Welcome to the Light – A Rebirth

To me, today is a holy day. Not because of something that may have happened thousands of years ago, but because it marks an important, life altering anniversary. Nine months ago today (April 17), this small family gathered around a white haired and bearded sacred being of earth and sky, and witnessed his final breath and heartbeat. None of us got to see him come into this world, but we were so honored to hold space for his grand departure.

Symbolism is powerful in my life. You could say it is my second language. In the metaphysical world of intuitive gifts, I fall somewhere in the range of empath and claircognizant. I’m a feeler and a knower. Since I have asked the Universe to speak to me in ways that I can understand, I have found that if I pay attention, that line of communication is always open.

Four years ago, I saw the signs and followed the synchronicities. It was nine months after I danced out of the role that had long sustained me in the corporate world. The symbolism of that timeframe is obvious. It is a gestation period for human birth. In February of 2018, a courageous friend shared in brave space his diagnosis and prognosis. Brian opened a portal for me at that moment, and I picked up my torch and mindfully stepped through the door.

On new years eve, at the portal between 2021 and 2022, I shared on Facebook the final words that my father left for me in his “Memoirs for Melissa”. It felt like closure of some sort, to come to the end of his written page in the year that he died. I said to the Universe and my father’s energetic being, “Daddy, thank you for these stories. Thank you for showing up and for bringing other sacred beings to join you. Thank you for taking those painful lessons and difficult challenges of your youth and becoming a kind, compassionate, patient, loving, beautiful being. Now that I have heard your story through your words, I wish to tell our story through my words. It will be a book about making friends with death, about eldercare and self care, about the power of sacred ceremony to transform sorrow, about respecting the autonomy of those we love as they journey toward transition, and about giving the love that heals.”

Since I had been writing for the last four years, it didn’t take long to build my manuscript. I found the very best publisher with whom to partner by following the signs and synchronicities. A doula assists with transition and transformation. I had been my father’s end-of-life doula, and Sharon Lund at Sacred Life Publishers became my book doula. She helped bring my book to birth. I had already reached out to her because she had published another book on this topic, but I knew she was the one when she called me and the first three digits of her phone number were also one of my angel numbers, 808. I see these numbers frequently. They are in the email address of the Boss Who Loved Me, and I associate a sighting as a strong reminder that I am loved.

Sharon and I discussed the process and determined this project would take about three months to complete. An astrologer I follow (Annie Botticelli) had stated that the days between March 3 and April 27 would be ideal for the launch or birth of creative endeavors, as all planets are direct for this brief period of time. I may be a skeptical believer, but when messages arrive in actual words that don’t require symbolic interpretation, it seems prudent to follow. As we completed multiple edits and my dear friend crafted the cover from a beloved artwork gifted from my Tribe-brother, I considered the timing. April 17 would be the nine month anniversary of my father’s death. What are the chances that this exact date, with this symbolic meaning, would be remotely possible? According to Sharon, the chance was slim.

The final version went to the printer on April 14. Experience informed my book doula that it could be three weeks before it appeared for sale on Amazon. I knew it was going to be impossible to have my book officially published and available at Dad’s anniversary, but hoped it would at least occur before the planetary deadline on the 27th.

Because the seasons are shifting in Florida with the arrival of higher temperatures, I went ahead and secured the memorial tree I wanted to plant in my front yard. It would be dedicated to filling, somehow, the absence of my father and of my beloved ailing oak. So on the morning of April 15, the landscape professionals arrived, and were so patient and kind that they allowed me to read aloud my words and intentions, while also sprinkling some of my father’s ashes into the open womb of earth that would receive the tree I’d chosen.

“Hail to thee, sacred Traveler:

Nearly nine months have passed since your beautiful soul crossed through the veil of starlight. Your physical presence is terribly missed. Your spiritual presence is deeply felt with enormous gratitude.

When you left, our sacred oak, too, fell. The loss of you both has left a punishing light and sorrowful emptiness to fill the chasm of your absence.

May this tree be a symbol of rebirth. May these branches hold space to nurture and nourish the birds that bear your loving messages in a language I can understand. And may she grow taller, fuller, and more colorful throughout the years, providing shade and serenity for all to behold.

May the flowers that surround this keeper of your memory be a blessing to all you’ve cherished in life. May they blossom and bloom for your delight, with sweet memories of your grandfather’s garden.

May the sacred earth of my father’s former vessel bless these roots and hold them close, feeding beloved tendrils with the healing light of love.

Blessed be beloved beings. Your presence upon this sacred land will be a blessing for all my days that remain. Thank you for being healers, protectors, nurturers, and sentinels of peace, love, hope, and rebirth. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

As I poured the ash into the earth, I looked to find they had fallen first into the shape of a crescent moon, and with the final toss to empty the vessel, a straight line. My father’s remains had fallen perfectly into my own personal sigil (a magickal symbol I may use instead of my name) and also in the form of a handheld crossbow. This was something Pop had said to me after he broke his hip. He thought I should have one, and I figured it was the pain medication. But maybe . . . just maybe it was a portent.

