What I Lost and Want Back

Prism

My childhood mornings seemed so much more pleasant than the adult ones now do. I woke up wide-eyed and ready to explore the world. Bright were the rainbows that reflected on the wood-paneled hallway created by the bright sun hitting the diamond-shaped windows on the front door. My own personal kaleidoscope had me looking deeply into wood grains at an early age. My brother, Jeffrey, sat less than five inches from the television with the sound screaming loudly into my soul. What I remember about that particular moment is how awake I was back then, and how impressions moved me. Something as small as colored light reflected from the sun onto the wall kept me in awe, imprinted in my memory, and conjured up happiness. I haven’t seen the little prisms of inspiration that echoed so loudly in my youth for quite some time, and I want it back.

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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: Strangers On The Train

A rather large African-American woman got off the (F) train headed to Queens at 21st-Ely, and I took her seat.  This beautiful, soft-spoken, mild-mannered girl also took her seat; two seats made from one.  I was writing and perhaps the mild-mannered girl saw the passage in my notebook about my recent battle with depression or perhaps she simply wanted to reach out.  Either way, she pointed to my exposed inner wrist that displays my “Jeffrey” tattoo.

“Did it hurt?” 

Thinking of all the hurt, grieving, anger, sadness, and emotions behind everything that lead up to commemorating my deceased brother on my wrist, I replied, “Yes.”

“Oh,” She responded while looking me directly in the eyes.

I looked away from her and stared straight ahead watching the darkness pass by through the train window.

“All tattoos hurt, I suppose,” I explained with less depth.  “I guess this hurt the least because it means the most.”

It occurred to me that connecting had become uncomfortable to me.  Perhaps I had been traumatized and feared loss.  Perhaps I was insecure.  Regardless, we talked the remainder of my train ride about work, tattoos, piercings, and Queens. 

“This is my stop,” I interrupted the flow.

She smiled with such a humanitarian energy, “Take care.”

Knowing I’d probably never meet her again I looked back and replied, “Good luck.”

As I walked up the stairs at Roosevelt Avenue, I felt a warm and hopeful energy fill my soul.  Such a short-lived but genuine interest and connection between two strangers felt so good; human connection.

 

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