Sunday, May 30, 2010

To The Glory Of Life

It's a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend here in San Francisco.  I feel grateful to be alive, and sad for all of the things that Mike will not experience now.  I do not understand why someone would choose to leave.  I can think of 100 reasons off of the top of my head why this weekend alone is worth living.  The glory of life is infinite.

1.  A big hug from Dolly.  2.  Biting into a peach and tasting summer.  3.  A text message from a friend that makes you laugh out loud.  4.  Dancing.  5.  The first sip of coffee in the morning.  6.  Sleeping in.  7.  Jumping into a big pile of pillows.  8.  Dark chocolate.  9.  Reading The New Yorker cover to cover.  10.  Getting scared by a raccoon.  11.  A kitten asleep on my chest.  12.  Watching Dolly dance.  13.  Chopping vegetables.  14.  Wearing a new dress.  15.  Ikea shopping spree.  16.  Talking to Mom and Dad about their move out here.  17.  Grand opening of Joe's ice cream.  18.  Watching a cheesy romantic comedy with 9-year-old girls.  19.  Carnaval parade in the Mission.  20.  Being kissed by the sun.  21.  Organizing the house.  22.  Reading to Dolly.  23.  Painting my toes.  24.  Strawberries.  25.  Costumes.  26.  Meditation.  27.  Reading in bed.  28.  Backyard barbecue.  29.  Family.  30.  Friends.  31.  Riding my bike.  32.  Golden Gate Park.  33.  Singing in the car.  34.  Catching up on podcasts.  35.  Decorating Dolly's room.  36.  Finding a shortcut around the traffic.  37.  Farmer's market.  38.  Going to the beach.  39.  Staring out into the ocean.  40.  The view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks.  41.  Sand between your toes.  42.  Love.  43.  Fro-yo.  44.  Planning my diet.  45.  New iPhone apps.  46.  A good hair day.  47.  Donating to charity.  48.  Garage sales.  49.  The breeze blowing through my apartment.  50.  Tickle fights.  51.  Dolly laughing.  52.  Stretching.  53.  Strappy heels.  54.  Facebook status updates.  55.  Looking for new apartments on craigslist.  56.  Self-improvement plans.  57.  News that Dru will visit soon.  58.  Our Lady of Safeway.  59.  Empathy.  60.  Connection.  61.  Homemade tacos with fresh avocados.  62.  Chai tea with agave.  63.  Being comfortable in my skin.  64.  Loving my job.  65.  Not having to work this weekend.  66.  Watering the plants.  67.  Pizza Margherita from Gaspare's.  68.  Photographs.  69.  Making videos.  70.  Inside jokes.  71.  Downloading new music.  72.  Dancing in the kitchen while doing the dishes.  73.  Sore muscles.  74.  Blue skies.  75.  The smell of lavender.  76.  Listening to the conversations on the streets.  77.  Dolly's art projects.  78.  The gossip of 9-year-olds.  79.  The kindness of strangers.  80.  Reconnecting with a friend as if months had not gone by since we last spoke.  81.  Garlic breath.  82.  Shaving my legs in the sink.  83.  My kitten attacking my ankles.  84.  Russian Red lipstick.  85.  Caffeinated cleaning spree.  86.  Getting caught up on bills.  87.  Dolly's new disco lamp.  88.  Walking barefoot through grass.  89.  Running through the sprinkler.  90.  Getting a silly song stuck in my head.  91.  Strawberry-banana-coconut smoothie.  92.  Salsa music.  93.  Fuzzy leopard blanket.  94.  Music coming through the neighbors' windows.  95.   The cafe on the corner.  96.  Being productive.  97.  Murals on the sides of buildings.  98.  Exceeding my expectations.  99.  Being in awe of the endless wonder of life.  100.  Being alive to blog about it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Here is a picture of Mike's headstone that Mom and Dad e-mailed to me today.  The cross used to hang in his room when he was a little boy.  I had one just like it, with a little girl praying.  If I ever find mine, I will give it to Dolly.  They sent me the photo because even though I was there when the priest interred Mike's cremains, I never saw the headstone after it was put on the columbarium.

Let's just pause for a moment to reflect that words like "cremains" and "columbarium" have entered my vocabulary.  Dad keeps incorrectly referring to the columbarium as "Mike's Crypt," which makes me think of late-night zombie movies.

Some days I can go for longer stretches without thinking about him, though it's always there bubbling under the surface.  There are moments I pretend to have acceptance.  Then I see a photo like this one, and am shocked into stunned silence.  Acceptance is so far down the road, I'm not sure I even believe it is there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Today is Mother’s Day—my Mom’s first Mother’s Day without Mike.

Losing Mike has been the worst thing that has happened in my life so far—the most difficult death, the most intense grief.  Losing a sibling, however, could not be anything like losing a child.  I think of what my Mom must be feeling—my grief times a thousand.  Not that one can quantify or compare these things. 

As a mother myself, the idea of losing my daughter is the most frightening thing I could imagine.  I’ve said that I would give anything to have my brother back, but of course that’s not completely accurate.  If anything happened to my daughter, it would completely destroy me.  And yet, here are my parents, walking through their worst nightmare.  Since I was adopted, Mike was their only biological child.  I wonder if that makes the loss even harder.  I think that would be hard for me.  You create this beautiful baby who is always a part of you, and then he’s gone.  You give him life, and then he takes that life away.

I don’t think Mike thought through what his death would do to our parents.  He loved Mom and Dad very much—“more than you will ever know,” as he put it in his suicide note.)  Occasionally I feel anger toward him about how selfish he was for doing this to our parents, but those thoughts never make it very far.  He could not see past his own pain, and I really don’t blame him for that.  If anything, I get angry at him for not taking his meds, but that was likely a symptom of the depression as well.  The whole situation was just tragic and sad.

Through this grief journey I have been meeting other survivors of suicide along the way.  Some have lost their children to suicide, while others have lost their siblings, their partners, their friends, or their parents.

Tonight I am sending love to all of the mothers who have lost their children, and to all of the children who have lost their mothers.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The River

I’ve been struggling with my inability to imagine where Mike is now.  It’s an impossible question to answer.  I envy the certainty of those who do not question the existence of heaven, though I do not envy the certainty of those who believe death is the end.  My mushy spiritual view of death forces me to question the concepts of time and self.  I do not question God, but I also cannot picture God.  So whether heaven, reincarnation, or fertilizer, the best we can hope to find is a good metaphor.

My friend Jesika gave me the metaphor I needed.  It doesn’t tell me where Mike is, but it is a story that makes sense to me.  She heard it from a friend who read it in a book, so I’m not sure the source, and, like a game of telephone, the story has shifted as each of us has personalized the metaphor.
There is a mighty river.  The river is vast and infinite.  The river has no beginning and it has no end—just the eternal flow.  At a certain point in the river, the water goes over a cliff, breaking the river into droplets of water that fall over the edge in a glorious waterfall and return to the river below.  The waterfall is life.  Our life is the fall of one droplet of water.  Each droplet yearns to connect with other droplets, sometimes making new droplets in the process.  The river is God.  The river is the whole from which we came, and the whole to which we return.  God is in us and we are in God.  Our yearning for connection with other people is our heartache for God.  In the end, our individual droplet selves return to the river, and become part of the infinite whole once again.