Sunday, July 13, 2014

In Memoriam...of Me

"You are not dying," one of my dearest friends emphatically stated as we shared an embrace. I could feel the heated prickles of saline searing my eyes as I fought back tears. 
"It sure feels like a quasi death," came my quavering reply. It didn't seem appropriate to be weeping at what was somewhat my own self-imposed funeral. As the days pass and my time stateside whittles down, I find there are many occasions when I still feel as though it IS my funeral. Recently this chapter from Ralph Fletcher's Marshfield Dreams came to mind:

Revisiting this chapter really hit home for me. Ralph's friends have to bid him farewell in their own ways. They choose humor, shared context, and raw gratitude. As humans we create ceremony for closure. We participate in rites, rituals, and ceremonies to right our ships tossed about on the sea of goodbye. People crave that. While I refuse to say "goodbye" to certain individuals, still these ceremonies are intended to help our minds siphon through the emotions that intensely press in on our hearts and within our minds. 

When my grandmother passed away a few years ago the family elected me to eulogize her. After soldiering through publicly sharing my fondest recollections while my heart was rent asunder, one of my gram's friends approached me and said, "It is a shame your grandmother wasn't here to listen to all the wonderful things you shared." I had no doubt my gram knew exactly how I felt about her, but it did make me think that it is unfortunate that most of the time the deepest heartfelt sentiments we have for those closest to us we do NOT take the time to share with them. Once they are gone the words come pouring out. One benefit of being physically present at my own "funeral" is that so many people have taken the time and opportunity to bless me with their deep seated sentiments. It has been humbling, encouraging, and heartbreaking. I have also found I have a driving need to leave some words or tangible gift for to underscore how I cherish my connection with them; lest they forget my feelings when I am not present. 

Like Ralph, in Marshfield Dreams, I recall all the things I have done with my closest friends. My friends, like Ralph Fletcher's, have selected ways to ceremoniously say goodbye. I want to preserve and memorialize those precious memories, but right now it all feels too close to the vest and overwhelms me. For now the final meals, beverages, runs, walks, and experiences will have to suffice until I can further honor them with fitting words. Perhaps certain ceremonies and rites have to happen in waves. For now the metaphorical horn is beeping for me, so I keep moving on into this new chapter of life.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Being Brave

Brave, etymologically from Middle French, Old Italian, Old Spanish bravo courageous, wild, probably from Latin barbarous barbarous. 1: having or showing courage (courageous, not deterred by danger or pain) 2: making a fine show 3: excellent, splendid. (

My family and I are in the process of moving 8,058 miles away from our current home, or one could say literally around the world (or technically at least a third of the way). Responses from friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances have run the spectrum of emotion and opinion. "Wow! What an adventure!" (We are counting on it). "Have you been there before?" (We have not).  "You are doing WHAT?! Why would you want to do THAT?!" (We recognize a burning bush when we encounter it). However a few weeks ago my husband asked me, "You know what is the one thing that people say that has surprised me?" Without hesitation I responded, "That we are brave?"
"Yes! That just really throws me off," he shook his head with incredulous disbelief. After hearing this repeated sentiment, I decided perhaps I was missing something so I turned back to the etymological roots of "brave."

Webster initially pegs "brave" as "not deterred by danger or pain." Danger? Hanoi, Vietnam is a beautiful, and quite modern city that is extremely safe. One friend expressed concern for there being a danger of us not liking it. "What if you don't LIKE it?" The response that immediately sprang to mind was the analogy of leaving for college. Certainly there were times while I attended university that things were unfamiliar, and left me longing for the comfort of the familiar and home, but these moments of discomfort and challenges were far outweighed by the growth and positive experiences. Eventually college felt like it WAS my home while the people around me became more of my family. I believe moving will mirror those sentiments evoked by my time at the university. As for pain? No pain immediately springs to mind (unless you talk to my daughter who will relay her painful experience of mom selling the television). Perhaps one could count the undercurrent of pain coursing through our chests, as we bid farewell to so many people who are integrally woven into the fabric of our hearts. I reject "goodbyes" in favor of "hasta la vistas" and find this abates some of the sorrow.

The second entry of "making a fine show," well maybe there is something ringing true as this experience could qualify for a hilarious (sometimes dramatic) sitcom (or a reality show gone awry) as we attempt to pack up or parcel out seventeen years of married life and two children's worth of belongings into boxes and bins. My husband has set up buyers for both our vehicles, and my mom-mobile SUV of the past decade is already gone. Meanwhile I broker deals via e-mail and text to sell our major furniture items. Still it looks as though a clutter bomb was detonated in our house and we are left to sort out the stuff shrapnel. Heated arguments have ensued as various family members recognize different priorities as to how our dwindling time state-side should be spent, and like any "fine show" there has been jags of laughter, fits of tears, complications, resolutions, mishaps and mayhem.

Finally though, if I must concede bravery, I choose the third definition "excellent, splendid" as THAT is what I aspire towards personally and professionally within this endeavor. After sharing these upcoming years, I want my own children, and the students I will be blessed to encounter to have a sense of barbarous bravo or wild well done!