When a terrible disease ravages someone you love, the mourning process begins long before they finally pass on. Kübler-Ross (1969), in her study on death and dying, described five stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But Kübler-Ross was initially focusing on those who were dying, and not so much on those who were dealing with personal loss of any great significance, which she later came to recognize.

These stages are not linear, either, and can occur in any order, if at all. Women tend to experience all five stages more than men. They can be cyclical, too, with two or more occurring in an almost extreme emotional roller coaster. For both the dying and the loved one, getting to the point of acceptance does not always happen at the same time. The dying often reaches the stage of acceptance before their loved ones. But if and when both reach the point of acceptance, where communication and reflection can be experienced, a more dignified death can be found.

I’d add a couple of additional stages, or at least notable elements, to the stages of pre (and post) grieving. That includes fighting to maintain control of the details in their lives. The opposite is the disruptive feeling of vulnerability when control is lost which can lead to related stages of despair and anger.

Another related stage involves trying to make order in one’s life. Especially when the world around you seems to be in chaos, small efforts to create order can take on an outsized importance. Cleaning out cupboards, putting away old records, sorting through old photos, are just a few example of how the person facing loss may attempt to build a sense of order in a life that seems otherwise out of control.

Recently, I heard this statement made by someone who is facing the inevitable loss of his longtime spouse who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve paraphrased it per my own cloudy memory.

I feel like I’m in a carnival outhouse sitting out in a field, and the circus is packing up to leave without me.

While he didn’t elaborate, he was trying to express his feelings regarding the situation he found himself in now. I’ve been thinking about this and cannot help but connect it to my own experiences and ruminations.

First and foremost, there is the overwhelming feeling of vulnerability, of literally having your pants down in a crisis, or a formidable change that is going on around you. You’re stuck. It is hard to move forward without first finishing the primary business at hand. Panic sets in and it is hard to make decisions. Yet you’re also worried about being left behind, and by the act of moving to a new location – mentally, emotionally, and physically – and the unknown that comes with that. But even more so, it is a fear of being left behind by the ominously fast progression of a disease that robs you of the one you love, again mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The carnival/circus represents fetes of apparent magic, gravity-defying acts, seemingly impossible, often nonsensical, frightening in their dangerous distortions of human entertainment, and the funhouse mirrors that twist and distort our vision of reality.

The world around you no longer makes sense and you feel vulnerable, scared, afraid of being left behind, fearing for your loved one and a future you cannot envision without them. It literally scares the shit out of you… And yet you know you have to keep moving to survive. Because that’s your role here.

Of course, the circus could also represent your loved one, the person who was the highlight of your life, with which you shared the literal stage of life, it’s bright lights, music, the comedy and drama of a life fully shared. Either way, it all seems so unfair.

Anger rushes forward. Anger at what fate has thrown you, your loved one, the cruelty of the disease. There is no preferred or better way to die of a disease. Cancer kills the body slowly while eating away at the person. Alzheimers eats away the person while leaving the body to deteriorate at a slower rate, until the parts of the brain that operate the body begin to lose their synaptic connections.

Either way, these diseases are cruel – to the loved one who suffers them, and to the lover who must endure the pain of watching, of frustrating efforts to try and overcome the diseases’ manifestations, the cruel teases of normalcy and strength that suddenly appear and then, as a wisp in the winds, they disappear to the mists that hid the light in their eyes.

Whether you want to or not, you are, and will be… the survivor. The one who will carry the stories forward until they can be shared fully with a new generation. You will be needed by others who will benefit from your wisdom, humor, insights borne of long experience. The fates have determined that your place is here…in this world…where you are still needed.

The journey along side the dying of a loved one is dark and painful. But it also has its moments to be cherished. The fleeting glimpse of a smile, a flash of humor, the small gestures that show you are still connected to this loved one. You have been chosen for the honor of being beside them on this journey to the end of this life. You, however, will stay behind, their partner only until the gates of passage open to the other side. Until death do you part.

It sucks. It hurts so badly, the pain is physical, palpable. Breath… breath… You are still alive. And they will always be with you, and waiting on the other side to greet you when your turn comes, naturally, when the fates determine it to be so. In the meantime, treasure each moment with your loved one as a gift. Soon enough, there will be only memories that you will hold onto tightly, then share with others when the right time comes.

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Photo: Family Christmas 1989, our first as a foursome after our youngest daughter was born. She recently graduated from university in April 2012.

