John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXIII

(Creative Commons, Photo by D Sharon Pruitt)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, with two new stories about death and the always gone girl.


Death Is Not Real

It is snowing again this evening and I took Totes for a slow meander down one of the roads in the graveyard. It was quiet, peaceful, and so lovely; it gave me a chance to reflect and put my thoughts in order.

There has been a fair bit of heartache on my timeline this winter and so I wanted to say a few words of encouragement about death, loss and grief.

Not that I am an expert, but I have read broadly about spirituality, psychology, and death. I have also had a few out-of-the-norm spiritual experiences in my 54 years on this planet.

The good news is death is not real, the Bible calls it but a shadow. As eternal beings, the only thing that can die is our bodies and our personalities. So, rest assured, you will experience loved ones again. Some of you may experience them even now. I have felt the presence of my maternal grandmother several times throughout my life.

I imagine, from what I have read, death, for those that die, feels like a great expansion. Out of the temporary and limited, into the limitless and eternal. I remember being so stressed about a college paper one year that at some point in the night it felt like I crossed over for a moment and came back. That experience left me refreshed for the rest of the school year.

Now, all that being said, it does not remove the sting of losing those close to us. A person who raised us, a person we raised, a person we talked to everyday, suddenly not there anymore. The pain of loss can seem greater if the person’s death was unexpected. Wait just a minute, we had some plans and dreams to fulfill and you are gone? Or maybe, I was not always as kind as I should have been to that person. Or maybe you fought like cats and dogs your entire life. So, on top of the grief of the loss, there is some regret.


The good news is death is not real, the Bible calls it but a shadow. As eternal beings, the only thing that can die is our bodies and our personalities.


I got upset with my mom last night at her seeming unwillingness to take care of herself, and regret a few of the things she had to say. Had she died ten years ago, I would have had to deal with the truth that I had not yet found a way to love and forgive her.

Any trapped or unfelt emotion is a detriment and burden to the heart. I am a self-punisher by habit, so self-forgiveness comes after struggle. But I have noticed if I allow myself to sit and feel regret, it acts as a cleanse and refresher. Feeling regret is a forerunner to forgiveness. Hell, it may even be forgiveness.

The culture I grew up in, that many of you grew up in, does not do well with emotions. If you are happy, you hear, “Who do you think you are? What is it that you think you have to smile about?” If we are sad, we hear, “What is it that you think you have to cry about? Don’t be sad. Suck it up and get on with things.” So, we have become ashamed of our laughter and our tears. So, we drowned our emotions in drugs, alcohol, work, and entertainment.

But to actually grieve for ourselves, for others, and with others, expands our hearts and binds us closer together in the very best of ways. So, brothers and sisters let us no longer hide our tears and our joys, our very selves from each other. Let us reach out in kindness and tenderness for each other in our losses and our joys.

If this feels impossible at the moment, reach out to the maker of us all, He/She, for God certainly knows how to mother, and will provide relief for your aching heart.


My Lovely Always Gone Girl

She lives in a fantasy world, because it’s a little too painful here at the moment and it may be for a while. Not sure who resides in that other world, but she is fairy-like, elfin, and sprightly herself. And like some naughty fairies, she steals bright and shiny objects, comfortable things, fashionable clothing. The stealing, I think, is from the rage of being violated of not being allowed a boundary.

And she disappears like a fairy for long periods of time. I ask about her on occasion, and, thank God, someone has always seen her recently. She had a kind boyfriend for a time, and they seemed well matched. He was fine with her talking to other realms while she was looking at him. But she disappeared one too many times and it was too much for his heart. He now has another kind girl, and she is stuck in the tragic part of a poem.

She has the worst case of PTSD I have ever seen. She was doing alright one summer day when a minor aggression she is not a part of happens across the room. Eyes grow wide, heart rate accelerates, speech pattern takes off into never-never land and she is bouncing around the room like a ping pong ball until she bounces herself out the door and down the street.

I don’t advertise where I live, but I don’t hide it either. As a result, I get my share of homeless people stopping by. Spending the night is usually a “no” but there are exceptions based on the weather and the amount of anxiety that greets me at the door. Some of you may question the wisdom of this, but I am not a social worker, and these are not my clients, they are my friends. And whom among you would not give a friend in distress a room for the night? I made a mistake not letting a friend stay one night and I could tell it hurt him, and he ended up in jail shortly afterward.


I made a mistake not letting a friend stay one night and I could tell it hurt him, and he ended up in jail shortly afterward.


She has no tough in her, always on the flight side of things, and maybe a little obsessive about cleaning, or maybe that is how she finds places to stay by making herself useful. She cleaned my soap dish and my semi-porch which is in general littered with pop cans, coffee cups, and cigarette butts. My mom asks why I don’t use an ashtray and the answer is, “I don’t know.”

I worry less about her now because she is not naive and does know how to take care of herself. Her bags are organized, she is way brighter than she lets on, and has an easy presence to be around. At one point, I feel an urge to kiss her, but one look at her pretty face, well, something in her eyes tells me this is not the right move. Besides, if I kissed all the girls I have the urge to kiss … actually, I don’t know what would happen because I have always been too shy to try it.

She also brings by a guy one night who has glommed onto her and is talking like they are a couple after knowing each other for ten minutes. I am cordial as hell, but I am also a big dude and can project the right amount of masculine energy any situation calls for. I suspect she brought him by for that very reason. This is why I am less worried. She later tells me that is exactly why she see brought him by. So, she is lucid enough in this world to take care of herself.

The two separate times she does spend the night I am pretty sure she does not sleep. Every time I awaken, she is talking to herself and it sounds like a constant rummaging around in the spare bedroom. On the second morning, she is gone before I awaken.

I see her later that night at a Salvation Army feed and she seems surprised and nervous to see me. I am surprised to see her with one of my bags, one of my sweaters, and one of my hats. I try and play Christ in these situations and turn the other cheek. But I am a little upset at the intrusion. I confront in a sarcastic tone, wondering where all the cool stuff came from. Stuff I would have gladly given her had she only asked.

Later, I am giving her a ride somewhere and I tell her to always stay in touch because I care for her and worry about her when I don’t hear from her. I am surprised because this seems to touch her. Maybe her poem will move to a happy ending phase and some normalcy would really benefit her. But until then, she is my lovely always gone girl.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

Related posts