Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Have Observed Much Sadness

[My friend, Marcel, and his beloved Paprikas, two weeks before he took his own life.]

(Today I tried out a new form I have noticed a couple of the poets using, where you alternate prose with a few lines of poetry. I quite liked it. Let me know what you think.)

I Have Observed Much Sadness.......



I wheeled my cleaning cart along the hospital corridor, stopped it just outside his room. There was a Warning: Bio Hazard/Restricted sign on his door. Peeking in, I saw that he was weeping. “Can I help you?” I asked him, entering, no gloves, no mask, no gown. Just my wish to help a suffering human being. “I’m cold,” he said, “and the nurse refuses to enter my room because I have AIDS.” “I’ll get you a blanket right away,” I tell him. “Will one be enough, or should I bring two?” “Two, please.” I bring the blankets, I put them on top of him. “There you go,” I smile. I empty his wastebasket, clean his sink. I quietly leave. He is still weeping. He has just been diagnosed, and the prognosis is grim. His entire world has blown apart. I am angry that a professional has added insult to his injury, out of her own fear and prejudice. Neither of us will get AIDS from handing him a blanket, giving him a smile, a word of human kindness, some comfort. Next day, when I come by to clean, I am relieved and happy to see that the other nurse is on. She is sitting beside his bed, talking and smiling and helping him to feel like a human being a person can relate to, about whom one can care. I leave the cleaning for later, not to interrupt them.


We are all born beautiful, innocent and whole,
and then life happens.
All our lives, during this earthly incarnation,
we are returning
to the radiance of our innate perfection.


He was a gentle soul, effeminate and tortured by his mood swings, by the utterly unsatisfactory life he had lived, having had a loving partner only once, in college days, followed by decades of loneliness. He was a good man, whose career got interrupted by chronic illness. While he was fighting the insurance company, who continued to decline his claim, he was gay-bashed. The police expressed no interest in laying charges, though he identified his attacker. His attacker continued to stalk and terrorize him in his own neighbourhood. When the insurance company made a final rejection of his claim, he gave up. He said “I cannot work, and I will not beg.” He said his spirit was simply not up to crawling to welfare to gain the pittance they would give him, not enough to even pay his rent. He gave himself one last month, made his plans and one night, with finality, left this world. He was my friend since high school days. He had a sad life, but he was witty, brilliant, with a radiance that just got beaten down. He just could not hang on.


We are all born beautiful, innocent and whole,
and then life happens.
All our lives, during this earthly incarnation,
we are returning
to the radiance of our innate perfection.


I was driving the main road one morning, when a young First Nations man, son of one of my co-workers, staggered across the road in front of me. He was drunk – beyond drunk, deep in his addictions – and his expression was a mask of the purest agony I have ever seen on a human face. No hiding, no defences, the torture he felt just being alive stunned me with the impossibility of surviving it, for a human mortal. And, before too long, this young man, with all of the future before him, a tomorrow where life might have taken him to a place of peace and even joy, hung himself from the pole in his closet, where his mother, my friend, found him next morning. I will never forget her keening wail, from the innermost depths of her being, as she processed that in workshop with the staff. “I miss him,” she said, and those words said it all.


We are all born beautiful, innocent and whole,
and then life happens.
All our lives, during this earthly incarnation,
we are returning
to the radiance of our innate perfection.


A young woman who has suffered years of the stigma of mental illness, and who has achieved dignity and self-worth despite the professionals who have labelled and thus disposed of her in the “appropriate” slot, (from which there can never be Progress), is concerned about her teenage son, who appears depressed, possibly anorexic. Though reaching out has never brought her any help, still she reaches out to Child/Teen Mental Health. She states her concerns. She says “I am asking for your help.” The person on the other end of the phone tells her, “You take him to emergency right now. If you don’t take him, I will charge you with child abuse.” “But wait,” the young woman says, “Of course I will take him. I called you – for help – remember?” The woman calls back every fifteen minutes until she gets to emergency. At emergency, they tell her “Nothing can be done about this here. Go home.” She decides, for not the first time, or the fifteenth, she is on her own and there is no help at the other end of the phone. One cannot trust the “helpers”.


