Thoughts on being disabled… and a kinship with Robin William’s despair

Warrior Dash 2012 scooter view

Here’s how I run/hike/walk/jog these days. Have battery – will travel! I don’t normally eat potato chips but I didn’t have the energy to prepare lunch before I left. Potatoes are gluten free! They were also all I could find at the gas station convenience store.

Those of you who have been following my blog already know I’ve been struggling with physical issues for awhile now. I have a very rare degenerative muscle disease called Inclusion Body Miositis Mito. Today’s sharing is not to make you feel sorry for me. But to encourage all of you who are dealing with hopelessness and despair, no matter the reason, to reach out to someone and not let the darkness win. And keep reaching out and fighting until the darkness passes. For Robin Williams, the darkness did win. Obviously, you don’t have to be physically disabled to feel that sense of despair. But this is the story of how it is for me.

What my current life is like:
When I move my muscles become exhausted and just quit working. I fall down, can’t make it up even a small curb without difficulty and my chest muscles can’t expand/contract rapidly enough to accommodate even a short, brisk walk. The result is that they just freeze. I start gasping for air and black out. Simple activities such as hand washing dishes, standing in line at a public counter, pushing a grocery cart, etc. have left me in an embarrassed heap on the floor desperately gasping for breath and fighting blackout. I have to convince witnesses not to call 911 because there is nothing the emergency room can do for me. Been there – done that; about ten times until we all realized it was pointless and very expensive. The weird thing is that in a non-fatigued state I appear as healthy as anybody. I just don’t stay in a non-fatigued state for very long if I’m up and about.

I loved cooking fresh, healthy, gourmet meals but most days I can only manage to eat whatever is readily available.
I miss cooking every day.
I miss hiking.
I miss dancing.
I miss walking on the beach for as along I want to!
I miss the community of my co-workers.
I miss just being able to run out the door on a whim without thinking, “is the battery on my scooter charged?”
“do I have my cane?”
“will there be steps?”
“If I engage in this activity today, how many days of total bed rest do I have to allow myself to recover?”
“Do I have enough stamina today to complete the activity without collapsing?”

So that’s the upshot of my physical condition. Now, those who know me know that I am a very positive person. I work very hard to focus on the things I can do rather than what I can’t. I aspire to be a spiritual healer, encouraging and inspiring as many people as I can to learn how to rejoice in themselves and their life no matter their circumstances. I am just as passionate about sharing my gifts and talents in the world to the best of my ability today as I was pre-symptom.

I used to think that writing this blog when I have enough energy to be creative, which is not that often, and officiating at two weddings a month, facilitating/attending my spiritual support groups, etc. was enough activity to give me that sense of accomplishment and achievement that I find so vital to my emotional well-being. But after a week-long camping trip with friends at the coast showed me how much of the simple activities I enjoyed so much I’ve had to give up, I find myself fighting hopelessness and despair.

An acquaintance of mine once posted a saying on her FB page. It read something like, “I’m sure glad I work full time so you can be on disability and show up at the convenience store in your pajamas.” Wow – that was a punch in the gut.  I wish I could work – but it’s difficult to explain to your boss that rest is absolutely mandatory and I can’t tell from one day to the next if I have enough stamina to last even for four hours, let alone eight. In a fatigued state, I can’t even read/write intelligently. My brain shuts down, too. I spend more days in bed than I do out of it. My wardrobe went from fun, business-casual to the pajamas that statement expressed as so offensive. I don’t go out in public in them, but if I had to have painkillers and did not have the energy to get dressed, I would. The day after Robin Williams died, I shared this post on my wall:

Photo: I shared earlier, but Robin Williams' passing is cause for a reshare of this famous quote. In his memory may we all be kinder to each other and work to make people smile and feel joyful. He did that for us.

Please read that again and take it in. It’s important.

Today, in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ suicide, I recognize his motivation and desire to just be done with it all. I feel hopeless despair because there is no treatment and no cure for this degenerative muscle disease.

