Another Legacy, 4.3

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 14, 2023: What is your preferred mode of travel?

From the Journal of Nicolette Flores

Nicki running on the bridge in Copperdale

Whenever possible, I run. It’s the one activity that helps right now.

Well, writing helps, too.

But it seems to me like it’s taking me too long to get through this grief. I’m halfway through my first year of high school, and it’s all lost in a fog of grief.

I asked my counselor, “You said I’d feel better through time. Well, time is passing, and I still cry every day. What is wrong with me?”

“You’re doing great,” my counselor said. “It does take time, and time takes time.”

I want time to be an instant. An instant is a form of time, right?

But it’s still hard.

Last week, we had our first semester finals. I felt ready. I’d studied so much.

“Pull out your blue books,” our teacher said, “and get ready to write for 60 minutes. The instructions and prompts are on the board. Any questions?”

Nicki sitting at a desk in class

I didn’t have any questions. I was so ready. I was going to ace this test.

But partway through, in silence broken only by the scratching of pencils on paper, I felt overcome. I had to leave, right in middle of the test, or I was going to burst out in tears right then and there and interrupt everyone with my sobs.

Nicki walking out of class, looking sad

Like a baby.

I don’t know why I can’t be stronger.

I got caught by the monitor crying in one of the bathroom stalls, and I got written up for detention for skipping class, and I had to miss football practice, and I think I failed the final, too, even though I went back to try to finish it. But worse than all of that was how I felt.

“I know you’re having a really rough time right now,” said Mrs. Prescott, our principal, when she saw me burst out in tears in the cafeteria. “My office door is always open to you,” she said. “I know how hard it can be. When my husband died, I thought my world had ended. We’re here for you, Nicki.”

Nicki crying during lunch

But I still feel alone.

When I run, though, all of this disappears. I stop thinking. I stop being mired in emotion. I just feel steady. Muscles, breath, pulse–that’s all that matters during those moments, and so, since I get some relief from grief, I run.

Time takes time.

We’ll see if that’s true. Right now, the only thing that helps is when time stops. When I run down by the boardwalk, the Ferris wheel turns, steady and steady around its circle, and as I run, my heart beats, steady and steady with the circles of my paces. I run until time stops and I can escape its relentless turning.

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Another Legacy, 3.6

Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 7, 2023: Write a short story or poem about rain.

It rained so much that winter. Kiana did most of her exercise indoors, practicing yoga while looking out at the gray city.

Jonah had decided to live at home while going to college.

“I just don’t want to worry about you,” he told Kiana, “while I’m focusing on my studies.”

He knew that Case and Ira had both died while Kiana was away at college, and that put a fear into him. She seemed well, but you never know.

“Plus, it’ll be easier at home,” he added. “And I can eat your cooking!”

Kiana had told him how she’d struggled a bit at university, trying manage her commitments as a scholarship athlete with her coursework. Something had always been breaking in the house she’d rented with several other students, and her roommates weren’t the best when it came to cleaning or cooking, so she never had a spare moment, it seemed.

“I just want to be able to focus on my classes and sports,” Jonah said. It also didn’t hurt that Kiana was around to give him feedback on his presentations and term papers.

One day, during a short break in the rain, Kiana bundled up in her jacket, ready to head out for a city walk, when Sophie stopped by.

“He’s gone,” she said.

“Who, Scott?” Their oldest son had been talking about moving out.

“No, Brett. He had a heart attack last night.”

“Oh, Sophie.” Her heart crumpled.

“Heyo! Jonah around?” It was one of Jonah’s teammates, stopping by for an impromptu strategy session. Neither woman answered. “Ah, OK, then, guess I’ll just check downstairs.”

“Sophie,” Kiana said, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t think I can make this better.”

“I don’t expect you to, Kiana. I know he meant something to you, too. You’ve gotta be hurting as well.”

“Yeah,” said Kiana. “This hurts. But he wasn’t the father of my children.”

“Just tell me we’ll make it through this, OK?”

“OK, Sophie. We’ll make it through this.”

In the coming weeks, while the rain still poured, Kiana often stopped by the Yorks’ apartment next door, just to make sure the family was all right and to see if there was anything that needed doing.

It helped her own grief to be helping them out, too. And she felt closer to Brett by being there, in the home where he’d lived for over ten years.

Their youngest, Earl, was growing up, and Kiana was often there when he came home from school.

“Better change out of those wet things,” Kiana would remind him on especially rainy afternoons.

