Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It Comes In Three's

They say that tragedy or death comes in three’s.

The first call came Sunday night letting me know that a friend I had made while living in Asia, had past-on during the night. I was saddened to hear the news but knowing how much he was suffering from cancer thought heaven was a much better place for him to be than in his body. May he finally rest in peace
This morning I received word that my aunt has slipped into a coma after a year of battling lung cancer and a brain tumor. I was really saddened to hear this news because I had been thinking of and wanting to see her these last 2 months. It’s because of her that there’s music in my soul. She taught me a great deal about music and even introduced me to some great Jazz legends, like Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk. I can almost hear Billie’s Good Morning Heartache and Solitude in the background. They were two of her favorites. So as I pack up my portable player and Billie Holiday’s CD, I hope that I get to see her in time to say, Thank You and Good Bye.
To tell you the truth, I’m really praying for the old saying to be true: no news is good news.
Blogging and life will resume when I return. 

Friday, April 08, 2005


There are voices which come to me at the oddest moments. Voices from the past and of people I’ve known. I’ve heard reassuring voices of some of my friends who have past on. Mike’s voice has always been the loudest and strongest, and that’s probably because he’s the one I’ve known the longest.
His voice was there, as it had been many times before, affirming, assuring, nagging and promising me things would turn out alright. When I had no hope or faith, it was his faith that always carried me through whatever challenge I was facing. Overtime, I began to develop a faith and a hope of my own. His guarantees, were the reassurance I needed in order for patience to take hold and wait for the miracles to happen in my life.
It was Mike’s voice who hounded me every day for months, to get off my ass, start walking and get back in shape. He was a guy who could not stand flab in his loved ones. He knew that if he said it to me enough times I’d get tired of his nagging voice and I’d do something just to shut him up. It worked.
The first time I went out of the house in my running shoes I asked myself how long should I go for. Mike’s military voice chimed in, “no more than 40 minutes.” It was so authoritative I nearly stood at attention and saluted. As I began doing the conversion in my head of how far that would be, his voice came booming back, “that means every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow, until you start running again. EVERY DAY, No Excuses!” The marine in him was still coming through. So I followed orders. And as I climbed the stairs to my building at the end of that first walk, he was there. The hard slap on my back and the grip on my shoulder, that pushed me forward so hard I nearly fell, told me he was. His words came next, loud and clear: “You had a good start today. Now don’t give up”. He was a man of few but firm words, so I didn’'t give up.
In the last few weeks, Mike’s voice was overlapped with others. The voices of my track and volleyball coaches of years ago came back to help me remember all the things I’d forgotten: how to warm up and for how long, how many weeks to walk then jog before getting back into running; how to set small goals and once achieving them, how to move continuously forward to exceed them. Their voices were always there waiting for me to listen.
Now they are there every time I put on my running shoes, helping me figure out what my routine will be for the day, based on how my legs feel, the weather, and the time I have available. They are there as I gather my gear and subconsciously search the skies for an excuse to shorten my walk, that’s when they tell me they won’t accept any excuses, otherwise I have to drop down and give ‘em 20! I dare not roll my eyes at them or I know I would get slapped in the back of my head.
It’s their voices that tell me to shorten my stride and lean forward when I begin to climb the hill, while doing battle with the ice cold wind that pushes me back. That’s when Mike would chime in, “what’s a little cold wind in your face.” I hear the coaches guidance every time I get into a stretching position and feel the muscle resist my tug, while they tell me to hold and wait just a few more seconds, until the muscles finally give in. As I move from walking to jogging spurts, my legs begin to feel like cement and my shins begin to hurt. It's then that they remind I’ve gone through this worse - like right after my ski accident. As I push past the pain they smile, and I with them, knowing that I'm finally on the path again.
For the last few weeks they have all been telling me everyday not to quit in spite of the weather and slow progress. Whenever I’m dissatisfied with how far I have yet to go, they keep reminding me that I’m still moving forward and meeting my small goals. They reassure me, that as long as I don’t quit, I will not fail. I can tell their voices are here to stay, as they’ve been getting stronger and louder with each new day. All the while, Mike’s voice was growing quieter and slowly fading away..
In the wee hours of Monday morning, Mike came to me in my dreams once again. He had stopped by my apartment to have a heart to heart with me. He told me he was very proud and happy that I was finally coming out of my shell and into my own. Like an excited jubilant child I rushed to tell him all the wonderful things that were going on with me. He just sat there at the edge of the couch and smiled his big warm smile and said, “I know.” I smiled too, knowing that we knew each other’s mind and that he could finally see he didn’t have to nag or worry about me any longer.
As he got up he said: “well, it’s time for us to go.” Puzzled I slowly repeated: “us?” “go?” ”where?” He smiled once more and said: “You’ve done well kid! You’ll do fine. You can now take it from here.” After a very long silence I knew exactly what he meant, then he was gone.
In our 18 years of friendship we never said goodbye. We never needed to, because we knew we would be there for each other forever. When we first met, I was the reluctant fledgling he had taken under his wing. As I grew, it didn’t matter how far I’d gone, for we were always in each other’s heart. We were now able to leave each other and let go because he knew I had finally learned to fly. He had seen how an incredible new family had taken me under their wing and given me enough lessons to soar on my own.
Goodbye Mike....I will love you forever!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Requiem for a Friend