I feel tired – too tired to maintain my positive attitude. Too tired to create. Too tired to manage life. Too tired to write – except this blurb on my thoughts and feelings about being disabled and wanting to give up.
I feel limited, trapped and I HATE IT!

But, I am too stubborn to give up. I know when I need help and I am reaching for it. I know that I will find the sunshine behind my dark clouds again. I am no stranger to handling difficult and dark feelings. Oddly, the key is to allow yourself to fully feel them. It’s about going through them, not avoiding them. When you can’t do that alone, it’s important to find a professional who will help you. I’ve done that.

I will not let despair win. And I know that I am not the only one fighting for life right now. You don’t have to be disabled to feel trapped, isolated and unable to cope.

Please, don’t give up. Let’s vow to help each other remember the sunshine is always behind the clouds no matter how dark and stormy they get. If you have a rare medical condition or fight feelings of hopelessness and despair; first, I do encourage you to reach out for professional help. Second, will you please post a comment on your favorite coping skill? I’d love to read them.

Mine is to tell my mind to shut up and shift it to thinking of all of the things I’m grateful for. And right now, it’s to be honest about how I am feeling. I’m ok right now with owning that I feel hopeless, in despair and not sure what the point is to my life right now. And I can do that because I know that I have the help of a trained professional as my advocate. I have friends who love me, family who loves and supports me. I totally count my blessings. You don’t need strong legs for that! And for now, that’s enough of a reason to wake up tomorrow.

No more longhand? Yikes! And what does that have to do with Powder?

Please write by hand with pencils and pen rather than use a keyboard, because the hand and the body, and particularly the heart, is linked through handwriting in a way that is virtually impossible to preserve through writing with a keyboard.

I’ve heard rumors that our schools are no longer teaching longhand because texting and computer keyboards have made writing via pen and paper archaic. I say “rumors” because I have no school-aged children who would tell me firsthand.

In any case, I am wondering what losing the art of writing in longhand may eventually cost us? As the above quote from Richard Harvey, Your Essential Self1  indicates, writing in longhand keeps us more deeply connected with our deepest, truest self, our heart centers.

Why is that important? Our heart center is where connection happens. Feeling connected, in my opinion, is how we conquer war, greed, hunger and poverty. A news story covering any one of those sad topics is just a news story unless you are personally connected to the people whom the story features. And often, the personal connection to the tragedy leads to wonderful acts of heroism. How can you cause harm to someone or something you care about? Caring inspires healing. This is why honoring connection is my passion.

An awesome moment of connection

An awesome moment of connection

Ever heard the phrase, “living a heart-centered life?” In my experience the feelings of joy, love, compassion, and forgiveness all come from our feeling connected in our hearts, not our minds. These feelings are the very best of us as human beings and what living a heart-centered life is all about.

Have you ever seen the 1995 American fantasy film called Powder? It is about Jeremy “Powder” Reed, who has an incredible intellect, as well as unusual powers given to him when his mother was electrocuted while he was still in the womb. The electrical shock caused him to be born with powder white hair and skin – hence, the nickname, “Powder.”  As stated on Wikipedia, “The film questions the limits of the human mind and body while also displaying society’s capacity for cruelty, and raises hope that humanity will advance to a state of better understanding.

Advancing to a state of better understanding happens when we feel connected. My favorite movie moment from that film illustrates my point perfectly. In it, Powder’s paranormal abilities help a hunter to feel what the deer he shot feels as it’s dying. He created a powerful connection that forever changed the hunter’s life. He could no longer harm what he felt connected to.

The key, in my mind, to living harmoniously with each other and the earth is to feel deeply connected. That connection starts from within; from knowing who you are in the deepest core of yourself – your true self, your authentic self. I agree with Richard that writing by hand helps us to feel this connection more deeply. For me, note-taking in college helped me connect to the material and retain it far better than just reading from textbook alone. So if writing by long hand connects us more deeply to our inner realms and to who/what we are writing about, what exactly are we losing as keyboards replace pen and paper?

I encourage you not to let the art of handwriting die. Write in your journals, write a note to a loved one. Send a thank you note to someone – and take notice. If you felt a warm, fuzzy feeling as you wrote it, you created connection. Let’s keep it alive!

