A Cosmic Joke after Trauma

When life becomes a cosmic joke, I’m ready for the punchline.

It’s more than traumatic when someone healthy dies moments after you speak with them. My mind has been flooded with what ifs and the disbelief that anyone could sit down and pass away from a clot. I’m still in shock after almost three weeks.

So what’s the joke?

My husband, Danny, and I returned home to regroup before the funeral. We stepped inside and a steady dripping sound greeted us. Part of the ceiling lay on the floor of the guest bedroom. Water collected in pools on the hickory floors around it.

Remember my demon washing machine story?

This is the guest bedroom on the first floor under the laundry room.

When it rains it pours - a cosmic joke

In a panic, I ran upstairs to the laundry room. Water poured from the cold faucet. Why now? I checked those faucets three times a day for five weeks and they had never shed a drop.

The drain under the washer remained dry. Water ran inside the wall and had collected in the ceiling, which caved in. Then it traveled through the floor to our unfinished basement below.

I ran down the steps. Water sprinkled our kid’s apartment furniture and inconsequential storage containers. My eyes fell on a large rectangular box. It had leaned against the wall since we moved in seventeen years ago. It contained some of my artwork.

“Are you effing kidding me?” I shouted and shook my head. I didn’t need this while planning for my brother’s funeral.

Then I rushed back upstairs, stood in the guest bedroom doorway and laughed.

“When it rains it pours,” I said.

I’m not sure where the pun came from, but in that moment, I was over it. I didn’t care anymore. Life has it’s way of reminding us that it goes on no matter what we’ve been through.

This ridiculous cosmic joke had a huge fringe benefit.

My husband, Danny, called 24/7 Restoration and they arrived in a flurry of able-bodied men. They emptied the guest bedroom as the plumber arrived. Soon a steady thrum of dryers replaced the steady drip.

I stepped back downstairs to check on my artwork. They had cleared the furniture and cleaned up the floor along the wall. Now, drying fans hummed in the empty space.

My artwork lay in its box on top of a table. Opening it, I flipped through portraits, fashion and sports illustrations drawn as advertisements for businesses or to build a portfolio. I had forgotten. It was like a message from beyond from my dad and brother.

Susie Lindau artwork

Long ago, I had given up too easily.

After graduating with a BS in Art from UW-Madison, I found a top advertising agency in Milwaukee and landed an interview through my artistic dad’s connections. I would walk right into my dream job, right?

I remember sitting in a plush office with a view of the city. The president of the company sat at his desk across from me. “Do you have experience in pasteup and layout?”

“No.” I sunk down in my seat.

“Why did you get a four-year degree from the University of Wisconsin when Madison Area Technical College would have taught you these skills in two?”

I didn’t have an answer.

“Our illustrators work their way up from graphic design. I would suggest going back to school.”

Instead, I returned to Madison and continued to work retail. I added a few hours a week as a botanical illustrator and searched for free-lance jobs. This included a day traveling to the Apparel Mart in Chicago where I drew purses then hitchhiked a ride back to Madison in a most peculiar way. I happened to be at work in Botany when I got a call from the VA Hospital, looking for a medical illustrator. Ironically, that’s where I learned pasteup and layout. The rest is history.

A couple of years ago, my screenwriting partner, Erik Wolter, suggested I write a graphic novel. Comic cons are my thing, but I didn’t think I could pull off that kind of illustration. Then I found this.

Girl power

Yeah, I know. I illustrated a few T-shirts for a party back in college. It was a tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and movies like The Warrior. Very punk attire was required. As we used to say in the ’80’s, “The party was too much fun!

Discovery and wonder are pulling me from the depths of grief. No watery pun intended. This was my first step in recovery. There will be more.

Thank you, cosmic joke from beyond.


Have you ever come home from a trip to discover something like this? Do you save your creative projects?

Click for my story about trying to save my brother.

For more wild stories, click here. It’s always a Wild Ride, believe me.


91 thoughts on “A Cosmic Joke after Trauma

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  1. It was hard to click Like on this one. What a horror for you to come home to! But your artwork was spared, right? It sure is beautiful work. You are so talented! I hope your clean up crew did a good job and that your insurance will take care of it. Still, what a nightmare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I laughed at the ridiculous timing. Good thing it just started that morning, so the wood floors were spared. It took until the day before we flew back to WI to dry everything out. Now starts the really fun part of reconstruction and painting.
      Thank you! I truly had forgotten about a lot of this work since I have a couple other portfolios. It was a wake up call. I’ll illustrate a book or two and plan to write a comic some day. My list is griwing! I hope this is the last death for a long time.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Awful things do tend to cluster, don’t they. I hope you’re done with them now for a long, long time.

    We had a fire about 5 years ago and had one of those services come and clean up. They were amazing and almost nothing was un-retrievable. And they even got the smoke smell out. I hope yours is just as good.


