A Different Sea-When the World Has Moved On – A Poem by Melissa Murphy

Grief softens

it shifts

it changes

it erupts

it cripples, it heals but is never healed.

It is a constant companion in all the shapes and forms and intensities it takes.

The loss takes everything

…all at once.

And anything you have left is taken up simply by continuing to breathe.

Continue to breathe.

A single breath followed by another single breath.

And continue from your side of this life, in the silence of your own breath, to embrace the one you love who died.

Continue to include that love in all that you do and you’ll begin to hear their whispers in the wind, you’ll feel their presence brush your cheek, they’ll paint magnificent gifts in the clouds just for you and for all the world to see.

For those who notice.

Many won’t.

Not until they do.

Not until their own hearts are ripped by loss, when the grief introduces them to gravity.

It will happen.  It does happen.  To everyone.

It’s just your turn to walk before them.

They haven’t abandoned you.  They haven’t turned their backs.  They have continued living their own lives as they did before yours crumbled around you and pulled them in for a time.

We don’t come together for life.

We come together and drift apart so there are spaces for new connection.

Healing begins to happen in those spaces.

The tide comes in and leaves some things struggling in the sand

What’s left when the tide returns is rejoined with the sea but it’s a new sea, not the sea that left you struggling in the sand.

—written by Melissa Murphy

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Your Own Park Bench (Poem)

Your Own Park Bench

Come, Sit with Me For a Time…

Let’s take a walk, like we used to, arm in arm, happily; silly laughter at silly things that give way to less silly, harder, heavier ones and tears, usually mine, but sometimes yours too.

Let’s go watch the ducks float on the pond and listen to the people in the park.

Ask me anything.

Tell me everything.

We’ll sit silently if you wish.

~<3~

A Birthday Gift

On April 11, my son turned 23 years old.  In celebration of his birthday, he wanted to spend the day at Powell’s Books in Portland and then go to dinner at one of his favorites, Sweet Tomatoes.  It had been eight days since my hysterectomal hollowing  (yes, I conjured that word using my own wand focused intent.)  I was tired and in pain, even with prescription pain pills, but I wanted to spend the time with my son on his special day and his dad was driving so I was happy to be able to join.

Powell’s Books, for those unfamiliar, is a massive place.  They describe themselves on their website as occupying an entire city block and stocking more than a million new and used books in 3,500 sections, making them the largest book store in the world.  There are 3 city block levels full of books.  Awesome is the only word that fits, and it is, without a doubt, that!

We arrived and parked, wandered in and went our separate ways.  Since Dannica’s passing, reading hasn’t been for me what it once was.  It’s been terribly difficult for me to get into anything that isn’t somehow comforting, whereas, before Dannica’s passing my reading list was full of Diana Gabaldon, Terry Goodkind, E L James, George R.R. Martin, Deborah Harkness, and Stephen King, among many others.

I have books on my Kindle, unfinished and awaiting my return but since Dannica’s passing most of what was my passion has passed as well, so I really felt a bit lost in this City of Books where I once would have gone crazy just to keep from spending every penny of disposable income at once!

The first stop I made was the coffee shop to get a green tea.  They let you wander the store with your beverages!  I began to wander.  I wasn’t there for anything in particular other than time with my son and, as I said, I was tired and in pain, so I hoped to find a comfy spot to sit, sip and read whatever was closest, I didn’t care what.  On my way to wherever, I found myself walking through isles of books and, for once in my life, not caring what they were, just touching them with the fingers of my right hand, holding my hot tea in my left; like a child with a stick in those old movies, where they walk mindlessly, just making clatter along a white picket fence.

Suddenly, I lost my balance, but what actually happened was I was pushed, from my right shoulder, where my hand was touching the spines of books and where I was passively looking.  This shift in motion forced me to find my balance by grabbing the shelf to my left, where I had not been looking and suddenly now was.  The next book I saw was entitled, “I’m not dead, I’m different… Kids in spirit teach us about living a better life on earth.”  I shit you not.

