Watching The Snowy Night Sky

I’ve been waiting all day for the snow,

now I glance my window,

it arrives with a light affection

reminds me of my childhood

perhaps a memory that haunts me more than love

the delight of family,

the anticipation of a gathering,

the death of a cousin,

where in my silent fog of misunderstanding,

I watched the burial of a loved one,

while treetops echoed the reminder of snowy limbs,

the sort of day we might play,

but instead we watched a passing of life,

confusion, anger, loss, and tears were rife

on this day I watched my cousin laid into the wintry earth.

 

So tonight, I watch the sky again,

a quiet reminder of how our lives

are sweet in their ties to memory,

of love, of pain, of the loss all so bittersweet.

 

The snows are beautiful though ever so brief

Coming Home Again

When I was twelve, I found a copy of Thomas Wolfe’s classic, You Can’t Go Home Again, I remember being profoundly impacted by the title. Just the words alone made me wonder about home, and in my 12 year old mind I thought of my cousin Billy, who had just passed weeks earlier in a tragic car accident. He was a close friend, a cousin, and a model of a human being whom I aspired to, but whose magic had departed at an early age.

At Billy’s passing, the tragedy effectively shut me down, I was a ghost of myself for the next few months, and really didn’t have any clue what life meant to me anymore. I only knew that my cousin was gone, and I could no longer count on him to be there next to me as a child growing up in a confusing world. What used to be important to me suddenly didn’t matter. We were embroiled in the Vietnam war, and now all I paid attention to were the names scrolled on the news of the dead U.S. servicemen. Somehow I related that to my own loss.

President Nixon would resign in six months, Spiro Agnew already convicted, the political world that my mother paid attention to with every pundit’s prognostication began to have meaning in my life. I was raised in the 60’s so I already had experienced the loss of the Kennedy’s, MLK Jr., Malcolm X and countless others through the eyes of my older siblings and parents. Yet, as things settled, I kept still trying to figure out what Wolfe meant with that engaging title. So, I read the book.

I remember being fascinated with how fiction would somehow expose reality, how the community didn’t respond well to the writer’s focus, and the meaning began to take shape. For the next few years, my life evolved as a child turned troubled teenager in the city of Wausau, WI. I attended three different high schools, had academic struggles, dabbled in alcohol and drugs and was generally a classic mixed up kid with a lot of baggage that followed me until I could finally leave town. I moved to the twin cities and slowly carved out a world for myself.

Tonight, I return to Wausau four decades after I left, though I have been here many times since, I now have a better understanding of Thomas Wolfe’s meaning when he wrote his book. He didn’t necessarily intend to suggest he was ostracized or banished from his community, really more likely he was acknowledging that change is inevitable and we all must be prepared to accept the challenges that life might have in store for us.

Tonight, I drove into my hometown in the middle of a snowstorm. I drove past city markings familiar to my childhood, and realized while the snow fell as regularly as it did when I was twelve years old. I remember burying my cousin Billy in Minneapolis while snow gathered on the treetops along the winding roads around Lake Calhoun as we caravanned to the cemetery to pay our respects. I looked down 28th avenue as we drove into town, my home 40 years earlier, my life now settling into an early autumn. I realized I could come home again.

For There Is Love

muslim-woman-praying.jpg

We are taught to know love,

a spectacular spiritual solemnity

we embrace

wonder

wander through our lives

with a constant

in some evaluative sojourn.

 

We know lives

touch the spirit of others

in quiet encounters

a silence can speak so

tenderly in its clarity

to know her,

answer him,

wander through a myriad

of human condition

centered proclivities.

 

Yet in the quiet

of loss

of tragedy

of the knowledge

we do not have,

though sometimes protest

to hold the key

to why it is

who we are

what we might become

in such judgment

we can never really know

beyond our ability

to show compassion

in the eyes of hope

 

For it is this confusion that draws

the most stolid heart to tears.

