In Which Life Stopped but Didn’t

Somewhere, hidden deeply on this blog of rambles and rants is a wise quote. A quote so wise that I’m pretty sure I didn’t say it and that I just paraphrased it. And I’m going to paraphrase it again because I literally cannot remember what I originally wrote.

“when a person doth die, it feeleth as though thine world should cease. Alas, it doth not.”

Moral of that story is that I couldn’t hang with Shakespeare on my best day.  A greater moral is that life truly does move right along with someone dies, and this truth is disturbing to say the least.

After finals wrapped up and I finally conquered Chemistry with a passing grade this summer, I thought that life was on it’s way up hill. Things were looking better and brighter. I felt like I was a young David and my stone had just pierced the delicate flesh on Goliath’s forehead.  Yes, I was victorious that Friday. And then Saturday rolled around. It was hot, of course, and sunny. I mean, it’s Mississippi. It’s hotter than….hot things….My stepdad came in the house, smelling like wildlife and magnolia trees, and told me that he was taking the neighbors fishing.  He’d already been fishing that morning, but was really excited about finally going to this secret fishing spot way out in the woods that our young neighbor knew about. I love to fish, but in that heat I let him have it all to himself. I figured I’d catch a fishing trip with him in the brief weeks between that weekend and the start of the fall semester. So we shared a good laugh, and I joked about him having to drive back to the house to get his phone that he left on the charger. As I watched him through the peep hole of the door, to ensure that he would not be knocking at the door for anything else he had forgotten, I didn’t quite realize that our jovial exchange would be our last.

Earlier that week I’d been having an odd feeling. I kept asking myself what I would do if David (my stepdad) died out of the blue. It was sort of the feeling I got right before my Grandfather passed away, but he had been sick for over a year so death was looming over all of our heads like a storm cloud waiting to erupt. I chalked the feeling up me just being paranoid. When you have anxiety, you’ll ALWAYS think, “well, what if the worst thing that could happen actually happens.” Never fails. It’s the unfortunate part of anxiety.  Well, Ma and I were customizing a pizza order for dinner when the neighbor’s mom came knocking at our door, looking agitated and pained.  As her and ma conversed, I thought that perhaps she was just wondering when David would be delivering her son home, as it was getting dark and the rain, which suddenly began pouring down minutes before, was not letting up.  But my anxiety started escalating as I heard them talking, and I knew something was wrong. And when I heard Ma say the words, “heart attack,” my heart sank. I rushed into the living room to stand beside her as she talked on the phone with the neighbor who had gone fishing with David.  From what I could understand, something had happened and they were thinking it was a heart attack.  Of course, I’m mulling this over like, “A heart attack? Okay, we’re going to go to the hospital and he’s going to have emergency surgery and everything is going to be okay.” Wrong. What Ma failed to tell me is that the coroner was already on their way to the fishing pool. That the neighbor had done CPR for 20 straight minutes to no avail. And that David was already gone.

Driving that long ass forty-five minute drive to the middle of Edwards, MS was like an out-of-body experience. The whole time I just kept thinking this isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t really happening to us. When we finally made it to the scene, the police standing at the road immediately took off their hats and began with the apologies. But Ma was a woman on a mission. Through their explanation of what happened Ma stopped the sheriff and asked, “Okay, where is he?” They pointed us up a long, gravel drive way and allowed us to walk up to where David was laying. Even as we saw him on the porch of the pond owner’s home covered in a black tarp the reality of the situation did not set in. Ma was praying and went bent over David, moving his head so that he faced her. Saying his name and patting him, praying that he could be that Saturday’s Lazarus. But it was not to be. And when they had to move him to a body-bag to prevent the ants from attacking, I just knew deep down inside, where faith and denial intertwine, that he was going to move. That a miracle was going to happen and he was going to bust the zipper on the bag or cry that he couldn’t breath in there. But it didn’t happen. Ma walked around, dazed and calling David’s friend for the name of a funeral home. I was dazed as I saw them lay him on the back of the firetruck and drive him to the front of the driveway to await the funeral home. And we were eerily calm. I’m sure the police officers out there were puzzled as they asked us if we were okay, and we said in even tones, “Yes. We’re fine.” And the wait. THE WAIT. The funeral home did not arrive until 10:00 PM.  So we had to drive home in complete darkness. And if I thought the drive there was bad, the drive home was worse. First off, we got lost, SUPER lost. My phone battery had died and Ma’s was dying, but thank God, we arrived in a church parking lot that was clear enough for us to pick up an internet signal. After Ma’s phone directed us to our designated street which would lead us to the interstate, it died as well. On a night that can make you question the inner workings of God, it also affirms that God was looking out for us. But we silently drove home. No music. No talking. No prayer. Just silence. And this thick cloud of disbelief. He was just fifty-five. It was a beautiful day. He never showed any signs. He is no longer here.

