Honoring Those We’ve Lost

In a couple of hours, I will gather with friends to celebrate the life of a dear one, recently lost. He left this realm on a day when the veil between the worlds was thinnest – stepping peacefully into the mystery of what comes next. As I prepared a sacred ceremony for friends who had lost significant loved ones in the past year or two, I held those suffering this immediate loss close, as well. Too soon for them to venture into the underworld, I chose to carry them with me.

As we began, at water’s edge around firelight, we called the names of those we have loved and lost, and invited them to stand with us in a sacred circle. In our mind’s eyes we could see each beloved step in to take our hands, heart to heart… love flowing in a sphere of gratitude and protection.

Next, we called to the elements – acknowledging their gifts which surround us and flow through us. When we call to air, fire, water, and earth, we are connecting to the love that resides within.

Into the East we cast our gaze to be witness to the dawning of the light of remembrance. We breathe deeply the clarity of the element of Air, that our loved ones may appear in mind’s eye unhindered. With open hearts and with gratitude, we honor the Air.

Into the South we cast our gaze upon ancient embers. Burning from the beginning of time, the element of Fire inspires us to go within and to reach out to those who have gone before. Illuminated by the beacon that calls our loved ones home. With open hearts and gratitude, we honor the Fire.

Into the West we cast our gaze upon the watery mist. Through floating drops of love and memory we focus upon the veil to witness the arrival of those we love as they step toward us. All fear and regret is washed in the element of Water. All that remains is the purest love.  With open hearts and gratitude, we honor the Water.

Into the North we cast our gaze upon the lush green lap of the Mother. Grateful for the strength she gave us to survive great loss, we eagerly await her generous return. Our loved ones have been nurtured in the embrace of the Earth, and we are grateful for Her care. With open hearts and feet firmly planted in gratitude, we honor the Earth.

Next, we invited divine energy in the feminine archetype of nurturer and guide, which also surrounds us and resides within each of us:

We call upon the maiden of flowers and the goddess of the Underworld. Persephone, whose sacrifice to the dead brings a mother’s grief and a blanket of cold upon the earth. Persephone, whose great heart and deep love offers the rich red seeds of welcome to all who seek entrance into the world beyond that which the living may see. With reverence we reach to you with hope and gratitude, for the honor of perhaps connecting with those we love once more. We ask to be anointed by your sacred oil of clarity, that our third eye may be fully opened to greet them with the ability to see them and hear them clearly.

Persephone of the Underworld, our hearts are open to receive your blessing. We bid thee hail and welcome.

As I wrote the words that would state the purpose of our gathering, I was once again astonished by the wisdom that flowed through me:

Tonight we gather as the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. We stand ready to receive our loved ones who are lost to us in body, but ever present to us in their energetic form. We wish to remind them of our love and devotion, and to show them that we have chosen to carry them with us into the future with reverence, and without regret, With joy and without sorrow.

We know that they left us early to remind us of the importance of living fully now. We are here to make that contract with them, to affirm that their loss TO us was not lost ON us. We each have chosen to step to the edge of the Underworld tonight, to take their hands and look into their eyes, to hear their words and receive our commitment.

I next led my sweet friends through a meditation where they would each meet with those they longed to see. It is difficult to know when to proceed from a pause in such a journey. One hesitates to interrupt an important conversation when unable to see the progress of the connection. But when it felt like the right time, I brought them back for acknowledgment and closure:

We know that time moves differently in the Underworld, and that though we long to be with our loved ones, we know that now is not that time. Tonight is a moment when time stands still, and here we were blessed to connect between the worlds.

But time will move on and we shall go with it. Much like when we connect in the realm of the living, it feels as if no time has passed… so will be the day when they come to greet us and take us from the temporary realm to the eternal.

Until then… we honor them by choosing to live in joy and happiness. It would be an insult to their sacrifice not to.

Finally, we said farewell to the spirit of the Universe that took form so that our consciousness could find connection.

Beloved Persephone, goddess of flowers and bones. Thank you for granting us crossing to the edge of your shimmering veil. Thank you for bearing our beloveds through initiation and into the freedom of limitlessness. We will carry your light within us through the long winter, until your return in the spring brings the bursting of color and fragrance upon the earth.

And to the energy that surrounds us and becomes us:

Spirit of Earth, elements of the North, thank you for your gifts of strength and stability, for wisdom and prosperity. Thank you for holding us close through every stage of our becoming.