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Adaptation Fight or Flight

A fellow who worked for the Peace Corp in the South Pacific office in Fiji once told me that they had done studies that showed a volunteer would have their toughest time at about the four-month mark. It was at that stage in their adaptation to their new situation in a foreign place where they were truly reaching the depths of homesickness. The strongest would endure, powering through it in spite of their emotional turmoil, forever changed by their new lives outside of their full control. While the weaker ones would give up and return home, soaking in their traumatized perceptions, refusing to accept life that isn’t fully predictable.

So here I find myself in a parallel space. That four month mark since Keith’s death where I am reaching that first major turning point in my adaptation to life without him. In thinking about this, I was struck by another parallel from our past. It was on September 1st, 1991 that Keith and I arrived with two very young daughters in Fiji. And it was in December 1991 where I found us on that pivotal moment where I would either run back to the states in tears and frustration, or tough it out and find a way to adapt. Back then, in Fiji, the holidays were an amusing attempt to create normalcy on the other side of the looking glass. In the end, we stayed six years, choosing to adapt, and even thrive. But it wasn’t easy.

And I find it just a little too synchronistic that Keith would die on September 1st, 2012, 21 years later. Five years before our arrival in Fiji, our first daughter was born two weeks late. She was due on September 1st but chose to wait a couple of weeks longer in the womb. Apparently an Emerson Lake & Palmer concert was finally enough to coax her out.

It’s funny (not haha funny) that I am only thinking of this now, that September 1st would be such a day of note in our family history. But then again, I was always amused by numbers and patterns. To this day (for at least the last decade or more), I find myself looking at a clock at just the moment where it reads 9:11. It’s almost as if life is not in balance if I do not see this time upon my glance at the clock. So when the World Trade Center was struck on 9/11/01, the date more than seemed significant. When Keith died, it was 9/01/12. Another dear friend and mentor died on 01/09/10, bit since he was overseas, it would have been written 09/01/10. So maybe there’s a pattern. Or maybe I just like playing with numbers. No meanings inferred here. It’s just interesting.

Now here we are on 12/21/12, or even as 12/21/2012.. Interesting rhythm to it. Not quite a palindrome, but a nice pattern nonetheless. Some believe it is the end of the world on the Mayan calendar. But anthropologists say it is what the Mayans say is the end of an “era”, a 13-round cycle of 52 years each.

For me, it is just another day. But the end of an era is already here for me. I feel it in my body, physically aching each night as I fight sleep. Days are long, but nights are longer still. Each night, after keeping myself busy with work, school, laundry, family, etc., I come to bed and Keith looks back at me from his photographic perch. In one picture he can look almost stern, mocking my lack of attention to him and my heart sinks. Reality hits me again, like a repeating torturous blow. I kiss my finger and place it on his lips on the photo. “I miss you,” I whisper as I sigh deeply with watery eyes before turning away.

And then I face the truth. No, he’s not coming back. No, he’s not out of town. No, he’s not going to walk into the room. No, you will never hold him again while you curl up in this bed.

It hurts.

And as another holiday looms, I know that when I come back from our annual service at the soup kitchen where we’ve been cheerfully taking photos of children on Santa’s lap on Christmas Day for 8 years, my home will be quiet except for the two dogs curled up asleep. Keith will not be sitting there with them asking how the event went. He will not be there, ready to open a few presents with the kids, or sit down with us for a meal of whatever we’ve decided to experiment with that year.

I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. And what’s worse… there’s not a damned thing I can do to change it. So, unlike the homesick peace corp volunteer who still has the option of running back to the familiar, I’m going to have to push through it until I get to the other side of this holiday.

Grief sucks.

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The woodworking shop(s)

My husband was a woodworker. And a very talented one at that. I’m beginning to realize that more and more. I guess I took it for granted that others were as meticulous as he when it came to work they were hired to do. Granted he had his off days. But he knew it and more than once he would take a mistake and toss it out starting over again when something didn’t come out exactly as he wanted it to.

