Posts Tagged ‘Jaren Combes’


Five years. Five years? Five years!

I have nothing to say today, so will simply link to the first post I wrote after the death of my amazing son, Jaren.

There are many others here about him and me and death and grief you can find and read, should you be so disposed, by typing his name in the search box. I’m reading them all today.

Five years.

I miss him.

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Tonight's sunset.

I think of my son often, and on evenings alone on the veranda watching the sunset he comes to mind in a way that always makes me smile.

The opening line of one of Jaren’s songs, “Swedish Nutball”, resonates as the sun sinks way too fast into the western sky.

I can feel the rotation of the earth …

I pretty much stop right there, as the rest of the lyrics aren’t exactly conducive to contemplating a lovely end to a day, but there is no doubt I do … feel the rotation of the earth.

Those who’ve never seen the face of Sol plunge at speed into that end of the ocean called Horizon near the Equator are missing one of our planet’s best thrill rides.

From the first kiss of sun to sea to the last wink of brightness over Horizon’s lip all of about 4 minutes pass … the sucker drops like a stone, so fast there is no question or quibbling over just how fast this globe we’re stuck to spins. Whooooooosh!

I own a vast amount of E tickets for this ride and try not to miss it as it comes around almost exactly every twenty-four hours, year in and year out. Being four degrees south of the North/South dividing line, the time varies by no more than a few minutes. Rather than longer days and shorter nights, or vice versa, we in the middle just see the sunset swing from one area of ocean to another, then back over the course of the year. (Google “Declination” if you’re interested, as for some reason the link won’t post.)

Most days I sit and watch, either a cup of tea or glass of wine at hand, but sometimes I do choose to stand for the event. Staring at our star as it does its dip, the beautifully illustrated awareness of how bloody fast this planet spins, can almost make me dizzy.

I live on the west coast of Mahé, a situation I love since it gives me this drama rather than the early morning show of the sun doing his impression of a Pop-Tart emerging from a toaster.

I tend to avoid the bugger as much as possible during that chariot ride it takes across the sky, seeing as how fried is not my best look, but when I see him heading toward the high dive to prepare for the plunge I will drop what I’m doing to watch the form, the style and the amazing ovation the sky and clouds give once he’s gone and the way that echos across the ocean.

That the show is all mine is special, but sharing the ride makes it even better.

Here’s Jaren NOT singing about sunsets …

And, yes, what I’m thinking now, he thought of first.

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More than just crude matter ... ?

Although I’ve been gnawing on the Weiner thing for a few days, as the story keeps spurting I’m not quite lubricated enough to bring a post to whatever climax the tale deserves, so today I’m sliding away from it and onto something completely different.

What happens when you die?

There are numbers of reasons this question prays on my mind right now, involved as I am with the dead, the dying, survivors and inquiring minds, so I’ve been giving the guaranteed outcome of life a good deal of thought lately.

There are, of course, a hell of a lot of theories, and any number of them make a lot of sense when contemplated from one direction or another, and I tend to go through the list from time to time, not that I expect much of any answer until my time comes.

That, in fact, is one of the possibilities … that at the moment the bucket is kicked we become enlightened. In shuffling off this mortal coil (Hamlet – iii. i. 67) all the information kept from us during our lifetimes is once more available … it being either more than we can bear while busy drawing breath or outside the “need-to-know” limits that coil thing bars us from catching on to … and suddenly it all makes sense.

From what lessons we were supposed to learn to why we died a certain way, we see the patterns, the reasons, and judge for ourselves how well we did … and what classes we may have to repeat.

Another involves a “higher power” who does the judging for us, then sends us off toward either eternal damnation or an infinity of happy harp-strumming. Although very popular, this one doesn’t fly with me, as there seems to be something ungodly petty about condemnation after only one short course, and even those who manage to hang around for 100 years have still only managed an eye-blink of time in the big picture.

