The Cypress Tree

On an island called Chios lived the Greek God Apollo, his beloved Cyparissus, and a stag, adored by all of the inhabitants. Especially by Cyparissus. Cyparissus would care for the stag, adorn his horns with garlands, and they’d ride and gallop across the island in merriment.

One hot day, Cyparissus was hunting in the woods. From afar, Cyparissus saw an animal. Cyparissus took aim with bow and arrow and fired a fatal shot. When Cyparissus approached, the animal was recognized as the beloved stag.

In agonizing mourning, Cyparissus prayed to Apollo that he be permitted to be grief-stricken for eternity. Reluctantly, Apollo agreed, and turned his friend into the cyprus tree, to preside over the mourning of others.

I approach the cyprus in the distance. I can see it, wide branches over the swelling tides. It stands alone, and survey the landscape. I am alone in this endless field, approaching the cliffside. The others may not join me immediately. Because, they won’t let themselves see it in the distance.

What does it all mean?

My grandmother had a stroke on Christmas. She has not been well enough to care for herself for quite awhile. The details have become clearer as the cypress tree was coming into focus. She has not been well for much longer than many of us realized. It was a very closely guarded secret.

It was not for the protection of others, but the denial of one. Her caretaker. When the day comes, and she is gone, her caretaker will have no one left. In a way, she was protecting herself from psychic harm.

My grandmother went back into the hospital on Saturday, the 18th. The doctors determined she has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. On Sunday, the 19th, she had a seizure. Currently, she is in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit. She’s conscious and stable. But, her doctor, who has been treating her for years, had deemed the situation to be grim.

They say she’s turned around today. But, I am not hopeful. Her brain is still hemorrhaging, slowly, but continuously. She has developed aphasia now, although she is aware of her surroundings. But, she is mostly immobile. Congestive heart failure doesn’t just go away. Her body is ailing and her brain is failing. She is shutting down, bit by bit.

And, I walk slowing, a lone soul in my procession toward the cypress tree. Each step feels like the terrain grows larger. I am alone in my acceptance that her days are sadly numbered. I am terribly alone in my grievance, crossing those days off of my calendar. And I am seemingly completely alone in the anxiety of the wait.

I know why. No one is ever ready to lose their mother.

But, I ask, what quality of life does she have? Immobilized, unable to care for her basic needs, and losing more of her brain function with each episode. How happy can she be in that state? Is it fair that many cling to her life so much that they fail to see any of this?

I see it. I mourn her life in such a state. I am troubled by her slow disintegration. And, I clutch Tallulah (my Blackberry), in grave anxiety, awaiting that call. I have gone as far as allowing my phone to remain on ring while I am at work. As far as I am concerned, I am on death watch.

I worry. My grandmother is the last bit of glue that binds this family together. Her children refrain from bickering, for her sake. Her grandchildren are only vaguely aware of each other. And most of the rest are scattering to the four corners.

I worry. About my family – about my mother. She is the glue that binds her family and the very mechanism that keeps it functioning. The woman is much more fragile than can be perceived by her stoic exterior alone. If she falls apart, her family will fall. They depend on her.

And I know. It will fall on me. I will have to find the strength to care for five people, when I am hardly capable for caring for myself.

Can I?

I Am Not God : 30 Days of Truth

Day 05: Something you hope you never have to do.

Decisiveness is not my strong point. I realize that certain choices can have long lasting effects. One choice can start a major chain reaction, cascading through many aspects of life, for better or worse. I have difficulty evaluating which decision will yield the best results, or do the least amount of damage. In fact, I’m sometimes so indecisive that mundane, daily selections become a challenge. What to eat? What to wear?

I hope that I will never have to be faced with a life or death decision.

I am not God. Nor can I ever pretend to be any spiritual deity that would be remotely qualified to render that judgment. I do not even have the capacity to make that choice for myself.

As a woman on a slew of medication and also of child-bearing age, this is a hot topic that remains fixed in the peripherals. I’m sure it’s something many women using pharmaceutical treatment for mental health think about. These are black box medications. What would I do if I got knocked up?

I’d love to have a definitive answer. In all fairness, this is a lot more complicated than your average abortion debate.

Yes, I’d keep the baby.
Taking a life is wrong. It’s not up to me to decide. If I took every precaution, and I still managed to conceive, then it was really meant to happen. I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak of losing a child, and the resentment toward myself for doing it purposefully. It would be an impossible decision to live with. Every life deserves a chance. Every child is a blessing.

No, I would abort the baby.
Sometimes, a woman has to do what is best for herself, the child in question, and her family. It would not be right to bring a child into this world that may likely have extraordinary special needs. It would be wrong for the potential child, cursing them to a life of physical and / or mental disability. It would be criminal to drain precious few resources from the rest of the family, such as time, money, and energy. And it may be extremely dangerous, if not fatal to both fetus and mother if I were to quit medication cold turkey.

This could turn to a very heated dialog. I have to cut it off at some point. We’ll cross that bridge if we get there.

That’s the only definitive life-and-death decision I can produce. There are thousands of scenarios.

I’m holding my husband by one arm and my son by the other from a ledge where they both slipped. I only have enough strength with both of my arms to save one. Who do I choose?

Life and death. It’s too big of a moral dilemma for me to ever want to handle. There are some moments where I could make a hard and fast decision. Giving my life to protect my loved ones? Yes. Taking a life to protect my loved ones? Only if absolutely necessary. Taking a life for vengeance? No.

Otherwise, leave me out of it.

Not a Five Star Day

I mentioned to Brandon in the comment section of RIP Zen 9-12-2011 about going through the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grieving.

1. Denial and Isolation
I didn’t immediately go to this one.  My immediate response was this deep sense of loss, with hysterical crying.  But, I did come back to this one later.

