saying goodbye

Last week I said goodbye to a friend.  He was more than a friend, though, he was family.  Our families adopted each other.  The Queen and I had him in our wedding, introducing him as my adopted grandpa…

It has taken me some time to find the words I wanted to share.  So what follows may be a jumbled mess and while I know that is okay, for moments such as these I wish I could come up with the “right” words and I wish I could come up with them faster.  I sat silently and listened as others shared stories about this amazing man.  Maybe what follows is what I would have said if I’d had these words faster, if I’d been braver.  I doubt it, though.  I couldn’t even type them without spilling tears.  There’s no way I could speak them out loud.

…..

He called me Matt the Cat.  I’m not sure there was more to it than he liked the way it sounded.  I never asked him.  And now it is too late.

We adopted him, in our fashion, and made him part of our adventures.  He went camping with us a couple times.  He always said it was an honor to be included.  We wouldn’t have had it any other way and wished he could have made it more often.  He was like a kid in those mountains.  His eyes full of wonder and joy.  Then again, his eyes were always full of joy. Joy was who he was, how he approached life, how he treated everyone.

He played the harmonica.  He could make it sing.  He could make it whistle like a train picking up speed and getting closer and closer.  The Little Prince used to love that.

He was good with the two older princes.  Patient.  Attentive.  He wanted to hear their stories and watch them run.  The newest prince hadn’t met him.  And now it is too late.

As the Queen and I began our winter pilgrimages to the snow with our littles in tow, we would stop at his house on our way to the mountains and share stories and pictures, stretch our legs, visit.  We always felt bad invading his home with our chaos.  I’m certain he didn’t mind.  I wish we could have stopped more often than we did.  I wish we could have stayed longer each time too.  You could hear it in his voice, that buzzing excitement, each time we knocked on his door.  You could see it in his eyes, sparkling with that joy he exuded.  And now we’ve made our last stop.  It hurts to say that.

I’ll miss him.  I’ll miss his joy.

a state on fire

We walked through the burn scar, happy to see new life peeking through the soil, green in a landscape of ash grey, while breathing the smoke from a new fire raging to the south.  Seeing the remnants of a dead fire while breathing the proof of a live one.  It was eerie and sad.  I took video while we walked, to capture the moment as best as I could.  Though, that only really gets the image of it.  Not the smell.  Not the desolation.  Not the death in the air.

Still, there was life at our feet.  Tiny flowers and little green shoots sprouted along the trail.  And in the haze we could see other such life pushing through the ash.  It was encouraging to see that.  Despite the destruction, all was not lost.  Despite the raging inferno that had scarred the terrain a year earlier (nearly to the day), life was returning and, in some cases, had never left. 

Little did we know then what our day had in store. 

From one fire to another, we travelled homeward, the smoke constant and the charred hillsides popping up again and again.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this.

When I conceived the idea for the post on our drive home (we had been backpacking near Shaver Lake), it seemed to mean something.  All this damage.  All these fires.  I came home and looked up the names of each of them.  There were nine active and old fires that we either drove through, walked through, or saw the smoke from.  And if we saw the smoke it meant we were breathing it.  But now a month later when I’m finally get around to writing this?  That number would be thirteen instead of nine.  Four more fires started along the same corridor in the last four weeks.  One per week.  But, what does it mean?

Well, I don’t know.

Maybe it is enough to have been there and to share these words now and raise the question:  What does it mean?

Maybe these words are nothing more than a diary entry of sorts.  I went.  I saw.  There was devastation.  There was beauty.  And somehow that is right.  That is life.

Maybe this is nothing more than my mind trying to reconcile the memories from my youth when I was fascinated by fire while at the same time calculating the cost currently.  The forests that have burned now will not have grown back to what they were in my lifetime, nor in my children’s lifetime.  Anything that is lost now they will never get to experience.  These forests take too long to grow back.  They can’t just be instantly replaced like so much else in our lives.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

I don’t know.

Another letter to myself

Dear Jester,

Is it okay that I keep writing letters to you, to myself, like this?  Yes.  I’m sure you’ll agree it is fine.  I should know.  I’m you and you’re me.

Anyway…

I’m not sure how to go about this, so we might as well dive into the crux of the matter: It is seeming harder and harder to keep up with the speed of life right now.  And that was really brought into focus by the death of a friend last week. 

You had seen them struggling and you had mentioned to yourself that you should reach out and then you didn’t and now they are gone.

