The relief in grief
Grief. It’s a word with certain acceptable adjectives attached. Words like: layered and complicated, hard and complex. Sad. But there are other words some might feel too scared to admit belong in the conversation describing grief. Words like: liberation, ease and even relief. In this episode, we speak with three Latina women in southern California who have lost someone recently. In a lot of ways, these stories are about the people they lost. But in many ways, they’re also about the them they have found after.
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I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the lack of logic around death. I was a grown-up when I lost my grandmama, and when she passed I had so many questions. Questions about fairness. About the future. About the other adults in my life who were grieving in such wildly different ways than I was. And I remember learning specifically, the deal was — with death? “We don’t know,” was often the only answer.
But one friend of mine offered a pretty practical answer around how to handle loss. They told me: “Grief is simply a realignment of expectations.” To this day it’s one of the most profound pieces of life-knowledge I keep tucked in my back pocket for a rainy day. Well it’s been metaphorically raining tragedy all over this world for a while now, so I guess that day is here.
Grief. It’s a word with a lot of expectations around it. We expect grieving to be hard, layered, complicated, and complex. But there are other words that belong in the conversation about grief. Words that are hard to admit. Words like: liberation, ease and even relief. In this episode, we speak with three Latina women in southern California who have lost someone within the last year. In a lot of ways, these stories are about the people they lost. But in many ways, they’re also about the them that they found.
“As time went on, I realized that when it came to me everything was fast and quick. And when it was about boating, and doing what he liked to do, I was very passionate to watch the joy in his eyes and his face. And I realized that it was not about the two of us. It was mostly about making him happy.” — Monica Leon
Note: Our show is made for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript. Transcripts are generated using a combination of robots and human transcribers, and they may contain errors.
Myra Flynn: When do you miss Polo the most?
Avalon Wills: Right now.
Myra Flynn: You’re missing him right now? Why is that?
Avalon Wills: Because I love Polo. I give him food every day.
Myra Flynn: I’m talking with my nearly four-year-old daughter, Avalon, at Seal Beach in Santa Monica, California. She’s chasing waves, I’m recording them. And for context, Polo was our pet chihuahua who died at 21 years old. Twenty-one. Man, he was a good friend. I have a theory that he stuck around long enough to see me become a mama, to see me that happy, and to meet Avalon. They were buddies. Polo gave so much to our family in his life, but also in his passing. He gave me the chance to explain death to Avalon.
Myra Flynn: Who dies? Does everybody die?
Avalon Wills: Yeah.
Myra Flynn: But why did Polo die?
Avalon Wills: Because, because he got very, very old.
Myra Flynn: And so how do you feel when somebody dies?
Avalon Wills: Sad.
Myra Flynn: Were you sad when Polo died?
Avalon Wills: A little bit.
Myra Flynn: By the time I lost my first human, my grandmama, I was about 20. And I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the lack of logic around that loss. I remember acutely, that transition from being a kid losing her pets to an adult with a lot of questions. Questions about fairness. And about the future. And about the other adults in my life who were grieving in such wildly different ways than I was. And I remember learning specifically, the deal was — with death? “We don’t know,” was often the only answer.
Myra Flynn: Tell me about how it feels to feel sad.
Avalon Wills: You cry.
Myra Flynn: You cry sometimes. Right? And do you miss him?
Avalon Wills: Yeah.
Myra Flynn: One friend of mine offered a pretty practical answer around how to handle loss. They once told me: “Grief is simply a realignment of expectations.” To this day it’s still one of the most profound pieces of life-knowledge I keep tucked in my back pocket for a rainy day. Well, it’s been metaphorically raining tragedy all over this world for a while now, so I guess that day is here.
Myra Flynn: Do you know what it means when somebody dies – That feeling that you have? Do you know what it means you're doing?
Avalon Wills: No.
Myra Flynn: It means you're grieving. Can you say “grieving?”
Avalon Wills: Breaving.
Myra Flynn: Breaving with a G. Grieving.
Myra Flynn: Today on the show, we’re talking about grief.
It’s a word with certain acceptable adjectives attached to it, like: layered and complicated, hard and complex. Sad. I mean, it has five well-documented stages.