Pop’s ashes form my sigil

Later that evening, I was having dinner with a friend inside a restaurant (a rare thing since the start of the pandemic), and I heard someone say my name. It was the Boss Who Needed Me and his wife. I can’t tell you how mushy I get when I see them, it is so rare. But he is such a significant part of my story, that my heart just melts in his presence. Though he was addressing my friend, I took what he said to heart. “I want you to be sure that when Melissa’s book is available, I will be informed. I want to be the first to buy it!”

So, last night (April 16) while hanging out with my Mom, I popped over to Amazon and typed the words that had only been mine for the past nine months. Mommy’s little secret until her arrival. And much to my surprise . . . she was there! Sharon says that Pop made magick happen for me, and I know without a doubt that this is true. I texted the Boss Who Needed Me to let him know that if he really meant it, this was his chance. He texted me back and said, “Melissa, we ordered it this evening.” So now… I am free to share the news with you.

Exactly nine months from the day my sweet Pop became one with the light of truth, he is being symbolically reborn in the form of a book that shall ever be his memorial. That this date also falls on the Christian celebration of rebirth could be a coincidence, but who would ever believe that? Dad sent the signs and I followed his guidance. He has always shown up for me when I needed him most.

Dear Universe, thank you in advance for allowing this work of love and light to be a blessing to others. The journey itself has already been a great blessing to me.

Welcome to the light, Persephone’s Passage! I’m so glad you are here.

PREFACE
“I once asked myself why I write and discovered that as much as I wish for my words to offer light and healing, I write for myself. I’ve determined that what I call a Swiss cheese memory allows me to live in the now. Accessing memories for me is a challenge, so when I read what I’ve written, it gives me the access I crave. Seriously, I have Googled things I’ve written to be sure they are mine.

The reason I’ve published these words is to give birth to something of myself that will remain when I am gone. It is a memorial to my father, and a tribute to the same care I intend to offer my mother, as I walk with her into the underworld (may it be a long, long journey).

Though I have loved and cherished many children and goddess babies, I have no children of my own. As I offer Persephone’s Passage to the light, I do so with reverence for its perfection. When I think of what ideal parenting might look like, it is to keep it safe, feed it well, and provide a firm and balanced foundation from which it may launch itself into the world. Once it is out in the world, my only expectation is that it exists in authentic truth and joy. I will not judge it by its number of pages, by its popularity and how many people call it friend, or by its income. I will not weigh it down with expectations of any kind. I will simply be grateful that I was blessed to have this creation of pure love move through me. I love it without condition.

May those who find it feel the depth of the love that resides within, and know that they, too, are cherished, valued, and sacred. Namaste. Blessed be. Amen. So mote it be. Aho. It is done.”

Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. Many have been extremely supportive of this endeavor over the last few months. Some have been more than supportive, and I am overwhelmed to the point of lacking words to describe how completely loved they have made me feel.

A mantra that I have engaged to help with feeling worthy of receiving, is this: “May I be a blessing to others; I am open to receive.” I am open and grateful!

When Dad died, I realized I would once again have to shift my self-identity. I am no longer his full-time caregiver. I am forever his daughter and also . . .
I am Melissa Baker, Author of Persephone’s Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld – The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula.

Persephone’s Passage may be found on Amazon, and soon will be available through other online sellers and even possibly in bookstores as Ingram distributors update their catalog.

Floating in the Light of Love

It has been quite a while since I’ve written in this sacred space. One reason is that I’ve been nurturing a project that will soon come to birth. Another reason is that in a world of chaos it is difficult to find clarity through which words may rise. My writing moves through me, and begins with fingers on the keyboard with a request to the Universe for the gift of words that might bring light. Today, the image and words that arrived were related to the familiar phrase–sink or swim. My logical mind immediately chimed in with the awareness of another option. . . to float. It’s my favorite!

At Imbolc this year, I planted my seeds of intention. One seed which has already taken root is the intention of togetherness. Physical togetherness has been a rare joy since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Though I have maintained connectedness with phone calls, zoom meetings, and letter writing during this time, seeing loved ones in person has been at a minimum. Since planting that seed, however, I have been blessed to have face-to-face time with many of my loved ones. It feels like such a blessing! To be clear, I never took these opportunities for granted. My soul sings with gratitude for each greeting.

Many of these gatherings have revealed a similar sentiment. We are all feeling overwhelmed by world news and local awareness of discouraging trends. It seems that the schoolyard bully archetype is looming large over the entire world these days. They are rising up to conquer a peaceful nation, to squash the hard-won rights and freedom to be authentic and safe for those who have had to spend their lives pretending, and to ensure that the promise of autonomy, equity, and equality for all beings gets ripped out of their walled gardens of self-servitude.

Feeling and witnessing this oppressive energy daily is soul-crushing. It is difficult to find the light in such darkness, let alone knowing how to BEE the light. (See what I did there?) For me, the best way to cope with looking forward is to reach into the past.

