New song. The milk of devastation is the stuff you drink when you suckle from the death mother.
Category Archives: personal story
2 weeks ago I called my mother around mid-day. She was sobbing in pain. This was the day before Mother’s Day. I went to her apartment and spent the next week with her until she died.
I told her that she had done well. She could rest now. Her work was done and she didn’t have to stay. I said that God was ready to row her little boat to another shore. I wrote it down on a card and she kept the card under her pillow.
My mother was 92 years old. It was fairly recently that she spent a month at my home while I took time off of work to care for her after she broke her shoulder in a fall. It wasn’t a surprise she fell or hurt herself- she’s been living unsafely in her home for quite a while. She was very stubborn, though, and did not want to leave her home.
At ninety-two, my mother was not the healthiest of her siblings. Her older brother Ernie was 98 and getting around much better. But then again, Ernie was a preacher and my mother was the family black-sheep who smoked, drank and partied into middle age. Ernie is still active. I expect to see him at the memorial.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer over 5 years ago. She refused treatment or any further diagnostic tests. There was no way to know how extensive the cancer had become. She always said, “I’m tired. I’ve lived long enough. It’s time for me to go.” But she didn’t go. Not for a long time and many close calls.
About a year ago she had congestive heart failure. She needed more help. She was put on hospice care. People came to her home. After a few months she was discharged from hospice because she wasn’t getting worse- she was getting better. She still needed help, she still wasn’t safe in her home.
She was a “wall-walker” as the physical therapists would say. She didn’t have the strength or balance to actually walk around her apartment. She grabbed hold of things- including things that were unstable or that she couldn’t actually “grab” (like walls). It was an inherently unsafe situation. She was constantly over-reaching her balance and relying on objects that were not dependable to get her a few more steps. This led to falls on numerous occasions- many falls she never told anyone about.
My mother has been alone since 1992 when my father died from complications of mesothelioma. She has been fiercely independent since then. Also, incredibly lonely. She moved out of the family home to an apartment several years ago. It is a great apartment- located in inner southeast Portland off Division St. For a time she insisted on continuing to drive her car. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she stopped driving. Deaf and increasingly blind (from macular degeneration) she finally realized that each time she got behind the wheel she was praying that she wouldn’t kill anyone. Her friend Judy began helping with shopping and other things.
This is her obituary:
Margaret Elinor Snook, known to most as Marmie, entered the world on August 8, 1921, the sixth and youngest child of George and Virginia Chamberlain of Corbett, Oregon. She died at home in Portland, Oregon on May 16, 2014.
Marmie grew up a country girl and graduated from Corbett High School in 1939. She married Rex Snook in June, 1941; their love story lasted almost 50 years until Rex’s death in 1991, and produced four children, Suzy Garman (married to Phil), Becky Sciglimpaglia (Don), Greg Snook (Jackie) and Rick Snook (Candace).
Marmie worked in a variety of jobs over the years, the longest lasting being as a clerk in the Multnomah County District Court, but work never defined her life. She loved to read, enjoyed just about any card game you could name, played in a Bunco group for decades, and loved spending time with friends and family, often built around food. Garage and estate sales were a passion. She was also a long-time volunteer delivering meals on wheels and working in the gift shop at the Hollywood Senior Center. She enjoyed her life to the fullest, and was proud to have remained independent and (more or less) self-reliant into her 90s.
She was a fun person to be around, with an infectious laugh and a sharp and sometimes silly sense of humor. She was a loyal and generous friend and, at times, a fiercely protective mother. She was also a stubborn person who could drive her friends, and her kids, crazy by insisting on getting her way about absolutely everything. In short, she was a complex, amazing, entertaining and aggravating singularity. The world will not see her like again.
Marmie was predeceased by her brother Harold and sisters Mabel, Pearl and Katherine; she is survived by her brother Ernie of Turner, Oregon, her four children, six grandchildren, assorted great-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren, and a passel of nieces and nephews. Disposition was by cremation. A private memorial service will be arranged in the near future.
My son Matt loved his grandmother. He visited her often. They played cribbage while she could still hold the cards.