But I’m learning about other words some might feel too scared to admit also belong in the conversation around grief. Words like: liberation, relief, ease, and even, sometimes, grief can be simple in its ebb and flow, like the waves.
Myra Flynn: If you could say anything to Polo, what would you say?
Avalon Wills: Thank you.
Myra Flynn: Thank you for what?
Avalon Wills: For spending time with us.
From Vermont Public, this is Homegoings. Today on the show, three stories from three Latina women in Southern California who have lost someone within this past year. In one case, just three days before their interview with me. In a lot of ways, their stories are about the people they’ve lost. But in many ways, they’re more about the them they found after. And when it comes to that realignment of expectations, I think it’s fair to say we can expect this episode to be sad.
Myra Flynn: Marissa Herrera is a self-described third-generation Chicana Indigenous woman, hailing from Azusa in the San Gabriel Valley of southern California. She lost her mom, Rosie Herrera, quickly, last year, to pancreatic cancer. Marissa says the loss was devastating, but that it healed some things, too. Rosie was 19 when she had Marissa. Her mother kicked her out of the house as a punishment for the pregnancy and so for years, Marissa and Rosie shared a room and a bed. Marissa says that their journey led to a kind of intertwined relationship that sometimes made it hard to tell who was the daughter and who was the mom.
Marissa Herrera: Rosie Herrera was a light in this world. She was a dancer. She was an educator. And she was the woman who at age 19 got pregnant with me as a single mother and hid her pregnancy for the first six months from her mother because of shame, because of fear. And we have navigated a very difficult and beautiful journey in this lifetime together that in my eyes was cut short when I lost her at the age of 65, and I was 46.
My mom was a very young 65. You know, she didn't look her age, everybody always thought that we were sisters. She was in great health despite having been diagnosed with lupus when I was like 14, and she had been in remission for like, over 30 years. She did yoga every single day. She jogged. You know, she was very active. You know, love to dance – that's where I get from. And she just started not to feel well. And, she didn't tell me how bad she was feeling. And so I thought, “Well, you’re just a little fatigued, you know, just rest.” And she had bloodwork done when she started to turn jaundice, which she had not told me about initially. I just thought she, you know, was under the weather. And when the results came back, the doctor told her she had to get to the hospital immediately. And that's the last thing I like – big moment that I remember was like, Mom's going to the hospital. And within four days, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She, her initial response was, “I'm going to fight, I'm not ready to leave you yet. You know, we're going to do this.” And I was like, “Alright, let's go.” And shortly after that, like the next day, her white blood cells had gone so high that the doctor said that she was no longer a candidate for chemotherapy. And within like a day and a half of that, I was having to make the decision to bring her home in hospice.
And she came home to my house. And I was her caretaker and her death doula for the last four days that we had her, and she passed peacefully, under my care, at home. And I think there's a difference between watching somebody fight cancer over, like, a duration of time where you can process things, you can make plans. You know, you see them start to deteriorate. You have the conversations, and there's some peace that you're able to have. Or if someone gets in a car accident, or has a heart attack, and it's like, instant. But to see somebody who lived such a vibrant life, literally become a corpse before your eyes within such a short time – I couldn't even make sense of any of it.
And the initial thing was that, you know, she wanted to come home to get stronger and be able to start chemo and stuff. And I knew, I mean, I knew I was bringing her home to die. And so in the whole idea, you know, of like, us having shared a bed, like when we came home, hospice had, you know, set up the whole thing and there was a hospital bed in my office, where we kind of transformed that to medical central, you know, with all the meds and all the the pads and everything, the bed – she was going to need her oxygen. But she didn't want to sleep there. She would stay there during the day, but she didn't want to sleep there. She wanted to be in my bed. So it was this full circle moment of us, me holding her at night.
