I am deeply regretting not getting a flu shot this year. I have had the flu basically for all of 2015, but it’s not the virus that wrecks my body. It’s the Auto-Immune fallout that is kicking my ass. Any little bump in the wellness road wakes up my “Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement” and it gets very angry. No matter how hard I try to get it under control, I’ve learned I can do nothing but ride it out. It has only taken me 14 years to learn this.
I’m a slow learner in the book of self awareness.
Evidently physical illness is not going to be the only beezy in January either. Normally I sail through this time of year on the calm waters of ignorant bliss. Totally unaware of what the end of January is the horrifying commemoration of until it is passed and I can once again thank my self protective subconscious for doing a bang up job in getting me through.
But not this year.
This is the first time in forever that despite the 13 years that separate the events, time is flowing toward the anniversaries of both my Father and Sister’s suicides in the same week.
Normally I sail fast and smooth like a schooner in 10 knot winds, just lay back and nap with my subconscious at the wheel and before I know it I awaken to February.
This year I woke up and the storm is in full gale at 70 knots, and my subconscious has abandoned it’s post at the helm. I am heading into rough waters which are so dark I dare not gaze into them.
I suspect a perfect storm was brewing inside my vulnerability from both the physical aspect of a battered body and the mental aspect of being cut off from all human interactions due to my self imposed quarantine to contain this beezy of a bug.
My husband quit asking how I felt 2 weeks ago, which is a bastard thing to do since he gave me the flu, but I forgive him because he is keeping me fed. So I have been sitting here in my head for two weeks which I can tell you is a dangerous place to be under the best of circumstances.
It was during this time when I was distracted with my Auto-Immune engine failure in my little boat of a body, that the perfect storm hit with such a huge wave of conscious realization that I didn’t have time to batten down the hatches. It struck me so completely and violently that I was left struggling to catch my breath and reeling with pain.
I have been here before though.
On my first voyage I was sure that I would sink and never be found. That the dark waters would swallow me whole before I even had the ability to send out an SOS. Terrified, alone, helpless, confused, mute and running blind, it wasn’t until I reached the other side and back into calm waters that I realized Jesus had been at the wheel all along. Why do I always forget that?
But he knows I do.
After my Daddy’s untimely death in 1988, not only was I wracked by a raging sea of grief, but the added anguish of not knowing what happens to a soul of suicide seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.
Is it robbed of it’s place in eternity because of a moment when it lost all hope? My Daddy was a good Christian man, was I to believe I would never see him again because he defied God by choosing the time to be freed from his broken mind? Would he be forever damned because he felt he could no longer bear the weight of his shackles of depression and commuted his sentence here on Earth?
Even after I donned the everyday coat of grief and set about going through the motions of life, the deeper darker issue haunted me. I dared not ask the question of the final destination of a suicide soul out loud, I was either terrified of the answer or that my fragile psyche would be put on display to be judged or damaged beyond repair.
And so I spent the first years of my Daddy’s suicide in this unchanging state of agony. I did not blame God, I did not blame my Daddy, I blamed society for applying such an unforgiving stigma on suicide that the survivors are left in a collateral damaged fugue state to fend for themselves.
When people asked how he died, I would vaguely reply that his heart had failed, because it tends to do that when you shoot it with a .45 caliber pistol. I would just leave that last bit off. Most wouldn’t pry for details because of my obvious sorrow.
I was caught in a viscous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” loop that was eroding my sanity in agonizingly slow motion. Robbing my sleep of any peace or restoration. Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy?
So my soliloquy begins with the message sent to me from the other side of the veil to answer that question, a message so impossible to believe, but leaves no room for doubt. A message delivered in a bottle, because the bottle does not create the message, it merely is a previously empty mode of delivery.
I had gone to Oklahoma in 1991 to meet the husband of my half-sister, the other child he had after my Mother brought me back to California at 6 months old and he remarried the Step-Monster. We are only a little less than 3 years apart in age, but since we were not raised together (and in fact she did not speak to me for the entire year I lived with them when I was ten because she so resented having to share him with me) we are worlds apart in all other ways.
Luckily as adults we rose above the resentment thing and are still very good friends.
Back in 1991 she was the only other person on Earth who could share the grief of what we lost. His babies. That’s what he called us. There is a kindred ship of souls that are wrecked. Misery doesn’t love company, it just recognizes it when it sees it and gravitates toward what it knows. I am still the only person she will speak of him with. Even then she can only mutter a few sentences and she’s done. While I sail on the waters of despair to find the calm, she is marooned on an island of fear.
