poetry • art • marriage • momhood • faith

The middle: where to start

What if you knew you were immortal … as long as you never fell asleep? What if you knew that the second you hit REM, you would leave your fleshy confines, never to return?

To what lengths would you stay awake? Would you “not go gently into that good night”? Or would you do what you could to tie up loose ends before welcoming the sleep to end all sleep?

At one point in my life, there was no question that I would welcome, not fight Dylan Thomas’ “good night.” But since then, I have celebrated a few more birthdays, married my (somewhat unlikely) soulmate, and been blessed with two amazing children. I’ve managed a handful of creative accomplishments that — noteworthy or not — I am proud of. All of these things are attachments of sorts, “loose ends” I can’t tie up, no matter how much time I might be given.

But still there are days I live for sleep.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.

A week ago, my maternal grandfather, Grandpap R. passed away. Prior to his death, he had been in the ICU about 10 days, including a few days of heavy sedation — meaning he was unconscious.

As I write this, “Details in the Fabric” is playing.

“Hold your own,
know your name,
and go your own way
everything will be fine…”

So I went up to PA this past Wednesday & Thursday for the funeral. As strange as it might sound, it was probably the “happiest” funeral I have ever been to. That’s not to say all eyes were dry. But it was full of laughter as well. It was a family reunion.

God, I hope it’s not our last.

It was wonderful, really. I think 14 of the 16 grandchildren made it in (in addition to all 7 of his children), many of whom I haven’t seen in years. It’s strange and amazing that we’re all part of the same family. Really, in many cases we’re more different than we are the same. But then you notice his jawline, her laugh, the way the three of them stand just like their mother who got it from Grandma. … And somehow we’re all family again.

I think this is the first time I’ve really cried yet about this. Not that I’ve been holding back or in or anything. But I’ve been holding up and keeping busy. Not as a defense, but as a side effect of life. Even up there at the funeral, I took our youngest (and only him) since he could fly free on my lap, so I was preoccupied with him, I guess. At the viewing, it was all foreign and strange to me. The body in the casket was a wax man with too much make-up. I had absolutely no emotional attachment to him. But to the right was their wedding picture. And I got choked up over that, but that was it.

Mom pointed out that difference (between his as opposed to my grandmother’s death 18 years ago) is the difference between a full, long life well lived and one cut too short.

As a point of public note, I request that no roses or chrysanthemums be included in any arrangements for my funeral when that comes. Wait, no. Stick with the no chrysanthemums (mums are ok, but those big ones, no), but let’s restrict the roses to the pretty, less fragrant mini roses: the smell of roses says funeral to me. I hate it. As soon as I opened the door to the funeral home the first time there, it hit me, like a blast of hot air from inside a car that’s been sitting in the July sun all day.

I prefer lilacs be sent in lieu of roses.

I prefer donations to the pro-life charity of your choice be sent in lieu of flowers in general.

No, I’m not quite dead yet. But we never know when this information could actually be relevant.

Ever just feel like screaming out of frustration? I mean, I feel like I’m grinding my gears and spinning my wheels. I feel like there’s so much I’m supposed to do with my life. I feel like there’s something big out there I’m supposed to be a part of. But I don’t know what or where it is. How does one work toward a goal she can’t define?

“Go your own way.”

…which would be …?

5 Comments

  1. Chucka Stone Designs Chucka Stone Designs
    May 6, 2008    

    I know it is small comfort but I am truly sorry about your Grandpap. He was a handsome devil :~) We had a similar experience at my Gramp’s funeral last year, I felt like no one outside my own family could understand when we said we had fun at a funeral. It is nice to have the love and support of family around at that time. No matter how different you all are it is still important to come together and celebrate the life of the person you loved in your own ways. I want my funeral or whatever I do to be exactly like that, friends and family gathered around having laughs and a good time celebrating that we were all in each other’s lives, no matter how brief that time was.

    This whole post was extremely thought provoking for me, you are a brilliant writer. I will be contemplating immortality and frustrating screams for the rest of the night no doubt.

