Tag Archives: death

Saying goodbye

Pets have the funniest ways to weave themselves into the fabric of Normal Existence. Amelia was no different, though her place was both larger and smaller than everyone else in the apartment. All of the things she’s left behind fill a storage tub.

An African Pygmy Hedgehog, she was a perfect excuse to keep the apartment heated closer to my desires because the cold could have her trying to hibernate. A night animal that could take or leave high levels of interaction, she was the perfect companion for late night writing sessions. 

Caring for her was a constant level of mindfulness without being overly high maintenance. She was pretty good at letting me know what actions were annoying through a variety of huffing sounds and actions. Until the end. And then there was no warning. Now all I have are pictures and memories. 

Thank you little pet for 5 1/2 years. They were too fast. Goodbye, Amelia.

Ant Attack

Ant horde
Ant horde by Jonathan Fox used under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

I think the apartment I currently live in was built on an ant colony. We have them all year, but they’re the worst in the summer. Mostly they come in looking for water, but sometimes they find the cat food. And in very horribly moments they find the crickets (I am so very, very sorry, crickets).

See, I have a small mammal that adores eating crickets. I don’t always keep them on hand because she doesn’t eat them as fast as I would like, which means I have to then add crickets to the creatures that I have to keep alive. And they are tricky, sometimes. Plus, they are insects, so their life spans don’t always wait her appetite out.

My relationship with the crickets is complicated. I feel bad when they die in the cage they stay in until it’s time to put them in her cage to be eaten. Sometimes I think this is a silly sentiment, because I don’t feel bad when they get eaten. Perhaps this is because I have made their fate food, and when they die stuck in a tiny, plastic cage, their lives lose some of their meaning. And then part of me remembers that they are, in fact, crickets. But they are still living creatures, and I feel bad that I have cause their lives to be less than their wild existence would allow. When they are attacked in the tiny, plastic cage I’ve trapped them in by a horde of ants, I am horrified. As soon as I see their tragic turn, they get released in a effort to provide some space to live – because being eaten alive by an ant horde seems ghastly to endure.

And I am sure people will think that this response is unmerited for creatures that are generally despised. It is my philosophy that a person’s true nature is revealed in how they treat beings that are completely helpless. I buy the crickets for my small mammal to eat, because I have taken her from her natural habitat and shrunk her space to a 40 gallon fish tank. She seems happier when she has something to chase to eat (since most of the time she just has a bowl of food). But in doing so, I take on creatures even more vulnerable that I feel obligated to ensure only suffer when they serve as food.

At a time when so much is not good* in the world, remembering to care for the most vulnerable creatures that surround us seems to be the fastest pathway to making the world good again.


*A post about how I use the word good is forthcoming, because I see it carrying so much more weight than its typical use indicates.


Days like these

It’s funny Snuggle with Ribbonhow most days are just days. They pass with very little of note occurring. And then some days are horribly sad, feeling as if the hope had left the world and the sun will never shine again. And then some days are packed to overflowing with all the joy and happiness of life, and the world can do no wrong.

And then there are days that have sorrow and joy rolled into one, and the day is remarkable.

Today was one of those days.

I had my first event as an admitted PhD student at Chapman University – a mingle with my cohort, current PhD students, professors, and staff. A time of joy an adventure and all the nervousness of a great adventure. A moment of joy as I begin the next moment of my life, being a PhD student.

It was also a day of sorrow. My sister’s cat died today. Snuggles was 18. We’d had her since she was 5 weeks old. We’d had her forever. To put this in perspective, I turn 30 this year. I’ve been crying off and on all day. Snuggles was a great cat. (Not as great as her sister, who was my cat Midnight. She died 3 years ago at 15.) I will miss Snuggles terribly, but not as much as my sister who looked at her and treated her like her baby. I know that heart-break, and it’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt like your animal was part of your family. But trust me when I say it hurts as much as having a friend die.

Days like this, that can’t decide which emotion to pick and stick with it, are some of the more difficult to deal with because people who only know 1 side don’t understand why you aren’t fully with them; they don’t realize you’re torn.

But I made it through. I’m sure I seemed kind of aloof to the other members of my cohort and some of the faculty, so I’ll have so work to do when I begin classes. Now is the time to be sad.

Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully this one will be easier.

On the death of Osama Bin Laden

I don’t write much about life in the U.S. after the terrorist attacks on 11 Sept. 2001. It has shaped my life and understanding of the world and my home country in many ways that I recognize and am blind to. I was 18 at the time, off at university, living in the dorms. I wasn’t that far from home, and California is a long way from New York and Washington, D.C.

What I knew at the time, better than anything else, was that my world had shifted to something other. The last (practically) ten years have revealed what shifted, and how those cracks continue to shift, in the world. And there’s much in this new world that I’m not excited about, and a some that terrifies me.