About a week before the day 2 weeks ago that I went to stay with her, she called my sister and said she hurt so badly that she couldn’t bear it. She had an in-home X-Ray that confirmed that she had multiple compression fractures of her spine. She was put on hospice care (again).
When I came over I called hospice and they said I could start administering the liquid morphine that was part of the hospice “kit” left in my mother’s home. The hospice nurse came to see her the next day. They said she might only have a little time left.
She was having great difficulty and pain with breathing. The nurse explained that she would be very likely to develop pneumonia. When asked if she wanted treatment in the event that she had pneumonia she clearly and insistently said, “No.” She wanted to be put to bed and made comfortable, that’s all.
I called my sons on Monday. Matt lives in the area and he came over right away. He jumped into bed with his grandma and hugged her gently.
Over the course of the week several things happened.
- My mother ate less and got out of bed less, slept more
- We gradually got her pain under fairly good control
- My siblings came to visit- one of my sisters came from a trip to Mexico
- I stayed all day and night and administered pain meds on a schedule, fed her when she would eat
- I helped her go to the bathroom or use the commode in her room
- I cleaned her, cleaned up her messes (she had become increasingly incontinent)
By Wednesday she was much weaker. She could not walk at all without help, although she tried. The following morning she got out of bed and had a muffin and some tea. She had been cranky with me earlier and she apologized. She went back to bed. She never really got back up (she tried at one point after the hospice nurse had helped change her diaper- but she was weak, disoriented and couldn’t stand… she went back
The nurse said it would probably be very soon.
That evening, in her sleep, she began to make gurgling sounds when she was breathing. There was a thick foam in her throat. I called the hospice nurse. She said it was “end of life secretions” and to give her atropine, 4 drops, from the hospice kit. I tried first to suction out the liquid with a big dropper, I put her on her side- eventually she stopped making the noise but the secretions were still thick and visible in her throat.
The nurse had said that the atropine would stop the sounds- she also called them “death rattle”- but that the sound didn’t mean my mom was suffering. She said the atropine was primarily for the comfort of the caregiver because the sound can be distressing to loved ones.
I set my alarm for 2 am so that I could check on her. When I got up and went to her room I could tell she was gone. I felt her head. I put my hand on her chest, I picked up her hand and held it. She was free.
I called my oldest sister and woke her. She said to wait until morning to call the others. I did. People started coming over at about 8 am. We spent the next few days going through her stuff, figuring out what to keep and what to give away. She had love letters written by my dad when he was in the navy, overseas. Came upon this little poem written by my dad:
It was written on an envelope he received in reply to a letter he sent to his congressman.
My guess is that he didn’t care for the response.
Goodnight Mother, sleep now, your work here is done.
This is only the husk. The fire that burned here is gone. It may be burning someplace else, I don’t know; but the fire here has gone out.
I see my own death in this- all of us are destined to lose everything we hold dear, even our lives. There is no way out of this. Time will burn us all to ashes.
The past week I have been very reflective. I have thought a lot about my life, my family, my relationships.
What will be left? What is true, lasting? Anything? Any Thing?
Not our bodies. Not our conditioned personalities formed and re-formed in life. None of this really exists except in a flash- passing before we can even perceive it. What is the reality behind this waterfall we seem to live in, this dreamlike world of change, birth, death? I know what the Wise have said. I know what the sacred scriptures say.
I don’t believe I am capable of knowing what is true. I leave that up to God.
Since March 14th I’ve been on disability leave, endured and been given a lot of changes (e.g. gotta move, can’t afford to live in my awful basement apartment), pain (tempered and made somehow worse by using powerful prescribed narcotic pain meds), poverty (well, that’s just basic- no frills), new life with a new friend (lover, sweetheart), surgery, hospital, inability to walk, blah blah blah. This will be my first major new post since I’ve been on this journey. It will be my last before I return to work.
Here is my new bag to take to work-
This is me before surgery-
This is me after surgery:
Here is my new hat-
So much stuff-
First, here is my friend Steve’s MySpace music page. He’s one of my favorite musicians, one of my oldest friends. There was a time we wrote together and made music for friends. He has always been great, he has gotten even better and he is a terrific person.
