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Tuesday
Jun112013

The Doors (And Not The Ones You Think)

by Richard Rossner

“There’s a disturbance in the Force.”  - Obi-Wan Kenobi 

My uncle died today.  As soon as I heard the news, I felt the depth of Obi-Wan’s statement.  It’s been happening a lot lately.  My mother died last June.   

The disturbance I feel is that small hole…the emptiness…the gap that a person leaves behind when they finish their life’s journey and head for the next adventure in the Hereafter. It seems like a selfish thing, but I didn’t even have to talk to them; I just liked knowing that my uncle and mom were here.  My maneuverings in the world somehow felt safer knowing that we were sharing space, air, the daily happenings…everything.  But the death of someone I love sensitizes me to the rip in the fabric of life.

Even though I believe in the concept of “spirit” and that it survives bodily death, it doesn’t make the loss any easier for me.

The death of a loved one – or even a not-so-loved one (it could simply be someone you only know casually) – forces reflection on all the big issues and questions: What are we doing here?  Why don’t bad things happen to bad people? Why are women always slowly pushing baby strollers on the sidewalk in front of my house so I have to stop the car and wait before I can drive in?

I am proud to announce that my uncle prepared me for a career in boxing, which is why I am a writer. He would have laughed loudly at that line. My uncle was a funny guy.  My mom was funny, too. So is their sister, my aunt. Their laughs, their perspectives, their senses of humor live inside of me. I’ve made my living writing humor, so I owe them all a major debt of gratitude.   

I had an instinct to make a video of the three of them when they gathered for a bar mitzvah in 2003. They sat on a couch, and I asked them questions. I knew all the usual family stories, but it occurred to me that once upon a time they weren’t moms and aunts and uncles. They were simply my grandparents’ children. They were brothers and sisters who giggled and had secrets. They made fun of their parents’ generation the way my brother and cousins made fun of our parents. I wanted to see my uncle, mom and aunt be people. Kids. Sibs.  

So I asked questions and they laughed, told stories, and I saw parts of them that I had never seen before. Of course, they also lived up to the caricatures my brother and cousins assigned to them. Before the formal interviewing began, the camera was rolling and caught a perfect sibling moment. They couldn’t decide who should sit where on the couch.  My aunt gave them an order. My mother said why that order was wrong.  My uncle made a crack about who had a better suggestion and why. It was like a Ringling Brothers car of circus clowns trying to get organized.  Such sweetness in the smallest of interchanges.

I remember that even as we made that video there was kind of a poignancy I felt about the experience. Maybe I was sensing that it would be the last time all of them would be together. I’m glad my cousin and I made the recording, but I have to confess that I haven’t had the courage to look at it.

On the positive side, this sad news brought many aspects of life into sharp focus for me. Again. 

I found myself walking to my car to load a suitcase from the hotel where my wife, dog and I have been living for the past two months.  (Don’t ask – it’s a long, annoying story about mold in our rented house and the difficulty we are having in getting our landlord to pay for our hotel while the mold is remediated and the kitchen reconstructed). But there I was…walking to my car…struggling to maneuver the heavier than lead suitcase. Yet each step was intensely pleasurable. I could feel the fluid interaction of muscles, bones, and arteries. I sensed the keen coordination of balancing weight and maintaining a stride through the delicate intricacies of the inner ear, brain, and eyes. And then the moment was punctuated with the thought, “No more steps or walking for my uncle.”

Each breath had me marveling at the sweetness of the Los Angeles air and how the oxygen in it replenished and rejuvenated my whole body.  “No more breathing for my uncle.” Even the rancid taste in my mouth was somehow heightened, simply because I could taste it.

Putting the suitcase in the car had my imagination flashing on my uncle’s family trips, where he must have had to load his car. All of the irritations of packing, getting the suitcases into the trunk, herding the family like uncooperative chickens…all of it had a sweetness that my uncle will never get to experience again. 

His book is closed. His life and everything he did is now a complete record.  

I know I mourn for his company, his sense of humor, his stories and his wisdom. I know he is in a higher vibration and a happier, healthier place.  And it feels selfish to want him here for my pleasure. But that is the conundrum we all face. 