In the early 90s, a friend shared her understanding of our astrological move from the Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. I know, we’ve been singing about it since the 60s, but if Mercury Retrograde lasts three weeks and has a two week shadow period. . . imagine how long the shadow period is for an approximate 2,000 year cycle. Feels like forever! The wisdom shared was that we are moving out of the patriarchal, war-mongering, money-obsessed era into one that feels more nurturing and inclusive. In this time, those who feel their perceived power slipping away are doing everything they can to prevent the arrival of such peace and balance. They are like rats in a toilet bowl, trying to lift the closing lid. They are terrified and THEIR fear is what we are feeling.

There were two big moments in my life that I identify as important lessons for my soul’s journey. I’ve written about them before. The first was in 2001 when a new boss arrived to end my 10-year career in a company where I’d been valued, appreciated, and fiercely loyal. The day I chose to leave was after a period of feeling unsafe, paranoid, and downright miserable. My Tribe and I had just celebrated Ganesha’s birthday and asked him to remove our obstacles. I never would have dreamed that my job was what held me back. But it was all of that discomfort that pushed me forward and into that next place, that better space for the growth of my soul, my income, and my future.

The next big moment was spectacularly similar to the first. In 2017, with the arrival of a new boss, darkness returned. I felt every portent of dread that I had felt before. It was a gift from an intuitive guide that informed me that as an empath, one can read the way our bodies feel to interpret messages from the Universe. I was feeling anxious, uncomfortable, paranoid, and miserable. There were moments when I feared I might suffer a stroke as I felt my blood pressure rise with shock and disbelief in what was happening.

When those words of wisdom were shared with me, it was a revelation! My whole body shifted out of fear and into peace. I understood in that moment that the Universe was telling me it was time to go. Something better is on the way. . .just like before. I instantly let go of the fear that was harming my mind, body and soul, and when that departure opportunity arrived, I joyfully danced out of the building.

Of course, something better did arrive with the unexpected discovery of the ability to retire from the corporate world. I never would have dreamed of it or sought it, because I was stuck in that old belief of what living (and surviving) looks like. Both of those life lessons taught me that when I feel uncomfortable, change is coming–and it will be for the better.

In these places of panic, when it feels like our world is falling apart, we often move into that sink or swim mentality. Either we violently scrape at the edges of a slippery slope with the hope of climbing out so that we can remain in that place where we’ve always been or we can let go and sink to the bottom because life is not worth living if it can’t be the same as it was. I say, screw that!

I don’t know about you, but I am quite buoyant and I intend to float through this current chaos. Surrounded by atrocities throughout the world, and right here at home with hateful and harmful legislation and rampant gun violence, I feel extremely uncomfortable. It feels impossible to find comfort and peace within when there are so many sacred beings who suffer at the arrogant and hateful hands of others.

If we are to understand that everything is made of energy (including us), then it feels far more helpful to reach out with love instead of fear. The Buddhist Art of Tonglen would have us breathe in their suffering and breathe out deep peace. Let me take in your fear and give you my comfort.

I am choosing to believe that what we are experiencing right now is the discomfort that informs us that change is coming. . . and it is going to be good. We are about to be liberated from working for an ungrateful boss so that we can learn to better serve ourselves and those we love.

The aftermath of the rise and fall of historical monsters was a renaissance of accountability and peace for the generations that followed the tyrannical downfall. The hard part is reconciling the devastating loss and destruction that came first. It is especially difficult when we are watching it unfold on every screen within our view.

So we focus on what we can do to nurture the source of light. We exercise our freedom to vote. We honor courage and heroism. We lift up the sweet songs of children finding safe harbor. And we float down this river of light with the vision of the stories of peaceful endings, joyful liberation, grateful celebration, and mindful rebuilding. We see this for countries at war and in our own country at war with itself.

We ignite that radiant green heart light from within and allow it to expand beyond the reach of our physical bodies, to encompass our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and states, our countries and continents, our planet, our galaxy, and our universe. Everything is illuminated by the light of our love. See the face of the one who has made you feel most treasured, safe, valued and loved in this lifetime reflected in the faces of every being you meet. Know that you are safe and loved in this moment and that all is well and all shall be well.

Wherever you are in the world, and however you are feeling in this moment. . .if you are struggling to swim and feeling like you are about to sink, I hope you will choose to lean back and float, instead. May you feel yourself filled with and surrounded by the healing light of love. Everything will be okay. I promise.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

The Grateful Observer

I was blessed this past weekend to attend a bookend event. The Boss Who Loved Me shared with me the wedding celebrations of her sacred daughter. Her beloved son was married at the beginning of the pandemic, and it sparks hope that this special occasion for her daughter, The Doctor, might help bring it to a close. It was kept quite small and cautiously included only those who were vaccinated. After all, she has fought long and hard to keep her parents safe. This declaration was an act of love.

