – that’s all been lived and done, and is concluded.

The result of that included factor, for me, produces the result that suicide is a reasonable option. It’s a preferable one, actually.

Of course the response to such a conclusion would want to put additional elements into the sum before calculating the result. What about your best friend, what about the regained connection with the loving child you adore, what will this do to them?

 

Well, it would hurt them. That pain would also enrich them, but it certainly wouldn’t be my aim to sensitize them to the poignancies of life any further than they already are. They’re exceptional hearts and minds, and know the score of life already. And most important of all – they would understand. They would understand that life without Lenore is not really living for me.

 

June 13, 2017: Reply to Curt on Grief Speaks Out

Does the severity of your grief ever make you want to give up? Has it shaken your faith in God? Please share your own experience. Thank you. This is to support Curt who writes:

 Do others who grieve just want to give up sometimes? I have times I just wish my life was over. I just can’t stand living without my baby, I miss her so much that I just don’t want to go on! I don’t mean to end it myself, I just don’t care if it ends tomorrow!I don’t even believe there is a God right now!

Dear Curt:

It’s less than three months since Lenore, my wife of 33 years, died. Our relationship was a spiritual union, one of those where-two-are-gathered-together-as-one connections that create what we regarded as a whole human being. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the unknowable spiritual mystery of life, how it is connected to us all and connects us all, and what is possible if a person stays open to it.

I share the feelings you expressed. A large part of my belief system has broken down. I am numb, and would meet death gladly. I consider suicide daily. Belief in an afterlife has disappeared, because if there were one Lenore and I would have connected by now.

Lenore and I once talked about the phrase “you can’t measure your love by the depth of your pain.” It’s in a Keb Mo song entitled “That’s Not Love.” At the time we agreed it was true; in the aftermath of her loss I realize that sometimes it actually is true – it’s just not the whole story. Love is the whole story.

Remembering the love is what seems to enable most people to survive rather than die in grief. There’s a season for the pains of grief, and it’s a dark, terrible time. It leaves a mark and never goes away. It’s something that the heart has to bear and can never escape. It’s unavoidable.

And for all but a very few life goes on and they must go on too, no matter how unwillingly, bearing the wounds and eventual scars of their bereavement, yet also bearing a new depth and understanding of what it means to be alive and human that enriches their lives and the lives of their loved ones and everyone they meet.

For me right now, remembering the love is just a twist of the knife in my heart. I know it’s the only thing that might carry me through this season; I’m just not sure I want to. The thing is, I’m still here – a surprising thing considering how deeply I’ve desired to be dead and with her – and so it seems that there is at least a small possibility that my life may go on a bit further without Lenore in it.

If it does, she will only be in me. She will only be in the heart we formed together. She will only be in the words that form silently in my mind as I hear what she would have said. She will only be in the tears and the smiles of remembered times together. If I do go on, it will be with only those things in my mind and heart – but they will be with me, she will be with me, and whatever I do I will be doing with her. Remembering the love.

Right now I remember the pain and the loss of her. Hell, I don’t have to remember it, I’m living it. It’s what is right now, overpowering and everywhere. The love is behind a dark curtain most of the time, my pain and her loss up front. All I can really say to you in the moment, Curt, is hold on to the moments when you remember the love. They come rarely, but for me they help a little bit and I suspect that whatever light may eventually come will come because of that love.

Personal Note: All but a very few… I didn’t say I’m one of those few. The day is coming, I’m just bound by the fact that until it does come it is for now “that day and hour no one knows.” When it comes, it will be that day and hour. I will end my life and I will be with her, wherever that is.

June 19 2017: Reflections

He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.

And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.

No one believed. They listened at his heart.

Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it. 

No more to build on there. And they, since they

Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

‘Out, Out—’   by Robert Frost

The first time I read this poem I was fifteen years old and the last two lines impacted me so much I’ve never forgotten them. They were so cold and ruthless and true. I’ve seen it happen all my life and done it myself, survived loss and moved on. In the wake of Lenore’s death and the throes of my bereavement so much has come forward from the past about death and loss. I’m considering everything I know about that.

Grief is indeed unique to the individual and so this is only about my personal experience.

First there was the concussion that hit the day she died and the shock that slowly shattered my heart into pieces as I drove away from the hospice, and the numbness and disbelief even though we’d both seen her death coming. She was reconciled to it and at peace and met it with unbelievable strength and grace, but then that was her, who she was, how she lived.

When I was with her the last time, after her body had been washed and cleaned and arranged by the hospice staff and the stuffed Murphy puppy and my wool shirt were nestled up to her, I saw the slight, gentle smile of a Madonna on her face and knew she’d died the way she lived.

I’d had a near-death experience when I was young and had told her about it and in those last days reminded her of it again. I hoped in that final moment with her body that at least in part her peaceful smile was because she had experienced the peace and timelessness and connection and time to decide to go on I had experienced when near death. I came back, I had a choice. She did not, her circumstances were different. I just wanted her dying to be as beautiful and gentle and easy as it could be for her. That was all I ever wanted for her, in life and at the end.

There is no order in my grief. It’s a random, unnumbered hopscotch of days where I land in unspeakable places, fall into deep holes, teeter on the edge of precipices, walk through life with the thousand-yard stare of concussive aftermath. I often meet the daily events of my life in an outwardly unremarkable appearance, having conversation with others, beholding the beauty of nature, eating, cleaning, and taking care of the daily mundane chores of life in a body. Inside it’s a different story. I’m a gutted, hollow hulk, living by habitual rote, more robot than human in my actions – but very, very human in the pain at the core of it all.

Memories come unbidden now; they’re random emotional tics that hit my heart like a spear point. I wrench my mind away from them and go do something that requires my full attention. They return.

My external impartial observer notes daily that I’m living dead. Everywhere I go my face is numb and my mind barely engaged. I don’t smile except when it happens reflexively when I meet and talk with other people. The behaviorally conditioned responses of politeness and cordiality during engagement with another human being bring a smile here, a sympathetic agreeable nod there, all the appropriate requirements of the rite. I am merely an automaton, but a good one. In those moments I am engaged, registering, responding, identifying, sharing. Without joy.

There are people in my life who are worried that I won’t survive Lenore’s loss in my life. They should be. I am.

They know how we lived our life together; know how deeply we were bonded. They suspect at some deep level, either consciously or subconsciously, that perhaps the life we lived together may have abolished any chance I might have for living this life without her. One of them called me just last night and I was so very grateful that she has the insight and sensitivity to know what I’m experiencing; the sad, hard, terrible, beautiful, terminal truth of it.

That’s the place I’m in now. I doubt that there are very many people at all who have grieved and not considered suicide at one time or another in the course of their passage through the pains of loss. The most open and honest confessions of people who have experienced profound bereavement always include a time when they felt like dying and wanted to kill themselves. It’s a consideration, an option. I have to look at it. I have been.

I have to find out where I stand, if nothing else.

I’m not in a condition to act upon my conclusion if it all adds up to suicide. The friend who called me last night reminded my yet again that I am in no condition to make any serious decisions right now, and I know that. At this point I just want to know where I stand. I’m willing to forestall any decision or action regarding suicide until I’m standing on certain ground and know without equivocation or reservation that it’s what I desire more than life.

Writing is part of my process, it helps me sort things out, put them in order and articulate my experience. It’s necessary for me because I process the things I encounter in life at a high level of complexity. I can see and hear Lenore responding to my saying that, raising one eyebrow in my direction with a smile on her face, loving me because I am that way. “Oh, really Bob? Do you think?” I can hear her pleased laugh. It’s who I am. Life gets pretty confusing for me if I don’t do that.

I will add, however, that her heart is in me as well, as my mind was in her. We were/are both intelligent, loving human beings. In my regard we were/are, together, one of the best examples of the potential humanity can reach in the practice of true love.

That’s what this is about. It’s about putting in order my complex confusion about my life now. A lot of this writing goes into my archives because it’s very personal. I’m writing this with the intention of sharing it with others for whatever understanding might be made available to them about this part of their own grieving, if only in a general way.

In particular I hope it might provide some understanding to those people who do love me and might be affected by my suicide if that turns out to be the choice I make. I think it might be easier for them to return to their own affairs if they knew I made a reasoned, solid choice for myself, and why, and know that I was not a victim of a temporary despair or derangement.

What I do want to know is whether or not my life ended when Lenore died or if there is a measure of life without her left to me.

My bereavement has slowly moved from the place where all I can see is her loss to a place where the perspective is larger and broader. Bereavement does that, it leads people to consider not only the life and death of their beloved but their own life and death as well. It does not diminish the loss of the loved one. That will always be there. No matter how broad the perspective, that loss will be at the core of everything in even the broadest of landscapes.

Bereavement is part of the ground in this life. We live, and we die. Many of the bereavements we encounter are brief, glancing encounters, times when we are reminded of the fact of our own death but return quickly to our own affairs. The loss of former acquaintances, former friends lost in time, even the occasional glances we have of obituaries in the newspaper or word of someone’s death in social media give us at least a short pause for thought about death and loss and lives lived and ended.

Some of the losses we have involve significant bereavements. In my case I count the loss of my brother Tony and the deaths of my maternal grandparents among those. They struck hard, their loss lingered in me, and it took time to return to my affairs. I was changed significantly by their loss, yet able to go forward in much the same direction I was going before their deaths.

And then there are the profound losses, the life-changing bereavements that changed my life forever. I’ve had two of those. One of those bereavements took me out beyond the edge of life, into a complexly rooted insanity and a time when I was homeless and mad as a dog, wandering aimlessly on the beach in southern Oregon, eating out of tidal pools, smelling like wood smoke from the fires I slept by at night wrapped in a wool blanket, my only possession.

The roots of that hit were very complex and involved an element of traumatic stress disorder taken on in my childhood as the result of the loss of my father, who I loved and who loved me very much, at the age of seven and then my exposure down through the ensuing years to more death, an exposure to evil and abuse, and many more conditions which wounded me and did not heal for many years.

It was also complex in the fact that no-one had actually died during that bereavement. My first marriage had failed due to my own failings and afflictions. I loved my ex-wife but I was young, tortured, and incapable of embracing the behaviors that are necessary to sustain a marriage, and it ended. We had three children. It wasn’t right and not even necessary, as I realized later, to view the separation from my daughters as bereavement, but in the condition I was in and because of the past that was bursting like an infection from the encysted pains of my early life, I felt like my children had died.

They were gone from me, just like my father was gone from me, and what made that sense of loss so terrible for me was the feeling that while at the same time I grieved them as lost forever, they still remained here in this world. I think the pain of that conflict is what finally, utterly broke me at the time.

I tried to commit suicide twice in that time, serious attempts, and I learned then that it is difficult to do, and can even be denied to you by the grace of God when you have seemingly succeeded. In retrospect I’d have to say the toughest part of committing suicide is the commitment that has to be in place before you can accomplish it. You have to be certain beyond doubt of where you stand.

Somehow I survived even that, the time of my life when I walked through the darkest valley I’d ever been in. I went on, I slowly healed the old and recent wounds, I found myself reconciled to the pains of life and the scars I bore, accepting what had gone before and my own part in it, willing to face more of the same while hoping for better than I had up to that time. I found a spiritual core in me that did indeed consist of faith and hope and love.

And then Lenore and I, seeking one another across the face of this earth for as long as we had been alive, finally found one another. We lived 33 years together and had a life together that was whole and holy and indescribably wonderful and beautiful.

Now she is gone, and I’m here in this landscape, considering what is left, and what is next. Regardless of whatever decision I might make as far as suicide goes and regardless of how fully and wholly reasoned out it is, it needs to be fully recognized that the emotional and, more significantly, spiritual impact of her loss is the largest element in my considerations. It can’t be otherwise.

How can I not contrast my knowledge of knowing what life can be when it achieves the highest level of love with my knowledge of what life is like without it? Even when I consider the unknown future, which always holds a measure of hope simply because what is unknown always has a possibility of hope attached to it, I see no life available to me which would even come close to the life I’ve had. Even if there were one I could clearly see I doubt that I would take it up simply because I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve already had in this life.

And that’s another thing. In addition to the typical manifestations of grief I recognize in my own experience, most of which involve pain, there is something very unusual present. I feel like my life has been fulfilled, and is completed. It’s a feeling that’s not painful at all. It’s a peaceful, quiet recognition that I’ve lived a full life and done everything I needed to do, had all the experiences I needed to have. I’m satisfied with it all. I really do feel that way. It’s one of the places I already know I stand, certain and with no doubt whatsoever.

So here I am at this existential milepost, trying to decide which way to go. When I make my final decision it won’t be just a head thing, or just a heart thing. It will be a head and heart thing, reasoned and felt to a degree of certainty that has no doubt left in it.

Those of you who are reading this by now have an idea of my inclinations toward suicide, and hopefully some of the revelations here will give you an understanding of why I did it if I do choose to end my life voluntarily and not wait for nature to take its course. And if it’s more than you can take on right now, take hope in the fact that I’m still here – a surprising thing considering how deeply I’ve desired to be dead and with her – and so it seems that there is at least a small possibility that my life may go on a bit further without Lenore in it.

Though life is what I want, there is something I want more than life. I wish to go on. I want to die. I’ve considered my options. I’ve had the very best that life offers. People tend to avoid all things unhappy or undesirable in the belief that this improves their contentedness. Avoidance is fine, but why would we want to live in a constant state of denial?

I’ve always been one of those who can do what others don’t, or can’t, or won’t. I can look at things others turn away from. I can’t say how or why I am what I am exactly. I have a good heart and a good mind. I’ve had a very full experience. I know that the choices I made, good and bad, and a willingness to learn from my mistakes and missteps helped me gain the life I desired. I know that a mysterious grace helped with the rest.

This is my final choice. It is my hope that with the help of that grace I will gain what I desire yet again. And if dead is dead and all we believe is dust then so be it. I will be with her. That’s what I want.

I choose to not avoid or deny my circumstances, condition, or prospects. I have had a good, full, complete life. I am not compelled by incompletion to fulfill myself. As a matter of fact, everything still available to me here in this life I have already visited. I have no need to retrace those tracks or engage in future facsimiles. I am content with my history, it is enough.

I am old and my body has lost much of its vigor. I’ve held much of my physical condition close, not even telling Lenore everything, although I shared enough with her so that she knew enough. She was an observant girl and I suspect she figured out the rest. My lungs and heart are in bad shape, not retrievable to a condition approximating some form of reasonable health. The symptoms of their further deterioration are showing up in the mirror and my days as they are ravaged further by the stress of grief. I don’t care to deteriorate a piece at a time until death comes. I prefer not to wait on death.

Lenore’s loss and my resultant grief and sadness and despair are a part of my perspective, and I have reckoned with that. It is real, and it is a large part of the choice I make. It is not the only factor. When I consider everything, I’m certain of the choice I’ve made. It’s time to go on.

To many my choice will be a weakness, a sin, a failing, a tragedy, or the result of a temporary derangement. It is none of these. I know what I want, and I know what to do. It is an act requiring strength and resolve and certainty. It is an act of faith, and hope and love. It is an act of faithfulness and devotion. It is an act of completion. I go to her; I go to join her where she is. It is what I want more than I want this life itself.

Those who know love, and know me, will know this is my time to go on. They will know their love didn’t fail me and will not suffer wondering if they could have done more. They will know this is my time to go, and nothing could have held me here.

What about my best friend, Kay, what about the regained connection with Alicia, the loving child I adore, what about the friends and family who love me and would like to have me around for awhile, if only to know that I was still here in this life with them,  what will this do to them?

Well, it will hurt them. That pain will also enrich them, but it certainly isn’t my aim to sensitize them to the poignance of life and the nature of death any further than they already are. They’re all exceptional hearts and minds, and know the score of life already. They will understand. They will understand that life without Lenore is not really living for me. They will know that for me, in my circumstances, suicide is a reasonable option. A preferable one, actually.

That time is coming, I’m just bound by the fact that until it does come, it is for now that day and hour no one knows. When it comes, it will be that day and hour. Either nature will have taken me to the end, or I will end my life and I will be with her, wherever that is, because that is where I wanted to be more than any other place in the universe.

And if, in the end, this all proves to be only the blood-letting of dark humors in one of the normal stages of grieving, then let it be at least a cautionary tale of the dark ground that will be encountered there in the loss of true love.

June 20, 2017: A Hell of a State

Sometimes in our life together when things had gotten into disarray, whether it was a simple matter like the house becoming too cluttered or the yard suddenly being overgrown in the growth-burst of springtime, or a more complicated mess involving relationships with others or the like, Lenore would cheerfully cast her eye on the situation and observe, “Life is messy. Clean it up!”

Life does get messy. I sometimes wish it were possible to put everything going sideways in my life in a nice package and wrap it all up with a neatly tied ribbon, set it aside, and, unencumbered by any residue or detritus or clinging remnant, move on to the next step of my path. Everything that had gone before would be in that box, neatly packed, arranged, put in order – and put away in favor of going on with the rest of my life. It doesn’t work that way.

Oh, there are those times when I can just roll up my sleeves and get busy restoring things that have gotten out of hand to their former order and neatness because that’s known to me. I know what a neat yard and uncluttered house looks like and what needs to be done. I know how to blitz-clean a cluttered home and pull weeds.

I even have a pretty good idea of what it takes to clean up the more complex messes that relationships sometimes get into, and of course the cleaning up there is more complex, too. Sometimes it involves an apology or an olive branch, some listening from a broader perspective, some sympathy and reassurance and empathic regard. Sometimes it involves an assessment of the relationship’s viability and nature and a decision about whether to go forward with it or simply clean up my side of the street the best I can and move on.

Life and I have one of those messy relationships right now. I’m not happy with it. I want to move on. I’m schizoid, ambivalent, rendered nearly non-functional by this particular relationship.

This morning in the quiet town café where I’ve had breakfast two or three times a week for the past month or so, a sweet thing happened. I overheard my usual waitress telling another customer that tomorrow would be her last day there, that she was moving on to another job which would pay more and help her raise her three school-age children.

Lenore and I had a way of connecting with strangers we developed into an art down through the years. It’s a simple thing, really. All we found it necessary to do was be comfortable in our own skin, make eye contact with a friendly smile, and send out the “vibe” that we were nice people and happy to be in their company. I think it was a skill that was always in our social repertoire, but practice over the years did perfect it and it became reflexive.

We had a special affection for people in service to others who worked on the front lines of customer contact – grocery checkers, restaurant wait-persons, etc. – because their ongoing exposure to some of the more difficult behaviors of human beings often builds virtues and character strengths. Patience, acceptance, tolerance, humor, kindliness, and wisdom were often evident to us in the service people we encountered. We worked in a service industry ourselves for many years so perhaps we could see more clearly what their work had produced in their character.

At the café my demeanor toward this waitress had always been friendly and kind but not overtly so. I was reserved in a sort of classic, old-school gentlemanly way. I smiled, I was kind, I always sent out the comfort vibe. We never spoke except about the business at hand. I thanked her often. That was about it.

This morning when I went to the register to pay my bill I inquired about her leaving and she filled me in briefly. She gave me my change, and I looked her in the eye and smiled one last time, nodding when the connection was made yet again, and said, “Well, I hope you fare well.”  She caught that old-school “farewell,” and said thank you. She paused for a moment and then she said, “It has been a pleasure to serve you.” – with just a slight emphasis on the words “pleasure” and “you.” It was a gracious, sweet thing to say. And that was it.

On the way home I wondered how it is that I have come to a place in my life when everything I have experienced and learned has brought me to a place where such sweet, gracious moments like that one occur fairly regularly during the often brief encounters I have with strangers. A Viet Nam vet on the fishing dock about three weeks ago. A 79 year-old guy named Ray who shared my table for a half hour down at the café during a busy lunch hour. The couple who run the taffy and candy shop together here. There have been others, too.

In my grief I have not been isolated and confined and alone, I’ve been engaged in life too. How is it, I wondered on my way home this morning, that these moments are positive and beneficial and filled with a subtle but satisfying bit of joy for the person and myself, yet I no longer cherish them as I once did for being small, simple contributions of goodness to another human being as well as one more drop of goodness in the bucket of the social consciousness at large?

I’ve grown up to be a nice person. I was always inclined to be fairly nice to others and always had a strong empathic ability to connect with strangers quickly. When Lenore came into my life she was such a great model for those behaviors, and more socially practiced than I was. Her example helped me refine my own natural social skills. How is it I don’t find satisfaction in the joys present there now?

Yesterday, in an attempt to distract and redirect myself from the dark humors of grief and loss and emptiness that assault me I watched three consecutive episodes of the old TV series “Boston Legal.” I laughed a lot. I appreciated the humorous, insightful, skillful writing that created such quirky, interesting, flawed, uniquely individual characters. I liked how articulately various societal issues were addressed. I experienced an awareness of the appreciation I had developed down through the years for enriching, rewarding art and thought, and I felt satisfied with the personal tastes I had evolved.

There’s a lot in this world that still has the power to engage me. I could engage here. I’ve become a resource, an example, and in some things even a model for what a person can develop into over time. I can still love, still hold affection for others, still help and serve others. There are people who love me, people who could use my presence and experience and knowledge and wisdom in their lives, people who just want me to be around for the comfort it would give them to know I’m here.

How is it that none of that registers for long in my heart and sensibilities? How is it that hope doesn’t spurt at least a drop or two out of its wellspring and make itself welcome and felt?

How is it that my default setting these days is null, and numb, and void?

It feels to me like somewhere along the way I died, and just haven’t gone down yet. I’m a walking ghost, wandering in the shades between life and death, neither alive nor dead – yet at the same time simultaneously oscillating between the two. I’m alive in brief moments through habit and distraction and in temporary engagements, and dead in the long run.

It is, as I observed to a friend not long ago, a hell of a state to be in.

June 24, 2017: Practical Suicide and Impractical Desires

My health is not good and deteriorating and I will NOT get involved with doctors, etc. I have had a good life and don’t feel incomplete or unfinished. Life without Lenore is a diminished life, a slow denouement. I have no unfinished business. I’m ready to go on, to be where she is.

Life is still available to me. Joy, family love and connections, art, travel – it’s all still available to do. If I was younger or healthier life’s possibilities, and not being completed, and hope, would carry me forward like all the people who are bereaved and haven’t fulfilled their lives yet. It wouldn’t be time to leave yet.

I need to consider the damage done to others by my suicide.

I don’t want to hurt anyone. I would like them to understand, to take the good from the example Lenore and I left and live their own lives seeking, finding, and living with love and joy and meeting life as it comes.

Of course the question then becomes why didn’t I keep doing that? It’s hard to help others understand that I already did that and, having done it, find coming to the end more comforting than going on. Every day right up to the last one will always have some measure of love and joy and connection in/of/to life itself for me. It’s difficult to explain that I love my loved ones, and life, and at the same time am completely ready to go on. I’m ready not just in my heart, but in my mind and body, too. I actually want that.

What do I want? I want to be where she is; to die before winter; to have no one suffer because of me. I want those who love us and know us to understand. I want others to celebrate and honor and learn from how we lived, rather than give our deaths any power at all in their lives.

I want others to actually fear death less knowing there is a time for it; to live their lives in such a way because of our example that they can come to death fulfilled by their own love and connections.

I want others to know that rather than just be delivered to death by nature and the body, a person can fulfill their life and choose to die before natural death because of that fulfillment, knowing their life has been completed.

June 25, 2017: Premonition of Death

Well, this doesn’t seem to be normal or typical, but it seems right. I haven’t been able to find a description of a “stage of grief” that covers what I’m experiencing now.

