Day after Thanksgiving, II.

i am grateful for the folks in my life whose eyes reflect me from before the after. for shared grief, when going alone goes nowhere. for the faith that one day i'll once more recall gratitude in all of its full-bursting brightness, rather than having to tell myself that i ought to, almost all the time now...

i am grateful for that one shred of hopeful in the frail form of an email. for writing within the inherent limitations of context. for building words atop each other recklessly, and for the haphazard sentences sure to follow in the failed fall's wake.

i am grateful to be awake, and in waking to give free reign to the things i've really no power over anyway. for that peaceful sensation of powerlessness, to look time straight in its dozing eyes. for being able to admit each moment's beat; to feel the flow of perceived time in its singular rhythm.

and for gratitude endless, allowing me even now to be grateful.

-L (11/25/11)

(How hard it is to write now. Like the stagnant sink of quicksand.)


I feel you in numbers, now. I see you in exit signs; mile markers marking 427 miles; digital digits lighting up 10:10 of whatever section of day in a sickly pale green or piercing red. I hear you in sad stricken songs suddenly on the radio, singing words you used to sing to at 21 years old--and at any year before your last.

It's true that those exist still, in some way, intangible though they be.  I wish I could still see them.  I wish the past year didn't so consummately consume those shadows of the past.

It's 11/11/11 today.  I will post this at 10:10pm.  Somehow this small act of remembrance seems significant in ways that much else fails to.  In casual, cryptic fashion, I fashion my months around the trilogy of days that signal missing you.  Nine...ten...eleven.  Today is 11/11/11.  You died on 10/10/10.  I want these simple truths to ring out loudly with simultaneous recognition; to somehow soften the aching harshness therein.

What else is there?  Another year.  The first, really.  A book called Blue Nights that I expect to be a comfort--or at the very least familiar.  The nearing to change, transformation, anythingotherthanthis.  Decaf in the morning, pretending to wake me up.  Another project to dive into, fixing other people's problems to not focus on my own.  Letting my eyes adjust to the blur; no longer fighting for clarity.  Rolling through the days with the gratitude of steam.

And meaning well in the mean time.  Or else selling the sweetness of discreet distraction.

-L (11/11/11)

"A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through."

Box of Rain
by: Grateful Dead

"Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day.
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky.
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
This is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago.

Walk out of any doorway
feel your way, feel your way
like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction
around some corner
where it's been waiting to meet you.
What do you want me to do,
to watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well please don't be surprised
when you find me dreaming too.

Look into any eyes
you find by you, you can see
clear through to another day.
I know it's been seen before
through other eyes on other days
while going home.
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
It's all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago.

Walk into splintered sunlight
inch your way through dead dreams
to another land.
Maybe you're tired and broken.
Your tongue is twisted
with words half spoken
and thoughts unclear.
What do you want me to do
to do for you to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain
and love will see you through.

Just a box of rain,
wind and water.
Believe it if you need it,
if you don't just pass it on.
Sun and shower,
wind and rain,
in and out the window
like a moth before a flame.

It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there.
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare.
And it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair.
Such a long long time to be gone
and a short time to be there."

-L (10/13/11)



A year ago today a light went out that has left the world dimmer. The days stopped counting themselves. The past year has been a blink; an indefinite pause between infinite shades of darkness.

Today we'll send firelight into the night sky to pay tribute to the light we've lost in you. An indistinct signal from so far away, but with any luck you'll recognize it.

How every day we love you more. How this is how you changed the world.

Still here.  Still loving you more than life.

<3, -Sister

"And when somebody asks if i'm okay, i don't know what to say."

Balloon Release

"Hi everyone,

On Sunday October 9th 2011, at 5pm PST, we're inviting our family and friends to honor and remember our beloved Katie Sue by releasing a balloon decorated with a note, picture, or message for her, or inspired by her.