I wrote about the first event just earlier this year. The pandemic and my father’s health challenges slowed my ability to find adequate words.
https://beethelight.blog/2021/03/12/love-is-viral-an-anniversary/

Two days of events were required for this glorious new beginning. The first evening was a gathering of loved ones to partake of the traditional 10-course Chinese meal, and to stand witness to two sacred traditions of stunning significance. First, the Hair Combing ritual, and then the Tea Ceremony. The first, symbolic of the blessings of the parents upon the Bride and Groom, for a long and healthy marriage and an abundance of grandchildren. The second, an opportunity for the Bride and Groom to honor the Parents, the Family Elders, and the Ancestors… as they pour out tea as an offering, they are bestowed gifts in return, that symbolize abundance, longevity, fertility, and prosperity. Once again, the blessings were spoken in English and Cantonese by the parents of the Bride. After all, they had family attending via Zoom from Toronto and Hong Kong. And through this magical medium, the elders who could not travel due to Covid restrictions, were able to also bestow their blessings.

I love these traditions. They are so meaningful and powerful. In Western tradition, the Father ‘gives away’ the Bride, and somehow, that just doesn’t seem enough. The newlyweds may have the opportunity to say thanks in a speech, but that seems so lacking, when we are talking about the transformation of enormously formative relationships, as well as the beginning of new ones. Plus, symbolic sacred ceremony, to me, speaks the language of the soul. Not only are their hearts and bodies now joined, but so, too, are their eternal spirits – through the undying love of their ancient ancestors.

In my past life, you know… in the corporate world, my role was rather isolating and solitary. I supported executives in human resources, and so became a secret keeper. Therefore, the people to whom I was closest are those I was blessed to serve. There is a depth of bonding there through the hardships we survived together, as well as the great accomplishments that may not have been recognized by many. As one who held space for two special leaders through a successful CEO succession, and painful ‘staff adjustments’, all requiring the sacrifice of personal and family quality time, through to retirement, it is my great pleasure in these ‘after-years’ to hold space for their great joy.

He called me when he learned of my father’s passing, and though I hadn’t seen him since his youngest daughter’s wedding, reconnecting with the Boss Who Needed Me at the ceremonial dinner felt as if no time had passed in our connection. He and his wife have been very busy traveling around the country to nurture seven sacred beings, in the form of beautiful grandchildren. He’s been retired eleven years now, and we can’t believe that much time has passed. He once told me, as we prepared for his retirement, “Mel, I feel like I’m getting a second chance.” He was referring to the way that his career had taken so much of the time his family deserved. And I glory in knowing that, this time, he has his priorities in order.

I still feel this sense of isolation in my current life, and I suppose attending a wedding alone, adds to that feeling of walking alone in the world. I was purely an observer at the wedding on the second day of events. I really only knew the parents of the bride, though there was much warmth felt between myself and the family and extended family I met at their son’s wedding last year. So, this is what I witnessed, as a mindful observer.

The day was overcast, which can be a blessing in Florida. It was warm enough for our sleeveless dresses, but not too hot. We were facing the setting sun, but were not blinded by it. This was the first blessing.

The Bride was stunningly beautiful, and completely unfazed by the gentle rain that began to fall as her wise father walked her down the aisle. In her vows, she shared her sense of joy and relief in having finally found her darling Groom, after a length of being told to “be patient”, and “he will come when you least expect it”. She exclaimed that she actually had to go get her Prince (they met electronically, as many happy couples do in this age), and she was so glad she did. That the universe keeps providing ways for us to manifest life altering relationships feels like the second blessing (or maybe that should be the first).

When the vows had been shared and the rings gently placed, the Bride and Groom were announced, at last, to be Wife and Husband. This observer took note that at that moment, an Osprey flew across the sky, just above Mrs. and Mr. This is what I learned about the third blessing: the Osprey is a portend of profound change as one comes into their power, guiding them to manage with grace and ease the remarkable transition that lies ahead. They also mate for life, and symbolize abundance and victory. Weddings do remind me of victory, as we all know how much work has gone into the culmination of this celebration.

The fourth blessing came through the rain. Both the wedding ceremony and the reception were held outdoors. A Florida wedding in November is preferable to a summer affair. When the rain came, it arrived as a gentle kiss, and a fleeting one that would come and go. It arrived along with the sweet-flowing emotion that the element of water represents. It came as every witness held back tears to see the Bride make her ‘march’, and it came again as loved ones offered words with a toast.

I loved the way that it was welcomed as a part of life, a part of us. No one ran from it. Into every life a bit of rain shall fall. How we perceive it determines its blessing or its curse. It is said that rain on your wedding day is a gift of good fortune. On this day, you have chosen to ‘tie the knot’ with the one you love. A wet knot is nearly impossible to unravel. And of course, to me, the element of water is cleansing, healing, and loving. It seems that when one finally finds the person who has filled any sense of longing or emptiness previously felt, with comfort, trust, and surrender… a gentle rain is the universe affirming that healing is complete.

Those who came together in celebration were fully present and delighted in the joy found between this loving couple. Both the Bride and Groom were surrounded by life-long love, in the form of parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends, both life-long and journey-long (as in the arduous journey the bride took to become a doctor). I am certain that the glow one could see emanating from the newlyweds was partially the light of love that flowed through them and around them.