I had the young, cool mom that everybody wanted. She was at everything. She supported everything. She was fun. There were other things that I needed from her that she couldn't provide that other people didn't see. I look at 19-year-olds, and they’re babies – like, my mother was a baby when she had me. I needed the mom that I could talk to that listened and could give insight and could give, you know, reassurance and could give advice. And she could do that for other people. Everybody came to my mom for encouragement and all these different things. And my mom was always proud. Like, so proud. She was my No. 1 fan. She never missed the show. You know, she was very articulate, you know, in her writing. She always wrote these beautiful cards, you know, messages and stuff that we still have. But anytime I had to talk to her about some hard things that were going on in my life, she'd be like, “Mm. So anyways,” and change the subject. Every single time. And it would make me so angry, because she couldn't show up for me that way. And I remember in college, in therapy, you know, is like talking, talking, talking. And my therapist was like, “I think we need to do some sessions with you and your mom.” And I was like, “Yeah, we probably should.” And like, talking to her about it, and it was just more of like, a very, like, logistical practical thing for me of like, “OK, so these are the dates that are open, this is what's going on.” And she kept, like, dodging it, and like, I brought it up again. And then she said, the most honest, truthful thing I think she's ever said to me in my life. And she said, “I can't deal with my own problems, so you can’t expect for me to help you with yours.” And I was like, and I wasn't even upset. It was liberating, because I'm like, “You're right. You can’t, you don't deal with your problems.” And it really also solidified – and I think this is what happens, you know with the relationships with mothers and daughters – and when we look at generational trauma, right, like, you can't expect to be healed by the people that hurt you. And, her mother, you know, my grandma, you know, Isabelle, you know, we call chabela, you know, rest in peace. She had a very hard life, too. And my mom and her siblings never heard her say, “I love you.” She, I mean, and my mother told us she loved us every single day. So even though, like, I felt like, “Well, you're not doing the work, or you haven't done everything to be the mom I needed.” She was leaps and bounds over what her mother had provided for her and what my grandma's mother probably provided for her too, because there's just so much, you know, trauma.
Even with everything that we've been through in our life, I think the thing that's the hardest for me is that we were just coming into like, the best part of our relationship. As adult women, I understood my mother in a whole different way than I ever had when I was younger. And it was just this constant fight of just like, OK, well, if I could help fix my mom of like, her traumas, then I can be OK. And I had to get to the place where the things that she couldn't do, which was like, effectively express her emotions, talk about hard things – that it wasn't about me. And I had to accept the mother that she was in the way that she loved us. And those broken parts of me had to be healed by me. And once I started to do that work, it made our relationship that much better. And my mom started to do her work on her own. And to see her start to have peace in her being and meditate and do yoga, like, it was just incredible. So we were able to get to this place. I was like, “Yo, like, we get to do all this amazing stuff together now.” I want to take her on trips. I want us to spend time together. I want us to do all of these things. And then she died.
And she wasn't eating, you know, much, so we just gave her stuff that she really wanted. We danced together for the last time. And she just started to progressively, you know, get weaker, get quieter during that, that time. And my brother and I, we just, basically we didn't, you know, we didn't leave her side. Her spirit had already left. So that was really hard because it was literally just like, this corpse body that I had to, you know, constantly clean what her body was dispelling – all the stuff that people don't think about when the body starts to shut down. And I just wanted her to not be in pain or hurt, you know, having to do morphine, like all this scary stuff. And when I knew that, OK, you know, it's going to be today, or it's going to be tomorrow. You know, we're Chicana Indigenous women. We have long, thick, beautiful hair. And washing her hair for the last time, braiding her hair for the last time, you know, washing her body, saging her, you know, making sure you know, she had her crystals, you know, around her. My mom loved the beach. It was her happy place. And she would walk the beach for hours and come back with handfuls of shells that you know, she was going to do something with. She never did.
And you know, that last day, I just kept reminding her that she had permission to go, that I loved her, that I forgave her, that I forgave myself. You know, I'll sit in the bath and literally weep and call out for my mom. And I never did that when she was alive. But those parts of little Marissa that needed her in a way that she couldn't show up, she misses her mom too.
There is nothing like the relationship between a mother and daughter, you know the angst of it. And there is nothing like the relationship between a mother and a daughter.
Myra Flynn: Monica Leon is my neighbor in Monrovia, California. I’ve lived there for about a year and she and her Peruvian husband of 28 years, George Leon, have been nothing short of welcoming and kind. We have a big front porch, and that’s where they introduced themselves to my family with a basket full of kumquats picked fresh from their tree. They always wave. They always ask about Avalon.
