Friday, August 30, 2013

Wherein I demonstrate that I have truly learned nothing

For the longest time, as long as I can remember, September was the beginning of a new year; sometimes a new era. As an adult, I recognize why this is (apart from a new school year, which was always important and exciting to me), and I see myself changing more from Tishrei to Tishrei than from January to January. Secular New Years don't mean as much, perhaps because their celebration is so... secular.

So, as we're coming to the end of another year in the Jewish calendar, I feel like I ought to have something compelling to tell you about the last year. A year where I:
  • battled my own demons
  • struggled with my health
  • watched my father wither from pancreatic cancer
  • prayed very hard that his suffering would end
  • told him that I loved him and would see him soon (that was the last thing I said to him)
  • stood in my living room not knowing what to do when news came that he had died 
  • dealt (at least partially) with the aftermath from that
  • sold a home and moved to a new one
  • enjoyed developing a new relationship (I can't leave that out, as said relationship has become very important)
  • enjoyed continuing to cultivate existing relationships (which I also can't forget as they have kept me afloat as much as anything else has)
  • made new friends
  • lost my beloved daughter very suddenly and very nearly become lost myself

Those who have been reading my blog since this time last year have followed this journey and often complimented my words. Because of that, I want to be able to say something profound; that I learned something from all of this suffering. But if I did, I don't know what.

Whether it was telling my dad that it was okay to be scared that he was about to die, or holding my granddaughter tight so that maybe she could feel some of her step-mom's love coming thru me. Whether revealing my secrets and deepest pains to Captain Jack, or leaning on Ten and weeping; or seeing Nine for the first time in years because we missed each other. Whether I was making art, dancing, cooking, fucking, or getting more tattoos, I don't know what the lesson is.

Unless there is no lesson. Unless there's no reason or purpose except just to have had those moments and they exist for their own sake not for some greater purpose. The moment. Now. But if that is it, how do you deal with it?

I promised the new people that I've met in the past year that I wouldn't hide who I really am because I was scared. I held myself in the moment, telling my dad it was all okay; holding Pony; being held; telling those I love that I do love them. Being afraid isn't enough of an excuse to ignore the exhale that may be your last, and maybe that's the lesson. Not being "good enough" isn't an excuse to bury yourself in shame. Someone seeing your giving nature and taking advantage of it isn't enough to take you away from the people you haven't met yet.

This past year I gave up on being aloof, and instead fell in love. 
I gave up on starving my body, and was able to feed my soul.
I gave up on trying to control the outcome and was simply present in each crisis, continuing to breathe even as someone I loved was progressing toward not even being able to do that.
I gave up on money, on struggle, on trying to fit in and be cool.
I fought for love, for art, for freedom, for those vulnerable moments where you see yourself thru someone else's eyes and realize you're not really that bad.

Nothing about me is the same as it was a year ago. I'm barely the same person, and I'm not even trying to hold onto who I was before. I'm not struggling for catharsis or meaning anymore. I don't need other people to understand how I feel, or approve of who I am or what I've become. I'm simply going to put on my diadem, take my throne, and perform my duties as Empress.

And if I have learned anything in the last year, it's that I don't fucking care if you don't like it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What right have I...

We were out with some people from our social group, and conversation became proper where I could say that my daughter had died.

"Daughter," Ten said, with finger quotes.

"Don't do that," I scolded him, not revealing the wound he had just stuck into me with this gesture that was attempting to make the words I had said less devastating.


"You were a very good friend to her," someone I don't know told me at the final viewing of her body.

"A bit more than a friend," I said, rage at being dismissed not even coming close to the grief.


The first thing I did when I walked into the hospital room was lay my head on her hearts. I stood and pet her hair for a few minutes, then pulled myself away to hug Toolmaker. We exchanged "I love you"s, and he thanked me for always being there for her. "I want you to know that she really thought of you as her mama."

I know she did. Because I was.

In the grocery store much later that night, I leaned my head on Ten's chest and began to cry. "It's not fair. My baby is dead."


I keep butting up against this feeling like I don't have the right to be as grieved as I am by Dame's death. I didn't birth or raise her in this life. I'm not able to have children, and for most of my adult life I didn't really want any either. But then Dame happened, and it was the best thing, because not only did I have a daughter who gave me the most precious gift of letting me be her mama, but I had all this other family who took (and takes) that just as seriously.

It was never a question for me. There was nothing she could have done that would ever have made me love her less, and not only did she return that love, but she understood, fully, how precious a gift that is. No, I didn't do any of the hard work. No, I was never tested by bad behavior, lies, bad grades, fights, or having my dreams for her dashed by a decision to take a different path. None of that stuff happened between us. That's true. I would say that I was never given the opportunity to hurt her (as parents frequently are), but I knew what made her hurt. I knew that not from the perspective of a friend or sister, I knew what hurt her from the perspective of a mother - and there's a part of me that doesn't even know what that means!

