Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Site!

Thank you for visiting Loving David. New content is posted in a newly designed site: http://lovingdavidj.com/. Please head on over and follow to receive new updates. Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Six Months

When Carlos arrived home from work on October 9th, 2013 he walked inside, his face stricken with pain. I immediately asked him what was wrong, and he said we needed to sit down. I remember him frantically guiding me to the couch, his hands holding mine. We sat together while the words seemed to take forever to come.

Finally, he said "Anna, David died."
My heart stopped. My breath was taken from me. 
Immediately I replied, "David, David who??" 
Carlos replied, "David, your brother." 

The memory of the gut-wrenching "NO" that exclaimed from my mouth moves me to tears as I write this. The violent opposition that I felt to losing my brother was instantaneous. 

It is all a haze after that: talking to my parents, speaking with my siblings, frantically packing my suitcase and that horrific 4 hour drive home to Iowa. It was a nightmare, a tragic seemingly never-ending nightmare. 

Now, 6 months later I sit on that same couch and reflect. 6 months later I'm working at a new job, newly accepted to graduate school, doing projects around our apartment, and preparing for my aunt's wedding. It has been 6 months since losing David, and somehow I've begun to live again. 

It's ironic because I know that the Anna I was October 9th, is so very different from the Anna that I am today. When David died, a piece in all who loved him also died. When I lost my brother, I lost myself. 

This is grief. This is true loss. It is the most intimate un-veiling of who you are. Everything is stripped away and you must decide how to re-build. It's an opportunity for re-birth and renewal, in a beautiful sense it is your loved ones parting gift, until you meet again. 

I can never be who I used to be and when I try to describe how I am different, I really can't. Maybe I'm more serious, more introspective, more mindful or conscientious? I also feel more appreciative, creative, loving, and hopeful. 

What I do know is that I'm more sure of myself now than I was then. I know what is important to me, and recognize the necessity to show appreciation. David's death has challenged me to be better. 

David's absence in our world has highlighted his presence in my heart. 

Today I close with the message of a incredibly beautiful person: my, and David's, mother. The following thoughts have been adapted from a letter written by Ram Dass to his friends who lost their child to a violent death.

"For David's family and dear friends,

David finished his work on earth, and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are receiving? Probably very few. And even they would only have a whisper of peace a midst the screaming noise of their grief, horror and desolation.

I cannot take away your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is David's legacy to you. Not that he or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.

Now is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to David, and thank him for the time you shared, and encourage him to go on with whatever his work is, knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience.

In my heart, I know that you and he will meet again. And when you meet you will know, in a flash, what now it is not given to you to know: Why this had to be the way it was.

Our rational minds can never understand what has happened, but our hearts– if we can keep them open to God – will find their own intuitive way. David came to all who love him here to do his work on earth, which includes his manner of death. Now his soul is free, and the love that you can share with him is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space.

'We feel that this piece - with its core message - was brought to our attention just in time to share for the six month anniversary of the world's great loss of David. Many times and in many ways we have felt that David is walking beside us on this journey. We pray that God will continue to hold us all as we go forward.

Val Lucas - David's Mom'"

Thank you to my Mom for sharing this beautifully impactful message. 

David's place in my heart is sending love to all his loved ones tonight. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Day

Today is April 1st:  April Fool's Day. It's a fitting title for how I feel today. I feel like this has all been one big prank. Nearly 6 months of walking in someone else's shoes: shoes that my feet could slide into, but rubbed in the most painful way.
In fact, David even came back to me in my dream last night. Our whole family was together and we tried to not overwhelm him with our excitement. Slowly we filled him in on all that's happened these last 6 months, our words overshadowed by our great relief that it was only temporary.

In my dream I shared with him that I had begun writing. I told him about "Loving David" and commented it was going to be a very interesting twist now that he had returned. We discussed options for the future of the blog and David offered to co-write with me: him sharing about his experience, and me sharing mine. Eventually maybe we would get it published in a book. It would document this great experiment of many people's reality: many people's reality, but definitely not ours. 
I woke up this morning and laid awake in bed for awhile. Replaying the events of the night over in my head, remembering David's presence in my dream and the great excitement we shared for our new endeavor together. 
I am missing my brother tonight. I feel sad that I will never get the opportunity to be with David again. We aren't able to have a conversation, much less write a book together. It's amazing that after what feels like an eternity, it doesn't get any better. It simply changes to be more manageable and less consuming. It is a reality that will most likely never feel real. It's a story that will never feel my own, much less my brother David's. 
Riding home from work today, the words "David is gone, David is gone" played through my head. It was as if they were an old plot of a story I read long ago, or a recognizable tune, to a song whose lyrics I no longer knew. 
Tonight, like most, I am missing my brother David: I'm holding tight to my memory of him and sending him all my love.