And tonight, I watched another world-changing presidential address to the nation as President Obama announced officially that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

But tonight’s shift constitutes something wholly other. I know that my thoughts will not resolve quickly on this. It’s a moment in history. I’m watching the news and keeping my eyes on Twitter, sharing this moment with the rest of the country that’s still awake. There are college kids partying on the streets in front of the White House, and 30somethings coming to grips with the demise of the standard reason for all of the infringements on our rights.

Rachel Maddow reported that being in the crowd in front of the White House felt like the U.S. had done something. Brian Williams likened the video images from the major cities to the images from the end of WWII. And author Matt Wallace tweeted that today wasn’t great or sad but necessary.

The television is attempting to make sense of and determine what this historical moment means for the U.S. now. Twitter is sharing the thoughts of the TV. The general consensus settles to uncertainty.

My lack of prescience places me in the camp of uncertainty. I hope that the removal of this symbol of our current threat will add to the talk-down from the constant state of terror we have lived under, and I hope that we as a country will regain some of our calm.

The Obama administration had already begun raising a voice for reasonableness (in not nearly large enough ways), and vocal social voices (like Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper in some instances) started much earlier. If I were still that college Freshman, I might believe that the world would revert back to the former way it functioned.

But I’ve paid attention to the historical moments, and I know that the change will always remain. I hope that this new shift will create adjustments that assist in the mitigation of the dire (and often destructive) fluctuations. If this act results in nothing else, I hope that it eases the constant fear people my age and younger have lived with. Perhaps with a little less fear, we will regain our ability to actually listen to one another and enter into dialogue. If we lose our fear, perhaps we will see and acknowledge the humanity of those we disagree with and learn to understand their position.

Optimism may lead to the path of dashed hopes, but tonight, in acknowledgment of the sacrifices today, I will hope that tomorrow will retain the relief of this moment and lead to a world with a little less fear and a little more conversation.

it never rains but it pours

I had one of those weeks last week. All the news that came in was bad, and I kept expecting it to get worse.

I’m still recovering from it, but that week started me thinking about creativity and life.

I have been keeping a distant eye on some really neat creative projects that launched last week. (I will be posting more a little later) And there are some fascinating collections that are calling for submissions. And there are projects I was in the middle of and that I still need to finish. But I couldn’t track with much beyond my own life last week. Not that I think I needed to (the deadlines are still far enough away that giving myself the necessary time), but I still chose to be fairly isolated.

Writing this now, a line from the end of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “[Mother] prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels.” I have loved this line since I first read it, but what I see now, added to everything else I’ve seen in this quote, is the absolute need for space, both physical and mental, to understand your life.

I gave myself some space, and I found the beginnings and concepts for more stories than I now have time to write. Not that I won’t try to write them all, but in that time of turmoil, I discovered my brain was working on ways to process and siphon of the influx of emotion and information.

T.S. Eliot is quoted as saying something like: I have lived through enough for an epic. The timeframe given is not long before he leaves to write The Wasteland.*

I don’t know about you, but I frequently remember quotes like Eliot’s when I’m in the midst of events or situations where I don’t have control.  I’m also a believer in signs, so I don’t discount the appearance of these random quotes. I go with whatever my first thought is in response to the quote, and see if it’s something helpful.

This time it was. What I took from the confluence of events is that I have lived through much, because I have been living. So what is there to stop me from taking all that experience and emotion and using it to create something new?**


So I’ve decided that the rest of this week, I will work on all those stories that knocked on my consciousness when I had proclaimed: Do Not Disturb.

Life is what it is. I’m going to embrace it. Time to get cracking on those stories.

    *I can’t remember off the top of my head where I found this. But I know I used it in a paper for the MA, and those notes are currently packed away.
    ** I’m a big fan of the Modernists, and could bore you for hours with minutia from then.

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You probably never met my friend Des. I’m sorry for you. But I don’t want you to miss out on what I learned from his life, so I’d like to introduce you to him through the stories I’ve cobbled together.

I’ve spent around 6 months in Brisbane, Australia over 4 trips since 2004. Each trip has been different in the adventures and experiences. Each trip has remained consistent in the people I’ve shared the adventures with.

Des and his wife Lena were and are 2 of the people who were always part of what made my time in Australia joyous. And they were and are part of the group of people who have become my family.

One year, I mailed them an Edward Gorey Christmas card that showed an assorted collection of creatures throwing fruitcakes into an ice hole. The next time I saw Des, his first word to me were “What’s with the fruitcake?” It had been a year since I’d seen him. That was the only greeting I got from Des for most of that trip. I hadn’t realized that fruitcake is actually eaten in Australia. I will never forget that now.

