Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Eve Reflections

12/24/17, 9:25 pm

As I get ready to take part in yet another Midnight Mass (27 years now, I think?) I always pause to reflect .....

I think back to December 2014 — the last year we had anything close to a normal Christmas. Mom was still fairly mobile, but was starting to have issues. Richard was here. Maddox was around. Dad had just retired for the second time. We were together .......

I think back on those three years since then.... I could focus on all the losses, all the pain and the many tears I have cried. I could look at my own struggles from foot surgery to staying sane through all the whiplash changes. I could concentrate on all the disappointments, the dashed hopes, the what-might-have-beens.

But instead, I want to be grateful for the many blessings. Through all those adversities, I have been abundantly blessed — the kind of flowing grace that makes me drop to my knees, sobbing in gratitude for the love I’ve been shown. Love that makes me want to share it out, paying it forward to a world desperately in need of unconditional love. Kindnesses that have been poured out on me like a rolling river, that leave me shaking my head and wondering what I have ever done in life to deserve such favor.

In the last few years, my faith has been shaken and stirred and made gelatinous. It has been shredded and reconstructed and my soul sewn back together as much as possible. My hope has at times wavered like undies in the breeze on Granny’s clothesline. But I pray fervently that I only grow in my ability to love without measure or condition. It’s all I know to do these days. Just love.

Yes, I have lost family members — and the pain is still raw and fresh and I still find myself tearing up at the blink of an eye. But I have  gained a deeper, stronger bond with my family as well. They have held me up so much since March 2016 that I can’t even begin to say adequate thanks. I am so glad we are close after all these years and I love you all so much!

And I also gained a worldwide “framily.” My framily contains people I grew up with; people from my young adult life; people I’ve just met in the last couple of years, and some I have yet to meet in person. You are all SO vital to my life, and I am so very grateful to you.

No matter the specific holiday you celebrate, the one thing we share in common is the light — whether Hanukkah candles, Yule fires, Christmas lights, or any other representation. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, as the sun has diminished and now as the days will slowly lengthen even as the cold settles in, there is light that darkness can never overcome. Be that light, reflect that light. May all of us find ourselves warmed by the light and the fire it generates in us and in the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Looking Back - And An Eye To The Future

I thought 2016 was enough to kill me. I was so wrong.

2016, to be perfectly fair, was a craphole of a year in which doom and gloom seemed omnipresent in my life, in which I could not escape the spectre of all things wrong - and yet, one in which I experienced some amazingly awesome events.

2017 was much the same, multiplied tenfold. Once again, the Grim Reaper overshadowed my year, losing an aunt, my favorite musician (which most just do not understand how much his loss affected me), and finally and most harshly of all, my brother, so suddenly and so painfully. I feel his absence from my life even more harshly than I did my mother's (which was harsh enough).

But today, new hope. I brought home a new pet to love.

As most of you know, it was 375 days ago that I had to say goodbye to my beloved Maddox, my heart and soul of nearly 10 years. I had many opportunities from friends who knew pets (or who had pets) that needed rehoming. And as much as I wanted to do so, I couldn't .... Dad had an eye on knee surgery, and then losing Richard...... but over the weekend, I just started looking in earnest.

He called to me. His sweet sad little face and his story stabbed my heart.

So this morning, I went to the Humane Society. He was skittish, as they told me he would be. But then.... and I called my dad. He was very skittish, as they said he would be around men. But then....

We brought him home, and unlike Maddox -- who, make no mistake, worshipped my father -- he marched right into my father's workshed and lay down. Eyes on my father at all time.

Maddox, part deux, at least for the worshipfulness. I'm not surprised. That makes 3 of us now -- Kendi, Maddox, and me.

Kendi brings me hope. Making creative gifts for family and friends and coworkers has brought me an outlet.

Maybe - just maybe - 2018 will leave me the hell alone. Will give me space and time to heal at last. Will give me a chance to find myself again - maybe the parts of me I hadn't yet grown to know and love.

And at last, may we find peace and comfort and solace in a world grown bonkers.

L'chaim my friends.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What I Miss Most

It's been a little over three weeks since I lost my brother. Most days I'm good..... I haven't had my extreme meltdown yet but it is coming. This I know. But as it was today, I had quite a few tears. They were good ones, healing ones, cleansing ones. They were not tears of sadness, just tears. Tears that had spent far too long trapped inside me.

