Category Archives: death

The Rat and the Ant and Me (57)

Buddhist teachings keep me guessing. Depending on the teacher and the topic, I am reassured or doubtful, suspicious or yielding, intrigued or cross-eyed. Often things just make sense, ring true to me, familiar, like the life I’ve been living for decades. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing something. Do I only think I understand, have been observing these same things in my life and in the world around me all these years? I’m not sure what makes me doubt myself, but doubt arises. And I’m not sure what inclines me to always calibrate. Is this something I already know? Do I only think I know it? Maybe it’s an old fear, not being enough. Maybe it’s only hubris. Or maybe it’s tied to the way I bristle over sentences that begin with, “Those of us who’ve been practicing for years—” The speaker means a formal sitting practice. But what if we’ve been practicing “off the cushion” all this time? I love sitting practice. I suspect it accelerates things. And it feels like a luxury, all that stillness, all that not doing. Of late I tend to divide my time between the “long breathing in, long breathing out” I’ve been learning and my metta practice. Since I decided to offer the writers retreat this summer in Joshua Tree, I have to bring myself back more than usual, my mind and heart busy dreaming up ideas. I’ve begun sitting with my eyes open more and more. I think I may be giving myself more permission to do what feels right to me, become less concerned with following the rules. But there’s still a part of me who wants to “do it right,” a part of me who wants to know if I’m delusional about the things I think I know. The other day people were talking about feeling one with the mountain. That seems easy and natural to me. But on the surface, I don’t buy the “no self” spiel. Because there is a me. There is my portion of spirit housed in this body. Unique in place and time. Never again will the two be joined, this same form and spirit. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling one with the mountain or the moon or the desert rat dying in my courtyard on a summer afternoon. Or with the ant I stepped on yesterday because I must have hurt him when I was sweeping the courtyard. I put my sandal down on him, my chest aching, to end his tortured movements. I may not buy the “no self” deal, but I do know we’re all one, the mountain and the moon and the rat and the ant—and me.

54. I Want to Challenge You

 

Blog 54: June, 1999: I want to challenge you—yes, you, reader of this blog—to ask yourself: “What is my hunger?” Last week, I wrote about hunger, about my hunger of almost 20 years ago, and my current hunger. As I perused my journal last week, as I do every time I write this, I came across a piece of writing on hunger that struck a cord. So, I decided to create Part 2 of last week’s blog. Here it is, beginning with my journal entry from years ago:

“As I write this, I can hear the voices that have challenged my hunger all along,” I wrote in June, 1999. “The voice is that I am alone, that this hunger belongs only to me, and that everyone is quite normal in their view and understanding of the world. This is a strange and pathetic lie that I grew up with, that you many have grown up with: that we have no hunger; that we have no “self” that is incapable of rationalizing the answers to our existence; that we need no answers because we are the pathetic answer that walks this earth pretending to know—pretending to know that we live and die without much more to our existence; pretending that we are not vulnerable, that we do not break, that this world cannot break us and hurt us and teach us to love.”

These words from years ago may seem harsh, yet I grew up in a family where emotions were rarely expressed. My ancestors had fertilized the ground we walked on with potent seeds of stoic strength that they’d grown so they could survive horrid wars, immigration, and challenging life lessons. Yet, this stoicism masked a grief that needed, one day, to be unearthed.

“I intend to speak to those whf77ad40934475fcab37c7a5736a3b646o find my words resonating with them. Otherwise, why read? Art is, after all, this wonderful world in which we can share, express, and crawl out to the edge of a limb and cry out our existence so those who are afraid to climb can see that it is alright, that we were meant to climb, to sing, to explore this world that is only ours right now,” I wrote. “I can’t believe that this hunger is not in every breathing soul that exists—from the Buddha who found peace, to the musician who, with all her might, sings
to us a kind of longing that only a song can sometimes do so well. I have seen hunger in my father’s eyes—in the way he cannot keep still, driving wherever he can to find his hunger sated for brief moments. Or in my mother, in her later years, wanting so much to find warmth in companionship.”

Most recently, my father’s hunger was there until the very end of his life, days before he died, on February 23, 2017. He longed to walk, to try one last time, as his legs gave in below him. He longed to join us for a toast and dinner at the table, to be a part of the life. He longed for peace from pain, for some understanding, it seemed, of what awaited him after life. My family and I all longed to be there with my father, to feel the tenderness of his final weeks that had been absent many years earlier. I longed to be there to help my father transition, to breathe every last breath with him, knowing each one could mark the end.

