Getting Lifted.

Breath sucked through a filter as ashes fall to earth,

Smoke filling lungs as the mind contemplates worth.

The pictures fill my mind, but my teeth grind as I fight

to deny the urges and the flickering flame of light.

Why should a plant dictate the unlocking of my thoughts

while stains fill my mouth and my memory just rots?

But instead for my daily bread, I clear my head

feed upon the Word and the words I have read.

Some turn to herb as a way to find an answer;

it doesn’t hurt, but man, is it a mental cancer.

When it should be God who leaves me gasping,

breath lost in wonder, and voice rasping

in awe of His presence, I cough for lack of speech

His Highness and His glory through Jesus does He teach.

So let me reach for the Word, may I be addicted

to every line that He has spoken, each scene fully depicted.

Fiending for His lessons, jonesing for His blessing

Burning up with passion for Him, never stressing

about the things of this world, my mind is at ease

because I’m following His will, and it is He who I please.

Using God has killed me, for I died with Him on the cross

The world doesn’t count it mighty gain; they count it loss.

Ashes of my former self, burned by His love for me

my heart shatters swiftly, I’m saying, “Lord, now I see.”

I finally exhale the smoke of burning embers:

the dying fire of the world that just never endures.

I never needed anything else to get my spirit lifted

as soon as I found it was my mind that should’ve shifted.

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On Seagulls’ Wings.

On funeral day, countless tears were shed,

Moving words spoken and eulogy read.

Tears came afresh, bathing eyes with our grief

Realizing how your love was most chief

Within a heart for others that has ne’er been found.

Overwhelming thanks and gratitude sound;

Our last goodbyes given as casket soon closed

Pallbearers all as we, up the hill, rose.

When burial time came and our job was soon done

An awesome sign showed beside the face of the sun:

Hundreds seagulls freely flying soared above

Soft angels sent with God’s very own love.

Final Farewell.

 John Hill Aughey said that “death to the Christian is the funeral of all his sorrows and evils, and the resurrection of all his joys” and I believe that today, my grandmother is praising God in heaven, knowing more joy than any of us has known while living. She not only ran her course, but ran it faithfully and in love. On the day of her passing, the tears that came forth sprung up from shame and guilt and sorrow, but upon realizing her new position spiritually with the Father, the tears ran dry and the appreciation of her life on Earth began sinking in.

My grandmother was really one of the most loving people I’ve known in my entire life. Before the chains of age claimed her physical body, she poured her heart into serving our family, making meals and taking care of the grandchildren, doing it all out of a seemingly limitless love. Looking back on her life, I realize that she really knew the difference between 房子 (house) and (home); she understood that for the former to become the latter, the warmth of love needed to be present. She would always welcome family, and strangers too, with a laugh and the greeting, “Oh, you’ve come!” There was rarely a time where she did not offer snacks to her guests and never a time where she did not warmly regard those who came to her home, making sure that they felt at home. I believe that she lived the reality of the difference between 房子 (house) and (home) not only in the physical family life, but also in her spiritual life, creating a real home, founded on love, for the Lord to come and live in. I remember seeing her, in her old age, still holding onto the memory verses that the Chinese-speaking saints distributed, repeating the words to herself and attempting to commit them to memory; though memory slowly deserted her, she never deserted the Lord’s precious Word. Romans 14:8 says, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.In all aspects of her life, my grandmother lived as the Lord’s and she died as the Lord’s as well.

To close, I’ll finish with a quote from Samuel Rutherford: “Ye have lost a child; nay, she is not lost to you, who is found in Christ; she is not sent away, but only sent before; like unto a star which, going out of sight, does not die and vanish, but shines in another hemisphere.” My grandmother is now that star that has gone before, shining in the hemisphere of heaven before God.

 

Losing My Touch.

As a writer, I’ve mentioned previously my paranoia of not meeting the expectations of others upon evaluation.  Now, a seemingly more dangerous thing is happening to my repertoire of language – words are disappearing from my command.  It’s not so much that I lack knowledge of definitions, because people are constantly testing the “English major” stereotype, but rather it’s an internal issue that is leaving an indelible impression upon my confidence in more ways than one.

It might be an issue of pride – I see the work of my peers and feel like I am somehow inadequate, like I somehow need to outdo them.  However, I should know by now that all artists produce different echoes when faced with a cave.  To compare my artistic voice to another artist’s would be like measuring the jagged edges on two rocks; there’s little point to doing it, and often quite hard to properly ascertain.