This summer, I was surprised to find just Monica on my front porch. “We lost George,” she said. I hadn’t known he had been quietly battling liver cancer for nearly eight years. This interview with Monica took place just three days after his passing, on the same front porch I met them on.
Monica Leon: (Bird sounds) He has a lot to say. I think he wants to be interviewed.
When I met him, he had a ponytail. And he looked like a wild person. And I never dated anybody like that. But he was very carefree. And I loved that he didn't care about anybody looking at him or anything. He was just who he was. And I really – that really drew me in. And the girls told me, “What, but he has a ponytail on his –” And when he released that ponytail, that was a whole different situation. I really fell in love with his honesty. He was like a shirt turned inside out. And I love that about him because there wasn’t a lot of work to get to know him. He was just a beautiful person. Very natural.
When I met him, it was on a Tuesday, and it was my girlfriend's birthday. And it happened, this place, the restaurant we went to, they were having dancing, and they came and asked us, “Well, since you're having dinner, we're gonna give you some free tickets to go and do some dancing. What better to do is exercise and work off your dinner, but to go dance?” So, we ended up going to the dance floor. There was nobody there, and it was early. And my husband — and here comes my husband and his good friend. And so we were the only four inside the dance room. And he said, “Would you guys like to dance?” We said, “Absolutely. We're already out here.” So we ended up dancing. And then one song went on, and they said, “You still want to dance?” “Of course!” So we enjoy just laughing and talking, and that was it. We went home. While in the conversation, and someone mentioned that I had worked at a hospital. And he remembered, so he called me and he sent me flowers and a big teddy bear. And he told me, “Would you go out with me to lunch?” And I asked my boss, “Do you want to go to lunch? I just met him. Do you want to go to lunch with me? Because I'm asking if you'd like to go to lunch?” “Sure. I want to meet him.” So I called my husband now and I told him, “Would you mind if my boss joins us?” And he said, “Your boss?” And I told him,“Yes, my boss. Who better than my boss?” So he said, “OK, that sounds like fun.” And we all went out. And this day and the conversation that we had – his truth of life, and the truth of things that he's been through and done, was out there so simple and so easy, that he made me feel very easy about everything. And I just never had dated anybody like that. So it was very different. So my eyes were open, my ears were open to him a lot more. He was very interesting to me. And I thought, “I really want to get to know him.”
Well, after 10 years I realized he was a very stubborn man, and he really wanted to do things his way. And he was used to doing things his way. He had a very small world. I think it was small, but it was beautiful for him. It was meaningful. And it meant everything to him. Working and having his career and knowing that it was solid, and boating – going out to the mountains and riding his boat along the river, among the mountains – he said made him feel as if he was in Peru, which I've never been. So I don't know what that's like. But he just felt really close to home. And I thought that was really awesome, how he shared that with me. And so I always respected that. Although I didn't always enjoy boating because it came too fast and quick for everything. And sometimes that was kind of hard for me to understand. Because, you know, I took marriage as like, walking down the street hand in hand and talking and meeting me halfway with things that I enjoyed, which was like, camping, roughing it, going water rafting, hiking, sight-seeing. And I laughed, because I asked him five years after we were married, which is on the 10th year, I asked him, “Do you think you could take me to the Sonoma, and I could see all the red rocks and all that beauty that's out there, and the colors, and the sunset?” And he told me, “Sure. When do you want to go?” And I said, “Well, how about we plan it for maybe next month?” He said, “How about tomorrow?” We pack the car and we go. That was wonderful. I thought, “Wow. Alright.” So we packed the car. We got in there. We left to Arizona. We went to Sonoma. And it must have been about a good 40 minutes through the Sonoma mountains and hills. And then he told me, “We're gonna stay at this really nice place, has a swimming pool, and you can do whatever you'd like to do.” So I was so happy and excited because I thought we were going to do it slow and easy. And we ended up going through the mountains. And he said, “How did you like that?” I said, “What?” And he said, “Those were the Sonoma mountains. And that's Sonoma. And we're now in another city.” And I stopped in my tracks. And I said, “Are you kidding me? We are just taking a real drive through the mountains. We're not going to stop?” We weren't able to stop and feel the sand and feel the nature – the difference of the sand and the dirt compared to where we live. And he said, “It's all the same. Everything's the same everywhere we go.” And so at that time, I thought, “Wow, OK. Well, maybe it was my fault, because I didn't get into detail with him on the table to map things out, talk a little more about it and discuss it.” But then, as time went on, I realized that when it came to me, everything was fast and quick. And when it was about boating, and doing what he liked to do, I was very passionate to watch him – the joy in his eyes and his face.
