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

The Story of Mojo

mojoWe lost our dog Ember in May.

I wrote about her death after she was hit by a delivery truck in our driveway.

I wrote about forgiving the driver.

I wrote about how I handled her death and held her body and buried her in the center of my medicine wheel garden.

I haven’t yet written about the solo, 3600 mile, healing pilgrimage that I made to sacred places in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana after her death.  But, I will.

I’m not overstating it when I say that her death and the circumstances surrounding her death were some of the most painful and transformational events of my life.  There was something mystical about it.  Here is the next chapter:

On June 1st, while I was wandering around Badlands National Park, breathing in the energy and working on clearing my heart of the oppressive grief that I felt, 5 puppies were born in Colorado.  They were Jack Russell Terriers from the same family as our dogs Chili (also a devastating loss in 2013), Junior and Ember.

My friends Darlene and Mike, sent me photos of the new puppies. They were also grieving Ember’s loss along with us.  She was ‘their dog’, too as she had come from their kennel.

I had no desire for a puppy anytime soon.  The wound was still too raw. I wanted to take plenty of time to allow the grieving process to unfold.  I knew that healing would happen with time.  We would be a one dog family for a year or so.

When these puppies reached about 6 weeks, Darlene told me that one of them, a little boy, had a heart murmur and needed to be checked out by a cardiologist.  Many times puppies will outgrow a minor heart murmur and so I wished her well and didn’t think about it again.

A week later, she had an appointment with a specialty clinic in Denver to have him checked out. Driving to the clinic, she was caught in traffic.  An accident had closed the freeway and she wasn’t able to get to the appointment.

Frantically, she called a terrier owning friend who recommended another specialty clinic north of Denver with a great cardiologist and she was able to get an appointment.

At that clinic, they were told that “Dipstick” as they’d started calling him due to his black tail, was in congestive heart failure. He had a large hole in his heart.  Surgery, costing thousands of dollars was the only thing that would save his life.  He was 9 weeks old.

They admitted that they just couldn’t swing that amount of money for the pup.  It was a horrible decision to have to make, but the cardiologist was so taken with Dipstick, she said they would do the surgery, no charge.   Out of the blue.  Just like that.  They said, “we’ll save him”.

And they did.  As soon as he was out of surgery, his BP and heart rate were normal. He was up and eating within 24 hours.  A miracle.

The docs said the hole was so big that they couldn’t fix it laparoscopically; they had to open him up and use sutures to close the hole in his heart.  The entire team was in the operating room, watching and rooting for “Dippy” as they called him.

I had no idea that all of this was happening, other than being told that he needed this surgery and that this group of wonderful angels had offered to save his life.

I was telling my husband this story and told him that once he was healed, they would place him in a good home.  He said “Did you raise your hand?”  This comment was from a man who fought me on every single puppy that I’ve brought home.  Who declared loudly after every pet loss, “NO NEW DOGS”.

I hadn’t spoken one word about a new puppy after we lost Ember.  It was still too painful for me and I knew what his reaction would be.

So, the next morning, I meditated on this.  I had decided that we should wait on another puppy. I was hoping for another girl dog.  I didn’t think we had taken enough time to grieve and adapt to our new normal.

But, as I sat in meditation, I heard this: “You all have a hole in your heart and so does he.  You can heal your hearts together”.  Truly.  That is exactly what came to me.

This little dog was full of magic.  He had such a strong spirit to survive for so long with a hole in his heart.  His spirit reached out and grabbed a group of veterinarians when they saw him and propelled them to do a wondrous and compassionate and extraordinarily generous thing.  That is some very good mojo.

I have no doubt that part of that strength and part of that charm came from Ember’s spirit visiting him.  I see Chili’s sweet, wise soul in his eyes.

Mojo saw his docs last Thursday and they declared him cured.  Fixed.  Ready for a long and vivacious terrier life. I’m told some of them had tears in their eyes when they saw how lively and happy he is with his strong, healthy heart.

