Re-building from rubble.

A lot has changed for me since I last wrote. In March last year, my father died.

I’ve lost a parent before, but this was different. This was final.  No longer was there a foundation of the kind of love, support, and hope that was the relationship I had with my Mom and Dad. Suddenly, I was 24 with no where to stand. I say sudden because that’s what it was (another reason it was different from my mom’s death). His death was painful for him, I know that. I had it described to me. It was sudden, swift and , in my opinion, violent. No one wants that.

I am thankful and saddened that I wasn’t there when he passed. I was on the 0ther side of the world, planning my next project as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Indonesia. I was nearing my second year, and I was only shy of 2 months when everything happened.

When my sister told me quietly over Skype that our Dad had just died, I immediately began grabbing things and throwing them into bags. It didn’t matter what is was that I grabbed, as long as my hands were busy and my mind was occupied. I used packing as a excuse to avoid my host family through that entire day. I knew the moment my sister told me about Daddy that I wouldn’t be returning to Indonesia.

The good-bye to my host-mom was painful and short…I made sure to time it that way. I didn’t want to see her cry or hear her ask when I was coming back. She did both in that small window of time. She hugged me tighter than I knew she was capable and cried for her own loss and for mine. I think she knew I wasn’t coming back either, but she asked any way. I answered in a small voice over and over again “Saya tidak tahu” (I don’t know) and then I was gone.

Now, a little over a year later, I can say the pain of losing my Dad and the experience surrounding it runs deeper than I’ve ever experienced. When my mother died when I was 20, I still had my father. I still had him and he was there. He promised to be here when I came back. His hugs meant the world to me…they always have. His smell. His laugh. His smile. 

My mother’s death left a void that never healed and losing my father widened the gap. The pain of her death echoes inside me, but my Dad’s absence screams. It wracks my body at night and leaves me exhausted through the day. Not only did I lose my best friend and strongest source of affirmation, but I was ripped away from a family I’d built in Indonesia. I could go back (& I will) but the pain of that night will always be with me in some form or another.

I am 25 with no parents. Though my parents are no longer here, I can still find joy in the family I left behind. My 2 sisters, brother, and I lean on each other for support. We hold each other up. We are each other’s foundation.  We’ll take road trips with my father’s urn in the back seat, blasting his favorite music with the window’s down. We’ll scream the lyrics till the sun sets. We’ll find joy with each other and the people who love us.

I decided that life is decidedly short & I will fill this void with as much happiness that I can find. This past year, I’ve been scrambling for a sense of self and I’ve found it by embracing every single part of me. I am a living memory of Quentin and Tovoia. Those are the parts of me and they are beautiful. I leaned on my father’s foundation of affirmation to help me navigate a world that told me I wasn’t enough. I still lean on that foundation and I embrace it. This life I’m living is mine and I choose to live it the way I see it.

A Dedication to Mommy

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss

I intended to post this on 2.24.12 to mark the first year since my Mom passed, but I didn’t. So why not the first day of my Mom’s favorite Month? 

The thing that I found to be eerie and inspiring about this is that I wrote it around Midnight on February 24th, 2011 and I felt a strong emotional connection to something I did not understand. Later that same day my Mom passed away. I remember before I knew that she passed that I was excited to share this with her because I wrote it for my creative writing class. I always loved my mother, but writing this made me feel an appreciation for her that was deeper than I felt before.

One thing that I am proud to say is that I feel no regrets. I always let my Mom know that I loved her and we never hid anything from each-other. She was the most open and kindhearted person I know. I know people speak kindly of those who have passed but are only saying it to fluff up an image of that person. But I can say genuinely 100% that my Mother was the most amazing, open, and funniest person I’ve had the honor of knowing. The funny thing is I no longer feel a feeling of “loss” because I will see her again. I don’t feel whole, but I feel a contentment that only she could have taught me and that she continues to give me. I don’t like to talk about whats going on in my life, but I felt the need to share. 

Tell the people you love that you love them. Share with them. Be open. Live your life with no regrets. Do it now. Don’t put it off. We don’t like to talk about it, but we never know when our time to go is coming. While you are still here living, breathing and laughing…Share your laughter with others. I’m speaking on a simple level without regard to your religion, race, political affiliation or gender. No matter who you are, “Show” your love. When things don’t go the way you planned, you’ll wish you did. 

So here it is:

   Cradled by a dark-caramel colored frame, etched with hand drawn manufactured words of “Peace, Nature, Live,and Freedom” around it, sits a photo of my Mom, sister, and me. My Mom is at least 24 years old, Samaya is barely alive at 4 days, and I am 2.  My Mother is sitting high on the end of a bed scattered with floral patterns, holding both of us. A tan backrest pillow un-purposely leans against Mommy at the moment. No one’s eyes notice the camera-holder, or focus on the lightning flash of the disposable camera. No eyes can be seen.

My Mother (5.17.67-2.24.12). Me age 2. Baby Sis.


        All eyes are on Samaya. I sit with my back to the camera, my diaper hanging proudly out of my light baby blue pajama pants, supporting her head with my hand. Mommy’s arms are wrapped around the both of us. Her right hand meets her left fist, which is cradled awkwardly around Samaya to support her entire body. Samaya’s shoulder blades rest in the nook of her elbow. She doesn’t seem to mind. In this moment, her eyes look completely shut, but they are consumed in the new born. In this moment, we are supporting each other. Mommy is keeping me from tumbling from her lap and I am attempting to keep Samaya’s head upright. Her arms, wrapped around the both of us, are continuous in life and in spirit.

       Samaya’s hair clings to her like it’s been smoothed down in perfect black waves around her scalp. Her skin is bright yellow; the sun’s second cousin. Just bright enough to handle, but not too bright to go unnoticed. She’s newly-shriveled and soft, her face formed into a frozen scowl that shows some discomfort.  Mommy bought a white blanket that snugly envelopes her from neck to toe, wrapping Samaya in warmth. My head is covered in four large plaits marked with individual barrettes. My hair neatly shoots off in different directions divided by carefully greased and separated parts.  My head, turned away from the camera, blocks the mouth of my smiling Mother, only indicated by the rise in her upper cheek-bones.  Mommy’s bright orange-and green head band pushes back her hair in a mass of thick dyed almond and blackness that carries down to the tops of her earlobes. Her hair is has been tediously parted down the middle, sending fluffs of thickness on either side of her head. Below, a bright orange t-shirt accompanies her head band, highlighted against the white of my t-shirt and Samaya’s blanket.

       We are in my Mommy’s room, so the room must have a smell that you can’t quite identify, you just know it must smell good. It’s probably something flowery, but not overwhelming so that it lightly touches your nostrils, rather than send it into a fiery pit of stink. Mommy looks like the great pumpkin against the brown floral patterning on the wall, thoughtlessly scattered against a white background. She sticks out like a accidental Queen amongst these dead things. Everything is haphazardly tossed this way and that: the phone, the covers, the baby brush, and the bottle, but all within reach. I, myself, look like I’m on the brink of collapsing, but only forward, into Mommy.

      A tell-tale sign that we are all one in the same is the peak that breaches our hair lines, Mommy’s is the most defiant. It highlights either side of her face, this time her right. You see her long “roman” nose that I always dared to grab, her high eyebrows, the roundness of her face. When she was younger, she always tried to shave it off, finding it to be unattractive. I did the same thing, but I discovered that without it I feel bare. I feel that I am not only denying, but I am erasing a part of what makes me who I am. I know it’s a simple hairline, but it goes beyond that. I am my Mother’s daughter, and I am proud of everything that makes me. The little things that we forget are the big things that make us who we are, and for me it’s a hairline.