Today vs 355 Days Ago

Today I watched an emergency vehicle roar

followed by a chorus of five more

the hymn they sang was not for me

but I found myself unable to breathe

I started to panic, filled with fear

as if they were suddenly going to stop here

I wear her shirts and her ashes

as if those would conjure her

breathe, ironically, life back to her

to us

to the moment in time where we were

all of we, together, being happily.

It was a feeling of holy

a feeling of communion

as we broke bread together

The laughter we shared

reciting our ancient tales

filled us faster than food

She just at fifty, me at 49

We’d spent a love-time of life

but never enough time

The chaplain at the hospital said,

on the day Bean really died,

Maybe you were the face of God

she had to see before she could

finally be at peace.”

It was the most comforting words

because I often think of them.

I often think of Bean’s face in that same way,

the face I needed see before she went home

Your friend for life, Bill

Bill Busing was a well respected man in Oak Ridge, TN. Heck, anywhere he went he was thought highly of because of his chemistry knowledge, his humanitarian efforts, and his advocacy for people with mental health issues. He was a positive ask-anyone-about-him type of fellow. Because of this, I don’t want to tell you about that. I’d like to tell you about my friendship with him.

Each Sunday at ORUUC (Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church), I would seek out and find those that needed hugs. It was my thing. Some people, like my dad, for instance, bring candy to church for the wee ones. I brought hugs in abundance. I hugged the old, the young, the feeble, the in-betweens, but I always sought out Bill. Not because I preferred him above others, but because he was born decades but days from my birthday. I felt a special bond with him that I can’t really explain.

When he didn’t show up for church, I’d miss him something awful. When he gave me his phone number so I wouldn’t worry about him, I felt like I’d been given the golden ticket. It wasn’t long before we decided to go for coffee. He seemed both pleased and genuinely surprised to discover that I really did seek his company.

We arranged and met at Starbucks on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. I got there first and I scored the corner seats with a table in between them. When he arrived he insisted on paying because he bought special fund raising cards from the church and he wanted to make sure they got used. I thought that very philanthropic, he thought it very practical.

Coffee in hand, we sat down in the corner and chatted for nearly two hours. We covered topics such as family, life events, careers (mine far shorter and less stellar than his), marriage and faith. He was not one for easy laughter, even with me. But when he did, it was rich and full-bodied and worth the effort to coax it from him. He was quite serious but not really; more like a human paradox (like we all are).

After that initial meeting, we met frequently at different venues around town. Sometimes we’d go to Panera Bread where he’d bring his close friend Cherie with him. It was always a delight to see the two of them interact because she was far more vibrant than he, but he seemed to find her antics amusing. Our conversations never stayed on one topic for very long. We’d cover a gamut of issues from politics to religion. He never shied away from anything. He was a brave conversationalist in that aspect.

Once, after I’d moved away, I had returned for a visit. After I walked him to his car, I hugged him extra tight, his hunched shoulders seemed to melt as he held me warmly.

“Bill, I’m so glad I got a chance to see you again. I want to make you a promise.”

“Oh, you don’t have to promise me anything. It’s okay.” He rebuffed me gently.

“No, really. I want to promise you that as long as I’m able, I’ll write to you every time I get a letter. I won’t forget you.” I said with earnest and sincerity.

“Oh, I thought you were getting serious on me.” He chuckled. “Then I will promise you the same thing. As long as I’m able, I will write you letters.”

From that day on, a card would arrive about once a week, most commonly bi-weekly. I replied as soon as I got one as did he. His favorite way to write letters was on the inside of various greeting cards. He talked about his daughter, Lesley, and his growing concern for her but also his joy that he could have dinner with her during the week. He told me about his adventures with Miss Cherie and the people he helped along the way.

During a particularly rough patch of grief, I wrote to Bill and lamented my despair. “I’m lost. I just feel like giving up some days. I miss my people. I miss my tribe. I miss my home.” Those aren’t the exact words, but they are close. His reply was gentle.

“Knowing grief is just a part of life. It comes and it goes. There is only one way to deal with it, just keep living. Being sad all the time isn’t going to make it better. You have to live. You have a new place to be with your husband and family. Don’t give up when there is life to live.” (again paraphrased).

At that time, I remember just crying harder because he, and people like him, are the very reason I was grieving in the first place. I held on to that March letter, in essence breaking my promise, pondering the words he’d written. By early April I’d decided he was right and I was not going to give up easily. I wrote him a letter telling him as much. I wrote the letter up and sent it out on Monday the 11th of April. He got the letter on the 12th. He passed on the 14th. No letter returned.

As I sit here on the first of January 2017, I think about how many times I’ve cried about giving up in this past year as I’ve battled a scary bout of depression. Even with people I love cheering me on, how he signed his letters is one of the key elements that keep me going. He really did teach me something better than chemistry.

Your friend for life, Bill.

