Here Be Monsters

August 11, 2009

Today, I went into my father’s home, a thing that I was afraid to do. I don’t have words yet to explain that fear, nor do I have words to explain – to narrate – the experience of overcoming that fear. This is such a complicated story.

Or, perhaps, it’s not. A father, well-loved, dies, alone, under circumstances that are still not entirely known, and, then, later, under circumstances that are known but which I am still not prepared to narrate, may never be prepared to narrate, he is found, and from there hearts break and hearts crumble and hearts are in pieces and what is left is pain and confusion and mess, figurative mess and literal mess, by which I mean, the remnants of death, the smell of death, and I – deep breath – I did not want to go to that place, and perhaps it might be said that I needn’t have gone there, that there is always someone else who can go there in one’s stead, but be that as it may, I needed to go, I had to go, and I went.

I went, and it was terrible, but also, it was good, because I went there, and although there was something that seemed very much like a dragon – a terrible, reeking, seething dragon – lurking there and although it opened its great jaws and I stared into its rank dark maw – too close, too close – and I trembled, for a moment or two, I knew, in the next moments, as I stood there, that it could not harm me and that it was just a monster whose only power was my fear. And that fear – it’s just fear, and it’s mine, and I can withdraw it, I can withdraw that fear, because it is mine to hold or withdraw as I choose. And so I did withdraw it, and the monster shut his jaws and he bowed his head and he just sat.

He’s still there. Him, and the mess. I will work around him.

There is no room in this story for my fear, for monsters. There is just me, and my dad. And my grief and my confusion and my mother’s grief and my mother’s confusion and my sister (ah, my sister. She’s left the story, sort of, which is another story, a complicated story that I cannot explain here, yet, but it’s fine, it really is, it’s just, you know, complicated) and where was I? Right: me and my dad and my family and the grief and the confusion but also the love the love the love.

And love always beats back monsters.

That, at least, is not complicated.

(Is this what it means to build soul-armor? Perhaps I am building soul-armor. Although perhaps not, because I am raw from this day and this post and I need to turtle up in this paper-thin armor. But I guess that that is what armor is for. So is this armor?

I hope so.)

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    Rae August 11, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Catherine, I’m so sorry, and so thankful to hear that your love is fighting fear in this struggle right now. I’m thinking of you. ~Rae

    Maureen August 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you peace.

    harrytimes August 11, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I am so sorry for your loss and a thinking of you and your family.
    .-= harrytimes´s last blog ..Nose Job– it’s actually a terrible sweet 16 gift, if you ask me =-.

    mamatulip August 11, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Keep breathing.

    Today, and in the days ahead. It may very well be the only thing that you’re able to do, and that’s just fine.

    Thinking of you, constantly.
    .-= mamatulip´s last blog ..Privacy: Yer doin’ it wrong =-.

    miss. chief August 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

    oh, i’m glad you opened your comments up again. ever since your first post about this i wanted to tell you that writing about it is a great idea, and if you are having any misgivings about sharing such a personal time with semi-strangers then maybe just write it for yourself. writing can be one of the greatest forms of catharsis.

    i hope everything feels okay again soon.
    .-= miss. chief´s last blog ..i’ve got the new shoes blues =-.

    stacyO August 11, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I recently started to read your blog, and i enjoy it.
    I am very sorry for you and your family. I buried my mom in Feb and I FEEL your pain. The pain gets a little easier. Just a little each day, month, and minute…Just remember to grieve, breath, and take it one day at a time. Be there for your mom and LET people be there for YOU! You are in my thoughts.
    Stacy O
    .-= stacyO´s last blog ..6 months and 11 years =-.

    slouchy August 11, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I was where you are in the not too distant past. And I’m here, supporting you, but also letting you know that you will be where I am — on the other side of this — at some point, even if that seems utterly unimaginable at the moment.
    .-= slouchy´s last blog ..Eleven’s Poll =-.

    nic @mybottlesup August 11, 2009 at 10:03 am

    oh catherine…. surrounding you with love and peace and healing.
    .-= nic @mybottlesup´s last blog ..curly blanket of love =-.

