By Angela M Giles
By Jennifer Roberts
My sweet boy,
I am sorry it took me so long to write to you. There’s so much I’ve wanted to say, but didn’t know where to start. How does a mommy write a letter to her baby that died? Mommies should never have to think about that at all. This is going to be full of words that are so different than what I would be saying to you if you were still here. I’m sure if you were here I wouldn’t feel the need to write you a letter at all, I would just tell you to your sweet little face how loved you are.
Next week you would be turning 20 months old. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I became your mom and since I last saw you. I could have told you already that I’m sorry my body failed you and you had to be born 8 weeks early, but most likely I wouldn’t even be worried about that anymore. I might have told you that I am sorry for complaining about the heartburn and hip pain while you were growing inside me, but possibly I wouldn’t even feel bad about it now.
Since things turned out the way they did and you are not here, I have felt the need to let you know that I am sorry that I complained. I am sorry my body didn’t do what it was supposed to. I am sorry you were robbed of your life so early and never got to come home. I am sorry I needed a C-Section and you never got to be held until you were gone. I’m sorry that all you ever felt was the NICU bed and needles and stuff stuck to your skin. Continue Reading…
By Shannon Haywood
I was sitting in Dairy Queen on Saturday, grabbing a quick bite before heading to my friend’s husband’s memorial service, when I was suddenly, and without any control at all, overcome with tears. I sat there for a few moments, trying to stop the flow, and kept my head down, in order to hide my face from those at tables surrounding mine.
People that were with their children, no doubt fueling up prior to spending a Saturday running errands, taking the kids to indoor leisure centers or movies or even the pool. Endless possibilities and even more activities that every Canadian family has spent Saturdays doing.
Maybe even headed to play hockey. Continue Reading…
By Jamie Della
She was a mystery, a ghost as close as my skin. I discovered her love through the scent of old photographs and White Shoulders perfume. And there she was: Della Ruiz Martinez, my nana.
I bought a bottle of White Shoulders when I discovered it was her favorite perfume. I was 19. The first whiff of bergamot is astringent and sharp, like her acerbic tongue. They say she could cut you to pieces with her words. She was a Scorpio woman: born on November 12, 1920 and died November 14, 1967 – 39 days before I was born. They say she happily anticipated the birth of her first grandchild. But liver disease prevented her from holding me in her loving arms. She became two-dimensional and flat: a framed image of young Della at four-years-old, a brown-skinned cherub with a crown of baby’s breath at an altar. They gave me her name as my middle name: an angel and a legacy. It was nearly twenty years before I saw another picture of her. Continue Reading…
By Stacey Shannon
The thing about grief is:
I can’t trust myself.
No matter how I rail against this part of my life/year/self, that is the bottom line. It is part of me. And though I may disregard it for 11 out 12 months of the year, it’s always there. It WILL come at me like Shane Stant came at Nancy Kerrigan with a club. When it arrives, it does what it always does. It hobbles my knees and runs away as I fall to the ground, asking “Why, why?”.
No, I’m tired of asking why. I’ll never really know. Moving on, next question:
When? Nope, done asking when. When will it be over? The answer to that one is always the same and it is this: never.
How? That’s a good one. Let’s unpack that. (Don’t you hate when people say that? It’s so douchey. “I know you are feeling rotten right now, let’s unpack that’! How about, NO?) How best to navigate these two weeks every winter, every fucking winter, 18 winters and counting. How? I’m not going to answer that. Because when I do answer that question, I immediately discount my own answer. Simply because: I can’t trust it. Continue Reading…
By Karen Lynch.
When you were born, I nestled you in my arms and nursed you on demand to help build your immune system and keep you safe from disease.
933 breast feedings
When you were 18 months old, I cut your grapes in half to keep you safe from choking.
3,406 grapes sliced
When you were 2, I bought you the bicycle helmet ranked highest by Parenting Magazine.
5,327 miles peddled
When you were five, six, seven, I let you watch only PBS kids to keep you innocent of the violence in the world as long as possible.