Every experience of grief is unique to the individual and their experience and the conditions present in their lives before and after their bereavement. There’s a lot of room for variability in the experience of grief.

Where I am right now may or may not be a rare place in the landscape of bereavement and grief. Perhaps it’s an often-experienced place not often spoken of by others. There are many reasons why a grieving person would choose to not share certain places encountered on the dark ground of grief.

I think one of those reasons, which would explain the rarity of its expression in the general compendium of grief, is that there are certain circumstances which are not rare given a certain set of conditions and which are most often met and reconciled by the individual without, for the most part, revelation to others. People work it out themselves, and don’t speak of their experience.

Obviously I tend to speak of my experience. When I think about it, I can’t explain my impulse to share. In the end it boils down to just that – an unexplainable impulse to share my experience with others. I’ve been that way at least as long as I’ve been writing and probably as long as I’ve been alive.

Five days ago in a rare moment of quiet peace I had the strongest feeling that I would die sometime in the fall of this year as the result of natural causes. It had the certainty of a revelation rather than just a feeling generated by the sum of my current conditions and circumstances. For a good while after that I felt calm, and at peace, and even happy.

It’s credible to me considering my condition, circumstances and prospects. “Natural causes” covers a lot of ground when one includes rare, inexplicable or alternately-explained causes such as a broken heart, a split soul, and/or a person whose life is so fulfilled that they have no further attachment to remaining alive and only desire to move on without regret.

Since then I have had those roller-waves of emotion which are a normal part of my life these days, but they come far less often and pass quickly when I remember the promise of that moment. I have experienced how content and fulfilled I am with the life I have had, and that I have no unfinished business here other than one thing – to die. I feel that my desire to be with Lenore wherever she is has been honored and will soon be fulfilled. It has given me more comfort than I can describe.

I find myself more engaged in life than I have ever been since Lenore died as a result of this development. I don’t despise life, I never have. Life is life, and every day offers an uncountable richness of experience which includes new opportunities for joy and satisfaction in my connection with others and nature. It will continue to do so. I acknowledge that.

The thing is, I’ve already had enough of that to fill a lifetime, and it has. I will continue to engage in and be engaged by life even during these days when I am moving toward the end of my life – which is now, strangely enough, a happy prospect with the promise of experiencing joy and satisfaction and connection and fulfillment yet again.

From where I stand this all seems very normal given my particular set of circumstances. Maybe it’s rare, maybe not. Maybe it’s common among those who have had an experience similar to mine and is just a thing not spoken of often. I don’t know. I do wonder if there are others who have experienced this.

I haven’t feared death for many years. In fact, I might never have feared it. I was exposed to it early in my life and knew of it, what it looked like, how it felt, what it meant for the living who had lost a loved one. I felt sadness, not fear, when I encountered death.

I’ve thought about death often during the course of my life, sometimes reflectively and philosophically, sometimes during its closer presence in the deaths of loved ones and friends. I haven’t been inclined to avoid thinking about my death or the deaths of others or death as a fact of life. I’ve given it due consideration and my attention when it was called for without being drawn down into morbidity.

Now death has become a comforting prospect for me. This recent occurrence of a seemingly grace-delivered reassurance that I will die soon has been very comforting. I no longer feel rushed to reconcile myself and arrive at a conclusion quickly and act upon it. I no longer feel desperate and overcome by feelings of panic and being trapped and lost and numb and confused.

How else can I describe it? The solid feeling that my death is near has gentled me and comforted me beyond words.

June 25, 2017: Who Am I, Who were We?

Lenore was the one person in this life who really knew the most about who I am, and she loved me for it. In a way I’m like one of the old tea clipper ships with a very, very long anchor chain. I tend to wander widely across the oceans of the earth, rising at times on the tides of the clouds to sail far above the earth, among the moon and stars even while being tethered to the earth. We were both born to sail together on such a ship, and we did.

I have been gifted with an odd, strange genius and a nature and a heart that has made my life very interesting and rich. Lenore was the only person I ever knew who genuinely liked and enjoyed and loved always being in my company, and understood my unusual experience and the person I am, and took delight from it all. She was brilliant, she was uniquely odd in the rarity of her many gifts and perfections, and she was very, very human in an indescribably angelic way.

One of the nice things about Lenore was that she always knew I did have an anchor in reality and never, as so many others did, wondered whether I was basically an over-imaginative, creative loony adrift in delusions and far-flung speculations; an easily dismissed odd person on a strange tack who was obsessed with the business of finding meanings in correlations and relationships where there were none, and as a result not a person who was living a normal life in a normal way in the “real world.”

Lenore knew it was a real world. She lived there, too. We were so much alike in so many ways. And so much of what we were was far beyond “normal.” It was exquisite. Our life together was a constant, ongoing shared experience of those exquisite nuances of life which often go unnoticed by most people.

Just sayin’, dammit. Just sayin’…

June 26, 2017: Strange Lessons Learned along The Way

Yesterday afternoon, bent through a half-open transport van window, I spent 20 minutes with my hand on the back of a traffic accident victim, speaking to him calmly and keeping him from moving his head until paramedics arrived because he had facial lacerations and a probable head injury. I walked through a crowd of uncertain, milling bystanders and just did it.

I have no training at all as a first responder. All I could do was the little I did, letting him know through the contact of my hand and my words that another person was there with him and he was not alone. I learned how to do that from a stranger many, many years ago. No matter how little we can do in such circumstances, there’s always something we can do.

That lesson is part of a bigger story from my first life, the life when Lenore and I were still seeking each other. It was a time when my own personal devils and demons were taking me down hard, down into the bottoms of life. Before I go any further I need to say this is a true story. All of it.

I was living on the beach in those days, on a downward spiral into eventual homeless madness. At that time I still had an old, hammered, spray-canned (flat black) Plymouth Satellite –soon to be abandoned on the beach – which held a few carpentry hand and power tools, my books, and a wool blanket I found in a dumpster which would eventually end up being my only possession.

On that day I was in town to sell the last of my carpentry tools in order to buy the raped Indian girl a pair of shoes and provide her with a bus ticket so she could hitch-hike back to her family on the res. I know that sounds strange and hard and even crude, “the raped Indian girl.” But that was how it was and for some reason the memory has been tagged with that title in my mind forever.

She’d appeared on the beach late at night a couple of weeks earlier at the campfire I shared with Gary, a homeless, Viet Nam-tortured vet living off the land using survival skills he’d acquired in Special Forces. He sensed her in the shadows beyond the fire and quietly said, “You can come on in if you want. You’re safe here.” She moved into the edge of campfire light and just hung there, poised and ready to run like a wounded deer. Far down the beach behind her we could hear the drunken locals she’d escaped from howling around their own fire. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened to her.

We just sat there quietly staring into our own fire. Eventually she came in, sitting as far away from both of us as she could while still being able to catch some heat from the fire. Without getting up I quietly put some more driftwood on the fire and tossed the blanket to her. Later I went to sleep in the car and Gary got her settled by the fire, telling her he’d stay awake and make sure she was safe.

If I were to speak about Gary in the terms that many would and probably did, I would dishonor him. Suffice it to say that all the attempts to describe him in terms of PTSD and psychotic breaks and reconstructed alternate realities are small-minded and futile. He was what he was and he was who he knew he was. He had adopted the identity and the mission of Christ.

In the aftermath of unspeakable horrors and acts in Viet Nam he’d martyred himself to non-violence and roamed the earth and taverns and bars teaching people about the depths of rage and violence they had within them, inciting them and getting the hell knocked out of himself. When the unresisted beatings were done he’d howl “You see? You see? You see what violence and rage and brutality you have in you? Do you see that?” And then he’d run back to the beach and collapse under a bush somewhere and heal for days and then do it all over again.

I saw him teach his lesson once in a biker bar in Charleston, Oregon. It was horrible and it was magnificent. I was talking to a semi-retired Hell’s Angel who was there trying to teach his son how to sell drugs and experiencing some parental frustration because the kid was dense and just not getting it at all. He was telling me a story about how they used to move bales of weed with forklifts in warehouses in southern California in the fifties when a commotion broke out down at one end of a pool table.

I saw Gary being pushed violently backward and then take a pool cue butt across his forehead and go down hard and then stand back up on adrenaline and point at his assailant and begin to howl his sermon. When he was done he bolted out of the door. He’d once told me that his weakest time was after he’d been beaten. He had to get away fast before the old ways took hold of him and he became a killer again instead of a healer.

There was dead silence in the place after he was gone, everyone there trying to process what they’d just seen. The old biker muttered one word. “Jesus.”

When the raped Indian girl appeared at our campfire that night she gave Gary a merciful respite from the life he led. In the days that followed they walked together for miles up and down the beach while the Christ in him soothed and calmed her, gentled her and helped her heal. He cared for her and he loved her with true, pure, very real love.

Her name was Maria and during that time she became attached to him and loved him back. She became his Mary Magdalene. It couldn’t have been otherwise. That’s what true love does. It inspires love.

I hoped for him in those days they spent together. I hoped he’d fall like a stone from that high, sacrificial place he’d submitted himself to and into her arms. He didn’t. The time came when it was time to release her and go on his own way, and he did.

That day when I was in town delivering Mary to the road ahead, I’d come out of the pawn shop where I’d sold my tools and looked down the street just in time to see a motorcycle get t-boned by a car in the intersection there. The rider was down and screaming, a crowd gathered. A crowd just like the one yesterday gathered around the crashed van here. They were milling around in confusion and surprise, not certain what to do. And while I stood there on that sidewalk a half a block away I saw a woman emerge from the crowd and go straight to the downed motorcyclist, and take his hand in hers and put her other hand on his cheek, and begin talking to him. There was nothing else she could do in that moment, but she did that, and she stayed with him until help arrived. She just did it. There’s always something we can do.

Yesterday I came back to the RV after the first responders had arrived and a young fireman had been assigned to stabilize the head and neck of the man I was with. I wanted to share what had happened with Lenore and she wasn’t here. I realized she would have been there with me, doing what I was doing. I felt like it was her in me, doing what I’d done.

And now I am crying and I will cry for a long time today. I can tell when that’s going to happen. But today, right now, I can’t tell if it will ever stop.

June 26, 2017: Epilogue: Strange Lessons Learned along The Way

“I am old now, and great chunks of memory rest deeply dormant in me, unrecalled for so long I think they are lost. Then a message arrives, a moment comes, a certain quality of air and light, a faint ephemeral wisp of breath in the mountain morning air. Memory stirs… and there it is, resurrected, slowly rising in salient bits and particular pieces…

 “The gestalt of who I am, here and now, is an incorporated sum of it all, a greater wholeness. The parts are optional, particular, and obscure. The resultant thing, greater than the sum of its parts – that’s the real thing. It’s here and now, not there and then.”

I’ve been remembering more about the time in my life I shared in my last post. I’ve remembered what I thought about Gary and the elegant solution for his own survival he put together from the pieces of his Viet Nam-shattered mind. On the surface it appeared insane. Yet to me it made perfect sense.

The beatings he took teaching his lesson of non-violence in the strange and self-brutalizing way he did gave him the penance he felt he’d earned for his acts. His service to others in bringing to consciousness the dark side of human nature carried the hope that others would learn what he had learned and be better for it. It added hope to his own experience, and hope is vital to survival. The service he gave also gave him a way to pay the debt to life he felt he had acquired. His mission gave him purpose. His embrasure of the divine self, the Christ in him, gave him a new identity – one he could, literally, live with.

Penance, payment, purpose and a new identity – that was Gary’s simple, elegant solution to his existential predicament. It sure wasn’t “normal” in any sense of the word, but it worked for him.

He adapted, and so he survived. It seems ironic now to think that perhaps the Special Forces training that delivered him to his destruction might also have been part of what enabled him to do that. And then there was his youth, and also the obvious fact that he had not fulfilled his life and had things left to do. It all contributed to his survival.

In the reverberations of that memory of Gary I find myself considering my own existential predicament. I have no elegant solution. I think I might be beyond that, perhaps even in a good way.

My eventual solution will not involve the pieces Gary put together in his own reconstruction. I have no penance to pay, no debt. My purpose is fulfilled and my identity is known. I am old, not young, and I have no unfinished business here.

What then is my own solution? I’m not sure yet. The process goes on.

The gestalt of who I am, here and now, is an incorporated sum of all my experience, a greater wholeness. Remembering the parts of that experience is optional. The parts that comprise the whole of my experience are particular and obscured by time. The resultant thing, the thing that is greater than the sum of its parts – that’s the real thing. It’s my life, here and now, not there and then.

When my brother Tony died, I yearned for there to be a “Speaker for the Dead,” a person envisioned in the Orson Scott Card novel of that name. The Speaker was a person who would gather an unflinchingly full picture of a person’s life and then speak the truth of the mind and heart there. The Speaker’s perspective brought understanding and healing and acceptance and recognition of the unique and intrinsic goodness of the person’s life.

I attempted through my writing to be such a speaker for my brother, but in the end I realized his life spoke its own truth. I spoke for him from within the perspective of love’s confusing joy swirling in me, beholding him from where I stood, and putting the essence I beheld into the boxes of words. I did find in that process a partial understanding of who he was. It was enough of an understanding to lead me to acceptance of things as they are, and a release of my desire to know things about him which, with his passing, I could never know.

In the end, after the confusions of love are arranged in the boxes of words and we have a linear narrative extracted from the complexity of mind, the mystery takes over. The narrative joins with the singular, whole, one gestalt which we are simultaneously joined with and separated from, and the seeming paradox and conflict there resolves into peace and acceptance and understanding. We are able to let life be what it is, and accept the pains and joys therein with equanimity. We are here, forming the narrative of that process, together.

I speak here from the perspective of my own love and the confusing joy in me. It’s all I can do. It’s all I have.

June 29, 2017: Ghost World

Yesterday morning I woke up drained empty of tears and found myself headed south down the coast for no reason at all. On impulse and numb from the day before when the seemingly depthless well of my mourning drowned everything, a sort of animal instinct took over and I fled the scene.

I can’t escape the flood of grief; it followed me down the coast like a slow, relentless tsunami pushing me into a haunted world.

Lenore and I visited the southern Oregon coast often. If you come here with your eyes and ears and heart and mind and spirit open it roars and whispers and reveals magical things. The ocean and coastal mountains and trails into the wild, natural areas here are full of eternal truths that inform and fill the soul. When shared by friends and lovers it becomes an indelible part of their deep connection, a touchstone of memory, a vault of life’s true treasure. That’s what this area became for us.

Yesterday I was exhausted and instinctively fleeing. My grief followed close behind and every once in awhile caught up to me, threatening to drown me in my own tears yet again. I rejected it and fought it and redirected my thoughts and kept pushing down the road, blind to the fact I was driving ever deeper into the heart of a place we shared together, into one of the vaults of our shared, sacred treasure.

The first time I saw the ocean I was 11 years old. It filled me up with an indescribable awe and a certain measure of fear; it was immense and depthless and I felt the overwhelming power of it in my chest and gut.

Yesterday on the road the deep emotion of that old memory rose up again and the tsunami of my mourning threatened to engulf me so I cut off the memory, cut off the feeling. I just killed it all. If Lenore had been there with me I would have shared it again with her, would have let it live and grow into us together yet again. I wish I hadn’t done that now, but that’s what I did.

All through the day I encountered places we had shared together. I remembered the general locations, but when I arrived somewhere and started moving through the area again I found myself on trails and remote lookouts and particular places we had walked and stood at and seen together. After awhile it almost seemed surreal to be standing like a ghost in those places. I became a sort of detached spirit wandering through old haunts, retracing steps made long ago in a different world.

In a gift shop I shopped for jewelry for her as I had the last time we were there. She liked my taste in jewelry and there were times when I found something I knew she would like even when she wasn’t sure of it herself and then later it would find its way into the jewelry box that held her favorites. I found a pair of earrings yesterday I knew she would have liked and thought about buying them for her, but I didn’t. Now I wish I had.

I moved through that ephemeral ghost land all day yesterday. When I got home I dove into our collection of photos of those days to in a way make it all more real again. That’s what these pictures are; the real thing. The pictures I took yesterday of the same places? Not so much.

I really have no idea whether I’m getting better or worse these days. Hell, I don’t even know what process “better or worse” relates to. Sometimes it seems to be about how close or how far away from grief and mourning I am. Some days it seems to be about how much healing is happening, about whether this horrible wound is opening up even more or beginning to scar over in some small part of itself. And there are some days when it just seems to be about what point I’m at on the line between living and dying, about how alive or how dead I am.

 

July 4, 2017: You had to be There

You had to be there. I just realized that. I’ve been searching and trying to find a way to express to others in my writing and my words what Lenore and I were and are to each other.

Those expressions have mostly been about grief and sadness and the effects of what it feels like to be half of a split, separated soul. That sense of separation goes directly to the heart of Lenore’s personal path to self-realization, A Course in Miracles. It was a part of my path as well. Ultimately though, our path to truth in this life was through each other. With each other.

I remembered something we wrote together in 1992 when we introduced ourselves to an ACIM online bulletin board and dug it up out of our archives. Among other things, I wrote: “Lenore long ago taught me to say, ‘Thank you, God, for you.’ Lenore is a gifted person. When I see her in perfect clarity I see a high being, an old soul, a presence in my life that is a profound and indescribable grace. Our marriage is a great example of learning truth together through the principle of ‘wherever two or more are gathered.’”

In that same introduction Lenore wrote: “I have worked with ACIM (A Course in Miracles) for the past 12 years and also learn from that wonderful man I actually married. I guess when I think about it, it is really true that special relationships pale in comparison to holy ones.”

She continued: “Keep spreading your joy and remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Joy that ties us all together. I share that joy with you! Forgiveness is so rewarding! As we go through our days with forgiveness in our minds for others, for situations and ourselves, we are truly miracle workers and nothing can stand between us and heaven.

“We show up for our day with great expectation of the next miracle, the next moment that we are able to forgive another, a situation or ourselves. We show up for our day with the knowing that our life is better, happier and filled with blessings. We realize that we truly do have everything that we need to be happy right now, right here within our circumstance, our relationships, our job, our home, our family, our dog and the trees in the back yard.

“We are here on earth in a shared experience where we have forgotten who we really are. People everywhere are having this conversation about our oneness, about the love that we are capable of, about demonstrating in our lives every day who we really are and who we can be. Our participation in it is a blessing to others and ourselves.

“We know that we have the power to change the world because we are God’s creative force. We may be asleep most of the time, some of the time, or nearly all of the time, but the good news is that we can wake up.”

You had to be there.

You had to be there in the explosive Holy Instant when we saw each other clearly and were bonded together for the rest of this life for us. You had to be there down through the years we lived on the path ACIM calls the “Happy Dream.”

You had to be there when in some unfathomable way at some unregistered moment our consciousness transcended the dream and we did wake up and were flesh and spirit and One with all, simultaneously. When religion and thought and feeling fell away and then came back coalesced and infused with the simplicity of being here, today, with it all.

You had to be there at the last when, living with daily pain which at times was unimaginably savage, she smiled often and gave and invited hugs, and died with a gentle, peaceful smile on her face.

You had to be there to understand where I am now.

To be here where the ego self, shocked numb, screams in pain and demands precedence and attention for its agony. Here, where the still, small voice within bides its time, whispering truth. To be here in the predicament of a soul at the end of flesh and in a life experience fulfilled and completed.

What holds me here? Nothing. Why am I here? Because I am. Where will I be? I can’t say, I can only say where I am. I am with her. Here, today, with it all. That’s what we learned how to do together.

July 6, 2017: Grief must be witnessed

This is a thank you to every one of you who have witnessed my grief.

Lenore subscribed to Marianne Williamson’s weekly live stream and I still receive weekly invites from the site. Sometimes I still watch, but it was much more rewarding when we would take those talks as a starting point to reflect our own understanding and experience together.

Last week I received an invite to attend a live event on grief offered by David Kessler so I watched it yesterday. There was one take-away from Kessler that stays with me. He said, “Grief must be witnessed.” The point being that in the throes of grief and loss we find comfort when others acknowledge our condition.

He told the story of how a small village he visited witnessed the grief of a community member who had lost a loved one. Every household would remove an item from their home in the evening of the day of loss, such as a chair or lamp or piece of furniture, and put it outside where it could be seen from the street.

Kessler asked them why they did this, and the reply touched me.

“It is to show the bereaved one when they wake up the next day that we share their grief. It says we know everything has changed.”

July 12, 2017: I Just Miss Her So Much: It Was So Us

Odd, random thoughts and sometimes mere words or phrases bring down the lightning on me these days. This morning the word “devotion” randomly popped into my mind followed by the words “whole and holy,” and suddenly my eyes stung with hot tears and my chest hollowed out and became so empty I almost went down on my knees. Sometimes she is so present in my life. And other times… I just miss her so much.

A strange day. I took a massive hit from the grief hammer this morning, and then later drove up to Newport to do some shopping. On the way back, listening to a dance music disc Lenore and I put together last year, I hit a “bliss zone” that lasted all the way back home.

Lenore and I loved to dance together. On the dance floor she could move like a snake and was really sexy, and yet when she danced it was always with a child-like innocence and abandon, a celebration of being free and joyful in the moment without a care in the world. It was quite a combination and I never stopped being enthralled by the way that girl could move.

On the way to Newport the disc played what we thought of as “Snoopy songs” – happy, bouncy little numbers with a lot of joy in them, and it was good hearing them again and dancing with her to them in my memory as I drove.

When I left the store and headed back home the music segued into a section of heavier rhythms and more intense riffs. I drove back through Newport listening to the song “Working On It” by Chris Rea.

It’s interesting how lyrics can take on different meanings and music can inspire different feelings. I remember a time in my own life, for example, when love songs became more about the connection a person has with life and the universe rather than another person. Of course when Lenore and I finally found each other they became about all three, and how they are simultaneous and indivisible in a fulfilled life.

Today that song wasn’t about the pressures and challenges of a working-class warrior fighting his way through the day to get his job done. It was about struggling with grief.

It starts out with an ominous, oppressive beat carrying the feeling of being pressed down and trapped, and the lyrics sung are a dull, numb accounting of burdens and impossibility and despair. And then this guy, this beat-down worker, starts to rise up out of all that and gets stronger in himself and gets busy with the work at hand.

I felt that strength in that moment, in the power embodied in the music as I always do when I hear it. But it was the song, the moment. As soon as it was over my ongoing experience would come back to me, and it’s more like the beginning of the song, absent of any rising up of strength or empowerment.

But when I was at the highest point on the Newport Bridge, looking out west into the ocean and feeling that temporary illusion of strength, I heard Lenore say in affirmation, clear as a bell, “You ARE strong.”

She said that to me many times during our life together and it was true. With her I was strong in so many ways. The last time she said it to me was when I told her I didn’t think I would be able to live after she was gone, wouldn’t be able to live without her. I still wish at times that she’d answered differently because I wanted to know that it was okay for me to die with her, and instead she said, “No, you can live. You are strong.”

When I heard her voice on the bridge so clear and real, joining me there, I drove listening to the music with her into a cloud of bliss that lasted all the way home. At one point I pulled in to a beach wayside, feeling like I wanted to jump out of the truck and do an impromptu flash-mob dance with her. If she had been there in the flesh with me I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I would have done it and she would have joined me, surprised and amazed and delighted, and we would have danced our brains out right there. As it was there were too many people in the wayside and I thought it best not to advertise how sane I was in that moment. It might have looked crazy to them.