I had been there a few nights of the week that I would spend when she came into my room and sat on my bed. All of these things are out of character for her. She’s not an intimate communicator, and is profoundly respectful of other people’s privacy.
I sat up and waited for her to gather her courage to tell me what was so important that she would so utterly abandon her comfort zone.
She couldn’t look at me and spoke slowly and deliberately, I could tell it was hard for her. She said she had to give me a message that Daddy had sent to us just a couple of months before I arrived.
WTHeck? A message from the great beyond? Really? She is uber pragmatic and to have this coming from her lips was quite surreal. But I dared not speak for fear of stopping this reluctant flow of information. By the time she was done, she had been so thorough I had no questions. It went like this…
She said that she was awakened in the middle of the night by the coldness of the body of her husband lying next to her. He was under the covers, but his body was as stiff and cold as a cadaver. She shook him but he was unresponsive. She jumped up and shook him again while shouting his name, her panic raising to a point of hysteria within seconds of the first shake.
She reached for the phone with one hand while shaking him with the other when she felt his body immediately become warm and he began to rouse himself as one does when trying to awaken from a deep sleep.
When he opened his eyes they were filled with terror, and his skin became wet in a thin but distinct sweat. She asked him if he was ok, assuming he had suffered some sort of seizure or extreme night terror, and asked him if she needed to call 911.
He said no, but give him a minute to compose himself. She left the room to get him a glass of water, and by the time she came back he was sitting up in bed. He told her he had an experience that was going to be hard to explain, but was imperative that he try.
He said he was asleep having some sort of dream when it was interrupted by being awakened and floating above himself where he saw my sister and himself sleeping peacefully in bed. He was frightened by what was happening and tried to wake himself up, but couldn’t.
This is normally where I would check out and express skepticism, but I stayed silent.
She continued on. Her husband was instantly transported to a dark place with dense fog and a long corridor he was compelled to go down. He didn’t want to go down it, he was terrified but was helpless against whatever force was controlling the experience.
He walked down the corridor a long time until it opened up onto a very small dock. The fog was gone and it was a clear starry night on a dock by the sea. He could smell it. He could hear the water lapping against the dock. There was a young man of about 20 years old in a vintage Naval uniform standing there who held out his large and uniquely lined hand to introduced himself as soon as my half-sister’s husband stepped out of the corridor and onto the small dock.
The young sailor introduced himself as the Daddy of the woman my brother-in-law had married. Her Daddy. My Daddy.
I was stunned at this, but continued to hold my tongue. Just barely.
My brother-in-law could not speak, but the sailor obviously was not expecting him to because he did not pause once the introduction was made. My Daddy went on to say that he had two Babies, he had another one in California.
My Daddy continued on in his signature amicable style (to know him was to like him) by saying that he had spent quite a bit of time on that dock and that his ship was finally coming in, but before he sailed he had been granted the rare opportunity to send his babies an important message.
Daddy’s message was this; he had been forced to wait on that dock until the time of his natural death. The never ending starry night by the sea until the ship to pick up his soul and transport it to it’s final destination finally arrived as originally scheduled. Jesus was finally coming to lift him up out of the dark into the eternal light…but it was imperative that the message get to his babies to not do this. No matter how bad or hopeless things may seem, we cannot and must not do what he did. Daddy told him to take care of my half-sister and to tell his baby in California that he loved her always.
My brother-in-law shook his head affirmatively, and then my Daddy turned toward the ship of lights which was coming into the small harbor and illuminating his peaceful face. It was when Daddy turned that he let go of my brother-in-law’s hand and in the same instant he was being shaken awake by my half-sister.
Her story didn’t end there. She was stricken by this and demanded to know how he would know what Daddy would look like. Daddy had taken his life on the very night he had moved into the new house he had built for the Step-Monster, long before my sister had ever met her would-be husband. The photos of him had never been unpacked.
After meeting her husband to be in the year after Daddy’s death, she had never spoken of him, much less shared a photo. Her husband had never spent time with any of her family alone where a photo or conversation could have been shared without her knowledge. He didn’t care for the keeper of the box of photos anyway…the Step-Monster. Huh, what a surprise.
In the weeks that followed my half-sister became obsessed with determining if the experience was really a message. She was aware of the physicality of it by what she had seen herself, but that could of been just a strange physical manifestation of a dream.
She asked friends to give her photos of men in uniform from about the time my Daddy served in the Korean War on a battleship. She showed them to my brother-in-law and every time the answer was no. Her husband went on to say that his hands were large and unique. He described them in detail which sent my sister into fits of crying because they were her Daddy’s hands. She wouldn’t tell him that though. She wanted more definitive proof.