    Nel August 11, 2009 at 10:04 am

    All I can say is keep writing! I really think this is going to be so therapeutic for you.

    Don’t forget to smile. :) That’s important.
    .-= Nel´s last blog ..Friends Don’t Let Friends Text & Drive =-.

    Elizabeth August 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I’m so sorry for your terrible loss.

    kgirl August 11, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Death is complicated and messy and confusing and rips you in two, and I’m so, so sorry that you’re going through that.
    .-= kgirl´s last blog ..Top Ten Tuesday =-.

    GingerB August 11, 2009 at 10:14 am

    I think you already have soul armor, thick in places and thinner in others. This is a chink (a largish one) and now you decide whether you cover it in chain mail and protect it or you just patch it and keep going. I go both ways -some chinks I have to hide or risk unravelling and some I have to let the world see.
    .-= GingerB´s last blog ..Lucky =-.

    Emily August 11, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Delurking to say: keep writing, keep breathing. And I’m so, so sorry for your loss.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..On universal health care and universal education =-.

    Kelly August 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Catherine, my prayers are with you. I lost my mom to cancer on June 6th so I have an understanding of what you are going thru. It is the hardest thing you will experience.

    I can’t tell you that it will get easier, because I am still in the thick of it myself. But, every day brings a new emotion. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel, when you need to feel it.

    Mandy August 11, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I’m here in Vancouver if you need that oasis of calm in the storm… or scotch bar.
    .-= Mandy´s last blog ..Non Sequitur =-.

    Sashalyn August 11, 2009 at 10:38 am

    You are building amazing soul armor with words and love. I imagine you as the sparklecorn staring down the dragon- you are more magical than it could ever be. Keep breathing, keep moving forward, and keep writing. Our hearts are all with you now.
    .-= Sashalyn´s last blog we play… =-.

    Lauraldawn August 11, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I’m so sorry.
    I wouldn’t be able to handle what you’re going through – and it breaks my heart that you have to go through it.
    Thinking about you.

    Dawn August 11, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Soul armor = Vicks Vapo Rub under the nose.

    I never went into my Dad’s house after he died. However I now have the contents of his storage units in my garage.

    I’m 16 months past the monster, mostly sarcastic and hard hearted about it. However, things like a drivers license photo when he looked tanned and healthy can tear me to pieces.
    .-= Dawn´s last blog ..How to get a Sponsor for BlogHer ‘10 =-.

    Pooba~ August 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Catherine,,, when you need his strength… just close your eyes – and your dad is there with you.

    …just close your eyes~

    xandy August 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. You were given and taught a beautiful gift of love. To feel it, know it, and to pass that on, whenever you can, is the best celebration of his life that I can think of. Be very kind to yourself.

    Earth_Mommy August 11, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    You huddle and heal with that love. No shame for wanting to turtle up. And, that shell will strengthen.
    .-= Earth_Mommy´s last blog ..Warning: Product Review, but not paid for =-.

    Susannah August 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Delurking just to give you one of those annoying (but sometimes necessary) virtual hugs.
    I wish you and your family strength, courage and grace to get through this.
    .-= Susannah´s last blog ..PF + WWW = TLA =-.

    mrs chicken August 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I’m so sorry, Catherine. I lost my dad five years ago. There are no words to describe it. My heart is with you as you bear this terrible grief.
    .-= mrs chicken´s last blog ..Twelve =-.

    Mandi August 11, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and I hope you find the strength to heal from this tragic time.
    .-= Mandi´s last blog ..Sickly Mommy =-.

    Momily August 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Thinking of you and once again admiring your strength and thoughtfulness as you navigate this terrible time.
    .-= Momily´s last blog ..tweet tweet tweet =-.

    Amber August 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    My father also died alone, and I was afraid to go into his house. Afraid of what I would find. It was a long time ago and I was a teenager.

    I can say now, many many many years later, that facing that fear removed it. I am still afraid of loss and grief, but not the dragon of death. It can’t hurt or contaminate me. Knowing that makes me strong.

