Posts from the ‘Sorrow’ Category

In Remembrance of Suffering; In Hope for Peace

Rah-rah nationalism is not for me.

I won’t pretend that I think the United States is the best country in the world, or even the continent.  Much like how I feel about my own mother, I love my motherland for the life it gave me, the values it gifted me, and the opportunities it fostered for me;  I also see the errors of its ways that I do not want to see repeated in my generation and future generations to come.   I want it to improve and grow and be better and I want to be part of that.  I am fine with being part of that here or by leaving until America does better.

So, when I say that this day, twelve years ago, is day that I will never forget, it isn’t because I see it as some national “come together” day or some proof that you can’t cut America down. While I am grateful for those who serve to defend my right to say and do what I please, I don’t see today as the day to honor their sacrifices – I should be doing that every day.

Today means something that’s really quite hard to describe.  It means anguish and pain and terrifying uncertainty.  It also means love and reaching out and a desire to progress in the face of it all.  It was horrifying and enlightening.  It wasn’t about borders or national values until much later – no.  That day was about huddling together collectively as humans who needed comfort in the face of fear.  National borders disappeared as people around the world watched what was happening and looked on in disbelief.  This day, as the day of any tragedy, is a wound on the human psyche.  And so, I will choose to remember no matter where I go, no matter which nation I choose to make my home.  Forgetting is not an option, even though distance might separate, even when it feels like it would be kinder.

—–

I don’t forget because it was a tragedy – a human tragedy – that happened on my doorstep.

I won’t forget because I see so many people still suffer effects of that day in this day.

I can’t forget because that day showed me my selfishness and taught me to be better.

The suffering of many is something I do not wish to forget because I can alleviate suffering, if I choose to see it.  If I choose to be better.  If I choose to be the best of what it means to be human to the best of my ability.

That’s what today is for me: a remembrance of suffering that encourages me to hope.

I do hope for a better world.

I will hope for the peace and tranquility we’ve spent a dozen years searching for in the the wrong places.

I can hope for selflessness in others as I work to express it in myself.

The hope of many is something I wish for because if we can hope together, I believe we can build a new, better world together.

On this, the twelfth anniversary of a truly horrific act, I wish to remember and I wish to hope.

In remembrance of a friend.

He was smart.  Super smart.  And, even though the competitive side of me hated to admit it, he was smarter than me.  In raw numbers, he had me by about five IQ points.  In breadth of knowledge, he had me cold.

He loved to build things-things that always behaved like they should.  He loved to make things stronger, better.  He was a talented builder.

He was generous.  He built a huge, positively ginormous, crafting table/cubby/how-can-that-many-shelves-exist-in-that-space for his mother.  And he still wasn’t happy he couldn’t have done more.

He was romantic.  He made one of my good friends, Myra, feel pretty and amazing and as fantastic as every girl should feel.

He was a pleasant conversationalist, if you could get him to converse. He was willing to admit lack of knowledge and open to learn.

He was also cocky.  He didn’t try to be–he just didn’t know how else to be.  We had social awkwardness in common.

He kept the friends he made, loyally.  He wasn’t great at making friends, but you knew when you were one of them.

He went on those conversational bunny trails with me happily.  He called it chasing ducks.

He was very particular about how he dressed, but not because he was vain.  He dressed to show respect to the situations he was in.  He felt it very important.  And he always looked put together.  I will never look that put together.

He was considerate.  He opened doors, paid attention.

He desperately loved to dance.  He always wished he could dance longer and more frequently.  But he hated to dance with people he knew–it made him uncomfortable.

He hated hugging.  He had a HUGE personal bubble that only disappeared when dancing.  But even then, he would hug if one was offered, because he knew they were well and lovingly meant.

He used to fence and had to give it up because he destroyed his ankles.

He desired to be better.  Where he failed socially and personally, he strove to change.

He died on Monday.  I could say a lot more about him, but I don’t think now is the time or the place.  I’m glad to say that I don’t have any regrets with this friend.  I am blunt to a fault and so was he–we accepted that about each other and didn’t try to take the edge off our social awkward because we knew what the other meant.  When he asked my honest opinion, I gave it, untempered.  When I asked him, he did as well.  I told him good things.  I let him know he was appreciated.  He complimented me honestly and openly.

Ours was the kind of friendship I hope everyone can have.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was honest and loyal.

