The Quiet Inside

12061_10151721634725901_477138869_nThe Farm is quiet this morning.  There are crickets chirping perfectly on time outside making it feel like a musical guided meditation piped in from my backyard which is  teeming with life and weeds after a rainy summer of neglect.   I don’t turn on the radio as I being to write slowly, taking time to drink in the silence like a voraciously thirsty person. The crickets stop singing suddenly as though they had been waiting for me to pick up my pen, and the silence feels like a blanket all around me.

I have been feeling a great need for a different kind of quiet since my mother’s death.  I am looking for a silence that is more pervasive than simply what I can find on the outside.   I want deep silence from the inside – from my heart.

My mind is busy.  I am sorting through my mother’s effects one thing at a time.  I realize how careful she was to tell me the stories about each thing, and I am shocked at how vividly I remember them.

Oh, this is picture frame we bought together on that trip to New York,” thinking to myself, I pick up the frame which now holds an old photograph of the two of us with questionable hair styles from the 80’s.  We smile the same way, I notice for the thousandth time.

This is the basket of pictures we have been promising to go through together for 25 years and never did”, I smile.

“Damn – now I have to do it alone”, I say to her out loud. “You got out of it!” I cry again.

We loved procrastinating stuff like that.  I look back at the basket. The round jar like shape made of natural reeds from West Africa where we lived is typically colourful with a bright red and green African design. It has been overfilled with pictures accumulated over so many years that it has finally settled into a middle age sag sort of look, a protruding rounded belly filled with the stories of mine and mother’s life.  The memory of buying the basket in an African market place when I was 13 with her is as fresh as a paper cut – and suddenly the basket means the whole world to me.  So, I give it to my sister. I can[t be attached to everything – I feel like I’m going to drown in it all.

I see how am attached to too many things. I understand this in my head but I can’t seem to tear myself away from it; a broken chain, a cracked dish, meaningless papers all reluctantly and often tearfully tossed in the garbage. 

I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out of tears sooner or later.

It is very hard to throw anything away.  My inner non-materialistic hippie is a little disgusted that I have to keep reminding myself that stuff is just stuff.

My sister (my mother’s twin)  – (if you don’t understand this, I will explain it another time J) – is handling things with patience and love and humour.  My youngest daughter has been a trooper through this whole process and they are getting to know each other better.  I am enjoying this part.  I can see the “good parts” of what happens when great changes come and I can be present enough to have a moment to be grateful.

We keep it light, and we try to find the spiritual side of things.  Big things in life such as death and big endings make you reach a little higher for what you have inside of you.  I figure it’s a survival mechanism.

This need for silence makes it so that I am more consciously focused on meditation and centering. I realize that a great deal of time when grieving is spent visiting the past in our minds – a very dangerous neighbourhood to visit alone, She often reminded me.  And I realize that whether they are good or bad memories, they have a hold on my heart squeezing it tight with the knowledge that fresh memories can’t happen anymore.  As a result,  I spend little time in the present moment – which is exhausting. The only place we really get any energy from or joy, is from the present moment.  So right now meditation keeps my mind from completely cracking open and bleeding all over the floor.   I think it’s natural to go through this process, but I am pretty aware of the fact that this reality is completely un-centering. I feel like I am living outside of my body.

I have been careful to keep myself even. I try to sleep, eat properly and stay focused on my spiritual center. In a way I meditate all day – it’s not just an event in my day. When I am out of that state, I bring myself back.  Staying there allows me to have brief moments of presence, to remind myself that grief will pass –

“This too shall pass”, I hear her say.  In every moment everything is changing.  Be like water…not stone.

OK well easy to say but I feel a little “rock like” at times, unwilling to let go or even budge an inch.

But, I remember that every time I focus on the moment I am standing in – there is nothing wrong. There is nothing.

“It’s just is what it is.” That’s exactly right.


SEVENTH CHAKRA – Reaching High

Seventh Chakra – Retreat Preparation –

Retreat Scheduled for:  Sunday October 6, 2013

 The Sahasrara is described as having 1,000 multi-coloured petals which are arranged in 20 layers, each of them with approximately 50 petals. The pericarp is golden and a circular moon region is inscribed on it with a downward pointing triangle

The crown chakra represents our connection to the divine. The physical manifestation of the portal of communication between our human life and our spiritual life lays in the receptivity of this area of the body.  Our mental focus and understanding of its functioning cannot make it open.  The opening of the crown chakra is an act of grace- brought about by your willingness to hear and ability to receive Divine guidance.

