Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, FUNERAL SERVICE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY

I LOVE THE NIGHT LIFE

My grandfather’s memorial service was today. It was intimate, personal, and all about him, which he would have loved. I am eternally grateful to Lisa and the funeral home, the US Air Force, the pastors, all attendees (especially those who traveled great distances or in bad health to say goodbye to him), to my boyfriend and to my beloved friends, who have kept me afloat with their support.

Finally, I am above all grateful to Alicia Bridges for pumping out the disco hit “I Love the Nightlife”, which Grand adored and requested should close out the service. The family name “LAUGHTER” on the wall behind where his remains sat proved that while his time on earth is over, his impact in our lives is forever. Go chase the night life, Grand. You gotta boogie. 💡♥️

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY

07/09/19

My grandfather and I have played a game for so long, I don’t even remember the origins of it. I would try – and always fail – to catch his pinky finger without him pulling it away from me. I absolutely NEVER could – the man was stronger than an ox, I could take my two little hands to his one pinky finger and still not catch it.

Even when he got older, weaker, sicker, he still had a phenomenal old man strength that allowed him to allude capture. It made me furious! He told me that I could catch it when he finally died, and I said that I would cut it off and bronze it as my trophy, and we would laugh uproariously, because my family is morbid and terrible.

It is obvious where this post is going and what I’m trying to say, and I initially felt really sad, and I thought it would just be hard and miserable to write it out – but that wasn’t really us. So here I am, victor at last, with my grandfather’s pinky finger finally all mine. He left us this afternoon, and it feels unfathomable and surreal.

My Grand, silly ole Grandy Bar – you put up a really, really good fight, prolific and skilled, and it was an honor to lose to you for these 32 years. I wish I could lose to you for 32 more. I will carry this victory with pride, and while I have the hand strength of a newborn and cannot carry on the physical pinky game, I promise to carry on your stubbornness with an absolutely earth shattering frustration to those around me, just like I know you’d want me to. I’m gonna make you proud, Grand. Thanks for everything, and I mean it – for everything. PS – “bullllshitttttt.”

Posted in DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

GRANDBULB

When I was very little, I told my Grand that he was “bald as a lightbulb”. In return, he gifted me … a lightbulb. With his likeness drawn on it. I have kept that lightbulb for over 25 years, and today, the wonderful Wren at Reckless Heart Tattoos in Greenville was kind enough to tattoo that lightbulb (now and forever known as #Grandbulb) on me. I told him I was getting it before I went, and asked him if he liked the idea. A routine hater of my tattoos, I was surprised when he immediately blinked once to tell me yes. After I got it, I came back to show him and asked him if he liked it. He looked at it for a long time, looked back at me, and immediately shook his head no … but his eyes were bright. A “hater” till the end, my Grandbulb. 💡

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, MENTAL HEALTH, relationships, writing

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

I wrote this last year, in the days that led up to the first anniversary of your death. It has remained in its embryonic stage, in a tangle of nonsensical pieces and parts, until today. I wasn’t ready then, but I’m ready now.

To F. – (as Pete Yorn would say, “cos it already is”).

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Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, FUNERAL SERVICE, MENTAL HEALTH, SCHOOL, writing

MILLENIAL DISENCHANTMENT

I didn’t necessarily mean to wait nearly six months to update this ole thing, but time slipped up on me – and I guess emotionally I wasn’t really in the mood to share all that much. Since graduating last August, life has been a slippery slope of highs and lows, and I feel like I’ve been running as fast as my legs would carry me the whole time. One might call this avoidance … and one would probably technically be right.

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Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, FUNERAL SERVICE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, MENTAL HEALTH, relationships, writing

HAPPY NEW YEAR

We are so close to the end of the year, and that always seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? I mean, the Counting Crows even wrote the annually relevant jam, “A Long December” about what this confused, sort of gray feeling of wistfulness and closing is like. (Note to self: find time to listen to “A Long December” before January rolls around). But just like the song says – “There’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.” – and I get that. I think we all do.

