Left Turn

Left Turn

The other morning, after taking my kids to school, I decided to go for a drive and take pictures. It was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day and I had no other obligations other than retrieving my children after school.

I haven’t been working at my former place of employment for a little over a month now and I have already developed new habits that make my full-time employment seem as if it were in a different lifetime. I left my son’s school and took the route I would normally take to work. I wanted to be present in my situation and circumstances. I took notice of the fact that I wasn’t rushing anywhere to make sure I didn’t use up too much time; I didn’t have to call anyone to let them know where I was or when I could be expected; I wasn’t running through all the possible scenarios of dealing with customers or coworkers in my head. Dropping the children off had been stress free and painless and I was able to say, “I’ll see you after school!”

Left TurnThe path I was driving could have taken me to work, however, at the last moment, the last stop light, I took a left instead of going straight. I turned left into the open expanse of sunshine and mountains, music and exploration. I went down roads I hadn’t discovered before, I stopped and took pictures of mountains, water, barns, and lamp posts. When I decided I was done, I meandered home, my own way, in my own time.

Please, if you are reading this, do not think I have taken for granted the fact that I was able to enjoy such a morning. Leaving my job was not a choice I wanted to make. I struggled with the aftermath of my decision and struggled with the thought that my occupation was my identity. I didn’t think I could do anything else; customer service was my life.

I see now, as I head down the unknown paths to the future, it was my time to go. Apparently, there are moments when I allow myself to stop growing because I don’t want to experience pain. I was comfortable in what I was doing and the thought of having to begin a new venture was absolutely terrifying. However, I am not only trained as a Deputy Clerk of District Court; I am also trained in exercising the knowledge that as long as I pray and take action, things will be alright (even if they’re not alright).

Left Turn 2What a blessing to be able to spend more time with my children and to be able to be involved in how they spend their day. What a blessing to be relieved of the heavy eyelids that couldn’t seem to open on time to make lunches, take a shower, get dressed, feed breakfast, drive to work and get there by 8:00 a.m. What a blessing to be able to get my children after school and not feel pressured to do something extra spectacular because this is a special occasion that we need to make the best of, while I am secretly counting my hours of vacation or sick leave to make sure I will have enough. What a blessing for my children to know they can call me any time and I will answer their call.

I used to think I was destined to be a career woman and honestly, I doubted I would ever enjoy anything else.

Today, I see the beauty, peace and serenity that can be gained in taking a left turn.

The Firefighters

The Firefighters

I went onto a website the other night and they had an announcement stating they were not going to allow any talk of self-harm or self-injury on their website. The only way they would allow it is if the person writing about it also included a link to a site where a person could go to get help or more information. I certainly see their point, but I couldn’t help taking offense. I am not saying I condone self-injury or self-harm in any way, but I also think I understand it. I’ve been through it. It’s hard not to take comments about it personally.

If you would for a moment, think of a house on fire. There is someone in the house and they are in danger of perishing unless the fire is extinguished. You are on the scene, however, you have no training in fighting fires; but you do have a cell phone. So, logically, you call 911 and the fire department arrives. The firemen want to save the person in the house and they want to put the fire out. At this point, the damage to the house is of no consequence; this is a matter of life and death. The firefighters put out the fire and save the person trapped inside the building. The house is ruined. There is water damage, smoke damage, not to mention the damage from the flames themselves. But the person trapped inside is ALIVE!

How do you think that person feels about the firemen? Do you think they’re angry they have been rescued? Or do you think they’re thankful to live another day due to the bravery of a band of firefighters?

Once again, I am not saying self-harm or self-injury is okay (although there was a point in time when I tried to convince my doctor of that fact.) I am simply saying, sometimes in life, my body has been a burning building, in which I am trapped inside. My mind has summoned forth firefighters to wage the battle and in the end, though my building was a little worse for wear, I was ALIVE.