Spirit of Water, elements of the West, thank you for your gifts of cleansing and emotion, for healing and fluidity. Thank you for washing us clean of fear and regret, nurturing our path forward.

Spirit of Fire, elements of the south, thank you for your gifts of purification and illumination, for direction followed by action. Thank you for lighting the chamber of our connection to those we love, and for keeping the flame alive until we meet again.

Spirit of Air, elements of the East, thank you for your gifts of clarity and new beginnings, for awareness and ideation to guide our future footfalls. Thank you for the breath that fills our lungs for singing the songs of our loved ones’ memory.

And so, our sacred ceremony was complete and we were grateful to have had a few precious moments with those we can no longer see with the eyes, but only feel with the heart.

I know that the loved one we celebrate today will be felt in the same way. And if you are missing someone dear, I hope that in some small way, these words may bring them a bit closer to your awareness. May you honor them as they would have you do… by living fully and in joy. It would be rude not to.

Thank you for walking this path with me. May your every step be sprinkled with bliss.

remember

Gratitude – The Light of Hope

In an era of daily reminders of that which we are fearful, like the loss of our democracy, the corruption of our government, the failure of checks and balances as greed runs amok with guns through our houses of worship and joyful gathering places, more than ever our souls are grasping for symbols of hope.

Of course the most important step we can take toward regaining some sense of progress or forward motion in this great nation is to vote. I’ll confess that I signed up for absentee voting for convenience, but since trust in the system was lost with ‘hanging chads’, I mailed my ballot and then checked the system to ensure it had not mysteriously gone missing. My vote has been received and accepted. Sigh of relief.

Once we have offered reverence to those who fought so hard to ensure our right to vote, and we have exercised that responsibility (because it would be rude not to), the month of November invites us to breathe deeply and believe in the manifestation of our desire.

Huh… I’d never really thought of voting as a ritual of manifestation before. We start with a desire for something better. We set an intention for what we hope to accomplish. We create a physical representation of our prayer (light a candle – make a wish, write it down – send it out to the universe via flame or USPS), then believe in the very best possible outcome.

Sometimes we receive all that we have hoped for. Sometimes we get what the Universe feels is more important for our personal evolution. And every once in a while… the Universe delivers something better.

That’s why we should never limit our hopes and dreams to something specific. We should always think in terms of manifesting this or better, be it for the good of all.

Whether it is an election year, or not, we can kick off the fall season with a vote – be it by ballot or by spending. When it comes to holiday shopping, for those who partake in such traditions, we can choose to support stores that put their money where our hearts are, we can buy local and support the artists in our communities, or we can invest in the organizations that are providing a better world for those who are struggling. Even better… we can volunteer to serve.

But beyond these external expressions of our good wishes, we may find deep peace in a more internal practice – mindful awareness of that for which we are grateful.

This practice can be something we do privately or in public, such as writing in a journal or posting on social media.

We could dedicate the month to posting a daily gratitude or to making a daily phone call to a different person we would like to thank for their presence in our lives. Oh! Or maybe even doing something archaic… like mailing a love note of caring to people we don’t often see.

I live alone with my cat, Morgan, but for those who sit down to dinner with others, before the meal begins each person at the table could speak their own gratitude. It is a great Thanksgiving dinner tradition, but why not carry it out all month long? I will be sure to remind Morgan that I am happy she found me, grateful for her wellness, thankful for the abundance of this meal each time I place her plate on her kitty placemat.

One November, I cut card stock into strips and tied ribbon to one end and asked visitors to write down something that made them happy, and displayed each sacred memento on a lighted branch in my living room. This was to say to those I love, “I am grateful for your happiness.”

I know there are days when finding something to acknowledge may be challenging. Especially when living in extraordinary times (remember the Chinese proverb which may or may not have been meant as a curse?). If we are willing to look at difficulty from a new perspective, perhaps we can find the goodness even in the hard parts.

Here, let me start and you chime in when ready…

From a broad perspective:

I am grateful for truth and clarity. In the years of the Obama Administration, people on the right said that their disrespect for the President was not for the color of his skin, because they were not racist. In the years that followed the ending of his term, white men who made that claim started marching in the streets with tiki torches, but forgot to wear their white hoods. See?  Truth and Clarity. You marched beneath the banner of white supremacy, and you smiled for the camera. We can see you, and we know your truth.

