Monday, April 12, 2010

magpie tales - lipstick lament

you are gone, i know this because you are wearing lipstick and it seems so not like you.

blip...blip...blip...the heart monitor metronome, accompanied by the whoosh...whoosh...whoosh... of the oxygen machine inhaling and exhaling for you, provides background noise as i watch you. your mouth hangs open in a silent scream, skin pulled tight back across your face, eyes rolled up as if you see something coming that we are unable.

this room carries the smell of the end of life, heavy, choking me as it slides down the back of my throat. the skin of your fingers is loose, as if it does not fit the strong slender bones within any more, but we hold your hand when you can not hold ours, any more. it hurts to see you this way, so unlike the life you had before the blood disease sucked you out of you.

slumping into the green vinyl chair, i can't even feel it beneath me, i just know it holds me, as i watch others grieve. they speak to you, telling you final things and we wait on that moment. i pray for it all to end, in little voices in my head, again, and again, and again as the minute hand keeps on sweeping.

you must tell her goodbye, give her permission to leave, i mumble through my hands to no one, to everyone.

will you pray with her, they ask.

try as i might to muster the words, they all stop somewhere between my heart and my mouth and though my lips move i can't make a sound, just tears. i stare at them mutely, until they ask someone else to pray. i clench my hands, angry at my weakness, my ineptitude, which will haunt me for years to come...and your last breath rattles wetly as you are released from this mortal coil.

i will deliver your funeral, consoling those still here, words flowing once again. we will lower your body into the ground, but its not you, you never wore lipstick, that's how we know. one day i will see you again, you will be beautiful, we will sit and watch a sunset and i will share with you the words i could not say in those last few moments we had together.

this is a magpie tale, about the death of my mother in law, two years ago.

105 comments:

SUN DANCE HILL said...

VERY moving Brian, sweet and sad, we all grieve in our own way. And when we 'write what the heart knows', powerful emotions come out, as in this magpie. Well done!
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4]

Brian Miller said...

yeah this is the memory that i have beat myself up over the most, quite honestly.

Katherine said...

Oh Dear Brian ... the words you share with us flow so freely from your heavy heart! This was so beautifully written. You are not inept or weak ..your mother in-law would have known that you were with her Brian. I really do believe this! I don't know you personally but someone whom writes as beautifully as you do, must have a heart as big as the sea! She would have known this about you too! She knows! No need to punish yourself anymore!

Betsy said...

Wow...this could be me and The Mister 2 years ago with MY mother-in-law....lipstick and all (and nail polish!...which we can laugh about now)

I wouldn't beat yourself up....sometimes tears and silence speak louder.

Kim A. said...

A very poetic transition...very sweet...

♥namaste♥

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Wrenchingly beautiful and painful at the same time. The line "this room carries the smell of the end of life, heavy, choking me as it slides down the back of my throat" grabbed me by the throat.

Beat yourself up no longer over tis memory, Brian, this released prayer anticipating the sharing of words unspoken but keenly felt has now been heard by your many blog friends and followers all over the world. I'm sure it reached your mother-in-law long ago and still does...

Mighty M said...

It is always so hard to watch a loved one dying. I remember when my grandfather had cancer and I pretty much stayed away from seeing him because I was afraid. You were there for her last moments and this is a wonderful thing!

joanny said...

A very moving powerful piece, I know somehow she knows you love her.
My mother died three years ago while I held her hand for hours till she took her last breath... I will never forget it... she actually looked very radiate and beautiful at the moment of her death -- hard to explain really. It was difficult to let go-- and say goodbye in the final hour. All I could do was just be there for her. Like Sun Dance said to you Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted, Matthew 5:4
Joanny
Joanny

Chhaya said...

i cant write anything here...
it took me to the night my Ma passed away. she was just 36 year old at that time.

PS: i think i will also try the magpie thing.. lets see

TechnoBabe said...

At least you were with her and your heart was in the right place. I like your words here so much and the love that is through it for your mother-in-law.

Dianne said...

A sharp look into the bitterness of loss, of letting go of a parent, of looking at death with angry eyes, thank you for this piece, Brian,
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of my mom's death,my impetus to write, and I still did not give it the time due. And of course, there is Monkey Man. You did well, you did well.....

Magpie said...