It is hard to come to terms with the fact that we all have a specific door constructed just for us that we must pass through.  We come to life through one, and we leave life through another one. We happily ignore the idea that with every breath and every step we are inching closer to that special door. Our door. But one day we will be upon it. And I suppose those left behind will contemplate thoughts like mine.

 

Richard Rossner is a writer who has written for television and film. When he isn’t writing, he is working with his wife, Rahla Kahn, teaching Adaptive Applied Improvisation to cancer patients, corporations and private clients who want to experience the healing benefits of laughter, joy and creativity through their experiential program, The Power Of Play (www.ThePowerOfPlay.com). 

photo via istockphoto.com.

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Reader Comments (41)

Nice. Very nice.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharmaine Coimbra

Having lost my father at 17, I often wonder who he really was as a child and a brother before he became my father.The father of 6 very different people, me being the youngest. He told us many stories about him growing up but I just wished I had asked more and that we would have had more time together. I still remember the long walks we took in the beach, just the two of us. We talked about so many things and the talks changed as the years passed and I grew older. What he taught me will always be with me and I hope I can passed it on to my special and beautiful 3 year old daughter. They go through the door but a lot of who they were stays with and is passed on to others. I'm very grateful for that.

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

A lovely, reflective tribute that connects the departed to the present ... thank you!

June 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWynne Brown

So very beautiful, poignant and sad. You said it all so well. Such a good writer. (Boxing's loss!)

My Mother is with me in spirit all the time but I deeply miss that sweet being to banter with and hug. I want so much for it to be true that we all meet up again. If not ... I hope it won't be something I'll long for as I do now. Maybe whatever it turns out to be is fine when we get through our door and over to the other side. One can hope. :)

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBaba Gee

Such a lovely remembrance. What a nice flow and feel to your writing.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Branker

Another poignant and wonderfully written essay by Richard. You are a consummate writer. Thanks for the thoughts.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVictor Taube

I'm sorry for your losses. But I take some selfish pleasure in reading what the deaths inspired in you. I'm glad you're still writing. And still bringing joy and insight and laughter to others As you've been doing for the nearly half-century since I met you.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Richard,

I so enjoyed the beautiful essay that Doug read allowed to me this morning. Something for all of us to contemplate as we walk toward whatever awaits us and through the many daily doors toward our final destination.

Love to you and Rahla.

I read your essay outloud to Rachell and we both enjoyed it so much. You are such a goreat writer. So sorry about your mother and your uncle but i, too, am sure they are enjoying your wrinting, to.

Doug Hall

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Hall

"We all have a specific door constructed just for us that we must pass through." WOW, that is a great line. I so agree with much you have written where I often think of my deceased parents and what they have been through in their lives and selfishly the fact that they are not here for me, anymore. I so miss them and it has been 13 years for my Dad and soon 10 years for my Mom. I often reflect on one of Barry Manilow’s songs, “I Am Your Child”. It really reminds me that I am continuing what my Dad / Mom started and am in hopes that my children will carry it forward. My son and I danced to that at his wedding and it made me cry when he told me, “I ‘got’ the lyrics”. It is curious that we continually think about our parents and our children in respect to our own lives in the hope to understand what life is about. I am still working on the answer.  Since it still hurts that my parents are gone, I want to hang around very long so my own children will not know that hurt…… but in reality, I hope, I go through that door before they do….

Your manuscript is a very nice tribute. I am sorry for your recent loss, Richard.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterToni

what beautiful writing you have red writing hood! chock full of observations even the most unevolved amongst us can appreciate! I would love to see the video. meanwhile, hang in there dickie boy. I think it's gonna be a bumpy ride. but what the hell? all the better to savor it with.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlizzieb

Loved your story. Thank you for sharing

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Richard,

As always, your words touch me in that place reserved for the wordsmith with heart. You and I do find solace putting pen to paper; it's a strange, but comforting ritual. I know that you grok that.

Having lost my father last June to a brain bleed from a fall, my mother 13 years prior to cancer and my dear and lovely younger cousin (whom Deb and I have always considered our sister) just four months ago to a rare brain syndrome that presents like ALS, I, too, am feeling the tear in the fabric of my life. It is so hard. It is just so hard.

