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Welcome to Marillion Fan Stories

hogarth 1
photo: Jen Vollink Tyler, October 2016, Chicago Il. USA

 

Hello to all of the Marillionaires in the world. I’m Jen and I’ve been a rabid fan since 1989. I follow several of the fan pages on Facebook. From time to time I see a post about how Marillion have helped people through difficult, even tragic, times of their lives. I’ve experienced this myself, in fact I sent an email to Steve Hogarth through the band website thanking him and the band for the amazing music and words that have kept me going through some very dark times. He replied, saying how good it was to hear the positive feedback for all that they do. So I share this page for 2 reasons. Firstly, a centralized place for fans to share their stories and support. Secondly, a place where, should they desire, the band can read about how they touch our lives, what their music means to us. Please bear with me as I’m not at all familiar with blogging or the running of websites. Feel free to share photos, as I’ve done here, but please credit the photographer. I’ll get things rolling by sharing my own story. Thank you.

Someone Else’s Pain

There’s a plague running rampant in our world. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in just a few short months. Millions more have been/are still infected with this disease that, though mild in around 80% of the people who get it, can cause pneumonia, heart issues, and kidney damage. Mild cases involve symptoms such as breathing difficulties, body aches, and digestive problems, just to name a few. Of those who recover, many are left with health problems that will torment them for the rest of their lives. It’s devastating to the individual, and to those who love her or him. The disease is Covid 19, and it’s highly, terrifyingly, contagious. 

Covid 19 is precedent setting for modern times. Governments have put rules into place to try to stop the spread, some of them very simple. Initially, we were all asked to “stay home, stay safe,” as the order from our Michigan governor was worded. “Non-essential” businesses were closed for two months. Unemployment claims set record numbers, but most people who filed were given an additional $600/week as incentive to try to keep everyone at home and from spreading the disease. Filing claims was a nightmare for many, but by now I think most people have been able to file. Again, unprecedented, so naturally chaotic. People everywhere are afraid, and “living in fear is so very dear. Can we really afford it?” (Marillion). 

Some folks have allowed their fear to turn to rage. Some folks have decided that their rights as Americans are being trampled. This has led to armed protests. Entitled white people waving high capacity automatic weapons around, shouting about wanting haircuts. Misspelled protest signs exclaiming that our country is becoming communist. Rebel flags, “don’t tread on me” slogans, and hateful vitriol dripping from the lips of self-aggrandizing, terrified children in adult bodies. The basic belief behind it all seems to be that Covid is a hoax, and the government is trying to control us. There’s even a notion that, when the vaccine comes out, it will contain a tracking chip, therefore we better not get it. WHAT. THE. FUCK. PEOPLE.

To these individuals I would like to say these things: Have you ever watched a loved one die? Have you ever felt the searing agony of knowing someone, a person who means everything to you, is suffering and there is nothing that can be done? How about the hopelessness of knowing you have to live the rest of your life without a person who has always, unfailingly, been there for you? Think about that person, or those people, that make you complete. Now think about them lying in a bed, struggling to even breathe, with organs failing and no hope of recovery. Think about them turning blue and becoming afflicted with irreparable brain damage from lack of oxygen. “Oh, that can never happen to me,” you say. No? Just because it has never happened doesn’t mean it will never happen. “It’s no worse than the flu!” you exclaim. Yes, yes it is. It’s MUCH worse than the flu. There are vaccines for flu strains, there is no vaccine for Covid 19. According to the director of the World Health Organization, many people have developed immunity to common flu strains, but nobody is immune to Covid 19. Even those who’ve already had it have, in rare cases, become reinfected. But the biggest and by far most important fact: “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.” (Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, March 3, 2020.) This disease is preventable, yet there you are strolling through the market without a mask on, mocking those of us who choose to follow guidelines put into place by people with extensive scientific knowledge. There you go, your big family with both parents and two or three little kids, moseying around stores without masks, when you know everyone’s been asked to bring as few people as possible along. On social media you scream and whine about how the government just wants to control you, you mock and belittle people who believe the science, who want to protect themselves and their loved ones, many of them with compromised immune systems and/or pre-existing conditions that make them much more susceptible to this disease. I see you, and I hate you. I’m not someone who hates easily, in fact hating makes me physically ill. But I cannot help it.

