Observations From The Many Sharp Edges of Grief

If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome.  The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here.  More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M

When you are working on a book, and people know or come to know that you are working on said book, they will ask how it is coming along just about every time they see you. I have no objection to this-it is how we maintain connections between humans-talking about what we think is important going on in each other’s lives, and I am totally on board with this.

Most probably, it seems expected me to hammer this book out the first year after Dave left the building. Yaaaaaa, about that; it is much harder than you might think to write an entire book about anything, let alone figuring out how to write about someone’s entire life while also learning all about grief the HARD way. They sound like excuses but are just a bit of my reality.

There have been many starts and stops. Some stops had to do with the overwhelm of all the words; Which fucking words convey most accurately what I want to portray? What if none of these 185K fucking words are the right fucking words? And then there was the worry, Oh fuck, am I cursing too much? I blame it on the insanity of grief.

And then the rational side of my brain steps in and says, Helllllllllllll NO, you are not cursing too much. Anyone who has been there gets all of this cursing is happening inside my head-how can people be upset about or judge the conversations and thoughts that happen inside my head? So I ask my darling husband for validation, “Is there too much cursing?” My darling husband reassures me the conversation we are having is not happening inside my head by saying out loud, “You hardly ever curse that fucking much!” Which makes me laugh because he truly rarely curses! I may have mentioned this already, but it also made me realize that I do not curse all that much out loud. I say the grief made me go all cursive with the bad words.

Another component had to do with the natural busy-ness of life because life waits for no one, not even those of us who need to slow time down or just need more time, to grieve. And lastly, I will just have to admit a bit of disorganization was also, maybe, OK, probably was a factor.

With time, as in years of time, the questions regarding my progress from friends and family had a similar feel to those questions that come when you have been dating someone maybe a little longer than society thinks you should date before making some wedding plans. Marriage becomes the focus you don’t want to talk about, and they start asking when you are going to get married? I have been there too, which explains why it felt familiar. With hindsight now, having avoided one marriage that followed dating someone way longer than I should have, having married my lovely husband after waiting five years to do so, and having worked on this book more than a decade now, nothing should be rushed; everything happens in good time. That and everything also takes WAY more time and is WAY more complicated than you think.

Eight years after the fact, so many people asked about this book and my progress that I decided to share what I had written online to prove that I had, in fact, not been bullshitting; I had been writing. By sharing the collection of essays publicly, I hoped to gain clarity and possibly hear a few more stories of Dave that may be unknown to me but an integral part of his story. The unedited posts of some of those 185K words are what Viking-Funeral dot com is-a series of fairly unvarnished words.

This, of course, has also invited the world to read about Dave-which I am completely OK with. All of it has been an unexpectedly beautiful journey of further understanding, both of the inner world of grief and the process of experiencing anything profound in one’s life as it slowly unfolds.

I was and continue to be pleasantly surprised at the new stories of Dave that have found their way to me through social media sites. They repeatedly made my day and subsequently have made my grief so much more palatable. It’s not like we have a choice to grieve or not to grieve-but talking about it does help; writing about it even more so, and hearing stories of Dave has helped the most.

Sharing with the world has felt both impersonal as I shouted those curse words into the void of the universe and internet and oddly personal in that I connected with more than four hundred people who knew Dave and thousands of complete strangers in our collective grief through my posts about Dave in grief groups.

We are connected in this wretched club of the inevitable, which I recommend to no one- I give grief very bad yelp reviews-negative stars. Only those in this club understand what I am cursing about and made my rationale more plausible. That common understanding is the validation of what we experienced with our loved ones as beautiful and reminds us to make the most of what life we have left to live without them.

In his eulogy at Dave’s Viking Funeral, Jim commented on how he so frequently felt better after talking with Dave or even thinking of him. How whatever Jim was facing was nothing compared to being paralyzed. Jim was not alone in having those sort of thoughts about Dave. Here are some favorites that I hope provide something to those of you reading this, those who knew him and those who did not, that Dave and his ever-optimistic personality move you forward when you are having a challenging moment in life, which we all have at some point or many points-Jim’s takeaway points from Dave’s Viking Funeral.