And, like any talented and meticulous woodworker, he had his tools… LOTS of them, admired by others for the over all completeness of his shop. What makes my role harder as his widow, however, is that not only have I inherited HIS very modern shop. But I also have the project of dealing with the shop and lifetime of items left behind by another woodworker, Mr. Maurice Reid, at Perry Road, the property Keith and I had purchased a year before Keith’s death. Mr. Reid left behind more than 100 years of accumulated tools, supplies, and various pieces-parts of furniture, etc. There were also albums, notes, letters, assorted artifacts going back to the mid-1800s left behind in the 1840s era farmhouse on the property. Fortunately, Keith and I had already gone through much of that, with arrangements made to donate these to a university museum. But the 4000-sq-ft workshop was still chock full of vintage machinery, tools, and supplies.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have begun to sell some items, if only to make way for the art studio that Keith wanted me to arrange for the girls and myself. I even wrote about the first round of sales in a previous post where it felt like a very positive experience.

But the more recent effort left me emotionally drained. And after they left, I went to my bed and cried. It didn’t feel right this time. And so, after talking to my daughters, I’ve decided to hold off with any future sales. Both shops are closed to any sales now, especially the kind where people wonder through as if at a garage sale in search of unrecognized treasures.

Frankly, it was one thing to see people going through stuff at Perry Road where Keith had only begun to play with the big giant vintage machines to make them his own. But it was quite another to see people I didn’t know touching and talking about equipment in the shop here at home. It was just too painful seeing them playing with knobs, etc. on Keith’s machinery, commenting here and there about it’s failings. I know there was no disrespect intended. And under other circumstances, I probably would have been just fine about it, maybe would have even cracked a joke about it.

But this time, as I watched and overheard their murmurings, it took every bit of strength I could muster not to break down in front of them. In the end, after thinking about it for a couple of days, I cancelled the sale of the last two items that would have been picked up in January. I couldn’t go through with it. And the girls convinced me that it was okay to just leave things where they were, even saying that they wanted to use these machines themselves.

This last part amazes me. For I often forget how much time Keith had with them working in the shop. They’re much more knowledgeable than I am about the operation of some of these tools. That’s a beautiful gift that Keith gave them… the confidence to handle these tools and make things with their hands.

Such are the precious gifts of memories and meaning that are the comfort I seek to get me through this holiday season.

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Above: Thanksgiving 2011, what was to be our last one with Keith (deep frying the turkey). We deep fried a turkey this year, our best one yet, in Keith’s honor. Missed him terribly. But celebrated our family, too. He’ll always be a part of our lives, for which I am forever grateful.
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During this holiday season, it is too easy to fall into despair and self-pity. Missing Keith brings me to tears, crying myself to sleep at night. But I have much to be thankful for in spite of our loss.

Unfairness in life is all around us. It’s what we call it when we are frustrated, angry, despairing over what life has thrown at us. How unfair is it that Keith’s life was cut so short? How unfair is it that I would spend this holiday knowing I will never have another holiday with him, or to hear his laughter, feel his embrace? My best friend, husband, loving father… How unfair is it that I spend each night alone?

Do you see how easy it is to fall into self pity? Yes, there are times when I indulge in it. There are times when I cannot fight the ache in my heart and therefore feel the overwhelming pressure of the waters that must flood their banks in the form of tears and wails.

But unfairness, or to wallow in the notion of its cruel facade, is to neglect the true beauty that life has gifted me. I had 34 years with Keith, a life that had its ups and downs, yes. But it was also a time of great beauty, when we grew up, grew as humans, artists, responsible and caring people. We shared our life together and supported each other, experiencing the world, raising two beautiful, intelligent daughters. Saw each through college, and walked one down the aisle. Yes, we experienced a lifetime of love and joy and wonder together.

Each day, each week, or year, we may experience what can be described as unfairness. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is heartbreaking. And yes, there is the feeling of incredible loss and pain, seeing something or someone you care about slip beyond your reach. Feeling the sting of an unfair act, or unfair words.

I could choose to measure life’s unfairness each day, tallying it up like a scorecard each week, letting it tighten its grip on my life with each passing month. But then I would be denying myself something far more important. I would be denying myself the ability to treasure the life that I have had in the past, or the one I wake to each day. If I counted up the daily unfairness tally, I might spend all my time counting. I would deny myself the joy and gratitude for the gifts I have been given. The stories of our lives that we’ve shared, and the future stories yet unwritten.

Yes, there are times when life seems so unfair. But I can’t bring myself to deny the life I will build upon the foundation of a beautiful life I had with Keith.

So, here’s to being thankful for my life with Keith. And to the future, watching my children build their lives, and being part of that. Here’s to whatever life will throw at me. I will not tally the unfairness of Keith’s passing. His life and our life was full and wonderful. With tinges of occasional sadness and cheeks yet slick with occasional tears, this first Thanksgiving and holiday season without him, I choose to remember him with a loving gratitude.