There is also the idea that when we die, we’re just dead. The staunch atheistic approach insisting we are biological beings, pure and simple; we’re born, we live, we die and that’s that.

It makes a lot of sense and science goes a long way to back this up. Every week there’s some new study out on some biochemical process that causes dishonesty or various personality traits or love or the inability to love (And I’m sorry, but I’m so not in the frame of mind to dig up links to this stuff right now, so if you’re looking for references try Google.)

This could very well be exactly the case, but it seems rather pointless.

Not only pointless to live a lifetime with worries of no more than doing your bit to ingest enough nutrients to reproduce … the prime biological mandate … but also to assume the position that this is all there is … ever.

It also seems a rather unimaginative stance.

I prefer something that could include parallel universes and essence of being that is made up of energy, rather than flesh and bone and brain. An existence that doesn’t begin and end with … and, okay, I admit I’m quoting Yoda here, but that little guy made a point I like … “this crude matter”.

If crude matter is the be all and end all, the point escapes me, and if there is no point … well, there is no point. If being dead amounts to no more than compost we’ll certainly not be aware of that state of having become, and I guess that’s okay, too. It does rather put the kibosh on any growth and learning and leaving a mark, though, if the only mark to be left could be called skid.

There is either a reason for being born, for living and for dying that goes beyond making more to be born, live and die, or there isn’t, and it seems a flagrant waste of energy if that’s the whole circle. Fleeting moments of joy, plunges into the depths of suffering, decades of acquiring knowledge, flashes of brilliance, art, music, literature, war, starvation, cruelty, benevolence … all the stuff we get up to that plants don’t … they seem to indicate we might expect something more.

On the science front, it’s pretty clear that although at any given moment in time the answers seem set in stone they aren’t and new discoveries come up. Is it possible one day it will be scientifically proven that we are, indeed, luminous beings encased, for a while, in this crude matter? That we are here as we are for reasons we aren’t supposed to know until the bell rings, the fat lady sings and we graduate from this class and pass along to another level?

I could say I hope this is the way it is, and I do, but if it’s not … if this is all there will ever be … well, I’ll be disappointed if there’s anything left of me to be disappointed with.

If, however, there is some “me” left … energy me, next-life me, other-universe me, hang-around-and-visit-loved-ones me … I will feel better about the whole dead thing.

As I put on Jaren’s funeral “program”:

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.
_ David Searls

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My early blessings ... Jenn and Jaren

Spending time, as I have lately, chasing the past, I can’t help but fall into that familiar spiral of circular thinking that is: “What if?”.

Regrets? Yes, I have a few, and more than I want to mention, partly because there’s not a fucking thing I can do to change much now, and also because My Way never felt anywhere within my power or control. Sure, I took the road seemingly less traveled more than once, but in retrospect I see how often the path was laid at my feet even when I thought I was striking out in untested directions. In truth, I’ve just been along for the ride.

If I had it to do over again, what would I do differently? Hm.

Some of the most significant events in my life were considered doom-and-gloom negatives, but avoiding them was not only not an option at the time but would not be on any list of steer clears in a retrospectively-influenced re-do.

Getting pregnant at seventeen was not looked upon as any sort of gift when it happened; in fact my swelling belly was thought quite the harbinger of the end of things. Birth control was illegal for anyone under 18 even though the Summer of Love had just happened, my parents were outraged, my boyfriend, chagrined, and all my plans that were to lead to successful ease-of-life faded faster than cells reproduced in my womb. Having two kids by age nineteen boded ill for the future, as did being married and divorced by twenty-three.

Would I rearrange any of that now? No way, at least not any of the bits I could influence. Jenn is an amazing woman … smart, funny, successful, loving, talented, the best daughter in the world and a wonderful mother. Jaren was incredible in ways no one else will ever be, and although losing him has been the hardest misery I’ve ever faced, I wouldn’t have missed even that.