I heard stories from people I met online with familiar last names. As the younger sister of Nick, a friend of Dave’s who I knew, but I never knew his sister. She suffered a stroke at a fairly young age and woke in the hospital, paralyzed. She explained how she immediately thought of Dave and how he dealt with everything with such bravery and positivity that she channeled him throughout her nearly full recovery. She had to learn to do everything from the ground up, learning to walk, talk and move about life freely again. All of which you can imagine she was very grateful for but on her hardest days, she told me she could only think of Dave in those moments and felt stronger for having him to think of and motivate her to keep going.

Someone I didn’t know at all but happened to live up the street from us who played football with Dave in high school told me about injuring his own neck in recent years. His injury did not render him paralyzed but was extremely painful. He told me many funny stories of Dave over several conversations before telling me about his injury. He revealed that he immediately thought of how lucky he was not to be paralyzed like Dave; That he found strength dealing with his pain by thinking about how brave Dave was in dealing with his injury.

I met another guy Dave attended high school with, who described that he and Dave knew each other because they were both athletes; But Dave played football, and this guy played tennis, that they didn’t hang out, but they knew each other. At their 10th high school reunion, this guy returned from far away entered the celebration intending to hang out with his friends from that time back then but found Dave, to his surprise and dismay, in his wheelchair. He hadn’t heard about the accident and was so saddened to see such a bright star grounded in such a way and struck up a conversation with him.

Dave was so easy to talk to, and the conversation was so interesting that he sat down and joined Dave for the rest of the evening-completely enthralled with him, his warmth, his attitude about his past, his future, and the here and now. So while he was initially sad to learn what happened, he left that evening without spending time with those he assumed he would, and was so uplifted having instead spent time with Dave.

When he found one of my chapter essay posts- about Dave, he was saddened again to learn Dave had left the building but then fell back to how Dave had made him feel and was left simply glad to have crossed paths with him briefly and been gifted such a meaningful interaction with him.

Both complete and subsequently incomplete strangers from the interweb who came to know Dave from my writing have told me of different times they have found themselves reading about Dave; one reader told me when her grief keeps her from sleeping, she reads Dave’s story online-that it helps her in some way. Some have shared that his optimism helped them, others love reading about his adventures, some help people take stock in the importance of friendships in their own lives, some say my dark humor and potty mouth helped them.

Someone I have not met, the long-time friend of a friend of mine from childhood, Tracy, probably found Viking-Funeral through Tracy’s social media-because she is one of my many champions, shared such a beautiful comment with me about her friend. Her friend, her colleague and veteran teacher from the San Bernardino area went to visit her son, a doctor in Mexico. She was detained at the border when she attempted to return home-HOME to the United States because her documentation was in question! She was stuck in Mexico away from her husband, from her decades long established life here for more than a year! She told Tracy how much she enjoyed reading Viking Funeral because it was a connection to home! This-broke my heart on so many levels but I was also glad my words about Dave and about him traipsing around the streets of San Bernardino helped this woman! I KNOW, RIGHT? Dave is indirectly helping people in ways he or I could ever have imagined, and I love that.

More fun stories of lingering positive thoughts of Dave came from my friend Dena who you may recall shared several stories of time spent with him that I never knew about and again have to say I am so glad to know now.

Besides those stories Dena shared that I spoke of in earlier chapters; when she found Dave broken down on a busy four-lane avenue ONE of the times his wheelchair crapped out or when she was the world’s worst poker cardholder for Dave in the history of poker cardholders as mentioned in the Infamous Las Vegas Donut Stripper Story. Those were funny one time stories.

But a repeated scenario she spoke so fondly of was just hanging out with Dave, simply watching T.V., chatting away with him, or maybe sharing a beer. She explained how she would beg him to put something in particular on to watch, likely a show featured on HBO, something Dave would not necessarily want to watch because either it wasn’t appealing to him or maybe because he had JUST watched whatever it was. She would beg, “But can we PLEASE watch it anyway, Dave, PA-LEEEEEEE-EE-EZA?” Dave would always give in, and they would watch.