I am grateful for the courageous women who came before me and won the right to vote. I honor their memory each time I complete a ballot or show up to march, be it for a woman’s right to choose her own destiny, or for a child’s right to be educated free from the fear of death by shooting.

I am grateful for the great nations who have been where we are now, and show us what we could be, or will be, when we are finally able to overcome this madness.

From a personal perspective:

I am grateful for being laid off from the corporate world last year. It has given me the opportunity to be present for a dying friend, for a grieving friend, and for my aging parents, in a way that feels far more meaningful than being present for a corporation whose shareholders care more for their pockets than the communities they serve.

I am grateful for the strength of authenticity that enabled my friend to share with me his terminal diagnosis. His willingness to express his grim reality prompted me to ask about his joy. Understanding that he has been given a deadline on living well, reminded me that I may not be able to see my expiration date, but it is certainly there, beneath the fold. As he works toward spending each day focused on what makes him happy, I have decided to do the same. In a way, I honor him by doing so.

I am grateful for the gift of words. Whether for my ability to read the thoughts and concerns of others or to express myself with clarity while seeking hope and understanding, every character is a morsel of sustenance that fills me up and if my intentions are fulfilled, others may be nourished, as well.

Finally, I am grateful for your presence on this sacred path. The light of hope grows in radiance when we are able to pass the flame of mindful awareness, one to another.

Thank you for bringing your light. Now, pass it on!

My Post (21)

Calling All Souls

This morning, I rise with the company of thousands. On the Celtic holy day of Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen) their essence is nearer than any other day of the year. This year, I feel them in a way that was previously not possible. My intuitive gifts are not developed in a way that enables direct communication with those on the other side of the veil, and yet… I know they are there.

My known ancestors are arriving today from across the pond. They hail from England, with a long ago arrival on these shores via the Mayflower. They come from Scotland, as one of the Four Mary’s who attended Mary, Queen of Scots. And they come from Ireland, which could explain why I cannot sit still through the waves of sound and percussion of Riverdance. (Seriously, I think there is something wrong with those who can.)

I can see them all in my mind’s eye, and they are circling up around me, taking hands. From the center of their love, I am walking among them to make eye contact, placing my hand upon each of their hearts. Their love brought me here, and on this day, I am grateful to offer mine in return.

Among the great loves of this circle are people who lived through hardship, and others who died in oppression (heaven knows if some of my ancestors oppressed some of my other ancestors). But each had the courage to love. Some of them wished for a safer life, and departed the lands of their birth to seek something better… a life of freedom.

As the US mid-term election is less than a week from Samhain, I am connecting with the wisdom and strength of those who have gone before me, to ask that this circle of love and light illuminate this tradition to secure all that is right and true. Let all deception be revealed and brought to justice with haste.

By the strength and courage of every woman who has lived before me, and was involuntarily pushed into a life she would not have chosen for herself, but was forced on her by the patriarchy and those who would keep her small for fear of the goddess given power she possessed, I ask that this be the election that turns the tides to bring greater balance into the stewardship of this great country. Let these women who are seeking to nurture democracy become like respected Tribe mothers who serve beside men with hearts that are pure and not soiled by greed.

As we move into the dark part of the year, let a torch be lit that will be a beacon of hope that leads us back into the light.

Further, I ask for their protection. Of those who were once oppressed, I ask them to stand among those who are now oppressed, creating a veil of safekeeping. It matters not the color of our skin or the spirituality of our hearts, we are all one and the same. Let us not be separated by fear and misunderstanding. Keep them safe. Keep us safe. Keep the US safe. Keep the world safe. Keep Mother Earth safe.

If this dark moment in our history is to be a lesson in fear, hatred and greed that mirrors the past mistakes of other great nations, let us rise now to change the possible future from one that becomes yet another dark mark of shame on a land that was stolen at gunpoint from those who truly belong.

If our many wrongs can ever be made right, let this land be washed by a tsunami of love that tears down the walls that separate us, so that our reach touches the hearts and hands of others, rather than barbed wire and bullets.

Beloved Ancestors, of lines known and unknown, which go back to the very beginning of time… know that you are honored on this day. For every hurt you suffered, I offer healing. For every injustice you endured, I offer compassion. For all of the love you shared, I offer more love.

For those I’ve lost whose names I have known… Ruth and Dan, Bill and Lil, Beth and Don, Gregg and Richard, Kirby, Ken, and most recently… Lynn, know that you are not forgotten. Today, my candle burns in your memory. Not in sorrow, but in joy. How blessed we all have been to get to walk this earthly plane at the same time.

Finally, for those who are reading these words… my candle also burns for those you have loved and lost. May you feel your beloveds coming ever closer on this sacred night, and find comfort in sweet memories and release for old sorrows. Our loved ones are safe on the other side of the veil, and their only desire remaining in the realm of the living is to be witness to our joy.

So let’s get to it! Create more joy. They left us early to remind us that time is fleeting. We wouldn’t want them to think we missed the point.

Thank you for walking this sacred path with me. May your blessings be bountiful in this year’s final harvest.  Happy New Year!

My Post (20)

The Long and Winding Road

This week, I am once again in the heart of the landscape that I love most… The Blue Ridge Mountains. Were it not for the cold, I could live here. For some, the ocean sings a song that calls them home, and for me… it is the mountains. Not just any mountains, though. These mountains, rich, ancient and wise, which paint a picture of Mother Earth in repose.

A dear friend has a family home here, and when she learned that I was in retirement rehearsal, she invited me to join her for the annual fall family week in heaven. Their home has been in the family for generations and has such great history and energy, it is always such an honor to be invited. A great deal of the adventure is just about sitting on the porch to breathe in the soothing sight of it all.

I’ve come home this evening from a trip to a nearby mountain town to find the house abandoned, and I am alone with the fire and the sound of wind in the trees outside. If I didn’t know better, I might imagine that it is the soothing sound of ocean waves that shatters the silence and permeates the darkness beyond the living room windows. Looking up, I can see the luminous moon peeking in at me, as if to say: “What’cha writing, Missy?”

Yesterday and today brought even more delight, as I was able to visit with other friends who have homes on nearby mountains. There is a common theme in this connectedness. Each reunion provided the opportunity to go deep, to speak the truths of our individual journeys through challenges and into the gentle coming of peace.

It turns out that I am not the only one who has been presented the opportunity to transform a way of life without immediate clarity on how exactly it might turn out. Each of us were gifted the opportunity of presence for aging parents. Each of us have had to learn how to exist in a world vastly different from our former realities. Each of us have chosen a simpler life over the stressful intensity of that which we have left behind.

My friends have each experienced the mystery of divine timing, and the way that all things wonderful managed to fall into place, in the very best way to enable the glory of prosperity, joy, and happiness. Though I feel as if I am not quite there, I have chosen to release fear and trust that this glory shall one day soon be mine, as well.

The road from one mountain home to another was a long and winding path of beauty and contemplation. Upon arrival, I shared with my friends how much the drive reminded me of walking the labyrinth. Focus and intention is required, to keep your feet (or tires) firmly planted upon the path. If you are mindful, you can carry a problem or concern into the maze, and carry out inspiration or a solution.

On this particular drive, I was contemplating the way that this landscape fills my chest with a sense of wonder and delight. As leaves tumbled into the roadway, I held my breath until I was sure it was not a chipmunk crossing, grateful that I wouldn’t have to swerve off the road and over the edge of a cliff. I was overcome with the blessings of nurturing and maintaining friendships with remarkable people in my life, whom I adore, but have only ‘seen’ on facebook in recent years. And for that matter… considering the blessing of social media, which alerted these friends that I was heading their way and the greater blessing of invitations that followed with that knowledge.

The wind is picking up outside, and the roaring waves of tree leaves are crashing against the mountaintop, as I reflect on our parting. With full bellies and grateful hearts, we reflected on how wonderful it was to be able to fall into togetherness, as if no time has passed, and to look forward to when we shall make it happen again. I love the way that community can mean so much more than those living in our immediate surroundings. I am thankful for the breadth of my community of generous and caring souls, which wraps around the Earth and grows larger, with the reach of my writing. Seriously… I have the very best people!

Each night after dinner, the intention was to be on the road before nightfall, to escape the probability of driving those winding roads in the dark. But each time, the company was so wonderful and too difficult to leave. I found myself being witness to the retreat of sunlight through the trees, as the road fell into darkness. And it brought me, once again, to the image that my soul-daughter painted to describe my present and my future.

I am on a dark road, and my car is safe with a full tank of gas. My GPS is guiding the way, but I can only see what is illuminated in my headlights. I know that I will reach my destination in divine timing, but all I can do for now is exactly what I am doing. Keep driving, pay attention to what comes to light, and enjoy the beauty I find along the way.

