Blake’s Fallen Hero.

I’m an adult, I’ll finally admit this.  But, when Blake is upset I curl up in the fetal position and cry because he is sad.  I can’t explain how my little brother’s emotions become my own, but when he hurts I hurt.  It begins with sharing, which is not something he does easily so I know he trusts me.  His speak of Jeffrey, our deceased brother….his hero, is unique in the sense that he rarely speaks of him at all so when he begins I listen with all my soul.  The thing about Jeffrey was that he was ‘the man of the house’ and he took Blake under his wing like his very own son.  Blake was, with all intents and purposes, his.

I can not describe the difficulty of telling Blake, that very tumultuous day, that his hero was missing, gone, vanished, and I had no explanation at the time.  Seven year-old’s are smart, whether you credit them or not, and in an already confusing situation a seven year-old can question a lot.  A simple “He’s missing” doesn’t bode well, so heading into life and death territory may seem like a mature topic.  But, these were not usual circumstances and eventually it had to be done.

Blake was forced out of childhood into topics even adults shouldn’t have to endure.  He held his mother’s hand as she laid paralyzed with grief in bed, begging God to take her instead of her dear son, Jeffrey.  He braved through morbid conversations that no seven-year old should be privy to.  Blake held my heavy head as I cried my eyes out into his shirt for Jeffrey to be alive.  He just assumed the responsibility, but I should have assumed more of the role than I allowed him to take on.  After all, I was the oldest.

There’s a connection between he and I.  Without Jeffrey, I have overcompensated to fill that void.  On occasions, like tonight, Blake confides in me his pain. How he wished Jeffrey could have stuck around, but I remind him how special he was to Jeffrey.  As a matter of fact, Jeffrey was the only person that promised mom he would take care of Blake when she found out she was pregnant.  I know if he just pays attention, he’ll find Jeffrey is just a few step ahead of him.  Luckily, I’m their big sister so I’ve got it covered, but there will never be enough coverage for a fallen hero.

I love you, Blake Allen Miller, and more than anything I hope you know that Jeffrey loved you more than anyone else in this world.  You were/are his soulmate. XOXO.

 

Days go by…

We compartmentalize time into past, present, and future, where the events of our life (even the uneventful) flow into one of these three buckets; the conventional view of time.  Perhaps this is why we spend so much time mourning the past and awaiting the future, while life happens (present).  I like my symmetry, and with every moment having a turn at the present there was a shot that the past might not be so bad and if it was, then the future gave another chance for a present moment.  This gave me hope, which became freewill’s scapegoat.

We move on, don’t we.  Hands you used to see daily, interlock with someone else.  Moments shared become benchmarks of time remembered solo.  Images in photos are mannequins in disguise. Memories of childhood are more vivid than they were in real time.  Technicolor versus black and white, images are recalled best in both for very different reasons.

I got confused for so long because of death.  There was a past, present, but no future for the deceased.  It wasn’t until I realized that after someone dies, the deceased, they remain only for the loved ones left behind.  Their future is merely in us.  We carry it on with us until our death, then someone else carries us along.  Past and present…what if we’re not afforded a future? Two’s.  Symmetry.

 

Dear Jeffrey, 3 days until you’re 28…

I’ve learned that choices define you and (in more ways than even I can understand) others are contingent upon who I am to define parts of them.  Like you, Jeffrey, the choices you made while you were walking this earth presented choices that may not have been presented to me otherwise.  Some choices are poor and you can never take back, but at least they’re yours.  Though, a choice that takes away the choice of another is – in a lot of ways – a mortal sin that destroys the grace of not just the one left without choice but all those contingent upon. This becomes a domino effect of freewill genocide.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and sometimes I knew good-and-well I was making them (I file these under the ‘mistakes I knew I was making’). However, today my soul rings of the voices and experiences in my life that moved me…changed me in one way or another…leading me closer to my truth.  I’m no longer in a goose hunt for truth searching frantically for instant gratification at the expense of others.  Truth journeyed into my heart.  It’s within me already and so many others contribute to it.  In so long as I am honest with myself, I’m honest with the world and putting forth energy that builds meaning.  I admire you, Jeffrey.  The energy you put forth into the world had such unequivocal grace, and that choice defines me and has become my only weapon.

Eternally grateful,

Sissy

Dear Jeffrey, 10 days until you’re 28….

I remember you,

Though I age my lines get deeper and defined,

While yours go unchanged and more soft-focused with time,

All the heaviness fades to lightness as I grow into being,

A fantasy life, I imagine, who you could be,

I remember you,

Surfing through people with attention and ease,

Looking for neglectful and clumsy me,

Your spirit was so free,

Mine locked down by judgmental, grudge-filled, heady thinking,

I remember you,

Exuding happiness into everything,

Most of which I inevitably drained,

A smile in the world you left behind,

Beamed life into my soul,

What you already knew,

I’m still finding out,

I remember you,

You taught me what life was about.

