The memorial part 2

The memorial was held at the “Surf and Sand” room on the stunning Asilomar Conference grounds in Pacific Grove.  Even though most of Pauls’ relatives live out of the area, they chose the town he had lived in the longest.  The room was amazing.  All glass walls so you can see the beautiful sand dunes outside.  Paul would have liked that.

There were several people there when we arrived, including my “support friend” Scott.  He did know Paul casually but came mostly to support me.  I’m glad he did, I needed it. He’d already picked up the memorial photo, and bookmarks with various photos of Paul and family members that his sister had made, a very cool idea.  And then there were song sheets with several Dylan songs.  “Blowin In The Wind”, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and one by Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now.”  Paul’s favorites.

While we sat there waiting for the service to begin Paul’s sister Hannah, and Sesshu’s wife came and introduced themselves.  We just sat there, I was in no shape to be introducing myself to anyone since I was already either in tears, or holding my breath so as not to cry.  I’ve learned that works.

Paul’s brother, Sesshu, gave the eulogy.  He started by reading the events that were happening in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the times of Paul’s childhood and young adulthood.  The drastic, mostly violent changes our country was going through during those years.  He tucked in some of what was going on with Paul during those times.

One of the stories he told was when Paul came home wearing a shirt patterned after the American flag, not unusual at the time.  They were living with his bachelor uncle who never wanted his divorced sister and her seven children living with him anyway.   This shirt really set his uncle off, he it off of Paul and began hitting, and hitting, and hitting him with it.  I don’t know what would have happened if Sesshu hadn’t intervened. I’m not sure how long after that he was kicked out of the house, but I know he never lived at home again after 12 years of age.

He continued with more details of Paul’s life, which I knew were violent, but not as violent as I’d realized.  Poor Paul, yes Sadie is right.  No wonder he drank.  It was a way of survival.  “Self-medication” is the term we use today.

He read several excerpts from journals Paul wrote during his three tries at rehab and some letters from him as well.  Some very personal and raw, others that made us all chuckle.

He spoke for what seemed like ages and then he was done.  How could he describe the life of someone he’d known all of his life in just a few minutes?  Someone who’d kept his sense of humor and sense of wonder through all the pain and heartbreak he’d experienced?  Such a special man who never became bitter despite it all?

But wait, what about the letter I’d given him to read!  My fond memories of the sweet, gentle Paul I’d known for years and saw almost daily!  I swung my head around to see where he’d gone.  Damn, why didn’t I say I’d read it myself?  At that moment I felt desperate and almost had the burst of courage I needed to read it myself.  How could I let my friend down?

After he finished speaking however, his daughter invited anyone who had something to say to come up.  The girl behind me, a relative I’m sure, stood up and said she was glad to have the opportunity to read this letter.  And it was mine.  I did pretty much lose it then, but at the same time I was so glad that it finally got read.  I wanted everyone there to know who “my” Paul was.

We sang the songs which was actually fun.  But it’s hard to sing when you’re sobbing so hard that your stomach is in spasms and you can’t read through the tears.  I had to lay down the song sheets and just let myself sob. Luckily the singing was loud enough so no one could hear me.

But I know Paul would have gotten a good laugh out of hearing his family and friends butcher his favorite songs.

My love to you forever, to the most special friend I will ever have.

Deb

cropped-cropped-cropped-dsc05156_2.jpg

 

The memorial part 1

I wish I’d taken a Colonopin. Really. I’d taken one last night because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I was hesitant to take one this morning. I woke up early enough and felt pretty good, thinking, “Hey I may get through this okay after all!”  Afraid I might be too groggy I passed on taking the second one.  And part of me felt somewhat of an obligation to Paul to be totally present.  I did take the mood stabilizer, I’ve really been needing them lately. But I still wish I’d taken the Colonopin.

I’d written a letter to be read at the memorial, but I couldn’t get my damn printer to work, so I had to write it out by hand.  I wanted it perfect so it would be clear for whoever read it.  That took a couple of tries, unsuccessfully.  So I tried different tactics with the printer, also unsuccessfully.  Back to writing it out by hand again, now panicking because I was running behind.

By the time I’d taken a shower, tried on two blouses, (twice) fought with my hair, and checked the clock every five minutes to make sure I wouldn’t be late, (since I’d agreed to take two of my neighbors who don’t drive) I was a nervous wreck.

