Present Tense

2016: On completion…

mom-and-dad2016. A year that lived up to its destiny.  In numerology, this was a ‘9’ year.  9 represents completion and that is exactly what this year has been for me.  Endings, goodbyes, letting go of all that no longer serves me.  Closing the circle on a journey that began several years ago.

On December 28th around 3:45 p.m. my mother took her last breath, as I sat on her bed with my hand on her chest.  It was peaceful and sacred and felt completely natural as I sat with her through her transition into spirit.

I won’t go into all of the particulars, other than to say that hospice is such a fantastic resource and I predict that our next big national discussion will be how we die.  Hospice plays such an integral part in the process and providing help and dignity, to not only the sick and dying, but the families who are often overwhelmed.  The hospice folks seemed to magically appear, exactly when we needed them.  It was almost mystical.

Five years ago, I would NEVER have even entertained the notion of sitting with my mother as she died.  I would have found excuses and justifications for staying as far away as possible.  It seems like that would be hard to admit, but I know myself and I can honestly say that I couldn’t handle it.  I wasn’t mature enough.

But, we change.  We evolve, particularly if we are open to it and often, the universe conspires to change us and open us up via shocking events and losses.

Until October 2013, when I was almost 54 years old, I had not really had to deal with death.  I feared it and dreaded losing my parents in particular, but in a compressed period, death has come and forced me to look at it.

Two dogs, a parent and a dear friend all passed in fairly quick succession before my mom began to fail.  I can see now that every one of these losses served a purpose. I suffered and felt grief that I never thought I could bear.  Each successive death brought back the pain of the others.

But, with each loss, I learned to cope and I also allowed my heart to crack open and my fear to dissipate.  I delved into death and dove into death.  As I survived the deaths of those I loved, I began to understand that death isn’t to be feared.  It is to be celebrated. It’s a change of address for their spirits.  And we all make that move one day.  Death begins at birth.

My mother always said she hoped that she would die peacefully in her sleep, but rarely do we get to choose our mode of passing.

With the help of hospice, she did get her wish for the most part. Unfortunately, some painful and violent falls preceded that peaceful transition, but I believe that was her soul’s way of telling us she was ready.

I was the youngest child.  Her last born and my siblings are all older; 15, 13 and 11 years my senior.  It felt fitting that as the last born, I should be with her as she died.  I was the last one whose heart beat with hers and I was there to feel her last heartbeats.

As I felt those last beats and watched her final breaths, I felt curiosity and relief and yes, beauty.  I did not feel fear or revulsion or panic.  The circle was closed.  Her life was complete, as was my role in helping her die.

We moved back to Michigan in the summer of 2013.  When people asked me what brought me back to my home state after being gone for 27 years, I couldn’t answer them. I honestly didn’t know.  It happened quickly and with some invisible guidance that I just didn’t question.

I loved Colorado and I miss it desperately, but for some reason, we needed to be here.  Now, I can clearly see the plan and the unfolding.  I moved back to help my mom die.  In the process, I lost others who prepared me for this mission. The other deaths forced me to come to terms with the impermanence of everything.

I also think that it’s no coincidence that our northern Michigan farm sits behind a cemetery.  I’ve spent hours wandering through it, feeling the energy, pondering the notion that all of its residents used to walk the earth, just as I am now.  Some died relatively young, but many lived into their 8th, 9th and even 10th decades and now they are a memory.  As we all will be. And that’s okay.  It’s not scary, it is the human condition and better to embrace it, than deny it.

And so, 2016 and I fulfilled our destiny.  This was a year of completion.  My obligation and commitment to my mother is finished; we watched over her, protected her and ultimately, fulfilled her wishes.  She and my dad’s ashes will be combined and buried together sometime in the early summer.  They are back together in the ether, surely dancing and laughing and holding hands.

RIP Mama. RIP Ember.  Thank you 2016; you have been a gift.

If you feel moved to make a donation in my mother’s memory, I would love to suggest Great Lakes Hospice Foundation .  Thank you.

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Lessons….

eagleYesterday, I was talking to a friend, who also happens to be an energy worker/healer, about the events of the past week, involving the death of Ember. She asked me to tell her what I had learned and what I thought it means going forward. Here is what I told her:

The day Ember was hit, I heard the delivery truck coming up the driveway and I had a flash of what was about to happen. I KNEW. As I ran toward the driveway, I knew what was happening and although all that I saw was a flash of white, as I got closer, I knew exactly where to look in the driveway.

I saw her and ran to her and I kneeled over her and knew she was gone. There wasn’t a mark on her. No blood, no contusions, nothing bent or broken. It was as if she were sleeping on the bed. But, she was gone.

After we let Junior sniff and nudge her, I wrapped her up and sat in a chair, holding her for about an hour. I stroked her, talked to her, kissed her and Junior sat with us. It was the most peaceful, serene, mystical experience. I was calm and loving and felt as if I were absorbing her into me; as if our spirits or souls melded together.

I know this sounds weird or airy-fairy to many of you, but it felt so perfect and necessary. Saying goodbye. Acknowledging that death is merely the end to our physical bodies and not the end of our essence.

I felt as if she was giving me a gift. Like most of us, I feared death for many years. I was terrified of losing my parents. I made my husband take our pets in to be euthanized because I couldn’t face it. It was better to just not think about it.

I was there when we put our dog Chili to rest and I was glad I was there for her, but this time, it was much more intimate and comforting. It healed me. I felt, smelled, tasted and embraced death in a way that I had never imagined. I had been feeling death in the air and I assumed it was my mom. So, maybe this was practice. A way to be there for her as she transitions.

