As impactful as my first memory still is, last memories are just as strong. Yes, last memories are about saying good-bye.  Of course. However, I don’t think that it has to only be about ending. For me, lasts can be happy or fulfilling or extremely grounding and even comforting. I can remember more than one trying time in my life that I was glad to have end. A good time ending can even be good. A great experience is capped off and will forever resonate with me. Awesome. A happy recording to pull up and hit play.

I’m reminded of a last talk with my mom before she died. She wanted me to be happy. She didn’t want me to get stuck in sadness.  She wanted me to continue on with my life. What an unselfish, loving wish. It wasn’t about her last moments but about my next one’s. I’ll always miss my mom, but that last conversation is a loving moment that I will have for the rest of my life. Endings don’t have to be all about good-bye. They don’t have to be all sadness.  I’ll try to remember this the next time something in my life draws to a close. Thank you, mom.

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earliest memory

It begins mid-step wandering in the softly illuminated darkness.  Towering evergreens soldier on in rows as far as I can see.  The soft glow from moonlight or starlight or maybe incandescent is the filter painting everything with a golden light.  I am nearly invisible passing among the trees as some silent spirit not of this place or time.

Making my presence known, I walk among the trees brushing them and hearing the zip, zip, zip of my gloves on their soft needles. Maybe, I’m a woodland elf going for a nighttime stroll. Wiggling my ears, I can feel their tops stretch into tips.  Yes.  An elf. That’s it.

The crunch of my boots fades to silence. I am a shadow, a silent spirit once more. I am the forest. My exhales swirl around me obscuring my vision yet crystallizing my faery dream world. My endless wanderings fill me with the exhilaration of exploration.  I pause taking it all in.  The cold stays out, but happiness flood in.  Life is good

“Michael!” my grandfather calls. I spring into action moving involuntarily toward his voice. A beaming smile lights my face arriving slightly out of breath and flush with my adventure.


I was four or five years old then. My grandfather, Grandpa to me, took me everywhere.  We’d go hang out with his friends or go for a drive listening to baseball on the radio.  He always included me in the very important jobs.  Big, big stuff to me, like finding the family Christmas tree. Life and death really, at least to my young mind. How can we have Christmas without the perfect tree?

I was his sidekick, his Robin as he was my own personal Batman.  He was one of my heroes.  Super hero actually.  Grandpa was a big part of my life, he was the father figure that I never had.  Brief as this memory is, I can close my eyes and still smell the pines.  I can still feel the brush of the needles with the sticky sap left behind. I guess that it left more behind than just sap.

Today, I can’t pass a suburban roadside tree lot or walk among pine trees without hearing Grandpa’s voice and seeing him standing larger than life in front of me.  I can reach way up to hold his hand and walk along with him for a while. I can still feel the love, the importance, the inclusion that I always felt around Grandpa. No matter how old I get, I can still go to that happy time, that happy place.

Important to me is to create a relationship with those close to me revealing a similar feel.  I’m not anyone’s Grandpa, but I want that level of connection with those nearest to me.  I want my best self to naturally include and to trust and to just be. I want each of them to understand their importance to me.  To my children, I hope to give them their own happy places that they can go to when they need it, when I am a Grandpa and when I am no longer here.

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I feel free
Free to try
Try and maybe fail
Fail spectacularly

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Your story, my story

I had one of those ah ha moments when it hit me that sometimes I’m sharing someone’s story only to realize that it’s really my story from a different perspective.

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Ready – Part 1

The steaming cup of crappy hotel coffee stares back at me.  My backpack is full.  My boots are laced up and ready to go, but it’s time to take a moment.  No, I’m not craving the caffeine.  Coffee has become a ritualistic drink that centers me.  Maybe it’s just the practice and not the coffee at all.  Pouring the water, making the coffee, mixing in the cream and slowly stirring it all together.  I can’t take my eyes off of the patterns that the cream creates on the surface, swirling and turning and ever so slowly shifting.  How many times have I done this?  In how many different places?  It’s not as reverent as prayer, but it is my ritual nonetheless.

Walking out to the patio, I find it empty and dark.  I’m not sure what I expected but this place feels even more than deserted.  Hallow somehow.  Almost echoing with people long gone.  I grab a seat and grasp at some calm to pull around me, embrace me, keep me safe.  I need a moment.  I need to wrap my head around what’s next.

Deeply inhaling, I check my watch.  2:45 a.m.  Exhale.  Closing my eyes, I can see my friends making their last minute checks.  Water.  Check.  Food.  Check.  Extra clothes.  Check.  Other miscellany deemed necessary.  Check, check, check.  I imagine them asking themselves the same questions that I have asked myself.  Do I have everything that I need?  Do I have what it takes?

Me?  My preparations are complete.  I am ready.  I think.  Am I?  Have I prepared well enough?  Will I make it?  I peer into my coffee cup trying to scry my future.  All that I see is me staring back out of the cup.  I guess that’s a good sign.  If I’m not in my future, where else would I be?  No, it’s too early for existential jokes.

