La Vie En Rose

Grieving the death of a friend: Sadness

Yesterday I let myself be sad. ūüė¶

Today I don’t know what I’m going to do.

My friends reached out to me yesterday and we ate lunch at City Market. On my way over I kept seeing people carrying bouquets of flowers. There where two women on Monument Circle handing out bouquets. When I passed them they called out, saying I looked like I could use some flowers. No, I looked like death. My face was a brownish grey and my hair was undone.

They handed me two bouquets and said I had to take one and give one to a friend. I sighed and took them. Down Market Street I carried them and saw the homeless woman who sits outside of Starbucks. Someone had already given her one.

I crossed Pennsylvania Street and saw a homeless man in a wheelchair. What could he do with a bouquet of flowers? Perhaps my friends at City Market would want them. After all they were grieving Johnny’s death too. So I continued down Market Street until I heard the music of a saxophone coming from the street corner. A man in a long sweater was playing a gentle melody. As I drew near he stopped and began to warm his hands.

I looked up as I passed him, “Thank you,” I said, “that is so beautiful.”

His face lit up as he told me,”Your smile is so beautiful.” I didn’t blush or feel embarrassed. I nodded and continued walking, cradling the two bouquets that were growing heavy in my hands. I crossed Delaware street and thought to myself, Life is okay. I will never again see the world through rose colored glasses, because this world has death in it. But, la vie en rose is a world without death, a place where pink clouds sail on the shores of eternity.

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Grieving Sucks

Processing the death of a friend: Depression

There is no hope in death, not on this side of heaven. I don’t want to admit my sadness, but it’s there. I suppressed it for the first week after Johnny died, but it’s like an inner tube that you push down into the pool. No matter how long you hold it down it’ll eventually come up.

So today I’m accepting the sadness. Admitting the feeling that says “I hate this. There is no hope, there is no joy, and at many times there are no words.‚ÄĚ

No words? For a writer who can always express how she’s feeling through the twenty-six letters on her keyboard, this is uncomfortable. Yes, no words.

My eyes are heavy.

My heart sinks.

Grieving sucks.

The Night You Died

Processing the Death of a Friend: Reflection

I close my eyes and see your mother’s face. It breaks me. Her lips are trembling, her eyes well with tears. We walk into the hospital room and I sit down. I try to keep it together as my parents console yours’. I think of your body that’s in the other room, and your soul that’s up in heaven. Can you see us?

I close my eyes and cry.

I see my mother sobbing. She breaks down, cupping a hand over her mouth. I cannot watch. Your parents leave the hospital with your wallet in a ziplock bag. My heart sinks, my breath grows short. I cannot bear it.

Your father is looking up at the stars as we stand outside the hospital. The sides of his mouth are turned up as his searching eyes behold the heavens above. I feel calmed.

There is pain in the death of a friend. Pain in seeing the grief of others. But I find comfort in the truth that God knows our deepest needs and how to fulfill them. I cannot comfort everyone who is hurting. I rest in the knowledge that God can comfort them.

 

 

The Other Side of Heaven

Processing the death of a friend: Hope

I know where you are.  In this I take comfort.

IMG_1116

A photo he took when we went boating this summer

I sat on the back deck of my house this morning, looking up at the sky. I’d come out to read my bible and journal, but all I could do was just be. It was divinely beautiful to see the sun coming up and the clouds scattered over the wide open sky.

There is peace in the death of a friend. Peace that comes from the knowledge that he is okay. For so long I was concerned about his well being probably since we graduated high school, or was it when we started high school, or maybe before that when I realized he took it upon himself to look out for me. Now, those concerns are put to rest as he is put to rest.

We are all searching souls on this earth, looking for satisfaction that cannot be obtained. Not until we part with this world do we experience true fulfillment, completion, and satisfaction. I use to think that knowing Christ was the ultimate fulfillment, but as Christians we still have to deal with this world and all of its problems. On this earth we will always, always yearn for more.

I wrote about this longing a few weeks ago. And now that a close friend has reached the other side, I feel like heaven is that much closer. Not only will I think of heaven when I see the sunsets or the clouds above me, I will think of heaven when I think of Johnny and how I long to be there with him.

There is peace in death, for death has been defeated.

Processing the death of a friend: Part 2

I remember stopping by his coffee shop after I’d graduated college. It was the first time I’d seen him since probably Christmas. I told him I was looking for a job and he said they were hiring.

I ordered a strawberry smoothie and he walked me to my car. We walked slowly down the avenue and I asked how he was doing. He said he was at a point in life where he’d done everything he wanted to do, except for beating his dad at golf. I stood there astonished. Could he really be serious? At twenty-two he’d done it all?

Meanwhile I felt I was just getting started. Finally done with school and free to start looking for jobs, I was ready to start living. Finally home in Indianapolis I wasready to reconnect with old friends. We walked up the damp stairs of the parking garage and I remember thinking how glad I was he’d walked me out, especially when I saw the homeless man sleeping beneath the stairs.  Looking over the edge of the lot we saw the iconic Saint Elmo’s Steakhouse, an historical Indy restaurant. He said we should hang out more often and that he’d vouch for me if I applied to be a barista too.