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Below: This is the photo I mentioned earlier this week, taken at the Beachouse in Fiji in 2001. Love that sly grin that also said “you did it to me again, stuck me in the middle of all these Mott students.” He’d complain in a good natured “grumpy old man” sort of way. But he always had a good time anyway.

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Sometimes angels come when you really need them. They’re not always in the form you might expect, nor does their form always remain constant. Yet I have seen them recently, a brilliant smile that says I’m here if you need me, a flash of hope for young futures full of promise. The shedding of unplanned tears when a damn bursts, complete and generous patience from a stranger – now new friend – who feels your pain.

There were joyful noises emerging from the workshop this weekend at Perry Road. They were not without a few tears of grief. But the spirit of Keith was so strong it was like he was in the room, providing pointers, guidance, and not least a bit of wise-ass humor. While two of Keith’s closest woodturning buddies took on the task of dismantling the giant 1870s-era band saw, a crescent moon hung over the sky as the sun set deep on the horizon. The cheshire grin hung brightly over the shop and the hillside, reflecting off the ponds below. It seemed that silly grin shining through the bare trees, witnessed the laughter and goodnatured ribbing going on inside as the guys tried to break down the 2000 lb machine into smaller less dangerous pieces.

Yet every now and then, as it seemed like they were about to push the limits of safety, and shorten their AARP memberships, it felt like there was a virtual tap on my shoulder and I would feel compelled to suggest a safer approach. Maybe take off the 20 ft blade? How about removing the 2 giant wheels? Yes, that 8-blade dado attached to the same massive motor probably could come off, too. Piece by piece, the beast was carefully disassembled and its parts laid out where they could be recovered again for the trip to Tawas.

All the while that this was going on, there seemed to be energetic angels in the form of two of my students who had cheerfully volunteered to assist in this endeavor. One young lady, one young man, they each drew from a fountain of youthful strength and goodnatured attitudes that kept up with the joyful noises emerging from around the workshop. Loading all of the woodturning lumber into the 14-ft U-Haul, this was a thankless task as the lumber was in odd shaped chunks that only nature could endure. And every now and then, but especially at the end, they would stop and help with the big cast iron beast that the old guys were trying to move.

It wasn’t easy. But it took all four of them to finally manage to move the giant iron horse-shoe that was left after the rest of the pieces were removed, and shimmy it over to the tailgate of the U-Haul before tipping it into the truck. Before long, it was wedged in tight and packed around with all the lumber, ready to make its trip up north for refurbishing and reassembly. We all sighed in collective relief and shared a few more laughs as I reinforced that it could not be returned and all pieces attached to that beast must go with it!

The week had not been so good up until then. I’m not entirely sure I can put my finger on it. But it began early in the week. Maybe the fact that it was the week before Thanksgiving, a holiday that Keith always seemed to look forward to, getting the chance to show off how he could deep fry a turkey. That was a somewhat new tradition from only the past few years. But it had worked out so I could have the oven for other things, and it tasted good, too! But this year obviously things would be different.

Maybe it was my suffering lack of sleep. I haven’t yet found a way to get to sleep much before 2 am, and in the last few weeks, it has slipped to 3 or even 4 am at which point I know my day will be less than productive.

Or, maybe it was the combination of dealing with the mid-term stresses of students, or being reminded of how fragile life is by the absence of another student due to her mom’s brain cancer. Or, dealing with the banks on matters related to Keith’s accounts. Or reminiscing during a meeting with one of Keith’s best clients, an interior designer who came to the house upon my request to talk about remodeling bathrooms and the kitchen so that I could enjoy them, but also be ready if I ever want to sell the house. Or even the unnerving apprehension about the visit by Keith’s woodturning buddies. This was to be the first real sale of any of Keith’s personal effects and at one point I almost chickened out before they had even arrived. I wasn’t sure I’d be ready to deal with it, or them.

As it turns out, they were as nervous as I was. So was the interior designer. It seems that they were all mourning, too, and to come here, to Keith’s house, or Keith’s shop was hard for them, too. More than once, I could hear the crack of an unsteady voice that wasn’t mine, or see the reflection of tears barely being held back. It was comforting, in a way, to know that I shared Keith with so many others who cared for him very deeply. And here they were, moving through their own pain, to revisit these memories, and be so supportive at the same time.