This week especially, I had quite a few people reach out to me to say, "Hey, I'm making sure you're ok, so really how are you?" And I always reply that we are managing. We feel our way through the days because I don't think there's a blueprint to be followed. That by Day 22, you're supposed to (whatever). It's Day 23 and we are still figuring things out. We have until this Friday to file paperwork with probate as a "small estate." That will save a lot of headache and trouble - I think, anyway. This is such a different process from Mom's probate. Feeling our way through.

We've discovered that the grocery bill has gone down a good bit -- which is good because we're going to need the money for other expenses. The house is quieter on football Saturdays -- even though Dad and I can do quite a bit of yelling our (ahem) encouragement and (cough cough) love of the officiating crews. Mornings are minus the laughter coming from my brother's room where he would watch reruns of Married With Children while the rest of us were expanding our minds with the news and current events, and occasional breaks from that while watching reruns of Parking Wars. For 23 days, we haven't heard -- criminy, I don't even know the name of it, but it was a smooth jazz song that he would play over and over and over..... I almost used it as the backdrop for his memorial slideshow but I couldn't torture anyone else that way. And I couldn't stand to hear it for 3 hours on end. Years of it was enough.

But I also miss jumping up to share funny memes with my brother -- especially this time of year. He purely loved the whole Friday the 13th thing, and Friday I missed him most. So many cool jokes that I couldn't show him. So many other horror movie spoofs that he missed out on. So many funny things in general that he would get and no one else would, not in the same way. I miss teasing him about things. I miss Saturdays where we'd have one channel going, he'd have another, plus listening to a game via livestream.

I feel like a large part of me has been excised, like a limb that's been removed, and I'll have pains (not just phantom ones) for the rest of my days. I don't quite know how to manage. I just wake up and keep doing. One foot in front of the other. One hour, one minute, one whatever at a time. More tears will come, of that I am sure.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Richard McClellan: In Memoriam

From Tuesday night's visitation at the mortuary. If you didn't get a memorial card, just let me know.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A more fitting obit....

On Friday, September 22, my baby brother departed this life. It was sudden and very unexpected, and I find myself at loose ends, not knowing what to do.  It is now me and my father. We're it. We are having to pick up the pieces and figure things out in a way that we did not have to do with my mother.

This is my brother's official published obituary.

Richard McClellan
Liberty, SC

A memorial service to honor the life of Mr. McClellan will be held at 2:00 PM Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Clemson. A visitation will be held from 6:00 until 8:00 PM Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at Liberty Mortuary. Private burial will take place at a later date at Westview Cemetery.

Richard Thomas McClellan, 42, of 114 Lee Street, died Friday, September 22, 2017 at Cannon Memorial Hospital. Born in Easley, Richard was the son of Tommy R. McClellan of the home and the late Nancy Prince McClellan. Richard was a 1993 Graduate of Liberty High School and was employed with Data Trac. He loved music but more especially college and NFL football. He was of the Catholic faith.

Surviving in addition to his father is a sister, Annette McClellan of the home. 

The family will be at the home. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting 

It's serviceable but it is stale. One of the joys of my genealogy days was finding obituaries of my ancestors, and when I finished reading them, I felt as if I knew them - or at least knew them better. This is facts and figures and cold hard data. It is not the story of my brother's life.

But obituaries do not come cheap. Had I published this one, we'd be in a deeper hole than we find ourselves in now......

Richard McClellan
Liberty, SC

Richard Thomas McClellan, age 42, died unexpectedly on Friday, September 22 at his home. He was a teller of stories both true and slightly embellished; a lover of music, from smooth jazz (no, really) to European metal; a fanatic about sports, especially his beloved college football; and a connoisseur of both fine German brews and cheap American swill. He was a great cook as long as the instructions read "peel back the foil from tater tots...." or similar wording. He knew sports statistics backward and forward, kept track of all the college teams -- especially his beloved FCS/I-AA teams, and watched wrestling when it was "rasslin'." He had the fortune to be singled out by The Nature Boy Ric Flair (WHOOOOO!) at a house show and did an amazing impression of him. 

His laugh was infectious, and in the midst of his storytelling, he would get so cracked up that he would lose track, lose his voice, and start crying. He did impressions that made everyone laugh, and he had a memory like a steel trap. He was a savant with dates, an ability that astounded everyone. He carried around 40 tubes of lip balm and still couldn't keep track of them. He hated having his picture made as an adult, but we have managed to find a few. He had a wanderlust for driving around all over the mountains of North Carolina, the back roads of Georgia, places in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and once drove to Memphis just to spend the weekend. He loved telling of his 11:00 AM drink in BB King's bar on Beale Street, just to say he'd done it.