The journey to the top of our existence begins in the Kundalini arising – the root chakra.  It journeys upwards as we move from one level of understanding to another.  Inner work requires focus and dedication, and you have achieved this.

We have looked at emotions, and how we function as people within the context of those emotions. We have become more conscious of our bodies and the connection that we have to every living thing. As we have worked on the different aspects of these chakras, we have increased overall our awareness of who and what we are. We have discovered that we are divine and a substantial powerful part of everything that is alive.

Then we have tried to bring this understanding back into our “regular” lives.  Our understanding of ourselves as spiritually relevant entities can sometimes be sidetracked by our involvement in the human aspect of our lives- our dramas and stories. We have learned to laugh and cry together through these stories. They are how we learn about ourselves.

Over time, through willingness and practice, meditation quiet and focus, you have learned that you can only control how you perceive your life, how you participate in it, and how you interact with your own thoughts.

You have learned about control and non-control.  Holding and releasing. You have seen that releasing can give us more freedom than holding.

Now, the crown chakra asks that you release – completely. That you turn your life over to the possibility that the universe is (and always has been) completely guiding you, your thoughts and actions to a place where you can come to know and love yourself as it does.

We have walked a long path together.  I have asked you to do many things – to stretch past yourself and look at the possibility at what there is to believe in around you.  Maybe what we can believe in cannot always be seen felt or heard?  The crown chakra asks you to open your mind to this possibility.

And then let go.

It will ask you to let go of all of the preconceived notions you have ever had about your life.

The crown chakra will show you that eternity exists in every single moment.

It will show you that you are here for something very awesome, magical and waiting to be discovered.

The crown chakra is the voice of the God and Goddess inside of you.  It is your internal guidance system and the portal of communication between the part of you that is eternal and the part of you that is living this experience now.

The path to it is in experiencing the present moment deeply and intensely.

In the study of the past chakras you have learned about the importance of honouring your self- knowledge. Through journaling, meditative walking, quiet interaction hands on a horse, breathe, yoga, colourful Mandala expression – you have seen that you can be present in the moment.  All you have to do to return to this experience is to remember it was possible once, and some, it is possible again.

The crown chakra opening is not always an easy experience. It requires that we lose our judgment of everything and everyone.  This is difficult for most people, but must become a primary part of your spiritual practice in order for you to achieve Crown chakra consciousness.  The trick will be in recognizing that the arrival of this consciousness is not up to you – only remaining open to the possibility, Meditation is an important tool in remaining focused and open to the possibility of higher consciousness.  Some religions call this “enlightenment”.

It is my belief that the more people who focus on and experience crown chakra opening, the more we will find a way to save the earth and unite our minds and hearts in purposeful and peaceful effort.  Thank you for beginning this journey with us here at WillowCreek.  The journey continues throughout our lives. There is no graduation certificate, and the more you learn, the more you will want to understand.

And so, you have reached this end place where we only find that we must begin again:

Muladhara: Everything begins at the root. Each day must be awakened with an awareness of where your roots are and where you are grounded on this earth – in this time in this place

Swadhisthana: The second focus is on our day and how we spend our living time. Are you creative and using the best parts of yourself to move forward with positive creative energy?

Manipura: The third center focusing on our emotions located in the solar plexus. Again body awareness can help us know if we are feeling a distracting emotion. Emotions, we have learned, are often our needs demanding to be fulfilled. This chakra asks us to be are of and honour our need for emotional awareness and fulfillment.

Anahata: The fourth is our elemental voice – the essence of how we speak and communicate. How truthful can we be if we don’t understand how our past has impacted us and our current choices? We asked ourselves if we were able to ask for what we needed from the people in our lives. Many of us struggled with understanding what our important basic needs were.  This awareness helps us make better decisions for ourselves and healthy boundaries where we need them.

Vishuddha: The fifth chakra began to focus our awareness on the love that we express in our lives. Did we have feelings or emotions which blocked the heart from its highest ability to express love and compassion?   One of my favorite facts from the research on this chakra was that, of all of the signals that flow between heart and mind in a day, over 80% of them actually come from the heart to the mind, and not the other way around.  We talked about how feelings of resentment and anger could block the heart from fully expressing itself. The heart is the center point of the chakras.  It is the balance where we can experience life in its fullest sense.  It is the center of our survival as physical beings.