We are all born beautiful, innocent and whole,
and then life happens.
All our lives, during this earthly incarnation,
we are returning
to the radiance of our innate perfection.


I am cleaning (it seems I am always cleaning) at the house of two  elderly people, very kind and lovely, their conversation full of “thank you”’s and “sweetie”’s. The man is barely getting around on his walker. The woman has just had back surgery. Three times a day, or oftener, “Home Support” arrives to “help” the man. This seems to basically equate to bringing lunch from the fridge to the table. The woman, who also can barely hobble around, seems to spend far too much time upright for someone after surgery, because “things have to get done” and the Home “Support” people apparently have a limited job description. She has bought a new bed and I have prepared the room for its delivery. “Will the home support people make the bed up for you when it arrives?” I ask, before I depart. Because otherwise I will drive back across town to make it for her. “I hope so,” she responds – hopefully. When I come the following week, I ask her how is the bed. “The bed is great!” “Did they make it up for you when it arrived?” I ask – hopefully. “No,” she says. “It isn’t in their job description because they come for him, not me.” I ask myself: but could one not, as a human being, make the bed out of compassion for a frail little lady who has just had back surgery??????????


We are all born beautiful, innocent and whole,
and then life happens.
All our lives, during this earthly incarnation,
we are returning
to the radiance of our innate perfection.

At least, I have to believe this. But some days it gets harder.






24 comments:

  1. Yes, Sherry, there IS so much sadness. Each one of your stories is heartbreaking. Your poor friend Marcel. The home health people who didn't do something for a woman that was not in their job description. The man with AIDS who cried out for blankets. Sometimes the world seems so cold-hearted. But then there are people like you who go out of your way to reach out. Beautiful writing.

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  2. Sherry, this is so well written. You have captured the heart of these stories. They HURT!

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  3. This is powerful. The poetic refrain is almost like a mantra. The stories between are hart-breaking, but unfortunately not at all suprising. When someone does something especially kind, if anyone commends them for it, they always seem to say "I only did what anyone would do." But lots of anyones wouldn't, and don't.

    There is a name for this form. "Bloggin' With Amanda" posted about it, maybe three weeks ago, but I have now forgotten the name of the form.

    While I beg to differ with the being born whole--many are not, at least physically--I still very much agree with the heart of the refrain you've written, and written so beautifully and succinctly.

    So well done, Sherry.

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  4. Oh wow, thank you for these very intelligent critiques. I have to go back and find out the name of the form, I remember seeing it and a couple of the poets tried it. Intriguing form.

    I think I meant, about being born whole, the soul and spirit inside us and how babies are so utterly beautiful and able to just be who they are – UNTIL (and for some babies it starts right away) they start being mistreated, or suffer medical trauma or whatever....so many dont have much chance at all in this world....it is the wholeness we are born with inside that gets destroyed and that we fight our way back to so painfully and slowly – if we manage it at all, so many don’t, or too much has happened that they just cant recover from. I felt the poem as a mantra – an insistent one – that I am determined to hang onto, against all evidence to the contrary, because I have to believe the beauty in life and in people will or should or has to win out over the darkness. Even if only when we leave this world, the transformation at the moment of death. I have to believe our spirits live on. That spirit that I see in so many people, who care, who help, who transcend and who inspire:) (My sermon for this Sunday morning!)

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  5. I love the use of the poetic refrain, Sherry. How well you are able to tap into the human heart and soul and show us all visions of 'an infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing'.

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  6. beautiful, beautiful top photo!

    i came across your blog at one that i am following. i'm so glad i decided to come visit you.

