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Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Commercials

One of my guilty pleasures is the tv show Glee.   They recently aired an episode in tribute to Cory Monteith or "Finn", one of the stars of the show.  I don't know when it was actually shown because I tried to watch it then, and made it about 5 minutes before turning it off.  I couldn't do it, but saved it for another time when I knew I could fall apart in the privacy of my own pain. Today was that day.

The opening monologue from his "brother" talked about the numbness and the inability to answer the question of how you're feeling.  He also mentioned the fact that the reason for his death was irrelevant, because regardless of the "how", the end result was the same. His brother was gone.  I agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment.  I also found myself nodding along as each character expressed their surprise at the pieces of him that they missed.

But then came the scene of his mother sorting through the things in his bedroom.  She fell to her knees and talked about how she always turned the station when she heard a story about someone losing their child.  She couldn't bear to watch something so horrible, but always found herself wondering the same thing.  How did they get up in the morning?  How did they breathe?  She then goes on to say that now she knows that you do get up. Every. Single. Day. And for a split second you forget, but then you remember...and it feels like you're hearing it for the first time, again and again and again.  And you have to keep being a mother, even though you no longer have your child.  All of this is so true, so very nail-on-the-head, except...

In real life there is no "end scene".  There are no commercials.  You can't pause the show or turn away when it's too hard.  Trust me, if there were a way to fast forward 50 years from now I'd take it in a heartbeat.  I wanted the mother scene to last forever.  I wanted to watch her and see how she DID get up each day.  I wanted them to show the part where she does the laundry and realizes that his shirts are no longer coming through to be cleaned.  I wanted to see her go to the grocery store and pass an aisle that she could never have skipped before because of the son  who would have demanded his specific favorite.  I want to see if she breaks at that thought, too.  Does she stop and suck in her breath when someone who looks eerily close to her baby walks by?  Does she wonder if today might be a good day to simply stay in bed and forget the list of things she's "supposed" to do?  Are there times when that isn't even a choice, but a demand?  Does SHE ever scream out in the middle of the night, reaching for someone who never reaches back?  Does SHE know the pain of the "never will"?

No.  She doesn't.  Because this is a television show.  But, it struck me that this is how anyone on the outside of my own grief could be viewing it.  It's a television show.  Once they're no longer in my presence they're able to hit pause.  They're able to fast forward to the part of their day that "must be done."  THIS is why grief is so lonely.  Everyone else is given a magic remote while I have to watch all of it in real time.  I don't have the luxury of walking away from the show, the salve that is the commercial, that brief break from the agony.  And while many will gladly come to my "house" and watch my show with me, maybe even provide the kleenex, they'll never give up their remote.  They need to be able to turn the channel, to walk away.  No one wants to trade places. And why would they?

So, lonely is commonplace.  Pain is as natural as walking.  Crying is breathing.  And there are answers to the actresses questions, "how do they get up each day?" and "how do they breathe?"  But, they don't come in hour long tv shows.  They don't come with fancy background music, or impressive monologues.  They come in the eyes of Debbie and Vicki.  In the hearts of Chelsea and Amy. In the kindness and generosity of June and Tiffany. In the compassion of Cathy and Megan.  And maybe someday, even for me.  But there will be no commercials.

Andy Fleer
John Hiland
Racheal Jamison
Caitlyn Bishop
Samantha Otte
Cadan Frericks
Klayton Howell
Molly Mann
Easton Zanger

Monday, October 14, 2013


What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the movie title, Sleepless In Seattle?  Is it Tom Hanks, or Meg Ryan?  Maybe you just get confused and wonder if that's the one where she gets mail?  I think for many of us, the first scene that we recall is that last one.  You know, the one where she leaves her dinner with her former fiance, and begs to take the last trip up to the top of the tower in hopes of meeting her soul mate.  That's everyone's favorite scene, right?  I mean, that's why we're watching the movie...again.

The most infuriating, confusing, painful thing about grief is all of the unknown.  There are so many twists and turns that you never expect, and lurking around each corner is a new way to throw you off of an already foreign landscape.  Everything changes.  Everything.  All that you've known up until that point is either in direct opposition to what you now know, or is so deeply buried in the murky, evil bowels of grief that you couldn't possibly recognize it as anything familiar.  It's insane how even the little moments in your life become wary strangers.  Did you know that every single song, book, and movie you've ever experienced takes on a whole new meaning after you've lost someone you love?  I've been shocked by this fact more times than I can count.  For example, never again will I stop on a station showing Sleepless In Seattle if it's current scene is anything but the very first one.  I don't know that I'd ever even noticed it before, but now it means more to me than the rest of that movie ever could.

The opening scene shows Tom Hanks' character, Sam, in his high-rise office talking to a colleague.  His friend asks about something work related, and Sam becomes angry and throws all kinds of unwarranted hatred toward his costar.  When he realizes he's just had an outburst, he looks at his colleague and says,

"Don't mind him.  He's just a guy who's lost his wife."

No line has ever been more accurate.  When I say that everything changes, that's exactly what I mean. I don't mean that sometimes there are subtle reminders or that I notice some differences every once in a while.  I mean that each breath I take feels and even sounds different.  And while some of these things may eventually return to something more familiar, my essence is forever changed.  I will not be the same person.  My world has been colored with pain and loss.  Even beautiful moments come with a sting that can't be denied. A life without that simple truth will never again be part of my reality.

However, I've noticed that there are people surrounding me that don't judge that change.  They accept that this is my reality, and they even support it.  They never say, "I'll love you if..." or "You should be doing this" or "You're not doing that".  I'm extremely grateful for those people.  I know with certainty that if they haven't freaked out and run yet, they're probably not going to.  I've been horrible and unfair.  I've yelled and screamed.  I've blamed and hated.  And yet, there they are, saying nothing.  Because honestly, nothing anyone has to say will change any of it.  Somehow they know this.  One of my good friends recently said, "I don't know what everyone is looking for.  I still see you.  You're still in there."  Unfortunately this friend understands the expectations of others all too well.  Luckily, we both know that each day that we live being true to who we are, and forgetting what anyone else thinks we should be doing, is the ONLY way to do this.

I assume there will be a day somewhere in the very distant future where more pieces of  the old me will show more frequently.  I also assume that anyone uncomfortable with the current version of me will start to drift back in, and I suppose that's up to them.  I honestly don't think about that very often because no matter what I lose now, it will never be worse than what I've already been through.  I give very little power to anything that doesn't keep me going in the current moment.  But, even if I do eventually find that place of familiarity, I'll remember those who were here for this part.  I'll remember that you held me during the dark moments, and that you talked to me on the phone late into the night even when you were exhausted.  I'll remember that you walked silently beside me as I screamed and cried, and offered a hug when I needed it.  I'll remember that you never said, "I know you're sad, but..." If you give me time, I'll be that strength for you too.  In the meantime,

"Don't mind her.  She's just a mother who's lost her baby."