-Your sister (Friday, the 13th of August in 2010)

Overheard at My Own Funeral

I’m not sure why my mind puts my mom there unless it somehow thinks life will cut my life shorter than hers, or I’m afraid of her and death in the same sentence at all. Regardless, for the sake of this morbid question and for plain good storytelling let’s assume she is there. Assuming my body arrived safely in Oklahoma (pun intended) and if they do carry out my final wishes for cremation, I would probably laugh (can a fly laugh?) at the sight of these people – family, friends from all walks of life, business associates, and people that hate me there just to make sure I actually did die – sitting there in emotional trance staring at this silly little urn. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother is so I will stress that my little beady fly eyes better not see a single pew. The officiant (who better not be a pastor of any sort) reads off a Buddhist passage from Thich Nhat Hanh on death and once he finishes the music starts. I spend a lot of time floating around in my mind and visiting people that have passed through, experiences that affixed itself to my mental postcards, and seeing what I may have missed the first time around, so since my journey is over I hope that someone else begins to float.

Sitting there as my soundtrack begins with Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, Carolyn comments on the selection and then mentions how she’ll miss Rhoda (me) so I land on her shoulder and buzz “I’m the Mary.”

A few of the Antlers guys including my ex-step father David, true to discriminatory form, mention what a loss it was (of course they aren’t referring to my actual death but my sexuality).

After the first song, the Buddhist-slanting officiant opens the floor for sharing. Stormi steps up first and tells stories that make people laugh because that is who I used to be. She talks about us being so broke when we lived together that we ate bologna sandwiches every day. How we drove the 3-hour stretch from Stillwater to home penniless and with the gas light flashing for 80% of it (you would be surprised at how many times it will come on before your car sputters at all), and when we were forced to get gas we filled it up and sped out of the gas station without paying. See, in New Jersey that is impossible because it’s never self-serve. She’ll then mention how it unleashed a crookedness in us we never knew we had and lead us into Pizza Hut and we fed and ran, fast, hopped in our car with the stolen gas and went home.

My friend Lance would read a poem because he told me there was too much poetry in my soul to get my MBA. I love poetry, and I hope there are several more that read some prose at my permanent going away party.

More music, Khalil Gibran reading, and at the end a reference to my favorite author – Milan Kundera – when the officiant says “Please join me on Jeffrey’s mountain where Alisa will be thrown to the winds – the last symbol of eternal lightness.”

It’s there that all this comes out: Alisa was…fearless, creative, quirky, hard to comfort, funny, thought she was witty but she wasn’t, forgiving and perhaps too forgiving, strong, a wordsmith, a good communicator of the abstract, batshit crazy, not shy, loyal, clumsy, the most outgoing introvert, what you see is what you get, moody, good at keeping secrets but never having any, silly, fascinating to rapidly boring, and then someone will say what a great playlist.

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RIP Rue!

Thank you for being a friend…

Enraptured in The Rapture

My parents had this postcard in their leather-bound Bible back when I was a doe-eyed Pentecostal kid.  I gawked at this thing during the entire service placing myself in any one of these modes of death to rise up all zombie-like and fly into the heaven with Jesus.  While most children were worried with such trivial matters of who to play with at Sunday School, I was secretly shitting in my pants at the thought of my plane flying into the side of a building.

To this day I am afraid of large trucks and many years ago when my little Honda got slammed around by one all I could scream out was, “For the love of God, please don’t put me in that postcard.”

Morbid Compassion.

A designer at work passed away this morning.  Lung Cancer.  I never spoke to the lady, much, but there was something about her that told me had I talked to her it would have been welcomed.  I never did. 

I know what you’re thinking, another post about death.  It occurred to me, today, that perhaps it’s not a mild obsession with death that affects me but the experience in which it changed me.  After my brother died, I gained this spiritual connection to humanity that I never had before; compassion. 

Today when I heard about my co-worker and the gathering we were having to ‘share stories,’ I wanted to attend.  Not because I knew her well enough to have a story, per se, but because within me was this compassion for those that knew her well and loved her.  I want be there simply to pay my respects to the lady that I never spoke to and to those that thought very fondly of her.

It took three valium for me to attend my brother’s funeral. I sat there, marinating in the calm before the storm, and turned my head around to search the room.  I like to stare.  I stare and most people don’t even know, but when your loved one is the focus of the gathering it is different.  You’re the one being stared out.  I stare at people because I find them beautiful.  Sometimes not physically, but somthing about them fills in the holes in life for me; the description of my stories.  The woman I stared at for nearly an hour in the coffee shop that tried her damndest to sit with herself but was interrupted by the devices of technology.  The man that had no chivalry that I saw during my early morning train and then again in the evening – where did this man come from that has total disregard for politeness to women?  Naturally, I develop his character by assuming his mother left him and his father at a young age.  Sometimes I feel I am placed there to trigger this by tapping on his shoulder and asking how come he felt such little compassion for the old lady trying to get on the train that he would cut her off, but I never involve myself that directly into his story.  No, I just watch.  But, my brother’s funeral was different; I was the one being watched.  I turned around in my seat to stare like I was accustomed to, but I saw eyes looking at me, not judging but welcoming.  Eyes that said “I’m here when you need me.” 

