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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Love letter to a gone beyond friend

art retreat with ms annie
Today marks the Earth's first spin around the sun since my friend Annie died. It's hard to write those words: "Annie died."  I wanted to write left her body, transitioned, released her earthly bonds.  All possibly true.  Also true, painfully at times, that she died.  She did it in a beautiful way.  She was at peace with life and her death, surrounded by some of those who knew and loved her.  Tonight I miss her in a sharp-intake-of-breath way, knowing I won't see her again in this life.  I don't like and I fully accept the reality that she is gone.

just over a year ago
Annie died on the heels of the Dia de los Muertos, that brilliant Mexican holiday where death is openly acknowledged and the lives of those who passed celebrated and mourned.  America doesn't offer such an opportunity.  As a culture, we've been historically lousy at grieving, combining a stoic stiff upper lip with a plethora of canned sentimentality.  Far better to rend garments and keen, or to laugh and drink whiskey--both good and honest forms of raging, raging against the dying of the light.

Tonight I miss her.  So I'm writing her a letter.  Since I can't give it to her directly, I give it to you.  Maybe you'll write your own grief love letter, or make a remembrance altar.  Let us acknowledge our loves and our losses.

Dearest Sweet Annie:
eating?  again?
For as long as I can remember, you've been Annie to me-- since we first met, and you emphatically told me your name, "Anne, with an E".  My memories of you are perhaps more vivid now that I have no now with which to replace them.  In many, your mouth is either full of food, or open with deep-throated laughter.  I've never seen anyone eat with so much pleasure, certainly no one with the body of a 17 year old baton-twirler.

on the river
Tonight marks a year since you left.  Despite video evidence proving that you are a complete goof-ball, you've gained a certain Saint-like status now. When I want to punch someone in the nose, when I feel my heart get pinched and pinch-y, when I am low on patience and big on ego-- if I am lucky, I think of you.  I think of how you full on loved your kids and Eric and life.  How you balanced the possibilities of vulnerability and lightheartedness.  How your optimism was tempered with a directedness and sensibility that in others would just be bitchy.  That was never, ever a word I would associate with you.  You were authentic, honest and compassionate.

I try most of all to remember how you kept your heart open.  You died way too young, but you stayed young in the most remarkable way throughout your life.  You were playful, active, curious.  You stayed in that space even as you were dying.  I know you way outlived your disease, and I know from our conversation that some of this was in service to others.  Dis-ease doesn't even seem a word to associate with you, because you were graceful in life and in dying.  Not just graceful-- lively.  How to reconcile that life-force you showed those weeks before dying with an actual death?

circus annie, art retreat
Annie, when I think of you, I think of your poetry, your dancing, your always-at-the-ready laughter.  And I think of the way you could make room in your life for all sorts of experience and love.  What I want to take with me after your death is that-- a willingness to engage, even while in trouble.  An energy for more love, more music, more appetite for experience even when or especially when it would be more understandable to collapse and withdraw.

November is a mixy month for me.  My birthday occurs less than one week after and one week before your death and that of my father.  I've always seen birthdays as an invitation to reflect on life.  Your death and his added a new layer to that.  I remember we are mortal, and that days count.  I now try to add your eyes and his to my way of seeing the world.  Like Ansel, who you knew only from my tales of him, I remember I don't have time for novels anymore.  I try to pay attention to the stories.
From a poem he wrote:
He used a tool
and dug in deep
to leave a mark
that would last longer than
he would.
post-bath annie
annie, smiling and centered
Annie, my sweet friend, you dug in deep.  Your mark is with me, and I know with others.  I hope to honor it by the borrowing of your eyes and the resting in your heart, so huge and open like your eyes and your laugh.

Wherever you are now, thank you for stopping here, and for changing many of us for the better along the way.  

With platesful of Big Love for you, and for your boys S, E, M.

For Annie, who always wore green
 I may never see green again
 without thinking of you
 and the full-on way you greeted the world.
 Your laugh, that strut, the
 baton twirl of your smile.
 I may never think of death again
 without thinking of you.
 The full on way you greeted
 your fate; maybe not at first,
 but when the going got real,
 how you grabbed that train,
 saw it as some grand adventure.
 pretty much the way you'd see anything 
 as seemingly small as a walk on the beach.
 I may never walk on the beach 
 without thinking of you,
 and that day when you were six weeks 
 on the other side,  when  you weren't so sure
 of it, stuck between your curiosity
 and acceptance and your sense of responsibility
 to those you loved you were leaving behind.   
 deciding it was ok for you to full on go,
 to go full on, to that other side.
 I may never think of you, and the full on way
 you loved the world that loved you back, 
 without thinking of the full on way 
 you held life in your hands
 like a most curious child, a child with a 
 treasure intriguing, and frightening and wondrous.
 all we could do was step back
 in wonder in your full-on grace.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is breathtaking. thank you so much for sharing this with us. LOVE