Monthly Archives: April 2016

Dead but not Lost

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops layers of deer, rabbits, birds and plants in a springtime scene.“I will remember you forever. In this way, because I got to live, you will too,” my daughter had written to her friend who died. She was going to carry Jake with her for the rest of her days. So before she died, she had already prescribed what should happen upon a loved one’s death. I had to live so that my daughter “will too.” And because she loved Jake, he is along for the ride. Every day I wish my father, my daughter, and Jake good morning and goodnight. And in between, I live and love my time like I’m living for us all.

My daughter is dead but she is not lost. I’m carrying her with me. All the time.

The word ‘lost’ does not describe those we love who died. Language is inadequate for conveying things about death. There should be one beautiful, sad word that means ‘my loved one who died.’ My deceased beloved one, the one who died and gouged a huge hole in my heart. My mother who passed, my dead father, my angel child, my sister-in-heaven, my brother on-the-other-side. My dearly departed friend. The sweet spirit of my wife, the soul of my late husband, my forever-partner. My grandparents may-they-rest-in- peace. My beloved lost one (who’s not really lost).

We who love those-for-whom-there-is-no-one-single-word, keep their memories alive. We are their connection to the Earth now. The love is still here. The memory, their images, spirits, values, voices, …live on within us. They are never gone. NeverGone. Until I find another word, or sound, that’s what I will call my precious loved ones who died. NeverGones. My father is my NeverGone. My daughter is my NeverGone. And I will carry them until the day I am finally carried out of life myself.

 

Do you have any other ideas for similar terms of endearment? What phrases about death bother you?

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What Hope Means

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops hills and valleys of central new york to depict hope“Perhaps expanding on what hope means to you,” a friend wrote in the feedback she gave for my new photo essay book, to be published in May. In the book, Nevergone: Reframing the Death and Grieving of the One You Love, through intricate Photo-shopped pictures and short essays, I explore different ways one grieves and may view death. At the beginning and end of the book I wish for hope for my readers. But I had not expanded on the meaning of hope, even though it is the backbone of the book, and a vital resource for surviving tough times.

When immobilized by a problem, like writing about hope or being grateful, I make lists. It’s a way to stop procrastinating and begin to wade into the challenge painlessly. So my problem of hope became a list.

What hope means. To me:

Believing in new possibilities, believing there is more.
Light in the darkness.
Emily Dickinson’s “thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”
Positive thinking, Wishing.
Something that makes us stronger and braver than we ever believed we could be.
Daring to imagine that everything will work out okay.
The thing that encourages me to keep living, loving, searching, …singing to the moon, despite what life has thrown at me.
The voice in my head that whispers “maybe” when all else is screaming “no way.”

At nighttime I took the problem to bed, and when morning came, I took it with me on a hike in the deep dark woods. There, on steep slopes covered with decayed leaves and the debris of winter thawing, growing wedged between rocks and fallen branches, I found tiny wildflowers called snowdrops blooming brightly in sparse patches of light.

 

What does hope mean to you?

 

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What is Death Anyway?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops Ricardo "Ricky" Bernabeu in reframing death.Many rave about watching a birth. But maybe more awesome is witnessing life’s end. Years ago I tried to watch departing life evaporate into nowhere from the still form of my father. I stared, transfixed on the invisible drama, waiting for signs of a soul already taken flight: the just-stopped pulse, the empty lifeless eyes. My father’s half open, black marble eyes still caught glimpses of light. For how long could he see me? He lay there calm and still while his family shook in sobs. I could not tell if the life ebbed out of him slowly, or if it left as in the flick of a switch.

The astounding mystery of where life goes in the time it takes for a heart to stop beating makes death intriguing company to sit with. Is life locked dormant inside or does it dissipate into the negative space among the grieving family members? Does it escape into countless particles of dust? Are there a gazillion invisible, homeless souls freed from their earthly shells, crammed around us, hovering over the ones they loved and left behind? Where does life go?

There are a million different ways to look at death:
Our dying begins the moment we take our first breath so death is the last part of life, the completion of a cycle of bloom and decay; We are all dying but some of us simply have an earlier flight; Death is a transition, not an end, of body, mind, and spirit; Death is passing on the torch, joining the line of ancestors that anchor the living to the past and future. It’s the termination of our vital processes, a break in our stream of consciousness, an illusion, an adventure, freedom from earthly pain, a disease with no cure, a change in our physical forms, …Maybe the deceased live alongside us, having shed their bodies but not their souls.

However we look at it, death is not about being lost.

 

Admiring Ricardo “Ricky” Bernabeu’s eyes. What are some other ways of looking at death?

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Remember Always

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her father who taught her how to watch her money.My father taught me to sweat a hundred hours before spending a hundred dollars. He died six years ago. But he still shows up for every move I make involving money. He is also in my thoughts when I’m near an ocean, or when I hear an airplane flying overhead.

When I see yellow leaves on the ground, I’m reminded of my friend Andrea who walked with me in a forest of golden maples dropping leaves like tears, in the October before she died.

Rainbow cookies. The sight of them carries me back to my grandmother Omi Rosie.

And when there’s a moon, I stop to remember my daughter.

“I see the moon. The moon sees me. The moon sees the one I long to see,” I’d sung as a girl and later as a mother holding my young Marika. Our planet has one moon. I’ve been singing to it all my life. I can’t always see it but it is out there. Anyone can see the moon, just not all the time. Our ancestors watched that same moon. Our children’s children will look up to the same sky. And wherever Marika is, or is not, if she looks for light in the dark night, she will see the moon. So I keep singing to it. And remembering her.

We have the power to link our loved ones to anything. They are never gone as long as we hold them in our hearts and remember the gifts, miniscule or mighty, they gave us. Worried about forgetting loved ones, I assigned each a “bookmark” or two, special meaningful images like yellow leaves, airplanes, rainbow cookies, or the moon, to forever after be my signal to remember them. In this way, I have regular, but unplanned, appointments with my loved ones who died.

 

How do you remember the ones you love and thought you lost?

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