My friend, Dr. Jack, is continuing his fight against the Beast as a now retired, former employee who doesn’t have to keep his mouth shut. I have so much from Jack that I hesitate to post anything. e writes to me about daily. Here is an excerpt from one email. No names are used.
If ever there’s a time for youngsters to understand what’s happening to their brain during puberty, it’s now.
The founder of Life Education, Trevor Grice, says the pressure of society, the increase in youth suicide and easy access to drugs and alcohol make it essential for young people to understand what’s going on inside their heads.
However he says it must be explained to them using today’s technology and in a language they relate to.
As a result the Life Education Trust is developing a digital brain that youngsters can look inside, see what happens during puberty and how drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and relationships affect how it works.
This year Life Education is celebrating its 25th anniversary in New Zealand and has committed itself to developing the latest technology to engage with primary and intermediate students.
At its annual conference last month the latest mobile classroom – its 45th – was unveiled which the Trust considers will propel it into the next 25 years as a relevant and essential player in the health curriculum.
The technology demonstrated to John Key, who opened the conference, replicated his skeleton and organs and demonstrated to him how they work so he can have a greater understanding of his own body.
To this technology, which will be rolled out into every mobile classroom, Trevor Grice intends to introduce the digital brain.
New HUD Olmstead Guidance Step in Right Direction
Examples of integrated settings include scattered-site apartments providing supportive housing, rental subsidies that enable individuals with disabilities to obtain housing on the open market, and apartments for individuals with disabilities scattered throughout housing developments. “By contrast,” the guidance states, “segregated settings are occupied exclusively or primarily by individuals with disabilities.”
The guidance is intended to better educate state and local housing agencies, housing developers, and housing providers on their obligations under the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To make real the promise of the ADA, the guidance instructs, “additional integrated housing options scattered throughout the community” are needed.
In issuing the guidance, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan recognized that the “Olmsteaddecision-and subsequent voluntary Olmstead planning and implementation, litigation by groups representing individuals with disabilities, and Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice enforcement efforts-is creating a dramatic shift in the way services are delivered to individuals with disabilities.” He affirmed that “HUD is committed to offering housing options that enable individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated settings possible and to fully participate in community life.”
“We are encouraged by the issuance of this guidance and its important recognition that HUD-subsidized housing must afford people with disabilities the chance to live in the most integrated setting,” said Jennifer Mathis, director of programs for the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “The vast majority of people with disabilities want to live in ordinary housing. We hope this guidance will spark development across the country of mainstream housing for people with disabilities.”
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (www.bazelon.org) is the leading national legal-advocacy organization representing people with mental disabilities. It promotes laws and policies that enable people with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities to exercise their life choices and access the resources they need to participate fully in their communities.
For media inquiries, please contact Dominic Holt at mailto:Dominic@bazelon.org or 202.467.5730, ext. 311.
I kept it to myself this year. I had a sleepless night.
It snuck up on me- April 5th- I had actually managed to convince myself that it wasn’t even April, really. I saw no date on the calendar. I didn’t realize until about 5 pm on April 4th. Then it was like a bag of bricks. Or an ocean of tears.
Then, like smoke, it was over, gone. No harm no foul. It was something different than my usual coping/ denial. I really want her to move on. I’m concerned for her. She lives in my heart, no matter, but I want her to face ahead. I want this for me too.
“May all be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.”
Yesterday was Andrew’s birthday. I want to give him a Goopymart shirt. but I need to wait until I get my first disability check. I called, he was at work. I texted. Later he texted back, we had a conversation. I miss him- he is so far. Just down in the Bay Area, so I guess not so far. He has a Berkeley PO box. Not certain where he and Chris live right now.
Matt is close by. Just in Beaverton. I went to his house last Sunday night to watch Game of Thrones He made a casserole. It was delicious. He made enough that he can have it for several days. I bet it’s gone now though.
This is in the front yard of where the kids grew up. The house we had from when Matt was born until both he and Andrew were men. It is unfortunate that we lost this house- I lost this house- because after all my breakdowns, after all my years of grief beyond speaking, after all my lost jobs and the ruins of my career we went into foreclosure.
Moved into that rental on Flavel that burned down and took so much of our life with it. No, correct that- it didn’t take any life; it only took stuff. Everyone, including the pets, was safe.
