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.

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

Writing

Sometimes it’s all worth it!

It is the eve of National Novel Writing Month 2019 (NaNoWriMo 2019), where we crazy writers jump in with both feet attempting to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days.

This is my second year in s row and 4th overall. I have accomplished the feat (50,000 words) each time and “won”. What that really means is I know have 3 shitty first draft manuscripts that I need to start editing. Yikes!

Well this afternoon I received notice that 3 of my poems had been selected for the short list and will be included in the Broken Hearts, Healing Words – An A.B.Baird Anthology.

I am so beyond grateful and freaking excited. Did not really expect this. Just goes to show sometimes it’s all worth it.

Keep writing my friends! You have a story that only you can tell whether it’s poetry, short stories, novels, fiction or nonfiction. #GetYourWriteOn

#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

Writing

“Some Days” – A short story free-write

image

A quick free-write story using the following words – buckskin, sweaty, lilac, learn and disjointed. This was written at the lunch time gathering of the writing group I participate in at work. I think we had 5 – 7 minutes to contemplate and write. Lots of fun and encouragement as we write and share. Not bad way to spend a lunch hour.

This very short story shows my off-beat sense of humor. Hey, it made the group laugh and left them with a lot of unanswered questions. Now, get your write on my friends!

Life, Writing

Just the Right Time -A Tree Story

They buried me deep to prohibit the evil from returning. Long held superstitious beliefs still ruled the minds of many people. The cool damp earth heavily covered every inch of my body. I felt nothing as shovels of dirt hit my face, my eyes open wide and vacantly staring at the sky above. Dust and mud filled every crevasse of my skin. Soon the darkness completely overtook me and there was no more.

The little seed had long lay undisturbed, wedged between two stones deep within the earth. Now as my body melted into an unrecognizable pile of rotting flesh the dust became damp and permeated with the squalid and putrid smell forming a muddy mixture. The oozing moisture from the decaying flesh began to bleed into the surrounding dirt and covered the little seed in life-giving moisture. In that moment, deep in the silence, life began to stir.

Breaking through the shell and hard outer husk a small white tendril began to slowly struggle upward in the dark. Drawn by an instinct that upward was were there was a place that light existed. The small shoot of living mass passed through my stomach which was now an unrecognizable mixture of internal organs, flesh and earth, weaving its way through the bones of my ribs. Its quest for life seemed to direct it away from the poisons secreted by my decaying liver and kidneys. The multitude of enzymes and proteins from my rotting flesh feed the small seed’s every growing need.

Growing stronger and bigger the long white shoot became a missile as it continued upward through the dark soil. Like an albino snake it inched its way towards the surface around obstacles and powering through the damp earth. After many days, that seemed like forever in the dark, a small white shoot broke through the hard crust of the earth. Protruding upward the small spike of a living plant was overcome by the bright light.

The warmth and power of the sun was overwhelming. Immediately a metamorphosis began to occur. The little white sprout began to synthesize and the color of green began to grow into the small wisps of the upstart life. Steadily the years passed; as rains came down saturating the ground followed by sunshine that gave warmth, silently encouraging continued growth. Stronger and stronger it became, resilient to the cold winters, the restless winds and the myriad of enemies that sought its destruction.

Ever up towards the blue of the sky it grew its branches extending as if sniffing the smells carried on the winds. The pine needles rustled in the breeze creating a symphony of sounds no orchestra could match. The trunk became full and strong, the roots burying themselves deep into the soil, past my long forgotten corpse.

The sun circled lazily through the sky day after day and time moved on as it is want to do. One bright late spring day a young girl and her father stopped to rest in the shade cast by the trees long velvet green branches. They had been walking enjoying the warmth of the sun on their skin and now they sat down in the cool shade, as a faint smell of pine scent wafted in the air about them.

“Daddy, how long do you think this tree has been here?” she asked looking up into the enormous canopy over their heads.

Her father paused, looking up also and replied, “Oh honey, I am sure a long, long time. A tree this huge takes a lot of years to grow this big. You know it started from just one small seed, smaller than the end of your little finger and it was in the right spot at just the right time.”The Life of a Tree

The little girl lay back in the shade of the mighty tree smiling and looked up into the tangle of branches of gently swaying pine needles reveling in the quiet. She watched as a small bird seemingly unconcerned hopped from branch to branch. The late afternoon sunlight filtered through the branches as her father felt his heart swell with love for his little girl. They sat together remaining silent in the midst of the circle of life that revolved around them.

~Mark Schutter ©2015

The above writing was began during a free-write session of our workplace writing group with the prompt to write about a tree and use the physical senses throughout. I did not have time to finish during the session but already had the ending in mind so I went back and finished it with some editing.  What do you think?