My post yesterday brought me back to a time when I first began to witness the first of many deaths in my life. The first being the relationship of my parents. By the time I was 14 the death of their marriage had turned into a festering cesspool of animosity, resentment and anger that made it a living hell to be exposed to and live with, let alone be caught in the crossfires. In retrospect, I now see that my parents had too much pain and anger from their own relationship, to realize they were hurting those around them.

Their behaviour caused me such unhappiness that I just chose to withdraw from the world. I was only present in body, while my heart and soul were cloistered in the sadness of watching the self-destruction around me. My diary was my only and constant companion, my confidante and friend.
Shortly after the start of a new school year I found my saving grace, it was a new classmate named Myrna, who had the face of an angel, and the most kind and loving heart I have ever known. We first met when she was assigned a seat in front of me during World Lit Class. She was funny, witty, and irreverent, and had such a great spirit that it was very hard not to be immediately drawn to her. We had 5 out of 7 classes together in which I always sat behind her. As she used to say in those days to coax me out of my shell, ‘it was futile to resist her charm, as we were destined to be great friends, so I might as well give into it and start talking to her because otherwise she would spread vicious gossip about me and make my life a living hell for the remainder of the year’.

She said it with such a playful style that I couldn’t help but laugh at least a half hearted laugh. Whenever I did that she’d say, “that’s it? that’s all you've got” and she’d mimic my weak laugh in such a way that it would make me laugh harder. From then on we were inseparable both at school and on the phone.
As time went on, we became so close we intuitively knew each others thoughts without even saying a word. We just as easily finished each other’s sentences as we did each others’ french fries. Whenever she went away to visit family she would write long and outrageously detailed letters with outrageously exaggerated descriptions of everything around her. As she wrote about people she would always give me hysterical personality portraits on their character that made me laugh though she was a million miles away. My writing always paled in comparison to the wild creative fantasies she produced on paper. She was my first writing companion and friend.
She became my safe harbor in an otherwise empty and stormy life. A firm anchor that would not let me drift away into darkness or oblivion. With kind words, a caring spirit and great humor she repaired daily the damage caused from the storms of the night before.
One morning I caught her crying hysterically in the bathroom before school. Though she denied it was serious and made excuses, I still remember the gut feeling I had that something was terribly wrong. She would not tell me of her pain and I loved my friend too much to press her. Things changed drastically in the subsequent days and weeks thereafter.
As time passed she became quieter and more isolated. Eventually she became so withdrawn that she barely spoke a word to anyone. There were times that I could sense so much pain within her that all I could do was put my arm around her as we walked home. We often parted with barely a wave. I understood the sadness she was feeling, but found myself helpless to do anything to change it.
By semester’s end she was as lifeless as I had once been. I reversed our roles in the hope that something I might say or do would bring about the same transformation she had created in me. I did everything in my power to cheer her up, to try and help lift her spirits but nothing worked.
One day she came to me somewhat altered from what had now become her quiet painful usual reserve. It was then that in a barely hopeful but resolved voice she told me she was running away, that she couldn't take the pain she was enduring at home any longer. She then proceeded to reveal the living tale of her hell on earth. She pleaded me to go with her. I hesitated and saw her crushed spirit. I promised to give her an answer in a few days for there was much to consider and plan if I agreed; there was destination, transportation, money, and the question of what we would do to survive once we got there.
