Death

Life Signs Flying Buy

I mentioned a few days ago, I miss when life didn’t feel like a rollercoaster.

I’m going to write about random things as they come to me. This is an exercise in blog discipline and personal exposure.

I applied for a job yesterday, not going to say where, but I’ll say it was a job for a company that has A LOT of power and is very popular (Not wal-mart). What am I trying to say, they don’t really have to EVER worry about finding employees to hire because they always have a line of people who need a job. The online application was a little insulting and I actually thought it was a tad exploitive.  I’m pretty sure a couple of the questions they asked aren’t even legal. For instance, they didn’t ask your age, but they did ask if you were over 18 and under 40. Ya, how stupid do I need to be to read the writing on that wall? And if you don’t answer, you can’t continue with the application.  Then they asked questions about how likely do you think most people steal often? How much do you think people really believe politicians? Ok, ask the minimum wage people if they believe politicians? WHAT?  Compared to your friends are you more satisfied with your life? Or less satisfied than them? But they neglected to ask. DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS. LOL!!  Then they asked, twice in different ways, how likely you were to keep your desk organized and how imporatnt that was to you. Honestly, if I ruled they world, there’s no way that application would fly with me. In a very strong description, I’d say it was like an application a baby nazi created. This  application  was for a very run of the mill job that thousands of very needy, uneducated, educated, no other options people  apply for daily. It’s not a rocket science job, not a job with the responsibility of saving or destroying the world. It’s basically a job to breath air, be a body,  and make sure there’s something for a customer to  pick up and buy. It’s not like a job that involves a gun and travel to another country.  I felt like a guinea pig for some ivy league psych research data base. Everything about this application felt very under the table and shady. I’ll be very curious to see if they call back. Will I get to work in the coal mine and use my paycheck to shop at the business owned store? Time will tell. I should mention, this was not a funeral service affiliated business in any way.

This morning I took my little dog out for her usual thing and through a series of events, she ran off. This lead me to go find her. When I found her she was pointing like a hunting dog and then I saw a big fat dove fly from the ground and cling to a branch above. The dove lost its grip and hung upside down for a moment, then fell to the ground. I watched it resting on the ivy infested  slope of the creek bank. I was a little baffled. I was a little annoyed. Do I really need to start the day out like this? God, I hope this isn’t some sign from he universe.  A struggling dove falling to its more than likely death alone? I thought about going down into the creek to retrieve it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds; mud, poison oak, water, bugs. I just didn’t have time. I thought to myself, nature is just going to have to take its course. In my head I imagined weeks of seeing a big fat dead dove on the banks of the creek. Seriously, I don’t need this right now.  I went inside and did my morning routine. I came out about an hour later and the dove was gone. So, nature did it’s thing and I’m going to assume the bird flew away happily.

Two events, one a lesson in complete human control with calculated sneaky domination over others, the other a lesson in   the ambiguity of the universe, trusting it can handle itself for the best.

Disco always makes me feel better 🙂

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The Applause Around the World

It’s funny, I went to a Death Cafe a few weeks ago and many people seemed frustrated  speaking about death seemed taboo in most social circumstances. I went to dinner with a friend and we ended up talking a lot  about death. After our dinner, I realized, maybe we talked about it too much for her taste? I started thinking, maybe I just talk about death too much. Of course, then I thought, so why the hell have a blog that talks about death so much? What’s the point of writing about something no one really wants to read  or cares about?

Sometimes the internet feels like a massive return to high school, one HUGE massive popularity contest. If you’re not popular, you just don’t exist.  It’s annoying. I don’t mind not being popular. Oh sure, it would be nice to be popular, to be loved, adored, but what if you can’t, or don’t’ want to be a popular person? Oprah always said she wished everyone knew what it was like to walk into a room and the entire place stood up and clapped for you. For most people, if that happened once in a lifetime, it would be great. I’m sure many would say she deserves those claps of affection, yes, yes, yes, I know. However, 3/4 of the rest of the ordinary world deserves a round of applause too; Moms, dads, grandparents, friends, kids, teachers, garbage men, hospice workers and on and on.

