What’s in Back of the Sky?

This morning, Steve and I were talking about a variety of things when suddenly these words burst from my mouth:

If a writer can’t write what’s truly in her heart, if she can’t share what’s really there, then what’s the use of writing?

But, it’s easier said than done, especially when what’s in my heart is a cacophony of emotions so turbulent I can’t even get them straight in my mind, much less down on paper.

But in the last few days, I’ve seen signs pointing me in the direction of getting it all out:

1. A few days ago, in a message on Facebook, Anne Lamott “took the opportunity to share every single thing she knew.” I latched on to one in particular:

Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides. Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.

2. A writer friend of mine, Jessica Nelson, often writes posts of a raw, painful and very human nature. A few days ago, I read “Peeking Out of the Hole.” And once again, I was inspired to be brave.

To unplug the dam all in one post would be unwritable, much less unreadable, so I’m going to start slowly. And, please forgive that I borrow words to help me get started.

In the last few months, three people I’ve loved have died: my mom on February 13, my uncle on March 28, and a former-boyfriend-turned-dear-friend on March 29. My mother was 79 and my uncle was 92. Both of their deaths, though sad and distressing, were not unexpected.

But my friend committed suicide.

I’ve hesitated writing about my feelings about his death for a variety of reasons, though I can pretty much pinpoint two of them:

  1. Out of respect for my friend and his family, I didn’t want to mention that frickin’ “S” word, SUICIDE. And so, what’s the use of writing about my feelings surrounding his death when I can’t acknowledge the very huge, very real, very ugly gorilla in the room? But it WAS suicide, and my way around it will be that I simply will not mention his name.
  2. I’ve felt a lot of guilt for the pain his death has brought me, believing nobody could understand how I could feel such depth of pain for an old boyfriend, especially after the death of my own mother. It is what it is. Few people know about the deep friendship this man and I shared and I do not owe an explanation to anybody. I’m grateful, so grateful, that I’ve been able to be completely open with Steve about everything, from our friendship, to his death. I can’t imagine having to hold this all in with him.

I hope to inch forward with writing about the range of feelings I’ve had about all of these deaths, even about the things that I’ve learned in the last few months. Because if I don’t, I doubt I’ll be able to write much of anything else, at least not for awhile.

So, here’s where I begin, and again, forgive me that I’m going to borrow another’s words to help me get started.

I have always been drawn to the lyrics of the theme song to Valley of the Dolls. I’m not sure why. It’s a sad and haunting song.

Gotta get off, gonna get
Have to get off from this ride

Gotta get hold, gonna get
Need to get hold of my pride

When did I get, where did I
How was I caught in this game
When will I know, where will I
How will I think of my name

When did I stop feeling sure, feeling safe
And start wondering why, wondering why
Is this a dream, am I here, where are you
What’s in back of the sky, why do we cry

Gotta get off, gonna get
Off of this merry-go-round

Gotta get off, gonna get
Need to get on where I’m bound

When did I get, where did I
Why am I lost as a lamb

When will I know, where will I
How will I learn who I am

Is this a dream, am I here, where are you
Tell me, when will I know, how will I know
When will I know why?

In September of last year, long before any of these deaths, something led me to use the question, “What’s in back of the sky” as a writing prompt. Here’s what I wrote:

What’s in back of the sky? I imagine eyes. Eyes of angels looking out for us, whether the angels are loved ones who watch over us or whether they are our own eyes from who we were in past lives, when we learned lessons we should remember in all of our future lives, but that we sometimes forget because life can be so much more fun if we don’t remember our lessons.

It could be a puppeteer, manipulating us from behind the curtain of clouds and sun, directing us in a play he has written. Maybe that’s why there are times I feel like I should be doing something else but something just seems to get in the way.

Maybe there is an artist in back of the sky, an artist who decides each morning what colors to use to paint the sky that will greet us in the mornings. And then, if she’s not quite satisfied with the morning sky she splashed with pastels across the canvas, she’d have another opportunity to paint an even more colorful sunset, filled with brilliant and fiery reds and oranges.

Maybe there is a spirit that whispers to us in the wind, telling us to let go and all our troubles will be carried away, if only we’d let go.

But I think it’s God that hides in back of the sky. Because God is all of these things: angels, our eyes, a puppeteer, an artist and the Spirit that invites us to let go.

The day after I learned that my friend had committed suicide, I heard this song again and my heart broke that he might have lived these words, so confused, so hopeless, so lost, and I was not able to find him, to help him.

These are pictures I took of the sky in Santa Fe, the day he killed himself, though I didn’t know at the time that he was gone. That morning, the sky was a brilliant blue.

IMG_4729 (1)

But by late afternoon, the sky was black and churning. In the distance, the sun and a thunderstorm rested beside each other, as the wind blew so cold I sought the shelter of Steve’s arms.


I think it was his way of saying “goodbye.”

But that doesn’t much help the anger, hurt and guilt that I still feel.

This entry was posted in Life, love and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What’s in Back of the Sky?

  1. Jan, I tried to post this on my timeline on FB, but when it comes up there’s no Post button. This has happened to me with several blogs I wanted to feature. This is such a touching piece of writing and I want to thank you for opening up a vein and writing from deep in your heart.


  2. Denton Gay says:

    Hi Jan,
    Hope all is well with you. Thought you might find the following interview interesting. The first half is not good but if you hang until midway or so… it does get interesting. Thought it might fuel food for thought…..



  3. Edward Downie says:

    Stay in close touch with friends and family. Suicide is known to have a contagious component.


  4. kdmccrite2 says:

    I hold you in thoughts of love and peace. God bless, my friend.


  5. I’ve never heard the song, Jan, but I played it while I read your post. Such touching lyrics and so fitting for the backdrop behind your words. I wish you the best with your journey and I’m glad you have someone in your life you don’t have to hide from.


  6. truthsbyruth says:

    Oh, Gypsy Jan, what words of wisdom can I bestow on you to take your pain away? First, I love the theme from Valley of the Dolls. I saw the movie, bought the record, and sang the song over and over. I think it’s beautiful. Some people may disagree. Say while the lyrics are touching there is too much sadness in them, but, for me, the melody is beautiful and that is enough. All is well in back of the sky. No pain. No hurt. No confusion. No feeling of being lost. Home is behind the sky. He is home. The road he traveled to get there is not important, only the fact that he is there is. And he wasn’t saying goodbye but rather, “Until we meet again.”


  7. Jan Morrill says:

    You know just what to say, Ruthie. ❤


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