Love said to me


Last night
I lost my grip on reality
and welcomed insanity.

saw me and said,
I showed up.
Wipe you tears
and be silent.

I said, O Love
I am frightened,
but it’s not you.

Love said to me,
there is nothing that is not me.
be silent.

I will whisper secrets in your ear
just nod yes
and be silent.

~ Rumi

Suffering is the new joy

By Bonnie Rose

“Can you walk, sweetheart?”

I say these words to our dog Stella who is dying.   It’s time for breakfast and if she walks from our bed to the kitchen, maybe that will be a sign.  Maybe she will be alright. So I ask her again, “Can you walk?”

As I ask, I remember eleven years of sleeping twisted like a pretzel so the dog could get a good night’s sleep.   I remember mornings, how she rose at dawn and stomped her Pointer’s feet on the mattress to get me up, to flush me out of the brush of sleep as she would a wild quail. Now it’s nine a.m. and she sighs at the foot of the bed, eyes alert and breathing rapidly.

I get a piece of hamburger and hold it under her nose. I lure her off the bed and down the hall to the kitchen where I encourage her to eat the white rice and ground beef I cooked for her, Stella’s last supper.   I watch her as she sniffs, eats a few bites, then stares at the kitchen door contemplating the effort required to go outside and pee.

“Can you walk?”

I ask it loudly, sweetly and sincerely and I don’t care who hears me. Hugh, private in his grief, staring at his computer, concerned about me.   Will he try and fix it if he hears?   And the neighbors next door who once yelled at Stella for barking. They will know. They will know she is weak now. They will know I’m not that smart-ass who yelled back, and how I’m about to be hurt. I don’t care. I don’t care who knows how much I love and how much this love will cost me. I am bold in my devotion, steadfast in my vulnerability.

“Can you walk?”

I know the answer but I ask anyway.   I ask to affirm my willingness. I will do whatever it takes to keep Stella comfortable. I will be beside her no matter what. I am ready to love her completely, her failing body and undying heart.

“Can you walk?”

Mom, graduation

When my mother was dying, I didn’t ask that question. I didn’t ask any question. I didn’t want to know the answer because the answer would change everything. We didn’t talk about the cancer – how it was devouring my mother’s bones and internal organs, how it was planning to steal my favorite person.   We didn’t talk about love and loss, or her longing to see me find a life that would blossom.   We didn’t mention how death would assassinate that joy for her or how death would rob me of the pleasure of coming home from college for Thanksgiving break and seeing her face at the kitchen window, eager to hear every detail of my life.   Death would kill that. So we didn’t talk about it.

I was immobilized. Together in our once safe home in Briarcliff that last morning my mother couldn’t speak. She wanted something from me. She wanted my help. I was seventeen and I didn’t know what to do.   Something bad was in the room. I was too scared to show my fear. I wanted to fix it. I didn’t know what to do.

So I held her hand, tears without sobs pouring down my cheeks, bewildered in the face of unspeakable death. She looked at me and said “Thank you.” Thirty-six hours later, she died. Those were the last words she ever said to me.

“Can you walk?”

Somehow, through the years of living, ministry, dying loved ones, lost pets and lost loves, I’m learning to ask “Can you walk?” I’m learning to ask the other hard questions and be still and present with the answers.   I am learning how to suffer.

I took my first cautious steps toward suffering in Shadowlands, the Broadway production where by fluke and connections, I was cast as an understudy for eight weeks. The play is about C.S. Lewis’s transition from intellect to experience. When Lewis was a child, his mother died. He never cried, never allowed himself to feel the loss.   Late in life, when Lewis was a crusty bachelor professor, he met his true love Joy Gresham. Shortly after they met and married she got cancer and died.   When Joy died, he allowed the devastation to overtake him.

He said, The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering.” (Shadowlands).

Eight shows a week, sitting backstage listening to the monitors, I hear those words: The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering.