I am sitting with my 91 year old auntie who is in the throes of Alzheimer's. Deb and I have embraced this time to spend with the woman who was our constant baby sitter in our early lives. It is hard to watch as she cries because she knows her memory has gone, yet good to be able to give back to her in this way.

And all of it, the loss, the time with my aunt, reminds me that the dance I am constantly a part of is on the edge of a sword. Staying sharp and awake is what we do to remind ourselves of the gift of life.

You have been and continue to be an important part of this life of mine. I am so grateful for these words you have sent and for knowing that I can call you friend.

You are ever in my heart.

Cynthi

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCynthi Stefenoni

Nicely written Richard. Thank you for articualting the thoughts and feelings we are all increasingly facing.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Lovely, poignant, funny, touching. An altogether exquisite piece that touches the heart and soul.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

The above comment was mine not Richard's! I put in your name by mistake!!!!

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerynne

I'm sorry for your loss as well, Richard. Having lost my mother, my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law within the last year your essay rings very true to me. Well said...

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Dunn

I have been reading the reactions to my essay, and I am overwhelmed by the way it has touched everyone.

Charmaine - your comment was what all writing should be - concise, to the point...with an echo that reverberates in a powerful way. It certainly did for me.
Maria - we've never met, but your comment was so poignant and personal that I feel as though we've been friends forever.
Wayne - your comment tied up some loose end for me that I hadn't quite noticed.
Baba Gee - We'll all know the answers soon enough. The trick is to appreciate what we have before we realize it's gone.

So many kind and wonderful insights and thoughts.

It is great to hear from you, Larry. You are one of my writing heroes!

Thank you, Doug & Rachell.

Toni - I love your story. What a wonderful moment you had with your son. And how true that we are always measuring and evaluating our lives through our parents and children's lives.

LizzieB - you make me laugh all the time! Maybe Rahla and I will come up for a visit and bring the video!

Cynthi - My heart aches for you and your sister as you take care of your aunt. It is so beautiful that you can do this, but knowing how painful the loss of memory is brings me to tears. As Paul Simon said in his song "Old Friends," "Preserve your memories. They're all that's left you." How hard it is when the thing that helps define us and make sense of it all evaporates. But I believe that at some level they know you are there - even if they can't remember or don't appear to know you. You are a courageous soul, my friend.

And Fred, thank you for summarizing it all so well and so concisely!

We all must deal with these issues one way or another. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of your thoughts.

We will continue to dance with these issues as we go.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

I love you, Derynne! I wondered who I was with that comment!

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Chuck,

I am so sorry for your losses - and all in one year. I wish there were words to say to ease the pain.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Richard. LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Not sad, just a beautiful reminder that we should all treasure our lives (even the frustrating parts), and the people in them. My uncle was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I'm wondering if he is still able to sit with his 3 siblings (my mom, her sister and other brother) for a video. Such a great idea.

I would kill for a journal from any of my relatives that have passed away. Maybe that is why I'm an obsessive journal writer who writes every day. I have BOXES of journals. I don't know if any of my kids care or would even care to read them, but maybe my future {hopefully} grandchildren or great grandchildren will. I try to include public events and my thoughts on them, stuff that's going on in the world. That way my future generations will get a unique snapshot of the world in our time.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Wylie

Beautiful, Cindy! Keep writing!!!!

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

It was kind of you to prepare your readers that your article might seem "heavy." By now, though, I've grasped that death is a part of life, and I'm not thrown by the subject matter. It simply is what's there, though each loss is mighty and unravels part of the fabric of our lives. No one is replaceable. And some loved ones never leave us even in death because our lives have been too deeply entwined. And I'm grateful for that, even with the pain.

When someone close dies, the pain is deep because the loss is great. Yet how lucky we all are to have that feeling. It's kind of that good news/bad news thing. What I think, Richard, is that when it's fresh, it almost unbearable. You simply want that person back...and in good shape, thank you. I remember all the times that I awoke the next morning to the realization that a loved one (there have been many now) was no longer on this earthly plane with me. Hard. So I send my sympathies to you. And I think that your uncle was lucky to have such a wonderful and creative nephew...to treasure him.