 

Cycle turns

flowergarden

I am an untended garden, riddled with forget-me-nots and weeds

My earth has not been furrowed asunder; tilling life to the topsoil

I have grown fallow, un-supporting of life, but yet, there are some

perennials that cling to a hope of return, of vibrancy dallying

But I can only roll over in my floral nightgown, whimpering in my bed

allowing the blistering son to scorch my once glorious stance

I admit, I’ve become self-watering. I needn’t wait for the gardener

My groans of grief roil the soil, creating bitter roots exposed as lies

Everyone knows that when the earth laughs, people die.

She accepts their bodies back to her world, but I could still breathe

so I am not granted respite from the overabundant fertilizer spewed

over my once lush landscape. But, I will rise, for the weeds can’t hang on

when I forbid grasping of my rooted passion for life. Here she comes

the one that removes the rot with compassionate hands.

Here he comes, the one that scratches that spot in the very middle

She tends to me while singing lightly a childhood song forgotten

He digs deep with his grip, releasing the tainted, blighted plants

She opens the earth to expose me to the warmth of attention

He plants perennial seeds to grow through the coming seasons.

I inhale deeply, knowing that my rebirth will again grow fruitful.

My cycle continues in ample countenance to their loving attention.

I await my own fruition. I will grant only the very best of myself

to create the most beautiful garden I can create. This, is why I weep.

Community Prayer

My neighbors,

We are gathered here today in peace

We honor the truth of the word love

We strive together to build a better community

To promote and create our neighborhood

That takes care of one another through

Respect, compassion, courage, and vision.

For anybody that would not honor our covenant

We will lead them by our actions to the light of love in your name.

Hear our prayer so that we may be one people, your people.

Thank you.

Shadow Bones

wildflowers

I see you there in the shadows pretending you don’t see me.

I’m not there to hurt you, but to love you without question.

To you that may seem an impossible task because “Who’d love you?”

I’ll take out my soul light, holding it high in the air dissipating

The aura of unworthiness, the wall of hostile protection

The child that feels as lost as I have felt

I hear your cries in the dark as the nightmares scream

I’m not there to harm you, but to comfort your fears tenderly

That may feel unlikely considering the state you’re in

I’ll hold up my soul light, filled with love so the dark can’t have

Your rebirth into fruitfulness, your abundance like pomegranate

The child that screams with a voice now heard, like mine.

I feel your heart fighting as fiercely as a cornered animal

I’m not here to defeat you, but to support your victory

You believe you are broken, but I see the power of your will

I’ll offer my soul light as your shield as you fight for you

For your dreams, happiness, love, peace, your very spirit

That child that is frantic to stay safe knows me

I can’t offer redemption. I can’t even offer you a path.

What I can give you is my deepest support as you traverse

Acceptance of your divinity, your understanding of love

Your worthiness of compassion, your gift of kindness

I offer my soul light so you can find your own.

That child knows I am free, release the regrets

Bloom into the garden of unique flora and fauna.

Here, have some of my seeds.

Love Lives

The place that is welcoming

is the home where love lives

Not only where love is,

but where it is cherished

nurtured, adored, revered,

but most of all,

given fertile soil to blossom

overly abundant blooms everywhere.

“Miss Marge’s Cat”

When I took Miss Marge Swenson on our date, we had a conversation. I tried to pawn my last kitten off on her. She said, “At this stage in my life it wouldn’t be fair to bring a cat into my home. I sure do miss having a cat.” She’s 93 and that was a valid, although sad, argument, it was sound of logic.

We talked a bit more and I found out her favorite color is purple. It used to be blue, but for some reason, she explained, it’d changed to purple. I immediately decided to paint her a cat.

When she saw the painting for the first time, she immediately named the purple cat, “Mr. B.” because that was the name of her friend. It absolutely delighted me to see her aglow with joy. I don’t think it gets any better.

In the small painting in the background, I filled that with four other paintings before I stopped myself and asked how I feel when I see Miss Marge. I see her as a breath of fresh air as if I were standing on a mountain on a clear sunny day in the early spring with maybe a suspicion of rain hanging in the air but not enough to feel any kind of muggy. As soon as I thought that, I saw it and painted it.

I liked the squishy flowers because I wanted them to represent the four Sunday’s in a month (sometimes five) when I get to see my Always Beautiful friend, Marge Swenson.

This took me to this, the 5th try, before I got it right in my head.

This took me to this, the 5th try, before I got it right in my head.

The contrasts were some of my favorites. Don't hate on my leaves.

The contrasts were some of my favorites. Don’t hate on my leaves.

I love warms and cools together. It feels rich and lively to me.

I love warms and cools together. It feels rich and lively to me.

Miss Marge will always have comfortable slippers to wear on this stage in life.

Miss Marge will always have comfortable slippers to wear on this stage in life.

Miss Marge's Cat Mare Martell Acrylic on Board 16X20

Miss Marge’s Cat
Mare Martell
Acrylic on Board
16X20