Tag Archives: death

Dark Polish

Finally, today, I can break out the fun colors.  Pinks, purples, corals, blues, and even bright happy teals.   I’m talking about fingernail polish.   For the past year I’ve confined myself to wearing only dark, dark shades.

I’ve done so as a means to mourn the death of my mother.

The traditional ways of mourning the death of a loved one have fallen by the wayside in our shiny, busy world.  I mean, I thought about wearing black for an entire year, but that wouldn’t go over so well at work because of uniform requirements as well as the nature of the job.

There was a moment I wanted (needed?) to stay home for a couple of weeks and just be sad.  I was feeling like I couldn’t contain myself and would break down into a puddle of mush any minute – I didn’t want to do that in front of my colleagues. But, of course and like most, I’m only allowed a couple days off for a family death. So I mustered the strength and with  monumental effort shoved aside all that pain, plastered a smile on my face that I was certain looked as fake as it felt, and drove myself to the high school where I worked.

I had to get creative.   I had to find a way to mark the grieving period,  a way to show respect to my mother who lived a life full of challenges yet exhibited a toughness and fierce independence, she deserved that honor.  So in my own little corner of carved out existence, I thought about some gesture that could fill the job of acknowledging my grief, at least to myself, while still going about the business of being a citizen in a frantic society.  I realized that one action I could take was to wear only dark fingernail polish until the first anniversary of her death.  I made a vow to do so.

It was indeed a small gesture, but to my surprise it was exactly the right one.  It wasn’t easy.   This decision came at the beginning of summer when bright orange or yellow would typically decorate the end of my phalanges, shouting to the world that I was ‘with it,’ and ‘on trend’ with the fashionable hues.  Besides, I am generally a big fan of  vividly colored fingertips, they scream fun!  energetic!  this is me!  Yet, there I was with mud browns, black purples, and dark blues that captured zero light and received no compliments, living out the promise I made to the universe that I was setting aside this time for my mother.

Winter came and went, including a couple of firsts that were difficult to endure:  mom’s birthday and Christmas.  It wasn’t so hard to keep to dark shades then, the weather and lack of daylight was in keeping with my mournful aspect.  But I did find myself growing weary of the same five nail colors and when I usually break out an iridescent orange in the middle of January as an instinctive reaction to missing the sun and yearning for summer, I instead slathered on one more layer of ‘Gunmetal’, but with a smile of contentment: I found it somehow healing to deny myself this small thing out of deference to my beloved mom.

Spring arrived after enduring days and days and days and days of rain.  I ran out of two of my favorite dark colors and was rotating between just three others.   On the premise of “I only have a few more months left, I don’t want to waste the money.” I didn’t purchase anything new.  I found I was okay with the narrow selection anyway:  as the anniversary grew closer, the more meaningful the memorial became.

I was able to end that memorial yesterday, the first anniversary of my mother’s death.   There’s a sense of relief in it’s arrival – all the ‘firsts’ are out of the way, I’ve survived them.  Her birthday will come and go, but none as painful as that first one without her.  I can announce to myself that I am done mourning now.  I can throw out the three remaining dark shades of polish, and keep bright happy colors on my quick typing fingers the rest of my days, if I want.

Grieving the death of a loved one is work.  It requires time and attention and the ability to step aside from life for just a moment in order to process the pain and adjust to a new reality.  The society we’ve built in the US doesn’t allow us that.  In fact, it would deny the mourning process altogether if it could.  I recall the words of President Bush after 9/11 when he urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible.   After the loss of a loved one, there is no normal as we know it.  We MUST have time to reflect and assimilate our new life.  Anyone who has denied themselves the room to grieve will attest that doing so only makes it worse to deal with later, or it solidifies into a mass of anger which no one can identify.  In our current society, we have to be strong and rely on our ingenuity and adaptability for ways to mourn the departed while still functioning at the hundred-ten percent capacity required by the system. Maybe its a once a week trip to the Synagogue that you normally wouldn’t take, maybe it’s a black tie that can be worn every Wednesday, maybe it’s a black curtain in the kitchen window, maybe it’s strictly dark nail polish for a year.  Whatever the solution, there still remains the ability to set aside holy time for a loved one, in some way, that enables the healing process.  I encourage you to find one that works for you if ever the unfortunate need arises.

Yours,

Frankie

 


Live, While I Wait….

I am

In space.

My energy freed from a fragile shell of skin and bones.

I am.

More than I’ve ever been, I am now.

Time is of no consequence,

It’s iron chains no longer weigh upon my conscience.

Part, now, of the infinite universe.