We welcome you all to join us at Tri City Park to share a potluck picnic prior to the balloon release, in the company of people who will be thinking of Katie on that momentous day. For those of you who can't make it, as we realize that many of her closest friends and family members don't currently live in California, one of the most unique qualities for a ritual such as this one is that each of us can participate no matter where we are or in what time zone.

We appreciate your presence, your contribution, your love & thoughts, and especially the singular role you each played in Katie's life -- for with these things there'll always be threads braiding between your lives and ours. Please let me know if you'll be able to come, or if not, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. We'll bring the balloons, markers, helium, and a few snacks; you bring your memories, messages, and a dish or drinks to share, if you're able.

All our love,
-Laura (Katie's lucky-ass Sister) & the West Clan

P.S.: Latex balloons are biodegradable and legal to release in California; metallic balloons are not. See these websites for more information if you're curious or otherwise concerned: 1) or 2)"

Eleven months. [335]

(Embodying our experiences. Our pasts. Our tragedies, [somehow] lived through. "You're gonna lose what you love the most." -B.E.)
("Two sisters." All I overhear on the plane from Newfoundland. And sisters being everywhere these days.  Except for mine.)
(What's the use in feeling inadequate, except to waste time? As if it makes sense to save it.)

Four days after arriving in Costa Rica, we were on our way home. Besides the glaring omens, unknown to be so at the time (as most are), there's very little I remember about that brief trip Now. All I know is that we made it way too far from the airport, and getting back was the longest, blankest, most joyless journey of my life. I don't doubt it will remain so. The boat ride, bus ride, plane ride - all gone Now, like curses etched into ancient stone, dictating or directing the inevitable. Already damned, this sudden role as one of your "survived by"s.

But I ask you, what else is there to talk about? To think about? Damned be damned - it's the only thing I don't Now have trouble giving a damn about.

I don't Now nor do I expect to ever believe in the prospect of "getting over" this. All is Now wrong with the world that we lived in before - though I don't notice so starkly nor think of it as steadily. And yet I'll never feel right about fully abandoning our former world only to fake faith in this new one. All the same I'd like to learn to sand down the sharp edges of this naturally-occurring Self-Pity, which flows freely from the fact of having lost the irreplaceable. If not individual self-pity merely, than universally-affirmed; a collective self-mourning.

Having just finished "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, I Now have this word in my vocabulary, with its usual sense of derogation wiped clean from this context. That is, the context of grief. Of mourning. Indeed, if one cannot allow these feelings of self-pity in the face of monumental and foundational Loss, even as it strikes out at one's recognition of Life, then when can this be possible? I do believe it to be the most appropriate of long-term responses, insofar as the alternative is accepting this loss as 'okay'.

And of course it's not.
Nor will it ever be.
As for the magnitude of your presence Now lost to us, self-pity is all that remains to acknowledge its gravity. To bear witness and pay tribute to its not-'okay'-ness.

And yet. The days do pass. The experiences of the day still require energy, focus, attention. And my eyes have learned to blur; to stay drier, longer Now than ever since. (For the most part.)

(The thought of fiction - how it sounds - presents as pointless to my mind's internal ears. Even though I know it's not.)
("My thoughts were so loud I couldn't hear my mouth..." -M.M.)
(I'm sorry. I can't care about description any longer. The very idea of describing a room I've been in, or a person or house I've seen, seems tedious to the point of desperate and tearful, bewildered exhaustion. Though I know why, I can't say how it happened. Or how long it will persist in being true.)

But the ball is Now set to rolling resolutely, toward the end of Year One. It will be good to be with our family. Necessary. And to see the faces of your friends reflecting their most cherished memories of you, putting the sun to shame.

-L (9/10/11)

Ten months.

Yesterday was the ten-month anniversary... 'Anniversary' is such an inadequate word. Wrong. No celebration is represented, only most deliberately honoring her and sharply regretting the fact. That we have to. That taking her life and youth and well-being for granted no longer applies. Is no longer possible. A fact as wrong as the word 'anniversary' to describe the 10th.

