Present Tense

Anniversary….

One year ago today, I embarked on a journey that affected me so profoundly that I haven’t even processed it fully.

I packed a bag and left my house to drive 4 hours south to sit at my 96 year-old mother’s bedside as she died.

I wrote quite extensively about the process and the journey of being with my mom as she wound down toward death. I had been preparing for this for some time.

As I sat with her and listened to her breathing, I realized that I had been preparing for my entire life.

I was her last born, the last child that she shared her heartbeats and her breath with.  I was the one to be there and hold her hand as she left this incarnation.  The circle was closed.

My mom and I had a very close relationship when I was a child. All of my older siblings were out of the house by the time I was 5 or 6. My dad worked long hours. So, just mom and me.

As I grew up, our relationship, like many mothers and daughters was complicated and at times, difficult. I distanced myself from family; physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Whether it’s accurate or not, I felt abandoned by them. It was during my mom’s final years that I realized that the death of her father when she was 12, left her feeling exactly the same way.

He chose alcohol over his young family and he died right int the middle of the Great Depression, leaving my grandmother to raise and provide for 3 children.

My mother NEVER spoke of this until the last couple of years of her life, when her dementia lifted some of her inhibitions and she spoke much more freely about her childhood and the challenges of losing her dad.  And the challenges of losing my dad a few years earlier.

So, I was with her in those final few years and months, as was my brother who lived close by. My older sisters , who visited as often as they could, were with their families, kids and grandkids, last Christmas. As they should have been. My sense is that they were where they were supposed to be, just as I was.

As she lay sedated and dying, I felt so strongly that her ancestors were in the room with us. Comforting her, gladly leading her into spirit. My dad, my grandma, her beloved sister, grandparents and who knows who else. All of them were there.

I was told during meditation to stay out of the way; that she was in good hands and I was there to witness not a death, but the birth of a spirit.

This was all very profound and comforting at the time and has greatly altered my view of death, both my own and others.

However, over the past year, I’ve realized that I was ready for her death, but not for her absence in my life. Even though the last few years with her were challenging and scary and exhausting, I miss her.

I miss how happy she was when I walked through the door. I miss her loopy conversations and questions as her memory slipped further into the ether. I miss helping her and caring for her and yes, waiting on her:)

I felt weird and sad when my parents’ estate was settled; they left a nice little nest egg for us, which was great, but the trade off was being parentless.

2017 has been a wrestling match with my grief. Over losing my mom and the earlier shocking death of my dog, Ember. 2016 was a blur of activity, much of it difficult, but with a few magic moments sprinkled in.

2017 was the year to allow that previous year to settle over me and I admit that I haven’t handled it as well as I would have liked. I fell into some of my default escape and coping strategies a few times.  But, I feel much stronger now.  Shit happens, you know?

As all of you know, grief hits so suddenly and randomly. And it’s hit me pretty much daily this past year. Could I have done more?  Could I have handled things differently?  Could I have saved Ember?  The answer to all is: no.  Life unfolds as it does and as it must.  Regrets and second guessing only cause more pain.  Time to accept.

On December 28th, I’ll mark a year since her last breath. I’m not upset about losing her around the holidays. So many choose to leave in December, in the darkness and holiness of winter. Seems like a perfect time, doesn’t it?

Anyway…I’ve always loved Christmas Eve for it’s solemnity and quiet before the storm of frantic activity that often marks Christmas Day.

I will sit and watch or listen to Christmas Eve services at the Vatican, as I did with my sleeping mother last year and as I have done for many years. The consistency and beauty of that service nourishes me.

For those of you also remembering and grieving, I send much love and comfort. I get it. It is bittersweet as we carry on with our lives and legacy, knowing that we too, have limited time here.

Merry Christmas. The light is returning.

December 24, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Tipping Point…

We are swimming in the soup of enormous cultural changes and I worry that we will now slide into a gender war.

Every woman in the US has known that this has been going on forever. We have all known that we are considered ‘less’ than men.

We all know that there is a cultural knee-jerk reaction to believe the man when a woman makes an allegation of sexual abuse, molestation, harassment or touching.

We are told “well, that’s just him” or “maybe, you misunderstood” or “he was just joking around…where’s your sense of humor?”.

This has been our ‘normal’ for as long as I can remember and for as long as my mother can remember…and my grandmother and so on and so on.

Did you know that in many cases, women couldn’t apply for credit without a male co-signer until the 70s? So no credit cards, no mortgage. We couldn’t vote nationally until 1920, the year my mother was born.

So, as we traverse this new territory where suddenly, we are seemingly in the middle of some cultural epiphany; where we are learning that men seem to think we are property or playthings. We are in grave danger of further division.

Obviously, all men are not abusers. Obviously, all men do not look at women as potential conquests, and yet, I find myself wondering what exactly DO men think of us?