Leaving my family behind in the US and moving half way around the world only to be left high and dry some years later sounds like a stupid fucking move, especially when it meant losing all those years with Jenn and Jaren and ending up hardly knowing my fabulous granddaughter, but would I spin the globe in reverse and take all that back?

How could I? Not with Sam and Cj in my life.

I could no more skip the misery of Mark than I can regret the years of him. Shit. I can’t even lament wasting some of the last of my cute on Ernesto … after all, he gave good moment and there’s music left over and I’m not sorry about that … but I do wish we’d been in Mexico that Christmas. I should have gone. (And last night’s phone-in hug from a Mexican jungle for Jaren’s birthday garnered him another ‘good moment point’ since hugs can be eternal in many comforting ways.)

Now that I think about it, most of my regrets involve things I didn’t do rather than anything I actually did. There’s a lesson in there somewhere …

If there had ever been money enough I would have spent more time flying back and forth and bringing Jenn and Addie and Jaren to me often … very often … but there never was. Would I change that? You bet! But those aren’t cards I’ve been dealt, so wasn’t able to play that hand. Would I get on a plane tomorrow and spend time with my mother while there’s still a chance she’ll know me? Yep. But until I sell this place that is not an option.

Life is what it is when it is, though, and for this moment I’m here chasing my past and thinking how to stumble into the future. If I had any advice to share from the bottom of this spiral it would have to be not to don’t do anything you think might be important, and not to think you have endless time for doing it later. Seems to me it’s easier to apologize for … and recover from … stuff you did than to regret what you never got around to doing.

I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
~Carl Sandburg

Even when it’s ashes of roses …

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Today is the Day of the Dead, an event marked with celebration in Mexico, which is an idea that pleases me mucho.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.

There is something so rational about skeletal characters parading around cities while sugar skulls and bottles of tequila, mezcal and pulque get offered up for their “spiritual essence”, then consumed by those still living.

It makes more sense to me than dressing up as superheroes or princesses and ignoring the whole death thing, as seems to be more the case in the US.

Death being the one thing we should all be positive about as an eventuality, it is amazing how surprised most people are by it, and how stubbornly negative. As the ancients put it:

There’s nothing certain in a man’s life except this: That he must lose it. ~Aeschylus, Agamemnon

No one knows whether death is really the greatest blessing a man can have, but they fear it is the greatest curse, as if they knew well. ~Plato

Death may be the greatest of all human blessings. ~Socrates

Yeah, yeah … all that wisdom does jackshit for bringing any cheer when we someone we love dies. FUCK! There’s not a day I breathe that doesn’t have the fact of my son’s death rattling agonizingly somewhere inside me, and that will not stop. Nor should it.

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own. ~Thomas Mann

It’s been 17 months today since Jaren died, and although I do now manage some days in a row without tears, I carry the loss of him wherever I am. As his mother, that’s not only my job, it is my privilege.

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. ~Albert Einstein

Although I would not choose to picture the dead I love dancing in their bones, there is something very comforting in the fact that some do see the life in that, and having loved a Mexican for a long time I can so fully appreciate the bright colors, the music, the fiesta, the food and family, that can make a party out of death, and wish I’d had some of that growing up.

Instead, as Dia de los Muertos comes around this year, what I get is dreams … and that’s okay, too. I see my son in what I consider visits, not all pleasant, but I’ll take what I can get. Some are disturbing, but what’s more disturbing than having a dead child? I can take it.

In something that could almost seem like weird symmetry, my mom’s husband died yesterday. He was not a man I was close to in any way, but she was, and her loss is tremendous. He was 80 and sick and probably more than a bit tired of being 80 and sick, so I have to assume this turn of events in easier on him than it is on her.

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist. ~Stewart Alsop

I’m spouting what I can of words of comfort and hoping it takes only a small toll on her health and well being … she being neither young nor spectacularly healthy, herself … but I know only too well, as does she, having lost her father when she was only 12, that dealing with death is a game of solitaire.

For the moment, I can give her only this:

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad. ~Marcel Proust

So, while in Mexico skeletons cavort carelessly … and how else would a skeleton cavort? … in celebration of death, the living cope as they can, not only with their dead, with with the idea of their death.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality
~Emily Dickinson

Feliz el Die de los Muertos, todo. Feliz …Celebre, mi amor!

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At a dinner the other night, as often happens someone noticed one of my tattoos.

“Are you a big fan of auto racing, or something?”

Easy to spot, the Corvette racing flags on my right wrist could give the impression that I’m proud enough a sports fan to permanently ink a symbol into my skin, but as with all my tattoos the meaning goes much deeper.

At present count I have eight tatts, not one a butterfly, fairy, tribal strip, Celtic symbol, dragon or anything else lifted from the Great Book of Body Art folks rifle through at tattoo parlors the world over, looking for something pretty … or pretty ugly … they’d like to live with for the rest of their days.

My ink IS my flesh.

The first tattoo I had done is of a heart. It’s on my ankle. I got it in Singapore after being released from hospital following yet another tinkering on my ticker as it seemed a spare might be a good idea. It’s red, heart-shaped, and includes very visible bypasses … a good representation of the one still beating in my chest. Below it, the Chinese character that translates to ‘long life’. Both of these were modified last year … a boom time for tatts on me … when Jaren’s name was inked into the heart, and my other children’s were written under Long Life.

I had a musical heart done after anther hospital visit in Singapore. (And, yes, there’s a symmetry to getting tattoos in that ancient port city where so many drunken sailors have been inked that appeals to me.) That was Ernesto-inspired, although he is no fan of ink. That’s what happens when I’m alone for such trauma and drama; I make a point of it … or a whole bunch of points as the case may be.

The racing flags I don’t consider a tattoo at all … it’s a scar.

After Jaren died many of his friends had the flags done on their bodies as a tribute to him. Mine are a tribute to those friends, and placed as they are a constant reminder of the love my boy gave and got … a touchstone, if you will.

My tribute to my son is across my upper back; four bars of his music that I am proud to wear. Somehow … and I’m not compelled to examine my motives on this … having this translatable bit of him on me makes it easier to carry the parts of him I miss so much in me.

I had two new tatts done for my birthday last month, both just for me … standards to bear leading me into the rest of my life.

On my right wrist:

Arcum tenderi Veratum decere

Although the explanation of this … two-thirds of a motto Karen Blixen, one of my literary heros, used to open “Out of Africa” … has long held deep significance for me, it’s the basic reminder to “shoot straight, write true” that has it in front of my face every day as I sit at my keyboard.

Running out of spaces on my body that can still hold ink without wrinkling or sagging, I resorted to a tramp stamp for my last tattoo, this one inspired by one a friend gave herself for her birthday.

Quoconque jeceris stabit

Which means: Whichever way you throw me I will stand. This curves over a wonky heart and proclaims my determination to make it through whatever life … and love … can toss in my path.

I’m well aware that wearing my heart so obviously on my sleeve … or wrist or leg or back or whatever … opens me to comments and questions. Sometimes I’m just … yeah, yeah … a big fan of snazzy Chevys, but there are occasions I welcome the opportunity to let my tattoos tell some of my story.

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I’m not up to writing about how it felt to mark one year since Jaren’s death; I’m crap enough at sliding identifying gels over the emotions without coming close to slapping words on them.

What I can do is yack a bit about how I spent the 2nd of June and post a few photos. Yes … I can do that.

Thanks to circumstances, and Ernesto, the opportunity to avoid the dismal prospect of passing the day alone on an island I’d grown weary of, instead visiting a vibrant, exciting city I’d long longed to experience more than the shitty airport of with the man I love had me jumping in that direction.

So, I was in Paris on the day.

Since I could not be in Paskenta where my son is buried beside my father and ancestors galore, Paris seemed a reasonable option Jaren would approve.

You see, there is symmetry in a cemetery there, to which I was drawn like a mother to an eternal flame.

Jim Morrison's grave ...

Pere LaChaise Cemetery and the grave of Jim Morrison … who died in the same year Jaren was born … offered what seemed a vital pilgrimage to a mom half a world away.

I paid my respects to the Lizard King, then strolled the ancient paths between graves feeling my son beside me.

Chopin ...

We gave a howdy to Oscar Wilde, hummed a few bars at Chopin and noticed a shitload of names that made me smile big.

No doubt ... Jaren found this one!

All in all, it was a good horrible day.

Oh ... the jokes ...

Yeah ... this one, too ...

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As the first anniversary of my son’s death approaches … on the 2nd of June he will have been gone for one whole year … it becomes increasingly obvious that I’ve not done the greatest job of proper grieving.

Not that there is a wrong way or a right way to mourn; individually and culturally, there are as many ways to deal with death as there are people who die, and that’s about 10,007 humans per minute on this planet, so a lot of variety.

Death rituals can be part of the process when folks are lucky enough to be afforded the luxury of time to conduct them, when death happens by ones and not by thousands and in situations where the rituals themselves don’t deplete resources to the point of costing more lives.

It occurs to me as I write this, that today’s post prompted my first Google search of grief .. an indication of just how not right I’ve been doing this, and in the course of composing a fucking blog post attempt to face my grief, I’m compartmentalizing, as I’ve done from the time I was told my son was dead.

I know why I went to great lengths to encapsulate each wayward bit of grief, then swallow each whole without letting anything touch the sides. There was so much to do … get Sam and Cj sorted out so I could fly to the other side of the planet. That started it. There was no time to fall apart when packing and making sure my kids and my house and my animals would be cared for for the month I would be away, and getting myself from one airport to another had to happen, and being alone meant just that; there would be no one to hold my hand on a 16+ hour flight, and transiting in Dubai could not happen in a puddle.

Once I arrived, there was more to sort out … more than anything I’d ever considered I’d have to consider … the details of death. Jaren’s dad was there, going through this all, too, and my daughter and her family, and much of my family, and friends, all trying to cope with the loss of him.

Again, a reasonably rational mind was required.

I would go through the motions, do what needed to be done. I would meet with Jaren’s dad and stepmom, my daughter and her husband and others as we all tried to understand this sudden tragedy. I went through what was left of Jaren’s apartment, attended memorial services and let others arrange for his body to be transported to the Northern California town where we would have the funeral.

And at the end of each day, I would go to my room, cry and tell myself that if I fell apart, I would not be able to get myself back together.

Once up north, I stayed with my mother, picked out a casket, wrote stuff for the funeral. I hadn’t been in Red Bluff, California in more than twenty years. It was where Jaren was born.

Since Jaren’s dad did not object, it was decided that he would be buried where much of the family has gone, right beside my father in a lovely little cemetery in the foothills. I wandered the grounds for a while, talking to my son and hoping he was happy with the choices made for him.

I spent time with my mother and some dear old friends, and each night I went to my room alone knowing that there was more to do the next day, deciding again the time was not right to slip into grief.

There’s no doubt that I was afraid. Falling apart in an empty room seemed too much like standing on the edge of a dark precipice knowing no one was there to stop a leap, or to catch when I hit bottom.

So, I didn’t. And it got easier. Much easier to keep swallowing the pill instead of chewing the bitterness of it and experiencing all that nastiness.

Now, almost a year has passed and what I find is that through the process of getting good at keeping the pieces of my grief well separated, my whole bloody life is fragmented. I can no longer grasp big pictures, but only shards of here and there. When I find a sliver, I can gaze at it, examine it, ponder it, but I can’t see where it fits.

This doesn’t work so well.

And it seems bottom has hit me whether I jumped or not.

I’ve been told recently that I need to grieve, to move myself higher up my priority list, to start doing things that make me happy again. Okay. But how do I do that? (Writing has been suggested, and I’m feeling shitty enough to go with that thought, hence this post.)