1Richard Harvey,  (2013-07-01). Your Essential Self: The Inner Journey to Authenticity & Spiritual Enlightenment (Kindle Locations 473-474). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Oh My, the Taxman cometh!

I have to take a break in the, “What I’ve Learned from the Movies,” series to talk about spending this past week preparing for the taxman. And I know I just posted a blog, but I’ve been living so much in my left brain, that my right brain is screaming for creative expression. Thank you for bearing with me.

I was so focused on completing this task, that all other life tasks were completely ignored; important things like paying bills, eating healthy foods, etc. It was a monumental task for three reasons. One, because the inclusion body miositis mito, (learn more about this bizarre, debilitating disease from the MDA website) turns my brain to mush when I get too fatigued and causes my body to just collapse making it take several times longer to accomplish simple things. Pushing through is difficult, if not impossible, and I end up paying for it later. As I write this, I’m resting in pajamas and likely won’t get dressed today. But as my hubby just said, “I gots to do what I gots to do!” The second reason is that, though I am embarrassed to confess it, we also had two years of back taxes to contend with. The third reason the task was so daunting is the emotional toll it takes to look back through three, difficult and often painful years.

Facing that emotional element is what inspired me to write this post. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? There is a new TV ad from one of the tax prep companies that beautifully illustrates my point as it asks questions about what you accomplished in the past year. And when the years were difficult, the review is equally difficult.

What I realized is that the numbers of your life never lie. It’s quite shocking how much of life is accurately revealed in receipts and bank statements. I can see why law enforcement as depicted on TV often review financial documents to get a picture of a suspects life. As I entered all of our deductible transactions into my Excel spreadsheet, I clearly saw just how much we’ve had to overcome.

The moment I had to leave my much-loved career because my body simply couldn’t handle it anymore is glaringly obvious. That year was the last I filed taxes.  As I was dealing with that, my wonderful husband was also contending with his own debilitating PTSD condition. In the subsequent two years, we also faced the death of two close family members as those of you who follow my blog already know. As I entered the deductions of all of mom’s possessions that we donated, I again felt her loss keenly. “How odd it is,” I thought, “that someone’s entire life can come down to a few lines on a tax receipt.” Sometimes, survival itself takes precedence over taxes. Sorry, Mr. Taxman, but there are times when you just aren’t the priority!

Four years later, we have both adjusted to the “new normal” of our lives. We have learned how to face our challenges in mutual compassion and understanding. I could not have sorted through the mountain of receipts without his help. Still, I do not think of myself as disabled. I just have to do things very differently now than I did before. But I am still here. I focus on the things I can do rather than what I can’t. And my hubby is still here, too. We teach each other about acceptance every single day. He is still
learning to cope with the PTSD. We both have good days and some not so good ones. Though he is better now it has forever
changed him, too.

Today, we are finally more able to accept what is. I think that’s because life itself demands growth. There comes a time when resistance is more painful than acceptance. There is freedom in acceptance and that allows for forward motion once again. You could say that some parts of our lives were frozen in resistance to what is. I am grateful that we are now finding ways to break through the ice. So Mr Taxman, it’s ok if you come for us now. We are finally ready and able to deal with you.

I’ll Meet you in Valhalla

Part Two in the “What I’ve Learned from the Movies” series

                “Don’t say we have come now to the end, White Shores are calling, you and I will meet again.”
~ From the song, “Into the West” by Annie Lennox

There are some friendships that remain strong beyond the boundaries of time and space. There is something about the strength of this connection as depicted in fictional stories that speaks to my heart much more than a romantic connection does.

I watched the finale of one of my favorite SyFy channel shows last night. There was a powerful moment (loved it so much I had to rewind and watch again and oh yeah the waterworks flowed) that spoke to me of that transcendent connection. I won’t give too much away other than to say that if you like women warrior roles with lots of spicy sexuality thrown in, Lost Girls is a must for your entertainment list (and I was told about it by one of my Kindred Soul friends). lost girls

That Lost Girls moment, akin to the Sam/Frodo moment in LOTR when Sam goes beyond his own pain and weariness to carry Frodo to his destiny, inspired me to examine why I find this friendship bond when depicted on film even more powerful than a romantic one.