So today, in remembrance of this friend, tell someone you love what you think is understood.  Tell them they’re amazing or beautiful or pretty or funny.  Tell them you’re glad they’re around.  Say the words unspoken, because there won’t always be a chance and they might not always be as understood as you think.

You still have time left.  Use it.

Destructive: my views on cutting.

#CutForBieber is a REAL THING (graphic pictures in that link, you have been warned).

Okay, not real real.  It started as a joke on 4chan (more evidence that I should never, ever go there).  But it was real enough for these tweets to get posted and posted often enough to trend.  Even if every single tweet was a joke (and I fear not all were–let me tell you as a former cutter, when you see pictures of people cutting, it’s very hard not to join in–I was physically ill for a moment, combine that with impressionable teenagers and you have a downright dangerous alchemy), I cannot imagine the kind of mind it takes to conceive of this sort of joke.

This is not okay.  Thankfully, Bieber fans aren’t *actually* mutilating their bodies to convince him to stop (in the main).  If there were poor, misguided girls and boys who “joined in,” I feel for them.

But, more than I feel for them, I am angry at the society that promotes this level of intellectual and spiritual rot.

I am a recovering cutter.  I haven’t cut in almost five years (six and a half weeks away–I plan to make it), but that doesn’t mean it’s easy not to.  Some days, I literally have to spend the whole day rubbing my arms and holding my elbows until I am sure I can go back to my apartment where there are any number of razors and kitchen knives in easy reach.  My roommate and I have a standing agreement that if I ever come home in a state when I am still struggling, I am to wake her up and not go through it alone (I must have looked monster scary to Mikki the day after I was up all but one hour of the night for that exact reason, she needs her sleep as much as I do).  Each month, I celebrate another month I was able to not take a blade to my skin in an effort to forget how much I HATE myself.  Most of those months, I can even celebrate that I am loving myself these days, but the sad truth is sometimes the celebration is for the barest of minimums: I didn’t act on that hate.

I’m not blaming culture or society for the decision I made to cut.  Ultimately, it was mine.  It was stupid and irrational, but it was mine.  However, what I am blaming on the world in general is that this is not something we talk about.  Why?  We give attention to drug abuse, eating disorders (mostly for women, but men are getting the recognition and help they need, too–hallelujah), all sorts of self-destructive behaviors and yet–unaccountably–we IGNORE PEOPLE CUTTING INTO THEIR OWN FLESH.  When we don’t ignore it, we PUBLISH PICTORIAL AND VIDEO DEPICTIONS OF IT.  How WRONG-HEADED is that?

Completely, in case you were wondering.

Cutting is not a phase, or an emo thing (I’ve heard both).  It’s not a sign of a deviant personality or an irreparable-from-birth mind.  It *is* the sign of a broken mind and, more often, a broken heart.  A person so convinced they are unworthy of the most basic of love and respect that they can no longer hurt anymore without doing something about it.

And this is what we sweep under the rug?

We’re nuts, people.  This cannot fly.  Thankfully, there are good doctors and nurses and friends who reach out to help.  There are teachers who watch and clergymen who listen.  There are groups like To Write Love on Her Arms (love them) which try to teach children and adults to take an expression of self-loathing and turn it into something positive and loving.

But these people are in the minority.  And it kills me to think they are.  It kills me to know that we’re teaching boys and girls that they must be better, not personally or mentally, but physically.  I’m all for health, but society does not promote heath, it promotes mutilation, both personal and cosmetic.  I hope my children grow up knowing they are loved–from all sides–as they are, but that even if every side doesn’t love them, the most important side that loves them is the inside.

This is not okay.  Even if it is a sick joke, it’s time for us to be accountable for the broken hearts we’ve created with our unattainable standards of perfection, both personal and media.

Be imperfect.  Be loved.  PLEASE–be yourself.

And please–friends, parents, loved ones, strangers–let’s start talking about this.  It’s GOT to be done.

___________________________________

You would not believe how different today’s post was supposed to be.  It was going to be cheery and a report of things good in the world.  But this is too important to ignore.  Parents, friends: watch how people interact online and respond.  I know, it’s not your job (friends) and it’s not easy to restrict something kids have such easy access to (parents) these days.  But it MUST be done.  Who better to call out inappropriate internet behavior than a loving friend?  Behavior like this cannot be brushed off or taken lightly for the future health of our children.  No joke on this level is okay.

