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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Completed the 4-piece series ...

on African-Americans in the Second World War and the Richmond Centennial Year, to begin running next week in the Post Newspapers and The Globe. Most of it was posted here -- and then allowed to grow into whatever it wanted to be. I believe it was fairly informative yet uncompromising, though I suppose the readers will make that judgement.

A kind of soft quiet has set in now that I've acknowledged Rick's death and (again) made my peace with it. Usually I begin to feel his recurring presence in late August and September. This time the insistent awareness waited until October to reappear. Either I've begun to let him go, or, the hyper-sensitivity to his persistent presence in my life has been replaced with something different. Perhaps it is he who has let me go. For whatever reason, life is settling down again, and sleep comes more easily.

Strange that my parents and the others whom I've loved and lost have left no such searing sense of desolation. It just may be that with Mel and Bill and my parents I had no sense of guilt, or, the sense that in some way I'd contributed to the loss of this interrupted life. Maybe that's it. Perhaps that's what's being worked through ... maybe.

But to return to my articles:

You've read most of my notes here. I'll combine those notes with materials upon which the articles are based, and deliver one each to the director of the Richmond Art Center, one to the head of the Richmond Main Street Initiative, and will drop a binder off at the History Museum in old downtown. I'm hoping to engender some excitement around the Centennial in each of these places so that the ideas will begin to grow organically from several places simultaneously so that they will soon begin to move out into mainstream thought without any feeling of where it all started or who is responsible. Learned long ago that -- if you don't care about who gets the credit, much can be accomplished.

Sent an email to the National Park Service office last night, so that -- should there be any discomfort over my writings -- they're prepared. I could write more freely as a private citizen than if I'd stayed on after my 60 day stint. Though I'm not particularly concerned that I've crossed any lines of propriety. My views were always direct and clearly stated while I was under contract to them. There are no surprises in the essays.

Besides, the writing helped me to work through much of the leftover pain of those times, and allowed it to be transformed into something usable. I can only hope that in doing so, I will have stirred the ashes of longheld frustrations of others and cleared the way for peace.

There has been little response from the managing editor, but since the essays were written with the understanding that they would be carried locally in The Globe, and that I've since learned that they will be carried in three Post Newspapers (Berkeley, Oakland, and Richmond) as the front page feature over the next few weeks, it's pretty exciting. These papers are distributed principally to an African-American readership.

I seem to be slipping into a kind of summation period. Signs of the aging process? Maybe that's how it will be in this decade. In the next (if I'm still around) I'll probably be writing recommendations!

Spare us, O Lord... . (grin)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

One more piece to this strange journey:

Subject: Re: Conclusions
Date: Wed, Oct. 19, 2000 8:41 AM
From: Cbreaux
Message-id: <200001019114101.23228.0000>

After those last posts made before sleep last night, I lay in bed for a long time thinking about having shared what must seem like some pretty extreme views, and wondered how I'd feel this morning. I feel just fine. No regrets. That seems to rise from the fact that I'm convinced that there was nothing unusual about the experience and that others have had similar events in their lives -- by whatever name.

The medical report confirmed that there was nothing physical going on to account for what was being lived in those hours. Except for a rather steep drop in blood pressure prior to arrival at the hospital and in the immediate period following, there was not a single contributing factor present anywhere in the medical record to explain events.

It also became clear that this was something primitive (in the good sense of that word) that has -- for reasons unknown -- simply not been either civilized out of nor layered over in me. I'm convinced that the kind of primal connection I experienced in those hours with Rick is the stuff out of which all of the cultures of the world have fashioned religions and philosophies as a means of explaining the inexplicable. It rises out of our very humaness, and pre-dates the institutionalization of it. The ability to leap across all barriers -- time, space, age, -- is universal and not specific to any person, culture or faith. I suspect that many of the world religions have layered over such powers with ritual and ceremony to the extent that most have lost touch with what is the most human about us. I also think that in those religious practices such as meditation -- where we peel back layers to a void -- there is the greatest potential to tap into it. Adversely, the most homogenized and ritualized forms of religions may have placed it far outside the reach of many of the civilized.