My period was the same week that she died. As my lining shed, I felt this epic loss. The part of me that has the biological function of gestating new life became hollow and empty in a way it never has before. I mourned my ability to physically birth a child. I felt like I had failed as a woman because my daughter had died. Even though she's not my blood. But blood has never mattered to me, and it still doesn't.

Those closest to either Dame or me get it. Those close to both of us really understand, and I don't know why I give a shit about the opinions of anyone else. A lot of people are grieving though, and I want to honor their pain too, because I love everyone she loved. I see a little redemption for myself in the mama category when I look at my grandchildren. I know Toolmaker won't let me abdicate grandmaness for his daughter; and I hope Dame's son's father and step-mom will want me to be in his life as well. This, however, is small comfort. Just as it is for the grandkidlets. Just as it is for Toolmaker; for Dame's other loves; for the other people to whom she was family.

And I can't help myself from qualifying my grief. I can't stop myself from thinking of those who loved her as much, but in a different context. But I guess I have been doing this for the people who loved my dad too. Then I think.... these two completely different lives that very nearly intersected, but for death, maybe they get a chance to hang out, if only because I often think of them at the same time. I don't know.

It's not necessary for me to know. Nor is it necessary for me to justify the level of my grief. I just wish I could remember that and stop justifying it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eulogy of Rainne Dempsey, Feb 17, 1977 - Aug 4, 2013

Rainne's husband, Jason, asked me to give her eulogy. Here is the transcript of what I said at her memorial on August 17, 2013 If you knew and loved her, you have my permission to share this post high and low all over the internet. If you knew her and didn't love her, I'm really sorry about that.

Several months ago, when Star Trek: Into Darkness came out, we went to see it as a family, (because MOAR CUMBERBATCH). Beforehand, Rainne, Epona, and I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant for tacos. Because I was something of a regular at the time, I introduced Rainne as my daughter (and Epona as my granddaughter) to the waitress. Marcella was blown away and looked at Rainne for confirmation - she grinned and giggled, you know the way. Then Marcella, knowing a teenager couldn't bluff, asked Epona "is this true? She's your grandma?" Epona nodded silently, grasping a chip in her hands like a squirrel. We talked a bit; it was quite nice. I was proud to be a mama at that moment, and looking back on it I understand the joy had by those who come by motherhood in the usual way.

The other thing about this memory, is that it reminds me how seriously Rainne took the ties of family. Yes, calling someone who appears to be older than her "Mama" probably seemed weird to a lot of people, but we're Timelords, see, and if you're a nerd it totally makes sense. I don't know why defining our relationship that way worked for us, but it really, truly did and I am so lost now without my daughter. She gave me something no one else ever had or could, and I think a lot of people experienced her ability to love that uniquely.

When I was asked to speak to you about Rainne - my polyamorous, pansexual, pagan Rainne - I put a note up on Facebook asking my friends what they had learned from her life. It appears that the consensus is that she taught us to love with all of our might, to be proud to love so much (and show it!), and that even when someone hurts you, you can still love them without accepting that hurt or being bound by it. (There was also a couple of notes in there about being organized and using lists and g-cal like a mad woman. Had Rainne lived long enough to go senile, she would have hoarded calendars like a crazy cat lady hoards cats - and by that time in this weird alternate future, I don't see any reason why the calendars wouldn't have started to eat her body when she died there.)

Rainne lived so well and loved so hard that she broke life. It's true. This epic gathering today (but much more so the EPIC WEDDING OF EPICNESS in April) is proof of that. Each person here was touched by her life in some way and internalizing the lessons from her life is what we must all do for ourselves to remember her. It's okay to be sad - or angry, or still in shock - whatever you are feeling it is valid and feeling that way, to its fullest extent and expression is going to go a long way toward making you whole again. And no matter how well you knew Rainne, you know in your hearts that she wants you to be whole.

She never whined. Not because there was nothing to complain about (physical pain, emotional pain, inconvenient circumstances); she didn't whine because there was no time to waste feeling sorry for herself and ignoring the richness of the life she had built from the ground up. Instead, if something was bothering her, she would say so - a characteristic I've been told she passed to Kai, who is not shy about expressing his emotions, rightly so. Sometimes past hurts would be triggered by circumstances, and I remember being counsel more than a few times, and it wouldn't take too mch to remind her how awesome she was and that the pain of the moment was less important than how much richer moving through that pain with a whole heart would make her.

She was the first person to be excited and "squee" with you about something good; and always made time to comfort you if you were hurt or lost. She was fiercely loyal, and never made pronouncements or judgments on you because she knew how great of a wedge could be set between two people when one judged the other.

I watched her go through heartbreak and devastation. I saw her FEEL the hardest things and come out the other side strong, graceful, and full of love. But more importantly, I watched her love. And love. And love until she became the essence of love as she is now.

I want you to know and take with you the fact that her life was as close to perfect as she could get - and you helped her do that. Because you rule, and she never hesitated to say so.

