Grief, Stories, Writing

“What Do You See?”

“What do you see?

The blue sky is beginning to darken as night approaches and I watch you lying there. Your head on its side resting on the ground. You stare straight ahead past your nose, eyes wide open.

We both stay in the silence of the moment, only a faint rustle of leaves in the trees. Slowly I watch you lift your head and look around before you stop and stare off into the distance. Your dark nose crinkles as you sniff the evening air.

“What do you see?” I want to ask, I open my mouth to speak and the words catch in my throat. I swallow hard, my heart beating loudly within my chest.

I close my mouth and sit silently conjuring images of the unknown that may be floating through your mind. I sit helpless to ease your pain, wanting to comfort you as each second ticks by.

If you could only speak. To tell me what you see, what you are thinking of. For I would do whatever it is you ask or need. The world around me swirls, a strong breeze rustles the leaves, and a voice in my head from long ago breaks my reverie transporting me back.

“Please shove the pillow down lower, closer to my hip here…”

“Oh God!”

Your shrill voice rings loud in the silence of the late evening. I quickly jerk my hands away coming off the pillow as I back pedal a few steps watching your pained expression.

“I am sorry.” I speak slowly in a trembling voice as I slowly move back closer to the chair. Your head is tilted back resting hard against the back of the chair, your breath deep and labored.

“I know, … it’s okay. It just hurts so bad, ya know. I just can’t ever seem to get comfortable where it doesn’t hurt.”

My mind whirls as I stand swaying on unsteady legs unsure what to do next, not wanting to cause you more pain. I stand staring not knowing what to say waiting until you speak.

“Okay, let’s try this. Put that little pillow down behind my lower back. I will hold this one here at my side and we’ll see if that works.”

Okay I say, tentatively moving forward treating you as a fragile porcelain doll instead of the courageous strong woman that you are despite the circumstances. Inside my helplessness screams at the absurdity of it all.

Several minutes later after many machinations and adjustments you are finally somewhat comfortable for now. Breathing a heavy sigh you sink deeper into the chair closing your eyes.

“Okay that will work, thank you love.”

“Your welcome.”

I fall onto the couch next to your chair my own exhaustion overtaking me. Our eyes meet for a brief second as you open your eyes and you faintly smile. Then you turn away from my gaze to look out the window at the darkening sky. I watch as you sit motionless, your pale arms resting on the arms of the recliner.

Your short dark brown hair barely touches your shoulders now as it hangs framing your face. I can still picture your long locks that used to cascade down your back and over your shoulders. I see your eyes gloss over, focused on something that only you can see. I wonder are you seeing beyond the veil that separates the worlds.

“What do you see my love?” my mind asks as I swallow my words.

My head clears, I come back to the present. You are now on your side, head once again laying on the grass, eyes open staring. The dark brown fur of your coat in sharp contrast to the green grass of late summertime.

You seem at peace with whatever may come and I envy you. My mind again asks “What do you see girl? Do you see the end?” I wonder.

A chorus of memories run through my mind of the years together. The joy, the laughter, the adventures we all shared. You completed our family and made it whole. We watched you and her grow alongside one another becoming best friends. You have always been a loyal companion that shepherded her well into her teenage years.

I know your body is now weak and frail. Age or disease catches up with us all and I hope you know I will continue to try whatever that may mean. I truly will, my mind screams into the silence of the ever darkening sky overhead. To spare you and others from what inevitability will come. My helplessness looms large, again a mountain in front of me that I am once again forced to climb.

Your eyes now closed, I watch you breathing slowly, your chest rising and falling as you sleep. There is life left and I will do whatever I can to ease your days. Although I know that option is sometimes not offered. And so we live with the unanswered question of ‘What do you see?’

“Best Friends”

Sharing a little free write essay that compares the feelings I have watching our older dog as she battles lymphoma and the triggers of memories it evokes from long ago. You will be able to read more about those memories in my upcoming memoir to be published in early 2021. You can read about it here and be sure to sign up for email notifications to get the latest updates.

Life, Stories, Writing

What Is It to Have Succeeded?

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson #Quote #Success #Life

As I look back over my life, the questions haunt me, ‘have I succeeded?’ and ‘how do you define a successful life?’

Success by the worlds standards might include the following:

  • He who has the most toys wins!
  • Building wealth and showing it off!
  • Amassing a large social media following!
  • Having a perfect relationship and a trophy companion!
  • Launching a billion-dollar business that changes the world!

I am sure you can think of many others things that might apply as well.

If you don’t define success for your life, someone else will define it for you.