And why didn’t you reach out?  Because you hadn’t seen him in 22 years?  Because you were busy with chores and school and toddler tantrums and infant sleep and birthdays and the day to day grind of life in the kingdom?  Because you didn’t know how much he was struggling?  Because you didn’t know…

You didn’t know.  You didn’t know you wouldn’t have another chance. 

If you had known, you would have sacrificed something else to make the time.  One less thing would have gotten clean.  Or a little bit less sleep would have been had.  You would have made a different choice.  But you didn’t know.  And, there is no way to know that reaching out would have helped.  Would have been worth doing anyway.

So, dear Jester, I’m not sure what the point of this letter is.  I was grasping for some sort of philosophical piece on the speed of life but the words on the page keep failing that, in my opinion.  Very unlike me, I have started, stopped, deleted, and started over this letter four times now.  And this will have to be good enough.  I don’t have the mental energy to attempt it again.

I guess, I just hope you can set aside any guilt you are feeling, we are feeling.  Be kind to yourself.  Grieve. 

And maybe next time reach out…  Because that pile of dishes can wait.  Sometimes, reaching out can’t wait.  And you don’t know what you don’t know.

Sincerely,

Matticus

lines from a song writing prompt 3

Below I’m posting a bit from a song I love and then I’ll write something around it (not necessarily in the context from the original source but maybe).  If the line grabs you, please steal it and play along too.  Post a link in the comments so I can check out what you did with it as well.

……….

“And the three men I admire most, the father, son and the holy ghost, they caught the last train for the coast.”

……….

The station was a mess.  People running every which way trying to catch their connections.  Late.  Everyone was always late.  Coming or going.  North or south.  It didn’t matter.  Trains always ran late and that meant everyone was always in a hurry when they finally made it to the station.

That was only part of the mess, though.  Others sat around, blocking the hallways and generally bottling up the whole works.  Tears in their eyes.  Down trodden and depressed, the moved slowly with lowered heads and slumped shoulders.  Sometimes they congregated together but most of the time they stayed as far apart as their was room for.

Those were the two general reactions people had when they’d heard the news.  They either raced about frantic or they stopped altogether and did nothing.  They couldn’t be blamed, of course.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  Nothing like this would ever happen again.

I’m not sure why they chose me but when they called I answered  because I admired them so greatly and then dropped them off at the station.  I even walked them to their platform to make sure they got off okay.  I didn’t ask why they were going and they didn’t offer an explanation but off they went all the same, to the coast of all places.  Why not, I guess.  Perhaps things would be different there.

Here the music had died and life would never be beautiful again.

Safe, The End

I passed the alcove the other day, the one I had seen her resting in from time to time, and was surprised to see a single candle burning there.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Life on the streets is not easy and life, regardless of where it is lived, only ever ends one way.  We will all have a candle lit in our memory at some point.  Still, I was surprised.

She was the inspiration for this series, these “Safe” posts.  I had seen her sitting in the alcove, smiling out at the warming day, as the princes and I passed along on our way to the park.  She wasn’t always there but she was there enough that it made me start to think about why she would be there and where she would go when she wasn’t there.  Each of these posts has been about my thoughts working through the life she had.  And now that life has come to an end so these posts will as well.

I will never know why she was on the streets in the first place and what caused her death.  I could speculate based on appearance, based on the observations I made on her behavior, but what purpose would that serve.  If I truly cared, I could have done more.  I could have done more than say “Hello” and offer the occasional donut or bottle of water or spare dollar from my pocket.  I could have asked her name.  I could have asked what she really needed rather than falling on what was easy for me to offer at the time.  My opportunities to do so, with her, have been missed.

If someone else claims the alcove once her candle has burned out and been swept away, will I do more?

Only time will tell.

Thank you for going on this journey with me.  When I wrote the first post I had no idea what it would become.  Without some encouragement from my readers it likely would have ended there.  I’m glad it didn’t.  I’m glad I forced my eyes to open a little more and to see the parts of my community that I most often ignored.  I wish it could have had a happier ending.  Though, in truth, I’m not sure what that would have looked like…  speculative fiction at best…  The real world rarely provides happy endings.  Death is inevitable.  And a candle will be lit if we are lucky enough to have people who care to light them.

That is something we should hope for.  That is something we should more than hope for.  We should work for it.  We should care about others and prove that we care through words and actions and thoughts and prayers and whatever it takes.  If we care, they will.  Then when it is our turn, the candles will be lit and those who strike the match and touch it to the wick will have happy memories to hold onto.  And there is the best happy ending any of us could hope for.