1,273 episodes Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood watched.
When you were 12, I let you ride your bike across town and prayed for your safety as I waited for your call.
17 petitions offered up to the universe.
When you were sick and no one knew why, I took you to a faraway clinic and found a doctor to heal you.
522 miles driven, 4 doctors seen, 18 bottles supplements purchased.
When you were 16, I found the best driving instructor in the county. I told you to call me for a ride anytime, no questions asked.
2 speeding tickets, 1 fender bender, 0 calls for pickup.
When you left for school today, I gave you an organic Fuji apple with your whole wheat almond butter sandwich. I reminded you to eat fruit and veggies in college next year.
2,367 Fuji apples washed and sliced.
1 Valentine slipped into your backpack.
When the deputy called this afternoon, I was selecting your senior picture.
17 dead. 15 wounded. 152 shots fired.
By Gail Mackenzie-Smith
“Chuck just called. It’s not good news,” my husband says.
I fear the worst of course. That’s how I roll these days. I fear Chuck has cancer. His wife and my best friend Holly died eighteen months ago and isn’t that what spouses do—follow their dead husbands or wives to the grave—usually within a year? My mom died ten months after my dad. Chuck has passed the year mark but what’s six months when faced with eternity?
“He has an inoperable tumor in his throat.”
I know something’s going to kill me. Now in my 60s, every little ache and pain comes with thoughts of death. What’s going to finally bring the old bitch down? What nasty little tumor or incurable disease do I have to look forward to?
My 97-year-old aunt shuffles around her tiny apartment grasping the arms of an aluminum walker. She can’t leave the house. She can’t drive or grocery shop. She’s almost deaf. I call her but our conversations are one way.
“What’s up, Aunt Mary?”
“Yes, last week.”
I don’t want to live forever and I don’t fear death. And I certainly don’t want to be a prisoner in a decaying body. Outliving my husband and daughter is not an option either.
I’ve lost my mom, dad, brother, 15 aunts and uncles, several cousins, and a few dear friends who went early—whose deaths had to be mistakes they were so young.
But now is different. Now is two years away from my mom’s death from breast cancer. Now is watching younger friends reach their time before me. I have eight dead friends on my Facebook page that I can’t delete. I jump at every late-night phone call expecting to hear that my mother-in-law has died. At 85 she’s out-lived her husband and most of her friends. A few years ago six close friends died one right after the other. Seemed like every couple of weeks she was going to a funeral. These were friends from school—friends she’s known for over 70 years. I can’t imagine.
“How does that feel, losing so many people so quickly?” I ask her.
She changes the subject and I never get my answer. It’s a stupid question anyway. How do you think it feels, Gail?
I’m tucked in a corner away from the noisy death party. What do you call the party after a funeral? It’s not a wake. Wakes happen before. A celebration? Too forced—like Madison Avenue shilling for death. I Google it and find out it’s called a reception. What a vague, crappy word. The rite deserves better.
The room is filled with family and friends drinking and laughing. My favorite uncle has died and the noise grates. I want to scream, “Shut the fuck up!” Instead I sob alone in my corner. My aunt joins me, a look of gentle confusion in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“Uncle Vinnie died?” I say.
She nods calmly—a sphinx—unwilling to share her secret.
The cancerous mole on my husband’s temple has grown in size from a grain of rice to a dime. He’s been trying to cure it himself with various herbal concoctions.
“Relax,” he says, “It’s basal cell, not melanoma.”
“It’s getting bigger and it’s too close to your eye.”
“I’m taking care of it,” he says.
“And your teeth. Those abscesses. What about that ultra sound for your kidney stones? Did you get the results?”
“You worry too much. I’ll be fine.”
But he’s wrong. There will come a time in all of our lives when it won’t be fine. And that’s all it takes—that one time.