As I sit now, alone, writing, feeling the reality of all that has passed, and of my father who is no longer here, I wonder about this thing we call life. No rational mind, no preset ideas, no justification for my father’s passing—at 79 years old, and no earlier or later—can change or ease this reality of life and death. Despite all I’ve learned about life, and spirit, and all that passes, I still ask myself, “Why?” “Why does all life leave its form to become something else?” “Why do we, as humans, have to feel loss?” There’s a hunger in that. There’s a grief. There’s a stark reality that life is so immensely precious, and that any denial of our hunger to live this life as fully as we know how, now, and no minute later, would be a lie toward life itself.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of following this hunger home. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

 


Welcoming the End. Flash Fiction.

Mary carefully lowered herself into the chair, once she was sitting she let out a small sigh of relief. Everything hurt these days, she reached out and picked up the hand mirror sitting on the small table beside her, carefully she studied her face. It was breath taking. Not a wrinkle or a blemish, just smooth, beautiful skin. Even now almost a month later she still found herself marvelling over the change. The treatments were experimental, and expensive, but with no family and only a year or two left she decided that she might as well splurge on herself. It wasn’t like she could travel the world, not at her age. They had warned her before the treatments that she would be the same age and have the same energy, but she would look young and for Mary that was more than enough. Her body was still hunched over slightly, her arms thin and weak, but she was beautiful again. After a moment her arms started to tire, carefully she returned the mirror to its place. She glanced at the clock, Denise would be here in an hour or so to tidy around the house and cook some food for her. Mary hadn’t thought that Denise would disapprove of the treatments, but since she had undergone them it seemed like Denise avoided her, spending as little time around her as possible. Denise had told her that she was being silly, but Mary could still see it.

Part of her suspected that it was because the youthful appearance was jarring with the slow, jerky movements and the voice of an old woman, but then it wasn’t for anyone else. She rarely left the house these days after all, ever since Harold had died about five years back she’d become a bit of a recluse. The outside had begun to unnerve her, all those people and noises. Mary had always preferred silence and solitude anyway.

Mary was so tired and her body felt heavy. She leaned back and closed her eyes, it wouldn’t be the first time Denise had found her like this, Mary had begun to enjoy dozing off in her chair in the last few months. There was something different about this though, it wasn’t the usual, comfortable tiredness she had grown accustomed to. As Mary’s breathing began to slow she realised she was dying, they had told her the treatment was intense, that it would shorten the time she had left. There was no fear, or pain, Mary was content, even if it had taken time from her it was worth it, and soon she would be reunited with Harold. Mary let out a soft breath and the steady rise and fall of her chest stopped.

 


On Christ’s disciples and death

Athanasius_IAthanasius, in his monumental treatise On the Incarnation, observes:

For that death is destroyed, and that the cross is become the victory over it, and that it has no more power but is verily dead, this is no small proof, or rather an evident warrant, that it is despised by all Christ’s disciples, and that they all take the aggressive against it and no longer fear it; but by the sing of the cross and by faith in Christ tread it down as dead.

For of old, before the divine sojourn of the Savior took place, even to the saints death was terrible, and all wept for the dead as though they perished.

But now that the Savior has raised his body, death is no longer terrible; for all who believe in Christ tread him under as nought, and choose rather to die than to deny their faith in Christ.

For they verily know that when they die they are not destroyed, but actually [begin to] live, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

And that devil that once maliciously exulted in death, now that its pains were loosed, remained the only one truly dead. And a proof of this is, that before men believe Christ, they see in death an object of terror, and play the coward before him. But when they are gone over to Christ’s faith and teaching, their contempt for death is so great that they even eagerly rush upon it, and become witnesses for the resurrection the Saviour has accomplished against it.

For while still tender in years [i.e., while still children] they make haste to die, and not men only, but women also, exercise themselves by bodily discipline against it.

So weak has he become, that even women who were formerly deceived by him, now mock at him as dead and paralyzed.

For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a real king, and bound hand and foot, then all that pass by laugh him to scorn, buffeting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity, because of the king who has conquered him; so also, death having been conquered and exposed by the Saviour on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all they who are in Christ, as they pass by, trample om him, and witnessing to Christ scoff at death, jesting at him, and saying what has been written against him of old: ‘O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting?’

  • On the Incarnation §27. Translated by A. Robertson, in Christology of the Later Fathers, ed. Edward Rochie Hardy, Library of Christian Classics 3 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1954), 81-82.

Chuck Barris, Creator of ’The Gong Show’ Dead At 87

PALISADES, NEW YORK (KBCWtv) – He was the man behind such hit game shows as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and Chuck Barris’ ultimate variety show, The Gong Show.