With a new beginning (which we all logically know is really just watching the ball drop on TV from Times Square and taping up a new desk calendar at work when we get back from holiday break) comes what we all need so desperately to keep us moving forward – the smallest glimmer of hope. Because hell, maybe this year really will be better than the last. Maybe it takes moving forward to realize that the year we are leaving behind wasn’t really so bad after all – or, in some cases, maybe it truly was an awful one, and we need to prepare ourselves to move on so that we can get some space to start to heal. No matter where you are at in your personal journey, by the time the last dregs of December are clouding the bottom of the glass, I think we can all agree that we are ready to ring in the New Year, if only just to see what might happen next.

Time is so incredibly sentimental and bittersweet. We hold on to it so dearly, using it to mark our good and our bad and our in betweens. I think that’s why I’ve always upheld a particular romanticism in regards to fresh starts and new beginnings. While it sometimes feels scary to enter uncharted territory, even if it is purely symbolic – it also feels so exciting. And that’s because of possibility. Because possibility exists, and because we, even at our darkest hours, exude hope for a better tomorrow – somewhere out there in the ether, the two mix together and become chance. “You never know” – one of the most powerful phrases in the history of language.

With the examination of time come and gone comes the natural reflection of what we have experienced in the duration. I think this reflection is wise, because I believe that we all have the responsibility to try to become a better version of ourselves every year. And reflection is how we do that – how we look back at what we have just survived, as a learning tool, as a way to honor the time spent, as a way to grow positively. We cannot learn if we do not reflect – even if reflecting is difficult and sometimes painful to do.

So, in that vein – I reckon it’s time that I mark down a little something about what 2017 meant to me. Painful as it may have been, sometimes.

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Posted in LGBTQA, writing

THEY WERE HERE (12/06/17)

On December 6th, we were able to stop again on our way back to South Carolina to pay respects at Pulse in Orlando, the sight of the now second biggest massacre in American history. Since June 12th, 2016. We’ve already had something top it.

What a sickening thought.

I believe my first trip to Pulse was late last year or early this year, and it was just as painful to witness and behold. There is no preparation for what you will feel when you pull into that lot and imagine what happened there, the senseless carnage and the cruelty.

The surrounding community has most definitely not forgotten these beautiful souls – even the Wendy’s across the street, where we changed clothes before the long ride home, had encouraging signs stressing the need for acceptance and equality posted behind the counter, and a framed print listing the names of the lives lost that night. From the window of the Wendy’s, you could have a burger and stare at the memorial. The sad thought turns my stomach. The crosswalk in front of the club had been painted rainbow, and ONE ORLANDO signs hang boldly for all to see.

It makes me so profoundly happy to see that this place is being taken care of. A live Christmas tree is up now, with jugs of water placed nearby, encouraging those who stop by to tend to it. And they do. People protect this place.

A sign, attached to the official Pulse sign, which is new as of my last visit, states that it will eventually be a permanent memorial and museum. Not a single soul is unrepresented or forgotten. I am so grateful for the people who are tirelessly tending to this precious place, who are keeping hate away from it. Who plant flowers in multicolors and share smiles and urge us, the shocked and horrified passersby, to walk away from this painful place feeling inspired to be kind, understanding, and above all things, tolerant.

I’ve included photos below the cut, with a trigger warning because of the obvious reference to LGBTQ+ violence and slaughter. As I’ve said before – I do this not out of voyeurism. I want people who are not able to visit Pulse, whether for travel reasons or perhaps just an emotional unreadiness, to know that these people have not and will not ever be forgotten. I’ll never stop visiting them and praying for them.

I was not a Pulse attendee. Orlando is not my true home. But I identify as a pansexual woman who spent many nights at my own personal Pulse with my many LGBTQ+ friends, feeling safe and free to be ourselves in a designated “safe space”. In many ways, that innocence is lost – there is no such thing as a safe space anymore. But all we can do is promise to remember, and to do our absolute best to prevent it from happening again.

There will always be a Pulse, as long as we promise to never forget. And I never will.

Continue reading “THEY WERE HERE (12/06/17)”