Soul food...for lone wolves and wild women everywhere...


Arizona, USA
March 10
Cynthia Dagnal-Myron is an award-winning former reporter for both the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star whose articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Salon, Working Mother, Orion and many others. During her Sun Times years, she traveled with and interviewed the top rockers, film stars and other celebrities of the 70’s and 80’s. And dated Arnold Schwarzenegger. Once. Her latest book, "The Keka Collection," is available at and Barnes and Noble--Kindle and Nook versions available. Her latest short story, Deadline, is a Kindle book availabled here:

JULY 1, 2013 1:31PM

The Lord taketh away

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Tough year.

Roger Ebert is gone. Another friend, cancer now uncontrollable, is in “palliative care.” And a beloved relation called a couple of weeks ago to make sure she had all of my contact info right—she spends more time in the hospital than at home now. And she wants to make sure the man handling her estate can send me a few things…

So…it’s official.  I am at that age when people I love are beginning to leave me behind more and more often. And the famous actors, writers, directors and other creative visionaries whose e whose works are cherished maps and travel guides to my own journey are heading back home at an alarming rate.

When they started running all of Robert Redford’s movies on the Sundance Channel one by one recently, I told friends that I hoped this wasn’t a sign that they knew something we didn’t about Bob. When he goes…I’ll feel it on soooo many levels. Not the way I felt when Roger left us, but…for me, Bob was the gorgeous, golden haired poster boy for the “Pay It Forward” principle. And godfather to some of my Hopi relations, too, often sitting there in the kiva or plaza looking too beautiful to be real in the blast furnace heat of a reservation summer day.

Old people always say, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” but they really don’t make ‘em like Redford anymore. He always seemed to be pining for the same simpler and nobler America beneath the crazier, more absent-minded one we live in now. There is a moment in A River Runs Through it when the camera flies over a hill to offer a panoramic view of some of the Creator’s best work. I cry every time I see it. And I cry at the end when Redford’s own voice reminds me that I, too, am “…haunted by waters.”

I used to fish with my father, too. And I know it was never about the fish or the fishing, those trips into the wilderness. My dad taught me everything I needed to know about life as we sat on the banks and in the boats and around the fires. And I knew that, somehow, even as the little whippersnapper I was back then—I knew it. And knew enough to cherish it, too—children sometimes miss that stuff, but I got it. And I’m so glad—he was, too. Bless him.

They keep going and going, the people who taught me the most important life lessons of all. And having almost left here myself two years ago, I’m more aware than I used to be that I, too, have reached the time of life when the finish line is actually “visible,” in a strange way.

When you’re 20, you figure you have at least another 40 or 50 years to go. When you’re 60…you think about what you thought when you were 20, and you realize that those years you were banking on have come and gone.


I also learned from being so ill and watching others who were very ill slip away from me a little bit more every day that the process of dying physically isn’t as scary as I thought. There comes a time when the loved one is so much changed and so drowsy and listless that they’re already gone.

I’ve never seen anyone struggle. I’ve never seen anyone panic. At the very end, they just stop breathing almost as if they’ve decided that it’s time to stop working so hard. It’s very logical and simple, at that point. Not for the fully living, but for that one in the bed for whom breathing has become such a chore…stopping seems like the right thing to do, at some point.

Our job is to say we understand that. And face that awful realization, after, that maybe we really didn’t.

Those “warning” calls and emails meant to prepare us, never really do. I never just say, “Oh, okay, gotcha.” I always get mad. And then sad. And then I try to find some sort of lesson or beauty in it. Bravery, perhaps—I have a feeling people facing the end get sick of being told how brave they are, though.

I have learned to answer by saying I’ll be there for them. That I’ll be thinking of them—I quit saying I’d pray for them because I’ve never been sure what to pray for at the end. There’s a natural process taking place that is too sacred to argue with, which is, I think, what some prayers really are. The loved one saying, “Why are you doing this to me?” and wanting a reprieve of some kind.

But when the time comes…you know it. And watch in the same kind of wonder as we watch babies being born. The beginning and end of life are both remarkably efficient and matter-of-fact. Things turn on and shut off just as they’re supposed to most of the time. Even when it goes wrong…it’s really right.

And all we can do is back off. And let it be.

