Categories
Grief Spirit

A Tribute to Charlie Trotter

It happens like this: We do not see the thing for what it is until it is no more. It can happen so quickly: News of another person’s death distills the color and lines of the small band of people who surround your life, bringing their clarity into focus. Perhaps you pull them closer to you; you frequent your distribution of I love you’s or just keep a closer eye on them. I’m not sure what it is about death that wakes us to our senses like the sharp notes of a stiff cup of coffee kicks us into awakening. Make no mistake, death is about awakening, both ours and theirs.

I have come into this realization like the rest of us, through fits and starts. And, like those who know the particular cataclysm of the unexpected death, the one that rattles your core into a submission of gelatinous proportions, you feel another person’s pain in the new grim reality as if it might be intended for you. But, it’s not. What you can do, having worked through your own valley and cavern crawl through grief, you can say a prayer for them by imagining the moments you know: the planning of the ceremony which for those most immediately involved brings its own hollowness of pomp in the face of undesired circumstance, writing the obituary even as you have to trick your brain into compliance, dressing up for an occasion that makes you want to tear your clothes.

Through coping with death, I came to understand life. Poets naturally gravitate toward death akin to the way pigeons circle scraps of food on the sidewalk. There’s nothing more poetic than writing elegies, especially knowing that often when people return to poetry, it is because of death. Yet, I find writing humor, writing about the eccentricities we share in our living is infinitely harder to pen. And the death found in paltry poems is often as false as describing the contours of the male body without ever having seen or touched it.

Forgoing a eulogy for the living, sometimes you play into the audacity of celebrating a person’s life while they are still alive. You scrimp and save for one evening they may be waited on, hand and fork by watchful servers in an intimate dining room. You watch their surprise and delight at dining on the subtle delicacy of a peekytoe crab. You try as hard as you can to remember all the highlights of the evening so that one day you can call them back with the sharpness of focus(white tablecloths, a kitchen tour that upon leaving it forces you to pass by the Chef as if a visit to his eponymous restaurant would not be complete without it). As you leave the restaurant, any stardust of being on par with your fellow wealthy diners shakes off. You board the El, heading to your Schaumburg hotel with a full belly and merry heart of memories.

Tonight, I mourn the death of Charlie Trotter, not because I knew him, but because I keenly feel for this particular loss experienced by his son and wife. I send them my prayers, knowing all too well the sleepless nights after my own similar experience. I think of his friends in shock, unable to string together the words, he’s gone and remember making phone calls to tango students several years past letting them know their teacher was gone. It’s too easy for life to speed up and press on after the initial days of calls, casseroles and visits begin to taper off.

I may not have known Chef Trotter personally, but the wake of influence he had on so many students and colleagues will continue to carry on with so much of his presence and indelible mark. I remember an evening so long ago where, for the first time, at his restaurant, I stepped into adulthood, lavishing my mother with the luxuries outside our reach. That evening, its simple opulence, his meticulous standards left their specific impression on me. When I look to a life well lived and one that calls more out of the people around it, I think of Charlie Trotter. In this way, his thread weaves throughout the tapestry of my life and I am the better for it.

Categories
Grief Spirit

Memoriam

May eighth, you come without notice. After three years, you would think I would be mindful of your coming and yet you come and you take. A week ago, I greeted May, all bustle and business until it stopped me and put me in my place- the clock is ticking. You will soon be here again. I do not look forward to your visits or your interruptions, but death does that all the time, doesn’t he?

Dad, you left without notice. After three years, you would think I would be seamless and utterly stitched back together, and yet your anniversary comes and it steals joy away, even if just a little bit, even if just for a day (Write it!). The clock is ticking- how did I never hear its music?

A week ago, I bought myself flowers- blowsy peonies all flush in their fuchsia gall, almost garish in their enthusiasm. Those pom poms perked up a section of the kitchen with their cheers and thrill to be alive. Little did it seem fitting that they too might play the role of teacher. And yet, their cheer changed…

peonies falling apart

peonies petals falling

peonies another pale perspective

peonies full bloom white

peonies pink tinge

peonies-color-beginning-to-fade

peonies-full-pink

peonies-beginning-to-bloom

– how the color fades so quickly – how the bloom falls from the stem or how it fights to hold on until it withers in place – how little I understood then about the nature of love and about the truth of life – you, peonies caught me off guard but ready to be reminded of how fleeting the beauty of life is – and how the end is the beginning. Life and death as book ends for a love that will not fade or fall apart.

