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

About tamischwerin

I run a non-profit (Abundance NC) that builds community resilience including health of the earth, our bodies and our spirits. I also am active in creating an Eco-Industrial Park community in Pittsboro NC.

3 responses »

  1. I write this with tears in my eyes…partially as a mother who cannot fathom the depth of your despair and partially as an Addictions Counselor currently working with young people like your Zafer. There is so much more for us to do to address the Opiate epidemic in our country. I am encouraged by the people like your daughter who are using their grief in efforts to prevent this from happening to any other family. I send many hugs and much love to you and yours.


  2. Tami as I read this my eyes fill with tears.
    I am breathing you and your family into my heart, holding you there..we have a lovely spot down on the Rocky River where you can listen to the water, sit quietly or tell your stories..anytime


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