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20 April 2003

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place lately, but I don't see as many collab entries as I used to. Collabs are great things--somebody gets an idea that s/he posts and then a group of people write journal entries about that word, statement, photo or whatever. It's a wonderful writing ploy when the creative part of the brain needs jogging.

I was looking through the few collabs that I check regularly. I've already done my entry for On Display and decided to check out Random Acts of Journaling. This is a great collab because Elle gives you several different ideas at once words, statements, photos and whatever. I read through the prompts and this book passage struck me:

My grandmother told me once that when you lose somebody you think you've lost the whole world as well, but that's not the way things turn out in the end. Eventually, you pick yourself up and look out the window, and once you do you see everything that was there before the world ended is out there still. There are the same apple trees and the same songbirds, and over our heads, the very same sky that shines like heaven, so far above us we can never hope to reach such heights.

Blue Monday, Alice Hoffman, p. 283

I suppose it hits me hardest because the cycle of our year is shifting yet again. We've made it through "holiday season" and "birthday season" and now we are into "anniversary season." Today is the 4th anniversary of Paul's death and next month we will pass the amazing seventh anniversary of David's (not that seven is such an amazing anniversary; it's just that I can't believe he's been gone that long.)

We are no strangers to loss.

At the same time this morning I watched an amazing video. It's called "The Brink of Summer's End," a documentary about the life--and death--of poet/author Paul Monette, who died of AIDS in 1995.

No one in the gay community--or on the periphery of the gay community--is a stranger to loss. Monette, whose partner Roger died in "the second wave" of AIDS deaths, wrote an achingly beautiful tribute to Roger and an intimate glimpse into what it is like to watch someone you love die ("Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir"). On every page there is an energy, a relentless determination to wring the most from each moment of life, and at the same time an unremitting pain in knowing how short their time together would be.

One wonders, at the end of such a relationship how the man could go on without the love of his life. The same way that people look at us and wonder how you survive the loss of one--or two--children.

You do, because you must. Your alternative is to die yourself, whether physically or spiritually. And what a compounding of a tragedy that would be.

It is only in retrospect that one gains perspective. At the time, you put one foot in front of the other. You make coffee, you check e-mail, you cry, and then you do the dishes. You do it because you're alive and you must go on living. But as the reality of the loss settles in, if you're lucky, you realize you have been given this amazing gift, really. The gift of appreciation of each day. Appreciation for the lives you were able to share for however long you could share them.

No, you don't "get over it," you don't "get on with your life," because you now have a new life. A life without the person you have lost. But the possibilities.... the possibilities. The possibilities to savor that life. To incorporate the spirit that was the person/people you loved and to make that spirit a part of you as you go on, which you must do.

I remember my friend Michael telling me (somewhere in this journal I've discussed this before) that he reached a point where he had buried so many people he loved who died of AIDS that he wanted to shut down and never care about anybody again. I certainly understand the temptation.

But then someone dragged him to a performance of The Last Session and he found himself moved. He returned to see the show again and again and he began to make friends with the amazing circle of people affected by the show, by Steve, by Jimmy. Now he finds that his life has been enriched by the experience and realizes that it's too soon for him to give up, that there is more love out there, there are important friendships to savor (mine among them, I hope) and he has reentered the world in a positive way, scarred, but ready to live each day again.

Paul Monette buried a second partner and then fell in love again, the partner with whom he was living at the time of his death. The documentary, which is brutally honest in its depiction of his final decline, can't fail to show his determination to live as full a life as he could for as long as he could.

I hate that we have two dead children. I love that we had them for 24 and 30 years, respectively. I listen to Paul's voice on CDs, so full of life and remember his energy as he bounced around the stage, or sat quietly, an audience riveted by his performance. I remember the huge grin on David's face the last time I saw him. I remember baby David and toddler David and haircut David. Priceless memories.

But I don't want to live in the past. My life did not end with the death of two of our children. So many incredible things have happened since the death of David and Paul. (How incredulous they would be to hear the tales of my bike riding and exercise programs!) It's a cliche, but life really is for the living and to wrap myself in a cloak of mourning at their loss is to deny myself the chance to live my own life in the years that I have left.

"You pick yourself up and look out the window, and once you do you see everything that was there before the world ended is out there still."

The closing scenes of "The Brink of Summer's End" show Paul Monette and his partner on a beach in Southern California. They are walking and then dancing and in the very final scene Monette is twirling around, his head thrown back, a huge smile on his face, looking very much like Zorba the Greek.

Paul Monette insisted on joy.

So do I.

Quote of the Day

People who are never completely forgotten, never completely die..

~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Yesterday's Photo

Paul.jpg (257496 bytes)

1969 - 1999


One Year Ago
Tiptoe Thru the Tulips Again
(Skagitt County Tulip Festival, 2002)

Two Years Ago
"Happy's" Adventure
(Happy Meets The Talking Heads)

Three Years Ago
Dear Paul
(The One Year Anniversary)
(this won a award)

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Pounds Lost:  68.2
(this figure is updated on Tuesdays)

On the Odometer

Blue Angel Total 912.6
2003 YTD Cumulative:  414.2

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