Thursday, September 22, 2005

Waves Become Wings

The birthday meaning entry was stupid, so I'm replacing it with something that might have a bit more insight and less cheese. Today's title comes from a song by This Mortal Coil. I thought it might be relevant.

I had a pretty deep conversation with my stepmom yesterday, in which I thought of an interesting analogy to the grief process each of us is currently undergoing. The emotional devastation we feel is akin to a forest fire. It sweeps through, killing all aspects of our former life with our spouse, laying the whole zone bare, blackened and charred. Eventually, life will return. Even more lush and vibrant perhaps. But it will take time, and we will always see remnants of the old fire damage here and there, despite how much it may become overgrown with new life.

Had my first bereavement group at Gilda's. It's bigger (more people), more diverse in ages, more diverse in stories. There are a few members who are mourning spouses, so I don't feel out of place. It just doesn't have the immediate comfort level of my past two groups. We'll see how it works.

Been thinking a lot about those old connections... My brother Matt, whom I last saw in the hospital, surrounded by a crash team and rigged with tubes and sensors. I remember how he looked up at me, how we locked eyes and he silently told me goodbye.

My grandfather Ken, with whom I shared many deep and meaningful philosophical conversations. How comforted he looked when I described the human soul as a spark from the Source/God/creator.

My great grandfather Charles, who used to slip me money to go buy comics or candy when I was a wee lad. A man who felt so strongly about passing the torch to the next generation that he voluntarily gave up nourishment.

My uncle Doug, my father's youngest brother, black sheep of the family, with whom I shared a strange kind of advocacy. As he was dying of leukemia from radiation treatments for an earlier cancer, we shared several teary phonecalls, and I remember telling him it was alright if he had to go - that I didn't want him to, but if he had important work to do, he should not feel bound here. That "release" would become standard practice from then on.

My yard-long, 22-lb Maine Coon tabby (Gryphon), who was my constant companion from 1987 to 2003. I held him as he died.

My darling wife of almost 15 years, partner and companion of more than 20, Samantha. Those pivotal moments... our trip up to Victoria and Vancouver in 1986, driving up - just the two of us. The time we broke up for a month. Our first apartment in Mountain View. Long phonecalls when we were at different colleges. Our trip to the Caribbean in 1989, our wedding in 1990, our exodus north in 1991. The birth of our son in 1994, the purchase of our home in 1995. More angst, more love. Our daughter's arrival in 1997. Our near-split in 2000, and coming out of that closer and stronger than ever. Her diagnosis in 2002, followed by my father's. The constant trips to the hospital, and her boundless courage, hope and humor. Holding her as she breathed her last... God, I will never forget that horrible silence.

My father. A man who suffered greatly as a child, yet found the strength within himself to break a generations-old cycle of abuse. A man who showed me how to follow my dreams and never look back. How he asked Samantha where she would most like to go in the world, and when she answered Greece and Italy, said without missing a beat, "Book the trip - it's on me." Remembering how he insisted on coming to dinner for Tyler's birthday, just one day after his first brain surgery. How he never quite came back after that. How frustrated he looked in the ICU bed, being subject to all manner of humiliation after another brain surgery... and another. How he cried on the phone when I told him we'd adopted our dog Wiley. How I knew the moment I heard the phone ring that he was gone, before the doctor even said they were still trying to revive him.

It's all a charred forest now.

I'm trying really hard to find new growth... but it's a hellishly long and painful search. Especially this big redwood grove that was my life with Sam. That will take forever to come back, no matter how many dates I may go on.

And tomorrow I might feel totally different. Welcome to Widda-World.

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