Playground of Grief

it was shock and raw pain, 
alternating like a seesaw: 
up and down and up and down.
Back and forth 
like a game of tug-o-war 
you were pulled.
You're caught in the middle 
of the hula hoop, 
going 'round and 'round 
as emotions and feelings 
came upon you like a tidal wave.
Treading in a pool of hardship, 
paddling to stay afloat.
You bobbed and bobbed, 
every time coming back up for air.
Knowing every time that the tears would stop 
and the pain would melt away.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

One Baby Step

It seems like as you get older, you become more accepting of death. Maybe it's because you've seen many people you love die, and you have no choice but to accept your fate. It could be that your faith gives you hope, and you're anxious to be reunited with those you love. Possibly it's due the the satisfaction you feel from your own life and your many happy and fulfilling experiences. Whatever it is, death is easier to face when it is expected or just makes sense.

I recently read the book, "My Sister's Keeper." This was a very popular book and movie, but I had never read it before Carlos picked it up for me at a second hand store. The story follows the experience of two sisters: Kate, who has a rare form of pediatric cancer, and her sister Anna, her perfect donor match. There is a scene in the story when the mother and Kate are together in Kate's hospital room. Kate has had a turn for the worse and they're all preparing themselves for what might be goodbye. There is a moment of silence, and Kate says, "I had a good one." Sara, her mom, replies, "The absolute best." They are, of course, referring to Kate's life. They're referring to the 16 years that she's gotten to live and love, the context reminding us that these were also 16 years that she's suffered tremendously and had to fight everyday. 

This exchange and these words hit me in a very raw place. Kate has made peace with her illness, she's grateful for all she's had, and appreciates that they've done all they can do. 

The belief surrounding suicide is that it is a highly preventable cause of death. The general assumption is that if only people would reach out in their moments of great despair, they wouldn't act on the impulse to end their pain. As much as I've told myself that David's death was the result of an illness, it's still very difficult to live with regret and the many what-ifs. This exchange in this book, and this acceptance of illness and death, opened a new door for me. It brought me some new "what-ifs." 

For example, I wonder if David came to peace with his illness. Maybe he thought it was his time to go. He had battled the illness, and lived with the pain. Maybe he had enough, just as cancer patients choose to stop receiving treatment, David chose to stop fighting. Maybe he was happy and content with his life, he had such a great life, maybe he felt his mission was complete. 

A warning sign of suicide is a transformation in mood: a sense of peace, calm, or even a happiness. What if this transformation in mood is the same sort of acceptance that Kate had in this book. A peace with what's to come, and a happiness that the pain is going to end. When the fear of living overshadow's ones fear of death, maybe that's when they know. When life has lost its appeal, and death brings hope, maybe that's the sign. 

I don't know what these new questions mean for me regarding my beliefs about suicide. They don't make me miss David any less, but they do bring me a little comfort in thinking that maybe it was his time to go. I don't see a difference between a cancer patient stopping treatment and David choosing not to fight anymore, and maybe that's all this does for me. 

I would do anything to have healthy David back in my life. I would love to talk with him and laugh. The difference is that I know I will never understand his pain and I wouldn't wish one more day of his suffering, for my happiness. 

Maybe this is a step toward making peace. Maybe it is a small baby step toward finding some understanding. We will never understand why children get cancer, just as we will never understand why people must suffer through depression, anxiety, or other mental anguishes. I guess the only thing we can do, is find our own peace, truth, and source of hope. 

As always, I am sending my brother David all my love tonight.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Five Months

It has been five months today, five months since I've gotten to speak to my brother David. 
Five months since I've become this new person, forever changed.

In many ways, I've become a much better person these last few months. 
I have purposely become more genuine, empathetic, introspective, and self-expressive. 
I am more conscientious and driven, and much less bothered by small matters of life. 

David's death has pushed me and challenged me in ways I would have never imagined. 