Whatever the problem is, it’s distressing for a writer to go through this kind of existent, or non-existent, trauma.  I cannot properly convey the urgency of the situation at hand because this post was actually spread out over two very eventful days.  Thinking more and more on the problem…perhaps it’s just a simple lack of the very elixir powering my mind: sleep.

10:30 A.M.

What a thing it is to wake up in the morning and, soon after, be completely exhausted emotionally.  This morning became an unparalleled reality of that exhaustion; at 10:30 A.M., my grandmother breathed her last.

At around 10:22, I heard the phone rang and I picked up on the third ring, fully expecting to hear my mother’s voice.  “Come quick,” she said, “Grandma is leaving soon.” I stopped whatever I was doing and ran downstairs, half urging myself on faster, and half shrinking away from what I knew was at hand.  I went to look for the house keys first, then, realizing that they were gone, just left the house and locked the door.  I jogged to my grandmother’s house, not wanting to get there too soon for fear of what was going to happen, but at the same time, wanting to be there before she passed on.  It was truly a day of dichotomies.  When I got there, I opened the unlocked door and saw the face of someone I believed to be the nurse, a different face than when I left home a weekend ago.  I went to the room where my grandmother lay and took in the scene.

My uncles stood by her bedside, one holding her hand, and the other wiping away moisture at his eyes.  My aunt was on my grandmother’s left side, holding her hand and telling her whatever encouragement she could muster at death’s approach.  My mother stood near my grandmother’s legs, sniffling and letting go of the emotions held within.  How apparent now was death upon my grandmother’s visage, masking her features and draping her with its dark shadow.  “Come hug Grandma and tell her you love her,” my mother said.  In that single moment, I wished more than anything to have been alone, to have been able to let the words come naturally and nakedly before my grandmother; I didn’t want it to sound forced like all the other shows of affection that had been requited of me.  In that moment, I wanted, in a small way, to rob my family of a few moments of their time with my grandmother in order to come clean before her.  But as it was, I could only embrace her fragile frame, lean in by her ear, and tell her that I loved her and that she was going to be with Him soon.  My mother said, “You were always the one she loved the most,” and that ended whatever facade of stoicism I was attempting to indulge in.

The non-feeling that I had experienced my first time realizing that she tread the dread border of life and death crumbled, and for the first time, a pure, innocent, painful flow of tears came forth and bathed my anxious soul.  The thoughts that came to mind at that moment were overpowering; the reminders I left for myself in my previous post about my grandmother, of all her love and gentleness, were there.  Thoughts of shame at my mistreatment of her heart were there.  Thoughts of how I failed to fully honor my grandparents were there.  Thoughts of sorrow and the realization of loss were there. I had no tissue to brush away my tears, instead burying my face into the rough UCSB tee-shirt that I had on.  The shaking was silent until I found the inhale of my lungs, and made a desperate gasping sound that all but asked for more time with my grandmother.  I was no longer ashamed of how I felt or how I expressed it – it was simply just a long time coming.  My aunt moved aside and told me to stand by her bedside and hold her hand, something that I should’ve done while she was with us.  I couldn’t help but feel the shame as well in that action: that holding of her hand that I desired to do with those I fell “in love” with, I should’ve done first to the one who showed me what it is to love at all.

Her hand was wrinkled and cold, and watching her entire body make an effort to draw another breath filled me with desperation.  No matter how warm my hands were, her hands were never to know warmth again, regardless of how long I held them.  I watched as another breath rattled out of her with exertion, holding on to the precious few seconds she had with us.  She took a total of four more breaths until the neck muscles refused against all power of her being to strain again.  “It’s been forty-five seconds,” the nurse said, apparently counting the time between breaths drawn.  At 10:30 A.M., my grandmother breathed her last.

Upon this singular event, the acknowledgment that my grandmother had indeed passed, my aunts withdrew from the room, one by one, and the wailing of their sorrow filled the house.  That dear old house, where we would come and have the majority of our celebrations, from birthdays to Christmases.  Now, we came to witness the departure of someone who lived ninety-three years, who made an impact on each of our lives, knowing each of us for the duration of our own existence on this earth.  They called for their mother, knowing that she would never again respond to that call, and not because she was going deaf.  My uncles gently moved me aside as the nurse made whatever evaluations she needed in the passing of loved ones that nurses themselves never share.  I stood vigil just beyond the foot of her bed, imprinting the memory of all that transpired in the most powerful, heart-wrenching fifteen minutes of my young life.  I thought back to my grandfather – her husband – and his passing and realized how much more painful my grandmother’s death was.  I found out from my mother after school one day back in middle school about my grandfather’s death; today, I witnessed my grandmother receive her last breath.

