Ashes Part III, (Melissa’s Funeral)

This is a repost, in part to introduce myself, in part to also find myself back in a place where i am ready to share with strangers again.

This post was originally posted almost 10 years ago,  it is all me,  I have grown in lots of ways and here like nowhere else have I been completely transparent to who I am.  Please be kind!  😑

I will add commentary from the 9 years later perspective!!


Melissa’s Funeral

So….driving home was hazy,  frankly I was just emotionally spent,  the images of my sister’s siezures and hallucinations were replaying over and over,  I suppose somebody who has experience in the medical field could comment about their experiences but for me it was pretty rough rough,  mhhmmm, I remember being struck by the body’s innate struggle to stay alive despite the futility of the effort.

Twenty three hours to go before having to stand up in front of my extended family and all my sister’s massed friends and previous coworkers,  and say something sweet and happy and peaceful to allow everyone to go home feeling warm and fuzzy, but truth was my mouth was full of ashes,  the image of my Mom’s stricken face and my sister’s mouth contorted in a scream as her body was wracked by the siezures were in my eyes everytime I blinked.  I was angry,  and for the first time in my life seriously deeply doubting my belief in a Benevolent Creator,  which up to that point in my life I considered to be my very personal Friend and a God who loved me,  I remember saying out loud as a I drove,  “God,  you better work this out or this is gonna be a train wreck. ”  I meant it to0,  I was over it,  I was so hurt and angry beyond words,  angry at God about my wife,  my life,  my sister,  my mother’s crushed faith and her doubts about her faith..  (4-15-19  So far only 3 times in my life have I felt this way, literally yelling at God,  “you fix it, cause I don’t care!!!!”)

Let me be clear,  the big C is a bitch,  when my sister was first diagnosed the previous Thanksgiving Day,  she came to live with me  for a couple months (she eventually went to live at her boyfriends condo) and my parents moved in also to help with the whole process  of taking care of her during her treatments and various surgeries,  you get acquainted with things you never think about in normal life.  Some of the chemo treatments are gentle and some are like pumping liquid fire into your veins.  One of the things I did for my sister was help her with her port.  A port is a entry point that the doctors use to pump in the chemo,  but at home it was also were we administered her IV vitamins and pain medications.  On the off nights for my parents I would clean her ports and do her vitamins.  Let me say a patient’s port is like holding their very life in your hands,  cleaning my sister’s port was like one of the most intimate acts a person can have with another  the only thing I can compare cleaning my sister’s port is to watching a priest prepare the sacrements before communion ….my first time giving her her vitamins my hands shook.  It didn’t help that Melissa was criticizing my actions either but I did the job exactly as I was taught.  But one night when I was giving her fresh bag and medicine my sister started screaming bloody murder,  she said I had put air into her port,  (which an air bubble can cause an embolism in the brain or lung)  and she totally lost it, she was screaming that I was killing her,  I was convinced that I had done it right,  but deep inside I was terrified that I had truly put air into her port and she wasn’t just freaking out,  she was pulling and tearing and I had to push the rest of the stuff   (once you start an injection you have to finish it!) in that damn port,  it was just me and her in the house,  I grabbed her arms and pulled her into me with a bear hug to prevent her from ripping her port out and she was screaming and I was yelling and then she was sobbing and so was I,  we held on to each other, both convinced that I had just killed her and she had seconds or mintutes left to live.  My sister was screaming “You killed me!  Your fucking killing me! I am dying!! Call mom call her fucking now” and I was yelling at her to just shut up it was fine, “Shut up!  Shut up!  Shut the fuck up!!”   It was horrible…  a moment passed and another moment passed and her breathing slowed and my heart began to slow also. She said she was sorry and I was sorrier than her…  You cannot imagine the deep down fear thinking you screwed up and had done something wrong…I remember trying to be nonchalant about it…….WTF God!?!  Where was God in this?  Where was the good in this?  God I despise cancer,  in physics the laws of thermodynamics states that all matter goes from a state of order to disorder, I have always believed that cancer is a curse on us from the original curse that this whole place is decaying around us…Cancer is the original disorder, the ultimate depiction of chaos in the body.

So here I was with all these thoughts, images, moments from the previous 11 months and I was supposed to get up and say something good and frankly I had nothing good to say.  I was empty…What the hell was my sister doing to me, it was like some kind of joke of hers to have me get up there and speak. I remember asking my mom how could Melissa expect me to do that,  and my Mom said,  the Melissa believed that nobody could do it better….as for me I was seriously doubting and didn’t have long to come up with something to say.

That night I was flipping through my bible trying to find inspiration and I came across the story of Lazurus and it caught me.

If your not familiar,  Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha,  and they loved Jesus and apparantly had a very personal relationship with Jesus,  it was this Mary that poured her perfume on Jesus feet.  It was known that Jesus personally knew and LOVED Lazarus.  Well your probably familiar,  Lazarus got sick and the two sisters knowing that Jesus could heal him sent for him knowing that Jesus would come and heal him.

When Jesus heard the news of Lazarus being sick he didn’t leave to go to Lazarus,  in fact He didn’t do anything, he stayed where He  was, though he did take the time to tell his followers that Lazarus wouldn’t die and in fact would glorify God.  Lazarus died…(4-15-19  Not sure this paragraph reads the way I read it, that is to say…WTF God!  you let me down!)

I was like whoah!  God,  you just said he wasn’t gonna die?!  He’s dead!  He’s fucking dead!!

