Daring Greatly

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We thought she had at least a month left.

She seemed in good spirits with energy on most days.

So we ate and we went out,

Had visitors and snuggled with the dog.

We talked and we shed some tears

Along with a whole lot of laughing.

Her daughter would curl up

Next to her in bed each night.

The cannula in place

And the loud oxygen machine was on.

Both were settled and comfy.

First mom would begin to read

But when her eyes got fuzzy from

Morphine, Atavan and the lull of the O2

The daughter would take over reading

Not missing a line.

But mom’s eyes would open

Because she didn’t want to miss a word

It was a sight to see

And was really so lovely

To watch mother and daughter

Read the likes of Brene Brown’s

“Daring Greatly” on library loan.

With a synopsis that says

“How the courage to be vulnerable

Transforms the way we

Live, Love, Parent and Lead.”

So even when close to the end,

Learning vulnerability is essential

And in discussing these concepts

Mother and daughter could

Work out some kinks in their past

And make sure that their love

Was clear and understood

Despite the book being overdue.

For the few times I peered in

And was struck by this scene

I believe it may stay with me forever.

What a gift this daughter gave

To herself and to her mother,

Who has now left this vulnerable earth.

I hope someone gives that to me

Before I leave all behind.

Because Daring Greatly is no easy feat.

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Alice Gone

Alice and me IMG_5599

 

I am here

You are gone.

But it is your home

Not mine.

Your photos.

Your sayings everywhere,

Your family,

Your beloved friends,

Your chair

Your kitchen,

Your cheesecake,

And whipped cream.

Your sneakers at the door

And your robe waiting for you

After your shower

With the shower chair

To keep you steady.

Your bills are on your desk

Your satin jacket is hung

On the hook by the door

Waiting to take you outside

Your scarves are hung,

The dog leashes

Are in the drawer.

The cheese filled pretzels

That you came to crave

Are in the already opened bag

Waiting to be finished.

Your husband’s ashes

Are on the table.

And your flowers

Were sent to you

Not to me

And they need more water.

I am an interloper

Poking through YOUR stuff

And organizing

And trashing

And donating

And packing away

Feeling so embarrassed

For what feels like prying.

I do not want you to feel

Judged

Or ashamed

Or defensive

About the possessions

You’ve accumulated.

We all have them.

They drown us all.

I do not belong here

With your daughters

And your dog

YOU do.

This is your home,

Your life

And your heart and soul

Fill this place.

You’ve left forever

Some 48 hours ago

And my skin

Is begging to be peeled off

As my heart is ripped open

Not knowing how I will

Navigate the rest of my life

Without you, my dearest sister.

The keeper and the sharer

Of all the secrets we have ever known.

I warned you

That I would not do this well

And it is so much worse than

I could have ever imagined.

I will come and rescue you

I am convinced

That you are somewhere

And you are cold.

So I will come with blankets

And carry you home with me

So we can talk and laugh

Some more

And solve all the things

We never did get to.

Please my sister,

Please my darling,

Please come back to me

It is enough now

I want to lay back down with you

And hold your hand

As you hold mine

So we know

We can both be okay

With each other

The two chairs we sat in

Are still there

But they’re empty,

We were taking in some sun

While we knitted

And crocheted like old ladies

With you wearing both

Your sunglasses

And your reading glasses,

While your daughters

Laughed at us

And we laughed too!

 

But it is not funny anymore.

Can you come back now?

Please.

 

 

 

JUST LOVE

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JUST LOVE

And in the end,

All there really is

Is love.

Nothing less

Nothing more

Nothing after

And nothing before.

 

We sisters are only two

There were none before us

And none after.

Together we fought

Tooth and nail

Through the abuse

And the confusion

For utter survival.

It was never easy

Getting through

The years of our life

In putrid dysfunction

That rendered us nearly

The same as the situation.

 

But having each other

Is always, always, always

What got us through.