I stood there staring at the book.  I grabbed the book.  I held it to my heart and I cried.  To my knowledge, I was alone in that isle of books in that city of books but I couldn’t have been to be pushed that way.  I felt Dannica with me there just the way I feel here, in this isle of homes in this city of homes in the town where I live…and she pushed me!  It’s something she would have done and did do when we’d walk together…bump my shoulder with hers, playfully, until I’d lose my balance.  I came home that day with ONE book out of over a million possibilities when I wasn’t looking for a single thing other than a comfy chair and maybe an interesting magazine.

I read the book that weekend.  I read it again.  I ordered a bunch of copies and read it once more.  There are many stories I could tell of the people I was guided to give the copies to but here I will share only mine; this book brought me so much comfort, changed my thought patterns and my grief patterns and validated my beliefs that my daughter, my Dannica, is not gone.  She’s not dead, like that emergency room doctor callously heartlessly told me she was.  I knew he was wrong.

We left the City of Books and sat together at dinner.  My son’s dad asked him, as he always asks the birthday person, “What wisdom have you to offer for having lived 23 years on earth?”  My son said he’d need to think about that for a minute.

After a long minute, maybe several, he replied, “I have learned that it is possible to be very sad and very happy at the same time.”

What hell he’s been through for such wisdom.  What hell we’ve all been through.  I struggle every day to remember that happy and sad are possible within the same heart.  If that is possible, so much more becomes possible.  I’m so grateful for the gifts I received on my son’s birthday and for the gift that he is every day of my life.

To the Dear Ones Who Comment

Thank you.  I so appreciate your comments.  I know I’m terrible at responding but when I’m done writing I feel so drained I need to step away.  I log on and I read the comments and I cry and feel connection and love and support from a family I don’t want to be a member of.  Then I feel guilty for not at least acknowledging those who reach out to comfort me or to share their own pain and process and I feel so much for you all in return; so much love, and I feel your pain and just like everyone else, I have no words.

Many have nominated me for this or that blogger award and I want you to know I am flattered, honored.  I don’t have the energy to participate.  My ego doesn’t need the strokes.  I’m too tired to “pay it forward.”  I know that sounds terribly selfish, but I’m doing this for me, for my own process, my own healing, my own discovery.  The fact that it’s actually touching other human souls touches my own human soul *deeply* and in a way, keeps me going.  I’m learning I’m not alone.  I’m learning others feel exactly as I do.

Thank you.  I hope you’ll keep talking to me even when I’m “one poor correspondent, and too, too hard to find.  It doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind.”

Sometimes the Phoenix Doesn’t Rise

If I’ve learned anything at all since I started writing this blog it is just how human I truly am… and how much I hate that sometimes. I knew it was possible to become stuck in anger, to become bitter, to push life away but I never actually believed I’d go there. I looked at that potential even in the moment I understood that Dannica had died, and I told myself I’d never go there.

I used to be one who tried to make eye contact with people and smile for no reason, not only during the holidays, but especially during the holidays. I used to stand in the middle of a place and radiate light out in all directions, healing & well-being for all. I worked hard for a long time to get there, to love life, to release negativity in all its forms, to find my own happiness in life even when life kept being….well life….  a challenge.  The truth is, I have fought depression and social anxiety most of my life; maybe all of it. Sometimes, I have won. Sometimes, I’ve lost miserably. Sometimes, like this time, I’ve just given up. Too tired to fight it.  Too tired even to try.

I have become, once again, the ones I used to see and wonder about.  The ones that looked down or away.  The ones who’s hearts I wanted to reach with those free and carefree smiles of hope, love, acceptance and compassion.

In the beginning, fresh grief filled me with a fearlessness I’d never before known. Once I stopped screaming because my daughter had died, I kept on screaming at life, “BRING IT ON!!  YOU WANT SOME OF THIS!?  COME AND GET IT!” I wasn’t afraid of anything. I was angry and it was normal. It gave me strength. It gave me courage. I had nothing but faith in the resilience of the human spirit…. my human spirit.  I thought of myself as a phoenix and all I could focus on was rising even as almost everyone around me said, “Go slowly, be gentle with yourself.”