It’s said that to truly embrace life you must also embrace death. I give it a try. I walk with death. During fights with my husband, I imagine him gone forever. During happy times with my husband, I imagine him gone forever. I apply this technique to my dying dog—enjoying every single second I have with him—good and bad—knowing one day soon he will disappear.
I learn gratitude. I learn to appreciate more fully and forgive more easily. But I’ve become obsessed. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of loss. Death stalks me—not in a dark ugly way—like a buzz kill. No matter how happy I am, it lurks in a corner and watches me, a smirk on its face.
My dog dies and it hurts like a motherfucker. A year later it still hurts like a motherfucker.
Chuck will die when his inoperable tumor gets so big he can’t breath. I pull this image into my body and feel his terror. What will they do for him when his breaths shorten? What can they do? Will they medicate him out of his senses until that final tiny slip of airway closes and his heart stops? And how long will that take? A week? Two weeks? Thirty seconds is a lifetime—a minute, eternity.
Chuck says he’s researched assisted suicide in Oregon.
“I saw what Holly went through,” he says.
Excited, we tell him he can die here in California now—the laws have changed. Then we remember what we’re talking about.
My husband and I sit in Adirondack chairs watching the sun setting over a glassy lake. I don’t know where we are but there’s a clapboard house, old trees, and a grassy lawn that runs down to the water. I sense that my daughter lives in this house with her husband, three children, a dog and a cat.
My husband takes my hand. We sit quietly for a few moments then turn to each other. It’s time. We rise out of our bodies—glowing balls of light—and merge with the sun.
As I write this, my little black and tan dog is draped over my arm—his body warm, his fur thick and soft. Outside my window, bright crimson flowers bloom—the air fragrant with an unknown scent. The sky above is steel blue and dotted with tiny clouds. I touch the glass of my window and it’s cold. My little dog licks my hand with a tongue thin as a satin ribbon and my heart opens.
Gail Mackenzie-Smith has her MFA in Screenwriting and Fiction from UCR Palm Desert and has been writing a lot for Purple Clover this year. Her writing can be found here.
By Rebecca Marks
I wait outside your door knowing that you have just hung up the phone, that you have just received the worst possible phone call, the one every parent dreads. Right now, you are unable to move. I will wait for the shock and disbelief to loosen their grip enough for you to let me in. I will surround you, insulate you, protect you but all you will feel is the void, the chill, the despair.
Uninvited, unwelcome, I know you are sorry to meet me. You will wish me gone over and over, but you will also be afraid to let me leave. You may send me away for a while but you know I will return. I am persistent and I will be here until the work is complete. We will probably be lifelong companions.
I am here because of love. It is my source; it both sustains and weakens me. In the end, it will be the force that puts you back together in some different configuration. It is only pain now, but there will be room for other things. Continue Reading…
By Erin Walker
I heard of your passing yesterday
I was busy drawing a bath with lavender scented bubbles
The bubbles were supposed to remind me of being a kid
Of turning wrinkly with my sister well before our time
Of Jewish girls making Santa Claus beards
Of my parents house before they sold it
Of picking neighbors flowers only to have to return them a day later to their mourning feet
I was busy drawing a bath with bubbles when I stopped to look at my phone
Such an insistent companion
Lately it has been especially good at reporting bad news
I wanted to disappear beneath the foam Continue Reading…
By Demetra Szatkowski
I took acid the day before my brother’s accident.
I rarely tell anyone about it. My first and only acid trip that went horribly wrong. I saw souls and was outside of my body and I thought for sure I was going to die. We went to a light show at the zoo and I cried the whole time.
My friends kept insisting I listen to music so that I would relax. I thought it was a conspiracy against me, but it was true: the music made me see pictures that calmed me down.
I fell asleep that way, headphones in, music blasting in my ears.
The next day I woke up and the world felt different. Tangible. Sensational. I wandered through that day in a half daze, wondering what I was going to do now, that the whole world had changed.
