Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Two observations and an apology, irrespectively

I'm back from Washington, DC. I've been back for more than a week now. No one was injured, and the road salt has since been washed off the car. I'm thinking about what to say about it. Sorry I've left you hanging.

Fire trucks don't seem to have turn signals, but if they do and they're used, no one can tell. That seems dangerous.

Medical professionals are far more willing to talk about death than just about anyone else. I stood at the bus stop this morning with a nurse from the children's hospital. She read my CANCER SUCKS hat and began asking me questions. Did I have it? Did I make that hat? Did my mom die? That's not very long ago. And then she hugged me. I'm glad she was the first person I didn't know who has asked me about the hat. She was nice without pushing my boundaries, notwithstanding the hug. I ought to expect people to ask questions when I wear that hat.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


That's the shirt. It's shiny. Don't you want your name on it? Please feel free to pass along the word. I'm not currently at risk of running out of room on the shirt.

Monday, January 17, 2005

We still need a better president.

On Thursday, January 20, 2005, I will be in Washington, DC. I will be wearing many layers, and on the upper half of my body, the outermost will be a white sweatshirt with the letters FUGWB on the front.

This is where you come in. I have Sharpies and a desire to write the names (or pseudonyms) of people who will be with me in spirit. If you believe that the USA still needs a better president, leave a comment or email me. I'll write your name (however you want it) on the shirt.

P.S. You don't have to live in the US or be American to sign on. I'll also include your nation, if you wish.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ms. Understood

You know that feeling that no one understands you? You had it when you were 15, even if you were popular. Everyone feels like that at 15. At some point, most of us realize that everyone feels that way. We know that everyone, whether they understand us or not, feels misunderstood. We accept this. We feel less misunderstood.

I am a lesbian. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am regularly misunderstood by the people who love and support me. LGBT allies say insensitive things. Some of them snap to attention. Many of them don’t.

I can’t turn off being a lesbian. I can think about life and the world and humanity without separating myself from them, but I cannot stop being who I am. I cannot stop looking out for myself. When I speak up, I am asking you to listen. I spend a lot of time assuming the best intentions from others, more than you think I do. You have privileges. You expect me to speak out against homophobia and heterosexism, but you aren’t willing to look at your own behavior to realize that you are doing it, too.

You’re asserting your privilege when...
· I speak up and you think I’m overreacting.
· You refuse to take the initiative to find out what went wrong.
· You ignore my comments because you know that you are not a bigot, even though you know that I am addressing you.
· I speak up and you say, “But what about me?”
· You say, “I’m already a supporter. What else do you want me to do?”
· You use your gay/lesbian/bisexual friend/sibling/cousin/neighbor as evidence of your nonbigotedness.
· You conflate gay issues with lesbian issues with bisexual issues.
· You refuse to acknowledge that you can take a break from fighting homophobia.
· You pat yourself on the back for writing to congress and voting against anti-gay legislation.
· You assume that I understand as little about heterosexuality as you do about homosexuality.
· A discussion about the presence of heterosexism gives you something to think about.

My family structure is constantly being undermined by people who don't have anything against lesbians and gays. Everywhere I look, life is about being heterosexual. Life is not about me. It's about you. Your children are probably produced through an act of sexual congress with your spouse. Your doctors and nurses affirm your family structure throughout pregnancy and childbirth. You and your spouse are both legal parents of your child. You don't risk having that child taken away from you because you are heterosexual. Other children won't tell yours that her/his very existence is a sin and a crime against nature. You don't fear for your child's life just because you're in a heterosexual marriage. Both you and your spouse can enroll your children in school or seek medical care for them. The forms at the doctor's office fit your family just fine. You never need to have the birth certificate reissued. No one wants to make it illegal for you to be a parent.

The voters of my state have made it perfectly clear that I'm not welcome here. My country is trying to do the same thing. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my employer offers health insurance for my partner, even though I have to pay taxes on my employer's costs for insuring her. Those taxes come out of my pay, and at the end of the year, I come home with almost $1000 less than I would if I were married to a man. Because we're both women, that $1000 means a lot.

I am constantly fighting stereotypes and being asked insensitive questions. Which one of us is "the man"? Which is going to be the mom? Do I do the girly stuff, or does she? Where do you get sperm? Why don't you just adopt? Don't you think it'll be really hard to raise a kid without a dad?

When I die, the newspaper may charge extra for including my partner's name in my obituary because she's not my "family."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Quietus made

My mother is no longer alive. She is dead. She is gone. I’ve said that her absence is glaring, and that’s true. In some ways, we’ve filled in the hole that she left, but nothing has replaced her. It’s just that the everyone around her has collapsed into that space. It’s still empty, but it’s empty somewhere else. Empty inside us instead of around us.