My heart growls for a different reality, like the rumbling hunger of a skipped breakfast/lunch/dinner/lifetime worth of meals. My head subsists on numbness and neglecting memory. On skipping hours. I'm returning now from a trip to Newfoundland with M -- my/our first since Costa Rica and the sudden lack of Katie. Heavy, this hole-shaped her. A her-shaped hole. And getting darker with every passing "first since." Come two months from today, on Oct. 11th, 2011, we'll no longer be able to look back a full year and wonder, 'what had she been doing then?' Come a year past from that date, she'd have already been gone. Empty, the thought and its feelings of this soon expected new fact -- just like the already tired old facts of this last year.

["My sister's life was 21 years long."]
["My sister's life was 21 years long."]
["There is no 22."]

No 2011. And no acceptable explanation. No 'okay.'

She takes with her our remaining years as well, as adequate. As acceptable. 2011 has been barely a blur of a year. So will all the other years, however many more there might be. The her-shaped hole remains, and a hole won't be painted over, despite the vibrancy of hue offered. Even though she deserves to be decked out in only the brightest of colors. So we just keep painting around it -- outlining/contrasting/highlighting the black, as there's no covering a hole with paint. Or words, for that matter.

[last night i dreamt about you, my sweet sister. it was the fast forward from the before to the after, and all of it i'd photographed with my phone along the way. browsing through the wretched time past, spent in a house that was unfamiliar to me, i somehow notice a brief blur in one of the electronic images of the after. i zoomed in, and there you were, defying all that has most recently become true, despite ourselves. it was you, but it wasn't. 'you' were floating above the room, parallel to the floor and looking down on it serenely. i recognized the outfit you wore. so it must have been you, despite the impossibility of your position and timing. i ran around the house, trying to call everyone's attention to the concrete proof that you existed still, somewhere, in some alternative realm, and that you peeked in on this one occasionally and looked to be at peace with it! like you were still here, almost. but when i found people around, the different faces of my family, the picture was gone. not just you, but the picture itself, having taken you with it. i could no longer find it among the other dull, gray images. i spent hours hitting the snooze button this morning, trying to buy the time it would take to once again spot the image before i had to awake. to this. but of course i couldn't.]

-L (8/11/11)

Nine months. And Sugar says...

"[19.] When my son was six he said, “We don’t know how many years we have for our lives. People die at all ages.” He said it without anguish or remorse, without fear or desire. It has been healing to me to accept in a very simple way that my mother’s life was 45 years long, that there was nothing beyond that. There was only my expectation that there would be—my mother at 89, my mother at 63, my mother at 46. Those things don’t exist. They never did.

[20.] Think: my [sister’s] life was [21] years long. Breathe in.

[21.] Think: my [sister’s] life was [21] years long. Breathe out.

[22.] There is no [22].

[23.] You go on by doing the best you can, you go on by being generous, you go on by being true, you go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on, you go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and allowing the pleasure in other days, you go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage."

(Thanks L.D.D.)

-L (7/10/11)

Night Sixteen ("A Year Ago, You Painted")

Sinking into the faux-leather of your couch has become almost normal by now, these nights. Me and the downstairs -- we understand each other. The kitchen must stay only slightly used; the windows i may have my way with; and that space under the steps is all Sierra. Day and night, a practice in normalization. Playing music helps; playing some music doesn't. But then the definition of 'helps' is in flux, too -- as in, when is it okay to feel you so distinctly not here? & when is it much better to ignore it? Still in the process of figuring this out, and will one day report on whether I'm able.

So strange, how while here it seems i must seek desperately for an anchor to keep tangibly abreast of myself -- while what is having a place to stay if not an anchor in itself? And your place, at that, where i've felt so welcomed & comfortable, so many times before. Though not as many as i would have liked, living so far away. Seeing the unfinished paint reminds me of that; the blue tape still lining many corners, and upon the glass of your wall mirrors. And not the only things unfinished, either -- your almost touch on everything, and everything still in waiting. Maybe me, too.

