Monthly Archives: July 2012

The comfort of three sisters, a garden and kitties

I grew up in a small town in the middle of the Kansas plains. When there was a death in the family it seemed the whole town brought casseroles and flowers. And after the service, the house was filled wall to wall with people sharing tears and laughter as  the memory-filled talk flowed late into the evening. It seemed to be that way for days before we were left alone to feel a loss so big it echoed off the walls.

My brother in law just succumbed to a long and brave fight with lung cancer. He was so fortunate to be able to spend his last days at Hopewell House where care of the dying is their business. They do it beautifully – with tenderness, respect and nurturing in the midst of their professionalism. And in this place, the moments were shared with those he loved most while he was still able to share them. Space was made in the bus-i-ness of life to honor the sacredness of dying.

Doing sacred work like that cannot be easy, but the peace and comfort the Hopewell House staff brings to the dying and their loved ones must be their reward. They make dying a sacred, holy and beautiful experience and we are so very grateful. It is just too difficult to go through something like that without support. Their knowledge about the dying process and ways to grieve bring comfort beyond words.

This is Day Two. My eldest sister and I are taking turns making sure his widow, our middle sister, is not alone. It is my eldest sister’s turn today. So here I sit in the garden with my kitties. The shock has lessened. Life is less surreal. I am more rested. But I am hollow. I am not ready to actively participate in life today. I don’t want to read email, pay bills, worry about food or do anything but just be with the raw, tender place in my heart.

I cannot claim to understand the mysteries of death like Kubler-Ross and others who have dedicated their lives to teaching us how to embrace this sacred mystery. All I can say is that it is a moment of holiness beyond anything I can easily describe. And I am sad for our current culture that finds it so fearful and difficult to face head on. And I am grateful there is Hopewell House. And I am grateful I have my sisters, my garden and my kitties.

Three sisters. One whose husband died. When the transition process began, she asked that rather than coming to be with them in Hopewell House, that we hold prayer vigil instead. She asked that we hold the space for him to be at peace. We lit a fire in my garden firepit, called upon Divinity and the Angels, burned sacred incense and herbs, sent Reiki and visualized his room filled with Peace and Love.  I felt the very moment when his spirit passed. For whatever reason, I saw bagpipers lined up in a row and heard their mournful song call him home. I knew he left peacefully.

An hour later – 1:01 am to be precise, we and our husbands were on our way to say goodbye. The Hopewell House chaplain and staff poured all of his gathered relatives a glass of sparkling cider – inlcuding a glass for Chuck. We toasted him with our favorite memories and things we loved about him, clinked our glasses, including his, then followed his freshly washed and laid out body out to the transport vehicle. We had plenty of time for a tearful, respectful, sacred farewell.

I drove my sister to her home and the two beautiful ragdoll cats she hadn’t seen in a week. We had a small bite and at 6:30 am finally found our way to the numbness of sleep.  Today she will be cleaning her house with the assistance of our eldest sister and tending to the service arrangements. Her grief work involves activity. My grief work involves finding solace in my garden in the company of my kitties. I observe and marvel at the way life continues to move around me in spite of my numbness to it.

I miss that unlike my small town roots, my garden is currently not full of friends who would share a grieving moment with me. Time for that later. Still I am so very grateful to have shared one of life’s most intimate and sacred moments with my sisters. Pandora brought this song to my attention a few months ago. I dedicate it to my dear sisters and I. I’ve included the first verse, but I encourage you to check out the link I’ve included below, or find it on youtube for a great listen.

there’s a light in the kitchen, there’s a glass on the stand
three women round a table and they’re holding hands
they’re caretaking the birthing, bringing food when they can
they’re easin’ the leavin’ and they’re holding hands

That’s for my sisters and me and Chuck’s memory. . .

Follow this link for the lyrics and download options:

Thinning carrots – thinning thoughts

It’s 8:30 am. I am sitting on the deck in my back garden enjoying the morning sunshine. I haven’t yet had enough coffee to decide if I am alive today. That’s when my husband chooses to switch into task-master mode. The next thing I know I am seated on small garden stool next to the carrot barrel charged with thinning the tiny seedlings down to one sprout per two inches.

At first, that seems easy enough – not too much effort for my physically challenged body.  I fortify myself with one more sip of coffee and a sip of refreshing, filtered water and dig in. Ten minutes into it I  realize what a daunting task this is. There are what seems billions of tiny little seedlings grouped into a one-inch area. How am I supposed to decide who lives and who gets yanked? When asking my husband something to that effect he replies, “dare to make a decision!”

And that sparked an entire line of thought that kept me entertained through the next hour of plowing through the jungle of little sprouts. All of these seedlings are like creative thoughts banging around in our brains. Sometimes it’s obvious which seedling is the strongest and which to pull. Sometimes I reached for a particular sprout only to discover I’d yanked the wrong one. Oops. Gee – I suppose I could liken that to some of the relationship disasters I’ve had. . . but let’s not go there!

So how do we decide which ones will grow into big, healthy yummy things and which ones will take us down the dark alley of scraggly-ville – lots of effort with puny results. And when I came upon those sections of major clusters, it reminded me of times when I’m just too overwhelmed to know which way to go. I refer to that as a cluster-F… – well, you get the idea.

So how do we deal with those? I got up, stretched my my back a bit. One of my cats was demanding some attention so I headed to the gazebo to a enjoy a moment with her on my lap. After fifteen minutes or so I returned to the carrot barrel with renewed energy.  I moved my stool to the other side and began viewing the mini carrot jungle from a whole new perspective. From the new point of view, the choices were more obvious.

Sometimes the only way to see things clearly is to completely walk away for a bit. Change your focus  to something relaxing and enjoyable. Then look again from a whole new angle. It’s like refueling the creative juices. So much better than stubbornly trying to force your way through a mental road block. That only leads to frustration, hasty yanking and poor yield.

It works not only for creative projects, but for life-changing decisions as well. And sometimes, you just have to dare to choose when the pathway is less obvious. You just have to let things grow for a bit to see what potential they have. Then yank, if necessary. And what grows might even surprise you. Life does amazing things when you just relax and observe.

As I meditated on these thoughts, the carrot thinning process was accomplished in what I call the “no-time” zone. It’s that place where you slip into a rhythm, get into the grove, go with the flow or whatever. The process itself becomes your only reality for that moment and you hit the fun zone. Ok – maybe not “fun” exactly, but definitely the easy zone. You get lost in the process and before you know it – you’re done!

And I got a whole new creative blog idea to offer you out of the deal! When you’re hanging out in the garden of your life, take a moment to pay attention to how you thin your thoughts into ones that will produce new fuel for your life. Recognize when to yank with gusto and when you need to change your focus and just relax and let the process take care of itself.

Here’s hoping you find your zone and that your yield is strong, healthy and abundant!

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