Sunday Morning

My cousin’s last day was spent out on his bike, a seventy-mile ride on a Saturday morning. He did the ride alone, and nobody had any contact with him after that. At some time in the next twenty-four hours he died, and his body was found by the police on Monday morning when his employer called them, worried because he hadn’t turned up for work. He always turned up for work.

I would wish for my last day to involve an act of freedom–a walk by the ocean, a long bike ride, something I love. I hope that the walk and the bike ride were suffused with joy, with pleasure, for my stepdad and my cousin. Neither knew it was their last time to do that thing. If they’d known, would they have enjoyed it more or less? Eventually, everything has to be done for the final time. There must be many things that, without our realising it, already fall into that category for all of us.

Final acts acquire holiness. My stepdad’s walk that day has. When we go to Ireland we almost always take the same route. We look out on the sea because it’s the last sea he saw. We write his name in the sand. We reflect, each of us inwardly, that one day we will never see this place again either. It’s a dull shock.

If finality makes something holy then every moment is holy, because every moment could be the last. That’s a thought we spend too cheaply. Live each day as if it’s your last, we think, and then we don’t. Everything is holy. It’s only when we die that the holiness is called up. But it was always holy, all along.

Samantha Harvey, The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping (Grove Press; May 12, 2020)


Photo: Mine. 5:23 a.m. A Holy Moment, on Sunday, a Holy Day. Cove Island Park Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning

“Mansfield’s last note, from an unfinished story, ends with an observation that only the dying Mansfield would make: “It was an exquisite day. It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”

~ Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life


Photo: “Clear Day” by Zoo Human

Sunday Morning

Yesterday, my late Brother’s Memorial in Canada with family and friends, which followed his Phoenix “Celebration of Life” in January.

I couldn’t go.

I couldn’t get myself to watch the service on Zoom.

I couldn’t pull myself together to read the few words I had written about my younger brother, sending an email to a Cousin, letting her carry the weight.

Memorials rip open still raw grief. Suffering is best done in silence, alone. For Some.

As I was preparing my thoughts on my Brother, I found him fading.

I can’t make out his face, but can see the dark, sunken hollows of his eyes.

I can’t recall his last words, but can recall his raspy voice, his vocal cords damaged from tubes winding down his throat.

I can’t make out his body, a silhouette now, fading, withered from being bedridden for months – but can feel his hands, soft, his grip, firm, from that last handshake.

I rub my index finger and thumb together, and I’m drawn back…

He steps up to the tee box. He’s standing calmly over the ball. Click. He re-grips the club once, and then again, softly. Click. His body now still, his hands quiet.  Click. He takes the club back, in a slow, smooth arc. Click. He pauses at the top.  Click. He pivots his legs and then his hips in a full, graceful follow through. Click. The ball explodes off the tee.  Click. The Titleist, a white speck, streaks the ever so blue, sky.  Click. The ball lands softly in the center of the fairway 275 yards from the T-box. Click. Art, Bro. Fine Art.

But all of this is fading, I’m losing him, as Wallace Stevens loses those that he has loved:

The figures of the past go cloaked.
They walk in mist and rain and snow
And go, go slowly, but they go.

 


Prior background posts on Lorne. Photo: Mist by Risto Ranta

Bro, if you’re reading this post from above, hit “Like” please.

Running on Christmas Day. No signal.

At 8 pm last night, I agreed with myself I wouldn’t post, wouldn’t share, wouldn’t clutter up Christmas Day with stuff on this blog.

But no, that wasn’t possible Now.  So we’ll keep it short.

I hadn’t run in weeks, but the pull to get outside, was out-of-body.  You need to get out. Today. Now.

30° F feeling like 26° F.  Sun bright and beaming.  It was high tide at the cove, a flock of Canadian geese, 25 or so, were floating at the base of the break wall, offering me their moment of silence.

He used to follow this blog, comment on certain posts.  I could feel His finger reaching for the “Like” button towards the End when he was no longer up to offering comments.

Forgiveness is not a strong suit.  Actually no suit I wear at all.  I had to stop at mid-point on the run. Toxicity from the anger made another step impossible.