“All dry and ready for the world!” he declared after a quick change.

“You seem happy today,” Kiana said.

“Yeah. My teacher says that just because somebody dies you don’t have to be sad all the time. You can be happy, too. But don’t worry when the sadness comes back. That’s what she says. It’s just natural.”

“Your teacher sounds like a pretty wise woman.”

“You have to be,” he said. “It’s a job requirement.”

Heading back to her place one day, Kiana found Jonah juggling the soccer ball in the foyer, right in front of the bulletin board where, for years and years, Brett and Kiana had left notes for each other. It had been one of their main forms of communication, especially when both of their lives were busy and they went weeks without seeing each other. This had been a way to keep in touch, sometimes even daily. The notes were just little things, like “Hope you’re having a good day,” or “My life is brighter because of you,” but they provided a sweet connection.

“Did you check the board in the past few weeks?” Jonah asked.

She hadn’t. She’d been afraid to. It would bring up too many emotions.

“I think you should,” Jonah said.

There was Scott’s last note, posted the day he’d passed.

Brett's last note: Don't be glum, we've all had that day. Just remember that tomorrow will be better.

The sadness rose. The sadness melted. The rain fell. The sun shone. All of this happened at once. It was too hard, and love made it all easy. It still hurt, but the hurt was somehow OK.

She looked out the window at sunset to see Jonah on the patio, dribbling the soccer ball as the quiet rain fell and the sky turned golden and peach with the setting sun.

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Another Legacy, 2.4

Years later, when Kiana reflected on her second year at uni, she often thought that, if she’d known what was going to happen that year, she would have dropped out, gone home, and spent every free moment with Case and Ira. For this was the year when Case and Ira died. But that happened later in the year, and the year began with the biggest stress being what she put on herself as a star athlete.

Now and then, she remembered how much a part of her young life death had been. When the Romance Festival returned to the city, she felt nostalgic for the last time she’d gone, with Aadhya, and she imagined Aadhya calling her.

With that imagining, she felt Aadhya with her, and then she felt Knox, and all her other elder friends who’d passed, and even the warm whispers of her birth mom and dad, and maybe, after all, death wasn’t this big scary thing, but was just something that is part of life, and those you’ve known and loved who’ve died, maybe they aren’t totally gone, for you can still feel them inside.

This became her secret, her private source of joy and comfort, and when she pushed herself too hard and her sports injury returned, and she sometimes doubted if she could continue, she drew upon that secret feeling she carried inside of companionship with all those she’d loved who’d passed. It didn’t erase the pain of tendonitis, but it made the sensation of pain feel a little less lonely.

The companionship of her roommates helped, too. Their little rental became a peaceful place for study, or at least that’s how Kiki experienced it.

The roommates, themselves, developed all sorts of other distractions from study which Kiki never really found out about, being, as she was, always either studying, training, or at practice.

And then, during finals week, the news came during the night. Case had died. Her roommate took the phone message and didn’t wake her up–why disturb her sleep? He’d still be dead when she woke up. But during the night, Ira passed, too. Kiki found two notes for her when she woke up.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. It couldn’t have happened. It couldn’t be real, right? Not both of them. The same night? It felt like losing her birth mom and dad all over again.

She clung to that thought. It was like losing them all over again. She’d survived that. In fact, life had turned out great. That’s how she got to be with Case and Ira, that’s how she came to be who she was now. OK. She’d survived that, and she’d just been a baby. She could survive this, now that she was older and knew so much more about life. She knew about grief. She was an expert in this. She could handle it. She could move on. In fact, moving on was probably the best thing. Finals were coming up, and she had to study, and she couldn’t miss class, and they had some big games soon. She would just get on with it. She would be OK.

And jogging to class on a rainy spring morning, she actually felt better than OK. She felt a little bit of joy. Death and life aren’t that different, and Case and Ira were tucked safe inside of her.

She held that thought all day, and when, returning from class, she ran into Lea Akins, her art center friend, who’d stopped by to make sure that Kiki was OK, it was Kiki who comforted her friend, not the other way around.

“Don’t be sad, Lea,” she said. “Death’s not, like, the End, the end. It’s more like, a transition. Something not quite corporeal, but it doesn’t mean, like, not-being.”

“But they’re gone,” Lea said. “You’re like, twice-orphaned.”

“That just means I have experience handling this,” Kiki said, and she almost had Lea believing her.

