Passing On


 

 

They say life’s a journey and time moves on

And lives end and and now you are gone.

When someone goes, it’s never on my schedule

And I can mourn, I can scream, and

I can cry.

But our lives move on, and my friend has passed.

 

They say your time had come, your work was done

You were letting go, and moving on.

You let me know in many ways that this was goodbye,

And that was fine, this was what would be—

And life goes on, so the well-wishers say.

 

I’m not done with you, I scream in my head

In the darkest of my thoughts, not wanting to know

You are gone, that you have passed, before I was willing

To say good-bye.

 

You are right, I’ll hear you say,

Seeing a spark of light in the darkest of the night —-

The ache remains, the emptiness unrelieved,

Your absence is what I resent.

 

The path you made through life still guides my steps

Your smile, now just a memory—

Your voice still whispers in my ear

When the path gets rough.

You letting me know it will work out,

That I’ll know the way, the path will clear,

You still by my side, you still lighting my way.

 

—Neal Lemery 1/9/2019

Unsaid


 

 

You would be one hundred tomorrow,

and I would have made you a cake—

your mom’s white spice cake with what we kids used to call

cement frosting – sugar boiled to death, and slathered on

like plaster, with an old kitchen knife of Grandma’s.

 

I’d make you hot Lipton tea, even though it will be a scorcher of a day–

you with your sweater on, and me breaking a sweat.

We’d talk and laugh, but when I would ask about you growing up,

and what it was like in your younger days, you’d get quiet, and

change the subject to how my garden was doing.

 

I still think about you living with your aunt that year,

while Grandma went to Fort Worth.

I figured it out that year your

cousin’s kids came to live with us for the summer,

you adding chairs and another leaf to the table—

no explanation given.

 

Years later, when I brought our foster son to meet you,

you’d baked a pie and made your favorite dish,

put out your great grandma’s English china bowl

and just smiled and gave him a hug.

 

You’ve been gone a long time now, but I still

grow your favorite rose

and think of you when I plant my peas, using Grandpa’s hoe,

and set the table when guests are coming,

using your silverware, and folding the napkins just like you.

 

I’ll even make some Lipton tea on a stormy day, and read a book—

remembering you doing that, while a roast cooked in the oven,

filling the house with love, you saying “Hi” when I got back from school.

 

A few years ago, something great happened and I picked up the phone—

halfway through the number, I realized you wouldn’t answer the call,

and laugh when I told you the news—

I miss that, sometimes more than I think I can stand.

 

The other day, I drove by Great Grandma’s house,

where you were “born and raised” and learned to ride your uncle’s horse,

the old and “new” barns gone now, the road to the cemetery just grass,

a hundred years changed most everything, I think,

Except what really mattered, what was too often left

Unsaid.

 

 

—Neal Lemery

September 2017

 

Grieving


 

 

 

They come into my life and then, too early, they are gone. And I mourn and grieve, cry and moan. I am angry at my loss, my pain, the void in my life as their sudden absence is a bleeding, infected wound that never quite seems to heal.

Grief dances its macabre and bittersweet retinue of every emotion, taking fiendish joy in ambushing me when I least expect it, when I am least able to cope with the pain.

Yet, deep down, I still carry their light and their love, and sense their their soul, still resounding with me, still an integral part of my life.

Why? What was so special about that person that I am so profoundly affected by their passing? What was it about them that reached me, touched my heart, and brought them so close to me, such an essential part of my life, my own story? What is the lesson to be learned?

I just read that plants emit light frequencies in a part of the light spectrum that is invisible to our eyes, yet photography is now able to record those images, those vibrations, and reveal another dimension of the profound beauty and intricacies of these living beings.

Is it that much of a stretch in thinking that people also emit vibrations and frequencies of light that is invisible to our eyes, yet sensed in a much deeper level by us, on a different, yet intuitive, level.

“You are special. You bring something into my life that is beautiful, meaningful for me.”

Attraction.

