Susanna and Mii

(Reposting from February 21, 2015)

 

Yesterday I had been driven inside by the cold and resorted to Wii Fit U, Free Run, in lieu of my walk in the park. The simulated run was icy in appearance, snow falling in seasonal nature graphics. Somehow it was dark in my running world though it was only 3 PM, but I did not mind following the full yellow moon and the huge lighthouse.

I bought our first gaming console last winter as a battle tool, having gained a bit of weight. My biggest complaint about the fitness program has been the way I am judged by a four star system after each activity, which I see as part of an achievement driven and heartless culture. Susanna used to run up to the television and pound a couple of extra stars on for me with her hand if I acted disappointed by my score (my sweet angel). At some point glittery star stickers began to appear around the sides of the screen.

Since the day of Susanna’s aneurysm and sudden death, nothing of the physical universe has the same weight or feel. I cannot say I am living apart from reality because it feels like the opposite. All that used to seem solid (though I never knew it seemed solid) has been set adrift and I am hovering, sort of on a magic carpet ride which will never end. I am not alone, nor delusional. We are all here in a physical state for a limited span of time. To live as if your life and body and your set of intellectual understandings are everything will only take you so far. We all know this but we all struggle with remembering.

During the first days, before the calling hours and the completion of the autopsy, my son and I turned on our Wii and saw ourselves in the Miiverse (a universe populated by avatars, some created by my kids) with our Susanna. She was and is still there, wearing the same bun in her hair with tendrils as I am, the same pink dress and heavy blue eye shadow of her choosing. I can tell the two of us apart from a distance by size. We watched ourselves huddle a bit in the center of the “plaza” and suddenly he said, “Look! Susanna’s dead!” Her Mii character was lying down, but promptly got up. In some planes we do not need to be without her forever.

So yesterday I set out on my run to look for her as I always do. I passed the Mii people we made to represent so many friends and family members, and she showed up in front of me. My own avatar was shadowy, like a ghost, but Susanna was solid and her feet pounded on and on with great strength. I ran to keep up but not pass her, I did not want her to see me and get scared or go away. My heart and lungs pumped in good health, I am alive. I thought about my son and how sometimes lately I love to watch him run ahead of me. When I am able to believe he is on his own eternal path apart from me, I can let go, a little. Run on, Susanna. I need to keep going and only you are ahead to lead the way. At one point she dropped off to the side but came back and passed me, flashing me a crinkly eyed smile. I followed her near to the end of my run, short by four minutes and she veered off. I yelled good bye to her and crossed the virtual finish line. For now.

Life Isn’t Fair

Children have a strong sense of justice. Pretty much if a child says something is not fair, it is not. I am not a perfect mother but I never have and never would answer with “Life isn’t fair.” Life is not fair, but this is not an excuse to treat someone of any age unfairly or dismiss their feelings. Also, this is a rather bleak way to exist, to have such a phrase on the tip of your tongue. Life is not fair but in my home fairness shall be highly valued.

What would not be fair is for my son to go through life with anything other than a family where the parents are free to love and support him, and hopefully show enough enthusiasm to teach him that life is something to be enjoyed rather than suffered. As much as I am adrift, I have known all along that there are things I must not do. I will not avoid pain with substances. I will not act angrily toward others because of my loss. I will not hide my tears from my child or spouse, or really anyone unless I am at work or maybe trying to make some kind of business transaction (and I said maybe). When people ask how my family is doing I have trouble answering because I do not know. The question makes me think I have to evaluate us like a social worker with a clipboard. I do know that we do all we can to make sure that we do not hurt each other in our grief.

I read a story shortly after Susanna died about a mother who lost her young child in an accident some time ago. Her hair turned white, and she needed her husband to build a new house to live in immediately. This makes sense to me. No ways to cope really work, but you latch on to whatever one can get you through the day or the year or the decade. Obviously, I am a reader and I read a lot about grief. In contemporary medicine and psychology there is a condition called “Complicated Grief”. The symptoms include pining and longing for someone, not accepting their death or “moving on” after some specified normal amount of time, I think six months. This is all nonsensical to me, and I wonder who finds my grief “complicated”. Complicated for whom?

