Bad News Calling…

Part 8 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

I didn’t want to call anyone. I looked around for the adult in the room or on the patio, someone else, anyone else I could possibly pass this job on to but I was alone on the patio. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was the adult in the room. Great.

When our dad left the proverbial building, I told no one. Dave had been the someone else who made those type of calls to people who needed to be called previously on behalf of my mom. He was her oldest child, the oldest son. It seemed like his duty by the manner of succession. Yes, he was paralyzed, but he had a cell phone, a headset and he could talk to people. And he did.

I didn’t call anyone then. It was more than a year before I mentioned my dad’s death to anyone outside my daily nuclear life between home and work. I had to explain why I was not at work because–death. I tried really hard to avoid the topic at work, but at least a dozen or more of my coworkers gave me clippings of the press coverage of my dad, which I wrote. It forced me to acknowledge something had taken place. I didn’t like it. I have no idea why people gave these to me. Did they think I didn’t know he was dead? I mean he was my dad after all. Or maybe they thought I didn’t know when the memorial was taking place? They had to have known I wrote the piece for the newspaper; I was quoted throughout the article. This is a strange practice, and I do not recommend following it.

Needless to say, I did not tell my life-long friends who grew up on our street practically in our house. I didn’t tell my semi-lifelong friends who were collected along my way through adulthood. People found out by reading about it in the paper. I was surprised when some of my friends showed up at my dad’s memorial, they apparently still read the paper. I didn’t know I knew anyone who actually still read the paper. For my friends who lived outside the shadow of our local paper, or fall into the do not read the paper category which includes me, they didn’t find out until more than a year or years later.

In retrospect, it wasn’t any easier later when they were expecting a normal type of catch up conversation, “How’ve you been?” They didn’t expect that I hadn’t told them that level of bad news. My friends loved my parents. How’re your mom and dad? My mom is ok, my dad, not so much. They then felt horrible for not knowing. I felt retroactively bad for creating a moment where they felt disconnected from my interior life like a friendship demotion or something. It wasn’t. I am an introvert by nature almost reclusive. Things like this put me deep under a rock. I don’t like continuing the unpleasant energy of such a time in life. It sucked and I hated ALL of it.

I could only think of three people who needed to be called right away. No one likes bad news, and as I mentioned before, people don’t know what to do with death as it is. I don’t, and I’m writing a book about it. Well, the entire book isn’t about death, only this part of the book.

We all adored our Viking Warrior brother in and for myriad different reasons. Dave loved us all fiercely but in a non-violent, wholly with every fiber of his being sort of fiercely. We were lucky to be loved by him. Anyone was lucky to be loved by him. Living with him with the interior view of a nuclear family member was definitely an honored place to be. His life was hard, incredibly so, but he laughed through it with grace and hot sauce and made us all laugh with him. Having to tell anyone he was gone with less than a moment’s notice was pretty stunning news to deliver. He was in his fifties, so, relatively young by human standards and he was gone, between coffee and toast, just like that.

There are five of us. There were five of us. Five children. Dave was connected to each of us very differently. Dave and Linda grew up almost Irish twins and had many childhood adventures. I predominantly heard about THE pre-school golf club concussion incident, bee stings and the revenge of THE golf club concussion with a pretend dental appointment and a mouth full of dirt because he deserved it reasons. Dave was three years older than Scott. They were in an almost constant state of wrestling from very early on. Anything with a ball, a pool, wrestling or broken windows usually included Scott, our cousins Jim and John who were everpresent in our house growing up, against Dave, the giant. Dave and Anne are six years apart, and the most alike, level headed, dot every i cross every t, always do the right thing, great listener, show up on time, lead by example, help you move sort of people. I am the youngest, eleven years younger than Dave. We were vastly different. I am writing a book about him so I will let my relationship with him unfold with the pages.

Linda obviously was part of the news, and I am pretty sure she called Scott. My sister Anne who lived on the east coast at that time was my first call. She answered, “Hey, you.” I didn’t think, I just summarized my mom’s words by using even fewer words than she, I prefaced that I was calling with bad news and then I just blurted it out. “Dave died.” Her one-word reaction was a very loud “WHAT?” in obvious surprised disbelief given the context of his healthy forever.