Ajna: The sixth chakra began our discussion on higher consciousness.  The unseen world of Spirit.  For many, a great leap of faith.   We began to open our minds and shared in an exchange of the sense of intuition we had.  Everyone has this ability, few of us are conscious enough to use it.  The fifth chakra asks us to be more alert, awake and aware of the signs that the universe sends us to help guide us in making positive forward creative choices for ourselves.  The importance of meditation is stressed in all stages of understanding.

Sahasrara: The seventh chakra then, is the jumping off place, as they say.  Will you walk your talk? Can these beliefs and understandings you have gained be translated into affecting th ewy yuor daily life moves. Will you take all this information and simply let it sit in your head, not allowing it to traverse to your heart and change the way your life moves?

Free will is our gift from the Universe. We can choose to live in the flow of life – or outside of it. Once we are aware that this flow exists – then the choice becomes a conscious one.

It takes courage to live the convictions of understanding that your life is bigger than you could have imagined it.  You are one of billions of manifestations of the universe.  What an awesome thought. You have a spark of God, INSIDE OF YOU. And it is accessible to you, whenever you need it.

How will you use your spark?

Thank you for walking this path with us.  We look forward to our continued journey.


In This Moment – With love and gratitude.

“It’s time to go”, my husband John quietly says.

I stand up automatically, put out my cigarette and gather my things to get into his car. I am like a robot on the outside and my mind feels like it has been through a blender; I’m pretty sure I can’t handle what’s about to happen.  I’m afraid I will just dissolve.

I notice John has vacuumed the carpets – a sign of respect for what we are about to do that I find sweet.  He has been my rock and the ground beneath my feet through this.  My daughter Sara and her boyfriend get into the car with us and we are all quiet. There is no request for music.  It is a respectful silence.  Everyone looks around, but not at each other.  I try the radio a couple of times and quickly give up.

My chest is tight and I can’t stop crying. I try not to let anyone see. My practice reminds me that I am not in any pain really – other than my thoughts.  I am so tired of being sad and crying – I want to do something different so I try and become more aware of what my mind is doing.

The pain I am feeling comes from remembering how it felt to bury my father and the distant long ago experience of burying my first mother – my grandmother it turns out. The past creeps up like dark air just waiting to swallow you up if you don’t stay conscious and aware of the games your mind plays.  I remind myself that I am just driving in a car right now. That right now nothing is really bad.

“It’s just that my mother is dead and I feel scared and alone and terribly terribly sad”

– my mind throws in a little reality check.

How do I balance this?

I wrestle with my mind on how to justify what I believe spiritually – which is that we are all connected, that death is illusory and that consciousness exists past physical life. But the feeling of something like an empty cavern in my chest where my heart has cracked open is obvious to me and the whole world.  I am unsure of what to believe anymore. But I can see the worry and love in the people around me. My wound is obvious. I try to keep my head together as the car rolls towards the funeral home.

I remember suddenly that it made me feel better to listen to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” on my way to my father’s funeral, so I load it onto my phone and sink into the music. My mind quiets.  I have so much fear of falling into pieces and being no use to my kids or my sisters who are in terrible pain.  Behind the scenes of my mind, thoughts of the day’s upcoming events unravel.  There will be allot of people and I have a last chance to be my mother’s daughter.  I will be present and make my family proud.  

We arrive on the heels of “Diamond’s on the Soles of Her Shoes”.  I turn off the music as my husband parks in front of the funeral home.  We unload musical gear.  I remind myself how absolutely unprepared I am for organizing the music and all the things that have to happen. I don’t feel nervous though.  I am suddenly aware of a feeling of quiet confidence that everything will be ok. I have faith in my mother, my friends and my family.

Let go and let God”, I hear her say in my mind.

I imagine all that she would say to me then.  “Easy does it”, “Breathe huny”, “Just do your best”…

I am there for her and the people who love her.  The pressure lifts.

I enter the funeral home and see a group of people in front of me, but I don’t know any of them. I didn’t realize there were two funerals.  Those can’t be our people – those people look very sad.

A sign points to upstairs indicating that there is a celebration of my mother’s life.  I go upstairs where only my immediate family is sitting.  The room is quiet as John and I descend upon the quiet scene with our immense family.  Our kid’s energy enters the room and things lighten up.