I was standing in front of my refrigerator and out of the blue I was struck with this notion it was important to keep taking and writing about death. It was like I was looking into a black hole, but it wasn’t scary, it was very comforting and confident. I’d even say it felt like a relief?

Later in the day I thought to myself, what would be the danger, or problem with talking about death openly and often? Seems silly to ask, what if we all felt conformable enough with death to talk about it openly and randomly? DOn’t we do it sometimes? Like when you warn a child, “you’ll be sorry, one day I’ll be gone!” What if it wasn’t  something that struck our hearts like a knife when we had to talk about it seriously?  What if death didn’t make us cry instantaneously? Depress the crap out of us? Clear a room in a single word? Would we live and love better? Would we take life for granted more or less than we already do? What’s the danger in feeling comfortable and accepting of death?

So I decided, for a year, I am going to think about aspects of death and  see what it does to my life. Obviously, not the hardest thing to do considering I am studying many aspects of death, but I wonder, if becoming more comfortable with death will make me live differently? Better or Worse?

This one is for anyone who hits play.

 

How To Die in Oregon

 

Last night after I read a few chapters of The American Way of Death. I put the book away and looked for a movie to watch on Netflix.What do I find?  How to Die In Oregon by director Peter Richardson.

Yes, this is my life. Friday night and I’m reviewing the immune system, reading The American Way of Death, and then watching How to Die in Oregon. I’m worse than a nerd at this point. Sigh.

How to Die in Oregon is a must see movie.  The beginning is a little mind-blowing, I almost turned it off, stick with it.  This issue, the right to choose to die with dignity, will touch every family in some form or another. Everyone will have a loved one, or a friend who will deal with many of the situations found in this movie. How to Die in Oregon casts a broad net over the many lives touched by the process of death and a choice to take control of death. Saying, “I want to die”,  the easy part, not a cowards way out or suicide as you’ll see in the movie. This movie digs into everything that comes after a person decides to control their death and how it impacts their remaining life and those they love.

I loved all the people in the movie. All the families and individuals were truly genuine, living, and dying with very brave, caring, and thoughtful hearts. They were all the type of people I enjoy meeting. All I can say is, living is no joke. I hope everyone takes the time to watch How to Die in Oregon. At the very least, you’ll feel inspired to hug, or call someone you love just because you know you can.

The American Way Of Death

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Do you have a negative attitude about funeral homes? Hate the idea of dealing with a funeral director?  This book, The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford might be what inspired  you to feel that way. I often hear this is THE book that rocked the funeral service world so deeply, even today,  funeral homes still deal with the impact of her words.  I decided to check it out, see what all the fuss was about. How did this book turn an industry upside down for generations? Make those in the funeral industry the bad guys? I can tell, just from the inside sleeves, there won’t be much love for the funeral service world. I guess one of my questions, where do we get our ideas about what a funeral should cost? When did we decide funerals shouldn’t cost much? When did we decide spending money on a funeral is very close to feeling like wasting money? How long have these ideas existed? Before or just after this book?

I Don’t Know, Maybe That’s Good?

Dirt and Paint: What Is That?

Something that just doesn’t make sense. Sculpted paint on a desert floor miles from civilization. Only a few ever saw it.

I had dinner with a friend last night and she mentioned her father-in-law is dying. She mentioned the family will be taking a trip to visit him with the very big possibility this will be the last time they see him.

This morning I wanted to write her husband a note, tell him something, but what? It’s one of those times when we fumble, we don’t know what to say, and anything we think to say seems, cheesy, wrong, or ridiculous.

My heart goes out to my friends who will soon be dealing with one of life’s most difficult events. Four different people, different genders, different relationships, different stages in life. Where do we find the models to cope with a final visit of a loved one? How do you know that last, “I love you” has enough power to last a lifetime? What if we don’t feel love? How long do you hug a person before you feel it’s ok to let them go forever? What if you don’t want to touch them?  How do you inventory your brain’s memory of that person and feel confident you have enough memories to last a lifetime? Maybe you don’t want your memories? What about the sneaky little regrets that suddenly pop up? That unique anxiety that suddenly searches your brain to fix a regret in 5 seconds. Can there be models for this? Should there be? What are the words I can give  a friend in such a complex situation?

