On Life and Death: Mildred Ornellas

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Note: Ten years ago my little family and I were caught in a whirlwind (pun) of ‘life and death’. In the course of just a few short days, I learned that my wife was pregnant with our third child, visited my grandmother for the last time, flew to Houston just hours later for a wedding that occurred during Hurricane Ike and came home just in time for her funeral, then celebrated my fourth wedding anniversary two days later.

Below is a slightly edited and updated version of the eulogy I gave back then. I was 28 years-old at the time. I’ve tried to leave it in its original state as much as possible, focusing instead on making it readable, as opposed to notes for a presentation in front of an audience. Whether you knew grandma or not, it’s worth a read as so many eulogies and obituaries are, yet this one comes with extra… umph. – J.

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September 16, 2008

I don’t really know what I am supposed to say here; my experience with funerals is fortunately limited.

But, I was asked to give and I wanted to give some of my thoughts and memories concerning my my maternal grandmother. I had to prepare this on a whim last night at 3am (with mild jet-lag) so bear with me… I’m working on two hours of sleep, and the last many days, as you will see, have been… intense.

I have few childhood or teenage memories that don’t include my grandma. Indeed, I was very close to her. I feel lucky to have been able to really have two mothers in my life; blessed to be counted among her extended children.

These childhood memories do not go back far enough to remember any other home of hers than the trailer she lived in down by LaCamas Lake in Camas, WA—a very humble home; one that would act as my second for over 20 years. It was a home that I entered into too young to understand the social stigmas that come with the ownership of a ‘house’ that has wheels underneath it. It was in this home, with this woman, that so many of my memories were created. It was there and with her that much of who I am was formed.

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On Autumn

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Officers Row, Vancouver, WA | by Justin Augustine Lee | 9.2018

Like clockwork, but one that accepts fine-tuning every so often, autumn arrives to Portland, Oregon.

It’s a season that is marked less by the turned-page of a wall-calendar or the orientation of the earth to the sun as told by the stars, than by the final bursts of color the leaves give, asking that you acknowledge them one last time before bowing out after their closing act; or the crispness of the night, which works feverishly to regain control in its bout against the heat and the light of the summer—a season that will murmur just a few faint sounds until it becomes the past. All the land and its various parts which make up this orchestra—all the movements that mark this score—is busy in its preparations for rest, for darkness and for the cold and rain which will come. Continue reading

A Glance From My Father

cropped-20180904_201502.jpgIt seems that the majority of parents, mothers and fathers alike, succumb to the notion that our children will primarily or exclusively remember the major events in life: the big vacations to Disney Land, some grandiose birthday party or that ‘really amazing gift’ from Santa Claus that one Christmas. And because of this, we tend to focus on these kinds of things and events, putting in so much effort and time and money on the event that we can forget the little people that it was supposed to be for. And we forget how and what they remember. Continue reading