Shock is the most powerful stage of grief I have ever experienced. When my grandfather died, I wasn’t at all shocked. I was expectant. And I was shamefully glad. He had been suffering for months with no relief. His kidneys were failing. He was in pain every second of the day that he was awake. He’d lost more than fifty pounds. I was happy that he no longer had to be in pain in an Earthly vessel which no longer functioned in a manner conducive to living. And when my biological father died I was only five years old. I understood that he was no longer coming back even though I didn’t understand death (and Ma didn’t tell me either), but with the support of our family who assisted us financially and emotionally I adapted to the loss. But when David died all I could think about was how he laughed on his way out of the door. How we were just planning to call him to see what he wanted for dinner right before the fateful knock at the door.  And to make matters oh so worse, we got up Sunday morning and the sun was shining. Cars were driving to wherever their destinations were. And life went right along. Monday came and we searched frantically for life insurance information and life moved on. Tuesday, my brother and Ma had to finalize a funeral home and life moved on. Wednesday, the stress took a toll on my brother and we had to take him to the emergency room. Shortly after getting him back home to rest, Ma and I rushed to a meeting at the cemetery. And life fucking moved on and in my mind I thought this is the most messed up thing. I felt like the whole world should have stopped. I wondered how we could live on, move on. What I needed to do about school. What ma needed to do about the house. Did we need to move back to our hometown? Did we need to sell everything? Panic consumed me and I just wanted everything to cease for just a minute so that I could catch up with the chaos that had unfolded. But it didn’t. It never does.

And then Friday, the day before the funeral, my sister gave birth to a six pound, nineteen inch healthy little girl and I realized that I needed to accept that life does not stop when a life stops. As the newborn baby squirmed in her bassinet, trying to warm up under the heater, the epitome of continuance sank in. Probably for Ma more so than me.  As crazy as it is, we have to move on, and it even sounds heartless to say. We have to move on. Our bodies are still functioning. Our lungs still filling up with air. Our hearts still beating. And we are still living even when we don’t know how.

Every time a person would ask me am I okay I smile and say yes. I joke. I laugh. Not because my stepdad meant nothing to me. Not because I’m made of stone. But because I can cry anytime alone. Anytime. All hours of the day and night. But I’d rather laugh and smile with others, enjoy that moment in life when I have it because once it’s gone it’s gone. Time will not pause for me to grieve. This isn’t to say that everyone should just stop crying and accept death. We each move at our own pace and mourn in our own ways. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to cry or to not cry. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. And I was fortunate and blessed enough to have enjoyed a moment of banter. To have seen his smile and heard his laugh. And when I think of him I see his happiness. His mischief. His annoying habit of busting into the room while I’m taking a quiz, talking on speakerphone with one of his fishing buddies. Or how he always ended a text or a phone call with, “10-4 good buddy.”  I’m glad I got experience having a dad, even if it was for a brief time. And I’m especially glad Ma got to spend a decade with someone who loved her and cared for her. To think that the day that would have been their 12th anniversary was the day she placed a rose on the casket before they lowered it into the ground is gut wrenching. But we’re still here. And we have each other. Plus, all of our family came to town and it was good for us all to be together again. It was like a signal that we needed to do it more often and on more joyous occasions. But we’ll have that chance because, once again, life remains. It hasn’t stopped at all.

I like to think that David is celebrating in Heaven. That he hates he left early and suddenly, but that he knows that where he is now is paradise. I’m still nervous about the future and what it holds for Ma and our family, but I plan to make the best of it. I’m still enrolled in school, and I know that David would want me to finish (he was more excited than me when I returned). And Ma has so many people looking out for her. Trust me, we got mobbed at church yesterday and our family has been texting nonstop.  So while life going on is pretty crazy, it’s also kinda beautiful in a way. But definitely more crazy.

 

Advertisements

Stories Pt. 4

I’ve been peeking into Donald Miller just a tad bit, but I admit that I am guilty of reading another book at the moment.  I’m easily distracted; what can I say? But I’m going to push through my muddled commitments and do a post on stories because I have to dedicate myself to something.  I can’t always quit half way through my plans, ya know.

