Posts Tagged ‘death’

Slice of Losing a Life

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

I put off going to visit.

I took my time finishing a prayer blanket. Then busy days kept me away. Until Sunday.  I knew I needed to go before it was too late.

I knocked tentatively on the door.  No answer.  Another knock. No answer.  I hung the bag with the blanket inside on the door handle and tip-toed back to my car.  I texted her daughter, “I left a package at the door.”

She responded, “No one answered the door?  I’m not home.  They must be on the back patio.”

I turned my car around.  Ok, here I go.  I walked around to the back and met her husband and her sister.  “I have the monitor, so I can hear her,” her husband said. “It’s time for her medicine. It’s a good time to visit.  She will be more alert.”

“You may be shocked to see her,” he added.  I remembered seeing my husband’s father near death.  I felt prepared.

I wasn’t prepared.

She lay in the bed. Her face pale, almost stone-like, but still soft and warm.  I lay next to her, placed the blanket over her, and cried.

When I spoke her name, she opened her eyes.  Did she see my tears?  She tried to reach out to hug me, but her arms had no direction.  I held her hand and rambled:

“You are beautiful.

You are a queen.

I love you.

God is with you.”

She mumbled.  I didn’t understand her words.

I think she said, “I’m sick.”

I think she said, “I love you.”

I think she smiled.

When her husband came in with her medicine, I saw true love.  He climbed onto the bed, raised her up, and said, “Breathe, breathe. I love you. Breathe.”

As I left, I hugged him.  A man I just met.  He was doing the best he could.  He’s holding on to a small thread and knows that it will soon break.  He will lose her.  She will die.  My eyes met his.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I’m so sorry.”

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

A few weeks ago I wrote about making a prayer blanket for a friend whose baby was born prematurely. It was the first prayer blanket I ever made, and frankly, I had high hopes for its prayer power. I wrote a sweet note with the gift thinking that one day finding it tucked into her baby book, the child would read it as an adult.

Enough of my selfish plans. The victory was not mine to decide. I had no part in this.

Vivian died. Her too tiny body fought valiantly for 6 weeks. Two days before her death, I had given her dad my prayer blanket gift. This is not the way it was supposed to go.

I met Vivian today for the first time. She was wrapped tightly in the smallest casket I have ever seen. She looked like a china doll. Her mother hugged me long and hard. She said, “The last time I held her, I wrapped her in the blanket. It’s the only picture I have of me holding her. I didn’t have a chance to post the pictures before…” We hugged and cried some more. And I realized my connection was not just to the baby, my connection was to her mother.

I arrived late at school and Kat met me at the door. She stopped and said, “You are late today.” I responded that I had been by the funeral home. Kat knows loss. She lost her ten year old daughter last year to a battle with a brain tumor. She listened to my selfish lament over the prayer blanket.

“You do not realize how important the material things are. People tell me Kamryn is always with me, and I know this. But I still have to touch.” Kat touched an angel pin on her shoulder and a flower bracelet on her wrist. She explained that my blanket will be that comfort to the mother. We cried together, and I felt blessed. God works mysteriously. Sending Kat in my pathway today led me to a deeper understanding.

I wrote this poem the day after I heard of Vivian’s death. I was still angry, but even then I knew that there was more.

What else can we do
but pray to the moon
high in the morning sky?
I bow my head to her,
cry out
“What were you thinking?”

Bombs went off in Syria.
A bomb exploded.
Vivian’s too tiny body
could not stand the blast.

The variegated pink clouds
float like the blanket
I crocheted, hooking stitch by stitch
repeating her name,
asking for victory.

You forgot to tell me
the victory would be yours.
The morning moon mocks
me with an illusion of a smile.

The sun in the east
continues to rise
always rise,
even though
Vivian’s eyes are closed.
The sun will still rise.
–Margaret Simon

Lucy, the therapy dog, was at the funeral home comforting grievers.

Lucy, the therapy dog, was at the funeral home comforting grievers.

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Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts.  Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts. Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

Holly invites us to reflect on our spiritual journey every Thursday. This week’s theme is Forgiveness, but I am being one of those students who is writing off-topic.

I was reading with one of my students about Buddha. A woman whose child was dead came to him asking for a miracle. Buddha told her if she could find a house that death had not visited, he would save her child. Of course, this proved impossible. The woman accepted the child’s death and buried him.

Death affects us all. But a young vibrant girl should not have to face the death of her mother.

Yesterday I got the news that Emily’s mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Emily is a fourth grade student. She bounces into class. She hums songs all the time. She is full of life and joy. Emily should not have to face the death of her mother.

After I heard the news, I called Emily’s grandmother and gave her my cell number saying Emily could call me anytime. She did. It was good to hear her voice, but it was shaky and small and sad. I held back my tears, told her I loved her, and reminded her of Dot Day, the happy day we had together on Monday.

Later I called Healing House, a nonprofit organization that helps grieving children. What gentle calming voices! They told me they have a “koping kit” that they can drop off for us at the school. I talked to the director about how to tell my other students. She said to be as honest as possible. She also told me to allow them to come up with ways to comfort Emily.

My students are amazing; however, I don’t ever want to see those expressions again. Their eyes immediately shone with tears. Their mouths fell open. We talked, and I kept my own tears at bay. We decided they would write personal messages to Emily on our blog. On the post, I put a picture of Emily’s dot. One of the students brought up how happy we all were on Dot Day. I am grateful that I allowed them to have a day of pure creative fun.

These are some of their comments:

I am so sorry. We are crying tears for you. I hope to you see you soon. I am looking forward to cheering you up. I wish you and your family love and happiness. Hope you feel better. Kielan

I’ve gone through the same thing Emily. My grandfather died in 2012 and it took me a whole month to get over it. The whole GT class is worried for you. We hope you feel better real soon. Nigel

I do not know what the next few days or weeks will bring. None of us do. We will all experience tragedy as we all experience love and joy. My prayer for Emily is that she will become strong and resilient. She will be the best she can be. She will love life again and feel joy. For now, we will be present with her in her grief.

Emily dot

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Ever since this old oak fell more than a week ago, I knew it had a poem to give me. I have learned and continue to learn to wait for writing. First, I walked down to the empty lot where it lay and took pictures. I played with Instagram for the one here. Then I sat with a favorite poet, Mary Oliver. Mary doesn’t fail me. I felt like we were writing side by side. I opened her book, Red Bird, to the poem Night Herons, and one line jumped off the page, “what do we know/ except that death/ is so everywhere and so entire–” Using her form of four lines per stanza and borrowing this line, I wrote a poem about the tree.

An oak tree
fell in the night
while we were sleeping,

Its body broken
by invisible flames,
trunk separated
from leaves, from life.

Happy resurrection fern
clings, even as
clouds form
rain again.

This keeper of stories,
survivor of hurricanes,
fell in a summer storm,
just tired, I guess.

That was the end of growing
as we know it, yet
what do we know
except that death

is so everywhere and so entire–
culling and clearing,
sometimes taking
an old friend.

One strike, one boom,
and the lot fills up
with sprawling branches.
How long

will we walk by
and watch the decomposing?
How long until the chainsaw

Until then, I will stay
pray to this sacred sculpture
and to its sculptor:
Rise and sow again.

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