Tag Archive | death

Water for the temple plants

Raindrops and ripples

A Zen master asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath.

The student brought the water, and after cooling the bath, threw the remaining water over the ground.

“Think,” said the master to the student. “You could have watered the temple plants with those few drops you have thrown away.”

The young student understood Zen in that exact moment. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means drop of water, and lived to become a wise Zen master himself.

The lesson most learn from the story of A Drop of Water is that as we struggle with the big problems and seek answers to big questions, that we sometimes forget the importance of small, ordinary moments. I often write on this blog about problems that many people face, or wrestle with questions of how to be a better story teller, or talk about great moments in history or my favorite genre. It is easy to get lost in worrying about some of the injustices in the world or dangers looming over one segment or another of the population. For me it is just as easy to get lost in my routines and personal goals. I have to get to work and finish certain things, and want to make progress on my writing, while putting my thoughts about all of those big things and many of the small things into blog posts.

I’m pretty good at hauling buckets around, but still not great with the drops.

I knew someone who seemed excellent with both the buckets and the drops. Last week she passed away. It wasn’t a surprise, she had been dealing with an illness for some time. But it was still a shock.

Ann was the mother of my good friend Kehf. I met her at Kehf’s wedding (or was it a rehearsal before?). You don’t get to know a person well under those circumstances. Mostly you come away with an impression. It was a few years later that I got to know her as someone other than that nice woman whose eyes sparkled when she smiled.

When I started an earlier version of this blog, she would occasionally comment. We might exchange a couple emails with follow up discussions. And then I started getting comments from people I didn’t know, often with someone saying something along the line of “I’m so glad Ann shared this link.” And the people who commented came from many different parts of the world, and many different backgrounds. I came to realize that Ann seemed to know everyone. Well, not literally everyone—more accurate to say she had friends everywhere.

I started to get a numerical inkling of the vastness of her network of friends when I moved this blog to WordPress. The previous hosts hadn’t given me very good statistics, but with WordPress every time I log in I see a bar graph of the hits on my blog for today and the previous 29 days. Most of the time my blog putters along with a fairly stable number of hits per day. there’s a little variation: days that I don’t publish anything new are lower than new post days, for instance. But every now and then, I will log in and see the bar for either that day or the previous day literally ten times as tall as the usual. And almost every time, it turned out to be because Ann shared that particular post.

I understand why it works. Any time Ann sent me a link (unless I recognized it as a story or blog or whatever that I had just recently looked at) I clicked on it to see what it was, and then had to send her a comment. Because she never sent me something that wasn’t interesting. Not just interesting in a general sense, but usually targeting to some of my particular interests. In the last several days as I’ve read several tributes to her, I notice how many people talk about the news and links and information she shared, with the same observation that it was always interesting or useful to the person receiving it.

She was really good at remembering what was important to every person she knew.

Relationships were her super power.

Ann was an episcopal priest. During her lifetime her church went from refusing to contemplate the ordination of women, to allowing women to be priests, then bishops, and eventually presiding bishop. It was a tough fight, but Ann didn’t back away from fights. She later brought that same cheerful determination as an ally of the queer communities in our fights. There were several times when I wrote about my frustration and fears about our fight for equality, when Ann would send me a message with words of encouragement gleaned from the fight for the ordination of women—it was worth the fight, even if it didn’t seem victory wasn’t getting closer.

I once wrote a post trying to explain my feelings about religion and spirituality, and why my particular journey had taken me away from the religion in which I’d been raised to my own variant of Taoism. I compared spirituality to water: how some people love the ocean, while others prefer rivers and streams, and others are more happy with well-maintained pools. I compared traditional churches (of any religion) to community swimming pools. They are there for those who want them, and they can be wonderful. While I’m more of a run out into the rain kind of guy.

After reading the post, Ann sent me an email: “Just call me your local community pool lifeguard!” Yes, mostly she was saying she understood what I was saying, and that her calling to be a priest was just as viable a spiritual position as my more freewheeling approach. But she was also being a bit modest. Because Ann didn’t limit herself to just ministering to the congregations of the churches she worked in. That way she had of collecting friends near and far, of remembering what was important to each of us, of sending us articles we’d find interesting, and commenting (sometimes debating) things we posted, that was another form of ministry.

And this queer ex-Christian/recovering Baptist felt extremely lucky to be at least occasionally on the receiving end of her vocation.

Rise in Glory, Ann.

It’s been twenty years, but it still hurts

This was taken at our final combined birthday party, just before the last round of chemo.

Twenty years ago today I had to sign some papers.

Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand. I said, “Good-bye.”

I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 59-ish, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).

My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like the shards of a thoroughly shattered stained glass window.

When we had our commitment ceremony several years earlier, he promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life.

He did.

I consider myself indescribably lucky to have had that kind of love in my life. The fact that after Ray’s death I later met and fell in love with another man does nothing to reduce the sense of loss I feel when I think about Ray.