As I contemplated this reality and this symbolism, the Universe did that thing it does that I love the most. It spoke to me through music. As I followed the darkened road, both literally and metaphorically, Stevie Nicks serenaded me with these words from her song, Lady

And the time keeps going on by
And I wonder what is to become of me
And I’m unsure, I can’t see my way
And he says, “Lady, you don’t need to see”

I am enormously happy to be in this car, on this dark road, guided divinely by the light of love. I’m unsure of where I’m going, and certain that I will know when I arrive. But more than anything… I am so thankful that you are here with me, and I hope that you might also be enjoying the drive.

Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash

thelongandwindingroad

Indebted to Betrayal

I have a confession to make. I did a facebook search for that guy. You know, the one from thirty years ago who broke my heart and destroyed any hope for trusting men, or worse – myself. I had searched for him several years ago without resolution, but whatever drove me to commit this questionable act now, be it curiosity or boredom, this time… he was there.

I wondered how I would ever feel if I found him. My first reaction was a bit of a gasp for the shock of his actual existence. Perhaps that old wound I carried more than half of my life was real, after all.  I believe a lot can be said for the intentional healing work that I’ve done over the last three years, to realize that my second reaction was to notice there was zero emotional charge.

It was odd to peek into a life that, at the age of 20 I imagined would be a part of my own. The parts that were public included photos of family, and relationship status… divorced. There were pictures of his parents, whom we visited in Turkey in that year of our togetherness, and there were pictures of his brother-in-law, whom I met at his sister’s wedding that year. I searched eagerly for a photo that included her, because she had Cystic Fibrosis, and I wanted desperately to know that, somewhere around age 50, she had beaten the odds of survival with that fierce disease. Guess what!  She was there! What a glorious sight.

There were also pictures of his teenage daughter, the spitting image of her dad. There was one of her in an athletic school outfit, and one… of her shooting an AR-15 at a gun range. [dramatic pause]

When I think about the betrayal I felt when he came home from a college overnight event with hickeys on his neck, blatant signposts of his lack of regard for my presence in his life and home, I wonder how different my life may have been if this impressionable twenty year old girl in her first real-love relationship had never been betrayed. I mean, surely there are men, even at the age of 20, who would never consider living with a woman and making out with another woman at the same time.

So, if he had been faithful, and we had maintained our loving relationship, filled with mutual respect, adoration, and passion, following through with our plans for marriage… these photos upon which I was reflecting might just be the photos of my life, as well. Oh, good golly!

If he had not cheated and come home with such visual evidence of his betrayal, I might have never believed that I was not good enough. I might never have believed that no man could love me. I might never have believed that I was fat and ugly. I might never have believed that I could never trust a man with my heart, and that I could never trust myself to choose a partner well.

If he had not cheated – with my awareness, I might not have tried to find forgiveness, and when trust could not be rebuilt, I might not have stood up to insist that I deserved better, and he had to go.

If I had not been betrayed by him, I might have betrayed myself, by entering a world that did not speak to my soul… one that includes allowing a teenage girl (possibly from my womb) to hold a weapon of violence and mass destruction.

If I had been suffered to stay in a relationship that was not meant for my destiny, I would not have gone to that Women’s Conference when I was 23, which brought me to my people, my spiritual path, and my sense of belonging to something so sacred that it would bless me in ways of which I am still learning at age 49.

Today, I kneel at the altar of every goddess of love and destruction with gratitude for this betrayal. I am so madly in love with the ME that I’ve become, I would grieve for her loss in any alternate reality.

This betrayal led to my own abandonment, as I learned from my intuitive life coach three years ago. When she scanned for the inquiry of my love life, and the first thing she found was ‘that guy’ and how he had planted that seed that would take root from my sacral chakra into darkness. The problem was… that I had watered it so faithfully. I chose nurturing false belief in my lack of worthiness to be loved, over loving myself fiercely and showing others how it should be done.

From that first session, I went home with an assignment. I was to ritually cut the cords of bondage that kept me securely tied to this betrayal. She saw at least ten cords extending from my ethereal being to his. Already in the habit of setting intentions at the new moon, and releasing what no longer serves me when it is full, my timing could not have been better. My first meeting with one of my great teachers, was the day before the full moon in November.

The next day, as the moon reached Her peek of luminosity, I lit some sage and ran a hot bath. Into the steaming water, I added epsom salt, sea salt, drops of sage oil, and my sacred vessel of holding… my body. Dissolving into the symbolic womb of the Great Mother, I closed my eyes to find myself face to face with the one who unknowingly, would be a significant soulmate, despite his brief appearance in the story of my life. His purpose in my life was not to show me how I deserved to be loved, but to start me on the path toward learning to love myself.

