James Franklin Pyles
December 13, 1982 to June 24, 2004
It is the Day of the Dead.
All Souls gather here.
The lost ones are drawn to the water.
Those freed to the air.
The ones who can’t let go cling to the earth.
The ones who rebel set fire to their soul.
It is the Day of the Dead.
We hold requiem here.
We gather the dirt in our hands.
Today, we remember to say our prayers.
James, I am going to assume that for the benefit of my sanity God put the anniversary of your death, Maura’s birthday and the timing of the summer solstice so close together so that I would know everything is connected, everything is holy and everything is intentional.
I don’t believe in accidents and acts of randomness. But what does that say about the fact that you died in a car accident. It says that the universe knew this. Maybe you didn’t know. Or the other person. And the rest of us sure as hell didn’t know. But god knew. He let it be.
I have become overwhelmed, in a good way, at the rate in which memories of you have come back to me. For example, the magnolia kiss story. I haven’t thought about that for years. And then one day it just came to my mind. Perhaps because you came to me. Maybe recently you’ve been finding me and helping me remember all the beautiful moments we shared.
I remember that day James. Like it just happened one minute ago. It’s funny how time works. How six years have passed but it only appears to be a minute.
If I close my eyes. I’m there.
Sitting in that cabin with Friede’s family.
Hearing her frantic run down the pathway.
Hearing her cry of pain. It was the same cry I heard from Lola that night.
There must be a word for it.
I could literally hear the sound of a soul breaking.
It’s weird. How even before she said it, I knew. I knew it was you. That something had happened.
Why is that?
I need to write of something else.
For years, I believed that the proper way to deal with your death was in reliving the pain. I thought healing meant I’d get comfortable and in the comfort, the memories would fade and I would forget. Therefore each time the wound of your death began to heal, I tore it open. I made it infectious. I poured acid and salt over it. I refused to heal. I thought I had to live in pain. I thought I needed to stay in the darkness.
Living in darkness in no way honors you or myself.
Why did I believe that before?
I have let the wound heal now. What has become of it is a huge scar across my soul and my heart and my mind. A beautiful scar that bares the beauty of you and the pain of what happened. I will not try to mask this scar. I will not let it go away. The scar reminds me that I am alive. That when a horrific incident occured, I was able to find a way to keep living.
Some stories stop at death. Even the ones who stayed alive. They became the walking dead. They became zombies.
But I let the wound heal. I wear my scar. And I know I am alive.
Some days, I do well for myself. I live presently. I live authentically. I live whole heartedly. I must do myself justice by being that way.
And then other days, I suffocate and choke on memories. I lose my mind a bit by forgetting myself.
I want to know magic. I want to transfer between worlds. I want to find you even if its another version of you and I want to be there.
But I am torn.
Because I have another man that I love. I’ve been with him for awhile now James. I spoke with him last night. I’ve been so melancholy and out of touch with myself. He was concerned. He was hurt. He wanted to know. He knows when my mind changes and when my heart hurts even before I realize it. And I love that James. I love that he knows me and he loves me. He is my safety and my sanctuary and my refuge. He is my warrior and the god of my heart.
And I think its okay for me to fully love him.
But if I fully love him that means I can never find you in another world. I have to be here.
This does not involve letting you go. That will never happen.
What it means is that I can not let memories of you break my heart. I have to let the memories and the pain expand my heart. I can’t stay in pieces. That will make me a zombie and I want to be whole.
I am so very grateful for every moment we had and the moments we continue to have. Please keep revealing yourself to me. Find me and show me you are here. I tried bargaining with God and I tried making deals with the devil and neither is willing to do anything. So I need you to do it. I need you to move your essence into my life over and over again.
Come to me in my sleep. Come to me in my awokeness. Come to me and be with me. Kiss me with your spirit. My soul needs that.
I almost can’t believe it has been six years. So much has happened in those six years. And yet, like I said, it seems only a minute ago that Friede came running into the cabin. It is my hope that all of your friends are thinking of you today. That at some point they stop to acknowledge what happened. I hope they find ways to consecrate the day and make it holy. I hope they pay homage to those who have gone before us. That they lit a candle for you. That they write a poem for you. That they smile or cry for you. I never want your name to be forgotten. I need it to be said a million times.
JAMES FRANKLIN PYLES
Let it be etched in the fold of the sky. Let it be etched in our hearts forever.
