Adoption, Life, Nonfiction, Parenting

A sweet dream of repose

Last night afforded a lovely consolation. I dreamed of our little boy Gabriel. (Gabriel, if you don’t already know from previous posts, is our child who passed away last month.)

In real life, Gabriel became very ill very quickly. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it through the night, I gathered him up in my arms.

Considering I’m a nurse, I’ve been around remarkably few dead bodies. Hardly any. I’ve been around dying people, mostly when I worked in the jail. Some of those experiences were beautiful and others were horrifying.

But I’ve never been there at the very moment when a life left a body, such as what happened with my little boy.

When we knew his heart was going to fail–the doctors were clear with me, as it sped away wildly in septic shock, that a sudden drop would indicate the beginning of the end of its functioning–we took off his g-tube and oximeter probe and other things attached to him but I wanted to keep the heart monitor on him…to know the exact moment when it happened. That’s the nurse in me.

And sure enough, his heart rate, which had been speeding away in the 180s, dropped suddenly into the 80s. I knew he was dying. I gathered him up and held him and loved him and said goodbye to him. I cried all over his sweet little self. I felt very privileged to be there with him.

The heart monitor flat-lined…for real. Like in the movies. A flat purple line on the black screen. Intellectually, I knew that would happen, but to see it was wild.

I didn’t know what to expect but what truly amazed me was how quickly his color changed. All the vitality, the energy, the electricity which had emanated from his little living self was gone.

For the longest time, I looked at my vibrant, pink hand on his grey, ashen face. All of my aliveness next to all of his death. But his skin stayed supple and soft. How quickly would his little body become rigid? I’m sure I learned that in the textbooks forever ago in nursing school but it wasn’t a typical encounter for me in my work life so I really didn’t know.

I held him for hours…probably six or seven hours, off and on. My shoulders and back reminded me the next day. He died at 2 in the morning and I wanted my husband and other children to have the chance to see him before he was picked up and taken to the mortuary.

We were visited by a dear priest friend and then one of my closest friends Anastasia, who wrote about her experience here. Aside from the cool temperature of his skin, I lost track at times that he was dead during those special hours because he never moved much at all when he was alive. His brain injury had significantly hindered him; he rarely moved intentionally.

It was a sacred time. I’m very grateful to have had it with him.

So back to my dream. I was holding my sweet Gabriel once again. He was already gone, but in my arms in that same supple, soft, peaceful repose as he had been for so many hours in the early morning.

In my dream, my husband was there, and I knew I should give him a turn to hold our little boy but I didn’t want to give up this chance. And then the dream would occasionally transport me to a well, the kind with a water pump that needs to be cranked up and down. And I’d crank the handle up and down and cup my hands in the spurt of water that would occasionally flow.

I woke up today, grateful for that little living memory of our guy. To be able to feel him physically like that again. Dreams aren’t often pleasant experiences for me, but this one I am cherishing.

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Creativity, Life, Nonfiction, Poetry, Self-Care, Self-Medicating

Winter and her metaphors, part 2

icicles-and-moon

The moon behind icicles

Greetings, readers. I wanted to share another piece with you all, continuing with the theme of winter, along with a few paragraphs scrawled recently about loss.
~~

Dark Circle

I think I’ll fly to Barrow.
No one there throws anything away.

I try not to email you about this,
As nothing tangible has ever stemmed
From our occasionally thawed surface.

Do you even understand
As I think you must understand
Why I need to translate
The Arctic Ocean into poems?

Aurora borealis
Does the same quiet dance like us
Through sixty-seven continuous days of darkness.
~~

The village of Barrow has a new name but my poem does not know that…my apologies to Utqiaġvik.

~~

 

Wanting Winter

In Alaska, we are obsessed with weather. We talk about it all the time because it is endlessly interesting. There is always something to say. It is never small talk. I love that about us.

By August, even those of us with a great fondness for sun begin to weary and long for the deep reflection of January. Snow falls with silent abandon. And you have done that. You have become snow, the silent, absorbent purity which traipses and intrudes over everything. Every surface exposed to the fresh cold has lost its identity in this blanket; you can only be moved by an active effort. And then, I have to bring you inside, I gather you in my buckets and warm you by the fire and drink you and bathe in you and wash with you.

Your face intrudes like snow, upon everything. I can’t go anywhere until I patiently push you out of the way. I shuffle to my car (which is life, you see) and the wipers are sealed to the glass and the mirrors are covered, because there you are. Back into the cold you take me, and I lightly drag my brush over everywhere, watching you fall away and reveal the color again (vehicle, life…try to keep up with me).