I'm also beginning to believe that there is but one life -- and that we are all sharing in it. That this life force is like a great river with all drawing from it -- entering and leaving it at ramdom.

At least that's what appears true for me this morning. But that may change -- as of course it will. What will not change is the fact that the unfolding will continue until I close my eyes for the last time. But right now, in this space, in this time, I feel at one with everyone and at peace with Rick's leaving. I also am quite certain that there will be other times and other places where -- without warning -- I will find myself using information that I don't yet have, and drawing upon powers that I can barely understand but which I know with deep conviction are embedded within me.

Betty

Subject: Re: Those conclusions ...

Date: Wed, Oct. 18, 2000 4:55 PM
From: Cbreaux

No need for negotiations. Even their destination is a product of
knowing. We "higher level beings" have named that instinct in order to handle it.

I thought of the trout in their upstream odyssey to the waters of their own birth to spawn -- traversing thousands of miles across rivers and streams. They know. It's built into
the system.

I suspect that this
"whatever it is" is something like that. The ability to leap across time and space in moments of crisis or deep trauma must be programmed into us as part of the human condition. If it is so with all other forms of animal life, why not with us? That isn't much of a stretch for me. It feels like the most natural ability in the world. Why do we fear it enough to try to erase such experiences from consciousness or to speak of them only in whispers in protected, settings, most often from a therapist's couch where anonimity is guaranteed?

My spiritual belief system needs no confirmation by a Pope, Priest, or Priestess, Rabbi, Imam, Medicine Man, Shaman, or anyone else to be true for me. I seek no congregation to affirm the powers that are mine by definition. But it is comforting to be aware of the other pilgrims who are fashioning their own philosophies too, and who might also be as awestruck by a world that produces sufficient "God-ness" without the help of pre-ordained concepts. Such prescribed religions are often far less magical and wondrous than what is at work within our own beings.

I'm guessing that this is merely a plateau created by Rick's death. In the weeks, months, and years to come I'll surely be less sure at times, but I truly believe the next time I hit this place on the upward spiral of life, it will be at a higher level than before.

Thanks to those of you who've shared like experiences. It's meant much to know that others also
"know" and are willing to own the knowing.

Betty

Posted online in Seniornet:

Subject: Re: The report
Date: Tue, Oct. 17, 2000 22:50 p.m.
From: Cbreaux
Message-id: <20001018025018.10043.00000@ng-cg1.aol.com>

First let me describe the experience as I remember it:

I recall that I was in a kind of strange darkness the entire time. But I was also in a state of super-alertness at the same time, and alive to everything around me. I can recall what was said and felt at any moment. I clearly remember the placement of the IV in the ambulance and the difficulty the medic had inserting it into the back of my hand. I couldn't hold my eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time -- throughout the entire ordeal of all those painful hours. I remember the almost unbearable pain in my lower abdomen that wouldn't abate and how hard it was to lie on the gurney when I wanted to double over and couldn't ... I remember asking for something for the pain and being told that the doctor would order something soon ... recall being asked (when I first arrived in emergency what I'd eaten and answering, "I think a green peach." I did have a very hard peach with yogurt early in the evening, long before bedtime.


Now for the information on the Physician's Record form recently picked up from the hospital:

Date: 8/17/00

Vital signs: B/P 140/0, HR 68, RR 12 (handwriting unclear) and I don't know what RR stands for -- felt well yesterday. No fever, chills - mild ...(can't read - under physical examination there are several sentences that are illegible), what follows is: "color good, bp upon arrival 147/56, temp. 97.2)
Under a number of boxes all marked non-contributory (cardiac, respiratory, skin signs (dry/warm), pain (abdomen), GI - nausea, GU non-contributory. Musc/Skel - non contributory, Psych, non-contributory, Neuro "alert/age appropriate, motor - (15 in a circle). "There are no obvious abnormal soft tissue masses or calcifications identified. No evidence of free intraperitoneal air is noted. Chest appears unremarkable." (So much for test results.) On one page are the words "After eating heavy spicy meal at 10 pm became ill at midnight." Felt well yesterday. Later entry, "assigned to rm - c2 via AMR ambulance - abd pain after eating fruit."