My last post about stories (or the post before that…who knows) delved into the inclusion of other characters to make for a better story.  But I got thinking about what happens when there is the loss of a major character in your story?  I think about books like “The Book Thief” and “Harry Potter” or even anime (since they specialize in killing people off) such as Naruto and Hunter X Hunter. These all involve a plot line that eventually involves the death of a character to further the storyline.  Unless we’re talking about Naruto in which every single person dies. Not really; that’s a reach, but if you watch the show you know my pain. I haven’t forgiven them for Jiraya yet. Naruto already lost his parents, guys. How could they kill off his mentor like that? HOOOWWWW!?!? Anyway. I specifically mean stories that are going good and then bam, the antagonist dies.  I even consider people who are living pretty terrible stories in which they are fairly villainous and yet continue to live on with no qualms.  It’s entirely intriguing how things pan out in life and almost how unfair life often is.

Back when I moved to Jackson in the eighth grade I started out being very lonely because in those grades, people tend to already have cliqued up.  Since I was the newbie I had to find my place among preformed groups.  One particular group I was invited into involved a guy named Brian who was very laid back, but whenever he spoke it was usually comedy gold.  I ended up taking art class with Brian junior year of high school and our friendship grew because we saw each other more often.  We started a group in the class called LME which stood for the Lame Crew because all of us were corny. It was corny within itself.  I am a thousand percent sure it was my idea because only I could come up with something so idiotic.  But everyone gained a nickname in the group and Brian’s was Rev because he was very much like a pastor in his quiet demeanor, but his vast humor.  Brian also had this bad habit of telling you things about yourself that you needed to hear, but really didn’t want to hear. “Amber, did you know you have cankles?  Your legs are jiggly. Your boobs are sagging.”  And let me tell you, I appreciate him on the boob thing because I was a size C wearing bras with no underwire and that was like wearing no bra at all.  Thanks a lot, Ma. You really didn’t care about me, did you!?!?  But Brian was a gentleman. He always walked my friend Rocky (she had that nickname before the group was formed) and me to class. He would wait for us even if that meant that he might be late for his next class. He made sure no one said anything disrespectful about us or put their hands on us in any intrusive way. If someone tried to grab our legs or some other body part he would step in and say, “Aye, don’t touch them like that. You don’t know her like that.”  After we graduated I went to Mississippi College which wasn’t too far from Jackson, but Brian ended up going to a school miles away though still in the state.  Since we were no longer seeing each other daily we didn’t talk as often.  When I say we didn’t talk as often I meant we didn’t talk at all.  I was caught up in surviving Western Civilization and hanging with new friends I had met in my dorm.  I honestly didn’t think about Brian at all except when he popped up on my Facebook timeline or my twitter feed.  Less than half way through the year I got a message from him asking me how everything was going.  I told him it was all fine other than suffering through Chapel and New Testament (the most boring class I have ever taken to date). I’m used to Brian being a listening ear so I’m droning on about school and how I don’t really like it. I’m sorry, but I talk about things I know best and I know nothing better than myself.  It’s a terrible habit. After my long drawn out complaint, I hit him with the usual “How about you?” You know. You can’t talk about yourself all the time (note to self).  He then told me that his cancer had returned and that not too long after he had moved into his dorm he had to be hospitalized.  I was never aware that he had any form of cancer so I was at a complete loss to hear that he was even further away in St. Jude Hospital.  He of course tried to stay positive by saying that they he had been doing alright and that he had gotten to meet the Memphis Grizzlies. You know when you’re young, you don’t think that people your age die, especially from cancer.  A classmate had passed junior year after a car accident and it was terrible going to school the next day. His closest friends were in the halls screaming because his desk was empty in art class that day.  The grief counselors could only do so much.  But you think of that as a once in a lifetime incident.  Like no one else is going to die until we’re old and crusty.  So as Brian spoke to me about how things were going good, I took him at his word.  In my mind he’s going to do  his treatments and be out of the hospital in a month or two.

Around January we text again and I ask how he’s doing. He tells me he’s still in the hospital, but that everything is fairly okay.  I then ask how he’s doing emotionally and mentally because I know he was excited to start college and that he had to be disappointed because he was spending his freshman year laying in a hospital bed.  “It’s hard. I can’t walk on my own anymore.  I got to go home for Christmas, but I had to come right back.  I’m always tired.  It’s just hard.” (please note it may have been Thanksgiving when he got to go home. I won’t lie and say that I remember which holiday.)  And what do you say to that? No one wants to hear any cliche statements about “it’ll all get better” from someone who still has full functionality in their limbs.  I flat out told him I didn’t have the words to say and that I didn’t know what to say.  He accepted my admission with a deeply understanding kindness.  That’s the last I remember speaking to him. Sometimes in the next couple of weeks I kept thinking to text him, but I got caught up in my self and I never did.  I won’t deny my thoughtlessness in the situation. I should have just picked up the phone and sent a simple text, but I didn’t.  Not long after that I saw a post on FB stating that he had died due to the cancer.  And all I could think about was him laying in a hospital bed, unable to walk, and tired. Until he took his last breath. And that’s just as messed up as it can get.

