Tags: lynn

My Lost Loves

This past Saturday was my baby boy Cole's 10th birthday party. It occurred on what would have been Shane's 33rd birthday had he lived. For those new to this blog, Shane was my best friend who died suddenly in 2000 and Cole is his only son, who was 3 years old at the time of his death. It's been very hard trying to carry on with our lives and we meet that challenge with the usual successes and failures, and sometimes extraordinary failures and marginal successes.

I miss him every day of my life. Each summer as the date of his death approaches, I start thinking about what was, what could have been, and what never will be. In part this is also because I've lost many people - family and friends - around this same time of year. My childhood best friend was raped and murdered when we were six years old. My best friend when I was a teenager committed suicide when we were 14, and then Shane so unexpectedly on the year I turned 30. As if this all isn't enough, I have stockpiled my grief because there is not just so much of it I cannot even get to, but so many people I mourn the loss of. Confound this by the fact that I have had to weather the loss of multiple family members in succession more than once. Five years ago I lost 3 in the space of 2 months (Granny, my Uncle Kelly, and my Grammert), and two years ago it happened all over again - three more (my oldest aunt, my cousin Lynn, and my cousin Robb) in less than 2 months. Three years ago we lost Lynn, the mother of dimpledoo and the woman that daisy_down and myself viewed as a surrogate mother.

To be perfectly honest, I cannot process all of this grief so I do the best I can with it. Sometimes - most times - I am pretty okay in the grand scheme. I've learned ways to live with all of this, and I do the best I can with what I have. I've learned how to ebb and flow with all of this, I know when it is time to cast out my emotions and when to reel them back in so they don't overwhelm me to the point of no return. I've done that already many times before, and it's almost too difficult to recover from, which I believe is the same desperation that invariably led me to heroin so many years ago. I'm sure that sounds odd to many, but it was the first thing I found that allowed me to get by and simultaneously take all of my feelings down to zero. I don't think much about my involvement with drugs because I've made that lifetimes ago in my mind and I just cannot bring myself to revisit that time for too long before I start feeling the urges and the desperation that compelled me to make that choice in the first place, and besides - that is just not a part of my life anymore, so I leave it where it deserves to be - far, far behind me.

Sunday D and I were grocery shopping when I came around the corner of the baking aisle and saw a little old lady walking toward me that looked amazingly like my Grammert, who is one of the people I lost two years ago. Those of you who know me well know and understand that I don't cry in the presence of others unless you're a lifetime friend of mine or unless I absolutely cannot help myself, but as soon as I saw this woman and it struck me how much she looked like Grammert, I burst into tears. Right there in front of all kinds of people and during a busy shopping weekend, I came unglued for a few minutes and had to collect myself. I've also been thinking about how in a few short months, it will be a year ago that Elissa & her father died. That was the catalyst for me being where I am right now - back in mourning and alternating between being very sad, very hurt, and VERY angry. Yesterday I cried so much I gave myself a headache. Today I'm tuning up my bike for the first big ride of the year, which I'm taking before too long. I need to get out in the air and sunshine and ride along the river and make peace with what I can.

hanukkahmonica sent me an email yesterday telling me that today is the birthday of another special Shane, 7 year old Shane Bernier. He has had leukemia for two years now. He hasn’t asked for money or toys or anything like that for his birthday today - instead, he would like to break the world record for the most birthday cards ever received. He has received over a million so far, but his goal is 350 million. That is Shane's wish. It doesn't matter if he gets a card after his birthday, he still wants one from all of us. Make one or buy one, but send it to him.

I'm going to explore downtown and Linwood on my bike and go picture taking, so I'm off. Be well, everyone. Make sure the people you love know that you do.

20 Years Is A Long Time.

June 28, 2006

20 years ago today the most important person in my life, my friend Staci, committed suicide. In two days it will be the 6th anniversary of the death of my friend Shane, Maggie's first husband and Cole's Daddy. I get especially sensitive to Cole during this time, because I go back to the promise I made Shane that I would always look after and take care of him and of Maggie. This whole month is always a wierd, haunted thing for me, especially this year given the fact that it was just last summer around this time that I lost two cousins I grew up with and lived childhood through. My cousin Lynn died last summer after a life-long, excruciating battle with Hemophilia and a valiant 10 year fight against AIDS. My cousin Robb died when the car he was driving was run over and subsequently crushed by a tractor trailer at 70 MPH on a highway, killing him instantly or so they say. From the look of the car, I cannot imagine how he could have lived longer than that after the impact. Their deaths, as well as that of my oldest Aunt, were all within the space of a month and a half.