This next is cropped from the huge picture taken at Falcon Crest in the summer of 1989. You can find the original big version around here somewhere.
I wrote a song. Well, I wrote lots of songs. This one was called “Erin’s Ghost”. It was written when I still had so much anger with God I almost couldn’t pray without spitting. I wonder how it works as a poem… Since I don’t have the right equipment to record it now and I’ve lost the earlier recordings. It’s actually a prayer. If you read between the lines you might hear the spitting. No more spitting for me. God has whispered into my heart, and here, near the end of my life, has opened me to love. Maybe I’ll call it-
Ashes of Your Love
All the labor of my days
All the sweetness of my nights
All the times that I have cursed or have ignored You
The times I’ve touched You
The greatest joy I have ever known
I will undertake to lay these down before You
Because life burns away
As a fire is consumed
Don’t look for me below or up above
Only one thing will remain
Of what is gone without a trace
There is nothing but the ashes of Your love
You brought to me a baby girl
She was tired, she was sore
And You gave me dreams that I could love or even heal her
But for the time that she was mine
We shared too many bitter tears
Lord there were even days I could not bear to feel her
She had more pain to bear than joy
More to teach than she could learn
God she was deeper than her vision could yet show her
Still as my heart counts the years
She is never growing old
I’m left to reflect upon the grace it was to know her
Well, they say, “God cuts the thread”
So it was in her 14th year
That You allowed that she should end
Her own becoming
I could not believe it true
When I saw her lying dead
Though I held until
The chill of her was numbing
And still life burns away
As a fire is consumed
Do not look for me below or up above
For only one thing will remain
Of what is gone without a trace
Lord there’s nothing but the ashes of Your love
It’s hard to believe that she was right
And everything has turned out wrong
There was so much more to life she’d never tasted
I just pray that it’s true
As Your saints have often said
That there is no love in this world that’s ever wasted
But life burns away
Just as a fire is consumed
You will not find me down below or up above
Only one thing will remain
Of that which is gone without a trace
There’s nothing but the ashes of Your love
I love you, my first baby, my only daughter, my life’s greatest teacher, the one I once thought would never abandon me. You are with the loving Friend, move to even greater light, find your heart’s desire. And in all the worlds, the infinite worlds beyond counting, in which you still live, show your fire. Shine so brightly no one can keep from seeing your wild, beautiful fire.
Pictures from my kids phone-photo blog (always click for full size- I do not skimp on size):
Pictures from the site that shall not be named:
These are animated- if they don’t work automatically, click them to nudge them along:
How I spent last weekend or….
Other more better stuff:
Sick of this yet? I am.
Monday they gave me my steroid injection in that messed up L-5. The doc said:
“This could cause more discomfort in the short term. It could take 2 to 3 weeks to reach peak effectiveness in terms of pain relief. It is important to remember that this is not going to heal the damage to your ruptured disk or the apparent damage to the herniated disk adjacent to this one. Also, you may get no relief at all- but it’s better than a 50% chance that this will relieve some pain when it reaches maximum effectiveness. Also, as with the oral steroids, the injection will cause elevated blood sugar and you will need to manage this very closely. Ready? Here we go.”
The worst part was the lidocaine injection. Ouch.
Did I mention that I sprained my ankle on Sunday? or was it Saturday? It was difficult to tell how bad it was until I saw the radical bruising from my calf to my heal on my let foot. I am not picking up my left foot as well as I would ordinarily. It’s hard to notice the weakness in that side of my leg, especially when I’m using heavy pain meds. I heard the pop when I twisted the ankle but didn’t take it seriously. After all, it didn’t feel like much. (01-bad-attitude). Ha ha.
So, 48 hours or so following injection, it hurts more than before. I am mostly getting by on only one 2 mg hydromorphone every 4 hours. Night is the worst. Still can’t sleep well, awake often. Now my right leg is hurting. Makes sense that this would occur since I’m relying on it more than I even realize.
Who would even guess that I’d be writing a health update?