Helplessness . . . is so tough. We are constantly taught to make things better, and then there is death, the process of death. Sometimes it comes with warning and it’s a slow agonizing road. So many lives keep moving, have to keep moving around someone who is dying. The world doesn’t stop for a birth, why would it stop for a death? Bills gotta get paid. My friends have two days . . . and then what? Go home back across the country and live until a phone call? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it is how it is in their case. I guess, what I find so difficult,  walking away from a significant person, like a parent, who is so close to dying. I’m not sure where I get this idea everyone should have the right to stay if they want or need to.

My grandmother’s death was barreling straight at me like a jetliner. Who could miss that, right? In many ways, I did, I didn’t see the jetliner,  even when I was straight out told, “she is dying”.  I was right beside her, but not with her. In some ways we were both dying and slowly being resurrected. The last day I saw her, at least the one I remember as her last day, was so simple it almost went right over my head. It was so deep in feelings, intensity, and denial,  it didn’t seem real.  The brain and the heart really duked it out on that day. I am thankful my brain and my heart, as disastrous and protective as they were, found the wisdom to collect the memories and the words I needed for both of us on her last day. I’m glad when I  walked away from her my head and my heart wouldn’t allow me to comprehend just how large those steps were.

I love the process of death because it challenges the hardest of hearts to feel. Death is relentless. The strength to journey through death is an important strength. The lessons of death are difficult but beautiful if allowed to be learned. I often think the strength we find in the final hours of a loved ones life is the largest example of who we should be in our daily lives, just on a less intense level of course.  It is the strength to arrive and tell those we love they matter, their life matters in whatever form it has taken; good or bad.

So my friends, with all their brave hearts,  will make their journey to their loved one, and I will wish them all that life  and death can offer them during this difficult time. I wish them lots of complexity, simplicity, laughter, crying, anger, sadness, resolution and all the colors that come when life meets death. I will wish them love.  (more…)

Composure

BIrthing

I spent a ton of time writing a post about my Death Cafe experience, and for some reason (GRRRR) it didn’t save on WordPress. Soooooo I’m sorta frustrated and feel like moving on. Long story short, Death Cafe Good, check one out if you can.

This morning saw a video of a guy who jumped into a shark infested ocean to “surf” a dead whale. I wondered, where did he learn so much comfort and acceptance of death? Of fleshy decay? They guy practically sinks his face into a decomposing whale.  At the Death Cafe, I guess I am going to write a little about this, many people seemed frustrated American society seems to have an unspoken ban on talking about death openly. For example, I mentioned I went to a Death Cafe to a few people, they thought it was creepy and too depressing to ever go to one. Ironically, it also happened to be Halloween and half the people I saw– Zombies? We can’t speak of death, but we can play dead? Is this a subliminal message we’re all missing?

What if we felt as comfortable with death? Took it a step further, became comfortable with all the unpleasantness that comes along with death? You know, the emotional pain, the bloat, the stiffening, the smells? Is ignorance truly bliss when it comes to death?  If we think about it, the process of death, of decay, is about as green as you can get. Being green is good, right?  It’s sort of the ultimate homage to going green, but this is the unspoken green? The decomposition of a body is as natural as the composing of a fetus. When we welcome a life we study, prepare, learn and fill many lives with hopes and dreams. When death arrives we scramble, grasp, wonder, and often stress the strongest of relationships with grief and  loss. A palliative care doctor in my group asked, “When did death become such a tragedy in America?”

So, here’s this guy, on the other side of the world, jumping into shark infested water, sinking his face into rotting flesh, floating around, living life to the fullest? Or is he just interested in Building the worlds most unusual bucket list? Was he so over educated in how to be cool, someone forgot to educate him about death? Now, he says he was an “idiot”.  Did he realize ignorance motivated his actions?  If families don’t talk about death, if communities don’t talk about death, aren’t we all capable of surfing a dead whale too?

