i wish him well

where do i go when it’s all just too much on my own?

finally, a frank conversation

he has been dying for years

lung cancer, colon cancer, ileostomy, colostomy, chemotherapy

blood clot or tumor or maybe a mass on his bladder

his wife cried throughout conversation

he has a DNR

this is the good news

he is in the hospital

in my faith tradition, angels are messengers.

they protect and provide, punish and proclaim.

they are warriors who worship God.

in my being, i cannot find Raphael’s putti cherub nor the winged, great company of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

i struggle to believe or even hold the notion that angels protected some but not all at the pulse nightclub or at the twin towers or on egypt flight 804.

so, yesterday, where were the angels when I called?

“it’s too late

where were you when i needed you?

i won’t let you in.

even if you come, i won’t let you in.

i loved you when you were a little girl. i loved you at your wedding.

i have always loved you.”

in january, he called to sing “Happy Birthday” for the first time in my memory.

i am sure he sang it when i was younger, but then again, i am just as sure he never did.

“i’m not afraid to die. i just don’t want to be there when it happens.

i’m on the home stretch. i know i am dying.

three things can ruin your life. fire. flood. divorce. i’ve had them all.

say hi to your brother (not my son).

i refuse to be down in the dumps.

my mom would call me “chick.” she always asked me to take care of my father and i promised her i would. my own dad had a difficult time saying I love you.

you don’t remember moments, you remember memories. i believe i am getting through because people are praying.

i’m sorry.

i didn’t know how to be a good father. from the bottom of my heart now I apologize.

now, just go and have an asthma attack.

your mother and i divorced at the wrong time in your life. i wasn’t, i didn’t know how to be a good father.

you treat salesmen like you treat a dog. treat them right and they’ll love you. if you kick um, they will bite you or run away.”

where do i go when it’s all just too much on my own?

i dissolve in tears. for the father i never had, for the years of rejection, for the manipulation, for the irrational, senseless meaning of his words and intent, even now as he faces death.

i allow myself to enter into the deep loss of daddy grief, emptied of expectations, exhausted by the years of pain, and fall to the floor in release.

as i am emptied, tired and swollen, thirsty and sad, i wonder again, where do i go?

i go within. i do what i know how to do. i breathe. i look for the message. not the why.

i look for what this means. i tell the truth. i find my center. i pray.

“it’s too late”

it is never too late.

“where were you when I needed you?”

it was your responsibility to be there for me, your daughter.

“i won’t let you in.”

i don’t need to be bedside to be let in. i can be there by being here.

“even if you come, i won’t let you in.”

i am already in.

“i loved you when you were a little girl. i loved you at at your wedding.

i have always loved you.”

you did the best you could. i am sure you did when i was younger, but then again, i am just as sure you never did.

and today, if there are angels, i pray they minister peace, even now to his tortured soul, that his passing would be gentle and he would have no fear. i wish him well.

“All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” Julian of Norwich

god is in the details

God is in the details.

as a child i did not day dream of being married or having children. oh, there were times i played with a plastic, hard-headed betsy wetsy, feeding her flour and water paste, pretending she was crying, wrapping her up tightly in towels and tucking her into a shoe box for naps. but i was easily distracted by the apple tree that needed climbing, out in the empty field across the street. a pad of newsprint and a chunk of charcoal could captivate me for hours. by age 14 and without my consent, i was  “junior mother” to six younger brothers and could change a diaper with a kid hanging on my leg. i could cook dinner for nine, make my own clothes and get to my job at the mall by 5:30pm.

my dreams back then were about survival and escape, freedom and travel and adventures, going to far away lands, living a wild life of mystery, or even a life in the middle of nowhere, a solitary, quiet life. maybe a life in a stone house with several long haired cats, a sturdy easel and a garden with rambling roses and changing cloudscapes.

but then. In a moment, something began to shift as an unknown, unexpected sense deep within me recognized something new and different, something sacred was about to unfold. my daughter was going to be a mother. over time, friends said there was nothing to compare with the experience of being a grandparent. i thought it would be just like having my own children but i could send them home when i was done.

i watched as her body changed, as her moods swung, as she decorated, nested and packed an overnight bag. for months i watched my own woman-child, that soccer loving, creative force, expressive, extroverted, people magnet as she waited to deliver life.  i was filled with expectation and excitement. more for this than the births of my own three children, because what i didn’t know then, i know now.  anticipation built for this new little life, for the miraculous process of birth, for the new relationship that would unfold.

i met them at the hospital for the long labor, overwhelmed with gratitude. i slept in the nook of her room, held her hand, rubbed her back, caught the eye of her husband too many times to count as we drew breath together and waited.

newbirth

in that moment of first inhale, of new life, birthed from tears and work and sweat and breath and ache, of crying out from love, from connection, from fear it may never end, to the realization that she had wailed her first cry, she was swaddled in warm flannel and held to her mother’s breast to have each finger counted, each hair smoothed.

i tenderly watched from my window seat as mother and father welcomed new life within their own world of love and awe, with tears on my cheeks and a full heart aware of sacred space and time.

godindetails

a tiny bundle, my only daughter’s newborn daughter, little Dot was nestled in my arms and my body began that gentle rock, forgotten over the years. at that exact moment, the very instant she opened her eyes and looked at me, time stopped. i was alone with all who had gone before me.