About 2 weeks ago I was woken in the night by severe pain in my left calf. For a few nights I was routinely awake with pain in the night. It was at first very localized in a specific part of my calf muscle (seemingly). I couldn’t get in to see my Primary Care Physician. She prescribed some pain medication to take at night. The medication had no effect and the area affected was spreading, so I went to Urgent Care a couple days later. They did their best to rule out the most diabolical possible causes using ultra-sound and blood tests. Nothing serious seemed to be happening and at the time the pain was still mostly at night, with some residual pain in the morning that tended to be reduced quite a bit by evening only to erupt again with some intensity at about 2 am.
The Nurse Practioner that provided my service felt confident that blood clots and other vascular issues were not present. She prescribed stronger pain pills for night-time and added a mild muscle relaxer (cyclobenzeprine).
The following night the pain was very severe and encompassed most of my leg from thigh to ankle. The pain was also not reducing as much during the day and I was unable to dress my self without great difficulty and time. I was beginning to feel it in my buttocks. Sitting on the toilet was very painful. I was also becoming quite constipated from opiod use.
Somewhere in here I had had another visit to Urgent Care. X-rays were taken, no relevant information gained. They ordered an MRI, of my hip, lower spine and pelvis, which I had the very next day at the hospital. Then I heard nothing back for a few days, no result information was provided.
By this time I had seen 4 different medical practioners on 4 different visitors and had been unable to talk with or even correspond with my Primary Care Physician. I was grateful that I had an appointment within a couple days with my doctor at my usual clinic. The pain was quite severe and had taken over my life morning, day and night. During this time I also had my first major bowel movement since being on pain med- it was excruciating. It was not painful at the point of exit but my left buttock and thigh hurt so badly I was left on the floor of the bathroom crying. It was the worst physical pain I can remember ever having.
[A very special thanks goes out to my most excellent friend Candace, my own personal nurse, who helped me through this process and kept my spirits up.]
So, with cautious optimism, I went to my appointment with my doctor. Unfortunately, she was out sick and my appointment had been turned over to an apparently overworked and surly gentleman who provided very little information, as quickly as he could, re-filled my Dilaudid script and gave me an after-visit summary hat included no useful information about my condition. The important things I learned at that visit were that the MRI provided evidence of some multiple nerve problems associated with possible herniated disks in my lower spine and that I would be taking oral prednisone right away followed by steroid injections. Scheduling the injections required use of imaging equipment to insure proper administration of the steroids. I was not told of potential side effects of the injections but was assured that I would receive substantial pain relief.
Yesterday I wrote an email to my doctor wondering out-loud if anyone was actually in charge of my care or if it was actually as fragmented and un-coordinated as it appeared. I asked if I would soon be given a diagnosis, in writing, of what was happening to me and when I might be able to return to work or at least do ordinary things like go to the bathroom or put on my own clothing. I was able to get her one the phone very soon later that day. She assured me that she was reviewing all the information, she apologized for being sick (she didn’t need to do that- I would have loved to get an apology from the surly and uninformative doctor who took her place). She also made an appointment with me for tomorrow- after my appointments with other specialists where I hope to get the promised relief.
[Now, I have what is considered in this country to be a “Cadillac Health Plan” of substantially higher quality than average and at a level the our new “Affordable Health Care” law will probably tax me for. I don’t mind that, really. If I am getting more than my fair share of the pie I am happy to pitch in if it means that more people, if not everyone, can get access to basic care.]
The pharmacist told me that the prednisone would have possibly drastic effects on my blood glucose levels which I would need to monitor very carefully. He also said that I could anticipate some mood irregularity and that it was important to follow the directions exactly, especially concerning the weaning off of the prednisone because of potentially serious side effects.
I look forward to tomorrow with “cautious optimism”. I learned this phrase from my very articulate and precisely spoken co-worker, Malcolm.
I have separated from my wife Julie. We are not planning to get back together; still trying to figure out how to pay for the next step. Also, my youngest son finally launched into his own apartment- to be closer to his job. All the cats went different directions- the 2 white cats (including Blizzard the Blind and Annie the Peculiar) went with Matt. Noel and Lilith went to Julie’s. I have Ruth, the small stumpy calico, who cries day and night. My apartment is sparsely furnished. I have 2 chairs and a bed. It’s a basement apartment, sort of a cave. My best window view is of a stone wall; the other windows you can just see bark-dust.