She reacted, it seemed exactly like I did. She didn’t ask what happened. She quickly collected her thoughts and asked how our mom was. As much as it is impossible to speak for anyone in this circumstance I did anyway. I said, “She seems OK.” No one lived with the burden of the worry of Dave’s care and future more than our mom. She suffered his pain even though he didn’t reveal any. She knew as only a mom could know. She worried as only a mom could or world worry.

I felt Anne thinking all of my unspoken thoughts, we were relieved for her. We were relieved for both Dave being able to fly away from that stupid body and for my mom being released of her worry of What is going to happen to Dave if something happens to me? The entire conversation contained very few words but with the obvious understanding that we would see each other soon, very soon.

I always ask people if they can take a call when I contact them. You never know what people are in the middle of doing when you call them. Almost anything can be picked up later if it’s not a good time. I learned an important lesson that day. I didn’t think to suggest that she sit down before I continued with the bad fucking news. Please make a note of this-my lesson to you.

***

If you enjoyed this post please click the like button below or share. I would love to hear your memories of Dave if you are among those who knew him or I would love to hear stories of your experiences with your lost loved ones. XO M

Part 2 Too Soon?

Post 7.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…

***

Too soon?

As polite as the crew was, they were just strangers on our patio to me. While I appreciated everything about them, their response, what they do, I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to be here, be awake or be alive at that moment. I wished I could go back to sleep and wake up having forgotten all of this intense dream.

I turned away from the crew and headed up the wheelchair ramp into the back door. My eyes had to adjust from the pleasant subdued morning light on the patio as I walked into the back hall of the house, then into Dave’s painfully bright room. The shades were all the way open on his large bedroom windows. The sun was pouring in most rudely imposing unwanted light. His former body lay flat in what I joked was his turbo electric home hospital bed. He looked…relaxed.

He lived with uncontrolled muscle spasms as a result of the paralyzing college football accident that broke his neck almost four decades ago. His damaged central nervous system behaved like a loose live wire. He jerked in response to being touched. His nerve signal messages were scrambled, misinterpreted and responded to protectively, innately as if he were being burned. This type of reaction was almost constant and permanent. One muscular response usually triggered another and often a full body muscle flexion reaction. Not always, but more often than not.

These muscle spasms required that he be stabilized in either of the two places he lived between, his turbo bed or his turbo electric wheelchair. He had to be tied into his electric bed. He had to be positioned a certain way, with a combination of slings and pillows to keep the level of spasms as low as possible. When he was in his wheelchair, he had to wear braces on his arms and legs. The braces helped him have fewer spasms. He had to sit with his legs straight out in front of him, having his legs bent like most of us sit would cause him to pass out from circulatory overload. If his legs weren’t straight, his spasms would cause him to slide right out of the wheelchair. In general, he appeared very stiff.

I had not seen him so relaxed, ever, well, ever since his accident, ever. He had no straps, no slings, no pillows, no braces on, the bed was flat, he was flat. I put my hand on his bare leg. He was still warm with the fiery energy of the life that just left. He didn’t flinch or move AT ALL. I knew he shouldn’t. Former reality had not completely recalculated the reality of the right now, and I anticipated the typical response, a reaction, that which depicts life. I thought with an irreverent tone to myself, Well… obviously, you cannot get more relaxed than dead. I couldn’t feel bad for thinking this because he would have laughed hard at that.

Then I panicked and wondered, “Oh God, does he know what I am thinking right now?” He loved funny stuff. Even slightly inappropriate, no, especially inappropriate “too soon?” funny stuff. I looked around for him in my thoughts for the shared acknowledgment of a VERY well placed, too soon? joke, but he was not there. I didn’t see or feel him. Damn it. He really loved good gallows humor that way. Like I said, we can’t control what pops in our heads. I kept my thoughts to myself.

