A week ago from last Saturday (March 28) I had a really comforting dream of my mother. I dreamed she brought me a tray of cupcakes while I was still in bed. I got out of bed and we were having a nice chat and I was telling her about a craft project I’m doing where I’m repairing an old afghan. I told her, “You know, the one you used all the time when you were—” I was just about to say “dying of kidney failure” when I realized (in the dream) that she was dead. I put my arms around her and hugged her tight and said, “Oh Mama, it’s so good to see you.”

I woke with such a profound sense of comfort and presence. I thought she’d come by to comfort me because I was so worried over a friend who’s really sick—and that may be part of it. But I didn’t realize that the day before two women who were a seminal part of my childhood, and also very important to her, Vera and Irene, had died within a day of each other. I got the notification for their death this past Saturday (April 2). Neither family knew each other and so it’s just a fluke I got the notification the same day.

To say it knocked me flat is an understatement. I wrote both condolence letters today because I didn’t want them to get lost in the shuffle and procrastination is not my friend. Platitudes and vague expressions of sympathy would not do for these ladies. I needed to let their families know they truly mattered, but you know, condolence letters are tricky. I’ve received several in my time and know the ones that had the most impact delivered more than platitudes but kept it relatively simple because when you’re grieving you don’t need or want a complicated or goopy message. Simple and heartfelt is best. Making it about them, the dead, not about you.

Which isn’t always easy, but I think I did a decent job. And at least it gave me a chance to purge some of the emotions I’ve been holding back. I hope their families can receive them in the spirit they were written, but that’s out of my hands and beside the point. They have their grief to deal with—and that’s a thousand times more than mine and will take time.

All last week I had a potent feeling of spirits in the house. Ginger was acting scary, too, staring wild-eyed into corners of the room, cringing. Because of the rough time she had before coming here, she does tend to be jumpy at sudden noises or movements, but there was none of that going on at the time, and it seemed…off. Excessive. So more than once I found myself saying to the room, “Ancestors are welcome, spirits of place are welcome, but if you’re some transient spirit here and scaring my kitty, you can get the hell out.” Curiously, Ginger relaxed after that.

Since Saturday I’ve wondered if it was Vera and Irene I was telling to get the hell out. I hope not. They are always welcome and Ginger will just have to live with it. After all, those two monumental women were ancestors of mine, too, even if only one of them was related by blood.

Random quote of the day:

“I feel like what we need art for is a little bit of solace, a little bit of company in trying to deal with the darker stuff. And at the same time, I would never write a pessimistic book. I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.”

—Michael Cunningham, interview, PBS Newshour, April 19, 1999

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day: 

“The ultimate source of comfort and peace is within ourselves.”

—Dalai Lama, Twitterfeed, February 27, 2012


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Dear X:

My mother says I have to write this sympathy card to you on her behalf because “I’m so much better at that sort of thing.” It’s difficult enough to express my own complicated feelings regarding the death of F., let alone trying to channel what I think my mother wants to say. F. deserves more than platitudes, but that’s all that seems to come out of my head. The enormity of her death, the way she chose to leave this world, the guilt at thinking I should have known, I should have been able to sense things, or help her somehow, some way even from 1000 miles away. Our complicated history. Our complicated, complicated non-communicative history. It all clutters up the stream of thought, the flow of writing.

But my mother has assigned me this task. Because I am so much better at these things.

Another opportunity to feel as if I have failed.

But it really isn’t about me. I must remember that, at the very least. It’s about this sorrow, and the inexpressible nature of such sorrows. It’s about words being hollow in the face of such circumstances, about them dropping like pebbles in a metal bucket because there is no richness, no roundness of sound when it comes to trying to express the anger and the heartbreak and the gut-wrenchingness of a decision to leave this world, a world gone irrevocably valueless.

There are no words.

Dear X:

There are no words to express my sadness at F.’s passing. I have struggled to come up with something to say to tell you how much I will miss her, and how much I wish I could comfort you, even though I know I can’t comfort you. I wish I could hug you and tell you it will be all right. It will be better, eventually, but never all right again. There will always be a patch of shadow over the brightest day, but as time passes

Dear X:

I’ve been thinking about you and your family so much. I miss F. and wish I could talk to her again and tell her how much I love her, but I believe that somewhere, somehow she knows that. If you need anything from us, don’t hesitate to ask.

All my love.