    I wish for strength for you as well. Strength and peace.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Changing Gears After Maternity Leave: Melissa and Melodie =-.

    Eliza August 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you kindly for sharing your ongoing journey into your emotions. Haven’t heard of soul-armor before, unless it is another word for courage.

    Haven’t seen anyone suggest this yet: the Bach Flower blend called “Rescue Remedy” is for shock, grief and trauma, with no side effects since it is a homeopathic. Trust you can find it there. Topical cream or extract are two ways to get it on or in your body.

    Maluhia – Peace
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..Summer Solstice 2009 =-.

    Jenny, Bloggess August 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    When my grandfather didn’t show up to a family event we suspected the worst. When I got there my father had just found the body and was cleaning my grandfather up in the bedroom. I couldn’t make myself go back to his bedroom and I felt like such a failure. I wanted to be there for my father but I just couldn’t and I let the fear control me. Even now it’s a place I don’t go to in my head unless I’m forced. Is sharing this making it better for you or worse? Because I’ve deleted it and re-written in a hundred time and I don’t want you to hurt but I want you to know that I’ve been there and that I think you are so brave for sharing this and for conquering the dragons I never did.

    I have a cookie fortune in my purse that says “Nothing is to be feared, only understood”. I understand that quote more clearly after reading this post.

    Motherhood Uncensored August 11, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Sending love and strength to lift you up.

    Much much love.

    .-= Motherhood Uncensored´s last blog ..A little slow on the mommy uptake =-.

    lindsey August 11, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    been there. done that exact same thing with my mother. my heart is breaking for you right now. thoughts and prayers are with you.

    .-= lindsey´s last blog ..::scenes from a weekend:: =-.

    Opus August 11, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I’m so sorry about your dad. Every little girl’s worst nightmare (and also big girls). Shock gets you through the first week and then it really hits.

    Your sis will handle things in her own way – she’s got an awful lot going on besides this anyway from the sounds of it. That doesn’t help you or your mom right now, but there it is.

    After a month or so things will be better and it slowly gets better after that. You (and your mom and your sis) will get through this and it will be OK, eventually. Really, it will. {{{{{hugs to all}}}}}

    Corina August 11, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Sweetie: My heart is breaking for you. As I write this, my hands are trembling, because your words are so familiar, you thoughts cover me like shroud; I am ushered back and in that space, can almost smell the room. Soul armor. I hope you find it, live with it. But know, every so often a sword finds its way through the maille and slice through your psyche. In that time, please know that there are those out there to care for you, lift you up, and to heal the damage. Much love to you.
    .-= Corina´s last blog ..Weekly Winners 8/2 to 8/8 =-.

    Maggie May August 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I just mentioned CL Lewis’ ‘ refining and sharpening of the sword ‘ in which he was referring to the sword as the soul and the sharpening our pain, our suffering. I think you sound soul-strong. I’m sorry.
    .-= Maggie May´s last blog ..i now know more about the Jonas brothers than any other 30something alive =-.

    Anna A August 11, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Am so, so sorry for your loss.

    Doug August 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Words don’t ever express enough.

    This will be a horrible time for you, but a time you will survive. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ll get there.

    You’ll be changed, but not like a change that leaves a scar or amputates a limb. This is a change like when you’re a teenager and your voice changes, or when your teeth fall out and grow back in, except this hurts like hell right away and for a while. You don’t ever exactly get over it; you grow around it. Or through it. Not really quite past it, but it settles in and you’re O.K.

    Good luck in the coming days and weeks and months. Mom died three years ago and was found by the police and taken by the coroner; it’s not easy. None of it’s easy. But in a weird way, cherish it, as you do your fingerprints. It’s yours, inseparable.

    Also: Give yourself, and your sister and your mother particularly, a year of excuses. They’ll do their best. You’ll do your best. But even after you feel like your feet are on the ground again, it takes something like a year for the shock and numbness to leave part of your psyche, and you’ll surprise yourself with some of the things you do, especially among friends and family. You’ll all do things that will be mean, and petty, and generous, and compulsive, and crazy, and beautiful, and unlike yourselves, and keep that in mind for the next year as you judge each other. You may feel like you’re back to yourself again, but keep giving it time, and forgiving it. Not forever. But for about a year, which seems like long enough for the crazy bats to work themselves out of a typical person’s head.