Shock takes a while to percolate through the layers of the mass and obscure that comprises the human psyche, mind, and physical body. My mom and oldest sister Linda were wound up by their own coursing surges of adrenaline. This was not unexpected based on their experiences of the last hour. Everyone hugged. They recounted what happened, speaking a mile-a-minute. Still looking for him in my thoughts, I half-listened while standing next to him with my hand on his leg that still felt so alive other than the not moving because he was dead aspect. Really? Nothing dude? I know you hear this.

My mom didn’t blink as she recounted the details of her experience earlier that morning. Her eyes were fixed looking down and to her left. I watched her looking into that part of her brain where this memory will be stored forever. I could see everything she described playing on one screen in my mind on my left. All my other stupid, random and weird thoughts of the morning were impossibly layered on another screen on my right.

She had awakened him to let him know it was morning, that she would be back in to wash his face after having her coffee. He said “Ok.” This was their routine every morning; She initially woke him, then left his room to have her coffee and toast. The time in between would give him a chance to get himself waked-up before she returned. She would then proceed to get him ready to face the day; wash his face, brush his teeth, give him a sponge bath. All the braces mentioned above and a body brace would be put on, they would get him dressed, with the help of a friend and neighbor Denise. Her son Poncho would help put him into his electric wheelchair and ultimately Dave would head out the back door almost immediately when the weather was nice.

This was my parents’ routine every morning since Dave returned home from spending 18 months away, between the hospital and a rehabilitation center for paralyzed individuals roughly 38 years ago. He preferred to be up in his wheelchair as much as possible. Some days he did not get out of bed. It is hard on a paralyzed body to be in the same position for long periods of time. It is also hard work for the people moving him.

He weighed in at over 220 plus pounds dead weight before he was dead. The dead weight of a paralyzed individual is shockingly heavier than one thinks. This process and all of Dave’s care was very well coordinated, it had to be. My parents were very organized about everything but especially Dave’s care. After my dad passed away at 72 a few years prior, a series of people helped my mom. Denise and Poncho were the last people to help with Dave’s regular personal care. More on Denise and Poncho later.

Denise arrived about the time my mom had finished her coffee, as per usual. They entered the room to begin their routine as outlined above when they found Dave still asleep.

WAIT!

NOT asleep!

NOT conscious!

NOT breathing!

NOT ALIVE!

WHAT!!!!?

NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

LINDAAAAAA!!!!!

It had only been 10 minutes, 15 max since my mom had awakened him. My mom shouted for my sister Linda to come help. Shortly after my dad passed away, Linda came to live with my mom and Dave. Linda took over the recounting from here, she came in and immediately began C.P.R. She crossed her hands one over the other mocking the C.P.R. position as she described performing the chest compressions. She briefly motioned with one hand to the other side of the bed, explaining that Denise had been standing there, crying, while she continued pantomiming the chest compressions. She saw Dave, after just a few compressions standing beside his body. He told her “Let me go.” My mom, who saw nothing, was beside her saying, “Let him go.” Linda stopped the compression motion, her shoulders, arms lowered, as she described knowing he was gone.

Dave had been paralyzed when he was 18 and had lived as a healthy quadriplegic for almost 38 years with the dedicated care of our parents. That is a very long time to survive as a quadriplegic. He may be the longest surviving quadriplegic in the state of California. Many chronic illnesses usually plague those living in a paralyzed body; pneumonia, bed sores, strokes, renal infections, blood clots, blood pressure issues. Dave was lucky, he had always been so very healthy. It is possible that his muscle spasms that were a total pain in the ass also kept his blood flowing and muscles working rather than atrophying like most paralyzed individuals.

He hadn’t been sick. He along with Elvis, just “left the building.” Damn it, he would have really loved that joke too. After Linda’s account, my mom realized that he hadn’t asked her the time and must have died mid-sentence. “He always asks me ‘What time is it?’ when I wake him as I head to the kitchen for my coffee, and today he didn’t ask. He just said ‘OK.’ I thought that was strange as I opened the door to go out, but then I didn’t think anything more of it. And I just headed to the kitchen for my coffee.”