As you seem to do with each subject, you wrote with delicacy and tenderness, painting images that brought me along with you. And I even laughed out loud with your line: "I'm proud to announce that my uncle prepared me for a career in boxing, which is why I'm a writer." That again shows me the quality of your writing and your heart.

Years ago when Daniel and I and my nephew Michael were still in the room hours after my brother George had died, a hospital employee came into the room and found us all doubled over and laughing with tear-stained faces. She was shocked. I told her, "Moments earlier we had been crying. Moments from now, we'll be crying again. But right now we're remembering something magnificent and humorous about George and how unique he was in the world. That made us laugh." You captured the essence of that magical mix with your article. And I, too, would like to see your video...one of these days when you're ready. It does take a while.

Thinking of you, dear friend. My condolences to all. Thanks for writing about this subject. It shined a light.

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCecile

Cecile,

You and I share these kinds of conversation often. And each time you bring a wonderful new facet to the table. I love your story about your brother. It's so true. The roller coaster of emotions keep rolling along. It's inevitable. All we can do is hold on, love the laughs, embrace the tears and know that we're not crazy through all the pain. Thank you for your touching response!

July 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Thank you to Kathy Hume Arn, a high school friend who wrote this response to me privately. I liked her insightful observation, and she gave me permission to post it.

"You were so right about taking space in the daily goings on---well said. My husband loves his solitude yet when I am gone for a trip he misses the sounds in the house I make that are the tempo to scheduled daily routines. I am the time keeper to him - the one who keeps him in tune with when he should be sleeping, eating , creating, doing or not doing. When I am away he is all off schedule and jet lagged when I get back."

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Beautifully written. Poignant and incredibly thoughtful. Thank you for sharing these tender thoughts.

July 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Berlin

Dear Richard,

Your insight is always humorous and profound, an award-winning combination! My mom passed 17 years ago, but she's with me every day. There isn't a day when I don't think of her many times, especially since I'm surrounded by her paintings and sculputre. Your story made me think of her even more. Thank you. Stories are everything, generational, historical glue.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGoldwoman

Thank you Michael. As writer to to writer, your comments mean a lot to me.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Gale, I love that concept - our stories as historical glue. Yes! Our stories connect us to one another. Stories connect us to our families, to our friends, to everyone. I just read in an article that the secret to happiness is to connect to one another - and the best way to connect is to give something to someone. Thank you for the gift of your friendship, your stories, and your amazing, breathtaking paintings and artwork.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Loved it!.... forwarded o 15 people..:) beautiful .... thanks ...

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Biocini

Peggy, Great conversation about life. Thank you for sending it.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDianne Morrison

Thanks for sharing that Peggy. Richard is such an amazing writer...and the subject hits close to home for all of us.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia Watson

Well done, thanks for sharing!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllyn Dooley

Peg, he hit the nail on the head. Brilliant! Xox L

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Schneller

There’s a lot of truth in this. Thanks for sending it along.
xxxTAS

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTAS

Thanks, P. Very cool.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGary Bulanti

A BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN SLICE OF LOVE. May you heal the emptiness from your losses. Thank you for your story, your insight, your healing words.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey Moore

Peggy - thank you for sending the article on to your friends and family! I'm glad people are finding value in what I have written.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Dianne, Georgia, Ellyn, Lynda, TAS, and Gary - Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Now that you've been to Your Life Is A Trip, take a look at the other writers and stories on this site. I think you will find very thoughtful and stimulating pieces from all the other writers!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Thank you for your kind and comforting words, Audrey.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

Dear Dickie,

Very natural real & Bart is still very proud of you... My condolences on all your losses.
This friend has returned to you.. If you still want him.

Much Love ,
Ode to a Grecian U---e
Stay well

Thanks for getting in touch. And thank you for your condolences. I was just thinking about you the other day. I'm sure the road you are traveling is filled with some very interesting stories. And it's nice to hear from Bart. I'm sure he is proud, too. Let me know what you're up to. The pipeline is always open to you.

July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Rossner

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