And I realized that it was not the two of us. It was about, mostly about making him happy. Because it just seems that men love to be loved. And this is how I feel deep inside. And I felt that about five years – no, about 10 years ago – when he started getting sick and not feeling good. And I thought, “Why is he such a baby?” And the more that I pampered him, the more that he took it. And the more that he, you know, wanted me to pamper him and hear him out on all his things that were going on. So I pursued that. And I said – I talked to my mom and I went over to have coffee with her. And I told my mom, “Are men like that mom? Because I'm experiencing that with my husband. And I feel like I turned into the mom now. And not so much the wife.” And my mom says, “Just go with the flow. Because when we went up to our vows, our vows mean everything to us. And us women, we stick to what we believe in. We're true believers, firm believers in what we, what we plan out to do. And we have that much pride in our families, and our surroundings, you know, our family, our work, our house ethics.” And my mom says, “That's who we are.” Because of my love for someone that I invest my time and everything into, I said, “Well, maybe one day the Lord will make it better for us. You know, maybe something will change. You know, I'm just gonna keep talking to him about the things that I like, walking on the beach, walking hand in hand talking. You know, just spending the day at the beach and feeling the breeze and the sun at the same time, and getting a tan, not even knowing that you're tanning.” And those are just amazing things for me. But I suffered inside. And I used to tell myself, “Why?” But it was because I love him. And because I invest in what I do. And I do it because I have a passion in my heart. And I want those things. So I, I deal with those things. Because of that, and I put myself through those things.
But at the end, I sit here three days, two days later, and I realized that there's a plan and that I gave my everything to him. And I'm okay with that. I just have to get my thoughts together to figure out how I want to do the next chapter. And I want to do it very gracefully. And I don't know, I just, right now I just lost him. And right now, I'm just trying to remind myself that it was a journey that he needed to take and that I'm still here and that I have the world in my fingertips. What will I do with it?
Myra Flynn: Welcome back to Homegoings, I’m Myra Flynn. And today’s episode is about grief.
And a heads up, this segment of this episode will be talking about suicide.
About two years ago, my aunt, Elida Flynn, FaceTimed me sobbing uncontrollably. She was holding my Uncle John, who she had always nicknamed “daddy” because, she says, he took such good care of her. She was holding him in her lap, and I couldn’t quite tell why. The way he was laying it looked like had taken a fall or maybe even fainted.
My aunt told me between wails that she had just taken him down from the doorway, where he was hanging by his leather belt. He’d hung himself. A sadly familiar way of dying in the Flynn family, as his father, my grandfather, died the same way.
Aunt Ellie and I kind of went our separate ways after this tragedy. It just seemed, and sometimes still seems, too hard to come together over something so inexplicable and overwhelmingly sorrowful. Suicide can sometimes feel so violent to the living.
But over the summer she invited me to a party, with some of the musicians my uncle loved to spend time with. I brought my mic and recorder, on the off chance that my aunt would be willing to grieve with me, and that just maybe, I could make something lovely out of our conversation in remembrance of my uncle. This is – this is that. This is our grief.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, call or text 988, anytime of day or night. You do not have to navigate this alone.
Myra Flynn: Can you say your name?
Elida Flynn: My name is Elida Flynn. Born and raised in Texas, but I live in Los Angeles, California – Long Beach, I'm sorry, Long Beach. And I'm your auntie. You're my niece. You're my niece, my beautiful niece, Myra.
Myra Flynn: I haven't seen you for a while.