I’ve sat long enough.  I’ve prepared as much as I can.  It’s time.  The four of us gather in the lobby for last checks.  It’s time.  We pile into the van and are on our way.  Each of the buildings sleeps quietly as we pass.  The streets are dark and empty.  It feels like we are the only ones alive out here on our own.  Turning onto the road out of town, we are truly alone.  Without a street light in sight, the darkness is complete.  Our world shrinks to the inside of the van and several yards ahead as the headlights are only strong enough to pierce this black veil revealing short portions of road as it arrives.

Dark, so dark is the landscape with no moon that it seems like we are adrift in the darkness without even the ground beneath us.  I’ve been here before, but everything outside of the headlights is gone as if stolen away or too afraid to greet us.  Each of us sits quietly at this point with thoughts turned inward or maybe we’re trying to shake off the last bits of sleep.  Sleep.  Dreams.  That’s it.  This all looks so much like some darkened dreamscape without any ties to terra firma.  Did we make a wrong turn not out of town but out of reality?

We see life far in the distance and rising, ever rising.  We’re not alone out here.  Alone.  I’m with three other people, but I initially feel alone.  There’s something there to understand just out of reach.  Maybe it’s just too early or maybe I need more time with it.  My attention grabs a hold of tiny lightning bugs buzzing around in the distance shining red or white.  As we drive farther, those bugs morph into cars and trucks and vans all driving to our same destination.

I’ve brow beat my friends into using red headlamps on our trip.  Now, I’m not so sure of that wisdom.  I had no idea that it would be this dark.  We have arrived.  There are already several other small groups here in the parking lot shuffling around and strapping on their packs.  Every other person turns on their white headlamps.  My friends are kind.  They are quiet as we unload our gear.  They don’t even make one comment.  We all switch on our red light headlamps that seems only to mark where we are and not illuminate our way.

It’s too late for this, but I wonder again if I’m ready.  Are we ready?  Are we ever really ready?  It’s finally time to find out.  Let’s go.  And, up we climb.

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rock n roll philosophy

When I began writing, it was for Kimberly. She was such an overwhelmingly impactful person in my life that I wanted to share her with the world. Her story, our story, her voice, our voice all wound around me and mine binding us together. After her death, I walked dark pathways seeking, searching, always moving.  All of which I believed at the time uncovered hidden revelations of who we were together and what we had. It was a way to honor her memory, our memory.  Those dark, winding ways grew deeper and darker as time plodded along not only with loss and grief and fear but a widening disconnection from everything around me. At times, I found that I was so far inside myself that I almost lost sight of life.  It was a sort of singularity that made me feel so small yet was so big as to eclipse everything, everyone else.  Would it be so difficult to just let it all go?  How would it feel to let it all slip away?  Deep inside, I knew myself.  I knew that was not my way.

I tried all sorts of things from eager doings to sitting with my stillness. Each exercise was no more or less effective than the last, however I had set my evolution in motion. With hindsight as my guide to that near past time, I now see that I had unwittingly began to shed the tight connection, those bindings one strand at a time. My unraveling just began to happen no matter my choices or actions or inactions.  Teasing each thread from my fabric not to discard but to lovingly carry, I needed to march forth unimpeded without breaking that which brought me here.  One by one I unraveled my strands, my bindings, and placed them in a space, a shelf in my soul. As each strand unraveled and freed a piece of me, I sensed an easing, a softness, but each strand uncovered new pain, new hurt.  I couldn’t distinguish between grief and growth.  It all felt the same because it was.  Each thread was me.  Peeling away a piece of me opened a rawness that I hadn’t known until then.  It helped me to begin feeling.  I began to yearn for more.  Oh, I so much just wanted to feel again.

Step by step, my journey slowly changed from an ending to a beginning.  I sought release.  I sought peace.  I sought acceptance.  I’ve made plans and set intentions.  Today, I feel release, a little peace.  I think that I am much more accepting.  I want to look back and understand how I arrived here, but that doesn’t seem like the question worth answering.  Maybe I just need to accept that I made it here.  I also feel the tug and sometimes a push to plan what comes next, but that doesn’t seem worthwhile either.  Just be.  Right here.  This tiny moment, this fractional sliver of time feels so enormous when I pause to look closely.  It comes back to that singularity, that unfathomable largeness.  So, now what?  I don’t know.  It’s not that I don’t care, but throughout this experience I have found that I really can’t control what I thought I could.  Even better, I learned that I don’t need to either.  The words from a .38 Special song echo in my mind, “Just hold on loosely but don’t let go.  If you cling too tightly, you’re gunna lose control.”  In the beginning, I clung so tightly to Kimberly’s memory, to our thwarted future, to love lost, that I did lose control.  Today, I know how to unclench my grip, to not let go, and make room for me.  Ah, rock ‘n roll philosophy, how true you are.

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no more fear

Sitting for a time with my darkness
Breathing in the beauty of its sadness
Receiving closure from my grief
I no longer fear it’s company
This darkness is a part of me now

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