A Police officer entered the back hall into the house interrupting our conversation. As part of his official death report, he had already spoken with the fire personnel, he now had to observe their home, the scene surrounding Dave’s departure, and speak to my mom to understand what had taken place. All of which is standard procedure to determine there had been no foul play since Dave had not been in the presence of a doctor when he died.

I didn’t hear a word of how he began his interview with my mom. I did not want to listen to the story again. I headed out of Dave’s bright room back to the shimmering shade of the elm trees and relief of the patio. My mom asked me to call the people who needed to be called before she turned her attention to the officer.

I doubt they shared the part about Linda administering CPR until she saw Dave standing next to his body with the officer but thought it would make for a very interesting statement if she had. “Decedent’s sister administered life support until she saw decedent standing next to his dead body.” Dave would have laughed at that too. Not everyone is open to that sort of experience.

Later Linda talked about having a déjà vu experience from a dream she had about a year prior. She and Dave were on opposite sides of a pool. We do not have a pool by the way. He drove himself in the pool in his wheelchair and sank to do the bottom. Linda dove in to help him. When she was face to face with him, he shook his head and said underwater, “Let me go.” The feeling of the dream and the morning, his readiness were the same. I don’t know what to say about any of this because I am no expert on the afterlife, paranormal or whatever. I don’t think anyone really can. I will have to let you know when I get there myself and get back with you. Interesting, yes. I will leave it at that.

***

If you enjoyed this excerpt please click the LIKE star below. Love to hear your comments or experiences on this topic. XO M

Dave Linane’s Birthday March 13

Post 1.

In honor of Dave’s birthday, I am releasing this preface for the book. I hope you enjoy and join me as I unfold these unedited excerpts from this Viking Funeral…

Spoiler Alert: Our Hero does not make it out of this life alive

This isn’t one of those thinly veiled “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” stories that we recognize as cruel, manipulative Hollywood bullshit formulas that dictate when you laugh or cry based on music cues. There will be no explosions where our hero outruns the blast and fallout of concussive flame-y fury to fight another day. There are also not going to be any tense phone calls between the good guy with an Irish brogue hinting at “a particular set of skills,” and the bad guy, as awesome as THAT would be.

Now that you know what this biography is NOT, I can tell you what it IS. A story of one particularly pretty shitty day stalked by relentless love, friendship, laughter, celebration, and more laughter. You are going to love him, no doubt, even without my taking any poetic license to spice up the story for interest. But, I formally state, for the record, that our hero does not make it out of this life alive. There, Band-Aid ripped off. Truth in advertising and all, I mean FUNERAL is in the title, so it should be obvious someone is no longer mingling freely among us mere mortals.

There are billions of ways to die, and most of us don’t have a choice in that. But we do have a choice in how we live and how we celebrate a life well-lived when our loved ones move on. This book is about both of those things and everything large and small in the middle of those two things that make up an ordinary magical life.

Vikings burned their boats when they arrived on the beaches of lands they intended to conquer. Their strategy was to forge ahead or die trying. There was never any going back. Dave was a powerful athlete who dealt with his broken neck, the result of a college football accident, with dignity and grace. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there was no crying for himself in this life, he just rolled forward with purpose.

He was the original YES man. He was game to try anything and everything he could, from spicy food to adventures with a ride-or-die attitude, a huge smile and his infectious bark of a laugh. He applied that same energy when forging his radically altered life path and didn’t let bureaucracy, transportation, “sleet nor snow,” or steps get in his way. He found his true professional calling after a ridiculously uphill battle. I thought of this Viking Warrior description of him as I wrote his obituary tribute. He was too modest ever to have claimed ownership of such a bold title plus, as far as he knew, we weren’t of Scandinavian descent. It was an honorary title I bestowed upon him because I do not fear the Viking Semantics Police way over here in California.