Categories
Grief Poetry Spirit

Good Friday Poetry: Myopia

I’ve been thinking about death for the past few weeks. Lest you think this is stemming from some sort of morbidity on my part, it’s been a dose of digging deep into the passage of John 19 for guidance in writing a poem I read aloud today at a Good Friday service. Culturally speaking, Good Friday gets glossed over in favor of Easter, and I get it. Who wants to dwell on death when you can spend the time feasting with friends and family, celebrating, joyful. But without Good Friday, there is no point of context for Easter.

One moment stands out from the passage to me. It’s such a human moment for an inhuman instance. Jesus has been nailed to the cross and looks out at his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene. It’s hard to imagine that kind of pain and suffering or even still the clarity of vision as he speaks to his mother saying, “Dear woman, behold your son” and to his friend standing nearby, “Here is your mother.” In spite of the circumstance, Jesus sees his mother weeping and wants to care for her- now and in the future.

What’s so remarkable about this moment is how in uttering those words to Mary, he is speaking to her as both son and God. It makes me think about last moments…

Specifically, a man doubled over, in the middle of a heart attack. He hears the directives a 911 call attendant provides to his wife on the phone, hears the distress in his wife’s terse response of “I can’t flip him over, he’s too big.” And in that moment, in that hearing, he sees his opportunity to care for her and flips himself. It must be so hard to see that you will soon pass over and watch someone you love hurting and not know how it will turn out.

Death is not easy. It never was intended to be easy. In fact, it was not part of the original plan at all. But it does visit each of us and I think of this moment where we, the readers get to listen in on the last words exchanged between a mother and her son, a woman and her God. He cares for her and in his telling, speaks words that will ensure she is cared for.

Today, we encounter such difficult things, don’t we? The unexpected prognosis. The accident. The before-their-time demise. Nothing can soften the blow. And yet, we have these words to plant deep in the soil of our souls. We get a sense of something bigger that can help us buffet the storm of grief that rocks our already tottering boat.

 

Myopia
(John 19:25-27)
by annelies zijderveld

In an instant a child can disappear

Instead of walking with you, he’s just not there.

Steps get retraced back from where

You came and find him turning over questions

with teachers, surprised by concern,

Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?

Who reproves a child making sense

of father from Father- you take his words to heart.

 

After some years, your boy becomes

a man selecting the right companions. Who is it

that draws to him people like a bucket

of water pulling from a well? A crowd gathers

curious, you round up your boys

who mutter, He must be out of his mind, and

try to take charge, still not getting

what season he is now entering. Instead of access

you hear him ask, Who are my mother

and brothers, you see him motioning to the crowd,

continuing to assert his godliness in

declaring those obedient, mother and brothers.

 

Who knew the road would lead here:

a hill, a cross, a crown. You watch as they drive nails

into the hands you used to hold as he

learned how to walk – hands that learned his father’s

trade – hands that knew how to save

water and turn it into wine.  You’ve always taken

his words to heart, not comprehending

this day would come. And even if your boy wanted

none of this would be undone.

Your God, your son looks on you weeping and loves

You, utters, Dear woman behold your son,

as he motions to his friend and to him, Here is your mother.

Taking care of those he cherishes because

He knows how this ends, that it is near, soon to daven

It is finished as the rest of the story begins.

 

© Annelies Zijderveld. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or post without attribution. I wrote this poem for City Church San Francisco, and read it as part of their Good Friday service 2013.  

 

 

Categories
Grief Spirit

Sally’s Pumpkin Bread and #HatDay

Sally's Pumpkin Bread

Today: Sally’s first anniversary.  Tuesday: Tio Z’s second anniversary. Sunday: a friend’s grandfather’s passing. This week is mired in remembrances of lives well lived and yet also, death pocking the days.

It’s a curious thing trying to accept our own mortality, isn’t it? It’s an incredible thing to think of death as a gift, which it sometimes is. But that’s something I found in my own experience that can only be uttered when on the other side of the grief. It’s like trying to edit a poem you think to be your greatest masterpiece. You have to put it away for a few days to see it for what it is, a work in progress, full of editable bits.

Time brings that sense of perspective.

