Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Love is watching someone die"

The title is from the song "What Sarah Said" by Death Cab for Cutie. I've had it playing in my head for the last few days as I've sat and watched my Grandpa. My Grandpa is dying. It's hard to see him like this, sunken and fading. He's trying so hard to hold on. Willing his body to pump the last bit of life through his veins. It's hard for me to leave his side. Like someone should be witnessing his fight. Holding his hand. Feeling his muscles strain and his heart pull its beats.

We were never close in life. We were always pleasant with each other but no really deep connection was ever made. So I don't know why I feel the need to be so close to him now. He has so many loving people around him already, so he's not lacking anything. I don't think its that I want to be here when he passes. I know some of my family would really like to, but the idea of being there and feeling his last breath threatens to break me. Even so, i can't bring myself to leave.

Maybe part of it is that this is probably how I would have died if the doctors hadn't found out what was wrong with me. Grandpa isn't dying from anything in-particular, he's just shutting down. Like I was. Like I would have. I recognize his labored heartbeat. His tired breathing has threads of how mine used to feel at their worst moments. He clenches and curls up and it strikes a familiar chord in me. I never got even close to as bad as he is now, but i recognize it. Like I said, it feels familiar.

I guess I would have wanted someone with me in my final moments. someone who could understand what I was going through, even if its just a tiny bit. Maybe that's why I don't want to be anywhere but right here, with my hand on his, feeling his body strain to hold on. I heard once that ultimately, everyone faces death on their own. I guess I just want to make him feel at least a little less lonely.

I sketched him last night. I've never been good at portraits, and can only draw things that i really understand and feel connected to, otherwise the lines and the curves don't make sense to me. But I could yesterday. It's kind of sad, at the end of his life with his mouth open and tired eyes closed, and i don't know if it's appropriate to show people (After all, it's a sketch of a dying man), but it captures a very precious moment for me and i figure its safe here:

(I may upload a better scan of it later, this was just a photo of it taken with my computer's low pixel camera)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God or imaginary friend?

There is this gnawing thought that my subconscious been dodging for a few weeks now. It keeps clawing at me, trying to get my attention and I keep averting my eyes so that I don't have see it and consequentially, don't have to deal with it. The thought being this: What if there is no god? I've know for a while now that the main reason I believe in god is that I like the idea of there being a god. I like that there's someone out there that maybe cares about me. I like the idea of never being alone. I like the idea of someone knowing every thought that goes through my head and completely understands me and how I work. But to be honest these are the same reasons that drive a child to make up an imaginary friend. Sometimes I feel like that's what God is to me; an imaginary friend. Maybe it's the way I've come to see him. Somewhere along the line I defaulted to believing that he can't really effect much or offer anything beyond understanding, mental company, and vague comfort when I'm in need of it.

I've been raised from birth to see the world through the filter of "there is a god". Conversations, songs, sunday school, baby books, my entire upbringing has always been saturated with this tint of god-ness. I was driving the other day and had a moment where I could see the world without a god. It was almost as if the entire world shifted slightly so that it shone in a new light. It was simple, straightforward, and somehow painfully shallow with out some grand master plan guiding everything. It was also lonely because in that moment of paradigm shift, i was alone. No one was there listening to my thoughts. No one was there judging me, but no one was there comforting or loving me either. For a moment the world was clean and brilliant and clear and cold and big and it has bothered me since.

The fact that I see god as this imaginary friend has somehow become unbearably and glaringly obvious since that moment and I don't really know what to do about it. It kind of feels like looking at an old doll and wondering if you should toss it or if it will return to the life and wonderment that it did in your childhood. I don't want to loose my faith. Like I said, I like the idea of there being a god. It's just that for the first time, that reason feels like it's not good enough.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Confession

I'm having trouble with the idea of taking life back into my own hands. I'm trying, but it's hard and I'm tentative and unsure about every action. Part of me is always waiting for the repercussions of my actions to hit. I can't remember the last time I wasn't subject to the will of my body. If I wasn't weak that day, I would move. If my stomach wasn't nauseous or in pain, I would eat. If my body didn't want to sleep, I would be awake. I would take whatever break my body would grant me and be grateful for that. Never asking it for anything more because of the harsh punishment that would follow afterward in the form of pain and weakness.

Back then, every decision I made about my life and my actions were based on the avoidance of pain. But now that the scale is tipping, and I actually have some control back in my life. I'm finding myself sort of of overwhelmed by it all. I'm also ashamed to say that there have been a few moments where I find myself wanting to run from it all and curl back up in bed. At least there I knew a little bit of what to expect and knew how to handle the situations I came across. But these real world situations I'm starting to face about life, careers, friends, boys, moral complexes... they are harder and more unpredictable then I'd imagined. And I really want to be a good person. I want to make choices in my life that will lead me somewhere that I can be proud of. And I really don't want to screw any of that up.

Now, all that said, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love being stronger and I love that I've been given a chance to actually live life. I think I just wasn't expecting these darker emotions. The fear and the confusion. I don't think I ever factored them into the process of coming back to life and health. I always kind of assumed that life would make sense once I was healthy again, but I suppose I can't really expect it to be as simple as that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm lucky. I suppose some would call it blessed, but I don't think I'm quite at that point yet. I'm sure I'll figure that side of things out someday, but for now all I know is that I am so entirely grateful for the path my life has taken lately.