She was insistent that she could not live one more day in that hell. I was as persuasive as I could be, giving her an infinite number of alternatives. When those were shot down, and her inner light began to dim, I promised her we could runaway together as long as she waited 3 days for me to get enough money and time to come up with a plan for our escape. She reluctantly For the next 24 hours I prayed that I could come up with a better solution than escaping our mutual hells by running away.
That afternoon I left school early and walked the entire 10 mile stretch home. I needed time to think about what to do. Like her, I felt there was no one I could turn to with this, but decided it would be worse to stand by and do nothing.
The next day, as I sat down in my homeroom, I found an envelope with a letter taped to my desk. As I opened it I knew it was a letter saying goodbye from Myrna. I had failed to convince her to stay and wait for my plan. It didn’t surprise me when the principle walked into the room, just as I was finishing the letter. He wanted me in his office because Myrna had been found behind the girls bathroom at the end of the volleyball field. She had found her own solution to her problem, she had hanged herself.
A few days later I received a letter from her along with the little money she had managed to save for her escape. In her letter she begged me and made it her last wish that I would set myself free and “never look back”. The day after my high school graduation I took that money, packed my bags and left for Europe. Heeding her words I have never looked back, until now.
I have never had another friend or loved anyone as much as I did her. Others have come close but I’ve managed to keep everyone at bay. You see, I realized last night that all my life I’ve been repeating the same pattern since her death, never really letting anyone get as close to me as she was. If anyone did enter my life it was to form a small bond, one loose enough for me to slip out of if necessary and not experience loss, should they not be in my life tomorrow.
I realized that since the loss of my friends on 9/11 I have not made one single new friend. I believe it was an instinctual reaction to such an unnatural and overwhelming loss. The thought of opening up, of caring or loving another human being was at first too burdensome. My heart was just too heavy with grief. As the grief faded, getting to know people was intimidating and terrifying. What was I afraid of? I was afraid of suffering another loss and feeling more pain. I felt as if I had lost my universe when my friends past on, and when the pain began to ease I didn't want to risk opening up old wounds. So I chose to live in an isolated, reclusive world. A world that though lonely, would be safe from risk of any hurt.
That’s how I lived until I was adopted by the most unusual and wonderful family. My blog family and some very amazing bloggers. A most unlikely group of wonderful, funny, quirky and caring people I’ve met in a very, very. long time. Just like my dear departed Mike did so many years ago, my blog dad, Harvey, and Sgt Hook, each put an arm around me and took me under their wing to bring me into this wonderful fold of digital friendship. This was something I could manage, people being as close to my computer screen but not close enough to risk pain or hurt. In time, I grew fond of their playful banter, fell in love with the object of their love, cried over their losses, beamed over their new beginnings and triumphs and almost daily, laughed a laughter not known to me for years.
In the last few weeks there have been a number of bloggers who have reached out to me in sincere friendship. I have to say thank you for doing so, it has truly touched my heart immensely. In essence you have all had a part in healing my soul. I now realize I could have never extended my hand of my own accord.
Writing and acknowledging all this has been part of healing my past. I realized in writing this post that I never would have been able to move forward if I didn't look back to see where my fear had originally come from and what had been stopping me all these years. In these last few weeks you have all done much to coax me out of my shell, by trying to move me from the digital to the real world. It's still a scary proposition but your collective love is so undeniably strong that I would now be hard pressed to live without it.