The law of attraction teaches us that we attract to ourselves the emotions, the feelings, the vibrations that we need. And when we open ourselves to those feelings, the presence of what we crave, then we become more complete, and more able to live the life that we deeply desire. We come closer to fulfilling our true purpose in this life.

And when a special person leaves us, there is a void, an emptiness, a loss. Yet there is also the knowing, deep down, of what they have brought to us in our all too brief time together. That memory serves us well, teaching us what we had needed and desired, to be a better, more complete person.

In that loss, that death, there are lessons to be learned, lessons on what we have needed and taken in, and grown from. When the class is over, only then do we fully appreciate the lessons learned, the experience gained, the real benefit of being present for the lesson, the experience.

At the end of a particular journey, the end of that special time when a special friend has come into my life and walked with me, only then do I first realize what I have experienced, what we had set out to learn, and how I needed to grow. I look back, and only then see from where I have come, how far I have traveled, and the name of the road I am on.

These dear ones who have passed on, the ones whose light I have needed along my own journey, have taught me great lessons, and deeply impacted my life. I find that when they are gone, only then do I start to fully realize the gifts they have given me, the lessons they have taught me, and the special places they have held in my life. Only then do I fully appreciate them, and find some sense of completeness and understanding of their presence in my life.

Somehow, their teaching to me is not complete until they are gone. Only then do I learn all the lessons they have been teaching me.

Only then is the full spectrum of the light they have shared revealed to me.

Only then can grief lead me to the understanding I have been led to eventually discover.

 

 

–Neal Lemery 6/16/2017

Taking Care


 

 

“Take care.” It’s a popular thing to say, as friends part, or end a phone call.

There’s a great need now to take care in our culture. I’m seeing a lot of pain, a lot of anxiety, a lot of doubt and uncertainty as to who we are as a nation and a culture. There’s a lot of doubt, of losing a sense of purpose.

When I watch the evening news, or peruse the headlines in the paper, I find myself emotionally wringing my hands, or throwing them up in anger. I’m close to my boiling point.

“What can I do about it?” I wonder. How can I take care?

Not much, I’ve concluded. But I can make a difference where I live.

I can take care in my community. And, it is something I can do, rather than sit on the couch, tap my foot, and bemoan to my wife about how things could be different. Talking back to the TV doesn’t seem to do anything.

A few weeks ago, a friend suddenly lost his son. It was a great tragedy, but what could I do? I still don’t know what I can do, but I did reach out to him. I went to his house and just sat with him, letting him talk, letting us sit there in silence. He was not alone, and I just listened. I went with him to the funeral home, and prayed with him, holding him as he cried.

At the funeral, I spoke the words he wanted said. I welcomed people, listened to them, and held them close. We cried and we grieved, and my friend was not alone.

A friend should not grieve alone, and there was a community of grief, holding my friend close. And, maybe that’s all that we can do, grieving together, taking care of each other, in that awful journey of grief and shock and bewilderment.

“I don’t know how to do this,” my friend said.

“None of us do,” I replied. “But we take care of ourselves and each other.”

“That’s all we can do.”

Another friend had a heart attack, and I sent my prayers, a few words of comfort, a message of “take care”. And, he is, and I am.

Another friend needed to talk, to get a worry off their chest, and let it out. So, I listened, and loved them, and listened some more. As we parted, we said those words, “take care”, and we will and we did.

I cared for a public space this morning, a small garden in a parking lot, often busy with people on a mission, with business to take care of, the never ending errands of life. I pruned, weeded, planted new plants, and added some fertilizer just before the next spring shower poured down. Most visitors won’t notice it, but some will. And, this summer, as the plants grow and bloom, and the empty spaces fill in, there will be some beauty to be enjoyed, a quiet respite on a busy day. That garden will “take care” of someone in need of that quiet moment.

What I did wasn’t much and it won’t make the evening news, but in other ways it was a lot. I made a small difference in one corner of the world.

I “took care” and, in this crazy world, that makes a difference.

