Tag Archives: death

Dia de los Muertos

7 Nov

Some wonderful friends hosted a lovely Dia de los Muertos luncheon on Sunday. They invited me to mourn Floyd. It makes my heart ache with love that they didn’t trivialize my loss or my pain because she was not human.

So I went and on the ofrenda or alter Frank and I hung up her name next to the others. It felt good to remember the dead, to acknowledge their passing, and to be amongst friends. It gave me some closure. Because you can’t have a funeral for a cat (though I desperately wanted to and thought she deserved it), I definitely needed that.

What an amazing and necessary holiday.



The Most Horrible Thing In the World

7 Nov

It is the worst thing. The worst thing ever. Up til now I haven’t even been able to write about it, to speak about it; but she deserves better than that on my part.

Floyd died. Floyd was killed, rather.

Frank and I went walking and everything was fine. Returning ten minutes later, her dead body was curled up on the sidewalk in front of my house. What the fuck kind of world is this?!

I grabbed her, not believing it was true, and ran inside. I screamed so hard and so long that I actually passed out. I came to still holding her tightly in my arms, my face buried in her fur.

It’s been a long time coming. We shared 18 wonderful years together. She was my best friend in the entire world, the reason I kept going, the one who greeted me when I got home, and the one who calmed me when I was upset. She was not a cat, she was a friend.

There was anger at first, because she left me alone in this fucked up world, because I wasn’t there with her when she departed, just because the world in general is awful and lonesome and callous. But then there just was aching sadness, an emptiness, a hole where my heart used to be that now is vacant and dusty.

She hated it when I cried. She would literally walk up and smack me in the face when I cried. So I will try not to cry as I write this.

It is terribly difficult to lose a friend. Terribly. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m on autopilot. It’s like as soon as I had life and shit under control (I didn’t, but it felt like it for a minute) I was plunged into a world of loss and nothingness.

I keep the doors open because she hated closed doors. But she’s gone. So there is no point now.

I guess I largely feel that way. What is the point now?

But I know that’s silly, I have to move on, to get over it.

I just don’t know how. I lost my pixie. My better half. My friend. My heart.

So now I just feel like an empty shell that goes through the motions. An aching, empty, pointless shell, whose only filler is loss.

How sad and terrible is that? Who made this world, and to what purpose?


23 Dec

My mom has this old ass dog. Like old. 16 or 17. It was never a bright or fun or happy dog, and now it’s mostly blind, can barely hear, has some form of doggy-dementia or something, and has extremely thin long hair. It isn’t excited about anything- ever- but it does really hate everything. Always has. It’s a truly wretched creature.


I rescued Phoebe when I was a child, when I was too young to really understand that line between life and death. Phoebe should have died. Phoebe wanted to die. She had horrible mange, a crooked jaw, mouth infections, skin infections, ear infections, she was all busted and beat up, infection in her eyes and her eyelids inside out; I mean, Phoebe was as fucked as you could get. And it was not done to her by any person, she was part of a litter of mishaps. Born from a dog that looked only slightly healthier than her and twice as angry. Phoebe was barely hanging on and my childlike heart said: save her.

So I did. I begged and begged and finally my mom let me bring her home, clean her up, have her doctored, cut her hair…

And Phoebe hated me for it. She’s hated me since the beginning. She never really wanted to be my friend anyhow, and she certainly didn’t want to be alive, and after all my efforts to keep her living she thought I was the biggest piece of shit she had ever met.

So I naturally thought she was the cutest thing in the world. Because that’s how I am. And I went about my life and grew up (sort of) and moved away and went to college and Phoebe just shriveled up and continued to have weird skin diseases and eye infections and her teeth fell out and there was always something horribly wrong with her. Miserable little creature, she is. She’s always been a Job- plagued by boils and disasters and whatnot.

Now that we’re getting older, Phoebe and I have entered a new phase in our relationship where whenever she’s aware of my presence the disdain is absolutely profound. The good thing for me is she’s asleep at my feet right this moment and she hasn’t the slightest idea because practically all of her senses are gone. She’s hardly ever aware of anything. Her motor functions are failing as well- as her bladder would like to remind us all.

And while old age and ineptitude is heartbreaking, and her entire existence is kind of a shame, I still think she’s just awesome. And she still retains that hatred. She’s pretty ready to die, as she has been all along, and is still angry at the world each day she wakes up healthy. And I get that, I really do. Been all bummed out and cynical lately so I feel like I have a pretty solid grasp on sadness, but DAMN that dog is sad. And it’s all my fault.