Until I am able to come to terms with the fact that I have parts of me that want to save me from harm, I will always be at war in my own mind. However, if I can embrace those parts, send them love, let them know they are respected, yet, not needed, there will be peace.

If you are suffering from feelings of self-injury or self-harm, or if you are currently involved in these acts, please, seek help. I’ve been there, I know help is the last thing a person in the throes of an addiction wants. It can become a vicious cycle, though. Until you, your Self are able to make peace with the parts in you that are screaming for attention, your building will continue to burn . . .

. . . and the firefighters, will continue to fight.

 

A Letter to Myself

A Letter to Myself

I want to wrap you in blankets
And let you cry.
Let you cry for a thousand years.
You do not need to be
Punished.
Look at your hands . . .
Look into my eyes.
It is okay to desire innocence.
It is okay to seek purity.
You have these gifts
In you.
It is okay to hurt,
It is okay to be weak.
How can you be anything
But confused?
I will not hurt you anymore . . .
I promise you.
I will not allow my fear
To dominate you.
I will not let my anger
Destroy you.
You do not need to fight
For your survival.
I will surrender.
I will not hurt you anymore.

April Coen
August 25, 2000

I’m Not Here

I’m Not Here

My mother, sisters and I finished cleaning my brother’s house yesterday. It was something I was dreading and something I was welcoming all at the same time.

In the beginning, it felt comforting to be at his home, even the smell of smoke didn’t bother me as much as it used to.

The first day we found him and his body had been removed, there were a lot of people at my mom’s house. I had to get away from the noise and the ruckus and spend some time processing what had happened during the day. I spent a little time parked outside my brother’s front door writing to him.

” . . . I cannot believe you were in your house while I was knocking. I’m having a hard time accepting that you are gone. I don’t want to leave your house. I want to stay here, where you loved to be. But you’re not here in this tiny little box anymore. You are not confined to four walls . . .”

The more of his belongings we removed, the less it seemed like my brother’s home. His belongings are scattered, reserved carefully for those who loved him. Pieces and parts of “stuff” we wanted because it reminded us of him. I have to keep reminding myself there is nothing I can own that will bring him back. For some irrational grief-stricken reason, I’ve had a subconscious idea that if I have enough of what he touched, what he held, what he wore, what he listened to, what he loved that I will have him back. While these “things” provide a certain comfort, they do nothing to eliminate my grief.

I am realizing more and more as time goes on, that the only way to have my brother back is to keep his memory alive. I have never understood so much as I do now the poem which was used at my friend Lisa’s celebration of life by e.e. cummings.
(an excerpt follows:)

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

As we stood in my brother’s house, which no longer held his physical presence, his belongings, or his smell, I was conflicted. It has been a long process, but I almost felt guilty moving on.

I wanted to be the one to close the door for the last time.

I turned around and looked at his empty house.

I said to myself, “Goodbye, Craig,” with sadness in my heart.

Suddenly, I could see him, smiling at me saying, “I’m not here, sis.”

When I got home, the sun was shining on my brother’s face . . .

They are not dead,
Who leave us this great heritage of remembering joy.

They still live in our hearts,
In the happiness we knew, in the dreams we shared.

They still breathe,
In the lingering fragrance, windblown, from their favorite flowers.

They still smile in the moonlight’s silver,
And laugh in the sunlight’s sparking gold.

They still speak,
in the echoes of the words we’ve heard them say again and again.

They still move,
In the rhythm of waving grasses, in the dance of the tossing branches.

They are not dead;
Their memory is warm in our hearts, comfort in our sorrow.

They are not apart from us, but part of us,

For love is eternal,
And those we love shall be with us throughout all eternity.

– Anonymous

The Speech I Gave at My Brother’s Memorial

The Speech I Gave at My Brother’s Memorial

I like to consider myself a writer, but when it has come to this point of writing a memorial for my brother, my only brother, who is no longer with us, I am speechless.