It is so true that we should write about what we know and feel...it is so powerful when you do. Such a sad memory. Don't be hard on yourself...I believe she's heard your words and felt the love in your heart.

tori said...

I too beat myself up about the last conversation I avoided with my sister the night before she died because I was in too much of a hurry. But it helps to appreciate the people that are in our lives now and to never leave anything unsaid ever again.

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

Wow, Brian! That gave me major chills. ((HUGZ!!))

Mrsupole said...

Brian,

She knows how you were feeling that day. Most people cannot speak when they are choked up with tears and greif. She might have visited you since then and let you know that all is well and peaceful where she is. You will see the signs.

God bless.

5thsister said...

Oh Brian...

I'm at a loss for words. This was very moving for me because, in my line of work, I see families go through this every single day.

Let go of the guilt...she knows how you feel.

God bless.

Bethan said...

Oh Brian,

It's two years now since my dad dies and I remember sitting there when he was in the hospital with all these machines around him. I felt a need to have to go and visit him there, but it tarnishes my memory of dad now. When my last memory is of the apparatus that was surrounding and breathing for him.

Nicely written.

Thanks Brian

Beth
xx

Hilary said...

This really hits home for me. I felt similarly inadequate at the time of my own mother's imminent passing. It's my biggest regret. Beautifully expressed, Brian.

Tracy said...

So poignant, Brian, and so true. When my sister passed away we waited with her for over a week, trying to tell her all the time it was okay to go, saying goodbye over and over. I felt every one of those things you described so perfectly.

suzicate said...

Beautiful, you captured the difficulty in giving a love one at the end permission to let go. I've experienced those same moments

willow said...

Had you delived a flawless, elegant prayer, I would have thought you a little less human, Brian.

mama-face said...

I have lived this with my sis-in-law. Watching as if I weren't really there. Oh, this brings back a lot of emotion. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially since death is kind of on my mind already. You can only do what you have the capacity for.

only a movie said...

I've had to do this. Give people permission to go. Ack.

She's most likely reading along with you, Brian. Nice job. xo

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

So moving Brian. In the panoply of emotions that come after we lose someone to death, we often focus on what we couldn't or didn't do. We choose to feel the guilt over the pain. By feeling guilt it implies that we had some control and could have done things differently. We would rather feel guilt and think we could have had some control than feel pure pain and confront the horror that we have so little control.

You did nothing wrong. You loved your relative and were grief-struck at her passing.

Star said...

I particularly like the way you have turned the wearing of the lipstick around to the 'not wearing of the lipstick'. That was a good twist and well executed.
Star

Daniel said...

Wow. I was there. Through your words I was there. I feel heavy and desperate. Posts like this make me search for someone to talk with. It helps to bring me back. Man this one got me. Oh, and Brian, you have no reason to feel weak or inept. You are human and are as strong a person as I have known.

Alan Burnett said...

Composed with all the feeling and emotion I have come to expect from your posts Brian

chiccoreal said...

Brian: Excellent writing as per Brian tres extraordinaire! Why is it that our dears look like they are going out on the town when they lay so peacefully there in the "big deep sleep"? Maybe the funeral director thinks there's a party up there, and who cares if the person wore lipstick or not; they are going to have a good time! I believe your Mom-in-law is having a good time and is at "the peace that passeth all understanding" (Biblical quote). Why does "crossing over" have to be so painful? As painful as birth? Maybe? Your Mom in law sounds like a wonderful person, hope that all this nitty gritty of the process of grief is finding you standing firm in your faith.(saying a silent prayer for your dear Mom). Blessings.

PattiKen said...

This is so moving, Brian. Grief is often speechless. Your silence spoke more eloquently than a few spoken prayers. Guilt is undeserved, forgiveness unnecessary.

kkrige said...

Oh Brian. You took me there with you. I was sitting in your green vinyl chair and my words stuck in my throat, dry despite tears. Grief is heavy. I think that those that go before us know more than we think though. Perhaps it is what I need to find my own comfort, but I believe that they can feel our love and the words are just gravy. You can say those words anytime. Your presence alone speaks volumes.

Zuzana said...

Very vivid and powerful, I can not believe you got inspired to write such an epic, from a lipstick image...
I will never look at mine in the same away again.
xo
;)

Mama Zen said...

This is really moving, Brian.

mo.stoneskin said...