Anger burns for the Health Insurer, who silently collected his premium payments, and then provided notice that coverage wasn’t provided as promised because of an exclusion.  And then to stick the knife deeper, terminated coverage retroactively for a month, causing a scramble by the Care providers demanding payment from Him, shuffling Him to a hospital, and that hospital shuffling him to another for lack of confirmation of Insurance Coverage, and this second one pressing for transfer to permanent skilled care.  “We needed to provide him with a sedative.  He’s really anxious, struggling to breathe.” And you wonder why he’s anxious?  The cauldron boils over.  Anger also burns, for those who took a vow with my Brother, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, only to let him fight alone in sickness. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

My son was almost 4 months old when he stopped breathing at daycare. It was his first day there, the first time I had left his side. Neither the doctors nor investigators could tell us why it happened…The question of my son’s death — the mystery of it, why he vanished — remains without answer. And so I ask the questions of life: What force grew this little child? How did those limbs form themselves from nothing inside of me? Why did I have the power to make him, but not to bring him back? Why are the things he saw on this planet so beautiful? Why did his eyes look at me the way they did? Where did love like this come from? I will never know who my child would have been, but I know his love. If there is a God, this is what he gave me.

~ Amber Scorah, Surviving the Death of My Son After the Death of My Faith (NY Times, May 31, 2019)

 


Notes: Photo by Ayla Maagdenberg titled “Grief“. Inspired by Sawsan: “Love is not a fin or a tail or an extra unnecessary tooth. It’ll be the last thing to pass through the evolutionary blades.”

 

Remember


On Memorial Day, we remember. (USA Today)

Flying North AA4650. With RTP.

It’s one of those moments in life when you remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt.

In the old pre-smartphone days, it was the 3 am phone call, with the ring shattering the silence.  You fumble in darkness trying to find the handset praying…please, please, please, let it be a wrong number, and not something worse.

Today, it’s all about texting. And it was a text.

Yesterday morning.  11:00 a.m. Nashville, TN.  The first day of a 4-day conference in a large ballroom at the J.W. Marriott. The lights in the room were dimmed, the spots beamed down on the speaker on stage.

My iPhone screen lights up, flashing an iMessage notification.

“Please call me. Now. Important.” [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly.

“Still, a great deal of light falls on everything.”

~ Vincent van Gogh, in his “Letter to Theo van Gogh, The Hague, c. 10 October 1882

 


Notes:

  • Painting: Sunflowers, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh.  Quote via bradplumer
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Miracle. All of it.

Hello, welcome.

My name is Julie Yip-Williams. I am grateful and deeply honored that you are here. This story begins at the ending. Which means that if you are here, then I am not. But it’s okay.

My life was good and my life was complete. It came to so much more than I ever thought possible, or than my very humble beginnings would have given me the right to expect. I was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an immigrant, a cancer patient, a lawyer, and now a writer. I tried to live always with good intentions and a good heart, although I am sure I have hurt people along the way. I tried my best to live a full, rewarding life, to deal with the inevitable trials with grace, and to emerge with my sense of humor and love for life intact. That’s all. Even though I am dying in my early forties, and leaving my precious children behind, I am happy.

My life was not easy. That I survived infancy was something of a miracle, that I made it to America, also a miracle. Being born poor and blind in Vietnam on the losing side of a bloody civil war should have defined my life and sealed my fate. Those things marked me, but they did not stop me. Dying has taught me a great deal about living—about facing hard truths consciously, about embracing the suffering as well as the joy. Wrapping my arms around the hard parts was perhaps the great liberating experience of my life.

Directly or indirectly, we all experience the hard parts. The events that we hear about on the news or from friends, those tragedies ending in death that happen to other people in other places, which make us sad but also relieved and grateful as we think, There but for the grace of God…—destructive hurricanes and earthquakes, violent shootings and explosions, car accidents, and of course, insidious illnesses. These things shake us to the core because they remind us of our mortality, of how impotent we truly are in the face of unseen forces that would cause the earth to tremble or cells to mutate and send a body into full rebellion against itself.

I set out here to write about my experience of that, both the life lived and the trials endured—neither comprehensively, you understand, but enough to fully show you the distance I traveled and the world in which I made my life. And what began as a chronicle of an early and imminent death became—if I may be very presumptuous—something far more meaningful: an exhortation to you, the living.

Live while you’re living, friends.

From the beginning of the miracle, to the unwinding of the miracle.

Julie Yip-Williams, February 2018

~ Julie Yip-Williams, “Prologue” from The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After (Random House, February 5, 2019)


Notes:

%d bloggers like this: