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.

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.