Though I saw myself as the unattached observer, it was not a sorrowful seclusion. There was nothing in the way of my clear view. All that I could see in the committed couples present and the individuals moving in delighted festivity, was a sense of reverence, kindness, connection, happiness, and pure joy for the momentous gift of standing in community to say to the Sacred Couple : “We, as your beloved community, are committed to supporting you in your togetherness. Tonight is all about you, and about how the two of you add something extraordinarily special to all of us, through your devotion. Thank you for sharing with all of us, the light of your love.”

As for me, I got to see, once again, the manifestation of joy in the life of the Boss Who Loved Me. She’s been retired less than six years, and she is doing a fine job of replacing those work-related heartbreaking moments, for which we held space in the corporate world, with happy, joyful, gloriously fabulous ones. Everyone is healthy. Both children are now married. Her first granddaughter arrived this summer, and all is right with the world. I am grateful.

I found myself, while making my morning gratitude pour-over coffee, reflecting on that sensation of aloneness. Last night, there were so many happy couples dancing in celebration (including the Bride’s parents who will have their 41st anniversary in January), and I wondered if I will always be the observer in this life. It may truly be that what I am meant to accomplish in this lifetime must be done on my own. Perhaps feeling a sense of joy in my own ONENESS is the whole point. Witnessing the blossoming in love of others does not diminish the love in my own life. I already have so much. (I mean, how many people recognize three of their bosses as great loves of their lives? I have been quite lucky in love. They each loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself – validating my worth until I figured out I didn’t have to earn it.) How could there possibly be more? But I do wonder… what if there is another point on the horizon of new beginnings. I guess I’ll do what my father taught me… I’ll keep showing up and I’ll wait right here.

Thank you for walking this path with me,
and for sending your blessings to the happy couple.

Mother-Daughter Love Language

Mom and I are working on our so-called, ‘new normal’ these days. I think it still seems odd… the lack of Dad. It still feels unnatural to sit in his chair, or to have the first half of the day to myself. Mom doesn’t need me in the same ways he did. This new normal is… different.

We are giving each other more space, while creating new routines of togetherness. Before, much of my energy was focused on Dad’s comfort and wellness, since he could no longer walk for the last seven months of his life. Through my soul-daughter-medium, Pop said that it is now time for us to bond, mom and me. We are learning from each other through the ways that we grieve. As we process our great loss – the departure of her husband and my father – we are observing the truth of one another more clearly. We are learning and growing… together.

I have been dubbed the feeler of my family, for I tend to be more expressive with my emotions. Mom and I are mourning differently. Through the study of death and dying, I have prepared myself for an intentional journey through the end of life with my parents, as well as my own inevitable transition into the mystery of what comes next. While it has helped me find peace and comfort in the idea of death, it has not diminished the grief that I feel in missing my father. For so long, I went to sleep worrying about his comfort and awoke with anticipation of his needs. That’s a hard habit to break. I was hyper-aware of the blessing of my ability to serve, and how fleeting that time would be.

I am learning that, though she is not demonstratively emotive, Mom is processing her grief silently, through introspection. Last night, Mom shared with me that she often wakes thinking of Dad’s last days. Like me, she considers what might have been done differently to have changed the outcome. If he hadn’t been scared, because he couldn’t breathe, might he have refused being intubated? But reality was, that his oxygen was plummeting, and had he refused… none of us would have been present for his passing. His sisters and brothers would not have gotten to say goodbye. My brother and his wife would have missed holding his hand – having been kept away by Covid-19 for so long. So much more would have been lost.

I know these things cross her mind, as she faces her own mortality. We talk about her ‘Five Wishes’ for the end of life, which are similar to my Father’s. She does not want to be kept alive on a ventilator. She does not want to go through what Pop went through. It was difficult to witness. It causes heartache for the survivors – having to ‘pull the plug’. I assure her that what Dad did, by approving intubation, was a gift to all of us. That the emotions we would be feeling had he suddenly been gone, or that he might have left without allowing us to hold him and love him just a little while longer would have been unfathomable. I can see now, that I feared betraying him by letting him go too soon, while he feared betraying me by leaving when I was not in the room. We served each other well, Pop and I. I assured Mom that she need not make the same choice. I will not betray her.

Mom and I watched a few episodes of an Amazon series called Solos last night. The first episode features Ann Hathaway in her basement. This monologue is a conversation with herself… past, present, and future. The character is working to perfect time travel, and we gradually learn that her intentions are to be able to jump ahead, into the future, to escape the torture of witnessing her mother’s decline from ALS.

As this story unfolds, and we come to understand the pain and suffering of both the daughter who is present and providing full-time care for her mother in decline, we also learn of the regrets of the future daughter, who did find her escape, and lived with regret for the rest of her days. Together, they ultimately choose to destroy the probable future, to ensure one version of this daughter remains fully present through her mother’s end of life.

As my Mom was serving me a piece of her favorite cake, that I ordered and picked up for her earlier in the week, she shared something else with me. She said that when she went to bed the night before, and found that I had made her bed for her, with an extra blanket (because it was going to be Florida-cold that night), she felt so loved.

She was astonished that though she feels like she was not a Grade-A mother, that she should be treated as if she was. What I want her to understand is that it doesn’t matter how imperfect we are… we all deserve to be loved and to be treated with kindness and respect – always. I feel that getting to serve my father through his end of life brought this message home for him, and my intention is to do the same for my mom. I wish for her to know that without a doubt…

I am here. You will not walk this path alone. You deserve this!

