eleventhbeatnik

musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Goodbye: Part 3

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Twenty years ago today, my father departed this world.

On August 2, 1994 I learned that my father had died in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels as though it all happened centuries ago.  Other times, like today, it seems like only moments have passed.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane for Winnipeg to attend his funeral.  It was as though time had stopped.  My body was doing what it needed to do, getting me from point A to B.  My brain was in a spin.  I knew I had been informed that Dad had died but I was still reeling from the shock.  Nothing and no one around me made sense.  My heart had exploded with pain and no number of band-aids, well-meaning words or deeds, could plug up the wounds fast enough for me to process any of it.

Arriving at the airport in Winnipeg I was met by family.  I was in a daze as I descended the escalator to meet them.  The first two faces I saw were those of my mother and my aunt.  I dissolved into a shaking mess of tears before I ever reached them at the bottom.

The car ride from the airport to my parents’ home was endless.  Small talk was out of the question.  I asked straight out: “What happened?”.  Although I already had heard the basics, I needed to hear it again.  Perhaps in hearing more details I would get an answer to the unanswerable “why” or allow me to uncover a huge misunderstanding.  I still hoped to hear the words:  “mistaken identity”; to know that my father in fact was safe and well.  In reality, those words were never uttered.  Although from time to time I still hear them in my dreams.

Everything that transpired after my arrival was a cascading swirl of activity:  organizing funeral arrangements, answering phone calls, accepting sympathy visits, reading messages. All of which was deeply appreciated, but infinitely exhausting.

Through all the almost business-like making of arrangements, I held it together.  It was not until the day before the funeral that I absolutely lost it.  The emotional tide swept in and overtook every part of me, fast and furious.

The minister presiding over the funeral service paid a visit to our home.  He was genuinely kind and compassionate, but I was in no way ready to face the clergy.  Or a burial.  Or the finality of the death of my father.

My father never expressed the desire to be cremated so a traditional funeral and burial had been organized.  A “viewing” had been arranged for immediate family.  I adamantly refused to go.  There was no way in hell I was going to allow the final memory of my father’s face to be from a casket.

The minister was amazing with me and I’ll never forget it.  He said, “I understand your reasons for not wanting to go.  All I ask is that you remember that you have not had a chance to say your good-byes.  If nothing else, attending the viewing will help you accept your father’s passing and give you the opportunity to express yourself as you see fit in your farewell.”  It was enough to convince me.  Begrudgingly, I attended.  And to this day I’m grateful that I did.

Before the viewing, I wrote my father a letter and a poem.  I rolled it up scroll-style in my favourite photo of him and put it in the casket near his heart.  I recited words flowing from deep inside that I knew intellectually he could not hear.  And yet.  I felt he did.

The funeral service was held the following day.  I remember nothing about it except watching his coffin being lowered in the ground and my knees buckling at the sight.  When the funeral was over, I subsequently stayed with my mother and sister for a couple of weeks before I returned to Edmonton to start school.

It was a dark and painful time.  But I look back on it now with a certain degree of gratitude and some semblance of peace.  If nothing else, what that devastating experience did was revealed to me a strength I never knew I had.  More than that, a supportive and beautiful relationship with my sister was forged.  Because we went through something so difficult and transformative together, an amazing friendship was built between us that remains to this day.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I withstood unimaginable pain.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I truly understood what “forever” meant.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I learned strength in adversity.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And a loving friendship with my sister was born.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I came to understand that grief is fluid, not finite.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I still miss him.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.

And I remember him with love.


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 2

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

A decision had been made.  Accompanying my parents on their road trip to Ontario in summer of 1994 was out of the question.  I was starting a new job that was financing my upcoming return to school and which prevented me from taking time off in time to go with them.

That in mind, I explained to my father in a telephone conversation that I wouldn’t be able to take vacation before August.  Agreeing that I would instead come to visit in Manitoba in early August before school started, my Dad said, “Sounds good.  See ya then.”  And we hung up the phone.

That moment in time replays in my mind, in my dreams, and in my heart to this day.  It was the last time I ever heard my father’s voice.

In the midst of all of that I booked my flight to Manitoba.  I was to arrive the day after my parents returned from their road trip to Ontario, intending to stay for a week.

The date of my arrival?  August 3, 1994.

On August 1, I moved into the Edmonton apartment that I would be staying in for the duration of school.  My husband was to commute from his work to the city, until I graduated.

August 2, the day before I was to leave for Manitoba, was filled with the usual pre-travel errands and arrangements.   A bit of shopping, un-packing from the move, cleaning, and packing for the trip.  I was exhausted from everything going on but excited about the impending visit.

In the early evening, I decided to have a bath and wash my hair so I could save some time in the morning and sleep a little later.  I took my time, turned on some music, lit a candle and relaxed.

Coming out of the bathroom, hair tied in a turban, I gasped in surprise as my husband walked into the apartment.  He wasn’t expected to arrive from work until the following morning, in time to take me to the airport.