Free as I once was, returned to my original state.

live

photo credit to n a s a

No longer tied to a planet,

No longer driven by the sun.

Holy stillness.

Peace, pure and perfect.

Silence, beautiful and consoling.

This is the death that awaits me,  and I live for it.

 

 


Examination of Death, by an Atheist

Just a few days ago, my siblings and I gathered together at an idyllic place in the mountains and, one by one, scattered the remains of our beloved mother.

Many of my family take solace in the thought that they will see her again someday ‘across the River Jordan’.   Yet as my husband and I discuss heady topics such as parallel universes and quantum entanglement, I am instead, solaced by the thought that my mom is more alive now than she was while bottled up inside a frame of skin and bones.   This is the examination of death, by an atheist.

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so sayeth science.

restingplace

Photo credit to E.W.

This is the reality in which we live. It is incontestable, it is there in the math as assuredly as one plus one equals two. So when the essence of a soul, whatever energy is caught up in our being, is no longer caged by the laws of physicality, then we have to conclude that our energy is dispelled and scattered again throughout our universe, to be employed for newer enterprises (nature is brilliant at recycling and repurposing).   There is great comfort in the thought that my mother is not relegated to just here and just there.  She is all around now, freer in a manner that none of us can conceive, able to effect any number of possible outcomes.  She is life, and that more abundantly.

I will miss her, make no mistake.  I have keened for her passing and will do so again in days to come, I am sure. I will never again feel the sweetness of her kisses upon my lips nor hear the admonishing tone of her voice when my wild nature conflicted with her demure soul.  And while in days past, I might have taken comfort in the hope of ‘seeing her again,’ today I am pacified by a more solid idea.   My mother is ever with me, in every breath I take, in each word I write – in all manner of ways that her energy is now part of the universe itself, I am ever a recipient of her freedom.  Though I may be heartbroken; I am content in this examination.

Yours,

Frankie

In Remembrance:  HEA


Clarity With Atheism

A family member died this past week and I watched with a breaking heart as some prayed for a miracle that never came.  I watched with an empathetic mind as some wrestled with the very real struggle of justifying the death:  “God must have wanted him in heaven more than on earth,” was the go-to phrase. As I watched and empathized, I was reminded of the ways in which religion would cheat a soul.  I was reminded of the freedom and clarity that come with atheism.

I remember the days of praying with desperate hope for a miracle that would delay the finality of death (even though there was no evidence anywhere for me to believe that a miracle would occur).  I remember hanging on to any glimpse of good news:  the blood counts were down, the iron counts were up, the kidneys are working again – each was a sign that a supernatural healing was just around the corner.  Death would be cheated this one time.

Death is never one to allow itself to be cheated.   It always came, always claimed the soul it taunted for months.  No amount of praying would dissuade it from its duty. No god could stop its arrival.

I remember my struggle to make sense out of a no-win situation when the inevitable would happen.  I recall finding excuses because the reality was too hard to accept; buffering my psyche with outdated memes “thy will be done”  “god is in control”  “so-and-so is with the lord now.” I remember admonishing my self – obviously my faith was weak.

What a mental mess we allow ourselves to be as we work through the conflict of believing in the supernatural and dealing with the fallout when the supernatural doesn’t manifest itself.

As I watch family members work through the conflict – trying to fit together the notion that an omnipotent/omnipresent god refused to defy nature this one time and keep death from claiming its prize – I am thankful for the clarity that atheism brings to such circumstances.  There’s no emotional roller coaster, no disappointment in a benevolent being, no chastising myself for weak faith.  No futile reconciliation exercise in order to come to terms with the failed hope of a miracle healing.

I am saddened by the loss of life. But I am consoled by the many ways in which that life will live on: through children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors. I am inspired to live my life better. I accept the reminder that time is short, we are mortal, death will not be cheated.  I am grateful for the lesson that there is clarity with atheism.

Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.

Frankie


Pieces…. Of a Shattered Life

Ever marvel at how we can muster the strength to put ourselves back together after our life is shattered?

Maybe it was a death.   A cherished soul mate.  Or a child met only briefly.

Maybe it was a relationship.  A divorce.  A best-friend-forever moving.  A child that walked away.

Whatever the cause, putting a shattered life back together is an immense challenge.

It is work.  Exhausting, depleting work.

There we are.  Standing in the middle of an infinite room with a thousand thousand pieces lying about us.

Shards that sparkle and rudely pierce our darkest grief.

A task.  A chore so vast that some shrivel away.

A task. So profound that only the strength of shear survival compels us to rebuild.

We do it.  Piece by piece we manage to find a way to do it.