The wolves inside me

Years ago, I checked out a book from the library for the sole reason that the cover art included a GIANT gem and a wizard-looking person.

I ABSOLUTELY judged this book by its cover and it’s a lucky thing I did.  Deltora Quest introduced me to one of my favorite and most share-able authors.  Emily Rodda is amazing.  I didn’t realize this was the seventh book in a series, but even when I did, I read on.  The man on the cover, The Guardian, has four dogs that are always with him, with ropes growing out of the backs of their necks and disappearing into The Guardian’s sleeve.    As if they weren’t grotesque enough, these slavering canines are named Envy, Greed, Pride, and Hate.  No dog is named after his true weakness and the characters have to determine which dog had which attribute, along with jumping through quite a few more hoops to defeat The Guardian.

When they eventually do, The Guardian refuses to accept his defeat and goes almost crazy.  The dogs turn back on him and it is revealed that those ropes that grow out of their flesh are actually ropes of The Guardian’s flesh, hidden by his robes.  The canines are the physical embodiments of the emotions The Guardian has let take over  within.  They are growing out of him and feeding on him.

Thankfully, it ends happily for all (well, the dogs die, but I kind of think that’s a mercy) and you almost forget about the horror that The Guardian had created by clinging onto these negative emotions.

Now, I refer you to this Cherokee story:

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

I think, even if Rodda did not know of this story, she illustrated it well.  I am put strongly in mind of these two stories when I see the reactions to the Aurora movie theatre tragedy.  Which wolf am I feeding?  The one that lives off of fear and anger?  Certainly this young man was:

Doyle from Facebook: This Breaks my Heart & Makes me SO ANGRY! For someone to target a Packed-Premier-Night Theater is so Completely Wrong… I really hope Vigilante Justice Rings True for This Offender & he Never Makes it to Trial!

I’m not saying that I didn’t have thoughts along those lines, though I don’t think I ever wished an unjust death on the young man who perpetrated this crime (that being said, I don’t believe the death penalty is just, either . . . I don’t wish death on anyone).  I thought how I would feel if this did happen, and perhaps distinguishing between that and this young man’s post is too fine a line.  But my hope is that–as we recover from yet ANOTHER tragedy in Colorado–I react more like To Write Love On Her Arms did or perhaps the anonymous person who made the second photo:

In many ways, it feels like we’re falling apart as a state.  But if we continue to feed the wolf that is harmony and peace, much like we did when the Waldo Canyon Fire broke through in Colorado Springs, we’ll get through it together.  I’m not saying accept what the young man did.  I’m saying love those who survived.  The wolves will sort themselves out eventually, but right now there are people who need help.

Lullaby for the Unknown Child

This is almost exactly what I see when I close my eyes and think of him.As is often the case in adult life, your friends live far from you.  While this is moderately inconvenient or slightly annoying during times of joy and accomplishment, there is nothing quite so heart-wrenching as the fact that you aren’t there in times of suffering and need.  I have felt this many times in my life, but none so acutely as the recent weeks.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine lost her child.  And, because I don’t get the chance to be there to comfort the grieving mother, nor did I get the chance to hold or know the babe who was to be my nephew in all respects but biological, I offer this: the song of my heart.

The song starts about a year ago.  It was when my friend told me she was going to try to have this child.  I have rarely been so overwhelmed with longing, a longing akin to the longing I feel for a child of my own.  But, in this case, this longing was not for myself, but for my friend.  This longing was for all the hopes and dreams I immediately had for her to come true.  It was also the impractical longing to be there, to be the informal nanny-housekeeper–to take all the burdens of motherhood away so that her days would be filled with the bliss of her son (for I was determined she would have a boy).  These were the times it was inconvenient not to be there; the song was impatient.

Then came the long months of waiting.  Of bad news, no news, joyous discussions of plans, and hope that–at times–seemed ill-advised in the best of perspectives.  These were times when not being there was difficult; the song was perhaps too cheerful to try to combat the gloom.

Then finally, finally finally, she was pregnant.  However, being a close friend, I was told early enough that the world at large did not know.  I had an enormous secret, but it was a glad one.  There was no weight in carrying it.  I was filled to bursting with joy; my little nephew was almost here!  I made a baby blanket so that the Fall and Winter cold would never be able to reach him.  I searched mightily for present ideas for the mother.  I began a CD of all my favorite lullabies so that my darling best friend, who always seems to be sick, would be able to put it on when her voice was tired or gone and so the baby would know my voice, if not my face.  I made all the preparations that I could to be a long-distance auntie, figuring out ways to overcome the distance for not only the child, but for my friend.