I’ve noticed it before and today is another good example. I’m living in an altered state, an alternative consciousness overwhelmingly full of so many different thoughts and feelings and experiences. Sometimes now grief is a whipsaw, ripping back and forth, cutting deep. Other times it’s a roller coaster, tearing up and down the rails, threatening to leave the tracks and sail into oblivion with terrible velocity. Sometimes, like today, it’s a seesaw alternating between a bright perch in heaven and a dark seat in hell.

The moment has passed now, as all moments do, and I have at least one foot back in a world where everyone dies and all hearts are broken. Yet it was a moment between us, yet another one, and I cherish that bright perch we shared today. It was so… us.

July 14, 2017: Give me a moment. I’m considering the Hemlock.

I check into the website Grief Speaks Out every day, looking for expressions that reflect my own experience since Lenore died. I find reflections there which are informative and helpful and descriptive of some of my own feelings and thoughts. It’s a very useful, thoughtful, compassionate, helpful website – and in some cases I suspect it even saves lives. That being said, there is at least one thing it cannot do. It cannot provide a roadmap for the griever. In the end, every grieving person walks a path that is unique. And it leads to a larger perspective and a path that is equally unique.

The day Lenore died her loss and my grief appeared in a shattering explosion and was nothing like what my previous speculations about what it would be like. It consumed me. That’s what an explosion does. The aftermath was pieces and numbness, of living in a totality involving only grief and loss and mourning. It was inchoate emotional pain and unmanageable mental chaos. My world view blew up, the basic root of my life paradigm vanished, the matrix of my own understanding broke down into senseless chaos. My spirit broke.

As time passes I’ve realized that the terrible grief I have is just one part of my experience. The shattered pieces of my paradigm and my understanding have come back together in a new configuration, informed by new, critical information. Lenore is not here with me in this life. She is in me, she still speaks to me and me to her, and I can imagine her presence with me. Yet she is not here anymore. She is somewhere else. My perspective has been rearranged to accommodate this new, massive fact.

Why is loss and bereavement nearly universally regarded as a thing human beings pass through on their way to more life, to survival? The assumption proves itself true in all but a few cases. It’s something human beings pass through, live with, bear with, suffer with – and survive with. They go on, recover, reorganize, rebuild. It’s assumed. It’s fact. Options need not apply. Start as far away as you want, but when you drill down to the foundation that’s where you’re going to end up. You survive. It’s an unquestionable underlying basic assumption of human existence.

In a place where everything dies.

Even if your heart is full and your life completed and you have lived out your reason for being, even if everything ahead is dénouement, a slow slide into deterioration and eventual death – still it is assumed you will live. Even if you’re sure you’re done, even if your mind tells you it’s time to go, and your heart desires it.

When Lenore died her loss was not one more marker on my path. It was the last milepost. I am aware of the joy life still offers me and aware of the others I can still serve with my experience and gained wisdoms and simple presence. I’m still aware of how wonderful and magic and full life is. I still laugh, dance, listen to music, think, feel, move, have places to go and things to do, people I love, people who love me and care about me. I can still impart love and joy to others. I still know the unexpected amazing development is just around the corner, waiting to delight and engage me in something new and unforeseeable and wonderful.

The thing is, I don’t need any of that any more. I’ve had it all. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. It’s been enough. And the context I gained them in, my life with Lenore, is perfect. I have no need of a different one. I’m happy with what I’ve had, and with what I have from it now.

There’s not one thing I can think of I’d like to do, or still need to do. I’ve been trying to come up with anything at all I’d like to do for quite awhile, no matter how crazy it was. Go to Dharamsala and have a laugh with the Dalai Lama. Get a passport, fly to Florence, see the Uffizi Museum. Go to Machu Picchu. Go fishing in Montana. Take the Mystic Wind somewhere – anywhere. Go to Alicia’s, go to Kay’s. I really am done.

I’d prefer that people celebrate my life and not grieve or suffer my dying. I hope they remember my living. I hope they know I had a wonderful, beautiful, full, hard, strange, amazing, loving, thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling, completed life. I hope they know it all came to fruition and completion in the life Lenore and I shared together. The best thing about all the great love stories is not that they were told – it’s that they were lived. Lenore and I lived one of them.

July 21, 2017: A Dirge, and No Paean

The truth is in the dead girl’s song

In air and earth and fire and water

In cloud and sky and wind

In rock and mountains and meadow

In sun and moon and star

In rain and river and sea.

 

Her song threads every tree

Fills the cove, lilts on the cay

Echoes in faint swirls upon on the road

Where we were we.

 

The truth is in the dead girl’s dream

In eyes and heart and flesh

Seeing, loving, holding, walking

Through all things ever that are ever one.

 

The truth is in the dead girl’s light

The rolling shadow of the night

The sunset scythe.

 

The truth is there

Where we were we

In all things ever that are ever one

In rain and river and sea

In the sunset scythe

In the dead girl’s song;

 

In me, a dirge, and no paean.

July22, 2017: And Still I Am Here

When I told her I wanted to be with her all the way down the line and go where she was going and die when she did, Lenore said I needed to stay here and shine my light. “You have so much,” she said. I’ve done my best.

I’ve left a hundred smiles with strangers in brief encounters communicating our connectedness. I’ve openly shared my honest truth. I’ve served the persons who needed anything who appeared along the way. I’ve felt the beauty of nature and at times the joy this life holds, and the laughter. I’ve been nice, and kind, and gentle wherever and whenever I can.

Yet it’s all happened in a world of half-light, it’s all been echoes fading ever more faintly away from their source, it’s all been ever-fainter ripples moving downstream on what was once the pulsing, flowing river of our life together.

There are moments when her loss guts me. I remember one time in particular, and it stays with me. It started with the familiar empty weakness growing in my chest and slowly rising up behind my eyes, and then the tears, flooding and falling, and my heart falling into darkness, falling into infinite, aching emptiness. My face contorts into a soundless wail, and I hear myself from far away, sobbing, the words coming out of me as if spoken by someone else, “Oh, baby this is so hard! I want to be with you!” And then I heard her voice, answering. She said, “I know, I know, I didn’t think it would be so bad…” I sobbed and the words came on their own, “All I want to do is be with you!” And she said, “Then come my darling, come. I understand.”

And still I am here.

I can’t begin to express how sad and confusing it is that I am still here, feeling more darkness than light, stalked constantly by loss and grief and separation. The days hold pockets of time when an uneasy, edgy trepidation and faint nervousness and vague tension take over. I can feel the emptiness lurking near, stalking me. I feel like something is missing and I can’t locate or identify what it is even though my mind knows exactly what it is.

Part of me has always lived out in border land, watching life and humanity and existence from the outside edge of the human social continuum, observing, registering, recording, and assembling my personal matrix of understanding from that broad-spectrum viewpoint. Lenore could join me out there, and it was a rich, soul-filling, wonderful view for us.

Now I’m out here alone, further out, out on the edge of the very farthest reach of human existence, just this side of the border between life and death, regarding life itself, looking backward down the long path behind that brought me here; seeing what is there in the past, and what is here now, and considering what is left in the time remaining ahead.

July 23, 2017: The Way it Is

Humanity lives in a cosmic nova, vibrant and dangerous and beautiful and chancy, a place where black-hole hells and starry heavens mark the waypoints of our careening, sojourning souls.

If in our entire lifetime we only learn to truly love one other person, that’s a lifetime well spent. When we finally figure out what love is, really, we are somehow collaterally blessed with the answers to those gnawing questions we come here with about the meaning of life, the secret of the universe, and why we are here.

I always wondered about the cowboy who, about to die, shot his horse and burned his saddle, thus obliterating his entire estate on the way out of this life. I think I understand him now, at least partly, although in my life the horse lives and the saddle goes to the country thrift store.

What that cowboy meant to do is leave not a trace of himself behind, because he knew that’s the way it is. Our life is our own, and no one else’s, and only here and now, and only for as long as we have it, and we only live in that brief time, and only then can we share it with anyone.

July 23, 2017: Heart and Mind

here we are again, inside,
drawn down the narrow shaft of perspective
past mind’s open maw
into the pit
where coal and diamond seams of eons
poise impersonally above us
below us
around us
holding the bones of the ages

here we are again, inside the mind,
mining the tropes of our lives
for archetypes

and blinking at each other
faces blackened with soot and the sweat of our labors
our eyes startle out like headlights
when we remember
what we left above
for this dark

the light
the breeze
the open field

the green spring

the leaves of fall
the winter sleep

her light summer dress rippling in the breeze

July 26, 2017: We Danced with Life

My writing has failed me of late, but it’s no big deal. Everything I could ever say has already been said. What little I have left to say of Lenore and I is blowing away like sand in the wind and I’m nearly swept clean. I’ve had a song winding through my mind for months, and since my words are leaving me I took the words from that song and made them my own. The song is “Dance with Life,” by Bryan Ferry.

I was thinking out loud why life’s such a short time for love, because when a match made in heaven arrives, eternity is never enough.

 It was all so simple ’til now; there was brilliance and beauty out there, and knowledge as wise as our heart. We each had a reason to care and we danced, we danced with life. Love swept us away into the night. When there was no one else around we made every day count.

 We danced with life; we swam in the souls of our eyes. We lay on the ground and looked at the light in the sky; saw the moon and the million stars above – the stars we become when we die.

 We danced with life. Then you melted into the night and left our brilliant light behind. You passed from the present to the past.

 It’s no secret how I feel. This flesh and bone is no longer real. We wrote our story, we shined our light. It’s all in the memory of the angels tonight.

 We danced with life, and you

left a brilliant light behind.

July 27, 2016: Warrior of the Heart

I’ve been thinking about our last year together and what a hellacious, beautiful, happy, full, sad time it was. Lenore battled cancer as only a warrior of the heart can. And there were battles. We fought them side by side, always doing the best we could, and in between there were moments when we laughed and cried at how hard the battles were and how well we fought them. It was traumatic as hell and soul lifting at the same time.

Some of the things Lenore had to go through were inhumane; blows delivered by well-meaning people who thought they were serving her but were blinded by institutional and professional biases, bound up in misplaced priorities that put the person second and the rules first – and so often those rules were not legal constraints but simply protocols put in place to streamline systems and efficiently process people as if they were fairly uniform units rather than unique individuals.

I feel sad and am sorry for those people who had their humanity compromised by the systems they were embedded in and dependent on. The quality of the services they brought to Lenore could have been immensely greater if they had only taken the time to listen to her and be thoughtful and compassionate rather than unintentionally discounting and authoritative and mechanistic.

At OHSU Lenore was never able to make her doctors understand what she wanted and did not want. The institutional bias there was toward “curative” treatment rather than palliation. The “curative” treatments for Radiation Induced Sarcoma of the hip are crippling, maiming procedures which extremely reduce quality of life and don’t extend life that long.

Lenore knew her options early on and wanted nothing to do with radical treatments. It proved impossible to inform her treatment team at OHSU of her desires – and there is a tremendous written record in the files there proving how hard we both fought to have her desires known.  In the end she had to go to a different hospital to be heard and have the palliative treatment she wanted. The delays at OHSU caused by the system in place and in particular the institutional bias toward curative treatment there took precious time from her life and it’s sad to think about that now.

Lenore already had experienced the quality of life damages of her previous “curative, state of the art” radical treatment for cancer in 2001 – which, by the way, is what caused her bone cancer 15 years later. She learned to cope with the damage that came with that former treatment but it was hard-won knowledge gained without help from the medical establishment which delivered her to it.

It’s also sad to think that what doctors are convinced of as being absolutely, inviolably right treatment at one time can so quickly prove to be wrong and even barbaric in its nature in the near future. I can’t help but think that the attitude and humanity of doctors and the medical profession generally would be greatly improved if they were to embrace humility and own the fact that what they are doing to the human body today will in the future seem as barbaric as blood-letting, mercury treatments, trepanation, insulin shock, and lobotomies – and among them will be included radical radiation therapy for cancers with a low metastatic probability and a high surgery-only rate of success like the cancer Lenore was treated for in 2001.

The doctors did their best and of course what they did is justifiable by the fact that what they did then was the best they knew how to do. But it certainly does not support the hubris and certainty they brought to their patients in the light of what actually happened to people as a result of their mistaken convictions.

It’s a long tale, the story of what Lenore and I went through. There was the care center in Arizona, the Catholic hospice in Washington. Every place we passed through held a combination of horrors and angels. The angels were human, the horrors were the protocols and rules and institutional biases in play at every facility.

There was one human horror, a hospice doctor in Arizona so unimaginably incompetent and insensitive and self-focused that her actions and character flaws had damned her beyond retrieval to being unable to extend any form of humanity to her patients.

And there was a nursing supervisor torn between compassion and the unwieldy, ponderous rules regarding proper paperwork and procedures concerning pain medications for Lenore. In the end that supervisor succumbed to the pressures of the rules and as a result Lenore experienced unimaginable and unnecessary pain while the system slowly processed paperwork for already authorized medications.

That nursing supervisor made the wrong choice, choosing to let Lenore suffer until the paperwork was where it needed to be even though she knew it was on its way. I pity her for that. She chose the institutionalized rules over the person they were meant to serve. I wonder if she ever realized that the result of that choice had a deep and wide-reaching effect upon her own personal life that went far beyond the pain it caused Lenore.

As far as hospices run under the guidelines of certain religious beliefs I have one observation to make. Be sure the values in place there reflect your own. In Lenore’s case death with dignity was not an option at the hospice she was in, and there were no under-the-radar morphine options available to her to end her life when she wanted to. When she was ready to die and wanted to, she was prohibited by the institution and delayed by the death with dignity legal paperwork.

On the very day she learned during the conversation with the death with dignity doctor that one of her alternatives was to refuse food and water and that death would result in two weeks or so, she stopped eating and only took small sips of water. She died twelve days later. Her body ate itself and she starved to death, god-damn it all. I hope you can feel the heat of my feelings about how people can be forced to do such a thing, how I feel about all the ways and means which make it necessary. God damn it all.

The angels were many. We felt like they were flying in formation with us, surrounding us with their light and love. They were the boots on the ground in these institutions, the very real human beings in the trenches of institutionalized care, caring truly and connecting with their charges and serving them. They were the agents and deliverers of the quality of life Lenore desired to have in the days left to her after her diagnosis. They were loving, sympathetic, empathetic, connected. They were human. They are too many to mention, but some of you who are reading this are counted among them. You know who you are. You always did know who you are, really. You knew you were human beings, and what that means, and how it looks, and what it does. And I thank you for that and honor you for that.

We fought every battle side by side, and she fought like the Danish Viking she was. She didn’t fight with axe and maul, she fought with open arms and a brilliant smile and a warm, forgiving heart. She knew who she was, she knew what she wanted, and at every turn she moved with purpose and certainty to the very end. In the old days her people would have given her the funeral accorded their greatest heroes and sent her off to Valhalla in a flaming Viking longship. That’s who she was. A warrior of the heart. It was an honor to fight with her. I weep every day with her passing and look forward to the day when I rejoin her and we are together again.

July 28, 2016

Today at sunset in the park I saw an old man and an old woman walking together with an old dog, and I was glad they all still had each other. And then I thought, my God – I’m living proof that a person can live too long.

It’s very lonely here now. I know it sounds arrogant and maybe it is, even though it’s how I truly feel; Lenore was the only other person on the planet I met who I regarded as my peer, and it took me half a lifetime to find her.

I miss my friend.

August 1, 2017: The Ecclesiastes of Us

Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom after death. Do good; enjoy the good of your labors; eat and drink, and rejoice.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love. Two are better than one. If one should fall the other will lift them up; and if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?

Our birth and our death are the happiest and saddest times of our lives. We are born to live and then to die, and leave this life. In between there are many small births and deaths. We grow fuller in life, we breathe it in. We learn love and know joy and gain wisdom. We see hate and pain and folly. We become filled with life and take it in. Then in the end we breathe it out; we are done with it.

Life is ephemeral and fleeting. While you are alive you are breathing in the soul of life; at the end you breathe the soul of life back out, return it to where it came from. The end of the world begins with the light from the sun, moon, and stars growing dim. The days have no pleasure in them; death comes for your beloved and waits for you. In the end you breathe one last breath out. You have been filled with life. You are done with it. You let it go.

August 2, 2017: Taking Stock

I am lonely without Lenore here. That will never change.

I am not isolated. I do connect.

I engage with people daily, see beautiful places, and take care of myself. I am engaged with life. I experience beauty and joy and humor. Life is full, and I am not withdrawn from it.

I am also engaged in grief. Deep grief. It’s a fact, it’s in the mix. Tears are a part of every day along with everything else.

The fullness of life and the clarity I am experiencing as the result of the simultaneous presence of joy and sadness and beauty and darkness is fine with me. It’s not something I am going to prune or manicure or head-tool with managed thoughts and words and actions so that only the pretty and positive things show. I choose to experience it all and reflect it all to others. For me, that feels honest and right.

My process is my own – every grieving process belongs to the person who is having it. My grieving process may seem unusual. I’ve done my best to express honestly and openly here how it is for me. It’s a path and I’m walking it. My writing helps me get my feelings sorted out and diminishes their intensity. It’s always been my hope that what I share will either help others with similar experiences, and will also help others understand mine. Or at least be patient and tolerant with me while I wobble my way on.

August 3, 2017: One for the Archives: Our Odyssey and Iliad

I have a predicament in my life that comes up from time to time and bothers me. These days I turn it around a little in my mind, processing it yet again, and then I realize it’s something I’ll probably never be comfortable with and just need to let go of – again.

When I was younger I would get frustrated and annoyed about it. I really couldn’t get comfortable with the situation. It was a thing that set me apart and often at odds with most other people. I would find reasons to blame them for the separation this thing tended to create between us. The fact is no one’s to blame at all. It’s just the way it is.

It’s about differences. So often when I try to articulate it, others only hear an arrogant celebration of ego-based superiority. I understand why that happens. It would please me very much if others could just take a look at me like Lenore did and say, ‘Yes, you are that way. That’s who you are.” If they could, like Lenore did, just accept all the unusual differences and what a strange, rare individual I am and simply recognize it and allow it to be. I did that for her, too, and it made all the difference for both of us. We grew into our greatness because of how we openly shared the wonderful things we honestly saw in one another. It wasn’t about compliments. It was about truths seen and then shared between us.

Lenore and I shared the same wonderful differences; intelligence, thoughtfulness, empathy, insight, imagination, passion, creativity, a desire to keep learning and growing. We had an extraordinary measure of all of those things on board in our lives. A really extraordinary measure – we were very rare people in the human world.

It wasn’t that we were strong in some of those areas. We were strong in all of them. The resulting sum produced a very rare type of human being. We couldn’t find peers who shared the measures and the sum of our abilities and qualities. It was a blessing for the richness of life and broad perspective it gave us, and another blessing that we found each other and were able to share it together.

In another way it was a burden because finding someone who could understand us at the level of our existential experience was pretty hard to do. We were people who wanted to share with others the story of our own personal Odyssey and Iliad and the whole big, wide, deep, thrilling adventure it was to be who we were and live like we lived and knew what we knew and saw what we saw and learned what we learned – and the only people we could find were children who were still learning how to get across the schoolyard, or were set in the few paths they’d worn into. Children who didn’t have the experience or the tools or the abilities and qualities it took to understand our tale and the lessons and wisdoms and depth and fullness of it all; people who didn’t have the time or inclination to join in with what we were both so willing to share with them so that we could all together affirm how mysterious and wonderful and great life can be.

Another thing that made us different was we both also had broad and deep exposure to a lot of the things life holds before we met; good and evil, happiness and sadness, death, loss, beginning again, carrying on, seeking what you want until you find it and never settling for second best. We always did our very best to be good people. When we got knocked down or made mistakes or even when things got so bad our spirits were actually truly broken by hard, terrible experiences we healed and recovered and picked ourselves back up and carried on, and we bloomed again wherever we were planted next because of who we innately were.

When we found each other after having all those life experiences, and being who we each were, it was like a coming home to our own true self wondrously present in the other – of finally, miraculously, beyond all odds finding another person in the world who we fit with.

Lenore was much more at ease with the differences from other people we shared than I was, and I think it was due to differences in our upbringing, our nurture when we were young.

Lenore was a third child and was subject to the diminished status and attention that comes with the territory. Her mother knew Lenore was different from her siblings in, as she put it, “a very special way.” She told me she could feel and see something very big and wonderful in Lenore as she grew up. Lenore’s mother was a no-nonsense, eyes-wide-open woman who didn’t miss anything, kept her own counsel and held it close. She was a stern person on the surface with a very good heart beneath who saw and understood a lot. She sensed who and what Lenore was.

Lenore’s story in her family was like the story of the ugly duckling with a lot of qualifications. Lenore as the third child was given the status of a lesser duck. I can’t really characterize her family members as plain ducks because they were each exceptional in particular ways. I guess you could say they were all swans with particular exceptional abilities and qualities. None of them shared the number of gifts Lenore had on board. They were exceptional swans in specific ways. Lenore was a unique, unbounded swan with a prodigious wingspan by comparison.

Lenore accepted her family members for who they were and loved them, even though they didn’t see her. They didn’t see her, not fully…

I find that sad sometimes. That’s just the way it is in families most of the time I guess. Yet the members of her family each saw enough of Lenore to have an idea of who she was, and they loved her, and they did always have the opportunity to look closer. If they had, like I did, they would have been in awe of her gifts and loved her all the more. All you had to do was look, and pay attention to what she had.

I think over the course of time Lenore accepted that she was loved but not seen and that was fine with her. It was a thing to be accepted and shrugged off without indignation or resentment. It was the way it was. She just kept on being herself. When it was time for her to leave her childhood home and go out into the world for the first time she didn’t just venture out. She adventured out. She flew into life on those wonderful wings of hers and gave her whole heart to everything she encountered there from the very beginning.

My experience as a first child impressed on me how special I was. I was the first born grandchild on both sides of my family, so I got a lot of attention and recognition. When I grew up the expectation that I would always be appreciated and recognized was soon proven mistaken. I think a baseline established in my early nurture stayed with me and I was never as comfortable with not being seen for who and what I am as Lenore was. When we found one another it moderated those feelings quite a bit for me. She saw me, and she was like me. What a blessing that was.

I guess in the end all that can be said is that Lenore and I knew who the other was when most people didn’t or couldn’t recognize how different we were and how big our world was. We saw each other, we saw the world in the same ways; in rare breadth and depth and awareness. We understood. Together.

Those who knew us well are few, but they know who and what we were, each of us in ourselves as well as together. That has to be enough.

August 6, 2017: Life is not paramount; survival is not required.

Grief is a full and often overwhelming experience. It has brought all the poignancies and pains of bereavement to the forefront of my life as well as a hypersensitive awareness of things which in the absence of grief were accorded less time and attention in my personal considerations.

In the past, in the absence of this profound, immediate, palpable grief I could consider death and loss – even the death and loss of Lenore – in a speculative, detached way. It was a measured, intellectual regard brought to mind by a passing exposure to the deaths of strangers, or people I knew of but did not know personally, or anyone who I did not know well enough to grieve for at their death. It was distant, manageable, false; removed from the wisdom and truth of the heart…

At times I feel the onset of human adaptability, the passage of time and distancing from any event by the mind’s overlay. We are convinced life goes on and we are compelled by our nature and evolved survival mechanisms to go along with it. It overrides higher considerations. The past fades, memory fades, emotions fade – but life goes on.

Being independent, unique, and having a different perspective I do have different considerations. History may forget, memory may fail, the evolutionary paradigm of adaptation and the evolutionary mandate to survive may assert themselves and may be the baseline, default motivating engine for human existence, but…

I have a different perspective. Love requires memory. Love needs to be held in history, not lost in it. Love is honored by devotion and constancy and steadfastness that does not succumb to the passage of time or the baseline assertions of survival mechanisms. There are higher considerations.

Life is not paramount. Survival is not required, it’s a choice. The choice to die in the absence of love is to commemorate and memorialize the reality of the existence of true love and a particular such love lost and ended by death; it asserts for all time even if only in an anonymous and relatively unremembered and unnoticed way that love like that is real, and possible, and fulfilling, and completing.

What happens when half of a “we” that has transcended all notions of “me” dies? I’ll tell you. The “me” no longer exists. It has lived its life, it has achieved its goal: it has lived.

The brilliant light that it did live is all that counts. Nothing else remains.

August 9, 2017: This Isn’t Just Grief Anymore

Words can’t describe this experience. Yet here I am again, trying to do just that. To what purpose I just don’t know. Personal clarity and a bit of organization I suppose.

This isn’t just grief anymore. It’s a new world. Lenore’s death and my grief opened a door to a different world. The perspective here is so different. A massive realignment in my understanding of what is real, now, is underway. It’s happening right at the liminal threshold. I can barely catch the fragmented elements swirling in what must surely be the formation of a new paradigm. It’s been set in motion by the drastic alteration of a universe in which I existed whole and complete in fusion with Lenore and now find myself alone in.

Our meaning was achieved as two who are one. After such a life one who is one becomes meaningless. At least that’s how it seems now. Together we found what we sought, we achieved what we dreamed. Together we realized life’s hopeful, bright potential. We lived. Together. Fulfillment isn’t a destination; it’s a way of life. We lived that way.

Death, on the other hand is a destination. When it arrives everything changes. In the world we lived in together as one, death splits a shared psyche and cleaves one whole soul in two; it’s the last cruel divisor in our dualistic experience. A consciousness that transcended separation and lived in this world in union is, at the last, separated again. It’s ironic as hell. One remains here, the other is not here. Memory, and the grown-in knowing, and the dead voice still speaking in the mind, and the dead eyes still laughing in the heart is not what it was. What we were is no more.

I’ve said it before; this is a process and I’m walking this walk to see where it takes me. I am going through it without the assumptions the social paradigm embraces. I suspect it will end with my death. I don’t know yet. I’m still walking this path. Wherever it takes me it will be without the limits of the old paradigm. No blinders, no delusions.

So what is it like right now? Well, there are some big differences.

I don’t fear much anymore, or have the same level of vigilance. I don’t anticipate possible developments. I don’t plan as much as I used to. I don’t care about people, places and things as much as I used to.

I don’t think about dying with the same sort of consideration I gave it before. I’m not afraid of it. I don’t wonder when it comes whether I will conduct myself with grace or a complete lack of it. Lenore showed me how to die. When it’s time to die you just go ahead and get on with it, you do it the same way you live your life.

My words disappear from time to time now because words can’t catch the inchoate nature of my experience right now. Perhaps as things come together my words will be back on a more regular basis. Now when they’re present they don’t come with the level of organization and articulation I prefer, as this thing I’m writing now will surely evidence by the time I’m done…

My matrix of spiritual understanding has reverted backward through time and history and I am now a casual pantheist. The word “god” has been replaced with “life.” The words “heaven” and “hell” have been replaced with “earth.” I avoid symbols, metaphors, personalities and stories in my spiritual thoughts. I see spirituality without thinking as much, or making it magical. In my world the Buddha scratches when he itches and hollers “Ouch!” when he’s bit hard by a bug, and Christ yells when he’s angry and is a good man made better by the presence in his life of a true love with a body.

I have a different perspective on death now. Lenore is in me in all the places we merged our consciousness. She is in my memory. She is also dead. Not here. Gone. Dead is not here. Dead is gone. Dead is not smiling and watching over you from above. Dead may be somewhere else, but it definitely is not here. The only way and the only time you get to know where and what dead is, is when you are, too.

I’m still annoyed by ignorance, fear, insensitivity, low levels of consciousness and just plain bad behavior in others, but the presence of those things in human beings doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I figure that in a place where heaven and hell are both options, if some people want to live in some kind of limbo between the two because that’s what they were taught and have chosen to maintain, well, that’s their choice.

It wasn’t ours, and it’s not mine.

Personal Notes:

I’m more aware of how much bullshit there is in the human mind.

“When you’re alive, you are required to keep living.” Bullshit. Living is a choice, and once you’ve lived a full and complete life the option of being done with life is more visible, real and deserving of consideration in that light. At least it is for me.

When you’ve realized your life there’s no requirement to continue living after you’ve done that. There’s just a bullshit assumption in play to keep the local human paradigm balanced on its fulcrum. “Tomorrow is another day, life is full of possibilities, and things change, bliss and joy are always available…” Of course they are. When you’ve been there and done that and it ends? The options change.

“She’s alive in you, and still with you, she’s just in another place, watching you.” Bullshit. Yes, Lenore is in me in all the places we merged our consciousness. She is in my memory. She is also dead. Not here. Gone. Get real, get over it, people. Dead is not here. Dead is gone. Dead is not smiling and watching over you from above. Dead may be somewhere else, but it definitely is not here. The only way and time you get to know where and what dead is is when you are, too.

“She’ll always be with you.” Bullshit. She’ll always be with me, but not here. She’s dead. See above. Time passes here, memory fades, the rat-brain evolutionary mandate to move on and survive asserts itself and starts ruthlessly rolling up the higher cognitive memories and storing them in boxes in the basement so that the forebrain can help keep that old mindless survival mantra humming. That’s just patently obvious bullshit once you’ve gone where the higher cognitive function can take you.

I for one do not feel inclined to return to that level of existence. Existing, that’s what I do now. Being, that’s a whole other thing. I choose to be who we became together, not just continue to exist as a piece of reasserted, programmed meat, existing in a hopeful, delusional fiction which might dangle the bait of recapitulating a facsimile of the unique, unrepeatable, beautiful life Lenore and I had together. I’ll repeat what I said earlier:

Our meaning was achieved as two who are one. After such a life one who is one becomes meaningless. Together we found what we sought, we achieved what we dreamed. Together we realized life’s hopeful, bright potential. We lived. Together. Fulfillment isn’t a destination; it’s a way of life. We lived that way. We belong together, not apart.

Sometimes I try to work on my suicide note just in case this path I’m on comes to that. It’s an awkward business. I want people to not feel sad. I want them to understand. But they will likely do the first and not the second. I hope for more, but expect the usual. My suicide will be explained in their ways, for their comfort. That’s OK with me. There’s not a lot I can do about how people see things, and what things they don’t or can’t or won’t understand. That being said I’ll just speak my piece and be done with it for now.

I had a good life, a great life. I’m done now. Be happy for me. I hope you have a life like I’ve had for yourself.

Hey – that’s not a bad suicide note. If the time comes, maybe I’ll go with that.

August 22, 2017: Life after death

For me life after death is a mystery. I speculate of course on what the nature of being might be after death, but in the end it is all speculation. It will be what it is and until that time it will remain unknown to me.

Before Lenore died I held hopeful speculations about the afterlife and took some comfort from my experience and my thoughts about death and what comes next. I noticed that living things, and the universe itself, follow a pattern of development beginning in simplicity which rises to an ever greater level of complexity, and hoped that meant that at the end of this life we humans did the same.

It was my hope that perhaps, unencumbered by bodily limits, we would enjoy an indescribable level of consciousness and connection in the universe of what we call our “spirit,” that mysterious energy which is life in the body, and which seems to leap from the body at death.

Lenore and I had a deep empathic connection which at times was telepathic, so we were no strangers to the mysterious energies present in the human experience. This gave us hope that our connection would survive death, and in some mysterious, unknown way we would still be able to connect through the curtain between life and death, that we would pierce the “cloud of unknowing” between the mind and what we hoped was an eternal soul.

We hoped that in some way our connection would continue. Before she died, we decided to both do our best to make a connection together between life and whatever it is that is beyond death.

I have remained sensitive and open to such a connection ever since. Yet the only connection I have experienced is here, in the “we” we grew to be together, in the singular, whole persona we shared as two who were one, now only in me, and in the memories of our time together here, in this life.

August 24, 2017: Her Absence

“Well, it really isn’t such a cheerful place… But let’s just carry on cheerfully anyway and let the tears fall when and where they will – what do you say?” That’s something Lenore would say, and it’s something we could do – together. It’s not that way now. It’s just not.

Tomorrow it will be 5 months since Lenore died. There are nearly 4,000 miles on the truck since I first reset the trip odometer in the parking lot at the hospice center and numbly drove into a world without her in it.

It’s a different world. It’s a world where loss and grief eclipse the light of the old world and her absence in it reduces it to a place of thin light and long shadows.

Today I found myself, for the first time since she died, planning something for the future.

I haven’t wanted a future without her and haven’t even considered it before now. I’ve spent at least as much time wanting and hoping and waiting for my own death as I’ve spent remembering our time together. Noticing that I am actually planning something doesn’t feel right. I still don’t want a future without her.

I vaguely resent or am sadly ambivalent about every wheedling influence in my life trying to conduct me away from the life we had together.

I resent time, and fading memory, and the human mechanism of adaptability trying to assert itself into my life. They all feel like the devilish denizens of deepening shadows, slowly swallowing the light of our life together. Our brilliance dims, our fire gutters and the coals slowly fade into darkness. Time marches on and we who were one together slide slowly down into the dark vault of history.

I resent the ancient biological mandate as old as life itself to survive at all costs. It’s wrapped there round the roots of my brain stem, overriding my identity, my experience, and my thoughts and desires and all things present in the seat of consciousness above it. It is finished, I say. It regards all the arts and pains and truths of a completed life and the complex vault of the higher mind with stone-dead reptilian eyes and stolidly replies, “Survive.” It makes no sense to me. It makes it hard to die no matter how profoundly I wish to.

I am sadly ambivalent about sunlight, and the soft sifting of tree leaves in the dawn breeze at the edge of morning’s light, and all the beauties of the earth. They are exquisite and beckoning; they promise nature’s elegant, simple pleasures again tomorrow and whisper an invitation to be here for them. Alone.

This strange world is a place where the animated seesaw of the perpetual human perception of a dualistic experience is often suspended. In those moments there is no light poised opposite to darkness, no good struggling with evil, no navigational chart between safety and danger. It is, for long moments, lifeless and null. There is no person here then – only a savaged, separated soul.

And now I find myself planning for a future I have not wanted all the way down this long slow drive away from where she died. It feels ridiculous to do it and I resent it. I feel cozened and pushed and shoved by insensate influences and monolithic principalities beyond my control, forcing me to return to things and places I have already been and already done and already know. It is time to be done, it has all been done, and yet this senseless, insistent, disregarding – thing – imposes itself on me. I hate it.

August 30, 2017: A Broken Heart

Does the universe remember a dead girl and her love? Does a tree remember the rain that came and runs now in the sap of its veins? What honors and cherishes and makes all things memorable, and holy? Is the essence of life holy in and of itself?

No. We make it so.

Mind and heart alone, and for a mere spark of time, remember the girl who came and went.

She appeared for a moment in the eternal, ephemeral mists swirling down the vault of time. She walked in sun and rain and lived and loved and died.

What honors her and cherishes her and holds her holy memory?

A broken heart, who watched her fade into the mist, and ran to follow, and was left behind.

September 1, 2017: Old and New Thoughts; The Sentinel

When I told her I wanted to be with her all the way down the line and go where she was going and die when she did, Lenore said I needed to stay here and shine my light. “You have so much,” she said. I’ve done my best.

I’ve left a hundred smiles with strangers in brief encounters communicating our connectedness. I’ve openly shared my honest truth. I’ve served the persons who needed anything who appeared along the way. I’ve felt the beauty of nature and at times the joy this life holds, and the laughter. I’ve been nice, and kind, and gentle wherever and whenever I can.

Yet it’s all happened in a world of half-light, it’s all been echoes fading ever more faintly away from their source, it’s all been ever-fainter ripples moving downstream on what was once the pulsing, flowing river of our life together.

I can’t begin to express how sad and confusing it is that I am still here, feeling more darkness than light, stalked constantly by loss and grief and separation. The days hold pockets of time when an uneasy, edgy trepidation and faint nervousness and vague tension take over. I can feel the emptiness lurking near, stalking me. I feel like something is missing and I can’t locate or identify what it is even though my mind knows exactly what it is.

Part of me has always lived out in border land, watching life and humanity and existence from the outside edge of the human social continuum, observing, registering, recording, and assembling my personal matrix of understanding from that broad-spectrum viewpoint. Lenore could join me out there, and it was a rich, soul-filling, wonderful view for us.

Now I’m out here alone, further out, out on the edge of the very farthest reach of human existence, just this side of the border between life and death, regarding life itself, looking backward down the long path behind that brought me here; seeing what is there in the past, and what is here now, and considering what is left in the time remaining ahead.

It is true that there is a season and a time and a purpose for everything. There is a time for sleeping and a time for waking. There is a time of light, and a time of darkness. There is a time for life, and a time for life to end.

I look back from here and see it all. When we were young we slept, and as we grew we awakened. The light began at dawn and rose to brilliance and faded into dusk and now darkness. The story of our life together is done now, that life has ended.

Today I remember how we began together and how we grew together. I remember when the light reached its zenith and together we began the season of our mutual and personal enlightenment together, and how we found everything changed completely and yet still the same as it ever was.

I have discovered that there is even a season for such enlightenment and a season for, for lack of a better word, endarkenment.

I speak of each because it is the core expression of what we had together and what has come to be here now. I speak of it to trace the face of who we were, and who we became, together. It seems right to let others know that where two are gathered together and become one whole human being, the mysteries of life recognized and embraced create an unbelievable, joy-filled union. I speak it to trace the face of what I have come to now.

So here I am again, doing this thing, writing, using words, these little markers of limited usefulness that break down the great, complete, fused unity which human consciousness encounters and fractures into such small pieces. Here I am, still alive, living day by day in half-light. I’m doing it even as I sense the beckon of joining, with her, in the complete and utter truth of just being in union with it all, to once again be with her where she is.

Now I’ve entered some sort of nexus point on my path, a sudden furious conjunction of thoughts and feelings and events and speculations that are coming so fast I can’t keep up with it all as it unfolds. I’m confused and shaken, uncertain about everything, nearly frantic in my efforts to make sense of it all.

It all started when I discovered myself making plans to do something in the future. Up until that moment I didn’t have a future. I hadn’t thought about it because it wasn’t necessary. I was already dead, I’d died with Lenore, and all of this was just a half-life denouement trailing down to the end of our story and my own death.

Then this idea of having a future pops up. What if I don’t die like I’m expecting to, what if I do have a future? What would that look like?

Early in the spring after Lenore died I had the feeling that I would die in the fall of this year. It was a one-time thing, typical in a way because my own death was a sincere, ongoing daily desire of mine during those days. I still have that desire. The memory of that moment has remained with me in part because my desire to be with Lenore no matter where she is now is still a strong part of my life. I still consider my death daily. Some days I visualize it, once in a while I plan it. I consider what it would involve, what would be lost, what would be gained.

I remember that moment last spring in particular because it held a distinct element of premonition. That was unique. It’s the only time I’ve had a premonitory feeling in all the days since she died.

I felt comforted at the time because I took it as a promise that soon all the pains of loss would end, that by late December at the latest I would be done living. I have held on to that promise ever since, taking comfort that no matter where this path I am following goes and no matter how dark and terrible the days become, eventually it will all end there. I have counted on it.

Now, recently, for the first time, I wondered what my life would be like if I actually survived in this world without Lenore in it. What would my life be like if I didn’t die as promised, if I couldn’t manage to end my life myself, if I found myself sort of… well, trapped here?

How would I do that? How would Lenore do that? What did we do in the past that might give me an idea of how to meet such a development in the future? What would a more balanced life experience for either one of us look like beyond the throes and depths of loss, what would our life alone look like in a world without the other? What would we do? What could we do?

Lenore and I weren’t married until “death do us part.” We were fused together, forever. In an attempt to describe what we were together, what we had, I used to describe it to others by saying we had been “hammered and welded together in the forge of the universe.”

Regardless of whether life is a short path down a long road that ends in the grave, or is an eternal, ongoing experience that simply morphs into different forms in the dimensions of the universe, Lenore and I will always be together, united, fused, inseparable – two who are one, forever.

So the consideration becomes this: What is possible in a world where death has come and only one of us remains? It’s early in my considerations of what living in a better balance between my engagement with grief and my engagement with life might be. I do know a couple of things I can start with in thinking about that.

I know what Lenore wanted for me. She told me. She wanted me to stay here and live and shine the light I have in me. She wanted me to reflect into the world the peace and joy and wisdom we had found in life together. When she told me that was what she wanted, I knew it was more of a hope than anything else because she knew what her death was going to do to me.

At the time I agreed to do that, but in my heart I didn’t believe I could do it for very long, if at all. We belonged together, no matter where, no matter what. It still sometimes feels like a cruel, senseless thing that I am alive and she is not. Yet here I am, still alive. And I have done my best to shine our light whenever possible since then.

If our roles were reversed, I know what I would want for her. I would want her to be happy here. I would want her to continue to be all the good things she was, to have all the things that were good for her in this life, to have all the things that gave her daily joy.

I’d want her to be who she was, waking up daily to happily engage with life, to first thing in the morning embrace forgiveness for all the sadness and cruelty and fear and anger and negative things in the world, and then carry on cheerfully through the day with kindness and gentleness and joy in every thing she did, extending love to everyone she met.

I know she would want those things for me, too.

The reality is different from those profound desires we held as hopes for one another when we were both here together. Death makes a difference. It is just not possible for those things to be present in any life I may have ahead of me without her – not to the degree that we once would have wished for the other. Where I go, she goes. We are inseparable.

I believe it would be that way for her too, even considering how powerful and centered and strong and focused a person she was, and how much she loved life and people. Death changes everything. I do think that she would have done better in death’s aftermath than I have done. And I think that’s what I’m considering now. What would she have done, how would she have continued to live with the same loss and pain and separation, the same unbreakable attachment? What balance would she find in the strange two worlds she found herself living in simultaneously?

I think that perhaps she would find a way to live in both worlds at the same time, moving with the grace she always had, moving like a flowing ribbon weaving naturally between the world of darkest grief and the world of brilliant joy…

In this moment I am stricken again as I was so often when she was here by how very lovely and wonderful and remarkable she was. It’s terrible now to not be able to see her doing that in person, to behold her being who she was, every day

It’s a bit later now, and upon reflection I don’t know whether Lenore could live that way or not under these circumstances. I can’t. There are sharp edges in the dark world that catch the ribbon, and tear it, and shred it, and knot it up. It’s not a place where things flow.

I really have no grip on what my future holds. There’s really only one thing I know for sure.

Part of me, no matter how long I live or how soon I die, will always be a lone sentinel standing at attention next to the grave of a great love, in honor of the lover who is buried there. I will never leave that place and when I die I will happily join her there. It will be the eternal resting place of one of the great love stories in human history.

I do know that.

September 2, 2017: If only it were a Cosmic Flub

My particular predicament, which has resulted in a frequent experience as a sort of numb, semi-comatose robot moving through time doing mundane chores, has slowly proven to be about more than the shock which comes with bereavement.

I can’t locate a reason to continue on. I have a profound, deep sense of completion of the purpose of my life. I have realized my life, and given and taken and learned and done everything I was meant to do here. I covered the ground, had all the experiences, and then completed the story I was meant to write here. Lenore and I wrote it together, and it was our magnum opus.

There are times when I feel like a character in fiction in one of those cosmic-flub stories where Death shows up and looks in the book and says, “Wait a minute. Something’s wrong here. You finished up everything on your list and were supposed to be picked up with Lenore on March 25… Ahh! Lenore, lovely girl, we all just love her around here…”

Then Lenore pops up smiling, walks over and looks into his sockets with real affection and says, “Oh, don’t worry, Death, it’s the math thing – the temporal shift thingy, remember? Time there is different from time here.”

Lenore has always been good at reminding everyone to remember who they are really. Death is a wizard with a scythe and a master of subtraction, but the higher maths are what lend the sense of tragedy to his persona. He just despairs all the time about not being able to get that stuff.

“Everything’s fine now,” she says. Then she stands on tiptoes, gives him a sweet peck on the mandible, and shoos him on his way.

She turns to me, puts one hand over my heart to calm it down and the other hand on my cheek, looks into my eyes, smiling – and there we are. Together again.

If only it were so.

September 3, 2017: Stone and Leaf

This morning early I was sitting outside in the rising dawn light under the old tree that forms a canopy above the spot here at Kay’s place where the Mystic Wind is parked. I was gazing at the trees across the way in front of the pasture beyond, letting my thoughts come as they would.

The first thought to rise to mind was about how most people who are bereaved eventually come to realize that they have a reason to continue living. They have unfinished business in life, they realize they are still searchers seeking to know the meaning of their life, they feel there is a reason, sometimes known, sometimes unidentified, for continuing to live their own life even in the absence of the one now absent in their lives. They discover that in their own lives there is still a path to follow and a purpose to fulfill before they fully realize their reason for being and complete their sojourn here.

I reflected briefly on my own predicament. I do feel completed and realized and have found the meaning for my life and fulfilled my purpose here. My sojourn has been completed. Yet still I find myself here, close to the end of my life path yet not there. It’s puzzling to me, a familiar thought these days; an odd, curious anomaly in the pattern of my life. It passed through easily, a reflection in response to that first thought, and my gaze returned to the trees.

I found myself musing about the mystery of life; about the presence, always, of things known and things unknown, and I wondered if there was some further purpose to my life to be revealed by the mystery later. I thought of what I had learned and come to know about the nature of that mysterious, spiritual energy which moves through the universe.

I remembered the days of my own seeking to understand it. I remembered that I came to know it, to be familiar with its nature without ever understanding it. I remembered how the early seasons of study and prayer and meditation led to the beginning and I passed through a door into a greater place than I ever imagined, a door which could never be returned through into the old world left behind. I remembered how Lenore and I, searching for one another in the old world, found one another in the greater world beyond. I remember the power of the mystery that delivered us to one another.

I remembered how we carried on together in that mystery, loving and reflecting upon the ongoing manifestations of its strange energy in our life together, experiencing how real and active it was in our lives. I remember how we grew in it and the transcendent moment on our path when it all became so simple and so clear to us both; that brief season in time when together we were delivered to a level of conscious awareness which fulfilled us both.

I remembered how we lived our lives before and after that. Nothing had changed, and everything was different. I thought about the acceptance and patience we had, and how we would wait on the mystery to reveal the reason and purpose and resolution for every event, challenge, puzzle, and grace in our lives. Acceptance and patience were our keys, and a daily engagement with life, vigilance for joy, and the practice of love was our way.

And so I wondered again if perhaps there was a purpose to remain here, one that would be revealed to me in time, a revelation coming out of the mystery.

I sat there in the early morning, letting my thoughts settle, looking at the trees.

And then a leaf gently landed at my elbow on the table next to me. There is a heart shaped stone I found on the beach on that table, and the leaf landed next to it. I looked at it and said, “Good morning, Honey.” I said it reflexively, without thought.

