grief


Dear reader: I know it’s been more than a year since I’ve published anything. Let’s just say my attentions have been elsewhere. But I’m hopeful that with this post, the ice jam has been broken and I’ll be writing more again in the future. In the meantime, I hope you appreciate this brief entry below.
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Fog rolls in on Lake Superior sunset.

Ten years today you left this earthly plane, you left your cancer pain, and you left us heart-broken.

But time hasn’t faded my memory of you – and of us – because still, I can see your smile, still hear your voice, still feel your kisses, and still know the warmth of your caress. 

And I know that you’ve been watching over us, too, in spirit. I can feel your presence, and occasionally hear your commentary, as if you were walking beside me. We talk that way, too, you know. 

We have so much to be proud of since you’ve passed over in spirit. Two grandsons to start with! They are the light of my life and they talk to you, too, grandpa! Especially T. 

Family preparing for sunset photos as the fog rolls in on Lake Superior.

And I know you were there in June up in the upper peninsula when our youngest daughter, now in her early 30s, was married to her own love of her life. We all felt your presence there… the fog rolling into the harbor as we started to gather for pre-wedding photos at sunset. Then there was the bald eagle flying near the window as we enjoyed families together for the rehearsal dinner. It was an interesting choice, Keith, since previously I’d seen your animus in the form of a Great Blue Heron. But the Eagle is a bird of the north and so it was right.

At the ceremony, we knew you were there smiling when your name was mentioned in honor, as Stassia wore the necklace with the cremation diamond you and she helped plan, as the sunshine and blue skies blessed the day on the shores of Lake Superior, and as our grandsons played in the pebbles picking out the pretty ones they wanted to keep as treasures.

But today, this morning, on the tenth anniversary of your departure from this physical plane, you had to have been so proud of Sarah, our first born, who was honored with the college’s President’s Award of Excellence. Five years ago she joined the college where I work as a temp and then as an independent contractor taking on special design projects. She has comported herself with humor, professionalism, and patience even while dealing with the challenges that were thrown her way. 

When they called her name, Keith, I nearly jumped out of my seat! Our baby girl (now in her mid 30s, of course) was being recognized on this very day, the tenth anniversary of a very painful dark day. But on this day, today, she was given a bright light to shine on the legacy you helped create. 

I miss you dearly, Keith, and I feel your love every day. I have discovered that a heart can grow to love more, to make a new life with another partner, even when my heart had been badly broken. The scars are there, still. But they are worn lines now, serving as symbols of strength and resilience. Today, on this tenth anniversary of a dark day, Sarah accepted this special honor in your memory. Today was a day of light.

The past two weekends brought three mass shootings (yes, technically Gilroy didn’t result in enough deaths to be classified as such… don’t care… it was intended to cause terror and death), and I’m left shaking my head in an attempt to try and make sense of it all. But who can make sense of this insanity? It’s like a group of Americans are suffering a shared psychosis of hate and paranoia, and, combined with access to high capacity weapons, are acting on it.

While I continue to process the horrific events, one of them in the state next door to where I live, and in an area I just drove through about 5 weeks ago, I instead will share the impassioned and thoughtful words of a person I have called my spiritual friend.

Nan O’Brien-Webb wrote the following and shared it this morning on FaceBook, and she captures the outrage, anger, and demand for sensibility that I feel but cannot yet describe in my own words. These are hers and she has given me permission to share it here. Being a former radio professional, she recorded her response and I encourage you to listen. The written word cannot capture the pain we hear in the sound of her voice, a pain that we’re all feeling as we try and make sense of the chaos that has been growing around us.

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Soapbox alert (Dayton and El Paso)

by Nan O’Brien-Webb

Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/nan-obrien/soapbox-august-4-2019?fbclid=IwAR0g_sGRYAPyQBrq1Plz4x6XI1_MWYU7jCbRCI8b-uJSA5msywOxGPaE2T0

Written text of the audio file:

People enjoying a summer night (Dayton) and families shopping for back-to-school supplies (El Paso). Two mass shootings in two cities almost 1,600 miles apart. These law-abiding citizens who were doing nothing more than going about normal daily activities have now joined a club to which no one wants to belong – “I was at the scene of a mass shooting.”