As needed, I provided emotional support to the mother (families can be enormously crazy when little children enter the picture).  I reveled in each little piece of news.  I imagined her stomach slowly getting bigger, even though it was much too early for that.  I made plans to visit, though it could only be before the baby came.  These were the times when it was the least difficult to be away, a tickling annoyance at most; the song beat away, always trilling with an irrepressible gladness.

And then, just before that magic all-clear of the pregnancy world, the twelve week mark, she lost her baby.  No warning, no reason–the way most miscarriages happen.  And I found out in the worst, but most practical (and likely most painless for my friend) way possible: an e-mail.  Though I do not begrudge her the saved pain nor the convenience, the note in my inbox was a terrible thing.  Black and white on a screen, spelling the death of one so dear.  This was the worst time.  The song went silent.

I immediately sent her the words to one of the songs I had intended to include on the CD I was making, the one verse ditty my mother would sing when I was sad.  It’s from a book, and so far as I know, the tune is something my mother made up.  “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”  Perhaps not the best salve to this wound, but all I could come up with at the moment that I needed to respond quickly.

Then I spent days wondering how on Earth I could help.  I have never suffered loss even remotely akin to this.  The death of grandparents, aunts and uncles, classmates, and pets, yes.  But never one so close as my own child.  I have suffered all manner of privations and horrors with my disease, but in this I was the “happy” observer, safe on the other side of the gulf that separated me and my best friend.  Though we live impossibly far away from each other as it is, I have never felt so far from her as I did those days following her announcement.

I wondered all the stupid, silly practical things that occur after death.  What will I do with the blanket?  Should I finish the CD?  Should I make a condolences gift or should I leave well enough alone?  Will visiting still be a good idea?  I believe these things, heartless as they seem, are the human mind’s way to process something so big and so foreign as deep grief.  I did the same thing when it became clear my grandmother was dying–my first reaction was to say we should probably throw out the coffee she kept out at our house.  Callous and terrible, the song returned as a weak march–pushing me forward day by day.

And then something changed.  The song wasn’t about me anymore.  It had never been for me, but it had been about me, isolated as I was from the events that were transpiring.  However, somewhere in that weak march, the song turned into the baby’s song, and what he had brought to my friend’s life, and mine, in such a short time.

My nephew (which I still determinedly think of him as, since we’ll never get the chance to know) was joy and hope and anticipation since long before his conception.  He was a bright future and hard work ahead, and he was love.  He brought me and my best friend closer together, even across distances that some days seem without bridge.  He made of us a family.  His song, the song my heart now sings when I think of him, is a song of universality and triumph, though tinged with the sadness of lost potential.

The song I sing aloud–for as much as I’d love to be able to sing what my heart does, I can’t–has all the melancholy of his life, but ends with comfort for me.  It’s the song I probably sang a good three or four dozen times (and still had more to go) before it was CD ready: Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby (from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou).  This was the song I had to get right, and though I don’t know why it was important then, it’s a help to me now.  The last verse says this, “Go to sleep you little baby (go to sleep you little baby), go to sleep you little babe (go to sleep you little babe).  Come and lay your bones on the alabaster stones and be my ever-lovin’ baby.”

I believe in an after-life for all, even for those lost so young.  The image I see is a cliff and a sea, with a small patch of brilliant white stones where he waits for my best friend and, once his family’s had a chance to know him, me.  There he waits, always and ever loved by those he left behind.  I hope that he can hear the song he created, the song that is his.  It will ever be in my heart.

Until we meet at the white stones, baby.

Auntie Joie

Semi-annus horribilis

Berlusconi Silvio Berlusconi, Italian PM, has had one hell of a year, and BBC did his scrabbooking fans a favor by putting together a slideshow titled “Berlusconi’s annus horribilis.”  Like all their slide shows, it’s a tasteful, comprehensive matching of pictures about the subject and shows pretty clearly – even without the captions – how wildly this man’s life has spun out of control.  This is evidently a series for BBC, bless them, and I’ve no doubt that the rest are just as artful about the decline of the subjects.