    I love your blog and your post. the verse in between each circumstance really helps get your point across. it hits home. many of us have experiences like this to tell. it's a sad case indeed.

    where is human compassion? when did it get forgotten among the rules and regulations of how to do your job? isn't being a compassionate human being one of our job descriptions?

    your piece is so well written it was a pleasure to read.

    sorry to hear about your friend.
    our spirits are eternal

    drop by my blog if you like
    would love to know what you think

    theworksofhope.blogspot.com

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  7. this is a great post and the refrain in perfect for the piece...reminds me of how sometimes a thought is on replay in our mind for days...we notice and pass by everything that happens to magnify the subject and we have to somehow come to terms with it all in our life...you have blended the lives and stories of many into a single thought....you have such a kind soul Sherry for all things...blessings...bkm

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  8. Beautiful and heartbreaking post, Sherry. There is so much ignorance and cruelty in the world. It seems we will never learn that everyone deserves that which we would want for ourselves in the same circumstances. Sad.

    The form with the poetic mantra throughout works perfectly for the post.

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  9. A beautiful and moving piece of writing, Sherry.

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  10. I love this.

    Without sadness we wouldn't know joy.

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  11. carry your faith...

    it is hard to see love an peace all around, but if you have faith and continue working on it,
    the world would be a better place.

    love the lines in the end.
    keep your spirits high.
    xx

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  12. This veil of tears can be so rough. I'll scond J.B. - carry your faith - indeed.

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  13. This is the most touching piece I've read in a long time. The world can be harsh and there are way too few willing to help the helpless. Thank you and bless you for your words.

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  14. i love the poetic refrain - and the repetition, drawing me back to something i need to remember.

    sometimes i get really overwhelmed with the suffering in the world, i am also touched by the beauty. thank god there's people like you who care.

    what a great form of writing, i love it.

    really well done! xx

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  16. Sherry
    It worked really well. Actually, I don't think the piece would have been as powerful if the prose wasn't part of it. A very powerful piece very well written. I'm still crying. I know the frustration and anger that comes from people not stopping, judging, not taking the few minutes it would take to help someone. I have worried about peoples lack of empathy. how selfish they can be then someone surprises me. I want to kiss them. All we can do is help others and raise our children to have hearts of gold.
    Off the subject slightly but still about people's reactions and empathy or lack of...
    I am disabled today and see people and their reactions from a different perspective. I wrote a piece a while back called The Eyes of Strangers that speaks of reactions. I recently updated it and its the piece on my column right now. here is the link http://riversruminations.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/the-eyes-of-strangers/
    My heart goes out to you darling and the suffering you have seen and been through. I pass a hug through the waves to you, my friend.

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  17. Absolutely beautiful tribute Sherry I am so sorry for your loss truly.

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  18. and then life happens.

    Doesn't it just!

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  19. Sherry, that was a heartbreaking piece. So much captured in those fragile moments. Well done.

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  20. All of your comments are so warm and touching. Thank you all so much. Sounds like there are a lot of good hearts out there - I just heard from a whole bunch of them:)

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  21. Your words definitely grab the spirit...as always thank you for sharing these snippets of your life...

    ...the prose/poetry setup works well...effectively conveys the soul of your words.

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  22. sherry, when i first read this post of yours, i was still on holiday. i wanted to leave a comment but decided to wait until i get back and sit down to really absorb your words.

    this is one powerful post with such a powerful message. a few weeks ago, i sat down with a friend who told me that in life, everything is equal. look around you, he said, no matter what your status in life is, everything is still equal. there is a balance in all things.

    but upon reading this post of yours, i began to question that statement. where is the balance in the sadness that surrounds us? where is equality in all these?

    i have no answers, sherry. what i see though is the lack of love and compassion among us. many of us need to be reminded of our innate perfection. would it hurt us if we go out of our way to affirm and help other people? would it waste so much of our time to make another person feel good about himself?

    life is perfect indeed... but is it fair? sometimes i feel not.

    blessings to you,
    bing

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  23. This touches me deeply. All so poignant and the sentiments so true. Life happens despite our plans and everyone IS a beautiful human being. I won't forget" the torture he felt just being alive stunned me with the impossibility of surviving it, ". SO powerful.

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  24. One of the most beautiful posts I have ever read anywhere.
    I am weeping with you...and being grateful that you found the wherewithal to write it out.
    Lovely and gripping.

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