 

–Neal Lemery

4/14/2017

 

 

Grieving and Anticipating


It’s the harshest kind of grief, hanging around, not ready to even barely get started. It hits me hard, even before I’m ready to stumble down that long road through the jungle that is grief.
Anticipatory grief, that’s what the psychologists call it. Grieving a loss before it actually occurs. But, I know it’s coming. So, I gird my loins, I steel myself for what is coming. I’ve been in this place before, and I’m old enough, lived enough life to know there’s a storm coming and I better get ready.
This grief doesn’t get to enjoy messing with all of me, not yet. There’s still hope. Hope that my friend will recover from cancer. Or that my relative who’s had several strokes and is severely depressed will turn the corner and be their old, dependable and personable self. Or, grieving some other change, some other loss in my life.
I can’t fully grieve, I can’t yet look ahead on this journey and start thinking those logical, sensible thoughts, that death is inevitable, that my loved one has passed away and that is simply reality.
No, that’s not reality. Not yet. There’s that hope poking around, reminding me that all is not lost, at least not yet. They could recover, they could rebound and this dark time will simply be remembered over coffee as a bad time, just one of those stumbling blocks on our walk through life.
This wound is open, infected. My magical thinking is that I can let this grief run its course, that I can gnash my teeth and scream at the wind in the middle of the storm. Eventually the dawn will come and I can see my way ahead, that life goes on, and I must take some steps in the right direction.
No, not yet. There’s that hope thing; there’s that uncertainty. So, I bargain and I rationalize and use all my grieving tools, looking for the easy way out.
“It’s not that bad,” I say to the mirror.
It is. The cancer and the stroke and the depression, or whatever disease my loved ones are battling are fierce and strong. And, let’s face it, fatal. It’s just a matter of time.
But. But, let me bargain. Let me cajole and do my best imitation of a cheerful Pollyanna.
That’s part of the grief process, the potholed journey I’m embarking on. My rational mind knows that. Yet, grief isn’t rational, isn’t a nice progressive process with a bright light shining a mile down the road.

Grief is chaos, bewilderment, a wringing of the hands, storming through my life, often blindsiding me, getting knocked off the rails.
This anticipation, it is still grief, and I don’t know how to deal with it, or make much sense out of it. I’ll just be grieving, with all of my righteous anger and rage, depression, frustration, self pity and glimmers of rational thoughts full of hope and a renewed healthy perspective of what life is all about.
Grieving is messy work, and like everyone else I know, it is work that I want to avoid. When I can’t avoid it, I’ll bargain and argue and ignore it and play all the mind games with the Fates that I’ve come to be pretty experienced with. Grief and I are wary rivals, wrestling as we do to see how I can move through these rough patches in my life.
Anticipatory grief? Heck, no. I’m right in the middle of it all. I call it out as grief, in all its forms and all of its moods. And, some day, I’ll emerge on the other side of the wormhole, a little worse for the wear, maybe. Yet, stronger for the journey.

—Neal Lemery. 9/6/2016

The Morning You Died


 

 

The morning you died

The glorious light in the east

Just before sunrise pulled me to the

Side of the road, so I could stop in the silence

Before the dawn, and take the new light

Into my heart, pausing to simply breathe in the new day.

 

Just breathe. Just take it in,

And be in the quiet beauty of the summer morning.

“Each day, each moment is precious,” you’d tell me, again

reminding me that life is to be lived, with everything we have.

 

The morning you died

I shared coffee with an old friend,

Our laughter filling the café with good times,

Our friendship old and alive, rich with promise

For this special day.

 

The morning you died, I watered my garden, so the

Flowers would bloom again, and the seeds I had planted

Would give us food when summer ran into fall,

When the leaves would turn to gold and fly away in the wind,

Promising to come again next spring.

 

Next year, spring will come again, yet you are gone.

I will hear your laughter, and your delicious humor,

And your love of being with everyone in the garden of our lives.

You, teaching us, once again, that life is to be enjoyed,

And every moment is part of the dance we call

Life, and you will remind us, once again,

That we don’t really die, that life is just

Part of the dance, part of the circle, and we are all

One.

 

–Neal Lemery