 

Sally

Here’s what you need to know about Sally: she had a voracious appetite for living and an incredibly mischievous side. She possessed a generosity and candor that few exhibit. Her tongue might be sharp, but her kitchen knives were even sharper.  She entertained moose and men, and could command attention or men to do her bidding. In short, it’s hard to come by someone with her tenacity of spirit. I, for one, am grateful for the tenderness she doled out on a grief-inducing Mother’s Day several years past, and for all of the love, support and steel words she spoke to me when I felt like limestone. Sally and I shared a fondness for instigating- either for good or for prank. When playing dominoes, she might win or I might (or we might pretend, when her daughter Olga swept the match).

At her funeral, Olga positioned hat trees near Sally’s coffin with a bright array of her hats ranging in color from the red of a California poppy or the pale slip of blue in a spring sky. Today, on Sally’s anniversary, I’ve declared it to be #hatday. It’s simple, wear a hat, upload it onto Instagram, Facebook, twitter (or email it to me), use the hashtag, #hatday and tag me so I can see it. What I’m hoping for is an equally bright collection of smiles beaming out under fabulous hats, a fitting tribute to an indomitable woman and perhaps in its own quirky way, a bit of balm for any of us who have someone’s life to celebrate in their absence. This too, is part of grieving.

And, when one season slips into another, fall will come back to us, just like the very best stories that sometimes spill out between laughter and tears. When fall returns, make a few loaves of Sally’s Pumpkin Bread and you just might find it to be warm and nurturing like her.

Sally's Pumpkin Bread

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SALLY’S PUMPKIN BREAD 

I like to slice and freeze one of the loaves so I can pull out a slice at a time to warm up. This recipe is perfect for baking gifts for people you love. The fall isn’t complete until the aroma of Sally’s Pumpkin Bread permeates the kitchen. (Note: I love this recipe so much, I tweaked it and included it in Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea and also because I wanted a piece of Sally to be in my first book. She was a cookbook author and I think that would have tickled her.) If you go the route of gift-giving, consider using the recipe below and using 4  prepared mini loaf pans.

YIELD: 2 loaves

INGREDIENTS
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups safflower oil
2/3 cup cold water
5 eggs
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree
Optional: 1 cup chopped toasted pecans or chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 375F. Spray two 9×5 inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together the wet ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry.

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Categories
Grief Spirit

A Day of Remembrance

NationalBloggingDayofRemembrance_zpsfcb06e06

Categories
Grief Spirit

Memorial

May his memory be a blessing. In my heart, a yahrzeit candle burns, two years later.

lighting the Memorial yahrzeit candle

You go to bury the dead. You put something dead into a still living soil.

taking home a sapling

And what if you planted something real and still waiting for its blooming-

planting a Memorial tree

What if you look for a way to keep the memorial burning longer than a 24 hour candle

digging the hole to plant a Memorial tree

to put down roots that will grow and stretch out like leaves and blossoms.

memorial tree planted

to be surrounded by daisies and Monkey Grass, life thriving among the living.

Categories
Grief Spirit

A wedding and a funeral

Good grief.

Do you know the sensation of being emotionally spent? I am taking the week off to reflect on this past weekend.

There was a wedding. There was a funeral. There were snippets of Portlandia watched to round out the heaviness with the absurdity of a micro-culture under scrutiny.

I returned from Denver with an eye twitch and the desire to hibernate. So, dear reader, I thank you for understanding why this week I am choosing to go off the grid. You might find me reading with my head stuck in a sci-fi novel and trying not to drink coffee that will exacerbate the twitch. Mostly, I’m emotionally mulling on what it looks like to celebrate life and transition.

In the midst of excitement for Ty and his recent marriage, I am carefully cradling the loss of Olga’s mother, a woman I still hold in great esteem.

I wanted to title this “In Defense of Valentine’s Day,” but opted for “A Wedding and a Funeral.” They are in some ways intriguing book ends to what love looks like in action.

Love is not a $4.95 greeting card from a paper store, but the act of remembering and celebrating the person in receipt.

Love is not saying in sickness and in health, and then moving away from the sickness, but instead bearing that physical burden of presence even when it’s emotionally difficult.

I know some people think Valentine’s Day is a holiday created by card companies, but expressing love is something worth celebrating. In fact, I’m inclined to think love is the most powerful force in the world. So in spite of the fact you might be single, in the process of getting a divorce, widowed or grieving, tell someone you care for today that you love them. It is a banner worth raising and a practice worth making a habit.