We start, one by one of course.  And  deep down we know that what we are building is new and different.losing a

We know it will not be the same.

It is impossible.

Some of the pieces from that shattered life are now missing, we realize.

Some of them will never fit the same together.  Ever again.

Maybe.  Just maybe, some of them we choose to leave alone.

Maybe.  Just maybe, we pick up a new piece instead.

One by one, slowly and painfully the pieces are fit together until one day we become aware that we’ve built a new life.

Shiny, scary new in some places.   Worn and comfortable in others.

And here or there a hole.  A scar.  A reminder of the thousand thousand pieces that once were.

But  – a life rebuilt at last.

A testament to our tenacity.   A banner of pure commitment  to live.  An example to each other.


The Meaning Of …. An After Life

“The spirituality of certain death requires acceptance that our stake in the future springs, not from an afterlife, but from whatever ideas and creativity we can muster and then pass on – through our family, friends and work.  The greatest joy is to challenge ourselves to contribute.”    Sean Faircloth

There is nothing like impending death against the stark relief of life to drive us to search for meaning to both.

In a few days I’ll make a short flight to Boise Idaho where I will spend a week with my terminally ill brother.  Probably the last few moments of his short time on earth.  He’s only 55. He is the first of six siblings to make this journey.  My heart is broken.

As I prepare to tell him goodbye, I am like all humans, transfixed upon the finality of death and the force with which it makes us contemplate our beliefs, our sentiments, and our maturity towards life and its ending.  As I try to come to terms with the idea that my time left with my brother is brief, I also find myself subconsciously bringing balance to his approaching death by reflecting upon his life. Doing so has allowed me to acknowledge that my brother will live on well past his physical presence on this earth.  As Mr. Faircloth muses …”our stake in the future springs…from whatever ideas and creativity we can muster and then pass on through our family, friends and work.”  My brother’s afterlife, his personal stake in the future, lies in all that he has done as a man with his short time on earth.

My brother’s stake in the future lies within the hearts of two sisters, both of them quite a bit younger, whose older brother managed to take time out to teach them football and the art of spitting between one’s teeth.  The same brother would later invite me to Genesis and even later give me a much-needed survival talk before I moved to California.  His Robin Williams-esque humor has given us many wonderful laughs and will always be the topic of family conversations.  These two sisters, and the rest of his siblings, will keep their brother alive in their hearts, his future is secure in their memories.

His stake in the future lies within the potential of my second son, who became my brother’s namesake.  No matter where he goes, what he does, and how he does it, my son will carry on my brother’s name and affect his own circle of lives.  I am always reminding my son of the man he is named after and the example he provides and the responsibility he has to carry on the name in good standing.   My brother’s stake in the future is secure in the form of my son.

My brother’s stake in the future lies also in the three children who have had him as a step-father.  I know his love and adoration for them is unmatched – and unsolicited – which makes it even more significant.  I am certain that each of those persons have learned what it means to be a father, a husband, a gentleman, a provider, and a friend …all from my brother.  His stake in the future is secure in the lives of the children who’ve been lucky enough to have him as a dad.

His stake in the future lies in the life of his wife as well.   For several years now, my siblings and I have watched as he has cared for his wife through her own health struggles.  His devotion and love, not unnoticed from a distance, stand as a testament to all of us and reinforce that our wedding vows really do mean ‘in sickness and in health.’  He could have scattered to the four winds long ago and left the care of his wife to others, but that’s not his style.  His style was in being there for every appointment and conversation.  His style meant clean sheets for his wife when she got home from a major surgery.  My brother’s stake in the future lives on in his sweet wife whose current health is a direct result of his diligent care from yesterdays.

His stake in the future lies also in his work.   During this rough time, his boss and cohorts have extended support and advocacy towards my brother and his wife in only the way that us compassionate humans can, and WOW, they’ve gone way beyond anything that could ever be asked of them.   Why?  Because of the way he’s lived his life and contributed himself to everything around him, even in his job.   His stake in the future is secure even in the lives he has touched even in the workplace.  We should all be so fortunate.

In the past, we have relied on the idea of an afterlife as a means to bring peace and a way to cope with the finality of death.   But our afterlife does not exist in some far off, mysterious place.  Our afterlife exists here on earth, in the thousands of ways, positive or negative, that we contribute to life and those around us.  It exists in the lessons we pass to others, in the love we share with others, in the memories we create with others.  I can say with all conviction that my brother’s stake in the future is well guaranteed here on earth.  There is where I find my comfort and peace, and death’s sting is made much less painful because of it.

Be Well, and LIVE your life!

Frankie