forever hold your penguin dear, in memory of Meta

Ten years ago this evening, a young woman died in a car accident here in Asheville. This is the story of her extraordinary leave-taking. Our job is to keep the dead alive by telling their stories. I hope you will take a moment on this autumn day to whisper the name, “Meta, Meta,” as you read about a death, a community, a living. This post was written shortly after Meta left us in 2006 and is reposted here on the anniversary of that awful night when whole things changed forever for her family, her friends, and all the people in her future who might now wander, missing someone they cannot know. “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” – unknown Emma and I watched “March of the Penguins” for the first time on Saturday night. I know the whole world has seen it by now, but we hadn’t. Mr. Brilliant had to leave the room; even though he is a man wont to explore the joys of forensic pathology in his spare time, has been known to do surgery on himself, and is hell bent on watching every episode of The Sopranos in slow motion, the very thought of penguin babies freezing to death was too much for him. He can’t watch CSI or Law & Order or House episodes where kids are hurt—it’s all about the kids for him. He had to go. He retreated to the living room. I myself escaped to the bathroom when a vulture arrived to feed on the young, leaving poor Emma to fend for herself. When an egg fell onto the ice and...

remember.

I am not interested in political statements or warnings or diatribes on this anniversary of 9/11. I’m not inclined to write a post about how we’ve lost our way in the years since then, about how the terrorists have won if their goal was to irretrievably break this country apart and allow fundamentalism to take root in the gaps left by horror. No. Still, all those American flags after 9/11. On cars, doors, houses, mailboxes, buildings, lapels. I don’t see them so much anymore. Our hatred of the enemy has been turned into hatred of ourselves, our outrage turned to complacency, something we swore would never happen, but it did. It surely did. I see division and hateful speech and an insularity that excludes so many. I see radicalism and ignorance and a polarized nation. I see meanness, pure and simple. This is no appropriate legacy, no adequate tribute to those thousands flying home to see their families or working on a vital business report on 9/11 and then suddenly, shockingly dead, but not dead before horror made their heart race in their chest. It is no appropriate response from those of us left behind. No, it is not. The word is shameful. What I do, and have done for the past few years, is spend 9/11 in meditation on what it is to be alive–fully alive. Alive in such a way that when the plane hits, I’m shocked and scared and panicked at leaving my loved ones behind, but also satisfied, sated, knowing I have said what I wanted to say, have lived the life I wanted, however...

on the day we were born.

This post first appeared on Aug 16, 2006, was reprinted with an added third act from 2010, a fourth act from 2012, a fifth act from 2014, and now a sixth act from 2016. Happy birthday today to my dear Emma, born on my 33rd birthday.  “Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” – A.W. Pinero ACT I – August 16, 1959 “What was it like the day you were born?” Mama asked, making sure she had heard the question correctly, then answering immediately as if it was yesterday, not 47 years ago today: “It was a pretty Saturday and I had been busy all day – of course, your brother, Mickey, was not quite 2 – and I remember I had cooked a good supper – fresh green beans and other fresh vegetables. Daddy had been telling me for 9 months to please not go into labor on a Saturday – you know that was his hardest and longest day in the barbershop. We got through supper and I think it was about 8:00 when I started having pains. Now, I really didn’t know what to expect because labor had been induced with Mick and it was long and hard. But, then I got sick on my stomach, so Daddy and I were suspicious.  Daddy called Dr. Lang about 10:00 and he told him to take me to the hospital. Mick was in bed and Daddy called PaPa to come stay with him. We got to the hospital about 10:30 and the nurse called Dr. Lang. I remember...

five things

  Here’s the song I’ve been listening to on repeat in the car. I’ve loved his rendition of it ever since I saw this. Want to form new habits? Here’s the app I love for that. There is a mesmerizing, beautiful, and zen-like game I love to play. I’m loving this for bringing more mindfulness to my day, no matter what I’m doing. Are you a weather geek? This app is fantastic for knowing hyperlocal weather...

How to love unconditionally.

I’ll admit it. I have a rough track record on this one, loving unconditionally. I expect more from people sometimes, and sometimes I have been betrayed or lost enormous amounts of money because of loving (and trusting) unconditionally. But I still try. I’m trying. I’m learning. Who was my best teacher? A little rescue dog named Perry, with tiny legs that barely lifted him off the ground, they were so short. We adopted him from an animal shelter five years ago, and he was intended to be our then 8-year-old’s dog. It didn’t work out that way. From the beginning, Perry had decided that I was his human. Felix was distraught over this, and then resigned to the fact that wherever I went, Perry came bouncing along after me. If I went to the bathroom, he followed me and sat outside the door until I came back out. If I sat in a chair in the living room, he would sit right beside it. When I walked out to my office, he was always behind me, but if he didn’t hear me go, he would figure it out and sit on a little step just outside the door to my office until I opened it. When I was away on business trips, John would report that Perry stayed in his crate or on that little step outside my office, looking for me. When I got home, he would always bound out the door to greet me. He would sleep on his bed next to my side of the bed. He only barked at strangers or bears who came to...