Saturday, November 26, 2011

Valerie Michelle Miranda

Headline: "SOUTHEAST CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are searching for the driver they said hit-and-killed a woman in Southeast Charlotte. Sunday, November 20, 2011."

The woman in question was my friend Valerie Miranda, someone I had met long ago, then lost touch with, then met up with again and stayed in touch with until sometime earlier this year. I have a lot of problems with disorganizaton, OCD, and ADD, and one of the things I have always hated about myself is my lack of ability to keep in touch with friends the way I'd like to. Dating back to junior high, when I failed to write back to a Brazilian girl who'd been an exchange student and with whom I'd promised to keep in touch, I have kicked myself and beat myself up about my propensity to always think of calling someone when it wasn't the right time, and then forgetting to call them when the opportunity was there. Regret has been my biggest fear, and that fear has plagued me for as long as I can remember. It seemed to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At about 1:30 am on Monday the 21st, I checked my email at my boyfriend's house and found a confusing email that mentioned the phrase "Val passed away". I logged on to Facebook immediately and found out the news that was so hard to believe, and even harder to accept: she was dead, hit by a car while trying to cross Monroe Road on her way home from work. She was almost home - her apartment was practically in sight.

This was my first reaction: I can't believe this -- this is so awful. Valerie M. Miranda was such a beautiful and creative person, and I had gotten a chance to rekindle a friendship with her but I dropped the ball and now she's gone. I meant to call her...meant to this, intended that -- it's no good. She's gone.
I changed my Facebook status to read: "Kat Finger is pretty disgusted with herself."

To which my excellent boyfriend, Eric VanNewkirk, posted "Facebook still needs that 'dislike' button. I love you."

After a few days, I realized he's right -- I hear Val scolding me in my head whenever I start to beat myself up about it. I believe that she wants me instead to really truly enjoy every day, and to let all those I know that I love them. I think I am figuring out how to deal with it a little....Yesterday we got to leave work early and I realized I'd forgotten something, started to walk back to the building and this amazing breeze whooshed towards me, whirling up the leaves in a dervish dance. Instead of feeling that I didn't have the right to enjoy the breeze, I unashamedly closed my eyes, stretched out my arms, and grinned a thank you to the wind, as if Val was right beside me, because I knew she wanted me to enjoy it.

Val's sister Bev Miranda had help for someone else dealing with the guilt issue, who said: "Val was a very sweet person and we all wish we would have spent more time together, and now its too late. Lesson learned :("

Bev replied:

I disagree. It's never too late. Do what you do best, whatever that is, and think of her every so often. We all were creative in our own way...seeing artwork will bring back thoughts of her for you and many others. Certainly for myself...we have gained and are better for the time we had to spend with Valerie. We can never heal the hurt but should not be overcome with thoughts of loss just thoughts of the wonderful, fun times we had, shared and spent with her.

This is a really hard time for all of us who knew Valerie M. Miranda - but I am relying on my memories of her to get me through - and I am determined to carry her spirit along with me as I go forwards through life - that's the key, forwards, yes, not backwards, but at the same time, carry her along.

These are some things people have said about her that I think are so true, and important:

...she loved the sunshine...we hug a lot and do goofy things in her honor..I make sure to open the curtains in the living room now every morning and I do it for her...she was always grateful for the little things... funny thing about val she always got me to do things outside my comfort zone...her favorite spot: the rock in front of revolution pizza...such an anime nut she got me hooked on Sailor Moon, and she loved to draw...she was a fun loving goof ball whom I will miss dearly...In my memory you will always be the breath of fresh air in a very smokey room...Val had such an aura of pure sunshine...such a unique, independent and caring girl...Val, you were one of the people that never compromise who they are and who always celebrate the artist within them. You were such an artist!...always stayed true to who she was and treated everyone well no matter who they were or what they looked like...walking to work this morning and it was calm and mild.The sun was coming up and the sky was a perfect melody of light pink, sky blue and soft purple and for the first time since I heard she was gone did I smile genuinely because she must have helped create such beauty...you could always light up a room with your smile Val!...she touched many and loved life and knew no stranger... the world has lost such a sweet funny girl...Val and Bev are exactly what God meant sisters to be. 7 years difference but Valerie always included her little sister in her activities!

