Still running against the wind

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” -Brené Brown

Tracy came to me in a dream to inform me of her passing. We met five years ago, lost touch for a little while, and then reconnected this past December over our mutual sobriety, struggles, and (of course) adoration of dogs. I reread my text history with her and saw multiple attempts at her checking on me just before she departed, caring about me, concerned for me, and ultimately reporting that she wasn’t doing as well with her mental health. I was in a truly dark place myself in recovery and didn’t know how to begin talking about it to her. The last time she texted me was to tell me she had relapsed.

tattoo[Sitting with Tracy during a session for her Wizard of Oz sleeve.]

Following my dream and the discovery of her obituary online, my friend, Bill, and I held a spontaneous memorial for her the next day. A Monday. My sacred day.  Without giving it any thought that morning, I put on my ceremonial outfit. Bill and I found ourselves sprawled out on the lawn of the Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum. The sky was infinitely gray. Clouds swirled about, tiny and sporadic raindrops falling on our faces but never growing to be anything more than an occasional trickle. Moisture was swelling all around us, and I pet the grass under me for comfort and poured my heart and tears out to Bill and the earth and Tracy. For the first time in my entire life, I could grieve. I could let it wash over me in my newfound courage. In that moment I loved my grief. I held it and sat with it. I thanked it for finally showing itself to me. I could feel her reassuring me that I would be okay, particularly as it pertains to Phoebe’s eventual passing. I thanked my angels and spirit guides for all they had done to get me to this point and relished how comfortable I was in that moment of pain and peace and celebration. The thick air promised a thunderstorm at any second, and I welcomed it to mingle with the cries coming out of my face. But it never came.

Before leaving, we took in the museum’s beauty and its mural from Centennial Olympic Park. We walked down the stairs on the side of the building, the same stairs I marched up for womens’ rights and cried on at the Pulse nightclub vigil. Again she immersed me in her energy. She was delighted in my remembrance of her in such an important place in the history of human rights. She shared with me the happiness her soul has found now. The sky only opened up once we had returned to my living room.

I searched for a letter Tracy wrote to place on my altar and instead found a card. This was the card that accompanied the flowers she anonymously sent to my job after the passing of my first dog, Gracie.


Tracy was as devoted to her friends as she was to the animals in her life, which is to say, she gave all of herself. She obsessively loved The Wizard of Oz and had an affinity for pitbulls. She rescued, fostered, and cared for dogs because she didn’t know how not to. She was a songwriter and an incredible singer though I didn’t get to hear her voice nearly enough. She spent way too much money ensuring we got to hear everything we wanted to on the jukebox of our bar, the place we met. Bob Seger was one of our favorites. She left me secret notes in sharpie on the stalls of the bathroom there, using code names so her girlfriend wouldn’t catch on. That bar has since burnt down, and my patronage ended long before its existence did. I haven’t so much as thought about it for years until now. I remember its queerness and grit and realness and smells and the literal holes in the walls and floor. Filtering through a painful addiction to savor how genuine and thoughtful Tracy was with me will forever make me smile.

Soundtrack: Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones

Author: Cayce Tiedemann

Multidisciplinary artist and writer in Atlanta

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