Monday, June 14, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Missing him

 Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021


You died on a Tuesday afternoon. And we are making plans for the garden where your ashes will be spread. The house feels so empty without you. The energy is so different without you here and my body aches with the knowledge it won't feel your softness pressed against it. 

Almost 18 years ago, you can into my life. No more than 3 lbs and missing fur on your nose after a day spent in a cage, watching all your siblings be adopted while you were left behind. My heart ached from the recent loss of one of my other cats and I didn't think I was ready to love again. But when you threw your paws around my neck, I knew I had to take you home. Your chaotic nature reminded both Grey and me that life was continuing and we needed to continue with living it while honoring what was lost. A year late when Daisy came home and after a traumatic introduction, you two bonded and we all became a family. You brought the light of life with you.

I never expected the journey we would have together; surviving graduate school and all the change that came from that process. Then there were the darkest years of my life of living through infertility, repeat losses, and having "family" turn its back. Those moments when the only lifeline I had was having you curl up beside me. I never thanked you for saving me during that time, reminding me that I was loved and that life was still worth living, even if it looked different than what I had planned for.

You shifted with me again when the kids arrived, ending one chapter and opening a new one. Reluctant at first to welcome these two odd creatures,  you quickly claimed them both, watching over them navigating this world. You were the calm during the storm of two major moves for our family, first to the East Coast and later back West, working in tandem with Daisy to turn whatever space we occupied into a home. 

I miss your facial expressions. Being greeted by you every morning with a meow that was uniquely yours. Spending evenings with you on my lap, insisting on being pet. During this past year, doing all my teaching with you close by, routinely putting a paw on me to let me know that you were there and all would be alright in a world that most certainly wasn't.

I knew the end was coming. After finding that growth on your body, it was only a matter of when. Still, I wasn't ready for the news that the cancer had spread throughout your body. I didn't want to let you go despite all the signs you were giving me that it was time.

Yesterday, you woke me at 4 am to go outside to watch the sunrise one last time. Daisy joined you, which was unusual for her, so I knew you both understood what was happening. You then taught with me one last time, pressing your head to my leg during the moments I felt less sure. Giving me that look I know so well that was telling me everything would be alright.

Your parting gift to me was you allowed me to hold you as you died. You trusted that I would let you go, even though I desperately didn't want to. Despite snarling at the vet, making it clear you would happily bite them, you allowed me to put my arms around you and touch you while they administered the drugs that would stop your heart. You breathed your last breath while I stroked your body; a sigh that released your soul and allowed you to be free. 

You've left behind so many beautiful memories of a life well-lived. A life where you brought so much love, comedy, adventure, and grit. I can't begin to tell you how much you are missed already. Daisy is visibly heartbroken not to have you here, Maddy and Teddy swing between laughing about the memories of you and crying because you are gone. Grey and I are physically numb.  My being hurts from the knowledge that you're no longer here.  

I don't know how to live my life without you in it, my beloved. This next chapter without you in it terrifies me. But I also know that you expect me to continue living and living in the manner you taught me to. That doing anything less is not an option as your lessons are firmly engrained.

I love you so much Jaxson; I always will. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for pointing me to the light. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Their grief

The email came on the evening of Easter. With "sad news" in the subject line, we learned that one of Maddy and Teddy's teachers died on Saturday in a car accident.

On the heels of losing Scruffy, I'm at a loss for how to tell them.

So today, following a medical appointment for Grey, we sought the ocean.

As they played, I watched the waves, allowing the rhythm of water catching on the shore to calm my spirit and unjumble the thoughts and emotions from all the loss from this past week. From this past year. 

From a lifetime. 

Grief is hard on so many levels and learning how to manage it for me has been an education. Learning how to help others manage it, especially the young ones, is a different level. I have zero illusions about what this will look like or how it will play out. 

What I do know is that I will punch anyone who tries to tell me that losing this teacher isn't a great loss. Come Monday, an entire elementary school will be grieving together and encountering a loss few could have imagined. In a blink, everything has changed.

So instead I'm left preparing to confront grief. Only this time, their grief and healing are foremost on my mind.

Monday, April 5, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Latibule

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

"There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can't hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew."


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Body grief

 The feeling is a familiar one. Like the aftermath of being electrocuted or being beaten. My nerves feel raw and I'm sensitive to sound, light, even touch. My thoughts come more slowly, with brain fog clouding my judgment and perception.  The need to sleep is always there. And I'm insanely cold, despite it being a warm, sunny day.

