I am a phoenix.

Trigger Warning: This post speaks further on domestic violence and it's effects. Readers sensitive to the subject should be cautioned.

Yesterday marked an important anniversary date for me. On May 3, 28 years ago at 6:15 in the morning, as the sun was rising over the Texas sky and the heat was setting in for the day and the world was abuzz with news of a terrorist bombing on an Air Lanka flight and the wedding of Annette Funicello, in a small hospital room in San Antonio a young woman took her last breath. Her heart stopped pumping, her lungs finally collapsed on themselves, her body convulsed only slightly, and then it just... let go.
Like a condemned building tumbling into mere dust or a person walking away forever.
This woman was my mother, and my latest grassroots work is her legacy. That is what she left for me: a few tattered memories, more questions than answers, and a whole lot of work to heal from the losses and traumas throughout the years following her death. This year's efforts have been especially useful in that way, igniting the spirit of generosity among my neighbors, providing needed items to an organization that is working to help people like my mother and me, and allowing me to share my experiences in a way that gives a nearly justifiable purpose to the suffering my mother went through in her final three weeks on this Earth.

Some strange and unlikely occurrences have unfolded over the last three weeks of this drive. For example, my mom was apparently called the Yellow Rose of Texas by friends and when she died funeral attendees showered the scene with yellow roses. The day after I announced From the Heart to the Hands, a photo of a tattoo a friend of mine had just finished on a client showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was a yellow rose draped in a purple ribbon, the color used to signify domestic violence. Another is the random text a girlfriend received the other night from a stranger. She shared the details of it with me, and it was a horrifying statement of abuse and control wherein the sender recounted the many ways he had hurt other women, including shooting one out of jealousy. There was also an incident recently where a local man intentionally hit his girlfriend with his car, and another just yesterday where a man bound and stabbed a woman and then shot himself in the head following the police chase that ensued. Lastly, and perhaps this is the most poignant of all of them, we received a box of strawberries on our doorstep yesterday as part of our Fruit of the Month club membership (remember? The grapefruit bomb-diggity DIY cleaner?). This is not remarkable on its own; however, my mother was attacked for the last time by her lover on the eve of their date to the Poteet Strawberry Festival. As I unwrapped the insulated packaging and held one of the chilly, perfect berries in my hand I moved momentarily to the memory of the coldness of my mother's hands on the day of her burial. Suddenly my mind was overflowing with memories from that day, countless and small, like the seeds on a strawberry. It's been a long time since I said goodbye to her; like, a really, really long time. I've never held such cold hands since. The warmth of childhood bliss froze for me that day.

There have been days where my whole universe was on fire because of my mom's death. Days where everything familiar and comforting fell down around me, engulfed in flames and melting away to ashes, burning me with the embers and making it hard for me to breathe because of the nerves and desperate palpation of my heavy heart. I have felt the intensity of the heat, the lack of control in situations along the way, the damage caused in the immediate of those moments and in the aftermath, and at times I could see nothing but a scorched and partial framework left where there once resided the fullness and hope only found in small and wondrous children. Domestic violence will do that to those who live it. But today, I am a phoenix.

This donation drive helped to lift me out of those ashes, a break from life as a fiery creature engaged in a cycle of burning and being born anew from the remnants of the painful struggle. Today this bird flies on wings made of crayons, journals and tampons, on grocery gift cards and play-doh and cookie cutters and baby carriers. These simple items and so many others which have been given to me for this drive have made a tremendous impact on me, and on my community. I am uplifted by these gifts of hope and healing for the people who need them, and am elevated by the privilege of acting as a community hub for their dispersal. This time around my rebirth is one of reflective and meaningful purpose, and that feels pretty enlivening.

Thank you, Tiny Town, for doing what you do best: sharing the love. You are one bunch of generous citizens and I cannot wait to share all of your donations with DVSAS. Thank you, thank you, thank you. On Wednesday they will receive the following and so much more:

  • hundreds of dollars in gift/phone cards and cash
  • approximately 500 diapers
  • a fresh paint job for the DVSAS offices
  • 6 baby carriers
  • 2 jumperoos
  • quality fresh coffee for a year for the office
  • a highchair
  • lamps
  • a mirror
  • trunk full of costume items
  • craft, home & office supplies 
  • and, lastly, my favorite: gift certificates for families to get new portraits devoid of old memories

I asked. You came out in droves, arms full, again. You shared your stories of trauma and survival with me. Your participation in these grassroots efforts is helping me create a movement of individuals inspired to perform random acts of inspiration, giving, and kindness, and the impact is tangible in my community and beyond. I've said it before, but don't you ever stop. Ever!

The staff at DVSAS wrote my name on the sign, but only because all of yours wouldn't fit!
{Rest in peace Mom. I'm not sure what comes after this life, but I hope your spirit can feel my love for you in whatever form your energy has taken.}

1 comment

Liz Darrow said...

This makes me weep. I love love love that you are honoring your mother's memory in this way. And I wish a million times over that there was a way to undo the damage done by domestic violence. What you are giving is such a wonderful gift. Thank you for all that you do.