Jason - I know she sometimes ran you ragged doing ALL OF THE THINGS in a single weekend and THEN coming over to help paint my house (while knitting the entire time); but I think we're all glad she filled your life together as full as she did. I don't even know the depth to which she loves you, but everyone who saw you together will carry that example of DOING IT RIGHT in our hearts. You will continue to inspire us in the years to come as her memory inspires you to keep having an awesome life; and I will always count you as family, and love you as a son.

Veronica and Chris - I didn't get as much opportunity to see you with her, but she did talk about you and I know you each enriched her life and I am so grateful for the love you gave to her and received from her. Thank you.

Epona - I understand just how much joy you gave her. Having a daughter is a magical thing for a woman (even when you acquire her through circumstances other than the birthing kind). She did everything she could for you, just as if you were her blood-kin, and I know you recognize how important you were to her. For my part, I am keeping you as my granddaughter, and when I die (in a very very long time), I'll leave you a haunted house with the contingency being that you have to spend an entire night there with the ghosts - and explain to your friends the weird relationship you have to me.

To the rest of the Dempsey Clan - you all gave her so much. You embraced her with open arms the way family should - as you have done with me. And as Andie told me, Rainne considered you family and so I consider you family. (This goes for "adopted" little sister Stephanie as well.)

For Dee and the rest of her blood kin - I hope today, and the time you were able to spend with her in the last few months reveals to you how amazing a woman and daughter Rainne was. I hope this weird collection of people are endeared to you because we carry her memory in our hearts as strongly as you do. And I hope we all learn something from each other through sharing our memories.

To Kai - words cannot express how deeply your Mama loved you, and I know no one here will be able to take her place in your heart, so no one is going to try to do that. But if you look around at all these people here today, all these people who loved your mama, you will see people who will join togehter and do everything we can to make our collected love as strong a hers was for you. How you feel about losing her is valid and will continue to be as you grow up. I know your daddy and mommy-Misa will remind you of this, and let us hold you close in our hearts - as much as I know both of them would rather just keep you safe inside a bubble so nothing bad ever happens to you again.

I want to wrap this up (before I completely lose my shit*) by reminding everyone again that your feelings are valid. Grieve in what ways you know how, but remember to take a break once in a while; don't try to rush through and get it over with. Make sure that you love life, yourself, and others with your whole heart, even the parts of your heart that ache; when you're with someone, show them you love them, and when you leave their side make sure they know. Love is a stand-alone thing, you do it because you must (or your hearts will burst!), not because you're necessarily going to have it reciprocated right away or at all. When you love wholeheartedly the world becomes brighter. YOU will smile all the time. YOU will grace everyone you meet with love. YOU can be like Rainne by loving life with every fiber of your being and we can all be her legacy by living as she did.

Thank you.


*Shit totally lost when Epona spoke. Luckily we got to cuddle and cry and collect ourselves.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Timelords

I met the Dame a few years ago - it feels like ages now - through a mutual friend. We became close quickly, and I gave her my whole heart when she needed love while going through a string of family dramas. During one of those incidents, one which would have debilitated a lesser person, some terrible awful no good things were said about her by someone I will not name because it's not fair; in such a way that she felt orphaned. "This is bullshit," I told her, "I'm adopting you."

It started out as a silly joke on Facebook (silly because she was 8 years older than me), but it grew into a strong, unbreakable relationship. So strong that I helped give her away at her wedding (in addition to being her witness when they did the legal bit), and she called me Mama. Her kids call me Mama. I became Mama, she was my beloved daughter and even though it made NO SENSE, everyone close to her accepted that. Then at some point someone gasped "OH MY GOD MAMA SETZER IS A TIMELORD!" and that's how that whole Timelord thing happened. It got sillier as time went on, but in doing so we were solidified as mother and daughter.

Today, my hearts are both broken. Crushed by the horrible facts of mortality. She didn't make it back to a TARDIS in time to regenerate.

By 4 o'clock this afternoon, her hospital room was filled with her family. People she loved and loved and loved, never really knowing the degree to which we loved her back. Several of us remained in the room well past the point where it was clear that she was not in that body any more (it had even begun to smell), but we couldn't leave. We couldn't believe it. How could someone who gave the world so much, who devoted every waking moment to loving others and doing the right thing; how could that person be taken from us? If it becomes real, what are any of us going to do?

Her husband said it well: she was the embodiment of the fact that love multiplies. There wasn't a person there with us today for whom she wouldn't have given her life, and maybe she did. No, she LIVED so that all of us could be loved that hard. She lived so that we would all be together. I have grandchildren because she lived, because we were weird enough to be family. I'm never letting go of that, no matter what. And that goes for the rest of her weird-enough-to-be-family crew, too. I won't ever let go of you, because you tie me to my daughter, and I'm never going to have another daughter so we all just have to deal with each other.

She was the most loving, the most valuable, the most optimistic; strongest, most resilient and open. Nobody did ALL THE THINGS like she did. She was a win for humanity. I love her so much. Many people loved her as much or more, and even though her body is no longer occupied, and that same laugh will not echo again, NO ONE can take that away from us. Maybe we feel broken now, but as long as we keep loving this amazing woman, we remain whole.

All that being said, mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Timelords.