My Old Dog Is Dead

“And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead, and that first world, that old house, is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost, or sold- but more books bought, and in another place, board by board and stone by stone, like a house, a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things: loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy- and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and Amazons flowing.”
— Mary Oliver (Blue Pastures)

Jaari and Douglas

Old dogs lie buried in the garden here, a place where, in another lifetime, my husband, children, companion animals and I once lived, where my parents once came to share our lives and bear witness.

Dougie and I grieved for each one who departed; when we sold and left the only home he had known behind.

We moved to a sheltered place and comforted one another.

Now my old dog is dead too. I know! I held him close to my heart as he died.

Dougie is gone, joining those, so many whose hands/paws we held, watched as they went.

Soon I will be leaving this place that offered safe harbor, taking his ashes to mix with the ashes of others.

I am moving to make yet another fresh start, selling more, giving away more, but, taking memories of happy family days to weave and wrap around me.

I will go to another place where I will scatter mixed ashes and, little by little, piece by piece, rebuild.

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should have known

I have been descending into a well of grief for my daugther, for both the children I raised, for the abscence of one and the betrayal of the other.  I don’t know why now, why it was necessary to be overwhelmed once again by the evil intent and the lies that took my child, my freedom, my reputation, and my well-being.  But down I go.  Today in particular I found myself made almost helpless by the pain.  Why?  I didn’t call it to me.  I didn’t go digging for it.  It came to me.

Finally I put aside my attempts to do anything productive and went upstairs to lie on the old couch and just listen to the traffic whoosh by until I fell into an uneasy half-slumber.  And then…Ah…there it was.

I am sensitive to the energies of certain people, extraorindarily so, and you can just balk at that if you wish, but I heard her voice through the window, my heart went THUD, and I knew what was stirring my wounded soul such as it is.  The child returned.  The child I raised.  The one who accused me of terrible things that almost put me behind bars.  The accusation that had my daughter taken away and kept from me until her death.  The one who devastated my life.  She came to visit for Father’s Day.

And so we sat together at the table making cautious small talk.  Avoiding talk of what she’d done to me, to all of us, lest she get up and walk out.  The idea in my mind to build back the relationship (with her fatehr, at least) to the point where she’s again old enough(17 now) to face me over what she did.  *sigh*

What bullshit.  I’m such a fool.  Eventually I just came right out and called her on the audacity of faking an injury in order to destroy my life.  Out the door she went.  After she swore that she didn’t fake the injury.  It’s been so many years now she’s convinced herself that her story was true. 

I feel so tired I can barely move.  Utterly joyless.  Weeping inwardly. 

You know what?  I still desperately want my family back.  Death precludes the return of one child.  And the other?  The other just stood in the kitchen and declared, “I just don’t take anyone’s shit.  If you bug me, I’ll make their life a living hell.  I’ll make them wish they were never born.  They just won’t believe what I’ll do to their lives.” 

I believe her.  She was smiling when she said it.  She was also smiling when she – just before that – asked her father to buy her a car. 

It’s time now for the storybook ending: the protagonist (moi) shakes it off and finds something new to fill the void left by Family.

But I am sad.  So sad today. 

steph

when it rains

When it rains, it pours, and sometimes the accompanying winds threaten to take the roofs right off what little shelter we have in the world.  And sometimes…sometimes the roof goes. 

Heather Blakey, webmistress, teacher, guide, guru, Friend, is in the eye of such a storm yet again.  I have not offered her any words of wisdom or comfort because, one, she is older and wiser than I, and two, could any word be true enough to comfort a daughter watching her mother die?  Not from my personal experience on the matter.  And so I’ve read the kind words sent from others and wondered about storms and grief, my own grief and memory of grief rising up like the floods on the Canadian Prairies. 

Heather’s mother has cancer of the eosophagus, and I lost a very, very dear and important friend/guide in my life to that just a few months ago.  Her absence is very keenly felt in my life today.  Tears well for her near daily every time I go near my gardens, a subject we discussed often.  Elizabeth loved gardening and adored all plants, but she was wise enough to assure me that “A weed is ANYTHING you don’t want in your garden, my love.  If you don’t like roses, then OUT they go, and don’t you feel a whit of guilt about it.  A garden is supposed to be a thing of pleasure, not a task to be tended to grudgingly.  Make it what you love and to hell with what anyone else says.” 

The most important women in my life, and I think the most important women on earth indeed, are those who are strong enough and smart enough to encourage the world’s daughters to tell society to “go to hell and just let me live as I was meant to live, in peace, in beauty, in pleasure.”  From what I have heard, Heather’s mother is such a treasure, and so her weakening condition is a heartbreak that touches all intelligent women. 

I wish Heather a continued connection with that deep down still spot inside her that withstands the ebb and flow of every flood, and the force of every emotional hurricane.  I can think of nothing more to say in the face of a normal but nonetheless devastating pain of life.

Love and honour,

Steph

Remembering Joey

joey4

Four years ago today we lost my nephew Joey. His death was sudden and unexpected, having been healthy and having just celebrated his 24th birthday one week prior.

joeysmile

I’ll always remember Joey as an exuberant young man. When he loved someone or something, he loved them completely and enthusiastically. Growing up, he had faced his own challenges but that never stopped him from wanting to help others.

joeywithkaty

I am saddened not just because we all miss him so much but because I feel the world is missing his presence as well. At the time of his death he had just really come into his own, “found himself” if you will. His faith and connection with God had deepened and his focus had clarified and he really seemed to know where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do with his life. And what he wanted to do was just so typically Joey. He wanted to help people. He wanted to make the world a better place.

joeyatpapaswedding

Although I am still deeply saddened by his loss, I recall his funeral and believe it or not, there are things from that which make me smile. The church was packed to the point that it became standing room only – all those many many people who had been touched by Joey’s presence in their lives. And then they came forward, the people wanting to express their sympathies. Each one of them had a story about Joey – a story about the love they had felt from him, about how he had helped them in one way or another, be it by act or by example.

dadandjoey

It’s thinking back on this and on the time I got to spend with Joey when he was here on earth that I realize…he may not be here physically with us anymore, but his presence will always be felt by those who knew him.

Kelly

peonies blossom

wild grasses grow tall

the mulberry matures

and the scent of lavender wafts by

from I don’t know where

but death seems stronger than life

when I remember how

I held her in my arms

and felt her body become still

as the last breath left her

then cried as my beloved was

carried away wrapped in a quilt

Stephanie K. Hansen © 2009