Friday, December 31, 2010


I hope that 2011 brings all people a safe, warm place to sleep, food enough to eat and share, work for hands and mind, and love to give and receive.   Everything is temporary -- sadness and happiness alike, none stays.  No matter the sorrow or pain, I know that we are blessed and lucky.  Happiest of new years to all visitors to this space.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy birthday to me

Today for my birthday I wanted to give you all this poem by Philip Larkin (From Collected Poems, which you should buy if you like poetry at all.); and this one by Christian Barter (From The Singers I Prefer, which you also should buy.), because the Larkin poem always reminds me of it; and this last one, which Will sent me a long time ago, just because.

Whenever Will had a high fever I would think about the Barter poem, and about how when I first sent it to Will so many years ago he wrote back immediately that it had made him cry---such a perfect description.

They are long---sorry.  If you don't like poetry don't read them, but the Larkin poem especially, I bet, will haunt you if you do.  I think of it almost daily, the perfect cautionary tale.   

The Mower
by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed.  It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably.  Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Something Else
by Christian Barter

I know a woman who calls me
every week or so when she has something
on her mind and starts by saying,
"I have something to talk about
but let's start by talking about
something else." It helps her get it out.
So I ask her how she is and she says
okay and tells me about some poet
or politician she's met and how
he wasn't at all what she expected
or about the DC weather,
the traffic jams, the dirty Metro.
Sometimes she never gets around to her point
at all, but ends by saying,
"Now I don't want to talk about it
anymore." Last week I had a fever
for four days and the world
took on a kind of flickering darkness—
it seemed so thin, so insubstantial,
not the kind of place a person could live.
This guy who came to the card game
last night, he says he dreams
of a dead friend all the time,
this friend walks out of a black alley,
walks always in a kind of shadow.
I asked him what it's like to be dead,
the guy said, fumbling a face-down card,
and he said it's not a place, heaven,
it's a feeling, the feeling of knowing
everything you never knew. Then the friend
told him one of the numbers to play
this week in Megabucks. Sometimes, though,
she does get around to what's on her mind—
a sadness for her little sister, killed
in a wreck, or a fear that we
won't see each other again, won't ever
feel whatever that was we felt when we
were making love. I don't know if we will.
I don't know if she will ever see
her little sister again except in dreams,
which is somewhere, I guess.
The number was eight.

[Anonymous poem found in Laundromat]

By accident, you put
Your money in my
Machine (#4)
By accident, I put
My money in another
Machine (#6)
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no

It was lonely.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010



Our small solstice fire.  On the solstice we eat dinner by candle light and (starting this year) have a small fire in which we burn our hopes and wishes for the upcoming year.  Liam wished for "fish." (I have no idea where this came from.)  And then he didn't want to burn his wish. 

"Mommy, if it goes into the fire and up in the air, will it come back?"
"Well, not exactly.  We believe that if you burn your wish on the winter solstice it puts it out into the world in a very special way, so everything, everywhere will know your wish and be able to help you with it."
"I don't want to."

Okay.  So, maybe not quite the thing for a three and a half year old, especially one with his second cold in three weeks.  We taped his wish to the refrigerator.  Fish.

My sister is here.  We are trying to enjoy Christmas.  Trying to be very gentle with ourselves.  I am not sending Christmas cards.  Not yet ready to sort through the last photos and movies on the camera, or any of the other things that eventually must be done.  Not writing the thank you notes I should write, yet. Still ambushed by sadness daily -- an ad for a movie I know Will would like to see, he loved movies, a scrap of paper with a doctor's phone number, the sky in early morning, a long drive, something I know he would think was funny, something I want to ask him..

Someone wrote me and said: "we'll be thinking of you and your son as you make your lives together in this new way."  That's really what it is, it's a process of finding ourselves, our new selves, together and separately.

Will made the bowl we're using as a fire pit.  Years ago, before I knew him, he did a lot of metal work and sculpture and we're very glad to have a lot of the results -- the fire bowl included.   And we really miss Will.

(Auntie Chris lit the fire by flashlight.  A thoroughly modern solstice.)


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A few things

This is the picture we used on Will's memorial card; he painted it years ago and it had been put away, but I found it when trying to go through all the art supplies and preserve what we can for Liam.  It seemed perfect for the card.  On the back we put one of my favorite blessings.

May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may
spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains
be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.

Fitting since it has rained going on four inches or so around here since Friday.

This is the link to Will's obituary.  The service was well attended and lovely, so that was a relief.  My sister when home to California for a week today; she'll be back for two weeks at Christmas and then we're well and truly on our own for a while.