As I cut each cord, I told him what they represented, what I had learned, and I thanked him for the lessons with which I was finished. Beyond the cutting, I made sure that all that was mine, and only mine, was retracted into my energetic being, and that healing light filled and sealed the areas formerly violated. I sent his own cords back to him, with love, light, and gratitude.

As I emerged from the bath, I allowed the sorrow and heartbreak of all that had been lost to spiral down the drain. Like Aphrodite, I rose from saline waters whole and renewed… ready to be loved and adored in the way that every being upon the earth deserves… even ME.

Three years after severing this bond, I do feel better and stronger in my sense of self. Of course, I immediately attracted someone into my life who brought a different kind of betrayal, but in some ways, I feel that was more about him than me. I’m good with that, too. I’m learning to more quickly identify the unwanted cords of attachment, and snip, heal, and move forward.

I do long for the kind of love that has eluded me in this lifetime, but for now… I AM ENOUGH.

aphrodite

Acorn Becomes the Oak

I have found myself in such an interesting place in recent months. I had heard the term before, from friends whose parents were aging and required a bit more attention and care, and while I don’t want to say that I am becoming the parent to my parent… I have to admit, it feels like we are moving into a sort of role reversal.

My sweet Pop has lived 80 of his 81 years with epilepsy, and in the last ten years it has really taken a toll on his body. I call it body betrayal, the way that simple commands the body once executed with barely a thought suddenly (or gradually) become tasks which require serious concentration and a concerted physical effort to perform. In 2008, Pop spent a good part of the year traveling to and from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Test after test failed to reveal what was causing symptoms which impaired his ability to walk, to feel his feet and fingertips, and eventually… his ability to find words while speaking. I will never forget the day he told me that he was deeply depressed, and that he didn’t think he would live out the year. I was heartbroken, but I was also still working in a high demand, stressful job in the corporate world, which didn’t leave me with much time or energy to be of service.

Finally, he saw a local neurologist who reviewed the same lab results that Mayo Clinic ordered and reviewed, and my beloved father was diagnosed with a serious B-12 deficiency. Apparently, his epilepsy medication, his age, and the fact he was living with a vegetarian had left him seriously depleted. I later learned from a friend whose pediatrician had the same diagnosis, that if it had not been discovered, he would have ended up in a coma. The end result of this oversight for such a length of time was permanent nerve damage and neuropathy in his feet and from a lifetime of small seizures, down his left side.

So, Poppy has been using a walker to get around for the last ten years, and he and Mom moved closer to me a few years ago. I’d never really imagined living seven houses away from my parents, but I have to tell you that I am really glad to have them so near. I worry less than when they were 45 minutes away with no neighbors around to check on them. I don’t necessarily stop in every day, but I can glance over on the way to my house to be sure all appears well, and can be there in two minutes if they call for assistance.

There are a few new things that we are experiencing this year. First of all, in my role as careholder, I am witnessing my father’s stubbornness when I ask if he has accomplished certain tasks for self-care, and he informs me that he has not. Twice in the last two months, we have been to the dermatologist, and both times he failed to mention wounds on hidden parts of his body until we were getting back into the car when the appointment was over. He’s been falling down a lot lately (scans show that a compression fracture in L4 and L5 may be to blame), because his left leg just drops out from under him, and a few times we’ve had the lovely men-on-duty at our local fire department stop by for a “lift assist” when he wasn’t able to get himself upright. This was the very best tip ever, that you can call ‘911’ and tell them it is a non-emergency and that you need a lift assist. When they hear you have an 80 year old man on the ground who needs a lift, they transfer you immediately to the nearest available fire department.  Dad has offered on a couple of occasions to bake them cookies or invest in their children’s college funds. Seriously, we love these people!

Yesterday, he finally followed instructions and remembered to call me when he got out of the walk-in tub (I can’t say we loved the installation process, but we love that dad can get in and out of a hot-soak relatively well now). He said, “I’m out of the tub. You’d better hurry over before my toenails turn back to steel!” And within two minutes, I was serving at the feet of one of my heroes in his pajama bottoms, with reading glasses (for protection as much as for magnification) and a pair of industrial strength clippers. I made sure the talons were shortened enough, then applied lotion before putting on his socks. Next, I helped him put his shirt on and giggled as I exclaimed, “There he is!” as his head popped through the neck hole. (He’s a pretty good sport about it all.) I finished up my service by brushing his hair, and made him a bagel with cream cheese.