My heart was pounding as we drove.  I think I chattered nervously most of the way there.  One of my neighbors who had known Paul longer than I did kept repeating “Poor Paul.”  She’s been saying that, with her Arabic accent, almost constantly  since he died, “Poor Paul, poor Paul….”  I tried to explain to her once that it’s really poor us since we’re the ones left behind with our grief and he’s finally without pain.  She just repeats, “Poor Paul, poor Paul.”  Well I guess whatever works for her.

paul on the coast

 

A brother’s loss

Living with Grief. One Father's Journey

Seriously… I am not doing well.

Holidays are hard. Grieving. Missing my son. Thanksgiving. Christmas…

I want to check out. Take a break. Get some kind of breather. But it is only a week until Christmas break, so taking even a single sick day seems a little lame. So I soldier on. I’ve been painting koi. And that helps. Koi.

I’ve done nothing about finding a new doctor or getting any kind of help for depression. And then my brother died a few weeks ago and the bottom seemed to fall out. And I just haven’t gotten around to it. Of course exercise would be a good thing. But I haven’t been doing that either.

I guess I was able to hold it together okay, and deal with what I need to do and take a trip to clean up Paul’s stuff. And then there was Thanksgiving. And then back…

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A Christmas loss.

kittensI’ve always felt so sorry for people/families who have lost a loved one around the holidays.  I can’t even imagine the pain, it must be devastating.  If you are one of these people, I just want to let you know that my heart truly goes out to you.

I have a friend who lost her only child to an extremely painful form of cancer.  I’m not sure if it was around the holidays or not, but she was saying recently how hard it is to face the holidays without any children around.  She says she and her husband just try to stay busy to avoid feeling the pain.  I doubt that it really works.  My heart truly goes out to her.

My best friend, Paul, died the week before Thanksgiving.  I sort of rationalized that since it was actually before the holidays begin full swing that I wouldn’t be devastated about it every year.  I thought I was doing so well.  My heart goes out to his family.

Yesterday, just before Christmas dinner, I got a knock on the door.  We really don’t get many visitors, and my first thought was that it didn’t sound like Paul’s knock, and it couldn’t be, unfortunately.  It was one of my neighbors telling me the orange feral cat I ‘d been feeding, that I’d named Carrot, had been hit by a car.  I was devastated.  Lost my appetite for Christmas dinner that’s for sure.

The first time I saw this little guy was out my kitchen window walking on the five food hedge.  I’d put water and food out there for the birds and he was drinking from the water dish.  It struck me as funny that he was so light he could walk on the hedge, and that he was resourceful enough to find the water.

Later I saw his buddy, a tiny black and white one that I named Jersey.  My husband warned me that naming a feral cat was not a good idea since you would only grow that much more attached.  But since when did I ever take his advice (lol!) even when it’s good.

It took several weeks to get Carrot to come to me.  I kept telling him he’d love pettin’.  And when he finally let me pet him he did love it, especially around his whiskers.  And he purred, they really know how to melt your heart that way!  Jersey, on the other hand, was still very frightened of me and kept her distance.

Yesterday when I went out to feed them he wasn’t there.  He had been known to disappear once in awhile during the day but was always back for the evening meal.  But he wasn’t that afternoon.  And not that night.  And now I know, never again.  RIP my little Carrot.

This triggered the pain I still feel about Paul and brought it to the surface as well.  I’ve hardly stopped crying since.

Paul and I had four cats between us, we had three and he had one, Boo, who had been a feral cat.  Within the last two years we helped each other bury them all.  It’s one of the things that bonded us as friends.  But none of them had died suddenly like Carrot.

When I went out this morning to feed Jersey she wasn’t there. I put out the food anyway and eventually she showed up.  I doubt that she will ever be brave enough to let me pet her though.

So now I’m one of those people who will always remember the losses she experienced around the holiday season.  And my heart goes out to me.

There are some who bring a light so great into the world that even after they have gone the light remains.

This makes me think of my late friend Paul.

Totally Inspired Mind

image

Who did you know who was like a light shining kindness to others?

Who do you know now that fits that definition?

Image found on Pinterest, author unknown

Compiled by Paulette L Motzko
November 2015
5:39 p.m.

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Letter

Can’t stop thinking about my best friend Paul who died a week ago Friday. Miss him dearly.   This is written by his brother, Sesshu Foster.