I've been thinking a lot about all of them lately, and this year instead of the usual melancholiness that comes I am also feeling a lot of bitterness and anger. Mostly because I feel cheated and ripped off. They should all be here, they should all be here to know and love D and support him as much as they supported me. They should be here for when I'm going through something and go through it with me. We should all be spending Sunday dinner together and sharing bottles of good red wine, we should be watching the kids all playing together and experiencing them being like we used to be. We should have had more time together.

I'm sure that all of this stuff weighing on me right now is playing part into why I feel so edgy and out of sorts. I didn't really think about it until just now, but it makes perfect sense. Actually, I always do this. I start being a cranky, grizzled bastard and before I even know it BOOM! - I remember what's around the corner. I'll want to be with my family and friends, and then in the blink of an eye I want to be completely alone. I want to go somewhere and do something, then a second later I don't want to do anything at all. Things that normally just roll right off of me are setting me off and getting under my skin in a bad way. Part of that is not having my pictures. I have pictures of Shane and of Robb, Mama has pictures of Lynn but I have no pictures of Staci. There is a picture of her (my favorite picture of her, as a matter of fact - I dressed her for it) on her grave marker. I might go to the cemetery and take a picture of it and see if I cannot Photoshop it or something.

All of these things put me in a frame of mind where I just miss the people I've lost (and there are many more I haven't even mentioned) and it makes me difficult to suffer I'm sure. This is the only time of the year that I really allow the part of me that feels especially empty to be indulged and given attention. Because if I allowed it to be open for very long, I'd be swallowed by the sadnesses that come home to roost in me during the summer and I'd stop being me. I like being me, I don't want to be anyone else and I certainly don't want to be the self destructive mess I used to be. It works for me to allot a particular time to feel things I can only stand to feel in small doses. At least that way I can compartmentalize it later and continue on doing the things I have to do to get by. You cannot be down all of the time, at a certain point you have to be responsible for owning your feelings and deciding that even though you may not want to, you may not feel like it, you have to get your ass up and get moving.

This weekend the family leaves for vacation and I go to spend the majority of the week with D. Tomorrow I'm tuning the bikes up and getting them ready for a bike trip on the riverwalk this weekend. I'm going to be very meditative and I'm going to do some yoga and sit quietly by the river. I'm going to wake up and have coffee and remind myself that in spite of everything I feel weighing on me, I have a fantastic life full of love and acceptance and respect, honor and support and laughter, and I'll change the things I miss into the things I don't have to miss because they're all around me, all the time, and they need me to be a better and whole me.

I am about to take Avery and put her down for a nap, then I'm going to make myself a very indulgent cup of Sweet Dreams with lavender honey and get my shit together for today. Maggie called to inform me that in lieu of cooking dinner, we're going to eat sushi until we go blind, which is always the best of antidepressants.

June 30, 2006

I want to feel better tomorrow, somehow unburdened by all of this. I've felt completely introverted and disconnected all day long. Vacation begins tomorrow, it's been a long time coming. Much unproductive late sleeping and napping will occur.

I'm ready for this hurt to all be over now, I'm waiting on the change in seasons.

I'm much happier in the Fall, it is my favorite time of year. We're going to be under another heat advisory today - it was 105° yesterday, predicting 110° for today. I want to go to the mountains this Fall, I want to sit beside raging white water all wrapped up snugly in my fleece, and I want to jettison all the mental and emotional negativity that has damned near choked me to death all Summer long. I feel it welling up in me, the need to let it out and let it go coming with the change in seasons.

I'm only going to recap a few little somethings of Robb's funeral on Friday and my experience as a pallbearer for the first time, which despite my grief I felt as high an honor as I've ever had bestowed upon me. Standing there in the presence of other cousins, seven of us in total, felt overwhelming and soothing at the same time. There was a beauty in the experience that was completely singular and unparalleled, and though I'd do it again without hesitation for someone else I loved deeply, in a very fundamental way I hope never to have to again.

At several points before the funeral when my family was receiving family and friends, I got overstimulated and had to leave the room where Robb's coffin sat beneath the biggest, most beautiful spray of roses and calla lillies I've ever seen before. It was so big in fact it had to be carried in a van to the cemetery, it wouldn't fit on the coffin in the hearse. There were gorgeous flower arrangements from one end of the room to the other. When I returned to the room at one point, D pointed out one particular arrangement that my Aunt had made specially. Her daughter is my cousin Sherydane (pronounced Sheridan), and is a lesbian. It was an arrangement of daisies and baby's breath and ivy, with two different clusters of ribbons on it. One was a rainbow in bold colors, the other a rainbow in pastels. D explained that she'd told him the ribbons were to represent both Sherydane and I, and how sweet and thoughtful he thought it was. Of course I had to leave the room again after that.

