Category Archives: death

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Hello, friends. Yes, it’s been a while. Between health issues, the collapse of my marriage, and Internet problems, I haven’t been up to writing.

But I’ve had a lot of time to think. And a lot of that thinking had a lot to do with life, death, and what really matters to me. February marked the first year since my father died, and it struck me, now that both of my parents are dead, that no one here gets out alive.

I first heard that phrase on a Doors album. The album was Waiting for the Sun, and the song was “Five to One.” Little did I understand at the time just how profound that statement is. No one here gets out alive. Or, as Paul Simon put it,

We’re working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.

Maybe it’s the times we’re living in, or maybe it’s just my age, but I don’t think we’re focusing on the things that matter. We have our computers, and they’re connected to the Internet. We have instant access to more information than can be found in all of the libraries in the world, and what do we do with it? We post pictures of kittens on Facebook, or take pictures of our breakfast and beam them all around the world.

futuremen

Really? We have the ability to end world hunger, end all wars, eliminate poverty, and all we seem to be interested in is fluff. Bread and circuses, man. That’s what the Roman Empire offered its citizens to distract them from the fact that the Empire was crumbling from within.

And that’s what’s happening to the America Empire. It’s crumbling from within. Well, when you elect a clown, you’ve got to expect a circus.

Leonard Cohen sang, “Democracy is coming to the USA.” He was fortunate to die before the reality set in: Fascism is coming to the USA.

Rest in Power

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Untitled

Never forget their names:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Also killed this week, trans women Goddess Diamond, 20 years old

“When will they ever learn?
O, when will they ever learn.”

 

My Father: A Study in Selflessness

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

A Memoir

(The transcript of the eulogy I gave at my father’s memorial service)

My father once apologized to me and said, “The shoemaker’s kids go barefoot and the baker’s family goes hungry.” He was commenting on his 27 years as an Air Force chaplain, when his duty frequently took him away in the middle of the night to comfort a family which had just lost its father, or to tell a wife her husband wouldn’t be coming home from the other side of the world.

There was a time when his duties required his absence from my birthday—for seven years in a row. At the time, I hated him for it, and it took me years to get over that anger. Now, what little hostility I still feel is directed more properly at the US military establishment, which never seemed to have learned the truth of Milton’s words, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

My mother personified those words. He was absent from the family once for 15 months: his duties took him to Turkey for that time. My mother became for a time a single mother attempting to raise three children. Thank God for grandparents and aunts!

I understand that after her passing, Dad spent hours weeping over her grave, apologizing for what he saw as the hell that his job put her through.

He grew up in a hard time: the Great Depression. A time when roles were fixed, and people “knew their place.” On the other hand, I grew up in the ‘60s, and lived through the Nixon years. Dad was a lifelong Republican; if anything, if you need labels, I’m an anarchist. After Viet Nam and various other wars and “incursions,” I take everything my government tells me with a grain of salt. Don’t agree with me? That’s your right, and I’m not going to argue the point with you. Besides, you don’t scare me—I grew up in the ‘60s….

….which also entitles me to say, at the age of 65, “I may be old, but I saw the best bands!”

But regardless of anything a psychiatrist might say about my relationship with my parents (“Oedipus, Schmoedipus! I love, ya, Ma!”), the fact remains that they were my parents, and I loved them. And the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time happened last week, when I telephoned my father and we resolved our differences and effected a true reconciliation. For that, I am extremely grateful. Our last words to each other were “I love you.”

My father was greatly esteemed in his communities, both the Air Force and the church. I can offer no better proof of this than two stories.

Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. was the first African America to reach the rank of general (4-stars). When he died, at his widow’s request, my father performed his funeral.

When Dad finally retired from the Air Force, and he and Mom were traveling around the country looking for work, he was unable to find a parish in the Pacific Northwest, which is where they wanted to settle. Finally, after they had settled in Lak Jackson, Texas, he learned that the reason no one would hire him was that the bishop of Texas had called all the other bishops and told them not to hire him, because “He’s mine!”

I know my father was disappointed that none of us followed him into the ministry. While I can’t speak for my brothers, I know that in my case it was because the shoes he left were simply too big to fill.

Thanatopsis

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Every Death Is Different

My parents died 32 years apart, and I’m finding it interesting how different their deaths are. Or, to be accurate, how different my reactions are.