I stopped writing last year for a few reasons. One was that everything was changing so slowly for me without any notable event or revelation acting as a catalyst. Its only now that I can look back and see just how much my heart has softened and my anger has cooled. Another reason for my hiatus, is that it became too difficult to write. My brain was swiftly loosing the ability to string together coherent sentences even in normal conversation, let alone the task of writing and editing. So I faded. I curled up in bed and prepared myself for what I knew would be a slow and painful death as my body spent the next few months shutting down more and more.

But then I got... lucky (again, I don't know what else to call it). A new doctor offhandedly decided to test my vitamin D levels because people in the north tend to run a little low. We received a letter two weeks later with the results (which were shockingly low) and a prescription for a few high dose vitamin D capsule. Two days after taking the first pill the pain that had been my constant companion the last few years vanished from my muscles. I was in shock, refusing to believe that an answer could be this simple, this elegant. It all seemed too good to be true and I braced myself for the inevitable crashing reality of its eventual failure and the return of the pain. But it never returned. That was 5 months ago. 5 months I've spent holding my breath as I watch symptom after symptom improve then disappear. I felt muscles begin to return and move fluidly under my skin. I relished in the strength of my lungs as they breathed in and out with ease and felt the strong beat of my heart as it began to pump steadily in my chest. I began to trust the flow of a body that could heal, metabolize and move as life once again began to flow through my veins.

And Greg... even in death I could feel him by my side, reassuring me of his love. I don't know if he's the one responsible for finding my cure, but that doesn't really matter. Even if I had died I would have known that he loved me, and that was more then I could ever ask of him. I was grateful for that. I don't know when I started to believe so strongly that he existed, the whole past year and a half is a bit of a foggy blur. I know it happened slowly. I know love took its time. Fixing itself into the air around me, slowly saturating my skin and winding its way deeper and deeper into my soul till it became a part of the very cells that made up my being. I value that. I value what I've found. A part of me still mourns for the years that I lost and the pain that I've experienced, but I'm so very grateful for what I've found. As I've said before, I'm lucky.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Finding Some Faith

A few weeks ago i had coffee with a friend of mine who believes in god and the sovereignty of the bible, but has renounced god because he hates him and thinks god is mean. We were joined by his friend who is an atheist, and his sister who believes that god is the answer to everything and will take care of you if you just do everything he commands. I stat back and sipped my drink as the siblings argued over who was right and the atheist laughed at them for caring in the first place. I'm no debater, and i don't like to argue this kind of thing, so besides a comment every now and then I mostly just listened. And through the arguments and exasperated hand motions and sighs, something became apparent. No one cared about Jesus. No one even bothered to mention him. This bothered me because i had always liked Jesus, and I realized that through this big mess of my quest for god, Jesus had been my one saving grace. He was the reason i couldn't just dismiss Christianity. His complete grace and love for me was the one and only thing i trusted. Infact, all of the qualities I've been able to attribute to Gregory, were really just the one's I've always liked about Jesus. His joy, love, sorrow, how much he cared about me and would be beside me even when life hurt. As the weeks went on, it sunk in that some where along the line, i had found some faith. Faith that Jesus was good, and loved me, and the odds were that God was a lot like that too.

I don't know about heaven, i don't know about hell, or most of what is truly right or wrong in this world, or any other type theology, but i know that Jesus cares about me. I think I'll always believe that. And I really hope that's a good enough starting point.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Existential Dreaming

I tend to have weird existential dreams. Here's the one i had last night:

I was a criminal mastermind, caught, and being driven to where i would be put to death by electrocution. (Analyze that one freud!) I was keeping my composure, determined to stay cool and collected till the end, until the car turned the corner to the building where i was going to be put to death. To the right of me was a field of yellow wild flowers, and to the left, the cold stone building. Suddenly, all in one moment, the realization of death hit me. In a few moments, I was never going to see anything again. I would never feel, never smell, never breath, never think, I was never going to exist again. It paralyzed me. A cold sweat swept my entire body in an instant and I braced myself to keep from collapsing as pure, unrestrained, unescapable terror gripped me down to the deepest part of my core. A fear deeper and more real then i have ever felt before. The driver in the front seat asked me what was wrong and i looked up, regained my composure, and replied: "Nothing." And the car drove on. And the dream ended.

I always thought i would be ok with nonexistence . That i would welcome the idea of death being nothing more then the end of it all. No heaven, no hell, no anything. The atheist's paradise. Just dreamless sleep. But now that i know what that prospect feels like, it's one of the most terrifying hells i can think of.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stage Lights

I love the guitar. There's something spiritual about the sound of the pick striking the chords. I would always watch the guitar players around bonfires or up on stage and something inside of me would ache. I wanted to be up there. To strum and sing. Which is odd for me, because i hate being the center of attention. Infact i avoid it when ever possible. But over the last few months I've started to really play. Slowly laboring through chords and pitches, till i could play a few songs.

