Mortality is something I’ve thought about a lot this year. And when I wasn’t thinking about it, well…it’d come back and slap me in the face a few times to remind me it was still a thing that needed to be thought on.
This year taught me a lot about shutting up. Listening. Learning. I absorbed everything… the softness of baby cheeks, the rush I’d get when creating a song that enthralls me the more we write it, the indescribable beauty I see on every walk/road-trip/sunrise and sunset, the wrinkles in my Granny’s hands, the loudness & the ridiculousness of my family in a room and how I’ll laugh until I borderline pee myself, the heaviness and fluffiness of my 13 year old dog laying on my chest and remembering the good/bad/complete chaos of the last 13 years, stopping and actually smelling the flowers that are always waiting for me on the kitchen table when I get back to town. There was a lot of hurt, disappointment, and loss to take in too.
I’ll admit, I haven’t been as adamant about blogging as I was when I initially started this particular blog. I guess that’s life. At least, that’s what I chalked it up to… But what happens when that life is a lot more fragile than we ever care to admit to ourselves? It’s brutal when it shows it’s cracks…even more brutal when it shatters to something that feels like it can’t be salvaged. And most heart-breaking of all, is when it’s gone forever.
I love to write. A lot of people say I should be a writer, and not just of songs. It’s not that I don’t agree, I just always think that it’s something I’ll get around to. I have plenty of time for “side” careers. My story (or stories) will get written and it’ll be insane and hysterical and touching and heart-wrenching. Right now, I’m busy enough being a singer & songwriter, a big sister/daughter/Auntie to a rather needy (but hilarious) group of crazies, a mother to 4 dogs, a therapist to any girlfriend that calls on me for advice, and a somewhat sane girlfriend to the man of my dreams.
Writing can wait.
Babies can wait. (That one, I’m pretty sure can wait.)
Travelling can wait.
It’s not “the right time”.
The “right time” in 2016 has been showing up, even when it was beyond inconvenient, when I couldn’t explain it. When my head was convinced of one thing but my gut was telling me another, so I prayed to the sky that whichever way I proceeded didn’t completely #@*! up the course of life. Thankfully, the world did not end.
And now I’m sitting at a computer at 8PM on a Monday evening, the eve of Election Day. Thinking. Feeling. It’s never the right time to feel things and blog about things that are unpleasant. The Election is one of these things. Death is definitely one of these things. Don’t you worry, I’ll only be talking about the latter.
My last living grandparent turned 89 years old in August. Clearly anyone that knows anything about me knows that I worship the ground she walks on. My Grandpa (her husband) was my world when I was younger. He died unexpectedly in an accident when I was barely 6 years old. I remember everything about how they told me, where I was, the look on my Dad’s face… I remember the funeral and how I cried in the corner until the pastor came and found me, how I stepped on my Grandma’s toes when everyone stood in line to hug her after the service. I remember how strange and empty it felt to go to her house for awhile after he was gone. It was my first loss.
- A couple years later, my Mom’s Mom, my Nana, died from an unexpected blood clot during a hip-replacement surgery when I was 8. One day we were visiting her in the hospital and she was fine, the next day she was gone. She was the same height as me and I loved her. I can still put myself right back in her house, smell the food she was cooking, me clunking the keys on her piano by the front door. My mother has never been whole since.
- Nine days before my 9th birthday, my best friend died of leukemia. Followed by her father a few years later, also from cancer. I remember her birthday and the day of her death every single year. Any time I find an old photo of her, I treat it like gold.
- Around the same time, my Mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Joe passed of leukemia.
- My sophomore year of high school, my Mother’s father passed away in hospice. I remember the teddy bear I gave my Papa when he moved out of his house and into a home. I still have the rocking horse he made me as a kid.
There have certainly been deaths that have occurred in my life, in my family & friend’s life during those times and since then that have hurt like hell. But the ones listed above were the ones that were fundamental in shaping my understanding of death. More importantly, they shaped my understanding of God. Because there’s no way I could have comprehended anything about love & life, heartbreak & compassion, without praying & pleading to someone above.
So now here we are…
- My Granny’s oldest brother, my Great Uncle Wilburn, passed away this spring. It was divine intervention that I was in the right place at the right time to help her travel between Detroit and Tennessee. The decision to not drive her back to Detroit the morning I was supposed to will forever be chiseled in my heart. Her brother died that night.
- My mother’s brother, my Uncle Corky, died of cancer this summer. I didn’t see him all that much as I got older, but I remember his funny mumbles and his banter with the family growing up. I remember how cool I thought his basement was as a kid. The cathedral that his funeral service was held in made me nostalgic for my grandparents. All the Catholic services that I felt forced to attend as a kid suddenly seem downright beautiful to me now.
- Literally, one week later, my mother’s last surviving brother, my Godfather…Uncle Mike…was diagnosed with leukemia. I don’t remember the last time I cried so hard. This is my long-haired, Polish Superman. It’s been bad, it’s been good, it’s been us over-eating Polish food at his house last night. I’m optimistic because God told me to be. And I love him so much. And he will see me get married.
The last 2 weeks
- My sister and niece were rear-ended in a horrific-looking accident. One minute, she was calling me to ask if I wanted her to pick me up a few pumpkins from a roadside stand. A few minutes later, her car was totaled. Thanks be to God, no one was injured.
- I got the unbelievable privilege to see St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. I’ve played benefits for St. Jude in Nashville before. We’ve all heard the telethons & commercials for St. Jude…but nothing was like seeing it for yourself. Meeting the people that work there, the kids who are just the brightest of lights, and the parents of these kids who are doing everything to make their children’s light even brighter. It was beautiful. If a place like this exists and exudes nothing but hope…why can’t I.
- Someone that is like a second mother to me had a cancer scare a few weeks ago and surgery to remove a tumor. It’s taken awhile for the results to come back, so my chats with God have been pretty constant. We just found out today that she’s in the clear 🙂
And most recently…
I found out a couple days ago that a very close friend of 2 of my best friends (and newlyweds) died while deployed in Jordan. Staff Sgt.Kevin J. McEnroe was in the US Army Special Forces with Shawn. I remember meeting him casually with Kristine and Shawn in Nashville. They told me he had a girlfriend so I quickly got over thinking he was “the handsome friend”. A year or so later, I saw him again with his beautiful girlfriend at Kristine & Shawn’s wedding this September. We all danced and celebrated the night away. That was only 2 months ago. I’ve been praying for his family & friends and Kristine & Shawn so hard. Kevin’s sacrifice shakes me at my core.
It’s time we talk about Death. It’s time we talk about what we fear and what we truly dream for ourselves…openly and honestly. What we’re going to do with the life we still have while we’re still able to do something with it.
Not cliché quotes.
Not photos or hashtags or song lyrics.
What are you going to DO? What are you going to SAY? WHO do you want in your circle, standing with you? Who do you want to be NOW? Seriously. No bullshit.
After I click “Publish” on this post, I’m going to pray that I’m always awake to these questions.