BTW no, I’m not advocating dead whale surfing and yes, I am rambling a bit.

The Deadliest Food on Earth

I’m taking a break from my academic hell of memorization. Feeling a little stressed out, the concept of comfort food  popped into my mind; Ahhh, comfort. Oooy, gooey, bad to the bone comfort food.

So, I did a small search on comfort foods, seemed innocent enough, right? However, I quickly realized most comfort foods seem more like feel like crap foods. How is feeling like crap a comfort? I can’t remember  a time after 20 when eating fried chicken, or mac and cheese made me feel good. How are these cheesy, fried, and sugary foods suppose to be a comfort during a loss? And when did tortilla soup become a comfort food?

Does a food become a comfort because it has a history?  A Tradition?  Or because a loving person made the dish?  Is it just because they’re what’s available or received? How do these foods, that ordinarily make us feel like crap, guilty, and fat, suddenly make us feel loved and secure during a time of loss?

I tried to think of what I ate during the loss of my grandmother, I couldn’t remember a single flavor. I thought it was odd, because I associate a lot of foods with the memory of my grandmother, her life, and my time with her. I eat things specifically in her memory to this day. Thanks to her, I am that crazy lady looking for whipped unsalted butter much to the horror of other shoppers. The real irony, as a kid I hated she wouldn’t buy margarine like everyone else did and you can bet I let her know it. Now I laugh and think what a spoiled brat I was. Hopefully she’s in a better place  waving her butter knife telling everyone, “I told her so.”

So why all the take you closer to death comfort foods? Maybe we like them because they remind us we are alive?  Maybe they help feed the small parts of denial or numbness we might need to cope with grief? Maybe they just remind us there will be another tomorrow because in the morning WE WILL NEED TO WORKOUT? Comfort food, A dangerous way to know you’re loved and life will go on?

I saw this recipe a number of years ago. I’ve never made it, I’ve only dreamed and been astonished by it. You’ll see why. 😉

 

Food for Thought, or Worms

Beginnings are easy. They arrive so easily . . . “I could do that!” 

Then, the middle. I need a this, I need that. What!?! That’s not suppose to happen!  Wtf!!!  Then the, What was I thinking?!? I think I’m going to cry, I’m crying. . .  then the LOL’s. Then madness. The mess.  The clean up, or the walk away.

We rarely see the middle of life.  That picture is too big?  Why? Too close to see? Too slow? Isn’t this where life is lived? Where love is Loving? In the middle?

Who has time for that? skip to the end already!!! ARE WE THERE YET?!!!? Give me the answer to the story. Give me the success or the Failure.

Endings . . . happy, surprise, unwanted, or unjust.

Funerals, I could do that.

I’m posting a video of something I will never say, “I could do that.”

This week, as usual, has been about success and failure. The notion of the human body has been on my mind; does a corpse matter? At least once I week I hear this,  “It’s just a body, throw it away, feed it to the worms.”

My heart slips, my brow tightens, and a small thread of grief threads through my flesh; sadness and and a paper cut somewhere inside a place I never see blood.

Why? Usually I don’t know the person, but somehow the sudden rush to the end of a body, a life, this “toss”  feels a like burning a book that no one ever read or took of the shelf.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which I think about my body, what I do, or don’t do with it.  As a person educated in the arts, I instantly think of how do I use my body to communicate? Uh Ohhhh  . . . I can instantly see how a person learns to throw their body away; I do it.  I never use my body as my primary tool of communication, my body isn’t even on my list for consideration. I use my body to help me use other tools to communicate, for example, my fingers use this computer to type. However,  I never use my body, or give my body the opportunity to express my unique human experience, or any of my feelings the way I might use other tools I use to communicate with. I use my face, or hands, but they are usually speaking for my brain or my heart, but not for my body. I ‘m sure my body hasn’t publicly spoken since I was  8 years old.  If I really think at about it, my body has been on lockdown, and told to shut-up for a long time.