i whispered and cooed and told her the secrets of this new love, this unexpected tender love, my love. how from this day and until the day that i died, i would always and in every way possible, love her. i committed to her in that private, sacramental moment, my promise to hold her in my heart, to release her into her own journey with  the assurance of acceptance. it wouldn’t matter how or where she lived, how far she travelled, what she did, the choices she made. i gave her my vow. i would always find her, always search for her, always love her.

grand-baby-girl eyes, newly born, revealed my grandmother’s eyes and her grandmother’s eyes, the experiences, the wisdom, the strength, the creativity, the tenacity of generational wisdom, the lineage of the ages.

at that sacred moment a tiny baby full of potential, unknowingly prepared just by being born, changed my life forever as i saw myself reflected.

 

surrender

surrender

she is young, maybe 23. but then, everyone is young these days. her standard “schpeal” is a bit bewildering. i see her mouth move, i hear words directed at me, but I don’t know if she is really there.  “you can take your clothes off from the waist up. put on this gown (and you know it’s ugly) and tie the two blue ties over your right hip, then tie the two tan ties over your left hip. open the curtain when you are ready. (she doesn’t realize I could out wait her.)   Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap. she is flicking the top of my right hand and telling me i have really great veins and that she does this all the time. my palms are wet. i show her the pooled sweat in my left hand as she makes her second attempt at the “great vein.” after her third attempt she declares my veins flat. i could have told her that. nothing to drink in 16 hours, so flat veins seemed reasonable to me. by now I am crying.

“you might have some pain or cramping. because your abdomen will be inflated, you might notice some gas. if you see any blood in your stool, get medical attention,” she says in her best, disengaged nurse voice.

an IV is finally hooked up. she wonders if i have any questions as she cleans up her mess. “are you aware that i am having an endoscopy today?  do they inflate my abdomen for that?” she giggles as she leaves my curtained cubicle, saying, “oh, I do this all day long and i forget who is getting what done.”

i willed my eyes to stay open for the ten seconds before the propofol took me away. i wanted to be present, i wanted to feel. i surrendered easily into a lovely place of nothingness. the next thing i remember is the nurse in the next cubicle saying, “you can take all of your clothes off but your socks. put on this gown and tie the two blue ties over your right hip, then tie the two tan ties over your left hip. open the curtain when you are ready.”

tears flowed at the absurdity of it all.

 

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standing on the edge of case inlet, on the puget sound, the sky is sparkling, there is a gentle breeze coming off the water, bringing with it a slight, salty smell of freshness. i can hear the silence. my bare feet are planted on the ground and i feel connected with the earth. something begins to rise up within me.  fear? excitement? maybe this is it ~ maybe I will be able to breathe again.

led in meditation, i willed my eyes to stay open to take in the beauty surrounding me. i wanted to be present, i wanted to feel. i wanted it all, yet i was afraid, so alone, so uncertain about my own ability to go forward.

breathe in. breathe out. allow the process to do its work. make the decision to go forward, into the unknown. enter the struggle, yield to this. just this. trust yourself.

exposed throat, arms extended, heartspace lifted, wide open body leaning back. easy, deep inhales, like the tide I stand before, followed by sighs, deep exhales from my belly, i begin to sink. in opening, i list, not knowing she is there. she’s got my back. she does not touch me, hands in her sweatshirt pocket, but I sense her presence. i begin slowly to lean into her like an embrace, my head drops back onto her shoulder and i take in the words she whispers gently.

tears flowed with the ache of connection.

 

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never wanted to go there. not one single thought about it. never, ever imagined in my wildest dreams that one day i would be in paris.

my senses, every single one of them is heightened as i travel alone, not understanding the language, the city, the sights, the sounds. i connect with a group of six women, in our own apartment, with my own bed, my own bathroom, my own space to process this adventure. i began to learn a new rhythm. an early morning walk down the street to pick up my fresh warm croissant to savor with vanilla bourbon yogurt and hot tea and milk. i learn to ride the metro with the group ~ more importantly by myself. i ride a bicycle through the countryside and spend a half day alone, wandering the dead in pere lachaise cemetery. i eat luscious food in fine restaurants and mouth-watering quiche at a sidewalk cafe and carry my own baguette and fromage to the foot of the tour eiffel.

i didn’t know then, that the reason paris beckoned me was wrapped up in an unexpected, unplanned visit to philharmonie de paris and a newly opened exhibit by marc chagall. in answering the call, a single moment transported and transformed me.

parisoperahouse

one step over the threshold, into space i can only describe as sacred, a place set apart. a small room held dozens of people, yet i was alone.  there. the ceiling of the paris opera house. i look up, lean back, open my heart and will my eyes to stay open. wagner and debussy and tchaikovsky, stravinsky, bizet and verdi. each note plays out, is drawn out in invitation to surrender. surrender to the music. surrender to the art. allow the beauty, the movement, the sound, the emotion to take me into the explosive expression of color and creativity.

the real summons is to surrender. to be present to myself, fully and wholly and holy unto myself.

i slowly back up against the wall in awe, almost unable to breathe and slip slowly to the floor.

the tears flow.