And I’ll be back next week with a story, a poem, and a recipe I’ve been tweaking. Until then, be loved and go love.

 

 

 

Categories
Grief Spirit

a retrospective and a pot of soup

minestrone soup

“I’m moving to India.”

Over in his swivel back chair, my father leaned back watching my face for translation cues, his eyes intent upon my own. Among the seven languages he could speak sometimes one of them was not Annelies.

I hurried on in a torrent of words to back up this proclamation, to buoy it into reality, my eyes watching his intently. He pulled me into his lap and held me. He stroked my mussed up curly head as one might do with a child and resistantly unfurled the word, “okay.”

Another time, same house but different room:

“I’m going to study poetry.”

His eyes bemusedly twinkled as he listened to this, my latest white rabbit anxiously pulling me down into its rabbit hole. Out came the laundry list of how poetry inexorably had woven itself into my life as a language I spoke in the belly of my being. He motioned me over to sit next to him and held my hand, saying, “My daughter to master poetry- while others might look to master business, she masters poetry.” And he chuckled aloud.

Last time, same house, same room:

“I’m in love.”

His face became a blank canvas as he sucked in breath like taking a drag on an invisible cigarette. His eyes smiled, seriously. This time he spoke in questions like a parental call and response. As I left, he hugged me in the great canyon of his chest where nothing could touch me. Nothing could go wrong.

And I think in retrospect of the gravity of parenthood, its catch and release.

And I think of the small letting go’s and the grand send-offs.

In the end, he was preparing me for his death, for this separation, by teaching me a different language- one of touch and words, of moving on and staying close. This time last year built up to be the happiest week of my life. Soon there would be rings and a vow and a joining. But at this time, none of that had happened yet. It was a promise lingering in the air with the certainty of sunrise. It was the empty seat at the rehearsal, the phantom arm holding the other arm as Mama marched me down the aisle.

Ours was the stuff of complexity, of trading holidays and playing house. Last year around this time, I remember thinking a thought I hold now, “why couldn’t I have them both?” Instead, some part of me innately knew he let go when he knew I would be cared for- body, mind and that poetrysoul that made him cheer on my latest conquest.

So when we need to be comforted, when nothing else will do, there’s prayer. And I’m going to submit to you, a pot of homemade soup doesn’t hurt. Especially a pot of minestrone. The humble vegetables that melt in your mouth combined with the tang of tomato and fennel warms up the body against the brittle cold. And if you close your eyes and open your nose, the smell lights up the spirit- soup as an inside-out hug.

Categories
Grief Spirit

After-thought

I’m cooking up some roasted cauliflower with paprika, crushed sea salt and pepper in oil. On the stovetop, a pan is sizzling with yukon gold slices, Spanish onion and garlic. Next up, swiss chard. And in my ears, Mumford and Sons.

And I feel like I owe you an explanation.

You come here regularly or happen upon this blog on occasion. As you may gather, I’m not a food blogger or someone who writes stories.  I see intersections, I seek to find beauty in life even in the ugly bits.

If you came here and left with one piece of something to snack on, I would want it to be hope. Sometimes this means going into the dark places. And guess what, I invite you to accompany me because I know we will make it out on the other side.

See the thing is, I like you.

I do. And if I could, for just a moment, I would want to share a bit of my kitchen, a bit of what inspires me. Food is as inspiring as words of poetry or seeing new places and discovering the gold from the dross. So as you’re capping off your evening or starting your morning in a country on the other side of the globe, consider this my knocking on your door to see if you need a cup of tea, to say hello.

Categories
Grief Spirit

In a pickle

remember

Being an only child, you learn early on to pay attention, to forage for details of your family’s past. You know you alone bear the weight of carrying those stories forward. You marvel at a society’s ability to pass down story from person to person, realizing that it is it’s own form of literacy and a deft art at that. As someone who’s taken by the idea of memorization- how do you truly memorize the contours of a face before you blink and the etch-a-sketch brain wipes clean?

Today, my dad would be 67.

When someone dies, you learn to switch verb tenses to a form never before attributed to that person. You fight against the “was” and underscore “is” for as long as it naturally comes out of your mouth. And then mysteriously, the “was” slips out. Simply, distance and time have eaten at your precious verb tenses like moths nibbling at a silk dress.

And the body is mysterious too. It has a special knowledge and tries to communicate outside the mouth, ascribing importance to the joints, digestion, the hips, the jaw… all of them arrows – all of them oracles.