However, sometimes I wonder.  Given my version, the semi-annus horribilis (or, to be more precise, the semester of yuck), I am intimately aware of how the human life can get wildly out of the hands of the person living it through no fault of their own.  So out of hand, in fact, that the human who is supposed to be living it runs wildly in the wake of the disaster of their life, trying to catch up.  Though this is certainly not the case with PM Berlusconi (whose ruin is about 85% his fault, or so the evidence seems to say at the moment), should we be reducing these life stories to art forms?  Eight pictures vividly detailing the ruin of another human being who needs just as much sympathy and empathy as you or me seems quite harsh, even bad form.  Or maybe I’m just worried that when I get the small, pitiful piece of paper at the end of the semester that tells me what this rollercoaster I’m being dragged behind has come to, it won’t be anywhere near enough.  That that representation of As, Bs, or Cs will my “Joie’s semi-annus horribilis” documentation and that it will be comprehensive, but a lie as well.  Right now the media coverage seems to look like Berlusconi ruined his life, what if my transcript looks like I threw away my semester?  What if these broad overviews lie to us without intending to?

And then I wonder, what if these moments, these annus, semi-annus, lunar, or decade horribilisi are supposed to happen?  The times in life when the reins have been dropped and are whipping the horses forward from the momentum of the ride itself – these times seem so out of control, but so purposeful in hindsight.  Are our lives destined, just by the nature of being human, to have these moments?  Is it a cosmic joke, or a Godly plan outside our understanding, or a little bit of both?  Whatever it is, it’s hard, but I’ve learned a few things from it.

First: Self-control does not always have to include violent fantasies, or even voicing them. >)

What can I say?  I enjoy saying, “punch you in the face” to people I love who went a little too far past annoying (or just tickled the annoyed nerve on some days).  It also felt REALLY good to imagine putting my boot up a certain Dean of Academics’ ass, even to tell people I was willing to do it.  In some ways I am, but in most ways I’ll just leave the boots in the closet for a few days and avoid running across the Dean.  It’s healthy to blow off steam.  I have a friend who I know I can call any time and say, “Okay – I need twenty minutes to bitch, no perspective please.”  And she’ll let me have just that, sometimes she’ll bitch with me!  When the dust settles, the we turn the perspective switch in our brains back on and we usually come to a good end result that makes us both happy (even if it’s just getting the frustration out).

Two: Being the designated driver is overrated.

In the past twenty-four hours, I have had two people offer me their car keys and ask me to drive their happy butts around town.  Now, since I don’t drink, this is a really good idea on their part.  Being the chronicler of idiocy is fun.  But when it comes to life, sometimes it’s just way too much effort to try and be behind the wheel.  In fact, it’s a complex.  Being a control freak is only funny to those who like to make things go out of control and watch the OCD (or CDOs as we prefer it) kiddos flip a lid.  So I’m giving up the coveted position of DD as best I can.  I may still clutch to the wheel for a while, but eventually I’ll be able to just chronicle the insanity using my own brand as the ink that forms the words.

Which leads me to three: Crazy craves company.

So give it some.  Admit you’re crazy, settle with yourself, blow off some steam, and enjoy the beauty of it all.  Last night I went out with a group of kids from my major and you know what?  It was freaking awesome.  We were at the restaurant so long that the hostess started glaring at us, and even then it took us a bit to get going.  I almost barfed when they made me laugh and then choke on my bite of fajita.  We all had “date foul” moments at the beginning of the night, but by the end of the night I don’t think we were saying anything mildly appropriate.  This department and people in it put the fun in dysfunctional, and I love every minute of it.  As drama filled as school and life can be, life’s actually amazingly fun most of the time.  And when I forget that, I find my crazy company.  It’s amazing how well they can bring me back to sanity.

And four: Come what may and love it.

It’s not always easy to take what life throws at you, but love every screwed-up minute of it.  Use the violent fantasies, hyperbolic words, the wild ride, and absolutely off-their-collective-rockers company to find what you adore so much about this upside down, turned around, inside out life.  I know that when I do, I’m so much happier.  Not always happy, but happier.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Mourning

tossing and turning Today I grieved.  I literally lay in bed and hid away from the world until it finally got the message to leave me alone.   If I could have, I would have sung a lilting keen for my whole campus to hear – but I hardly have the soprano, nor do I have the compositional talent for that.