  3. Some long time ago, in a Sci-Fi novel of which I have forgotten the author and title, there was a character who referred to the deities of his people as, “The Lords Of Cosmic Jest.” I’ve forgotten the story, but that phrase has stuck firmly in my mind. I do begin to get the notion that you are supposed to do some sort of work on your relationship with water. And there are wonders waiting on long unopened boxes, whether of art, or writings, or bank statements. I’m glad your trove was OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You cracked me up, Bob! Ha! Thanks for your therapeutic comment.
      Whoever wrote that book, lived a life like mine. Life is like that. It goes on dishing out incredible and ridiculous events all the way until the end.
      I’m a fire sign, Aries, but love water. I’ll go through the rest of those boxes, just in case…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t believe you Susie, the sketch of the man in skies is also wearing a thong’ or speedos’ and so maybe it was the weight of shackles and chains that brought the ceiling crashing down, but for insurance purposes, you got rid of the chains and tossed down a bucket of water’ after a hot night. 🙂

        (I am Just joking with you. for a laugh)


      2. I hear 50 Shades isn’t even worth it. I somehow ran into a rather sarcastic chapter-by-chapter recap and was shocked by how awful it was.


  4. I often find myself “laughing just to keep from crying.” I hope you find many laughs dispersed among the coming tears. Blessings and peace to you Susie.


  5. So glad you could somehow find humour in all of this & more importantly, that your artwork was spared from damage. The rest is all fixable, an total inconvenience & unnecessary addition to an already stressful time but fixable. Keep laughing Susie!


    1. Thanks, Lynn! I am hanging in there, I just need time.
      The artwork was such an amazing find. When I was a kid, I used to hide things so I could find them like treasures later. Looks like I did it again! Not sure why I didn’t put the box in my art room.
      Yep, it will be fixed. The timing was ridiculous after all those weeks when I was here. I’m glad we flew home when we did!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Old Sage. I hope so too. It’s why I hadn’t run out to buy a new one. Now that we have new faucets, I’ll buy a new machine and the flooding should be over. *crosses fingers*

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Flying ants???? That sounds horrid. We came home from a trip and found flies everywhere! They rode in on a houseplant. When we discovered where they were coming from, we put it in the garage. Then the garage filled with maggots and flies! I remember my son used lighter fluid on the maggots one night when we were out. When I found out, I was glad he didn’t burn down the house!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss. Hopefully things look up soon so you can focus on grieving and not emergency home repairs! Hang in there! Sending and positive vibes and prayers. (Whatever you’re into! 🙂


    1. Thanks so much! I really appreciate both of them. It’s been so weird, especially since my brother was in great health and practically sprinted while walking the dog. The home repairs are a nuisance, but I’m glad it didn’t happen early in the week. The whole basement might have flooded! In a way, it’s dumb luck we came home hours after it started.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I lost 25 years of media from my store in a fire. I realized then that nothing is permanent. I just had my ceiling that looks a lot like yours fixed today after 7 months. I feel your pain.. HUGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.. There are signs everywhere you just have to notice them. They are all around you


    1. You’re right. I have to keep looking for signs, Linda. It’s been so hard to get back on track, but I’m trying.
      The impermanence of life has finally sunk in. I didn’t realize how fragile it was. That must have been horrible when your store burned down. We all suffer setbacks, don’t we?


  8. You are very, very talented. You will go far my friend.

    And, yes, I’ve returned home to horrible things as well, the one that stands out the most is my dog lying (laying ?? – I hate these words) dead on the front lawn. My housesitter was distraught (like I actually thought she did something to kill my dog) and it was just all so horrible. I also returned home from a long trip to discover that my well had run dry and my housesitters had been hauling buckets and buckets of water from God knows where to keep our horses hydrated. That was an expensive mess.

    I know that the universe works in strange ways and you, of all people, know how to handle those messages. Hang in there and enjoy the chaos.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. Both of those situations would be horrifying. There’s plenty to go around in one lifetime. It’s been pretty relentless for three years. I’m ready for a long, wonderful upward trend. Thanks so much for being there for me.


  9. I did go back to read the story of your brother’s shocking death. I’m so very sorry. Our family experience a very similar circumstance this past fall. My son-in-law’s father had gone to the grocery store to bring home some Thanksgiving groceries, collapsed and was gone immediately. We are all still grieving the loss of a wonderful friend and family man, and it certainly leaves a person realizing that life is fragile. He had no known illnesses and by all experiences was very strong and healthy. The official report was an embolism. Out of nowhere. I am so very sorry for your loss, but also really aware of the grief this brings to your mother. I love that you’re using your fantastic art to breathe a little hope into life and I wish you well! By all means, keep creating and I hope you will be sharing with us! ox


    1. Thanks, Debra. I’m so sorry for your loss too. It’s just horrific to lose someone so healthy. I didn’t realize this cause of death was so common. It’s so scary.
      There’s still a part of me that thinks if I would have done something different, this wouldn’t have happened and yet my logical side says, no way. It will take time.
      Finding my artwork was a gift in so many ways. I’ll figure out some way to include it in my work.
      Thank you for your kind words. I’m sending you and your family healing peace and love.


