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

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

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

Struggling with Suicide and Grief and Everything Else


I don’t know what to say, or even think. A friend of mine has gone, at a time and place and manner of his own choosing. He left, not saying good bye, not asking for help with his pain, his choices. But, then again, maybe he did, and we did not listen, or did not respond to what he asked. At least, I did not hear him asking for a hand, or my ear, or even considering other choices. Or, maybe I did. And now, I do not know. I am, at the least, confused and lost, and stumbling around in my grief, my impotence.

Now, there is an emptiness, and a great unknowing. The “what ifs” keep multiplying, and I am left with wonder, with sadness, and guilt. “What if?” “What if?”

And, in the silence that follows my asking, there are no answers, only more questions.

Friends of mine, closer to him that I was, are left empty, unknowing, wandering in the wilderness of uncertainty, of deeper questions which have no answers today. My pain today is enough; I cannot imagine theirs.

I search for answers that are not there. I search for so much, for reasons, for explanations, for understandings, knowing that there is now only a cold wind blowing around my heart.

Raw craziness, that is what is running amuck in my life now. No answers, just more questions. Not much solace, yet knowing that my friend was, at least for a second, at peace with himself and what he was doing.
I was not on his road of life, and I did not know his journey. In his departing, there is even more uncertainty in my mind as to what I might have known, might have done, might have loved him deeper, had he shared his pain, his questions, his journey. But, he did not, and somehow I must accept that. Yet, in that, I find myself angry, and unknowing, and uncertain. I am confused, and enraged, yet what has been done was beyond what I could have done, and beyond what I am, and what I could have been to him.

Old pains, and other suicides, and those still unanswered questions come back now, again reminding me of old wounds, unresolved enigmas, old doubts and tears. I do not know. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know. Old stuff, reopened, bleeding again, making new tears.

Part of me wants answers, but I know that answers won’t ever come. I move on, in life, yet I am left with wonderment, and enigma, and cold winds, ice in my heart that comes at unforeseen, strange times, dragging me back to old ghosts and old, unresolved times.

The poet writes of what I feel, and points me towards forgiveness. Yet, that word seems foreign to where I sit now, empty and alone, not knowing, not finding sanity in all of this. The poet’s wisdom circles about me, aflame, trying to warm my cold, lonely heart.

Perhaps, I should reach out, and accept that warmth, on this cold winter’s night.

Forgiveness
By Marion Waterston, January 31, 2005
 
I guess I’ll never know
All I want to know
Or understand
What can’t be understood
But I believe it’s time to forgive
 
Time to forgive you for leaving me
So abruptly and so painfully
And time to forgive myself
For talks we didn’t have
Laughs we didn’t share
Songs we didn’t sing
Foolishly I thought that time was on our side
 
Can it be that time now wishes to atone for this betrayal
For tears no longer flow like endless rivers
Anger seems a wasted emotion
And dreams those dreaded night-time visitors
Can come as friends
 
Once again I smile at the innocence of children
The unabashed warmth of lovers
The enthusiastic affection of dogs
And although I do not see you my precious love
You are with me
 
So I guess I’ll never know
All I want to know
Or understand
What can’t be understood
But here in this quiet moment
It’s time and I’m ready
To forgive.

Dealing With Death


Dealing With Death

“How do I deal with this? a friend asked the other day, as we talked about the death of his friend, at a very young age.

And, I don’t know. I’ve lost friends, relatives, people I work with, neighbors, people I’ve admired, so many people in my life. After all that loss, you think I would have figured it out, and knew the answer to his question.

But, I don’t. I explore my relationship with God, I contemplate the Universe, I search for my place in the world, who I am, where I am going, my own death. I sometimes I think I have answers, but I also still have questions, big questions.

The questions nag me in the middle of the night, or when I have a thought reminding me of a loved one who has died. The other day, when my friend asked me this question, his eyes tearing up with his pain and his loss, and his quest for the answer to his question. My usual full bag of advice and counsel didn’t produce a ready answer.

Great poets, great writers, great artists, great theologians, and me and my friend keep coming back to the pain, the questions, the wondering.

Some say there is a plan. Yet, the work of the angel of Death seems chaotic, haphazard, completely random.

I can have a rich, yet fleeting, conversation with someone close to me, and then next thing I know, I’m sobbing because they are suddenly gone from my life. Or, I know they are dying, but I am still not ready for that phone call, telling me their time has come now, and not when we had thought. What I want to be rational and reasonable is never that, not when I’m trying to understand Death.

Death always screws up my plans.

I’m never ready for it, never ready for the news, the loss, the stumbling around that I do when someone close to me departs this world. I’d like to think I can manage death, but I can’t. Oh, I’m practiced in helping to plan funerals, and even saying comforting words, and helping others out. I’ve mastered the legalities, and sometimes, I think I know the spiritual “final answer”, but not really.

I’m really not very good at all this, and the dark void in the pit of my soul still aches, and I still cry out my laments.

Sure, I move on. I go forward. That is, after all, what we have to do in this life. And, I like to think that part of that person’s goodness and spirit lives on as a spark in my own self, and that their love and their goodness is part of the tapestry that is my life and my work in this world. And, yes, all that is comforting.

Yet, I still don’t really know what to do, how to “handle this”, and to move on.

I can sit with my friend, who mourns and weeps, and let him know there is love and kindness and compassion left in this world. I can offer that and let him take what he needs now, to ease the bleeding of his own heart, and the void of his own emptiness.

Perhaps that is enough, that empathy and compassion. Perhaps that is the humanity I can offer, and how we can all try to deal with Death and loss, and our own sense of righteous abandonment and anger.

I can live my own life well, with few regrets, and with passion and zeal. Then, when it is my time to leave here, those who are left behind will have seen all that in me, and find some strange form of comfort in that, knowing I lived well and full, and that love remained strong in my heart, for all to see.

—Neal Lemery 10/26/2012