Her roommates were easier to persuade.

“Your parents were so cool,” they said, remembering their visit over the break. “They were like these cool hippie friends, so into each other, so proud of you.”

“Yeah,” Kiki said, “they really contributed to who I am now. They’ll always be here because they’re such a part of me.”

“Man, you’re really deep,” said the roomies.

But then it would sneak up on her.

Case and Ira died, while she was away. She wouldn’t be able to come home to them over the next break. They wouldn’t come to see her play in the season finals. What about their voices? Would she never hear them again?

She wasn’t OK. Having gone through this before didn’t make it any easier. She didn’t know anything about grief, after all. It could stalk her, sneak out behind a lamppost or column and attack, at any time. And sometimes, when she wasn’t OK, she wasn’t sure if the pain would ever cease.

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Another Legacy, 1.35

What started two years ago as a summer project to get fit has become, for Kiki, a lifestyle of fitness. Rain or shine, she loves the hour she spends outdoors, walking or running. Add yoga on top of that, and daily movement becomes her best tool for regulating her mind, senses, and emotions.

Also a habit, she discovers, has become the pre-schoolyear anxiety, and it’s no different as she gets ready for junior year to start.

“OK,” she tells herself, trying to psych up for the first day, “After today, you only have to do this one more time.” Somehow, she doesn’t expect to feel these same jitters before the start of a new year at college.

But she soon realizes there was nothing to worry over, after all. Socially, she seems to be invisible, which is how she likes it, and academically, she’s in the spotlight, which is also to her liking.

Ira is deep in drafting an art history dissertation, and she and Kiki keep each other company studying at the breakfast table.

Mostly, they don’t talk. Kiki likes the sound of Ira’s pencil scratching on the pages of the notebook.

Now and then, they both stop simultaneously to catch their breath.

“Do you think Elizabeth Murray would be better known if she had called the group she founded ‘The Society of Artists,’ rather than ‘The Society of Female Artists’?” Ira asks.

“When was it founded?”

“Mid-nineteenth Century.”

“And where?”


“Oh,” says Kiki, “then definitely.”

Kiki enlists Ira to be her editor for the essays she writes for her Advanced Placement course.

“This is really good!” Ira proclaims. “The way you describe the process of turning pigments into paint. I mean, I didn’t know half of this stuff! And I should! This is my degree program!”

But junior year isn’t only about study success.

This is the year that Kiki’s life, once again, is touched by grief. Or, maybe it’s more than a touch.

It’s a series of body slams, one after the other, that entire winter.

Moira Fyres, Case’s old friend, is the first to pass, and her loss hits Kiki hard, for they’d just begun to become friends themselves, the last time Moira was over. Moira had offered to teach Kiki how to save heirloom seeds this coming summer, and now, this would never happen.

But it isn’t just Moira. Tina Tinker, Aadhya, and even Knox all pass on that winter.

“Most of my friends were old,” Kiki realizes, “and now I don’t have any friends. Except that one art person I met last year at the Romance Festival. I wonder if she even remembers me.”

Having most of her friends die is hard. But what hits her even harder is not that she’s lost them, but that they had to die. That they’re gone.

They’re missing out on everything now. On eating cake. On seeing the gray night slowly gain color again. On the sound of the fridge and the stillness between the hums.

She remembers how, when she was a little girl, she saw her mom and dad in the light of the candles. She believed that they carried on in light–their spark became the spark that shines wherever there is light.

How did she know that? How was she so sure? Was it just wishful thinking, or a way to survive the trauma of grief? Or was she on to something?

She keeps her senses open.

She pricks her intuition, opens that third eye. Maybe they’re still around, though not in physical form. Maybe, just as when she was a little girl, she still had her mom and dad around as angel parents, maybe she still has her friends around on the spiritual level. She doesn’t have to believe that, but it couldn’t hurt to be open to the possibility.

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Another Legacy 1.24

Kiki sitting at the desk

In late autumn, a new sadness enters the home. Moira Fyres has died. The grief hits Ira hardest, maybe because she hadn’t been friends with Moira as long as Case had, or maybe because she doesn’t have as many projects, interests, and activities as Case and Kiki do to distract her.

She goes back to bed after Case leaves for work and Kiki goes to school, and her mid-morning naps dissolve into crying beneath the covers.

Ira crying under the covers

“I can’t get my mind around it,” she confesses to Aadhya. “She was just here the other day. We were becoming friends. Now, we’ll never be better friends. She seemed so full of energy. So alive.”

