Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Remembering Ruby

         Ruby passed away a little over a week ago. I believe she was five, maybe six. She was adorable. She was loved. Her young life was just beginning. So much was ahead; so much is left behind - a broken-hearted family, devastated friends, unrelenting tears, and questions that never fully can be answered. 
         Yes, she died of complications related to leukemia. We know that, but a bigger mystery torments us. Why Ruby? Why this lovely child who as her mother described, was a bundle of energy, always laughing, and absolutely full of life? Why her?
         It’s a question so many mothers and fathers (and grandma, in this case) have asked when other tragedies have befallen. Yet we ask still: Why? We wonder, we speculate, and we curse a fickle fate we cannot understand. I am left empty.

         A month ago when we (the German Shepherd Dog walkers) learned of Ruby’s illness, we were stunned, but hope had blossomed. The prognosis was good. Percentages were on her side. She would be well again. On a whim, we delivered her a stuffed GSD, some books, and our well wishes even though, to be honest, we didn’t really know Ruby well. We had only seen her around, usually with Grandma and brother in tow, always anxious to take a peek at those big dogs.The fact that Ruby was only a little kid acquaintance of ours did not matter though. Hearing that she was sick, on chemo, and knowing that her struggle was oh, so real, snagged our heartstrings. We cared. 
         And then there was today. Today. Today we walked our GSDs by the house as we always do, wondering, always wondering. How’s Ruby?
Her parents uncharacteristically were outside when we passed this morning so we took a chance. We hopefully asked, “How’s Ruby?” 
A pause.
The strongest mother and father I know on this day managed to find the words to tell us that their sweet Ruby had passed away. We were stricken. They were gracious. Words of condolence, of understanding, of sadness, of connection captured the moment and we will not soon forget. I cried all the way home (and I thought I had used up every tear I had). I am emotional still, as was my fellow GSD walker. My husband sighed when we were home. “This is so sad. I feel exhausted, like the wind has been taken out of my sails,” he said. I understood completely.

If I were a miracle worker I would take away the pain of loss this family feels, but I cannot. I can only empathize, and I did, trying to put words to the feelings I believe a person has when one loses a child. The days that follow a death such as Ruby’s are hollow, empty, and tormented beyond belief. It is as though one has been tossed into a twilight zone. Focus, reason, motivation, and enthusiasm are ripped away, at least for a while, in the face of a new reality. And it hurts. It will hurt for a long, long time, perhaps forever. On some level, however, that fact is acceptable because it is verifiable - the depth of one’s grief equates to the depth of one’s love. It’s an odd comfort we can offer ourselves. In the end, no matter what outsiders may impose, we are not meant to forget the intensity with which we loved our child. And we need not.  

Rest in peace, little Ruby. Your brief life was precious and a gift to us all. 


Another Mother Joins Us

I learned today of the death of a friend’s child. I cried. And I remembered this poem I wrote in 2014. I wanted to share again.

The Sisterhood

Years before
You stood tall,
Just like the others.

You’re gone now,                                                        
Others too,
Leaving me,
Leaving us,
And together,
In the sisterhood --   
Mothers without a son,
Or daughter,
Our babes born
And buried,
The hands of fate

Year one
Without you
You are honored,
“Why the fuss?”
I sense your spirit,
Smiling secretly.

Year one
Sweet sisters share,
Too many to count,
Losers all.
Sad stories,
Hidden in their hearts,
Bubble anew,
As fresh as yesterday.

Year two                                                                                   
Without you
Once more.
Another day dawns.
“Get over it!”
Some say.
“Not easy,”
I counter.
The sisters know.

Years before
I stood aside,
Just like the others.

But you’re gone now,
Others too,
Leaving me,
Leaving us,
And together,
In the sisterhood --
Mothers without a son,
Or daughter,
Our babes buried,
The decree of destiny

In years to come
Where will we sisters be?
Marker counting?
Making do?
The sisterhood stands by,
Together and apart,
While time, fickle and capricious,  
Elapses enough to ease
an angst that will not ever let go.                              
                                                                             By Judith DeChesere-Boyle, May 2014
                                                                             Remembering my son, Alex Stevenson


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Being Invisible

Leona Jean wasn’t sure of the exact date . . . the date it happened, but at some point along the line she became invisible. Oh, she still existed. She had a body that moved, a face that showed emotion, and a voice that made sound, but that didn’t appear to matter. She had transformed, it seemed, into an obscure, unseen entity, inconsequential to everyone - friend, family, or foe. And that reality was an awakening, indeed.
She was not undone by her essential elimination from the world of the living but it placed her in a quandary. She was perplexed and had no idea what to do about the fact that no one saw her. She was ninety-one now, older than the goddamned hills but she still breathed, she still had bodily functions and needs, and she still had feelings, though if the truth were known, she had stifled her emotions for quite a long time. It was safer that way. After all, who cared what an old woman thought, or felt for that matter. Weren’t her days numbered anyway?
Essentially having no one, Leona Jean began to sink into a world of her own making, one swathed in memories, some happy, some sad, and some horrid enough to still get her dander up if she thought about them long enough. Certainly, she had experienced love, from her late husband, her child, her parents, her pets – ah, the latter being her favorites because they had loved with unconditional fervor, never judging, always responsive, furry bundles of unadulterated affection. Oh my, there have been so many.
And she had felt sorrow, for dear Henry mostly, gone a decade now and the last person on Earth, it seemed, to recognize that she had counted for something. Sure do miss that old boy, bastard though he was sometimes. Henry had provided good things in his wife’s life in the form of stability, sweet kisses, raucous sex, and belly-quivering laughter. 
Quite to the contrary, however, were a few rotten folks who had infected her life. Though the betrayers, the liars, the leeches, and the bums were only remotely sprinkled throughout, they were difficult to forget, some stubbornly and sporadically rearing their ugly heads as if only to mock her. If Leona were to put a finger on the people she most vividly recalled, each with stomach-churning ire, it was the betrayers, warped, self-centered dunderheads who considered only themselves. Prime examples, that would not give her peace, were Leona’s philandering, first husband, the ungrateful, self-indulgent daughter who had forgotten her mother’s nurturing care, and a deceitful employee, the embezzler, remorseless and cruel. This malicious trifecta actually gave Leona pause. I surely was invisible to them even then.Why, she wondered, would someone purposefully carve a wound in her soul? What kind of person would do that? She could only ponder.
It’s of no consequence, is it? I’m safe now, forgotten by all of them, a disregarded memory, most likely, as if I never existed at all. And perhaps that is how it should be, especially for someone like me . . . for I have become invisible. No one can see.