Hamilton & Kobe

I can’t remember when exactly I got the original Broadway cast recording (OBCR) of Hamilton for Z, but it was shortly after it was released. Hamilton was still fresh and new and I probably heard it reviewed on NPR or some other such medium for the self important and socially aware granola eaters.

I got the soundtrack first and loved it. I figured this would be right up her alley, so I purchased a second copy and gave it to her at the following holiday. I can’t remember if it was for Christmas 2015 or Easter 2016. But whatever the case, she loved it too. We talked about the songs, about how much we didn’t know that we know now. We talked about what everybody else talked about when Hamilton first hit the scene.

We’d play it on our road trips. We’d turn the volume up and pretend we could follow along with the singing. We couldn’t. We hum along.

It’s been just over 4 years since she and I fell for Hamilton. Shortly after she passed, I tucked our copies away. It was a fun thing she and I shared and I ticked it up with all of the other things we shared. Hamilton, Gilmore Girls, Reading Lists, and other such sundries were put into an emotional box of things that just wouldn’t be the same without her.

This past week, Hamilton’s touring cast made a stop in Grand Rapids and I roped some of my cousins in and off we went.

I cried through a significant portion of the first act. Not the heaving sobs of a freshly broken life, but the emotional realization of what I was doing without her.

I was overwhelmed with the memories of our times together with Hamilton. I sat in my seat taking everything in and the weight of her loss filled my chest and my eyes started leaking and I resolved to enjoy this for us; for her and for me and for our times in the car headed up north or back when it was the three of us (Alex, Z, and me) with the sun warming up what we all assumed was a bright and happy future.

I’ve spent the last couple of days digesting my time with Hamilton and trying to arrange my thoughts about the subject in preparation for this blog. I sat down to spend some quality time with the internet and my homework and my thoughts about why I cry during concerts (see previous posts about Flogging Molly) and I fired up the internet to find out Kobe Bryant was killed today with his daughter.

I’ve never particularly felt an idolization toward him. He’s not necessarily one of my heroes, although an amazing positive public figure to be sure, but when I read the news about his accident I got super emotional.

An accident. A father killed. A daughter killed.

It strikes so close to home and I can’t shake it. Reading that news flooded me with fresh anguish. I re-read the news over and over. Accident. Father killed. Daughter killed.

I should have known what Hamilton was going to do to me. I should be prepared for the sudden tragedy that will take my breath away.

Everything is a minefield of danger spots that will make my chest tighten up.

Zero Stars. Do not recommend.


I remember the very first publicly posted affirmation poster I ever saw – it was a kitten dangling from a tree branch on a yellow background.  Hang In There!.  It was dumb.  Even my elementary school aged brain saw past the kitten and recognized the absurdity of the poster.  The kitten was a good distraction, but did not negate any part of the ridiculous message.  What does it look like, to hang in there?  What am I supposed to do?  Does hanging in there mean that I do nothing to change anything?  Does it mean that I should take a passive role in my life?  Is this just what we’re doing now? EXPLAIN THIS BS TO ME!

Alex calls me pretty frequently to talk about things she might be over-thinking.  She likes a reality check.  “Is it me or…”.  Similarly, I will call around to my people and run things by them, but mostly I know that I am 100% reasonable at all times, without fail, and the clearly anyone that slights me is in the wrong.  Clearly.  I just need confirmation of my never-ending correctness.

Alex once accused me over text of giving her some affirmations rather than actually contributing to our conversation.  I can’t remember what I said – but knowing me it was probably something about moving forward.  (We never move on.  There is a subtlety in the difference between moving forward and moving on).

Her accusation of affirmation sparked me on a month long inner discussion regarding my loathing for “Time heals all wounds”.  Uummm… no.  There are some wounds that never heal over.  They may scab up.  Get crusty.  But they never heal.  I will never recover from the loss of Joe or Z.

I don’t want to hang in there, I don’t want you to tell me Let go and let God (I super hate that one).  If you tell me to focus on the positive I will instead focus on the budding anger sparked by that gem.

Last August I went up to to visit Joe and Z on their day (Joe’s birthday, Z’s death day) and I did a quick drive-by at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.  My mom and I stopped in to chat and my aunt sat on the couch next to me and held my hand and refrained from telling me anything that involved the future or memories or (my least favorite) God’s will.  She just spoke softly about her love for me and that was it.

Affirmations do not help the recipient.  Often they aren’t reflective of the giver, either.  They’re just words that fill up an uncomfortable silence.  Back-alley therapy doesn’t serve any good.

Telling me to be positive is not a call to action.

Actually, I take that back.  It will make me angry, and that will give me something to act on.  I mean a kidney punch is not positive action, but it is still action.

If something I say triggers a response from you, and you don’t know what to say back – go with “Wow.  That sucks.”  Its not helpful, but it won’t make me mad and it will affirm my emotion.  So, there it is.  an affirmation.

Just sit with me and embrace the suck.

Zero Stars.  Do not recommend.



The Labor of Grief

The UP is a lawless land of the wild and my perfect cemetery being what it is, there are no graveyard amenities that come with buying a plot in the cemetery.  If you want to put someone into the ground, you must first dig the hole.  It is not a service provided.

In July 2018 my family marched to the top of the hill and took turns digging out the place I would inter my child and my husband.  It was hot, and sweaty, and the mosquitoes were in aggressive force, and it was dirty, terrible, heart-wrenching, and exhausting work.  It was good for our hearts.

Prior to this chapter(?) in my life, I’d never given thought to the catharsis that manual labor offers.   We know in our DNA, in the fiber, and in molecules of our bodies that these people belong to us.  Z came from my body, my body remembers, my body expects her to be with me.  I spent a significant amount of quality time working for my husband and the business of cancer.  I moved him from chair to couch to bed to car to chair and back again.  I moved him between appointments and I picked him up when he fell.  I worked so hard on his life.  My body remembers the work.

Manual labor allows our bodies to understand grief.  Quiet contemplation of the chore at hand engages the entire mind, body, and spirit.

This past couple of weeks we were in the UP for a big family holiday.  We normally don’t do that – normally we close up the cabins for the winter and that’s it.  But this year was the odd year on and I arrived a day after my siblings.  When I got up north, my brother let me know he’d shoveled a path to the back of the cemetery.  He got to spend some time with his thoughts as he did the work of the bereaved.

When he dug them out, he’d found this year’s grave blanket, left by Z’s archery coach.  It’s his mission to make sure this favor is done every year.   Coach builds them himself from fresh boughs wired together.  They are not purchased, they are a work of love and time.

When we allow our bodies to bereave the loss, along with our minds and souls, we allow ourselves to fully participate in the work of grief.  We calm the anxiety of the soul, the transferred grief of the body.

I will work to be present with their absence and give my body some relief.

Because the body never forgets.

Zero stars.  Do not recommend.