More about Rosalie

Dearest friends,

I've been wanting to write but not sure what to write, then I realized all I've been doing the past two days is playing her lovely voice in her head. So I thought I would share some stories. In no particular order.

She never loved Richard Scarry until we brought a little story book with 3 stories in it, all staring Huckle and Lowly Worm. "Read Huckle!" she'd ask, and we'd read the story of the cat who gets in a bike accident while returning from purchasing a cuckoo clock for his mom. The bike bell is broken as a result and so is the clock. Rosalie loved to say "cuckoo! cuckoo!" and also "dring dring!" for the bike bell.

Biking. We biked constantly in the last couple months here in Gainesville. Every morning and evening to preschool at the very least, and while my bike bell was working, I'd ring it and she'd say "Dring dring!" from behind. We'd bike past the duckpond and she'd says Duck Pond! and then list Big Tuddle, Little Tuddle... and I'd usually think she wanted to stop and I'd fib a bit and say we'll stop later or tomorrow. Usually we only stopped at the duck pond every few days. We'd feed the geese and the ducks and turtles. Rosalie loved this, would get cranky if we had to stop.

Biking was heavenly. We'd bike past the supermarket chain, Publix, and she'd announce, "Rodzy Mop!  [Rosalie Milk!] Mommy Mop! Daddy Wine!" Just about every time. She loved shopping. And shopping at the locally owned supermarket, Wards was so wonderful I can't even write about it here.

We moved here partially for us, partially for her. Our friend Faruk-who as far as I know, is the only person not to know that she's gone- owns Madina Pakistani food in Brooklyn on Coney Island Avenue. The three of us loved Faruk, and dropped by often, sometimes just to talk. His restaurant was near her daycare, and a lot of times we walked in just to wave hello and be friendly. Faruk loved Rosalie and asked to hold her early in her life- no other shop keeper of any kind was so forward, and we were surprised, but glad to let him. Faruk is a good spirit. When we told him we were leaving NYC for Florida, he instantly understood and he in fact let out his secret that he hated it in New York. Too stressful, etc. And he was so glad Rosalie was going to have a more peaceful life. He was really happy for her. He gave her a samosa.

She drew in most of her books. She loved Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. We had a reverse-cover book with both on them. We'd get a few pages into Peter Pan and she'd say "Read Adice" and we'd flip to Alice, then back to "Peetu Pan." These were lovely old books. I was so glad to share them with her, even though I think Alice is a bit too long. We also read Heidi. She loved characters. Heidi, Alice, Louis by Metaphrog.

I decided to find some Looney Tunes at the library and the only one they had in stock was a set of extremely old Porky Pig cartoons. She loved these. "Eea watch Pinky Pig!" Watching her try to get syllables right was gorgeous. She got to "Eea watch Poky Poke" once, and then almost "Pinky Poke." Then she was gone.

She drew in most of her books. When we'd read the books, if she spotted her own scribbles, she'd stop it all and announce "Oh! Rodzy draw!"

Our house is full of boxes: Rodzy pillows, Rodzy toys, Rodzy blankets, Rodzy clothes. So much life she had.



Tom and Leela and Rosalie, 1 month later

My dearest friends,

I want to thank everyone for your love and generous generous words and support. We're in a new country, Leela and I. A new state of being that frankly isn't welcome but we understand we have no choice but to enter it and to stay. It's the country without Rosalie running around our house, wanting to blow bubbles and to do watercolor to visit the big turtle and to watch Ponyo, all while asking "Dop?" - ("what's that?") and also "where'd the big moon go?"

Which of course is our question too: Where'd the light in the sky go? Where'd the big moon go? Where did Rodzy go? Leela and I spent a week having some sort of weird mythic time in New Mexico, which we are both writing about in our own way, and will discuss later.

We've been haunting Gainesville for a week and are heading away for another week to spread our daughter's ashes into the ocean. I can't tell you how incredibly weird this all is. It has gone from shock and horror to grief and sorrow to grief and sorrow and weird. I wake in the morning not knowing how my life switched from one track to another so quickly and effortlessly. Didn't I have a daughter? Didn't I adore her? Wasn't that just 5 weeks ago? Where am I?

 For a short while after, Rosalie's picture was a thing we kept hidden, it was too powerful and destructive to our sad mortal selves- it hurt us to look at it. But we've taken it out and now we see it when we go to bed and when we wake and she's slowly becoming a spirit embedded in an image. A story, a saint or an icon. Something we are glad to have a connection to, something to remind us of our human story and of cosmic joy and laughter, but no longer a part of our flesh and blood family. It's harrowing, incredibly sad, and well... weird.

For lack of a better idea, I'm writing a lot about it, composing a comic book (a terrible term, still, if you ask me) about it, and will be happy if you read it someday. (This is NOT "Daddy Lightning" which I have to finish and will still ship from Retrofit in the spring.)

Leela will be picking her radio show up again this Monday December the 19th, two hours devoted to songs we were listening to in our deepest grieving. I'll be there in the studio. It will probably be a sad couple of hours but I bet you're strong enough. Find the link here, look for Ecstasy to Frenzy: http://growradio.org/ You can listen live or look for the podcast later. (Two weeks later we'll have guest DJ Brendan Burford there with us...)

A potential student gave me a set of hand-thrown cups today. I'm drinking coffee from one, warming my hands. Another student wrote "I don't pray so I drew 100 roses", and she sent them to us. Ignatz threw a brick at Krazy.

It's a new country, a world whose meaning we create.



Rosalie Lightning

Dear friends, as many people know, my wife Leela and I lost our most precious life force, our most generative, beautiful, gorgeous daughter, Rosalie, this past month.

Her passing was shocking, ripped a hole in our hearts, "My heart is a blast site" Leela said. A friend offered, "Rosalie opened a capacious space in your hearts" - capacious, capacity. I get it.

We had just moved from New York City to Gainesville, Florida, in search of a simpler, less stressful life. Rosalie loved, absolutely loved it here. I will tell more of this story some other day.

Leela and I will be spending time traveling, first to the Golden Willow Retreat in New Mexico, for people grieving and suffering from loss. Leela first heard about this on the radio show Snap Judgment, when the founder of the retreat told his story of losing his wife, then his mother and children all successively. That show was broadcast on my birthday earlier this year.

After a return to Gainesville, which we too, love and are committed to staying and working in, we're going to spend a week in Hawaii, where we've been offered a small free artist's cottage in Makawao, Maui, at the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center. This is a place we taught at when Leela was pregnant in 2009, and it is where we were happiest during those first 9 months. It also gave us the kick we believed to move to a more beautiful place and to start a school and center dedicated to making art.

In Maui, we'll scatter Rosalie's ashes there in the ocean. I always said she was a water spirit. I still believe it.

We've had an outpouring of generosity and love from you all. We have cards and emails and postings of all kinds still to open and read; the deluge of support and love from you all has been our greatest strength.

We certainly didn't wish it would take a tragedy to remind us that we are loved among our friends, and even strangers, but reminded we have been. We thank you so deeply for your words, contributions, prayers. All that was sent our way helped bolster us, strengthen us in this time when we were so deeply deeply in pain.

Leela and I have been together on a long path. Suddenly diverted, shocking, terrible, but the path out is still forward. In the darkest times, your support meant everything.

We are feeling a lot of bruised and conflicting emotions throughout all of this, but one thing has remained consistent: our gratitude towards the people who reached out to us. We honestly could not, and can not, make it through without you.

Love each other, and thanks.

If you ever met Rosalie Lightning, keep her in your hearts, and send us your fond stories or reflections. She was special. We miss her immensely.

Tom Hart