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

My friend Kristin recently sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He's prepping his kite for launch.

My friend Kristin sent me this picture saying, “How I like to remember Ray.” This was a trip we all took to the beach. He’s prepping his kite for launch.

Signing papers after our commitment ceremony.

Signing papers after our commitment ceremony.

Ray and I at the Pride Parade sometime in the early 90s.

Ray and I at the Pride Parade sometime in the early 90s.

Game over, man!

To me, he will always be the panicky (“Game over, man! Game over!”) yet cocky (“Don’t worry. Me and my squad of ultimate badasses will protect you!”) Marine PFC William Hudson, fighting and cursing with all his might as he’s dragged to his death by an alien xenomorph. Bill Paxton Was Film’s Quintessential Game-Over Man: An Appreciation.

He was and remains the only actor ever slain on screen by a T-800 (a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger flung him into metal bars at the Griffith Park Observatory in The Terminator, 32 years before Gosling and Stone danced among the stars there in La La Land), a Xenomorph (a bug dragged him under the floor in Aliens while he raved his profane epitaph), and a Predator (Paxton emptied his sidearm into the advancing beast on an L.A. subway car in Predator 2; when that didn’t work, he tried a machete. And a golfball. Never say die! Even when dying is apparently your job.).

I didn’t intend to leave Paxton’s death completely out of yesterday’s weekly round up of links. But I’d wanted to write something a bit more personal than my usual inclusion in the links, so I had a separate draft post open with links to some of the best Paxton obits I had read, and then when I was assembling the links post, forgot to copy some from here to there!

Paxton appeared in a lot of my favorite movies. Frequently he played a slightly pathetic excuse for a human. Even more frequently, he died on screen. Seriously, directors apparently loved to kill him. And they did it a lot! In addition to the three famous deaths in the pull quote above, he was shot at least six times, stabbed, hacked to pieces with an axe, and in at least one movie both shot and stabbed. Even when he played an undead creature, an immortal vampire in the movie Near Dark, Paxton didn’t make it to the end of the film without being killed again. In the time loop movie, Edge of Tomorrow he’s only seen dying once on screen, but the script makes it clear his character died hundreds of times before the film was over.

His characters didn’t always die. And he wasn’t always the comic relief in a film. In Apollo 13 he portrayed astronaut Fred Haise, for instance, who gets to be heroic and live to the end of the picture. And in Twister he got to play a storm-chasing meteorologist still pining for his ex-wife, who risks his life for science, and lives!

Even though Paxton was often cast as a sort of smarmy loser whose lines would deliver many laughs in the film, he had a knack, using changes in body posture and facial demeanor, for making you forget about the other roles you’d see him in. There were a number of times I’d be well into watching his performance in a film before a moment would arrive where I’d go, “Oh! It’s Hudson!”

In interviews appearances on talk shows (when promoting a new film or series), he always came off as a nice guy. And he certainly had a sense of humor about his tendency to be murdered on film a lot. In his directorial debut, he cast himself as the character who is hacked to death by his own son with an axe on screen! So, clearly, he was in on the joke. Bill Paxton fought Aliens and The Terminator, but he was always just a guy from Fort Worth.

I’m going to miss seeing Bill pop up in my favorite movies and series.

The Death Of Bill Paxton Reminds Us That ‘Twister’ Changed Meteorology.

Bill Paxton, ‘Aliens’ and ‘Twister’ Actor, Dies at 61:

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(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.

Weekend Update 2/27/2016 – On a hero, and on silence

10 year old hero Kiera Larsen died pushing 2 toddlers out the way of a car.

10 year old hero Kiera Larsen died pushing 2 toddlers out the way of a car.

So, a 10-year-old girl knew what to do when there was danger: Girl, 10, Fatally Struck While Pushing Toddlers Out of Runaway Vehicle’s Way in San Diego County. She’s a hero who didn’t even have time to think about what she was doing. It’s a story that should bring at least a tear to your eye. Hit the link. There’s a GoFundMe page to help her parents with funeral and medical expenses.

And there’s an investigation. Of course there is. A parked car rolled out and someone died. I don’t expect that the investigation will lead to anything particularly revelatory. Parking brake failure, maybe. I suspect I’m going to find myself being even more anal than usual about double-checking the parking brake on my car for a while after reading this.

There was another topic entirely that has been bothering me this week, and it got really bad yesterday when I took a moment at lunch to check a local news site and saw that there had been yet another mass shooting this week… and not that many miles away from me: Mason County coroner’s office released the names of the family members killed in the shooting at a residence in Belfair. The name of the fourth victim, a neighbor, has not been released. They also haven’t identified a 12-year-old girl who was not shot but was found hiding on the property while police were surrounding and negotiating with the gunman.

