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Is this going to be a once a week kind of thing? I don't know. Maybe.

April has turned out to be a really difficult time for me and my family. A few years ago my godmother and aunt passed away from a cancer that swept her life away like a tornado in just about a year. Her lung cancer was a bitter irony since she never smoked a cigarette in her life. Its hard not to blame my uncle for smoking around her and in the house for 20 some odd years, and his cognitive dissonance about that only makes it more tragic, really. It is said back in those days they didn't really know how bad second hand smoke was for people. No one thought twice about smoking in the house. I have old 8mm films from my grandparents generation of family gatherings where people are holding a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a baby in their lap. It was a thing. 

Anyway, she was a light in the world. Born Light by name, she quietly and powerfully was that, and more. Not that she was perfect. There were shadows in the light she cast, making strange and interesting patterns. She was splendid. I mentioned earlier that she was my godmother. That is a catholic tradition and though she wasn't catholic and ultimately neither was I, she fulfilled that role as my spiritual inspiration and guidance. I never got to tell her how much she affected me just by being herself and following her natural inclinations. When everyone else was being loud and boisterously proselytizing their opinions, I could feel her rolling her eyes. When she tried to speak her mind and was interrupted by people inferior in insight and intellect she would just sigh and fold her hands in her lap, realizing the futility of arguing with fools. The thing is, anyone who bothered to sit with her and set aside their need for attention would inevitably feel her resonant power as an individual. Its hard to believe it has already been five years since she passed.

It was only a few years later when another powerhouse of a different magnitude was lost to us. My stepfather was a difficult man who had a rough and violent youth that made him a passionate and often angry adult. Traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam on top of feeling betrayed by family, country, and ultimately God himself, he spent most of my childhood either dejected and aloof, or on fire for some topic that crossed his radar that day. Restless and touched by divine providence, he had returned from war completely convinced that he was the only one in his original company to survive because God had a plan for him. His fire and passion was so compelling that he got others to believe too. "The Blood of the Lamb" ministries was a short lived thing. And all kinds of supernatural shenanigans surrounded it and filled our lives with equal measures of terror and wonder. The experiences were so compelling that they informed my perspective for the rest of my life. They shifted the belief systems of my mother, aunt and uncle, and sadly destroyed my dad's faith altogether. He was never able to feel passionately about faith again afterward. Ultimately, he returned to Christianity before his death, but the immersive experience he once got from it was no longer there.

After retreating into the solace of eating too much and smoking, and wasting away in front of the television, he spent the last 18 years of his life battling illness and disease. He had a double bi-pass heart surgery, and developed vasculitis, and a number of other ailments that kept him bed-ridden for years. I would often go to him and sit beside his bed and we would talk about what was going on in my life, how awful the food was at the extended care facility he was stuck at, and sometimes, dreams he had or strange feelings he was going through. I saw him for his birthday during a really busy time in my life just before he died. I took him lunch and was only able to stay a short while before taking off but I'd promised I would go see him again soon. That never happened. He was taken to the VA ER due to pain he was experiencing possibly from a fall the week before. He sat in the ER waiting room and died sitting in his wheelchair. No one knows exactly how long he was dead before someone noticed and they administered CPR. They got his pulse back, and some shallow breathing. We went and saw him in the hospital attached to the ventilator. Ultimately we had to come to terms with the fact that his brain had been denied oxygen for too long and likely to remain comatose and even if he regained consciousness he was likely to be a vegetable the rest of his life.

Now it has been a few months since my great-aunt has passed. She was the matriarch of our family and the one from my grandparents generation that I was closest to. I can't even write about this one yet cause it is still too tender.

So many people that were once the foundation of my world now travel boundless. Passing clouds and memories of storms. Their touch still lingers, wounding the heart even as it stitches it back together.

"Like the wind searching, lifting feathers round the sparrow's neck, lifting leaves in a wave across the bean field, I find no place where I can say, here my being ends." -Boundless by Colin Oliver


 

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