We clung to the hearts

That beat in our chests

To remind us we were okay

And to tell each other

We were more than our misery.

 

I couldn’t be sadder today

It would not be possible

Having spent the day,

In a hospital with my sister.

My only.

My dearest.

My red-headed.

My ever so kind.

My caring and wise.

My friend to all,

Forever sister.

Yes, THAT one

Was given bad news

On top of more bad news

Over and over

All day long

Heaped on

Like wet cement.

The cancer

Oh the fuckin’ cancer

The bane of our existence

That goddamned cancer

Is winning despite it all!

The alternative and the not,

The prayers and the hopes,

The denial that trumped all!

It spread like hell anyway.

A breast wasn’t enough

It took over her bones

And every single bone

Including one replaced by titanium

Yet still not satisfactory,

To fill this beast.

So now it moved into

Her epicenter

The place that rules

And runs her mind

And her being.

The leech wants it all

So it moved on smearing

The entire lining of her brain

Yes the sonuvabitch

Is determined to kill her.

And if you think gun control

Would cut down loss of lives

This satanic monster

Leaves the guns in the dust.

 

She left no stone unturned

The juices

The Coffee enemas

The vitamins

The heat

The crystals

The teas

The needles

The massages

The organics

The beliefs

Even downright

Fresh red blood.

Her sweet, sweet heart

That makes everyone

Who knows her,

Love her.

The caring so deeply

For her daughters

And being a listening ear

For her only sister, me!

 

You see, we two

Know things that no one else does

We share the secrets of over 60 years,

Yes we do.

There will never be any way

I can share it with you,

Because frankly

“you had to be there”

and you weren’t,

but we were!

 

Tonight, still laying

In the hospital bed

She says she is crying

From kindness

And that she can

Really feel her heart

Filling up with love.

There is no limit

On what all this love

Wants to do for her

To give her the most cherished

Days of all.

 

Go ahead now

You scourge

Of the last two centuries

Cut away a good half of me

And steal my beloved sister

Who just wanted

To walk her daughters

Down the aisle

But ran out of time.

See how well I stand up

Without a whole half missing

And my heart that is already

Broken in a million pieces

Gets ground up even more.

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust.

 

She says she isn’t

Ready or able to leave us

But hey dammit

I am not ready

And frankly unable

To leave her.

Pinhole of Light Dressed in a Diaper

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It was a dark time for them all,

And with the passing of a dimly lit Christmas

The January chill seemed to settle into one’s bones.

They missed him and weren’t sure

How to piece together a life without him.

But a stirring began within her

And though she was never sure

If it was time,

The swirling life inside her

Had a plan for this moment

And it mattered not

Who was ready

Who was not

Who was sad

Who was glad.

He was stirring

 

So the two elder mothers

And the swollen young daughter

Drove in the cold, dark night

To meet with the women

Who could help.

They formed a circle

As if in the “Red Tent.”

And held the laboring young woman

Through a long

And painful night

Filled with fears,

Insecurities and always

The relentless “missing” and yearning,

Of him.

 

Her body opened

But then it closed

As if to say

“I think I am ready

But I am not sure.”

And the little one inside

Felt much the same way.

There was groaning and thrashing

Through the dark hours

Of the night,

As her body took over

Knowing what to do

Even without her input.

 

But still the women

Held her and rocked her

And whispered to remind her

Of the incredible strength she owned.

But he, whom she adored

Was only granted

An occasional quarter hour phone call

That was monitored and recorded,

Yet loaded with desperate desire

to bear witness

to what he referred to

as the most important moment

in his life.

He was not allowed to be there,

And the recording said,

“Sixty seconds left”

before disconnecting.

But the women present,

Made it their mission

To secure her strength

And power

Carrying her through

With their patience

And sustenance.

 

And when her body and her soul

Could no longer remain in the limbo

Of three steps forward

And two steps back,

Or of coming out

And shyly returning back in,

The storm came in with a vengeance.