We set up the movie I have created of her and my family and her friends. It took me six long days and it was a grueling process of excavating not only physical pictures but a complete overview of my entire life and everyone who has ever been a significant part of it. During the process I half laughed with a good friend saying that if I hadn’t resolved my past after ALL this, than I was completely without hope.

The rest of my kids come in and we watch the movie together, as a family.  We criend and laughed together as we remembered all of the events that went with the 65 years of memories on the screen.  The memories that made us the people we are today.

Over the days between my mother dying and making the movie I laughed but mostly I cried.  I cried buckets and buckets of tears.  My eyes became swollen and infected and at the funeral I found myself looking slightly Quasimodo-ish.  One person asked me if I got punched.

The result of the movie was beautiful though. I didn’t know it would be like that. After the private family viewing people came in throngs, waves one after the other, all gathering around the screen and able to spend time with her and all the good memories in her life.

She had a special musical request right before her passing – that we play “It’s your Thing” by the Isley Brothers – so I added it to the video with as many silly pictures as I could find.  People were smiling and laughing because they so deeply understood what she was telling them.

I see my family around me.  My brothers I hadn’t seen in the same room for so long only because of circumstance and not a lack of willingness. We all really love each other.  There is a loyalty and a pride in being family that we share. I sense the friendliness and a feeling of unity with all of us.  It feels good.

Our cleaning lady from many years ago arrives smiling. She looks beautiful.  People arrive more and more – we share stories and tears and hugs.  This is very healing.

Time has flown by and it’s time for the ceremony.

I am a little overwhelmed as we enter the chapel. I’m not quite sure what to do. Unbeknownst to me, the two friends who were supposed to sing and play the main song at the ceremony had still not yet arrived because they set up at the wrong funeral home and were sitting beside an unknown person whose name rhymed with my mom’s family name.

We enter the chapel; I make my way through more hugs and touches of support on my shoulder.  I look behind me quickly to see where my family is. My brother and his sons are beside my friends – I love that they are meeting.  My children are in the front clinging to their partners and friends.  I am grateful for the support the Universe has sent their way.  I see them quiet and dignified – this is their Nanny.  A very difficult loss for them.  My heart is washed with love and respect for their quiet courage.

I sit beside my sister – my mother’s identical twin sister. Her sadness is palpable and I wish I could take some of it away. But that won’t ever be possible.  She is beside my stepfather. I am overwhelmed with concern for them both and I once again release my fears to my Higher Power and pray that they get what they need and the comfort that only and act of Grace can bring.

The Archbishop is presiding over the services.  I like this man. I had met him as we were preparing the funeral arrangements. At first, I was wary of anyone who be of “high office” in any church or religion – it is arrogant of a person to claim they can talk to God or on God’s “behalf” better than we can for ourselves.  But he isn’t like this.

I asked him how we can all learn to become “Excellent”, because as the Archbishop he is referred to as “Your Excellency”. A challenge he handles with deference and humour –

“I don’t know, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll letcha know”. He said with a gleam in his eye.

Very good.

We wanted some form of a Set list or organization for the music at the funeral, but I just knew in my heart that it was not something we could “organize”. It would be fine – I reassured him. God would take care of the music.  Imagine me saying that to an Archbishop?  He smiled-maybe at the irony- and nodded, writing a note or two on his pad.  I think I made him a little nervous with my “hippie ways”, but in the end, he had faith.

The ceremony begins…

Father Barry enters the church saying something about Celebrating the end of a life…we stand…we sit. He recites a passage from Ecclesiastes; “To every thing there is a time…”

The Bible’s long version reminder that everything is changing and that change is the nature of our existence. Yes. My mother would have said the same thing.

People are crying all around me. I like this. It means there were so many people that loved her that she is loved and missed.  I have never been to a funeral where I felt so much love.

It is time for the dedication speeches.  Jack gets up. He’s an Irish-New Yorker straight out of a Mario Puzzo movie. He always reminded me of my brothers in his funny sideways man-humour and gentle gruffness.  He has been very good to my mother and step father and has shown his love in so many tangible ways with his wife Louise. Our family is extended and huge.  His speech is brave and beautiful and ends with the Irish Prayer –

May the Road rise up to meet you

May the wind be at your back…

There is not a dry eye in the house when Jack is done.