From her father, Mike: "Please if you are tempted, do not be angry about any of this. Valerie did not like it when you were angry. If you feel anger coming just make a face and do something goofy to honor her, okay?"

Alex Ramirez replied, "i know i remember what she said to me after 1 angry moment and how sweet and understanding she was. it's so easy to love a sweet girl like her and so many things that made me smile and love her more..."

And one more thing: from Alex, her roommate and very close friend, a post about being glad to have their friend Toby spend time over at their place and crash there: "this way he could keep her company after i left for work. he was a great friend and i'm glad when i wasn't around he would take care of her. thanks toby."

When I read that I thought, how true: "take care of her" - she was, indeed, someone who was so full of life and love - always making others smile!... Making people feel good about themselves was more important to her than making sure she herself was okay, and so yes, she WAS someone you felt you wanted to care for and protect.

So, because of Val, I am not going to mope and wallow. I plan to live like this: surround yourself with who & what is important to you, with what and who make you happy. That is one of the main secrets to life.  Another is to  incorporate the passed-on into the life you live - that doesn't make it all right again but it is better than only dwelling on the death and crying. Also, in honor of Val I say the way to get happy is to go out-side-of-doors into the fresh air and hear music and go be with people and help another person - and give lots of hugs! Additionally, I say we should boldly make art - spontaneously! These are her legacies, and to do these things keeps her memory always with us, includes her in our lives as we live them, always remembering her and drawing comfort from those memories.

For instance, her sister Bev has requested that those attending whatever ceremony is held:

NOT wear black or drab colors. But instead, put your own little Val costume together. Something bright, colorful and anything you can think of that will represent HER. I plan on wearing one of her large hats, a pretty skirt and a shiny top. That's how she would want to be remembered.

And I love this reminder from her father Mike, about how to carry on her influence:

If you know Valerie you know there is one thing she never got enough of....{{{HUGS}}} So make today HUG DAY FOR VALERIE Hug someone who might not necessarily expect it! She did it all the time because she loved you.

Her sister Bev said, "So much of me...is made of what i learned from you.You'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart."

How true. Val, I have learned from you, to be relax and be spontaeous. I celebrate the offbeat and free spirit that you were, and I will forever try to always be my true self, without reservation. You always, always made sure I knew how special you thought I was, and you never let me talk bad about myself. Val, I will always remember you and bring thoughts of you along with me, from now on. I will put up art all over my walls - all beauty and randomness. My walls will be, like you, all prettiness & creativity all over & to hell with organization! The moment matters, and people matter - so I will make it a point to be bravely spontaneous and not regret mistakes. We start out in life with our biological family, but the friends we make and surround ourselves with become our second family, and you, Val, are still part of my "family" and always will be, even though you're not physically here anymore.

An episode of the Suspense old-time radio show, a play called "Train Ride" is very melodramatic, but there is an interchange between the characters that I think is really eye-opening. The man is about to die, and the woman who loves him doesn't want him to go and is in despair about his dying. He says:

If our love was at all beautiful, live on the memory of that! That's all life is really, a collection of memories that we store up to take with us on another journey. Take mine with you and I'll take yours with me, and be thankful that we shared a great beauty.

"A great beauty", colorful and bright. Val, you are one of a kind, and will be irreplaceable - so wonderful, in fact, that even now I detect your gentle and gleeful spirit, comforting me, cheering me on, and living on in my thoughts. I love you, Val, and I will always keep you with me on my journey.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Blog Ever

This is my first blog ever, and it's going to suck, but it's going to get written, and that's the important bit. Writing something that's sh**ty on purpose is better than never having the courage to write anything at all, and I have Anne Lamott, the excellent writer, one of my very favourites in fact, to thank for that.
To wit:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a sh**ty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

So,...I have a blog! Yay! Hooray I set up a blog and now i can write all sorts of stuff...now to do jigsaw puzzles online for a few hours. Sigh.

