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Gillian Dec 2023
A shadow lives in hope for sunshine
An expectation endless
Lives unbound until

Where does it go after you are gone?
What of its soul, worth, and fealty?

Repaid by a blinking vacancy sign
Or shadow nirvana where it is always
Sunny and easy to hide

Home taunted and teased
Like Liars and thieves
Laughing among its denizen

How to be firm and fearless ?
How not to falter! How not to fail?
Gillian Dec 2023
Desperate lonely cold midnight roads

Leathery faces full of mystery

The smell of his hair when he was twenty

Campfires in the snow banks

A thought; you will always be here

My always promises so vacant

We were always young

The flowers are beautiful on your tomb
Gillian Aug 2022
I have been in a sort of purgatory since I left Chicago after our memorial for my mom.  I spent a week in San Francisco getting tested and papers and permits and green codes…14 days alone in a very horrible hotel (but a very nice prison)…one week at home with my dog and my love, Steve…got a bacterial infection in my intestines, went to the hospital, fever spiked at 102, but six negative Covid tests…

I finally felt my equilibrium returning to a new normal this week when I went back to work for my first day, and realized I feel my mother’s presence in myself most when I am teaching my students.  All the joy it gave her, the philosophy, the art, the outlet, the passion, the peace, the confidence, the courage, the risk, the reward, the scream and the silence of being a teacher in a classroom, in my childhood bedroom, in a café, on a sidewalk, a long drive, a walk in the wilds, or even shopping at the supermarket…she gave me these gifts, and they will never leave me.

I find ’her’ everywhere lately, and I know she was always there, always with me…I can read the graffiti of grief as it sprays across me all day long every day…there isn’t any me without her, yet here I am; me, without her…

I have always missed her, for seven years living in China, I have missed her every day…

Love has many unexplored depths…
Gillian Aug 2022
It’s been 9 weeks since she died…just over two months…I’m still feeling so empty and angry and broken…I don’t know how to talk about her…I feel like I make everyone uncomfortable when I do…it’s the worst kind of grief because i’m feeling totally alone…when I was home and with family it seemed healthy…i could release some of these feelings and I felt safe…here, I feel I’m trying to protect my friends and coworkers from my grief…I’m definitely not okay because I still feel like I just lost the most important person I ever had in my life…I hadn’t seen her for two years because I was stuck in China waiting for Covid measures to get easier…it was the first place I wanted to go when I could…Our last time together was in Scotland…she came to help us find a venue for our wedding and plan the details…She also had never met Steve’s mum and it was an important connection for all of us…although they butted heads about some cultural differences, such as allowing children at the wedding and reception, they both loved the Athol Palace Hotel, haggis and agreed that we should certainly have a piper…

Mom loved the walks in the Tay forest and we took her to see the Burnham oak tree, last survivor of the famed forest from Shakespeare’s Scottish play…We had three lovely days in Edinburgh together, still my favorite city in the world, possibly becoming hers…then we took her to the airport and she was gone…

Gone…I’ll never see her again, never hug her, never listen to her laugh…she was my only parent…I am orphaned now, and the weight of it is sometimes too much for me…as strong as I feel like I am, I’ve lost something so precious to me it feels like I’m falling apart…tearing myself to bits over how I didn’t get to see her or I didn’t call her often enough…shaking my fist at the sky that we were just waiting for this terrible pandemic tide to ebb…we thought there would be time…

Time…we cancelled our wedding twice, thinking that if we could just wait one more year, everyone could be there…my Nona died two weeks before my mom…Nona was Jewish and had to be buried quickly...i couldn’t possibly get there in time so I settled for zoom…my last talk with my mom was me calling her to see how she was after returning from the funeral…my Nanny’s cousin Danny Murphy died this week…it just seems the time for me to lose everyone…I barely started to grieve for my Nona when I got the worst call of my life…

Life…It was a Sunday afternoon in the states but a Monday morning for me…I woke up, took ollie for a walk, noticed my sister had asked me to call her when I got up, but thought it was just a call…I got ready for work, left the house with all my bags full for the classroom…called a taxi, and called my sister thinking I’d have a chat with her on my way to work…at the gate to my community the call connected and she was screaming so much I couldn’t understand her…she said someone died, and I had to ask her twice who it was…she kept saying our mom…and I didn’t believe her…I think I actually said you’re joking…I put my bags down on the pavement…

She said probably a heart attack in her sleep…I stopped breathing for a long time…I asked if she was okay, where she was…she was driving back from the cabin in Michigan with the kids…and that she should go…I told her I love her and hung up telling her I’d call back soon…