It was the tradition at a Viking Funeral that gifts would be offered to accompany the warrior on his travels to the next world, Valhalla. The gifts and warrior’s earthly body would be burned and therein be transformed into the next world. Folklore has it that they were placed in a boat upon the ocean and lit on fire by flaming arrows and their ashes spread to the ends of the earth. But really, they were most often burned within the confines of a ship shaped monument of stone on land. Fire would transform them to Valhalla. The ashes would be spread to the ends of the earth by the wind.

The idea for our Viking Funeral grew from this posthumous Viking Warrior title. I wanted a celebration that represented him and his enormous spirit: Dave’s favorite food and booze followed by a bonfire after dusk with people sharing stories and we would let people put gifts in the fire by way of written notes to help transform Dave to modern day Valhalla.

In Dave’s early 20s our family home transformed every weekend into the hottest bar in town for Dave’s friends, occasionally a poker parlor; we hosted hundreds of BBQs, dinners, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal and baby showers, four weddings and a funeral, our dad’s. This well-visited home for all the aforementioned celebrations would now host Dave’s Viking Funeral our best party ever.

I sent his tribute and invitation to the Viking Funeral to our local newspapers, the college where he worked (San Bernardino Valley College), the university where he attended undergrad and grad school (Cal State University San Bernardino), as well as anyone whose email address I had. Both the college and the university honored his passing with dedications to him on their website home pages, because he was very well-known at both campuses.

When our dad passed away, my two thousand-word-plus biography was printed about him in three regional papers–a completely cut and paste job. My dad had been a world-class athlete and home-town (Redlands) hero. My brother was even more well-known than my dad because of his accident and news coverage at that time, but the paper had changed ownership for what felt like the hundredth time, and no one in the now corporate conglomerate upper management at the paper knew anyone local, so no story was printed.

The newspapers that had been so vapidly eager to cover his tragic accident decades before, now wanted a ridiculous amount of money for an obituary paid upfront before they would consider running the tribute. We didn’t really care about a story, we just wanted people to know that he had “left the building” and to invite them to celebrate because we knew they would want to. I was very irritated. I joked that I would save money with the shortest obit ever: “Dave died, party at our house.” All the right people would know what that meant and where to go. I chose slightly more tasteful words, “David Linane passed away unexpectedly on July 10, 2011. A memorial will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the family home Saturday, July 16, 2011.” The newspaper charged more than $600 for this brief obit but didn’t run the tribute, which I might add, was beautifully written. Jerks.

I am literally stuck writing this “surprise” and epic failed autobiography against my will, since he woke up unexpectedly dead one morning before really getting it started. It isn’t the writing that is the stuck part. I, along with everyone who knew him, would much rather have more days on this earth with him, enough days for him to finish his autobiography as intended, or to hear him laugh, that barking seal of a laugh ONE MORE TIME.

Update: According to My Heritage DNA services, which was used by my husband and me on a curious whim driven by a deep discount, I discovered that I am 18% Scandinavian, which was a hilarious shock. Retroactively Official Viking Warrior!

Solution To Writer’s Block

Fingerprint

Creating the identity of the biography (Viking Funeral) by fire that I’ve been writing about my brother’s life under duress has been a challenge.

He’s permanently unavailable to interview.

I have had to rely on memory for everything.

I have to decide how to tell the story, what to leave in, what to leave out.

I have struggled for seven years with the ending. SEVEN. YEARS. SEVEN! I don’t talk too much about the book with my darling husband, because it makes him sad. I promise it’s not a sad story, my DH is very tender-hearted.

Ok, maybe there are some moments that tug at a heartstring here and there. Anyway, I’ve written 100k words. I wrote 35k right after Dave died. Then writer’s block. Then the balance was written two years ago. It’s a biography, so I can’t just make shit up, plus I’m not a creative writer. Unable to decide how to finish, I have filled my time with reading biographies, just so you know what I’ve been doing the last seven years.

Tonight I told my husband of my struggle with the ending. In less than 10 minutes of Q&A, a few moments of silence while he was “thinking about it,” he made the perfect suggestion.

I initially thought, no, I’ll have to rewrite everything. Then I realized it was the perfect ending and I could not stop laughing. My husband saves the day… again! He is a natural visionary. Man I could have had a Pulitzer YEARS ago! hahahahahah.