As I walked home from ‘tucking her in’ for the night, I cried happy tears. I cried for the sweetness of a simple life, and for the great fortune of alignment, which enabled me to be here in this moment, with this woman, to experience this insight and healing between us. I can see the greater gift of my father’s passing, in the path that he paved for us to have these conversations about death, in a way that we couldn’t before his example.

I could feel the presence of my father, as I digested his words from my session with #RedRoseReadings. Mom and I are using our time wisely. We are deepening our bond and our understanding of one another. We are learning what we might offer each other, in these days that belong to just the two of us, that feels like love that heals. And as I gazed up towards Orion’s Belt – twinkling in the clear night sky, I said aloud, “Thanks for showing up, Pop!” Because THAT is MY love language.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

If you’re curious about the mystery of connecting with a loved one on the other side of the veil, consider reaching out to my brilliant soul-daughter, at https://redrosereadings.com/.

Seeking Signs at Samhain

I started writing this post in the last week of October. So, imagine, if you will, a moment of time travel, and go back in time with me. Otherwise, I’ll have to rewrite some of this post, and it may never see the light, in order to ‘bee the light’. Thank you for your kindness and selfless work of magick.

The beauty and mystery of this time of year has always spoken to my soul. Even as a child, when the depth of my understanding was quite shallow. Dressing up in costumes that my mother had sewn was a highlight that cradled the mad delight of walking through the darkness from house to house to receive sweet treats. My mother’s handicraft insured that my costumes were unique and fabulous. Morticia Addams was a favorite of which I was sad to outgrow.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s at the beginning of my spiritual journey that I learned the deeper and much older significance of the holiday. In the US, we call it Halloween, and it is about wearing costumes and greeting neighbors and strangers with the words “Trick or Treat”. Much like many other holidays we celebrate in the US, the rituals are committed without the reverence of ancient meaning.

There is much written about Samhain, All Souls’ Night, and Dia de los Muertos, and there is plenty to learn from simple internet research, including concerns about cultural appropriation. A part of my seeking has been to find the spiritual path that resonates with me. Though many friends grew up Christian, I grew up Unitarian, and was invited to build my spiritual path from the ground up, free from expectation and dogma.

My ancestry is English / Irish / Scottish, so it may not surprise anyone to learn that what resonates with my soul includes a foundation of earth-based reverence, and a healthy helping of Celtic spirituality with a sprinkling of mysticism.

In Celtic tradition, Samhain marks the turning of the Wheel of the Year, when we (in the northern hemisphere) are moving out of the long days of summer and into the darkness of winter. It’s my FAVORITE time of year! Pronounced Sow-wen, it marks the mid-point between equinox and solstice, as the days are growing shorter. It is also considered the Celtic New Year (the final harvest – marking an ending before the new beginning that comes with the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice, as the days begin to grow longer again). It is also known as Ancestors’ Night.

I’ve been on this path since 1992, so this is the 30th Samhain I will celebrate. And yet, it is the first that feels truly sacred and somewhat urgent. When I started writing about death and dying in early 2018, I recognized the blessing of having suffered few losses, compared to many. Most were not unexpected, and were people I’ve loved, but was not especially close to.

This year is different. This year… my father is on the other side of the veil. I have never longed to see, hear, or touch someone more. Less than four months gone, it feels as if a lifetime has already passed. The longing I feel induces pain in my chest and head. It’s hard to imagine becoming accustomed to his absence. But of course I will… in time.

Before and after he died, this summer, I felt connected. My intuitive-self felt guided and supported. My inner-skeptic was silenced by what resonated as truth and comfort given in moments of longing and reach. Messages came through nature, oracle cards, and synchronicity. But recently, I have been feeling disconnected, and frankly, abandoned.

I went to the mountains for ten days of respite, and though I found deep peace and comfort, I did not find my father there. Though I traveled with my laptop, I did not open it to write. I was disconnected. And when I came home, my landscape had changed. The remaining Oak tree that was a twin to my neighbor’s ailing oak, the other half of the squirrel-super-highway that used to stretch across my entire yard, had dropped a giant limb. My remaining sacred sentinel is now half the tree it used to be.

It feels as if every larger-than-life, great being in my life has fallen away. My father and these two oak trees have represented symbols of protection in my life. Without their towering presence, I feel unsafe and exposed. It is difficult to navigate a path forward, in such unfamiliar terrain.

All week, my emotions have been floating on the surface of my heart and mind. My emotional support being, now living many hours away, rather than minutes away, held space for my longing and grief, as I shared how absent my father feels. I was missing the messages from nature that I’d come to expect.

Every morning, I brew my pour over coffee with hot-water circles of gratitude for the elements, for my guides and angels, for the safety, wellness and protection of myself and those I love, and finish with – “thanks in advance, Daddy, for revealing your presence to me in ways that I can understand”.