Beautifully written, heart-wrenching too. Words escape me though. Just saw Sun Dance Hill's comment. That's a good verse.

Catalyst said...

So many people wrote about death. This was very moving, Brian.

Cop Mama said...

I felt chills as I read this. Dying and death is a hard thing, especially when it's someone you love and care about. Your pain was probably too great in that moment. Release yourself from the guilt, she would want that, I bet.

Jill said...

Oh wow...poignant Brian...so touching...isn't it amazing that something so seemingly small like a dear one who NEVER wore lipstick WITH lipstick ON will drive us to distraction!!??

To think that someday you will see her again! PURE COMFORT.

Tumblewords: said...

Powerful and poignant. Loss grips us in so many ways and for so long. Your writing is pure.

AmyLK said...

So beautiful. And a loving tribute to her. Don't beat yourself up over it. She knows the words were there, she understands.

Jen said...

I hope my time comes quickly...not soon, but quickly. I don't want to linger and suffer or make my loved ones suffer.

I'm sure she knew she was surrounded by love.

Respectfully Yours said...

Brian, I feel your pain. Losing someone is the most difficult challenge, so heart wrenching. You wrote about it beautifully, I absolutely love the line about the lipstick. So true, when the soul leaves the body, they are no longer the ones we know. God Bless you my friend. Thanks for you support.

christine said...

Very moving I knew this had to be from real life.. so sad.

Christine

RNSANE said...

Brian, this really affected me so much....made me think of my mother, entombed now in an extended care facility, a very good one, following her heart attack and stroke in mid-Feb. This is NOT the way she wanted her life to end. I actually pray for her death, quietly in her sleep. She is 86. legally blind, and lost to us. Always, over the years, she prayed to die and not come to an end like this but, alas, we cannot control these things.

Beautiful, moving post.

Anya said...

So touching words Brain !!!
You have your HEART on the right place :))
Your post make me speechless ...

buffalodick said...

My wife and I have no parents left, as we had to watch them all die..None were the same, three of them were blessings, ending suffering.. The cycle of Life is a mystery of when, not why..

slommler said...

I sat with someone, at the end like this. Just like this. My words seemed so hollow and vague...did she hear me? For all intense and purposes; she was gone. So sad to see her leave...she was so young. It feels empty somehow.
Well done Brian
Hugs
SueAnn

Linda Sue said...

YIKES! this is so good it hammered my heart sqarely in the middle, the part that holds everything and out gushed everything I have ever felt!Yikes!

Eva Gallant said...

I don't know which is more difficult; watching her waste away, or speaking on the phone one night, and the next morning getting the phone call that she died during the night....no time to prepare.

aspiemom said...

Really, you beat yourself up about that? I am sorry that you do.

Brian, you write so beautifully. It is a serious pleasure. I feel so glad to be able to read your words. I am learning from you.

It is a wonderful thing to have the love of an in-law. You hear horror stories. I never had them. Mine were wonderful too.

william said...

this was very good, I was deeply moved by this story, brilliant :)

Ji said...

Your opening connects readers instantly, as the story unfolds,
love, pain, and regret of loss come to sight.

what a hit!
I hope this draws your family members closer...you are such an admirable son-in-law...

Ji said...

http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/ready-or-not-here-it-is-poetry-awards-for-march/

Keep up your excellence,
I am glad that you win, BIG!
Happy Happy Monday!

Goofball said...

very powerful, very moving

rel said...

She never wore lipstick.
Sometimes the words won't come.
It's who we are at the moment; no more and no less.
I am sorry for your loss!
rel

Baino said...

Ah great resonance here having watched a parent die. Ironically that was the moment of my life where I actually could say something. I guess because I knew it was coming. Very moving Brian and nicely written. Dont beat yourself up, you can't be all things to all people all the time. No matter how hard you try.

steviewren said...

Brian your pen reveals the emotions of your heart. Words can fail...but love never does. I see more love in this story than an eloquent prayer would reveal. Stop beating yourself up please.

Lisa said...

your words brought me to tears. I like the subtle allusion to the lipstick. I like that the pain of goodbye was the story, with a subtle nod to magpie's prompt.

Brian, thank you for your kind words on my response to the prompt. Again, for me you are the next great American writer...your words move me, encourage me, and inspire me to write, to be better each time. You are one of my muses. I am continually amazed by your words. This one will be one I will remember.