Much of this is mumbo-jumbo to you, as it is to me. There are some anomalies that defy explanation:

1. I never eat spicy foods, especially at night. I did not that night. I remember clearly what I ate and what I said to the doctors in emergency. (Could it be what Rick ate at ten o'clock? But that's too bizarre to even consider.) How did his diagnosis turn up on my hospital record?

2. I couldn't keep my eyes open and remained in a kind of trance state for the entire time. I remember that I was seated in a chair in the reception room of the emergency section for a very long time, once the tests had been completed -- where I received an injection in my upper arm -- but that was many hours after I'd arrived at the hospital. I see by the report that it was "0645 Demoral - 50 mg and 0645 (this may be the same) Phenergan - 50 mg.

3. The nurses called a taxi at some point and I was sent home. I remember the middle eastern (Sikh?) driver and his companion. I remember that it was still dark. I remember distinctly entering the house to get the money to pay the $14.00 cab far and returning with a ten dollar bill and the rest in quarters taken from a bowl in my kitchen. I remember climbing into bed while it is still dark (I thought it was about 5:30 am or so).

Second anomaly: According to this report it was not 5:30 am, but 12:50 pm when the last entry is made in the record. It was broad daylight. The "darkness" was internal. I simply had never opened my eyes, apparently. I can explain it no other way. There is no error in this since there are ten separate entries by almost as many people -- each in different handwritings and done at different times during the long night.

There was/is nothing physically wrong with me. No explanation for the physical attack that I can understand. The trance-like state lasted at least twelve hours and wore off completely after folding into the opiates I'd been given and that put me to sleep until 8:00 on Friday moring, the 18th - leaving no trace of the "illness."


Conclusions? Lots of thoughts about this in the days since I woke up knowing precisely when Rick died. Still processing the experience but some things are clear to me. It's late now and I'm needing to get to bed soon. Will let you know more tomorrow. And, yes, it is appropriate for this Atheist/Agnostic folder since those conclusions have strong spiritual implications. Though my atheism remains intact, the sense of my "religious" underpinnings has been deepened. And, no, I see no inconsistency in that statement. It just may be another example of the conflicting truths that rule my life. There are few simple answers to complex questions. It's all in the living of it, I think.

Maybe we can talk about that ... .

Betty

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


This is a letter written to a dear Unitarian-Universalist minister friend,

and is followed by a description of events that ensued in the days that followed Rick's death. His body had been found in his apartment where it had lain for an estimated 3 weeks.

I've gathered the letters and posts made to my Seniornet online community of virtual "best friends" with whom I'd developed a intimate relationship over several years. I placed my notes along with their responses in my "Rick's Memorial Album" to keep me in touch with a period unlike any other in my long life. It speaks to the phenomenon given to us by the information age, and may well be the answer to world peace. This kind of caring knows no international boundaries, and may have become the greatest Super Power on the planet. The millions who marched for peace at the onset of the Iraqi invasion was not an accidental happening. In some bizarre way, it may be another piece of this new human awakening:



Subject: Letter to Yielbonzie
Date: Tue, Oct. 17, 2000
From: Cbreaux
Message-ID: 200000917233845.19591

Dear Friend:

It came to me during sleep last night.

On Wednesday, August 16th - or during the night of August 17th I suffered an attack that woke me from a sound sleep with the next several hours spent sitting before the toilet vomitting in a kind of semi-conscious state. At some point I got up and made my way to the telephone to call 911 for help. An ambulance came a few minutes later and took me to Kaiser emergency in Richmond. That must have been around 3:00 a.m. I spent the next several hours with extreme stomach pain and a continuing state of not-quite-consciousness.

I remember being wheeled into x-ray where several exposures were taken of my mid-section. The pain continued unabated. It was awful! At around 5:30 I was released to climb into a taxi that had been called by a nurse, after being injected with a strong painkiller of some sort. Taxi brought me home where I climbed into bed and didn't awaken until Friday morning, the 18th, a full 24 hours later.

I'd slept through without stirring for a full day and night, having missed the Gore closing speech before the Democratic Convention. It was this that marked the date for me so clearly.

