Saturday, July 8, 2017

Of loss, of friends (Mistress Talanna The Violet)

I'm sure my handful of loyal readers (all two of you [laugh]) are probably wondering why I haven't published anything about This year's Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium and the following Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium.

Logistically, the reason is rather simple, preparation for the latter started as I was driving home from the former, meaning time to write was non-existent. And after making it to KWHSS in Tennesse, my family continued on to visit my parents and relatives in Virginia for a week. A much needed, if somewhat tiring vacation in itself. Writing never happened.

For something of a summary, our Kingdom symposium was an amazing event, and my hat is off to his (now) excellently Erick, Sar Principle Herald, for helping to orchestrated a series of Heraldic Thistles that not only helped recognised the art in heraldry, but helped set president for future crowns to do the same, a trend I hope to see more of.

Also, My Customer Service class at Known World was a runaway success, with attendance topping twenty-five, and me running out of handouts in seconds. I was able to have lunch with Alexander Ravenscroft, the man I credit with helping to get me part of where I am today, and I was able to join HE Adela from Atlantia for Dinner, a wonderful experience.

Though I'm not going to pull any punches, some of KW was spoiled for me by the conduct of a few people. I know its not fair for me to say I didn't like an event because of a total of two warm bodies, but the fact of the matter is that getting yelled at, or barked at is... unpleasant, to be polite about it.

Between those factors and the time crunch of the vacation, well, as I said time to sit down and write just didn't happen.

But that's not why I'm here now. I'm here because I do have something I need to tell you about.

It doesn't start two weeks ago when I was at my parent's home. In fact, in a way, it ended there. But as a narrative goes we should start there.

I was getting dressed, as I recall, following a morning shower before another full day of museums and meals with friends from high school. My wife looked over at me from the other side of the guest bed, her phone in her hand, a suddenly worried look in her eyes.

"Talanna had a stroke yesterday."

The sad fact of the matter is that I am very good at compartmentalising such information. I think it's part of my emergency services training and experience, but I also know it comes in part from surviving being bullied at school. You just learn not to get mad or wrapped up in the things you truly can't do anything about. From what we learned later that hour, Talanna was alive and had paralysis on one side of her body. Even knowing what the prospects were for a stroke survivor, I was too far away, and too buried in a super busy trip to do much more than say "God, I hope she recovers."

I remember my first time ever seeing Talanna. The Laurel arrived at a Mooneschadowe populace meeting just a few weeks, as I recall after I started playing so that she could formally take Rhiannaon Redwulf as her apprentice. The relationship would ultimately see Rhiannon make it to her own peerage, but at the time, I was too green, you mouthy, too young and far, far too stupid to really understand or appreciate any of that. I just remembered her as the woman in purple, for all that was worth to me at the time.

Years, ages later, I was three days back from my trip "home" to see my parents. I was tired, I was not fully rested, and I was grouchy because how tired I was. The day at work was not going well for me, and some of my customers were being... pushy.

My Phone buzzed just then. We're not supposed to have them out on our desks, but some of us push the rules. I glanced over and saw a facebook notification. I didn't even think twice, I just tapped it to see who had said what.

The wife of my former liege lord had posted one of her characteristic comments on life just then.

"Dear death, please stop taking my friends. It's not okay."

Confused, I IMed her asking after the cryptic comment. For some reason, some worthless, stupid, self-involved reason just then, I had totally forgotten about Talanna. When Aline replied back with the news of her terminal prognosis, of a  mind too traumatized by successive strokes, I suddenly felt an icy cold ten-ton weight land on my shoulders.


A few years ago, for reasons you can read about on your own if you want, I jumped headlong and shockingly into the world of book heraldry. I had people coming up to me left and right for help with this and that. Even though I didn't know anything, I knew who to ask, and people I knew wanted to talk to me.

I remember somewhere in there I had made some time to talk with Talanna about some garb ideas I was interested in. We had sat down at Will Rodgers Scout camp and gone over details and books and much of what you would expect from a clothing Laurel being asking for help. I don't remember how it came up, but somewhere in there, the point came up that she had actually never registered her name or a device.

"By the way, Mistress," I said, "If you ever want to register it, I'm happy to do the legwork for you." I shrugged just then. "Just tell me what you want, I can probably make it happen for you. I'll ever fill out the forms."