Ira and Aadhya talking

“They say it was an aneurism,” Aadhya says.

“I know. So sudden,” Ira replies. “Did you know that she was Case’s first friend?”

Ira and Aadhya talking

“I thought I was,” Aadhya says.

“Oh, maybe you were. Maybe I heard wrong and he meant one of his first friends.”

“Probably,” Aadhya adds. “We all used to hang out together.”


“I just don’t know why it’s hitting me so hard,” Ira says.

“Don’t bother trying to figure it out. Grief never makes sense. I mean, look at me. I should be all broke up, right? Or what about Case? You’d think he’d be really sad. Maybe he is, and he’s just not showing it.”

“I think he’s too busy,” Ira says. “He has work. He’s all wrapped up in the adoption process. I’m just here all day, with my thoughts. It gets to me.”

Aadhya, carrying the blank canvas, follows Ira out to the easel.

“Painting will help you feel better,” Aadhya explains.

“I suppose so.” It does feel good spread the paint on the canvas, and the scent of linseed oil helps Ira relax.

Aadhya follows Ira out to the easel

Aadhya leaves before the painting is finished, and Ira is alone, first with her thoughts, and then, as she continues painting, with no thoughts, only feelings, a knife in her chest, bruises under her eyes. Grief is painful.

“Can you help me, Ira?” Kiki asks. It’s a school project.

“Oh, a volcano,” Ira says. “I made one of those when I was in first grade. Using baking soda and vinegar?”

Ira helps Kiki with her school project

“Something like that. Are you still sad, Ira?”

“Yeah. I miss my friend. I’m just so sad that I’ll never see her again. I had all these plans for what we’d do together, and, you know, I thought she could help me as I grow older, by telling me what it’s like and stuff.”

Ira helps Kiki with her school project

“You know what I do when I miss my mom and dad?” Kiki asks. Ira doesn’t say that it’s different, because her mom and dad died when she was so little that she probably doesn’t even remember them. She swallows that thought, and she just listens, instead. “I talk to them.”

“I might feel silly talking to her,” Ira says.

“Doesn’t matter,” says Kiki, “but you could also write. You could write her a letter. It will help.”

The next morning, after Kiki has gone to school and Case to work on-site, before she even cleans up the breakfast dishes, Ira sits at the kitchen table with her journal. She imagines everything she would want to say to Moira.

Ira writes in her journal

Dear Moira,

We never became best friends, but I thought, last time you visited, that we might. I thought, maybe, you would be my close woman friend, and that you were an older woman was all the better, for I would have someone to talk with about the changes my body is going through, and about the shifts in my goals and my plans and dreams as I grow older.

I envisioned us gardening together, sitting at the chess table with a pot of tea, talking over Kiki’s latest milestones, planning for ways to make life easier for Case. I thought that, if I ever did get into college, that I could lean on you for a role model and for advice.

I guess I saw you as a role model, and now you’re gone.

This feels so selfish, because this is all about me, and what I’m missing, which is my dreams of having someone to fill this gap in me. But the thing I’m really sad for is that you’re no longer here. That your life on this green world is over.

When you were here the last time, which is the first time that you and I really talked, the time when we really became friends, your eyes sparkled. You were shining from within, I don’t know if you knew that. We talked about your garden club, and you talked about how hopeful you felt, with all the changes that have happened here in Port Promise, all the changes that Case has been either responsible for or directly involved with, and you told me that you felt so proud. You felt proud to know us.

Maybe it was that shine in your eyes that inspired me, that made me decide then that I wanted to be like you. I’m not much, Moira, and even though I speak my mind, probably more often than I should, I really lack confidence. But somehow, you made me feel that that was OK, and that it didn’t matter, and that just being a person was enough.

Can we still be friends, even though you’re not around? Can I still write you?

I’m not sure if I feel better, but at least I don’t feel so lonely.

Wishing you peace, wherever you are,

Your friend, Ira

Ira writes in her journal

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Another Legacy 1.9

Geeta hears Grim call her name

I’d forgotten how quickly death comes when playing normal lifespan. It seems our game has just started when Geeta succumbs.

During my first legacy, the train of death tried my resilience. I was at the tail-end of a decade-long spell of grief for my dad, and Goofy Love, in many ways, became a canon of eulogies. But it helped me, too, to tell the story of the ultimate departure and the sadness of those left behind.