Just one week ago, on Monday, July 29th, the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, was the site of yet another shooting spree, where three people – six-year-old Stephen Romero, thirteen-year-old Keyla Salazar, and twenty-five-year-old Trevor Irby – were killed, and another sixteen people were wounded. Amazingly, the Garlic Festival deadly assault is not considered a “mass shooting” under the FBI definition of mass shootings, because Legan was “successful” in “only” killing three people. The FBI benchmark for the moniker “mass shooting” states four people besides the shooter must die in order to be classified as a mass shooting. Tell that to the people who were there. Trust me; it absolutely was a mass shooting, FBI definition be damned.

Here are some facts to consider:

– The public carnage in Gilroy was carried out by 19-year old Santino William Legan, who had legally purchased the SKS assault-style rifle he used in the attack, on July 9th in Nevada, a neighboring state that has a history of gun laws that are far more lax than those in California (for more independent information about Nevada gun laws, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Nevada).

– The Dayton shooter, twenty-four year old Connor Betts, reportedly used an assault rifle, as the bullets found at the scene were 223 caliber, commonly used in rifles like the AR-15 assault rifle that has been a favorite of other gunmen in previous mass shootings. There is no up-to-date information on how he was able to secure his weapon.

– In El Paso, twenty-one year old Patrick Crusius, opened fire with what witnesses say was a rifle, with the rapidity and amount of carnage supporting the theory that it was an assault rifle, too. There is also no up-to-date information on how he was able to secure his weapon.

Investigations as to what weapons were used in Dayton and El Paso are still ongoing. That said, with the number of deaths in the shortest amount of time before being stopped, the body counts at both scenes tend to support that assault weapons were used. In addition, the “convenience” and appeal of such high-powered assault weapons to those with such heinous agendas is historical and sadly obvious.

I am not attacking the Second Amendment here, so please – don’t start posting about the right to bear arms! My legal background always rises to the discussion of such situations from a legal and intellectual standpoint more than an emotional one, and I will defer my comments on the creation, intention, and interpretation (both sides) of the right to bear arms contained in the Second Amendment for another post – I try to be fair when I’m on my soapbox, and right now I’m not in a mood to be fair at all. I’m angry. My heart aches for those who were at the scenes of these shootings, and for all Americans who now hesitate when attending the most “normal” of places.

My anger is rooted in what I see as the ripple effect of events like the Garlic Festival, Dayton, El Paso, and too many others to list, though were I to do so, you would know and remember well the events. I’m angriest because whether shootings occur or not, the unease of wondering “what if” is now so deeply ingrained in our culture. It affects us all, though we may not realize how much. I didn’t, until just two months ago:

My husband and I were in Atlanta awaiting the birth of our second granddaughter, and our family attended a summer weekly outdoor festival. I noticed a man standing on a balcony overlooking the children playing in the large water fountain, the parents enjoying the outdoor concert, everyone happy on a beautiful summer’s night. He stood alone with a large black bag at his feet. It seemed odd he was on a second floor balcony of a closed office building at the edge of the park, not with everyone below, and so I watched him. I watched him, his manner impatient, his constant scanning of the crowd nervous. I watched to make sure he wasn’t going to pull a gun out of that black bag, and start shooting. And I decided that if I saw him move toward that black bag, I had already planned out where the safest place for my family to run would be. He stood there for about ten minutes, then raised his arm and showed a wide grin, when he spotted a group of people who had just arrived at the park. But those ten minutes were a lifetime for me. The uncertainty, the fear, the anger at myself for being suspicious, all combined in an uncomfortable mix of emotions that are still hard to shake. And the black bag? It had a blanket to sit on, and some drinks to enjoy, while they, too were at that concert. How do I know? I kept watching him as he came down the stairs from the balcony and walked over to his friends, who took a place right next to where we were sitting.

I can’t help but wonder if the alarming rise in the level of people with anxiety disorders, and acts of domestic terrorism (let’s call it what it is – violent behavior intended to inflict the most physical and emotional destruction), is related or coincidental. Another issue that needs independent inquiry and research; but not today.

Today, it seems to come down to one simple question that isn’t even a question, it’s a mandate: When does the insanity stop. When does the country come together and forget party affiliation, seeking the highest standard of commonality and humanity, as well as simple common sense. I can’t imagine any sane person advocating such violence, so do we not all have the same need for a sense of security and peace in our lives?

And if we as a nation are going to speak to the vision of our Forefathers in their creation of the brilliance of the United States Constitution (signed on September 17, 1787), defending at least parts of it with every last breath (do you know what the Seventh Amendment says, and how it is routinely ignored because of its inapplicability to modern times?), should we not first look to the reason our Constitution was necessary? I’m speaking of the document that predates the Constitution, that sets forth the reasons FOR our newly formed government to create the legal mandate for our country: the Declaration of Independence. Whatever happened to “the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that is the core of our Declaration of Independence? Are those rights not being infringed upon on a regular basis, by those who successfully take advantage – no, who cowardly hide behind – the protection of the Second Amendment?