To my surprise, she gave me a bit of a startled look and said, "You know, I've never, in all my years of playing, had a herald offer to do that for me?"

I shrugged again. I wasn't trying to impress anyone, or show off or anything. I was a Herald, that was what heralds do, wasn't it. And she was a friend, friends are who we're supposed to help, right? It was just the right thing to say.

She thanked me for the offer, and that was that. I honestly never gave it a passing thought after that until a few months ago when she caught me, ironically enough at the same camp side, but a few years later, and said: "Ivo, does that offer of helping me with a heraldry submission still stand?"

"Of course," I said, instantly recalling my offer.

And so, that was how I got Talanna The Violet as a client for a name and Device submission. Just like all of my other clients, I called up my friends and confidants in the College to document and check a name, a badge, and a device. When it came time to submit, I just pulled out my own check book and wrote the check. She had told me to tell her the costs and she would refund me, and that was my plan, but at the moment, it was easier to just write the check myself and settle up with her later.

The decision meeting on that submission actually happened at this past Ansteorrian heraldic and scribal symposium. Sitting in on it, this was where we decided that the name's documentation didn't hold up. I wasn't thrilled, but hey, you can't win them all, right? So, we would have to rework the name when I got back from my trip, another day, another job to do. I was actually okay with that as a next step. I pulled out my phone before leaving and set an appointment on my calendar to IM Talanna when I got back so we could talk about how to fix her name submission.

Sitting there at work, looking at my phone, between customer calls, probably one of the most poetic bits of irony landed in my lap like a two by four to the face.

My email chimed with my weekly reminder of my personal schedule for the next 7 days.

Item 2: "Remember to IM Talanna and talk about name submission this Saturday/All day reminder."

And then, ten seconds later, my phone beeped and I had to say "Thank you for calling [redacted] Pro Support, My name is Cisco, How are you doing today?"

They say that loss has five stages. It doesn't with me. I cut my teeth on too many situations too young to even think about denying when bad things happen. I don't say "no, it can't be, I don't say, "Its not possible". I just accept that bad things happen and that they can come in like a rabid lion too mad to understand its own damage.

In the midsts of all of this, I remember the last time I had actually spoken to her in person. She had come to a Mooneschadowe meeting to teach how to clean and fix sewing machines. It was just a few weeks ago now. Afterwards, she had asked me how much she owed me for the submission.

"Well, the total was for three submission items, $8 each. So lets call it $24 total... in the form of some service or item of Garb to be given to a new member or some other appropriate person."

She had smiled, nodded, and agreed. Nothing more was said, but I am supremely confident that she both understood my point, and was in agreement that the price was fair.

It felt odd remembering that conversation that day. It was so vivid, so real, so current in my mind.

But while I didn't sit there at my desk and try to deny what I had just heard, I did get angry.

Not just angry, furious. Mad at the world, the sun, the sky, the earth, the concept of existence. I was mad that this had to happen, and I was mad that the world would now be a lesser place without the likes of Talanna.

During a break, I took to Facebook, and composed my rage:

When the angel or messenger of death comes to me, whatever its name, Azriel, Anubis, Hades, aValkyriee, whatever... when they come, no matter how much pain I'm in, how old I may be, how ready I am to leave this life, I'm going to look it in the eye, say "welcome", and then I'm going to break its nose and yell "That one was for Terrick, My Aunt Candy, My Dog Pippin, and my friend Talanna the Violet. I hope your fucking snout heals crooked!" Then I'm going to walk past him and add "I'll walk from here."

It felt good to write it, it felt good to get the idea out. For just bout the first time in my life I was mad enough to contemplate honest heresy, if the Angel of the Lord had walked up to me just then, I would have more than seriously contemplated a prizefighter's right hook with lethal intent behind it.

That was time-stamped at 1:11 pm CST on my facebook page.

Twenty-one minutes later, my IM chimed.

Elena Wyth (of all people) friend and a member of the College if heralds, was IMing me.

I'd met Elena relatively recently, and my fondest memory of her is actually an argument. We had crossed sword, as it were wit strongly differnt opinions about a class idea I had, and she had gone toe-to-toe with me (quite literally) to criticise my proposition. She had walked up to me later and apologised.

I literally laughed. "For what?" I asked with an honest smile.

"I was a little more... passionate than I should have been."