Thursday I called in sick. I could feel the jitters of nerves too close to the surface. So I tried to rest and regroup. By early afternoon I finally ventured out to visit a church turned into an Art Gallery. How ironic? But as I sat there and attempted to start talking to the artist about my ideas for a memorial piece for Keith, I suddenly couldn’t speak and instead broke down crying. Here was a complete stranger and she was so very sweet and genuine in her support.

Once I recovered, we went on to talk about my ideas and also how Keith had always admired what she’d done to the building he once wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford at the time. While Perry Road was truly the dream shop for him, he had often driven by this church on the hill and expressed how if it ever came up for sale, it would make a great gallery. Sure enough, it did. The artist sitting across from me said that now she felt the pressure to do well by the project more than ever knowing how Keith had admired and even envied her having that building. She’d done a beautiful job renovating it and it felt very much like a beautiful and spiritual homage to creative work. Keith would have approved.

So when I woke up this morning after yet another late night, I no longer felt as stressed as I’d been all week. The woodturning lumber and giant bandsaw were on their way to Tawas, the memorial art piece was well-planned, some designs for the Jerome Lane house have been measured for, and even Sweet Pea, my Russian Wolfhound, has a new hairdo after being completely shaved of her matted and neglected fur, and groomed to a new sleeker look. I did a full set of yoga this morning and pursued getting work done for my doctoral class and later writing a lecture on Fiji Art for an Art Survey course I was subbing for Monday. By mid-day, I thought it best if I stopped to plan and then shop for Thanksgiving.

It was a productive day in spite of the fact that I write this after 3 am. The new normal is becoming fixed.

I still talk to Keith. There’s a new photo I printed where I’d cropped out the rest of the scene on the Beachouse cafe’s deck, where he was sitting looking back at the camera over his shoulder, a bit of a smirk on his face. He’s looking straight at the camera and I cannot help but think that he is still there… on the other side… ready to send new angels when I need them most.

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The photo above shows the gang moving the 1870s-era band saw, stripped down to its last 1000 lbs of cast iron. A crescent moon hangs in the branches of the trees, smiling its cheshire grin, as if Keith was adding his own smile of approval to the joyful noises that emerged from the hillside workshop.

20121109-042017.jpgPhoto above: Etched into freshly poured concrete at the Perry Rd project – “In memory of Keith E. Fulmer, 9/1/12, The Dream lives on in us.”

Time marches on and I find the days go well as long as I keep busy. The election this week set me off on a cycle of late nights once again, and sleep eludes me until I can no longer hold my eyelids open. But, while I await the sandman’s arrival, I see Keith’s smile in the photo across from me, a little smirk that made dimples in his cheeks, a twinkle in his eyes that spoke a bit of mischief, a challenge. Of course these were mostly photos taken by others. For when I was the photographer, Keith would often challenge me with a bit more rebellion, and sometimes a crude gesture, all in fun. Or, I would have to work a bit harder to capture those moments when he had his guard down, was a bit more contemplative, unaffected by the camera. It made my role as family photographer a little more challenging, working around the self-consciousness that was sometimes awkwardly expressed.

My role as photographer shifted a little when we traveled, even more so when I traveled alone. As much as Keith traveled in the South Pacific – living in Fiji, working on the dive boat, or flying to Tonga or Vanuatu – he was still much more of a homebody. When we moved back stateside to Michigan, he would be willing to drive long distances, though often complained of pain in his shoulders from doing so. But as weird as it may sound from a guy who had his pilot’s license, he hated flying commercially. Can’t say as I blamed him. If I could avoid it, I would. But I had yet to find a way to beam myself to a conference destination. More than a few times Keith and the kids would join me when I went to a conference, or we would join Keith for one of his symposium destinations. It was great fun, though a little stressful at times. And I admit a little envy for having to miss out on the family fun while I sat inside at a conference event. Still, we managed to work in some quality time together when we drove to these places, using it as an opportunity to “see America”.

But during the times when either of us would travel alone, we would always come back with pictures to share with the other. In my case, I was fairly prolific looking at these photos as an opportunity to add to my photo library of memories and resources for future art projects.

When Keith’s diagnosis was nearly confirmed in early June this year, we sat down on the big leather sofa in the living room and, page by page, photo by photo, we revisited our lives together. It was during those early reminiscences that Keith expressed for the first time his thoughts about his life. The odds were not good, he knew that. Yet he was not giving up. But he was coming to terms with the reality of his foreshortened future.

