Thursday, November 01, 2012

More Catching Up

I knew that when I started writing in the blog again that I would have to write about this.  So instead of waiting for the right time I'm just going to dig in.  

Another reason why this year (summer specifically) sucked - the heavy weight of death.  Two deaths in particular.  Brace yourselves for some heavy reading, friends!

A very close friend, a woman I've known and admired for many years, someone who I know I've written about and taken many pictures at her houses that I could probably link to if I had two brain cells to rub together, passed away on June 1.  And I was there.  I am quietly very passionate about people's rights to birth and die at home.  I don't write a lot about home birth because everyone has an opinion about it and I am not telling other people what is the right thing to do.  I only know what is right for me - and home birth is very much a part of my family legacy.  All three of my sisters and I were born at home.  My sister had both of her babies at home and I had Stella at home.  That's just how it's worked out for us.  We're fortunate.  The one other death - my grandfather's - that I was able to be a part of was also at home.  I believe Hospice and hospice workers are heaven-sent.  What a gift they provide, to be able to die at home, surrounded by those who love you the most.

My point for bringing up home birth when talking about death is that the two are SO closely related.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a home birth - DO SO.  It is magical - the way the energy in the room changes palpably when a new life is present.  Of course all birth is special that way, I know that.  And you can still feel that wonderful change in a hospital room...but it's so much stronger and clearer and more noticeable at home when there's no beeping machines or strangers coming in and interrupting the magic.  A home death is also very special....just in a different way.  Of course it's not as happy as a birth, but it's still magical.  There are tears and pain and decisions that must be made.  And there is the bookended feeling of the energy shift in the room when a person takes that last breath....and everyone holds their breath to listen for another....and then it doesn't come.  And everyone exhales and the tears flow freely.  And the body is still there but you don't feel any spirit in the body but you can still feel it in the room and then slowly that spirit slips away out into the ether.  But the body is still there.  And people want to stay and keep holding the hands that grow colder and stiffer.

Now I'm crying again.  At the memory of my sweet grandfather's death and my friend Patt's.  Both were similar in that way though.  The weirdest part is how quickly life goes on afterward.  The phone calls that start to swirl around and decisions that immediately must happen.  And the body is still there.  And people are STILL reluctant to call the funeral home because everyone knows that when these strangers arrive with the gurney and big vehicle and papers to be signed that your loved one is truly gone. 

The day after Patt died her daughter got married.  The very next day!  That is how Patt wanted it.  She didn't want her family to stop living their lives in order to wait for her die.  In a way it was perfect because everyone who gathered that beautiful late spring day loved Patt and loved her daughter Robin and was happy to see Robin happy but also deeply needing to mourn Patt and be emotional.  Or maybe that was just me!  The part in the ceremony that I was dreading the most was right after Craig walked Robin down the aisle.  I knew the pastor would ask, "Who gives this woman away?" and Craig would have to answer, "Her mother and I do."  When that happened, exactly as I imagined it would, I was still surprised by the sob that came out of me.  It was guttural, from deep inside.  So THAT'S where all the pain and sadness hangs out, waiting for an acceptable moment to surface. 

Right after that exhaustingly emotional weekend in June I dove headfirst into my summer work schedule that you all know is insane.  80 hour weeks.  I didn't really have time to absorb what had happened or grieve properly until after the summer.   Then it hit me at inopportune times.  Two months ago, at the farmers market when I had taken a new group of students, I heard Shannon Wurst singing that Jackson Browne song (made famous by Nico & The Royal Tennenbaums) "These Days."  I had to run away, literally, because the tears came on so suddenly and dramatically!  I ran down to my sister's store and hid in the back, sobbing quietly.   I just miss her.  I miss my friend.  I miss her bossiness and her stories and how freely she expressed her love for her friends and family.