I realized that the wonderful kindred spirits I’ve been lucky enough to know in my lifetime have given me strength, courage, and above all, complete acceptance without expectation. Though there are also struggles as in romantic connections, that element of acceptance seems to shine through more easily in kindred friendships.

Perhaps it’s because we put too much expectation on our romantic partners to “complete us,” as depicted in the famous Jerry Maguire scene. Often, there is that unspoken expectation that our romantic partners will somehow fill up the empty spaces inside of us and make us feel whole. Can you find the fatal flaw in that expectation? Well, best leave that topic for another day.

BFFs have the ability to inspire us, encourage us, strengthen us and help us to be more ourselves. There is a Japanese word called, “Kenzoku.” That one word describes the unique, deepest connection in friendship; a connection that is felt in the very marrow of our bones and is not dislodged in physical absence, a soul connection.

In a blog post titled, “Happiness in this World,” by Alex Lickman, MD on the Psychology Today Website, he describes a true friend as someone who is committed to your happiness. He writes, “A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before the friendship. . . a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. (Is it not true that it is easier for us to hear such truths from our BFFs rather than our romantic life partners?) Dr. Lickman also says that a true friend will never ask you to compromise your principles for the sake of the friendship, or any other reason, and that she will always inspire you to live up to your highest potential.

Vallhalla is the Norse mythological Hall of the Heroes ruled by Odin. To the women who have stood beside me in all things, perhaps one day we will meet in Valhalla for you are my heroes.

For more great BFF moments, follow the link below to a great blog by Amelia McDonnell-Parry. My favorite quote from the post is in reference to the movie, Frances Ha. She writes, “I think the movie is, in part, about the potential for friends to be soul mates; that even as life changes occur, these friendships serve as guideposts on our journey towards finding out who we are.

http://www.thefrisky.com/2013-11-11/21-fantastic-movies-about-female-friendships/

Why this 50-something is a Twihard

“A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.” ~ Djuna Barnes

While, of course, I find both Edward and Jacob very handsome, that’s not what makes me watch the Twilight series again and again. I admit I have the printed books, all of the movies, an Audible version and a digital version of each of the books. But I promise you, I’m not lost in teenage adoration. I also own many of the Ann Rice novels. The first in her vampire series, Interview with a Vampire started the whole obsession with all things vampiric and dark.

So what is the attraction for me? What truly excites me about the character progression in these novels is that to me, it indicates that we are beginning to accept that even “monsters” have souls. They quest for forgiveness, acceptance. We see them as the heroes.

Ann Rice brought them into the forefront of consciousness by letting us view reality from their perspective. Stephanie took it even further by creating monsters who desire not to give in to their baser natures, to actually protect those more vulnerable than themselves. In short, in my mind, it is the perfect illustration that we are beginning to be able to view, accept and integrate our Shadow Selves.

Jungian psychology identifies the “shadow aspect” of our personality as the part of us that we cannot acknowledge, and therefore, project onto others.[i] In Sigmund Freud’s, Case Histories II[ii], he states that “projection is the act or technique of defending yourself against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in yourself, while attributing them to others.” In my viewpoint, the more upset you are with someone else’s behavior is a good indication that it lives within you and is screaming for your attention to accept, heal and integrate. When healing happens, the emotional charge you feel from their behavior simply vanishes.

Both Edward, the icy vampire, and Jacob, the fiery shapeshifter, have a very difficult time accepting their “monster” selves. In the Twilight movie, Edward says to Bella, “what if I’m not the good guy. What if I’m the monster?” In New Moon, Jacob says, to Bella, “I used to be good, once.”

And yet, they are both capable of deep love and in the end, through Bella’s love, they eventually find acceptance and harmony. And Bella herself chooses to live in Edward’s world as one of his kind. But she never saw the monster in Edward or herself. She saw the possibilities. By accepting her shadow self, finding the strength in it, she flourishes. She finds her true, authentic self.

