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Archive for the category “Dying and rising”

Daily Ground – – -January 27

There’s no place like a death bed, except a birth bed. And in a certain way the death bed is a kind of birth bed. – – John O’Donohue

I recently came across a video where John O’Donohue, writer, poet, spiritual teacher said this.  I said the same thing when I left the death bed of my father. I remember leaving on that April day, walking into the glorious sunshine and wondering how the world was going on as if nothing awesome had just happened. Awesome: causing feelings of fear and wonder: causing feelings of awe, Merriam Webster. Yes – it was awesome.

I was struck that it was a similar feeling when my first child was born.  It was so miraculous as if my world had shifted so, and I truly lost my footing.  Yet the rest of the world was so unaware of any of this.

I’m now more used to death beds. I don’t feel so afraid of death.  I’m amazed how many of my contemporaries – or anyone for that matter – finds it so difficult to talk about death.  We are all going to die. Everyone we know is going to die. It will hurt to grieve. I don’t know yet if it will hurt to die. I do know my mom questioned this on her own death bed, and I couldn’t answer her.

I’ve heard this: “We will all die, but we don’t know the hour of death. So do what is important now!” Basically, I want to live like I know I am dying as opposed to pretending that death is too difficult to face or deal with or talk about.  I want to live because I know I am going to die. Waking up to this fact has been one of the best blessings.  I’ve been privileged to be at the death bed. Go if you can. It is awesome.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – -January 19

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain

Why are most people so afraid of death and dying? When my sister was gravely ill, I remember talking to  a friend one night, exclaiming through my tears, “I’m so afraid she’s going to die.” My friend remained silent listened to me cry for a few moments. She then replied, “She is going to die – we all are.”

We all die. So now what? Do we go through life trying to play it safe? Trying to control and protect ourselves and our loved ones?  That doesn’t sound like living to me. I try to live fully. For me that doesn’t mean jumping out of airplanes. It doesn’t mean going to every party out of obligation or because I might miss something if I’m not there.  If this is living to you – go for it – live!

For me it’s finally about listening to my heart. It’s about being present to people in front of me. It’s about sharing myself and my story unabashedly. It’s living so that when I die, people will say they truly knew me, and that I truly lived.

Peace.

Peace returns to those who wait. . . and work for it.

I haven’t written on here since August 13th.  When I logged on tonight (at the subtle request of my husband), I was surprised  to see that I wrote on that date – it was my 50th birthday, and things have been looking up ever since!  After several years of emotional suffering, I had resigned myself to a life of darkness.  I wasn’t going to jump off a bridge, but I was certain that for me life was to be lived in fog – moving from extremes of deathly tired to super anxious.  I had accepted this. And then I turned 50.

August was tough – even worse than the usual darkness I had come to welcome since 2010. I was looking forward to turning 50 until I woke up in August realizing my mom wasn’t around to make me feel special on my birthday – I was a child without parents. A sister without my sister. Like most things – August 13th came and went – and I was reminded that it is usually the thinking about things that is much more difficult than actually living through them.

August came and went as well, and without any warning, like the suddenness of a thunder clap, I had the strangest sensation.  It was as if I was stuck with a hypodermic needle, I could literally feel the warmth enter into my body, mind, and soul.  I was at peace.  And since that day, I have felt peace in my body, mind, and soul each day.  Not every minute of everyday, but everyday at some point in the day.

As I was drowning in the darkness, I kept swimming for land, seeking a life preserver. I felt the need to connect even though I didn’t have the energy for meaningful human interaction most days. I began sending morning texts to a group of spiritual friends. This forced me to get up each morning with a purpose.  I had to send a text.  When I began this in January, I would usually read spiritual literature and send a quote from it.   Something shifted this summer – after I turned 50.

I wasn’t writing on here, but I was writing. In the mornings, I began creating more and more space for myself: space to read, space to meditate, space to pray, space to reflect, space to text. My texts began turning into thoughts of gratitude, stories of journey. Here are some snippets:

September 11th: Today is my 20th wedding anniversary It is miraculous that I have been loved so dearly after such a rocky start to my life. Relationships are difficult – not only marriages – but friendships, work relationships, families, etc. I’ve been blessed to have many spiritual tools to use in nurturing these relationships. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it. My relationship with Jeff continues growing and changing. It is truly sacred and something I’ve grown to treasure each day. What are you thankful for today?

