I suppose that part of my own heavy heart started with the selling of my comic book collection; at least part of it. Comic books are something often dismissed as wasteful childishness; a needlessly nerdy pursuit. I started collecting them when I was a child and in many ways, they helped me become a voracious reader as well as endlessly sparking my creativity toward writing as well. I tried repeatedly over the years to stifle the funny-book pursuit for monetary reasons and self-imposed maturity guidelines and still, they kept coming back, orbiting around me and I would soon find myself caught in them again. I'm a very visual person and as the stories and art matured along with me (or my age anyway), I found myself in their web many times. I convinced myself again and again that I would hold on to them as they would one day sell for big bucks and now, as I set them up on various tables for a yard sale, I felt oddly cold and a bit depressed, as I seemed to regard them useless junk as I was everything else when in fact, they were a source of great entertainment for me for many years and at supremely low times (particullary in the preteen years), something for me to find the joy of discovery in when I had little else to be happy about. I sold over 200 of them on Saturday and I was meant to revel in the sales but instead I gained satisfaction from selling many of them to fellow fans who would enjoy them as much as I have.
The pervasive sadness also hung a bit like a fog as my friend Linda (who co-hosted the yard sale with us) and I welcomed our dear friend Judy to hang at the sale with us. Linda and I have had a couple of shared experiences over the past few months; both involving powerful and soul-stunning grief. We have comforted two female friends; both mothers who were burying sons. Both of the sons were younger than me and both died from tragic circumstances. Two mothers awash in shock at two tragedies; two funerals in churches that could barely contain the overwhelming grief within their walls. Judy was one of those mothers and the latest funeral we attended was her son Jesse's. Jesse was by all accounts a wonderful man, a loving husband and father, a great cook and true friend. The funeral was a vivid celebration of Jesse's life and made clear in no uncertain terms that Jesse would have preferred a full Viking funeral; being slid off the plank of a pirate ship to cries of "Ahhhrrrr, Matey!" as opposed to all of this pomp. Since that wasn't (legally) possible, we were all given pirate eyepatches upon arrival and treated to multiple images of his multi-faceted life. The music at the service was unsurprisingly moving and diverse as one would expect with Judy's family involved and we were all brought to tears by the closing song: the gospel version of the Beatle's Let It Be from the film Across The Universe.
As we prepped for the yard sale in the coming days, Judy and her unimaginable pain were foremost in my mind. Ronnie had texted me to alert me to a post Judy had made on Facebook addressing certain people regarding her son Jesse's death. With Judy's permission, I am sharing her words:
Today is the third week since my son, Jesse's, passing. Out of respect and admiration for someone whom fought so hard to survive so many transgressions, medical problems, abuse of all sorts and bullying, I ask this; Please don't tell me that you're sorry for the loss of my son. Please tell him that you're sorry for what you did to him and never thought of his mental, physical or body feelings. ...
You only thought of yourself. Tell him now, he can still hear you! I'm sorry for you, the ones that tormented Jesse throughout his life, he forgave you right up until the end. But you left scars on him. Those don't go away. You are the ones who lost something precious and that was the friend you could have had, the cousin that could have been your hero and someone whom would always be there when you needed him. He was someone that deserved your respect and admiration for never hurting you back. Please, think of what you are doing now to each other, the people around you, and most of all, your children. Are you harming your children? Are you letting things happening to them and closing your eyes? Listen to your kids, love them and live for them. You'll will never have a second chance. It was a privilege to have Jesse physically here with me for 37 years, I was honored to have such a wonderful son.
TTFN-hugs around the moon. Momma
Indeed, Judy had addressed her son's bullies. It was a passage so powerful; so raw that it hit my friend Ronnie and I both like a thunderclap. I came completely undone. When we later returned to prepping for the yard sale, I texted Judy to see if she would be up for stopping by and was surprised to find that she would.
That Saturday, we set out to create as festive an atmosphere as a yard sale would allow. We served Mimosas and Bloody Marys and Keith whipped up a comforting breakfast casserole and a wicked-good monkey bread. The Marys, I have to say, were kick-ass good. Made the night before and based on this recipe, I subbed the pickled okra and olive juices for juices from our own homemade spicy pickled tomatillo juice. When Judy joined us, Linda and I surrounded and clung to her for a while and we shared tears as she recounted Jesse's last days. Judy is someone I feel very connected with on many levels. We have a deep friendship and there are many qualities she has that she shares with my sister Mona who herself is no longer with us. It started with her wearing a hint of patchouli, then a love of Bob Marley, and it continued on, and somehow I kept feeling more spiritually bonded with her. I can't explain it but listening to her recount those horrible days affected me on a soul-deep level.
Above all though, Judy loves life and as the afternoon wore on and the Mary-sipping continued, other friends like Kiko and Deb and later Ronnie and Jeff would stop by and soon familiar giggles would replace the sadness and by day's end, we were often bent over with laughter, the tears of shared friendship, funny stories (and maybe the unintentional humor brought on by a few of our yard sale customers) replacing the tears of grief. We bid our farewells at the end of the day with smiles and laughs and closed our day in a positive way.
Indelicate it may be to draw parallels from comic books to a mother's grieving, but it all seemed to echo a loss of innocence; when wide-eyed childhood full of possibilities inevitably gives way to the harsh glare of reality. As Judy addressed her son's tormentors, she spoke of the scars he still wore. I lost myself in comics often to escape the reality, because escaping into my own head was easier that facing my bullies. Maybe that's why I held on to them for so many years.....they were my guaranteed refuge no matter how stressful life got. Those scars are still there, though. They don't hurt anymore but they never go away.
The finest tonic, though is truly the best medicine....the laughter that heals our battered hearts and tattered souls. The laughter that held my family together and bonded my true friendships for life. So Jesse, I never got to meet you but I hope you are laughing your ass off somewhere.