There is nothing I can write that will be beautiful or touching.  My heart is much too raw for beautiful and touching.  Honestly, I have been dreading this service.  I normally have somewhat of an appreciation for “closure” type events, but not this one.  This wound is open and will not sense “closure” for a very long time, if ever.  I have never known a world without my brother, and it scares me.

My brother and I did not talk every day.  Sometimes weeks would go by before we would see each other.  This was not due to lack of love, it was simply due to schedules and different preferences in activities.  However, I felt proud when my brother needed me.  I looked up to him, so I was honored when he asked for my help.

Some things were small, like running errands.  I loved being helpful and useful to him.  Always, when he was done and we got to his house, finished taking the groceries inside, always he would try to pay me gas money.  He was very adamant about integrity.  I would never accept his money and after a small look of disappointment, he would reach out his arms for a hug and when we parted he would look me straight in the eye and say, “Listen, I really appreciate it.”  After I told him I liked to help, he would always part with, “Love ya Sis.”

The greatest honor my brother ever gave me was asking me for help.

When he was concerned about our sister, he called me.  He trusted me to help him take action and I could feel our mutual respect.

One day, after battling with his sore legs I went to pick my kids up from my mom’s house and he was sitting in her chair.  We exchanged our regular greetings and then began talking about the condition of his legs.  He said, “Someone asked me if I had a family member that could be an advocate for me at my next doctor’s appointment, and I thought of you.”  My heart still jumps at the thought of those words.  He trusted me to fight for him and I wasn’t going to let him down.  I got the doctor to admit him into the hospital his very next appointment.

Of course, then he was a little irritated because he didn’t have time to go home to get the things he needed.  Brenda and I were sent on the mission to find the VERY SPECIFIC things he wanted.  My brother was kind, compassionate and loving, but he was also picky about his wants and needs.

I always felt like I could relate to my brother.  He had religious issues a lot earlier than the rest of us and he never went back.  When I struggled with guilt or confusion, I could always talk to Craig about it without feeling guilty and without feeling judged.

Like I said, Craig and I didn’t talk every day, but I still felt close to him.  I always knew he was there.  My world was complete because he existed.  Now, my world has a missing piece.  An expected death is hard enough to deal with; an unexpected death is disorienting.

I’m not ready to say good-bye.  I refuse.  It has been almost three years since my father passed and I haven’t said good-bye to him yet either.

I’m sure I am still going to have conversations with my brother, though they will be one-sided.  But at the end of every one of them, I will see my brother locking eyes with me saying, “Love ya Sis.”

I love you too Craig.

Goose

A Few Small (And Large) Things I Learned From My Brother

A Few Small (And Large) Things I Learned From My Brother

  1. Be creative with nicknames.  For instance, if your mother doesn’t want you to call your little sister Ape because it sounds like a reference to, well, an Ape, think of something more creative.  Like Goose.  Because that makes sense.
  2. You can never use, “ya know,” too many times in a conversation.
  3. Always park so there is plenty of room for the passenger to get out.
  4. When people speak with their hands, you may want to get out of the way.
  5. Speak up.  People can’t understand when you mumble.  Especially on the phone.
  6. Keep an eye out for bicyclists and pedestrians on the road.
  7. Don’t ride your bike while intoxicated.  This can create physical problems and incessant teasing from others for an undetermined amount of time.
  8. When someone asks for a ride, they may mean to more than one place.
  9. At the grocery store, make sure the bagger has put the eggs with the bread.  It is a sign of a good bagger.  Otherwise, your eggs may break.  If they haven’t done this, move things around in your bags to make sure your eggs are with your bread.
  10. Always keep a sense of humor.  Even if other people don’t get your jokes, if they make you laugh, they’re worth it.
  11. If someone asks to move a 500 gallon aquarium into your basement and says they will be by to take care of the enormous fish occupying the aquarium, they won’t.
  12. Always look someone in the eye when saying, “I love you,” or, “Thank you.”  Be sure they heard you.  Really heard you.
  13. Be a hard worker, a loyal friend, a loving child and a supportive sibling.
  14. Be forgiving, but keep your dignity.
  15. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
  16. “Love is stronger than death.”