Diane gets up next.    My mother’s dear friend over the past many years and someone she loved like a daughter.  Love and loyalty pour from her words and I smile at how I see the impression of my mother’s energy on her.  Her influence of wisdom and the guidance she gave her will not be lost because she will do what my mother did for her for another woman.  This is an awesome legacy – more than money or fame or power – for those things disappear instantly with your last breath.

Here is a little more from father Barry. He speaks from the heart about his own loss of the wife he loved last year- a woman who suffered with MS and then died of cancer. I respect his words because he speaks from his heart and I listen carefully because I know he speaks the truth.  He looks at me and gives me a smile to begin music.  I go up and realized that the friends doing the song are still not here, so I pick up my guitar unsure of what song to do.  I look at the Chapel filled beyond capacity and only feel love.  I like the quiet and I decide not to rush.  I play gently until something comes to me. Other musical friends I see are scrambling for their guitars and trying to figure out what I am playing. Suddenly I see Sonja and Roger come in.  I begin to sing Amazing Grace. George comes in wearing a top hat and a smile.  I hear Sonja’s voice. I don’t know the second verse – I realize only halfway through the first. I feel surrounded by angels and light and beautiful things.  I drop off and on cue, Sonjka picks up the second verse and brings the whole chapel back to singing the first together at the end.

I knew it would be ok.  We would will all just fall into step with each other like people who have walked a long road for a long time do.  I hear David pick up the small bongo’s and a steady beat keeps me moving forward. That’s what friends do. They keep the beat going.

I am singing. I hear myself. I can’t believe it. Just a few hours ago I was trying to figure out how I would even just be in the building and be able to speak to people.  But, in this moment, I am feeling JOY…I mean, my heart is filling up past capacity!  I hear all the other voices, Sonja and roger and the other guitars come in with the heartfelt timing of angels. I look around to make sure my brother can hear because this is beautiful music and I really want him to feel it. He is standing up at the top balcony and I can see smiling.

I don’t feel sad.  I feel my mother – so happy with us.  Smiling and I know that THIS is exactly what she would want. We ALL know it.

So we are happy and sad all at once – together. And that’s ok too.

The ceremony goes on, I give my eulogy and I feel the words and thoughts come easily from the written version to words from my heart.  I had been careful only to write my eulogy once. I didn’t edit or draft it. I just wrote it.

I wanted everyone to remember what she would want us to remember.

Her last word of Love…

I let her speak through my heart and I stepped out of the way. It felt good.

My eldest daughter Meagan gets up and surprises me. She speaks of love for her grandmother and on behalf of her brother and sister, with whom she has a tumultuous and loving relationship.   She is smiling when she sits down. It helps to tell everyone how much you loved someone when they pass away.

We had a final song set up but I wasn’t sure when to do it, but it didn’t matter.  I would follow father Barry. But when he gave me the sign to set up a final song, I changed my mind suddenly from my original “plan” and announced “set list change” to my friends. They all laughed – big surprise. I have never been able to follow a set list in my life. Why should now be any different?   They were prepared J and did “In My life” by the Beatles.   A special request I felt from on high.

We laid her to rest in a beautiful illuminated cubby hole in the Chapel wall.  We can go and visit her ashes any time we want. And the funeral director told me I could bring my guitar and take advantage of the awesome sound in that place.  I love that we can go and be with her and focus on her like this.  It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful life.

I woke this morning feeling “in my body” for the first time in a week.  I know this is not going to be easy. After a funeral and death there is a long process of understanding how to be in the world again without the physical presence of someone you loved.

Yesterday, when people would ask me how I was, I would do a quick check and answer honestly;

“In this moment, I am well”, because, whenever I remind myself of where I am standing in this moment – really, I am well.   I will have to do that allot in the next while I know.

I speak to my mother all day. I hear her answers clearly in my mind and heart. I don’t doubt her voice, because I came from her and she taught me well.

She is continuing to be a good friend and I feel the love right now, in this moment.  But when have those hard moments where I feel only the loss, I will have the celebration of her life and the feeling of extraordinary love and togetherness that came from that day to bring me back to myself.

In love and gratitude.