It is a challenging and heartbreaking time. Also coming up on the birthday of my daughter Erin, who killed herself 20 years ago at the age of 13. I’m not always doing a terrific job of taking care of myself yet but I’m getting the hang of it.
A good time to post one of my favorite poems.
Little Word, Little White Bird – by Carl Sandburg
Love, is it a cat with claws and wild mate screams
in the black night?
Love, is it a bird–a goldfinch with a burnish
on its wingtips or a little gray sparrow
picking crumbs, hunting crumbs?
Love, is it a tug at the heart that comes high and
cost, always costs, as long as you have it?
Love, is it a free glad spender, ready to spend to
the limit, and then go head over heels in debt?
Love, can it hit one without hitting two and leave
the one lost and groping?
Love, can you pick it up like a mouse and put it in
your pocket and take it to your room and bring it
out of your pocket and say,
O here is my love,
my little pretty mousey love?
Yes–love, this little word you hear about,
is love an elephant and you step out of the way
where the elephant comes trampling, tromping,
traveling with big feet and long flaps of
drooping ears and straight white ivory tusks–
and you step out of the way with respect,
with high respect, and surprise near to shock
as you say,
Dear God, he’s big,
big like stupendous is big,
heavy and elephantine and funny,
immense and slow and easy.
I’m asking, is love an elephant?
Or could it be love is a snake–like a rattlesnake,
like a creeping winding slithering rattlesnake
with fangs–poison fangs they tell me,
and when the bite of it gets you
then you run crying for help
if you don’t fall cold and dead on the way.
Can love be a snake?
Or would you say love is a flamingo, with pink feathers–
a soft sunset pink, a sweet gleaming naked pink–
and with enough long pink feathers
you could make the fan for a fan dance
and hear a person telling their lover,
Speak, my chosen one,
and give me your wish
as to what manner of fan dance
you would have from me
in the cool of evening
or the black velvet sheen of midnight.
Could it be love is a flamingo?
Or is love a big red apple, and you don’t know
whether to bite into it–and you knock on wood
and call off your luck numbers and hold your breath–
and you put your teeth into it and get a mouthful,
tasting all there is to it,
and whether it’s sweet and wild
or a dry mush you want to spit out,
it’s something else than you expected.
I’m asking, sir, is love a big red apple?
Or maybe love is goofer dust, I hadn’t thought about that–
for you go to the goofer tree at midnight
and gather the leaves and crush them into fine dust,
very fine dust, sir, and when your man sleeps
you sprinkle it in his shoes and he’s helpless
and from then on he can’t get away from you,
he’s snared and tangled and can’t keep from loving you.
Could goofer dust be the answer?
And I’ve heard some say love is a spy and a sneak,
a blatherer, a gabby mouth,
tattling and tittering as it tattles,
and you believe it and take it to your heart
and nurse it like good news,
like heaven-sent news meant for you
and you only–precious little you.
Have you heard love comes creeping and cheating like that?
And are they after beguiling and befoozling us
when they tell us love is a rose, a red red rose,
the mystery of leaves folded over and under
and you can take it to pieces and throw it away
or you can wear it for a soft spot of crimson
in your hair, at your breast,
and you can waltz and tango wearing your sweet crimson rose
and take it home and lay it on a window sill and see it
until one day you’re not careful
and it crackles into dust in your hand
and the wind whisks it whither you know not,
whither you care not,
for it is just one more flame of a rose
that came with its red blush and crimson bloom
and did the best it could with what it had
and nobody wins, nobody loses,
and what’s one more rose
when on any street corner
in bright summer mornings
you see them with bunches of roses,
their hands out toward you calling,
Roses today, fresh roses,
fresh-cut roses today
a rose for you sir,
the ladies like roses,
now is the time,
fresh roses sir.
And I’m waiting–for days and weeks and months
I’ve been waiting to see some flower seller,
one of those hawkers of roses,
I’ve been waiting to hear one of them calling,
A cabbage with every rose,
a good sweet cabbage with every rose,
a head of cabbage for soup or slaw or stew,
cabbage with the leaves folded over
and under like a miracle
and you can eat it and stand up and walk,
today and today only your last chance
a head of cabbage with every single lovely rose.
