Tag Archives: Death

I’m Still Standing

When we lose someone we love, it feels as though that particular pain will never go away. What we learn along the way is that while the pain never truly goes away, we find a way to accept it as part of our reality. We learn to live with it, we adapt & go on. We have to. Whats the alternative? I can think of a couple, but none that appeal to me.

There are more than one way to lose someone you love. The obvious one is death. That one is final & out of our control. It is also possible to lose loved ones due to mistakes, conflict or from growing apart. These can also be difficult to move past for some.

Lets focus, however, on loss due to death. Before the second week in February of this year I had lost 3 friends to sudden & tragic death. I knew all 3 of these guys for more than 20 years of my life. One was lost as a result of a terrible auto accident that made it onto all 3 major network news programs that day in Detroit. The second passed due to a blood infection he caught from a chemical burn & the last died from a massive heart attack at the age of 44, 24 hours after having surgery to repair his broken ankle. Not a single one feels fair or makes sense…but what untimely death makes sense? I just know I miss them & know that there are plenty of friends who have already passed who can meet them & help them on their journey. I also know that there is some AMAZING music being made in “heaven” right now, if that place exists.

All this death got me to thinking about friends who’ve gone before these 3. I’ve never actually sat down & counted how many of my friends have passed since it started in 1996 with the murder of my buddy Steve, who was gunned down during an attempted car-jacking after a Motorhead concert. I know the number is somewhere in the double digits, but I prefer to remember them individually. They were all unique & beautiful in their own special way. Each gave something to our scene that could never be replaced & will never be forgotten. I do hope to honor my fallen brothers in some way, whether I write a story about it & them or finally follow through on that documentary that I’ve been threatening to film for years now. They deserve to be remembered & celebrated! I’m grateful & lucky to have known every one of these guys, because the color they added to life was breathtaking. 

Sadly, I’ve become a pro at moving on, but it’s what we do, we endure. When I first begin to notice I’m getting through entire days without crying I feel guilty, as if I’m forgetting. The thing is, I’ll never forget, they walk with me every step of my journey, sometimes carrying me along when I’m unable to walk myself.

You see, at a certain point, I remind myself that I’m still alive & I have to get back to the business of living. I’ve got work to do, a life to live, memories to be made….so much to see, to photograph, to write about…people to meet, faces to make smile, cities to live in for a year, lessons to learn, wrongs to right, maybe even lives to change (hopefully for the better)

I admit that I’ve wasted a lot of precious time in my life. That was one of the hardest lessons to learn…that I’m only ripping myself off by doing nothing, by not believing in myself. I’m done with that. I’m excited about everything that lies ahead for me. I look forward to seeing what changes. I am ready for the challenges that lie ahead. I’m lucky, you see, because I’ve got an army of angels surrounding me with love. 

Now, I’ve gotta get outta here….stuff & thangs ;^)


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As Tears Go By

Ok, so…..I’m not a big watcher of television, it’s pretty empty to me, however there are certain actors & certain content that I do enjoy. There is a new show this season on NBC, I think, called Parenthood. It starts Peter Krause & Lauren Graham. I am a fan of Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, which is one of my favorite all time shows. I like Lauren Graham for many things, but mainly, I really liked Gilmore Girls. I can’t explain it, I just liked it, whatever.

So, I have watched episodes of Parenthood on Hulu & by the end of EVERY SINGLE EPISODE I am crying my little crybaby eyes out. I know why this is, I just don’t talk about it, ever. I am pissed, jealous & upset that I have never been the girl who got married & had kids. I’m not sure this is something I did on purpose, well, a few times it was on purpose. I’ve been afraid of everything all my life & it seems I have scared myself out of true love, marriage & children. I’ll just add it to the list of things I never had the nerve to do. That is SUCH a long list & I hate it! I hope to burn it one day.

I’ve gone through a tough time lately. I know this is obvious to anyone who knows me or reads this blog, all 10 of you. lol There are multiple reasons for this, some that I’ve already written about, some I haven’t & some I never will.

I am mourning the loss of so many people that I have honestly lost count. That’s a sad thought within itself. In the last 6 months alone I’ve known 3 people who have passed away from very similar problems. They all died from bad hearts. 2 were Congestive Heart failure.