Soon…I picked up my bags, texted work to say I couldn’t come in because my mom died feeling surreal as ever…walked back into my apartment and dropped my bags…sat on the edge of the bed shaking Steve and waking him up…I told him my mom died, and then a howl came out of me I never want to make or hear again…suffered a massive panic attack just there on the edge of the bed crying and shouting expletives…until it subsided into a chant of what do I do, I don’t know what to do, what do I do, I don’t know what to do…

Panic…Seven years in China…this was always my nightmare…having to get home as fast as I can no matter what…so I booked a flight for Chicago, not exactly home, but closer than China…I cried a lot on the way there…at customs in Seattle the officer asked the reason for my trip and I started crying telling him that my mom died and I live in china…it was hard and necessary…my sister picked me up at O’hare with the saddest hug, we both were so defeated, but my love for her renewed by her presence led me to make her laugh at least three times on that ride back to her house…I said I was used to missing her, that it was new to them but I’d been missing mom for years in china…she said maybe mom thought that I was finally going to be okay and maybe because of that she felt okay leaving us…

Left…The next day I went to her house, her bedroom, looked through her stuff like a thief…it felt awful…but again necessary…it was so hard to see her dog, Luna, her cats…her life, as if she was still there…to find her photos and what she kept sacred in little memory boxes…she was my favorite person, it was so hard to do this…I couldn’t stay long, and had to keep going back for an hour or as long as I could stand it every day I was there…

Tribute…I couldn’t speak at my mother’s funeral…my sister was incredible and gave a beautiful memorial…my brother couldn’t get through it at first and had to calm himself then on his second attempt made an amazing tribute to her…but I just couldn’t though I really wanted to…It’s an epic failure of strength on my part…I loved her fiercely and she loved my writing…I bet if she could have picked just one of us to speak at her funeral it would have been me…I just didn’t want to share yet, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her…and it is so painful to think of final words…I spent the memorial sobbing to myself in between Noah and Sara Page…feeling her in my bones and shaking with the weight of her loss…
Gillian Mar 2019
Dear Amy,
Some days the world is just perfect.  there is always that waking moment where unconsciously the simple life of worldly activity humanity binds itself to, our in-cognizant regulation of sleeping with waking life, where becoming awake isn't so bad; and we rise with no reluctance to leave behind the soft comforting jumble of sheets and pillows, nor that often insatiable desire to finish off the last dream the alarm delicately broke us from.  pulling on the jeans that feel like old friends with a gentle sigh of completion and peeking through the blinds to see the sun shine on freshly unearthed grass and swiftly surfacing flowers as I vigorously scrubbed my teeth - i knew it would be the kind of day i would want to write a cloying letter to a friend about and invoke all of Calliope's eloquence.  though it was at times uncomfortable it was hot like those very exciting first summer heat waves when you feel the sun baking off the asphalt after dark, reminding me of being called inside by my mom to watch Knight Rider and ****** She Wrote.  stepping outside i found everything to be going swimmingly as i went to my mom's (borrowed) car, even the parking space vultures that drive down albany's one way streets too fast dying for a place to park seemed less disgruntled at the shortage of spaces. i had an ineffable few minutes of joy when i was captivated by three young girls playing double dutch on the street; watching the beads in their hair bounce and the shrugging simplicity of missing a jump and the jump ropes going slack after a triumphant moment of chaos.  the exalting scent of charcoal barbecues filled the air and every stoop was an energetic symphony of grinning faces.  this afternoon as i wandered off the pathways of Washington park it seemed i caught a glimpse at least of everyone - a group of girls on a blanket with their Capri pants and tank tops rolled up as far as daring and fabric would allow soaking up the glorious sunshine and intensely talking about chris and jake's quirky concepts of romance as their radio belted out college rock songs...

I never finished this letter to Amy...I miss her every day
Gillian Jun 2018
I fell for you
As apples fall to the ground
Soft landing
Days dotted with
Syncopated laughter
Our love is the wave
From spring blossoms
To autumn cider
Flesh to blessing
Ripe to keep
Gillian Feb 2015
My bumpy taught me the word boobelachi when I was too little to remember my own age...he made it up of course, but it was and still is the word for seafaring snails for everyone in my family...My bumpy taught me how to turn a warm loaf of bread over and cut it from the bottom so you don't smush the was a thing only he could know....We talk about The Cottage and The Bakery, that he and Nanny once had as if they were the only ones that ever existed...and I never cared to notice because they were the only ones I ever knew...Just like I know if I were here today, Bumpy would be yelling at me for taking time away from my work teaching here in China...He was my greatest supporter, my dearest friend, and my Bumpy...I will carry him in my heart for all of my life...and every boobelachi I see will always remind me of how much he loved us all.
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