“I Grieve” by Christina Knowles

“I Grieve”

BRITTANY_ALLEN_SCREAM1

Lost and faltering

Floundering in the sea

Of my indispensable need

Need that intensifies in the darkness

Unlimited and unending

How can I describe

The hollowness of loss?

Do I speak?

Will I risk the words

That once released

Continue out of control

Throughout the breath of eternity?

Shall I know the result

Of these intemperate thoughts?

Or slumber in the oblivion of the dead?

O, tranquil are the deaf

To the choruses of loss

For to speak, to give voice

To that which is in reality

A scream

Would spin this wheel interminably

Or if it be little more than a squeak

Choked and muffled by grief

Stutter and trip

to a premature conclusion

How then do I proceed

When lost and faltering, I grieve?

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from trulynet.com

10 Mind-Bending Epiphanies That Changed My Life by Christina Knowles

epiphany1) I’ll never be all caught up. Getting caught up in getting caught up is like a hamster running in a wheel. It’s pointless, so stop trying so hard. Now I make a few daily goals, but getting done with everything is no longer on the list. Knowing it is impossible sets me free to just stop and relax once in a while.

2) Pain is our friend. Whether it is physical pain or emotional pain, it is a signal that we need to do something different. It is the catalyst for change. Embrace it.

3) To some extent, you are already doing what you want to do, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Let’s be honest for a second. We can’t make ourselves do anything we don’t want to do for any length of time. Otherwise, we’d all be thin, healthy, and adept at meditation. So, the fact that I’ve been a teacher for 15 years must mean that some part of me actually wants to be a teacher. The same is true for all the rest of my habitual behavior.

4) I’ve believed lies most of my life, but because of this, I don’t know if my current beliefs are also lies. We grow up listening to and believing everything our parents or authority figures tell us. Then we find out that much of what we learned and believed is not true. We read, discover, and form our own ideas and teach them to other people who grow up and realize that much of what we taught them is not true. Who really knows the truth?

5) Marriage doesn’t have to be work, and shouldn’t be. People who tell you how hard marriage is and how much effort you have to put into it have bad marriages, so don’t listen to anything they say. Who would want to be married if it made your life more difficult? Evolutionarily speaking, the whole point of marriage is to make life easier. Don’t fight nature. Marry someone who is easy to be married to.

6) You don’t have to worry—I’m serious, you really don’t. Worrying is a choice. Sometimes we unconsciously begin to worry, but as soon as we realize we’re doing it, we can choose to stop. I know it’s cliché, but worrying never changed anything except your mood and physical health for the worse. There’s no point, and I’m too busy for pointless things. Whenever I start to worry, I allow myself to imagine the worse thing that can happen. It’s pretty ridiculous and funny, so it snaps me out of worrying pretty quickly, which leads me to number 7.

7) The only people who are stressed are people who care too much. I love the saying, “I don’t know about my bucket list, but my fucket list is getting pretty long.” The quickest way to stress-free living is shockingly not meditation—I’ve tried that. It’s saying, “Fuck it.” If something is going to cause my stomach to turn to knots, I realize that it must be something over which I have very little control, so I choose to not care about it anymore. I realize this is not possible in every case, especially when it comes to the health of loved ones, but as I understand number 6, there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

8) We can love or hate anyone, regardless of what they are like. Almost 50 years of life has taught me that loving or hating someone is more about me than it is about them. I have learned that I am capable of loving the most unlovable person once I learn enough about them to understand their perspectives, what made them like they are, what is important to them, what they fear and for what they hope, and see them as they see themselves. Conversely, I can despise wonderful people if I choose to see them only through their faults, mistakes, or little annoyances.

9) Everyone is mentally ill, but then mental illness is normal, so no one is mentally ill. It seems like everyone has some sort of neuroses, depression, or anxiety today, so much so, that it’s hard to find someone who is not depressed, bi-polar, who does not have OCD, ADHD, addictive behavior, or some nervous disorder. It’s like allergies. Almost everyone has one. So doesn’t that make it the norm? And if it’s normal to have these brain malfunctions, then are they malfunctions? I’m not talking about serial killers here—serious sociopaths. I’m speaking of all the little idiosyncrasies that are now so common. Didn’t we always have them? We just didn’t label them and medicate them in the past. Get over it; you’re normal.

10) Death is not a big deal to the person who is dead. As a person who has serious doubts about the existence of an afterlife, I’m not worried about it. When I’m dead, I won’t know it, so what’s the big deal? Bury me, cremate me, throw me in a ditch. Who cares? I’m not there anymore. Sure, my life will be over along with all my potential, all my hopes and dreams, but again, I won’t know it, so what’s all the fuss about?

