Denies our strength to heal…

is the phrase that so clearly describes our lives today.  It’s something different than Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) offered in the lyrics to Blood, Tears, Little Girl.  While this was one of Owen’s favorite songs – it had a different connotation for him – this song was strictly attached to Carla, not death, in his world.

The mystery of Owen’s death is what denies our strength to heal.  I don’t know the year that song was recorded, and I don’t care.  I know the year Owen died, this year, 2007, but not the exact date.  And, I care.  I also care how and why his life with us ended.  I hope those of you who are denying us the truth of that night, will eventually share.  Your lives will never be free of this secret, until you tell us.

I care that people don’t understand, don’t acknowledge death and grieving in our culture.  We, as a society, simply look the other way.  What is the other way?  It is any direction that does not expose the raw nerves of death’s influence in our ongoing lives.  We don’t want to look death in the face. 

We don’t want to speak these words out loud:  “Get Little Steve out of my house.  He is the grim reaper.  He may only be 15 years old, but he’s bad for you and bad for us.”     

I did speak those words, though…to Owen, the day after this kid appeared in our entryway, about three weeks before Owen disappeared.  I can’t know if this 15-year-old-habitual-runaway had anything definitive to do with Owen’s death.  I only know that when I first saw him, the omen appeared, and the oracle spoke.  I listened, and did the thing I was destined to do.  I told Owen that Little Steve was not allowed in our house again.  I couldn’t explain why, only that I knew things were not right where this kid was concerned.

Why did Owen save “Will You Remember Me” by Sarah Mclachlan on our computer?  I’ll never know, but I can surely guess.  He knew, too.  He knew his life would end early. 

Owen knew he wanted children someday.  He knew he wanted a wife “within 3 years” as he said just weeks before he went missing.  He knew he wanted to find out what was next.  He knew we worried.  He knew we loved him.  He did not know how he would meet his end.  He did not plan it.  Did others?

Owen knew he sometimes passed through the thin veil, and rarely made the distinction between “here” and “there”.  That thin line was where he lived, breathed, loved, and experienced everything possible in his 20 years and 50 weeks of this life.  He did not regret his life’s accelerated adventures.  He embraced them. 

We are now left to embrace Owen’s life with us, and wonder about his new beginning on a different plane.  In some cultures, we would dance, sing, and beat the ground in efforts to send him off to his new adventures.  I hope we can do this in the not-so-distant future.  He deserves our celebration of his life, and we are making every attempt.  We fall short, though.  We are products of our cumulative backgrounds, and most of them, do not think of death as a celebration.  Our best efforts were put forth at his memorial service, and I believe we did him proud. 

Owen, please know that we celebrate now, your future among the stars.  Only a star would know what to say next, without a script.  You are speaking to us in ways unknown to most.  Thank you, O-Wind.

This is but one of the ways Owen acknowledged his relationship with Carla, through her; and his many other friends and lovers – you know who you are.

Song for the night:  Blood, Tears, Little Girl, Alice in Chains (4/25/08 – I just can’t tell you how pissed I am, every time I go back to an earlier post, and find out the video is “no longer available” – I don’t know whether to be angry with youtube or the music publisher – hell, I’m pissed at them both)


~ by Linda on September 13, 2007.

4 Responses to “Denies our strength to heal…”

  1. Linda, you and I both know that the thin line was/is the undefined area Owen tread. He would cross over the line and become different, difficult and sometimes…well we know. But the other side, the side that he lived, really lived, was where he wanted to be. The side Sylvester, Princess, and Audrey demanded his attention. The side Helen, sweet Helen, forced him to focus. The side that Nat spent with him remembering the times in Occidental with their Dad. The side you and I lived and loved raising him into the vibrant young man he was/is. And most often, the side he was with Carla.

    We all REMEMBER. We remember you for all the wonderful things you said. All the sweet kindnesses you did for those around you. All the questions you asked, and all the answers we couldn’t provide, because we didn’t really understand the questions. Thanks for making us feel so smart.

    I celebrate every day knowing that I had 16+ years with you. I would give all to have one more minute.

    Owen, I miss you. I love you. Keep us in your prayers, you are in mine every day.

    Love, David

  2. To the unknown one:

    Someone or someones made a rather healthy contribution to the Emmitt Owen Riley Memorial Fund. The bank normally sends us a copy of the check/money order that was sent in, but as of now nothing has been received. We use this information to send a thank you card out to the contributor. Since we do not know who you are, please accept this as our most heart felt thank you.

    The contributions received will be going to suppliment the support needed for local families in their search for missing adults.

    Again, thank you for your contribution, and please know that we hope some good will be realized.


  3. Since I am the Moderator on a Grief board, I certainly agree with you about our society’s failure to acknowledge death. In previous days, a certain amount of time was actually set aside for mourning, and even certain clothes were worn that told others you were grieving. While some of these traditions were no doubt too legalistic, at least it was a time of recognizing deep sorrow. While many other cultures had/have demonstrative ways to give their loved ones a grand send off, and to allow the survivors to fully express their sorrow, we fail miserably. I am often torn bewetween the deep loss, and the celebration of the life. But shouldn’t everyone have some kind of memorial to their life? And while we weep, we also want to express how much this person meant to those around him. On the Grief Discussion Board, we have learned that grief is a journey, and it requires a lot of time to process it. If it isn’t acknowledged, it will not be denied. It will return to haunt us forever. We cannot push it down into the depths of our soul, for it will surely come rushing back with great vengeance. Certainly the heavens are richer with the presence of our loved one, but that does not mean that the earth is not poorer. We realize our poverty with every passing day, in conversations no longer enjoyed, in smiles we can no longer see, and in embraces that are no longer felt. But still we know they exist, just in a different realm. And sometimes that veil is penetratd, and we know that something supernatural has occurred. Some people call it a sign, some people dream dreams, and others feel that God is reassuring them that their loved one is okay. One thing I do know, is that when this life ends, it is only a beginning-the beginning of eternity. Where will we live it?

  4. Sometimes the fear of our own mortality sneaks up on us when we experience loss. We are confronted with the temporary nature of our own lives all tangled into the grief. and ache of missing the loved one. We are sometimes struck dumb and we don’t know what to say or do.
    As you say, there are cultures that celebrate and send their loved ones off with regalia and fanfare to the next adventure.
    I don’t know what the next adventure is but I think the reason we cannot celebrate yet is that this adventure was cut short and we mourn for what did not get the opportunity to grow.
    When a very old man dies we can celebrate his life, accomplishments, and legacies. When a child dies, we cling to our memories as though they were a tiny green sprout that was pulled from the Earth before it got to chance to grow into a tree. We mourn the tree that never was. We make this tree the shelter of the shadowy unknown. Owen—in the short time he walked here—left amazing footprints. I celebrate those footprints and often wonder what kind of tree he would have become. I hold the tender green sprout in my own hand and know that I can only grow leaves in his name to compensate.
    I will celebrate with leaves.

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