I know that you could not care less that I hate you. Therein lies the biggest problem. You could not care less. Caring about others, in my mind, is at the root of humanity. I may hate you, but I care about you. I genuinely want to know where you’ve been in your life, why you feel the way you do. I recognize that I probably won’t understand, I can’t understand, unless I’ve been there myself. But I can care, I can show empathy. I could stop hating you, if we could have a civilized conversation, and I’m happy to try to do so. Sometimes empathy is incredibly difficult, but it matters so damned much. It brings people together in love and compassion instead of dividing us in hate and rage. 

A quick note about how it’s affected my life. I have, at least temporarily, missed out on my dream job of working in a doggy day care. I have no income, as I’m having to fight with unemployment because I left my last horrible job in anticipation of getting this one. I’ve been alone with my dog most of the time, and my anxiety has been tremendous. But I’m following the rules. I’m irrationally terrified of suffocation, but I wear a mask in public places. I understand that there are a few people that can’t wear one for health reasons, but surely not the number of people that I see without them. I wear one because I give a shit about my health, and about yours. I do it because science shows that it helps contain the disease. To not wear one is flagrantly disrespectful and potentially harmful. But, again, I know you could not care less about other people. I add this part primarily because I want you to know that I’m not just sitting back at home, living on that fat unemployment check, and judging you.  Judging you, yes, just as you are me.

“I want you to wake up/and do something strange/I want you to listen/I want you to feel someone else’s pain…” –Marillion 

I understand that the overall situation is very complicated. Lots of people, like me, didn’t get unemployment and, like me, are struggling like hell. The economy is tanked and we’re very possibly heading into another Depression. People are rightfully scared. However, I don’t think that gives anyone the right to brandish firearms in public. It’s never a good idea to blame others for your hardships and/or poor decision making, but especially not during an international crisis. Shaming and finger pointing are the tools of toddlers, not adults. And for the love of all that’s good and pure, stop calling people sheep. We are, every single one of us, members of one flock or another. Try to be part of one that gives a shit about other people.

There’s a terrifying plague running rampant in our world. It’s called apathy, and it’s at the base of so much misery. Nobody knows how or when this will end, and uncertainty about our basic needs is horrifying. But listen to the science, look around at how people are healthily coping, and start giving a shit.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/50-percent-of-people-with-covid19-not-aware-have-virus#This-makes-masks-more-important

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—3-march-2020#:~:text=COVID%2D19%20causes%20more,%25%20of%20those%20infected.

It’s happening again… it’s happening again…

Marillion’s song This Strange Engine is a fan favorite, autobiographical piece. (Lyrics done by hogarth.) Part of it describes an attack by a swarm of bees at a young age, something that must have been horrifically traumatic. The lyrics “it’s happening again” are found here, it’s a very apt description of PTSD.

For a myriad of reasons I struggle with PTSD. I’ve covered most, if not all, of them in other posts so I won’t go on ad nauseum. I bring it up in a new post because it’s hitting me again, and hard. The reason: a text that I was assigned in one of my university classes. In it the author describes, in great detail, numerous violent encounters, many against children. One is a horrific sexual assault on a young girl, (age 10 I think), by her father. I’m a sensative sort anyway, these things were not only appalling on the surface but they triggered my PTSD in a serious way, much worse than I first realized. My PTSD revolves around feelings of powerlessness, of total incapacitaion. Since reading these things, (I never finished the book and I never will), I’ve been easily aggravated, tense, quick to anger, and near tears much of the time. I pride myself on my patience, so this is terribly out of line for me. It wasn’t until I met with my therapist a few days ago that I realized how awful all of this has really made me feel.