“And In The End The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make” ~The Beatles


Our family is full of stories –

Most of them I would never tell you.  But, I do I remember the one about my mother and her twin that first time the Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan.  In my house the story was famous because of the overzealous reaction of “the Twins” – as my mother and her identical twin sister were always called, as though they were Siamese or something. Throwing themselves on the ground in hysterically happy girl fluttering Beatle mania – I love that vision. Apparently they had entered such a frenzy that my mother had nearly fainted, catching the wave of excitement emanating through the small 15 inch black and white tubey contraption they called a television in those days.

We have other captivating and intriguing stories including all of the “great twin mysteries”  – like why one felt labour cramps when the other went into labour – and one was living in Africa at the time.  Or one broke their leg, and the other was practically booking a plane ticket – to Labrador- before she even got the call from the hospital. That stuff was pretty normal between them – a strange psychic link which seems to be uncut by death of a body.  They did everything together. They did strange things like being at the convent together – imagine??   If you only knew them you would know how silly that is.  In our family. they are “the Twins”.  At Christmas they sing silly unpronounceable French Christmas songs together – Ones none of us have ever figured out the words for, because only they understood each other fully – I figure.  Our family has stories – and this one is another unfolding. One of us dying is a very sad state but one that as the youngest of the clan I will be facing – (unless I get hit by a truck) – allot.  I had better get right with the most inevitable of life’s inevitabilities…

It’s a strange and individual process everyone goes through when someone they love dies. I figure everyone does it the way they do it. No two people are the same, but when dealing with an illness there are certain slightly predictable things you will go through. like stages of illness and stuff. There is the ‘finding out they are sick stage” –  sometimes that can last for a very long time, so try to have no expectations if that’s possible.  It WILL be completely different than anything you can imagine so – don’t waste your time imagining.bfa36fa64ca006022b4708a5f1aa902d

My mom and I figured it like this – life is terminal for us all, so acting like someone is dying just because they are  is really futile or you should be doing that for everyone you know.  keep life in life.  But to get to the place of accepting that someone has a life ending – terminal – illness is a difficult and you negotiate, you contemplate, you cry you deny – it’s all there.   Then, you pass through them again, but in a sort of rough way, when your loved one’s health begins to decline.  For me, I got “stuck in the past” (and still do at times) where  I had these continuous visions of my mother as a younger self, full of life and vibrancy.  When I would look at the sick body on the bed, it made me sad to relate how far she had come from living the full life she had always known.  Like I said though, there are stages. And the stark contrast in who she was now and then had not really hit me until close to the very end, when memories began to have their way with my exhausted brain.

Experiencing death with someone I discovered, is allot like a birth. It happens in stages, and the intensity can increase and decrease depending on the stage. And, just like a birth, death at the end is very much a sigh of relief.  It was, in the case of my mother’s death, a breath out and a pure feeling of ease and comfort.  But this was my experience. I am sure each of us experience death in a very different way.  My eldest daughter was present for my mother’s death. She had never seen a person die before, never mind her beloved grandmother. She was arduously brave and I felt my heart smile as she looked up at me and said

“This is gonna be ok. It’s kind of wonderful”.

We had talked about this. in great detail.  death, what to believe. what happens after. No one…I tell you NO ONE likes to talk about it – but its the ONE THING FOR SURE we are ALL going to do in this lifetime. So, I am pretty open with my kids about being able to make their own mind up about how these things work. My mom spoke openly as well – and the kids were not afraid to ask questions when they could. her illness made them very sad.

Some of it was strangely joyful. We sang songs as she was dying.  They told us that the last sense to go was auditory, so I sang. Boy did I sing. I sang the Barney song (please don’t tell my band), I sang Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds over and over…

‘Don’t worry – about a thing,

Cause every little thing

Is gonna be alright”

And I told her I loved her…over and over.  I wanted her to go to heaven – or wherever one ends up after leaving this body – hearing the words love.

I watched my family,. her sister, her husband, my husband and daughter and some dear friends that she loved very much, all around her, all talking about loving her.  I saw strength and amazing spirituality in my family and a rock solid loyalty to my mother.

It was difficult when she began to go. In fact, I think I went through all the stages of grieving in a massive rush – the need to reach acceptance looming large. At some point there is no choice about this.  And you also realize that not letting go is not helping your loved one to leave the body.  I discovered that the number one thing that affects and disturbs those who are dying, it seemed from my experience, was the fear of leaving those they loved in distress of any kind. It appears that at the end of the day, we don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about ourselves.