11) We choose friends in whom we see what we like about ourselves. People say that when we dislike something in another person, we are really seeing something in them which is negative about ourselves. I don’t know if that’s true, but the converse is most assuredly true. We really do choose friends in whom we see what we like about ourselves. We like them because we have these things in common, and because of them, we notice the best in ourselves.

12) People continue to lie when the best thing in the world is to be known, known by self and others, truly known. In an effort to be accepted, they never can be, and they are subconsciously preventing their own happiness.

Yes, I can count. I said there were 10 epiphanies that changed my life, but then I wrote 12. Well, as a person about to turn 50, I refuse to be constrained by a number. I am a rebel, and 10 sounded better than 12 in the title. But seriously, when I realized each one of these things, it changed my whole outlook on life, for the better, I’d like to think. So mind-bending? Yes, whenever my worldview shifts and things become clear and my life changes as a result, I consider my mind bent. —Christina Knowles

Photo courtesy of cloudfront.net

“Signs of Life” by Christina Knowles

alone-in-the-crowd deviant art.com
race-to-the-horizon deviant art.com

Shuffling through the gray

Blind to each delicate breath

These intricacies hold no sway

Cheerfully uttered throughout the day

The meaningless pleasantries

Each effort you weigh

The cost of transparency

With each sigh, a bray

You wake and remember what’s lost

Momentarily defray

Smothered in civility

Fashioning smiles of clay

Blinking back signs of life

You purpose to allay

The squall of consciousness

Then take a breath and fly away—Christina Knowles (2014)

All Grown Up by Christina Knowles

IMG_2659We buried our mother today, my family and I. She was a wonderful mother—loving, strong, kind, principled, and dedicated. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.

Losing a mother is a unique kind of pain. It’s different than losing a father, a spouse, a sibling, or a child. I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced all these different types of devastating loss, but I just know that it has to be different. I’m not saying it’s worse, just different. In fact, I’m pretty sure losing a child would be the worst.

But losing a mother is the ultimate severing of the umbilical cord. When you lose a mother, you feel lost, insecure. I haven’t depended on my mother for many years, but I guess I knew she was always there if I needed her. Knowing she is gone makes me feel all alone in the world even though I know I am not. I feel a primal need for her. I wake up in the middle of the night calling for my mommy, and I don’t care that I am a grown woman, a grandmother even. I want my mommy.

Losing a mother makes a person grow up instantly. You are no longer the child, and having already lost my father, I am no longer anybody’s child. That’s a strange feeling. I am the mother now. I feel this more now than ever, even though I have been a mother for 26 years. Not being someone’s child is a lonely feeling. It makes me want to pour myself into being a mother to my children. Unfortunately, they’ve grown and left home, and I don’t see them as often as I’d like.

Being without a mother makes me feel different. I am different. My husband warned me that losing parents changes a person, but I didn’t really understand before. Losing a mother leaves a void that nothing else can fill. Really losing anyone you love does, but to whom will I go for advice? Who will be proud of me for absolutely no reason? Who is capable of unconditional love besides a mother?

That’s what’s really missing. It’s knowing I will never be loved unconditionally by anyone again. My husband loves me almost that much, but I know I could make him lose his love for me if I tried. Of course, I won’t. My brothers, my sisters—that’s close. They have loved me through everything so far. My kids—I’d love to think that they love me unconditionally, but even though some part of them may need me or love me no matter what, it’s just not that same I’d-die-for-you kind of love. I know this is true because the only people in the world that I would love under any circumstances are my children, the only ones I could forgive anything.

My pain sounds so selfish. It’s all about what I will no longer have. But isn’t that what grief usually is? We miss the people we lose; we will no longer enjoy their love, their presence. My mother was a wonderful person. She left the world a much better place than she found it. But even if she didn’t, today I would still be an orphan. I suppose her goodness just intensifies it.

So today I said goodbye to my mother and to a love I will never experience again. At 49 years old, I just grew up.—Christina Knowles

The Definition of Dignity by Christina Knowles

Snagged from deviant art.com
Snagged from deviant art.com

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of dignity is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.”

Death has been on my mind lately. We see it every day in the news, pandemics, violence, cancer, but mainly it’s been at the forefront of my mind recently because my mother is dying. She is less than a month away from being 83 years old, so it is not surprising that she suffers from a variety of maladies due to age. I lost my father about a year and a half ago, and honestly, most of us (my brothers and sisters) did not expect her to live much longer after she lost him. They were together 61 years, and she took it pretty hard. He was the love of her life.