I looked at it. It was dry and faded yellow and withered by the heat of recent days, and had landed face down. I looked around on the ground, because I hadn’t noticed any falling yet, it’s still too early for that here. There were a few, but not many. I looked up into the tree and it was nearly all still green; there were a few leaves beginning to turn to autumn’s color.

I looked back at the leaf, dried, face down, fading into autumn, its return to the earth fully underway. I thought about the premonition I felt this spring, that I would die in the Fall.

I considered the leaf, and then I asked, “Is that a promise?”

She didn’t answer; and the mystery, too, remained silent, content to grant me the grace of being reminded that it was real and true, and still very present in my life.

And I sat there, graced by her presence in the mystery, waiting with acceptance and patience for my own resolution to arrive.

 

September 6, 2017: Things I Miss

A sad day, and I am suddenly aware of all the things I miss.

Delight. I miss that most of all. Simple delight.

Sudden deep bursts of gratitude and love, and seeking her out immediately and hugging her and telling her how much I love her.

Eyes meeting eyes.

Shared thoughts and feelings about everything; laughing together about practically anything; holding hands; walking side by side; seeing the same things at the same time; holding her hand as I fall asleep; holding her hand when I wake up; her playing the piano, cooking, reading, watering the plants – patiently, joyfully.

Just looking at the way she walked and stood. She was so exquisitely, naturally graceful, she had a fine carriage and I miss telling her she was an angel “turned on the lathe of heaven.” She always laughed at that and was modest and shy about compliments, and I miss seeing that and how I could see they pleased her, too.

I miss her. Her. So very much.

September 8, 2017: I am Thee and Thou Art Me

Robert Frost observed that people who were confronted with the loss of a loved one, “since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”

For many years I considered that to be a cold, cruel, cynical observation about human adaptability and selfishness, and how love can be left behind and forgotten by people who lack passion and emotional depth, and commitment, to those they once loved.

Now I realize it is also not only an important and necessary thing, it is a natural thing that I myself have done many times in the past. I grieved, I mourned, I healed, I carried memories of love and goodness, and grieving too – and went on. I was not the one dead.

I am aware now of something I have sensed and yet not fully identified until now; time has continued on, and I have not turned to my affairs. Lenore is dead, and she was me.

I am the one dead. My affairs are completed here.

September 9, 2017: Nightmare

A nightmare and waking rage; raw rage, like I haven’t had in nearly four decades…

I was walking in the dark, carrying two crutches in my left hand and two shotguns in my right, walking, walking. I don’t know where I’m going. Going to a place to heal or a place to die? I don’t know.

I’m just walking, moving forward. I’m a thing in an electrical cloud of confusions and clarities, formed by the mechanism beneath. There, balanced precariously and glitch-ridden, a monkey brain on top of a rat brain on top of a lizard brain fume up to form the cloud above.

Below, in the meat, below the electric cloud and synapses split in endless, ongoing dualistic runs of spark, below it all the ancient throb of ocean, throbbing in the gut, adrenals, gonads, driving the baselines of existence. Hunger. Fear. Survival.

It is the electrical cloud, the high, great skying thing, disintegrating, its mission accomplished. Fulfillment, safety, completion – concluded, consummated and now, soon, terminated. And the thing marches on, dying, cursing now instead of praising, mourning now instead of celebrating, falling from the heavens, orbit decaying.

Carrying crutches and a shotgun, it knows not where. It loves life and despises its innate precarious, fickle changeability.

Delusion chosen, embraced and lived in is all it sees now. There is no reality, no truth, no virtue – all is illusion, choices made and interpretations formed, a grid map for local locomotion of a mechanism formed up by what it knows not, in what it knows not, for what reason it knows not.

It crumbles around him. Rage. Then sadness. Then despair.

A nightmare. And it has a fucking soundtrack:

Everybody’s high on consolation
Everybody’s trying to tell me what’s right for me
My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon
But it’s plain to see that they can’t comfort me

Sorry Charlie for the imposition
I think I’ve got it, got the strength to carry on
I need a drink and a quick decision
Now it’s up to me, ooh what will be

She’s gone, oh I, oh I’d
Better learn how to face it
She’s gone, oh I, oh I’d
Pay the devil to replace her
She’s gone, what went wrong

Get up in the morning look in the mirror
I’m worn as her tooth brush hanging in the stand
My face ain’t looking any younger
Now I can see love’s taken its toll on me

 

She’s gone, oh I, oh I’d
Pay the devil to replace her
She’s gone, what went wrong

 

She’s gone.

“She’s Gone” by Daryl Hall / John Oates

September 12, 2017: Walking in Rare Places

What a day this is. It’s another “ambush day,” where invisible lurking nodes of grief are everywhere. I feel myself edging close to one, sense the agitated air on the periphery, and divert my attention, feel it brush past. I avoid the worst, there’s typically just a remnant of a quelled ache in my forehead and a tear caught in the outside corner of my eye, and I move on.

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser. This world without Lenore in it is not so much a Lewis Carroll rabbit-hole as a different dimension, parallel in general and skewed in its rare particulars.

Rarity. I keep walking this walk, searching, reading, observing my own experience – and that word keeps showing up. I’m looking for a single similar experience of grief like this in the life of another human being and I can’t find it.

Every single life is unique, yet within the unique experience of an individual there are common and uncommon denominators. The more common denominators there are, the more useful information there is in the human community for the individual. There are more people who can relate, empathize, and understand the experience of another person.

The more uncommon denominators there are – well, not only is there less useful information available, there are also fewer people who can recognize, let alone understand or empathetically share, a given experience. And those uncommon denominators are present over a range, from “most common uncommon” to… rare.

The combination and number of uncommon denominators Lenore and I shared was very rare. The power, the depth, the weight, the significance and the rarity of those factors is just simply not understandable. You need to have been there to understand what it all summed up to, to understand the resulting gestalt that sum produced.

The good hearts and good minds who knew us best know there was something extraordinary about us, individually and together, and that in itself was and is a great blessing.

Yet it is clearly certain to me now that this walk is mine, and our walk together. There’s a found separate peace in that realization. I walk where I walk. I walk where we walked – in rare, rare places.

September 15, 2017: Simple Clarity Replaces Beliefs

On June 9 this year I reflected on the breakdown of certain beliefs which were useful to me during a long season of my life, but had come to an end. This is a reflection on that experience which acknowledges loss of faith as a part of grief and bereavement. It also acknowledges that in my case a simple clarity has replaced many of my beliefs.

I have a well developed conscious awareness of those things which the human spirit apprehends as being present in the human experience which are not subject to understanding and exist as energies and principles which can only be known in part, and only seen “as through a glass, darkly.”

My familiarity with and my conscious awareness of such things is useless to me now.

My experience has reduced the complex matrix of understanding I developed and lived by and navigated life with to a simple, straightforward view. I am informed by what I see, and what I directly experience. I have no room for beliefs, hopeful interpretations, or even the most substantial posits of metaphysics because every single one of them is supported by a given value of probability and not one is proven positively. They are useful to the living and irrelevant to the dead. In my experience, where I am simultaneously living and dead, it all seems superfluous.

I will repeat what I said in that earlier post. My thoughts were rooted in the words of Ecclesiastes, which asserts that all human endeavors to understand existence are essentially personal and therefore local, in the self, and while such things may be useful it is secondary to simply living life on life’s terms, and finding simple joy there when possible:

“There is a time for vanities, for constructing and then living by belief within one’s particularly assembled matrix of understanding. There is a time when we learn about the virtues and vices of human conduct, about the things which fulfill us and the things which empty us, and navigate according to the map we assemble. And there’s a time to see the essential vanity of it, to admit the uniquely personal construct which we formed was merely a useful tool for the self while it existed in a certain season of particular conditions and circumstances.”

I was recently exposed to a religious interpretation meant to offer comfort to the bereaved, observing that the presence of the lost beloved can be present in the consciousness of the bereaved. In most cases it does offer comfort, and many do benefit by developing a conscious awareness of that voice in themselves, which they are not familiar with.

My response is on behalf of those who find no comfort in such awareness, nor truth in the afterlife it implies.

The dead speak in manifestations of the mind and heart of the living. It is not the dead speaking. Where the beloved is now is beyond mind and heart. In the universe nothing is lost. In mind and heart when the beloved dies – the beloved is lost. Only the mind and heart of the bereaved remains, and they may or may not find comfort in “manifestations” of the beloved in her absence.

And in this moment I will also say that only someone who has actually had the experience of being a living, breathing, in-the-flesh soul comprised of two who have become one, and then have experienced that soul split in half by death, will understand what I’m expressing. Many people “believe” they have that, or had that. Only those who have had it know it.

“Belief” is not part of that knowing.

September 16, 2017: More on Belief, Faith and Knowing

I’ve been grumpy for a couple of days now and haven’t been able to locate the source, other than to recognize that it has to do with the culmination of an ongoing realignment of my spiritual perspective which began when Lenore died and we couldn’t reach one another across the gulf between life and death as we agreed to try. If it was possible, we were the ones who could do it, there’s no doubt at all of that in my mind.

Everyone has a matrix of understanding they have assembled from their nature, nurture and experience. Often that matrix includes a religion, a belief system, and faith. It’s a useful thing. It includes a story, a context, a lexicon, an ordered construct built up for the purpose of organizing the things encountered in our human experience, and then expressing them. Within the various religious belief systems certain principles and truths can be found, often obscured by time and personality and interpretation, yet still present.

Lenore’s matrix of understanding included A Course In Miracles as a singularly useful point of reference in her own spiritual life. She did not regard it as infallible holy writ. She regarded it as very useful, a system which provided words, thoughts and concepts which established a basic ground and point of departure for her own spiritual walk.

On her path and through her study and personal regard of the principles described in ACIM Lenore came to know – not believe, but know – that all life is connected by and in an often mysterious web of energy. Connection. She knew we were all connected to each other, and we were all connected to life.

One of the things she used to describe her knowing was the ACIM concept of “The Sonship.” The concept of the Sonship incorporates several concepts of the spiritual life into its fabric. One of those concepts is basically an expression of the collective consciousness generated by humanity and all life. It’s a metaphor validating the existence of our relationship with every single living person, and every single living thing, and the planet it all lives on, and the universe it exists within.

Lenore knew that the “Sonship” is supported and enriched by positive energy, and that particular knowing defined her life and actions. She was devoted to the practice of extending real love to all of creation and everything and every being in it. She forgave all illusions and devoted herself to keeping her eyes on the truth she knew. She found joy in every day, satisfaction in work, fun in play, fulfillment in service to others. She consciously embraced and constantly manifested what she knew. She was good and kind and caring, gentle and patient and nurturing, she sought and found joy in every day, she was selflessly present and available to everyone and everything she encountered, empathetic with all, sympathetic and supportive with those in pain, enriching and enlightening to seekers searching for what she knew.

Now she is dead. She is gone from this life. All that is left of her now is circulating in that mysterious web of life energy which she contributed so many good, positive things to. I am connected deeply to her in that web. Everyone who encountered her is connected to her there. Her life is enshrined there and the energy of her life pulses there and will be a beautiful part of the ongoing, cumulative collective consciousness which will exist so long as the universe exists.

It is the afterlife I know of. It’s a realm of the living, by the living, for the living, occupied by the living and the energies generated by those who are no longer alive. But it is not the realm of the dead. That’s unknowable.

What troubles me is what I don’t know, and am not so constituted by my own nature to take on faith. I would like to know that the “afterdeath” is a place where we will once again, in some cosmic, unfathomable way, truly be together, face to face, hand in hand, heart in heart, one soul united in two beings. It was what we were here. It is all I desire. It was enough to fulfill and realize my life when we were here, together. It is more important to me than life itself to be with her again, wherever she is or isn’t. Our separation by death, even in the presence of all the connections we still share in my mind and heart and the collective consciousness of life, is intolerably painful at times. And unsatisfactory all the time.

That’s all I know.

Personal Notes:

This has been a dynamic process, accompanied by the turmoil that comes when the old order of things suddenly crumbles and then rises up into a new arrangement. I’d describe it now as a long overdue weeding of my personal spiritual garden. A bunch of beliefs had slowly appeared there and over time they had begun to obscure and even choke the knowing that was first planted and then nurtured and cultivated there.

Initially the purpose of what I shared here about loss of faith was to affirm and validate for others who had lost faith in their beliefs that my experience was the same and they were not alone. I’ve known several people who have felt betrayed by their religion or beliefs during traumatic events in their lives. They find no comfort in the beliefs which up until then provided them with a secure and stable certainty that those beliefs would carry them through any situation which confronted them in life.

Sometimes they found that even the community they shared those faiths with failed to support them in their extremity, or even rejected them. I remember a divorced Catholic who was both hurt and stupefied when she experienced a lack of support and rejection from the church as well as church members she assumed would always have her back, would always be there for her as she was for them during their own trials. It’s not an unusual thing.

It’s a very painful and confusing thing to come face to face with the nature and limits of belief, and the borderlines of religion.

I have nothing against belief or its primary argument, which is faith. I have been availed by both on my own path. Belief and faith often prove to be a satisfying, enriching destination where a human being can find joy and peace and a firm, sustaining perspective on life.

Belief and faith have not proven to be a destination for me on my own path. They have been a pointing finger, directing me further down the road to my own spiritual destination. It is my sense that I may at last be near that destination in the loss of attachments to belief and a burgeoning clarity of knowing.

September 17, 2017: Acceptance was the Key

I am so ambivalent about participating in life these days, so split off of the person I was when Lenore was here. I’ve revisited some writing and blog comments I shared in the days when we were walking this life together, engaged with such grace and power with everything it holds, and it all reveals how far removed I am from who I am really.

In those days acceptance was the key that opened us up to the mysterious energies of life and allowed us to walk on with grace and power, no matter what the circumstances or challenges. Acceptance of things as they are, no matter how terrible, is a powerful tool. You just keep going, doing your best, doing what you can, and over time things very often change for the better.

I suppose that’s what the robot in me is doing these days. It just keeps going, walking on. I watch it doing what I used to do, see it extending the love in me in daily moments when I encounter and interact with others. What is not present there is me. I have no acceptance, no grace, no power. The acceptance that Lenore is gone from this life is not in me. I will not accept that because it feels like a betrayal to her, and me, and us.

Turning that key has never been harder.

September 25, 2017: I’m going to go find that girl.

The way this life is set up you live until you die. It’s just the way it is, right? But what if you’ve done that, and you’re still here? Then what?

Today I decided what. I’m going to go find that girl. I’m going to go get her. I’m going to go where she is. The worst that can happen is nothingness. So it’s the last great adventure, one of those times when the road ahead is into a creation so wide and open you can feel it in your chest.

The once-living part of me still wants to make one last effort to impart my perspective, to inform you of who I am, who Lenore is, who we are together in the unique experience we share, and who we were and what we experienced and how fully we lived before and after we were together. But it all boils down to “you had to be there.” My wings are tired of fluttering against the glass window between our experience and the perspective of others, of trying to convey the bliss we shared into another heart. The mind of others always distorts it. That’s another thing that is just the way it is here.

It’s all alright now. Our love to each of you. Love, live, lose, win, keep going until you know you’re fulfilled and have realized the purpose of your life here. Like we did. We have been here. We have done this. My entire life, before and after Lenore and I found each other, has been a full, amazing, total-coverage experience. It was everything.

Now it’s time to go find that girl.

September 27, 2017: Random Thoughts

A shared perspective on life is very, very important. And awfully damned rare.

Most people think you have to live until you die. I say you can live until you’re done.

Forgiveness is over rated. If you offer a hurt to the good and the innocent, I will not forgive you and I will not forget what you did.

We are born with a will, choices, and an ego. What we do about that is also very, very important.

I seek to know where I stand. Once I know, I’m firm in my judgments, just like Disko Troop – and when I’m wrong I can admit it, just like Disko did.

And speaking of Disco, I wish Lenore and I had danced to even more disco music than we did. It was fun, and we were good at it.

September 28, 2017: They solved the mystery of the universe.

It’s too much to hope for in this life, but I sincerely hope that somewhere in the universe, in those alternate dimensions that human beings speculate upon and suspect and sense, that something knows the answer to the question “Whatever happened to Lenore and Bob?”

“Lenore and Bob? Oh, well they solved the mystery of the universe and found the true meaning of life. Together. You really need to spend a little more time over in the memory archives of the angels. It’s one of the great stories there.”

September 28, 2017: Formula for Children in a Yard

Go out under the stars at night

and start yourself to spinning round

let your hands fly away

feel your arms stretching out

and soon

the line between sky and ground

will see-saw away

you will fall down.

 

And while you lay there still

the stars above will spin above you;

while you lay there still

the earth will turn beneath you.

While you lay there, still,

the universe will turn around you

October 2, 2017: Our Path

I wouldn’t change a thing. Years ago I consciously chose my spiritual path. I chose to be  living, experiencing and growing spiritually in the day-to-day events of what many would call an earthly or mundane experience.

Lenore and I also consciously chose a path together based on the principle that where two were gathered together as one a spiritually realized life experience could be had.

Considering the spiritual and existential difficulties I’m experiencing now, I recently wondered if I would change those choices if I could. I wouldn’t. It was a great path for us.

Many paths produce the life story of an individual. Our path produced a compendium, and part of its wholeness was the mutually shared living resonance we each contributed to and experienced.

Now she isn’t here. The resonance is not here. The compendium is gone now, consigned to history. That describes my difficulties in a nutshell.

A return to an individual path seems superfluous now in the wake of what we achieved together.

October 4, 2017: It’s a strange thing to be living, dead, after your own demise.

Many years ago, at the very beginning of the path that would eventually lead to Lenore, there was a moment of extreme hopelessness in my life when I felt like the path I was on had taken me to a dead end and there was nowhere left to go in this life. I was down to an old Chevy truck with about a gallon of gas in the tank. I had no place to stay and was flat broke. I’d seen the moment coming for awhile and had tried to forestall it but finally the end had come.

In anticipation of the worst, I’d found a salvage dealer who would give me thirty bucks for the truck. The time had come to get that money and buy myself a good steak dinner and drink Jack Daniels whiskey until the money was gone. I’d given up. I figured at that point I could kill myself, and I was absolutely certain I would do just that.

This is the short form of a very long and interesting story, but for brevity I’ll just sketch in the background leading to that moment.

Four months earlier I’d fled the Pacific Northwest and nearly three years of a binge-drinking, dead end lifestyle – the result of a broken marriage, the seeming loss of my three children, and a long-standing PTSD condition rooted in my younger years. I went to Boulder, Colorado. I’d decided to go to an AA group there, away from my drinking buddies and my drinking ground, and hopefully get a grip on myself.

I worked the program there for all I was worth. I did 150 meetings in 90 days. On December 11th, my birthday, I chaired my first meeting. I cleaned the place we met in, I set up coffee, I found speakers for a district meeting. I worked the hell out of the program and was learning ruthless honesty and how to be open and how to be willing to listen to the guidance of others. I embarked on the spiritual practices that took me to the path which would serve me for the rest of my life.

And then it all went to hell. I hadn’t taken a drink yet, but it was only a matter of time. A long story in itself.

The salvage dealer’s number was on a scrap of paper in my wallet. Scribbled on the back was a note that I’d forgotten about. It read “needs trees cut down” and there was a name and phone number. But I remembered the place was back up in the mountains and the gas left in the truck was barely enough to get me to the junkyard, so I wrote it off.

When I called the junkyard, the guy I’d talked to before didn’t answer and my call went to an answering service. The person who answered took my message and when she told me when I could reach him directly again I interrupted her and said, “Susan? Is that you?” She sounded exactly like one of the AA people I knew. She was startled a bit and asked me who I was. I told her, and suddenly a sliver of light appeared in my darkness. I asked her, straight up and without explanation, if she’d give me five bucks. I just blurted it out.

There was silence for a long moment. Then she said, “Sure Bob, no problem.” She didn’t ask why, she didn’t ask what it was for, she didn’t ask me when I could pay her back. She just told me where she was and how long she’d be there. Only the very best people can do something like that, and Susan was one of those people. Five bucks doesn’t seem like much. In those days it was nearly two hours worth of Susan’s wages. How many people, really, would do such a thing? That five bucks saved my life. Susan saved my life. The mysterious grace of an unexplainable universe saved my life.

I put the five bucks in my gas tank, called the guy with the trees to cut down, and by the end of the day I had a job, a place to stay, and a new friend. And two years later Lenore and I finally found each other at that very place in the mountains above Boulder.

So what’s the point of this story? I asked myself that when it came to mind and I don’t have an answer yet, but I have some reflections.

I’m in a dark place, that’s for certain. I’m on a path that very often feels like it will end at my own ultima Thule; that distant, unknown place where I will have reached the extreme limit of my travel and discoveries on this path after I have given enough time to my grief and loss and circumstances, and considered it all, and have arrived at a clear and ruthlessly honest understanding of what it all amounts to and what I will do once I’ve arrived at that point of clarity.

When I acknowledge the truth of where I think that path is going, that place is the end of my life. That’s what I think. It’s not a certainty yet. It’s just a statement of fact. It’s not a cry for help, either – so please don’t take it that way. Once again, I’m just saying how it is for me, and this is the time and place where I’m expressing my experience for my own purposes.

I also do have a hope, although it’s not necessary for me now, that there are others who can understand what I’m saying without feeling the need to jump in and save me or fix me. People who can simply accept the fact of what my personal experience is, and, to a certain degree anyway, understand it.

This place I’m in now is not like that dark place I came to all those years ago. It’s an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. I’m thinking and feeling and slowly walking my way toward a final, clear, personal understanding of what it all means to me, and not anybody else. I seek to know where I stand. Once I know, I’ll stand firm in my judgments and act on them. That time isn’t here yet.

I haven’t been able to find an experience in the literature and stories and science of grief and loss and bereavement that directly relates to my own experience. There are probably more people than not on the planet who have experienced those things and survived. In the past I’ve been one of them.

Survivors have taken the deep wound and over time have found ways to heal and bear the resulting scar. They develop coping skills and useful techniques to apply to the wound and scar; they realize that they still have a path to complete, things to do and missions to fulfill before they die; they discover that life still beckons and offers the beauties of creation in mountain and river and ocean and sky. They find others to love and be loved by, family to devote themselves to. They find hope in an unknown future yet to be revealed. They carry on.

In all their stories, I can’t find my own. At some point I realized that all the information I was collecting came from survivors of such an experience. I researched and looked for information left behind by people who had not survived, hoping to find something I could relate to, something that would reflect my own experience. I didn’t find much. Few suicides and people who die within a short time after bereavement leave notes, and the world seems much more interested in bereavement by death than death due to bereavement.

The closest thing I found to reflecting my experience was a new voluntary end-of-life law being considered in the Netherlands, which would allow healthy older people who feel that they have led a full and complete life to end their lives without having a terminal illness.

I found it comforting that somewhere in the world there were people who acknowledged that such an experience could be real, and there was a consciousness present which would honor that condition rather than condemn it. Naturally, most people are just upset about it.

It’s not that the bereaved don’t think about suicide. They do. It’s a very common experience to have in the course of grief. It’s a place people pass through on their way to survival. That’s the unwritten basic assumption of nearly all the grief information I’ve gathered. People “get through it,” move beyond it, go forward, and always, at the end of the story, there is a survivor, deeply scarred perhaps, who is still alive.