1 of them was my grandfather, who I barely knew, but he was a wonderful man. I literally found out that he passed away because my step-mother reads to obituary’s & saw his name, saying something to my dad, who then called me. I just sat in silence while he talked, didn’t cry. I was with my younger brother, who’s only 22 & never knew him, so I didn’t want to get upset in front of him, because he worries about me, in that cute, protective brotherly way. It was March 18th, 3 days shy of his 84th birthday. With his second wife they had 7 children, who all grew up to be happy & successful people, because I  believe, they had a loving & nurturing family. I’ve been alive nearly 40 years, I could have had 39 years with this man, but I didn’t because the cross-family conflict ran too deep for me to EVER understand. All I know is that I was the biggest victim in all this conflict, well me & my dad, but he helped perpetuate it once he was an adult. I never did. I always wanted to know him, as well as my 7 Aunts & Uncles & my 18 cousins. I had a little under 2 years with him from 12-14 & I just LOVED him. I was just instinctively like him & that was so weird to me, because I have a hard time comprehending a close & loving family connection. Yeah, I’m close to my parents NOW, but that’s only been in the last 5 years of my life. I wish I could have known the man his 18 other grandchildren called papa. I wish for my dad that he could have felt loved by his father, maybe then so many things would have been different. Luckily for us, I broke our family cycle, someone had to. I wrote an entire blog about him after his passing if you want to know more about our story.

The second person who passed away from Congestive Heart Failure was my friend Kevin, 6 months ago. He was 42 & had a 12-year-old son who adored him & he adored right back. I knew Kevin for 20 years & he was a really wonderful, funny, sarcastic, talented & beautiful soul. He was like me in some ways, sarcasm being the prevailing similarity. He was always struggling to make ends meet, often found himself out of work, never had money saved. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Kevin struggled his entire adult life. He was stressed a lot of the time. He didn’t get nearly enough joy in his life before his heart gave out on him. That just doesn’t seem fair to me. I wish he was still walking the earth, spending quality time with his son, playing guitar, cooking delicious food, smiling, laughing, making fun of people, breathing. I wasn’t able to make his memorial, which was a sad affair for a few reasons, the obvious being his age, but also that his family refused to pay for a service & so his friends had to scramble to put something together. Luckily, someone knew a person whose family owned a funeral home & they let them use it for free. That was lovely of them. His body was not in attendance though, because that costs extra. Dying is not cheap! Anyway, I was still in Florida then & was struggling financially myself, so I couldn’t afford the plane ticket up. On the day of the memorial, my friend Amy called me several times to fill me in on the goings on; who spoke, what they said, how everybody was holding up. It was one of those moments that breaks your heart, because you know this event is going on & you so much want to be there, but can’t for reasons beyond your control. You feel so alone, because you are not with your friends, mourning, looking at photographs, telling stories. You are all alone, in a state far from anyone who understands the pain of this loss. There were many tears shed that day & night. I still don’t feel a closure with Kevin, much like my friend Angelo who passed away from an aneurysm in January of 2008, which could have been stopped, had he gone to the hospital, but I’m NOT blaming him, I just selfishly wish he were still here, mostly for his children. I couldn’t make it to his funeral either, being in Florida & not being given enough notice to get back up here. Or Amanda, oh Amanda……my ex-boyfriends niece, who I really did love like a daughter/good friend, who passed away in July of 2008 of a heroin overdose. Her funeral was one I was told I was not welcome to attend by my scumbag ex-boyfriend, who by the way copped the dope that killed her & he’s telling me I can’t go to her funeral? Afterward, I was told & saw photographs of the tailgating party they were holding in the parking lot of the funeral home. No wonder this happened, the adults in her life were/are walking disasters in their own right!  Amanda was 17 years old & less than 8 hours away from leaving for Tennessee to clean up her act. She never made it to morning. I’m not now & doubt I ever will get over her death.