And now, every day, I make the choice between safety and suffering. Will I have the courage to face what happens and keep my heart in the room?

Because I don’t know if I can walk. I don’t know if I can stand. There are days I stagger about this stage called earth, confronted with the sorrows of being human – the loss, the death, the indignity of perpetual change.

And there’s the infernal, internal drama. There is so much I want to do with my life, so many dreams I want to accomplish. I yearn for the bold person I hope to be.   But I am afraid to suffer the risk of trying. I want to hide under our rusty wheelbarrow and suffocate my hope. So I choose safety, turning to tasks and television, an epic to-do list of mundane activities and a stream of Orange is the New Black. There I remain safe in a women’s prison, mired in other people’s problems, hypnotized by girl-on-girl sex and two dimensional living, a flat screen for a flat existence.   I dare not suffer the scandal of boldness, the audacity of showing up in all my flaws and wonder.

But sometimes suffering is not suffering…

Those last days with Stella, I would gladly suffer again.   It was an honor to hold herstick-7 014 (3) as she let go. It was a joy to put her needs first. It was a joy to ask, “Can you walk?” and be in love with whatever was true.   It was joy to cherish her, to understand that love is love and it doesn’t matter if she’s just a dog, and that death can never kill a love like that. Suffering is not suffering. Suffering is the new joy.

Yes. Stella’s journey will become a touchstone for the days when I’m suffering from uncertainty, mediocrity or doubt, when I think I can’t walk, when I’m paralyzed with the anxiety of transitions, when it feels like trying to be present costs too much.

“Can you walk, sweetheart?” I will ask myself.

Somehow, through this inquiry, somehow I will get a glimpse of what it would be like to fall in love completely; to delight in my abilities and inabilities; to bless life’s strengths and frailties as part of the crazy-quilt of Existence.   Somehow, through one slow question at a time, I will arrive at an instant destination where I welcome all living and dying. Here I find that not only can I walk; I can fall – fall in love with a foreign homeland, where I am held as tenderly as a mother, a dog, or a beloved friend.


Reblogged from her blog

The sign

(100-word flash fiction)

“No rain for four years.” The shaman, grim-faced, is bending over a plant.

“It was hard when we had no rain for two summers. We barely survived.” The tribesman standing behind him sounds worried.

The shaman turns away from the clump of thorny brush to gaze at the bleached, shimmering sky. Already, in his bones he can feel the moisture ebbing from the land like a mother feels the milk drying up inside her.

“But good will come.” His face softens. “We will survive. But the white man, he won’t. He will flee. The land will be ours once again.”


Story submission for the Friday Fictioneers photo prompt below –

FF_santoshwriter (1)

Creative February 3 – The man at the funeral

THE MAN AT THE FUNERAL (a short story)

She has just joined the funeral party and is standing at the fringe watching as the priest prays over the coffin and the family look on grave faced. Mr.Mills had been one of the founders of the small company in which she worked as an admin assistant and she had decided to attend the funeral out of respect, not because she was required to. She had met him a couple of times at company meets and he had seemed kindly though astute. Once, when she had had car trouble in a thunderstorm and no taxis could be found, he had given her a lift home and had waited till she had safely entered her apartment before driving away.

She finds herself standing next to a young man who when she glances at him seems to be staring at the coffin bright-eyed, as though he was fighting back tears.

‘That’s unusual’, she thinks. She had never seen him at the office and he was standing too far back to be family.

“Did you know him?” She asks softly, half turning her face towards him.

“He was my father,” he says simply and just as softly.

Her shocked, full-faced gaze at him is involuntary. Yes, he did have Mr.Wells eyes, clear blue and kindly, almost vulnerable.

“Then why are you here and not with the family?”

“He didn’t know I was his son.”

“Oh!” She is stunned out of speech. The priest’s intonations weave in and out of the silence.

“And you knew all along? And chose to keep quiet?” Her curiosity finally forces her to speak.