The next morning, I reported to my friend, that the Mourning Doves had returned to the bird feeder, something they started doing after Dad died… previously only foraging on the ground. I felt seen and heard. I felt the return of my father’s energy. As a skeptical believer, I realize how silly this sounds. And yet, I cannot deny the comfort and joy that returned, simply for their arrival.

The next day, there were three messages in rapid succession that WOWed me. The first was a sound that my cats heard before me. As I investigated the odd placement of the knocking sound, I discovered through the library window, that a Wren was pecking at a Mud Dauber’s nest on the window sill. When I googled the spiritual meaning, I learned that they symbolize rebirth, immortality, and protection. They are associated with the arts, and those who write. They are harbingers of rebirth.

A bit later, I was drawn into the front yard. It was a gloriously windy day, and the trees were going with the flow – a beautiful dance. I noticed that the uncarved pumpkin on the outdoor altar was oddly leaning. This is where I make offerings to the spirit of nature (a table cut from my neighbor’s ailing oak), and my friend’s children and I placed a few seasonal gourds out to mark the arrival of October. In Florida, the heat will argue with you about what season it really is, but we like to force the issue, when possible. Upon inspection, it appeared that the pumpkin was definitely losing its youth and elasticity. Since I was there, I peered through the brush to see the tree-sized branch that had fallen from my oak tree, and then followed it around, to check on all it enveloped.

As I turned to peer through the side yard toward the back, I gasped to realize that a Hawk was quietly perched upon the gate of my wooden privacy fence. For the longest time, I stood there watching with reverence, as he returned my gaze… back toward me, left eye holding me in stillness. The longer I stood, the longer he stayed, and what I heard in my mind was this: “See! I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere. All is as it should be.” And the wind shifted, taking this majestic creature, not into the sky, but into the tree by the gate. He was ‘waiting right there’, just as Pop always said when I left his presence – “I’ll wait right here!”

I decided to come back into the house, despite the opportunity to stare all day. I googled the spiritual meaning of Hawk, which is: spiritual messenger, clairvoyance and spiritual awareness. I suppose I will choose to trust the message I heard. Then, nature’s winged spirits of air delivered a final, glorious vision.

As I looked up from my second research moment of the day, my breath was taken by an unbelievable sight outside my window. A bird was feeding, whose colors were woven of pure magick. Gem-tone shades of red, blue, yellow, and green caught my eye. A bird I’d never seen beyond photos arrived with the final message for the day. The Painted Bunting, according to google, arrives to encourage us to use our ‘voice’ to speak from the heart, and to add more color and vitality to our lives. So… here I am. Speaking from my heart and welcoming more color and vitality.

Synchronicity arrived the next day, when a friend posted a John O’Donohue poem, that spoke to my grief and my colorful guest. As when the Painted Bunting was spotted, I cried my words of gratitude, “Thanks for showing up, Pop!”

Beannacht by John O’Donohue ~ On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets into you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green and azure blue, come to awaken in you a meadow of delight. When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home. May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

It feels as if, these messengers and messages are arriving to quiet my sense of feeling exposed and abandoned. They remind me that I am protected, and that as the giants of the past each fall away, I am invited to plant and create something new. As I reflect on how significant each of these beings have been in my life, delivering a feeling of being safe, loved, and protected… I now find myself wondering what I might leave behind, onto which someone else – 50 years from now, may reflect with gratitude for the loving protection they feel in this sacred space.

Last night, I gathered with a few friends who knew and adored my Dad. I bought flowers that he would love, and my friend intuitively brought fried chicken thighs – one of Pop’s favorite meals. We watched the 1993 animated film of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, and reflected on the many cultures and traditions that honor the dead this time of year. And we sweetened our sorrow, with slices of key lime pie, also in Pop’s honor.

When everyone had gone, I wrote a letter to my father, and left it beneath his photo with a candle burning as a beacon to call his spirit home. If he came to me in my dreams, my memory did not hold it.

I asked him to continue reaching me and teaching me, to help me release self-doubt and find greater confidence in the messages I seek and receive. He taught me a great deal in life, whether consciously or not. A mindful soul may continue learning and growing from the past. An intentional soul has the opportunity to learn and grow through curiosity and openness, beyond what was previously imagined. Thank you in advance, dear Daddy, for showing me the way.

My final nod to this sacred Samhain was a special call with my soul-daughter. She is a medium, and I felt that an annual conversation with Pop might be an interesting tradition to begin. Once again, the skeptical believer is curious and willing to suspend disbelief, until a sense of resonance is found. In the young woman, who could be my daughter – were I able to choose one, I have found deep trust, resonance, and a sense of belief. We hit record at 2:02pm, my angel number for Pop. Coincidence? I think not!

For 90 minutes, Pop showed up. What was really interesting, was that he spoke to the many things I’d written about in my two-page letter. His words, delivered through #RedRoseReadings were meaningful, healing, and comforting. They affirmed that I am hearing him clearly, and that when I am through with grieving, I may learn to trust myself enough to know that what I am receiving is not just a result of wishful thinking or a creative imagination. I’m mostly there, because I already know I’m just not very creative, so I often conclude that whatever comes to mind is actually coming through me from something beyond my understanding.