  2. k. borcz k. borcz
    May 6, 2008    

    For me death is symbolized by white gladiolus. It was in a nightmare once.

    I lost my grandpa, and had to wait until my trip to his grave to say goodbye. For me he was frozen in time for many a month before that last day in August, right before my flight back home. So much has changed for me since that trip.

    Life changes and I too feel like I’m on the way to something big. I feel all my experiences these last few months have changed me for the better, and now I understand what all those poems and songs mean. I’m not just speakin about my grandfather, but all the things that have happened to me since last August. There’s just so much that has changed. It’s like I traveled into another dimension when the plane came back west across the sea. I think these things come when we’re ready for them, as much as we can be ready for emotional things.

    I’m glad that the trip and the funeral-reunion was highlighted with the similarites and fond memories of those who’ve gone on to that silver light.

    I want my funeral to be a happy event with people remembering what happened, not looking at the paper-like shell I left off here. I will be there, in the energy of the room. 🙂

  3. Ginger Ginger
    May 8, 2008    

    oh, blog hug…..i’m with jenn, this is very thought provoking. i like that you used this place to get your thoughts out even if there’s still much, much more in there that hasn’t formed yet.

    i had a friend that passed and her funeral wasn’t really a funeral at all. it was a back yard party that much resembled a wake. i’ve always told my friends and family that i’m to have a giant keg party because, given your scenario about sleep vs immortality, and after the obvious initial doubt and fear, i would sleep peacefully. after all, we humans spend so much energy and time trying to be close to God and heaven, why should we fight to stay away?

    sunflowers and donations to homeless shelters….jason mraz music in the background and kegs of fat tire scattered among the backyard bbq leftovers…vegan, of course 🙂

    your grandpap was handsome, i’m glad you had a good time with your family.

    and as cheesy as this sounds, what gives you the impression that your life isn’t already something big? what’s your definition of “big”?

  4. artjewl artjewl
    May 10, 2008    

    And now for an overdue “Thank you” to you wonderful ladies. Thank you. Really.

    Jenn ~ you make me blush. I’m glad to have provoked some thoughts. 🙂

    Kristine ~ I had forgotten about your being overseas when your grandpa died. I can imagine how surreal it probably felt. I had a bit of that while Mom would relay news of his condition. As for something big, nice to know I have company on “the edge.” 🙂 You seem to be into everything these days… from which direction do you feel the most pull?

    Ginger, dear Ginger, thank you for the cheese. 😉 It’s hard to explain though. I am happy with my life, so it’s not that. Still, there’s a “hunger” for something else. I feel the need to establish or start something — a book, a business, a charity, SOMETHING — that will carry on long after I’m gone, leaving a wake* of change for the better. (*or a small ripple may do) I really don’t care if people know my name or who did it. It is definitely not a vanity thing. But I want to somehow leave the world better for my boys, but also for so many others that I cannot personally reach except through “something BIG.”

  5. Ginger Ginger
    May 10, 2008    

    ah, that feeling i know too….i get it now.

    so many suggestions and so much anyone could say, but instead of putting more of my own cheese on your plate i’m going to zip it so you can “hold your own…know your name…and go your own way…”

    oh, and you won the haiku contest 🙂 congrats!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

torch bearing quietly

I will not act out, will not
yell or curse or slam doors,
will not make a scene -- you
do not deserve such a chance
to make an example out of me
to be proven right since you
are not. Instead, I'll stand
at this street corner, raise
my hand high and clench that
light which yet remains. It
will burn brightly, quietly,
fiercely before fading as I.

Then I'll be gone but found.

©JAC 2005

Poetry by Julie Ann Cook!

Order your copy of
Love Like Weeds
by Julie Ann Cook
through Main Street Rag Publishing Company.

Get E-Cheese

Enter your email address to subscribe to "Digging Cheese Out of Carpet" and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10 other subscribers

Old Cheese