Earlier I took her for a walk. You have to carry her up and down the stairs to the yard, which is terribly uncomfortable to her, and then she only makes it three or four feet. And then she stares. So today she stared at a particular bush- or a low hedge- or whatever, I don’t know it was dark. She stared at it for long enough to piss me off, and just as I was about to call an end to the walk, she took two awkward, stumbly steps and stood in the bush for another little bit. Poor little thing. I’m not even sure she has thoughts anymore. It’s hard to tell since her eyes glassed over years ago. When I brought her in after the walk she promptly bumped into a corner of the room and gave up finding her way out before even trying. Kind of awesome and pathetic all at once.

We kind of have a lot in common that way.




11 Dec

“Cartooning is the art of distilling reality to its essence. There is nothing superfluous in a good cartoon. That quality makes the medium particularly well-suited for memoir: comics are like memories, in that they filter and capture only the most important details. The difference between good and bad cartooning is how well the cartoonist filters and captures. Ross Mackintosh is a good cartoonist.”

In his forward to Seeds, Brian Flies (Mom’s Cancer) explains the recent notion to use the comic book/graphic novel medium to “tell personal, powerful, true stories”. Books like Persepolis and Maus are certainly vibrant examples of graphic memiors, but Seeds is something a little different. Seeds makes you realize a story that, while it may not be similar to that of your own one day it will be. Flies writes “Seeds is about Ross Mackintosh’s family, and mine, and millions of others. That’s what good comics can do.”

And it’s true.

Seeds had me tearing up a bit as I read through it’s beautiful, simple, and bleak pages. As we are taken through the story of his father’s diagnosis, battle, and death by cancer, we get a glimpse at the true nature of life and death, parent and child, and sickness and health.

We were always meant to outlive our parents.

Mackintosh explains , “I know about gene propogation; that our bodies are just enablers, containers, to preserve our genes for the next generation. We spend our lives protecting our bodies and reproducing, to keep the thread of genes continuous. As soon as we are certain that our offspring can prosper, we become disposable. A species that cares about it’s offspring will flourish.

And there is this irony:
Those who love will be rewarded with the endless cycle of birth and death.”

So who said comic books were just for children?

Eyes in Santa Fe

30 Nov

“Fuck you you pussy ass Mexicans. I don’t need you anyway. Go hang out in this ghetto ass Mexican park.” Then he makes eye contact with me. “And you too you fucking Mexican.”

He noticed me staring at him, wondering what the hell he was talking about.

“Oh, sorry bro. I’m all pissed off right now at those FUCKING IDIOTS AND I DON’T CARE IF THEY HEAR ME because they are a bunch of fucking DRUG ADDICTS. Dude, do a shot with me?”

He approaches the low concrete wall I had been sitting on, approaches way too close, and pulls a bottle out of his pocket. It has some pink liquid in it, and the bottle is labeled 20/20. He then pulls out another bottle, from the other pocket, I suppose, I didn’t really see. This one seems to be Vodka.

“No? What, are you too good to drink with me, mother fucker? I’m not a fucking Mexican. You can do a shot with me. I’m a Goddamned Spaniard. You shouldn’t be in this park, dude. Bro. This is a shitty park, trust me, I know. Do a shot with me bro? No? Man, I like you.” And he extends his hand, so I shake it. “Hey, look, a Porsche.” I’m looking him in the eyes and something about his look makes me think that when I turn around to see this Porsche, he’s gonna grab for my wallet or something. So, I do the only sensible thing, hold on to my book as tightly as I can, and turn around. To his credit, there was a Porche. I asked his name at some point; it is Ernie.

“Trust me, dude, I’m not a Mexican. Look at me. Do I look like I’m 44 years old? No, I don’t. I get all the girls. I was at this party last night…holy shit. Do you think I’m good looking?” He is standing way too close to me, such that I can’t even get up without bumping into him.