Like many people I spend a lot of time working and managing schedules and money. This is the part of the world of questions which have answers, problems which have solutions. Sometimes there is comfort there, routine can be beautiful music. Mostly though I am much more in tune with chaos and the world of no answers necessary. Although I look forward to a time likely to be less painful, I do not try to force it and I try not to wait for it. Last summer I wrote this passage, with inspiration from my wise and beautiful daughter.

 

During the New Age “Harmonic Convergence” event, foretold by the Mayans, I am in Cape Cod, buying and reading countless books about various enlightenments. I teach myself to meditate and open my chakras. As life goes on I am back and forth with such things but when meditating always return to the string of multicolor lights within my core. I see them eyes closed and breathe them, tasting and smelling them like a stack of Life Savers. At a later time I take many yoga classes in beautiful Park Slope locales, hardwood floors or soft mauve carpeting, chanting, spiced teas and peace. This is the point where I spontaneously do not need coffee anymore and my crown buzzes. It begins buzzing and goes on for days, warm and tingly. Once I have begun my terrifying new job, lived with Papi and had children, I am sure the buzz has left me but it still returns whenever I sit quietly and see the chakras. On this day when I have come by Sunshine’s benches I sit for a while and meditate. I allow the buzz and it spreads into the bridge of my nose. All open like a funnel, a humming tingling cone swirling into me from above my head. I wonder how to know when to leave such a state. I ask you, Sunshine, to help me and tell me an answer to my problem this week: How can I go on? How can I go on? The answer surprises me: You don’t go on. You just are. And at this time I know the new Sunshine is not only where I am but with me. We will help each other keep learning and being, and I do not have to wait until later.  

“I Smell Bread”

I can only speak for myself, but I have always wanted to know about the afterlife and given it a lot of thought. Why am I here, where am I going, what is the purpose, all of that, as far back as I can remember. I set out on a search this morning (via my laptop) to find an episode of M*A*S*H I remember from childhood. I did not find it for streaming but the title is The Life You Save. I had remembered it as Hawkeye on a search for answers about death but it was actually Winchester. He came up with a dying military patient’s last words being “I smell bread”, and the viewers were given a glimpse of newly passed soldiers carrying on, helping direct each other in a continuation on the other side. Their afterlife began with familiar transitions and the help of others. There are similarities with the Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler Ross books I poached off of my older sister during the M*A*S*H years.

During the earliest days after Susanna died I had a dream that I was in a meeting to plan my own burial because I had died. Everyone could see and hear me as always and I was responsible for figuring out what kind of casket I needed. I jokingly related a story to the funeral director about my height (I am over six feet) and how, to the amusement of the nurses and myself, my feet dangled off of the table as I was pushed into the ER for an emergency C section when my son was born. I woke up confused because the line is so blurred now, life and death. I needed as I still do to place Susanna in my new reality. There has never been a time I have thought of her as disappeared or confined to my memory. She has vacated her body but is still around and living a life beyond as well. If you were to ask me how many “supernatural” experiences of her I have had I would say “Do you mean today?”

A part of parenthood and also committed love is that you sometimes go beyond your comfort level to understand your beloved and be where they are. When you are a mother this may mean you will take your child to hockey practice every morning or dance class all afternoon. Regardless of whether you love these sports this becomes your life. I have maybe a stronger desire to know about the other side because I have a kid there. Every day, all day, my heart is broken by our separation. Every day, all day, I know she is with me. This is complicated but not a problem to be solved. As much as it hurts to be without her and piece together a new existence I am still on her sidelines cheering her on (a soccer mom on an iridescent celestial playing field). I see glimpses in my mind’s eye and in my dreams of what her heaven is like and I know on some level that she is meant to be there, though it pains me that it is this way. This is the path I am walking, at times a battlefield if I may.