This past week my body has been pointing to today. It has been bracing me for emotional and physical discomfit. My jaw has been clenched. My shoulders squared. Even sleep has been fraught with furrow, only made more tangible by dear Beck who’s been struggling with illness and a visit to the ER last Sunday, setting things in motion.

How do you remember without losing the edges of the thing remembered?

It’s a frightening prospect to think of the silhouette fading over time. It makes you fearful of losing all the other people in your life, makes you hold them a moment longer, talk a few minutes more, keeps them in the front of your mind as you run through your prayer litany. This way of living steeps you in fear so profoundly that you begin to buffet against what you know to be good and true. You plug your ears from listening.

But listening is key.

On Sunday morning, I ambled my way to church. I had signed up to sing, but was in no shape for it. My head, heart and body wanted to be back in bed with my husband who had slept little, tossing and turning in pain. I needed to turn things over like a battery that wouldn’t start. And unsurprisingly, the music pulled me in. It coddled and held me with the tempo and rhythm of Jeff playing the drums, the foundation being built by Adam on piano and Karl on guitar. Wil on the organ and Jason on the bass played on, reverberating something true and sure, something I could fall into willingly.

I don’t read music.

And the why is enrobed in a long story involving a baby grand piano, a teacher with a penchant for snacking whilst her 10 cats freely roamed the house and sometimes the keys I was trying to play. Instead, my way of picking out the musical path is found in listening. Sometimes the only way I feel grace and mercy is through a melody, each syllable and word working its existence out inside of me. Sometimes, the only way I can attempt fearlessness is to hear the possible avenues for harmony and strike out, knowing firm footing is best left to melody, knowing my heart races with adrenaline even when I hit the wrong note because I tried. And yesterday, I soared. And yesterday, I found myself awash in emotion and felt bruised. But I also found myself smiling at the three year old boy in the balcony, flinging his arms with the movement of the music, seeing his grin contagiously spread to the little girl next to him. They were listening with all of themselves.

My dad died 10 years after they expected he would and in my opinion 20 years before he should have. Can I change that- no. Can I accept that… I’m learning. And the tricky thing about listening is that my body is telling me it’s still grieving. It’s telling me to move on. As I get older, I find myself holding the sour and the sweet in tandem because the things which ravage us from within do not abate just because something good is happening. The sweet intersects and regards the sour.

And here’s the thing: I’m listening. Boy, am I listening.

Recently I whipped up a batch of pickled Bing cherries. Their dark red skin and flesh gave way to bursts of sweetness in the mouth. Their time span shortened by the day as the orbs softened to the touch. And I wanted to somehow draw out that goodness. I longed to keep them around just a bit longer, which is what I can relate to and what I hear from people who have lost someone they love. They /(I want):

One more hello. One more goodbye. One more hug. One more cry.

Categories
Art Grief Singing Spirit

Finding My Voice

SINGING- Finding My Voice

Olga once told me the worst thing you can do when you lose your voice is to whisper.

Instead, she said, you should either stay silent or try to talk normally so as not to damage the vocal chords. Clearly over the past year, I chose silence.

Just like talking about losing my voice found its appropriate time to be spoken aloud, this new season I am walking into is surprising. With the silence broken, I find myself immersed again in music and it brings joy not sorrow. Well, not every time because sorrow lingers in the corners of words and holidays.

Last week, I found myself at church singing as if no one else might be in the room. My voice has grown stronger and in that, so has my range… Olga, one of my repositories of information on all things vocal and musical once mentioned that the voices of women establish themselves in their thirties. I think it’s kind of magical really. Her own vocal transition is testament to that. The voice is an interesting animal.

In being silent from singing for a year, my voice is making itself known now.

Several Christmases ago, I encouraged my Dad to sit at the piano and play carols so we could sing them. It had been years since we had sung together. He chuckled and his eyebrows unexpectedly shot up with a “really?” This dormant part of me wanted to sing with my Dad like days of yore. And we knocked out a few songs together before retiring to the living room with the rest of the family. Singing had been our language early on and somewhere along the way we had set it aside.

In retrospect, he never knew my penchant and love of singing harmony. We didn’t have mutual songs other than those that breathed of childhood and thus tasted musty and out-of-date in my high school aged mouth. I fretted over sentimentality and he could appreciate it. I embarrassed easily when singing alone.

