Monday, January 28, 2019

Our James

It was perfect.

And beautiful and heart wrenching and difficult and heartfelt and exactly right.

We were a gathering of souls there for one reason.

So many souls. So much empathy. So much love.

So much music and so many gorgeous words.

Aquilino and his band made it everything. This man. My god. They accompanied Jane on Sweet Child of Mine and I don't know how they all did it but it was transcendent.

And Jacquie's eulogy? If you haven't read it, do. But transport yourself to the Inn at Sunset Cliffs and listen to it live instead. Jacquie's eloquence and grace in her delivery were incredible.

And Clara spoke. At her brother's memorial. Her words were funny and heartfelt and lovely and perfect and Clara. And I don't know how she did it either.

We were so dumb. I was so dumb. I kept saying, "It has to be good; this has to be good; we have to make it good." But Jacquie already knew that. She already knew how to make it good.

And the people there made it everything.

Three generations.

Me and mah girl.

The ballet girls.

And Mabel. And her Cameron . . .

Mabel makes everything better.

But this kid? Our Clara? She does too.

Clara makes all things better. And so does Ari.

And these lovelies? They *make* everything.

I wish I could show you how beautiful everything was . . . 

. . . how beautiful every*one* was . . .

. . . how beautiful everyone sounded.

. . . and how amazing this lovely was.

. . .  I mean, the woman has a transparent hand. That says a *lot*.

It was lovely and beautiful and perfect. We kept saying that. Perfect. For the most imperfect reason.

And the sunset at the day's end was off the charts. Which was fitting. And perfect.

The next day we gathered ourselves bright and early by mid-afternoon at the beach. I mean, we were in Southern California . . .

. . .  and our youngests hung ten . . .

. . . while the rest of us closely guarded the beach.

Jacquie's friends are solid gold . . .

. . . as are her nieces . . .

. . . and her nephews.

And then?

Another San Diego Sunset . . .

. . . and a Full Moon Rising.

I don't know how we process this. Nobody does. And being together is incredible and amazing and just as hard as everything surrounding it is.

But we're here.

We're here.

So we can be.

To quote Maya Angelou, and her brilliant When Great Trees Fall, which I was honored to participate in reciting at James' Memorial on Saturday, and at Mumsie's on Thursday:

We can be.
Be and be
For they existed.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

eulogy for James

Thank you all so much for being here, Clara and Bill and I are humbled and awed by the depth of your compassion and the generosity of your love.

In these last few miserable weeks since my baby left me, we have talked and thought a lot about James’ pain. I’ve been told that I should find comfort in the fact that his tortured soul is finally at peace. I appreciate that, and I do hope and pray with all of my heart that there is a place for our souls to celebrate after we leave these bodies, and that James is content in that place. I’m not here to find comfort though, I’m here to celebrate James, and he was more than just a misfit. He was special. He didn't fit into the molds that this world offered because he was special.

 His mind was unique and his thoughts were seldom quiet. He'd often wake up early and we'd have coffee together, and he'd chat about the most random things while I was getting ready for work. He had vivid dreams with profound themes and imagery, and liked to delve into deep analysis… before 8am... while I struggled to form coherent sentences.

 He was a quirky kid, an introvert to the core, but despite the fact that social interactions often overwhelmed him, he was really good with people. As all of you know, he made eye contact, he listened when you talked with him, and he heard you. He would also sometimes get lost in his own point of view, and the art of debate was not his craft, but when we’d agree to disagree I never felt disrespected or disregarded, and our next discussion about whatever controversial topic we’d butted heads about usually circled around to his having given thought to some of the points I had made.

Clara is going to roll her eyes at this, but James was deeply inspired by his sister. The two of them were so different, they baffled each other with the opposition of their opinions on everything from personal politics to the spice level in their Indian food. He would never let her know how much he admired her, and how he wished he had more of her tenacity and courage. We both looked to Clara for cues about how to react when things got dicey. I’ve learned so much about how to be strong by being alongside her since December 11th.