And then I got the call that Damon might be dead. Continue Reading…
By Shannon Lell
It was just before midnight in that sticky August air. My windows rolled down, feeling the wind my car made as I took the winding back roads listening to Fleetwood Mac. I was leaving the next day, for good, and I wanted to feel the hot wind of my hometown one last time. The back of my year-old 1996 Pathfinder contained all the belongings from two years of a desk job. On the seat next to me, a Tupperware container with the remains of homemade fruit salsa with sticky apples and grapes and jam along with homemade tortilla chips sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It was for my own going-away party.
I was warm from all the things; the air, the apples, the love of my people I was leaving behind. The beers.
In that moment, I felt like I was leading up to the peak of a joy wave; one my life I hadn’t known for many years, maybe since I was little girl. That next day was my last day of my desk job. After work, I’d leave to get on a plane which was taking me on a greatest adventure of my life. First, I’d go to Seattle where the life was waiting. From there, we’d travel for a month to a Pacific island, through the Grand Canyon, over the Rockies, to the Bayou and to our new home together in the south. For a girl who’d barely left the Midwest in her 23 years, this was a very big deal. I’d gotten my first passport. Continue Reading…
By Kellie Julia
Within days of my sons passing I literally sat up in bed in the middle of the night with a feeling of terror…. HOLIDAYS! I gently poked my husband and whispered “What about holidays” His groggy reply was; “Kel, we will do whatever you want to do” and I found that comforting enough to catch my breath and try to sleep. You do not understand the need to feel “in control” until everything seems out of yours.
Holidays, whether they entail a barbecue and sparklers or a tree and gifts are something that will always be different now. The first holiday came too soon after my son was gone. Easter. At that point in this journey my thought towards fuzzy bunnies, cute little chicks, painted eggs and ham was~ “Fuck you fuzzy bunnies, cute little chicks, painted eggs and ham. FUCK YOU!” My son loved Easter candy, even those chemically produced yucky marshmallow pillows of gunk called Peeps, those fake yolk sticky sweet chocolate Cadbury eggs, those brightly colored sugar beans passed off as “bunny poop”. He loved ham too and I hated Easter this year. Continue Reading…
Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
By Gabriella Geisinger
I am a thief.
At age fourteen I began shoplifting. It was part of my teenage rebellion. A ring here, a bracelet there; a tube of mascara or lipstick would find their way stealthily into my pockets as I sauntered, impervious, past cash registers. I only acquired items that were small enough to conceal in the palm of my hand. By age eighteen the habit had waned. My first year at college provided whatever psychological freedom I required to keep the mild kleptomania at bay – for the most part.
With adolescent abandon, my freshman year passed uneventfully by. August soon became May and I packed up several suitcases, shoving them into our Pampolna’d bull of a car – a black minivan with a nasty habit of spewing maple syrup scented steam when it over heated – and returned to New York City for my first summer at home in three years. Continue Reading…
Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Different writers offer their input on ways to navigate through life’s messiness. We are all about “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Kimberly Maier.
Please note: The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.
On 4 October 2014 the lights went out, the house suddenly became cold and someone switched the volume down. It remains as such today. The change is as shocking as it was dramatic. Yes everyone who could came to the funeral and they all spoke kind words and promised to come a see me and Rhiannon and help us through this dark period.
A week after the funeral and no one appeared at the door and no one phoned or even text but I put it this down to people maybe just getting over the shock and thinking that we might somehow want to be alone for a little while. Another week passed and more of the same. The nights were getting longer, darker and colder and the silence in the house was deafening. Rhiannon spent most of the time in her room and I sat downstairs looking sadly at photos and video footage of our last 25 years together. I really needed a visit from a neighbor or a friend at this point as I was becoming very low. Rhiannon found solitude on her Facebook Account and chatted to her friends that way but none of then came round to break the silence in the house that a few weeks before had been alive with light and laughter.
When I ventured out to the local shops I hoped to see some friendly faces but to my amazement people I knew did all that they could to avoid me including crossing the road and ducking into different isles in the shops. Continue Reading…