I believe the way to honor you is to continue living my life as fully as possible. To surround myself with all that is good and holy. To stay intentional and purposeful. To be passionate, full of conviction and to never let any moment be dull.
Sometimes I forget this and I let my lower chakras lead the way.
To honor you, I must always be my higher self.
Although, knowing you and knowing us…giving in to the lower self on the rare occasion is a must.
But, in wanting to be my higher self, it is a reminder to purge my life again. To take an introspective look at myself, my thoughts, my actions, my words and my life and to purge anything that doesn’t belong. Whether that be material things, thoughts or even people. There is no time to waste.
If I want to honor you in every moment, I can only live in the beauty. This has been on my mind for a few months. It involves a slight shift in many of the things in my life. It’s going to be intense. But its a move I’m willing to make.
I have experienced the full rage of emotions as it relates to your James. I think I even invented a few extras that don’t have names. And I’ve arrived at a place of peace. This peace isn’t always calm. Its sort of like constantly walking through storms. Some days the wind throws me one hundred yards. Some days I’m right in the eye of it, looking straight up and saying, “Now what?” I like this kind of peace.
I never imagined that I’d be here. I thought in all that grief that I’d give up and lose everything. There were times when I couldn’t even see the next day. Some days when I couldn’t see the next minute. I think for awhile I literally lost my mind. But instead of trying to find that broken mind. I formed a new one.
It’s crazy what grief and loss does to you. I could try to put it into words but there is no human language for this. In times like these, I’m reminded that there must be more to us and more beyond us than I could ever understand. And because I know there is more, I know that just like Tinu and just like Maura and just like Veola and everyone else who have gone on to another way of being that you, James…. you are always. You are not gone. You are always.
James Franklin Pyles
You are always.
So even though we write 1982 to 2004, I know that is just one part of your journey. You were before that and you are after that. On June 24th, you were born into another way. Your purpose outgrew your human body and your morphed into another version of yourself. You were born again that day.
You are always.
Other writings about James written over the last six years. Click the burgundy titles for the full post which open in another tab.
James, I have found that I am overwhelmed with your absence. The grief is suffocating me. I am finding that its hard to breathe. I thought I was pass this James. That I had made my peace with the new form of you. I am overwhelmed that there is no tangible evidence of our written words. My memories fade and I’m panicking.
Have you ever had a magnolia kiss?” he asked.
“What is a magnolia kiss?” I asked him.
James pulled petals off the flower and put them in his mouth.
“James!” I said.
He started chewing them and then swallowed. Then he ate some more. So I ate a petal. And he ate another.
He loved a beauty in me even I can’t see. His language was divine. His heart was heaven. His soul was all that was good with the world. There was an innocence and a purity between us. A place so sacred others dare not behold with their eyes. He said where I go, he would go. He said he’d follow me anywhere. Is he here right now? Does he see the mess I made? I need some thing to touch my soul. I yearn for sacredness, purity, and holiness. I want something that is mine that no one can speak on or touch.
“I’m not letting you go Sheena. You can’t run from this. You are depressed. You hate yourself. I have to practically force you to eat. No, you are not going. You are going to sit here and be angry at God with me.” he said sitting me back down.
“I can’t do this James!” I said. I was scared that if I even began to acknowledge the rage that was boiling I would not be able to control myself.
“I am here with you. We can be pissed off together. We can say fuck you God together!” he said.
I laughed nervously. “We aren’t supposed to do things like that.”
And something… Something small and barely noticeable brought you to mind.
And I thought about you and about us and our friendship and our relationship and my life and your death…
I thought about your soft hands, your green eyes, your black curls, blue sweater and sweet lips.
I thought about the desert metaphor and the park and the glitter and the movie on the sixth floor. I thought about the elevator and the chapel and your anger at god for me.
I tell myself if god resides in us and that can never go away then it follows to reason that if you die, the god inside of you doesn’t die. The spirit inside you that is in constant motion in the ether doesn’t just go away. Perhaps your body fades. And I can’t kiss your smile. And I can’t hold your soft violinist hands. Or hear you whisper in my ear. But your spirit, that thing that took hold of my heart to begin with…that is here. Its somewhere. I don’t know where. I wish I knew the exact place, then I’d buy a ticket and go there and stay in that spot forever.
In one world, we never spoke again.
In one world, we married and made love each night.
In one world, you did not die but I died years later.
In one world, we never met.
In one world, we were the best of friends and soul mates for ever.