There are no stories describing my experience. It’s a common belief that the way life is set up is you live until you die and then, and only then, are you done living. There are no stories about people who are done living after the death of a beloved, who realize their life has been fulfilled and completed and yet find themselves still alive. It’s a strange thing to be living, dead, after the event of your own demise.

October 11, 2017

I came to Cannon Beach today to kill myself.

Of course this and everything with regard to my suicidal resolve has to be a secret, otherwise well-intentioned do-gooders and righteous interferers operating on assumptions they’ve never examined and who don’t know me at all will get in my way. I really don’t have time for that right now.

Even those who are truly concerned about me and would like me to live would be operating without knowing where I’m at now, and how I arrived there and how much time and thought I’ve put into what I’ve come to. I’d like to think that if they had the whole picture they would understand.

I’d like to think that when word of my death reaches others that at least one person will not say, “He didn’t make it. Bob didn’t make it.” Instead they will understand, and say, “He made it. Now he’s with her.”

It is nearly7 o’clock in the evening and now it appears that the task is going to be as long and involved as the path I took to arrive at the decision.

I really want to die and be with Lenore wherever she is or isn’t. Just be with her. I knew if my path reached this point it would be hard to do myself in, but this is the last thing I thought would happen. I thought that the clarity I’ve finally reached would bring resolve, and resolve would enable a quick, simple, straightforward suicide.

The resolve is here. There’s no doubt of that at all. That legwork is finished. My life is completed. It’s time to die. But there’s apparently nothing quick, simple, or straightforward about killing myself.

Wanting to do things “right” has gotten in my way. I don’t want the writing archives in my computer to get lost, or my necklace with Lenore’s rings on it, or Lenore’s lock of hair, or our photos and mementoes, or even Lenore’s cast iron frying pan – I want them to go somewhere and be preserved in use or memory if only for a little while longer.

For another thing, it’s pretty hard to kill myself. It’s going to take a certain amount of courage and determination to do it.

It’s an ironic little twist of this life that a now confirmed and dedicated suicide like me would find a reason to keep on living. I want to do it right. I don’t want to leave any bigger mess than I need to. I don’t want my death to be a bother or trouble for anyone so far as putting my affairs in order and distributing my “earthly estate” to others.

And what a silly thought that is, having an earthly estate to distribute. It is counter to the core of who I am and what I believe to think that I should reduce the wonderful life I have had into things and money, parceled and posted, before I die.

Lenore had it right. She left all material, money and attachments behind. She left it all behind. Near the end she said, “I don’t care about any of that stuff anymore. I’ve let it go. I don’t have any unfinished business. I’m at peace. I’m ready to die.”

She also said, “Remember what you have in your heart and memories of me.”

That’s enough.

October 21, 2017: One More Adventure

I’m holding on to the seemingly promissory premonition which came in early Spring that I will die sometime this autumn, which means before the winter solstice this year. My suicidal thoughts have diminished somewhat since my beach trip, but remain with me and I would say that more than half the time they occupy my thoughts. It’s still an ongoing option, pressing yet not urgent.

I’m running in cycles these days. Busyness occupies me for fairly long times now. There are periods when a sort of equilibrium sets in and the days just keep moving on by themselves. Then there are times when I register my present day reality a bit too sharply and it seems so clearly empty and senseless. I go through some sad and dark days then, and after that the cycle starts over again. It’s only been 7 months today since Lenore died and I’m basically still shocked and numb and walking on with a thousand-yard-stare in the aftermath of her death.

I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I’m very ambivalent about most things. I just keep moving.

The edge of winter is showing up here in the Pacific Northwest. Heavy rain and strong winds the next two days will begin to strip the trees and then give way to shorter days of cold sunshine. Soon the angle and quality of sunlight will bring on the contemplative season of late autumn. It’s a time of reflection and memories, a time for summing up the returns of the year past, a time to set another waypoint on the timeline of life.

Lenore and Charlie and I are heading out. We are going to the desert southwest where silent, soul-filling sunsets mark the end of every contemplative autumn day. The Mystic Wind is nearly ready to go, and early next week we will pull out of Kay’s heaven in the northwest woods and make our run south to a camp on the edge of the Saguaro National Forest.

In the days before she died Lenore told me to just put her ashes in the back seat with Charlie when she was gone, and I told her I’d rather she rode up front with me. She said that would be alright, and smiled. She was pleased about that. So off we all go together – one more time, on one more adventure.

As always, and because it pleases me, I will be the facilitator and servant of their spirit and souls. We will go where they want to go, see what they want to see, and do what they want to do.

We will have lunch on the roadside where endless panoramas surround us. We will look for that place on the road where, last year, rounding a corner on a downhill grade with the morning sun at our back, a cliff across the valley stunned us with layers upon layers of desert colors gleaming in the light.

On the way we will talk, and laugh, and once in awhile I will turn my head to look at her, wordless when we see some beautiful thing together, and see her knowing eyes looking back at me, acknowledging she sees and feels it too.

October 25, 2017

This trip isn’t turning out to be what I thought it would. There have been emotional potholes all along the way – memories of things that happened and places we saw together on our trip down there last year combined with the realization that we were making our final run down the long road we shared together.

We were so go-ahead and doing what we wanted to do for as long as we could, seeing new and beautiful places together, and all of it was punctuated by pain and meds and the wheelchair and a constant round of doing it, and getting worn down, and gathering energy again and going on. We wouldn’t have done it any other way. It was who we were. It was what we wanted to do. What we did and how we did it was beautiful, and heroic. Yet in retrospect it has all become so very, very sad as well.

I’m so tired of taking these heart hits. I bear them and somehow keep on keeping on but the wear and tear is cumulative and now the only way I have of holding on to myself is avoidance of them. I try not to remember, try to avoid thinking about much of anything other than day to day, mundane things. It doesn’t work, of course, but some respite from it all is there.

I realize while we fought the good fight and kept a hold on our joy and love for one another every day, we also took on and endured traumas which are still with me.

 

November 11, 2017

I’ve made it to Arizona. I will arrive at my destination in half a week or so. This trip has been a collection of crossroads where the natural beauty of the landscape collides with memories of our trip down these same roads together last year. Memories of the joys and pains of Lenore’s journey and the times and places we shared and the things we did together in those days come back to me and I smile, and I cry, and sometimes I flinch and look away, and just keep moving on.

Down around Mexican Hat in southern Utah I found the landscape that stunned us as we came around a bend on the highway last year. I pulled over and took a picture of it this time. The sun was a bit higher in the sky and the palette of geologic layers was muted a bit more than last year. It was beautiful – a peaceful, lovely place in the middle of nowhere, a place that travelers for the most part simply pass by. We caught its beauty and power together last year. This year I saw and felt it without her and nearly cried again but caught myself and returned to the truck and moved on.

Today I visited an ancient cliff dwelling site in the Verde Valley near a park we stayed in last year. It’s one of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in the Southwest, built of adobe and limestone blocks and mortar in a towering cliff face. As I walked below it for a moment I imagined hearing the voices and laughter of the people who lived and loved and played and planted and hunted and built there. They’re gone now, faded into the deep vaults of history. What remains is a peaceful, beautiful green valley with a river flowing through it and the ancient, towering limestone cliffs above.

I sat quietly beneath those cliffs for awhile and felt a mournful ache for the passing of the people who lived there, and those who have followed them down into the ever-longer shadows of history, and for all the living who will follow them – and I cried for all of it, and I cried for Lenore, and for being here instead of with her. Later I walked slowly back to the truck, and moved on.

Lenore and I knew that when we went into the wilderness and nature and beautiful places the solitude and grandeur there would inform us of what was in our heart. Every time, without exception, we found joy and peace and a deep awareness of the truly sacred thing our life together was, and in certain perfect moments we connected with the whole and holy essence of life on this planet and in this universe.

Today I found only a deep sadness in my heart.

It’s no longer necessary for me to express the nature of my bereavement to others. I sometimes still have a reflexive desire to inform others of what it’s like, how it feels, why it is what it is. I’ve learned that every bereavement is unique and there is no way for any other person to know or understand the roots and depth and breadth of another’s grief. They would have had to have been there to know that.

I do still feel deeply that my grief is rare, just as Lenore and I together and individually were rare.

I am simultaneously completed and obliterated. Our fulfillment is history. My soul is split off from itself, I have half a heart. My spirit is broken. This is a shadowy denouement, one of the cruel counterpoints to a full and tender life; a sliding slowly downward into shadows and the end of our brilliant story.

November 18, 2017

After a long, tiring trip from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona I am now settled in the desert near Tucson. In the night and early morning here Orion and the Pleiades are lower in the clear southern sky as a result of the astronomical sum of my latitude change and the earth’s circuit around the sun, bringing winter on. At least two patterns of the cosmos are still in place and consistent.

All night long I hear coyotes hunting and calling, and ranch dogs informing them of their own territory. In the morning off to the west there are two roosters crowing, one getting enough pluck into it to end in what sounds like a hog screaming. Yesterday the wind picked up in the afternoon and left a thin coat of caliche dust on the truck. It’s ancient dust, a mixture of calcium carbonate and desert soil, the powder form of the rock-hard natural concrete laid down over eons on the desert floor.

Today I’m doing an inventory of sorts, taking stock of my condition and status.

I’m still a slow, patient shell plodding through the days, waiting first on fulfillment of the premonition in early Spring that I would die before the winter equinox this year. It will be here at 9:28 am MST on December 21st. If it proves true then I only have 33 days at the most until I’m done here. I would like that.

In seven days it will be eight months to the day since Lenore died.

I am now officially and clinically disorderly. That portion of humanity which engages in complex pattern recognition and norm-setting in order to establish what is orderly and what is not orderly in human ideation – in order to create complex head-tooling wrenches for the human psyche – says this is so.

It’s OK that this sort of thing goes on in the human sphere. It’s an extremely occupying life devotion and perspective – and it is not a backwater dead-end in the human continuum. It embraces ever-expanding parameters that will, eventually, lead an honest learner and practitioner to the understanding that every human experience is unique and transcends all definition.

I am now labeled by these folks as the owner/victim of “persistent complex bereavement disorder,” previously known in the lingo as “complicated grief disorder.”

It goes like this. According to these folks, if I turn out to be significantly and functionally impaired by prolonged grief symptoms for at least one month after six months of bereavement, then I have become disorderly according to their definitions and have become eligible for automatic pigeon-holing into a neat little box labeled “Disordered.”

It’s all too complicated to devote time to explaining why and how these folks have perpetrated their system. Leave it to say that the transcendent, unique nature of the human psyche is given short shrift there, and the nature of human experience in a near-infinitely-variable universe has been pressed quite flat beneath an overlay of limited, local perception.

The unique nature of every individual experience transcends definition. It is what it is.

There is no way to ken the transcendent, spiritual bond between two human beings.

I have been surprised by the recent articulation in my mind that I am now standing on the far shore of my sojourn here – the place I set out for when I first appeared in this life. I have journeyed long and wide, loved and learned and lived – and now here I am. I knew I was here the day Lenore died, but that knowing has taken a long, slow path to reach a coherent, utterable form.

I am near my end in this life. It’s a thing both sad, as every heartfelt leave-taking is sad, and joyful, as completion and fulfillment and new horizons are joyful.

It is what it is. I’m glad I was here. I will be glad when I go to whatever is next.

Don’t speak. Listen. Understand. Live your own life with this knowledge onboard. Know that your journey leads to the same place. Realize that the best time to live – truly live – is now, so that when you get to that far shore you’ll be completed and fulfilled by your own passage through this life.

November 18, 2017

The deep grief of profound bereavement is a strange, alternate dimension. It’s a place where everything encountered is the remnant of a former life.

The cherished ring once worn, the pillow slept upon, the instrument once played, the art created with nimble fingers and flashing eyes – each is nothing but a remnant, holding no more of the former life than a randomly encountered strand of the beloved’s hair.

Nothing there is more than a partial wisp of memory, a far away whisper, a scent fading into still air. It’s a place which holds a far-away echo of laughter fading into dying light, a half-breath, a broken thought, a ghostly brush of touch, a shadow passing through the heart. Nothing there is ever real, or whole, or clear.

It is where the great thing that became more than the sum of its parts is reduced to pieces, and the parts are scattered. It is a place where souls are lost, and hearts broken.

Thanksgiving, 2017

Today I give thanks.

The way we lived defined the highest meaning of togetherness;

your death, the source of my most grievous pain,

brought to deepest definition the meaning of apartness.

Thank you for our gain.

Thank you for this sadness; it is all of us that remains.

 

Bread and Music
by Conrad Aiken

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,—
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

 

 Time in Eternity
by  T. Merrill

When you were as an angel in my arms,
Had laid your bare head just below my chin,
Your length pressed up to mine, entrusting charms
My whole youth’s starward longing could not win;
With still the murmur of your love in me,
Miracle-tones of all my lifelong hope,
I wished that there might start eternity
And seal forever that sweet envelope;
And as it did, my thoughts are now for you
As every star is blotted by the sun,
And so the sun itself
Has perished too,
And with it, every dream of mine
But one.

 

Spring and Fall: to a Young Child

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

 

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

November 25, 2017: I Should Be With Her

This morning I discovered that a bouquet of carnations I bought for Lenore about a week ago had drank up all their water and died. I hadn’t noticed the water was getting low. They withered and were done for when I found them.

It’s been eight months to the day since Lenore died. Life has gone on. I couldn’t say that about my life in particular, but life itself goes on all around me. The lives of family and friends continue on their own paths; the lives of everyone I see and everyone I meet are being lived. I remain in stasis, suspended in what feels like a way station between my own death and whatever comes next. My life ended, fulfilled and completed, when Lenore died. I find myself in limbo, waiting on deliverance of my soul to its next destination.

My ongoing survival is explainable by the mind, but nonsensical and superfluous and baffling to my heart; I should not be here. I should be with her – that’s what my heart says, that’s what my heart knows.

I have nothing left to explain of my experience – our experience – which might lend itself to the understanding of others. The light in me which Lenore told me to share with others after she was gone is still in me, and I have done what she said to do.

I will do that to the end, knowing full well that only those with eyes which see can see the light in what seems to be only darkness, and will be able to benefit from who we were, together, and how it all ended up.

I now find myself reflected in two characters from E. A. Robinson’s Spoon River Anthology, Luke Havergal and Richard Cory.

Like Luke I hear death, speaking from the grave, of the promise beyond the western gate, where Lenore is.

Like Richard Cory my life is different and separated from the common experience; unknowable by mundane perspectives. My separation is due to certain refinements of heart and mind and spirit which are the result of my nature and my experience. The roots of my death will be reduced to simple assumptions by most. The light and love and terrible, glorious truth there will not be known.

Luke Havergal
by Edward Arlington Robinson

Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen, she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that’s in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies—
In eastern skies.

Out of a grave I come to tell you this,
Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go.
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is,
Bitter, but one that faith may never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this—
To tell you this.

There is the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall,
Go, for the winds are tearing them away,—
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.

Richard Cory

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

 

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

 

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

 

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

 

November 29, 2017

There is much of the universe and this life that few realize – or allow themselves to become aware of.

Our experience together was an experience characterized by many graceful moments of transcendental bliss, connection with everything that is, and conscious mindfulness of and engagement with the daily karmic round of existential manifestations which others might call mundane.

There is no record I can find of enlightenment achieved by two beings together which shattered when one left the existential plane of being. Nevertheless, that is my experience and my knowing. Make of it what you will.

It was my privilege to be gifted with such an experience by the mysterious grace present in this universe. It was rare, and it was very, very real.

 

December 2, 2017

What a strange way to live this is. Everything on the surface appears normal – at least I assume it does. I’m living in a very social park right now and often someone will pass by and almost unfailingly wave and call out to me, “How are you doing?’ or “How’s it going?”

I wonder at times what they would say if I told them the truth; “Well, not so good. I’ve got this deep grief thing going on, more days than not I just wish I would die, and I’m getting pretty damn tired of just keeping on keeping on.”

Instead I just do what they expect me to, what the social form calls for. “Fine. (Or good.) How about you?” And of course they’re always good too and on we go, on our separate ways, having safely touched the post of our communal humanity together. We have communicated that it’s ok with each of us that the other is where they are, and we’ve gotten away clean without having to chance the dicey probabilities involved if we give a stranger an opening into our lives.

I understand it, I really do. I’ve done it my whole life. It keeps the bugs away, it’s cordial and non-committal. My behavioral robot has it down, deploys the face and the words automatically, and once it’s over neatly folds the masking overlay and stows it close at hand until it’s needed again.

The thing is, there’s something about my engagements in these simple social conventions that informs me of my present condition; once I had a life, and now I don’t. I died with Lenore.

Instead of a life I have brief moments when something involving contact with others happens, and then I return to an ongoing void, an absence of life, a numb existence where grief is omnipresent. These glancing social contacts and the forms involved are obsolete learned behavior from a former life; vestiges of a time that has passed away. Even continuing to be alive seems like a mindless reflex, a suddenly irrelevant artifact of evolution in a dying world.

This life now is a place where sadness is the all-pervasive, penetrating atmosphere; it’s heavy and it makes everything that happens here slow, and meaningless. Actions, thoughts – even feelings – are dull and ponderous sequential occurrences without lasting substance or value.

I sense on some near event horizon, not yet sighted but nonetheless close at hand, that soon the last vestiges of this dying life, this netherworld without Lenore, will have sunk under the dull and ruthless weight of her absence and won’t appear again. I will, finally, move on – but not in the way that many do. I will die, and move on to be with her, where I belong.

I am biding my time, studying what is between us now and keeping us apart. When the time comes I will gather myself and make my last run through death itself to be where she is, to be with her again.

December 3, 2017: It’s Time to Die.

It is clear now that my choice to die is mine alone. It’s between me and no one else. It’s between me and the mountains and the rocks and the ocean and the sky and the sun and moon and stars.

It’s not necessary to explain it or make orderly arrangements before I do it so that my death is not troublesome and its aftermath is orderly and beneficial for others.

Many questions have been answered in the months since Lenore died and I determined to unhappily but patiently consider what life without her would be, and come to a certainty about what I would do about it.

Now, after walking that walk, my first instincts have proven correct. I would have run into and through death and to her a few days after Lenore died, acting on those instincts.

The certainty I have “found” now was never lost, and the time spent has proven an empty devotion to an illusion – my thought that time and clarification was necessary. Clarity has been with me since she died. I have always known what comes next.

It’s time to meet death and pass through it and move on to where she is, and be with her again.  I’ve had a great life. Lenore and I together had a great, rare, indescribable life together. Life begins, and proceeds, and ends: that’s the way it is.

This is the end of my life. It’s time to die.

December 9, 2017

I have waited hopefully on the premonition that came last spring, that gentle inkling which held the promise of death in the autumn and joining Lenore wherever she is. In late summer the promise resonated lightly again in a fallen leaf which came to rest next to a heart-shaped stone I had discovered on the beach after asking for a sign from Lenore.

The winter solstice and the end of autumn is only 12 days away now. My body is giving some signs that it may happen, breaking down in subtle ways. I don’t know if my deterioration will be enough to fulfill the premonition. I will wait and see. If it doesn’t happen, I will follow through on my own when the time comes. It may be a combination of the two; I will be shown the way and know that it’s time, and the act itself will be up to me.

I have looked at what I want and don’t want in the physical act of my death now. I prefer not to have a lot of pain. I would like my brain to stay intact as I die because I want to see Lenore one more time in that near-death experience which happens as the mind runs out of oxygen. I am ambivalent yet about using a gun or drugs. I think it will be both, if I can find the strength to overwhelm the evolutionary mandate to survive at all costs and pull the trigger. It will depend, too, on that mysterious power which lovingly violated the principle of free will and would not allow me to kill myself all those many years ago. I don’t think that will happen this time. I have lived the life the mystery delivered me to. It is finished now.

The bullet will have to be in the heart, not the head. I prefer to have the drugs, too, for insurance and pain alleviation and because that is how Lenore died.

December 12, 2017

Ever since Lenore died the most common, comforting thoughts for me have been about my own death. I visualize it, plan it, fantasize about it, and speculate on when it might happen and what might cause it. I wonder if it will come naturally or will come by my own hand. If I do it will it be calm and rational and deliberate, or on a sudden dark whim? Will I have to take advantage of one of those constantly recurring dark, despairing moments to give the act impetus, perhaps with a whiskey driver? If I don’t do it will I have a vehicle accident, heart failure, stroke? My cardiopulmonary profile indicates that the last two are unpleasant, possibly non-fatal and so disastrous probabilities. Here in Arizona the Geminids are streaking through the night sky and I have even wondered if I might be so outrageously and improbably lucky as to be hit in the head by one.

I wonder often about the spring premonition I had of dying in the fall. I have been hopefully depending on it to be true. I watch the date of the coming winter solstice and do the math quite often. Today there are 7 days left.

In late September I consciously decided for certain that death is what I want. I think I knew it subconsciously on the day she died. Everything since Lenore’s death has been marked by a slow, plodding, patient numbness and nothing is urgent, not even acting on what I know.

It feels like I may be getting close now. I’ve had some disturbing physical problems lately. I have a cold or perhaps valley fever and my lungs are severely affected. I can feel the lack of oxygen affecting me and episodes of a racing heartbeat are coming more often. My premonition and physical condition seem to be serendipitously in synch. I have the feeling that the mystery is cooperating with my desire to die and is supporting what I truly want – not just what I think I want – as it has so many times before. But it is leaving the final choice, the final act, up to me.

I had a burst of energy yesterday that felt like a prelude to decline. I arranged the house, cleaned, put things in order. I wonder if I will have another day like that or if it marked a milepost, the beginning of the last downhill run to the end, and peace.

I’m going with it, wherever it leads.

How do I think it will happen? I think the time will come easy and I’ll know it’s time. I’ll arrange the house, wash the dishes, leave notes on the table and time-delay posts by email so that my body will be found shortly after I’m dead. I’ll gather the things I need, lay down on the bedspread and relax and make myself comfortable and take the drugs I’ve gathered for the purpose. I’ll drift off or possibly seize and have an adrenaline hit. I’ll take the hit if it comes and let it happen the best I can. Then I’ll pass out, and fall down into that spinning tunnel, and reach that place where everything is calm and timeless and have the near-death experience. I’ll see Lenore one more time – and then go where she is.

 

The Last Note

It’s getting harder and harder to stay alive as the days go on. I can feel myself coming to the point that Lenore described, when she “just didn’t care about all that stuff anymore.”

It’s time to write that note to those who are still here. The compilation of Facebook posts and personal thoughts that I have put together as a collection entitled “Profound Grief: A Love Story” holds all the pieces which formed the gestalt of my final days for anyone who wants to get a grip on the why of my suicide. If you want to go deeper into my life there is also my blog, The Cascadian Wanderer, located at: https://cascadianwanderer.wordpress.com/

This note is a condensation of the facts which have held true as I sorted out my thoughts and feelings and come to this final conclusion.

***

Recently I looked at a photograph of Lenore and only saw a picture of a planet that no longer exists. It’s an entire world gone, lost in time, a memory fading into history. I’m far away from that place, alone in an ocean of deep space in a dark capsule, moving ever further away. The only remnants of the world we shared are these faded pieces of paper.

***

This is not normal, this is not conventional. We were not normal, we were not conventional. We were extraordinary, we were rare exceptions to the rules that define normal and conventional and typical.

***

I have entered into the final season of life here. There’s calmness in me, an acceptance of things as they are. It is my time to be here, near the end of the long road, remembering and taking stock and looking at the road ahead in the next life. I am at the culmination of my life. It’s part grief, and part about my age, and all about the final season of every human being’s life.

