By now you probably think I am preoccupied with death (this is my fifth blog). I’m not. I’m preoccupied with kindness. I talk about death because I am familiar with it. It happened to my son, my mother, my father, two of my best friends, and my husband. People I loved beyond measure. I talk about it, yes. I deal with it, because it is my experience. It is what I have to draw from; it is what I have been given, or what my soul has chosen as a vehicle to lead me to the gift the Universe had put aside for me. In my case, it was kindness.

I am getting mail now from people whose loved ones have died, and from people whose loved ones are about to die. Some are friends of mine, some I’ve never met. They have reached out to me because I am their sister. I am their friend. I am one with them, I am one of them. We are a tribe with a bloodline of pain. Nobody knows disbelief like we do. Nobody knows denial; nobody knows our distinct brand of devastation and anger. Nobody.

How is it, then, that I can stand here before you in public, and say what I know is true: that kindness is greater than all that? I can tell you that kindness is greater than death, because if it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here.

When death came to my son, I believed the Universe was a malevolent place, an arena of cruelty and indifference, with annihilation as its end game. Who deserves to die at seventeen? I had no reason to believe in life, until someone from long ago and far away came to me and told me a story. And I could no longer believe in death. I could only believe in kindness. For it was kindness that sent him, and kindness that made him come.

Listen to the first words he ever said to me: Beloved. Did you think our love had ceased to be, that we were gone forever because of the funeral pyres? Oh, no, Beloved. The fire did not consume us, nor could the desert wind and a thousand years keep us apart. Love is greater than fire, and wind, and time.

It was kindness that sent him, and kindness that made him come.

Letting Go


I have a cat named Dorian Gray. I didn’t get Dorian because I wanted a pet. I got Dorian because we live close to an open field, and I am afraid of mice. Dorian was a very effective deterrent. The mice stayed in their field, and Dorian attached himself to my husband, Bill. They would take naps together, watch football together, and look out his window together. I believe they were watching birds. He was Bill’s cat.

On the morning of August second, 2009, I was in the kitchen making coffee, when I felt an uncontrollable urge to leave the house. Bill was in his room, skeletal and frail with pancreatic cancer and the aftereffects of chemotherapy, unable to speak, unable to eat or drink. I hadn’t left his side in weeks. I hardly left his room to eat, or sleep. But this morning, it seemed as if I couldn’t make the coffee fast enough, get out of the house fast enough. Something was pushing me. I went into his room, bent over him, and said, “I’m going out for a while, Billy, but I’ll be back. And I’ll love you forever.” Why I added that, I don’t know. I kissed his forehead, grabbed my cup of coffee, and left him in the care of his sons, Patrick and Sean. My daughter Niki and I headed for the river, which is just at the end of our little lane. I hadn’t been outside for a long time. It was a beautiful day. We sat down at the river’s edge. Almost immediately, a mother duck and four ducklings came out of the water and came straight at us, not stopping till they were at our feet. “Don’t move,” I whispered to Niki. “She’ll nip you, with those babies around.” They nestled into the warm sand, hemming us in. We were all very still for a few minutes, and then, quite suddenly, the mother got up and waddled back into the water, her babies following. We were free to leave. When we entered the house, Patrick and Sean were standing in the living room, waiting for us. One look at their faces, and I knew. Bill had needed me to be away, so that he could let go. I couldn’t leave him on my own. Something kind and loving helped us both to let go.

Dorian is my cat now. He is a free roamer. I lost the battle of trying to keep him inside a long time ago. Most nights, unless it is raining, or very cold, I have to let him go, and every morning, I look for him at the back door, always a little afraid, always asking myself, “Is this the day he won’t come back?” He is a little older now, and has taken to lying on my chest, the place where the pain will be when he, too, is gone.

I still go down to the river and sit. I feel Bill there. And sometimes, Dorian sleeps in his window.




Infallible Signs




It’s raining again on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For weeks, we’ve slogged through one freezing deluge after another, but today, the rain is soft and warm. In my yard, there are tiny green shoots standing bravely between two large pine trees: Daffodils – a little speckled with mud, but there they are. They’re always the first infallible signs of spring in my yard. I still can’t get over how they do that every year. Come back, I mean. Of course, I should know better.

On the day my son died, there were azalea plants blooming on my windowsill. The rage and screams so shocked the tiny pink blossoms that, after a few hours, they had turned to brown tissue paper. I threw them away, plants, pots, and all. I didn’t know then that if I had only kept them in the sunlight, watered them, loved them, they would have come back, too; the roots were still alive. But I was too focused on death, too believing in it. I couldn’t feel the life that still existed in all of us – my son, the plants, and me. I believed we all died that day.

But life was resting in me, behind my heart, behind my grief, waiting for my winter to pass. My presence here is proof of that. What is it that refutes death? What is that thing that stubbornly, inexorably, rises out of winter’s grave to bloom again and again? It is life itself. That is it. That is all. That is all there is. And it resides in the spirit.

I grant you that there are times, when it is dark and cold, that we can’t feel it. That’s the way it was with me. It took another spirit, a Messenger, to help me feel it, to guide me through a cosmic keyhole into the past, so that I might see life outside of linear time, and know that it returns.

Outside my window, the brave little shoots stand in the rain, speckled with mud. But they will rise. They will be lifted by life into the sunlight, until they become like the sunlight itself: Yellow. Sunny. Infallible signs of spring.


Update: The Messenger is in the form of a printed copy and is now getting its cover done.

Nobody’s Gone for Good


Welcome again to my blog, Nobody’s Gone for Good. My daughter suggested that I write something every Sunday. As I said in my first blog, I am nothing if not obedient.

From my window where I sit to write, I can see the sky, blue at last, and the river in the distance, slowly thawing. A bit of snow is still on the ground. Starlings pick through the bits of grass that are showing. They are searching for grubs, and finding them, they whistle. Today, everything feels like a promise. Today, it doesn’t matter that the winter was long, cold, and dark. Life outside my window is not suppressed. It has not succumbed. My hyacinths are there, under the snow.

Still. There is death. There are those who have departed, and those who will depart. We cannot get around that. In a passage from my book, The Messenger, the narrator, Lukhamen, recounts:

I looked into their crucified eyes. I felt their ventricles flood, then pulsate! And when they departed the earth, their life flowed back into me, and I began to see, and hear! I was aware of the sun’s heat on the jasmine, insects so small as to be invisible, flitting on the surface of the glassy river, the brush of crepe flowers, lighter than air, on my face. That is what death had given me.

Death and the force and beauty of life in the same breath: The great paradox. I had to learn to see it that way. I had to learn not to believe in death. Not in its permanency. I had to learn that hidden in its dark corners is a gift. Hidden in its winter is spring. I had to listen to learn that.

Life has a voice.


The Messenger will be here, with my hyacinths. When it is available (it will be on Amazon), I will happily, enthusiastically, post it here and on Facebook.