With Great Respect, Lisa

Brian Miller said...

thanks for all the wonderful thoughts and encouragement today...i emailed a few of you, but in many ways wrting this post was exorcizing that demon...a few weeks back a blogger friend asked about my greatest disappointment or regret. this was it, but in letting it out there it is a release.

mcuh love & see you soon,
b

otin said...

Now that was powerful!!!

Condolences to T, also. I know it was 2 years ago, but I am sure that it still hurts.

Monkey Man said...

You really touched a nerve here, Brian. Funny, my mom HAD to wear her lipstick, even up to her dying day. But the silent scream. The skin no longer fitting. The smell. All of it so real. I however took my older sister by the hand, walked her to our mother and said, "We need to tell her it's okay to go. That we will be okay without her and that she needs peace and to be pain free." We said good bye and Mom passed only a few hours later. It's never easy, my friend.

Ronda Laveen said...

Words, of the mortal kind, at a time like that, are only necessary for those of us staying behind. In the state she was in, she could feel your essence, your vibration, which held a higher truth.

Maybe even now, some of your best words are just coming. Perhaps even more next year.

LadyCat said...

Very tender words. We are never prepared for those moments and do the best we can. And in the end it turns out to be the right thing.
My father died of a blood disease, the name so long I can never remember without looking it up. He also had the silent scream on his face and that is so hard to forget.
But we need to know they were free from the pain and they knew our hearts.

Cabo said...

Wow, Man. That was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous in a very quiet, humble way.

Robyn said...

Brian, you are very talented and I hope you know that :)

On another note I have an invitation for you to join myself and others in a creative project.
This invitation comes from me via Lola and if you would like to know more please visit my blog to read the post titled 'creativity and an invitation for you.'

I hope you can join us.
Thank you
best wishes
Robyn 'fragments treasures memory'

blueviolet said...

That was way too reminiscent of the last moment's of my dad's life, except that I had plenty of time to speak to him and hug him and love him before he passed.

gayle said...

Brian, this was so much my feelings as I sat with my dad as he lay dying.

HKatz said...

That first line is especially powerful - it's simply observed and shown to us, and contains a lot of sadness in it.

Tahereh said...

WOW.

The Retired One said...

Oh Brian...captured so candidly and heartfelt!
I have been there...we were present for both my parents' deaths and for my in-laws deaths...holding hands in the hospital for days...hearing the last raspy irregular breaths until....one last gasp and then stillness...
it is so hard.
But I agree...you are left with only their unrecognized shells..you know their souls (or essence) is not in the body you are now looking at...and you also know that you will see them again...

Leslie said...

Wow Brian - what a touching and real tribute. Loss is so personal and yet the expectations can crowd in on precious moments

Maggie said...

It really touched my soul Brian. I've never experienced th loss of anyone close to me and I don't know how it'd affect me, my life it is so hard to just even think of something like that.

Everyday Goddess said...

I broke out in huge sobs at my father in laws service. Something just swept through me.

I know she hears you. Hears your love. it's what reaches all of us.

CottageGirl said...

My mom passed away 2 years ago this month at our house ... in our bedroom after her struggle with cancer.

Your touching writing brings me to tears.

ethelmaepotter! said...

I have no words to describe how much this post moved me.

Such heartbreaking honesty...your description of the life of a loved one slipping away in the final moments, and the utter hopelessness of the heart...you are a master of words.

My own mother-in-law never wore makeup a day in her life; to do so she would have no doubt considered a sin. And yet, she was laid to rest with lipstick, powder, and blusher. Everyone remarked how beautiful she was...but it wasn't her at all.

Lipstick lament - I shall never forget that phrase.

ds said...

"before the blood disease sucked the you out of you.." Such tenderness in this piece, so much checked emotion (until the end). So well done. Thank you.

She Writes said...

I have had my mouth, mind, and abilities freeze up at the death of a loved one. Your MIL would never hold that against you. The lack of words can say more than words themselves.

Jaime said...

oh brian...

"tell her goodbye, give her permission to leave..."

you've got me all teary thinking about my grandpa now...

Cloudia said...

universal yet deeply private.



Aloha from Waikiki


Comfort Spiral

Suz said...