In one world, I cried at your funeral.
In one world, the grief overcame my soul and I overcame my life.
I want to tap into the alchemy, magic, and metaphysics that would allow me to transfer between worlds. How could a child do it in a book and not I? I am jealous. As I was at Moses for actually seeing God.
This will never make me a saint, but I’d make a deal with the devil to bring James back. But I don’t believe in him. I believe in magic. But what good does that do me?
I sometimes feel hallow. And sometimes worse than the hallowness, I feel EVERYTHING. Every ounce of pain inside me grabs a hold of me and tears through me with a fierceness. And I don’t know which is worse.
I’m in a Borders writing this. I can’t have a break down now.
I read one of the last emails you sent me. On June 2, 2002 you wrote…. Remember when you were crying on my shoulder in Fischer basement? You told me later that you tried to get away but that I wouldn’t let you go and that you appreciate that. Well now I have to ask you the same favor: please don’t let me go Sheena. Please hold on to me.
I have no words James. I have no words for the loss I feel inside.
Can’t the magic that I believe in reincarnate you. Even if you come back different like in the fairy tale. Even if you come back and love someone else…can’t that magic make you come back.
I keep seeing you everywhere.
Yesterday you rode a bike along lake shore drive.
Today you ran down Belmont to catch the 135 express bus.
There are pieces of you every where.
Did you disperse your spirit throughout Chicago, because you knew I would need that?
I have not forgotten.
I will sanctify the day and make it holy.
Consecrate an altar,
And let every surface
be holy ground.
Our show previews on james’ birthday. He is the first thing I see when I wake up and yet I can’t recall my last thought of him.
They will act. He is dead.
I am doing this to myself. I’m supposed to think higher thoughts, have loftier ideas, be beyond mere human emotions. Master emotions. Master the moment.
I am no master.
I am a negative that masks the truth.
“I’m scared,” he starts to say, “Because I know that there is more than a friendship here. But if we explore that and it ends badly and I lose our friendship…I could not bare that. I can not lose you as a friend.”
“I never figured you for a coward,” I say.
I believe that was the moment the friendship blossomed into a relationship.
It was one of the best things I have ever known in my life.
Every moment with him brought me closer to life, God, and myself.
I forgot until today that our first date was on Valentine’s Day and it involved a violin and music by Bach.
The Infamous Card from James
And his stupid note
The anniversary of your death was not painful. My day was pleasant. That is a painful thing to write.
Your birthday is coming up again. It will be a Wednesday. I will not be working. The day will be yours.
You will never return to me. One day I will have to say that allowed. Right now, it would only make me slip into oblivion.
I will reject that. I reject any moment that takes me from you.
I am very sad James. I can’t remember the sound of your voice. I can’t remember the feel of your hair.
I would have been a disappointing wife.
The process of this has become a spiritual ritual minus religion. Its just a sacred moment. Placing this art work in my home. It is my relic. It is a momento from you.
Time has made your death bareable. That scares me. That truly scares the fuck out of me. I don’t feel the pain as much. I don’t cry as easily. That scares me. It makes it all seem cheap. I want to rip open the the scar and let the blood flow and the pain ease me into oblivion.
But I suppose that’s not healthy.
So I will play Sara Knox and I will walk slowly while holding my blue talavera sun god that you bought in mexico and i will remember you and how my heart aches.
I saw you today. At forty. What you would have looked like?
It was replica. A doppleganger. It was almost you.
The face. The hair. The facial structure. The lips. The walk.
That’s the man I would have loved with everything, I thought as he passed me by.
I want to be angry at God, but thats poorly directed.
the other day when June 24th passed and I talked to my mother out of left field she said, “Its ok to move on…” and then she went into a monologue about life and death and lose and even her mother. And she doesn’t talk of her mother very often. Maybe because its painful and its been so many years and who knows why. But I don’t know. It was important that my mother said those things to me
I don’t want your death to debilitate me. I don’t want it consume me so that I’m not able to function as a human being. I don’t want to always cry.
But I don’t want to be comfortable. And I don’t want to forget. And I don’t want to move on. I want this to be present with me..not just a distant memory.
Two years later, I still find myself haunted by the significance of the touch you had on my life. I can’t get over you. Time hasn’t healed this wound. It remains an open scar. Maybe because I pick at the scabs while pouring salt on it myself. “don’t heal. don’t” I have this notion that in healing, I’ll get comfortable and over time the scars will fade and my memories will take longer to bring to mind. So if not healing, if baring this sore wound will keep you in my thoughts and keep me from being comfortable and just moving on, I will tear at it.
