Friday, July 20, 2012

Brokedown Palace

 I’m on return from Bereavement. Yes, it’s been an upheaval week, where I’m certainly reminded that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

A sibling of mine passed unexpectedly, and of course it shatters my psyche and rearranges priorities and focus points, and causes crying spells for his terribly shortened life. These spells are usually triggered by something unexpected.  The Frays “How to Save a Life.” for example, which makes sense, but then a Neil Diamond song did the same.

With my personal slippery, uncertain rules of what to blog about and what not to blog about, I couldn't figure out where this fit into a blogging world. Ignoring it didn’t feel right, yet I couldn't write everything and give a full picture either.  It would be impossible to describe all the dynamics here, it would require writing some sort of novel or memoir.

And I’m also reminded that coincidence is just Gods way of remaining anonymous. Because if I did write it all down into a novel, it would be remarkably similar to the novel that I had just started to read a day before I learned of my brothers medical crisis.

The novel is called Out and Back, and is the story of how a mother, runner, and uniquely gifted and wonderfully flawed human being deals with the death of her mother, and how, even after her mothers death, she is constantly working through their relationship.

I read the first half of the novel on the way to see my brother, who was in a coma, on life support, and like the person in the novel, dealt with the trauma of  taking a loved on off life support. Yes, there are puke bags on planes, but no tear bags.

I read the second part of the novel on the way home, after my brother had passed, where the main character of the novel journals her thoughts to her deceased mom on her facebook page, and days later, I  learned of a whole community of friends my brother had through facebook and blogging world I had never known of.

Yes, it was digging into a fresh wound, but I really needed something to recognize the pain in me, and it was 'truth is stranger than fiction' that I had picked this novel up when I did.  I came across the novel on Goodreads in a forum called “Readers who Run.”  Or, it could have been “Runners who Read.”

Out and Back was very readable, easily accessible, doesn’t’ require work but just keeps your attention and interest since if you’re a parent or a runner you can relate.  I loved the main character, who I assume is partially but not completely the author.  I loved how she was aware of her flaws, how she had such high expectations of herself yet also swore (love the 'fuck fuck fucks') and scolded herself when she didn’t meet her own standards. She seemed so real, and the challenges of raising a family were portrayed with a sense of urgency amongst the very real threats we face. The conflicts and suspense of this novel to build a healthy family while fighting economic uncertainties, bickering kids, running injuries, kept me reading.  I loved that she was constantly trying to negotiate family relationships by dealing with all the human imperfections we have and ultimately finding some peace by accepting her mother, and herself, for all her faults. Relationships with others don’t change when they pass. This novel showed that.

And, when possible, the main character runs to cope and give her strength, yet is challenged to fit in a run when injuries and other annoyances get in her way. Yes, I did hope for more running in the novel, which is ironic since that's what others said about The Jade Rabbit.  

 Like the main character, I of course went for a run to cope with my crisis. I was in tears as I ran, yet it still helped to rearrange the mental and emotional atoms, and I was thinking "no matter how far one can run, they still always got to come back, you can't run forever."

Yep, if you go Out, you got to come Back.  
Things gravitate to us at certain times for a reason, our souls suck things into our reach that we need, and I think Out and Back came to me this way.  Or it was just some strange, dumb luck.

On Wednesday night, I went to the Furthur concert, which, just so you know, is most of the remaining Grateful Dead members and some all-star musicians from Dead cover bands.  The last song they played, (which was also the last song of the entire tour) the second encore, was “Brokedown Palace.” This the song I’ve been telling my wife for years I want played at my funeral. Of course, in my mind, they were playing it for my Brother, and I held a momentary mental memorial right there. The way things dropped in my lap, like the novel Out And Back, this song certainly fit, and who could argue otherwise.

Brokedown Palace – Grateful Dead 

Fare you well, my honey, fare you well my only true one.
All the birds that were singing are flown, except you alone.

Going to leave this brokedown palace,
On my hand and knees, I will roll, roll, roll.
Make myself a bed in the waterside,
In my time, I will roll, roll roll.

In a bed, in a bed, by the waterside I will lay my head.
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

River going to take me, sing sweet and sleepy,
Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.
Its a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago.
Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home.

Goin home, goin home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

Going to plant a weeping willow,
On the banks green edge it will grow, grow, grow.
Sing a lullaby beside the water,
Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll.

Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

(An old Version, with Jerry singing, below)


Anonymous said...


I have shivers and goosebumps all over. I wish I could blog like you.

Thank you so much for featuring Out and Back in your blog. I love your review, and will share it.

Once again, I am so sorry for your loss.

Diane Strong

SupermomE13 said...

I am so very very sorry for your loss Mark. It is heartbreaking and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

LBTEPA said...

I am so sorry to hear about your brother. You and your family are in my prayers

Sara said...

Hi Mark. Just stopped by tonight and read this. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your brother and deeply touched, as usual, by your writing. You are truly gifted.

You said, "Things gravitate to us at certain times for a reason, our souls suck things into our reach that we need, and I think Out and Back came to me this way." This is how I feel about The Jade Rabbit. Thank you again for that.

I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts. Take care and talk to you soon.

Teresa Vondersaar said...

So sorry to hear about your brother. Your family is in my prayers. Thank you for writing about this. Your blog always leaves me thinking!

Mary Ellen said...

Mark, just got up and found this in my inbox.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
Still cannot get over his passing.

Find a weeping willow, cut a branch, and plant it in a pot in his memory. It will grow, grow. grow. Someday you could have a KLM memorial tree.

We planted a memorial rose for AML; now we need to plant two more memorials in our yard. I think I will look for a willow for him.

Nicki Mann said...

I also like, "Lay down my dear brother, lay down and take your rest, won't you lay your head upon your savior's breast, I love you but Jesus loves you the best and I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight..."

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark: I'm a friend of Mr. Furley's from the BFZ. You said it eloquently. Thanks for sharing your feelings. Hugs, The Almond M

PatMc said...

Hi Mark, I see that the talent runs deep in your family. You and your brother, (AKA Mr. Furley) seem to share warmth and exquisite talents of a major kind. Peace to you and your family. Plus, remembrance to all that had the divine pleasure of knowing your brother and the joy he brought into our world.

Famini said...

What a beautiful post, Mark. I, too, have found that books I've read while traveling to see a dying loved one have forever stayed with me. I would imagine that a book dealing with the exact scenario you were would stay with you even longer.

I'm not a runner but I am a reader, so I plan on coming back and checking out your blog in future. Somehow, it seems like something your brother would have wanted! I know he'd mentioned your book (it must've been STRAY) to me in the past and I'd meant to read it; I will definitely look for it now.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your brother with us. He meant so much to us in our blogging community. I shouldn't be surprised you included a song and video to go with your blog--it was exactly the same thing he used to do! (Just last night I was remembering a BRADY BUNCH song he'd posted to illustrate a post.)

"If you go out, you've got to come back." No truer words were said. But the trip back is always harder, isn't it? Good luck to you on your journey.

Cindy said...

Hi Mark,

From one writer to another, this is an excellent review and tribute all in one. The song is perfect. We love Kevin and know just a little of your sorrow. I feel so fortunate to have known the wonderful person he was and through him discover someone as talented as you!

Cindy of the BFZ

Molly of the BFZ said...

Hiya Mark,

This is Molly from the BFZ. Kevin and I spent many long hours on the phone and I miss him so much. My grandmother always told me that if you can count on one hand the number of "true" friends you have, you are a very rich person. To have Kevin as my friend, I was truly a rich person. Heartfelt prayers for you and your family.

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