Tell Scott I said hi!

It didn’t matter if we had been chatting for quite a while or if it was a quick exchange of pleasantries, Jerry always ended each conversation with me with a quick, “Tell Scott I said hi!” And eeeeeeverytime I assured him I would.

I think Jerry really liked Scott. They had different backgrounds but were both ‘boots on the ground’ workers. A mutual respect was established early in our California days.

Jerry was an airplane pilot for the Air Force. At one time he was based out of Dover AFB so we talked about that area often. We’ve known about his flying career for the entirety of our friendship with Gisela and Jerry, our across-the-street neighbors. Pre-COVID, he was a docent for the Aerospace Museum of California. It was only recently that we found out his actual job was to fly the planes that did in-air refueling of the fighter planes.

This tidbit of information was particularly interesting to me because inflight fueling of planes always makes me think of my mother. She loved a sermon she’d heard (and referred to often) about the intricacies of this unique military maneuver. Hovering over the other plane at 20,000 feet, the refueling team pumps thousands of gallons of gas into the jet at 300+ miles an hour – all without interrupting the flight at hand.

The pastor presenting the sermon used this analogy to speak about the times in life when things are happening around us too quickly to simply stop everything and rejuvenate. Pressures and stresses are coming at us too rapidly and yet our resources are waning. Many (if not all) of us can relate to this feeling the past few years. In an attempt to keep all the balls in the air, our fuel tanks have neared empty far too many times.

Thankfully, God is able to surround and sustain us even while we are still maintaining 300+ miles per hour. He is able to refuel us within the trial, not simply before or after it occurs – just like the Air Force jets do so far above our heads.

Gisela texted me this morning, a very simple sentence: ‘Jerry just passed away’. Having fought cancer for the past two years, it was time for him to land the plane. I spent the morning with Gisela while she waited for him to be transported. There is a year’s wait for Arlington Cemetery, but that will be where he is finally buried. The majestic and hallowed Arlington Cemetery in D.C. While she took a shower, I stayed with Jerry. He had on a white AIR FORCE tshirt and I once again thought about Mom’s favorite sermon. I could hear Gisela’s blow dryer upstairs while I leaned in a little closer to Jerry’s ear. ‘You provided a marriage of exciting hikes and biking trails. You impressed us all with your intellect and travel stories. No more inflight biopsies or invasive procedures. Rest well now. And hey Jerry, tell God I said hi.

I felt sure that he would.

Grief

It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it? We are a mourning nation. Confused, sorrowful, and enraged. Mix in a wonderful visit from our daughter that happened to end in sync with the school shooting, and a bit more sadness is stirred into the mix. However, our focus lately has been on our two neighborly friends. One lady – strong and interesting (I’ve joked for years that I had a bit of a crush on her), passed away yesterday. Dreaded cancer that she found out about two months ago. And our other neighbor across the street who has battled cancer for a year, does not have much more battle to fight. Three years ago, Jerry and Gisela were the first to welcome us here, knocking on the door to bring a neighborhood newsletter. We’ve since shared numerous items back and forth across Will Rogers Drive.

Now it feels like there is only so much that lasagne and garden veggies can do. We keep doing clumsy, awkward things for them all. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? We check in with them and tear up when they tear up, all voices cracking in unison.

I stood at my kitchen sink today, watering my philodendron, watching a truck back into Judith’s driveway, back-up beeps interrupting an otherwise sunny Memorial Day. As the water ran through my houseplant, they loaded a now unneeded hospital bed into the back of the truck. How quickly life can change, then how quickly we crave a sense of order to return after it does. Not able to alter a life ended so early, the elimination of a hospital bed reminder is one item that feels doable and immediate.

We in our 50s. They in their 60s. Children in their single digits.

Outside chaos of all kinds clamor at all our doorsteps on a regular basis, but it has become less and less noisy to me lately as the people right in front of me suffer unexpectedly. Social media seems less important while simultaneously, the friends behind each profile photo are held with warm and happy memories.

