Monthly Archives: May 2016

Milking the Goats

Milking the Goats

I’m in awe watching Alisa milk the 2 community goats we have here at The Bend.  7 families “share” the goats although, Alisa and her family do most of the work.  I’ve been getting lessons on milking which I thought would be simple as pie.  Nope.  There is a lot to learn about bacteria, rhythm, getting to know the animal, the baby goats, feeding, muscle memory, etc.  I’ve found that mornings are hard waking up again and knowing that Zafer is not on this planet anymore.  It’s a reality that hits me hard as soon as I open my eyes.  I can cry and then go milk.  It’s hard to milk, so my tears usually dry as I get focused.  I thought I would never get the rhythm until yesterday.  I started the routine and with two hands, the milk started flowing.  Wow.  Something in my brain switched and it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could get a handle on the grief.

Losing Zafer is debilitating at times and I understand that it will be something that I (and this family) will carry until the day we die.  Then I hope to join him.  Can’t wait.  So, our job is to come back down to earth and manage the grief.  We are all desperately seeking ways to lessen the pain.  Everyone is dealing with this in their own unique way.

Jessalyn is taking the policy level.  She works with Blue State Digital, the agency that got Freedom to Marry passed.  A powerful group.  Her next project just so happens to be with Shatterproof (an organization dedicated to protecting our loved ones from addiction).

From Jess:

“Following my meeting with Shatterproof, Dan and I were invited to attend CARA family day on Capitol Hill. CARA (comprehensive addiction and recovery act) is the the first major federal law to address the opioid epidemic in this country, and congress is on the verge of enacting it.
Right now a conference committee from the Senate and House is about to convene to decide exactly what’s in the final CARA bill. Dan and I were invited to share Z’s story with legislators and their staffers to make sure CARA stays as strong as possible, and to get it to Obama’s desk quickly for signature.

And at Blue State Digital, we’re working to support the effort with a digital campaign calling on supporters to call or tweet their legislator – to tell them vote YES on CARA.”
4 kids

Arlo is taking the Zafer energy and putting it on the hemp t-shirt business that Zafer and friends started a few years.  Watching the excitement of Arlo and Greyson, Tot, Tucker, Tyler and Sean and others gives me a boost to get through my day.  Zafer had big ideas and vision for this company and Arlo is learning as fast as he can about fiber, business, salesmanship, money and how to keep shipping t-shirts.  He has the guidance of his parents, Eric Henry, Linda Booker and Melissa Best…all heavy hitters.

We have a domino effect in our house….Arlo screams in excitement, I jump off the couch (finally) and run around vacuuming and doing yoga simultaneously and Lyle walks out and becomes elated to see the two of us moving and to see a brief moment of joy.  It can also go the other way if one is crumpled in a chair sobbing, we all go down.

Kaitlin’s response to losing her brother was to grab her best friend Zack, his dog, a car that needed to be moved cross country and the three of them went across the United States with their backpacks, their Mary Oliver poetry and their Zafer playlists.  Seeing the open skies of the west helped begin her healing.  There is a much larger story…but not for prime time.  Kaitlin was visited by Z, protected and also in her dreams.  She has returned with her road wisdom and we are taking it all in.  She discusses how our culture is just not cut out for handling death.  We need to borrow from all the other cultures that know that there is way more to this universe than what we can see.
z and K

“The antidote to loss is an awakening consciousness.” John Breckenridge

Lyle and I are hanging on and taking advantage of all types of support.  We are lifted up by this strong family, our sweet sweet friends and community.  We are never in psync with each other so we can just try and understand where the other is and assure them that the wave will pass soon.  Seeing the grief of your loved ones is another horrible aspect of this situation.

After receiving Zafer’s autopsy report, I fell into hysterics.  Reading about your son arriving in a white body bag with a tag on his right big toe is horrific.  They described every part of his body from his chest scar from a skate boarding accident in which I was there getting him stitched up to his tattoo of the flatirons on his back to his recent nipple piercing.  Zafer had a perfect body, the cutest feet, six pack abs, a gorgeous smile.  The autopsy revealed that Zafer died from heroin.  There were no pharmaceuticals or alcohol or fentanyl involved.  Simply heroin and it killed him.

After reading this report, I drove straight to Barbara Lories and cried and cried with her.  She explained in her grief that she didn’t know what it was, but there was a plan, a bigger plan and I believe her.  I have to believe her with her wisdom and 90 years.

I find my days go by quickly and in a fog.  I was in the HABA department at Chatham Marketplace and Terry, the deli chef sought me out.  He told me that he had been to Z’s service and he was sorry.  Terry said I used to help Zafer tie his ties when he was on the way to a school function.  He said he had lost his 7 year old son who was hit by a car.  I asked Terry if he would see his son again and he said he certainly would.  It gave me strength.