***

A year later we happened upon that same spot. Overlooking the streets near the Saint Elmo’s Steakhouse. We’d gone out for my birthday and the night was over. Our legs had carried us all over town and somehow brought us back to that spot.

“Johnny,” I said, in disbelief. “Can you believe where we are now?”

“Yeah,” he breathed in a gentle laugh.  “I was just thinking about that.” He was sporting an enormous mustache, something I attributed to his coffee shop life.

In just a year things had really changed. He’d landed a barista job at his favorite coffee shop, Quills — a place known for its distinct latte art. And I was working a salary job as a writer.

***

Memories are a gift in these devastating times

 

 

 

Processing the death of a friend

Words are my muse.

If you’ve read my blog before, you understand that I process life through writing.

Less is more.

It’s what they teach you in school. It’s what they teach you in the professional world of marketing and communications.

I never knew my life could change forever with the utterance of two words.

I’d been praying for him. I prayed that he wouldn’t be afraid. The car was off. I answered the phone and all she uttered was those two life changing, painfully scary, unreal words.

“John Died.”

I felt nothing but pain. Red, hot, flashing pain in my head as I sat in the driver’s seat of my Toyota Corolla weeping so horribly loud. The words made no sense. Those two should never be put together.

Not John. Not my friend John who just a moment before was said to be in the ICU.

So sudden. So final.  So unreal.

How can two words change everything?

400 words on contrast

I like to walk through the city on my lunch.¬†Yeah I’m sort of a loner sometimes.

It’s only lonely if I consider what other people think of my lonely self. But usually I enjoy the silence and let my thoughts take off to interesting places.

I was thinking today about the diversity in my city. Not just racially, but the sheer contrast of different types of people.  My inner cinematographer wanted to capture it on film and play it to some hip hop music with a person rapping about the differences in humanity.

Oh, if I’d only studied film.

In art school they teach you that one of the key elements of design is contrast. If art is beautiful, and design produces art, then contrast is beautiful . . .  even in humanity. Design is a combination of lines, shapes, colors, textures, repetition, and . . . yes, contrast.

Contrast is my favorite element of design, because it appears in variations.

Today I saw the concept of contrast from a sociological aspect. Humans contrasted with humans. This indeed is diversity. And this is good.

So, I sometimes struggle with understanding why diversity is good. More ingredients make the soup taste better right? But sometimes those ingredients just don’t go together.

I would say the root of a lot of societal issues comes from diverse people groups cohabiting. There’s a reason Toads and Tortoises swim in different seas. Of course there’s the truth that all people are inherently bad, and from a Christian perspective, need saving. But how do you explain the comfort that comes from like-mindedness?

I use to write about diversifying friend groups. I pushed for more variety, saying people should mix with other ethnicities, in other words stop hanging out with people who resemble you. Then I began to see how hard this really is. I realized that I myself didn’t feel comfortable around certain people. I started to wonder if people of the same ethnicity, background, and language, should just stay together.

Different is never comfortable.

But wherein lies the beauty of contrast when all the same birds flock together?

I think it helps me, as an artist (who feels emotions to the tenth degree and struggles to maintain even the simplest feelings) to see diversity as human contrast. There is a beauty in this, especially when no one is domineering the other, when both are valued and equal.

Enough said.

This Side of Heaven

Longing for more

A golden sun gleamed through the passing buildings this morning. The pink pastel clouds on the horizon smiled as the sun touched them softly.  It was the type of morning that is somehow sacred, set apart and simply beautiful.

 

I imagined being a photographer and crouching down in the weeds of a roadside park to capture the brilliant sunbeams shooting through the city. Yeah, my fantasy photographer self is much more adventuress than my actual self.  But anyways, I thought about how a photographer can capture a morning like this but she can never create one. You know how the weather guys can predict the forecast and the hipster young people in my neighborhood can dress for it. Well, who is the one that sets the sun in the sky? Who calls it from its slumber to slowly rise?

 

Yeah, you’re following my drift. So why was I thinking about God?

 

I read a blog post from my friend Ana Harris. She’s a blogger recovering from chronic pain. Ana often writes about her body and something she mentioned recently was about our bodies on This Side of Heaven.

 

It may sound silly but when I saw the beautiful sunrise this morning, I felt this indescribable feeling. Was it happiness? Was it joy? Was it sadness? Was it fear? Was it . . . . . . yes. It was that.

 

Longing.    Yearning.    Wanting.    Waiting.    Wishing.    Hoping.

 

What I saw seemed like a glimpse of the other side. I know the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Even now we live in the presence of God. But the frustrating thing about life is that there are so many bad things going on around us. And we are both the instigators and the victims of these grievances.

 

A word on feelings. When I was fighting depression a few months ago, I withdrew from reality. I stopped feeling emotions¬†and simply lost the desire to exist. I remember forcing myself to smile, hoping to trigger that thing called dopamine¬†in my brain that, so I’m told, is really what makes me feel happy.

