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the thing about life…

August 29, 2011
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…is that it encompasses the really exquisite and wonderful things along with the really crappy, devastating ones. We look forward to the wonderful ones and dread the things that don’t feel so good.

I had a sweet student whom I have known for several years who has had his own ups and downs ask me how I’ve been. I just blurted – well my dad was killed in an accident. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Its like I have no filter and just drop these bombs on random people like students, vendors, neighbors. Part of it is that I am still in shock but the other part is that there is no easy and sweet way to articulate what happened. In fact, there is no real way of sugar-coating the bad stuff. My student said, we really don’t have a vocabulary beyond…oh, I’m so sorry and this sucks!

When we tell our children that a pet dies, we say they ‘went to the rainbow bridge’ and maybe that’s and easy excuse to swallow. But my experience with death is that it is what it is.

My first memory of death was when the Principal at my grade school became ill and died. Sister Michael was someone I bonded with immediately upon entering Our Lady Queen of Peace School in kindergarten. She was sweet and caring and due to her cushy presence, she also was a good hugger – all a prequesite for a five-year old to consider her to be cool back in 1983. I had met her on the day of my school orientation and immediately felt at home. She wasn’t even my teacher but she would show up magically in her brown and white habit with a smile and make all things good. There was something sort of ethereal about her.

A year or so later she passed away and I was devastated. What followed were a lot of questions and tears, not only from me but from all my classmates. We attended the funeral held at the Convent/Monastery that reminded me of The Sound of Music. I walked up to the casket and saw my beloved nun lying peacefully but I couldn’t actually feel her presence. I worried that everyone I knew would someday not be there in presence and that would really suck.

I suppose this was something a lot of kids were dealing with, so the school decided to bring us all to the funeral home to get comfortable with the idea of death. Writing this now I wonder if I would be OK with my kids going to a funeral home or not. Regardless they filed us into the overly-wallpapered and upholstered funeral home for a tour and Q & A. There were no bodies there but they explained the whole embalming process to a bunch of 7 year old kids, and showed us where they cremated people. It was a lot to handle and mostly just freaked me out but it did make me familiar with a place where I would see many people I loved be put to rest.

25 years later, my father’s wake was at that same funeral home. Eerily, it seemed like I was that 7 year old again, except this time I was there for a reason, yet I still didn’t know how to make sense of it in my head. That’s probably the hardest part about grief is that it just doesn’t make sense. Whether a person dies suddenly or over time, there is still this disconnect that we have and it SUCKS.

We have to hang out in the dark places sometimes. Let ourselves get comfortable with the idea that life isn’t always sunshine, roses and salted caramel gelato. My student said you know, this is why Shiva hung out in the graveyards, right?

In these tough times, I think of the Goddess Kali and her rough darkness. She is known as the destroyer but also likened to a Mother figure. And in some way with all the shit hitting the fan, I can feel myself getting stronger and being nurtured. Most of the time I feel like I might look like here these days – tongue outstretched in a sort of growl.

Sure, I’d love to think of something sweet and wonderful right now but a lot of times that just doesn’t cut it. All I know is that my father who was always there is now reduced to a box of ashes on my stepmother’s dresser. His spirit is around and yet I still want more.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. elizabeth permalink
    September 2, 2011 11:37 pm

    hi there, nicole, your blog entry got me thinking about my own experiences with life and death. there is really nothing ANYONE can say or do to make it alright. grief and recovery is a long and painful process. i hope you can eventually feel your father’s loving energy close to you–that part of our loved ones will never die. he’ll always be close to you.

    i know we have not talked in quite a long while. i was so sorry to hear about all the bad news in your life recently. ( i seem to find out everything important that happens to people through their blogs nowadays…i’m so out of it! )

    i admire your courage for sharing these deep thoughts–myself, i don’t think i could do it. it takes a lot of guts to write and publish what you do. i sincerely hope that you are doing ok. my heart goes out to you. i will continue to keep you in my prayers. if you ever need somebody to talk to or email….just let me know.

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