    You’ll all return to equilibrium, never quite the same as you were before, but a lot like it.

    Everyone handles it differently, so I won’t say you should work through it or cry or give yourself a rest or go climb a mountain–but I will say just keep taking each next breath, and you’ll get there.

    And thanks, not for just one blog post, but for a continuous stream of blogging that adds to many people’s worlds.

    Wishing you and yours comfort–
    .-= Doug´s last blog ..Odd Birds (II) =-.

    Kathleen August 11, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I see your soul armor as radiant and strong – white hot with the power to fend off any fear-monster – until such time you are able to peel it away, embrace the monster and together weep enough to cool the pain…much, much peace to you and your family…
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Bits and pieces of starts and stops =-.

    Haley-O August 11, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    “it was just a monster whose only power was my fear” — that’s just brilliant.

    What I often do with the “monster” – in it’s various forms – is surrender (my fear, my self) and let it engulf me. When I do, I discover that nothing happens. The monster disappears.

    Thinking of you and your family…. ((hugs))
    .-= Haley-O´s last blog ..I HAVE A FLAW =-.

    maggie, dammit August 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm


    With you, Catherine. With you.

    Mom101 August 11, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Aw Cath. How you continue to do this so beautifully I don’t know. Keep on keepin’ on, girl.
    .-= Mom101´s last blog ..Daddy. My own. =-.

    Lauren August 11, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    :-( I have nothing to say. just *****HUGS******
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Does it really take a village? =-.

    Rhonda August 11, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Catherine~I am praying for you and you family to get through this. Grief brings on so many other different emotions-but because you love, and ARE loved-you will get through it. It won’t always be easy either. I am still fighting the monsters left after losing my brother and Dad within 13 months. Some days they are bigger than others. You are strong, you can fight them and win!!! Thinking of you daily~
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..You’ve Come A Long Way Baby! =-.

    Sharon - Mom Generations August 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Your great courage at this most terribly painful and fearful time comes through to us in your words… we see and sense your very spirit and we feel the way you honor your Dad. It is said that words take us to a place to escape with our spirit alone. This is very true. But your words also take you to another place, and that place is the soul and heart of each of us. Tell us what you need to tell when you need to tell. Your heart and your Dad will give you the words. There is great, enduring strength out here for you in both friends and strangers and words…

    Minna August 12, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I am so very sorry for your loss.
    .-= Minna´s last blog ..A walk in the sunset =-.

    Erin Jones August 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Sending BIG HUGS your way. You are so much stronger than you know!
    Hoping you get to the place where you can think of your dad and smile without the tears quickly!
    .-= Erin Jones´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday ~ Camping Trip =-.

    Boston Mamas August 12, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I feel your pain and am sending lots of peaceful and healing mojo your way. The rawness persists for a maddeningly long time, but whenever you can remember the joyful moments, there is respite, however brief.

    So, so sorry for your loss. -Christine
    .-= Boston Mamas´s last blog ..Get Thyself to Rosaline’s =-.

    Joy August 12, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I hope that you may find some peace as you grieve for your father.

    I am thinking of you.
    .-= Joy´s last blog ..aaaand, REPEAT! =-.

    Wendy August 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    God I’m so sorry. Peace to you.
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..So Lonely… =-.

    Amanda August 13, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Just don’t ever scold or think less of yourself for fear. One foot in front of the other, except when you can’t. Thinking of you.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Loops =-.

    Mommy X August 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss…I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s almost six years ago!

    I cherish the wee bottle of his ashes I keep in a special little box! It’s truly amazing how much they help!

    Take care of yourself…and those you love!
    .-= Mommy X´s last blog ..Mommy miXes! =-.

    Esther August 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I keep thinking of you.
    .-= Esther´s last blog ..Adventures of Jude: 13 weeks – State Fair =-.

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