When we first arrived in Rome, we went straight to Mama's. She absolutely adores D and they constantly fawn over one another, which always makes me feel better to see. I think throughout the day she told him she loved him and hugged him about 30 times, no lie. We sat her down and told her that I'd proposed to D and he had accepted, and she as completely elated. She started to cry, but I told her if she cried I woud cry, then D would cry, and who would save us then? She was so proud and so happy. Before leaving and so I could prepare myself for it, I asked her if it would be an open coffin, and her face changed as she shook her head 'no'. I was then reminded that it took over 4 hours to cut his body out of the car. The three of us went to the funeral home, and it was already buzzing with people. Once I got into the room, I saw Phyllis (Robb's mother and my cousin). She was talking to her sister, my cousin Ann. I'd been told already that she was taking all of this rather well, considering her youngest child was lying dead in a wooden box directly behind her. She was even smiling, and then she saw me walking cautiously toward her. It felt like the room stopped and all eyes were upon us and I took her in my arms trying desperately not to fall apart, until I felt and heard her sobbing and clinging to me tightly. She told me that she didn't know how she was going to live without him now, and I told her that I wasn't sure either but we were going to have to try - and then it happened. "I just saw him last weekend. One of the very last things he said to me was about you, he asked if I knew whether or not you were still in Columbus because he had been thinking about you, he missed you." I can vividly recall every point in my life where I've stood there and literally felt my heart break, go blubbery inside my chest, and all of my will and strength pool at my feet. I felt that again on Friday twice. The second time was when I saw my cousin Linda (Lynn's mother) who explained to me that she wasn't sure that she could take anymore, having just buried both her mother and son in the space of one month just before losing Robb. I held her as she cried and told me about Lynn. I explained to her that I wasn't told of his death until after the fact, and she expressed gratitude for that. "First Mama, and then Lynn. It was the most awful death I've ever seen, you cannot imagine it. Everthing was shutting down and he just wouldn't let go. It was just awful. He wasted down to only 65 pounds. And now this." Before the service began, only family was allowed in the room. My cousins Keith and Brian, also pallbearers, explained that we would be able to view Robb's body. I was quite startled at this revelation, but was reassured that they had spent an extra day preparing him and that he wasn't as bad as I had expected, given what he was put through. Pallbearers went before the coffin first, and I started to look but turned my head and cried as soon as I saw the stitches in his face.

My cousin Terri, whom I rarely get the opportunity to see, eventually showed up and kept by my side along with D and Mama for the duration of the day. I cannot tell you how much better that made the day passing for me went. She kept D company when I was away from him and they sat together in the chapel while I sat with my pallbearer cousins. Seeing him with my family, being embraced (literally and metaphorically) by them all - even having his life threatned by Terri should he ever hurt me - was a huge sense of comfort in the midst of all the pain. As soon as the graveside service was over and everyone was set to leave, I told Mama that I had to go home. I couldn't take any more of this, I wanted to go home. We said our goodbyes to everyone and returned to Mama's, where she brought out the old photo albums, and showed D all of these pictures from my childhood which I know he loves doing.

It started to rain, and I decided that we needed to hurry up and get on the road for the three hour drive home. From the street corner we looked up and saw Mama waving down to us from her apartment window. I called my sister shortly afterward to recap the day, and when I got to the part Linda told me about Lynn, she told me something that ended the day for me emotionally on a sweeter note that defined for me the human spirit and will, the strength and determination that runs so deeply in my blood.

This past Spring, Lynn wanted annuals planted in front of his house. By this time he was so sick he couldn't stand and could barely sit up for very long periods of time. He knew that his time was coming and he'd never see another Spring, but he wanted to leave a sense of rebirth that was exclusively his own during this seasonal time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Everyone offered to plant the flowers, but he insisted on doing it himself. He made them put sleeping bags on the ground outside of the house, and he spent days crawling around on them planting his flowers until it was finished exactly as he wanted it. And that's who he was, and who he will always be to me. It's that part of our blood that cannot be told anything otherwise once we set out on something.

There is always a better time. I am confident I'm going to be alright now.

In every heart, there is a room...