I find it funny that I’m still kicking around God’s green Earth when I can barely get myself to not sleep the day away, but people like Brian who had real goals and had a real impact on people have their stories end abruptly. Sometimes I start plotting on ways to end my story and yet I wake up another day unlike many around me. The classmate, Chris, who died in the car accident was the same way.  He was a star athlete at the school, his mother’s only child, and an extremely cool person.  He had the status of popularity in school, but he was humble beyond comparison.  He always made our class laugh or smile.  I remember the day after his death I had to go to art class, which was the class I took with him.  I already dreaded what that would be like because the school was already deathly quiet that day and I imagined that class would be worse.  When I say we all were crying, we were all crying. Those of us who weren’t crying were damn close to crying.  Finally after the grief counselors calmed some of the students down and we all sat muddling in our individual grief for about thirty minutes another classmate who had been close to Chris finally said, “Why we crying? Chris would roast us for this. He wouldn’t want us to be in here crying, man.” To which we all laughed because it was true. Chris was king of roasting people about their outfits or something they said so we knew that he wouldn’t want us to spend our whole day in a cloud of sadness. It helped to lift our spirits even though we could all see the empty desk that belonged to him, and we all knew that he would never get a chance to sit in it again.  Stories don’t always end like they’re supposed to.  I wish I could explain why and how, but I can’t.  When his mom got up to speak to the school I wish I could tell her why her son was the only one in the car to die. I bet his best friend, who happened to be the one driving, could explain what happened.  I bet he wished that he knew why his friend was thrown out of the window of the car he was driving. How he was at the wheel, but it wasn’t him who lay in the street dying while a nurse tried to get him to hold on. Yea, it ended up coming down to the message “Don’t speed. Don’t skip school. Wear your seat belt.” But plenty of people speed. I’ve skipped school before. My stepsister to this day STILL doesn’t wear a seat belt. So the question of why still exists.  You know they always say the good die young. I’m not sure how much I support that statement, but I do feel like a lot of good stories end entirely too soon.

I go back and forth with myself about my own life story and about furthering the plot, developing my character, and getting past the conflict.  I have a hard time doing any of that. I mean ANY of it.  You’ve read my whine posts on here. I’m constantly alternating between optimism and depression. But I also think about people who had good stories and didn’t get to finish them and how that’s bullshit on my part because I choose not to live a good story when they didn’t get a chance too.  Now, I do acknowledge that I can’t control how another person’s story ends so if it ends abruptly I literally can’t do anything about that. But I can do something about my own story. And even with those people being characters in my own story I know how much impact they had. They helped push my story along in great ways, so I kind of want to honor them by making sure it doesn’t go to shit in a shoot.  It also makes me wonder about what kind of character I am in other peoples’ stories.  Will they say, “Amber was an asshat” or “I used to cheat off Amber in class” (which is probably true because I’ve been told blatantly that I’ve been cheated off of….like…why….)?  My current job is working in laundry at a hotel. It’s not glamorous and I didn’t even really want the job, but it’s a long story how that all went down.  For a while our housekeepers were short staffed beyond belief and they would get stuck doing 20 rooms each some days.  After I learned how to make beds I went around and helped make up beds in between loads of laundry or at the end of the day.  I still try to help even though they’ve hired some additional help.  Yesterday one of the housekeepers had to leave early for training at her new job.  To make matters worse one of her rooms checked out a day early so she had an additional room to do.  I asked her did she need me to help, and even though she told me she thought she could handle it I went ahead and made up her beds in that room.  She told me she wanted to put my name down for employee of the month for helping her, but I could much less give a fuck about employee of the month.  I want people to say, “Amber really helped me when I needed it,” whenever I do get a new job and leave. To be honest, they don’t even have to acknowledge that I’ve helped at all. As much as they can talk about my hair or my glasses or my annoying laugh they can’t say I didn’t help without it being untrue. One of my coworkers told me that another worker talked about how slow I move when I’m picking up laundry on the floor. And I could give air to a fish for how much I cared. Because for what someone says negative about me, I ensure they can say something positive. I’m not really doing much, but I’m trying to do something because I hate not to leave a footprint. And I’d really hate to be an useless character in someone’s story.  See guys, I’m not as anal and asshattish as I sound on here.

