Tag Archives: death

Listen to Your Mother – video release!!!

14 Jul

So while I’m frantically revising picture book manuscripts to take to Highlights Summer Camp

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Fake picture of me….

 

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The Real Me

 Listen To Your Mother released the 2016 videos from shows in 41 cities. As promised, here’s my piece in the San Francisco Show! It was a privilege and an honor to be on stage with such amazing women. Cheers!

Cry, Heart, But Never Break – Perfect Picture Book Friday

1 Apr

I was so moved by another writer’s beautiful post about grief, including a picture book recommendation, that I wanted to share it for Susanna Leonard Hill’s PPBF. Here’s the book:

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And here’s the post. Enjoy!!

http://joycorcoran.com/2016/03/30/convergence-grief-books-life/

Title: Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Author: Glenn Ringtved

Illustrator: Charlotte Pardi

Publisher: Enchanted Lion, 2016

Listen to Your Mother – San Francisco

14 Mar

It’s official!

I’ll be performing at the Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco on May 6th!

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I had submitted a humorous essay last year but was too ill to audition for the show after the piece was selected. Not content to submit the same piece this year, I wrote a new 800-word essay that took me several years to write: five years to reflect on my experience and two weeks to commit to paper this past January.

What was I thinking? What was wrong with sticking to humor?

Me (well, a not so reasonable facsimile) when I began writing:

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Me (a more reasonable facsimile) after finishing:

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No, the essay has nothing to do with Norman Bates or chainsaws. And yes, there is a bit of humor in what would have been a thoroughly tragic story. 

I hope that those who hear it for the first time during the performance will be moved to think about those they love, the things their loved ones hold dear, and what those things signify in their relationships.

Looking forward to sharing the story with you all after the performance. For those who live in the Bay Area, I’d be eternally grateful if you come and cheer me on. Stay tuned for ticket sales info. Cheers!

Setting Fire to the Origami Crane – For Sarah Briggs Hoffmann

21 Sep

A little over a year ago, we gathered family and friends on an island in Muscongus Bay in Maine to celebrate Peter Hoffmann‘s (my father-in-law) life and bury his ashes in the island cemetery. It was a glorious day—sunny and warm—for a picnic, wine, and shared memories.

Sarah, my mother-in-law, asked the kids to craft parachutes with candy payloads and toss them from the treehouse to represent the Berlin airlift of Peter’s childhood.

Later, we lighted a bonfire, dined in the darkness, and listened to some of Peter’s favorite jazz recordings.

Then Sarah passed away around 3am that night, most likely from a heart failure brought on by a severe asthma attack. She had long struggled with diabetes and asthma.

There is no word for the emotion. Shock is far too tame. Disbelief, a limp noodle of a word. Nothing could be said.

So we said little, hugged a lot, and kept the family close because we were going to bury Sarah’s ashes four days later. This is the birch log one of her three sons hollowed out to hold Sarah’s ashes.

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Giotto, Sarah and Peter’s dog, kept vigil while we waited to bury her beside Peter.

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Throughout the days following her death, Giotto would suddenly stand, look out the window and howl silently.

This past August, family members gathered on the island to honor Sarah’s life. She loved children, always engaging them with stories and activities, like the parachute project for Peter’s memorial. Often times, sparklers were involved.

So we constructed a wooden origami crane. Our son and his cousins designed, nailed, nail-gunned, taped, and wired sparklers, roman candles, and fireworks waterfalls to the structure. Then at dusk, we set it floating on Muscungus Bay before lighting it on fire. We didn’t have a proper camera for the event, so phone shots will have to suffice.

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Construction completed:
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Setting the crane afloat on the old raft, The Rusty Blade:

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Waiting for darkness:

 

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Shimmering across the bay:

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Farewell, Sarah

Sarah also loved poetry. So when we returned, I donated to Tupelo Press’s 30/30 project, where selected poets write and publish a poem a day each month. I sponsored a poem from one of my favorite poets, and gave him only a title as starting point. Here’s Robert Okaji’s stunning and uncanny result:

Setting Fire to the Origami Crane (the one floating on Muscongus Bay) at Sunset / by Robert Okaji

 

Who is to say which comes first, the flaming crane

or the sunset’s burst just over the horizon

 

and under the clouds? There are causes and causations,

an illness named bad air and another attributed to wolf

 

bites, neither accurate. There is the paraffin to melt,

and the folded paper resting comfortably nearby, with

 

a small, unopened tin of shoe polish and the sound of

tears striking newsprint. You know the myth of the

 

Viking burial — the burning ship laden with treasure

and the deceased clothed in all his finery. But pyres

 

are lighted to make ash of bodies, to ease the soul’s

transition to the heavens. Think of how disturbing

 

it would be to come upon the charred lumps of your

loved one washed ashore. And other myths — various

 

versions of the afterlife created to bend wills and

foster hope where little exists — to which have you

 

departed? There are no returns in your future, no more

givings, and your ashes have dispersed among the clouds

 

and in the water. They’ve been consumed by earth and

sky, inhaled and swallowed, digested, coughed out but

 

never considered for what they were. So I’ve printed

your name a thousand times on this sheet, and will

 

fold and launch it, aflame, watching the letters that

comprise you, once again, rise and float, mingle

 

and interact, forming acquaintances, new words,

other names, partnerships, loves, ascending to the end.

 

 

Thank you, Robert. Sarah would have loved the poem you didn’t know you were writing for her.

 

Find more of Robert Okaji’s poems on his website: O at the Edges

or at the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project website under August poems. These will only be available until the end of September.

Poems for the Weak of Heart

18 Jun

Boredom

Vice

and

Poverty

arrived in my mailbox yesterday. And I mean that literally. Continue reading

Death and Poetry – UCSF Memory and Aging Center

18 May

I few months ago, I wrote about my out-of-body experience (spending the evening with a couple of exes)

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Crossing the velvet bridge

compliments of the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, where death and dying was discussed through the medium of poetry.

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield, poet and the Hellman Visiting Artist at the center (2012-13), led the evening that left me exhausted and exhilarated.

Here’s the link to all of the poets/speakers that evening: UCSF Memory & Aging Center, Poetry & End of Life.  Each video is listed separately.

I want to draw particular attention to Frank Ostaseski, Founder of the Zen Hospice Center in San Francisco. He recites a death poem written by an elderly woman (Sono) who had been homeless before coming to the hospice center to die. The poem, a gift to herself and to him, was cremated with her body.

Ostaseski starts talking about Sono at minute 12:00. The poem is finished at 15:45, but I think you might want to watch to the end.

Ashes to ashes. Let’s raise a glass and toast to our unworlding.

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Cheers!

For after all, it is truly part of living—until we are no more.

 

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