And then came college. And Choral Union with Ms. T. Later followed by singing more with church after church and while at college with another student group.

SINGING- Finding My Voice

The voice I have today reminds me of the three grey strands of hair poking out from the crown of my head. They are mine. They come at a cost.  See, for anyone who likes to sing (or run or swim or bike) the limitations stop us in our heads first. To climb over that wall, conquer that impasse is to forge a new path and perhaps take a risk.

As Beck says, “you can go higher than that” to me when we sing and play together, I have passed it off with a glib rebuff.  I am now scampering over those walls with delight and unabashed glee.

It feels good to sing again. Infectious. It feels good to know my Dad would want it so.

Categories
Art Grief Singing Spirit

Losing My Voice

Grief does weird things to a person.

You don’t exactly know the when or the where, but you know to take this visitor at its word, when it says it will drop by. Right after my dad’s funeral, people kindly sent emails, texts and phone calls. In the void and silence not to be filled, each word felt like a buoy to anchor me from the weightlessness that threatened to carry me deep into the sky. What is it about that levity that drains time of its usual punctuality, letting present ebb into future and blurring the lines of the past? Except for the event itself, when each detail can be recalled with rote precision.

Some of my earliest memories of my dad bring to mind two voices singing in unison. My starbird voice trilling in that high pitch special to children. His bass would carry the bottom like a firm foundation upon which the house could be built. He would take me out “driving” on his lap- hands latched onto the wheel, steering our way straight from the veering and careening he would do, I thought, so he could see Mama’s face contort into that of an irritated mime. In choir, his deep sonorous bass distinctively stood out from the lighter sopranos, mezzos, baritones and tenors. At one point in time, I equally spoke into existence my intention to be opera singer and fashion designer. My parents taught me to dream big and I did not disappoint.

I started really singing in church. Like Axl Rose. Like MC Hammer and probably scores of other singers. During high school, I auditioned for a youth singing group and made it in, though my point of pride settled on me being the only female rapper one year for choir tour. I wove the words around one another in rhythmic time and felt myself all the more impressive because of my cap worn backwards. Ah, youth. It’s no surprise really that my best friend is an opera singer and I casually took up karaoke.

The week my Dad died, I emailed Karl, our church music director, explaining I would not be able to sing with the church band, that I was in Texas, that my Dad had unexpectedly died. This was soon followed with a conversation that included the words “hiatus” and “not sure when”. Three months bled into six that later became eight and finally almost a year. I couldn’t get up the gumption to sing- it was like the song had been stolen from my mouth.

Months after his death, I would find myself alone in church, wearing a hat, feeling the part of the walking wounded. It didn’t take much to be bowled over emotionally- from the turn of a lyric, the chord progression, the violin playing pizzicato. And that surge of sorrow swept over me anew. There is nothing more mortifying than weeping in a crowd full of singers or trying to unsuccessfully stifle the growing storm. There is also nothing more humanizing. I would catapult myself out onto the street where the austere sun would shine its cold rays of sunlight upon me. The ambient street noises muffled against the backdrop of this particular kind of loneliness.

I say this because it needs to be said.

Last year, I learned a specific way to take care of myself- that it’s okay to seek out solitude and crave it greedily. It’s okay to sob because a silhouette on the street resembles that person. It’s okay to be embraced and sat with and prayed for and cooked for because sometimes your body wants you to stop and take heed.

Then Easter changed everything.

It did not bring back my Dad. It’s hard to explain in words really. It did remove some of the burden of the loss and the lungs that had felt unsturdy weeks prior began to feel stronger. I emailed Karl and said I thought I might be ready. Perhaps I could try and sing again? In his kind, gentle way, Karl told me there was no pressure. I could practice with the band and if I didn’t feel up to it, I didn’t have to stay and sing.

SINGING- Losing My Voice

The lights blazed on our faces. The microphone blared until the sound was equalized. My nightmare of crumpling emotionally on the platform during a song went unfounded. And something about losing myself in the harmonies strung around the melody, around the guitar rhythms, the hand-tapped drum beats on my thigh somehow brought my Dad closer. Music- the very thing that had for months felt too painful and too approximate to the forging and physical extinguishing of our relationship, now became sealant and mender.

I stopped singing for a year because it felt like the right thing to do and because I had no choice. My body began telling me how to interpret “take care of yourself” and once I started listening to my body, I began to find my voice again.