Today we should not be talking about defending the rights of these mass shooters to kill innocent people because of the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. But we arguably should be talking about the need to protect the American public from weapons that were created for battle conditions in war, and not for attacks on innocent people shopping for back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart. We should be talking about the Pandora’s Box of public pronouncements inciting and promoting divisiveness and hatred, that emboldens those to act. We should be talking about the role of fear on many levels – fear to be in public places that normal life requires (restaurants, movie theatres, concerts, and yes, Wal-Mart); fear to be unarmed; fear of those who ARE armed; fear of those who are different; fear of those who have mental illness; fear of those we think want to take from us; fear of change; fear of the unknown, when the unknowns we bear witness to on a regular basis are so horrendous, so terrifying.

We need to argue less and talk more. We need to listen to all views with respect and not engage in pissing contests. We need to rebuke the fear and get to the commonalities between us. And perhaps most importantly of all, we need to evolve beyond our current circumstance.

I choose to believe it can happen.

My heart goes out to all of those personally affected by the most recent shootings, and to our country at this solemn moment in our nation’s history.

What we do here forward is all that matters.

Love and Light,
Nan

Written on Tuesday, 7/31/18

I try to focus on the work at hand as we prepare the old house for sale. Even though lots of memories are evoked as we go, and Steven tackles the difficult challenges of finishing Keith’s unfinished house projects, going through collections of “stuff” inside the house, the workshop, the basement, and all around outside, I feel incredibly blessed. Although it’s taken longer, Steve’s workmanship shows and I know it’s a matter of pride – and love – in his mind, and I am forever grateful to this wonderful man who has taken on so much. To live in the shadow of Keith’s spirit can be a challenge. But today I think I found a sign that Keith was pleased.

Dane and I moved a very large 10-drawer flat file into the garage today. Drawer by drawer. Most were empty already but several were full and it was kind of a pain. But we got all the drawers moved and prepared to move the cabinet that held them. I looked back to the empty steel cabinet and there was some stuff still there, curled up against the back. A few pieces of Stassia’s, a few pieces of mine. But there was this one big piece still curled up against the back wall. I pulled it out and there it was – an impromptu angel made from overspray from a project Keith did many years ago. And in the corner, he’d painted his initials “KF” to ensure there was no doubt. Among the last pieces of family “art” to get moved out of the house. Finding it today felt like a special sign, a message of love from the spirit of Keith.

 

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Spraypaint art made by Keith when he was working with Stassia on a costume. He liked the angel he recognized and signed it in the corner. I’d completely forgotten about this until my daughter reminded me.

Friday, 7/27/18

Woke up at 4:52 am to a blazing light shining upon me. It was a huge full moon low on the horizon so that its light reached inside my bedroom. I smiled and said Happy 60th Birthday, Keith! We miss you here on this life’s plane. Hope you’re enjoying all our shenanigans from your view on the other side. ❤️

Keith taking his solo pilot flight test, upstate NY. Instructor decided we should all go to dinner in Keene, NH.

Postscript: When I awoke later in the morning daylight, I looked out the window and saw the trees and wondered how I could have seen the moon so clearly earlier. And yet, there it had been! When he passed, it was a huge blue moon (a second full moon in the month) and I always associate the strong light of the full moon as his embrace from beyond.

Traveling has a way of creating magic and expanding our vision here and beyond.

Threads of energy and connection

On a steamy hot July 4th, we floated in the waters of Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Disembodied heads peeked above the waters – me, Steve, Larry, Jean, John, Patty, Brian plus other old friends. As the waters sparkled in the sunlight, my vision shifted, seeing tendrils, threads connecting each of us, our heads, 7th chakras, energy paths from one to another, and then above. It was surreal and yet very real… I shook my head several times to try and dispel the vision, yet it persisted. The vision began to fade so I sketched it quickly in order to bring it back to further enhance in art.

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My quick sketch of the vision I had looking at my friends bobbing in the waters of Sacandaga Lake, Adirondack Mountains, upstate New York, July 4, 2018. 