Yesterday, I swore I heard meowing in the house.  I swore I saw his shadows in the house.  Today, I looked to where his food bowl was.  I tried to make sure that he wasn’t running past me when I was leaving for work and coming back home.  I swear I saw him laying on my bed.  I keep thinking I’m going to run into him on the bathroom and see him spawled out on the bath mat.

2. Anger
I was so infuriated that someone would do this to a kitten.  To my kitten.  I was enraged that this person could walk free and suffer no consequence.  I wanted vengence.  “If I ever find out who did this, I will take a baseball bat to their knees.  They’ll have the rest of their life to think about it while they’re in a wheelchair,” I said in a IRL Facebook post.

3. Bargaining
During the original hysteria, I went to this one.  “I was going to call him in before bed.  Why didn’t I call him in?  If I would’ve called him in…” and “Maybe if I would’ve been a little more proactive.  Maybe if they had seen he was wearing a tag, they wouldn’t have hurt him.”  and  “I knew I shouldn’t have let him go out at night.  I knew it wasn’t safe.”

4. Depression
Don’t get concerned.  I am not actually depressed.  I know what bipolar depression is all too well.  This is bereavement.  I was devestated yesterday. Today, I’m sad, but this isn’t an episode.  It’s kind of ohnoui – a French term for just feeling generally down.

5. Acceptance
I find ways to accept it.  I’ve told myself, “Nothing I can say or do will ever bring him back”.  Yesterday, I did those graphics.  As it stands, one of those graphics is my current IRL FB profile picture.  Today, I made a beautiful yarn bracelet, with his tag on it.  Tomorrow, I intend to trek out to my backyard and find a stone that would be suitable to carve as a grave marker.

I keep cycling through these.  It makes it a little hard to concentrate.  I’m not focusing and in some instances, I don’t really have anything constructive to say.  So, if I’m not replying to your recent posts, don’t take it personally.  I just don’t have a lot to give right now.
I leave you with this.

RIP Zen 9-12-2011

This will be updated throughout the day as I become a little more coherent.

Last night, someone in my neighborhood brutally murdered my kitten, Zen. They did so with a baseball bat. Today, my kitten was found on the sidewalk behind my house.


Update: 2:45PM EST
I couldn’t bring myself to go out there. I didn’t want to remember his corpse. I wanted to remember his beautiful olive, shining eyes and his black little nose. My dad offered. He worked Graves’ Registration in Vietnam. Death is something he can handle.

Before he could do it, Zen’s body was found by a loving neighbor who buried him. She gave him a final resting place in her own yard. I plan on carving a stone to mark it.


He was the sweetest, most social kitten in the world. He never tried to hurt anyone, and never even hissed at anyone. He was my baby and my best friend. He cuddled with me at night. When I would cry, he would retract his claws and paw my face to wipe the tears away. He always knew when there was something wrong, and he would do anything in the world to make it better. I loved him like family.

Today, all I have of him are his belongings and my memories. And all of the tears I’ve cried for him.

He was a baby, only 7 months old. He was murdered on his 7 month birthday. What kind of cruel, sick, vile, evil, fucking piece of shit monster would do that to the sweetest baby kitten? They deliberately did it! No one just carries a baseball bat! They killed my little kitty in cold blood!

I am so torn up about this. I loved him. I really did. And I have no idea how I can possibly honor a creature who had such a short existence in my life but made such a profound impact. How do I avenge him? How could I ever make this right?

I loved him. I loved him with my whole heart. And I miss him so much. I will never forget him.

All the Pretty Things

Pittsburgh is gearing up for a heat wave. It’s that special time of year again. The old wooden house feels as if it were a clay oven, and it makes any work inside of it impossible. That leaves me to sit in the crisp night air on the balcony, armed only with a journal, a pen, and just enough light being thrown by a robe light wrapped around a glass patio table.

I had a beautiful moment on Friday. I was on the way to have a biopsy done, but I was dreadfully early. I took advantage of my time and strolled through the city. I walked past Trinity Cathedral and recalled the beauty of the buildings and the majesty of it’s cemetery surrounding it.

That’s when I discovered one of Downtown Pittsburgh’s hidden gems. It was almost as if it were a secret garden, hidden from the boulevard surrounding it. I went up the path and discovered a circle surrounded by foliage. Stone benches surrounded an immense, gorgeous fountain in the direct center. I sat down and wrote.

It reminded me of times when I was in college in the summertime where I’d go to the large fountain in the Cultural District and sit on the stone benches there. I’d write and feed the pigeons. It reminded me of a brisk, grey day where I found a quiet hiding spot near 6th to write while I wrapped my scarf tighter to my face.

I thought of all the beauty in this world that I was missing out on. The same simple beauty that brought such joy into my life.

Long car rides with my husband into the country in the summertime, with the windows all the way down, the wind on my face, the smell of fresh air. We had nothing but good music and good company.

Sitting on warm sand and digging your toes and feet into it while you feel the ocean spray on your face. Taking walks in the moonlight on the boardwalk.

Watching the moon rise. It’s so big and bright on the horizon.

Staying up all night talking until you watch the sun rise.

A cool breeze in stagnant air.

The smell of a thunderstorm. Even better, the smell of autumn.

The serenity of a cemetery after hours.
A good romantic movie.

And just laying in bed with the one you love.

These are the beautiful things,” I wrote, “these are the only things I want to remember when I die.”

But I want to experience these pretty things all throughout my life. A surprise of flowers on my kitchen table. Sitting in a magnolia tree. Taking my time. Smelling the roses. Appreciating my landscape.

There is so much beauty and wonder all around me that I often fail to see. I want to remember these things moreso in my life than in my death.