For the majority of us, our bodies are work horses, they are practical necessities, they are workhorses. What happens to a workhorse when it can’t pull the wagon anymore?

We rarely stop to thank our bodies, marvel at our bodies for all the hard work they  do for us. These workhorses, these bodies,  often endure  vicious internal voices of endless scrutiny. As a culture of science, who knows exactly what it takes to move a muscle, how can any body be imperfect? How can we toss so much away?

I adore the sweetness of watching my cat stretch. What happens if we never marvel at the beauty of the movement of someone we love? Even if it’s just how they pick up a cup? What if we don’t marvel at the elegance of holding a scarf in the wind, or playfully handing over a flower?  It makes me wonder what part of humanity are we starving to death and throwing away? How easily we give ourselves to the worms from ignorance and silence?

I saw this video and I love it. This expression of love, of being this human and connected to body and environment, to voice. The voice of this human body is not silenced unlike mine.  I admire this voice, I hope I’ll stumble upon it one day in a setting much like this beach.  What if we heard about rouge dancers at the airport delaying flights  because of an over abundance to life, not take it? That’s crazy I could live with. I say, fight crazy with crazy. I like my crazy. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Dreams

It’s been a tough few weeks. Big Bangs happen because everything collides at once, right? Let’s say it’s been a booming few weeks.

I wonder what will come of it all when the dust finally settles? Living in a cloud of dust is uncomfortable, you can’t see clearly, can’t control what happens next. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about balancing the things we can control and  things we can’t. I know people who control every aspect of their life, they still seem very scared and unhappy under it all. I also know people who ride through life on the wind. I can’t say they seem any happier or less stressed than anyone else.

Black . . .

white . . . . . .

is grey where it’s really at?

How much can we balance between birth and death? A lot,  or at least we try, we hope, or insist we can.

I’ve been thinking a lot  about L’Wren Scott, the very successful fashion designer who killed herself last week. She seemed to have it all, and it wasn’t enough. Did her pride whisper, “Your life will never be worth $5 million.”,  Or was it Failure that said, ” I’m not something you can ever live with.”

Failure . . . I have known it. Sometimes I have found it, other times it has found me. Is failure friend or foe? Like many other things, failure is not something we like to think about in this country. We are harsh on those who fail. Look at all the pressure on kids to succeed. Why? So they won’t fail? What makes us better? Success or failure?

success . . .

failure . . . . . .

wisdom?

Can you imagine an entire life of success? Ahh, the dream. Yes, I think we have all imagined it.Who would you be if you  only knew success? Never knew who you were in failure? I bet you’d be a lot less compassionate with yourself and those around you. Who is the master teacher of compassion? Failure? Maybe, I’m not sure. Seems pretty likely though.

L’Wren’s life didn’t come with an instruction book, we all do the best we can. I’m sure she faced her fair share of successes and failures, but maybe never ones so profound as the ones she recently faced? Who knows? Of course, She had other choices she could have made, for some reason she didn’t choose them. Sadly, that’s something her loved ones will be haunted with over time. I’m sure Mick Jagger is baffled why he’s lost  love for a few million dollars.  
Failure, the inability to cope with it, can cast a very heavy, dark, unforgiving and hopless net across a person’s ability to find  better solutions to personal problems. L’Wren’s suicide reminds us how vulnerable our hearts and minds can be to failure, especially creative ones,  if we don’t find a way to make friends with particular aspects and levels of failure.

I say, spend some time failing today. Find a way to smile about it. Failure doesn’t have to destroy you. Love can even grow through some  degree of failure. A powerful lesson worth learning sooner rather than  .  . . too late.

L’ Wren and her work-
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the contrast – I admire  L’ Wrens’s ability to have traveled through so many financial and cultural ecosystems. It’s not easy to swim through so many levels and adapt to each levels required adaptations. At the end they say, if they’d have known how alone she was . . .

 

Peace, love, and compassion to all those who lost her in their life in a physical way.