Elida Flynn: I know, Mama. I just been, just, laying low. Don't know how to live without your uncle, and I'm having such a rough time. And I miss him. And I want him back. I'm lost without him. I'm very lost. And you know, I met your uncle in 1992. And I came back. And we did the long-distance relationship. And then your uncle asked me to move to California.
Myra Flynn: Why did you say yes?
Elida Flynn: Because I was so much in love with him. How can I explain it. I was so in love with him. He was very different from every man that I have dated. And he gave me the best life nobody could ever give me. But your uncle gave me a good life. And we were so much in love. We did everything together.
We had a really good marriage. And he just, was so loving and kind. He loved everybody, Myra. I mean, he was just such a good man.
He loved music. He was a drummer. And, you know, he had really bad back problems. The medicine wasn't helping him anymore. He was just lost. And, he didn't know how to deal with the pain and to live, and several times, he would just tell me, you know, that if I wasn't in his life, he would have taken his life a long time ago. But he said that because he was married to me, and he didn't want to leave me alone. But there was one time, I told Daddy, I said, “Dad, I just want you to know if anything ever happens to you. I'll be OK. You know, I'll be OK.”
And why was I wrong? I was so wrong. But I think, Myra, that gave him the green light, you know, to go. You know, he just couldn't live anymore.
Myra Flynn: So do you think that if you hadn't told him that you'd be OK, you think he wouldn't have done it?
Elida Flynn: Right. Yes.
Myra Flynn: That's not true, Aunt Ellie. That's not true. That's not true. That struggle was there for such a long time –
Elida Flynn: That’s something that I have to deal with, that, maybe if I didn't say anything, he could have still been right here with us, right now.
Myra Flynn: But, you know that he's been talking that way since he was very young.
Elida Flynn: That's what I hear, is he had been talking about this. And, as you know, your grandfather committed suicide.
Myra Flynn: It's in the family.
Elida Flynn: It's in the family. And, you know, his father had hung himself. And your uncle hung himself. And I found him. And I was so devastated.
Myra Flynn: You FaceTimed me with his body on that day. What happened?
Elida Flynn: I know that your uncle – I had him in the hospital. You know, I had him in the hospital. I had him in rehab. I had him sober living. And I know that your dad and, and me and my family had called and told the hospital, you know, “Don't let him out, because he's suicidal.” And, your uncle decided to check himself out of the facility. And came home – he came home on a Monday. And that Thursday, he hung himself. And, I blame the system, because they weren't, they weren't helping him. They should’ve. And they didn't. And, you know, that morning, you know, I woke up, and he hadn't been sleeping. He hadn't slept at all. I think he hadn't slept for about two weeks. And he just told me that he’s just, not happy, you know, “because I'm always in pain. I’m in a lot of pain.” And goes, “I just don't know. You know, I don't know if life is good for me.” And I keep telling him, you know, “Dad, you know, let's get you some more help,” or, you know. And all I could see in his eyes was just, “done.” He was done. You could tell, his eyes were like, done with life.
He was just tired, Myra. He was so tired. He was so, so tired that you could tell there was no life in him. He was just existing. You just exist. And that's how I feel right now. That I’m just existing. You know, I don't know what to do. I have friends that reach out, and I'm just very, you know, on my own. That's the way I'm coping with my, with my grief, you know.
And your uncle loved you so much. He loved you so much. He talked about you all the time. He, you know, bragged about you. And he was – so much, he loved you so much, you know.
Myra Flynn: I'm so mad at him. Like, I wish I could just, like, yank him down to yell at him.
Elida Flynn: I’m like that, Mama. You know, sometimes I tell him you know, “Dad, you left me here.” But then, at the same time, I told him I’d be OK. I tried everything, Mama.
Myra Flynn: I saw you try everything.
Elida Flynn: I tried everything, you know, that I could think of to, you know, I would try to pick up his spirits, you know, and he was very sick.
And, then when you moved over here he was, he was so happy. And then when you moved back, he's like, “OK.” And, you know –
Myra Flynn: I have guilt about that. I feel like, when I moved back to Vermont, he lost – I feel like he felt I was a daughter in a way. And he was like a fatherly person to me, too. He always believed in my music. And he always understood that I gravitated towards cities, and like, never tried to keep me in the country. Always wanted me to shine. And then when I left, I had that wonder, like did he do it because I wasn't there. And if he had just like, held on like a couple more months, because we moved back.