So, as he looked back through those albums filled with the iconic images that defined our lives, I heard him say it. “I have no regrets. I have no regrets for how I have lived my life.” That didn’t negate that he was deeply saddened, depressed, or even angry at times about this turn of events. But it became the anthem upon which the rest of the family would rally. No regrets. Seqa ni rarawa.

We had often talked about certain travels we wanted to do together. St. Petersburg, Russia was one of those places we had agreed would be a place we wanted to see. When the possibility came about, and an invitation for a Fulbright to Ekaterinburg, Russia came in September 2011, my mouth dropped. Here was our chance to do this. But it soon became clear that there would be too many obstacles to overcome to have us both travel at this time. Keith’s work making custom furniture was growing, and he had several shows the following May (2012) and too many other things to prepare for. Besides, spending three weeks in Ekaterinburg while I was teaching, before heading to St. Petersburg, just seemed too daunting for Keith to overcome. So the plan evolved to where I would go alone, become acquainted with travel in Russia, even visit St. Petersburg on my own, and then in the future, we would go back there together.

I never made it to St. Petersburg, canceling that part of the trip when Keith’s illness turned into something more ominous than the flu we thought he couldn’t shake. But this summer I continued to take photos often to share with Keith the progress on Perry Road, or to show him something I needed to ask him about, or a special moment that I wanted to share with him. The photos continued to be part of the archive of our lives together.

But as the summer faded, and the progression of Keith’s cancer moved relentlessly towards its ultimate end, I began to question myself. Eleven days before Keith passed away, I contemplated this issue in my diary.

Diary Question….
8/21/12, 4:47 am

Who will the photos be for now?

Over the years, when Keith was unable (or unwilling) to travel, especially if the flights were long, I would take many photos to share with him. Before, they were film-based and thus I would get them hurriedly developed and printed upon my return. More recently, I used a blog and photos – with their basic descriptions – uploaded for him to see almost in real time.

I wonder, though, how much energy he had to look when I kept a blog up with photos on my recent Fulbright to Russia.

Now I wonder as I travel … who are the photos really for? My guess….the child yet unborn.

Why do I continue to take photos of the Perry Road project’s progress? Is it just to document a process of renovation?

Who are they for? Are they to fulfill some personal need to continue to chronicle what was begun before Keith died?

Do I continue to photograph it and the nature around it out of some sort of habit I cannot break?

That is what led me to write that question in my diary. Who are the photos for? What purpose do they serve?

I contemplate some potential answers…

Icons of life, artifacts of an experience, an effort to freeze time, or hold a moment completely still for perpetuity. Do they sadden me when I see them? Sometimes. For when I look at them, I can feel myself being transported to that moment, or an illusive memory of that moment in time, seen from the context of decades past.

They are the stories that should continue to be told to the next generation. They are part of my personal history, my own story, Keith’s stories. They speak volumes, without the details of a formal narrative. And since Keith is not here to tell his stories, then they will have to speak more for him, too. They will be part of a family’s history, told around the campfires of future cool autumn nights.

Here is another entry I found where I was contemplating the meaning of all those photos gathering on the shelf:

on a shelf…

…the photos all fit on the shelf down in the basement. Albums representing an entire family’s history fit under the coffee table. A few select photos, framed, hang on the walls, icons of a family life.

How do these tell our story? Is it how we wish to build our history? who will retell it to the next generation? or will the stories be lost?

The photos, all boxed up and mostly labeled, fit on a shelf in the basement, to become archaeological relics of a lifetime gone by. How will the new story be told? What new roads will we travel? and who will travel them? Who will join us? and who will leave us?

The photos, selected and still loose, sit stuffed into an album yet to be created, an album that captures snapshot moments of a life gone by, memories still fresh as the morning dew, 34 years in the making… a worn-out coffee table shelf holds a family’s history, ready to be retold during quiet moments of reflection, or when the urge to cry overcomes me and I desire to re-enter memories of a life gone by, a life well-lived, well-built of love, creativity, beauty, caring, family…

What life shall I build now?

— mjf, 9/19/12

Photo below: Large fungi grow off an old tree stump behind the workshop at Perry Road. I felt like Alice coming across this giant, waiting for a pipe-smoking caterpiller to show up.

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