It’s the converse of digging in the sand. Hannah and I spent hours on the beach last summer. We moved sand. It went nowhere in particular. Every time I dug into that wet grit and scooped out a fistful, more slid in. The hole got deeper, but the process was slow. For what I removed from that space, the hole should have been narrow and deep. Instead, it was wide. It was shaped like a disc. You couldn’t miss it for the world.

That was my mother. When she was first gone, it was big and wide. Everyone could see the hole she left. Now, that hole is so far inside me that no one can see it. It’s a sneaky hole. I never forget my mother, but I forget about that hole. I fall in it too often. Lately, I’ve been stuck.

I expected to see her or hear her or feel her. I expected my imagination to make her appear. I expected her to appear in mind or in spirit, but at this point, any kind of fabrication would do. She’s not supposed to be so gone. She’s not supposed to have just stopped existing. Her body is 200 miles away, and I’m afraid that that’s all. There have been promises made to me that are not being kept. Some of them were made by you—you, the person who is reading this. Some of them were made by people who will never read this. Some were made by those who are gone and aren’t coming back.

I have two choices. I can accept that my faith means nothing, that I’ve been lied to by my friends, my family, my church, and myself, that there’s nothing in the universe but atoms and molecules and the cells they create. Or I can accept that my mother abandoned me.

I’m still going to church, still praying, and I’m thinking about joining the choir again. I still have my faith.

Fucking, fucking, fuck

My tiny little program employs a work-study student named Mary. Mary's father just died. He had cancer. Mary is 21.

I'm so sorry, Mary. I am just so, so sorry.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

This trinity is bad, bad, bad.

My cousin joined a cult. It seems like everyone is uneasy about it except for my dad. He likes to be reassuring to people, so maybe it’s all an act.

He’s not actually my cousin. He’s my cousin’s kid. And it’s not technically a cult, but if you really look at it from a sociological perspective, it just might be new religious movement. He joined The Legion of Christ. It’s a monastic order within the Roman Catholic Church. It’s endorsed by the Vatican. It’s positively frightening.

I think he just turned 21, or maybe he’s about to turn 21. He’s old enough to make decisions for himself, but I question the merit of this organization. He left for the seminary some time around May. The monastery/seminary is not one that prepares its charges for parish ministry. What exactly he’ll do for the rest of his life is unknown to me. Whatever it is, I hope it has nothing to do with this place. He’s allowed telephone calls on three occasions per year, and letter writing is limited to some extent. Until my cousin's 25th wedding anniversary, there are no plans for visitation. I try not to pass judgment on others’ religious choices, but I can’t get behind this. Any group that forces one to cut off all contact with one’s family and friends is a bad idea. Susie from Nueva Cantora says so.

My aunt, the littlest monk’s grandmother and a Catholic convert, is also apprehensive about this. One of her sons spoke to him by telephone and promised that he’d send any money that was needed to break out of there. The littlest monk declined. The offer still stands and will stand indefinitely.

Would you believe that this actually gets juicy/scandalous? Maybe it doesn’t, but it turns out that the founder of this NRM is a serious part of the sexual abuse problem.
Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, which is one of the so-called new movements in the Catholic Church that have received special attention and favor during this pontificate.

...Father Maciel was himself guilty of sexual abuse in the past by quoting nine victims of his unwanted attentions, all ex-Legionaries. The Legion has denied the allegations but the complaints have never been adjudicated by the Vatican.

With the encouragement of the papal ambassador to Mexico, a canonical case was filed with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1998, accusing Father Maciel of "absolving the sins" of his victims in confession --- an ecclesiastical crime that has no statute of limitation. In late 1999, however, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation, halted the proceeding without explanation.

Had Father Maciel been a priest in the United States and accused of sexual abuse by nine former students, he would have been immediately removed from ministry under the U.S. bishops' 2002 charter for the protection of youth.

Within the Legion and the Vatican, however, the founder's status remains secure. Legionaries take vows never to speak ill of him or their other superiors and to report any member who does. Moreover, the pope personally appointed him as a representative to the Synod for the Americas in 1997 and praised him in 2001 at a sixtieth anniversary celebration of the Legion's founding.

(emphasis mine)

So, yeah. We’re a little uneasy. My cousin adds to this that she’s grieving her son’s losses by proxy. His vows of poverty and chastity pain her. She wants grandchildren. Of her three sons, it seems as though she saw him as her greatest hope for propagation. I think the others, younger than the littlest monk, still have a chance.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

An image before I verbally return

Remember when I jumped in the pool and got Hannah out? I finally have a picture to share.

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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