Barris died Tuesday afternoon at his home in Palisades, New York of natural causes. On behalf of the Barris Family, publicist Paul Shefrin made the announcement of Chuck Barris passing at the age of 87.

Barris is survived by his third wife, Mary.

Read more at cbsSF.com.

©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved.

 

‘Modern Family’ Actor And Sister Pays Tribute To Late Father Via Social Media

(CBS SF) – Rico Rodriguez who plays Manny Delgado on television’s Modern Family, took to social media to memorialize the death of his father Roy Rodriguez.

The 18 year-old posted a photo of he and his father each having a milkshake with the caption “This has been the toughest week of my life. My Dad was the most kind hearted, loving, hard working, determined, and funny man I have ever known.”

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Rico’s older sister 23 year-old Raini Rodriguez, also took to Instagram to remember her father. “You have officially been gone one week daddy and while it has been really difficult, we are all still standing tall and I know it’s because you are sending us strength and guidance all the way from heaven.” She said. “My daddy was the greatest man in my life.” Raini starred on the hit Disney Channel series Austin & Ally.

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Co-star and on-screen “Mom” Sofia Vergara sent her love and support to Rico through Twitter:

Roy Rodriguez’ obituary in his home town newspaper, The Eagle read that he was survived by his wife Diane and 4 children Rico, Raini, Roy Jr., Ray plus 10 grandchildren.

©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Loss. Short Story.

Danny looked at himself in the hall mirror, he turned his head this way and that, then tried smiling. It looked wrong, too bright, too manic. He let his face relax and tried again. Better. “Morning! Yes, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Oh I’m great, how are you?” It sounded too forceful, too fake. Danny took a breath and repeated it, it sounded better, natural. He smiled at himself and nodded, it was good. He grabbed his keys from the table and turned the doorknob, after a deep breath he opened the door and stepped outside.

The day was bright and sunny, though the air held a chill. Danny felt himself relax slightly as he saw that the driveway next door was empty, their car was still there but if he hurried, he could be gone before they left. Quickly Danny got into his car and started the engine, as he pulled out the couple next door were leaving, he raised one hand in greeting and kept driving. Ok, that was good, he got through that just fine. Now he just needed to get through work. That was easy enough, people felt weird around him now, awkward, and that meant limited conversation. He hadn’t discussed anything deeper than the weather with the people in work since it happened and he was perfectly happy for things to stay that way. He just needed to keep his head down and get his work done, keep moving forward, things would start to get better sooner or later, he just had to keep going.

Danny reached for his coffee and took a sip, the day had been going by at a reasonable speed, but now it was lunch time. Everyone was going out to the usual restaurant, they had invited him but he had refused as he knew it was just out of politeness. He sat in his cubicle and mechanically ate his sandwich, one bite at a time. When he finished he realised he wasn’t actually sure what kind of sandwich it was. Ham maybe? Some kind of deli meat that was in the fridge. Lately things had been slipping, just small things, like what he had just watched on TV, or what he had eaten. People told him that things like that were bound to happen, but they made it seem like it would go away at some point, but it had already been three months. Danny frowned, was it three months already? That seemed impossible, it felt like it had only happened a week ago.

As people started entering the office Danny busied himself, pretending to work, one or two people asked if he had a good lunch. He tried to engage in witty banter with everyone, but it just seemed to feel flat, like the words had no real meaning or substance behind them. It was just noise. What ever he had said did the trick and they left him alone again. He shuffled papers around his desk, it had always been reasonably tidy before, but now there were pages and files strewn everywhere, and possibly a mug or two buried underneath it all.

“Hey Danny, how’s things?”
“I’m good, how’re you?”
“Oh can’t complain, have you gotten around to the Frank files yet?”
Had he?
Danny searched his desk and found them underneath his keyboard, “Yeah, here they are sorry.”
“No worries, we don’t need them until tomorrow but I’m just trying to get myself organised ya know? These meetings always make me nervous.”
“Yeah me too”
“So uh a few of us were going to go out for drinks later, I know you haven’t been up for coming out since…well, I thought I’d let you know, if you were feeling up for it.”
“Thanks Joe, but I can’t, I promised Sheila’s parents I’d be over to see them. It’s been a while since I checked in with them.”
“Oh, no worries, just thought I’d say, we’ll be in the usual place from seven if you’re free.”
“Thanks Joe.”
“And look, if you ever need to talk or anything.”
Danny smiled at him, Danny knew how fake it must have looked, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it.”
Joe smiled, “Well, I guess I better get back to it. If you feel like coming out we’ll be there until probably ten or so and I do mean it, if you ever need anyone to talk to, let me know.”
Danny nodded, then looked back at his computer screen, he felt a pit of worry forming in his stomach, had it been that obvious? Had people noticed or was Joe just saying the things you are supposed to say? Should he go out? Just to be seen so everyone would think he was fine? The thought of going filled him with dread, all those people and talking and music. No. He wasn’t ready for that. Not yet.

