Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's been a long week. Too many newly bereaved families. Too many big decisions about life. Certainly, stress.

I was looking forward to a quiet evening, at home, unwinding with my beautiful family, anticipating the weekend. We thought about yoga. We contemplated a bike ride. But a movie and the chocolate colored pillows spread across the crismon carpet sounded so much better by the time I'd answered my emails from the day.

We watched a movie I'd heard about from a friend in Italy. And I embarked on a rollercoaster of emotions from confusion to rage to disgust. Then, even to a softening of my own heart. If you've watched the film, you know what I mean... and then, then I felt surprised- perhaps even consternation- directed at my self for having experienced what I felt, but knew it could not be, empathy.

My emotions were completely manageable throughout the entire duration of the film.

But, the zenith of the movie, the end bedroom scene, unhinged me. Completely, totally unhinged me, as the main character in the film spoke words that I have spoken myself, many times, outloud and reverberating through my own mind.

I turned over on the floor face down, like an ostrich, and tried to breathe through the tears, swallowing them whole and drowning myself in the process. I was quivering as if I'd been left naked in the snow. My heart was pounding. And my body aching from the tension of sorrow. Then, it came over me. "What am I doing?" I thought to myself. I knew better. "Why am I fighting it so much?" So I got up and went to the bathroom and cried. And cried. And sobbed. About 15 minutes later, I felt so much relief. I was tired and my eyes red and swollen, but I could breathe again. Nearly 16 years later, and the grief can, occasionally, return with a fury. How truly reassuring.

No really. How truly reassuring.


Because it is my grief that has brought me to life. And He visits to reassure me that I'm still alive, amidst the mundanity of chaos. More than many others I've met along my path, I feel so alive. I've never felt depressed, or bored, or mindless in the nearly 5700 days since Chey's death. I've felt many other emotions, but never emotions of complacency or apathy or death (death in the sense of anhedonism, emotionless, or bland). So, my grief revisits me, like a relative from a distant place, often without notice. I may not have time to wash the sheets for His arrival. Or prepare for the extra meals. Or even tidy up a bit. He just shows up.

Nevertheless, when He leaves (and though He always leaves morsels behind He really does leave), I'm always thankful for the visit - eventually.

I woke up this morning, remnants of my guest still visible- my eyes still swollen and stinging and my heart still heavy with grief. But I looked out the window and I noticed the overcast sky, and the birds flying from tree to tree, and how the branches of my emerald palo verde are growing long enough to shade the summer's heat soon. And I noticed the sounds of those I love around me, and the clean water coming from my faucet, and the smell of vanilla in the air, and I know that I am alive. And for all of that, I am grateful.

Resisting grief never works for me. I think because I realize, in some visceral place, that it's in the unhinging when the beauty of life becomes truly salient.

Oh, the movie- "I've loved you for so long..." -- highly recommended.

Thinking of you too and your momma, Blakey.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wild Storms

For my dear friend, Pete, thinking of all our wild storms...
MISS you Pete.

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every minute holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will,
and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don't want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that took me safely
through the wildest storm of all.

~Ranier Maria Rilke

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Death Studies: Spring 2010

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass,

it becomes a mysterious, awesome, magnificent world in itself.

~H. Miller

Nearly 50 students filled the classroom this Spring, their anticipation apparent in their early arrivals on the first day of class. They were eager to learn that of which we, even in the Academy, rarely speak.

For five days, at least eight hours at a time, they listened, watched, touched, and experienced. We laughed. We cried. We contemplated. We questioned. We wondered. We reached. We grew. We bore witness to pain and loss. And we entered that space willingly and honestly. I don't know if there are words to express what happened in our five days together, but for so many, myself included, it was too powerful to ever forget.

And so, I won't. I won't ever forget my Spring of 2010 students and the many miles of journeying we've done together. These brief moments will endure long beyond my tenure at Arizona State. And I hope that, one day, when they need a lesson about life, love, trauma, and death, our time together will be a catalyst for healing, both in receiving and in giving.

Thank you each. Thank you.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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