John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XLI: Grief Heals and Expands the Heart; I Love the World Again

(Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, with two stories for this holiday season about grief and love.


Grief Heals and Expands the Heart

Last year, I bought a Christmas tree and put it up, despite my mom’s wishes not to have one. She ended up loving it.

Tonight, I was screaming up at her through the window at the Royal Plaza, because her TV was too loud and her hearing aids were not in.

I yelled, “It was good to see them selling Christmas trees out of the lot by the Salvation Army again this year, even though we have COVID going on.”

She said something that surprised me a little tonight.

Last year, I had invited her to help me decorate the tree. She sat and watched me put the lights and ornaments on but would not participate.

Tonight, she said, “I wish I would have helped. That has stayed with me all year.”

It is highly unusual for her to express a sentiment like that and it touched me a little.

Overall, I have seen an uptick in my mom’s mood this past month, and she was in a very good mood tonight, smiling a lot and getting some good quips in. My diagnosis when she first went into a care facility was “depression.” She has never admitted it, but she has struggled with depression and anxiety ever since the war of my parents’ marriage ended. She may have struggled with it before that, but I would have no way of knowing.

“I’m getting bossier,” she said tonight, which made me laugh.

I think what is happening is she is stating directly to her staff what she wants and needs as opposed to passively aggressively getting them to do what she wants. She used to say, “It’s okay honey,” to me in a way that conveyed things were far from okay. Her long suffering used to drive me crazy until I realized I was doing the same thing.


One thing I have learned is that it is important to face the grief head on, don’t hide your tears, and wail and moan as you need to.


I think this break from her perceived responsibilities has been just what she has needed. She has not walked since being in care and has not really tried to. I don’t know if she will again or even try. I think she has adjusted to the idea that she may not walk again.

We shall see over time if I was right or not about the depression, but for tonight at least she is in a good space. She is reaching out to friends more now, and confessed to me early on, that she really didn’t want to talk to people, and at times has been as happy to see me go from the window as to arrive.

I had an emotional day yesterday as I attended a memorial service for my friend Mithra Jacobs, whom I mentioned died recently of a possible overdose. Totes was the first being in my adulthood that I lost that was very close to me. Mithra was the second. One thing I have learned is that it is important to face the grief head on, don’t hide your tears, and wail and moan as you need to.

I had one friend at the service text me and ask me if I was okay. Chad Bramlet did the music and when he broke into “Amazing Grace” to end the service, it opened a floodgate of tears for me and several of Mithra’s other friends. Thanks so much to Chad and his father, Brad Bramlet, for providing the space, prayers, music, and flowers. I love you guys very much.

Grief heals and expands the heart. We are all so very innocent and in need of mercy. I woke up this morning and just felt more in love with human beings than I ever have. I will miss Mithra, I am sure for the rest of my life, but what she has done for my heart with her life and with her being is as good a gift as any friend could ever give.


I Love the World Again

This morning, I woke up scared out of my mind and paranoid. I like living by myself, for the most part, but it would have been nice to have someone in the house today.

This happens every once in a while, and usually it’s due to a dream about being trapped. But from what I remember of this dream, it was like I had been tricked on some very fundamental level and things were not at all as they appeared.

I went outside to smoke and, since it was Sunday, there was no one around. This added to my fear. I just needed some reassurance that the world was okay and that I was okay in it. I then saw that someone posted on my Twitter feed and I believe it was synchronicity: “This too shall pass.” I slowly started to return to my body and the moment.

I went upstairs and got a bowl of white bean soup with some ham and vegetables in it that I had been slow cooking overnight. I have to admit, it was a bit too salty. I had the thought, a thousand future suns, which reminded me that, in my eternity, I had been around awhile and would be around a while more.


I was out last night for some whiskey and karaoke with some friends. It was crowded and I only got a couple of songs in …


I was out last night for some whiskey and karaoke with some friends. It was crowded and I only got a couple of songs in, perhaps ironically one of them was Marley’s “Three Little Birds” (Don’t worry, about a thing / ’Cause every little thing, gonna be all right).

After I showered, I went over to a local coffee shop. I have been a regular there since coming off the streets and I enjoy chatting with the crew. A friend gave me a coffee card someone left in case a hobo showed up and I guess she thought I was qualified. She even allowed me a side hug, a rare and glad occasion indeed.

I sat on the porch enjoying some pumpkin bread and an eggnog latte. Eggnog reminds me of the many fine Christmases I spent at my maternal grandparents’ house in Orofino, Idaho.

I lit a cigarette, for what is coffee without one, and I thought, I love the world again.

And indeed, I do.


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.

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