Geeta collapses on the floor while Case, in the background, researches a mushroom

How did I get to feel that I was immortal? It’s a trick of consciousness, that buzz of energy that fills the space within and without. Wittgenstein saved me, I read his insight: “If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” And that was a gift my dad gave me, especially during my last visit with him, in his last few weeks. At one moment, I felt that he really saw me, as he never had before, and we shared timelessness.

I remember standing in the garden, watering the red salvia, and realizing that writing the repetition of legacy deaths had brought me to that moment.

I refused to use the word “death” then. I used “passing” or “a visit from Grim.”

People gather around Geeta

But the pandemic, and the daily totals I’ve been checking every morning for the last eight months, have brought the word “death” into my daily vocabulary.

Today, in my county, 5 new deaths were reported, bringing the total to 722. In the county to the north, 39 were reported, bringing the total to 4,119. In our state, the total is 6,885.

One of those 722 in our county, one of the first deaths, back in April, was an acquaintance of mine, a potential friend, a coworker, the librarian of one of our schools. Writing this now, I can’t believe that we have continued on. I don’t know why the world didn’t stop then. It did stop for her daughter, for her grandchildren. I keep thinking of her grandson.

One bright winter day last year, in my office, the fluorescent lights off as the sun poured in through the south window, we sat at my computer, shoulder to shoulder, and she told me, “We always leave the lights off at home during the day when my grandson comes to visit. If we don’t, he turns them off and tells me, ‘Use Jesus light, grandma!'”

So, I think of her grandson, and what does he think now, when he stands in Jesus light pouring in through the window? Does it bring to him his grandmother?

Her last name was Sims, curiously enough. I told her, that same bright day, that I played a game called Sims. She laughed, and she listened while I told her about it–I mean, she really listened, like Moira and Ira listen to Case. I had that same sentiment towards her–she got me.

We had a cultural connection, too, having both lived in the Bay Area. In fact, when she lived there, she worked for the same company my brother did. It’s a huge statewide company, but it’s likely they knew each other and had even been in meetings together.

She moved out here to go to the university, where she got a PhD in Cultural Anthropology.

Each time I helped her with her school library website, she would send me a card–an actual paper card, not an email–to thank me.

She was gracious and regal and full of light. And I can’t believe she’s gone.

I learned of her death when I was preparing the audio file of the Governing Board meeting for posting on the Board website. The superintendent, in his report, after cheerily talking about plans for remote learning, way back in the spring when all of this was new, somehow segued into mentioning that a pandemic death had taken one of ours. I couldn’t believe it when he said her name.

It still hasn’t sunk in.

Geeta has passed and people weep

I know others who’ve been affected by the pandemic, too. We all do by now. The spouse of a blogger I follow has long Covid, which is affecting neurology and cognition.

What are we doing writing legacies during a pandemic?

Similar to the eulogy my first legacy became, this legacy, perhaps, will become my sadness hotline. Playing The Sims and writing in conjunction offer a way to process. They offer escape, too–until they don’t.

Case calls the sadness hotline

And there is so much to process. Today, the person I hired to clean out my office delivered six cardboard boxes and a boombox, carrying 23 years of my career. Just like that.

When shutdown first started, I was worried about my office plants. I couldn’t get anyone to plant-sit them for me. If they die, I realized, I will not go back to the office. They died. Other people have gone back to the office. I’m not going. Maybe a year from now, or two, when there are no cases in our state or neighboring states, I’ll venture back to say goodbye to everyone.

But thinking about it right now, I don’t want to say goodbye. There’s a walk I used to take, along the quiet, straight, residential street our office building stands on, with mesquite-lined sidewalks and wildflowers that bloom in the sidewalk cracks. I don’t want to admit that that walk isn’t part of my day anymore.

Before I got on the plane to visit my dad the last time, I told my boyfriend, “I don’t want to tell him goodbye.”

“Then maybe you don’t have to,” he said.

So I didn’t. I told him I loved him. I told him I’d see him around.

And I do–whenever I catch the flicker of light off the wing of a bird, when I look at a pine tree, when my eyes water from the bright yellow and orange of a lantana blossom.

Olive Tinker walks through the garden center

Somehow our lives have been disrupted, and our insane belief that we are somehow immune to death has been shattered.

In many ways, I don’t mind the seismic change that the pandemic brought to my life. It’s a reminder of the significance of this. It’s a daily acknowledgement of those we’ve lost, of my friend whose grandson sees her in the Jesus light that pours in through the window.