At times, I feel an incredible peace, and other times a longing so raw that I feel my heart may jump out of my chest. It is in these moments that I turn to David, touch my heart, and ask him to be with me. I ask him to spend those moments with me, no matter if I'm in the privacy of my home, or sitting in my desk at work. 

The other day, I had a wave of intense longing and these words began singing in my head. I typed them out in my phone, and when I got home I recorded myself singing them so I will remember the tune. 

Take me away 
to the big blue sky
over the moon
I'll be reunited with you

Take me away my brother
Take me away my friend

Take me away 
to the forest trees
under their leaves
I'll be reunited with you

Take me away my brother
Take me away my friend

Take me away
and let us be
together again
right where we should be

Imagination is an incredible gift, and one to appreciate in times of trial. 
I've used imagery a lot these past few months. I imagine hugging David and holding his hand. 

Sometimes I close my eyes and re-immerse myself in a memory. 
One I love in particular is one of my most recent memories with David, 
it is from the weekend that we visited him in Minneapolis. 
Our last night there, we enjoyed dinner and a bonfire with friends. 
I remember sitting across from David, 
gazing at each other's illuminated faces: laughing and smiling. 
Both of us were really happy to be there, in that moment, with each other. 

Tonight I feel sad that it's been five months. 
I miss David and wish I could take away the pain of this world. 
I do find comfort in knowing that the pain he felt so intensely, has been replaced with great peace.  
I'm thankful for the belief that David is with me, every day. 

Come take me away, my brother 
Take me away, my friend

Take me away my brother, 
Someday, lets be together again. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Birthday Reflections

It’s a bittersweet birthday this year. I feel so much love from everyone here, yet there is emptiness remaining in David’s place of this day. I don’t remember a birthday without David somehow a part of it. Whether a phone call or a dinner, he always made my birthday special.

I think this is the first of many days that will be bittersweet. On days of greatest happiness, there is a paralleled sadness felt from someone missing someone you love. These days that we are surrounded by family & friends, we are reminded even more of our loved ones that are no longer here.

One of my most special birthdays was the year that I turned 21. David and I were both living in Iowa City, and our parents came down for the day. We went out to eat at Stella, a restaurant which was fairly new and none of us had been to before. David had never seen the restaurant and was very happy with my choice. We had a really lovely dinner. I remember sitting at the table, looking at my Mom, Dad, and David and feeling so incredibly loved. We had a great conversation and all really appreciated the eclectic group of our family that was able to reunite over a nice meal.

After dinner, David had to go downtown to catch the MegaBus as he was heading to Chicago for the weekend. Mom and Dad were going to be driving back home that night, and Carlos was coming to town for the weekend. We all rode together downtown and prepared to part ways. After waiting together for a few minutes, David learned that the Megabus was, in true fashion, running a couple of hours late.

There was a coffee shop across the street called “Fairgrounds” which I knew had an exceptional stash of board games. We decided to all wait with David there. After perusing the game selection, we chose to play Balderdash. I don’t think any of us had played it before and we had a lot of fun. I remember in particular, one obnoxiously long word that David drew. I had to come up with a definition, and somehow, I wrote the exact (correct) multi-faceted definition. It was probably the single greatest board game success I've ever had! David could not hold back his amazement, and I remember feeling really smart. (This was something that did not happen often in board games with David!) David was so excited (and proud) that he texted my brother Ben to quiz him and see if he knew the definition, he didn't!

This birthday memory of dinner and hanging out, makes me so happy. It is a small picture into what was a truly wonderful sibling relationship, as well as friendship, with my brother.

Today is bittersweet because David is not here in the same way that he was that night. He can’t tell a joke, enjoy a meal, or give me a call. He’s not able to even say the simple words, “Happy Birthday.” The sadness of today is compounded with the knowledge that today is only the first. It’s the first birthday and there will be many more. As the journey of my life continues, there will be other things, too: children, career changes, homes, etc. all things that I wish I could share with David.

The sweetness of today comes from all of the people that are here. It comes from all the love that is still around, in every corner of my life: my parents, siblings, nieces, friends, and husband. I know that David is wishing me a happy birthday today, and I know that he’s here with me. I will treasure the memory of that special birthday in Iowa City, and tonight I treasure David’s very special presence in my heart.

Here is to another year, bittersweet beginnings, and living with love.