In one month and two days it will be two years.
It will have been over two years since I saw him last.
It was through a window as he passed by.
There was a party going on.
I didn’t want to go.
I just stood at the door for a moment.
He passed by the window.
Our glances lingered for awhile.
No words were needed.
Today James, I miss the details of our relationship. The way you always wanted to know what I was thinking…the way you wanted me to email you multiple times a day relaying the days events, the conversations I had, the people I encountered or the weird metaphors I had come up with. I miss that. Some one who loved all the little things that never mattered anyway. I remember one day you panicked because I forgot to mention Hanna’s daily triumphs of the day. “What did Hanna do today. You didn’t mention her. What song did you catch her humming or what movie did she want to watch again? Did you take her to the park or today did you guys play dress up with glitter?” I miss that. All the little details. Next month will be two years and it feels like not a day has passed.
Sometimes its weird to think that this June will be two years since that frightful day in Israel and Wheaton and that Lutheran Camp with the Friede’s. Has it been two years. It still feels like it just happened. It doesn’t feel like the past. I live with your death presently.
There was this paper years ago asking if grief was a disorder.
I want to be healthy but I’ve said it many times before. I scared that healing and being better lessens the memory of you. It will make me think about you less and less. So I relive your death so that some one remembers, so that you don’t fade in the distance.
I can’t remember the sound of your voice anymore.
I remember it was quirky..but I can’t hear it in my head anymore.
But I remember your hands. How soft they were. So soft but not feminine.
You did a number on me. You altered something in my heart. And…even though this is a clinical case written in every book…I don’t want anyone else to be where you were.
I can’t put it into words James. I wish I could plaster my heart all over this electronic paper, so that someone could possibly understand. But the words aren’t there. No one was there. No one was there that night in the chapel. No one but you could ever understand what happened between us. We connected.
You yelled at God for me. No one had ever done that before
My wallet was stolen a few days ago.
I willed myself not to have a breakdown in the middle of the store.
Not because of the money or the gift cards.
But because of a very old expired library card.
I got it my freshman year at Wheaton College. James and I had gone on one of our infamous long walks where we get lost on the streets with the houses that look the same. And we just keep walking because we can’t stop talking and eventually an adventure would find us. This day our walk led to the library.
I don’t want you to be dead. I want you to be here with me again. I want to hear you laugh and ask stupid questions football, and gospel churches because you weren’t exposed to that in Canada. I want to smell you again. Your scent was Polo Sport. And I used to beg you not to wear it because I loved it so much that when you wore it I just wanted to sit and cuddle with you all day
James did that. He did it all the time. He saw through it all. He called me out on everything. And he saw me for the depressive cynical crazy person I can be and he loved me and he held me. I can’t even explain it. In my life…so far…he seems to be the only person who ever knew me fully. And I feel so lost and incomplete and unseen without him in my life.
That’s what I want to tell everybody that I come into contact with. Just LIVE your life. Tomorrow really isn’t promised. James was taken from so many people who loved him so quickly. One moment he was my best-friend and the next I was being asked to speak at his memorial service. People, just live your life. Be present in this very moment. If you don’t like your life or situation, change. Do something different. Read a book. Learn a new thing. Talk to a stranger. Because everyday passes and we get older and life is so fragile. Tell people that you love them.
Its been a year. A very long hard year. I think about you so much. I’m glad that at least right now you haven’t started to fade into the distance. I can still hear the distinct sound of your voice. I can still imagine the awkward way you danced. I can still smell the cologne that drove me wild. I still remember what you look like in your blue sweater. I remember the softness of your hands. Your eyes were so beautiful. I even remember your tears. Its always been humbling to be in the presence of a man when he cries.
Where is heaven in relation to earth?
Just so I know where you are.
I just wanted to say that I haven’t forgotten about you. I will keep my promise. I will never forget you. I will never let your death be in vain.
I miss you James. I think about you a lot. You probably wouldn’t think that. Not after the way I left things. But I do and it often surprises me when I do. Its so complicated. I hate that I had to learn the lesson after it all. I’m always going to regret things, the way I handled it all. And I’m so sorry. I’ve never meant an apology as much as I do now because I miss you so much. And I want you here.