Two Friends Gone, Twice The Grief


Everyone deals with grief differently and not all griefs are the same.
Two of my most beloved friends have died. One last year (Brian), and another last week (Lee) and I’ve reacted to both deaths differently. The aching void is the same but the uncontrollable sadness is different.
With Brian, my world was thrown for a loop. Brian was a long-time friend who, for a few reasons, had grown distant. About two years ago, we began the process of repairing our friendship. However, one abrupt evening, I got a text from his boyfriend.
Brian was dead.
Brian was suffering from pneumonia and was at the hospital. Due to health complications, doctors had to perform heart surgery.
Risky.
He didn’t make it.
One of the last texts I got from him was an “I love you”.
The news was a horrid shock and completely unexpected. Sure, with operations there is always a risk of something bad happening, but Brian was athletic and fit. All indications pointed towards a successful procedure.
I lost a big part of my life that day and even to this day I haven’t fully recovered. I still think about the little quirks he used to do. I laugh at the memory and tear up at the realization that that memory can’t and won’t ever be repeated.
Brian is gone.
But just when you think you’re emotions are stable, strong, and recovered. Life decides it’s time for even more loss. This time, the void would come from the absence of Lee-my ex and one of my best friends.
Like Brian, Lee was also in the hospital. Also like Brian, Lee needed surgery for similar respiratory issues. But unlike Brian, doctors couldn’t operate on Lee. The doctors didn’t know if Lee’s liver could handle the procedure. So much for being cautious.
I got a text from Lee’s boyfriend Saturday evening.
Lee was dead.
I spent the morning crying and trying to hide the wailing sounds from my hosts’ ears. See I was in El Salvador and I was staying in the house of a dear friend of mine. I didn’t want to wake them up.
But oh how my heart ached!
After Lee and I broke up, I was worried that he would do something drastic and crazy. It was not an easy break up for neither of us, but I think it was harder for Lee.
But as fortune would have it, Lee eventually made new friends in his new home state of Texas. His job would also promote him and he would even come to fall in love with a great man. Everything looked great for Lee and I couldn’t be happier for him.
As Lee continued with his life and school and work took over mine, we would eventually distance ourselves from each other, but still keep in contact via texts and Facebook.
Lee was a joy to me.
His loss has opened a deep wound. The nasty wound of grief. But this wound feels different. Brian’s loss was raw and “in your face”. Lee’s wound has been relatively quiet. In fact, I’ve been able to smile and even talk coherently about the event.
Is it because I don’t love him? No. Nothing could be further from the truth. I adored Lee as a friend. He was a gigantic part of my life, there’s no way I could not love him.
Maybe it’s because I’m used to the grief of loss? Again I don’t think so. I still feel the sense of loss as such I’m still grieving. Besides, I don’t think you can really ever get used to grief.
So what is it?
Denial.
When I read the text concerning Lee’s passing I understood the information. And though I cried and mourned, my mind apparently has not fully accepted that he is indeed gone. I noticed this when I received a message from Lee’s Facebook account. His partner accidentally sent me a message while he was logged into Lee’s account. I saw it, and somehow I was not entirely surprised until I stopped and purposefully thought about Lee’s death.
For some reason, my mind is refusing to believe that he is gone.
Logically I can see it.
I’ve read enough about the grieving process to know where I am at. And in a selfish way, it has helped me to enjoy my trip to El Salvador. But I know what’s probably going to happen. My mind is going to finally realize the truth. And all this sadness, grief, anger, and pain that I have been holding back so far, will rush out.
That’s not good.
There are many who have asked me “how are you doing?” A question that I politely answer with “I’m good” or “I’m hanging in there”.
It’s not a lie…per se.
For all intents and purposes, I am good. Moreover, indeed, I am hanging in there. But as all that goes up, must come down; I know I will have to deal with this soon.
The truth is Lee is gone and no amount of tears can bring him back. In spite of this, I have to cry.
I also need to tell my mind, that memories, though now impossible to recreate, are memories that were real and that are beautiful.
And one day, after this gash has closed. I will be able to remember his smile, his heart, his jokes, and his mannerism. Soon enough, I will smile at the happy memories, and tear up for his loss, and I’ll be ok.
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Romantic love