A wonderfully written piece
not soon forgotten
just a great story

Bridgette said...

Thank you Brian for the kind words, and I will share my story one day when the time is right.

Unknown Mami said...

Achingly beautiful.

Teri said...

Death...why is it so hard to handle? I have been exactly where you write about a few times in my life: my Dad when I was seven, my first husband when I was 21, grandparents, ALMOST my daughter when she was 21 but she survived, thank god, and two years ago a dear friend. It is always the same sadness, the "not-knowing-what-to-say" that lingers behind after they are gone. I think you did just exactly what you should do: write about it. Writing is such a catharsis. You always do such a good job at evoking the emotions that you feel in your words. I love coming here and spending time with you (and your words.)

petemarshall1 said...

Hi Brian - a tremendously moving piece, & a fantastic site. Trying to follow you but it keeps linking the wrong blog!!!! Do you twitter? Regards Pete

LadyFi said...

Beautiful and tender.

Shadow said...

this is incredibly sad. from the heart, i can tell...

Shadow said...

this is incredibly sad. from the heart, i can tell...

suryagni said...

wonderfully written.

suryagni said...

the place where she is now, she will be able to hear all those unsaid words.

actions speak more than words, and i know your actions have spoken clearly and loudly all the time she was with you.

Rob said...

You def have a way with words. Good stuff.

Lorraine said...

why would you beat yourself up Brian, you retained a thought for her that was so special, I'm sure she loved you at her funeral!

little hat said...

You've triggered a lot of stuff here Brian. Me included. Yeah, the pain of opportunities lost does weigh heavily. another thing we carry with us but perhaps, in a strange way, a tribute.

natalee said...

i literally had tears in my eyes.. I watched my Nana pass just like this...as usual you put things perfectly into words

Drahdrah said...

Having recently lost my own mother, you put into words thoughts and emotions that I couldn't have, but also felt very deeply.
I think we were sitting in the same chair. Beautifully written Brian. I am sorry for your loss, and hope that putting it into words helps your healing process.

C.M. Jackson said...

Brian--your heart spoke to her and all who still miss her--very thoughtful and honest--peace to you and yours-c

jaymiethorne said...

Lipstick...strange, I have the same memory about my mother-in-law's death. At the viewing she had lipstick on and I had only seen her ever wear lipstick a handful of times, weddings and such. I can't help but think that someone not prone to wearing lipstick was aware of your feelings towards her. They nurture us so that we can later nurture others.

Angie Muresan said...

What a lovely and poignant tale, Brian. And I see that it is based on truth. There is no reason to feel guilty over how you handled the passing of your mother-in-law. You were grieving. There are no rules that go with that.

Green-Eyed Momster said...

Reading blogs for me is like a roller coaster lately. I sat down and laughed at the comments I received and I cried at more than one post I read. This one reminds me of the time when I had to say good-bye to our best family friend in the whole world. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry T lost her mom.

The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

Oh, this is so tough to read...

amy said...

...my, my how your words cut into reality -

My grandmother used to say, "the earthly and heavenly realms are only separated by a thin veil..." and I fully believe that. What is so hard for us, is so easy for them as they pass to that glorious other side.

I wish you peace, that your memories of your mother-in-law will be filled with joy and not the heartache of the few last moments on earth.

Peter Goulding said...

The emotion comes through very strongly Brian, but you control it well in your writing.

Betty said...

That brought back memories.
Thank you for writing.

much ado about nothing... said...

brian, the heaviness of your silence brought tears to my eyes...

schererart said...

Breautifully written. This is exactly what it was like when I lost one of my sisters.

Pat said...

Wow - this just touched my heart deeply. You've written this from your soul. I can feel your pain in this. Loss is so hard to deal with. I've lost many family members throughout the last 15 years. Most of the time I can handle it, and then something, some memory happens and it's like ripping the scab off of a fresh wound and it hurts and I cry. But life goes on, right? Thanks for sharing this.

Selma said...

The lipstick is such a powerful tool in this heartbreaking tale. I feel the anguish and the loss. So terribly sad.

Jingle said...

Brian:

I am up and only 3 minutes late...
Have A Sweet Sunday!
Thank you for the kind comment.

your posts are the best soul food to me, reading you is reading love, grace, and music.

you are a rock star,
I look up high,
from afar...

smiles!