I am not sure what I thought this time in our lives would have entailed, but I’m sure I might have imagined it to be sad or tedious, but so far, it is not. For me, right now… it is joyful. I am one of the lucky ones, to have a father who is warm, kind and generous to all who are blessed to know him. He was a social worker who served the physically handicapped for over 30 years, after all. I don’t know if he imagined that some of the tools he made available to his clients, all those years ago, would be something my mom and I would be seeking for his comfort decades later.

Beyond any luxury that this year of freedom from the corporate world has given me, the freedom to care for my father, and be present for my parents is my favorite most sacred thing. I’m so grateful to have them in my life, to have them nearby, and to have this time to show them my love, my affection, and to be of service when the future feels shorter and less certain than they’ve previously known. I hope they know that every single day… they are loved.

acornbecomestheoak

Into the Fire

Wow! What a wonderful whirlwind weekend. It was filled with festivity and fire… oh, and… retirement.  It’s not exactly what you think.  At 49, I’m a long way from actual retirement in the traditional sense.  When I reached out to the financial planner that is enabling my friend’s retirement at age 59.5, I certainly had no idea that he could do anything for me in the immediate future. But when I expressed to him that I had exited the corporate world last year and how I felt that I could never return, he made a suggestion.  He said that my hard-earned savings could start working for me now.  There is apparently a provision provided by the IRS called 72T.  It was utilized a great deal when the market crashed, and jobs became scarce.  It enabled those who had to take lower paying jobs to access their retirement savings, without penalty, to receive a monthly income from their IRA until they reached retirement age.  It only allows a small percentage, but could provide the opportunity for someone who lives rather simply to focus on, oh, say… becoming a writer – without having to sell her soul back to the corporate world.

Once that exciting new beginning was set in motion, it was time to focus on the really important stuff… the celebration of our beloved Lynn.  We lost her to leukemia last fall, and it was time to celebrate what would have been her 68th birthday.  So, her wife and I went shopping to create the festive atmosphere that would express the spirit of our bountiful harvest of gratitude. We don’t really experience the beauty of autumn here in Florida the way that states north of us do.  In fact, our fall won’t come until February when the oak trees drop their dark green leaves and replace them with fresh light green leaves.  So… we decorate on the inside, while the outside continues to insist we remain in the season of Summer.  Lynn would have loved her birthday celebration on Saturday. The atmosphere, the intention, the music, and most importantly, the people. It was a small gathering of thirteen, a tiny fraction of those who loved our girl.  We gathered, we shared a meal, we each wrote love notes to Lynn on strips of paper that were rolled up and dropped into a bottle of orange glass.  She loved the color orange, and we loved getting to tell her what we loved about her and how she made us feel, and so we sent her our communal ‘message in a bottle’ as another form of prayer and gratitude.  We each spoke of our memories of one of our favorite healers… about how we fell in love with her upon meeting, how she sang to us around the campfire, how she taught us to be better people, how she listened with rapt attention and made us feel completely heard, and better – understood. We sat in awe of how she expressed to us that her weeks in the hospital, as friends came from all over just to sit with her, were the happiest weeks of her life. And we cried. Some tears were certainly from the sorrow of our great loss, and for her physical absence. But to be clear, most of our tears were joyful… for the glory of having been blessed to have Lynn in our lives… and to still feel her presence, to this day. When stories were shared, we blessed them with song. Two guitars, two dulcimers, one ukulele, one tuba, and one rainstick along with thirteen voices made up our chorus for the Angel who used to lead our choir. None of us could do what she could do to lead a campfire circle of song, but we tried… and we could feel her smiling upon us – as we read lyrics from cell phones.  She was the keeper of words, and without her, we simply have to make do. We had pie, and her grandsons blew out her birthday candles, knowing that her wish had come true in our togetherness. We finished the evening with creativity… manifesting our love and light through acrylic pour. She would have loved the way that you simply allow the color to flow onto the canvas and become what it becomes – without judgment or doubt… just appreciation. After all, that’s how she felt about each of us.