"Nonsense! its good to see someone stand their ground and make a good, solid argument! You're okay in my book. No hard feelings at all!" I had meant every word of it too. Sure she was strong willed, but her arguments were sound and solid. and she never resorted to name calling or any such nonsense. For me, it was perhaps the best possible impression I could have asked for from someone.

And that memory is what was hovering in the back of my mind as I pulled up her message.

"In the scope of all things - this is very minor message, but, you were consulting herald, so! I'm going to push through Talanna's stuff."

I don't even know if Elena had ever met Talanna, or knew more than to say the name before that date. But here she was, ready to help do a unorthodox fast track on a submission so that maybe we could register Talanna's arms (and still possibly name) so that they would be on the books and protected. It turns out that the idea was her lord's to claim, but she had agreed and had evidently been closer to a computer to make it happen. But within the hour, none other than Star Principle Herald himself had called and left a message verifying that he was putting his name to the plan as well.

Later on, Elana confirmed that the special letter of intent for society level submissions had been sent.

Somewhere that night, the anger finally broke like a fever, and the weight of the whole situation landed on me like a load of laundry soaked in cold water and dropped from twenty stories up. Enough to make you miserable, but not enough to know me down. I felt sad for the loss, and sad those who had lost more. I felt guilty for feeling the way I did when other had lost so much more, and I felt worst still for not feeling worse, for being so f*ing resilient and strong that I was going to work and I was talking to customers through it all.. acting almost as if none of it bothered me.

Again, I took to Facebook

Guys, I need something to remind me there is still good in the world.
I don't need comedy or a laugh.
I need to know there are still cases where 'the good fight' is out there, and still worth fighting.
I need to remember that there are still causes worth fighting for.
I guess I need to be reminded that there still is a light at the end of this really ugly tunnel right now.

I didn't know what I expected. In fact, I'm fairly sure I wasn't expecting anything, but I just needed something, anything to remind me, on an emotional level, that there would be an end to this.

To my surprise, one of the replies was from Master Darmaid, Talanna's Husband.
"Yes, there is still good. I've learned that from the most wonderful partner a person could have. And she'd tell you so if she could."
That a man still immediately involved in the process of his wife's death could stop and write such a thing for the benefit of someone who at best is a casual acquaintance is, to my mind, a testament not only to his strength of character but also to the legacy of Talanna herself.

Its said that the 4th stage of loss is where you try and negotiate. With whom... I have no idea, but its evidently human nature to try and mitigate or otherwise control the impact of the loss.

I don't.

I don't say "I'll do anything", or "maybe we can change this" or whatever. One of the lessons I learned early, compliments of the fire service, is that death isn't a businessman. You don't negotiate, you just pay the bill hen it's due and picks up the pieces when it's over.

Trust me, as life outlooks go, this one is not something to brag about.

But, with that step gone before it ever arrived, it left me with the cold, mirthless embrace of acceptance.

I accept that I am going to walk away from this less complete than I was. I accept that the world is a lesser place without Talanna, and her contributions to us were still vibrant, and honest, and real and current and valuable.

I accept that the "other side" of this will not look like what life did before this happened. I, at least, and probably others, will forever carry the reminder of what might have been, and what will never be now.

But I also accept that to embrace these facts is to keep with the spirit of the person in question. Because to accept them is to learn to add them to life's load and move forward so that we do for others by the example of what Talanna did for us.

When another friend of mine lost his son to a fire, I wrote a poem to help me make some semblance of sense to all of this. Here, I write it again, with one line changed in honour of Talanna.

I do not pray for those lost, for they are in God's hands.
Is is for us, the living, that I now pray. For it is we who shoulder the weight of loss, the darkness of despair, and the loneliness of an empty place in our lives. 
Talanna is at peace, at rest with friends long gone.
But let us now turn our thoughts to those still with us, those next to us, friend and stranger, far and near. For I believe in my heart of hearts that there is still work to the done on this earth, and still friendships to be forged, rivalries to be set aside, lives to be built, and built up, and built upon.
There is work to be done, and it is good work, and it is important work.
~And ironically, much of it is exactly the type of monotonous work that I would expect Talanna to be doing with her sleves rolled up and her hands busy with a project or three.
For those hurting, I ask peace. 
For those morning, I ask hope.
For those haunted, I ask blessings.  
For those angry, I ask joy.
And for those lost, I ask guidance.
In Christ's name I pray,

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"