“No, I found out only this morning.” He pauses for a deep breath. “When my mother called and told me to look at the obituaries page for a Mr.Mills. Then she said ‘he was your father’.”

He takes two more deep breaths, the second coming out in a long sigh.

“That seemed strange because all these years I was told that my father had died in the Gulf War when I was still unborn. She said ‘No, I lied. I met Mr.Mills when I had worked as a call girl for a brief period.”

“But you could be the son of any one of her clients.”

“Yes, I did ask. She said she had done it for a very brief time during her final year of college when she had run out of money. And she had had only one client who had taken a liking for her and had helped put her through college. After she graduated she got an office job and they didn’t meet again, but meanwhile she had become pregnant with me.”

“Couldn’t she have married him, they probably liked each other?”

“He was already married.”

“Oh!” She is thinking how life’s a bitch sometimes.

“He could have at least supported your upkeep.”

“Yes, but she didn’t tell him about me because she was a call girl not his girlfriend and it was her mistake not his. If she had asked him, he would have probably given her money but he had just started a business and she didn’t want to burden him with the consequence of her mistake.”

She was quiet for a while, chewing upon this.

“Why didn’t she tell you all this earlier?”

“She felt it would be better for my self-esteem to have a soldier for a father who died in a war than be an outcome of a mistake.”

She nods to herself, thinking about the soundness of the logic. Sometimes a lie is certainly better than the brutal truth.

“Then why tell you now?”

“She somehow heard a few weeks ago that Mr.Mills …. my father’s health was deteriorating, so she decides it’s time to tell me, just in case I wanted to meet him. She was summoning the courage to tell me, waiting for the right time. She hadn’t expected him to go so quickly.”

He lets out a deep sigh, bumpy and broken.

“That must have been one power conversation you had this morning.” She says trying to sound light.

“Yes, life changing it was.”

The casket is now being lowered into the grave and it gives her a chilling thought.

“Did you get the chance to say goodbye?” She looks wildly from the casket to him and back and forth. “Maybe your should throw some earth into the grave, just to give you a sense of connection.”

“I was at the church service. Even though no one knew me, I went up and kissed him on the forehead.” His voice begins to crack. She moves closer and places a hand on his arm. “I wanted to hug him badly, this father I had but never had. I wanted him to fill up all the empty spaces in my life where a father should have been.”

She glances at him and again his eyes are bright with held-back tears.

They stand like that, quietly, till the grave is filled up and people begin to move away. Two strangers held together by something greater, more profound than either of them have experienced in their short lives.

She wonders why he had bared his heart to her, a total stranger. The secret must have been too overwhelming for him to bear alone. They continue to stand there till everyone’s gone. She pats him on his arm as if to say goodbye. There is now peace on his face as he continues to gaze at the mound of freshly moved earth.

“Your father may not have known you in flesh but his spirit will always be with you. In a way, his death has brought him closer to you than his life would have.”

He turns slowly to look at her and as though the thought has turned on a light switch within him, a smile slowly spreads across his face. It spreads and spreads until his entire being is filled with radiance.

As she walks towards her car, she is glad she followed her impulse to attend Mr.Mills’ funeral.


Written for the Dailypost prompt ‘groupthink’ which said ‘Write a post that includes dialogue between two people — other than you.’

This being human

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be cleaning you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from the beyond.

~ Rumi


TOTALITY : “Every moment there is a possibility to be total. Whatsoever you are doing, be absorbed in it so utterly that the mind thinks nothing, is just there, is just a presence. And more and more totality will be coming. And the taste of totality will make you more and more capable of being total. And try to see when you are not total. Those are the moments which have to be dropped slowly, slowly. When you are not total, whenever you are in the head–thinking, brooding, calculating, cunning, clever–you are not total. Slowly, slowly slip out of those moments. It is just an old habit. Habits die hard. But they die certainly–if one persists, they die.”