James was uncertain about his path and seemed to drift in the vicinity of a passion that might guide his future, but he never really claimed one. When he was still with me, I relied on the belief that he would find his passion. I knew what he did not: that it just takes one moment – one interaction – one idea – one spark - to ignite the discovery of who we’re meant to be. Every one of us wanted to be the champion to light that fire. So many of you have told me that you wish you’d had the chance to be more of a mentor to James. He didn’t make it easy though, did he?

His tendency was to suppress the arousal of awakening, probably because it was scary and risky and hard. It seems ironic now to say that he wasn’t willing to take a risk because, well, look what he did. He was reckless with his life, but not with his heart. He built a shell around himself to protect that fragile heart of his, and it wasn’t easy to break through. It was easier to convince ourselves that he didn’t want us to. But he needed us to.

Many of us tried to convince James that some of the tools he was using in his struggle to keep the scary stuff away were actually bringing worse things to the inside, creating an impenetrable barrier between the beauty of his potential and the ugliness of his temptations.

He thought that silencing the urge to make changes would protect him from the challenge of living through that change. He nurtured his spirit with long drives, scenic views, and deep connections to the animals he loved so deeply. He told himself that the need to feel calm was more important than the quiet desire to transform, to grow, to become a different version of himself. We talked about the future, he had ideas and plans for himself, but he held those dreams too distant to grasp. He couldn’t see the path from today into his future, he didn’t give himself the chance to take a leap of faith. I thought that I could be the rock from which he would fly. I thought that by being patient and accepting and present I could carry the burden of his vulnerability, and that he could lean on me when the world was disappointing. It turns out that my unrelenting, unconditional, unwavering belief in him just wasn’t enough.

What can be learned? I don’t know. I’m not here to teach you anything. Maybe we can all try harder to be someone’s champion, to penetrate the shell, and if someone is scaring us with the choices he is making, let’s say the things that are really really hard to say, or do the unthinkable and tell his mom.

I had a son, and my son is gone. I am desperate for the world to always know that I had a son. I feel it in my whole body, I wear it like a scar. I am marking myself with ink to scream that I had a son.

He was with me. It was always me and him, from the first day he made his slow and dramatic entry into the world until the last minute when life left his body, he was with me. He was with ME. And he is with me still, with us. All around us and in us and in the spaces between us. I will carry his heart in my heart forever, so he will always be with me. I hope you will keep James in your heart too, so that he can feel the power of this love, even when it hurts.

Now we’ll be still a moment, and listen to one of my son James’ favorite songs.

Monday, January 14, 2019

San Diego Sunset

Sunset in San Diego is a remarkable phenomenon.

It's powerful and stunning and emotional. It's a fraught time of day, and at the same time the most spectacular time of day.

The thing about Sunset in San Diego is that it is in San Diego. San Diego. I'm here. In this beautiful city that smells like bougainvillea.

It's hard and emotional and raw and beautiful and Jacquie's friends here are off the charts spectacular. But we're here for entirely the wrong reason, which makes it all the more hard and emotional and raw and beautiful.

It's emotional. And raw. And entirely Beautiful.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Years and years ago during our Westy years, somebody said something like "words cannot express how I feel about" . . . blah blah blah.

Mistah and I, all full of youth and knowledge and blithe wisdom, disagreed. "But all we have are words. If words can't express how you feel, then what else do we have?"

It was good sentiment; we were right, partly. But now I get it.

Words help -- they do -- they are all we have.

But yeah. They're not enough.

Because our Young James' death hits like a steamroller every day.

And I am only his lowly "Fly away Aunt Ellie" auntie. I'm just a small piece of the giant pie of people his life and death have affected.

Which is a bizarre metaphor, but the kid did famously love pie.

But. Sometimes, the universe helps takes care of things. When one has no words -- even though that is all we have -- sometimes, the universe helps out.

Sometimes, like it did yesterday, the Universe does this:

And sometimes, like it did on New Years Day, the Universe does this:

So, yes. Words aren't always enough. But beauty and magnificence help.