Sunday, April 21, 2013


Here’s what I know about grief.

Grief is not linear.
With apologies to Doctor Who, I borrow from his explanation of time: It isn’t linear. It’s a wibbly wobbly ball of timey whimey stuff. By that I mean it takes an unpredictable path. When we are struck by loss, there is often a delay, a numbness, a sense of disbelief or shock. There was an editor at the newspaper where I worked whose theory was to interview those affected immediately, before the shock wore off. 

I know, it sounds cruel on its face, but it really is the most compassionate way. And as someone sent to talk to parents of child killed by a school bus before their very eyes, lost in a fire et al, I was grateful. (BTW: I would often throw up before knocking on those doors, yet almost always those at the heart of the tragedies were glad to talk about the loved one.)
After it sinks in, grief comes in waves. You feel as if you are drowning, only to find a length of placid respite. But it returns unbidden, without warning. Just when you think it’s behind you, it sloshes overhead, threatening to pull you under.

Time is not relevant. The above pattern can repeat for seconds, decades or lifetimes.

Grief is not proportional
People can be rendered as non-functional by the loss of pet as a person. I once found that hard to believe. But no more. I’ve seen it. Loss is loss. And a so-called minor loss can trigger unresolved grieving issues. I am reminded of a MASH episode in which tough-minded head nurse Margaret Houlihan remains seemingly untouched by a serious of deaths until the loss of a mangy stray dog sends her into hysterics of grief. 

Grief cannot be anticipated.
Here, I am reminded of Shirley Maclaines’s character in Terms of Endearment after her daughter dies a difficult death from breast cancer. After watching her child suffer, she cries that she expected to feel relief at its end. Yet she experiences only overwhelming sorrow and loss. Grief, guilt and regret are a treacherous trio.

Grief is often subtle, a chameleon.
It can take the shape of illness, depression, excess, addiction, anger or even overarching ambition—anything that throws life out of balance. I’ve been unable to overcome a respiratory infection for weeks, causing me to consider if it’s connected to the recent loss of Abbie, my cat of 18 years.

Grief is contagious.
Just look around you this week, from the Boston Marathon to Texas, grief and its repercussions are impossible to ignore.

Grief is a four-letter word: loss
It’s a word that unites us all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

market day

I dragged my still-croaking voiced body downtown this morning to the farmer’s market. Every Saturday morning, streets are blocked off for the event with a festival air. Police direct traffic as streams of locals, snow birds and visitors stroll past a myriad of vendors in search of a deal. Serious shoppers roll carts, while others parade their pets—dogs, birds and often a reptile or two—sip lattes, fresh coconut milk or guzzle down a wide variety of junk or ungodly healthy foods. 

Me—I mostly come for the theater. I learned the hard way that “deals” are rare. How many farmers’ markets sport a cash machine? A short walk over to Whole Foods usually brings better prices. There isn’t even a guarantee that all the stuff is local. Farmers’ markets have become big business. So I make my rare purchases carefully.

 Ah, but the people watching--of customers and vendors--is more than worth the price of admission, so to speak. I drop a $1 into the case of a twangy street performer, passing closely by a couple of VERY drag queens handing out fliers. I don’t stop of get one so I haven’t a clue.  Another buck goes to a feed- the-hungry local charity. It seems inexcusable not to make a small contribution in the midst of such abundance.

There are stalls of beauty pageant produce, seedy looking organic choices, grass-fed beef, seafood, flowers, green drinks, sugary slushes, crafts, clothing, organic olive oils, teas, soaps and skin care, gluten/non-gluten pastries and pastas, herbs, rain barrels, fire pits ….etc. etc. For $15, you can get a chair massage. This almost catches me.

I give myself permission to violate all my dietary restrictions yet only buy a cappuccino. Odd. My tummy is still a bit outta sorts. So I pass up the yummy looking/smelling grouper sandwiches, “authentic” Argentine empanadas, egg & steak breakfasts, scones, and the like.

It’s a pleasant enough way to pass the time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

the glam reaper

Once upon a half-century, in a land of black & white TV, there lived a series called the Twilight Zone, the product of Rod Serling , a man adept at teasing out our deepest fears for our own enjoyment.

That now famous 1962 episode staring an unknown and impossibly young Robert Redford as Death, in the guise of a wounded police officer come to coax a terrified old woman out of her basement hovel and into the “light,” began a trend—that of the “Glam Reaper.”

Decades later, the trend continued with John Dye, cast as Andrew, AN (not THE) Angel of Death, on the long-running Touched by An Angel series.  An actor of the same almost glacial good looks as Redford, Dye would arrive in time to gently escort the latest character “home.” Interestingly, Andrew often did so with obvious regret. (It must be noted here the irony of both his last name and the fact that he died too young and with a bit of mystery.)

Enter the ultimate Glam Reaper in the form of Brad Pitt as Joe Black in the 1998 film Meet Joe Black. Pitt’s Death hijacks the body of a human for the experience, falling in love in the process. Hey, if you’re gonna take human form, Pitt’s ain’t a bad choice.
As we all know, the tellie or movie character is always more attractive than its real-life counterpart so I do wonder, especially now that so many of those I know and care for have taken that walk. The personification of our universal fear widely regarded as the ultimate enemy to be fought to the “death’ into a young, lovely caring soul does provide succor.

Yet, in all the Near Death Experiences recorded, not one to my knowledge has reported seeing said Angel. NDEs—whether they are body or brain “deaths”—speak of seeing the now infamous “light”, loved ones, religious figures and the overwhelming feeling of unconditional love.

And that’s fine with me. When my time comes, I’ll take unconditional love over a stroll with a Glam Reaper of any description.