Sweet Bun

Sweet Bun (July 17, 2000 – August 30, 2017), pic taken June 2016

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about what to write, and came up with a million wonderful things to share about you, about how much of an impact you had on my life, but none are truly sufficient.  To a certain extent, I’m in denial that you are gone, and there’ll be that one time when I put the key in the lock, I will hear you trotting for the door.  In reality, all of the light you brought to my life is suddenly missing, and the house is now painfully quiet.  I’m not sure how to adequately express my gratitude for how much you enriched my life, but I hope you know how much you were, still are, loved.  You were my best friend these past 17-years.  Not once did you ever cause me pain…I don’t think furbabies ever do.  You were there through most of my 20s, all of my 30s, and the start of my 40s – you saw so much.  And, you got me through so many painful moments, with the utmost care and concern, and above all unconditional love.  And, oh, dear Bun, how I miss you.

I miss your meow. I miss your smell. I miss our snuggle-time. I miss you laying with me while I worked. I miss when you would head bump me at 3am because you wanted breakfast. I miss how pokey your paws were when you walk on my back because I didn’t get up and get you breakfast until 4am.  I miss you reminding me at 6pm, it was time for dinner. I miss when you would get mad when the suitcases would come out. I miss you running to the door after I got home.  I miss you dragging out every single one of your toys and carrying them to me, one-by-one.  I miss you hating the car.  I miss you loving cheese and summer sausage and croissants and tuna and bacon and salmon and ice cream and radicchio (who knew?).  I miss you wanting to be carried over my shoulder.  I miss you standing on the side of the tub, talking to me while I took a shower.  I miss you pawing at me when it was time to be done working on the computer for the day.  I miss you sticking your head in between me and the screen of my phone because you needed attention (and Instagram most certainly did/does not).  I miss you sitting under your orchids.  I miss you batting at the ornaments on the Christmas tree.  I miss you wanting to curl up under the covers with me in bed.  I miss how you loved everyone and wanted to chew on their hair products.  I miss the sound of your purr and how soft your fur was.  I miss your green eyes, and your sweet little face.  I miss how worried you were when I would cry.  I miss you watching the birds from the window.  I miss you curling up in the sunlight.  There are so many more things I miss.  Each memory comes to me in the middle of the night, or while I am getting the mail, or when I’m at dinner with Scott, and I cry….wail, actually.  While I know that you are no longer in pain, you now only live in my memories…and I am afraid because memories fade with time.  You were too good of a friend to me, and I will do my best to never these beautiful memories fade.

After we lost Ginnie, a friend told me, “When they get old, or when our beloved pets get sick, we’re urged to do the right thing. [We are] told they are depending on us to do the right thing. So, we do it. It’s a selfless and merciful thing to do, but dear GAWD the pain of it to ourselves is searing!”  She was unequivocally correct.  This pain – the pain of having to walk you (and Ginnie and Missy) to the door, sears my soul.  There is massive void left in my life, now that you are gone – a void I don’t think can ever be filled – so I will cope with this gaping hole and do my best to walk through this transition, knowing that you trusted me to free you from suffering.  And so, my dear Bun, you will shine on and I hope to see you again one day soon.  I love you, little one.  I love you will all my heart, for you have my whole heart.

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Birthday #8

Jack Sebastian Koller. May 27, 2009-October 5, 2009.

Ugh. It’s been a tough day. It remains that way. Every, damn year. I mistakenly used to think each year the day might get easier, but I’ve come to accept that it can’t. 

His loss will always bear an immense amount of weight. Instead, I just prepare for that fact and let the tears flow and my heart twist itself into knots until the storm passes.

The only things I tell myself now are, “it’s okay to grieve”, “it’s okay to be angry”, “it’s okay to be strong”, “it’s okay not to be”.

I am gentler on myself, I stay inside, I reflect, and I cry. He has made me a better person, for that I am grateful, but I’d still give it up to have him alive, safe from harm, and happy.

I imagine he’s happy where he is, free from suffering. I imagine him talking to me some times (even though he died before he could utter his first words). He reminds me to be patient, to be more kind, to be more loving. 

I say he made me a person because I oblige and I do these things to honor him.

Rest In Peace, Jack. You are loved.

Quote of the Day: Thomas Edison

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You Haven’t.

Ten years ago, we thought my mom had exhausted all possibilities in her fight against Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia (CLL).  For nearly ten years prior to that, she had gone through various rounds of treatments to rid herself of an incurable type of cancer, which usually doesn’t affect people until their in their 80s (and living another 5-10 years is a perfectly acceptable timespan). At the time of diagnosis, she was in her 40s.  I blame the fact that we lived near the Rocky Flats Plant, a nuclear weapons production facility, but that’s a conversation that I will save for another day and another rant.

There came a point during the course of my mother’s treatment when her medical team determined they had expended all options to mitigate the disease and the only option was a stem-cell transplant (what you would probably know better as a bone-marrow transplant).  Next steps were to find a matching donor – someone with the same DNA markers of her immune system which needed to align with my mom’s.  Likely candidates include siblings, but hers’ did not.  Enter Miracle #1, a donor with 10-out-of-10 matching markers – someone young and eager to be of service.

Her transplant date was set for December 2006.  Knowing the severe and life-threatening complications she faced, we gathered as a family on Thanksgiving to wrap her in love and send her off to MD Anderson with as many prayers as we could say in those few short weeks.  But, the transplant was delayed, not once but twice, because she was retaining fluid and her heart began to fail.  No-one was able to determine why she took a turn for the worse, the medical team was at a loss, and after the 2nd delay, her transplant physician said that they had done all they could, but she was not healthy enough to survive a transplant.  It was time to go home, they told us.

