Tuesday, September 29, 2009


You don't think about it until it affects you. Death, disability, loss. We all know life is full of loss, and according to one of the primary koans of Buddism, life is suffering. It's so much easier to go through the motions rather than fully show up - that would require paying attention, much too much attention. And we modern humans just aren't able to slow down enough to do that.

Monday was not my first Yizkor service. Since before my conversion I attended these as part of the whole High Holiday line-up. Monday was however my first blury Yizkor. Just the evening before I asked a patient friend, what exactly was invovled during the service? I knew what went on, but I suppose I needed to know that it was OK for me, as a "step" mom to mourn. Since Step-son's heart "attack" (ie, before he even died) I was not given permission (by my inlaws & outlaws) to have feelings of remorse, nevermind express them. (That story is still not far enough away -in time- for me to write about but trust me, it will get written). Not for me, mainly for him & my Wife, his mother. His more-than-birth-mother. The woman from who's (between) legs he came and who's arms he died - that woman.

Anyway, my patient friend briefly outlined all that was to be involved so that I could make the choice for myself. It seems that whatever we did the year before escaped my mind and heart. So I'm glad I asked. For those who are not Jewish, it's the memorial part of the ending of the Yom Kippor (day of atonement) services. And of course, if it doesn't affect you, it's usually another set of prayers and readings you go through the motions for.

This year I holding my mahzor in one hand, and never without a tissue in the other. Loads of congregants lost loved ones this past year (or maybe it's that I finally started paying attention). I felt like the only one who couldn't keep it together though. Later, after receiving a warm hug from our student rabbi I realized that Step-son's death happened a mere 10 weeks ago. It hasn't even been 3 months. The deceptively cold weather and the ripening reds and yellows of the leaves trick me into thinking it was a whole other season ago that this happened. And it was. But our Canadian seasons are so short that it still hasn't been 3 months. It's been a long ten weeks. The space in which time travels and takes has definitely shifted. In our house time is now marked by "before" (his death) and "now". Some days I'm compelled to look at his picture and aks him why? Other days I realize I can no longer watch my favourite CSI series anymore. Too many people die in them and death is no longer entertaining.

It's starting to get cold out there. I felt the north wind on my ears today as I walked to the bus stop - but inside I'm starting to melt. The time and distance away from all the crazy people in that hospital room is helping me get my own time and distance to make sense of things. To no avail. We still haven't heard results of the autopsy. I'm not sure if we will ever be given the 'right' answers to our one question: why.

I'm reading about writing right now. Part of my graduate work (ok, most of it) has been about creativity and recovery - revovery in the traditional sense (from chemical dependency) to the non-traditional: re/covery, dis/covery and re/storying the self. My finale project is to write a curriculum and programming to deliver (to different agencies; my advisor is practical. She's been the only one to let me make this into a work/workable project). I love what I'm reading and yet I hate it. As I read how writing and creating (arts) help all sorts of people to un-cover, dis-cover and re-cover themselves, others, and the worlds around them, I too am using this same tool. A little aprospos I suppose. A little too clsoe to home sometimes. But then, it's who I am: the personal is political (or as Christina Baldwin writes: the personal is universal) and the universal/politcal, personal.

I still can't write the story of the 4 weeks in Van. I'm still melting. Perhaps once it's all out on the floor the obsessive compulsive in me can go and pick up the pieces and file them where they belong. Perhaps some pieces will make it back to my heart, sharp edges filed down so as not to continuously cut so deeply.