HOW OUR BLOG BEGAN, in AUGUST 2010: As many of you know, Phil has been struggling with a very complex series of neurological issues for about 5 years. This past spring, the issues became especially intense as a result of an unexpected cognitive decline and a fall on May 15th that resulted in a head injury and further decline. And then, on July 16th things catapulted to unbelievable, as Phil suffered from a severe "electrical storm" in his brain that essentially created a status of brain death for two full days. Inexplicably, the very morning that neurologists and other medical team members were planning removal of life support, Phil began breathing on his own and his brain waves returned to a stable, while still abnormal, level. Since then, each day has been a unique journey. And while he and his body continue to demonstrate a will and capacity to live, he continues to have severe deficits and it is quite uncertain as to the path he will take. As loved ones close in can attest to, it has been tricky to keep up emotionally with all of his changes, and provide the needed support. We can only imagine the hard work Phil has gone through as his brain has taken him through such roller coaster experiences. It is our goal here to keep family and close friends apprised of Phil's ongoing story, and to build connections that honor him.

AND THEN, SEPTEMBER 11, 2010....Dad's remarkable journey alongside us culminated in a gentle, generous death.

And so, my goal here now as his daughter is simply this: to record snippets...pieces of his life that my memory offers back to me, pieces of myself as I learn to live without a dad. I hope all who meander by find life, and hope, and peace.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

a whole new world arrives at my door

this week i stumbled onto a new community that has already meant the world to me.  it's a place built for children who are learning to live with loss.  specifically, the loss of a brother, sister, parent, grandparent, or other key person who played a crucial caregiving role in their life.   drownings, alcoholism, heart attacks, suicides, car accidents, death.  death, death, and more death.  all these tender spirits who have sustained the crazy-heavy blow of loss.  Not just any loss, mind you, but loss of the one they relied upon for all of the basics of their life: food, clothing, shelter, love.  or in some cases, it is actually a cocktail of loss.  take one of my new friends for example:  at 13 she lost her grandfather who took care of her, because at 5 she lost her father, and at 4 she lost her mother. 

so many awful stories.  so much pain and sadness.  and yet, to spend time there is to feel this oddest lifting of the spirit.  when i'm there i find my insides fill themselves with hope, with goodness, with fun.  hard to imagine isn't it?  i guess you gotta see it to believe it.

its the online community of a not-for-profit group that puts on camps for children who are grieving.  pretty cool, what this organization has created.  and how it helps those kids. and their parents.  and the volunteers.  and me.

it's inspirational, in the largest sense of the word, to connect with these precious kids and young adults. to learn from them how to balance the past in all its frail glory into the future with its endless demands of growth.  they gather themselves together, and they do it.  they tackle their futures,  those countless big, first-time grown up things:  they graduate from high school, attend their first class at college, collect new boyfriends, buy new houses, walk down the aisle. birth their first child.  each and every new task that life brings to them, they do without their father.  or their mother.  or both.  their courage empowers me as i begin  to craft my dad-less frame of life.  their friendship humbles me.


not only have i started "friending" people, and creating updates and commenting on the forums and posting cool photos, but i've fleshed out my profile and created an awesome memorial page for dad (if i do say so myself).  and what's more, i've found a whole new way to honor dad.  i've begun to blog.  and as i write, i find myself almost supernaturally filtering my thoughts and feelings in a way that allows me so soon in my grief to avail myself to a kid who might be able to learn from the story i have to tell. it's the most remarkable thing.   i'm speaking honestly.  yes.  i'm honest, vulnerable, raw.  but the me that finds itself on the page is a PG version of me.  it's the same me that found her voice here, but its a gentler, softer me.  

wait.  you don't feel the wonder of this gift that has found its way into my lap?  well, then -- perhaps you've never stared grief between its beady eyes. 

grief, i am sad to discover, is a twisted, unwieldy beast.  it doesn't surrender itself to chirpy wishes or soften when offered a vanilla-flavored dose of vague sentamentality.  it refuses even to bend itself to a heartfelt desire to remember the dead through a pure and simple lens of kindness.  oh no.  grief is not generous, steadfast or warm.  it is a fickle friend, at best; at worst, it is that enemy you must keep closer than a friend. 

so now do you see the beauty of this thing?  i have found another safe place to share my pain.  as i enter the world of these courageous children and teens, i find myself able to use my words to connect.  i don't have to water down the cold, cruel facts of my heart and thus weaken my sense of the truth.  my spirit, on a path all its own, is softening the message to match the heart of my intended audience.  and because it is, i am free to fully connect with them.  my ugly scruffy grief, when brought to the place where children live, is willing to take a gentler stance.  all brutality is set aside as i paint for them pictures of my father.  and me as his daughter.  thank you, grief.  you nasty tender bastard, you.

if i've learned anything from my arcadia families and all my precious neices and nephews, i've learned that kids must be given the truth in a way that nurtures their unformed curves.  their tender developing selves cannot absorb a truth in a form that crushes or cripples.  Our imperfect stories -- yes, even pieces of our darkest, saddest stories, can and should be given to our children as humble gifts of love, but they can only be delivered in the best possible way.  life's hardest lessons colored in gentle, lighter, warmer shades of the harsh, original hue.  of course.  that's where we get baby blue.  and pastel pink.  and lavendar. and lemondrop yellow, and seafoam green.

*              *               *                *                *

so what to do with this space here?  well, perhaps, in order to keep this as my permanent dad memorybook, i'll reprint my Hello Grief posts here.  and perhaps, in keeping with the me that flows like an extension of my body the moment i sit down at this screen,  i'll attach a prefix or a postscript for you.  if i can, i'll add an unfiltered, true-blue take on the topics i'm tackling for myself and those brave souls in my new young world. 

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