Archive for September, 2020

How Never to Walk Alone

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2020 by michaelcogdill

I knew it was coming. I didn’t know it would come now, so near the death of my mom, or like this.

Montana, the golden retriever who shares her life with me, has osteosarcoma. That’s a bone cancer in her leg, diagnosed just today. She’s about 10. It’s common in goldens. She is anything but common.

I took Montana in 5 years ago, just after my divorce. Her owner had died very suddenly, of cancer. I was just crawling back to life.

We needed each other. I didn’t fully understand how much.

She has lain at the door to my garage foyer each night after the news, waiting. So happy at the sound of an opening door. She has brought devotion and serenity to my house, my coworkers, and others who love me. Even those who just pretended to love. My mistakes and heartbreaks and late night walks have had a big and sturdy steady – her. She has listened and stood strong without interruption.

How can a lady who can’t read manage to write herself with such eloquence into a man’s life? I don’t know how. But Montana’s my third golden, and each one did it the same way only differently. There are no words fit to say how. They speak by being more than doing. We can all learn from them.

Montana stayed at my mom’s bedside to the very end. She comforted my mother, the caregivers, me and everyone who helped us. She never grumbled about a late night or being rousted too early. Her tail wagged when human tongues failed us. She never failed, never waivered, never gave up when giving up seemed a good idea.

I will not give up on her.

There is a good drug — and holistic therapy — that should take the pain out of that front leg for a while. Her eyes are bright, her appetite ravenous, and her spirit high as a deer can jump trying to escape her. Gone are those long trail walks. The limp just won’t allow. But otherwise, her life still allows the give and take of joy. That’s the reason for a dog’s being. It should be ours.

She will tell me when it’s time. I’ve been here before. A dog need not know the word mercy to convey it. She will ask me for it, and I will give it to her. I will want to be selfish and withhold it to keep her with me. She will remind me I have to be a better man than that.

Those who don’t understand this, who think it’s just a dog, have lost their way. I can only trust God to send the right dog to find them. To rescue them from the ledges of such thought, before they fall. They will suffer human loss one day and stagger, not knowing how to cope. A dog will teach plenty about death and life and mercy. I am living proof, from way back.

My mom’s death just those few days ago seems to have left me with one elderly lady to care for in my home. But, no. Montana is somehow caring for me, at my feet now in the room where mom died. She sees the grown man she adores weeping out proof that the only way to escape grief is to walk straight through it.

She reassures me I will not walk it alone, now or later. She somehow knows she’s unforgettable. I know she is immortal in how my memory will ensconce her in love, all my days. Miss Polly would agree there is something downright holy about that, and about her.

Farewell, For Now

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2020 by michaelcogdill

Writing is a preservation. Done right, it will encase our most valuable feelings, moments, ideas

I share this piece here from the wee hours of my mother’s death a few scattered days ago. Having just felt her let go of her life, literally in my hands, it was, at the time, simply her boy grieving out loud. Now it feels like the proper epitaph. It is done with love and honor out of a broken heart mending in the memory of a lady so rare. Condolences have come by the hundreds of thousands. Thank you all. Thank God she is part of the makings of me.

Sadness mingles well with rejoicing.

It is proven this night.

My mother, Miss Polly, took her last breath at five minutes to one this morning. It came with abundant peace. Extravagant mercy, felt in my very hands.

October 13, 1925.

September 6, 2020

I held her hand, stroked her head, felt her depart her body as faithfully as she had worn it. Her final breaths akin to the swinging sling in David’s hand. When she drew her last, the rock let loose and hit the Goliath of dementia right between the eyes. It fell. Her dementia is dead now. She is blissfully, eternally alive.

I took a moment in the sun the afternoon before Death came. Sitting in a beach chair outside her window on my lawn a cloud, like a feather, formed above us. A harbinger of her flight, perhaps? Talisman? A comfort, most sure.

I’m writing this alongside dear friends and a caring hospice nurse in the middle of the night. Mom lies in her peace at the center of us. The stress of latter life is gone. A smile had found its way to her. Her nature.

When the hearse arrives, we will carry her out to it together. She will leave my home hoisted as a queen might be. But she is the gentle daughter of gentlemen farmers. A North Carolina mountain girl, gone home. Her humble majesty in our hands.