Lastly, on March 1oth, I lost someone who I cared about in a special, sweet & unforgettable way. I don’t & won’t discuss it in full, because it is precious & private  memory that most people wouldn’t be able to understand. He was a special person. He was, as one friend put it so beautifully…..magic. He passed away from Pneumonia & Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which in lay terms is basically thickening of the heart muscles causing them to enlarge. He also had Coronary Artery disease, which is the build up of plaque in the coronary arteries. As I look at all these big medical terms, the only thing that comes to mind is that his heart was just too big & it couldn’t go on any longer. It’s like his heart broke & just stopped. I can’t express enough how much I wish this wouldn’t have happened, that he would have gotten treatment for this earlier in life or that the hospital could have kept his pulse, heart rate & blood pressure going once they got it momentarily stabilized, but his body was just done. It was done fighting. He may not have been done, but his heart was. He was only 38 & like myself never married or had children, although we both really did want that in our lives.

It is moments like this that cause me to ask myself why. Why do things like this happen? Why are some people SO blessed with a good & happy life, while others are doomed to suffer? A friend has a theory that I kind of agree with, but that’s between us. All I can say is that I hope my loved ones who left too soon find themselves in a happy & healthy life next time around. For my Grandfather (Papa, I guess) I hope he is enjoying his time with loved ones who passed before him & that he is looking over his wife & letting her know that everything is ok & he’ll meet her when it’s her time to go.

I am sad today.

I hope tomorrow to feel happier.

I have grief counseling in the morning & hope that somehow that helps.

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Fool To Cry

My grandfather passed away on March 18th. I found out when my dad called to tell me that his obituary was in the local paper. For most people with families, finding out about the death of a grandparent this way may seem odd. Well, to be honest, it is, but that’s me, my family & my entire life.

I did not have a close relationship with my grandfather. I barely knew him actually. This fact has always left a gaping hole in my heart, because the times I did know him I adored him & his entire family.

The reasons for my grandpa not being in my life were solidified before my birth. I had nothing to do with it, but for some reason it never felt that way. I didn’t even know he existed until I was 12 years old & I was forced to go to his house & meet him. My dad never asked me if I wanted this person in my life & a year & a half later, he again didn’t ask if I was ok with having him ripped right back out of my life. It was never explained to me, like most things in life when I was growing up, like my MANY step-mothers, moving from place to place & the list goes on & on.

When I met my grandpa (or as his grandchildren call him, poppa) he had been remarried to a very nice lady since 1953. Together they had 7 children, who were all loving, respectful & wonderful people, unlike the useless relatives I was forced to be around growing up. These people did not judge me, they accepted & loved me for the goofy, slightly odd kid that I was. I thought they walked on water for that! How awesome that they just liked me, I was the luckiest girl in the world…….until one day it was all gone & life just went back to the same scary hell it was before they were forced into my life.

I harbored a lot of anger towards my dad for this painful event for many years. The worst part was that he flat out refused to discuss the issue, or any others really, with me. This was when I REALLY began to act out & my life took a turn for the worse that I wouldn’t recover from for decades.

In 2007, I had decided that I had to contact this man who I had missed so much for so long. While in Florida for work, I looked him up, knowing he lived in that state. I found him within 15 minutes, thanks to the help of my mom, who was always very supportive of me contacting my grandpa, knowing that my dads perspective was incredibly distorted. She found & gave me his phone number. I stared at it for what felt like hours, but I’m sure it was only a few minutes & with my heart pounding & hands sweating I dialed his number. Of course he answered on the second ring, I gulped & said hello, I believe that I am your granddaughter Jennifer. He said that in fact I was & that he was very happy to hear from me. I asked if I could see him, but he informed me that he & his wife were leaving first thing in the morning to start driving to Detroit. I laughed at this, because I was heading back there myself a few days later & told him so. He insisted that I call him as soon as I got home at my Aunt Beth’s house, so we could figure out a day to get together. I think I cried for nearly an hour after we hung up. I felt so relieved & excited at the thought of seeing him again & he seemed genuinely happy to hear from me.