I rose from bed on Friday feeling perfectly normal. Climbed into my car and drove to my office and then the 90 miles to Sacramento to take a mandatory training session that was on my schedule. Got back home mid-afternoon and gave no further thought to what had occurred. I spoke of it to Gail (my niece) but made no mention of it to my co-workers.

Last night in my sleep I suddenly knew. That image of myself on my bathroom floor, wracked with pain and heaving until dry - the semi-consciousness of those many hours -- that was the mirror image of Rick on his bathroom floor dying of chirrhosis! He died on Wednesday, August 17th. I am as sure of this as I am that I did not. I woke 24 hours later. He did not. He had not been seen for three weeks on September 3rd.
That would have been 3 weeks to the day of my strange malady. It's clear to me that he drew me into his death ... .

I've lived with these inexplicable periods when I seem to be using information that I do not yet have. There is a kind of strange hypersensitivy -- a knowingness. Never has it been more evident than in this instance.

I wondered if he knew that I was there? I didn't know it until it all unfolded in the night -- last night. It's almost as if it couldn't surface until I was capable of receiving it.

I've never tried to document these incidents before. They get lost because they're so hard to live with or to be validated by others. In this case, I did share the events with my niece, Gail. I called her on that Saturday -- when my work week was over and the quiet of the weekend had arrived. I said to her, "...will you be around the house today?" She asked if there was something wrong and if I needed her to come to my place. I said, "no, there is just this strangeness ...". "I just need to know where you are today." I told her then of my trip to the hospital and the rest. I then put it away until it exploded me out of a deep sleep last night.

Today I'll go to Kaiser and get the medical records of that night. I need to know that it was real and that somehow I knew and was with him.

Fondly,

Betty

(Hospital report follows, but not until my fingers settle down and typing is less erratic.)

Photo: Dale Richard Reid (nee Galvin).

The anniversary of the death of my eldest son, ...

Rick, passed with little notice this time -- well almost. He died in August of 2000, and each year at about that time, I experience some gentle vibration ... something just beneath a conscious level ... it's quietly demanding of my attention at around that time ... at least until I notice and release it by so doing. This year it was easier, but the sense of loss never really leaves.

All children gradually move out of the center of one's life into their own, some more than others, and with varying distances between. David moved deeper into his own, with his children now filling all available space -- and that's as it should be. It was surely so with mine. There were periods when they were very young when I rarely even thought of my own parents, except in a distant way. The time of child-rearing is all-consuming, and leaves little room for anyone else, at least for a time.

Bob's choices took him geographically farther away as he approached adulthood, and his own growth as an artist and as a man seems to have required a different lifestyle than the one he'd lived in childhood. He's matured far more like the young people he grew up with, and tends to reflect a large part of my own rarely expressed self, the artist that I managed to hide beneath that purposeful, political, productive woman-self. In many respects, Bobby feels to me like the Betty who ran away from home to join the circus! Though I suspect that he's not been spared the pain and the suffering common to the lives of reflective people, and that he's developed the ability to transform that into his music. I hear it when I hear him sing ... .

Dorian, despite the very best attempts to achieve the best for her, will never really cut away into her own person and life. Her mental deficits make that impossible. She's surely the reason that I'll not ever really be able to climb out of my mother role and back into the woman. It may simply be my imagination, but I always felt that Bill's gift to me was that -- at fifty -- my "woman" replaced the "mother" at least for some years. Dorian was away at St. Vincent's Academy in Santa Barbara during those years, and the boys had moved into their own lives for the most part. That's all changed now. Bill died years ago, and Dorian is back at home, and Betty has regressed back into "Mom."

But it's the losing of a son that I need to talk about. To outlive one's children -- even when its predictable -- is life-altering. Nothing puts one more in touch with her own mortality; even the death of parents. It gives a warning of the randomness of the life process, and breaks faith with the belief that death is sequential, fairly. I recall my father's disbelief upon learning of the death of his dearly-loved younger brother. I can still hear his tormented cry when the call came, "It should have been ME!"

How does one, as an atheist, live through the trauma of such a loss? At least my father had his strong belief in the power of his Catholic faith. I'd honed out a personal spiritual one-of-a-kind seat-of-the-pants belief system that had to stand the test of Rick's death. It did.

But I need to catch my breath ...

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