PTSD is a sneaky bastard. It’s a match to a dry brush heap, one little thing that can cause massive destruction. The appalling imagery and sense of helplessness put forward in this novel sparked every bad thing I’ve ever been through. I’ve felt worthless and hopeless. Zero energy or motivation-why should I even try anything when I can’t do anything right? My sleep is disturbed more than usual and I’m even getting mad at my dogs, which seldom happens. Of course I have made more mistakes at work, lack of sleep and all of that…. and then having my boss say to me “I don’t want to hear any more excuses!” well, I very nearly just quit. In fact I would have if I didn’t need the income so badly right now. I will be pursuing another career avenue, and soon, but that’s another story.

Perhaps the most appalling and enraging thing about all of this is the lack of concern put forth by my instructor. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been very concerned for me personally and offered a different assignment rather than having to write on this book. (It’s too late, the damage is done.) But when I brought this up in class, in fact when anyone has brought up a concern about this content up in class, she’s basically blown it off. She seemed to tell us to think of it as a cartoon, like something not real. Well of course it’s not real, it’s fiction. But that has nothing to do with the human reaction to this kind of violence. When we watch a cartoon, movie, or video game we can see it. We call tell that it’s not real. (Even so I do avoid particularly violent realistic fictional video, my empathy is too strong.) But when we read a thing it’s all up to our imaginations. Everything takes place within ourself. I believe lots of people can read things without taking them to a personal level, that’s the healthy way to do it. But there are lots of people that can’t. To have this material presented as required reading without warning or discourse is nothing short of inhumane.

And the frosting on the cake? This instructor requested a meeting with me, which I was happy to oblige. I had met with her a couple of weeks ago to express my initial troubles, and I’d explained some of the reasons for my PTSD. She wanted to speak to me again primarily to offer me a different book to read and different assignment-because I have all the time in the world to read another book, but I thought, “hey, at least she’s trying.” Then she told me about how something I said to her was a thing she felt needed to be reported to the university-mandatory reporting. This event occured almost 40 years ago, something I discuss with my therapist, it was hard for me to not laugh but I told her that I had no problem with that as long as she qualified it with those facts. We talked a moment about PTSD and that was that. But…

As I drove home I thought about the conversation. She mentioned in passing that she’d had students before with PTSD from fighting for our country. (And bless them.) This thought sunk in. She had students before with PTSD and she didn’t even CONSIDER that this book might be detrimental?!?! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!?! She KNEW the content! She BLEW OFF the concerns!!

To say that this whole thing outrages me is putting it mildly. It’s made a shambles of my life for several weeks. It’s going to take a considerable time to get back to myself. My anxiety about going to Montreal is heightened. (I’m bloody well going to do it anyway, god dammit I need the break and I deserve to have an awesome time with an awesome friend and lots of awesome Marillion fans, oh and did I mention the AWESOME band?) This instructor, with a doctorate in English by the way, presented this material with no thought whatsoever that it might affect someone negatively. I don’t for a moment think she did it intentionally, I think it simply didn’t occur to her. I know that she was thrown in to teaching this class at the very last minute, literally the day classes started, so she didn’t have any time to plan. However, none of this is excusable. I will be writing to the dean of the college of English once classes end. I will be expressing that I don’t want ANY of this to become a public issue, just that it needs to be addressed. MSU has had way too much negative press, and the vast majority of what happens there is positive.

I must admit that all of this is making me think very seriously about continuing my education. I need about 30 more credits to graduate with my bachelor’s in English, which at my rate with take another 2 years. I’ll be 50 years old. I do sincerely believe that age is relative, but this has made me feel very old. I’m tired, I’m weary. My brain isn’t working right. Maybe it’ll seem better once I’ve got back to my proper self.

To anyone that’s made the choice to read this, thank you. My goal in writing it is not sympathy, though I do appreciate it. My goal is catharsis, which I feel I’ve achieved. My goal is organizing my thoughts and making sure that I express everything I need to, I believe I’ve done that too.