I warn you guys. This is a dark post:

Love. What a cruel beast. Usually attacks the first victim harder then the second. And when that victim wants to share this vehement disease, he is confronted with the inevitable inequality. Curse you love and all your devices. Rarely is the outcome to this disease a good one. I fought hard to keep you away, especially after the first time I contracted you. You fooled me back then, told me you were vitamins or something like that. I wish you were vitamins. But the only thing you enforce is my determination to never allow you in. You have a horrid way of knocking on my doors only to bring me to utter ruin.
And yet, as hard as I tried. For all my craftiness, fortifications, and traps. You somehow evaded them all and behold, here you are. Stating at me, mocking me for I know what you’re about to do. Dangling my desire like a holster dangles carrots in front of a rabbit. You lead me to places I did not want to go, only to open the window of truth. The truth that says that that which I so want, I can never, ever, have. Curse you love and all your demonic devices. I long for the day I can chain you and pierce you through the heart like you have done to me, so so many times.
Why is this fair! Why is this fair. But one day, your devices will be useless against me. One day I will look into your eyes and say, “your abode is in he’ll”. I hate you love. And yet I love you. I wish I could feel you. I wish I could share you. Yet here I am, once again. Staring at that window. Knowing that I can want all I want but my want will never ever become reality.

Training all the way (train vs plane)


I am currently in the midst of experiencing that which most people are afraid to experience…a 34 hour train ride x2 (as opposed to a 5-8 hour plane ride). My verdict? I’m probably going to do it again. Not just because I’m a train fanatic; though this I am, but rather because my ride on this train trip has been by far more comfortable and hassle free than anything the airport or any plane for that matter could produce.

The seats are uncannily spacious. Ok, when a man like me can fully extend his legs and wiggle them yet still have room to spare? That’s what I call leg room. Moreover, there’s enough space laterally to where you don’t feel like you’re intruding into your neighbor space. Not to mention the fact that there is also electrical outlets which helps in the battery upkeep of my handy dandy IPod.

The windows are HUGE with ample viewing area. However, if you get an isle seat (like I have pretty much all throughout this trip) there is always the observation car whose windows are considerably larger (for obvious reasons). Moreover, unlike air travel which you are forced to look at the monotony of a clear/cloudy/stormy sky through a pee sized window; the train brings you face to face with mountains, rivers, fields, towns, industrial zones, oceans, farms, etc. There is always something new to see and enjoy!

What about restrooms? Well, as opposed to a plane where you are restricted to one (two on bigger planes) the train (Capitol limited) has about six, with one changing room.
Furthermore, you are more than welcome to stand up and use them whenever you want. In fact, you don’t even have to sit back down if you don’t want to, because on a train you can walk around. Forget those belt buckles that you have to wear due to possible turbulence; further restricting you to a suffocating, cramped seat.

Security? No frisking/x-raying here. You walk in, hand them your ticket and you board. That’s not to say that security is lax. Quite the opposite, the cops are out in force with their dogs sniffing every bag for possible threats. Truth be told I feel safer in a train station than an airport (and less stresses out too).

In reality, the only advantage the airplane has over train travel is speed. But when you see the things I have seen on this trip (pics coming soon), speed really is not that big of an issue.

Verdict? From now on, I will try my hardest to travel by train wherever I go. If time demands speed, then I will consider the airplane (but only after much deliberation). Needless to say, I have really enjoyed this trip and I recommend anyone and everyone to try an Amtrak ride.

PS. No I don’t get paid by Amtrak for this lol. (But I would not mind working for them :).

Panhandler’s paradise


On a diverse food court, my touristic apparel is almost camouflaged by the gamut of transverse personality all rushing to one place or the other. Key word in the previous sentence being “almost”. I am convinced there is a “sucker” sign stapled on me somewhere for in the midst of this traveler quagmire, the panhandlers have fine tuned their antennas and to my surprise I seem to be the target!