“I got an oxycontin. I’ll sell it to you for seven bucks. I don’t do drugs, I just got it. I just do this…” He holds up the bottle. “That and a little bit of weed and coke. But I don’t take any pills.” He looks almost shocked that I’m not interested, and his tone started to shift a bit, to become a bit more enraged. “Damn, bro, you are totally white. You even have blue eyes. You can’t be in this fucking park, man. Go over to the plaza where all the tourists are. This is my park. Blue eyed people aren’t allowed in this park.” He moves a bit, so I take the opportunity to stand up. “I’m sorry bro. I didn’t mean to disturb you. Hey, look at me man. Everything I’m wearing is Ralph Lauren. This shirt cost me a hundred and twenty bucks. Alright man. Bye.” And he turned and stormed off across the bridge.

A few hours passed; then the elderly, grey haired French lady looked at me with her soft, brown eyes when she told me not to worry about it, and I believed her. I had just eaten a blueberry crepe in her crepe shop, and when I came up to the front to pay, she told me they didn’t take debit cards. I had nearly enough, only 25 cents short, in cash. But she told me not to worry about it, so I didn’t, and I went back out onto the sidewalk and headed back through the plaza, holding my book and trying to get it into the long side pocket which was the reason I bought these shorts. I was thinking. Walking and thinking. Then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, this body was in front of me, a face in my face, and eyes I can only remember as black were peering into mine. “Do you support gay rights,” he demanded, not asked, and looked at me with as if to say the only acceptable answer was yes. I didn’t realize what he was at first, then I looked him over, saw the light blue polo-shirt with the ACLU logo on it, and the clip-board in his hand. “I’m not interested in doing a survey,” I heard myself say, and I walked past him, and he snarled after me, “It’s not a survey! It’s not a survey!” A few seconds later I passed by one of his blue-shirted compatriots who winked at me; I found that wink delightful.

A few hours passed; then I walked into the coffee shop by the train station, having arrived a good half hour early, and I saw the colors on her face. The tips of her eyelids were highlighted in black, her eyelids colored a deep blue, which blended to green then to purple which somehow blended into her face, such that you could hardly tell where the coloring actually stopped. Her arms were decorated with tattoos.

I brushed aside my initial thought, that someone so decorated must be hiding something, and began to see the colors as a life, existing both together and separate from this barista. I ordered a coffee, she filled it to the top, and I poured a bit out to make room for cream.

I sat at a corner table in the small, unoccupied dining area. The other guests were outside on the porch, when it started to downpour. The painted lady and her co-worker scrambled outside to get the various tables and umbrellas and other sundry items from the porch. As she moved in an out, hurry, I saw a flash of colors streaking through the room. She offered me a refill and left a good inch at the top, and handed me the cream.

The two (arguably) greatest works of English literature are set in Denmark. That isn’t my insight (I heard it from Michael Drout at a lecture…hadn’t thought of it like that before). Both also have fratricide as a central theme; both also talk about a king’s power being marked by the tribute paid to him; a driving force in both is wergild, explicitly or not; both are set against the backdrop of an ongoing political and martial conflict with men from the north; both have the hero dramatically declare his identity when appropriate. That is what I was doing in Santa Fe. Back on the train, I browsed through the endnotes of the Arden edition of Hamlet. I am no Shakespearean scholar, but I sort of assume, based on various things I have heard, that the Arden editions are the authoritative critical editions of Shakespeare, sort of like the equivalent of Klaeber’s editions of Beowulf. I marveled a bit at the small, olive colored book; I opened it up, and felt a chill when I looked at the publication date: 1895; and not a mark in it, but my name inside the cover, and $4.95 in the faint pencil of a used bookstore owner. Then I went to it. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. I re-read that scene. He knows death is coming, he has already mused upon the unknown which is the afterlife, it fits perfectly. It has to be in the notes. He is defying augury, for crying out loud! So, I check the notes, hoping it will be there, hoping the authoritative edition will validate my meandering thoughts; but also hoping otherwise, hoping it won’t be there. And, ultimately to my delight, nothing but a quote of Matthew 10.29; only a reference to the second most important sparrow in the English literary imagination. I smiled and closed my eyes.

Douglas VanBenthuysen

My Little Doodle

11 Mar


Our pets can mean so much. They’re unconditional, loving, selfless friends. They teach us how to love, and unfortunately, they teach us about loss as well.

I will deeply miss my friend, Kiki. Such a sweet little girl. She hadn’t a mean bone in her body. Tonight she met a tragic death that my heart hurts to think about. I hope she knew how much I loved her.

The world is less bright without her in it. In fact, it is much uglier now.

For some reason we persist.

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