September 12th: As busy as I am this time of year – working many 12-hour days each week – I’m managing to crawl into bed each night grateful, at peace, and thanking God. I’m amazed that the darkness of the last few years is dissipating. I thank those who have simply loved me even when they didn’t know what to do or say. Like the moon reflecting the sun’s light – you all were reflecting God to me when I was too blinded by grief and anxiety to see.  The sun was too bright – I had to look to the moon, and there I found you reflecting God’s love. 

September 13th: As tired as I am, I am grateful to be tired from living and contributing to society instead of tired from killing myself with a destructive lifestyle. 

September 14th: Did you step outside yet today? Summer is begiining to give up her fight. I was amazed at the change from just one week ago. The sun – that massive ball of heat – seems so much lower in the sky. Everything looks and feels different in just one week. Whether or not you are happy about the changing seasons, can you be moved by these miraculous cycles? For me – it’s like looking at the majesty of the waves or the mountain – God is all over this stuff. It is hope and promise that all things must pass; that this moment is turly all we have. I can let change make me blue, or be filled with wonder. 

Oftentimes the pain of changing keeps us from even knowing we are transforming. Does a caterpillar know it is becoming a butterfly? Change often hurts, but if we hang in there and continue getting out of bed, continuing to be real with those we trust, we have a chance at transformation.  That is what happened to me when the grief loosened its grip on my throat. I was transformed, but hadn’t noticed what was happening – I was blinded by the pain.

I say this all came about without warning, but it didn’t come without work. I fought for it.  I didn’t simply try to get over the grief and darkness.  There is no getting over it.  I went through it, I hated it, I embraced it, I respected it, I fought it, I surrendered to it, I created space for it, and I let go of it. This isn’t to say that I don’t get sad, or mad, or anxious ever, but something has shifted. I created space, and I finally got a hold of some perspective. I used many tools – spiritual tools, professional therapists, and many friends.

Peace. Much peace.

“People are oft…

“People are often at their best when they are at their worst.” from the journals of J. Stilling – written while caring for her dying sister.

My first blog – and I’ve decided to quote myself!   I can’t believe my sister died on April 15th, 2010 – the images are still etched into my brain as if it were just last night.  My mom died just 5 months ago, and I can barely remember those scenes, but Terrie’s life, illness, and death are clearly imbedded into my consciousness as unique as dental records.   Perhaps the brain can only hold so much death.  After all – my brother died between those two deaths.

Was I at my best when these loved ones were dying?  Of course.  Do I feel this way all the time?  No!  I often feel guilty or shallow, or self-centered or lost or dark or empty.  But I am 100% certain that I was the best I could be in those moments considering the circumstances.

The above quote is more about the people I watched die – especially Theresa Marie Stilling born March 7, 1957 – my only sister.  My older sister by 7 years.  Not that the others didn’t die with tremendous grace and dignity, but my sister’s death (and life) hooked me in.  I was there – on the firing lines.  I was there for the others, but my brain won’t let me keep those scenes in the same way. Maybe Terrie’s death was just too big, or maybe I am still sorting through the lessons of that one to make room for the others or maybe this is simply where I am on this snowy morning in March!

My sister’s illness came on so suddenly and in the midst of an already heavy phase of life.  Her son was in the throes of addiction, and that alone was infiltrating every aspect of her life and of our relationship.  In fact the morning I received the call that she was admitted to the hospital – I refused the call.

It was in June of 2009 and I was with a meditation group about to enter the silence of a 30 minute meditation.  I saw the number and turned my phone off thinking it was some drama about my nephew.  An hour later, I heard the words “Leukemia Blasts” in the blood.  I was worried – since I do that so well, but I had no idea the nightmare that was to follow.

I guess this blog is about that today.  The fact that 3 years later I still have these memories. That 3 years later I have not only buried my sister, but my brother, and my mother, and I am still here – being my best self.  That 3 years later I am working, tending to a marriage, raising teen girls, working, praying, cleaning the house, working, reaching out to others, tending to friendships, working, stressing, dealing with menopause, working through anxiety, working, meditating, talking, accepting I’m a workaholic, and now writing.

Peace.

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