bloodteethandflame

A life in threes

Tag: death

Dante.

Yesterday our pet ferret died.

His name was Dante.

Early yesterday morning, my son had gone to clean Dante’s cage, but Dante seemed lethargic and disinterested in coming out to run around while my son did that chore.

As a matter of fact, he seemed to be more interested in napping, which wasn’t unusual as Dante, like most ferrets, was more active at night….and as usual, Dante had been pretty active just a few hours before, so neither of us thought much of him wanting to nap.

So my son did a quick wipedown of the cage floors, put out food, water, and a clean blanket, and left for school.

About an hour or so later, I’d noticed that Dante still hadn’t moved to eat or drink, so I nudged him.

Though he was still warm, he had passed.

~~~

Dante was the most recent ferret we’d had in a long line of ferrets.

 

You see, we’ve had a good half-dozen ferrets in the last 10 years.

In the overlap, we had four ferrets at one time:

(Here’s my older son holding three of that four ferrets we had at that time.)

If you haven’t guessed, ferrets are social creatures who thrive on having company – the more the merrier.

~~~

But Dante was the last of the final two, which was comprised of he and his brother/litter-mate Jameson (who died two years ago):

As you might imagine, I felt a bit choked up to put away the food dishes, the toys, and that crate (roomy enough to house up to six ferrets at a time), and it feels strange to consider that our home is both without Dante – and without ferrets – today. ūüė•

As well, I am not ashamed to admit that I cried as I dug the hole this afternoon, and I cried as I wrapped Dante in his favorite blanket, and buried him three feet to the left of where Jameson lies beneath the bed of dark pink periwinkles.

Am I foolish to have wanted to send him off with a proper farewell – making prayers and burning incense?

 

Am I foolish to plan on planting flowers – violets and periwinkles – once rainy season comes?

 

Perhaps.

 

But today I am both sad and foolish.

I miss my ferrets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

 

Image

~~~~

I awoke this morning to the sad news via Tweets and various messages on my newsfeed that Maya Angelou had died.

Within moments of reading the above words, I found myself unable to articulate exactly why I feel such a sense of loss.

Meanwhile, my friend, Sarah Sloane, upon hearing the news, put her feelings succinctly, thus:

¬†“No…no. ¬†Losing Maya Angelou feels like losing my loving, empowering aunt, the one who told me that my soul had wings.”

Yes, that, Sarah, I agree with you.

Maya Angelou was exactly that.

She was an amazing writer, teacher, and activist certainly, but she was so much more than that to me.

Her words inspired me – in the truest sense of the word ‘inspired’ – and her poetry and essays carried me through some of the darkest hours while I was growing up.

I remember when my father had collected a huge cardboard box full of paperbacks and college textbooks that had been left behind in the dormitories during the summer remodel of Wellesley College in 1984. ¬†(The contractor company that he’d worked for assumed that the crew would just throw away any and all contents of the dorm rooms that were slated for remodeling, but my father has always had difficulty throwing away books of any kind.)

So that’s how I ended up with a dog-eared copy of her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and her poetry collections, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diie.., and Still I Rise.

I don’t know if that’s exactly what my father would have intended, but I spent that summer, sitting under the back porch, readingreadingreading about the evocative power of love, grief, pain, and spiritual truth that also touched upon race, gender, and the intricacy of human relationships.

And so began my lifelong love of her poetry, her writing, and her keen, unflinching eye that always focused on the humanity in history.   And whether her unflinching eye focused on the good or the bad of humanity, in the end, it seemed to me that the gist of her words always concerned the importance of moving forward, moving upward, toward the exposure of truth, and the revelation of love.

And I needed that in that difficult summer of 1984, when I was 13, and struggling mightily with myself.

I count many of her poems as inspiring, but here are three that I find especially so:

 

Beloved,
In what other lives or lands
Have I known your lips
Your Hands
Your Laughter brave
Irreverent.
Those sweet excesses that
I do adore.
What surety is there
That we will meet again,
On other worlds some
Future time undated.
I defy my body’s haste.
Without the promise
Of one more sweet encounter
I will not deign to die.

~~~

Seven Women’s Blessed Assurance

 
One thing about me,
I’m little and low,
I find me a man wherever I go.
They call me string bean
’cause I’m so tall,
men see me, they ready to fall.
I’m fat as butter and sweet as cake,
men start to tremble
every time I shake.
I’m young as morning and fresh as dew,
everybody loves me, and so do you.
I’m little and lean,
sweet to the bone,
they like to pick me up and carry me home.
When I passed forty, I dropped pretense
’cause men like women who got some sense.
Fifty-five is perfect, so is fifty-nine,
’cause every man needs to rest sometime.
~~~~

Preacher, Don’t Send Me


Preacher, Don’t Send me¬†
when I die 
to some big ghetto 
in the sky 
where rats eat cats 
of the leopard type 
and Sunday brunch 
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats¬†
I’ve seen them kill¬†
and grits I’ve had¬†
would make a hill, 
or maybe a mountain, 
so what I need 
from you on Sunday 
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t¬†
promise me 
streets of gold 
and milk for free. 
I stopped all milk 
at four years old 
and once I’m dead¬†
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place¬†
pure paradise 
where families are loyal 
and strangers are nice, 
where the music is jazz 
and the season is fall. 
Promise me that 
or nothing at all.

~~~

Rest in peace, dear Maya Angelou.

It is with tears in my eyes that I thank you. and wish you safe journey.

May all promises be kept.