There are many people and places to go to when you want to ask questions. There are books and classes, traditions with histories of any length. I can say for today where I find my day to day answers. Mostly in nature and silence, sometimes in the words or faces of others. I have no more information than anyone about what is beyond and if it smells like bread or roses or frankincense (I will tell you about the times I have smelled roses and frankincense on another day). I do know more than anything that my daughter’s laugh, her face, her words will be there. And that she is also here because in heaven you can be in two places at once. There is more to life than life.

Susanna and Mii

Yesterday I had been driven inside by the cold and resorted to Wii Fit U, Free Run, in lieu of my walk in the park. The simulated run was icy in appearance, snow falling in seasonal nature graphics. Somehow it was dark in my running world though it was only 3 PM, but I did not mind following the full yellow moon and the huge lighthouse.

I bought our first gaming console last winter as a battle tool, having gained a bit of weight. My biggest complaint about the fitness program has been the way I am judged by a four star system after each activity, which I see as part of an achievement driven and heartless culture. Susanna used to run up to the television and pound a couple of extra stars on for me with her hand if I acted disappointed by my score (my sweet angel). At some point glittery star stickers began to appear around the sides of the screen.

Since the day of Susanna’s aneurysm and sudden death, nothing of the physical universe has the same weight or feel. I cannot say I am living apart from reality because it feels like the opposite. All that used to seem solid (though I never knew it seemed solid) has been set adrift and I am hovering, sort of on a magic carpet ride which will never end. I am not alone, nor delusional. We are all here in a physical state for a limited span of time. To live as if your life and body and your set of intellectual understandings are everything will only take you so far. We all know this but we all struggle with remembering.

During the first days, before the calling hours and the completion of the autopsy, my son and I turned on our Wii and saw ourselves in the Miiverse (a universe populated by avatars, some created by my kids) with our Susanna. She was and is still there, wearing the same bun in her hair with tendrils as I am, the same pink dress and heavy blue eye shadow of her choosing. I can tell the two of us apart from a distance by size. We watched ourselves huddle a bit in the center of the “plaza” and suddenly he said, “Look! Susanna’s dead!” Her Mii character was lying down, but promptly got up. In some planes we do not need to be without her forever.

So yesterday I set out on my run to look for her as I always do. I passed the Mii people we made to represent so many friends and family members, and she showed up in front of me. My own avatar was shadowy, like a ghost, but Susanna was solid and her feet pounded on and on with great strength. I ran to keep up but not pass her, I did not want her to see me and get scared or go away. My heart and lungs pumped in good health, I am alive. I thought about my son and how sometimes lately I love to watch him run ahead of me. When I am able to believe he is on his own eternal path apart from me, I can let go, a little. Run on, Susanna. I need to keep going and only you are ahead to lead the way. At one point she dropped off to the side but came back and passed me, flashing me a crinkly eyed smile. I followed her near to the end of my run, short by four minutes and she veered off. I yelled good bye to her and crossed the virtual finish line. For now.

Noise, and Silence

WP_20150208_001 (2)

My son is noisy to the point of hurting my ears. Not at school or in public places, there he is rather shy. I mean at home. There is much guttural screaming for the sake of screaming. There are a range of funny voices and accents and bizarre fits of laughter. Sometimes he falls into series of moans which suggest he may be mimicking old dramatic scenes he has overheard. Often I wonder if he is slowly opening a type of cap, a steam valve, in order to alleviate his emotions. If so this is part of his beautiful wisdom.
Anyone who lives with or spends time with small children knows about the noise. Annoying as it can be, children fill your life with noise and unfiltered emotion. When you want to turn the world off and escape, this will annoy you. You will also feel jealous because you are less in touch with yourself and your true nature than your children are. You should. They are our teachers and the keepers of the wisdom we want.
Our house is weeping with loss. We replaced the hot water heater which began leaking the day after Susanna died, but the bathtub faucet is leaking. This is a cold winter and I hear the boiler chugging to keep up. There are hours of quiet when our boy is sleeping or at his afterschool program. The silent sadness waits for his screaming to pierce the void. We can not bring back the sound of her voice or the glorious screech and wail she was capable of. I can hear her if I look far enough within, but my ears no longer can unless I am dreaming. How amazing that my son is still here to make noise and call out to lead us back to peace. He does not know that is what he is doing, but he is, in the generous way of innocent children. He is a lighthouse, and a fog horn. By his example we guide each other through miserable oceans of grief and refuse to let our hearts drown.
This is an excerpt from my book in progress, a Valentine’s Day page:
It is Sunshine’s last Valentine’s Day. We go to her school to pick her up, and she has learned to say something with no words. First, she says it to me when I come to the door. Later she says it to Papi when we go to the car where he and Brother are waiting. This is what she says: points to her heart, inside of her puffy white bubble jacket, with the index finger of her right hand (the first word), hugs herself with a peaceful smile (second word), and points to me with the same finger (third word). She has given her whole self to the sequence and her whole soul to the message. Never, dear Sunshine, has anyone shown me more about love. And I will keep learning to see you and to know what you are saying even if I can never hear your voice, not with my ears like I used to but with my heart. Maybe I can be a good student like you and say what I need to in a new way.