I Looked Into the Eyes of a Dying Woman

cancer-sucks-pictures

The other day, I traveled across a state to say good-bye to a friend. I did it because I wanted her to realize just how worth it she is. I did it for the love I have for her and her children. I did it because I cared. But the trip wasn’t meant to be about me, it was a gesture of kindness for a person who now is faced with readying herself for the next chapter in her life – that out of body journey that we are left curious about yet, hold onto a faith of purpose in the next life.

Whenever I lose someone I am close to it gives me pause, as it naturally should. I am the guy that constantly walks around complaining about a life without everything I want, an unhappiness sometimes that if I am not careful can be revealed to those I am close to in life. To sit and witness a person who is losing their struggle in life and still smile and offer happiness to those loved ones around her is certainly a humbling experience.

I’m glad I made the drive. The day was beautiful, the moment saying good-bye was special. Seeing the love in the room was quite exceptional, a lot of tears, moments of reservation turned to immediate release, and then two children doting on their dying mother with every resource their body and mind would allow. I said to them at one point, you are both such gracious people filled with love and humility. I said, you had a great mentor and they both glanced at mom and weeped for a second. Smiles and hugs around realizing the day was nearer than anyone would like it to be.

I said my good-bye and hit the road for the drive back, the whole time processing what I had just done and why. I had no ulterior motive to see a young woman die before her time. I wanted to say good-bye and see the peace in her eyes. I wanted to know that death is a planned event no matter the impulsivity. We will all wonder why she had to be taken so soon, while others struggle on for years, or overcome the disease that threatens a life.

On the drive back, I cried, I cried hard. It felt refreshing, cleansing I suppose. It felt like I was allowing my feelings to come to the surface rather than suppressing them. I believe in that moment of weeping, I understood love in all of its abundance.

But the story doesn’t end there. Halfway into the drive I heard about the death of Senator John McCain. I certainly did not know him personally, did not ever meet him, but like everyone else, or the majority in our country, I do recognize him as a national hero. I witness the strength of character in his work ethic right up to the day of his departure. I read about his victories, sufferings and accomplishments, and suddenly I am aware of how his life was sacrificed for the better good. Much like my friend, in the end, his entire focus was helping people find their own peace with that goal in mind.

So that night, a Saturday night, I went through a lot of soul-searching. I recognized my own purpose and how these were moments of clarity that give me the strength to go on. Remember we always think about the resilience to go on when we lose someone we care or have compassion for. Much like John McCain, and my friend, life is precious, and we realize it in the worst of times.

And then it happened. The next day, we lost another kind soul. The superintendent of our school district died the day before we walked into our classrooms. Across the district there was  a numbness felt for a man that brought positivity in a time when that was the only way to heal many painful aspects of our district’s history. His tenure with us was brief, but in that time he brought real and genuine happiness into the lives of the people he touched. And his spirit did and will continue to touch many.

So, this weekend I was surrounded by cancer. I suppose it was a necessary passage of showing all of us that our lives are worth every  minute we have and to never take our time for granted. I look around the room and realize there are people that do not have the capacity to recognize the connection between life and death. For me, on this rather remarkable weekend of finding peace in the curiosity of the human condition, I am hoping I will find an eventual peace. I go forward hoping to resonate with the legacy of people brought down before their time, yet people that instilled love and purpose into my own life and the lives of all of those around us.

Godspeed our fragile humanity.

First Glance

Eyes open

still in mourning

a soft reminder

precious

in the quiet of a breeze

rustling leaves

the next stage

a would be journey lay ahead.

What follows

will be stark extreme

immediate loss

in sensory perception

for some a routine

cycle of life

while others we know

traverse a newer universe

one shares in

solemn

Mortality

A Reaction of Feeling

A young boy has been shot,

he’s dead,

a police force became another list,

not the boy,

no list attached,

a living human being,

now dead,

shot to death,

after wielding motive suggests

he was suicidal,

didn’t want a recital,

simply wanted to die,

or at least in the mind of a boy,

thought it might work,

wanted something,

wanted someone

to know,

his hurt,

and now …

nobody knows,

but we all realize

he’s dead.