I wish I was better-versed in how to read and understand poetry. Part of that longing emanates from a place of loss and grief—Mark was a poet—as well as being an activist, a performance artist, and one special human being always in search of his better self. His writing and poetry was part of his process.

The Tragically Hip had a song called “Poets.” When I was thinking about this post while making like a fish in the pool this morning, the song was in my head (and has been much of the day). I’m sad to say that we lost another poet and always-evolving human when Gord Downie “shuffled off this mortal coil” a few weeks back.

I was stricken with The Hip the first time I heard the opening chords to “New Orleans is Sinking.” Then, I went to Canada, their homeland where they were rock gods. Mark was probably five at the time. Downie’s poetic ruminations, framed by a rock and roll backbeat captivated me for more than a decade. So maybe I was more familiar with poetry than I thought. Perhaps Gord and Mark are somewhere reading together. Continue reading

Marching forth for Mark

Grief does funny things to you. It’s not linear, and no, there aren’t five stages. Perhaps if you need to stage grief, know that passage doesn’t proceed neatly.

Mark was killed on January 21. We weren’t the first people who found out. Word passed slowly from where Mark was mangled by the side of the road by a woman, who at the very least couldn’t maintain her lane and left it—hitting Mark walking legally, in the ribbon of pavement reserved for pedestrians (he was walking against traffic, in the middle of the day, while wearing his fluorescent vest)—to possibly being distracted by something other than simply maintaining control of her 5,000-pound lethal weapon.

It was nearly 10:30 on Saturday night when the Maine State Trooper knocked on our front door. That was more than eight hours after Mark was pronounced dead.

I now know more about the timeline and who found out before we did. Some of those people botched the handling of that information. I’m not surprised, really. It’s pretty obvious to see from their actions since Mark was killed that they don’t care at all about how Mary and I feel about losing our only son. Obviously, they know little or nothing about grief and at the very least, they come up woefully short in the empathy department. Lacking basic humanness, could they not at the very least, send a corporate-produced card with a perfunctory message that says, “we’re sorry for your loss”? I know Hallmark carries some decent ones. Apparently not. But, it’s also not my fucking job to help you improve your skills in the area of compassion and grief. Continue reading

Richness follows Loss

I know that not everyone who reads the blog is a writer, or aspires toward the writing life. However, over the past few weeks, a window of reflection has opened, looking backwards. What I’ve been able to see with uncommon clarity, has been much of the past decade or more for me. Writing has been at the center of this period of time, what I characterize as my personal period of reinvention.

Life dictates that we move on from grief and loss. Outside of the death of immediate family members—and even then, superficiality predominates how others respond, with platitudes, or worse—clearly demonstrating some sort of structural disconnect and a deep-rooted denial related to death and dying in our culture. “Get over it and move on” is what we’re expected to do.

Over the weekend, I went through some of Bryant’s books. A demonstration of grace from his son, when he offered me the opportunity to go through his father’s collection of books, at the funeral service. He followed up with an email and we spoke by phone during the week. I planned to meet him on Saturday at his father’s apartment in Augusta.

Bryant had taught at Colby-Sawyer, with Wes McNair. There were several of McNair’s books sitting on his bookshelves. Most of them ended up in the two overstocked boxes I lugged out of the apartment and put in my trunk. Continue reading