In a story in which a woman, here two adopted sons, and a neighbor’s child are all killed, another child is left traumatized, and the shooter kills himself before police can take him into custody, you would think there was tragedy enough. But there’s more. This wasn’t the first mass shooting in the U.S. this week. And it wasn’t the first one this week to be virtually ignored by the vast majority of the media: Kansas mass shooting suspect who killed three co-workers and wouded fourteen others had been served domestic violence order, The Kalamazoo rampage was the 42nd mass shooting this year (and that was last Sunday!), ‘Unspeakable violence’: Phoenix police ID family killed after son opens fire, 4 injured in 2 Related Daytona Beach shootings

And that’s not all: 22 People Were Shot in Five Drive-By Multiple Victim Shootings in America This Week.

Not one single question about this was raised at the Republican Presidential Debate (where the candidates took things to the next crazy level: Final Republican presidential debate summed up as ‘unintelligible yelling’).

And I’m not the only one asking what is wrong with us, as a society: Obama: Mass shootings should dominate the news.

And please, don’t tell me that there’s nothing we could do to reduce these. After a 35 people were killed in a single incident in Port Arthur, Australia, that country decided to do something about it: How Australia Eliminated Mass Shootings. It wouldn’t be as easy in the U.S., because the shear number of guns per capita here is much, much worse. That article includes some of the arguments about why the specific measures Australia took won’t work here. But like most other articles and arguments about this, it focuses on only part of the solution. The real solution was that a majority of Australians refused to accept that there was nothing which could be done, and agreed that it was time to do something.

Our refusal to even contemplate that we could change our attitudes is the only thing that’s stopping us from reducing the number of needless deaths.

Not forgotten

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

Seventeen years ago today I had to sign some papers.

Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand, and said “Good-bye.”

I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the last few days, so it felt like one really long, horrible day).

I don’t remember if I cried again. My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are just fragments—bits and pieces of time scattered through a fog of bewilderment.

He promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life. And he did.

Alas, poor grasshopper…

In July we drove into central Oregon to attend the wedding of our friends, Katrina and Terry. At the end of the weekend, after we’d loaded up the car, checked out, and so forth, I had just started the car and was preparing to back out of our parking space, when I saw the teeniest, tiniest, bright green grasshopper-like bug clinging to the cowling around my driver’s side mirror. I had seen a few similar bugs on the outer wall of the hotel and clinging to some of the other cars in the parking lot. They were all so tiny. I thought it was adorable. Read More…

Trying to maintain

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

If Ray had lived, today would be his fiftieth birthday. Unfortunately, Ray died when he was 33. I try to maintain a good perspective on it. A bit more than three years before, the doctors had said he had maybe 6 months to 2 years to live. He’d beaten their expectations. It hadn’t been pleasant for him. There had been surgery, chemotherapy, and various side effects of various drugs.

When we’d met, he’d been this tall, thin (skinny, really) grinning goofball with a mop of curly hair usually dyed in multiple colors. As his illness had destroyed his lung tissue and caused painful lesions to erupt on his bones, making movement ever more difficult and painful, he’d gained weight and lost all that manic energy. The chemo didn’t make all of his hair fall out, but it got very, very thin, and he hated how it looked. The pain had slaved his sleep schedule to his pain pills. During that last year he would take his pain pills, wait for them to kick in enough to let him sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up and try to occupy himself for about four hours until he could take his next dose, sleep for two more hours, wake up and wait, et cetera.

Read More…

Not all anniversaries are good

Sixteen years ago this week, several bad things happened.

It began in the wee small hours of the morning of the 12th. I was awakened by the sound of a crash. I stumbled into the computer room to see one bookcase knocked over, and my husband, Ray, on the floor having some kind of seizure.

He had been sick for a few years. There had been surgery and rounds of chemotherapy. Just two weeks before, the specialist overseeing his treatment had cautiously told us that instead of only having two years or less to live, Ray might be looking at five to ten years.

They had been telling us the “two years or less” line for more than three years, and I had kept refusing to believe it, so I’m not sure why I took the new prognosis as such good news. Other than the usual human tendency to reject news we don’t like, and accept news we do.

I remained surprisingly calm as I tried to hold him so he wouldn’t hurt himself further and call 9-1-1.

Until something happened. I still can’t describe it very well. He was still seizing, but something changed. The light in his eyes was different, or something. Until that moment, I believed this was something treatable. Something we could fix. But when that change happened, I suddenly stopped believing… So by the time the paramedics got there I was in more than a bit of a panic.

I could go on to list the other things that happened, the many stages of denial (for other people, denial was a single stage, for me it went through an incredible number of nuanced phases over the next couple of days). Then, while hugging and crying on my friend, Kristin’s, shoulder, I jumped over the other phases. I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 48+, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).

So on the 14th I signed some papers. Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand. I said “Good-bye.”

I don’t remember if I cried again. My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like a collection of shattered glass pictures.

He promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life. And he did.

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