If you’re curious, the book is Empire of the Senseless by Kathy Acker. It is, in my opinion, rubbish.

Dog bless.

Sympathy is what we need

Everyone has different faces that they wear for different circumstances. Some people are good at it, switching from parent face to work face to hanging out with friends face. (#theresamarillionlyricforthistoo.) I think that each face we wear is similar to the rest, we just switch things up from one to the next according to what we feel is important for that relationship. I’m not saying it’s at all bad, it’s just a fact. I’m not good at switching faces. I’m not very different from one area of my life to another. I’m just me. However for the job I have it’s not working out very well.

My job is as a receptionist in an addictions counseling clinic. We counsel and hold accountable our clients, which involves drug testing. Both of my biological parents are recovering addicts, so I understand fully what addiction can do. But I digress. Our clients are addicts of every age. Addicts manipulate, it’s part of the scheme of it. I trust. I’ve been manipulated over and over again here, but I care about people and I want to help them. Everyone I work with and for here, including my mom, tells me that I have to learn to shield myself from being manipulated, simply put learn to be a bitch in some circumstances. Well, shit. That’s never been me at all. And it goes against so much that I hold dear–like trying to understand why people behave the way that they do in order to help them better. Showing them love.

There are older clients who are hard-assed that have been through the system over and over-gee something isn’t working here for them, they don’t want to change. “Why is that,” I ask myself. There are clients in their twenties who’ve been through it before but have finally got their heads out their asses and come in with positive and alive minds. There are kids, like, children. People in their late teens-early twenties that are in the system for the first time, terrified. Yet I’m supposed to learn to shield myself from their manipulation. Christ I don’t even think some of them are old enough to understand the implications of what they’ve done and what they now have to do to please the courts. The system is terrifying and there aren’t many friendly faces. The rate of recidivism is staggering. So why the hell should I be a bitch to these people who obviously need help?

I know there is the tough love aspect of it, I do understand that sometimes, maybe most of the time, we in the system have to be cold, distant, and strict as hell in order to help. But it still seems wrong to me. If this system of punishment works so well than why do so many people return to drugs? Why do some feel so hopeless that they end up taking their own lives either directly or indirectly? This system is as broken as the people who are forced to use it.

Yesterday was rough. I registered a new client, a young lady born the day before my son so she’s just turned 20 last month. I neither know nor care what the crimes are that bring people here. I just see people that are hurting and have used the easiest way they can find-often a learned behaviour, to try to numb themselves. I could see this girl was worried and afraid. She had no idea what to expect. Part of my job is to be present in the bathroom when women drop “to keep them honest.” So I had to do that with this girl. She couldn’t go. I waited. She cried. I was thinking the entire time, “well this is where they’re telling me I have to be harder on clients, make them realize we mean business.” I looked at my tattoo, …or you could LOVE. I thought about how wrong I felt about having to tell this girl that her time was up even though she couldn’t go. But truthfully there were more clients that had to drop and that’s what made me finally tell her, “look, you have some time yet but there are other women that have to do this so we’re going to have to try again later.” The young lady was quietly crying and I felt like shit.

We came back to the office and I did my other work. She sat quietly crying for another 15-20 minutes. She had lovely long hair that hid her face. The word “LOVE” tattooed on my wrist kept taunting me. Finally I went and sat next to her. I said, “I know that you don’t think you can go in front of me, so it’s up to you if you want to try again or come back another time. In my experience the parole officer that you have is understanding of someone not being able to do their first drop….” She said she wanted to try again so back to the bathroom we went.

This time she told me about her social anxiety. Ah! Anxiety! Now that’s something I can relate to, and I told her so. So I sunk back down to sit on the floor and maybe not be intimidating. Neither of us said anything else but she was able to go, maybe my small actions helped and maybe not, but I felt better about not being nasty to her.