Case walks home, very sad

I’ve stayed home. I’ve been that privileged. I’ve retired. I’ve been that lucky to be able to. I’m sad, I’m afraid, I’m experiencing separation anxiety at the idea of leaving one of the main ways I’ve integrated into society. But I’m alive. And it’s not fair, that I’m alive and my librarian friend is not, that I’m able to retire and others have to choose between staying safe or having money for rent. It’s not fair, because none of this is, and the cognitive dissonance of living through this time has stretched me beyond limit, to where sometimes, the only place I can reside is timelessness.

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GloPoWriMo – Day 16

Over the Top

in the middle
of a pandemic.

Be Kind to Yourself.
Order ice cream in your next grocery delivery. Chocolate. Get honey, too. Chocolate sauce. Mix it all together. Eat it. Empty the box of your favorite puzzle, the one of the Norman Rockwell painting, not the barbershop one. The fishing one. Pour all the pieces on your kitchen table. Spend five days putting it together. Don’t start with the edges. Stay up all night playing video games. Live in Tamriel. Forget this planet, just for one night. Then eat more ice cream.

in the middle
of a pandemic

Practice Extreme Self Care.
Breathe. Breathe while you do yoga. Stand in the garden. Breathe. Gaze at the mountains. Breathe. Breathe in the shower. Breathe when you take a bath so long that the rough skin on your heels softens and the bath becomes salty with tears. Breathe. Breathe when you stand in your kitchen, olive oil in one hand, cinnamon in the other, wondering what you are doing with each. Where are you? Breathe. Breathe while you pick the dried flakes of skin on your heels, white scales piling up on the corner of the coffee table, trying not to pick until your feet bleed, breathing because for the first time in three weeks your brain feels normal even if your feet hurt when you walk the next morning.

in the middle


Daily Prompt:  “write a poem of over-the-top compliments,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

Author’s note: Well, I didn’t even try to complete today’s prompt–my mind latched onto “over-the-top,” which this poem is. I considered writing a found-poem composed of Trump’s over-the-top praise for himself (I’d title it “Perfect”), but I don’t really want to feel angry this morning. The poem I wrote is inspired by this article I read last night by Marnie Hunter, published in CNN, “That uncomfortable coronavirus feeling: It could be grief.

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GloPoWriMo – Song 5

Photo of Cat Littlebird and a Bosmer in the crafting area of the Hollow City.

Lament of the Hollow City

I travelled a city
where everyone has lost
someone. The more the pity
the more the cost.

I sought my sister,
the blacksmith his brother.
She’d been there. I’d missed her.
Hollow eyes seek each other.

I faced the blacksmith,
he turned to his anvil.
“Have you anyone to be with?”
“Stay here, if you will.”

In shared defeat, I find a friend.
We can’t cure grief, but our hearts we can mend.

Daily Prompt: “write your own sad poem, but one that… achieves sadness through simplicity,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

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NaPoWriMo 2019

Puppy Love 26


Do you ever find yourself acting on an idea whose genesis you can’t trace? Where’d that idea come from?

Maybe you were sitting on your couch, feeling a little sad, missing someone, perhaps, or feeling forlorn. Then, next you know, you feel an impulse blow through you.

“I need to get out!” You say. “I need some fresh air!”

Sometimes, we are the ones who whisper these ideas to you, we spirits in the After who never really leave, who always watch and wait for you to listen.

In this way, Lucas found himself following a notion to take Emery for a run along the boardwalk. Oh, yes! I explicitly whispered, “Emery! Emery wants a run! And it will do you good, too.”


By the time Lucas stopped running, he found himself wondering. What was he doing there? I rode the breeze around him. Emery barked softly.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it, pup?” he said.

Do you know that you can see us in reflected light? I shimmered over the waves, singing Lucas’s name, but only Emery listened.


“You’re not alone here, Emery,” I sang. “You’re not alone!”


Lucas let him off the leash, and Emery raced down to the dock, passing another dog, a stray.


Nougat is a boxer with a tail that’s never been bobbed and ears that have never been clipped. She’s lived on the beach for a few months in a loose pack of strays.

Lucas called over an Irish setter, who’d been following Nougat. But it wasn’t the setter that I’d brought Lucas here to see.

“Out on the dock,” I whispered. “Keep on!”


While Lucas befriended Nougat, the dog I’d led them there to meet appeared: Prissy,  a beautiful, intelligent, friendly border collie with the right spirit to bring healing to a home submerged in grief.