He loved live music, and had the privilege of seeing some of his favorite bands when they were not too far past their glory days. He loved everything from George Strait to George Michael, and had an odd penchant for "yacht rock." No, I didn't get it either. Richard had many quirks which would cause you to shake your head in bewilderment, but you never stopped loving him. If anything, it probably made you love him all the more.

He is now reunited with his mother, who preceded him in death by 18 months, and his dog Maddox, who preceded him by 9 months. Mama is now back with her favorite child (we all knew it, ha ha ha), and with his beloved "Smaddikins." Together they will roam heaven on crumb patrol. Having to learn to live without his physical presence are his father, Tommy, and his sister, Annette; his coworkers at DataTrac, and former coworkers at First Franklin, Perception, and Greenwood Mills; a legion of brothers from his high school days (all of "Mama's Boys"); friends from all over the US who knew him as Catamount Man or other varied aliases from his football messageboards; and countless others who may have benefited from his kindness and acts of charity. 

Yes, and that only covers a part of who my brother was. I had 42 years of beautiful memories, but what I wouldn't give for 42, 52, who knows how many more.

This picture was taken at one of the few concerts we attended together. When I learned that Pearl Jam had put Greenville on the 2016 tour, my brother -- not a huge PJ fan -- said, "You *ARE* getting tickets, RIGHT?" Yes indeedy. We went to the show and had a fun time. He laughed about my musical choices just as much as I did about his. It was one of the best nights of my life. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

23 Words

So for the last few weeks, I've been part of an online challenge where we do a physical activity, 23 repetitions, in memory of those who have completed suicide and to bring awareness that it's more widespread than we can think.

As part of it, I've also been writing daily thought -- condensed to 23 Words only. I write them from the perspective of someone who lives with mood disorders that affect my life. While one may feel anxious or depressed over situations, it isn't the same as having anxiety disorder and/or depression. Those are baseline conditions -- a lens through which the world is viewed.

I'll be sharing some of those poems / thoughts  in a series of posts. Hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chris Cornell, My mom, and Me

I have lots more to say but that's a separate post. This is about my first time to see Chris Cornell live:

His music helped me through a very dark place in my life during late 2015-early 2016. In late February my mom was taken to the ER with what was thought to be another cardiac event. She never recovered.

During those two weeks, Chris announced he'd be playing at Ravinia near Chicago. Mom was teaching me from her hospital bed that life was too short, to go for what I wanted to do. So I told my father that if I had to sleep in my car and eat peanut butter crackers to see him, I was going to.... harrumph!

My mom passed March 5. On March 6 (also my dad's birthday), Chris announced the entire North American tour. There were three places all within a reasonable distance. I decided I would go for one of those.

March 7 (also the anniversary of my mom's mom's passing; freaky, no?) I'm sitting in the mortuary helping finalize mom's arrangements. My Ticketmaster app buzzed and only one of my locations was operating through them. I couldn't stop to call the nearest venue, but I could do this one (next closest). So I got my ticket -- don't laugh, the mortician was running late.

I got home later and looked up the seat on the venue's website -- my mother and grandmother gave me one of the most precious gifts ever. My seat was 5th row, almost exact center stage (#20 on a row of 38). I cried buckets. I could not believe it. It was my first ever Chris Cornell show in any version. It was going to be magical.

And it was.

And mom continued to work her magic -- I got tickets to Temple in NYC; a friend ended up with a spare for Seattle and asked me to join her. I got tickets for Carolina Rebellion and then with days to spare, lucky enough for an opportunity to see them the next night in Tuscaloosa.

This morning in the grey dreary rain, on the way to church, I had a heart-to-heart crying conversation with my mother. I thanked her for all she'd done to help me see my favorite artist so many times in such a short time frame. I also told her to please find him in heaven and to give him a huge hug and thank him for meaning so much to me and countless others. I asked her to keep his sweet family and close friends in her prayers as well.

I don't always subscribe to a traditional understanding of theology. I honestly don't know what the afterlife holds..... my own thought is that we're bathed in light and goodness and that love fills every missing piece, all the gaps. And so I pray and hope with all my being that whatever gaps were there have been filled to overflowing with light and love..... and that the overspill comes down and makes us better people for it.

Loud love my friends.