I spent my career surrounded by and outnumbered by men. That was just the nature of broadcasting and media for most of my career that I entered in the early 80s.

It has changed some and I suspect that MOST women have worked with more men than women and the things we’ve heard come out of their mouths were often shocking and at times, painful.

Things like, “She’d be so much better looking if she grew her hair” as a woman left the room. Or, “No wonder, she’s not married” or “I’d hit that”.

Yup….over and over and over and over, day after day after day. Guy after guy after guy.

So, for the men: when we hear things like this come out of your mouth, is it any wonder why we feel angry and unworthy and yes, frightened?  Or when you sit by and let another man say these things without calling him out?

Is this how we are judged, even though we are competent professionals?

It’s all about who is fuckable, right?

So, yes. The pain, the humiliation, the fear and the overwhelming feeling that nothing that we do matters, because, well….’you’re a girl’ is suffocating.

Now, some brave women are coming forward and saying “Enough”. We are asking to be treated with little more respect. We don’t have to be adored or worshipped or put on a pedestal.

In fact, I have found that men who tend to claim their adoration and worship of women, are often the worst offenders in treating us like trophies or playgrounds.

The danger right now is that this will pit men against women (again). As women, we have to be careful not to paint with too broad a brush. To not demand too harsh of a punishment for men who just acted like a jerk. There is a difference between criminal and abusive behavior and being an asshole.

That is a very thin line, I know. But, in order for this to really begin to change, we have to muster what we women are best at: compassion and balance and love and nurture.

This is our wheelhouse. Let’s not allow ourselves to tip over into the default reaction of male energy: punishment and anger and domination.

This is but another test of our times. Jupiter is in Scorpio and that is a time to dig up the secrets. These things have been happening forever. All of the horror that we are seeing on the news every night isn’t new.

It’s just been buried and now, we are unearthing these dark secrets and behaviors. It is very hard to look at, but we HAVE to SEE it and acknowledge it. All of us. This is the time we have chosen to incarnate and it is both exciting and overwhelming.

It’s okay to be angry. I certainly am. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. This is hard, but we have to guard against becoming hardened.

Practice compassion and empathy and intellectual honesty. This is non-partisan. It is a human problem and if we divide into our tribes, we perpetuate this behavior.

How we reacted in the past (Bill Clinton, etc) is not relevant now.

The cosmos is asking us to grow up. It’s time.

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

On dying….

Sat down to write in my joucandle-with-flame-1rnal this morning and this came out.  Stream of consciousness and I figured I would go ahead and post it.  Raw form. No edits.

I had a reiki session yesterday as I’ve been feeling sooooo low.  Not as bad as a week or so ago, but just full of dark sludge.  My 96 year-old Mom is not doing well and when I say that, it’s more of an energetic thing than a physical one.

My visits with her are beautiful and tragic and necessary.  My reiki goddess, Charlotte had very good advice when she said to just ‘be with her’.  I don’t have to ‘do’ anything; maybe that’s my job.  To bring her along toward death and acceptance and letting go of this physical plane.

Some of the things that have happened over the past few weeks show me that I’m supposed to be there in these situations.  To be there when she falls, is scared and confused and as Anne Lamott says, to simply ‘bring her a glass of water’.  I can’t change her situation, I can’t turn the clock back or forward, I can only wait with her for the day when she transitions to spirit.

This is very hard for me.  I’m an action person.  A deep thinker, but also driven to do something, to initiate movement of some sort and in this situation, that is just not possible or productive or kind.  Her spirit is leaking out, as is her life force and I can only sit with her, offering comfort and love and security.

Dying is a profound act.  From the beginning of time, humans have feared it, wondered about it, attempted to explain it, run from it, denied it and ultimately we must accept it.  I have accepted that I will lose her and since she has told me many times that she has been here long enough, I welcome the end of her life in this physical incarnation.

There was a time when I was absolutely paralyzed with the fear of losing my parents. I’ve written about it and I discussed it with a counselor.  Over the past 3 years, I’ve been in an intense and instructive death lesson, having lost two dogs, my dad and a dear friend.  This got my attention.

And though I’m still pissed off at their passing; that I can’t hold them, call them, consult them or just know they are sharing my earth space, I have been able to formulate a spiritual knowing that death is not the end.

I firmly believe that we live on as spirit and that the moment that we leave this physical body, will free us and expand us and turn us into pure light and love.  That knowledge has erased much of my fear around my own death and has greatly helped me deal with and process the many and inevitable losses that come with being human.

So, death and dying confront us all.  At some point, we all take that final breath and our ancestors will appear to lead us back to our pure essence; our authentic spirit and soul self.

My job now is to hold my mom’s hand until she lets go.  And that is enough.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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