‚̧

 

Death’s season. (trigger warning)

*****Warning/Caution:¬† Possible triggers…descriptions of death/dying, death of a child, and grief, from a personal perspective****

(From November 13th 2013)

Last night, I spoke with my older sister who lives in Hawaii.

Over the weekend – while K and I were at FPG – my sister’s boyfriend died.

I know that he had been ill and in the hospital a week or so before, but the last time that I’d spoken to her, he’d been getting better, she had said.¬† Looking back on it, his illness seemed a weird respite from the appallingly stressful situation that their life together had become.

She had only begun to tell me the story.

She had been thinking of leaving him.

But now, she was telling me a different story.

She told me how he had left her on Thursday night, courtesy of several seemingly sudden multiple organ failures.

He was just 34 years old.

I don’t know, and there is a quality to that that seems surreal.

To think that two, perhaps three weeks ago, she was hiding in the bathroom of their apartment, sounding desperate, whispering hurriedly into the phone about how controlling he’d become, how abusive he was, his incredibly heartless and selfish he had been, and how hopeless her life had become.

She whispered and paused at intervals, because she feared talking about him as he was just on the other side of the wall, and she feared that he’d overhear her plans to leave him come January.

~~~

I noticed now, as she spoke of her grief at his death, that there wasn’t a catch in her voice.¬† One would have thought that, when she begun to tell me the details of how he had died on Thursday night, that she was simply relating the plot of a suspenseful film.¬† She was immersed in all of the smallest, most mundane details: what he had eaten on Wednesday, what he’d watched on TV, what he’d said just before he lay down less than 12 hours before his death.

Again, it was if she was reciting the details of an interesting television drama, but there was strange denial to her grief, I suppose, in the fact that she still spoke of him in the present tense, He does this….He says that…He is…

But then, then again, there is a catch in her voice there, there it is — when she tells me how she had been praying in that selfsame bathroom, whispered desperate prayers, asking God to help her get through this illness, this latest difficulty with him:¬† What can I do? Help me, Oh Lord, please help me…Help me help him to get better…

And her voice cracks and finally breaks when she tells me how she had lain next to him on their couch at 9 PM on Thursday night, and woke up to realize that oddly enough, he had fallen asleep holding her hand, with his fingers interlaced with hers.¬† Her hand, she explained, had been numb with pins and needles — and funny,¬† how it had frustrated her – but hadn’t struck her as too unusual at the time — that it had taken her several minutes to pry her fingers from his grip.

She began to cry then, explaining how strange it was that his body had been warm, but she couldn’t awaken him.

And then, she broke down in uncontrollable sobs as she described, haltingly, when she realized that she had mistaken the relentless thudding of her own heartbeat for his, and that’s why she called 911:

I looked and looked for his pulse and I listened for his heart, but then I got scared I couldn’t hear it because mine was so loud….I couldn’t hear it!

I devoutly wished that I could’ve comforted her somehow, listening to her sobs over the roar of blood in my own ears, trying to quiet my own heart as it hammered in my chest, as my brain chattered you cannot fathom, you cannot fathom that grief, and hating myself for that, for being so useless to her as she sobbed….

And then, almost as suddenly as she had begun to cry, she abruptly turned the discussion over to other topics, and she began a disjointed rapid-fire chatter about her memories of our father, complaints about our mother….

Then, she asked after the details of my camping weekend.

It was so surreal to find ourselves laughing, twenty minutes away from Death Who had just been standing so close to us.

My sister admits to feeling guilty, feeling scattered, desperate to fill up the spaces in the conversation.

She asks about my failing marriage.

We talk about it as if it is a difficult math problem that we could easily solve together if we follow some sort of prescribed set of steps, and she returns to discussing her boyfriend in the present tense: Oh he does that, too, she commiserates.  That sounds like something he says.

I don’t correct her.¬† I can’t bring myself to, but my heart breaks a little listening to her ragged, uneven breathing, and her voice cracking in odd places.

We are drowning, she drawls, suddenly suppressing a laugh, Our lives have both gone to hell.

So we talk of our kids.

She tells me about her plans for Thanksgiving, but things quickly devolve into reminiscence again — this week, last year, some Thanksgiving from years ago…and then, some particular difficulties of our shared childhood.

Again, Death returns, and clears Her throat, and my older sister and I are suddenly talking about the inexplicable death of our baby sister, when she was five, and I was three, on a horribly confusing day in August 1974.

We compare our strange, sharp memories of the weight of silence punctuated by sirens, or the useless distraction of the popsicles that we didn’t want to eat that melted down our shirts, and how no one thought to wipe our faces at all that day, because…because Death was sitting at our front porch, surrounded by flashing lights…and our mother was making a strangling keening wail unlike anything that we’d ever heard back then or since….

We agree on the fact that such grief as that can surely drive anyone insane

That is the sort of grief that certainly drove our mother insane, and maybe, she’d never recovered in some way.

Remember how it was, for the longest time after that, when she seemed out of touch with anything going on around her, but how she would shudder and stare off into fixed point just beyond our faces if we spoke to her?

These are the sorts of things we are talking about, the smallest details of that particular Thanksgiving, that haunted Christmas.

I miss him, but thank God it’s nowhere near a grief like that, my sister blurts out suddenly.

Nothing is unimportant, and yet everything seems profound as we talk, before the conversation wheels about again, turning to the mundane, the easy, the surface details of the present day:

Today is a school day, I say.  It is 4 AM here.

I look up and realize that we have been on the telephone for 9 hours.

This is how we get through.