The stages go from ne to the next, indicated by changes in breathing speed. The closer the time comes, the slower the breathing.  My mother likes to throw out the text book on most things so, against all odds and having been told it was simply impossible that she would ever speak 12 hours earlier by a palliative care nurse, she got a last word in, just a few seconds before her death. predictably my mother said:


We all heard it.  It threw us into a mass of smiles and lots of “yeah I knew she’d get something in…ha ha”.  🙂 smiles.

Everything happened as it should – as everything all ways has. Everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be at exactly the right moment in the 24 hours preceding her death.  It was truly miraculous.  It was like angels choreographed the entire thing. The guy at the funeral home, the son of the same man who has buried quite a few folks in my family, was gentle and sweet. It was a strange thing – to arrange a funeral.  But in a strange way, I enjoyed this feeling of love for her and how much we wanted to do something “with her” one more time.  arranging the music is my job, and my mind will be busy in a happy place.

As I was wondering about the nice man at the funeral parlor, the son of the original owner, and what it must have been like for him to grow up in our home town as the funeral director’s son – he said a very wise thing.

“Sharing and telling stories about the process, the person or the feeling helps us the move through the grieving process faster.”

It is a final act of love on their behalf”. I like it.

I figured, everyone has to face death and so maybe sharing this experience will help someone not to be so afraid or to see the beauty in letting go.  However that works I am comforted that my mother continues to teach me – and maybe even you.


There Are No “Small Things”…really.

Today a new patient came into the palliative care center.  I can hear him breathing as I sit in the small lounge surrounded by big sunny windows and beautiful indoor plants. Outside a squirrel is playing in one of the dozens of gardens planted around the place for the enjoyment of people who are going through a very difficult time of their lives there. These gardens represent a beautiful and selfless act of love brought about purely by a very real empathy we share for one another in a time when  the world is being pulled out from under our feet.  The gardens are in full bloom, ponds and lotus, little green frogs and  small garden path for meditation. There is an amazing amount of beauty and laughter in this place.

I go to the sun room to wait while the nurse gives my mother a sponge bath. I think about the Jacuzzi waiting for me when i get home and I am overcome with sadness at the thought that she would never have a real bath again. Little things…

I am listening as a little boy comes up about five minutes behind his grandfather, the new patient and I hear him say,

“Is he going to look the same?”, a little tinge of nerves in his small voice.

His mother replies, “Of course sweetheart. Grandpa is only sick on the outside, he is always the same on the inside.”

A touching response which seemed to satisfy the boy who was immediately undaunted by his grandfather’s unresponsive state.  The boy quickly started chatting away about all the things he was seeing in the room. I suppose there was a baseball calendar because he remarked excitedly to his dad about the man’s uniform looking like his own.

“Detroit Tigers”, The dad replied.

I could hear the family busy dong what all the “newbies” do, just like when we were newbies – 6 days ago. You become “oldies” really fast in palliative care.

But when you are new, you just get busy.  You make the best of an inevitable situation. So, you make order where you can and you put things away. You roll towels and put candles in the bathroom – even though the patient will probably never actually see the bathroom, somehow it matters. It’s the little things that count…you know. You try and make it like home.  Little details, like books on bookshelves and plants and pictures on the walls makes it feel so much more bearable – almost beautiful.  All of a sudden you really understand what they mean when they say that “it’s the little things that mean allot”.

The place is quiet. I am surprised that few people ever have their t.v.’s on. I asked my mother if she got bored, just sitting there. She was surprised herself but said that no, boredom definitely wasn’t an issue.

I asked her if she ever got scared of dying.

She said no to that too. Her response will stay with me a long time. She said that every time she got deeper down by a “level” (this is how she explained it) she felt a new kind of peace come. So, that the things she thought she would have been afraid of having happened, didn’t make her afraid at all.

This is good to know. I can’t stand the thought of anyone I love being afraid.

So, it was a good day.  We visited. we laughed, I drew and she slept. It was my eldest daughter’s birthday. 21 years ago today my mom and I became mom and Nana.  We have done ALLOT of stuff with this child over the years!  She was able to come spend some time with her Nana today – just like she has done for the past 21 years on this very day. She has never not seen her on her actual birthday day. We were all so happy it could be like that one more time.

Yup- the small things don’t feel so small right now.