Finally she went to her mother (the aforementioned Step-Monster to me), and got a photo of my Daddy and his cousin who had also joined the Navy at the same time.
She brought it home just like she had done with so many other photos of young sailors by then. When she showed her husband in the middle of their meal, he dropped his fork and became slightly terrified again. He said the man on the right was the man on the dock that night.
The man on the right is my 20 year old Daddy.
She was done with her story. I was stunned. We talked about why he wouldn’t have just come to one of us, and years later I would realize that we would not have been the empty bottle. It would have been dismissed as a dream. A simple misfire of grief stricken neurons.
I cannot tell you what that message did for me. I knew where my Daddy was, and he was finally at peace. He was finally home. I also held onto his warning. When times got hard I would always remember what he said, and taking an early exit was never an option because of it.
Until January 2001. When my sister that I was raised with, my best frenemy, my charge, the one I loved since I could remember, the one I protected, the one I talked to every day on the way home from work, the one that could make me crazy and sane in equal parts…took her life.
The one when I was planning her funeral and how to care for her kids I felt my life force draining. The one when I told God that I didn’t want to live anymore and he asked me to hold on for an hour. .
The one where I didn’t care about sailing my boat into calm waters, I was happy for the dark watered eddy to swallow me up and end the struggle.
But I was too busy with my kids (my 18 year old son had found her) and the grief of my mother and figuring out with the 2 fathers of my 3 nieces what the new normal was going to be, and I had that pesky agreement with God that I would hold on for a little while.
But where was Susan, where was Susan, where was my beloved Susan? The horrifyingly familiar torture was back. I knew I wasn’t strong enough this time to endure a lifetime of this question endlessly circling back around…unanswered.
Just a few months after my sister’s death I got a phone call at 4 in the morning. I don’t normally get calls at that time (accept the one I had gotten months earlier telling me of her death), so naturally I didn’t want to answer it, but I did.
It was my ex brother-in-law, the father of my sister’s two older girls. Even after their divorce, he still loved her and always wanted her back, but she was done. So he just became a fixture in the family. We kind of forgot that he wasn’t really supposed to be there.
Calling at 4 in the morning though was not normal. When I answered the phone I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing until he said hello and I exhaled. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he needed to tell me what had just happened to him.
Really? He needs to do this now I asked? I hadn’t really deeply slept since my sister died, but even though I was already awake I really wasn’t in a conversational mood. He said yes he needed to tell me now, he sounded terrified and in fact stated that he was.
He said he had just had an out of body experience. I half listened on the phone.
He said he was asleep when he suddenly felt cold just as he was transported out of his body and could see himself sleeping on the bed. He tried to wake himself up but couldn’t. He was suddenly at a beautiful park. The sun was shining with white puffy clouds dotting the blue sky and there were flowers everywhere.
He was looking around and saw my sister in the park. He tried to yell her name so he could get her attention, but he could not speak. He wanted to run to her but could not move.
So he just watched her. She was laying on the park bench and she was about 18 years old, the age when he first met her. My little sister had her Imaging Technician uniform (hospital scrubs) reclining on a park bench.
He had my attention now. I can picture my beloved sis at that age still, as I write this. She with such stunning beauty that I used to tell her she was adopted and make her cry.
He continued on to paint the picture and said he had an urgent need to do so. I let him.
He said she was relaxed and had her arms up and folded under her head as she stared into the sky above her. Her legs were stretched out on the park bench with one leg lazily over the other. The expression on her face seemed peaceful, until the second she jumped up and took off running.
A van came out of nowhere and an arm reached out of the front of it and pulled her in through the windshield opening.
I have always pictured the Scooby Doo van when he told this story and ever after. I’m not sure why.
The van then drove back to the park bench where the arm deposited her and all returned to how it had been when he first saw her.
He then woke up in a sweat and terrified. He felt warmth return to his body. He didn’t know what was going on.
I did. I knew exactly what was going on. The message wasn’t for him, it was for me. Jesus was letting me know he’s at the wheel. It’s all under control.
I knew my sister would be ok then. She is in good hands with the angels in the Scooby Doo van. The wait in that park for her ride to the ever after will be a long one though, she was only 40 when she died. She was scrappy, so I can easily see her trying to pull off an escape from her beautiful purgatory.
When I see her again I will ask her why she didn’t try that hard to stay in this one.
Right after I hug the crap out of her.
Until next time Dear Diary.