  • What mountain are you climbing?
  • How do you know if it is the right one at the right time?
  • When you reach the summit will you see your mountain off in the distance?

For me the idea of a successful life has shrunk over the years. Not in terms of impact but in terms of grandiosity and self-serving vanity. The Emerson quote has been a favorite of mine since the first time I read it.

To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others to leave the world a little better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

I have stood at the bedside as a last breath was taken and I have no doubt my presence made that breath a little easier. You can read about this in my memoir to be published in 2021 and an update in a previous post here. I pray that I have also helped others breathe a little easier in times of trouble, strife and pain. For what good is a life that offers nothing of value to other human beings, living things and the world around us?

It’s probably not surprising to paraphrase Emerson this is my definition of success >

Now tell me, what is your definition of success?

Grief, Life, Stories, Writing

Memoir Update – Signed Publishing Agreement!

It’s official!

*Note: Working title and not actual cover.

Exciting news!!! I have signed a publishing and distribution agreement with Christian Faith Publishing for my memoir. I submitted my manuscript to their review board, they accepted the draft and want to publish my book. Woo-hoo! 😁

Signing the agreement with my daughter!
  • It has been a long journey for sure to get to this point, never stop chasing your dreams!
  • Expected publication date is still to be determined, sometime in early 2021.
  • Lots to be done before then – editing, proofing, typesetting, cover design etc.

I have been busy drafting my author bio and the book blurb. That is harder than writing the actual book. Who knew? 😳

Book teaser >

When did we come to believe the best thing you can do with death is ride off from it? In Cowboys Are Not Supposed To Cry, Mark Wayne tells his story of living a life with grief beginning in his mid-twenties. #Memoir #AmWriting #UpcomingBook #WritersLife

I hope to post some excerpts from the forthcoming book as I go through the editing process as well as other updates here on the blog. So be sure to hit the follow button and sign up for email notifications to get the latest.

*Note: Working title and not actual cover.

I would love to hear your initial impressions or thoughts. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help guide efforts as I move forward in publishing and marketing.

#LiveYourDreams

Adventure, Life, Stories

A Manifesto of Fatherhood – Revisited

Happy Day after Fathers Day to Everyone!

A little different post for Motivation Monday this week. I want to encourage parents, both fathers and mothers. This post is written from my perspective as a father, but it can apply to those moms who are parenting alone and filling both roles.

I hope every father had a great Fathers day. Now that the day set aside to be all about you is over, it’s time to get back to being the father your children need. Your influence and impact will either set them up for success or failure in life. You are their protector, comfort, soft place to land, compass, rock and shelter from the storm.

February 2020

For fathers of daughters, as I am, who you are as a man will influence how they view other men. How you love and treat them, how you love and treat their mother will impact their belief and trust in other men.

Fathers, show your daughters what a real man is, and how a real man treats a lady. #MotivationMonday #FathersDay #EverydayYouAreADad #HappyDayAfterFathersDay

Think of the impact we would have if came alive as fathers. Your children will grow up and affect the lives of countless others and their children will go on and do the same. This ripple effect – this opportunity of compounding influence – has got to overwhelmingly dwarf whatever the majority of us may hope to accomplish at our jobs. Love your kids, men. Teach them to be strong, dedicated, focused, gentle, fierce, loyal.” ​​​​​​​- John Lovell, Warrior Poet Society

Love your kids, men. Teach them to be strong, dedicated, focused, gentle, fierce, loyal.” ​​​​​​​- John Lovell, Warrior Poet Society @johnlovell275

February 2017

The original post below was written back in 2013 when my daughter was 7 1/2 years old. She is now 15 1/2 and the words are as true today as they were then.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Father / Daughter Dance - February 2013"
February 2013

Knowing that, God willing, no matter the circumstances, I will always be a daddy to my little girl;

Knowing that, God willing, my daughter will one day be an adult and leave to follow her own path;

  • I will love my daughter for the gift that she is, not what she does
  • I will cherish every moment we spend together
  • I will strive to give her whatever wisdom I might possess
  • I will teach her the value of relationships & honoring promises
  • I will allow my daughter to soar upon her own wings
  • I will let her go to travel the path God has laid before her

“May the Lord give me the wisdom to parent with love, humility and strength, to give my daughter only and always the best that I can offer.”   ~M

Summer 2010

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” ~C. Everett Koop

I encourage you to now write your own manifesto!

Life, Stories, Writing

Book(s) Update – ‘The Chronicles of Faith’

Please note this is not the actual cover.

I have completed the ‘shitty’ first drafts and edits of each novel of the series – ‘The Chronicles of Faith.’ Each book was completed in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November where the goal is write 50,000 words. If nothing else NaNoWriMo motivates you to get a story out of your head onto the paper.