She would then immediately proceed to talk over whatever he put on-at HER special request. If you recall from a much earlier chapter, Dave controlled everything by a series of remotes mounted above his head-a command central, and he pushed their buttons with a stick. It was truly a dowel, but we called it the stick, similar in size to a pencil, but a bit longer. It was suspended in front of him on a set of strings like a little trapeze bar. It was a bit of independence as he could control so much within his environment without asking someone to help him. He would blow some air to get the stick to swing his direction, grab it with his lips, hold it in his mouth, and push buttons on the remotes to control electronic devices in his room. While he was watching T.V., he would wedge the stick in a spot between two remotes, so it wasn’t a visual distraction within his view of the screen. I would catch him messing with the stick sometimes while we watched stuff; I assumed he held it in his mouth out of habit or just a thing to do, or maybe he was a bit bored, especially if it was a Law and Order episode he had seen. But he also would talk with it in his mouth sometimes-and his words came out with a bit of distortion that holding something in your mouth might cause when he did so, like when someone talks with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth while they use their hands to do other things. Both of our parents smoked; I have witnessed this handsfree smoking phenomenon thousands of times. It is the closest audible descriptor I can think of that sounds accurate in my imagination to convey the distortion of how it changed his speech when the stick was in his mouth, that or he sounded like The Penguin from Batman with that cigarette holder perpetually in his mouth.

Dena would talk so much that Dave would stop the movie to both listen to her and so she would not miss the movie she requested. She described talking away while Dave listened and engaged patiently for a long time. When she was finally quiet, he would allow the silence to sit for a minute, then politely ask, “Are you finished?” to which she would have noticed for the first time that he had stopped the movie and say, “Yes! Yes! Definitely start the movie again.” Which he did.  Then she would immediately think of another question she had to ask or a comment she needed to make. She laughed, “He would just patiently hold the stick, remember his stick?”

“Of course, I remember THE stick.” We both laughed. She continued, “Ya, he would just hold it in his mouth on the button while I kept on talking and talking about nothing. He would pause it every time I started talking; we probably got no further than 15 minutes into the actual movie that I BEGGED him to watch. Then, I would say, ‘Welp Dave, I gotta go.’ because I did have to get back to my life.”

Oh my God, we laughed so hard at how she loved talking about nothing with Dave-and his stick on the pause/play button waiting for her to stop talking. He was so patient, and she was full of so many things to talk about. She said, “He was just so chill-I just loved him; he was so kind.” She spoke faster as she continued, “Oh my God, Mardi, I remember the first time I met him. When we were in high school, I would ask you to come over or whatever, and you would say, ‘I can’t. I have to go home to watch my brother.’” I clarified that I never had to watch him. She continued excitedly, “OK, I don’t remember exactly what you said, but I assumed you had a little brother because you never really explained. But one time you asked me if I wanted to come over, so I did. And when we went upstairs, Dave said, ‘Nice Ass’ and I remember thinking, Ohhhh, I LIKE him! because honestly, Mardi, I did not think I had a nice ass. Then I remember meeting him when we came back down, and he had nothing on in bed but a towel-like cloth thing covering his junk and thinking wow-this guy is messed up, but as soon as we started talking, I NEVER perceived him as disabled ever again from that first conversation on-ever. Oh, I just loved him!”

In her life, in the more than 25 years it has been since she has seen him, she told me she has NEVER stopped talking about Dave. Whenever she met someone from San Bernardino, she always asked if they knew Dave Linane because; not only was he was a good way of vetting good people, he was also a lovely connecting topic of conversation and she would tell the, “I would hold on to those two aces,” announcement while holding Dave’s poker cards story.

She has been married to her husband Malcolm for 30 years at this point and dated him almost a decade before marrying him. Even though she knows he never met Dave-since, she SHOULD know such things about her husband, especially given that he repeatedly tells her, “I feel like I KNOW Dave, but it is only through you!” She still scoffs at him, incredulously, “I CANNOT believe you did NOT know Dave Linane; I just don’t know how that’s possible!”

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020

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