***

Lenore and I were matched souls. We were dwellers in the borderlands and boundary country of existence; removed at a distance to a place where the view of humanity and the view of the universe is broad. Simultaneously we were passionately connected to life and sought wisdom and truth through direct experience and total engagement with what life offered to us. We had good hearts and good minds, were curious and compassionate, and we enjoyed life.

***

I’ve always been one of those who can do what others don’t, or can’t, or won’t. I can’t say how or why I am what I am exactly. I have a good heart and a good mind. I’ve had a very full experience. I know that the choices I made, good and bad, and a willingness to learn from my mistakes and missteps helped me gain the life I desired. I know that a mysterious grace helped with the rest. This is my final choice. It is my hope that with the help of that grace I will gain what I desire yet again. And if dead is dead and all we believe is dust then so be it. I will be with her. That’s what I want.

***

Lenore’s loss and my resultant grief and sadness and despair are a part of my perspective, and I have reckoned with that. It is real, and it is a large part of the choice I make. It is not the only factor. When I consider everything, I’m certain of the choice I’ve made. It’s time to go on.

I know what I want, and I know what to do. It is an act requiring strength and resolve and certainty. It is an act of faith, and hope and love. It is an act of faithfulness and devotion. It is an act of completion. I go to her; I go to join her where she is. It is what I want more than I want this life itself.

***

Listen: I solved the mystery of the universe; I uncovered the secret of life; I beheld the truth of everything which is. I found it all in one of the infinite names of God. I breathed it and will breathe it even when I breathe no more: Lenore.

***

The aftermath of Lenore’s death began in a state of shock and grief. Grief led me to considerations of what death is, and what it means and what it involves, and whether or not it had limitations and was simply a passage to a higher state of conscious being. Those considerations led me to look at my own death and the what and when and how and why of my death, including suicide. Those thoughts led me to examine how I felt about my life up until now.

I’ve had a good life. It’s been an unusual life, a rare mix of gifts and graces involving a nature and nurture and experience that removed me so far from any norm or mean that I found myself a dweller on the outside edge of human society. I found few peers but those few were a joy to me. The one person I found who was my equal in intelligence, passion and insight was even more than that. She was the complementary fit to every aspect of my life, and I was that for her as well. The result was that two-who-are-one thing that everybody claims for themselves but few have.

***

My misery is not an easy sum. It does include a profound element which is irreversible and permanent and without possibility of hope. Lenore is dead and will not return to be the integral and essential part of my life she was. The pains of that fact alone are enough to compel me to contemplate suicide as an option, and it has.

The thing is, there’s something included in my sum that is not usual. I have a sense of fulfillment and completion. My life has been everything it was supposed to be. Everything that I was supposed to experience, and do, and be – that’s all been lived and done, and is concluded.

My bereavement has slowly moved from the place where all I can see is her loss to a place where the perspective is larger and broader. Bereavement does that, it leads people to consider not only the life and death of their beloved but their own life and death as well.

In addition to the typical manifestations of grief I recognize in my own current experience, most of which involve pain, there is something very unusual present. I feel like my life has been fulfilled, and is completed. It’s a feeling that’s not painful at all. It’s a peaceful, quiet recognition that I’ve lived a full life and done everything I needed to do, had all the experiences I needed to have. I’m satisfied with it all. I really do feel that way. It’s one of the places I already know I stand, certain and with no doubt whatsoever.

***

I don’t want to hurt anyone. I would like them to understand, to take the good from the example Lenore and I left and live their own lives seeking, finding, and living with love and joy and meeting life as it comes.

Of course the question then becomes why didn’t I keep doing that? It’s hard to help others understand that I already did that and, having done it, find coming to the end more comforting than going on. Every day right up to the last one will always have some measure of love and joy and connection in/of/to life itself for me. It’s difficult to explain that I love my loved ones, and life, and at the same time am completely ready to go on. I’m ready not just in my heart, but in my mind and body, too. I actually want that.

What do I want? I want to be where she is; to die before winter; to have no one suffer because of me. I want those who love us and know us to understand. I want others to celebrate and honor and learn from how we lived, rather than give our deaths any power at all in their lives.

I want others to actually fear death less knowing there is a time for it; to live their lives in such a way because of our example that they can come to death fulfilled by their own love and connections.

I want others to know that rather than just be delivered to death by nature and the body, a person can fulfill their life and choose to die before natural death because of that fulfillment, knowing their life has been completed.

***

I’d prefer that people celebrate my life and not grieve or suffer my dying. I hope they remember my living. I hope they know I had a wonderful, beautiful, full, hard, strange, amazing, loving, thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling, completed life. I hope they know it all came to fruition and completion in the life Lenore and I shared together. The best thing about all the great love stories is not that they were told – it’s that they were lived. Lenore and I lived one of them.

***

The Ecclesiastes of Us

Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom after death. Do good; enjoy the good of your labors; eat and drink, and rejoice.

 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love. Two are better than one. If one should fall the other will lift them up; and if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?

Our birth and our death are the happiest and saddest times of our lives. We are born to live and then to die, and leave this life. In between there are many small births and deaths. We grow fuller in life, we breathe it in. We learn love and know joy and gain wisdom. We see hate and pain and folly. We become filled with life and take it in. Then in the end we breathe it out; we are done with it.

Life is ephemeral and fleeting. While you are alive you are breathing in the soul of life; at the end you breathe the soul of life back out, return it to where it came from. The end of the world begins with the light from the sun, moon, and stars growing dim. The days have no pleasure in them; death comes for your beloved and waits for you. In the end you breathe one last breath out. You have been filled with life. You are done with it. You let it go.

***

What happens when half of a “we” that has transcended all notions of “me” dies? I’ll tell you. The “me” no longer exists. It has lived its life, it has achieved its goal: it has lived.

***

I am aware now of something I have sensed and yet not fully identified until now; time has continued on, and I have not turned to my affairs. Lenore is dead, and she was me.

I am the one dead. My affairs are completed here.

***

Today I decided I’m going to go find that girl. I’m going to go get her. I’m going to go where she is. The worst that can happen is nothingness. So it’s the last great adventure, one of those times when the road ahead is into a creation so wide and open you can feel it in your chest.

The once-living part of me still wants to make one last effort to impart my perspective, to inform you of who I am, who Lenore is, who we were together in the unique experience we shared, and who we were and what we experienced and how fully we lived before and after we were together. But it all boils down to “you had to be there.”

It’s all alright now. Our love to each of you. Love, live, lose, win, keep going until you know you’re fulfilled and have realized the purpose of your life here. Like we did. We have been here. We have done this. My entire life, before and after Lenore and I found each other, has been a full, amazing, total-coverage experience. It was everything.

Now it’s time to go be with that girl.

***

Lenore had it right. She left all material, money and attachments behind. She left it all behind. Near the end she said, “I don’t care about any of that stuff anymore. I’ve let it go. I don’t have any unfinished business. I’m at peace. I’m ready to die.”

She also said, “Remember what you have in your heart and memories of me.”

That’s enough.

***

I am now standing on the far shore of my sojourn here – the place I set out for when I first appeared in this life. I have journeyed long and wide, loved and learned and lived, and now here I am. I knew I was here the day Lenore died, but that knowing has taken a long, slow path to reach a coherent, utterable form.

I am at the end of my life. It’s a thing both sad, as every heartfelt leave-taking is sad, and joyful, as completion and fulfillment and new horizons are joyful.

It is what it is. I’m glad I was here. I will be glad when I go to whatever is next.

Don’t speak. Listen. Understand. Live your own life with this knowledge onboard; know that your journey leads to death. Realize that the best time to live – truly live – is now, so that when you get to this far shore you’ll be completed and fulfilled by your own passage through this life.

EPILOGUE

The end of my path is here. Rationally speaking, the supporting evidence is clear: age, health, time of life – the end has come, as it comes to us all. Emotionally – I am fully ready for it. Spiritually – I’ve lead a full life, a complete life, a realized life.

My distractions and diversions no longer serve. My self-set tasks are completed. My delight with life is sated; the prospect of any further surprise here, no matter how pleasing, does not attract my interest. I am ready to rest in peace.

I’ve lived with my grief after Lenore died, been taken to the larger picture beyond, and now I am here, on the edge of a slowly expanding transcendent clarity. I’ve walked this path a day at a time, a step at a time for nearly three seasons, seeking that clarity and the resolve which would accompany it when I reached my destination; I would know for certain whether I would choose to live or die. And now, here it is. It is time to die.

We see it coming, we all do. Down the long road ahead it appears, ever closer, each step we take another step toward death until it seems that death is taking another step toward us. Most wait for it. I will not. I will quicken my steps and then I will run at it and then I will fling myself over the last ground and leap into it and be with her where she is.

I am no longer concerned with the lives of others. Their lives are their own; they will live them as they will. I do hope that they will, through their own efforts and combined with the mysterious grace which stands ready to fulfill the life of every person, have a life as great and wonderful as the one I have had. It was full, it was wonderful; it was every joy and every sadness.

It was everything a life ought to be.

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Reflections

This morning with coffee on the porch I reflect upon several things: the recently passed equinox and the gathering of Fall; the discovery that another old friend has died; the summer past; why I am the way I am; the relative perspective of mind; the gathering monsoon prologue due to sweep in from the Pacific this weekend with torrential downpours which will pound on our roof here in the mountains.

The days are shorter than the nights now and we are descending into darkness, slowly. The forest air is poignantly sharp, russet maple leaves blanket stretches of the river bank, the green glow burning in the canopy above us as we walked through summer now casts faint autumnal shades.

The weather shift took me to my barometers. I have a digital one, the sensor mounted outdoors and magically informing the station indoors. Next to the sleek station an ancient brass Proteus barometer leans propped against the wall. It is analog and I suppose obsolete, yet elegant in its craftsmanship and comforting in its humanity.

I noticed, not for the first time, that the Proteus needed to be recalibrated, and as I thought about that I recalled how and where I had acquired it. I bought it from Hazel in 2006. One thing led to another and I found myself searching for Hazel on the internet and learned she had died in 2011. The sort of message one expects in the fall.

I wrote a story about Hazel in 2006. A true story. All of it. Like most of my writing it has become a part of my personal archive, rarely shared. It wants “polishing” I suppose, and from time to time I visit it and tweak a bit here and there, knowing even as I do that the tale is told perfectly, and is done. I titled it “The Bridge of Souls,” and in this moment I’ll share it once again.

The Bridge of Souls

I never forgot her, and never will. We encountered each other for less than a half hour long ago. Forty-five years later we met again and shared another moment together. In between those moments more than twenty-three million minutes passed for each of us. Nearly 400,000 hours. Over sixteen thousand days. A lot of living. A lot of people, places and things met, known and left behind. A long sojourn of now forgotten specifics, merged and distilled into a broad gestalt marked by certain bright sparks. In our lives we spent barely more than an hour together. One of those certain bright sparks.

I met her the first time in 1961 when I was 13. My family was on the Great American road trip, leaving Colorado Springs, Colorado in mid-June, motoring across the northern plains of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho to the Pacific Northwest. In Oregon we took US 101 and drove down a rugged, beautiful coastline. At Bandon, Oregon we left the highway when it curved inland and followed a back-country road along cliffs overlooking remote beaches that wandered between volcanic rocks towering above crashing surf. It was mid-morning when we pulled onto the gravel shoulder at a remote wayside gift shop.

I remember it like a photograph; an elegantly solitary story-book shanty situated at the edge of a gigantic ocean beneath an endless sky.

There was no-one inside. My family milled around the porch, waiting for someone to answer our calls and knocking. I saw her first, walking across the road with a bucket in one hand, a surf-casting pole in the other. She called out to us, saying it was too beautiful to be indoors, so she’d gone fishing. She unlocked the gift shop door and told us to go in and have a look around while she put her gear away. My family went ahead, but I followed her through a gate on the south side of the shop.

In the bucket there were surf perch and agates, a glass fishing float, a piece of net, driftwood, old colored-glass bottles. “Neptune’s treasures,” she said, winking at me. It was the name of her gift shop. She sparkled with an intrinsic curiosity and kindness. Her eyes were framed in lines drawn by wind and sun and salt and humor, etched deeply by a constant look-out for the good, the interesting, the treasure of each moment.

She was kind to me. Independent and plain-spoken, wise and strong. She shared her life. She showed me her garden, the corn on the south wall with a surf perch under each stalk, the lush tomatoes gleaming, the deep and delicate garden colors burning like fire and ice in the coastal sun.

She told me what it was like to live on a cliff overlooking the ocean and sand and rock of southern Oregon, where wind sweeps the dune pines and plows inland under afternoon thunderheads rising over inland valleys. A place where she could feel the very earth breathe.

It was a place where new treasures appeared daily, on the beach and in the heart. In plain words, in paused moments when our eyes met and reflected each to the other, she informed me of life, and joy, and the choices to be made on the long road ahead.

I wish that I could add you to that moment we shared, instill it into you so that you would share the ground, the baseline instinctual substance of it. But words have limits, and beyond those limits there is a universe, solid and brilliant, the source of all reflections, its wholeness so soul-filling that when we try to catch it in words we find ourselves returned to a small place, neither as satisfying or as real. No video recording, no faithful capture of the form of the moment when souls meet souls can capture the substance there.

When I returned to the area 45 years later I began following the memory. My wife Lenore and I and our dog, Charlie, were on a camping vacation on the southern Oregon coast. I left the coast highway at Bandon and headed west toward the ocean. At a gas station I asked the attendant about the old beach road. I described the rocks in the surf, and he told us how to get there.

The rocks were the same, the beach, the cliffs. We observed them from behind steel railings at a new, large, elaborate concrete lookout. Now the road was bracketed by hotels and expensive vacation houses and burgeoning developments. It seemed doubtful that anything had survived the years.

In my memory she had been old, ancient to my young eyes. I didn’t think she would still be there, but I had hoped perhaps the house had survived. Maybe there would be someone who remembered her and could tell me her story. We got back in our truck and continued down the coast. Soon an old house with a cluttered front yard appeared on the left. As we got closer I said, “I think that’s it.”

It was. Older, faded, worn by the years. The sign that burned so brightly under the clear blue sky in 1961 was nearly unreadable now. A seeming tsunami-borne crush of debris had overwhelmed the place. Driftwood burls and roots, huge nets and glass fishing floats, bottles, signs, bells, hatches, transoms, a fractured dory, an endless volume of flotsam, jetsam and wrack had piled in the yard and washed up against the walls.

A piece of paper tacked to the wall instructed visitors to ring a painted cowbell on a rope, or the watch bell nailed to the wall. In sun-faded, sand-blasted windows there were colored bottles and eccentric collections of salt-air bric-a-brac. Looking through them I saw worn display cases piled over with bounty. Overflowing nooks and groaning shelves and corners piled high. Decades of sea-wrack and treasure. Neptune’s vault.

There was no answer to the bells. Exploring, I could still feel her presence. Yet there was something else. In the attached open garage, an anomaly; a clutter of garage sale debris and detritus. Clothes and skillets and plates and cheap flatware, electric heaters and faded linens, old curtains and shoes and chairs, a dumping ground of not-quite-used-up throw-aways. An incipient seediness working its way into the place.

Her spirit was still here, the foundation-rock beneath the burgeoning clutter and ruin, but I suspected she was gone. It looked to me like someone else had taken over, some sort of commercial pack rat peddler living in ruins soon to be razed for cash and yet another view motel. Finally, finding no-one there, we left.

Driving back through town we passed the local museum, and I decided to stop and ask about Neptune’s Treasures. I wanted to get the rest of the story if I could. The Director there listened to my story and said, “You must mean Hazel. Why, she’s not gone.” She smiled and said, “She looks like she could be a hundred and ten, but she’s probably only around ninety now. She’s still there, far as I know.”

She began looking through the phone book on her desk as she spoke. “She’s a bit of a celebrity, as a matter of fact. In the late 1980’s a famous writer mentioned her in a book. Not by name, but everybody here knows it was her. He was a photographer, and his photograph of some glass bottles out there was displayed in the San Francisco Museum of Fine Art. At least that was what the story said. Yes, here she is. I’ll call and see if she’s there.” She was. And she would wait for us.

On the way back a slow, breath-holding rise of anticipation. I had tracked down a memory more dream than real. Soon I would see her again. A broad arc in the patterns of my life, returning to where it began. In the truck with Lenore and Charlie we are three companion souls on a shared sojourn, a bubble of fullness gathering around us now, the rising swell of a looming epiphany. When we got there I walked through the yard filled with Neptune’s treasures and rang the ancient bell.

        And there were her eyes, sparkling at me. Wise, interested, knowing; still on the lookout for treasure. And I felt it. Across time, in a near-complete absence of the usual familiarities of connection, we were still connected.  I reached for her hand and ended up giving her a hug. We both smiled, each knowing the other wholly in a single holy instant. There we were, together, in the place where paths begin and swing wide across a grand creation and return again. In the place where time disappears and we are home.

I introduced her to Lenore and Charlie the Lab. She said Charlie looked sort of like a sea lion, and gave him a pat. She looked into Lenore’s eyes and then nodded, giving her a big hug. “Come on,” she said, “I’ll show you around.”

“It’s been a long time,” she mused. She went behind the counter and lifted up a guest register, old and tattered, bursting with comments of travelers from around the world who had found joy and delight in Neptune’s Treasures. It went back to 1964, too late to have captured a memento of that first visit. Folded inside was a newspaper article about the book she was mentioned in.

She didn’t remember much of the man, just a fellow in a hurry who took pictures of some colored glass bottles in her window. “People ask about it, so I show them that.”

She pointed out the window, across the road. “Been some changes here. When that hotel went in, it blocked the view. Now when I want to look at the ocean, I have to close my eyes.” A little smile. “One of these days I reckon I’ll just keep’em closed and see it all the time.”

Waving her hand at the shop, she said “The place is worn now, but I don’t see harm in that. I know it’s run down some. I can’t keep up with it like I used to. I’ve got a bad sciatica and can’t get down to the beach anymore. But there are still treasures here for those who care to look for them, and I’m still here with them.

“When the locals sold out and moved away they put the stuff they thought was too good to throw away in the garage. It’s not exactly treasure, more of a dumping place now, but there are useful things in there, too, if you look.”

Treasures for those with eyes which see. The oldest lesson, learned again.

Too soon it was time to go. I had found the barometer as she showed us around and paid for it. She rummaged in a cabinet on the wall behind her, and produced a seed packet of forget-me-nots. Emblazoned on the front of the packet was her name. I signed the register: “May, 2006 and Summertime, 1961. I forgot you not.” Feeling the fullness of the seed planted in me so very long ago.

I hugged her in the leaving with tears in my eyes, and she told me I’d made her day. In the truck the fullness overcame me and I cried, filled with an extraordinary and ineffable joy.

Later, driving slowly toward the end of day, I wondered about the writer/photographer who passed through that place. Did he know his source of light? Or were his eyes open only wide enough to catch the single ray captured in a piece of glass?

In Hazel’s realm there is a brilliant grace woven mysteriously and subtly into the fabric of a well-lived life. When his itinerant eye caught a certain quality of air and light in five colored glass bottles, did he also see her? The shimmer of her ancient harmonies in the salt-wind and sun-glazed panes? Did he see the spirit of Hazel centered in all the array of patterns? Did he know her as the all-pervasive, radiant source? Did he see the thousand perfect pictures behind the bottles?

Or was he content to click a shutter and leave behind the crunch of tires on gravel, carrying away only the merest hint of a profound and pervasive grace? A piece, like a heart in a cooler, to be transplanted not into another human breast, but merely to the wall of a museum where the harvester is glorified and treasure is contained and controlled and does not burst the soul into light, but only tickles it a bit?

I wondered. Sad at the thought that the fullness of life available to us all at every moment can remain unknown to us.

A day later I am sitting with Lenore and Charlie at a table on the veranda of a sidewalk bistro in a coastal tourist town. It is a community of artists and shopkeepers, of tasteful promenades and reworked coastal architectures where the soul’s art crosses paths with capital. The collision produces a jarring, odd juxtaposition of truth and lies.

At the next table over four people have met to share their religious histories. They pray publicly and earnestly and courageously before lunch. They converse and the biographical fragments drift over to us, threaded with affectations of speech and precise articulations. There are dry, memorized liturgies of personal epiphanies, regurgitated as easily as an eye blinks.

Usually I’d leave them to their paths; leave them to their journey and recall myself to this place at a table in the sun where I sit with two great souls. But today is different.

It is like a snake has entered the garden. My hackles rise as the too-loud conversation, on display, proceeds. In their conversation “I” reigns. It is the single word most often spoken. God has been retrospectively inserted into their histories like an all-purpose, all-explanatory footnote. Each story is egocentric, varnished to a faux-theocentric shine. Their tightly circumscribed consciousness radiates patterns. These are not the soaring, singing, crystalline perfections of Hazel’s life. The lodestone is unknown; their needles spin aimlessly within the local. Separation prevails. Ego and Deus, unreconciled.

And I wonder, seeing once again the knowing in Hazel’s eyes: Do we grow into it? Are we born with it? How have we come to be the ones who see and feel and know what others don’t, or can’t, or won’t?

I still wonder about that at times. And when I do, I close my eyes and see Hazel’s eyes, now closed too, looking at the ocean. And then I am at peace.

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Give me a moment. I’m considering the Hemlock.

I check into the website Grief Speaks Out everyday, looking for expressions that reflect my own experience since Lenore died. I find reflections there which are informative and helpful and descriptive of some of my own feelings and thoughts. It’s a very useful, thoughtful, compassionate, helpful website – and in some cases I suspect it even saves lives. That being said, there is at least one thing it cannot do. It cannot provide a roadmap for the griever. In the end, every grieving person walks a path that is unique. And it leads to a larger perspective that is equally unique.

The day Lenore died her loss and my grief appeared in a shattering explosion and was nothing like what my previous speculations about what it would be like. It consumed me. That’s what an explosion does. The aftermath was pieces and numbness, of living in a totality involving only grief and loss and mourning. It was inchoate emotional pain and unmanageable mental chaos. My world view blew up, the basic root of my life paradigm vanished, the matrix of my own understanding broke down into senseless chaos. My spirit broke.

As time goes on for me I’ve realized that grief is just one part of my experience. The shattered pieces of my paradigm and my understanding have come back together in a new configuration, informed by new, critical information; Lenore is not here with me in this life. She is in me, she still speaks to me and I to her, I can imagine her presence with me. Yet she is not here anymore. She is somewhere else. My perspective has had to be rearranged to accommodate this new, massive fact.

In moments of reflection I wonder why I have the impulse to share with others what is my uniquely personal experience when everyone has their own in play. Near as I can tell it’s simply because I am human and therefore self-involved. I don’t want to be thought of poorly by others, I want to be understood by others. I would rather not hurt others if possible. If things go the wrong way in these matters, my chances of survival go down.

If I remove my selfishness from the perspective, then why am I writing this at all, and why would I share it? People think what they will of me. I have no power over that. People understand in their own way and their understanding is informed by their personal perspective, and I have no power over that. People can get hurt whether I mean to hurt them or not, that’s up to them and not me, it’s a manifestation of their own unique perspective. I have no power over that.

Yet also because I am human I am more than just an individual – I am also communal. I’m social by human nature, part of a collective. That collective is also selfish because it’s human, but its needs are different. It wants to know what its members have encountered and use that information to survive. So I have an innate desire to inform the collective of any useful information I have acquired which might be useful for that ongoing mutually selfish desire to survive.