Flower Sniffer

WP_20140105_004
The story of Ferdinand the bull set a tone for my life early on. I believe it was written in the thirties, the story of a Spanish bull mistakenly taken as a fighter when he was actually a gentle flower sniffer. Fighting happens and can be necessary, but I certainly do not like it. I have every respect for those who like to learn games and sports and those who work hard for trophies (I live with two of them). Still I have always known my place is in the field, and conflicts that arise are incidental and temporary.
I grew up in a small town, a land of big backyards and many trees. A snowy day meant being outside with kids and siblings, but I believe my Mom would usually be inside doing Mom things, keeping the dry mittens and hot chocolate coming when we came in for occasional thaws. I would slide down hills because everyone else was doing it, but I was nervous about crashing in to something or falling off of the sled. As far as snowball fighting, no need to even say that I do not get it. I am not on earth to hurt anyone with snow and no one wins such an activity in my eyes. What I did love was walking around and touching the snow on the pine needles. I could still spend hours stepping on ice coated puddles and watching the ice move and crack. It was early in life when I knew who Thoreau and Emerson and Walt Whitman were. I am not the type of nature lover who loves to kayak and ski but the kind who worships the moon and may want to paint it or write about it.
Since I lost my daughter I have looked for solace at the beach or in the park. I live in a big city away from the New England woods but near enough to nature, though the ground may be littered and the benches graffitied. Susanna talks to me through the birds and pink scraps of litter on my path. On these many days where breathing takes all I have and only an ember of faith keeps me moving, the trees breathe life toward me. The pounding of my footsteps defies the pain which sometimes causes me to say “no” to everything. This, people, is as much fight and competition as I need. The daily battle of the broken hearted. You do not have to do it alone, my angel princess whispers as she leaves a trail here and there of frosted jelly beans. But Walt Whitman cannot travel this path for you, you must travel it for yourself.

Susanna’s Golden New Year

 

New Years Day seems like a good day to start a blog. Onward and upward. This is the first year in which my daughter Susanna will not be here, in the physical body sense. Since last April 22 (Earth Day, 2014) no prior knowledge of how to live my life seems to apply in the same way. Susanna passed suddenly at the age of five after a brain aneurysm ruptured while she slept in the car. No symptoms.

How does a person deal with such a thing? I ask myself this every day when I wake up and have to place myself in this new reality, then again and again. The answer is: I will let you know when I figure it out.

I was going to start by posting a segment of a book I started writing last summer. In some ways, I have been preparing to write it for much longer. It is a set of stories about my life, and every word is true. It is written in the perspective of someone who believes in eternity, and time means less and less, all the time. I plan to live some more before I will be able to finish it. My intention is for it to be good, and I hope some people will like it. I was going to post a page or two, but today is not the right day. More to be revealed.

When Susanna was three, she came to me in princess gear with this: “Mommy, I need lips and hair. I’m going to the Golden Ball”. A friend has commented that platinum is all the rage in the other realm. I am unsure whether she may have known where she was going from the beginning, perhaps. In the meantime, those living in her wake try daily to make life a Golden Ball. So here’s to my angel princess, Happy 2015.