A month ago I was on a trip to Little Rock with 35 students.  Stella called me and she was crying hysterically.  She told me that a young man we both knew well, he was my former student from my former life as a middle school teacher, had died suddenly.  He was living in China teaching English.  His death was unexpected and shrouded in mystery.  To top it off, it happened during China's annual fall harvest holiday when the entire country shuts down for like a week.  We had no answers.  His mother is a beloved member of my hometown community and has been another of my mentors.  I just can't even imagine how she has coped...with the not knowing, the sudden decisions that must be made.  21 years old, his life barely begun.  A sweet gentle soul.  No one will ever know exactly what happened over there because the cost of an autopsy and/or bringing his body back to the States is exorbitantly high.  His mother had to make peace knowing that he did not die in pain and there was no foul play involved.  I don't know if I could have done that.  But I'm someone who has to know WHY for every little stupid thing.  His memorial service was just so sad for me.  So different from Patt's.  That's the difference between dying a slow death, having time to prepare for it, and one that happens suddenly and too young.  Ugh.  How can I ever let my only child out into the harsh world where unexplained and horrible things happen to young people?  I know that I have to, that I must.  BUT I DON'T WANNA.

I'm going to end this with a cut and paste of Patt's obituary, written by her sister Donna.  It is everything I'd ever want from an obituary:

Patt Farar Barnett Milam passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends on June 1 at her home in Berryville, Ark. She was 66. 
She was born in Little Rock, Ark., November 13, 1945, the daughter of the late Loretta and R.C. "Dick" Farar and sister of Donna Farar, Jude Farar, Rick Farar and Bart Farar. She moved from Arkansas at the age of six weeks, and was a long-time resident of Texas.
She returned to Arkansas in 1974. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Craig Milam, her brothers and sisters, her daughters, Loretta Barnett Crenshaw (from her first marriage to James Claude "Bubba" Barnett); Robin Milam Weinmann; and Julia Simkins and son Ben Milam (children of her husband Craig), as well as grandchildren Jade Jones, Molly Jones, Kole Myers, Audrey Myers, Cavin and Quinton Simkins and many nieces and nephews.
Her heart was connected to her brain all the time. She was "always right" and thankfully, she usually was right.

Patt graduated from W.B. Travis High School in Austin, Texas, and Isbel Beauty College in 1960. She opened the first unisex hair salon, Fresh Hair, in Austin.
After moving to Eureka Springs with her other "Fabulous Farar Sisters," she met and married Dr. Craig Milam on December 24, 1975. They moved to Izard County where Craig practiced medicine. They moved to Berryville in 1986.
These are just a few of the facts of Patt's life... here are a few of the truths... Patt Farar Milam was a warrior woman, a tribal leader, a strong link in the chain of Peace. She was a powerful woman, wife, aunt, mother and grandmother. She was a mother/sister to many and a friend to more. A lover of nature and beauty, Patt captured many an awesome image of her environment. Her photos of rivers, mountains, mesas, streams and trees evoke the mystical mysteries of Mother Nature at Her finest.
She was a devoted appreciator of art and music. Patt was an artist, jewelry-maker, sculptor and Goddess. A teacher, mentor, gardener, cook and a funny, feisty, fiery, freckled-faced redhead. She was a fashion trend-setter and trusted hairdresser to hippies and blue-hairs alike. She was an efficient vehicle packer, an avid road-tripper and a baby whisperer.

Patt was a spiritual seeker and a talisman keeper. She was a tee-pee dweller, log cabin resident, truck mechanic and carpenter. She could build a sweat lodge on the edge of a creek and knew how to make the best of both.

She was a river rafter, a skinny-dipper and one helluva good dancer. She was loved and cherished, admired and embraced by too many to count.
At the end of her life here with us, she whispered, "Sometimes I can't tell if I am being touched by someone or if they are teaching me." After a short pause she said, "Maybe both."

Now, she is flying free and soaring high. We will watch for the flash of the red-tailed hawk and listen for her song in our Riverdreams.

In lieu of flowers, Patt and her family ask that you support a cause you believe in, wear sunscreen and tell your loved ones that you love them.

 (this is Alannah again)
To everyone still reading this - I love you too.  

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I'm so sorry for these losses.

Weirdly, These Days was my go to song in the days after my dad's death. I just laid in bed and played it over and over.

And Max just woke up so I have to run, but know I'm thinking of you and miss you tons