The majority of what happened after this became lost as I retreated more and more into myself, thinking a wide array of thoughts.  I thought of how desperately powerful death is, that all who it beckons to have no choice but to come.  I thought of how insignificant we are, that my grandmother’s death would not be mourned outside of her family.  I thought of the fact that human lives were like leaves in the wind and how we are unable to resist the pace of life.  I blankly stared into the glass table in the living room as the thoughts swirled in my head – I hardly noticed people who would come to me and console me, not allowing more than a few words at a time to proceed from my lips.

The tears came forth intermittently as my mind fell upon particularly tender moments that should have been between my grandmother and me, until I finally ran out of tears to shed.  A numbness overtook my mind as I knew that I would be chronicling the day’s events on my blog; I realized another thing: poems are rarely, if ever, born in the moment of searing loss.  It is only after the heart has been tempered by the fire of grief that the poet is capable of putting the words together.  A biographer’s art is made known upon the loss of a life, as his craft is the preserving of legacies; a poet’s is the sculpture of figures past.  Perhaps sometime after my grandmother has been given her proper burial will the lines come to my mind that will give her life in verse, but for now, I labor on in the accurate portrayal and preservation of her last moments.  I know not why these particular thoughts chanced to make themselves known to me, but I suppose it was because I needed to secure my emotional stability by taking my mind off the event at hand.

My grandmother’s passing was a gentle one; she did not seem plagued by terrible pain or disease in her final moments.  I am glad that the Lord did indeed answer our prayers of receiving her gently and that she knew Him for a good part of her life.  I know that God worked marvelous wonders through this independent woman and that she shall be with Him in heaven.  A Christian’s loss is often one of very mortal sorrow followed by the acceptance of the eternal blessing to come – a life spent with Him.  And so, I can finally wipe away the tears that were never mine to shed in the first place and be at ease, knowing her position in His plan is secure and that she is enjoying the hope that we, the living, continue to press forward and share with the world around us.  She never wanted to be well-known or looked up to even, but the works she’s done on my life and my family’s life have been a wellspring of love for us – we live on to bear her lasting gift to us, a divine love and welcoming that few other humans can know: the love of our savior, Jesus Christ. 婆婆, may you rest in peace and enjoy the reward that you have sown during your time here on Earth; God has met you and found you so doing, and you will be truly blessed by the Father in heaven.

Suffocating.

Thoughts bitin at the chain, yankin on my neck

Drawin close together links that steal away my breath.

Onto death, the soul crushed slowly by my mindset

Give me false hope; I feel like I’m in high debt.

High def, I see clear – I see fear.

Lookin close into my heart’s rear mirror.

Lookie here, who just rolled up behind me?

Thoughts and his hood comin up just to blind me

Pourin poison in my ear again, tell a friend

Endless apologies make my heart bleed, to what end?

The chain bites, I see light and feel night

Suffocating again in my own right.

God, help me make it through the tunnel

I’m gettin sucked back into a murderous funnel

The Son’ll save me, no matter where I am

Cus He is my hope, my way, and my end.

Lift Him up, a pedestal to bring now

A matter of Him, not who, where, or when, how?

Faith is unseen, a grand thing in a grand scheme

Loosing chains in my neck, just a bad dream.

First Lent.

This year, at the suggestion of an older brother, I’m going to be giving something up for Lent.  Although I’m not a Catholic, it’s also this year that I am realizing that Lent doesn’t need to be fashioned from the tapestry of tradition, but that it is a personal act of devotion to God.  In giving up what I believe has a hold on me, it serves a manifold purpose; on one hand, I free up time to use as I see fit because I’m no longer immersing myself in the activity that I choose to nix, and on the other, it removes me from something that may become something of an addiction and stymie my growth in God.

For Lent, I’m giving up Facebook because it has been quite the addiction for me and this addiction is even noted by my friends.  I’m only allowed to go on to post the daily Bible verses on the AACF page, and nothing else.  The posts I do make on Facebook will probably be from here (WordPress) or through Instagram.  It’s been hard so far, but I don’t doubt that it will be worth it in the end.  This post is fairly short because I am immersed in studying for midterms and such, but I hope to keep on posting and sticking with my New Year’s Resolution.  I’m also a bit curious if my latest poem was published, but I can’t exactly check…wish me luck and may the glory go to God.