Conversations while in the water, heads bobbing, voices laughing, planning, life beyond work, the family by heart and blood, community of friends planning to care for each other in a life of continued adventures, but recognizing the pains of aging… Plans began for those couples without children, then those who did have children who would not be willing/able to care for aging parents… Duties were assigned: John P as our travel planner, Jean our financial/taxes person, Larry our sommelier and meal planner, me and Brian on branding development and space design, Steve our inventor and fixer-upper…should Michael join us he would be our gardener… Patty would pave the way into retirement. We could move between locations to allow time at each place and take advantage of weather… Several months in Michigan, travel to Europe, possibly a month in Fiji in April… where else?

Aging into new adventures means making the most of life with family by blood and family by heart.

Shifting to sooner plans, travel to Newfoundland, Canada, Kelly’s home country. When could we all visit, and how? Have passports, will travel.

The view from here

As we wandered the countryside, our views throughout our week were stunning… New York Adirondacks, Vermont hills, Middlebury, countryside antique shops, farmlands… peaceful, tranquil, even energizing… Saratoga, revisiting old memories.

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A roadside antique shop in the Adirondacks.

We were watching fireworks from the baseball field across from Larry and Jean’s… the same field with the same chain link fence at home base where Keith and I hung out together with Michael, Larry, Brian and others. Standing there… Steven, Larry, Brian, Jean, me… surreal… forward, back…time seemed to cross oceans, decades, and reconnect…creating new connections. It felt powerful.

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Watching fireworks in the park with friends.

Revisiting a new friend in person

I finally caught up with Nan O’Brien-Webb in New Haven, VT. Steve was filled with trepidation; it brought up feelings of a past bad encounter with a marriage counselor. Not what I intended at all. It was exploratory for me just to see what was up with Nan’s workshops. And it was very emotional for her, too, to meet her former best friend’s wife after finding his obituary.

I no longer feel the need to have an intermediary. I see/feel connections to the spirits feeling their messages when it is important, seeing signs and recognizing them for what they are most of the time. I recognize that I have become my own intuit. Still, it was interesting to discover how others with longer experience work with this…this gift.

I sent Nan a photo of Steven with the shadow of another we saw as a hint of Keith hovering over Steve after he’d gotten the great sanding machine running back in May 2013. But then, as I scrolled through the photos, I also came across another photo that I’d taken but had ignored for my aesthetic preference of another. The non-filtered photo, however, had a clear message, one that I’d completely missed before. Taken the same day as the one with the shadow of Keith… this one showed a large “K” made from the shape of the stairs leading up to the loft.

To Nan, I wrote:

… I could feel the emotion in the room, the healing that was being accomplished, even as the doors cracked open a bit to understanding of the different lives we lead in physical and spiritual form. You’ve certainly helped me to better articulate what I always felt to be true.

…Funny thing… as I went to look for [the photo I promised], I discovered a second one – taken the same day – that had a message I’d completely missed.

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Keith oversees a sewer connection we’d been trying to get at Perry Road, only about 5-6 weeks before he passed. So I’m guessing this picture was taken around mid July 2012.

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Large flat-belted gears drive a giant 4-drum oscillating sander that Keith had  fallen in love with in the large  woodworking shop on the property at Perry Road. When he tried to get it started, the belts fell off only a few seconds after it began to run. This photo was taken in May 2013 when Steven came into my life. He too fell in love with this old machine and immediately set about to get it running, which he did!

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Another view of the  old woodworking shop taken the same day Steven got the old sander running. I noticed the sun shining in the far windows, setting off a glowing light. But I used a different camera setting for the above photo. I almost missed the real message.

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This photo was take seconds before the first one just above. In looking for the picture I’d mentioned in VT, I found this one. Notice the giant “K” at the center, formed by the structure of a stairway in front of the glowing windows. SMH! I was dumbfounded when I came across this picture last night. How could I have missed it?!

Finally, this is the image I mentioned to Nan. Intellectually, I know how it was made. But it gave us all goosebumps when we first saw it. I was sitting at an old handmade table saw, working on homework for my doctorate. Steve was literally scurrying around working on making the giant sander operational (it extends from where he’s climbing to the round wheels you see in front of the windows to the right behind the posts).

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I looked up from my studies when I heard it come to life and grabbed my phone to take this photo. The message was clear to me at that moment. Keith was VERY pleased!

As I wrote to Nan, I feel that sometimes places can hold the energy of those who came before us there. Or they at least provide us a place to connect. Sometimes I feel old Maurice Reid here, as well. He was the original owner of this woodworking shop and I feel his occasional approval (or annoyance as the case may be at the time) as we try and make improvements to the old homestead.

These are just some of the most profound memories I have from the week’s travels and the memories those moments inspired me to revisit. 

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