Grief is a familiar companion, especially this time of year. My body always slows down with those first blossoms, reminding me of what was lost. But this year it's especially hard, both with the loss of this one and the news that Jaxson has the same disease, with me not being ready to let him go. And so the fresh wounds pile on the old. With me trying to distract myself in order just to get through the day.

Yet my body has other plans.

A massive flaw in Western culture is the blindspot to grief and grieving. Grief is inconvenient and uncomfortable. Grief is economically costly. For many, grief brings to the surface pain and toxic behaviors that many would prefer to stay buried. And there is no rule book for grief, despite the request for timelines and rules for engagement, as it is an incredibly personal process. 

Compounding all of this is that as much as we'd like to divorce ourselves for our grief, our bodies manifest it. The aches, pains, slowness, and fluctuating weight are all signs that our bodies are processing, even when our minds are not. It can feel like regression, especially when one is making strides towards healing, to experience these symptoms as usually, they aren't temporary. Every year my body reenters the grief cycle, which has been a struggle to deal with when my mind knows it has to perform counter to that.

One silver lining of this pandemic is the world has been forced to confront the language of grief. More research is coming out, and many are beginning to talk more openly about it (I recommend this, this, and this). Pop culture is even beginning to examine it. Yet with all of this, what we're still not focusing on is what grief is, what its purpose is, and why honoring it is so essential, especially with those who want so desperately to return to what was. And how fighting with one's body, forcing it to forget, is pretty destructive.

Sitting here and typing this all out, I recognize my default is to try to logic my way out of this grief. Life happens, it's for the best, no longer suffering. It's not your fault. And yet, despite those truths, I also realize that the only way to heal is to go through it. To push back on all the pressures and vocalize that right now is hard, despite others' disappointment or confusion. 

My body is grieving. That needs to be okay.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


A few weeks ago, Grey and I found ourselves sitting in the dark. The blackout came suddenly, leaving every house that didn't have solar panels in darkness for a couple of hours. Sitting in the dark triggered the memory of the first blackout I remembered, leading to a conversation with Grey.

It happened when I was a child living in a small southern-Minnesota town. I don't know what triggered the blackout (I suspect a storm) or how long it lasted. What I do remember was that it was so dark that the window looked blindingly gray. It was seeing the gray that caused me to panic, feeling disoriented and desperately searching for any point of light to make sense of what I was seeing. 

As Grey and I waited for the power to return, we debated this memory. "Dark is dark," he argued. The absence of light is black. And yet, once the power returned, we both learned that the brain is a funny thing, where it isn't black that most people see in perfect darkness, but a dark gray color that is the result of visual signals for the optic nerve. Humans actually need a bit of light in order to see darkness.

I've been thinking about eigengrau in relation to how most people have been weathering the COVID pandemic. Pandemic fatigue is very real, with many unaware of the extent they are suffering from it. But another level has been watching how so many around me struggle with parsing information (and misinformation) coming at them throughout this crisis. As a scientist, this parsing, assessing, challenging and constant re-evaluation is something my training prepared me for. I'm used to questioning everything that comes my way, particularly when the information is coming from trusted sources as I'm well aware of my echo chamber. And yet, this past year has reminded me that most people don't have this skillset, leaving them disoriented when trying to figure out how to navigate our world. 

The results have been the politicization of science, with people overly confident to effectively assess risk and harm. Relationships have been fractured, lies buried in half-truths have spread like wildfire, and distrust has grown. It's widespread and across educational classes. And it's been surreal to watch as I've also had my eyes on the data coming out about SARS-CoV-2 and how it weaponizes people's immune systems. Seeing the data on how exactly people are dying is sobering.

"Paradoxically, people need light to see darkness." This one statement has haunted me since I first read it and I'm beginning to understand the wisdom in this. Last year, our world was plunged into darkness. And those that were tasked with leading us out proved how incapable they were to do so. Those that have been the voices to advise these leaders either have been ignored, silenced, or have lied. All of it leading to disorientation and panic, combined with chronic fatigue. What is clear is that we need someone to show us the light. And we need that individual or groups of individuals to do so while pointing out the darkness.

Make no mistake: COVID-19 is real. I don't care if you have gotten the virus and came out okay, because others are dying or are very much at risk. Plus we don't know what the long-term effects of infection are (I suspect we will see a spike in infertility globally, as our immune systems are directly linked). But equally dangerous is this being plunged into darkness without any pinpoints of hope for finding one's way out. After living a year in lockdown and a pseudo-Zombieland, it's hard to ignore the impact.

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