And any time and any day I hear a flower seller so calling
I shall be quick and I shall buy
two roses and two cabbages,
the roses for my lover
and the cabbages for little luckless me.
Or am I wrong–is love a rose you can buy and give away
and keep for yourself cabbages, my lord and master,
cabbages, kind sir?
I am asking, can you?
And it won’t help any, it won’t get us anywhere,
it won’t wipe away what had been
nor hold off what is to be,
if you hear me saying
love is a little white bird
and the flight of it so fast
you can’t see it
and you know it’s there
only by the faint whirr of its wings
and the hush song coming so low to your ears
you fear it might be silence
and you listen keen and you listen long
and you know it’s more than silence
for you get the hush song so lovely
it hurts and cuts into your heart
and what you want is to give more than you can get
and you’d like to write it but it can’t be written
and you’d like to sing it but you don’t dare try
because the little white bird sings it better than you can
so you listen and while you listen you pray
and after you pray you meditate, then pray more
and one day it’s as though a great slow wind
had washed you clean and strong inside and out
and another day it’s as though you had gone to sleep
in an early afternoon sunfall and your sleeping heart
dumb and cold as a round polished stone,
and the little white bird’s hush song
telling you nothing can harm you,
the days to come can weave in and weave out
and spin their fabrics and designs for you
and nothing can harm you–
unless you change yourself into a thing of harm
nothing can harm you.
The little white bird is my candidate.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you
the little white bird you can’t see
though you can hear its hush song
and when you hear that hush song it’s love
and I’m ready to swear to it–
you can bring a stack of affidavits
and I’ll swear to it and sign my name
to every last one, so help me God.
And if a fat bumbling shopworn court clerk tells me,
Hold up your hand, I’ll hold up my hand all right
and when he bumbles and mumbles to me like I was
one more witness it was work for him to give the oath to,
when he blabs, You do solemnly swear so help you God
that in this cause you will tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth,
I’ll say to him, I do, and I’ll say to myself,
And no thanks to you and you could be more immaculate
with the name of God.
I am done.
I have finished.
I give you the little white bird–
and my thanks for your hearing me–
and my prayers for you,
my deep silent prayers.
Below, one of 3 holes they opened up in my veins for Electrophysiography and Cardiac Ablation yesterday. Two probes up from both sides of my groin, one down from the neck.
They put the probes in place, then stressed my heart into an arrhythmia, mapped where the short circuits were happening, snaked another deal through whichever hole was closest to burn the tissue inside my heart that was causing the problem.
The procedure took just over 3 hours, then had to lie flat on my back for 6 hours so they know my veins won’t pop open and make a huge mess.
Feels worse than it looks. I am sparing you the groin shots.
It’s good though because the arrhythmia was becoming a serious problem (3 incidents in 6 months requiring medical intervention, one requiring defib). No more. All fixed.
I’ve never even had a broken bone. Dislocated a knee when I was about 6- still have arthritis from that. No tonsillectomy, no appendectomy (all original equipment); I did have a vasectomy many years ago, but that was nothing.
At 57 years old, this is the most intrusive medical procedure I have ever had.
Even with the arrhythmia gone that still leaves me with a couple serious chronic illnesses. Oh, well- life goes on. Balanced on a thread. Life, as they say, is fleeting, insubstantial. Death only is certain; the time and place of death is unknown.
Each moment of being a human being is precious. The fulfillment of my innate purpose is the only worthwhile goal. That fulfillment lies in the choices I make each moment. That purpose lies in my devotion to the essence of my heart’s desire.
I love the poetry of Tagore (there are many examples of this throughout this site). From Gitanjali:
If thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry vigil and its head bent low with patience.
The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish, and thy voice pour down in golden streams breaking through the sky.
Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of my birds’ nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers in all my forest groves.
That longing that I knew before I was even born, all the desires, sacred and profane, that have driven my every moment through this rich tapestry of life- all come from the same deep yearning for wholeness. And even as my heart yearns, I know deeply and certainly that I am already whole, that the clear light is my own nature, closer than my name, closer and more real than my own “I” feeling.