This will be one of my saddest years, given the news I’ve had to “absorb” recently. But…somehow everything is far more intensely beautiful to me these days—a juicy apple, my daughter’s laugh, the pups racing through the house chasing each other, my favorite movies, the songs that helped me understand what the hell had just happened…

Perhaps the most valuable gift the dying offer is a heightened awareness of the life they’re leaving. And that as the Lord taketh away—no, I’m not really a believer but…it’s an apt description somehow now--you’re left to use what you’ve learned from all those much missed ones in more meaningful ways than you had to when they were here.

It’s like you’re being called upon to prove that Earth School works. And to recognize that you’ve had some incredible teachers.

Graduation is still a few year away for me. But the commencement speeches, it seems, have begun. One by one, they’re saying their own special goodbyes as they cross that last stage on their way into the “Great Beyond.”

I wonder if they’ll really be there to greet me when my turn comes?

Who knows?

I’m just glad there were here with me for a while, each playing their particular, inimitable roles in my life ‘til the very end. Accurate compasses, all. 
CODA: This is Barber with the London Symphony Orchestra left as it was shown on the BBC, with the people in the streets of many English cities standing in solidarity after 9/11--so moving. And the conductor's face at the end...well...I've told you about that, so be ready: 

I'll never forget it... 

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I hear you - "those years you were banking on have come and gone."
It behooves us all to have a heightened awareness & appreciation for all that is around us. Live for today!
Yes, such a strange feeling, to look forward and see...a much shorter path than I used to. I remember when I was refinancing yet again, and realized that another 30-year mortgage was probably not a good idea.

It's like that, now. I'm buying a car next year that may be my "last," and it's those little things that make me go, "Whoa..."
Astounding ... just 'effen gorgeous. Thank you.

~R~ in synchronicity
I'm glad you re-posted this edited version. It's been decades since I've heard the whole of Barber's adagio and as I read the wonderful words you've written here, in combination of the music I am brought to tears... thank you for your perspective, because in the end we are nothing but how we are remembered by those we touched and those who touched us. R&R.
Having lived through the 1980s at ground zero during the AIDS epidemic, I often thought it was a great preparation for this time you speak of. I thought I would be more experienced than most, therefore I would suffer less. Not true. This is the time for my scars to be revealed. In the 80s I was in shock. It insulated me from the tremendous pain of my losses. Then my brain sorted all the worst moments, putting them in boxes to be stored in the attic. When someone dies today I am left to face it without the protective cocoon of shock. The scars are ripped open and begin to bleed. Instead of the wise old sage comforted by experience, I find myself with a childlike wish that no one would ever have to die again. My only comfort is the knowledge that most of my loved ones dying now are not being ripped out of the prime of their lives.
My brother SpiritMan...I actually thought of you as I was writing this. I remember those days, too. First Nam took some of my friends and then AIDs decimated our ranks. you say, that was unnatural death, death by weapons and a then unknown menace that kept taking away wonderful people so fast we didn't even get a chance to think it through.'re right. The wounds reopen every time one of my old friends passes or lets me know they're about to go. All that "experience" does nothing to dull the pain. And I'm still totally clueless--don't know what to say, do, think...

It never gets easier. But...maybe that's good. It means we're still very much alive, I guess. And available to those we love who are facing that final "curtain."
Thank you eyespye and my ever inspiring Chicago Guy, too!

And jmac, there is a YouTube video of the Adagio as it was played by the London Symphony Orchestra right after 9/11, with close ups of the conductor--I watched that special broadcast the night it was on, and the emotion in his GOD, he was so in the moment he didn't care about looking cool for the camera.

It's here:

And thank you for coming to see me, here, too. This is where I come for comfort. Your post is a great example of why I do that.
Yes, we are at that age, that stage in life when the truth slaps us upside the head every chance it gets. I'm sorry for your sadness, dear Keka, but it certainly inspires some beautiful writing.

Very thoughtful reflections on life. R.
Such a beautiful, honorable post. I loved seeing Robert Redford with your Hopi family and the heat waves rising from the ground; I could see roots going deep into your heart, and the sheer power of your tenderness. To love so steadfastly and articulately is a power-gift. Your observations, so true, so whole this piece is altogether - thank you. It reminds me of the couple of years in the 1990's when most of my parent's generation died in leaving me and my disparate siblings to be the grown-ups. I love the mercy of seasons, and their repetitions. You are a gift, and your writing is too. humblest thanks. I'm dumbfounded by the beauty of that response. If I evoked those emotions, praise be. But your interpretation of my words...

I hear you Keka. Have a very dear student in hospice and many dear taking care of loved ones in hospice. A daily reminder of living mindfully and lovingly every day.