I’m in the wrong line of work. I understand that people have to be held accountable. I don’t understand the continual use of a system with such mixed results. I’ve made up my mind that I’m never going to be the hard ass that the job requires me to be. Yes, I will be manipulated. Maybe I’ll learn how to help those people too. I’ll keep getting in trouble for believing one lie or another. But I’m not going to do something that to me is wrong in a most fundamental way. So, maybe, I am in the right line of work-or in the right place in this line of work.

What a Brave, Brave Girl

Things are going crazy in my life. Mostly health problems, which exacerbate everything else. I’ve had chronic pain in my lower back and hips for around 4 years now. The last year and a half or so things have been getting worse. First there’s a problem with my bladder which hasn’t been identified. My lungs feel weird, like they’re swollen, but there’s no apparent reason for that. One morning while walking to class all of the muscles in my legs began to burn, I had a very hard time walking. My fingers are swollen and getting clumsier all the time. My shoulders ache randomly. I get sharp pains through my wrists, ankles, knees. Even my eyes don’t want to work right anymore. And now my sleep has been fucked up for the last couple of weeks, I’ll sleep maybe 2 or 3 hours a night most nights but then get one good night in about once a week. Oh, and don’t forget the ocular migraines. All of these things piled up have taken a real toll on my ability to think, which has led me to make a huge mistake at work. It doesn’t help matters any that my own mother told the boss about what I had done (we work for the same person) and because of the things mom said, now my boss doesn’t trust me. I don’t know, maybe she shouldn’t. I’m not sure that I even trust my head anymore.

…I feel the outside feeding on my inside…

-or-

….everything about you, so perfectly restrained. But everything inside you, bites you…

Also: The world’s gone mad. The state of the US is insane. We have this horribly devisive president who’s brought out the worst in many people. I’m actually a bit torn on how I feel about that sometimes, at least now we know who the “bad guys” are. Even then, they’re all products of their upbringing which is something I can feel sorry for. But not that sorry. Anyway, mountains of negativity are everywhere. People are afraid. (FEAR is everywhere here.) Often my empathy is overwhelmed by it all, which certainly doesn’t help my health problems. I believe it’s probably a cause of them. I try always to show the world a brave face. Yet there’s so much going on inside. The people that love me most, they know. They know because they’re the same way.

I’ve been brave lots of times in my life. Through the deaths of the boys. Watching Gram die. The stuff when we were kids in Grand Rapids. (There was horrible stuff.) Job loss and starting over and things we all must go through. Sometimes I don’t want to be brave. I just want to curl up with my dog and cry. Sometimes I do. Why do I have to keep getting up and being Brave again? Well, for those people who love me. They do the same for me.

I want to find a different job. I’m just plain not suited to this one. Now my boss may not trust me anymore. One of the therapists looks at me like I’m stupid every time he’s in this office. But I worry because I have days where it’s so hard to get out of bed. Either I haven’t slept much or my body hurts or both. What happens if I’m in a new job and things keep getting worse? It weighs on me, as well as the idea of staying in school. I doubt I’ll go back for another semester, work and school are too much together and I need an income.

You know who’s super Brave? Melissa. She inspires me every single day. Being a good mom, a good student, and great friend. The other day an actor died who was one of my favorites (Harry Anderson) when we were younger and she knew that. She texted me to let me know because she didn’t want me to find out through facebook, as part of my personal madness includes a strong reaction when I hear someone I like died. She knew that, so she took the care and time to let me know herself. That is so cool. It’s fabby that I deserve such a great friend. Oh I know that she has her down times too, but she doesn’t give up. That’s some brilliant shit right there.

She also got me the new Brave CD collection which I’ve been playing almost constantly and which inspired this writing. I do intend to pay her back which was the original plan, it’s just great that she got it so I can enjoy it now, plus before they run out, as they often have limited runs of these things.

