Huntress of the Lens


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cells, or interconnecting webs of energy

My dog Jack Bennett came to me in a dream last night. He's been gone for a couple of years now. I was alone with him when he passed, took his last breath in my arms while I was petting his face and telling him what a good dog he'd been, how he could go now ; let go of his wasting body that was shutting down in every way. He took a last breath, arched his back and went stiff, then relaxed and the air went out of him. The spark that made him Jack Bennett was gone. He hasn't visited me in dreams really, since he moved on, maybe dogs don't cling to people and this phase as much as people do, and the first darting thing or interesting smell on their new level sets them running without looking back. I visited with him last night though, in his oldest and most wasted state. He came to me to show me death and dying, and once again it was a process I couldn't stop. I cried in my dream, and woke with tears on my face.

I don't know if I clung to that spark that was my Grandmother, or if she stayed attached to me, but she visited me in both sleep and aware for years until one or both of us was ready to let go. I don't see her as often any more, and I think she's become my dream symbol for certain things rather than an actual visitor. When God speaks to me it's usually in her voice, because it's one I easily recognize and understand and will always listen to.

I got a letter from a woman who lost her baby before it was born. Lived with him still in her womb for three days after the doctors had told her that he hadn't survived the accident. She wants to meet with me to have me tattoo his footprints. She emailed me and touched my life, and made her story more than an article from a newspaper.

The hardest days | Napa Valley Register

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I went to bed without really processing the event, just talking about it as a tattoo appointment for Dominick's footprints, wrote her a meager offering of condolence, because how can mere words even begin to touch this? Maybe I've been digesting this story as I slept and Jack Bennett came to me as death in a way I could understand and connect with, so my own grief could kick in and I would get the blessing and curse of my empathy in full.

I was written up once, while working in a special education class as a Sign Language interpreter for our Deaf students. "Laura's empathy level is too high, and interferes with the daily performance of her duties." Hmm. I had a hard time seeing that as a black check mark on my record, but then I've always seen through a different set of eyes. At the time I decided to just own that statement about me, and not feel bad at all.

My dear friend just lost his dad, after some heart attacks and the gradual slide from a heart that functioned to one that failed. They got him home just in time to start his journey from there, and he passed among his own surroundings and people. It was no surprise, everyone knew he was going, and had their chances to hold him and love him and say what they needed to say, and watch the blue creep gradually into his complexion day by day. As deaths go, it was the kind I would choose, I think, if that choice were available to any but the suicidal. But still.

Michael got an up close and personal look at the possibility of his mother's passing, time to consider it as a possibility although she said "NO" to that invitation, and came through her experience with an unshakeable intention. I think just the other day when my vitals were slowly dropping that I was coming up to a doorway that I may have slipped through if Michael hadn't taken me by the hand and yanked me to a hospital and back into my life that I love.

So many people are giving birth, which is walking through a doorway at one end of life's hall. This we celebrate and call "good." Always there is someone passing through the door at the other end, people I know or know of, people I have never known. The hallway that is conscious life is long or short, winding or straight, and in cases like Dominick's it's just one door that goes from here to there without a breath in between. The Universe pops the most unlikely and unexpected cast of characters into the one hallway that is mine, sometimes they intersect, sometimes they merge for a while or quite a distance. Each person though, has their own two doors which they walk through alone no matter the company we keep along the way.

Lots of days it's just me, me, ME walking along, and I think my experience of life is a singular thing. There are moments though, when the camera angle changes and rises straight up to look down and I can see it as an endless maze of criss-crossing hallways, and they are all part of the same thing. We're all walking together even though the dividing walls give the illusion of separateness, and I become just one of all, like a cell in a bloodstream. These moments can be euphoric, they can sometimes contain or connect with the pain or confusion that the whole system occasionally shares. Simultaneously suffused with all of the Joy, or all of the pain I lose my own personal boundaries and the loss of my sense of self is like vertigo at the edge of a cliff. I am much more comfortable being one human in one skin, I can comprehend that, at least a little.

This morning I'm having tears, for feelings that are not mine, and yet being ours the are mine. I long to zoom back in and be only me again, even as I've sought to zoom out to find understanding. Being one human is a challenge, a blessing, a limiting experience and something I ponder while I travel my own hallway. The precipice over endless space is enormous, and the question of falling or flight takes my breath away. Some time, somewhere there will be a door on the edge of that cliff, and I will either reluctantly step through it, or get a running start and leap. I won't know till that happens, and I won't have an answer to my fall or flight question until I do. All of this is too large for my one morning mind to absorb, and for the moment I'm just having some tears. I really need to talk to Andrew about this, he is the one person who will immediately get it without a need to explain the visual imagery that is the way I think.


  1. Kerrie RutherfordJuly 28, 2009 at 9:12 AM

    I have so many experiences with death. All that were difficult, but some that were beautiful. I would love to share my moments with you sometime. As, at this moment, I just don't want to stir up the feelings that I have around loss, so I don't want to write them. It is not the easiest circumstance for me to go through. Special people/pets are the one thing I find hardest to let go of. I don't want to experience loss, I don't want to say good bye forever. I don't not want to ever see the wonderful faces in person. How selfish of me, isn't it. Love your writing this morning and always. You have me thinking of others, and that is a great thing. Thank you

  2. I'll write about it for you until you're ready. I can't say how much it does for me though, even when it's not fun or comfortable. It's like I watch myself appear in little black letters that march, ant-like across the screen, then I get a chance for a different view of who I am.

  3. Oh, and even though I have said it in different places, this tattoo was done by my dear friend Jim Valavanis who works with me at Flying Colors Tattoo. It's on my left elbow, and he really captured the essence of Jack Bennett in his old-man gray-muzzle part of his life. I love this tattoo and I love Jim. He did my lobster/magnet as well, and if you like what you see I urge you to book an appointment and wear some of his work yourself, he's amazing!


The fish can fly, the dogs and cats dance together and all the flowers are edible.