If I was Mary I would be broken,  angry…

(back to the story>>>>>>>>>>>)

So at some point Jesus heads to see Mary and Martha, Jesus even knew that Lazarus was dead he made a comment to that  effect to his disciples.  When they approached the town maybe two miles out Martha meets Jesus and his disciples the story tells us that Mary stayed home,  Mary loved Jesus,  she was the emotional one, she was the one who loved with her heart she was one who worshipped Jesus by pouring her oil out on him,  I can imagine she was broken, angry.  Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days

Martha though,  she comes right out and just says it “Lord,  IF you had been here my brother would not have died” she continues with “even now I know whatever you ask God, God will give you”

She saying in her Martha way “Why the hell weren’t you here,  you blew it Jesus,  but I think you can fix it, so get busy”

But Mary when she finally sees Jesus,  she isn’t so hopeful,  she just calls it “IF you had been here,  my brother wouldn’t be dead”

She nails it,  in that one word “IF”  ….I could relate to her grief,  Where the hell were you God?!  I can picture all the pain,  the doubt, the love that seemed so empty….Ashes..bitterness…betrayal…

Where the hell was God in this?  Where the fuck where you the last 11 months?!  Can’t you see my mother?  My father?  Where were you in my marriage?  I gave 4 years to those kids at the church and my wife was screwing around?  Is this some kind of fucking joke? Ashes…buckets of ashes,  Mount St. Helen ashes,  my life was grey from ashes..

I was Mary,  I was mad, and broken and empty,  oh so fucking empty….I had put everything into God and where was he when I needed him..

There is an Aramaic word, Raca,  it was a kind of harsh word commonly used as an insult,  it means empty,  but not just empty but void,  a vacuum. Raca!  Raca!  Raca!  my faith? Raca!  Mary!  Oh Mary!  did I know how you felt…

It says that Jesus groaned in his spirit when he heard Mary say that and saw her weeping,  it says that Jesus wept too,

Well you know the story,…. Lazarus was raised,  everyone threw a party yay and all that…

But what strikes me was the gap of time between Lazarus dying and Lazarus being raised from the dead,  its the gap, the gap that we have to live through…I was in the gap,  I was in the space between seeing my sister die and the good that was going to come.

The gap when everything you believe and know to be true is contradicted by what you are experiencing,  the gap when all the goodness you believe is belayed by the bitter experiences of this life… I was in the gap between the horrible dashing of my beliefs and the final resolution of a resurrection moment….

SELAH!!  (it means Pause!)  I add this after many years of reflection!  the following paragraph is the moment of understanding! 4-15-19

Peace washed over me like a river..I was in my Mary moment,  I was in the gap and I just had to hold on and wait for the coming good, when and where I could not say but I was and am convinced that God showed me that story to help me get on with my life,  it was at the very moment the verse from Isaiah floated to my consciousness “Beauty for Ashes,  the oil of joy for mourning”  God whispered to me that promise and I stood on it.  The constructs of my life,  my castles of sand, had been dissolved by the maelstorm around me and I was left standing alone on a rock that wasn’t moving.  The wreck of my marriage,  the death of my sister and all the pain that preceded it was my time in the gap.

That next morning I got up in front of my sister’s friends and family and I shared this story of Mary and I remember looking at my Mom right in front of me and I saw the horrible “why” drain off her face,  and while I wasn’t through my “Gap”  I had the newfound strength to approach my life with certainty and confidence in the fact that God was in fact still around……

For my Mom it was harder,  she was still haunted by the lingering thoughts,  little things bugged her,  my sister wanted my mom to take her life insurance money and take all of her girlfriends to the beach for a long weekend and just party,  and my mom wanted to scatter some (half) of my sister’s ashes on the beach and she reached in grabbed a double handful and flung them skyward and …oh .. it would be so…beautiful..except nobody told my mom about the bone fragments and the bone fragments rained down and the seagulls came and it was a singularly unspectacular moment.  I swear Satan laughed out loud looking at my mom’s face….she was crushed..

I wasn’t though,  “beauty for ashes…..”  I was waiting for my beauty…fuckin seagulls be damned, I knew it was coming…

(4-15-19-  I’m still waiting for my Beauty for Ashes, but I believe and hope that I’m getting ashes are farther away and I can look back now with kindness and joy…)




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April 16, 2019

That was a lot to go through. And I think you may be right about cancer being the original decay caused by sin. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer on April 14, 2004. At the time I thought that my cancer was harder on those around me than it was for me. But when I was in the consultation room at St. Joe’s having the doctor tell me about my grim prognosis my only thought was either way I win. If I die from this disease I go home to heaven, And if I don’t I stay and raise my daughter. But my family and friends and even my coworkers at the time had to watch helplessly as I went through treatment. I constantly saw their fear and revulsion. The beauty is still waiting. Don’t give up on the promise.

April 17, 2019


Emilia thank you for the comment,  I too am now a cancer survivor,  cancer is awful all the way around but especially for providers who care for others…the uncertainty is brutal, my 8-10 weeks of the diagnosis and surgery and other stuff was the singularly most solitary weeks of my life…I admire your outlook,  I was only thinking of not having enough time to get my family ready for my departure…

I am kinda new on the platform but would like to add you as a friend!  I will poke around this weekend to try and figure that out!

April 18, 2019

That entry made me cry. I am sorry for your loss. Your words have weight.