Enter Miracle #2, my mother’s uncompromising and warrior-like spirit.  If anyone wonders where my stubborn streak comes from, and you think it couldn’t possibly be from my sweet, compassionate mother, let me assure you – you are dead wrong.  Tell my mom she can’t do something, I double-dog-dare you.  She was not done, she was not going home, something in her rose up, in defiance of fate, and vowed she would be there to see her children grow up, to become a grandmother, to see the world, and to live.  We both made a vow that her defiance would not be in vain.  As her advocate, I ripped the medical team a new a$$hole to find out why my mom had suddenly accumulated 60-lbs of water weight and why she suddenly had developed congestive heart failure when her heart had been healthy her whole life.

Turns out, she was having an undocumented type of allergic reaction to sulfa, and she showed dramatic improvement within 48-hours of switching her medications.  We then worked for the next 3-months to help her build back the strength she had lost, so that when we walked back into the transplant physician’s office in late March 2007, he said she was ready.  You would have thought we won the lottery, and in a way, I think we did.  Odds were stacked against her in every way, but on April 4, 2007, she received a new lease on life.  The road to recovery was not easy, mind you.  Post transplant recovery was full of frightening twists and turns, but the warrior put her chin down and dug her heals in.  Every day, we meditated on the healing power within her, on the strength she had to endure, and on the ability to absorb the love that surrounded her on this journey.

Enter Miracle #3, a decade has gone by and today we celebrate what transplant patients often refer to as her re-birthday.  It is hard to describe the profound ways in which this process has affected me, or the gratitude that I hold for the selfless act of her donor (whom we have had the amazing opportunity to meet and get to know), but seeing those you love go through something, rather than around it, evolves your view of the world.  Every time I have an ache, or a pain, or want to complain, I remember, my mom turns 10 today.

Kicked into Mindfulness

Most of the long-term homeless struggle to maintain sanity, while some of them never really had it to begin with, and many of them fall somewhere in the spectrum of genius. My ex-husband’s father was homeless. I met him once in the desert, just outside of Las Vegas. It had been 15 years since anyone had heard from him, and most of his family had all but given up hope that he may still be alive. He was bi-polar and schizophrenic, so he often traveled between worlds of consciousness. In one of his more lucid moments, he reached out to his son to congratulate him on his upcoming marriage.  We were engage at the time, how he knew this without having spoken to any of his children in over a decade, still amazes me.  Nervous and eager to reconnect with his father, we made the trip out to the middle of the desert, to visit him in his shanty.

It was full of wonderful, crude inventions that he had fashioned out of garbage, or leftover parts, in order to survive the brutal summers, and frigid winter nights.  We saw him several more times over the next few days, to feed him, buy him clothes and supplies.  We mostly just wanted to spend time with him, since we didn’t know when he would slip back into a different reality, then my ex would lose his father all over again.  As we were getting ready to head back to Denver, he hugged us both, as though we were his only anchor into this world, then looked at me intensely and said,  “You’re either crazy because you’re homeless, or you’re homeless because you’re crazy.”  I thanked him for sharing his time with us, for reaching out, and for letting me be a part of his experience.  I assume he has since passed away, and we are long since divorced, but I still think of him often.

Fast forward nearly twenty years to last Sunday.  I was heading out to a meeting and, as usual, I was running late. Scott was downstairs, cleaning my car (because he’s awesome, what can I say?) and was talking to a man holding onto the handlebars of his bike. I was irked because I knew that I was going to get pulled into a conversation, which would make me later than I already was. This man was asking for some sort of favor and I didn’t have time to get pulled into the issue, but he turned to me and smiled so wide, the corners of his eyes turned up.  He stuck his hand out and said, “My is name is Kaleem. How are you?”  I shook his hand and smiled, still anxious that I was late for my meeting.

BKS Iyengar believed, “the body needs tough love to be kicked into mindfulness.” Although, I think that everyday life will usually do it for us. Living downtown, we meet a lot of homeless people. We know their daily migration habits, which bus bench they will be sleeping on in the morning, and where they like to spend their afternoons.  We know which ones need new shoes and who just acquired a new rain coat. Occasionally, they ask for money, to which I always reply no, but I am happy to buy them lunch, their bus fare, water, etc. I will not, however, enable them to use money to buy drugs or alcohol to further aid in any more suffering they may want to inflict on themselves, but I am happy to help them with a hand up. Most of the time, they are not an annoyance, unless they are threatening me with harm. They are human beings who are a part of our community.

After shaking hands, Scott said, “he’s got a hell of a story.  Kaleem, will you share what you told me?”  He was proud to say that he had just started a new job a couple of days ago, hence why he was wearing his uniform.  He had gone to college after high school, but there were no jobs in his field, so he’d been living on the street.  Today, he needed $12, so that he could stay at the hostel, wash his uniform and take a shower.  It’d been a few days, and he was afraid that he was starting to smell so bad that they might fire him, but he wouldn’t get his first paycheck until the end of the week and couldn’t afford to lose the first job he’d had in nearly two years.  His eyes gazed down, ashamed that he couldn’t make ends meet, ashamed that I may be offended by his smell.

In my hurry of misappropriated priorities, Kaleem reminded me that being present for those who are suffering is one of the most sacred responsibilities we have as one another’s keepers.  I remembered that same look when I said goodbye to my father-in-law, so I broke my own stupid rule, reached into my wallet and handed him a $20 bill.  I probably would have given him more, but it was the only cash I had on me at the time.  So what if the story was true, or it wasn’t true, it was his truth and that was all that really mattered.  I hope the $20 gets him through to payday.  More than anything, I hope that he felt better knowing that someone listened, saw him as a fellow human being, and treated him with compassion.

Thank you, Kaleem.  I needed that kick back into mindfulness.

Quote of the Day: Frank Sinatra

“If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbors.”

Wonder when Chump will learn this….