So what does it mean to be Brave? Is it falling down but getting back up again every time? Is it admitting defeat and moving on? Is it looking your boss in the eye and saying, “hey, I don’t believe I’m suited to this gig and I don’t want to do it anymore. I will probably keep making stupid mistakes, I don’t want to ruin your business.” Is it doing that without a backup plan? Is it giving yourself permission to take a day off when everything seems to be piling up against you? All of this? None of this? The only thing I know for sure is that I’m tired. My body hurts. I’m sick of having to say these things in my own defense because even though they’re true, they sound like excuses. Melissa said in a text the other day “Once you fully take care of yourself I’m sure the way to really help people will be clear.” Brilliant, simple, complicated. I could give notice here without finding a new job and spend some time focusing on fully taking care of myself. I think leaving this job would be a part of that. I can’t go without an income though. I could try doing the put an ad in the paper thing for running errands for people and driving them around. That would be Brave. I just don’t even know where to start, really.

Or should I stay in school, live on loans, try to get an education that might allow me to retire some day? At the rate I’m going, I don’t see that or any of my travel dreams ever happening.

Why can’t I find a way to make photography and writing lucrative?

 

 

Marillion and me, since 1989

There are certain songs, we all have them, that provoke certain memories. If my memory serves me right, and it often does not, but I believe I was 19 the first time I saw The Best Band Anywhere. I was with my best friend Melissa, who was the driving force of our initial fandom. The year had to be 1990. The city was Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the Fish version of the band had a good following. But Melissa and I weren’t familiar with any of the Fish era stuff yet. Just this album that was pretty amazing called Season’s End. It was the last of the great radio years in Grand Rapids, we were damned lucky to have one DJ that still played what he liked. Hence: Melissa and I are sitting in a club in Grand Rapids Michigan somewhere in 1990.

They opened with King of Sunset Town. My life immediately changed forever. Sitting here writing this all of these lifetimes later I still have goosebumps. I have to smile at the memory of the fact that it was also the only time we weren’t in a queue at least 6 hours early to get a great place by the stage.

King of Sunset Town always pulls me into that dark little venue. (Club Eastbrook, long gone!) When I get to that place I also think of the things that were happening in my life at the time. I’d (we’d-Melissa and I) just graduated high school. We had both pissed away some time in college without any real direction. For the life of me I don’t know where I was working. Doesn’t matter really. It was a time of life when my friends mattered most. Well, a lot like now, but a few friends have been lost along the way and some other great ones have come along.

I wish that I could always remember those years of my life without so much pain. After all these years it’s easier, most of the time. You see, I had, at that point, 3 great friends that occupied the bulk of my heart and my time. Melissa, of course. Then there was my brother David and his best friend Mike. I write about them over and it never seems to be enough to lighten my heart. When we were all together it seemed like exactly where I was born to be. It’s a feeling I desperately want to find again.

You see, in 2001 David died. In 2009 Mike died. Mike was sick before David died, but David died first. I have flashbacks of that day in particular. I called Mike to tell him, I wish I’d have gone to his house but he always said it was best the way I did it. I alerted Melissa through some IM service or another, that was the surest way to get ahold of her back then. (What did we ever do without texting? Oh yeah, IM.) He was 27. He was healthy, seemingly. It was a bizarre fluke heart attack. He’d always, from the moment at 2 1/2 years of age I first saw him, always been my closest friend. I don’t think I’ll ever shake the sense of loss completely, and maybe I shouldn’t? I have come a long way.

Mike, well, he had a rare blood disorder. I can say it but I can’t spell it and you probably aren’t interested anyway. He was only 20, I think, when he had his first heart attack. He was 35 when he died. God I loved that man. The moment I fell for him, well, was idiotic but it made me laugh and then he came to visit my brother a lot so I get to know him better. I still love him. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it’s the way it is. I don’t think by far that I’m the only one in the world who’s experienced this sort of thing. “I try to want to. But I can’t get beyond you…”

I’m single. I have been for several years. I have terrible taste in men, apparently, at least living ones. Sometimes I do get desperately lonely. I’m not trying to stay single. I suppose I’m never anyplace where there’s an opportunity to meet like-minded fellows, accept perhaps Marillion shows. But I’ve only one thing on my mind during those, and that’s to soak up as much of the amazing as my spirit can hold, and then some.