And it was time, more than time

To push with all her might

And all her love and fierceness

That had been buried so deeply.

She rode those waves like a beast

With the finesse of a west coast

Surfer who rises with the tide

Some smooth as glass

But others like a wild tsunami

 

And the women.

All the women

Built that circle around her

With her own mother

Supporting her entire daughter

Physically and emotionally,

Watching her pain and struggle

Yet unyielding in her loving support,

As I watched in awe,

Never having known what it might be like

To see one’s daughter bearing a child

As a mother once did herself.

I’ve never had a daughter, only sons.

The midwives said,

“Try this, try that”

And she so politely

Acquiesced where the best of us

Might well not have.

But she remained gracious

And ever grateful

Even expressing her thanks

When she could barely breathe.

 

And at the peak of the storm

When it became desperate and urgent

To birth this child

Through the glory of God.

With the invisible feminine hand

Of a Holy Spirit

Whom I call upon and revere,

In an unspeakably

Harsh world of reality.

An innocent, perfect

Child is born,

Bringing refreshment,

Joy of new life

Created in love

And a hope needed

More than ever before.

 

The darkness and the loss

May remain for now

But the pinhole of light

Has expanded and there

Is joy to be had,

And brightness to behold.

This mother’s son

Has been born,

A new human on earth.

And she too will now learn

The unquenchable, unfathomable

Language of the unconditional

Love of a mother

For her son

On this day

And all the days to come.

 

 

 

Are You There God? It’s me, Ann

So many praying for me

For us, for all of us

And I believe they really are.

None are just offering lip service

They’re no lying Prez saying,

“You’re in our thoughts and prayers”

Nope, it’s the real deal.

They really ARE praying

With all intention needed.

I can feel their prayers sometimes.

And they rock my heart.

But how is it then

When I reach up

Out of this deep

Dark, wretched hole,

Stretching as high as I can

Searching, begging,

Pleading, screaming,

Offering my heart

And my soul

Until my arms

Give up

My hands still

Come back empty

I can’t find God

For the life of me.

 

November 2017

In the open fields

Of the abandoned state mental hospital

I went for my first outing.

I didn’t want to enter the outer world

Because I am so afraid

And so cold even inside.

It feels slightly safer in here.

But I took the dog out there

And heard the leaves crunching under foot

I didn’t really look down at them, just listened.

And then, I found

The biggest, widest, oldest

Most gnarled, huge old oak tree.

I rubbed its rough messy trunk,

Pressing hard enough

To feel pain in my hand

Wanting to bleed out the agony.

And then I laid my head

Against the roughest part

And wept and wept

Uncontrollably,

Knowing that so many

Broken hearts and fractured minds

Had come to weep before me.

With their ghosts still wandering

On these grounds where they were kept,

Sedated and restricted

Within their tortured souls.

I pressed my face into the bark

Sobbing from deep in my gut,

Sensing this tree

Had heard worse

And lived on anyway

And then I looked up,

So very high up

And begged and wailed

Hoping someone would

Hear me pleading for help

For me, for my son, for us all.

 

 

Losing Dori

Dori family10685323_10152372337490418_5506836535180330776_nDori

I stood in her office right next to her kitchen and tried to take it all in. She’d been dead just about three days. Her synagogue funeral was held just this morning and now we’d been invited to her home for Shiva, to pray and to offer comfort to her husband, and her three children. The rabbi recited beautiful prayers to which we were encouraged to respond. I had to keep reminding myself to turn the pages from right to left and I remained silent when they responded in Hebrew.