Now I believe in helping the poor; the ones in need; the ones in pain for when mercy is given, mercy is returned. That and God also told us to take care of the poor. However, when I read reports that panhandlers make over 35k a year (with little to no expenses mind you) and further I see them buying booze at the local market, I can’t help but to feel angered and overly cynical of any and all panhandlers.

To be clear, I am not ignorant of the fact that there are indeed people out there who need the goodwill of some. Indeed, I am positive that there are many out there who find themselves at the mercy of the generosity of the few. But this fact serves only to anger me more! Due to the laziness, selfishness, and parasitical nature of some, the ones who truly need help suffer from the byproduct of cynicism resulting from the actions of these depraved.

I have heard stories of people who have fallen in hard times only to do the unthinkable (work minimum wage) while they get back on their feet. Doing things that no one wants to do. Labor in ways that would almost put slave labor to shame and all of this because there is a hunger for survival that genuine hardship creates.

To further clarify; I am we’ll aware that some of these on the streets may suffer from some form of handicap that may prevent them from being effective on their zeal to overcome adversity. However, these handicaps are; for the most part, easily recognizable from a simple conversation. On the other hand the professional free loafers I refer to are not only mentally capable, but physically capable as well to contribute to society.

Very Scrooge-like of me…I know. But if Jesus was angered at the thievery taking place in the temple when he was here on earth, I wonder if the same would not apply to these…people. I could be wrong. Maybe I need God to soften my heart. Indeed I am not perfect nor are my sins less than the free loader’s.

Nevertheless, so help me! If one more panhandler asks me for money, I may just lose my Christianity for a brief moment. (Thank God that’s not really possible).

A Subway sub on a Chicago moment


As I sit inside a Subway restaurant in Chicago, I take the moment to admire the magnificent downtown. With its imposing high rises; prolific in architectural detail, I am in awe of the richness of it all.

A seagull rises from the river as it catches an updraft propelling to speeds not common for such type of bird. Yet the juxtaposition of the natural and the man made; commonly at odds, here find harmony.

My view veers to the left as I capture others who appear to be tourists like myself, yet from a different home country. Germany perhaps? Indeed, it’s a sunny day with a bountiful promise of cheer and delight.

My thoughts now turn to all the wonderful places I have yet to explore. I am filled with glee and anticipation as I try to stuff the last few bites of my sub and at the same time finish writing this post. Oh wait, I still have two Macadamia nut cookies to inhale. Ahh, but it would be a waste to inhale those.

CHICAGO!


I have been told by an extensive amount of people that my love for architecture needed to be translated in a trip to Chicago. They where right. This city is gorgeous! The people are for the most part friendly and always willing to strike a conversation. Moreover, the people are active; jogging, walking, communing at the parks, etc. Let’s not forget the public transit. Buses (in spite of their boring color scheme) tend to have the proper seating layout; that is a forward facing seating layout that enables you to look out the window and admire the city. In addition, the windows tend to be large and free of arduous advertising. The famous ‘L’ tends to be clean and free of major eye sores. The diverse amount of people using the ‘L’ is a testament to the fact that mass transit here is not viewed as a low class form of transport but rather as a integral part of a thriving community.

As for the cold? Well, I can’t comment on that one quite just yet. So far on my stay here the temperature has not dropped past 30ish degrees (including wind chill). A temperature that I have been able to easily mitigate with layering of clothes topped with a good Pea coat. Currently, the temperature is at 55 degrees (which means, I can wear a regular jacket and be more than fine).

I really have been enjoying my time in this city. Today, I plan to go check out the architecture of Mr. Wright (Who is one of my favorite Architects).
Follow me on twitter if you want to read my impromptu musings (jcgator1). Otherwise, thank you for following my Chicagian (is that even a word?) adventure and ill see you on my next post :).

Ps.

Don’t forget, pics will up. But I have to get home to work on them first lol.

Missed flight at the Gainesville airport (yet stillness comes)


Here is a post I meant to upload while on the recent trip to New York concerning my airport experience:

It’s 5:10am when we arrive at the airport. The plane leaves at 5:20am. I grab my duffle bag and give my friend a quick wave good bye as I hurry to the checkout desk. As I feared; boarding has been closed and the workers are at the gate helping the plane leave.  Anger starts to rise as I stare in disbelief at the empty counter.  “How can they just leave the checkout stand without personnel?” I think to myself as I grab my phone and call customer service.  This flight is important to me for my final destination is New York to see my grandmother.  However, as I speak to a very cordial and helpful customer service rep (no exaggeration or sarcasm) I start to realize something.  God is in control.  Sure I should have arrived 30 minutes early like they tell you to do.  But I didn’t. This state of ill fortune is my fault. However, even as I am tempted to sulk about my present predicament, I hear His small still voice.  Truth is, if I was meant to be on this plane, I would have been on this plane.

I don’t know why nor do I think I’m supposed to know why; but this I know: I was not supposed to be on that plane.

As this sense of still comes over me the friendly customer service rep on the phone tells me that they can put me on another plane but I needed to talk to rep at the airport.  I thank her and hang up. I am oddly at peace.

The attendants approaches the counter and I enter the line (with no one in it mind you).  Another friendly attendant motions me to come forth.  As I hand her my ID she notices that I paid for a priority seat on my original flight (only seat available so I had to pay $25 extra bucks). She kindly refunds that charge. My ticket has now been reduced in price by $25 bucks.  As she hands me my new itinerary I thank her and sit in the lobby.  The next flight leaves at 10am. It is 7am as I write this post.  There’s no one around me except the worker at the bar who’s staring at me all weird.  Maybe because I look like a hobo with my over grown hair and beard (I desperately need a haircut).  Or maybe it’s because of my new camera that currently hangs around my neck. Regardless, I am at peace.  As quickly as my anger rose, it has been replaced with a very strong sense of peace….three hours left till my flight gets here.  Good time to catch up on posts that should have been posted a long time ago yet hasn’t due to school’s insanity. Three hours of no one around…oops, one person just arrived.  My people watching hobby kicks in…No worries though. I need to write.

The night I sat next to a crazy drunk homeless guy


I had just finished witnessing one of my best friend’s wedding.  As I stood beside the now dimly lit bus stop, two things went through my head and one of those things was the realization that the man sitting on the bus stop bench was homeless (and from the looks of it, drunk…you don’t want to know the second thing….trust me).  As I halted a few feet away, the man proceeded to stare at me and say: “Hey, come sit here”, while patting the bench right next to him.  My options as I saw it where:

  1. Run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  2. Yell “Help, Help” and run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  3. Sit next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.

For whatever reason options 1 and 2 somehow escaped my approval and instead I sat next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.  He proceeded to tell me that he was known as Big Country around this part of town and that he was a Christian…Followed by the fact that he was a bad ass mother%^&@# a dichotomy that I found slightly amusing.

As I sat there for what seemed like hours, he began to tell me stories about his girl who was in jail and was getting out tomorrow (by now she’s probably out) and how he missed her.  He proceeded to tell me that he was a Vietnam vet and further substantiated his vet status by lifting his shirt, revealing a considerably hairy chest with a significantly huge scar.  He then proceeded to show me bullet wounds and knife stabs.

As the conversation continued, I no longer cared if he was a crazy drunk homeless guy.  As the conversation continued, and tears began to fall from his eyes; I just did not care.  I wrapped my arm around him and tried to console his tears as he remembered the atrocities of a horrific war.  We talked about the fact that I was a student, and he asked me to write a column about him.  I told him I would.

The bus approached and I looked at my watch.  It had been exactly 19 minutes since we started talking, but it seemed so much longer and to some degree I wanted to chat some more.  As I started to go into the bus he followed me in and gave me a huge hug followed by a kiss on the cheek (awkward? Yes).  Then he said, don’t forget to write that column.

The hearts rationality (Poem)


What do you do when you smile at the tiger and the tiger stares back at you

And where will you go when the boarders you’ve managed crumble

If coping is winning and losing is pinning you back to all that you used to

What will you do when the stars stop shinning and the world revolves around who knows

When will the race stop pushing so hard against comfort of all that is

For racing at times may seem too hard to keep on pace

But if only you could for one moment steal an embrace

What will you do when the lack of what’s normal stares defiantly at your face

How will the day resemble when the promises they’ve made ring false

And how fast can you move away from the cliff that’s shouting your name

No matter how strong or brave, good looking or sane, the waters will love to drown

How will you swim against the current of all that is against you

When the weight of success lays down on your chest and squeezes your heart for mercy

Will there be a time; a place; a rhyme to keep on fighting the screen of glee

Can you dare to open up enough to let the evidence of hope see light

Will you be able to open the door and set the birds to fly

Will you walk a mile with the stranger begging to know much more of you

Or hide in the thick of the marshes away from view

Is it worth bearing the bleeding wounds and dragging the dead horse body

Is it worth bearing the broken glass in the tomb of a human soul

What will you do when the day comes to loose hold

Where will you run when there’s nowhere to go

And where will you toss the knot inside the glass of your heart

Try not to remember that the waters just want to drown

Christian…and failing


God Is An Astronaut

It’s easy to get into the mindset of perfection especially when you are a Christian. I mean we serve a perfect Father, why wouldn’t we have to be perfect right?  On top of that, doesn’t the bible say we have to be perfect? (Matthew 5:48 by the way) and wasn’t Jesus perfect when He came to earth and we are to follow in His footsteps?  I’m being rhetorical here but you can see how easy it is to start to believe perfection is our immediate goal.  The problem with this scenario of perfection is the point when you realize that you are not perfect.  You know, that point when you realize that after so many times of trying so hard to be good and not to fall, you fall anyways.  It’s that moment when you are afraid to pray and ask for forgiveness because you have prayed that same prayer more than 70×7.  What do you then?

It’s not easy when you are used to riding the spiritual highs and end up in a spiritual low, especially when you know you could have done something otherwise that would have kept you from going into the spiritual low to begin with.   Indeed, this is where I found myself these past few weeks.  It’s nice when you are at a spiritual point that you feel as if an atomic bomb could go off and you would remain unscathed.  It’s awesome to look back and see how well you have progressed and how clean you have remained from the chains of the sins you are so used to battling with.  Nevertheless, there are those times, when it feels as if all that is needed is a slight puff from the wind to send you rolling into 500 feet of murk and grime.  There are those times when stumbling becomes almost second nature….Stumbling? More like hopelessly falling and breaking all your bones while heading down a 90 degree precipice of endless jagged rocks.  What do you do then?  Have you failed?  Is the Lord disappointed?

I catch myself thinking these thought, feeling as if I am somehow the biggest failure ever.  Saying things like “I know better”, or “I thought I was over this” only to be confronted with the harsh and Oh so painful reality that my sin is staring at my face once again.  It’s enough to make someone (that being me) question their salvation, their standing with God, their hope for the future.  If I’m honest (which I am) I have to say that these are things that I have been battling with; that is the anger and frustration of just utter failure…at least in my eyes.  It makes matter worse when you grow in leaps and bounds to that point; that singular point, where you keep thinking “it’s done” or “it’s beaten” but the fact is, it’s not quite beaten yet.  Better said, the manifestation of the defeat is not fully visible yet.

Nevertheless, this is why right now I rejoice.  I rejoice because I have a savior.  I rejoice because on the cross 2000 years ago He saw me as I am right now; and still died.  I rejoice because I have a Savior who understands me, who was tempted just like I and even though He did not sin, He knows what I am going through.  I have a Savior who desires for me to be free from my sin.  But when the waves start to drown me; He is quick to extend His hand.  That’s just it; I have a Savior.  That’s all I have and really that’s all I need.  I just wish it did not take 500 feet of murk and grime to see that.  Nevertheless, I find that God is not good at math, because He keeps forgiving me…and I know is way past 70×7.