The Not Knowing…

The Not Knowing…

The Sunrise This Morning On The Way To My Brother’s House

I’ve debated on writing about this experience.  Part of me wants to share it, because the more I share the less power it has.  Another part of me wants to keep it all to myself and not let it out into the light.  Perhaps if I don’t speak the words, or write them, this day didn’t really happen.

But it did.

I can’t decide what is worse, the not knowing or the knowing.

Last night when I picked my kids up from my mom’s house she expressed concern over my brother.  He had left laundry with her and said he would need it by Monday.  She thought he had a doctor’s appointment Monday so she arrived at his house, pounded on the door, honked her horn and received no response.  She thought maybe she had the day wrong.  She tried calling and his phone went straight to voice mail.

My mom and brother are very close.  They talk to each other at least every other day if not every day.  He lived alone and my mom lived alone.  They had time for each other.

My brother has disappeared before, but that was earlier in his life.  Recently, he had a condition which caused his skin to slough off of his legs and created sores which would weep and bleed.  It did not make sense that he would not be somewhere, tending to his wounds with a phone readily available.

Today is Wednesday.  The last time anyone heard from him was Sunday night.  On my way to work I thought I would stop by his place, pound on the door, wake him up and put everyone’s nerves at ease.  When I arrived, I had that feeling.  The intuitive feeling that something was not right.  I pounded on his door, shouting his name.  I pounded on the windows which he kept tightly sealed and covered as he usually slept during the day.

I debated on whether I should wake the landlady.  She was elderly and it was 8:00 a.m.  Then, a thought was presented to me, “This is more important.”

I was able to get a couple spare keys from his landlady.  One key worked on the top dead bolt, another key worked on the door knob, but there was a third lock which I did not have a key for.  I couldn’t get the door open.  As frustrated as I was at the time, it turned out to be a blessing.

I called my sister to ask who I needed to contact; she told me to call the Police Department and said she would leave work to join me.  The Police Department sent two cars over right away and tried every means possible to enter the house.

The police officers found a window they were able to pry open.

At this point I was thinking, “They aren’t going to find anything.  Craig is going to show up this afternoon and he’s going to be upset that his window is broken.”  I was so sure, I had even left a voice mail at work saying I should be in by 8:30.

An officer crawled through the window.

My sister asked, “He’ll go to the front door and unlock it, right?”

The second officer said, “Yes, unless he finds something.”

The front door didn’t open.

Why wasn’t the front door opening?  Why?  He should have unlocked it by now!  Where is he?

He came to the window and said something to the officer standing outside the window.

The officer told us, “He’s in there.”

No. No. No. No.

He was NOT supposed to be in there.  At least he had to be alive.

I asked, “Did he pass?”

The officer nodded.

The sounds of grief can be never ending echoes of wailing.

My sister says I shouted, “NO!!!” and looked as if I was going to fall to my knees.  She came over and hugged me to keep me upright.  All I know is I was crying so hard I wanted to throw everything up.  I did not want to be me at that moment hearing that horrible, heart-wrenching news.  I wanted to purge it all out.  I wanted to be someone else who did not love this person so deeply that her heart was going to ache for years over him.

They advised against us seeing him.  They said it would not be a good last memory.  It appeared to be quick and sudden and there did not appear to be any struggle.

I didn’t want to leave him there.  I didn’t want to leave his house.  I wanted my brother back.  I became so angry I wanted to destroy something, even if it was myself.  They made me leave.  I wasn’t ready, but they made me.

I went back later in the day, sat in his driveway and wrote to him.  I left flowers in his door with a note that finished, “Love Goose.” (His nickname for me)

My brother’s battle has ended…

but I feel my battle has just begun…

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