On Sunday, I returned to help with clean up and relaxation. The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are equal, and it is also a time for harvest. When I consider my personal harvest this year, I find it filled with more bounty than I could have imagined. I think I’ll save that declaration for another post, but I will tell you that the deepening of this friendship and being blessed to witness the grief, wisdom, and joy of my friend as she journeys forward from the loss of her beloved is at the top of my list. Together we discussed the beauty of Saturday’s gathering and how we could feel Lynn’s presence. Together we cried as friends and loved ones sent messages acknowledging the important date, and how she was being remembered far and wide. Together we shared leftovers with gratitude for the sustenance the Earth provides. And by the time we were either ready to head our separate ways for a nap or go deep into healing… we chose healing.

I spoke of nightmares and thoughts of past betrayals (personal and work-related) that had recently been plaguing my heart and mind… wondering why they were emerging at this moment, when I felt I was ready to move forward. My friend had her own sense of obstacles that were ready for removal, and she had discovered a useful tool through a meditation app we use called ‘Insight Timer’. The meditation was a Shamanic Journey called Rise of the Phoenix by Dakota Earth Cloud, and it was possibly the most powerful meditation / ritual I’ve experienced. It was more than a meditation because my friend built a fire and we called in the Elements and Spirit from Native American tradition.  We called in our guides, our ancestors, and our loved ones lost. I could see the determined and supportive faces of my grandparents, my Aunt Beth, Windwalker, and of course, our Lynn. When the fire was blazing, and we were about to begin, I fed the names of my offenders to the flames. Not in a way that would be harmful or destructive to any of them, four women and four men, but in a way that would be transformative and healing. “Thank you for teaching me, I release these lessons and any need for more through the experience of betrayal – I trust myself now.  Go in peace.”  By Dakota’s lead, this is what I saw in that dimension where the mind takes you when you step away from the mundane and into the mystery.

I entered the portal to this dimension through one of my favorite entryways… a cave. When I go there, I start at the edge of a clear water lake atop a mountain, where I swim through the reflection of the stars above, downward into the mouth of an underwater crystal cave. I made my way through safe passage by torchlight, and when the path split, I went left (as I often do). I was met by my guides whom I call the Sacred Fourteen, and they surrounded me as I stepped into the fire that was burning in the center of the space. From there I called out the names of those who had let me down. There were three bosses and one female friend, three lovers and one male friend, and as I finally expressed how I had been wounded – I yelled in spirit for how angry I was that they would put me in a situation where I would feel badly about myself… opening a wound where self-loathing and doubt would take root. The breath of fire and a shamanic drumbeat raised the energy for transformation, and as I yelled on the inside, I sobbed on the outside. I turned my head to the left to inhale through my nose, tapped my left foot, grabbed with my left hand (the side of the body that represents the past) and then turned my head to the right to exhale through my mouth, tapped my right foot, released with my right hand (the side of the body that represents the future), and I pulled up and spit out nearly 40 years of contained anguish. At this point, Dakota instructed us to ask our guides for help with this healing fire, and the Sacred Fourteen stepped in closer, and raised their arms to strengthen the impassioned flame to completely consume me. And as the roots of destruction were pulled from my being and burned away by these flames, I noticed that others had stepped in. To take the place of three bosses who betrayed me, came three bosses who loved me through it all (and still do). To take the place of friends who left through shame, mutual hurt, and confusion, came friends who stayed and stepped up to help me heal. To take the place of men who had cheated, abandoned, stolen, and lied, came men who had proven to me with action and presence that it is not ALL men who cannot be trusted. As I cried tears of sorrow, my friend’s dog Maggie leapt into my lap, licked my tears, and settled into my embrace. She stayed until my tears turned to those of joy. Surrounded by so much loving support, including that of my friend – standing within her own fire – adding to my healing flame with her intention, I felt the flames burn clean. There was no more debris to be cleared, all that remained was the light of my blue-white wings, as I rose like the Phoenix. As I looked down upon the circle of my healing, I recognized the faces of my love with gratitude. As if she knew exactly when the magick would be complete, Dakota invited us to leave this sanctuary the way we came in… and so I did.  Only this time, I was carried out in triumph by the Sacred Fourteen. They joyfully delivered me through corridor, now lit by my flaming wings, and to the edge of the cavern. I thanked them, and turned to swim upward through clear mountain lake, and rose above the water and into the stunning night sky. When we found ourselves back in our chairs by the fire’s edge, with our feet in the grass… my friend and I clasped hands, and thanked each other.  We were both aware of the work that we had done for each other, but more importantly… for ourselves.

Great Spirit – Thank you. It is done. Blessed be. Aho!

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