I didn’t go slowly and I wasn’t gentle with myself even when I thought I did and I was.  Instead, I went boldly into places, I can see now, I didn’t really belong and I made a fool of myself.   I learned that I’m not a public speaker.  I’m not cut out to be a teacher, though I really felt, somehow, I was.  In fact, at 45 years old, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be anything other than perfectly human.  I’ve given up on dreams. I’ve extinguished hopes.  I am alone in my own little world as often as I can be and most of the time I like it that way. At least I know what to expect from my own judgment and my own pain. It’s comfortable even when it hurts.

Could this be acceptance?

I don’t want this blog to be filled with negativity.  But I do want it to be filled with honesty and, when I can find it, truth.  I’m going to keep writing, even when I feel horrible, because writing gets it out of me.  I understand if that puts you off, if you’d rather avoid the negativity altogether.  Life is hard enough without someone else’s negativity.  For this reason, I don’t watch the news, I read my local paper only selectively, and I have even ended seemingly good friendships when I felt the person never had anything positive to say.  So I *do* understand why I’ve lost contact with many people I thought were friends since my daughter’s death.  I realize that I am depressed.  With that comes negativity.  I do my best not to dwell there when I am with others.  But I’m only as strong as I am and a lot of the time I’m exhausted, I’m grumpy, God help you if you cut me off in traffic or say something stupid to my face.  And I *hate* feeling this way!!!

For now, the phoenix is down.  No sign of rising.  None. Unless you cut me off or say something stupid.  Please, know I am genuinely sorry.  I am.

The Trip & The Journey (Part 2)

I felt quite numb as I sat on the shuttle, as I made my way through the airport, as I settled into my seat on the plane and looked out at the planet below, the planet that her feet no longer walked upon… nor, in this moment, my own.

As I stepped into the jet way in Phoenix, the first air that hit me was oppressively heavy; a hot blast that I couldn’t breathe in completely. I thought immediately of my daughter and wondered if this is how she felt all the time, unable to breathe deeply, comfortably, in this world of humans so unlike the world of angels from where she came and to which she has returned. She tried. I saw how hard she tried to breathe on earth. It broke my heart how hard she tried.

In the moment, I regretted this trip. I regretted the expense since I haven’t been working much, I regretted the time away from home and all that I truly find comfort in (other than all the stuff in my really big suitcase). The only thing that stopped me from the downward spiral was the numbness. It’s actually more of a layer of disengagement that tends to hold me in a place of self-observation most of the time; silent observation of the world around me and all that’s in it.

First leg of the trip behind me, the journey began, or rather, it continued. See, this extrication cloak that transports me to my personal observation deck allows me to see a bigger picture of my life, my journey. When I’m in this place, I begin to get a sense of eternity, to release my attachment to this world and the people and things in it (not forgetting my really big suitcase) and I just begin to glimpse what might be a reason for all the hell we go through here on earth. The same cloak allows me to find beauty, love, compassion, motivation, determination, a will to live my daily life without the physical presence of my daughter.

There’s a feeling of failure when a parent loses a child by any cause. I have never heard anyone actually come out and say it but I’m going to be so bold because there isn’t a thing that I’ve heard from another parent experiencing this sort of loss that hasn’t rung true for me regardless of the child’s cause of death. I cannot be unique in having this thought at least fleetingly if not suffocatingly. Successful parents raise their children to be self sufficient, responsible and caring members of society. Independent. They guide their little birds out of the nest and into one of their own. Parents who don’t do this have failed as parents. The reason doesn’t matter. Your child dies? Game over. You failed. Isn’t it interesting how easily I can say that about myself yet would never *dream* of even thinking such a thing in the presence or direction of another parent suffering the loss of a child?

For this reason among others I am grateful for the cloak I now wear and my right to wear it.

Is it possible Dannica and I had an agreement of some sort? A contract, perhaps? Something we agreed to the potential of before either of us came here to earth? What if roll playing games or video games or legends or fairy tales are a microcosm of the macrocosm? Suppose this time around, Dannica’s soul required the challenge of anxiety and depression and an early transition to finish the game and go home. Suppose my human earthly character required the challenge of failing as a parent and the loss of my baby in the prime of her life to reach my soul’s achievement for this lifetime. Suppose the next level is simply to survive the next level.