I started to say “Hi, what are you doing here…?”  But I didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence.

His hands gripping my shoulders, eyes awash with tears and boring into mine, he said almost harshly, “Jill. Your Dad was killed in an accident today.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

My heart stopped.  The room started contracting.  My surroundings began to look like those old fun house mirrors where everything is real but grotesquely distorted in every imaginable way.

I slowly shook my head, incapable of acknowledging the life-altering words just spoken.

“There’s been a mistake”, I said firmly.  “It couldn’t be my Dad”.

My husband then squeezed me so tight I wondered if another breath would come.  He said urgently,”Please call your mother.”

With leaden feet I walked into the hallway, leaned my back on the wall and slid to the floor as my husband handed me the phone.

With shaking hands I dialed and as the ringing tone began, everything around me retreated into a tunnel I could not name.

Abruptly, my mother answered the phone.

I couldn’t think or breathe.  In a voice that to me sounded loud and crazed, these words rushed out of my mouth:  “WHAT HAPPENED???”

Answering me in a soft, shaky voice, my mother unleashed a litany that would alter my world on every level.  “The police came to the door when I came home from work today.  Your father bought a truck and he was going to pick it up and insure it in Brandon.  On his way home, just as he left the city, he was hit head on by an oncoming car swerving erratically into his lane.  Emergency crews were called to the scene but it was too late.  Dad died instantly.  So did the couple in the other car.  They were from New Jersey and it is suspected that the man who was driving had a heart attack.  I couldn’t bring myself to call you, so I asked your husband to drive in and tell you in person so you wouldn’t be alone when you heard the news.”

We talked a little while longer.  Shocked and in disbelief, and even in the face of confirmation from my mother, I still could not take it in.  We ended the call with hushed tones and tears, nonsensical ramblings in a nonsensical time.

That night I did not sleep.  I cried and tossed and turned and cried some more.  Arriving at the airport the next morning, I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

As I checked in at the airport, the absurdity of what was happening suddenly and furiously hit me:  I had turned down my father’s request to join his final road trip, thinking there would be lots of time to visit later in the summer.  To add insult to injury, I had pre-purchased an airline ticket to arrive the day after my father died.

I missed him by a day.  ONE. FUCKING. DAY.

As this realization came over me, in front of a ticket agent in a major airport and all in sundry, I began to sob uncontrollably.  My knees buckled.  I could not see.  Not knowing what else to do with my sorry ass, the agent (bless her) came around the counter and gave me a huge hug, essentially holding me upright.  She whispered:  okay sweetie, let’s get this done quickly.  Hold on to me and I’ll get you where you need to go.

And so she did.  I don’t think I could have taken a step further without her.  In hindsight, I wish I had asked for her name.  Because her kindness will live with me forever.  So wherever you are compassionate airline ticket agent:  thank you.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane to Winnipeg.

Not to visit my family as originally planned.

No.  I was about to attend my father’s funeral.

 

Dad

Writing 101:
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 2 f 3 – PART SERIES.

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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 1

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

1994 was a turbulent and confusing time in my life.

I was a young married woman, in the throes of discontent, trying to understand and figure out my place in the world.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that not much has changed from that time to this, but I digress.

During that time, I had recently moved from Edmonton to a small Alberta town with my then husband.  Out of my element and out of sorts, I found myself bored and unfulfilled professionally and I started looking for an escape route.  Ultimately, I decided returning to school was the better way.

Social justice was important to me and somehow that led me to the conclusion that becoming a paralegal would align my beliefs with my career.  Yeah …. I know.  In my defence, youthful idealism was running the show.  I had not yet figured out that the concepts of law and justice were not exactly one and the same.

My classes were to commence in the fall of that year.  I called my mother to say I would have some time later in the summer to come home to Manitoba for a visit before classes started.  She thought it was a good idea.  After we finished chatting, my mom passed the phone to my father.  I repeated my thoughts to him about coming for a visit in August.  He replied, “Well your mother and I are going to Ontario to visit your grandparents the last two weeks of July, so why don’t you come with us?”  I was a little taken aback by the question.  Firstly, because I hadn’t expected the invitation.  Mostly, because my father had always been a man of few words and for him, this was A LOT of words.

Immediately, I felt the urge to say, “Yes!  I’ll come with you.”  For a moment I imagined how much fun it would be to do a road trip to Ontario with my parents, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid.

And then reality intervened.  I had just started a job that was financing school and I had been told I wouldn’t be allowed any vacation days until August.

With that in mind I said, “Thanks for asking Dad, but I have to work so I can’t get away in July.  So how about if I come to Manitoba after you get back from Ontario?   I’ll come to visit the first week of August”.

“Sounds good.  See ya then, ” he said, before hanging up.

Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever hear his voice.

Dad

Writing 101:  Day 4
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 1 of 3-PART SERIES.