It's funny how one can know something so clearly that it changes the very structure of her being, and yet so conclusively cut off the conscious knowledge of it. I feel like I set the fathomless loss of you aside with the knowledge that I would be coming here to deal with it this summer, and now it's like I can't break the habit of intentionally forgetting. Yet when i'm caught off guard and do, the re-shock of forrealremembering is as harsh & unexpected as a slap in the face by a familiar hand. While talking/writing/thinking about it somehow keeps one at a safe distance from its truth...

In some ways, being here without you only makes the unreality of it all that much more real, if that makes any sense. So that it can't be. As does this process of normalization, which I thought ought to be a good idea. It's as though my mantra of 'it is what it is', now reads 'it is what it was', and going back has proved senseless.

-L (6/8/11)

Second night; your place.


I wanted to say something about the peace, too. That being surrounded with the things you lived with - breathed in - began & ended up keeping, brings its own sigh of relief or release. It's the closest I can come to you now.

And while in this space, by experiencing it as it is, rather than as I feared/thought/expected it would be (especially what with expectation's treachery), I come to realize/understand/see that all of the pain we're in really only reflects an internal struggle with this shakeless sense of despair & injustice. But rather than against these things we struggle for them, as a way of fighting for our own failed faith/hope/expectation. I don't see how it can be any other way. We show our disappointment & resentment like a young faceless couple wear their hearts on their sleeves. Flaunting it; defiant in the face of what is - simply, and yet so impossibly.

This peace here, with & without you, is the absence of that struggle. For better or for worse, and really just the same.

-L (5/23/11)

First night; your place.


I'm staying at your place tonight. I intend to stay for the summer, if I can hang. It's so quiet here. Everything holding its breathe, clearly waiting. Awaiting your return to animate the purpose behind the existence of all your belongings, for you to show them why they were chosen to be placed just so. I could describe it as a void; a kind of limbo exists here, accompanied only by the whish-whish-whish of the fountain beneath your finally re-opened window. It's like walking the brink of reality or sanity - and for the life of me (or you) I can't tell which way is down. Rather like it destroyed the deepest secrets of at-core expectation, your crash manifested this limbo in a blink or two of eyes, still looking-on dumbstruck. Suddenly everything here has been locked in, and all of it hangs. Frozen without a trace of cold; water without the thought of wet, yet formed. It's only me, the touch of you on everything, and my missing you, that moves...

And Sierra, of course. I scared her something awful when she tried to lay on your bed. ('Never again!', you'd said.) I'll get her a dog bed tomorrow, if I don't go to my internship first thing. I'm not even sleeping on your bed - it's not that you wouldn't let me or want me to, it's that you oughta be sound asleep beside me. And I can't forget that the last time I slept here, you were. So the couch it is for now.

Tonight I wandered around, utterly distracted without a hope of rational thought to even tempt my mind into believing. I stared at your littlest things on the bookshelf. Read and re-read that post card I sent to you years ago, still on the fridge, addressed "para mi hermana hermosa...amor de mi vida!" Felt like an invader, being here. (Still do so far.) So private you are, and yet everywhere surrounding me are symbols and tokens of everyone you love. You kept us all with you, always. How odd that pieces of ourselves should become our only remnants of you...

-L (5/22/11)

"There are some mornings when the sky looks like a road." -J.N.

What an astonishing and ridiculous month April truly is. Oh Saturday, my Saturday! With your Kellerweis Hefeweizen and hummus on toast, and more projects/papers/exam preparation than a girl really knows what to do with, besides begin. Always beginning, it seems, since the endings aren't something it makes sense to talk about.  (Anymore.)

Ten momentous birthdays, one heartbroken anniversary, eight silly school assignments, and more than the year's worth of radiation and ambivalence later--all we have to show for it is a solemn afternoon with enough time to consider. The face on the screen with the smile that was. Frozen in place, before a now finite number of backdrops.

And a suitable poem....


Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.

Your name was the food I lived on;
now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.
To say your name was to be surrounded
by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,
I touch glass and barbed wire.
Your name was the thread connecting my life;
now I am fragments on a tailor’s floor.