East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

paul at asilomar

rain blowing through the cypress and pine forest across the peninsula/ but it was sunny the day we went to wendy’s memorial atop jack’s peak, first time i’d been up there/ i told wendy’s sisters i was very moved by their testimonial at the church in salinas/ you were tired, chose to rest in the car when dolores and i walked in the woods/ we looked south along the coast/ carmel valley below/ post-op, no chance for your stomach to heal, you were drinking again/ exhausted, napping in the front seat/

someone said you looked ten years older/ beard gone gray/

monterey bay unfurling to the north/ open to the pacific/ light and shadow on the water/ haze across the north/ i gave your computer to alba and little omar/ alba said big omar, deported to oaxaca because of dui’s, is drinking his life away/ little omar took the laptop…

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Letters from Paul

Written by Sesshu Foster, Paul’s brother.

East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

Paul Foster, 1956 – 2015

1956 - 2015

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015

11:30 AM

Myopia, part 741

Sesshu

Thanks for the postcards.

The book, ‘AUSCHWITZ AND AFTER’ is great. (Charlotte Delbo)

I haven’t gotten all the way through it.

Sidetracked into ‘THE GREAT GATSBY.’

Sidetracked again into ‘LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING’ by Tolkien.

Got stuck on that, through 388 pages —3/4 of the book.

Intermediately: Bukowski, like a fresh hot pizza.

John just took off for MPC, the community college, to play on their library computers.

Last night I made boneless pork ribs, browned them and then stuck them in the oven with barbecue sauce, on low heat for hours, covered with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. With rice. The guys liked it. 3 lbs. of meat gone.

I’m waiting for my computer to come back from Ohio or some place like that, wherever Toshiba lives…

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My best friend died yesterday.

DSC01161And my heart is broken.

His name was Paul.  He was a talented artist.  But not enough people knew it.  I love him like a brother.

And my heart is broken.

He was my neighbor and we shared a love of gardening.  That was our first common bond.  The first of many.  I would make a mess pruning and such and he would come along after me and clean up.  Always pleased to help.  He would give me gardening advice, always very humbly.  We spent countless hours taking care of plants and discussing them.  He became a part of my garden I guess.  Always cheering me up.  I will never be able to garden again without thinking of him.  But he was much more than just my gardening buddy.

My heart is broken.

I could tell him anything, like best friends can.  When my husband was driving me crazy he would listen to me rant and rave!  Always patient and compassionate.  Never taking sides.  That bugged me sometimes, but he was like that.  He didn’t judge.  Well except that guy on the bus who kept coming on to a girl.  He did not like him.  Not at all.  I’m sure his concern was more for the girl.  He deeply respected women.

My  heart is broken.

He had a hard life.  He grew up in East Los Angeles.  Not the best area of California.  He was one of seven children.  He said he was the troublemaker.  His father left his mother with all the kids and no way to support them.  They moved in with her bachelor brother.  He never wanted seven kids.  But he was a good brother.  To a point anyway.  He and Paul didn’t get along.  He got kicked out of the house when he was fourteen.  I think that’s when he moved to this area.  He got married, had a daughter, and got divorced.  He said they were High School sweethearts and they grew up, and apart.

My heart is broken.

He was in a lot of physical pain.  He had back problems all of his life.  His spine was a mess.  He recently “jumped through” all the government hoops and got his SSI.  Finally he had a bit of money to spend.  Finally a little break.  He deserved many more of them.  Many.  Things were looking up. His brother didn’t have to help him pay his rent.  He hated that he needed the help.

My heart is broken.

I can’t sleep tonight.  I can’t stop thinking about all the time we shared. Some of it kind of weird.  One time I had to harass him into going to the emergency room because he had prostate problems and had to pee every two minutes.  He wasn’t embarrassed nor was I.  Our friendship was above all that.

My heart is broken.

My husband had to rush him to the hospital when he was in septic shock caused by a hole in his colon.  He was in pretty bad shape.  The doctors said he was lucky to be alive.  They performed surgery the next day.  But he was never quite the same.  He said it felt like they didn’t put everything back in right.

My heart is broken.

We had one other thing in common.  We each have our own chronic disease.  Alcoholism, his, bipolar disorder, mine.  I think that really might be why we became fast friends.  Although we didn’t know it at the time. We both knew what it is to suffer terrible pain.

I heard the paramedics take him down the stairs.  I thought it was just one of my neighbors who makes a lot of noise coming down.  I had no idea they were taking my best friend to the morgue.

And my heart is broken yet once again, just thinking about him.  He isn’t in pain anymore, but I sure am.  Lots of it.

And I can’t share that pain with my best friend.

My heart breaks once again over that.