When the grief is at it’s worst and I don’t think we can survive it, a text comes in, a phone call, a visitor with flowers and food, a song, a smiling face, a letter from a stranger with a Zafer story.  I have to trust that the Universe will send us what we need to heal and to get through this.  I’m grateful to the friends that I can cry in their arms, go for walks by the river, sit and talk endlessly about Zafer.  I want to talk about Zafer forever and we will.  I’m grateful for the calls and emails from other parents that have lost their children.  They know exactly how I feel and I don’t think my thoughts are so weird.  Wanting to dig up Zafer (don’t worry, I am not going to do that) is not the strangest thought.  Someone told me that other cultures do this on the anniversary of the death.  Being jealous of people dying.  Daring the lightening to strike me.  Seems to be the norm.

Grief is strange and uncontrollable and something we are learning on the fly. 

A team is forming to create something with the Zafer Julian Estill Memorial Fund.  A skate board park has been mentioned….it will take some thought.  It will be some positive energy for something that will help the community and that Z would be proud of.

This weekend the family is piling in to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.  We always do this and it’s swimming and badminton and this year there will be a huge hole in our hearts and 3 bullet holes in our aortas as Arlo says.

I’ve asked Zafer to be present anyway.  We’ll be looking for the signs. 

Lyle heard the Whip-Poor-Will last night.   Wanting to improve his bird knowledge, he googles:

“Due to its haunting, ethereal song, the eastern Whip-Poor-Will is the subject of numerous legends.  One says the whip-poor-will can sense a soul departing and can capture it as it flees.”

Zafer, missing you and sending you peace and love.
z and t 4thjuly

Four Weeks

Four Weeks

Life as I’ve known it changed 4 weeks ago with a simple eerie knock at the door at midnight by the county sheriff.  Lyle and I went to the door that was lit up by his spotlights.  I immediately thought Arlo and Greyson had gotten into mischief and that because Arlo’s truck is registered in Zafer’s name, that is why the sheriff kept saying Zafer’s name.  I felt myself being Mama Bear and feeling protective of Arlo…as in “you are not waking up my child”.  My body was fanning out to make sure the sheriff didn’t try to wake up Arlo.

He kept saying Zafer’s name and something about bad news.  Again, I knew that he was mistaken and at the same time I could tell something was wrong because Lyle was crumpled over and screaming.  I turned lights on in the kitchen and the sheriff handed me his phone to talk to the Boulder police in Colorado.  Heroin was mentioned.  They asked me if Zafer drank alcohol.  I said not much.  I handed the phone back to the sheriff and he asked if he could leave.

I went into the NIGHT OF HELL.  I asked Lyle not to wake up Arlo.  We went from room to room and he went outside to wail and scream and I got into fetal position in my bed.  I couldn’t understand what was happening and I had no idea what to do.  At one point in the night I looked in the mirror to see if I could figure out what was going on.  My face looked like The Scream painting by Edvard Munch.  Frozen and a look of horror.  I knew that something was extremely wrong.  I knew that the most horrible news I could ever receive had just been delivered, but I couldn’t accept it (and still have not).  The minutes went by like hours, time seemed to stop on this dreadful night.  I just wanted the sun to come up.  Around 3am, Arlo woke up and came out and I sat him down and held him tight as I told him that his beloved brother had died from heroin.  All I wanted to do and all I could do was to protect Lyle and Arlo that night.  I could not cry and I could not say those words again.  I just needed the sun to come up.

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.   Edvard Munch

We all three got into bed and held hands and I think they drifted off to sleep around sunrise.  I called my brother in law, Jim to ask him what to do.  “You have to tell people now” he said.  I don’t want to tell anyone.  I don’t want to say those words because that might mean it was true.

As I sat on the porch steps not knowing what to do, a Subaru sped down the driveway like a bat out of hell and out popped Lexie and Gary Thompson…both crying and they encircled me.  Again, how did they know and they were crying.  It gave me a little strength and felt like the cavalry had come.  Friends to help figure out this and guide when my brain was completely gone.  Arlo got up and went to tell Zafer’s second Mom and best friend Greyson.  He got into bed with Kathie while he told her.  Broken hearted she called me and I asked her to get Zafer’s body back here.  “On it” she said.  And what a hard job for her to have to do.  I called my Dad and asked him to drive to Mom’s to tell her in person.  No Grandmother should have to get this news over the phone.  He went immediately.  I called two of my best friends, Melissa and Gary Phillips, and they both got in the car immediately.  Camille brought pharmaceuticals so that I could get through this day without collapse.  Very helpful, indeed.  I’m not a pharma person…but this was appropriate technology.

Alisa who is preparing for the death of her sweet husband, Chris, kept me on the phone as she raced from Pittsboro to our house.  There was some unknown woman walking around the yard in the chaos.  I immediately thought she was a death doula for some reason.  She was from the high school and they had gotten misinformation that Arlo had died and she came over to clarify the news.  Again, how did she get that information so fast?  What the hell was happening?  This is not real.