The band will be back in Grand Rapids in a few short weeks. I’m sad that they haven’t had better ticket sales, I’m pretty sure that spells the end of their days in Michigan. But at the same time it’s so awesome to have them kind of “all to ourselves.” We were able to get to the first ever Montreal Weekend, which was only a few weeks after Mike died and with the myriad other madness in my life at the time it was not nearly as great as it should have been. Nor for Melissa, who was pregnant and could barely stay awake. Anyway we did it and no regrets! Well, yes, okay at least one definite regret. Never pack your car the night before you’re going to leave. If you must, put it in the trunk and not the back seat where it’s visible. That’s all I’m sayin’. Anyway the biggest (and only) event we’ve ever been able to make was that Weekend, so I don’t feel at all bad about being able to get so close to the stage and experience in our smaller venues.

Well I have certainly cris-crossed my topic a fair number of times. I’m new to this blogging thing. Throughout these nearly 30 years of Marillion Obsession there have been so many songs that strike a chord, which means the music is doing its job. There’s no other band anywhere that does that job so completely.

Oh, and perhaps most important, Melissa and I are still great friends.

 

Surviving loss with Marillion

love

….no one leaves you…

May 5, 2011. My little brother David died. We were as close as any two people can be, he was half of everything I ever was. My life would never be right again.

From 2000-2011 I lived with and cared for my grandma in her varying end of life stages.  We were together for my brother’s funeral, together as we watched the hearse carrying his remains drive by her house, the house where David and I spent so much wonderful time together. Slowly her health declined. Mom and I took turns helping her, but I lived there. There’s a part of us that never really stops being a little kid, and that part of me watched her strong, giving grandma slowly fade away. Watching a loved one die has to be one of life’s greatest agonies.

My brother had a friend, Mike. They met in seventh grade, when I was in ninth grade. When they started in the high school two years later I found myself deeply attracted to Mike. Hell I loved him from the start. As David and I were already close I took every chance that I could to hang out with them. We all grew up together. Mike and I dated a couple of times but it never worked out. In the long run I appreciated his friendship a great deal more than the relationship we might have had. When David died Mike became a sort of surrogate brother for me. On February 4, 2009 Mike died.

Along the way in those 10 or so years I struggled with some other traumatic losses. One of my dogs was shot and killed. The other died peacefully in my arms some years later. A close friend died. My step-grandma who was a wonderful person died. I went through so much shit in that time that I can’t even list it all anymore.

Through all of that I had 2 things that I knew I could count on. My best friend Melissa, we met in our freshman year of high school in 1985, and Marillion. In fact if it weren’t for Melissa, I may never have found Marillion.

A Few Words for the Dead is one of my favorite songs. Just for fun I decided I’d like to have “…or you could LOVE” tattooed round my wrist, but as a tattoo is a permanent deal I wanted it to be extra special. I left a note on Hogarth’s website guestbook asking if he knew where I might find it in his handwriting. He replied that he’d write it out for me, and so he did. These last few years of my life I’ve been struggling more with emotional issues as physical issues are creeping up on me. I’ve had to give up the career I had for 27 years (food service) because I have severe pain problems. I have to start all over again on the job front. It’s not so easy being middle aged and without experience in many things. There have been times when I was all alone, lost way deep inside myself (it was a long way down), and very near the idea of taking my own life. When I get that way (thankfully it’s been a while, and I hope I never get there again) I think of my son. I look at the photos of my loved ones that hang all over my walls. I hold my dog close to me. And I look at that word, “LOVE,” printed on my wrist in h’s handwriting. I think to myself, this will pass. There is so much to live for. Great friends, good dogs, and Marillion. It’s a good life.