 

But all during the prayers and the offering of stories of Dori, I fought the urge to get into that office. When I did, I was so grateful that no one followed me and I was alone for a few moments though there was no door to close. I did a 360 trying to take it all in. There were hundreds of psychology related books on the shelves. The desk was big, the view to the outside verdant and comforting. There were colored sticky notes everywhere with reminders to do this and that Several canvas shopping bags hung on doorknobs here and there. A comfortable but petite leather chair sat empty, waiting for a client perhaps or anyone who needed to pour their desperately wrecked heart out to the clinician, the mother, the compassionate educated woman who worked so hard to become a master in her field. No one was in the speaker’s chair and no one would ever again be in the listener’s chair. The children’s paintings and drawings were on the wall.

 

It would have taken me hours to fully observe and absorb what was in that office and I wished for that time to be given to me. But I felt like a spectacle or even a ghoul as I stood in silent stillness trying to take in as much as possible, while the mourners began eating cookies and drinking iced tea. My husband or others might notice my absence so I made my way back into the kitchen.

 

Her death has shaken me more deeply than I would have imagined. We did not have a close relationship, but I knew her and had shared clients and friends with her. I was always in awe of her hair for which she was quite famous. She had a strawberry blond braid that touched the floor, which must have taken most of her life to grow. When I would see her or spend short amounts of time with her I would wonder how she washes it, how she dries it, what her clients think about it, how she sleeps with this braid and if it got unbraided how she would trail it along! Silly I know, but curious nonetheless. And it was stunning to me when I saw her in Whole Foods shortly after her cancer diagnosis with only a short, strawberry blond wig. Just like that, a lifetime of hair growing and a trademark—gone! Yet, she seemed fine with that. When suddenly your only focus becomes living, most else diminishes in value and importance, I imagined. This woman suffered terribly for the next 15 long/short months. I have become terrified and obsessed with the possibility of going down that same road myself.

 

So, I ached deeply at the funeral for her loving husband and her kids with special needs. When one twin son stood up and said, “she spent her whole life trying to normalize us” that caught my throat and spilled my tears. She did everything and more that included puppet shows, learning techniques and relentless creative patience for her children’s development. She breastfed each child for as long as they needed and became a La Leche League leader to help more moms do the same. She even helped me nurse my newborn twins after hers were a bit older by bringing me her twin nursing pillow. It helped and she helped immensely. It was a hard, hard funeral and yet all are, really.

But here’s the thing for me. Those sticky notes. They were reminders of vital things that needed to get done. They are SO important to us and we give them honor by actually writing them on these blue, yellow, and neon pink notes so as not to forget to do them. And yet now, they will not ever get done. Never, ever. Or at least never done by the woman who needed to do them. And the canvas shopping bags. Maybe she made the effort to carry them to the store for groceries. Perhaps she was the type who remembered to bring them with her without excuses at the checkout of “Oh sorry, I left my bags in the car. I’ll bring them next time.” Or maybe she never remembered them yet scolded herself to remember the next time. And now, who cares? Did it matter if she declined paper or plastic? Did it really damned matter?   A few hundred “bad bags” over her years would never have made an impact. She’s dead now and her canvas bags remain hanging on the doorknobs. And I’m thinking maybe they carried items more important than groceries. She was one of the masters of “sand play therapy” which she used with her patients young and older. Using sand, water, and small figures the premise is that the psyche possesses a natural tendency to heal itself, given the proper conditions. Were some of those precisely detailed small figures carried to and from her office in those bags. The powerful quote on sand play for which Dori was a revered expert is “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”   C. G. Jung

And my canvas bags are in the car and no, I hardly ever forget them. And my sticky notes are on my desk with stuff that needs to get done. My to-do list gets written regularly. I want the best for my kids but they don’t see it that way at all. They don’t really enjoy speaking with me or sharing ideas for the most part. And none of it really makes one goddamned difference when the curtain closes. It just really doesn’t. They say love is the only thing that matters in the end, but frankly I am not even sure if that is a truth or if it is just a nice thing to say to make us all cling onto hope. It might just be a marketing slogan. Nevertheless, this death of this healer and this loving mom and partner has been a tragedy.