Sure, there was a valid excuse for me to stay prone until 4:30 this afternoon.  I am injured, and no amount of medication is alleviating the pain that I feel in my back.  I’m tired of walking around, jarring my back as if there’s nothing wrong with it.  But there’s more to this.  My soul has been sick since yesterday.  Yesterday, I returned a phone call from my mother.  She called Monday, right when I was in the middle of changing for team pictures and trying to figure out which earrings went with which shirt went with which eye shadow.  I hate team pictures – I turn into everything I hate for a few moments for them, so I hate them.  This made me too busy, too grumpy, to talk.  But yesterday I had time.  So I called.

“Do you know Mike T–?”

“Of course I do!”

“What do you mean, of course you do?”

“I-I-We were in the same grade, Mom.  Why?”

“I’m sorry, honey.  He died.  He was found unresponsive in his room…” The rest of it just kind of faded to background noise, registering somewhere in the back of my brain for me to remember later.  I just cried and cried into my pillow, sobs that should have been noisier, but I was trying to keep it together for my mom on the other end.  I know how helpless my parents feel when I cry over the phone, so I hopelessly tried to keep these back.  She apologized again for being the bearer of bad news, promised to send me the family address, and hung up.  Her awkwardness on Monday made so much more sense, and my impatientness with it that much more callous.

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Soooo much pain.  I finally fell asleep about fifty minutes before I was supposed to go to class.  Ha.  That didn’t happen.  I was nauseated just moving around in my bed, I couldn’t make myself eat until dinner.  I barely talked to my roommate.  I just wallowed in misery and pain.  This was how I grieved, because I don’t know another way.  Not when it comes to Mike.

Mike and I weren’t ever close friends.  We went to school together from the Kindergarten to High School Graduation (well, technically the last day of Senior Year, as I didn’t walk, but you get the idea).  He was the class clown, the kind of kid that the braniacs (a.k.a. me) kind of hated because he took away so much class time.  He was an annoying, loud, teasing, freckle-faced pain in the butt – and everyone loved him.  Because, under it all, Michael was so good.  He never teased people who weren’t his friends, he knew they wouldn’t know that for the first time in the history of public schooling it was just a joke.  I never once saw him set out to hurt someone.  Mike wanted to include people, not ostracize them.

Now that I’m older, I can admit with quite a bit a less pathos that I was one of the Untouchables in my grade.  I’m not sure I’ll ever know why, but Mike didn’t care.  When we made the effort to ignore the social boundaries that high schoolers made up, Mike and I got along famously.  We could talk non-stop.  For a few moments, I was cool.  And I knew, that if I ever wanted to talk again, Mike was willing.  Because Mike was good.

It’s probably a good thing Mike and I weren’t closer, he was one of those friends who enjoys doing hazardous things for fun and I already had my fair share of those.  However, considering one moment – one I have considered quite pivotal in my life for years – I sometimes have to wonder if it would have been worth it.  It was in one of the last classes we took together: Freshman Lit and Comp.  I tended toward the arts, he toward the sciences, but everyone has to take Frosh L&C.  We were doing “popcorn reading.”  I HATE that stupid exercise.  The whole point is to get everyone to read by having classmates choose someone else to read when they no longer wanted to, but I was an Untouchable, remember?  I almost never got to read – and everyone was so SLOW!  When I did get to read, the teacher had to make me stop and “popcorn” to someone else.  I never wanted to stop reading.  Well, this particular day was my day.  I loved the story and I got asked to read.  I must have read half a page before the teacher made me choose someone else, but not before Mike said, “You’re really good.”  I know I blushed – compliments were not often payed to me, and certainly not in that tone.  Later, in that same tone of utter respect, amazement, and enjoyment all rolled into one, Mike reiterated his compliment and further added, “You should read books on tape.”  I mumbled a thanks and walked away.

How simple an act that must seem, but it meant worlds to me.  I had secretly harbored just that dream for some time, but hadn’t told anyone.  Mike’s voluntary belief in me brought that dream from an “I wish” to an “I just might!”  Even more in the past couple years, I have begun to make inquiries, making the “I just might” into “I’m trying.”  But now, in light of this death that I have no idea how to grieve – that of a person who featured so little but meant so much – that dream has gone even further.  I can no longer stay in bed, sick to my soul.  But I can, and will, make his belief in me justified.  I may never read books on tape, but I will be actively living up to the belief that one of the best and kindest souls I will ever know expressed so often without saying so.

To Mike: Because you were so good, and so alive.  It’s the least I can do to repay you by still acting like I am.  You are loved, and missed.