Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: grief

My Christmas Post–Three Weeks Late

Every year for Christmas, I write a post in which I rant about how much I dislike Christmas. I list all the reasons why, and the biggest one is because it’s such crass consumerism on display, wrapped up in sentimental rhetoric. “If you love someone, you have to buy them something really expensive, or you’re a chump.” That’s pretty much what Christmas commercials tell you, starting with the day after Halloween (sometimes before), which is part of my issue with it as well. It used to be that the hype for Christmas had the sense to wait until after Thanksgiving to dominate society’s consciousness. Now, we’re creeping towards Christmas 24-7. There’s a local radio station that used to start playing Christmas music all day long starting on the first day of December. This year, they started the day after Halloween, which means two months of sappy, poorly-written Christmas music. Which is another problem I have with Christmas. All of the music sucks. It’s overwrought, treacly, and steeped in false nostalgia. There is only one Christmas carol that I like, but I’ll get to that in a second.

This year, I didn’t have the heart to write my usual post because my Raven had died three weeks earlier. I distinctly remember I had changed my Twitter and Facebook avatars earlier that evening to my usual Grumpy Cat hating on Christmas avis. After Raven died, I changed them back to just being black, and I’ve left them that way ever since. With my heart broken, I didn’t even care that Christmas was approaching at all. It meant nothing to me, and I pretty much just ignored its existence. I was just trying to cope with my sudden and shocking loss, and I couldn’t summon up enough energy to even acknowledge that it was happening. My Raven was gone, and that’s all that mattered to me. I was struggling to make it through each interminable day while making sure Shadow was OK as well.

Now, however, I regret not writing the post. Or rather, I feel empty for not having written it. As much as I don’t like Christmas, I did like my tradition of writing about how much I dislike it. I would post about it on Facebook and tweet about it, and I’d get several people who would commiserate with me. It became known that the only Christmas carol I like was O Holy Night, and I’d have people sending me their favorite versions of the song. I’d compile them and post them every year, and it was something I looked forward to, but, again, I didn’t have the heart to do it this year. After a few years, I started adding Christmas-related songs I liked to the list, and if I was feeling extra-grumpy, I would include the worst version of O Holy Night I could find.*

First off, I’ll post one of my favorite versions of the song. It’s done by New Orleans jazz musicians, and it was after Katerina ripped through their city and destroyed so many lives. It was featured on the show, Studio 60, which I never watched, but this version is amazing. It’s soulful, wistful, heartbreaking, and, yet, somehow, uplifting. Here’s the version with no dialogue.

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Creating a New Normal

king of all he surveys
Raven on top, Summer of 2011

The best two seconds of my day are when I first wake up, before I remember that Raven is dead. In those two seconds, life is as it was before. Me and my two boys, living a cozy life together, forming our own little family. Before I open my eyes, I can pretend Raven is still with me, and then the grief floods me once again. To the outside eye, I probably appear as if I’m handling it well. I rarely cry about it, and I don’t talk about it except with my closest friends. Even then, I don’t mention it much, but it’s because it hurts too much. I still feel it all the way to my core, even if I don’t show it. It’s the little things that jar me the most. Reaching up to pet Raven who loved to perch on the couch above my head and patting the empty air. Going to the bathroom and not having to turn on the faucet for Raven to drink from it. Feeding only Shadow and not having to guard Raven’s food for him because he’s a slower eater and Shadow is highly food-driven. Listening to Raven growl at me and growling back because I found it amusing. We used to do this for several minutes, though only if no one else was present.

My mother asked me if I’ve accepted that he’s gone. Of course I have. I knew it the minute I looked into his glassy eyes right after he died. My dear, sweet Raven was gone, and he was never coming back. I was never in denial about that. By the way, the boys’ foster mom sent me an article on grief after I told her Raven died. We’ve all heard of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and her five stages of grief, but what we’ve gotten wrong (I learned from the article) is that she was studying terminally-ill people when she came up with her theory. The stages are what terminally-ill people go through after learning their diagnosis, and suddenly, it made much more sense to me than applying it to the general population. I couldn’t make the five stages fit what I was going through concerning the loss of my Raven, and after reading the article, I was relieved that I wasn’t a freak for not going through the stages. My mom then said she hoped I would get over the loss soon, and that seemed like an anathema to me. I don’t think there’s a ‘getting over’ a loss–only finding a new normal. When Raven first died, Shadow would cry for a long time after eating his breakfast as he wandered around the house. I knew he was looking for his brother, even though I had explained to him that Raven was gone and wouldn’t be coming back. I didn’t know why he did it at that specific time, but I decided it was because that’s one thing they always did together–eat. So, it made sense that Shadow would feel the loss most strongly then. It broke my heart to hear his mournful howl as he tried to find his brother, and it was frustrating to know that there was nothing I could do to help him.

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RIP, Raven–You Are Loved

bestest friends and blood brothers
My favorite picture o my boys. Raven (R) & Shadow (L).

Ed. Note: It’s been a week sine my baby has died, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet. I wrote this post several days ago, but I haven’t been able to publish it yet. I don’t know why. I thought now was the right time.

My Raven died Saturday night. I think it was a heart attack, but I’m not sure. Ian tried to revive him, and we rushed him to the Emergency Vet, but it was too late.

That’s how I’ve started the messages to my friends about what happened to Raven. Writing it again doesn’t make it any more real, nor does thinking about it.

The first time I saw Raven, nine years ago, he was named Midnight, and in his picture, he looked like a scared, scrawny black cat. I noticed that he had a brother, also black, named Shadow. They were nine months old at the time. Shadow’s bio said he was psychic and knew that I was looking for two cats. I fell in love immediately because I WAS looking for two cats, and these two looked exactly like what I wanted. In addition, they were going to be at an adoption fair at the PetSmart/PetCo in a city near me the very next day. I felt it was fate, and I hurried to see them at the adoption fair.
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A Ripple in the Ocean of Time

I found out today that a Twitter peep of mine has died after a long battle with cancer. I was caught off-guard because the last time I talked to her, she was doing better. She’s not someone I talked to on a daily basis. Indeed, our interactions were random and infrequent. However, every time we did talk, she was upbeat, uplifting, and very warmhearted. She was generous of spirit, even when she was tired from chemo or whatever cancer was doing to kick her ass. I didn’t know her well, but what I do know is that she was passionate about PBO, women’s issues, and black women in particular. She frequently liked or RT’ed tweets of mine that had to do with social issues, including ones that affect Asians. I appreciated that because my Asian-related tweets get the least love of all my social issue-related tweets. I didn’t even know what she looked like until her sister tweeted a GoFundMe for her funeral expenses through her account (@GoBrooklyn). Her avatar was a painting of an elegant black woman with a large white flower in her hair, and that’s how I pictured her in my mind.

Her death shook me and genuinely made me sad. I’ve ragged on social media several times, but one thing it’s done that can’t be duplicated in any other way is to connect people all around the world.  I didn’t know @GoBrooklyn’s age, job, or where in America she lived, but it didn’t matter. We met in a cozy cafe on a rainy Sunday on the street of Twitter as we sipped steaming cups of peppermint tea. We chatted about how elegant FLOTUS is and how she and POTUS need to get a room. We talked joked about being minority women in America, with that tinge of ruefulness that accompanies such knowledge. She was always interested in what I had to say, even on days that she was barely able to get out of bed.


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