  10. Why, why, why does everything happen at once? Is it not enough to deal with the grief? Truly, finding a flood in your house is not the best welcome home. And yet, my family had a similar experience. We were gone a week and when we pulled up to our house, water was seeping underneath the garage door, running down the driveway into the street. Someone had broken in and busted an upstairs toilet. So when we walked into the house, it looked like it was raining from the ceiling. And because the living and dining rooms were sunken, they had turned into shallow pools of water. Of course the draperies were ruined. Drywall had to be replaced and our furniture was in disrepair. I am so sorry Susie. ((Hugs))


    1. Oh, that is so much worse!! If we had stayed until the next flight out, two days later, it might have been like that. Thank God, Danny chose to go home earlier. In this case, sh*t happens is a great explanation. We just keep moving forward with more positive expectations. I mean, life can only get better, right?
      Thanks, Karen! (((hugs)))

      Liked by 1 person

  11.     When someone goes on stage as a stand-up comic and no one laughs, no one claps, and there are a few boo’s, they say that they “died on stage.” When they do well they say that they “killed.” So that’s where they get the expression, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”
        It’s hard for me to understand the “cosmic jokes.” I think that the Angels working on karma need a new joke writer. But I fear to boo the Angels. It seems like the demon washing machine is desperately trying to keep the jokes clean.
        It’s not a good time for death. Dear Angel of Death, I’m sort of busy right now and I don’t understand my assignment on earth. Can I get a postponement until I understand my homework assignment? I’ve never been a good student, but I’m trying and I’m tired. Please don’t send me to the principal’s office yet.
        If learning is suffering, I think I’d rather walk in the valley with the sheep and put the Wolf on stage and let him kill. But she is my shepherd and I shall not want, except for her eternal love. If she loves the day, I will wash her clothes, after.


    1. This is beautiful Naztko and made me cry. I agree about dying and killing it. Two apt expressions that explain the extremes in comedy. I’m in that valley now, learning and clawing my way back uphill while searching for the sun. I know it’s there, but will take time. The wash can wait.


  12. Those little Tommy Knockers’ mess n’ with plumbing and knocking upon walls in the night.

    Your Babes Susie, your Babes and Danny, are your souls’ your soul is alit within your quad chambered heart lantern…

    ‘Yes’ Susie’ My Wife’ her dear mother had a procedure done in the hospital, and while there a blood clot formed in her legs (This is why they will now put compression cuff upon your legs when they put out’ aka ‘sedate you’ for a surgery, to keep the blood from clotting in your legs, and traveling to your heart.), and so she awoke, but the blood clot had unknowingly formed and moved and killed her. Leaving my wife’ her sister and two bothers as motherless orphans. Their Grandmother took them in, all residing within a very old house, until their English – American grandmother and Irish – American grandfather both passed and again they were on their own.


    1. That must have been horrific. Unless something like this happens to us personally, we never come to grips with how fragile life is. I went through cancer and assumed I’d live to be 90 at least. Now I wake every day thankful for another chance at life. It has given me a new perspective. I’m ready for a huge upswing after all the setbacks over the last few years.


  13. Wow, Susie, you have really been through it! I hadn’t read about your brother yet and I am so sorry to hear that. I also lost a brother at an early age and there is nothing that can prepare you for that shock. Sounds like you did everything conceivable, but it was against all odds. I hope you heal quickly from that traumatic experience.

    Now I feel guilty for joking about your washing machine ghost before. Apparently, it was for real. That picture really is worth a thousand words. Thank goodness your art was mostly spared. Such beautiful stuff. Hopefully, your wild ride will slow down to a crawl for a while now. Warmest regards to you and Danny.


    1. Thanks Al!
      Don’t feel guilty. Seeing that water pour in was a shock to me too. I never would have believed it would happen. I’m still nervous about buying another washing machine. I’m planning on a top loader, so it can fill at will without leaking all over creation.
      Life has got to get easier. Funny, everyday irritations seem so inconsequential now. My brother’s death has taught me a ton and I’ll be processing all of those lessons for a while. It makes me think about my purpose here and not wasting so much time on stuff that doesn’t matter. We’ll see where it takes me. Hopefully on an upswing. I could use one!


  14. How horrible! And how wonderful of you to see the quiet moments of joy that happen even in the midst of despair. I hope you and your family continue to heal from your terrible loss.


    1. Thanks Peg. It was so ridiculous, I had to laugh.
      Together, my family will get through it. I’m lucky to have their support. It has crushed all of us. It’s funny. If the cause of death would have been an accident or heart attack, I could wrap my mind around it. But a totally healthy guy who throws a clot and dies instantly? I hadn’t heard of such a thing. Pretty well-kept secret according to the medical professionals I spoke with. Happens every day. Gotta embrace the day and the time we have!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Those ‘blasts from the past’ are often quite illuminating! There comes a point where all there is left to do is laugh. So glad to see the damage wasn’t irreversible. 🙂


    1. We are just about to start on reconstruction. I hope we don’t have to refinish all the floors. That would be too disruptive and I’m done with that. It was encouraging to find them. Once things settle down, I’d like to work on a project or two…
      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! The room still looks like that, but reconstruction will start soon. I was so glad my artwork didn’t get ruined. I have an art room and had never moved it. Sheesh!


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