婆婆.

I have yet to write more than my minimum quota of one poem and one piece per week, but it seems like this week is going to be an exception.  For those of you who don’t read Chinese, I’m sorry, but it’s basically what I call my grandma.

With the blur of college set before me, exiting the void was just as difficult as entering.  Coming home, I was aware of various situations: my mom’s possible displeasure with something I wasn’t sure about, the fact that my parents only created the facade of approval of me buying my bike, and my grandma’s physical health was on the decline.  The former two situations were quickly alleviated with simple gestures and plain honesty, but I was totally oblivious to the severity of my grandma’s situation.  It wasn’t until I saw her tonight that my heart sank.

Whether it was to shield me from the cruelty of death, I guess I was misled by the fact that my dad said she was doing okay in the hospital.  Whatever actually happened, the reality of it is this: I am beginning to reminisce on times long past spent with my grandma.  She was the one who acted as a babysitter if my parents were gone away at work and she would cook good food, like 蔥油餅, for me and the rest of the family.  She showed hospitality and warmth to people that would come over, no matter if they were regular visitors or new friends; the same cheerful smile would appear and her classic chuckle sounded every now and then.  She showed me how incredible love can be when the church celebrated her sixtieth anniversary with my grandpa.  She would laugh and call me fat and chubby, which made me cry or get mad at the time, but now I understand that they were terms of endearment from her point of view.  She showered so much love in so many different ways on me that I can’t fully express them all, nor have I even fully understood them all.

And it is this love that I failed to reciprocate later on in life.  When I reached the teenage years, no longer would I give her innocent kisses on the cheek or run and hug her when I saw her.  I wouldn’t sit near her and listen to her stories nor would I even ask how she was doing and inquire about her health.  I would shout a quick 婆婆好 (Hi Grandma) and that was pretty much all that became of my relationship with her in my teen years.  I really did not show her any of the love that she deserved, perhaps even expected to see, and I can only imagine how that must have disappointed her.  Now, a day late and a dollar short, the full appreciation of all that this sweet, loving woman has done for me has begun to spring forth, and at such a desperate time.

If I feel nothing in my heart, it’s because I’m just following the trend of seeing my grandpa passing away.  I stayed in denial until I saw my grandpa resting, and that’s when the tears came pouring forth.  I couldn’t even bear to say very many words at his funeral.  Right now, I’m hoping beyond human hope that my grandma will be okay, that she’ll somehow get through this ordeal in better health, that I’ll get another chance to treat her properly.  It frightens me that I’m on the brink of losing both of my maternal grandparents before I even become self-sufficient.  I always had hopes that maybe one of them could see my son or daughter, but the way things are right now, I’m going to need to hope against hope that this turns around quickly.  I don’t even know why it’s so important for me to have her see my children, but it is.  She was such a strong woman with a big heart; seeing her cry at my grandpa’s funeral was something I can’t forget – I feel like she deserves to see the next generation before moving onwards.

It’s a sorry condition of human empathy that causes it to swell when tragedy is at hand, but it’s definitely true for me.  Grandma, you’ve done so much good for the people you’ve cared about, and now I realize that it wasn’t by my own “poetic heart” that I learned love, but it was from watching you love those around you.  If God wants you to leave us, then there’s nothing I can do that will keep you here, nor do I want to keep you here if He’s calling.  But I would like one more chance to say what I should’ve said everyday that I saw you: 婆婆,我愛妳。

A Fountain of Ink.

Should paper exist and ink ne’er appear,

with what could we scribble our thoughts so dear?

Though we hold them precious, blood is too much

for meanderings of the mind, as such.

The paper would to untimely waste go

Never a poet’s soft touch to know.

For a scroll alone fulfills no future

requiting the ink as the sole suture.

A wellspring of life, the pen is the thing

In which one catches the mind of the King.

For paper alone sings quietest praise

to God above without ink’s voice to raise.

That being said, a woeful tale has begun:

a fountain of ink that would ne’er overrun.

The pages presented with purpose and poise

naturally needing a new kind of noise.

The inkwell flows with mirth and delight

beck’ning those who come nigh to just write.

But soft, what tragedy does ink go through?

The whim to write what may be untrue?

Or the fact that though paper was feared

to be lesser, the ink, with haste, disappeared?

Blank pages a waste of time and of space

An ink-less pen left to mindlessly trace

what could have, should have been

in silence’s place.