As I end this, my cousin texted me and told me that he was watching an anime and how it didn’t look like it would have a happy ending. And let me just say Anime is the devil, Naruto is trash, and I am sick of being treated this way!  Also that in reference to my last post about being broken I’m doing better, but I’m still sleeping too much and not eating right now.  I’ve learned to just take a hot shower whenever I think about self harm and I’m supposed to be going to get a tattoo on Friday to help divert my attention from it. So bear with me. I’m trying not to get on here and go into a full blown depressive rant, but we know how that goes.

 

When the World Doesn’t Stop Spinning

I hope that this post does not offend anyone. I don’t believe the contents are offensive, but each of us has a different level of sensitivity so I can’t say that it won’t touch someone the wrong way. If you find that you are the one who is wrongly touched, please charge it to my head and not my heart.  I’m not going to dedicate too much of this post to the details of the tragedies that occurred yesterday. For one there were a number of them so that would take quite a bit of research. But the main reason is that I don’t feel like it’s my place to say too much about them. It is not that I feel that its “none of my business,” but its because I feel like it would be a tad disrespectful for me to speak on something that I did not experience.  A story is better told by a main character than an outside witness. This is not to downplay those who are dedicating posts or pictures to what has happened, but I have just never felt comfortable doing that.

Now I said that to say this: when things such as the terrorist attacks in Paris or the earthquake in Japan happen I feel extremely powerless.  Of course, I’m not a god so I can’t stop an earthquake nor can I prevent someone from committing heinous acts against our fellow humans but to me that just feels like a personal problem. It feels like due to some weakness or insignificance of mine I can’t step in and save someone. It’s a disconcerting feeling. I recall when 9/11 occurred. I was in the 4th grade when the announcement came over the intercom, and our teachers turned on the little corner television. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen for what felt like hours of watching replays of the planes hitting the towers. Then we were packed up and shipped home to our families who sat glued to the couch watching replays just the same.  In a very foolish manner I blamed myself for the attacks. I’m not even going to go in full detail of my mindset of that (because I was a little weirdo…). I had no connections with the hijackers and I’m obviously not going to send a plane filled with people flying into a building filled with people. I was just a middle schooler from Mississippi watching buildings collapse and planes explode. But I went to bed that night, and I woke up the next morning. I went to bed the next night and woke up the next morning. I went to bed over a hundred nights and woke up over a hundred mornings.  Time didn’t stand still. The world didn’t stop spinning. School wasn’t cancelled. My mom’s job didn’t tell her to not come in work any days following. Life went on. And that is just one of the most fucked up things about tragedy. Life always keeps going. There’s not a moment to stop and recover. There’s no opportunity to say, “you know what God? I need a break. Can we just pause for like a week or a month? Maybe a whole year?” I know people always say, “Time heals all wounds” (whatever Adele!), but in my opinion that’s just purified BS. Time can’t even heal a physical wound much less an emotional one. If you poke at a cut, pick at the scab, suffocate it, keep it too moist, etc then guess what? That cut is going to take its sweet baby Jesus time healing. It may never heal. In fact, it may end up getting infected and getting worse over time. Time is never a healer though it is required in the healing process.

I know I’m being cynical and ask your forgiveness in my lack of optimism, but my heart just goes out to those who are suffering right now. Whether it be from the fact that they were injured, the fact that they know someone who was injured, or the fact that someone they loved didn’t make it.  I feel for those whose sense of security has been shattered. Those who are expected to pick up and move on at some point in their lives because that’s what healthy people do. Those who have been blatantly robbed and left searching for whatever good remains in this world. Because this world is good. Even if the news plays the same reels about death, injustice, crime, and hate. This is a beautiful and good world we live in with some not so beautiful or good people. With some pretty messed up natural occurrences that wreak havoc and reap destruction. And it’s things like this that can make even the bluest of skies the grayest. It’s what makes you feel like, “what am I doing here? What kind of world am I living in? Why should I stay?” And it takes a lot of power and endurance to push through that and press on. I commend the strength of those who stand and say that they are not afraid. I am miles away and even I am afraid, but you wear your courage boldly without stripping away your grief. To those who have suffered a tragedy that may not be on the scale of terror attacks or earthquakes you still deserve commendation. You too have suffered and yet press on.

I wrote something a while ago and I ended up going on Customink and making it into a t-shirt. “I have found death to be inconvenient. Living, all the more so.” Life can truly be inconvenient. Life, for some strange reason, can kick your ass and burn your cookies. Then show up to your door the next day asking for a cup of sugar. Life is just straight up weird, even questionable. We cling to it, we throw it away, we decide if someone else’s is worthy of continuation, and we decide if our own is worthy.  Life is life. Life just keeps on going. And it takes a hell of a lot to keep going with it.