My mother is a strong believer in God and follower of the Christian faith, so she fully expects to be reunited with my father in heaven when she dies. I’m not so sure I share this belief, but I’m glad she has it. I do believe, however, that each person’s death is extremely important, and can be one of the most beautiful things we ever experience in our lives.

First let me preface this with a clarification of the kind of death to which I refer. I’m talking about the kind of death that is expected, somewhat drawn out, and is actually positively anticipated. Tragedies that steal lives long before their time suddenly with no preparation, no chance for goodbyes; those are terribly catastrophic, or deaths which come far too soon in a life yet unlived, those who should have had many more years to come. I would also like to clarify that I am not suggesting that people should needlessly suffer. But for those people who know their deaths are imminent, are able to put their affairs in order, say goodbye to loved ones, and whose pain is managed, the knowing, and even the experience, can be a gift.

Of course, I can only imagine since I have never been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but I have witnessed death first-hand and found it beautiful and profound for both the dying and those who were present in the end. I had the privilege of helping my husband care for his dying mother in her last days, and it was indeed a privilege. We often hear stories of people who want to avoid prolonged death, who say they do not want to be a burden, endure the humiliation of being incapable of doing even the simplest things for themselves, or do not want to put their relatives through that kind of pain. I can understand fear, fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of what the afterlife, if there is one, holds, but facing these fears could be the most important thing we’ve ever done. However, I do not understand the common fears regarding the humiliation and the burdening of loved ones. It’s simply not true from my perspective.

From what I have witnessed, knowing those who’ve died with loved ones nearby and from those who’ve cared for them, these fears are unwarranted. A dying loved one is not a burden, not in the slightest. It is hard, it is exhausting, it is painful, but it is also wonderful. Being present to hear those last words of wisdom or just words of love and to impart them yourself is precious beyond words. Caring for someone you love in the most intimate of ways, doing everything for them that they cannot do themselves is beautiful beyond comparison. There is nothing humiliating about it for the person receiving or for the person giving. Never in my life have I been so close to my mother as when I bathed her, never have I been so close to my father as when I spoon-fed him his dinner, never have I felt so much love flowing from me to another person through a simple act. The smile on the face of my mother as I bathed her, the smile on the face of my father as I fed him, tell me they felt the same. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.

wordsrhymesandrhythm.files.wordpress
wordsrhymesandrhythm.files.wordpress

And then there are the words. For days before my father died, my whole family sat by his side, hanging on his every word, knowing whatever he said in those moments, knowing he could go at any moment, would likely be the most important things he would ever say. He spoke to each of us individually, saying what he loved about us, calling us by our special names. We asked him questions, things we knew we’d never have another chance to ask. Moments of incoherence happened, yes, but those about to die have surprising moments of clarity as well. I am honored to have been there for his last days.

My mother has had many close calls, so we are always hesitant to start the process of acceptance. Right now she has congestive heart failure; her heart rate drops to 20 and goes back up. She is refusing any care except comfort measures. She is ready to go be with her love. Knowing it can be any time is a gift. We don’t waste a moment. Sitting by her side, I ask her to tell me the stories of her childhood, to clarify things for me so I can have an accurate memory of her life. She enjoys this as well, recounting a life well-lived. Mostly I get to hold her hand and talk about how much I love her and how she has always been the best mother anyone could have.

I think death can even be this way for younger people with terminal illness although it is infinitely more unfair and tragic. I also know what it’s like to lose someone long before they should go, and what it’s like to be left behind. I know what it feels like to grieve so long it seems you’ll never stop. But knowing when, or approximately when we will die, makes us zero in on what’s important; it magnifies every moment, it makes every word precious and every touch significant.

Brittany Maynard, recently in the news for choosing a date to end her life to avoid a long drawn out and painful death in hospice care, says she would rather “die with dignity.” Although I support her right to make the choice and understand wanting to avoid the worst, I think it is a mistake. There is nothing undignified about dying surrounded by loved ones in hospice care. Her loved ones don’t care about her “singed off hair” and they would be able to keep her comfortable. However, I do believe it is her choice.

This may sound strange coming from someone who isn’t even sure if there is an afterlife, but I know if there is a heaven, my mother is surely going there, and if there isn’t, she’ll never know, so she won’t be disappointed. As for me, I don’t hold out hope to see my loved ones again after this life, which is all the more reason why I cherish every moment with them and treasure the privilege of helping to care for them; witnessing the so-called undignified—it couldn’t be further from the truth. And hopefully when I am very old and my death is just around the bend, I will remember that the very fact that there is someone willing to care for me through till the end is the very definition of dignity, and I will participate in every profound moment of my dying experience without guilt or reservation.—Christina Knowles

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: