Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grief: Showing Up

It ain't easy.  Showing up is the best way I know to get out of my funk.  Funk.  Funny word that.   I'm cramming my schedule with things to do to push the way the he's still dead blues.  I'm also finding myself lying around finding it harder and harder to get started.  I find my mind drifting off into either nowhere or something negative.  I try the techniques I've learned and try to hold those good feelings close - the old memories and the new ones.  I'm just finding it hard to care. So, lacking life, I show up where there is life and find that I still, whether I admit it or not, am full of life.

On Monday I showed up for the screening of Poetry of Resilience.  I didn't run away after I spoke and met some nice people.  I look ordinary on the outside.  No I don't.  One of my friends said that she felt sadness oozing out of me.  I was laughing at the time.  I told her, I'm always sad this time of year.  On Tuesday night I went to see the two singers and actors Mandy Patinkin and Patti Lupone.  I sat in the front row by myself so I could cry at all the love songs. At the end they each got 12 roses and gave them away.  Mandy Patinkin leaned down and gave me the first one.  It's a beautiful rose.  It's in a crystal vase near some pictures of Artie.  I smiled all the way home.  A rose from a stranger.  The first birthday present I gave Artie was 100 roses!  I had the delivery man bring in one - and then say - wait a minute - and bring in the rest.  Then I would bring one when I came over.  I got so tired of buying roses I asked if it was okay if I stop.  He had been afraid to tell me he was tired of them too!   But then, years later, when we were married and living in California we had exquisite roses blooming in our garden and sometimes he would surprise me with a dozen roses for no reason except he loves me.  Or I'd get a necklace with a note that said, "Just because it's Tuesday and I love you."  See how it's going with me?  A simple nice moment runs off into Artieland. 

Then last night I saw Hugh Jackson who is a heck of a song and dance man as well as an actor.  I was okay until the last song - the song I always think of Artie singing to me before he died - if he could have - instead of saying: I love you and me, turning away to take the tears out of my voice to say, "I love you, too."  It was written by and originally sung by Peter Allen.  Here are most of the lyrics with a little "Jan" change.

 Once before I go
I want you to know
That I would do it all again
I'm sure I'd make the same mistakes
But I could make it through
The pains and joys and aches
I knew back then
I'd do it all
I'd do it all again

Before I go
I want you to know
That I look back with no regrets
And when our luck was wearing thin
And we were down and out
And still came back to win against all bets
Now when I look back
I still have no regrets

And it's so hard to say good-byes
When there's so much that's left
Unspoken in your eyes
 So hang on to the memories
And hold me close once more

Just once before I go
I want you to know
That I have loved you all along
And even when we're far apart
You only need to feel I'm living in your heart
And you'll be strong.
And it's so hard to say good-byes
When there's so much that's left
Unspoken in your eyes
So kiss me for the last time
And hold me close once more
You are the light that shines on me
You always were and you'll always be
So I had to let you know
Just this once Just this once
Before I go

Artie didn't want to go.  He had to.  His body was too sick to stay.  When I listened to the song I started to cry.  After the applause and the encore Hugh Jackman traditionally auctions off his T-shirt to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  I was inspired and bid but luckily didn't win.  I went up to the front and asked his people if he would be willing to sing the song to just me for my losing bid.  After he finished with the other people Hugh came and sat in the seat next to me in the now empty theater and sang just to me.  He's an actor so he maintained the most amazing eye contact - because I was looking at him like he was Artie singing to me.  I showed him a picture of Artie and told him why I had made that request.  He told me that Peter Allen wrote the song for his lover who had died of AIDS.  His lover was responsible for his lighting so, "you are the light that shines on me..." has a double meaning.  When Peter sang the song and looked at the lights he could see his love in them.  Hugh gave me a hug and a kiss. What a special moment it was.  I walked home in a dream.  It was kindness and it was as if Artie was somehow there with us.  It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't shown up.  It wouldn't have happened if I had been afraid to ask.  It wouldn't have happened if Hugh Jackman wasn't caring enough to be willing to sing an extra song after performing a whole show.  Wow.

And's the afternoon of another day.  How to keep that good feeling streaming in.  How to keep the light shining on me.  How to make the love in my heart and all around me keep me strong instead of knocking me flat on my back.  That's the mystery.

What will you show up for today?  What question will you dare to ask?  What light will you let shine?  If the sadness wins; that's okay.  Sometimes it does.  It's real and powerful.  Sometimes a good friend notices it even when you're smiling.  Let's be brave together during this joyous and difficult season.  Let's find ways to let our lights shine bright enough so that those we love can see them - wherever they are.  Keep on keepin' on.  Ouch.  Hooray.  It's all part of this strange grief parade.  xo

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