Elida Flynn: Didn't you, I think you had said, because you came back. And he was already gone.
Myra Flynn: We were planning our move back here when he did it. We were gonna surprise you guys. It's just like –
Elida Flynn: Well, you know, I think, when you were here, you know, he felt, “OK, I’ve got family, you know, I have my blood here.” And, you know, I think, after when you moved, you know, he was a little sad, but you know, it's – you have your life. You're married, you have children, you have to go on. But, you know, we were hoping that you would move back.
Myra Flynn: But so I'm here now. And you're in this, like, grief bubble. And it feels like I can't touch you. But at the same time, I don't want the same thing to happen. Do you think I'll be able to see you again soon?
Elida Flynn: I'm trying, Mama. You know, I want to reach out. And, you know, I know you’re family. But at the same time, I don't know how to, to deal with it – with you, or with Chris or Gordy. You know, I don't know how to –
It's just hard. It's just really hard.
Myra Flynn: At least with me, though, like, I don't know how to deal with it either, so we could just sit together and not know.
Elida Flynn: Yeah. Yeah, you know, I mean, life is too short.
Monica Leon, Marissa Herrera, Elida Flynn. And before we go any further, if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, call or text 988, anytime of day or night. You do not have to navigate this alone.
And about these women: I’ve circled back with all of them since our interview to check in, and hear what shape their grief is taking these days. Monica is still deeply missing George, but has begun to clean out the house and attic since his passing as a way of kind of cleansing and starting anew. She’s also thinking about going back to work as a nurse.
Marissa is busy, and has only gotten busier since her mom’s passing, as we tend to do when we grieve. She says she keeps finding little reminders of her mom’s love for her, like newspaper clippings in a shoebox, following Marissa’s every success. Marissa says her grief still feels acute, and that one of the surprises she’s coming up against is that — life is seemingly going on for everyone but her. Like she’s the only one left feeling this immense daily pain.
My Aunt Ellie and I still haven't gotten together since my interview with her. I’m struggling with wanting to both give her space and wrap her up in a giant blanket and hold her while she cries – while we both cry. Instead, in August I threw my uncle a big remembrance party. A Homegoing of sorts. My aunt is right that he was always so proud of me, especially of the music I made because he is — he was – a musician, too. I always wondered if I got it from him. So we gathered and played music together and shared stories about him, and it was perfect.
As far as my grief, I think I’ve managed to realign a few expectations, like forgiveness. I forgave my uncle for leaving what still feels like way too soon. And I’ve been trying to more align my mindset with something someone said at his remembrance gathering: Maybe he was just having a bad day. Don’t we all.
But I remember his good days. And those days were almost always when he was behind the drum kit and writing and recording songs in his ad hoc garage studio. Songs like this one, which I’d found in my inbox. He sent it to me in 2014. He’d wanted to see if I liked it. So, settle in. Today’s deep listen is an original song by John Flynn called “Save Your Heart.” He’s also playing the drums. I miss you Uncle John.
Myra Flynn and Avalon Wills: Thank you for spending time with us.
This episode was mixed, scored and reported by me, Myra Flynn. I also composed the theme music. All other sounds are from the ocean, my front porch, and a party in Santa Monica. Mark Davis edited this episode, and James Stewart contributes to so many things on the backend of making this thing come to life. Elodie Reed is the graphic artist behind all of our Homegoings artist portraits. All three women are on this one, along with Marissa’s mom, who had left this world when the photo was taken. Take a look at homegoings.co, and take good care while looking.
Special thanks to Monica, Marissa and Elida, for allowing me to create this container to hold their grief. I don’t take that responsibility lightly, and I can only hope that somehow this episode can serve as a gift of remembrance and healing.
See you in two weeks, this time, for another episode of Homegoings. And a reminder that we are winding down to our final two episodes of season one! And starting some planning for season two. If you have thoughts, reflections or asks of me as your host about who we should talk to or what we should explore next on the show, write to me,at email@example.com.
As always, you are welcome here.
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