The family dinner after the service went okay, I hope.  No yelling or crying, so I guess that's good.  We have lots of leftover food.

The dog is taking it very hard.  She went to dog daycare and then my parents' on Friday.  Yesterday she came home lethargic and sick to her stomach.  Finally around 5:00 I took her to the emergency vet.  Pancreatitis*, they said, probably caused by stress and grief.  Rest, IV fluids, and various medications to treat pain and nausea are needed.  Fifteen hundred dollars later (late tonight or maybe tomorrow morning) she can come home to rest here.  Pray it doesn't become recurrent.  Poor dog.  I hope it doesn't make me a completely horrible person that I find it sad, worrisome, and annoying in equal measures.

*Mildly ironic because people with CF often get this, although Will never did, at least not officially.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No better way to say it

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.

There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.  All you need is love.

There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy. 

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Rest your earthly body easy John Lennon, your voice and your spirit live on and on.

Thank you everyone for your kind wishes and compassion – it means a lot to me.  Today was making of memorial cards for Will’s service.  Tomorrow is making of food for the family dinner.  Friday is the service and reception and dinner.  Saturday is two weeks.  After that is after that.

Thank you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New bed

This was Will's hospital bed at home.  There's no easy way to think it and no good way to communicate it but to be out with it: Will died at home on November 27 at about 1:22 in the morning.  I know the time because I had been there with him for the past 48 hours or so and I had my head on his shoulder and my hand over his heart when it fluttered and stopped, fluttered and stopped, and then just stopped.  We had been giving him medication every hour through his IV port trying to ease his suffering. It had been a long two and a half days.

I woke Will's sister.  Called my sister downstairs.  She trained as an EMT (in addition to her zillion other useful skills) and confirmed what I already knew.  We called Will's parents. They came over (I think they had left only hours before).  We called the funeral people.  They came over.  Turns out they are neighbors (about 4 houses down) and thought this would be a good time to let me know how  they had tried to buy this house too, but we had got it right out from under them.  I said, "Oh, umm, sorry?  I'm sure your house is lovely too."  They went away and took Will with them.  And now he's just gone.

What happened you might ask.  Well, nothing really and, of course, everything.  Will was in the hospital in mid-October.  His decline in lung function was continuing and he was not recovering.  He was increasingly short-of-breath all the time.  Going up the stairs became something to be carefully planned and limited to once a day, if at all.  Will didn't want to die in the hospital.  At the end of October his doctor of going-on twenty years recommended hospice care. We tried that, but they kicked us out when the medications Will needed for palliative care proved too expensive, or something.  That part is still a little mysterious to me. 

Will went back to the hospital in mid-November.  Through the grace of God and big, big efforts on the part of Will's hospital doctor (pray you are tended by this woman or her twin if you ever get sick, really sick) and his regular doctor, we got him home with put-together palliative care and all the oxygen they can put in a house on November 22.   He had really good days on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wednesday my sister arrived.  Will sat a the table and ate dinner, played with Liam and Chris.  Planned for Thanksgiving.  On Thursday morning he started out okay, but then almost immediately called me from the kitchen to "help."  More oxygen, he said.  We turned up all the oxygen we had.  Gave the medications we knew to give.  A nurse came over.  We were all still planning at this point -- how to make this set up work as best as possible, what would Will want from the nurse over time, that type of stuff.  We thought it was just a bad morning.  But by mid-day he was getting worse, not better.  By late afternoon we had paged the hospital doctor and got new instructions, been told this was probably the beginning of the end.  Sent Liam to my parents.  Waived off Thanksgiving dinner, half cooked.

By Friday morning he had pretty much stopped talking.  By Friday afternoon he couldn't swallow at all.   More new instructions.  We gave medication through the IV port. 

I don't know what else to write.  I wish it were different.  We're planning a memorial service for Friday.  People have been amazingly kind.  Liam is steady -- happy and sad.  The worst is when he says: Mommy! We used to play [whatever] when Daddy was still alive.  No, the worst is when he asks: Mommy? Will Daddy be back in the spring?  No, the worst is when he asks:  Mommy? Does Daddy still have the big, big sickness even though he died?  No, the worst is yet to come.  His worst days are long in the future.  So we bend towards it, trying to think of what we can do now to make those days easier, more understandable for him.

I'm not sure what I'll do with this space.  There is much going on.  Much remembering of Will.  Much growing from three towards four.  We probably will be back here in some form, someday.  In the meantime, I thank anyone reading for helping me to have a space to remember what I want to remember, in the moment but also held apart.  Thank you.