And I am left awash in honor, and gratitude. Covered in thank you!! Our thanks to all of you. Caregivers, hospice professionals, chaplains. The people who fed us, uplifted us, witnessed the Oprah Winfrey ugly cry of my man-tears bound to come again.

Thank you everyone who has loved and been loved by her. Goodnight, Mama. Godspeed, Miss Polly. Your race is done. I’ll be along one day, soon enough. And I will make good on my promise to take care of your only son. I will keep trying to live up to you

Elopement, 2.0

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2020 by michaelcogdill

In these closing hours of my mother’s life, a look back, and ahead. I write this at her bedside.

On June 21st, more than 70 years ago, they eloped.

My parents ran from the mountains of North Carolina down into the hollows of Clayton, Georgia, and got married. Just kids, with plenty to run from.

My parents had already endured childhoods shattered by addiction and poverty and the suffering of some of those who raised them. Their joy bar was set very low. Their suffering had been high as the hills that seemed their prison at times.

But they climbed out, together. Theirs would be a future with echos of the past. Alcoholism nearly claimed their marriage and my father’s life. His transformation into a beautiful and gentle man was hard won. A miracle. Every one of us had suffered. But a Divine wisdom came from it.

I miss my dad terribly. He was gentle, beautiful, wise and hilarious. I am already missing my mom, who adored him as much as he did her. Sitting here beside her bed, in her final time on earth, I extend some of their wisdom. We can all benefit.

As a child, you did not deserve to suffer the poor choices of the adults around you. Their destruction is not your fault, not your doing. Leave it be.

But there’s more.

My mother would say take inventory of what was done to you, get yourself some help — real help — offloading it. No one is obligated to carry the sins and wreckage of YOUR history. The people around you should not suffer cuts and hernias carrying what you went through.

“Lay it down” as my dad would say. There’s no shame, asking for help. But there’s destruction in refusing. My parents lived this. I learned it from them.

And here’s some of what else they learned.

There’s no solution found in the bottom of a bottle. It gives no shelter. Running for sanctuary into whiskey is like digging the foundation of your future in a cemetery. The only result, an early grave, into which life will go before a body does.

A drunk’s family suffers more than the drunk. Stop the suffering. Help is like soap and water in this culture. There’s little excuse for stinking.

Love way on down, from your marrow, your essence, from your depth.

Love your partner more than your pride. Do love and say it, in equal measures.

I remember my mother making my dad an egg sandwich in the middle of the night when he would get home from a shift. I remember how they would talk to one another in the kitchen. Soft as the white bread with one another.

They showed me what such love looks like, how it acts, what it says. I learned children are born to love but let go. Husbands and wives are made to keep, to cleave to and cherish. To dance in the kitchen after midnight, no thought of the coming day.

As Ekhart Tolle says, the present is all we have. My dad would say the same.

In his closing days, all he wanted was another day present with my mom, and with me. But mostly with her. She was his jewel, the light in his grin, the thunder in his laugh. He loved her fiercely, for who she is.

I imagine how he’s waiting for her now. His eternity soon hers.

Don’t marry in pursuit of happiness, they both would say. Marry with it. My father and mother made this mistake. They had to find their way out of it, and ultimately to one another. I have learned this well from them.

I weep now as I let go of my father’s bride. Her groom stands in his holy place, full of the grace of God, poverty and harm no where near. Their suffering on earth merely their refining for what is to come. I know, I know, Matthew wrote they neither marry nor are given in marriage in resurrection. I walk by faith, not literalism. I believe, as Matthew also said, they will be angels together, finally made whole. Theirs a happiness we can scarcely understand this side of the grave.

In the high summertime, 70 years ago, their season together came easy. Life would grow hard and cold, but theirs is a story of no mere earthbound survival. It is a prevailing. Unlike Narcissus, they fell into love with one another, not their own reflection. They doted and flirted and made for themselves a reality much more than any romantic dream. I am just an outgrowth of their union. A boy, still learning from them. Just the tail of the comet that was Polly and George. The pair of them one great light in the dark.

May God receive my mother into His hand, and the company of my earthly dad. They elope soon again, out of this world. On earth, they adored each other and believed in me. May seeing how they were together make another dream or two of mine come true.