Having worked very hard, and it’s an on-going process, at acknowledging and accepting my own shadow self, and having observed others who do the same, I can say that Bella’s transformation is the perfect illustration of what we can all achieve by integrating our shadow self. In my opinion, it is the key to living authentically. So can you find where Bella, Jacob and Edward all live inside of you? If so, you are well on your way to integrated wholeness. Bravo to you!

Note: If you feel inspired to investigate further, please see the suggested reading list below.

 

  1.    [i]  Young-Eisendrath, P. and Dawson, T. (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Jung., Cambridge University Press, p. 319
  2.    [ii]Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9) p. 132

 

Suggested Reading List

Abrams, Jeremiah, and Connie Zweig. Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature. Tarcher, 1991, ISBN 0-87477-618-X

  •          Bly, Robert. “A little book on the human shadow“. Edited by William Booth. Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1988, ISBN 0-06-254847-6
  •          Campbell, Joseph, ed. The Portable Jung, Translated by R.F.C. Hull, New York: Penguin Books, 1971.
  •          Johnson, Robert A., Owning Your Own Shadow : Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, 128 pages, Harper San Francisco, 1993, ISBN 0-06-250754-0
  •          Johnson, Robert A., Inner Work : Using Dreams and Creative Imagination for Personal Growth and Integration, 241 pages, Harper San Francisco, 1989, ISBN 0-06-250431-2
  •          Neumann, ErichDepth Psychology and a New Ethic Shambhala; Reprint edition (1990). ISBN 0-87773-571-9.
  •          Vandebrake, Mark. “Children of the Mist: Dwarfs in German Mythology, Fairy Tales, and Folk Legends” 135 pages. A work that interprets dwarf depictions throughout German history as shadow symbols.
  •          Chopra, DeepakMarianne WilliamsonDebbie FordThe Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self. HarperOne, 2010. ISBN 0-06-196265-1.

 

Back in the blogging again!

After nearly two years, I find that I am ready to get back into the blogging saddle again! My last posts were obviously motivated by grief for the loss of my brother-in-law to lung cancer in July of 2012. The following February, my mom entered Hospice. All of 2013 for me was about being fully present with her during her end-of-life process through her passing on June 27th. So began my creative hiatus.

Last year was full of intense emotions. There was fear, stress, sorrow as the Alzheimer’s dementia and CHF stole her away from us bit by bit; and of course, grief and profound sadness. But also moments of joy and absolute hilarity as my mom never lost her amazing wit and charm even unto her final days.

mom weddingShe passed away on June 27th and we held her memorial in August. I spent the rest of 2013 recuperating and dealing with my own health issues. Having been fully present in her final days and moments has inspired me to write a book about how the death process can actually facilitate miraculous healing. I feel our culture could use a little help in dealing with the whole death process. As I posted when my brother-in-law died, I will be forever grateful to the Hospice program for the love and support they provide in dying and death. It is even difficult to write that word. . . death. It seems we do everything possible to avoid it.

But one truth became glaringly obvious to me – that in the end  all that matters is love; and all that’s left, if you allow for it, is love. It absolutely heals everything! I’ll keep you posted on that writing project. It’s been on my agenda, but until just recently, I’ve been too emotionally raw to relive the experience in spite of the peace, and even joy, I also felt. But this year, I’m launching into new beginnings! It’s Spring and my life is renewed!

Also new this year, I am working with a wonderful group of people under the direction of author, Richard Harvey and his associate, Robert Meagher. Richard is a  prolific writer on the subject of emotional healing. His approach combines spiritual and psychological healing modalities. His works include Your Essential Self, available from Amazon.com and his latest release called Moksha Dawn.

Richard Harvey Our group is co-authoring a project called Sacred Attention Therapy with Richard and under his direction. You may find out more about Richard (pictured at left) and the project by following this link: http://www.sacredattentiontherapy.com/. He also can be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/richard.harvey.735?fref=ts

So now that I’m back into the creativity and blogging mode, I plan on launching a new group of articles about what I’ve learned and/or observed from watching television and movies. There will also be informative, inspirational pieces on emotional healing and, I am sure, a gardening blog or two.