Danny turned onto his street, he looked around for a second, then sighed, he must have zoned out. He really had meant to visit Sheila’s parents, they were only a ten minute drive from the office, but now it would take at least an hour to get over there, what with traffic and everything. He felt a thin thread of relief, it was too much of a hassle now. Tomorrow he’d go for sure. Beneath the relief there was something else, a low, gnawing guilt, he had meant to visit them yesterday too.

Danny let himself into the house, he could feel the emptiness of it pressing against him from all sides. They had bought the bigger house, dreaming of the children they’d fill it with. Gone. All gone. No one left but him now. Danny went into the sitting room, he dropped back onto the couch and turned on the TV. At some point he got food, another sandwich, apparently it was pastrami that he had at lunch. He chewed the sandwich slowly, not really tasting it. How long would he be like this? Just doing things for the sake of doing them. It seemed impossible that he had been so happy once, like that life was just a dream and now he was in the real world again.

Danny sat, staring at the TV, though he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. At around 9 he turned off the TV and made his way up to bed, it was a little early, but he had nothing better to do. He lay in the darkness, eyes closed, willing himself to sleep, to dream, so he could see her again, feel her warmth, hear her laugh. The morning would come all too quickly and then it would be over and she’d be gone again.


52. Answer to a Prayer before Saying Goodbye

BLOG 52:  June, 1999—Have you ever written a letter to your father, or someone, with no intention of sharing it? I did, many moons ago, on Father’s Day, as I lived in my parent’s house in New Jersey, healing from physical and emotional pain.  

“It’s strange celebrating Father’s Day with this silence between us,” I wrote. “Your silence, your temper, your not being there when you were really needed in these past few years has made me sad about this family and our relationship. All I’ve ever wanted is for us to learn how to show care and love to each other—to feel that we don’t have to compete against each other, but rather let family be a place where we all feel wanted … I know that you are scared to be vulnerable to show that you have needs and care, but I hope that, as we age, we can make less room for judgment, and more room for enjoying the time we have. I hope there can be years in which you and I, and all of us, can take a few chances and express ourselves as friends.”

This letter to my father never made it into his hands, but my wishes did come true before my father’s recent departure from this world. It was about five years ago that I had called him up, broken-hearted about the relationship I was in at the time, and how I had
learned to be in relationship. I asked him to help me break these old patterns of intimacy (or lack of intimacy) I had learned growing up. It was a bold move on my part, but I was so broken, unable to sleep, that I took a friend’s advice and reached out to my father, toward the origin of my pain.

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“Maybe you can help me,” I had said to him in tears. Without needing to explain too much, my father surprisingly told me he understood, and that the way he and I related had been passed down from his grandfather to his mother to him and then to me (and my siblings).  His next words were life-changing. My father said he regretted, to that day, not having had quality time with his mother before she died (later, I learned that they had had harsh words with each other during his last visit with her in Argentina). In his own subtle way, he let me know that he didn’t want this to happen with us.

The following spring, as my relationship with my then-boyfriend finally came to an end—and upon my request—my father and I shared a month together in his apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he visited a lot since retiring from Corporate America. That was about three years ago, and it became the first time I had quality one-on-one time with my father. We slowly opened our hearts to each other to create a relationship we had never had. It wasn’t easy, but during that time, I discovered my father—big-hearted, alive, and celebrating life with dinners and gatherings with childhood friends and family who were tremendously dear to him.

As our time together came to an end, after two days of my father driving me through the streets of his favorite city in the world, sharing his love, we sat across from each other over a meal. In an unprecedented manner, he told me how special I was and how much his friends had loved me as he did.

IMG_1683The following year, my father insisted we return to Buenos Aires together. I shared songs and poems with him and friends, letting my father know how precious this time was. He reflected back to me how I had finally come into my own after years of searching. That summer was when he also told me he had chronic leukemia (in addition to his Parkinsons and crippling pain)—a disease that would require undergoing months of chemotherapy in the U.S., followed by more treatments and surgery for melanoma, which he later had. Our visit together was one of his last to Argentina before his death.