Suppose my precious son required the indescribable loss of not only a sibling but a soul twin and all they shared in addition to all they would potentially share throughout the lifetime that he is now moving through as an only child in order for his soul to reach the goal it came here to earth to reach. Suppose. Just suppose the only way it could actually happen would be to lose part of his own soul. Now suppose that he and she planned it, knowing it would be hell on earth but that we would all be strong enough to do what needed doing so we could all win the game.

Regardless, we are in the fire. We are moving through it, this kiln. We’re being melted down, mixed together, reshaped, remade, remodeled and it’s an emotionally violent process. Still, it’s a process that each and every one of us must go through as human beings…somehow.

This is the only explanation for completely senseless things that makes any sense to me, that brings any comfort… that in some way, on some level, we all had some say in the paths our lives would take and that there really are no completely senseless things.

Perhaps our souls, having seen the potentials, brought us together as families in the first place knowing the circumstances were right, like fertile fields waiting to be planted with life’s lessons, harvested and blessed and taken in to nourish allowing us to flourish spiritually.

Following the trip, I realize as fully as I can in this moment the value of having made it. I met people I needed to meet. I learned things I needed to learn and though still walking through the fire I’m beginning to feel some of the strength that comes from this part of the journey.

In hindsight, no regrets. Hindsight always brings glimpses of blessing. Never, ever a sense of being okay with the fact that this happened, that my daughter’s life was taken, never that. But glimmers of hope and of strength and greater purpose behind the scenes…glimmers of blessing in the wake of the trauma and tragedy. The fact that I can truly feel grateful for anything at all astounds me, but I am grateful.

Hindsight will happen again at the end of my own life. Perhaps I will be able to look back over the course of this lifetime I’m living and be grateful for the challenges that allowed my soul to grow beyond what my human mind conceived as possible.

Waiting for Angels

I sit here in stillness, thoughts passing through the empty rooms of my mind; just being. I notice the ticking of the clock on the wall. It’s loud. That’s why I like it. Sometimes, I lie down on the couch and just listen to the clock, ticking away the seconds, minutes, hours, of my stillness. There is another clock on the desk. I don’t always hear that one because it isn’t so loud, but once in a while the clocks become entrained and join forces to tick away life on Earth in unison. Something in me joins them. I close my eyes and feel my heart, my breathing, other subtle rhythms of my human body beginning to hum along, sway a little.

After a while I rise, I put on some music, I water plants, I pick up clutter, and sweep the dirt from my floor, and it all seems okay. I sit to write a long overdue letter of thanks for a precious gift from the heart of someone in my family and it isn’t okay any more. It hurts so much. It’s a profound, deep and sinking ache, this missing my daughter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not okay or that it won’t ever be okay again. Does it?

Drying my tears, I return to the couch and the song of time. I envision myself sitting alone in the middle of a theater where we once performed the story of our lives together. The props are fading and cracked after months of cold and rain. I can’t believe it’s over so soon. I can’t believe the story of Dannica is complete. Now what? Now that the show is over, what do I do now? I feel like a fading star floating aimlessly, just waiting to burn out; Grizabella the Glamour Cat, waiting to float up, up, up past the Jellicle moon.

New passion, new purpose, must live somewhere in me. They’re so hard to find; so hard to hold onto even when I do catch a glimpse. But until I find those things, I know that I, too, will fade and crack. Dannica was the sparkle and light… and the glitter and glam. She was the music and the laughter.

Now, She is the clouds and birds… and the sun on the water. She is every rainbow and in every beat of my heart; every tick of entrained clocks whispering to the beating of my heart that the show must go on. But the script is new and strange and I’m struggling to remember my lines. The cast has changed, they’re all wearing new masks and I don’t recognize them. They don’t recognize me. Part of me likes that just fine. It’s also frightening and lonely, sitting, waiting for the voice of the director, “Quiet on the set everyone! Quiet on the set… take two!”

I’d rather take five. I’m tired. The clocks continue to whisper, I’m beginning to hear them more often, “The story of Dannica is not complete. She lives on and will live on until you are complete; until everyone who knew and loved her is complete; until the trees nourished by her ashes are complete, until the earth itself is complete.”

Listen. Watch. Wait. Love. Know. My time will come. The clocks whisper this, too, and at that time, they will whisper to someone else.