Tag Archives: grief

Saturday night dragonfly

A dragonfly hovered strangely at eye-level outside my car window in August. I thought it must mean that my friend Joan was dead.

I was stopped at a red light. The dragonfly seemed to hang there for tens of seconds, inches from my face. Then it circled the car twice, whirling a Monarch butterfly in its tailwind over the hood as it swooped away and headed toward the river.

My son was with his father overnight — a new freedom that, for me, felt more like purposelessness. I had a bag of takeout food and no one to eat it with, no little boy to trade grins with and listen to, no one to wrap my arms around.  I looked north, where Joan lay unconscious at a hospice facility. I knew that her daughter was at her side, and that she wanted them to remain undisturbed.

I turned the car in that direction anyway, remembering the spacious rooms where my stepfather had stayed for a few days a little over one year before, the doors that opened to a courtyard so they could wheel the dying outside to soothe them with fresh air. I remembered the kindnesses of the nurses, the aide, the social worker and the spiritual counselor who came to our home; the suspended state that we lived in for two and half months as we watched him die.

It took a couple of weeks for him to let go of living, like watching an old flashlight dimming with episodic flickers of panicky light. We lived as though we were deep underwater, even after the day I saw the final dullness of his eyes, the slack of his jaw and heard myself say, after pressing my hand over his rough rib cage and in search of the faint heart beat that had been there an hour earlier, “I think he really is dead now, mom.”

Joan was the person who regularly pulled me to the surface during that time. She had warmth, a wisdom that sprang from her own intimate relationship with grief and a genuine faith. She gave these enveloping hugs and called everybody she loved familial names like baby, sweetheart, son and daughter. She had a way of saying exactly what I needed to hear, a way of helping me see that I could let go of the things I couldn’t control and sleep through the night after all.

As she moved toward her final stages, I had been out of town. She had already been in that unconscious, transitional state between life and death for days when I returned. I dropped off a letter for her and a note to her daughter the day before. “You are infinite,” I had said. Her generosity multiplied through her dozens of spiritual babies, sweethearts, sons and daughters in a way that gave her a kind of immortality. We who were loved by her reflected what she gave us with richness and brilliance, so it seemed perfectly normal to think that a dragonfly could be Joan.

I slowed down momentarily to look at the stately, house-like hospice structure as I drove past. “Was that you?” I said out loud. “Was it you, Joan?”

I didn’t stop. I headed to a park with a pond that was always bursting with dragonflies. I slathered on bug spray, then watched them skim the water, some stick-thin, some chunkier like elongated bumblebees, all iridescent, all reflecting light.

I was too apprehensive to eat anything but a few bites of watermelon. A little girl, maybe two or three years old, sidled up to me and tried to take my car keys. I can’t remember her face at all, but I do remember thinking that she was beautiful.  She touched the wooden mala beads that I had been praying with as she said hello, then went for the keys again. I tried to hide them. Her grandfather distracted her by suggesting they walk over to look at the ducks. They were actually geese, but it worked. My keys were safe.

I thumbed through om mani padme hum on my mala a third time, sending it to Joan as the sun set. Then I took myself to a coffee shop, where I sat and wrote with a pen in my hand and wished I could unknot the waiting feeling in my stomach. I watched all kinds of people on the street outside as they headed places, looking purposeful. I imagined having that kind of anticipation again – the kind you feel when you are on your way somewhere, looking forward, open to all of the possibilities.

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Endings, beginnings & my first Blogher

It’s a funny thing, this business of living through periods of chaos. A long term illness ends. A person dies. You’re insanely busy getting a funeral together and somehow after that, you think that things are going to get easier, that the natural rhythm of your life will return.

But chaos and I had made peace. I had gotten used to waking up in a house that isn’t my own, bracing my son, my mom or my stepdad in whatever ways I could, then carving out deliberate chunks of time for myself to make sure that I didn’t collapse beneath the constant weight of things. Crisis was this thick brush I could cut through and then look back on. There was this satisfyingly clear path behind me, slivered with grace.

But things got harder when I expected them to get easier. Grief has been itchy, with shooting pains. Sleeping has been harder. I’ve polished off a bottle of Zantac and my right foot has done a lot of tapping in the middle of the night. Another friend died. The idea that I had that I would have a real 40th birthday party for myself later, on a day when we weren’t asking “is he still breathing?” every half an hour didn’t pan out.

But nice things have happened.  I’m an honored blogger at BlogHer ’10. On Friday, in New York City, I’ll find out how some visual artist or photographer has interpreted this post.  I have found the organizers that I will be working with as a volunteer to be utterly gracious and accommodating to a mom who is traveling on her own with a 5-year-old son. When I went looking for a place to stay, I found a truly generous and kind roommate. I became an aunt for the fifth time to an early but healthy boy on Friday.