There is something mystical about this story.  When I weave it all together and see the unseen forces working to bring this pup to us, I’m in awe.

Had he not been sick. Had Darlene not missed the first appointment.  Had I not sat in meditation.  And yes, had we not lost Ember.  Life is so uncontrollable and mixed up and perfect.

He will come to live with us very soon.  He has to.  Spirit wouldn’t have it any other way.

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 31 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

Goodbye Ember

ember blogMy heart is in a million pieces …again.  Loss has attached itself to me like a tick that is hell-bent on teaching me some sort of lesson or sucking out my life’s blood by taking everything that is precious to me.

Yesterday, I lost my feisty, beautiful, bright light of a dog, Ember when she was hit by a delivery truck in our driveway on the farm.  She died immediately and with her, I could feel some of my soul empty out of me and into her, leaving another void that can never be filled. She would have been 3 years old in a few weeks.

The pain I’m feeling as I write this is acute and dizzying.  I feel foggy and dull, other than the stabbing throb in the pit of my stomach.

The Buddhists teach that in the end, we lose everything and everyone that we love.  That is just truth.  This is why they teach so much about loosening our grip; to be wary of becoming attached.  Attached to material goods, ideas, money, status and yes, those we love. And most of us love our pets as much as we love our humans; in my case, even more I think.

One minute, we were out picking asparagus and the next, she is dead.  Just like that.  We’ve all heard the saying that life changes in an instant, but until it’s laying in front of us in our driveway, we don’t always grasp it.

My dad died similarly two years ago.  He went in and had lunch with my mom, went out to do yard work and in an instant, he was dead in the back yard that he loved.  I guess there is some comfort in knowing that neither of them suffered and they were enjoying themselves right up to their final breath.  But I miss them both with an ache that is searing.

I miss my dad in that I can never call and seek his advice.  I am saddened that my mother continues her earthly journey without him by her side.  She misses him desperately.

Ember’s loss is still so new, such a raw, open wound.  I got up this morning to one very somber dog, who also misses his companion.  Making up one dish of food, seeing her empty crate, and her collar on the counter.  No barking and scrambling to be fed and get out the door.  Too calm; too somber.

Yesterday, we were all outside, my husband, two dogs and probably a couple of cats, when I heard the Fedex truck starting to come up the driveway, I knew the dogs would run that way.  I shouted “Fedex” and for some reason began running toward him as well.  I NEVER do that, but I KNEW what was happening. I could feel it before it happened.

We live on 10 acres and so it was some distance for me to cover and I can’t possibly keep up with terriers, but as I ran, I saw a flash of white on the driveway and I knew.  I knew she had been hit and then I knew EXACTLY where to look on the driveway as I approached and I saw her, motionless.

I KNEW she was gone.  As soon as I got to her.  There were no visible signs of trauma. The driver had no idea that he’d hit her.  He knew that we had two dogs, he’s at our house at least once a week.  He said that he saw our other dog, Junior.  Didn’t see Ember.

My husband sent him away angrily.  I feel compassion for him; I know that he suffered with this all day yesterday. Knowing that he killed my dog.  He didn’t mean to, but he was driving too fast and was distracted or something.

I’m doing my best to not second guess and flood my mind with ‘what ifs’ or ‘whys’.  Shit happens.  Good shit, bad shit, life shit.  We never know why. I believe that when my personal Fedex truck comes along and removes me from Earth, all of those questions will be answered.

For now, I grieve.  I know that Ember burned very brightly in her short time on Earth.  She was fiery as they come, and quick and loud and boisterous and demanding and loving and hysterically funny and I loved her with a fierceness that she returned to me.  She crammed a lot in during a short time.  She helped me through some other difficult losses and though I have no idea how we go on after losing her, I trust that we will.

Today, it’s one foot in front of the other.  Making sure our other dog, Junior is loved and cared for, as he is mourning the loss of his second lady friend.  We are resilient, yet so fragile.  That is life.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

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