Surrounded By Kindness

PLEASE READ:
Check out the sweetest video of @tonyhawk helping his daughter drop in on a baby-sized pipe.
🔥
Tony Hawk grew up two houses north of our house in San Bernardino, CA. From our kitchen window we could watch a young Tony fly in the air. Best way to do dishes ever.
🔥
As sweet and supportive as he is with his daughter, his dad, Bob Koston, was always kind to my brother Dave.
🔥
I’m sure his dad built Tony his first half-pipe for training, in their driveway because before Tony was born, his dad helped modify our house by helping create and install a gorgeous wrought iron spiral staircase in the back of our house near Dave’s room so my parents could hear him if he called for their help in the middle of the night. He also helped install a back door that made it 100% easier for Dave to come in and out of the house. Whenever there was an interesting project going on at our house, Bob Koston was the brains behind the solution.
🔥
Tony’s dad was a proud salty vet who was not only a very hard-working commercial painting contractor, but a man who could build or repair just about anything and always offered to help our family solve problems, especially when Dave first came home from the hospital and our house needed modifications.
🔥
Seeing this sweet video of Tony with his daughter, seeing what a lovely dad he is, reminds me of his dad, Bob and the kindness he always showed our family and I’m so grateful. Bob was among the many people who always encouraged Dave to write his story. If Bob is still alive @tonyhawk please thank him for me and tell him the book Viking Funeral is FINALLY coming.
🔥

Book Review: Life After Life

Life After Life

Life After Life
Raymond Moody Jr. M.D. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My brother had several encounters with a being he knew to be God.

I have mentioned that in my sophisticated method of procrastinating working on his biography, Viking Funeral, I felt compelled to read NYT best-selling autobiographies and biographies to figure out HOW TO WRITE A BIOGRAPHY. It’s been seven years of finding another reason to continue researching. I’ve enjoyed so many great books. I swear, I’m almost done!

One of Dave’s friends shared with me that Dave told him excitedly “You know I died briefly when in the Intensive Care Unit!?” This was one of the first things Dave told him once he was off a respirator following his paralyzing accident. This took the interview down a much-unexpected rabbit hole.

There was discussion of a book that Dave had been given a few years later. I set out to find the book, but it is out of print. I found this book instead.

This book was a compilation of interviews conducted by Dr. Moody of people (patients) who had experiences of something beyond this life. The book is technically well written, but it didn’t exactly go anywhere, just a clinical compilation. That may be the nature of the subject matter and the difficulty of writing about life after life without actually having been there. I am not sure what I was expecting. I gave it four stars for the interesting nature of the subject. I felt compelled to share some of the stories with my darling husband as I read.

Anyone have a life-after-life story to share or a suggestion for another book on this topic? I’m open and still looking for any excuse to continue procrastinating! Bring on the ghost stories!

I don’t make any claims to know anything on this topic other than reporting what I’ve heard as a reluctant biographer.   

Book Review: Becoming Michelle Obama

Becoming Michelle Obama

As you may have read previously, I’m stuck writing my brother’s unfinished autobiography Viking Funeral. It’s a daunting task because he barely started before he died very unexpectedly. 

Like any GREAT procrastinator, I felt like I needed to read every other biography on the planet to figure out how to do it correctly. You have to read if you want to write, right? I’ve read some fun stuff along the way. I thought I would share my own reviews and observations I’m picking up along the way.

Becoming Michelle Obama
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

I always love a story of triumph.
Becoming Michelle Obama is a lovely story of triumph, of consistent well thought out choices beginning with her mother moving her from a less than adequate classroom early in elementary school. That move began her trek of hard work that propelled her from the Southside of Chicago deservedly to Harvard. I related to the way her family enjoyed and celebrated with music as well as to her frustrations of piano lessons and trying to please a perfectionist teacher. Y’all know the culmination of her story as the former FLOTUS… The book is very well written from a technical perspective and it’s a lovely introspective work of both grit and inspiration for everyone. I give it a five-star rating. Love your comments.