“Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities – thought, feeling, will – to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.” (Lee)
Lost again, or so it seems. The fog of mourning and healing have no boundaries, no distinct edges, and I have spent countless hours fumbling around in the misty aftermath of my Father's passing. It is said that everyone grieves differently, and that wisdom is legit.
I can attest to the chaos that can consume you when a close, important elder of yours dies.
Even if the passing is expected, reality hits you like a ten-ton hammer striking a pinata, sending sadness, confusion, reflection and questions everywhere, pulling your heart and mind in directions never stretched. I feel like I passed the true stages of grief years ago, following his first heart attack. However, the mortal strike is always the strongest, and the wounds for the living cut to the core, more violently than one can prepare for.
Death ends all lectures, silences wisdom and enforces acquiescence.
My Father, Robert Edward Lee Zuege, 78, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday, January 30, 2019, from Cardiogenic Shock and multiple organ failures. He had been suffering from diabetes and a broken heart for four years, troopering like a soldier for his treatments every week. All to no avail. The multiple heart attacks, including the final one, felt inevitable -- like a death sentence mercilessly carried out by an imperfect yet determined executor.
Doctors did what they could to give us hope, but in the end, his weakened heart muscle didn't have the strength to keep fighting. Per my Dad's DNR guidance, he wanted every effort made at resuscitation, and the hospital staff tried to save his life. The hospital called my Mom around 2:00 AM to ask if they could stop resuscitation efforts.
Depressingly, my Mom and I were both fast asleep in our hotel room, worn weary by the dismal day, and missed the call from the hospital.
Next in Line
The grim decision on my Dads life was left up to my younger brother, Ryan, who was the secondary emergency contact for my Dad. My Mom and I were awoken ten minutes later by the hotel staff, telling us to call the hospital. Our hearts sank; we both knew the news wouldn't be good.
However, I was wholly unprepared for missing his exit. I don't think any of us expected he would pass before my youngest brother Rob would make it back from vacation in Florida. We expected he would at least hang on. For months. For weeks. For days.
In all of my future days, I'll never forget the sight or sound of my sleepy Mom receiving the news of his passing over the phone. The heartbroken wail. The roar of tears. The shattered, trembling voice repeating
"No, no, no..."
Not only did we miss the first call from the hospital, but we also missed being at his bedside altogether at his final moments.
It was roughly -50 degrees out when I had to race my Mom and younger brother from the hotel to the hospital, a cold not observed by Western Wisconsin in 23 years. The roads were dangerously slick with ice and choppy, crusted snow. The windchill was a bone-shattering low, and few doors to the hospital were open in early morning. Our world froze in place at his macabre bedside, where his gasp was locked in an eternal call for release from pain and struggle.
Overwhelmed with grief, my Mom asked for religious observance. The late-duty Chaplain was a kind lady named Laura, who offered to help in our grieving process and read some scripture and other holy guidance. She produced a purple laminated pamphlet from which she read. Even though she couldn't offer Catholic prayer, and she was in the presence of an atheist (me), she soldiered through a short service for my Father.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't provide these details. As with most events in my life, this experience had an abnormal connection:
On the cover of the purple-ish pamphlet beneath the haphazardly-centered document title, my Seremark was centered in black ink.
The exact same symbol.
In a matter of tragic moments, a new paradox of perplexing synchronicities was discovered, unraveling the fabric of my mythos and introducing a brave new catharsis. Look for a future blog on this topic, entitled "The Seremark Synchronicity".
Fog of Death
The meteorological wake that hit Western Wisconsin following the drop of a polar vortex onto the Midwest featured highly unusual warming, a swing of nearly 100 degrees in a matter of days. The world went from a frozen, blistering blizzard to a pleasant, yet ominous, fog - thickened by the swift recess of inches of snow cover and jagged bluffs.
The shift in weather was stark and stunning, and I captured the obscurious day with a Dreamscape. Watch for a future blog on this topic, entitled "Dreamscape: Fog of Death".
The day he died, I ran to his deathbed through frozen air to Critical Care; the day he was buried, I walked through slushy snow and settling mist to his grave. Fellow veterans fired a salute. Two rigid, uniformed men folded a flag intricately and handed it to my crying Mom. And then we processed back through the mud and tears, back to our cars,
back to normal life, without Dad.
But life is never normal again once someone of penultimate importance passes in your life. Those events become new signposts in your road, pivot points that force you to scope the full horizon and reassess where you are in your journey.
For my Mom, she now must consider downsizing, selling the house she and my Dad shared, closing down his life, and getting used to being alone, which is not easy for someone that was married (sometimes turbulently) to the same person for 48 years.
Widow is an identity that, thankfully, few of us have to endure. I've been through a divorce, painful breakups and half of my adult life single, but have never lost a wife (or husband) to the reaper. As I have witnessed through my devastated Mom, the sorrow is powerful and consuming.
If you're not careful, you become enveloped in a miasma of melancholy, a fog of death.
The Withering Tree
The days blur into the night. Dates zoom by on the calendar. Responsibility fades, replaced by the hunt for answers. Why him? Why me? Why this? What should I have done differently? Who really was this man I called "Dad"? Was he happy?
Am I happy?
The faithful fall back on scripture and prayer to lead them through the fog of obscure times. Many have offered to pray for my family and me, and all gestures and positive vibes are deeply appreciated. The love and support of friends and colleagues have been touching and amazing.
But religion isn't my source of comfort. My harmony is here, in the present, through the eyes of the SERE and the actions of this creator. My Dad's influence, his connection to this Artist and human, and his passing will be the subjects of much future content in this blog and in my Art. I have much to share about my past, present and future with my Father, and the strange synchronicities that have surrounded his passing.
I see the ghost of him in the mirror. I see his flaws and failures, features and fates. He reaches through the funerary fog, offers me a decaying rose from the edge of his grave, and reminds me that life is like fragile petals, lost to the drift too soon. Between wheezes, he tells me that he loves me, as he did so many times before. He has deep pride in me, and I can feel it in the repetition of his words, almost like a paternal mantra.
All words taken for granted by me -- not on purpose, but because I'm a person of action, not words -- the antithesis of my Father, a man of advice who lacked practice. Ultimately, I realize I'm projecting my issues onto my father. Deep down, I know he was proud of me.
The real question is "why am I not proud of myself?" After all that I have accomplished, I should be proud of who I am.
But I'm not. Lost again, or so it seems.
I am deeply grateful for the expressed love and support of my father over the last 45 years. He was a caring and loving man. However, as I've learned through researching him over the last month, he had troubled connections to his fathers and grandfathers before him. Those trends may have extended into his offspring, and possibly affected the direction of his three sons not having children, our deep introversion and antisocial behavior patterns.
Leaves don't fall far from a withering tree.