My whole life I have struggled with being judgmental.  I think about my pain and the funeral and all the support I could see around me, and I wonder if this feeling I learned – compassion – could be used in more than death.  That way, if we regard each other every single day with compassion, we would initiate hello’s before it’s too late and we would show up just out of regard.  Now, I didn’t know everyone at my brother’s funeral but I did know they had a story to share and it involved my brother – regardless or not of if they actually shared it with me.

Maybe I won’t have a detailed story tomorrow at the gathering to trade stories about our coworker, but I can certainly relate to changes that death brings in people and a hope that it actually does change someone.  I find this change the most endearing change of life, but I still hope it’s not just found in death.  This I try to achieve, so I’ll go be just another eye in which someone lost was seen.

Rest in Peace Periel Tunaligil from mtv.com design.  I was the one that never said hello while you were here, but Godspeed.

Sorrow celebrates joy…

We celebrate lots of things in a year if you think about it, and I hope you do, celebrate.  Celebrations change, or at least they have for me.  Christmas, the very essence of opening a present and getting the tingles from deep inside the gut as you rip and tear through it, changes with age.  The crock pot isn’t as exciting as say an easy-bake oven, now is it?  Birthdays, every year counting down to another year older and another year closer to getting on with it – whatever ‘it’ was then, become just another day.  Thirty two isn’t as exciting as say sixteen, now is it?  No excitement of driving legally for the first time and potentially…wait for it…a new car.  Nope, but you still have to pay the bank for the loan on your birthday and the Happy Birthday balloons aren’t even allowed at work.

The older you get, and trust me I’m not claiming thirty two is ‘old’ per se, the more dates you add to the calendar; anniversaries, in-laws birthdays, new birthdays, and death days.  The longer your life becomes the more boxes on that calendar that you, in some form, celebrate.

Death days are unusual days because they don’t, necessarily, have to be marked in a box on a calendar to depress everyone.  No, death days you never forget and the internal clock (the same one that powers the biological clock you hear about or may feel or felt but with less pressure…more like an iCalendar inside your soul) reminds you the closer one gets.  Historically, around Thanksgiving is when a down cycle starts for me and eases back up around February.  I know what you’re thinking and no it’s not seasonal depression.  It’s a hole looking to be filled, but the person to fill it has passed on so it’s an emptiness in my soul around holidays – loss.  The holidays begin the stretch into the moment in time, January 29th, that his life ended.  The constellation of death holidays all at once is the reason for the down cycle.  The death of Thanksgiving with my brother, the death of shopping for him at Christmas, and as a New Year approaches…ultimately the death of him.  In more ways than one every year, like grief, it gets less so a death occurs…the longevity of death pushing me further away from the actual moment.  Maybe this is why death vacillates in my writing and speech in the fourth quarter of the year.

I think back to the precious moments (no not the collectible figurines) when life resonates causing me to smile, deeply, and the urge to dance strikes.  That moment when the full moon takes your breath away, or when you can feel the sun hit your nose and radiate your soul.  Moments when you skip across the street, music hits your nervous system causing your head to move to the beat, a bright idea that shines down from the heavens right through you to the paper, those innocent moments.  Laughing until you cry, remember that?  Somewhere in the space between death and day I found a reason to celebrate, and that reason is life.

My brother couldn’t stop smiling, it’s true.  The very fiber of his being was happiness, and his life was a delight.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
(Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

From The Archives: Death is contagious…

It touched me in college while making copies of The All-American Rejects bio for their new demo I was sending out to any and all labels that would listen.  I was in the local Kinko’s in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  This guy…his name is on the tip of my tongue….what was it………the Kinko’s clerk reached out to me by telling me of this book that had touched his life.  I had never met, seen, or known him before but that one evening  as he told me about the words of this book that marinated his soul, he extended a book titled “Ishmael’ by Daniel Quinn to me as I paid for my copies. The exchange felt nice, comforting, odd, and impressionably confusing.

Fast forward to one year later; a different time, a different life, a completely different world than before.  I’m reading the Daily O’Collegian the Oklahoma State University paper.  I read about this fatal car accident and how two OSU students lost their lives and the picture in the paper was the Kinko’s guy.  I remembered him, the book, my immediate friend though I knew I would only meet him once in life and that was enough to shift something.

I pull this book out in various transitory moments in my life, but I still have not read it.  I think when I am ready to read it, that Kinko’s guy will teach me something even more amazing than that conversation that night.

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