Because they’re truly different. I’m sure most of the differences lie in the fact that I’m not the person I was three decades ago. Then, I was much you get and had little first-hand experience with death. Know I’m older, and have lost more friends and relatives than I can easily count. So I guess the biggest change is that death is no longer the shock it used to be.

Another difference is that I had time to prepare myself for my mother’s death. She had fought cancer for so long that when she died, it wasn’t unexpected. Painful, yes. Devastatingly so. But I had had so long to prepare myself that it wasn’t a shock. And in a way, since she had been in such pain for so long, it was a relief.

It was different with my father. We had been estranged for years, only reconciling the week before his death. I knew that he had had a stroke, but I hadn’t been aware of how much his health continued to deteriorate in the following year. And unlike with my mother, I hadn’t had the opportunity to tell him all the things I wanted to say. I never got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me, and what an honor it had been to be his daughter.

And Every Death Is The Same

Sadness. Anger. Disbelief. Numbness. I felt all of these following my parents’ deaths. What I feel now, as I am writing, is a dull ache for my mother, but a sharp, stabbing pain for my father. I know that over time this pain will become the same dull ache that I feel for my mother. And I also know that it will never go away. But that’s okay; I don’t want it to go away. I want it to remind me of the two people who loved me more than anyone ever did.

Because if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is this: no matter who else they meet in their lives, no one will ever love your children as much as you, their parent, does.

Maryland, My Maryland

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Last night Stacey and I got home from our trip to Maryland to bury my father. Except we didn’t bury him. Joyce, my stepmom, will do that in the spring. She’ll take his cremains to Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, and inter them in the same plot that holds my mother and my first stepmother, Carol.

My father and I had been estranged for several years, beginning when I was outed to him as transgender. But I was able to speak with him last week on the phone, and we reconciled. We told each other we loved each other, and I began making plans to drive down to visit him.

Alas, that was not to be. On Tuesday, February 9, as Stacey and I were about two hours out of Rochester, my father died.

When my mother died, I knew it immediately. And later, talking with my brothers, it turned out that they did, too, as did several other close family friends.

But with my father, nothing. I wonder if it had anything to do with the way each of them went: Mom’s passing was peaceful, in her sleep, while Dad had a hard time of it, struggling for each breath.

Reuniting

My daughters were there as well. Both the one I’ve been in constant contact with and the one who, like my father, had stopped speaking with me—and for the same reason. But when we saw each other, and hugged each other, that separation, too, disappeared, and all is well with us again.

Then there was my cousin—daughter of my father’s brother. I was worried how she would react to my changes, as I had not really been in contact with her for a long time. But I needn’t have worried: she said when her son came out as gay, they had no problem accepting him for who he was, and the same applied to me—no matter who I am, she loves me still.

About Maryland

It’s a strange state, this Maryland. It is considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. Facts about the state are far too numerous to mention here, so I suggest you do what I did when I started my research, and check out its Wikipedia page. Ironically, despite the fact that Maryland remained on the Union side during the Civil War, it was a slave state, and as such, was not affected by the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, as that decree only applied to those states in the Confederacy…a fact that wasn’t taught when I was in school.

Driving around the state—especially on the back roads Stacey and I frequented—you’ll see numerous old barn-like buildings in various states of disrepair. They’re not barns but in fact old tobacco-curing sheds. Maryland had a large tobacco industry at one time, but a state buyout greatly reduced its presence. It’s curious to note that although the sheds are no longer needed nor in use, it’s illegal to destroy them. And so they stand, mute witnesses to a past era.

Controversy Over the State Song

Periodically, efforts are made to change the state song to something less martial. As Wikipedia says,

Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant”, “despot”, and “Vandal”, and to the Union as “Northern scum”, as well as referring to the phrase “sic semper”, which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln. For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland’s state song, but to date all such attempts have met with failure.

Summing Up

For these two Northerners, Maryland’s road system was a nightmare…and we weren’t the only ones to think that. Navigating via GPS didn’t help: it was always a case of “Turn left in 200 yards…Duh! You missed it! Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” There were many cases where it told us to make a turn onto a given street even though we knew from past trips that we still had 1/4 mile to go before we would even reach that street.

It just validated my own strongly-held belief that GPS will never entirely replace a decent map.

Thanks for reading,

Robyn Jane