Prissy raised her head and sang, long and low, stirring in me all the memories of life and living in a house full of pups.

Sweet days
with sticks and balls and bones

Sweet nights
with a rug on the floor in a home

What a dog,
every dog,
what a dog

wants: a home,
a stick, a bone.

Her song got inside of us.

“You look so lonely,” Lucas said to Nougat. “Do you like living here on the beach, scrounging for food? Wouldn’t you rather come home with us?”


Of course she wanted that. It was fine with Emery, too, but it wasn’t what he had in mind.

What a dog
with a tail and ears and brown eyes

What a dog
with cute feet and just the right size

I like a dog
with long fur

Long ears
and a song

What a dog…


Nougat and I liked his song, but Nougat knew he wasn’t singing about her.


“You’ve caught another dog’s scent, then?” she asked.


He looked up the dock, where Prissy sat.

“She can sing,” he replied.


He trotted up beside her.

“Come meet Lucas,” he said.


And the moment she met him, the moment Lucas met her, we knew, this border collie had found her new home.


But what about Nougat? We can’t leave her behind!

She ran and pounced on Lucas.

“Oh!” he said. “You know the great game of Pounce? Then you belong with us!”

Of course I had my reasons in sending Lucas to the beach with Emery. I hoped he’d find a beautiful dog to bring home.

He surprised me by bringing home two.


The house was full again–six big dogs! And Lucas spent all his time filling supper dishes, bathing dirty dogs, and mopping muddy paw prints.

But through all his efforts, he smiled. He sang.

“So many dogs
So little time!

“So many paws!
Each one divine!”

There are as many ways to heal from grief as there are to grieve. But every healing happens through love.


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Puppy Love 24


Bobie wanted to be there for the next crossing. It’s strange. Memory fades in the After perhaps more quickly than it does in the Today.

We forget how we got here, who, precisely, we were before, and only these visits, occasional or frequent, keep us connected, on our side, to those we’ve left behind.

When the Shepherd of Bones texted that it was Caleb’s time, I called Bobie to me, and we traveled back together.


Caleb had already collapsed when we arrived.

Bobie watched from the ashen hems.


Mochi came, too, to help her pup cross over.


Oh, Caleb! Weren’t you just a pup? You’ll age no more, once you’re with us.


Each time, Grim becomes more and more greedy. I fear one day, he’ll pocket the spirit-ball of light.

“Hand it,” I commanded.

We have an agreement, and if there’s anything that compels Death, it’s a contract.

I took Caleb’s warm spirit. “Soon,” I whispered, “we’ll roam free! We will show you clouds and sunlight and flocks of light-birds to chase!”


I rushed back with Bobie, Mochi, and Caleb’s spirit, releasing it in the moonlight. The old sire, the old dame, and the old pup romped and pounced through the nimbus, and I returned to see if the grieving needed help.

Mr. Bones was watching ice-skating on TV.

“Still here?”

“Can’t get enough,” he said.


Out back, Crackers was the first of the mourners.

“Good dog, Crackers,” I said. “You’ll be joining your litter-brother soon. Don’t worry. It will be a quick crossing, and we’ll all be there to greet you. See those sparks of clouds? That’s them, chasing light-birds!”

But that’s not how to cheer a grieving dog.


Emery joined us.


He sat with Crackers, leaning into him, and spoke in the soft way he has, telling him about time and seasons and space and room.

Together, they walked slowly back to Lucas, surrounded now with all the members of the household.

“I know it seems too soon,” he said to Dustin. “But it’s not really, is it? Didn’t your pa have a great life?”


“My brother’s getting older, too,” he said to Crackers. “And my oldest brother, he’s already passed over. It happens to all of us, and everyone we know.”


It didn’t seem to cheer them up.

But then, Miss Molly barked, “I’m hungry!”

Dustin barked, “Swim! Swim? Swim!”

And Emery lowered his head and softly whispered again about time and space and moonlight and crickets.


“Crickets?” asked Lucas. They listened. The crickets sang. “It’s a nice sound, eh, pups?”

Dustin nosed Lucas’s pocket, where he kept the brush, and Lucas bent down to brush the wiry coat of the white dog.

Chloe remembered her tail, which seemed irresistible at that moment. Miss Molly wondered if Crackers were up for chase.

And Emery, he sighed and smiled. “Life. Space. All one.”


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