I wrote the first book:

  • ‘The Beauty of the Stars’

Back in 2014 and then let it sit. My wife and daughter both persevered through reading the rough, I mean rough, first draft and encouraged me to continue the story. (Truth be told I didn’t let them read it for a couple of years, it just sat collecting dust.)

Thus, in November of 2018 and 2019 I wrote the next two books in the series:

  • ‘The Stars are Falling’ and,
  • ‘The Judgment of the Stars.’

The title of the series ‘The Chronicles of Faith’ came to me for few reasons. One, I love Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Second, I have always loved the idea of writing a series myself. Third, the main character’s name is Faith and she, as well as other characters each go through their own journey of faith.

The Chronicles of Faith – book quotes                                                                         

Beauty is all around and our pain distracts us from seeing the truth. (The Beauty of the Stars – Coming soon Book 1 of the series ‘The Chronicles of Faith’ by Mark Wayne)

Falling is inevitable and only fatal if we choose not to get back up. (The Stars are Falling – Coming soon Book 2 of the series ‘The Chronicles of Faith’ by Mark Wayne)

Judgment finds us all, the only question is when and how. (The Judgment of the Stars -Coming soon Book 3 of the series ‘The Chronicles of Faith’ by Mark Wayne)

A Snapshot Teaser

Faith is a loner and she knows she is different. As an evolving drone technology is unleashed on an unsuspecting populace she longs to find connection. Charles Davidson, head of The Group, is intent on building an empire, letting nothing stand in his way. Faith and Charles are both driven and their fates intertwine in ways neither understands.

Supernatural powers are driving an agenda of epic proportions. Forces of good and evil collide inside the human hearts of two people who seem to have nothing in common. Others join Faith in her quest to kill Davidson, while each is forced to answer the questions of who they are and are they good enough? The destiny of each hinges on the challenging choices that each must make, especially Faith, and the consequences of which affects them all.

Please note this is also not the actual cover.

So What’s Next?

I am leaning towards self-publishing the book series in the near future. If you have any advice or resources for me I would welcome that. Please either leave a comment or email me at info@markschutter.com

In the meantime I am hard at work writing, actually editing my memoir. The book captures my experience of grief and loss as a young man. The book will be for anyone who has experienced loss and who hasn’t? Grief will touch us all and changes everything.

Stay tuned for future updates on both my novels and my memoir.

Life, Stories, Writing

“She died. She is dead.” Thoughts and coming to terms with the words.

Widowed and/or bereaved? And does it even really matter when the words don’t change the outcome?

Widowed – verb: past participle: widowed

  1. become a widow or widower; lose one’s spouse through death.
    • Widownounwidow; plural noun: widows
      a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.
    1. Widower – nounwidower; plural noun: widowers
      a man who has lost his spouse by death and has not remarried.

Bereaved – verb: past participle: bereaved

  1. be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, especially due to the loved one’s death.

“She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?” ~C.S. Lewis {A Grief Observed}

We use the terms ‘lost’, ‘deprived’ and ‘absence’ when the truth is they died. Their physical mortal body ceased to work and they died. You are widowed until you remarry, then no longer a widow or widower? And are you still bereaved every single moment, day, month, and year after losing a loved one?

The pain and the grief, never goes away even when you commit actions that take you in another direction, such as remarrying. Grief is not something you get over, it is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. It irrevocably changes you, how could it not?

Does the soul live on after death? I believe it does and that’s a topic for another blog post.

“Well, we have nothing if not belief.” ~Reepicheep {The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis}

God, Life, Stories

Belief and Death – are the words so difficult to learn?

“Well, we have nothing if not belief.”

~Reepicheep

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (CS Lewis)

A Grief Observed, as well as other books and writings, by CS Lewis have comforted, challenged and confirmed many of my own feelings at different times with their stark emotion and startling honesty. Almost thirty-five years and a vast ocean between two continents separated the experiences of Mr. Lewis and my own. We were at very different points on life’s continuum; Mr. Lewis was in his early sixties when his wife, Joy, died and me in my late twenties when my wife died.

However, the experiences of Mr. Lewis I read about are eerily similar to my own experiences. The feelings of pain, sorrow, guilt and eventually a measure of acceptance and healing that followed. Grief is a solitary road we must walk alone, however the words Mr. Lewis shared have always made me feel not quite so alone, especially during my own time of anguish and the dark night of my soul.