I miss you. I miss you so much. It is easy to say this from January. The winter has no end. The cold you are is harsh, there is snow all around. Some days, I sail so easily in the dank grey, feeling pleased with myself for continuing on with life in a meaningful way. Then a thought starts to override it all and I’m utterly consumed with the thoughts of you. They hide in the form of physical tension, tight shoulders, a constricted chest. I begin to swell with anger and pain and it’s not clear to me at first until I open my inner eye and realize you are right there.

A figment of my imagination, a little brain piece that won’t shut down…though I need for it to atrophy…become small and useless, even countermanding. I’m still choosing to buy into this idea that the brain has physical cells which each hold something. It gives me hope that the cell or two containing your memory can be spliced away with a laser or enough intention. But if the brain is actually holographic, I am doomed.

A soup fog yesterday, leaving behind an appearance of candy on the trees. Chunky wraps which appear solid but easily shake away with a jutting finger. Or maybe they appear like corral, as though we are encountering an ancient reef and yet we give a shake and the entire edifice crumbles, its existence as fleeting as petals on a rose. And you want to take a picture to share this beauty with anyone, but a picture cannot capture its delicacy, and anyone who’s not from here will ever understand why this moment matters. There are a thousand brief moments in winter which cry out for capture but doing so is impossible, it simply must be savored in the moment and then let go. You see, there’s a metaphor here for everything. You are winter. I am the trees.

In another rotation around the sun, I suspect I will be well over you. At New Years, I opted to hibernate. I wished them well, I blessed them on their way. They can celebrate freely, I will never drag them down into my cave. I am the mama bear in every way right now, I want sleep, I want quiet, I want the dark. I want growth but will have to waste away for a while, and then wake up renewed and anxiously looking around in the very space that I am for food. I will feast on what is freely given, I will forage among the growth and the life around me, rather than sniffing among the dead.

There is nothing in the past for me. You have chosen to rot like the carcasses of salmon, and I can’t eat that, apparently. The wisdom of my foremothers grabs my chin with her pervasive hand, slaps me on the face, blinds me to the past. Let it go, let it go, she whispers in her wisdom. I beg her to let me sleep in my cave with these thoughts. She gives me a few moments and then tosses me back out into the daily hunt for peace.

~~~

© 2017 Mindy Goorchenko All rights reserved

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Life, Nonfiction

In the wake of Christmas

Weeping at the beauty of this.

Today, I take inventory of Christmas.

My husband and I had a conversation about this song—how he prefers this version while I will forever remain a fan of the original. And I send condolences to Leonard Cohen, who may be turning in his grave to hear this more neatly Christian version of his offering.

Regardless, I tend to experience Christmas in a state of regret. I have incredibly fond memories of the experience, which consisted of two doting parents at one house, faithfully preserving traditions year after year while showering me, the only child, with presents. And then, later that day, a visit to my other doting parents, who would also shower me with presents. I had a stepbrother in that house, a pesky detail that I didn’t let detract from the ultimate focus on yours truly.

This was all a completely secular and utterly wonderful experience. However, akin to how my brain was already primed to pray the rosary from so many Los Angeles encounters with beads swinging from rear view mirrors and tattooed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was spending a month of every year immersed in the lyrics of Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful and other traditional carols. They were everywhere: the radio, my bedside music box, our school’s Christmas presentation. While my family never claimed to be Christian and did not attend church (on Christmas, Easter, or any other day) I feel certain the spiritual underpinnings of Christmas were communicated nonetheless.

Fast forward a few decades and here we are with our own children and all the build-up. The focus paid to a single child in a home is impossible when there are 8 times that many, and a 9th one living on his own for the first year. My husband and I spent the month of December with me working more than usual due to the demands of my academic program, trusting blindly that my husband will pull off Christmas the way he usually does, and him sending me texted pictures from this or that store while he does his usual Santa magic.

In the last dying hours, I feel certain the point of it all has been lost.

Our traditions manage to persist. We gather each night for dinner, lighting the candles of our Advent wreath and singing “O Come Emmanuel.” My faith sputters currently like how the matches are lit so tentatively by the children.

Then we come together on Christmas morning (read that: the parents stumble down the stairs, the children bound excitedly). Bleary-eyed from Midnight Mass, we marvel year after year at how our children will wake up at 6:30 a.m., regardless of having stayed up until 2 in the morning. Every single year I know for certain they will sleep in this time. It never, ever happens.

But one moment from Christmas morning stands out. I have a little video clip of it, to prove we are not breeding a bunch of self-centered minions. The toddlers have just pulled off the final shreds of the wrapping paper around the huge box that holds their new, toddler-sized slide. And then my older kids start handing presents around and arguing playfully about which of them will open the next gift. And yet, they are not advocating for themselves—they are arguing for the other.

“It’s your turn now.” “No, it’s your turn!”

All is not lost.

hello-everybody

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