I was dancing when I
learned of your death; may
my feet be severed from my body.

by Stephen Dobyns

...if only for the afternoon.

-L (4/30/11)


[Why dreams are so much easier. And lists. And disbelief. How words were as good as their definitions, before the day got in the way of the sun. And the brightest light blinked out--but everyone else woke up, just the same.

When did this detachment take up residence in my mind? Never as cool as you, everything would startle and marvel me. Now none of that. Losing interest, or lost? Or realized its illusion? Which always you saw through...? No sé. But today, I met a friend who helped me to forget to forget. And the feeling graduated only to a still ambivalence. Not sure if I can handle such awful relief so soon.

Your picture makes me cry. (Not what you would have wanted.) Takes me back to that day of learning the un-learnable; those instant, ancient, wrenching sobs, unabashed in public. All that time just waiting to be heard. Continue to be felt. Like yesterday still, but less startling now, somehow.]

[-L (3/30/11)]

Five months. And Sugar says...

"That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really fucking hard to get there...

You will never forget her. You will always know her name. But she will always be dead. Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will. Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words. Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live though it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal."

CarTroubled Musings


I want to tell you about strange, momentary connections. And how they come from every-which-way.

Last night my truck wouldn't start. I'd left the house for school at 7:30am and walked out of my last class at 9:30pm. I crossed the street to the Starbucks parking lot where I'd stashed it, being pushed along by the drizzling winds of a welcome storm. I crawl in through the passenger door, soaking and feeling high after a night of talking International Women's Movement in my Human Rights Advocacy class, scoot over behind the wheel and turn the key. Chicka-chicka-cough-cough-whirrrrrrr.

For the next three hours I encountered all types: nice Asian men willing to try their hand at jumper cables; a sweet, all-out-fix-it guy that helped diagnose, pop-the-clutch, and push; and wonderful fathers able to scroll through the list of every mechanical possibility not-taking-place. Alas, all to no avail. Finally, my merciful roommates saved the day by driving a 60-mile round-trip out to me, just to sign the silly AAA papers that the tow-truck-driver brought to offer. And closing in on 2am, I finally found myself home--still reeling from the depth of conversation just had in the toasty cab of a flat-bed, as it carried me and mine through the wind & roaring rain falling reckless on Highway 17.

I can't believe I don't remember his name. Why does the mind block out such crucial details? Nonetheless, Mr. Norteño-Tow-Truck-Driver and I somehow got around to talking about drugs (something about the last time he towed to Santa Cruz--a 50-year-old woman in an M-Benz exclaiming from nowhere: "I don't even care--I love weed!"), which somehow lead him to tell me about his older sister who had overdosed on methamphetamines two years ago.

She was five years older than he was, and his only sister--like I'm five years older than you and your only sister. He told me that he and his wife were pregnant with their second child when he found out, and how they took in her five kids after she died. Five kids; three birthdays--two sets of twins flanking the middle child. 4s-10-14s when it happened; 6s-12-16s nowadays. How their father had up and split after their mother died, somewhere in Washington state perhaps, and hadn't written one Christmas/Birthday/Howdy card since. The profound anger at this. Knowing it should have been that useless fucker instead, were the world a decent place.

Of course I told him about you after he disclosed these god-awful things to me. It made me a teensy-weensy bit grateful, because at least we're not riddled with a tortured knowledge that you did it to yourself. Because you didn't; it was unjustly done to you--and this is a bitter yet righteous place to occupy. At the same time, at least he still gets to live in a world that makes sense--that people's actions may come with tragic consequences, but they still have a say in whichever brutal direction life takes them...

I've yet to decide which is preferable. Frankly, neither hold much of a candle to the world we thought we inhabited 130 days ago. And when it comes right down to it, I think Ani says it best: "I envy you your ignorance. I hear that it's bliss." Though I know you'd just roll your eyes and smirk to hear it.

-L (2/16/11)

Four months. And Sugar says...

"Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room."

(Thanks J.)

-L (2/10/11)

"Because death is just so full, and man so small." -M&S

January 9th, 2011. Three months to the day that your co-worker's car spun out of control--tossing you out rather than trapping you inside--and I dream of you for the first time. Finally.

But the dream doesn't alleviate my fearful sorrow with these images of you I'm given--because where are you now, if not in some goddamn lucky afterlife? No ... Instead, they delineate and depict the monumental sadness I feel constantly with this living loss of you--the only thing we have left to hold onto. And even bloom fresher streaks of sorrow with the inadequacy of their pictures: You. Older than you should be. And yet at 7, wearing that gray dress you used to have and your cut short blonde hair, speaking animatedly and happily to someone outside of the frame of my mind's eye. Probably Jacob, I think. And then me, as I was--thick bangs past my brows, with long straight hair and an ugly flowery dress with a mismatched, open scruffy shirt over. Younger than I should be. Walking into the room looking always unkempt and insecure. Uncomfortable in my skin; unblessed with your grace. How you held out your hand to me without even looking my way, once I'd settled into the corner alone. How grateful I felt! Crawling toward you, toward your outreached hand, and then laying my head on your knee. My present self in the doorway, watching you place that hand on my younger self's shoulder. Watching my own young face smile; her eyes close, seeming finally at ease. All the time sobbing underneath that door frame, knowing what I know.

I texted you tonight: "Home safely. :) Love you all! Thanks for a lovely weekend." Automatically, in a bulk message to our family, letting them know I made it back alive because this is necessary now. I clicked your name in my phone with everyone else's: "Beautiful!" Up at the very top on purpose, as it's always been.

And I got a response back immediately that stilled my heart--making my stomach flip with excitement that even then knew itself to be doomed; to surely melt into disappointment: "Whoz thiz"?

Breath stopped; tears immediate; slight nausea soon to follow. I steeled my shaking hands and responded, knowing nothing had changed--impossible to forget or pretend: "Sorry, this used to be my sister's number. I didn't realize it was re-activated."

Because I lie. It wasn't an accidental text at all. I very deliberately include you in these stupid little family updates. Every time. Even before the phone company disconnected your number, cutting off what wasn't your voice anyway, since you never recorded your own messages. And then after, too, just because. On the principle of the matter. Because I love you and want you to know that I'm safe. Because you're not. If I'd had a camera on my phone I'd have still sent pictures of flowers to your disappeared phone--every morning, if I remembered--just cuz you always used to like getting them. I include you in these texts because it feels wrong not to. Until now. Now that all of a sudden, there's someone else on the other end:

"Oh its ok". That being it. It. Like nothing. 'Course it isn't.

-L (1/31/11)


[No longer able to sleep through the night. / Summer internship, back in L.A., to stay in your house if I dare. / Your phone no longer disconnected, answering me with someone else's text. / Auna-long-talks. Lovely. Jake's birthday, and the dinner/dessert/concert. / Unforgivable, the drop-off rate of friends, done with it. / And 1,000 Memories. The fear that comes with it not working. / Sisters--and what it's like to be one. And the lonely women who have no idea. / Angry cell phone--lost in the stupid freakin' desert. No one to blame. Like Mecca; the Holy Grail. / No message...disconnected. / "Do you ever not think about her?" No. How much easier if I believed in the afterlife... At all? / "Interesting" facts at school--not you. Because how to answer what's up in your life, when you know they don't want to know? / Honoring you with regret? How else? The love not being able to hold you. / Grief book. For siblings. No one else interested in having it. / 1-9&10-2011, and dreams... 1st: Me, you, young. Crawling over to be comforted. You reaching your hand out without even looking; head in lap, finally able to relax. 2nd: Losing something, a pocket watch, gold and antiqued and feminine--for to double as a locket? Needing to give it to you; not finding it anywhere. Everything falling apart, everywhere I touch. And you in a hurry to go. But not wanting to.]

[-L (1/31/11)]