First up next week, why a 50-something is a Twihard!

A quick word about joy… and kitties

Joy! That’s what my kitties bring. I wanted to write about how joy lives where you look for it. Because even in this tender time following my brother-in-law’s passing, I still find much joy. And, as always, much of it comes from my kitties. I feel grateful to be able to give them joy, too. They love the garden as much, if not more, than my hubby and I do.

I also find joy in watching my hubby just be himself. He moves through the garden preparing the soil for fall plantings. I find myself in awe of him and the fact that after 13 years of living with him, my heart still goes pitty-pat when he is near. Wow. And he is so patient with me as I sit watching him work. I can’t help much due to the muscular dystrophy that robs my energy. Rather than bemoaning my fate, I do what little I can and focus on living in joy and gratitude anyway.

I had a close friend who had been a quadriplegic since jumping into a river at the age of 16. He emerged from the water with a broken neck. Never-the-less he lived fully, beautifully with more vibrancy than most “healthy” people. He had many friends (even girlfriends) and lived in much joy. Perhaps that is why he far outlived his doctor-predicted life expectancy living well into his 30’s. Compare that to another young man who became a paraplegic also at 16 from a car accident. His family didn’t know how to look for joy. The bitterness and regret tore their family apart. So I live as Mick did – choosing to look for joy rather than choosing fear and disgruntlement because my body won’t work like it used to.  He was an amazing inspiration.

Back to the kitties – just as my brother-in law-was entering Hopewell House, my beautiful 14-year old black cat Jolly was diagnosed with intestinal lymphoma. On the morning that my sisters and I were meeting to plan the memorial service, my husband and I took Jolly in to be released from his terrible pain and suffering. His condition deteriorated very rapidly. August was a tough month!

Still, there is joy to be found where we look for it. I spent the spring and summer fostering kitties. One little female was having a really tough start in life. She was too underweight and struggling with a mysterious illness when adoption time came. So she stayed after her brother departed to find his forever home. Divine synchronicity if you ask me. I didn’t know Jolly was ill at that time. So while he can’t be replaced and will be forever honored, Jersey Girl has opened new doors and filled our sad hearts with incredible laughter.

She inserted herself into our “pride.” It seemed none of us, even her 3 other cat mates, had any say in the matter. She was here to stay. They accept her with amazing tolerance. Like when she uses their heads as a highway to get from one bowl to another during feeding time. She has her own bowl, she just likes sharing theirs. And the 15-year old Jasper was amazingly docile while Jersey girl played with her tail. Her little claws got stuck and there she hung like a Jasper Christmas-tree ornament. All Jasper did was look up at Mike and mew softly as if to say, “kids – what are you gonna do!”

So I ask you to take a moment as you read this to count all the things in life where you find your joy. It’s everywhere around no matter what is happening in your world. All you need do is look . . . May you find it in abundance today!

 

  [Jolly and Jersey side by side on my lap]

   

Sunrise – Summer into Autumn

Ok, so I couldn’t figure out how to get the pictures to do what I wanted. So here’s part two of the summer into autumn pictorial. Enjoy!

 

          

         

Sunrise

New life begins

It is exactly 30 days since my brother in law passed away per my last blog. Hard to believe Autumn is already here. So much change in such a short time. So while hubby planted our fall crops, a sure sign life continues, I built a fire to take away the early morning chill and decided it was past time to connect with you again.

The garden this year surpassed all expectations. Every year we always say, “it’s the best garden we’ve had.” But this year – all I can say is, WOW! So I will keep the words short and let the pictures speak for themselves. One of my favorite things about gardening is how beautifully it demonstrates life. The season’s change and life continues. I find hope and comfort in that. I hope you enjoy this pictorial demonstration of summer moving into autumn. One of my favorite times of the year. But then, I say that every season.

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:
 http://www.cduniverse.com/carrie-newcomer-three-women-lyrics-1653952.htm

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