And when BlogHer is over, I have plans to reconnect with surrogate sisters, childhood friends, family, college friends and past colleagues. Best of all, I have plans to play with my son in the city I identify with my best childhood adventures. We will climb onto a plane today.

I haven’t had time to fret or obsess over who I’m going to meet at this conference. I’m going wit my heart open to people, not products. And I expect little, other than a mallish form of chaos, and I’ve established that I’m good with chaos.

If you’ll be there and want to say hello, look for me liveblogging at several panels, including ones about building community around a cause; grief, loss tragedy and community on the internet; whether personal blogging hurts your professional brand and transforming online places into art spaces.

I will try and tweet the links to the liveblogs as they happen. I’ll also obviously be at the gala on Friday night. Wave your arms at me if you’re one of those people that isn’t too keen on smalltalk. Hope I find you there.

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I’ve run along the periphery of Columbus music for 16 or 17 years, and sometimes right through its center. I’ve written about it, talked about it, consumed it, even married and had a child with one of its central stewards.

Let me tell you, it’s a world full of dudes. Dudes who play, editorialize about, promote, gloat over or criticize, but ultimately love music. Several of those dudes have only ever referred to me by my initials. Why call someone Tracy when you can call her TZT? I’m okay with that. It makes me feel like an honorary dude.

In this scene, there are jerk dudes, frustrated genius dudes, drunk dudes, well-meaning dudes, lecherous dudes, armchair comedian dudes and awkward dudes. And then there are the kind ones. The ones who are generous of spirit and might play in the realm of dudes, but you quickly discover that they are also good, decent men. They are the ones who don’t run away from you when they hear you lost your job or that your grandfather died. They see you out in the city and they walk toward you. They put an arm around you and acknowledge your loss openly, thoughtfully. They say something encouraging or offer a listening ear. The whole thing may last all of five minutes, and you may not see that person again for weeks, even months, but you walk away from a man like that and you just feel happy that you know him. Happy that you walk in the same circles and will surely see him again soon.

The city lost one of those good men this weekend. A man who gave body-crushing hugs and radiated warmth. The news broke last night that Andy “Andyman” Davis – a veteran of local radio – drowned Saturday while on family vacation, and the more that I sit with that fact, the harder I find it to accept.

I’ve seen a lot of friendships made through music. You find out that someone loves what you love, they relate to what you relate to, and suddenly, you are connected. You may drift apart or even have a falling out, but if that person introduced you to a song or artist that’s continued to keep you company, their dearness is never completely lost. Andy is that kind of friend to countless people that he hasn’t even met because he’s been the face and voice of one of our only local, independent stations for so long.

To me, he was a local media colleague and a social friend – someone I probably saw and shared words with weekly to monthly in my twenties and early thirties at my husband’s clubs, Andy’s bar or some other show in the Columbus universe.

He had been a dad for a while by the time I became a mom. Once I made that transition, I only saw him once or twice a year, but our casual conversations shifted. When I saw him at Comfest last year, I got one of his bear hugs before he held onto my hand and stood with me, looking at my son the same way I do – like something miraculous and joyful. He pulled out the pictures of his two boys and told me about his third baby coming. I don’t remember the words we shared exactly, but that feeling of belonging you get when you relate to another person about music? Change that to two music-bound people talking about being parents and the feeling is amplified by a zillion. I love being a mom. I know he loved being a dad. That’s what has my heart caught today.

I’ve been through a fair bit of grief and loss lately, but please don’t feel the need to console me for this one. There are certainly hundreds, likely thousands, who are feeling this loss. Between social media and the airwaves, you can sense our community grieving. My hope is that every one of us who has felt that warmth from Andy, be it first-hand or through the airwaves, can reflect it back to his family — especially his wife Molly and their three sons — and surround them with it for years to come.

You can find information about a memorial fund that’s been established for them at the CD101 web site.

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My son and I went to the grocery store today. It had been days.

As we finished up in the self-checkout lane, an older woman behind us didn’t wait for us to finish bagging before she threw her groceries onto the conveyor belt. One package of applesauce cups came flying down to us. Then another. And another. And another. We could tell where our groceries ended and hers began because of the growing barricade of applesauce.

“Sorry,” she said. But she didn’t stop what she was doing so that we could finish bagging. She looked hurried and preoccupied. I flung the rest off our things into bags and got out of her way as quickly as I could. Not that she noticed.

“That was a lot of applesauce,” said Declan. “Do you think maybe her husband is very sick? Or maybe he could be dying.”

When a person can swallow very little, but still needs medication, applesauce is one way to deliver it.

My stepfather passed away the morning after my birthday.  Quietly. Peacefully. In my mother’s home, where we are staying. It took three days before hospice came and took the hospital bed. It was six days before we held the the funeral.

Today, I woke up thinking about yesterday’s solar eclipse, wondering if it will really change the world as much as astrologers said that it would. Today is the first average weekday since our little world shifted. Our perspective on just about everything has shifted. Including applesauce.

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