It seems to take far too much energy to talk to people, to explain, so I shut down and stay home. If I lived somewhere else, I could join a support group or go into therapy, but those aren’t options here.

It’s so frustrating being this sad and not knowing how to grieve.

Some random thoughts …

On my facebook page this morning, a photo of Jaren posted by his friend Francisco under the heading: He’s still here. In the photo, he’s playing the guitar that now sits downstairs in my office hopefully protected from this climate by the case on which he had written in duct tape, “No talent”.

I started crying one day, and Cj said to me: “Mommy, you’re sad. Did Jaren die again?”

When Ernesto is here I feel better … or maybe I’m just diverted … but he’s not now, and it’s worrying that I’m so crap at being alone.

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This post would be more correctly titled “Why I’m not Writing for Myself”, since I am writing loads, but for others.

Social media management is one fragment of my fragmented life these days, so I’m facebooking and Tweeting and such anonymously for others, and find I don’t at all mind the mindlessness of pretending to be someone else who has something to gain from glib verbosity. In fact, I rather enjoy plucking words from air that I’m not wed to … that’s the words, not the air, since breathing still commands my days and nights.

For those who haven’t sussed out the diff between my English and Ernesto’s, I patrol his pages and respond to all varieties of the sycophantic and moony-eyed, as well as the truly-impressed-by-genius, who post.

(sycophante, or via Latin from Greek sukophantēs ‘informer,’ from sukon ‘fig’ + phainein ‘to show’ ; the association with informing against the illegal exportation of figs from ancient Athens (recorded by Plutarch) is not substantiated.)

I do likewise … but sans the figs and the emotional attachment … with other sites, to some advantage to all.

I should also be turning my attention to the fiction that stews and brews and begs fruition, but life gets in the way these days. The Spicemans nag daily. and notes, thoughts and more drift constantly upward, only to be squashed under drifts of real life.

So …

Could I be writing about law suits and the feckless ex and real estate sales and dog-chewed bumpers and my dealings with Cleo (Queen of Denial) and the bazillion ways I can’t process Jaren, and my mother’s decent, and the Kon Tiki of fam issues, and being stuck on a rock and needing a break?

Mon pa think so, mon ker.

I hold hope that some Vesuvius erupts … although this week that would have to be an Eyjafjallajokull … forcing a disgorging of petrified prose newly molten, steaming and demanding flow, but it ain’t happening today.

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Jaren’s stone …

With timing that has me wondering why things have to come in bunches … like snow that builds into mountainous drifts obscuring the comfortably familiar … yesterday, Jaren’s birthday, brought me long-sought-for photos of the headstone that now sits on his grave.

It was supposed to be placed a couple of months after his burial, but has apparently taken a bit longer, and I’m sure it stands out amongst the staid markers in the tiny cemetery in Paskenta where he lies aside my father and very near my grandparents and great-grandparents.

Jaren’s dad and I had to chose from a wide range of shapes, sizes, materials, designs, fonts, texts, styles, and so on back in June when we buried our son, and it was no easy process, and certainly not one we had any practice in beforehand.

At one point, we thought to ask if it would be possible to have a guitar engraved somewhere on the stone and were surprised when the funeral director pulled out a book of tombstone clip art … yes, those exist … and showed us a drawing of a fat mariachi guitar with three cheesy notes issuing from it. Although I was sorely tempted to saddle my son with such cheese for the foreseeable eternity, being not one bit happy about him being dead and all, it was decided to investigate the possibilities of emblazoning his marker with something much more him. What is there is a representation of one of his guitars … the one his brother Sebastian now plays.

I know many of his friends plan to make a pilgrimage to Paskenta to visit Jaren’s grave, and I will be thankful to hear about those trips. It is in a lovely place, very peaceful under giant old oaks, and I plan to spend many hours there as soon as I can.

There will be no trouble finding him … his face and his guitar mark where he lies.

Jaren's stone

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