A tribute to my cousin Joel and meditation for 2023 on deaths of many kinds.
I am so grateful that your post about homemade yogurt randomly showed up in my Substack today as I got to read this amazing post as well. I’m looking forward reading more about your journey into mini homesteading. You’ve already inspired me to resurrect my old garden on my quarter acre lot.
What a touching, deeply sentimental story of life and its many challenges. It touched me to the core. I can relate to so many of your Experiences and the way they were impressed upon you. I too often retreat to the forest finding solace under the trees. When my dog died a few years ago of cancer we buried him under the big oak by the gate to the garden it was his favorite place to sleep the hot summer days away. While I was sitting by his grave a cardinal came and perched on the fence just watching me. In the following weeks and months this cardinal showed up everytime I was outside and would flit around over the grave. Stop to watch me and sing out. If I didnt stop to sit quietly and observe him he would fly back and forth over my head and land on the arm of the chair next to me or the beam across the pergola. I began to think that he was actually a messenger for my dog. After doing some research on cardinals I found that legend has it that indeed Cardinals are messengers from those we love on the other side.
This is so beautiful Lisa, both moving and (as I've moving through similar questions and a whopper '23) very healing to receive. Thank you for sharing every bit of it 🙏
Our time here is so brief. Your story reminded me of the time I was walking on a beach on the south shore of Long Island. It was a cold September day at the end of the beach season, so I had miles of beach to myself. I noticed a slight movement in the sand and saw a dying juvenile gull.
The Herring Gull is a four-year bird but this male was no more than four months old. I have no idea - other than nature - what was taking him away from his life so young. He looked at me and tried to move his wings but did not move much of the sand which had blown on him. I lay down in front of him, looking into his eyes from a foot away. I stayed there with him for a couple of hours, and he was staring straight into my eyes when he died. It was amazing - as it always is; he was there and then he wasn't.
Thank you for sharing this. It’s cathartic to be vulnerable in writing. My dad’s presence shows up in cardinals and I always mentally tell the cardinals to “fly where the (deer or turkey) are gonna come from, dad!” I can’t tell you how many times those cardinals did just that.
This was also a year of dying in my house/farm. And why is it the law of the universe that as soon as you make a chicken/farm animal, they die? 😭 Thank you for sharing your story and bright solstice to you 🕯️
Oh my gosh, Lisa. Your writing here is real, raw, & heartrendingly beautiful. What a crap-tastic year you've had, but what a way to turn your grief into art.
I suspect many of us Gen X-ers who thought we were liberal have now found ourselves politically homeless & culturally cast out. I'm sorry your cousin experienced such a shunning.
Gosh, I too had a 2023 year of death and mayhem...people (2, a dear aunt and my godfather) and chickens (8 total and they were all chicks about 8 weeks old. 6 were taken in one night with nothing left but feathers and wing parts 😭) I nearly lost my 19 year old daughter to fentanyl poisoning (but for the quick CPR action of my husband and our small town fast rescue team)...we battled bedbugs, ticks and lice; both daughters broke up with long time boyfriends...it’s life but man did ‘23 through a lot at us. Thanks for your beautiful essay, you put into words much of my own feelings this year. Wishing you a much better and happier 2024 ❤️
I’ve been a little busy with “life” lately and haven’t had much time to read or write anything. But when I saw the title to this piece I saved it and knew I would have to get back and read it. I’m so glad I did. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for the restack, @Olivia Johns .
I’m thinking we need, even hunger for more personal stories in these harsh politically divided times. If anything makes us forget our differences and remember our commonalities, it is in times of loss and grief. We don’t differ much there. Thank you for sharing your story in such a beautiful way. I’m sorry that Joel and so many have been hurt by this harmful divide. So pointless. It made me ponder the importance of being willing to be bravely vulnerable when sharing personal stories. Can’t think of a better way to deeply connect across all divides than risking that vulnerability. We sure could use more of that . . . Thank you.
I'm not good on writing about emotions, or feeling them, but your essay has brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
In this writing, Lisa has put many of life's pieces together where they belong.
As the sparrows are Seen, then we are surely Seen, and death is not the end.
But all the goodbyes are hard work. 🙏🙏
Lovely, poignant, beautifully written, and so relatable. I, too, have had many reflective moments this year, after also having such high hopes for a return to "normal." We've all weathered so many storms - political, pandemical, social, medical - over the past 3 years, that I'd hoped we could all breathe more easily this year. What's the pithy saying? "Man plans, and God laughs?" 2023 is comedy gold.
I figured out that, for me, this year has revealed the death of naïveté. Not innocence, exactly, but rather the blithe lack of being truly, deeply aware. I've stayed at the surface, at the day-to-day, the mundane. Just living. Just getting by. Just aiming for "normal." Expecting it.
But that's gone, isn't it?
Being a couple decades ahead of you, that ominous scythe is looming ever closer. The true awareness of that reality is daunting, but also clarifying. I now know why old people often say and do things they'd never said or done before. Why not?
Is it going to change my life profoundly? Probably not. But my awareness of it all has changed, and that's profound on its own.
Much love to you and Tino.
Wonderful essay, if it is fair to use that word with all the sadness. My condolences to you and everybody affected.
A practical question, if I may. Why did the bird and the animal kill all your chickens, but eat none of them? Besides being so cruel, it seems to serve no helpful purpose, and is even harmful to the predator. They were taking a risk, wasting energy and one was in fact injured.
My best wishes, hopes and prayers for a better 2024.
Lisa, I loved your ending, So REAL and bittersweet and tenaciously clinging to the wonder & joy of this world. . Carolina wrens are my one of favorites as they sing beautifully with abandon . There’s another little fat brown bird who if perched atop your chimney will decorate your house with his joyful song. I hope he finds you. My apologies for your loss(ex). My compliments to your persistence in living ! We are all the walking wounded these days no matter our journeys, I admire your resilience, that’s the true message here. Many holiday blessings to you. The only way is through.