Besides, I have no choice in moving forward. I realized that if I don't comply Harvey, Tammi and the rest of my blog family and friends would only pick me up and drag me kicking and screaming to the next comment party with or without my consent. And the alternative, tormenting me with endless posts that are full of vicious lies for all the world to see, is now the greatest horror I could ever me.
To those of you who have sent me your phone numbers, shocker of all shocker, I will begin to use them soon. No time like the present to take action on moving forward. Please bare with me while I gather my courage though, some of you are rather daunting in your digital presence, I can only imagine you in real life.
Thank you all for being a part of my life and supporting my transformation. I could not have started this journey without you.
Posted by: Michele at 12:01 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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1 *sniff, sniff* {{HUG}} You madame are one hell of a person and I am better for having you as a blogsister.
Posted by: Machelle at April 01, 2005 08:14 AM (ZAyoW)
2 That's quite a post. I know a couple of people that have to read it. It's too bad we don't have any kind of VOIP software, it would be helpful for people to be able to talk with each other.... 
Posted by: _Jon at April 01, 2005 10:54 AM (R6yie)
3 I had to stop reading this halfway through and take a break before I could finish it, because I'm at work and I started misting up really bad and I have no kleenex. {hug} Have I ever told you how much I love happy endings? :-)
Posted by: Harvey at April 01, 2005 11:19 AM (tJfh1)
4 Though I come to visit, I seldom leave comments. I will today. I am a stay at home mom and usually have time to talk. If you ever need to talk, just call me. Send me an email and I'll send you my phone numbers. Or we can talk via _Jon's teamspeak or via Skype (you can also chat via Skype). I wish you the best. Harvey, Tammi, _Jon and all the rest are a wonderful, wonderful family.
Posted by: vw bug at April 01, 2005 12:06 PM (rhlNH)
5 That was a very nice post Michele. I can totally relate to keeping people at bay. I don't have any friends to speak of and I'm to blame for keeping it that way. I have numerous acquaintances but not really any friends. The last friend I had moved about 3 years ago and the one before that was about 10 years ago, so you can see I don't make much of an effort to "find a new buddy". Well, I'll start taking up your comment section if I keep talking about it...anyway thanks for the post, it reflects a lot of feelings I have.
Posted by: neonangel at April 01, 2005 02:29 PM (fJqkl)
6 Oh, that was beautiful. Sad, but beautiful. {HUG}
Posted by: Sally at April 02, 2005 09:14 AM (8Ef3q)
7 Wow. You have a true talent for writing. Please try and make it to the next family reunion. We would love to meet Michelle in the flesh! And I am sure the guys would love to "bare" with you. 
Posted by: TNT at April 03, 2005 10:23 AM (ubhj8)
8 I don't know if I could have survived, emotionally or spiritually, everything that you've gone through. I know that it took an event a lot less traumatic to put me in my own shell for a time. I also have a hard time keeping friends, (everyone always seems to move a way) so I understand how hard it can be to reach out to the next person. Any time you need a virtual hug, just ask. Anything more... well, I'm on the other side of the state, so it might take a little while to get to you. ;-)
Posted by: GEBIV at April 03, 2005 12:34 PM (vI2yr)
9 Doh! I forgot this! {HUG}
Posted by: GEBIV at April 03, 2005 01:05 PM (vI2yr)
10 I'm glad you are feeling like you can start to move forward...that's so tough! Your blog family is here for you....for any reason!! {Hug}
Posted by: Sissy at April 03, 2005 06:33 PM (PjqiK)
11 That was exceptionally moving and touching and a very sweet epitath to your friend, Michele.
Posted by: RP at April 07, 2005 09:40 AM (LlPKh)
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