My hope is that my words, the things I share and put into the world can do the same for someone else. We are all sojourners here on earth and sorrow at one time or another will wrap its cold arms around us all and hold us close. In those moments, we need grace and mercy, for if my own experience is any indication in those dark times of guilt and pain there often vows and promises made that we are never meant to keep.

Poetry, Stories

Promises to Keep – A Memoir

My 25 word memoir of grief.

As I work on my full length memoir I have read several books, both how-to and memoir’s as research. In the book “Braving the Fire” by Jessica Handler, she mentions the shortest story of grief attributed to Ernest Hemingway, who is said to have written the following six word memoir

“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

Six words, that’s t leaves the reader wondering with unanswered questions.  I haven’t gotten mine down to six words yet, but I will keep working on it. 

In the meantime I continue working on the ‘shitty‘ first draft of my full-length memoir. I will be posting excerpts here on the blog soon, watch for more information to come and be sure to subscribe via your email to make sure you don’t miss any updates.

And remember grief is a shared human experience that we all must face. Grief is a natural extension of love and the lie is that we are either destined to live in utter despair forever or we somehow are completely healed. This is nonsense for grief irrevocably changes you, how could it not? You carry the experience with you for the rest of our life. 

#JustBelieve #HopeLives #LoveChangesPeople

Life, Stories

This Moment

The quiet all around was loud inside my head. I felt a sense of expectancy in the air.
The breeze off the lake contained a chill but was bearable after the heat of the day. The small waves pushed by the breeze lapped against the gravel-laden shoreline. The boardwalk was empty this early evening. The boards running vertically beneath our feet showed the signs of the many footsteps of those who had walked along this path and were well worn.
The diffused evening light cast an ethereal glow settled over the landscape as the sun touched the horizon. The ground to both sides of the wooden boardwalk was stark white bleached white from the powerful desert sun. The winds that blew over that had stripped the earth bare leaving it barren and void of life except for a few sparse trees that struggled for survival in the dry parched dirt.
We walked silently, me with my hands pushed deep into my pockets and her pushing her bike forward hands firmly on the grips and face a mask devoid of emotion. The sleeves of my white shirt rolled up to my elbows and I could feel the flapping of the shirttails in the wind as we walked. Her white summer dress hung loosely on her young body a stark contrast to her brown olive skin. The lack of color in our clothes matched the landscape as if we were a part of it.
Looking inland away from the lake, I could see the far distance parking lot where the last stragglers of the day were returning to their vehicles. Headed where I had no idea, I only knew that they had somewhere to go. The loneliness settled over me like a shroud as my steps faltered and the sun sank its lower half now hidden below the horizon.
Catching my stumble out of the corner of her eye, she knew better than to ask how I was. Instead, she simply stated,
“I am tired.”
“I know sweetie.”
I replied as I quickly regained my balance and told myself she had not seen my misstep, nor knew the reason why. However, deep down I knew that she knew. She always seemed to know. Her understanding empathy, the ability that came so naturally to her and guided her actions was far beyond her young years. As we continued to walk, she said.
“I just want to sleep, all the time.”
“It’s okay. I get it. If that’s what you need then that’s okay.”
The silence then settled around us again as we moved forward. We strode onward as if drawn by some invisible force that neither of us could deny. I knew she was tired and worn out, even without her earlier comment still echoing in my head. My heart ached knowing I was powerless to stop the pain. I still found it hard to admit, even to myself, the conclusion I knew was inevitable and unavoidable.
Life is hard and for her to learn this at such a young age seemed so unfair. My anger over the injustice I perceived burned however; the sadness and longing overshadowed it like the darkness. I looked across the lake at the exact moment the last of the huge golden orb of the sun sank beyond the horizon into the undiscovered. Melodies of grace erupted in my head in songs of redemption and a belief in a light that will one day overcome the darkness. As quickly as the feelings rose, they disappeared as the despair again wrapped its arms around me choking off my breath.
I felt so helpless and alone. My life slipping from my grasp and everything I held dear. We continued to walk in silence, comfortable together in our solitude. Over the past few days, I had watched, as she grew weaker and I hated the fact that my little girl’s strength was quickly fading and I knew the end was near.
The words came from where I do not know and spilled out of my mouth in a cry of anguish.
“I miss her.”
“I do too daddy.”
“God, I miss your momma.”
We stopped walking and the bike lay on its side where she had let if fall. Picking her up I held her close feeling her wet check against mine our tears mingled together as they ran down our faces. Her arms tightly squeezed my neck in defiance of tomorrow and yesterday, for this moment was all we had.

©Mark W. Schutter 2018

Often this moment is all we really have, don’t miss it. ~M

#JustBelieve #HopeLives #LoveChangesPeople

This Moment