The news started spreading, the people started coming.  Jess and Kaitlin and Dan started driving south.  People started getting on planes.  Anabel from Paris, Phifer from California, family and roommates from Colorado, from New York, all the Canadians were en route, and high school friends from around the country.  When you get devastating news, you think you are all alone and you don’t understand how it effects your loved ones.  There was a ripple effect of grief that spread.

One of the first things we did was to go up to the trail and look for a place to bury Zafer.  The “Farewell Trail” that Bob named had not yet been started. (We had been talking about the trail for burying Chris just the night before)  A plan was made to get it finished and ready for Zafer’s homecoming.  A beautiful spot was picked out and it somehow felt comforting to know that he would be nearby and in a gorgeous setting that we could visit often.  A work plan was made and heavy equipment came out…Bob and Joe and Trip and Leavitt and others created the trail and burial site.  Lyle and Arlo wanted to dig the hole for Zafer’s coffin with the backhoe.  I can’t imagine the pain.  It needed more help.  My Dad and brother, Michael, finished and it broke the backhoe.  From there, hand digging was necessary to get it ready for the graveside service.  It was done with such care and respect and beauty.  Truly beautiful. I’m grateful

Gary went to get food.  Seems like the southern thing to do and he broke the news to Angelina and others in Pittsboro.  Angelina began cooking and crying into her beautiful, amazing, comforting food and put together huge boxes to be sent home.  People started contributing to the cost.  Most of my kids have worked for her and she did wonders with Zafer.  She is the best mother anyone could ask for.

The rest of the day was a flurry of figuring out what had happened, what was going to happen and The Committee was formed as Lyle and I could not really do much but mumble and I don’t think I even got myself a glass of water for many days…everyone did for us, thank goodness.   Decisions were made for us.  We did have moments of clarity…like how we wanted to honour Zafer and his service.

I could feel an intense energy and power growing in all of us.  Like never before.  Never.

Lyle and Arlo and I are so very lucky to be surrounded by this community and to also have an amazing and strong family.  Yes, I just take that for granted.  But not anymore.  Someone asked me if we really had this storybook family and adventures and I thought about it…yes…we do…I kind of thought everyone had that.  We certainly bicker, have stress and have major disagreements AND we have so much fun and laughter.  Zafer’s wit and sense of humor is something I hope to channel.  Something I will deeply deeply miss.  His siblings laugh so much together.  There is and always has been a deep love for each other.

A 7 day wake happened at our house…20 + people living at our place…it was like a small village of eating, planning, crying, drinking, welcoming, music playing, story telling, massage, pedicures for men, singing and holding each other up.   Hundreds of people came through the week bringing gifts for the altar, food for the mourning, words of comfort and hugs and kisses.  The young and the old together and all chipping in to clean and live and celebrate.   The best gift was all the stories of how Zafer had impacted people’s lives.  How he had helped them out of depression, made them go the extra mile, his hilarious sense of humor and appreciation of “dress up”.  His opinions about life, his new revelations.  I got to know my son better that week in some ways than I ever could with him being physically present.

The Committee was a force to be reckoned with.  “Did The Committee approve this?” Uh, oh….did The Committee see this?  We had the honour of about 20 women and men who formed spontaneously, had spreadsheets, conference calls and who got it done.  Many took time off from their day jobs to help the effort.  They put on a week long wake and a service for 500, they dealt with the death logistics of flying Zafer home, the legal issues, the minute details, a graveside service and then the aftermath of cleaning up.  We are in complete awe of the way they came together in crisis and the comradery that formed.  Hilarious stories came out of this event that will be with all of us forever.  We’ve been in community together for years and know how powerful that is, and Zafer’s death brought out the best in everyone.

That story is big and for another blog to be told by someone else. 

The family and friends left on Sunday.  And that is when, exhausted, we started having to face a new reality.  That Zafer is not here in physical form anymore.  And that is what I’m working on everyday.  Putting together a construct in my brain that makes sense of this, that includes his spirit and my spirit together.  I’m working on how to develop a new relationship with him even though I can’t see, hear, touch or smell him.  I’m working on developing my own belief system of where he is, what he is doing, why this happened, why it happened to me and my family, why he can’t smell honeysuckle anymore (or maybe he can), why I can’t see him grow and mature.  Why I have to feel the worst pain a parent can ever feel.  Why I feel like I’m drowning some days.

I also can see the gifts and the beauty that is coming out of this.  Everything I look at now is different.  The trees are more beautiful, the flowers are brighter, the air is sweeter.  Zafer has connected hundreds of people.  Zafer has made people stop in their tracks and reconsider their life paths, and the meaning and importance in their life.  Zafer has made people think about love.  Possibly the most important and eternal thing there is.  Love.  We have love and that is a huge gift.

Thank you Zafer, my love.

zafer everglades