Also, going through my head this past month-
Pitr Purushe Bhyo Namah,
Rsi Deve Bhyo Namah,
Brahma Arpanam Brahma Havir,
Brahmaeva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Sama’dhina’.
Salutations to the ancestors, salutations to the god-like rs’is.
The act of offering is Brahma; that which is offered is Brahma; the One to whom the offering is made is Brahma; and the person making the offering is Brahma.
One will merge in Brahma after completing the duty assigned to him/her by Brahma.
The above translation is not how I remember it. Especially I always understood the phrase Brahma’g’ nao as having to do with the burning of the offering. It has been a long time since I was a serious student of samskrta bhajans. Someone please correct me if I am wrong (I know there are many very knowledgeable folks who read this and will know better than I the meaning) but I have always thought this part of the mantra says:
“God is the offering, God is the Offerer, God is the fire which consumes the offering and the ashes that remain; The one who remembers God in everything they do will merge with God when the work is done.”
The point being that I have been remembering this verse, this puja, in my daily work, especially now because I have been feeling discouraged and even exhausted by the seva.
Everything that arises in this moment is the perfect teacher- so there is some chance that the following random stuff that has been invading my head is relevant-
Huge, I make no apologies:
Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya –
(also, see this)
Bhakthi Saint 14th Century proponent of
“Krishna Bhakthi” in North India
Madhuraashtakam by Saint Vallbhacharya
adharam madhuram vadanam madhuram
nayanam madhuram hasitam madhuram
hrdayam madhuram gamanam madhuram
“His lips are sweet; His face is sweet; Hiseyes are sweet; His smile
is sweet; His heart is sweet and His walk is sweet. Every single thing
about the Lord is completely sweet!”
vachanam madhuram charitam madhuram
vasanam madhuram valitam madhuram
chalitam madhuram bhramitam madhuram
“His words are sweet; His acts are sweet; His dress is sweet; His
posture is sweet. His walk is sweet, and His wanderings are sweet.
Every single thing about the Lord is completely sweet!”
venur madhuro renur madhurah
panir madhurah padau madhurau
nrityam madhuram sakhyam madhuram
“His flute is sweet; the dust of His lotus feet is sweet. His hands
are sweet; His feet are sweet. His dancing is sweet; His friendship is
sweet. Everything about the Supreme Lord of sweetness is sweet.”
geetam madhuram peetam madhuram
bhuktam madhuram suptam madhuram
roopam madhuram tilakam madhuram
“His song is sweet, His drinking is sweet; His eating is sweet, His
sleeping is sweet. His beauty is sweet, His tilaka is sweet. Every
thing about the Lord is completely sweet.”
karanam madhuram taranam madhuram
haranam madhuram smaranam madhuram
vamitam madhuram shamitam madhuram
“His acts are sweet, His delivering is sweet, His stealing is sweet,
His enjoyment is sweet. His heartfelt outpourings are sweet, His peace
is sweet. Everything about the Supreme Lord is fully sweet.”
gunja madhura mala madhura
yamuna madhura veechee madhura
salilam madhuram kamalam madhuram
“His Gunja necklace is sweet, as is His garland. His Yamuna River is
sweet, her waves are sweet, and her waters are sweet. The lotus
flowers there are also sweet. Everything is completely sweet about the
Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Lord of sweetness.”
gopee madhura leela madhura
yuktam madhuram bhuktam madhuram
drishtam madhuram shishtam madhuram
“His foremost devotees, the gopis, are sweet. His pastimes are sweet.
meeting with Him is sweet. Being enjoyed by Him is sweet. Being
noticed (seen) by Him is sweet. His character is sweet. Simply
everything about the Lord of sweetness is all-sweet.”
gopa madhura gavo madhura
yastir madhura srishtir madhura
dalitam madhuram phalitam madhuram
“His cowherd friends are sweet; His cows are sweet. His cane is sweet;
His creation is sweet, His destruction is sweet, and His fruition is
sweet. Everything about the Supreme Lord is totally sweet.”
And already I’m thinking again of Rumi- he continues to inspire me every day. Here is a good copy of the Mathnawi, 1 & 2.
and this, I am thinking:
and then again…
Wait for it….
I’ll have the Tortoise Basket with fries, please.