Okay, but the blog: I imagine that it will be melodramatic at times (here, the author cleverly foreshadows) and at times humorous (she hopes), sometimes more of a diary entry and sometimes more of a podium, but always full of parenthesis and run-on sentences, which I actually fancy, to be honest. Web + log = blog, it was explained to me long ago. So...seeing as I am WAY too disorganized and ADD-ridden/riddled to write out everything in a paper-and-pen journal , but rather have lots of bits of things on lots and lots of pieces of paper scattered hither and yon...well, keeping a log of this and that is rather a suitable thing for me.

Kat's log: Star-date: a weeknight in October. .. I can tell that I really like ellipses.
One thing that definitely makes me a born writer who must not try to dodge that destiny is that I am one of the most frighteningly, hideously run-through-with procrastination people (I know, it's a terrible sentence, but after all, it's meant to be sh**ty). One of my boyfriend's favourite quotes (and mine as well) is something to the effect that 'a writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for others'. It fits me perfectly.

Did I mention that jigsaw puzzles are fun to do online?
Trying very hard not to try to make it perfect....still there is urge to make it momentous ... okay, fine: a bit of meaty subject matter.

My youngest cat - "my baby" -- has some mysterious health problems that aren't able to be surmounted. I'm going to have to let her go, give her back to the universe (or perhaps I mean the Upstairs Cat), and it really hurts.
I tried to be ready at any moment for a previous cat's death back in junior high school - people mentioned that because she was old, she might not last much longer. So I was a hawk. I made myself expect it every second, night and day, until...I had fallen down on the job. I was sitting at the dining room table, distracted by math homework. I had forgotten to expect anything bad. When my mom and my brother appeared in the doorway, I looked at them and instantly knew. They told me anyway. She had died peaceful and happy in the shade of the greenhouse, and then they'd brought her out to the hood of the car to effectively "lay in state" so that I could say my goodbyes. It wrecked me for a time -- but now I realize how much better that was.
Ghost was an old cat, and she died peacefully in her sleep.
My babycat is only ten, too young for a cat to die, but there's some kind of mass in her stomach, and she's on an IV because she will no longer eat of her own free will. I don't have the right to borrow the thousands of dollars needed just to pay for further diagnosis and what's already been done, not to mention surgery and aftercare and checkups - the thousands are not there for me to have, and she's already been through enough being poked and prodded, etc. Besides - anyone who knows me knows I don't have what it takes to care for a chronically sick cat. I can't even get to my job on time, or manage to take a few pills every day.

I'm trying not to think those morbid "must be ready - outfox bad things with my mind" thoughts, because I know that for one thing they don't work. But it's hard not to hear the running commentary of the psycho heckler in my head:
HA! says life NOW your precious blog will be momentous - congratulations - a momentous blog, something meaty to build something around...
(but i didn't want it to be momentous like this...)
No, no, says life, you said momentous - well now it is - GOTCHA!
Haha says life you didn't appreciate her enough well now she'll be gone TAKE THAT!
Oh says life so you're fond of the Kinky quote* well now you have a real good reason to use it SO THERE!
Haha says life you said you were tired of cleaning up messes well now there'll be less of a mess THERE ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? HA!

Okay, no! She's tired, and in pain, and I've loved her and always will, and I left her my sweater to sleep beside tonight, so I won't let myself hate myself. Tomorrow will hurt, though.

I have tried to avoid sad things for my entire life so far, and it doesn't work, because when you are done putting together the jigsaw pieces (literally) and hit the tab of your blank screen or your bank's website or whatever you were avoiding, it's still there. (Obviously. I mean, it's not like this is some amazing truth that you couldn't have figured out yourself, but it's apparently surprisingly hard for me to believe, or perhaps admit.)

Here's Anne Lamott again, with good advice for me:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott

*Kinky Friedman is another of my favourite excellent writers, and years ago he had to have one of his cats put down, it being the only humane thing to do. Here is the postscript to one of his books:

"On January 4, 1993, the cat... was put to sleep in Kerrville, Texas, by Dr. W. H. Hoegemeyer and myself.
A few days ago I received a sympathy note from Bill Hoegemeyar, the veterinarian. It opened with a verse by Irving Townsend: “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle . . .”
And it might as well serve as the ending to a blog.