This past month, when my family and I gathered to be with my ailing father, caring for him for multiple weeks around his hospital bed in my parent’s living room in Virginia, it seemed my letter and his wishes had been answered. The father my sisters and I had known growing up had become less afraid to share his heart, to reach out and finally have a loving relationship with us. Because of his desire to have a fuller relationship with his children than he had experienced or expressed with his mother, he was able to leave this world knowing that he had done something beautiful. On February 23, at 2:03, as my cousin, Domenica, and I held his hands, he left knowing that we had given each other a gift that had become an answer to my letter and our mutual prayer.

*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of coming healing and coming home. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende  or at www.michelleadam.net

 


The Rose Shield – Kari’s Reckoning

Catling’s Bane, the first book in The Rose Shield tetralogy is nearing the finish line, and unless some unforeseen computer meltdown halts all progress, it should be out… next week!

The rest of the books are slogging their way through my list of double-checks including Book 4: Kari’s Reckoning. Below is a little snippet. I took out the important names – so no hints (and a few extra pronouns). Stay tuned.

Kari’s Reckoning

He carved woads into his own skin, scored his cheeks and hairline, sliced grooves into his chest and arms. He notched his ears and slashed his shoulders and thighs. Blood ran down his legs and arms, dripped from his chin and fingers. He flayed Guardian’s dagger from his forearm and would have found another place to carve if Lian hadn’t ripped his knife from his hands and flung it into the forest.

The Farlander heaved him up and carried him to the pond. The water glowed and whirled, rich with luminescence. He staggered into the freezing fluidity and lay down, sinking beneath the surface. The light retracted and surged back, clung to his skin, and burrowed into his flesh. His wounds burned. Luminescence swirled with his blood, entered his veins, and lit him like a brand. He rose for a breath and sank again, eyes open, his vision filled with divine brightness.

The world spoke to him, not with words but emotion, an ancient message extending back through eternal time. His blood leached out, blending with the planet’s soul, every fiber connected across the land and water and air, the living and dead. The world drew on his life, tasted its richness, and integrated him into the pattern. Life surged around him and exploded into him, unstoppable and larger than he and those he lost, all of them forever part of the whole. The sensation was love, but not the feeling of love. All the emotions, fear and sadness, joy and pleasure, anger, and passion blended into the rich and poignant elixir of life.

He gasped for breath and floated, his irises reflecting the three moons and a night drowned in stars. The fire in his veins abated and the sting in his wounds faded. The owl called its lonely song. He closed his eyes and rested in the cold light.

Next Week!


unfocused ~

As of late, my mother has been sharing stories. Some I’ve heard, but others, I haven’t. It seems almost impossible that this much time could pass without me knowing that my mother lied about her age when she married my daddy. Of course, on the other hand, it seems unlikely they would have married had she not. My assumption that the laws were different then had never really been tested so I was surprised to find numbers written on the edge of their license. When pressed, she confirmed she had lied.  I suppose the justice wanted the ‘last word’, noting their ‘supposed’ ages to the official proof.

There’s another tale about her leaving the basketball team when my grandmother gave her the choice to either quit the team or stop seeing my dad. My mother actually fretted for a while over that until I reminded her that they only dated for a couple of months before marrying, at which point she quit school. I wonder how much of the last 62 years have been filled with angst, when in reality she might have missed two or three games.FB_IMG_1488552217459

But we do that, don’t we? The things that shouldn’t be given any weight at all are made bigger by our insecurity, anger, frustration, jealousy and need. And yet, the things that should be viewed as ‘big’ most often aren’t. We lose sight of the first kiss, choosing instead to focus on the first broken heart.

The attention given to my sweet Aunt Lyda* isn’t near the amount given to those whose lives were defined by bad luck and worse choices.

Mom wants me to write a book filled with her stories. I’m all for it, though periodically, I put down my pen and exclaim, ‘that’s not making the cut’ or ‘sorry, but that story’s going with you’.

It’s not the burden that breaks us, but the way we carry it.

tell me now
again
I will you
speak of times before
split the veil
wherein my name
is sewn
listen this reminder
lest I should pass
the night
burdened with
the memory
of every love
I’ve known

*My great aunt Lyda (my granny’s sister) was a beautiful soul. She married a man whose first wife was lost to illness. She helped to raise his three children, though she never bore any herself. They were hard times, and his wife had been buried in an unmarked grave. When he passed, Lyda had a stone made, bearing his family name. The first wife was moved, and for more than 40 years, they’ve lain next to one another, Ruthie and Lyda, with the man they shared between. It’s a story I love to carry.

mccoy