When I returned to Detroit a few days later, I again stared at this piece of paper with a growing list of phone numbers on it & got up the nerve to call this house, not knowing who would answer, what to say or how to ask to speak to my grandpa. When I called, my “cousin” Wayne answered & I asked to speak to Mr. Newton…..I didn’t know what else to say. When he got on the phone, he praised me for calling & told me how happy he was that I did…..wow, did my heart smile at the sound of that coming from him. See, for the longest time, I thought this family didn’t want me, what else would a 14 year old who was hated by & shunned from the rest of her family think?

He informed me that I would be attending a family gathering at my Aunts house a few days later. I love how he didn’t even consider asking me. I just said absolutely that I would be there & asked what time I should show up. I was SO, SO scared! I can still feel that fear when think back to that day. One of my close friends, Sarah, lived near my aunt & she offered to meet me outside there house & even go in with me if I wanted. I told her that going in with me wasn’t necessary, but could she please come meet me down the street to talk me out of driving away. The anxiety was nearly unbearable. I’m surprised I didn’t collapse in the car or on the street when I stepped out. Sarah gave me a wonderful pep talk & off I went to face my “family”.

As I walked up my aunts driveway, I was sure it was a half mile long. Seriously, it felt like it took forever to get to the backyard. When I was in eyeshot, my grandpa’s wife, Elenore, said his name & motioned towards me. As soon as he saw me, he smiled this big, beautiful smile, stood up & began to walk towards me, to meet me at the gate. As he embraced me tightly, he whispered in my ear “you look good, kid. I’m glad you’re here” I must admit, I cried a little at that moment. I also exhaled. He put his arm around me & proceeded to walk me around this HUGE circle of people that consisted of his children, their spouses & some of their children. My aunts, uncles & their spouses were incredibly warm to me. My cousins, well, that’s a very different story. They were upset by my presence & I have since learned they never knew I existed & were not warned that I would be there that day. They made their displeasure known to me.

When we were done walking around re-meeting everybody, my grandfather & I took our seat at the far end of the circle, near the house. He insisted that I sit directly next to him & stay there. Like I was gonna say no. We spoke a lot, about many different topics, including my Cherokee heritage that I was never aware of but look forward to researching! We also discussed the problems between he & my grandma, as well as the issues between he & my dad. I made it very clear that I wasn’t aware of anything that went on, but that I didn’t want to really speculate or speak on anyone else’s behalf. I could only speak for myself, the pain that not being a part of his family caused me & that I was so grateful to have reconnected with him.

He informed me on this day that he was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure. My own heart sank, because I know what that meant. It meant that he was limited in the years he had left to live. I was devastated. I had only just got him back. Damn, life really isn’t fair sometimes.

I stayed at that gathering longer than anyone else. I honestly didn’t want to leave my grandfather. His stories were so interesting & I just felt a strong connection to him & being with him was very comforting to me in a way that I still don’t understand. As I was leaving, having had so many family members invite me to upcoming holiday events, I had every intention of staying in touch with these people, who once again seemed truly happy to have me around. But with the way the grandchildren treated me, the fear & intimidation I felt by this big loving family that I didn’t understand, I’m ashamed to say I did not stay in touch with any of them, including my grandfather. I did speak to him one more time on the telephone, during which I told him I loved him. I’m glad I did, as it was the last time I ever spoke to him.

I decided to go to his funeral, to say goodbye & pay my respects to the family. I was so pleased that my dad decided to go with me as well. I knew that it would be so very healing for him & he really needed to reconcile himself to all the pain & emptiness he has carried with him for his entire life. It was awkward, but in the end I am glad that I went. I reconnected with my aunts, not so much my uncles, but that doesn’t really matter to me, as I never really felt I wanted or needed to be close to them. I also was able to meet my grandfathers brother & sister, who are luckily still alive. apparently I look a lot like my Great Aunt Jeanne & I look forward to spending some time with her & getting to know her better while she is still around. She’s really something else & I can see where I am like her. I also can’t wait to go down to Florida to visit her & look through her old pictures & listen to the accompanying stories.

I don’t really know what happens now. I am really sad that my grandpa died. He was a good man who told great stories & was an excellent barber. He was a loving & devoted husband, father & grandfather. I only wish I would have been included in his family, I feel my life would have been dramatically different had they all been in my life. I can only go forward though, so that is irrelevant.

Rest in peace Wayne…….you are loved & missed here

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