Survive! It’s the commandment so universally assumed that even God did not feel compelled to tell Moses to chisel it in stone: “Thou shalt survive.” It’s written in the bio-code that stretches all the way back in history to the first living cell. It’s still, even in the most recently evolved part of the human brain, the primary purpose we put the prefrontal cortex to use for. Survival.

Why is loss and bereavement nearly universally regarded as a thing human beings pass through on their way to more life, to survival? The assumption proves itself true in all but a few cases. Grief, loss, bereavement – it’s something human beings pass through, live with, bear with, suffer with – and survive with. They go on, recover, reorganize, rebuild. It’s assumed. It’s fact. Options need not apply. Start as far away as you want, but when you drill down to the foundation that’s where you’re going to end up. You survive. It’s an unquestionable underlying basic assumption of human existence.

But what if we take the unrecognized, underlying basic assumption in all that and throw it out the window? Declare it crap, and start putting everything back together without assuming that survival is the be-all and end-all fundamental focus upon which all human purpose is based? We  assume that under all circumstances, at all times, the first critical requirement of the individual and the human collective is to survive.

In a place where everything dies.

Even if you’re walking dead, even if your mind tells you it’s time to go, even if your heart is full and your life completed and you have become useless to yourself in the attainment and conclusion of your reason for being, even if everything ahead is dénouement, a slow slide into deterioration and eventual death – still you are required to live because even in that condition your simple presence can still be used by others to fulfill their needs.

The purpose of this thing I’m writing right now, telling it like it is for me, is about describing how survival could not always the best way to go. Survival is an option if you’re consciously aware of it as such. And it could be not the best option in certain circumstances, including mine.

I know, I know, this sounds suspiciously like a long, slow, tedious rationale for suicide, and already the more sensitive and perceptive readers among you, having detected that possibility, are forming up responses from your own perspective if that proves to be the case. A body of information is already in play, gently but firmly opposed to my view of survival as an option, putting harder weapons on alert for self defense in case this proves to be heresy or an attack on the fundament of basic beliefs and instincts. Will I need to be marginalized, explained by my condition and circumstances, my thoughts rationalized until safely reduced to a comfortable perspective?

Or wait. Has that already happened? Upon rereading this I realize I’ve already said what I came here to say, and the reactions by my readers are already in play. I could explicate further, but the essence is there. I could stop right now.

Yet if the explication isn’t as full and developed as I hoped it would be when I set out to write this thing, one thing remains to be said out loud.

Yes, I’m a potential suicide. But a slow one. I am aware of the joy life still offers me, aware of the others I can still serve with my experience and gained wisdoms and simple presence. I’m still aware of how wonderful and magic and full life is. I still laugh, dance, listen to music, think, feel, move, have places to go and things to do, people I love, people who love me and care about me. I still know the unexpected amazing development is just around the corner, waiting to delight and engage me in something new and unforeseeable and wonderful.

The thing is, I don’t hope for any of that any more. I don’t not hope – I just don’t hope for those things anymore. I don’t have a driving desire burning deep inside me to have them. I don’t need them in the sense of filling a void, removing a lack in my life. I’ve had them. I’ve been there, I’ve done all that. It’s been enough. And the context I gained them in, my life with Lenore, is perfect. I have no need of a different one. I’m happy with what I’ve had, and with what I have from it now. I’ve had enough. I’m done.

I’ve come to that place where all truth is only a matter of perspective. It’s all relative, even what we sense about the universe behind the curtain of consciousness. Even the sense we have of the eternal nature of the stars and earth and natural life is a result of interpretation rather than fact. It’s an illusion of vanity, a manifestation of our separated individual identities. It’s all pretty great when we live within it and find our way there, but in the end it is still a limited place to exist within. Exhaust its possibilities, master it, and it becomes superfluous. It becomes time to move on, to explore further, to discover what’s on the other side of the curtain.

I think it would be ok to die today, but I’m not going to get all inspired and enthusiastic and energetic about it. I also think it would be ok to kill myself today – but ditto. All I know right now is that when the time for me to die comes, whether naturally or by suicide, it will be the right time.

It will be the right time. That’s all I want people to remember about my dying. It was time, it was the right time. The rest, hopefully, will be about my living, about the wonderful, beautiful, full, hard, strange, amazing, loving, thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling, completed life I had, and how it all came to fruition and completion in the life Lenore and I shared together.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: An update

May 14, 2016

What an adventure this is! Or possibly a cautionary tale. Sometimes it feels like it’s headed in that direction. Then I remember what my old mentor would have said: “You know that feeling you get when you think your life is turning into a cautionary tale? You know what that is? That’s just a feeling, that’s all that is!” And then he’d laugh.

The feeling passes as feelings do; our consciousness of the mysterious, cooperative flow that is present in everything returns, and we carry on.

We have now sold our home and have a truck capable of, as one person said, “hauling a house down the road.” Which is exactly what we’re planning to do with it, albeit a small one. And the piano, which Lenore was concerned about, has found a home. Right here. The home buyer said they would like to have it.

I found the truck in Bend, Oregon. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from home to get there but it was worth it. I hope. It’s a used Chevy diesel truck with a Duramax engine and Allison transmission and various aftermarket upgrades, some for performance and power, some just to make it look good. I am a baby duckling in the diesel world. I educated myself the best I could and found the truck after searching all over Oregon and Washington. To the best of my knowledge it’s a good truck for our purposes, but I am taking it in to Brush Prairie WA next Monday to have some diesel pros I know there tell me just exactly what it is I’ve got – or gotten myself into. There’s that feeling again

Lenore went down to Bend with me to pick it up and drove our car back in spite of the fact she’s been having some hip flexor pain due to what now sounds like a torn psoas muscle or related tendons. An MRI has been scheduled after a round of physical therapy which actually made the condition worse due to faulty instructions from a therapist about what exercises to do and how to do them. Lenore, being who she is, did the exercises conscientiously until she realized that the hip was getting worse, not better. Currently she uses a cane to get around. Undeterred, she insists on doing everything she can every day. The trip to Bend was a stretch for her, and I was worried about that. She made it without aggravating the injury and we were both relieved when we got home. She is one go-ahead woman. Just one of the literally countless things I love her for.

We had a good trip home and the truck ran great. I showed it to my neighbor Shawn the next day. He’s a motorcycle racer and has a top-of-the-line Honda racing bike in his garage he won at a competition recently. He’s an X-Games kind of guy, a “rad dude,” extreme snowboarder, etc. I didn’t realize he knew about diesels. He looked it over real good, pointing out everything he saw, and then informed me I had a “pimped ride, dude!” He told me I was going to have to get a tat now, suggested a Chevy logo on my upper arm. I think I will forego that… I’ll see what the pros in Brush Prairie say before passing any final judgments on the truck.

We had two offers on the house. The day we listed it we had a visit from a couple who wanted it but needed us to carry a first mortgage on it and then vacate about 3 weeks after closing, which would have put a terrific burden on us – “getting light” takes more time than we thought it would. After some discussion we’d zeroed in on the terms they needed and we were considering it when a cash buyer appeared. The new offer was more than our asking price, and the buyer was fine with a 2 month grace period, after closing the deal, before we would need to vacate. It was nice to experience that consciousness of the flow of the universe working with us when that happened.

And we definitely need to hold on to that perspective and go where the flow takes us. Currently we’re looking for a fifth wheel to be our home on the road, and that too has been an adventure.

I’ve always had good luck buying vehicles from owners rather than dealers and my experience with both convinced me that owners are the only way to go. I can see the good in almost any person who has gravitated to the profession of selling wheeled vehicles. By the same token I rarely see any good in the practices of their trade, or the effects it has on their character.

Yet, in the process of buying the truck and then the fifth wheel, I included dealers in my search. Suffice it to say that what I have encountered on the dealer side has left me disappointed to say the very least. I’m going with owners now after yet another schooling in such matters.

I’ve been searching all over the country for a particular brand of fifth wheel and a particular floor plan. When one popped up in my search at a dealer only about six hours away from us, it felt like the force was with us. That was just a feeling. It was actually the flow, gently directing us back to owners and away from the rocky shores and whirlpools of dealerships.

It was the same thing with my early truck search. I found one at an “honest, low-key, quality-only, fixed-price, high-integrity” dealer, took it to the guys out at Brush Prairie for a pre-purchase inspection because I was leery of it (at the time I didn’t have as much information on board as I do now but I had enough for a flag or two to pop up), and by the time all the grunting and groaning and wincing and eventual indignation and muttered swearing of Angus, the guy who checked it out in depth for me, was over it was pronounced a pig in pink paint that nobody would be able to make even a sow’s ear from, let alone a silk purse. So it goes.

Yet it turned out to be a good thing. The education I got from Angus about diesels as I followed him around during the inspection was priceless, and I had enough faith in what I’d learned to trust my judgment in selecting the truck I’ve bought. I may be wrong (there’s that feeling again) but confidence is high. Monday will tell the tale.

We’re still a ways from our goal, which is to be located in some beautiful natural setting featuring a lake, glacier, beach, forest, etc. and posting blog entries on a site called “Travels with Murphy.” (He’s our yellow Lab puppy, now nearly 6 months old and finally showing some signs of IQ gain.) But we’re getting there.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: A New Adventure

April 16, 2016

This morning, instead of the usual geese flying over our valley there was a hawk sailing free on the air currents above us. I took it for a good augur of the moment, and our future.

It’s been an interesting season around here. Last New Year we began reducing some of the accumulation of things we’ve acquired since 1986 – the last time we reduced all our worldly belongings into what would fit into 3 suitcases. That year we flew to Florida with our 2 year old daughter, lived and worked there for 6 months, and then had a leisurely, wonderful car trip back to Vancouver, WA. Where we started accumulating again. That was 30 years ago.

By 2009 we’d managed to collect so much stuff that when we moved here to our mountain home we divested ourselves of a volume of things that would have filled about half of an 18-wheeler. But we didn’t get rid of enough. It’s amazing and a bit shaming what the American lifestyle produces in the way of material goods. Granted, we had our own remodeling company and quite a bit of accumulated inventory and tools as well as saved projects “I’ll do one of these days…” But beyond that we finally became aware of just how much we’d actually managed to accumulate in our home alone.

We are not profligate people. We shop at thrift stores often, I’ve made several pieces of the furniture we have myself, Lenore sews and knits and mends our clothing. We have simple tastes and a small appetite for things. And yet, even so, we still have all this stuff! Books, desks, file cabinets and years of obsolete files; clothing we no longer wear or wear rarely; stored, unused bedding and curtains and drapes and sewing fabric; board games and children’s toys and stuffed animals rarely used except when the grandchildren visit; more furniture than we need, a vault of mementos and photos we never visit – the list goes on and on.

So here we are. 2016. A new dawn, a new day, and more than ever a time when the present is present in consciousness, and the past is fading fast. All the things that have stuck to us are losing their adhesive and falling off. We are here, now, and it’s time for a new adventure. We’re selling out everything one more time, just like back in ’86, and going on the road in an RV.

Next week the realtor comes, and in the meantime I am building temporary plywood tables for the garage sale. Recycling and dump runs have happened and more will follow. We’re bagging the useless and worthless, tagging the sellable, and hoping the old 1905 Cable Nelson piano finds a good home. Formerly a player piano, it has a sound box and sound board that produces a large, rich, wonderful tone. It has a nice action, too. We hope we can get it to a musician who can appreciate what a great instrument it is.

I’ll keep you posted.

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The Magic Of Winter Solstice: 7 Ways to Celebrate the Returning Light

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on The Muse in the Mirror:
With Christmas fast approaching, it can be all too easy to get swept away in the festive frenzy of need and expectation, and to lose sight of the true reason for the season. Whilst…

Gallery | 5 Comments

Christmas Catch-up, 2015

On Lucifer, Hymns, Churches, Myths, Words, etc.

The Christmas season is here, and with it some of the oldest “pagan” myths dressed up in the elaborations of two millennia of Christianity. The story of the birth of Christ is welcome here. It’s an occasion for reflection upon the meaning of the season, as some folks like to say.

It’s also a season of reflection upon events of the past year, which some people will encapsulate in form letters. These will arrive folded inside of Christmas cards, and range from charming, witty, and wise epistles to offensive, humorless, clueless celebrations of ego.

I confess that I have sent a couple of these end-of-the year form letters myself. They were expedient in certain busy, overwhelming seasons in the past when a hand-written note inside of each card was not feasible. I was able to avoid the self-trumpeting aspect of the thing thanks to one I received long ago from some intensely upwardly-mobile acquaintances touting their attainment of membership in a very exclusive Horse Club.

I vaguely recall the over-all grating snobbishness of the entire letter, but only that particular part about the horse club remains clearly in memory. I remember thinking that I would like to find a nice, stout horse club and work them over with it until they drank some water from the fountain of Christmas. That sentiment faded with time, however, and we are friends now.

I will reserve personal reflections of events of the past year for a later post because now, on the run-up to the end of 2015, I find that part of the season involves a bit of catch-up with things my friend Louis has recently posted on his blog, Ralston Creek Review. I enjoy Louis’ reflections there a lot and highly recommend the site. It is a trove of scholarship and humanity, and Louis embodies both.

If you are a discerning reader you may now be becoming aware that what is coming up is a brain dump of sorts, a stream-of-consciousness purge of odd bits roiling around in my head which have found their way to various incomplete, unpolished pages in my personal archives.

All I can say about that is this: I am old, and getting older every day, and I have seen and thought about so much (whether it is relevant to anything or apropos of nothing) that I have no room left in my head for unfinished thoughts which won’t vacate their space until I put them somewhere else. This is that place. I am looking forward to reclaiming the space they have taken up in my head.

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Lucifer, the Fallen Angel

NOTE: This is a follow-up to my comment on Louis’ song of the week “Prince of Darkness.” I said I might follow through on my comment about Lucifer. Here’s a link to the comment, but you will probably need to read the entire blog post for continuity’s sake: http://ralstoncreekreview.com/song-of-the-week-prince-of-darkness/#comment-16037

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If you get all puffed up with yourself and get too big for your britches, you’re going to start showing your butt. When that happens you’re going to be an object of ridicule, the opposite of the object of worship you thought you were. This is called the Fall, and it’s not a good thing. So the best thing is to wear the pants the good Lord gave you, and leave off of that notion that you’re bigger than anyone else.”  (Anon)

(Or my Grandmother. I forget which.)

In the past I’ve referred to the allegorical myth of Lucifer in regard to how hubris and pride are the sources of the fall from the grace of spiritual union into separation. My friend Louis over at  Ralston Creek Review mentioned in one of his posts that Lucifer was once considered to be a “bringer of Light” rather than the Prince of Darkness. I was interested in how history accounted for that development. I found out, and now I’m tired of etymological excavation, and here it is:

Lucifer, the fallen angel now also known as Satan, was not in the original Hebraic texts of Isaiah 14:12. Lucifer first began to take shape when the Hebraic phrase “helel ben shahar” in the original Hebraic text of Isaiah was translated as “lucifer” in St. Jerome’s translation of Hebraic texts into the Latin Vulgate scriptures.

In the time of the prophet Isaiah the linguistic connection between the ancient Babylonian god Shahar (bringer of morning light) and the Judeo-Christian Lucifer (morning star, bringer of light, sun of the dawn ) did not exist. The metaphor of a fallen morning star that the original Hebraic text of Isaiah 14:12 applied to an evil and fallen king of Babylon received the Latin word “lucifer” in place of “morning star” in the Vulgate translation, which then morphed into the proper name Lucifer in the later Christian tradition, giving rise to the anthropomorphic angelic figure who fell from grace into evil.

So, basically, the figure of Lucifer appeared in the early Latin Vulgate translation of the old Hebraic scriptures by St. Jerome. It happened as the result of an over-reaching translation of the early texts which combined literal linguistic translation with interpretive “flourishes” into the Christian text. One of the results became the link between Isaiah 14:12 and Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”), interpreting the passage in Isaiah as an allegory of “Lucifer’s” fall from heaven. Thus “Lucifer” became linked with “Satan.” Before that, Satan and Lucifer were unrelated terms.

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RE: “Hymn”

NOTE: This is a follow-up to Louis’ song of the week “Hymn,” which addressed word origins, religions, churches, and the varying forms of belief systems which all have roots in human spirituality. Here’s a the link to that blog post (and Amy’s comment referenced herein): http://ralstoncreekreview.com/song-of-the-week-hymn/  Amy, by the way is Amy Putkonen, who authors the blog “Tao Te Ching Daily,” another treasure trove of wisdom and humanity which I also highly recommend. I run a poor third to both Louis and Amy, and often piggyback my own thoughts on theirs.

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Churches and religion and words are always an interesting topic, Louis.

As far as the etymology of the word “religion” goes, it seems that while starting out with Cicero as “relegere,” meaning literally “to read or think again,” it later morphed in popular usage to having a meaning indicating an organized, social form of spirituality. It started out denoting “respect for what is sacred; reverence for the gods; conscientiousness, sense of right …” and quickly became welded to and inseparable from concepts denoting “moral obligation; fear of the gods; divine service, religious observance; a religion, a faith, a mode of worship, cult; sanctity, holiness…” This fusion led modern writers to reinterpret the origin of the word as not being “relegere” but instead “religare,” meaning “to bind fast.”

So the word started out signifying a personal regard and individual consideration – and reconsideration, employing an open mind and the returns of later experiences – of the intrinsic, inalienable structure present in the universe and the spiritual aspects humanity  assigns to it. The idea being that human beings can form thoughts which reflect the true nature of the universe we have arisen from and live within.

Words are tools used to create facsimiles of things beheld; words are not the things they behold. Words apprehend those things. When we begin to use words as the building blocks of stories, myths, and songs to create a coherent, balanced  equation of equivalency – a story denoting an observed truth or effect or process, the most efficient viral form of information exchange from generation to generation – words serve us well. So long as the words themselves are coherent, balanced, and proven.

In this instance the word “religion” has an evolved meaning which equates being “bound fast” to institutionalized spiritual systems with human spirituality. It’s pretty obvious to me that there is a difference between spirituality and spiritual systems.

The difference can range from comical to antithetical depending on how much weight is given to the “system” and how coherent, balanced, and proven their interpreted version of any given story is. Does the story point to the object of its source? Or has it become twisted into a local parody and obscured the meaning of the story?

A lot of this is old ground for most people. Principles from the “divine ground,” the source of all religions, become socially tailored to fit a societal context. Those principles become expressed in interpretive translations. Over time social contexts change,  translations occur, interpretations change, interpreters change, and far down the line we find religions galore, all stemming from the same source, all with layer upon layer upon layer of historical, interpretive, personality-infused contexts in their words and stories.

Why, then, do people overwhelmingly choose to approach their spiritual nature in an institutional environment in spite of the confusions inherent in those organizations? It’s because of the satisfactions afforded by a system. A system can lead an adherent back to the immaculate source, so long as it points to that source and not itself.

Amy, in your reply I think you identify another one of the major benefits of organized religion. Community. It is a true benefit to connect with those who sincerely seek, and those who have found and embody, the principles of the spiritual life.

Yet belief-focused religion can also mislead adherents into some extraordinarily non-spiritual thoughts and actions based on protecting the community. They become Eric Hoffer’s “True Believers,” people subverted from the essence behind the form, conscripted and then compromised by it until the essence is lost and only the form is considered true. And there’s the rub.

The way I figure it, the only way to avoid being subverted, distracted, or even completely diverted from the personal spiritual path back to the godhead is to personally find the truth evident in each system without being co-opted by the systemic interpretations of those truths. I’d say the earliest definition of “religion” indicates a very good way to approach and apprehend the spiritual life – to use personal regard and individual consideration and reconsideration, employing an open mind and the returns of later experiences, whether it be in church or society or the universe at large.

Churches and religions, and an early atheism which evolved into a more open-minded agnosticism which led me into deeper explorations of faith and belief, have helped me on my own path immeasurably. Lenore and I have attended many churches of many faiths. Our own experience in each was preceded by our own personal explorations of faith and spirituality. Over time we developed a familiarity with the common spiritual principles which every faith shares, principles which are subsequently incorporated into the particular beliefs and expressions of many faiths.

In churches we found ourselves often having to sort out principles from beliefs in order to find the core of truth inside the layers of the personality of a church and the faith it embraced. It could be an exhausting process, listening carefully for principles sometimes hidden deep under layers and layers of history and dogma and cant, but usually the inspiring source could be found at the core of those expressions.

It was a very beneficial part of our path. One of the most satisfying things about it was meeting people who had arrived at an understanding of the principles underlying their faith through their particular religion’s  practices. And one of the more enlightening but not necessarily satisfying things we learned was that people can embrace religious beliefs and practices without ever apprehending the principles behind them, and can become blindly “bound fast” to literal, personality-driven, corrupted interpretations of those principles which actually produce beliefs and actions which are not reflective of those principles at all but “feel right” in the context of the church – even though they are not reflective of the greater context of the Tao, or the universe, or creation.

For myself I have to say that my time in various churches was well-spent. “Church” provided the initial contextual matrix in which I could form and place and express the spiritual discoveries I experienced on my path. As I grew I realized that the framework of that matrix was based on the oldest myths and stories and songs and visual arts of the human race, which were perpetuated in oral and artistic traditions long before the printed word became common. Stories conveyed through those basic mediums of expression are “word pictures” which easily convey information and make it memorable with visual and aural and emotional elements.

Those ancient common stories, those reflections of the nature of humanity, the universe, creation – indeed every thing which human consciousness encounters in its existence – were the first occurrence of what the human mind has been using to express itself ever since. We translate the pure, objective, inexpressible reality of facts before us into a form which can be expressed in our own context. And what serves us best is word pictures and stories containing metaphors, allegories, similes, analogies – simulacrums reflecting the universal source material of things which are absolute and yet subject to being compromised by our expressions simply because our expressions have limits and are “bound fast” to our local experiences and personal matrices of understanding.

Sidebar: “Simulacrums”

Jean Baudrillard in “The Precession of Simulacra,” defines a simulacrum as a representation which “substitutes signs of the real for the real.” Baudrillard contrasts this with the techno-contemporary development which extended human usage of simulacrums into “simulations,” observing that the current stage of the simulacrum has become characterized as a perspective which is derived from references with no referents, a hyperreality.

I personally don’t think this is a new development in the human process. Every thought we form is a symbol, derived from a beheld object, thought, event, etc. etc. I do agree that there is a process which becomes so derivative that it is only derivative of derivatives. This resultant “hyperreality” can be far removed from any original, natural source. Religion, for example, often becomes derivative of derivatives, and the reality of the simple observed source-fact is lost beneath layers of interpretation super-imposed over it.

Fredric Jameson provides a similar definition: the simulacrum’s “peculiar function lies in what Sartre would have called the derealization of the whole surrounding world of everyday reality.”

Churches and words are helpful. It’s nice to be able to express our spirituality in such a way that others understand it, and connect with us there on that divine ground. After all, we are at the heart of things a community, and the simulacrums which express that fact are nice to have around.

In my own experience, which is no more and no less unique than every other person’s experience, I personally found the highest worth in churches in the moment they conveyed me to – the moment when I realized they were not necessary.

We do not need to seek God. We are God.

We do not need to go to church. We are in church.

We do not need to wait for heaven. Heaven is here.

-*-

There, that’s better. My mind has some room in it again.

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