Yesterday morning I went to Tarah's parent's house to spend some time with her and the family. She wanted me to help her write her mother's obituary, which we did while also going through about 10,000 pictures with her stepfather and little sisters. We drove downtown to the Ledger to turn in the obituary and have them scan in the picture of Lynn to appear in the paper alongside it, and to allow her the opportunity to get out of the house for a bit. After we finished up at the paper, we wandered around downtown for a bit so she could see how much it had changed and pass the time. Around 2:30 or so we made our way back to the house, where we found out more news about Lynn that go along with her final wishes.

To know Lynn Slaker, you would have had to know that her life was all about service to her children and the community at large. She was very active in the PTA and the clothing bank, she was on the Library board, and spent a lot of her time and energy working for the benefit of others. She was all about giving, it was her nature. Lynn felt that all children were her children, which is partly why there were so many around her all the time. It was one of the things we all loved most about her. We spent the rest of the afternoon planning for the memorial service this evening.

Lynn did not want a funeral. She, like her husband Chuck, and not unlike myself, feel that putting a family through the misery and torture of a funeral home is completely unnecessary. She wanted a memorial service and she wanted to donate her body to research. The Medical College of Georgia is taking her body. They will use it for a year, possibly a little longer. Chuck explained to Tarah, the children, and I that he was concerned about what will happen to her body after this time passes, so he asked the head of the research program about it. The man explained that there is an onsite crematory, as they do not trust outside services for the people they use. After her time is spent there, she will be cremated and her remains sent to Chuck in an urn. Sitting at the family's table, Chuck held Tarah's hand and through sobs explained "See? Mama gets to give for another year and then she's coming home." Despite all of our aches and tears, this was happy news - if for no other reason because it is exactly as Lynn would want it to be.

The PTA has set up a memorial fund in her name for the children and any medical bills incurred, which are substantial. They are also voting on an annual student award in her name, which I think would make her very proud. I find it very indicative of Lynn and her ability to affect change and make a difference that even in death, she continues to give in more ways than one. There is a story in this morning's paper about her, and her memorial service is this 7PM this evening at St. Mark's church. Her 17 year old daughter Merideth, the 4th of her 6 children, will be singing Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" in honor of her mother. I wished we all had as much resilience and strength as Lynn's children have, perhaps her greatest legacy to them. Chuck, the children and I are going to scan and print out some of the pictures of Lynn for the service later this morning.

Chuck and I agreed that of all the pictures, this one was our favorite. It shows her just as we choose to remember her, loving the kids.

Thank you all on behalf of the family for all of the well wishing and energy, it is greatly appreciated.

Lynn, I love and miss you and am grateful for all of the love you've given me in return over the years. A significant part of who I am comes from your examples, I am honored to have always been considered a part of your family, and will do my best to keep them as I do my own.
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Today, I hate even the mere idea of God.

Yesterday while in Atlanta I got a call on from Christi on the cellphone. "Tarah just called me, she's flying into Atlanta at 12:50 on Air Tran. Lynn is on life support, I don't know for how long now, but they've decided that it's time. I know you're there, and I'm on my way up to the airport in just a few minutes." All I remember saying is "I'll meet you in the same place at the airport terminal." I walked into Brian's apartment and sat down, Damien asked me what we needed to do and I told him I wasn't sure just yet. I felt like I'd just gotten the shit kicked out of me.

Tarah got off the plane all smiles and open arms, just to prove to us that she was okay. Like there was even a question, it is her way. She will process this in her own time, but for now there's work to be done. After we hugged our hellos and introduced her to Damien, we started walking towards the train station. I reached for her hand and once she took it and held it she began to explain what she knew up until that point. Christi and I listened as she recounted what happened, and we got on the train. After a short train ride, Damien & I got the two of them to the exit in the station, and I told Tarah I'd see her at home either this evening or tomorrow.

I got down to the platform waiting on the train and thought aloud that I did good, I didn't cry in front of her. I started remembering something Lynn said to me years ago while I was either visiting their house or picking Tarah up to go who knows where, probably somewhere we never should have been. I called out to Tarah (whose name I've always pronounced "Terrah') to hurry the hell up, when Lynn called out to her as well, pronouncing her name different altogether. She called her "Taaarah", with an A sound like when you stick your tongue out for the doctor. I looked at her and said "Gone With The Wind?" Lynn just looked back at me with her sweet face, seldom without a smile, and grinned at me. Now that I think about it, in all the years I've known her I can seldom remember Lynn ever speaking anything without a smile on her face while she was doing it.

Tarah called me close to 10:30 last night. "Hey darlin', it's Tarah. I just wanted to let you know that she's gone..." We talked for about 20 minutes or so, and I told her to get some rest and that I'd talk to/see her tomorrow.

I'm about to get a shower and head over to the house. Send us all good energy today, please.
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