Last Friday I played two songs at an open mic night, and i realized why i have always wanted to play. The audience was surprisingly quite during my set. They usually talk as people play in the background, but they all kind of just listened and gave a rather decent applause (though maybe they were just being nice since it was my first time playing in front of an audience). But it wasn't the clapping or the attention that i will remember. There was a moment. There was one second that I stumbled over the chords, and then, with all the pressure off of trying not to mess up, i was able to fully enter the song. I closed my eyes, felt the lyrics, the lights, the slight echo of my voice as it traveled through the speaker overhead.

I normally listen to music when i feel alone. Even if I'm not physically alone, there's places in me, experiences, thoughts, feelings, that i can't invite others into. I would listen to my favorite song, and they would be with me in that place and i wouldn't feel so alone anymore. But there on stage, i let go and invited an entire room of friends and strangers to join me there.

I'm not going to lie, there is a side of me that liked the applause, liked the attention, but i loved, loved, loved, the intimacy. I really want to play more.

Friday, April 11, 2008

No prayer in sight

So, I haven't been praying. I haven't for months. I just stopped. I don't know if it's because I got so tired of getting my hopes up only to be let down, feeling selfish and whiny asking for stuff, maybe i just didn't believe it really did anything or just wanted to spite a good that i hated. Maybe a mix of all four. Anyway, in my months of silence, i forgot how to pray. I can't bring myself to ask for help, or comfort or peace, or healing. The only prayer that has left my heart was one night when i was feeling more despondent then usual, I looked vaguely into the distance and in an unsure and faulty voice asked, "Gregory, um... if your really there, it would be really great if you could come find me."

It hasn't been hard not to pray. Except for in the beginning when i was looking for a parking spot or hoping something would come out in my favor, i would default to it before thinking, and just roll my eyes in frustration at my own brainwashed self for slipping back into old patterns. But the last few days it was so hard. I wanted to pray. I wanted something bigger then i was to come in and fix things. To help me. I found out that the doctor i was seeing had to give up his license for the next few months because of legal trouble at his office (he's a good guy, just in a bad situation with people that want his head.).

A few days before this, I had gone to refill of my prescription using my new insurance and found that it only took a few dollars off my $50+ dollar bill, and i once again had to use my parents money to pay for it. They don't mind, but it bothers me. But I had car payments coming up for my car, and the fact that i probably wouldn't be able to sell it till summer was depressing. I'm not able work much because of my health, so as long as i had the car, all money i made went to paying for the payments and the insurance for it.

But the doctor thing bothered me the most. I was right in the middle of this new treatment for my thyroid using strait T3 hormone replacement, and the next time i saw him, he was going to do some tests to officially diagnose me with CFS. And since his license was gone, all my prescriptions and refills were no longer legitimate. I was scared. He was the first doctor i met that listened to me. That believe me. And now he was gone for who knows how long. So you will forgive me for my temporary weakness to desire for something bigger then i was to come in and make it all better. But i couldn't. I had promised myself that i would see what life was like without prayer. You see, my car selling was the first important event that i wanted to see how it turned out without the request of divine interference. And my health... well i just don't ask for that one anymore. So I didn't. I spent the next few days forcing myself to keep silent, scared to death about how the future would turn out.

Two days ago, I talked to my old doctor's office and got a list of referrals for doctors in PA and found one that said he could pick up where my old doctor left off. It sounded good, and it just helped to know that I would be taken care of. And he's actualy only and hour and a half away. Before i was driving 3 hours almost once a month for appointments. So that will actualy be rather nice! I go see him at the end of this month, and I'm still scared that i won't like him, or that he won't be as good as my old doctor, but i think it will go well. And it's just nice to know that there is someone there to help me.

The next day, my car sold. I had it up on cars.com, but hadn't ever received calls on it. But yesterday a gentle man called up and and asked to come look at it. Later that day, he told me he wanted to buy it! I'm so relieved. Without car payments any money i make goes to me. I can save up, i can spend some money to do fun things or buy some new cloths for the summer! I can start paying my parents rent so i feel better about staying in their home. i don't have to worry if i get enough work to cover me for the month. I'm so very glad.

So, all this without praying. But i wasn't feeling cocky like i had accomplished it. I know I hadn't. It had just happened and I was so grateful to have all if it off my shoulders. I prayed for the second time in months. I stared at my shoes trying to get everything i was thinking and feeling together so i could put it into words that i meant. I began to speak, "Greg, i don't know if your real or have anything to do with all of this but.... if you did, then thank you. I appreciate it."

It's so odd. If Greg is real, I don't think he's the type that you simply go to and asks for things. If i had to sum up what i felt about him during the last few months, and especially the last few days, i would say that it felt like he's the type that would be with me during it all. Not making things turn out in my favor per-say, but instead being there beside me and experiencing everything with me as it came along. I think he would be the type that even if nothing good had happened this week and everything fell to pieces even more, he would still be with me during that as well. Crying during the heartbreaking and hard parts, and smiling with me when happy things came along. Not really in control of what happened, but very much being there and being himself no matter what the circumstance. And that is something I like very much.