We push away death in our culture. We deny it and fear it and sterilize it. This taught me to embrace it and know that death isn’t horrible. It isn’t the end. It’s a change of address.

Ember is now unbound by physical constraints. I ache for the loss I feel in my life, by not having her physically here with me. But, I know that my mom will be okay and that I can encourage her to face her fears. I can tell her that she can let go and join my dad and her parents and sister. Those of us still on earth will be fine and we’ll join her one day.  There is nothing to fear.

 

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The “New Normal”…..

dadI’m struggling to accept my dad’s death. I know that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Loss is part of our human condition and we all have to accept it in our own time.

He died suddenly about 2 and a half weeks ago and it’s been such a whirlwind of wrapping my mom in warmth and security and working to get her out of the house and into an assisted living facility that I haven’t had any time to really grieve or mourn my dad’s absence.

I don’t feel guilt for that; it’s absolutely what my dad would have wanted of us. He was completely committed to my mother and once said that when she died, he wanted to die the next day. The best laid plans, right?

He was taking care of business right up until the moment he died doing lawn work in the back yard and since he raised 4 competent, pragmatic children we knew that he would expect us to step up and take care of the business at hand. So, we did.

Now, I’m thinking about him; about how I can never again pick up the phone to commiserate about our miserable Detroit Lions. My husband can’t call him for apple growing advice or get his opinion on fixing our crooked screen door. During the chaos and bustle immediately after his death, his absence was noted, but now it’s settling over me and I’m feeling the finality of his death.

I started writing this blog several years ago as I began my journey to learn to overcome bad habits, non-productive worries and ultimately let go of my need to control everything. I’ve come a long way on that path and I think that my progress helped immensely in the past few weeks. But now, how do you let go of your dad?

I feel like if I do that, he’s really gone; like a puff of smoke, he will dissipate and no longer be real and that makes me feel awful. But, I also know that I have to allow the realness of his death to sink in. Yes, there are many happy and funny memories, but he’s not here and that feels like part of me has vanished as well.

My dad was over 93 years old and from all appearances, strong and healthy. It almost seems like when someone lives that long,you start to think that maybe they’ll never go. We all marveled as my parents lived into their 80s and late 80s and then into their 90s. I’ve waited so long for the call that one of them was ill or dead, that when it came, I couldn’t grasp that it actually happened. My dad, in particular seemed immortal.

So, now we learn to live with what people call the ‘new normal’, which is code for ‘this situation sucks, but you’ll have to accept and adapt’. And that’s the truth. All of us do it everyday and sometimes it’s a huge sea-change to your normal and sometimes it’s a minor zig zag.

My struggles are no different than anyone else’s. It’s life. It’s why we all have to learn to let go of our fantasies that life can ever be anything other than random and painful. As the Buddhists teach us, we all suffer together as part of the human race. We lose everything that is dear to us and we all die. It’s so obvious and true and yet, we fight it because we hope it can be different. It can’t.

I will hold my dad in my heart and my mind and love him that way. I will look at the faces of my siblings, nieces and nephews and see him in them. So many of us have his eyes and his silly sense of humor. We all love ice cream and pie.

He was able to see our little farm last fall and we have some of his tools and implements that will help us nurture and foster our land and our crops. He hated to see anything go to waste and we will honor him as we plant and harvest and care for my mom. We’re okay dad; you did good.

April 27, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

“You Will Fail”–Love, The Universe

failure

My husband and I were having dinner with good friends the other night.  There was lots of laughter and chatter, until one of the couples received a text from their daughter who is away at college.  She had shared some bad news. 

She did not get into an academic program that she’d been working toward for the past two years.  It was devastating for her and by extension, her parents.

We all expressed our sympathies and reviewed everything she had done to ensure her success and acceptance into this program.  Her mom told us that getting into this program was all she had planned for.  She had no idea how she would move forward.

After the initial shock wore off, we started talking about what we’ve learned from our collective disappointments.  Since all of us were over 50, we had quite a stockpile to sift through.

The bottom line:  life is a series of disappointments and successes.  That’s really what it all comes down to and when you have the luxury of looking back, you can see how many of your most devastating failures or setbacks, were actually pivotal turning points.

We all rebound from losses.  ALL of us.  Loss may ding us or make us more wary, but eventually we find a way out.  That’s how life is set up.  Time keeps flowing like a wave to carry us to the beach; sometimes gently, sometimes in a violent crash.  But, it happens.

Look back on your most painful losses or failures. Think about a time when you didn’t get something that you wanted so badly.  You asked why, felt cheated, repeated to yourself and anyone who would listen that you had done all the right things to make this happen for you.  And yet, it didn’t.  You cried out that life is unfair.

Yup.  It is.  And it’s not.  Life just is.  Life is a series of ups, downs, joy, triumph, pain, suffering, loss, victories, good meals, bad meals, cuts, scrapes, financial losses, financial gains, speeding tickets, death, destruction, natural disasters, treachery, lessons and second chances.  That’s what we get when we pop our head (or our ass, which isn’t optimal) out of the womb.

Take a moment to think back, as we did sitting around the table, to those personal moments of loss and failure.  What came into your life as a result?  The vast majority of these challenges were overcome.  So many times when we’re forced to take the fork in the road, it was a great fork.  We grew, we learned, we adapted and sometimes, we even bloomed.

Maturity, time and age really help to dull the effects of the inevitable disappointments we face.   Events that used to send me into a tailspin barely register anymore.  I know that it will work out, that l will adapt and evolve. Yes, there are still things that knock me flat on my ass like the death of my dog, Chili last fall (more on that here).  I’m still brushing myself off from that and have not quite processed the take-away.  But, I will.   With enough time.

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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