Tag Archives: loss

Two Illustrations from Nature…


It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.



Losing it in the Lyft…


He was a good friend. He was my pastor. He was my father’s best friend. He was my best friend’s father. All week long I’ve been trying to come up with connections that might justify my grief.

He died last Friday, the day of that last post, the one where I wonder how long it would be.

We went over on Saturday morning. I was expecting to lose it, to fall apart the moment I saw their faces, the “survived by”. But my emotions shunted to my core. I remembered much, was remembering much, but could feel nothing.

And there were kids and there was work and there were meals and there was school. By Wednesday morning the feelings began creeping back into my gut. I cracked at Mom’s group for a moment, but there was a bus ride and a school pickup and homework. And then I had to leave for a team building event.

I left the babies and the husband in the middle of dinner and began to walk. I was going to meet a new coworker to share a lyft to our event. The weather was the foggy drizzle in which San Francisco specializes. It was an empathetic touch I appreciated of my city. The sidewalk and I understood each other for every step of the six blocks.

I reached the house and rang the bell on the address. The gate buzzed and I pushed through, but I failed to catch the door before the buzzer stopped. I tried it and realized that I was trapped between the gate and the door. I took out my phone only to learn that I don’t have my new coworker’s phone number. And just like that I was forced to be still.

I waited for someone to come looking for me and then I began texting other coworkers trying to find the phone number. But I was trapped in that four square feet too long. I broke.

Yes, friends, this is when I broke.

So, now, I’m sobbing in my new coworker’s entryway, trying to contain myself, and climbing into a lyft, my first lyft, my very first lyft ride ever.

“Oh, you’re sniffling,” the lyft driver says, “I hope you are not getting a cold.”

“No,” I say, “I’m just sad.”

At which point I break down sob-heaving against the window pane.

But then it gets worse because, yes, it turns out my new coworker requested a lyft line, which is like a carpool. And to my quivering horror we stop and pick up someone else, this adorable young Asian girl who has no idea into what she is stepping.

So, now there are three people in the lyft respectfully gazing out their windows and I am in the back sobbing quietly into the glass.

Because I stood still. And it caught up to me. And I’m so very very sorry.

Happy Birthday, Daddy…


Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. I forgot all about it until my sister messaged me.  “He would’ve been sixty-five … and he would’ve been so grumpy about it.”  He hated getting older.

There was a short-lived period of time where I called him Pops. He nipped it in the bud immediately.

I always forget my Dad’s birthday.

Once, when I was in college I came home to find a message on my machine.

“Hello, Barbara, this is your father. I just wanted to call and thank you for the wonderful birthday card you gave me.  It’s so thoughtful and I love how you wrote that I was the best father ever, oh … wait … how embarrassing, this card is from your brother.  I guess I didn’t get one from you.  I’m sorry.  I guess I need to call my new favorite child.”

And then the message cut off amid snickering.

He was a funny guy. Each of us was his favorite.  He’d whisper it into our ears in front of the others by turns.  We watched him do it and, yet, believed him every time.

It’s been seven years since I had to write his eulogy. It took me a week before my pen would write the words “he was”, each day before my pen betraying me with “he is”.

I’ve had several dreams about him since he died.  It’s always a crowded space and he’s suddenly there.  And I run up to him to tell him everything, about how he’s a grandfather now, how I miss him, a new joke I think he’d like.  But he always hushes me and just beams with that quiet proud smile, never more proud than when he was speechless.  He’s never let me tell him anything.  He just smiles at me.

Happy birthday, Dad, you don’t look a day over fifty-seven.

I’ve got a new one for you:  “Why can’t you tell a kleptomaniac a pun? Because they always take things literally.”

As I Watched the Fire…


It was a crazy weekend. We bought the last of the furniture, which means my apartment now smells like Swedish pine and lingonberry.

After a month of sleeping on the floor, my son got his bunk bed and after a year and a half in boxes I got a little cabinet for all my art supplies. Thus, the weekend was full of detailing the growing list of bunk bed rules and unpacking beautiful things.

I opened the box of all the sketchbooks I’ve had since junior high. I took out the files containing my years of illustrations for the Sunday school curriculum and the children’s reader I did. And I discovered the stack of poems I wrote in the year after my Dad died.

I don’t write much poetry, but I get on kicks. I enjoy their density. I find I use them when my feelings are most compact and undefinable, much like those little foam creatures confined to capsules and awaiting bath time.

In this analogy, poetry would be the warm bath that releases you, opens you up and details your edges.

So, here is a dense little piece I had forgotten about. It reminds me well of that seeming interminable time. If you’ve ever experienced sorrow, I’m sure you will understand.

“As I Watched the Fire”

Oh! If I had a power tonight it would be this,
To send out my sorrow into the flames,
To lick and burn some other chimney,
Save my throat,
To consume some other material,
Save my spirit.
Then, I would watch it burn down to its predictable end,
To finish and be done, once and for all,
Left cold after its long hot work.
And all the concentrated efforts of my sorrow’s journey,
Would be accomplished in one short evening,
As I watched the fire.



I wrote a note to my good friend last week. Everything else was packed except these blank notecards so I decided to draw a little picture on the front. I should definitely make a habit of this.


The image was not a new one. I drew it on Ash Wednesday a few years back as I was emerging out of a new baby fog and admiring my new wings as a mother of two. It seemed appropriate again, this picture of rebirth.

Ash Wednesday Sketch

Ash Wednesday Sketch

The old must die so that the new might live.

I’ve been repeating this to myself this week, my way of desperately trying to make lemonade out of all these sour lemon goodbyes.

Does the flower bloom solely with intent to die, seed, and flower again? What would it look like if I bloomed to such a purpose?

Life is full of these uncomfortable transformations, making chrysalises out of new relationships, new jobs, new schedules, kids, moves, deaths, and anything else you could possibly imagine. Lucky for us our God is in the business of resurrection, hmm?

There have been a lot of little deaths this week. And so I’ll hold on to my front row seat and wait for the life.