Life is big and scary but also small and wholly clear. We are not promised days; live entirely into the ones you are allowed.

Scott and I are off this week to explore a few more areas of California we’ve not seen before – the Mendocino coastal region. As I organize how to get Jerry to the car tomorrow morning for a doctor’s visit, his wife texts me information on where to see the rhododendrons along our trip. Such is the recipe of everyday life: the bitter balances the sweet. I’m thankful for a few days away with Scott. He is my person, balled up socks and all. Menial things are blurry these days. The importance of the moment is holding court. Tilly will dictate our stops and starts along the way, blissfully unaware of gunman and disease. Give her an open window and the occasional duck jerky and she’s filled with immeasurable canine glee.

I’m going small for awhile…the week has been especially difficult on our street. ✨ Please take good care of yours. ✨ They are the field God has given you to care for. Swap lettuce. Lend books. Gossip about the price of gas and late night talk shows. Do that universal head nod and arm wave as your neighbor pulls into their garage after work.

He comforts us in all affliction, we have been promised. If you are willing to be present, joy comes in the mourning as well.

– g

WILL MY CAT EAT MY EYEBALLS by Caitlin Doughty

I can NOT stop reading this book, you guys!! Like driving by a car wreck, I keep flipping to the next page after page. It’s so interesting! (Although I’m a big chicken so I can’t read it before bed.)

WOULD a cat eat you if you died and weren’t found for a long time and the cat was hungry? The answer’s yes – but she would start with something soft like your lips or eyelids. (Blech!) Thing is, it’s your DOG that would really go after you. There are homicide officers that after arriving at the death scene, originally thought it was a brutal murder when it turns out – it was man’s best friend!

😳

What happens to a body if it dies in space?

What would happen if you swallowed a bag of popcorn before you died and were cremated? Do bodies in the cemetery make our drinking water taste bad?

Best-selling author and real-live funeral director, Caitlin Doughty, receives many questions about death. The best (and most curious) are from children. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs answers many of the questions we’ve privately wondered about (and many we’ve never even thought of yet!) With wit and humor (and a great deal of inside information), Doughty lays out chapter after chapter of scientifically-based and humor-filled answers.

I grabbed this on impulse at my library and haven’t been able to put it down since. I’m telling you – it sounds crazy, but you’ll be hooked too!

Putting extra food in Haddie’s bowl tonight……

THE YEAR of MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion⠀ ⠀

It would appear to be a morbid book to read, yet this memoir about the year following Joan Didion’s husband’s death, was a systematic, matter-of-fact approach to try to make sense of the common process of grief. I mostly found it fascinating that our mind tries to make sense of something our heart cannot easily process. ⠀

Didion’s husband (John) had a sudden heart attack and died at home one evening. Didion recalls simple things like going to the hospital with the paramedics and her husband’s body to take care of the paperwork…’the regularization of death’. At the NYC hospital she recalls looking at the time and realizing that John had not died yet on LA time. Didion wondered, for a brief moment, if she could somehow stop him from dying before that California time arrived.⠀

The Year of Magical Thinking would be particularly fascinating to anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one as they would surely find similarities in the way Didion processed her husband’s death. ⠀

As is common, she spoke of wanting to tell John something important, only to realize she could not. “It was as if I put the arrow in the bow, pulled back and just before shooting it realized he was not here to listen to my story, and I would release the arrow and set the bow back down.”⠀

Didion recalled the many times in their marriage that after having a dream she would tell John about it in the morning when they woke up “…not to dwell on the dream but to let it go.” As a reader I wondered how therapeutic this memoir must have been. To write about her process of grief. Not to dwell on death, but to let it go.⠀

After a year of grieving and looking back on what was happening the previous year between she and John, she realized that while his death occurred on December 30, December 31 would be the first day in which John was not a part of the previous year. That is when she began to move forward and her way of thinking shifted. “I began to allow him to simply be the photograph on the piano.”⠀

This was a fascinating book about the process of grief – universally experienced but very uniquely felt.⠀

A highly recommended book.