 

When I wasn’t forcing a smile, I remember somehow enjoying a state of mind that pulled me out of reality. I liked it there, for reality was nothing but fear, anxiety, and sadness.

 

To feel nothing seemed a better alternative.

 

Now that I’ve come through those dark months, I still have that sense of longing. But it’s a healthy longing. One that says “I know I’m here for a time and a purpose, but still I can’t wait to be there.”

By the time I got to work the sunrise was already losing its magic. I crossed the street from my parking garage to my office and wanted to stop for a moment and look out into the horizon at the rising sun. I wanted everything to freeze right where it was. The warm air, the sun beams, the crowds, the cars.

How long must we be on this side of heaven?

 

 

The Unmarried Professional Amidst a Host of Pregnant Mothers

Baby talk. It’s something I’m not very good at. Parts of it, I’ll admit, are interesting. But babies are not my life right now. And so I honestly don’t know how to engage in such conversation.

Last night I sat with a group of mothers and soon-to-be mothers listening to them talk about pregnancy and babies.

They discussed which doctors they were seeing and which hospitals they had chosen. They went on about cravings and morning sickness. Then we moved to sympathy weight that the husbands were gaining as the wives were growing bigger. The mother who already had a child, talked about sleep schedules. There are certain techniques like feed, sleep, play, feed, sleep, play. Others nurse their child to sleep which in often frowned upon. Then we discussed where to shop for maternity clothes and how to approach a winter pregnancy as apposed to a summer one.

This went on the entire night and I sat silently realizing how removed I was from this demographic. Was I really much different? Although these women only had a few years on me, I experientially had nothing to say. We live in the same city, shop at the same grocery stores, watch the same movies and attend the same church. How can our lives be so drastically different?

And so in the dim light of a backyard barbecue, with the husbands of these wives playing corn hole next to a dying bonfire, I made a conclusion. A stay-at-home mom and an unmarried professional have actually nothing in common other than perhaps the desire to be known, recognized, and appreciated.

It was boring, if I’m honest. And it was sad, if I’m pathetically honest. Why don’t I have a husband to fight with over the name of our unborn child? Why don’t I have a baby growing in my stomach? Why am I forced to support myself, pay my own bills, and cook, clean, and shop for myself? These unwanted thoughts entered my mind as the evening progressed.

I learned a lot of new things from these women. Important things I suppose. But impractical things. Is it practical for me to know that at 32 weeks I shouldn’t travel more than an hour away from my hospital? Well, not at this point.

How to make conversation with a group of mothers? Maybe once I figure this out, the answer will be in my next blog post. Or something along those lines.

I’m not from Ethiopia

I was in the library only ten minutes before he found me. He was a complete stranger playing the part of a typical African man.

Forthright

Interested

Observant

There is something admirable about African men, but sometimes their abrasiveness is befuddling.

“Hello, can I ask you a question?” he said, pulling me out of a late afternoon daze.

He leaned over me, resting his hand on the chair beside me. His mouth spread into a wide grin revealing a collection of teeth so white they could have been fake. His curious eyes, rich and dark, begged the question before I consented.

“Sure,” I said, too tired from a day’s work to feel threatened by this dark-skinned man.

“Are you from Ethiopia?”

“No, are you?” I asked.

I was surprised at my own question. Probably because I don’t usually flip it around that way. More often, I play stupid and pretend I don’t in fact resemble an Ethiopian woman.

“Yes,” he nodded still smiling with those perfectly straight teeth and his bright eyes telling me I reminded him of his home country.

“Which city?”

“Addis,” he said, barely audible.

“Addis Ababa?” I reiterated. For some reason I wanted him to know I was familiar with his country, that I knew the capital and furthermore, with a small portion of my monthly income, I sponsored a six-year-old boy from this part of the world.

“Yes,” he assured me. “Addis Ababa.”

“How long you been in US?” I asked, letting my English grammar drop a little. It’s a regular occurrence when I talk with internationals. For some reason I mirror their vocabulary in attempts to find common ground. I know, it’s weird.

“Five years.”

“When will you return?”

“After graduation.”

He asked if I was a student.  I told him I was studying for my Masters. He was pursing a PhD in economics.

Ambitious.

I let my eyes drift back to my computer screen. Still, he stood there looming over me as I waited for the mouse on my screen to stop spinning and log me in already. Slow internet.

“My father is from Rwanda,” I noted, casually, as his searching eyes continued to stare.

“Rwandans look Ethiopian,” he said.

I would disagree. Rwandans look Burundian even sometimes Somali. Rwandans have dark skin and tightly curled hair. Hmm, well maybe not all of them. And their accent. Well, their accent is much different.

But I didn’t say this. No, I nodded politely and began to wonder why this man approached me from across the library to ask if I was from his country.

“I don’t usually meet Ethiopians in Indianapolis,” I told him.

“Yes mostly you will find Eritreans,” he agreed.

So we conversed for a brief moment in the quiet of a university library over my commonly mistaken ethnicity. But I decided not to be annoyed, and instead to accept this reality and make the most of it. We exchanged names and he left me to stare at my reflection in the glass computer screen and wonder what it’s like to be white.