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Music: A Life.

Music expresses that which cannot be said
and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo

Writing 101:  Day 3

Music is pure expression of the soul and unlocks meaning in as many unique ways as there are unique people.   The ability to create music is an art form like no other.  Lacking the skill to create music myself, I enjoy it through the perception of intricately choreographed poetry and story-telling in motion.  To experience crystalline language of the heart expressed through sound is simply exquisite, in its many varied forms.

Choosing only three songs that are important to me is beyond difficult.  So rather than focus on weeding out three of innumerable favourite songs based on genre or content, I am carving out a few tunes mirroring areas of my life that are looming large these days.

Like A Stone

Last year, the entire foundation of my life shook and crumbled.  Everything I thought was true, everything I trusted, everything I invested in emotionally cracked and dissolved.  Arising from the ashes, I looked around at what was left of the life I knew and recognized nothing.  The ground I was left standing on was in fact a cold floor where I lay prostrate sobbing uncontrollably.

Slowly but surely, time did its thing.  Healing began, clarity revealed a different perspective, and understanding led to recognition.  I looked at the world around me with different eyes. The old cracked foundation revealed a newer, stronger, truer one.

And standing firmly on that foundation, like a stone, were the beginnings of something new, amazing and wonderful.  All firmly rooted in patience, love and integrity.

In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I’ll wait for you there like a stone

It is a gift that moves me beyond words and I am grateful for every moment.


Om Namah
Shivaya

This is a mantra, and it makes my heart sing, so I am also classifying it as a song.

To understand more about my personal connection to this mantra, you can find it all here:  Mantra Magic


She Used To Love Me A Lot

As a young girl, I often visited my grandparents on their farm in rural Manitoba.  I have many fond memories of sitting around their kitchen table with tea and homemade sweets.  Even better, the privilege of sitting at the “grown-up’s” table did not imply an expectation that I would be seen and not heard.  I was included in the conversation as if I were an adult, even though my feet still swung from the chair, barely sweeping the floor.  I loved it.

My grandmother adored music and often had it playing full tilt on an old record player while doing household chores.  She introduced me to a variety of musicians that she loved, most of which I never really cared for at that age, but I sang along all the same basking in her enjoyment.  Johnny Cash was often in rotation.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to understand that although often branded a country singer, his artistry transcended genre.  He was a storyteller of the best kind and I grew to appreciate his skill.

In memory of my grandmother, and in gratitude for her sharing a part of herself with me through music, I’d like to give you a tiny glimpse of who she was.  See that smokin’ hot mischievous brunette at the top of the pic with the gorgeous smile?  That’s Rachel.  I miss her like crazy.

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik


And here’s a little Johnny C. to remember her by.

Enjoy!

 

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New York City: My View.

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could …
Writing 101:  Day 2

Sometimes seemingly easy subjects at face value are in fact intricately complex.  And so it is with topics such as this.

If I possessed magical-instantaneous-transporter-superpowers, there are many places in the world I would want to go and explore for the very first time.  So many in fact, I wouldn’t know exactly where I would choose to land first.  Peru?  Sedona?  England?  Spain?  Italy?  Scotland?  Boston?  India?  Bali?  Iceland?  Australia?  Sweden?  And on.  And on.  And on.

So I had to go back to the original question, refocus and tap into what felt true for me.  Where in this very moment do I wish to be?  The answer, of course, is both stunningly obvious and veiled in mystery.  Why the contradiction?  Because despite the travel bug that thrives within me, my inner GPS always points me in the same direction.

Allow me to show you my True North.

Arriving at the destination that inexplicably and continuously calls my name, I begin my usual circumference walk with anticipation and excitement:  visiting old haunts and discovering new ones along the way.

A beautiful crossing.
Raindrops in Blue.

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Emerging from W4 station, I soak in the familiarity and the newness
that unfailingly assaults my senses.

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

As I walk here and there, past memories arise and fade.
Wonderful new observations and discoveries are born.

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

S’Nice.
Very Nice, actually.
Much compassionate deliciousness occurs here.
Curry Cauliflower Wrap anyone?  Lemon Blueberry muffin my dears?
Hell, yes!

scene of crime

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Let’s just call this “Scene of the Crime”.
As a pedestrian, I was hit by a taxi here as I stepped into crosswalk
and it changed the course of my life.
Physical pain?  Yes.  Recovery?  Long.  Emotional repercussions?  Indescribable.
The take-away?  I am grateful to be alive to tell the story.
I hurt a lot.  I loved a lot.  I learned a lot.

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

Washington Square Park.
Poetry, Music, Art
Home of THE BEATS

As my feet connect with the earth in this sacred place, I remember who I am.
It was in this park that I truly recognized myself for the first time.

i am the eleventhbeatnik

For me, New York City is more than a desired travel destination.  It is the place I feel most alive.  It is home of my heart.

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

 

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Writing 101: Day 2