I saw Des last summer. The schedule was crazy, so there were fewer moments to share. My favorite is rather longer.

20 or so of us, U.S. and Aussies, traveled 6 hours north and west from Brisbane to the tiny town of Eidsvold on the edge of the outback. We were doing some work around the Christian Centre which the community uses for day care and events that need space.

Des was leading the 20something U.S. boys in the cleaning up of junk that had to be taken to the dump, but they were working through lunch. And since we were all there together it meant that we were all waiting until they were done to start eating. People were starting to get restless, and I figured they didn’t know we were breaking for lunch, because when to 20something guys ever listen to group announcements?

So I wander over to the very short fence that marked a border on the property, and I told Des that it was lunch time. Des’ deadpan response was, “Well, you may be here to fill your belly but some of us came here to do the Lord’s work.” To which I calmly responded, “Shut your face and get over to the lunch table. You’re holding up the food for the rest of us.” And then I walked back to where everyone else was, with Des and the boys not too far behind.

Later that evening there were pockets of conversation, and Des and I happened to be in one of those pockets. I’d been thinking about our exchange earlier and I told him that I thought people who didn’t know is might think that we didn’t get along. And he seemed surprised by that.

I think these stories are so clear in my head because they explain so much of who Des was. He was straightforward and dedicated and funny. And he wasn’t too concerned with the way other people saw him. He was himself and never apologized for that, but he didn’t try to drive other people away either. He accepted people without hesitation but was never afraid to call people on the crap they were pulling.

He was a very dear friend whom I admired greatly. 33 is far too young to have your heart attack you, and I am having a hard time believing that he is dead.

I wish I had told him more of this the last time I saw him.

But I hope for so much more. I hope the stories of his life encourage people in his stead. I hope that Des’ example of a fearless life inspires those who know it to walk a similar road. I hope that sad regret does not cloud the memory of his life lived well.

I hope for life

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J.D. Salinger

I read today that J.D. Salinger died, and I could feel the sadness in my soul. About three seconds after, my phone chirped that I had a text message. My friend Kristiana wanted me to know about Salinger’s death.

We both read Salinger’s work around the same time when we were finishing our undergrad degrees in English Lit. She was reading some of his other works at the time, and I was finally getting around to reading The Catcher in the Rye. She had brought it up somewhere along the way, and the way she talked about it, I knew that I would probably enjoy reading it.

I loved the story.

Like some who’ve written about Salinger today, I can’t point to the exact reasons why I enjoyed Holden or the story he weaves. Thinking about it today, I think part of what I love about the story is the desire to hold onto life as it is; the desire for people to stop taking a persona for the moment and be who they are.

Salinger has intentionally kept himself separate from the rest of the world, and I know there were some who hadn’t realized he was still alive until he’d died. The rumor is that he never stopped writing, even though he quit publishing his work. There’s a part of me that hopes he left directions for publishing those works. I guess because I don’t want his talent and style to completely fade with him.

I know I’m not the only one writing about their experiences with Salinger’s work today. This loss is one shared by many, and many are writing to honor an author they admired. What better way to share  this moment?

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Shared Grief

I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter, which means for the last several days I’ve been following his grief over his cat Zoe.

I am a complete cat person, and I have a (I think) 14-year-old cat that I love dearly. I’m already dreading the phone call that will tell me she is leaving or has left this world.

I don’t know that I will post that news everywhere, but I don’t think that Neil Gaiman has overstepped any bounds. I may not keep the people I’m connected to solely by electronic means updated, but I will be keeping the people I am most connected to updated. I will need to in order to still be connected to life.

I think there is extraordinary value in sharing grief. The act of sharing grief with others makes the experience real, and the act of sharing balances death with life. The loss of life makes the live moments precious. Neil Gaiman sharing his grief with the thousands of people who are connected to him electronically reminds us all of the high cost of living.

The beauty of the interconnectedness of our lives now is the way we can share whatever we want whenever we want. In this case, it’s the deep grief over the loss of a small cat first shared with me, and now I’m sharing with you. Perhaps together we can all take the grief and appreciate the life.

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Three Shadows

Cyril Pedrosa’s graphic novel handles the difficult topic of loosing a child in a gently beautiful way.

The story is constructed in such a way that the reader can understand and sympathize with the characters. Each action comes from a believable place and brings out a concerned response from the reader.

I heard about this graphic novel awhile ago and searched for it in nearly every brick and mortar store I went into. I finally bought it online because I really wanted to read it (and it pushed me into the free shipping category). This story was definitely worth the effort and the wait.

“In this our springtime there is no better, there is no worse.

Blossoming branches burgeon as they must.

Some are long, some are short.”

Stay upright.

Stay with life.

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