A friend of mine told me that she hadn’t really felt inclined to seek a conversation with her father after his death. So, I asked myself why I felt such a longing. I was there for my Dad for nearly all of his days in the last three years of his life and have few regrets needing closure, so what could I possibly need to know? What I realized is that I wish to continue learning about things that feel impossible and fantastical. Who could possibly be a better teacher than the man who cared for me for all of my days, and trusted me to care for him in his final years? No one. Just Pop. And it turns out that the shift in perspective when we slip through the veil, provides an opportunity to find words for a world of silent thoughts that never found form in life. Life is fascinating, and death… well, it is just a part of life. Learning and growing is a never-ending cycle of rebirth.

We are always in the process of becoming. As I gradually let go of who I was – my father’s full-time caregiver, I am opening to who I may become. It’s all a great mystery, and I am open to receive.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I hope that the messages you seek are coming through loud and clear. I’m so happy you’re here.

Full Circle – Journey’s End

Last week delivered the painful blow of closure. My exploration into the path of an End-of-Life-Doula was sparked by a 2018 conversation with a friend. He shared the challenging news of his diagnosis and prognosis, which prompted my life-altering question that blessed us both. I shared that story in a previous blog post:

My friend and I live on opposite corners of the country, and while we held each other close, we communicated infrequently. Each of our communications informed me of his failing health. He was prone to positivity, but would often allude to the truth of his situation. I worried that I would not know when he’d reached the end of his path. I lacked a connection to anyone else in his local world. So, when he popped into my mind, I would send a text message to let him know I was still here… holding him close and wishing him WELL.

Our last reciprocal communication occurred after the death of my father and his first birthday without him. I sent a note: “Sending love from afar. Hoping you are safe and well. Missing you so much. Love, love, love.” He replied: “Always love hearing from you. I wish i was doing better, but don’t seem to be making much progress. My legs have pretty much stopped working, so now I use a walker 24/7 which isn’t ideal, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Continue to be optimistic. All in all I know things will get better. I hope you are doing well. I’m certain you are!! (heart, heart, heart)”

I wrote back: “Oh, beloved. I’m sorry for this news of added struggle and body betrayal. I wish I were closer and could offer support. My dad died on July 17. Yesterday was his 84th birthday and last month was my parents’ 60th anniversary. I’m so grateful he was mine. He’s my new angel. I’ll send him over to shower you with blessings. I love you.” I sent pictures of my Pop, so that he might recognize him should he show up in his dreams. But in truth, if one can sense the presence of an angel, I wanted him to know that my Pop, who knew the reality of body betrayal, coping with his own for most of his life, while supporting others throughout his career, would be a safe receptacle for his hopes and fears. My friend promised to keep his eyes open for Pop.

My worries about not knowing were put to rest last week, when my phone rang and I heard an unfamiliar voice. My friend’s husband spoke his name, and I knew. I knew that he was calling me with bad news about our mutual beloved. I had texted last week, and again that morning – without reply. I’m so grateful that he took the time to reach, even in the depths of his grief.

He shared that his husband had been struggling to walk in recent weeks. He required assistance getting to the bathroom. It was obvious that the cancer had wrapped itself around his spine, and wasn’t about to let go.

He reminded me that my friend did not thrive in a state where he lacked control, and informed me of his powerful choice. They live in a state that offers Death with Dignity, and this is the path my friend chose for himself. His beloved hoped for more time, but absolutely honored and supported his end-of-life preference to avoid greater suffering.

With his doctor’s support, a compassionate end was arranged. In Oregon, one with a terminal diagnosis may be provided a medical prescription for departure. I have offered this compassionate care to the cats I have loved. Instead of a long and languished or painful end, my Vet came to the house to bring comfort and release. I cannot imagine why this is not standard practice with humans who suffer with no hope of future wellness. I am grateful that it was possible for my beautiful friend. He lived, and left this world, on his own terms. A peaceful warrior, from brilliant beginning to elegant end.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/providerpartnerresources/evaluationresearch/deathwithdignityact/Pages/index.aspx#:~:text=On%20October%2027%2C%201997%2C%20Oregon,a%20physician%20for%20that%20purpose.

As we spoke, I was reminded of the duality of emotions with my father’s passing. Though he could not speak at the end, he left his wishes in writing. Releasing him from life support was my final act of loving kindness and respect for the man who loved me for all of my days. I did not betray him by holding on. I honored him by letting go. My friend asked his husband of 25 years to let him go, and he did not betray him. The doctor was present, and it was a blessing for these two lovers to peacefully part in the physical sense. It’s hard to describe the honor of presence during our final transition… but there is a gentle coming of peace that arrives with the grief of longing. I hope to be so well-loved when I reach my end of days.

My Mom’s friend posted an article this week about people ‘taking matters into their own hands’ at the end of life, by ceasing to eat or drink. It states that one can go 7-10 days without food or water to accelerate rather than to prolong death. But the truth of the matter is that this is still a painful ending, and it is not necessary.

About 20 years ago, my grandfather (my Dad’s father) was in his mid-80s, living with leukemia and macular degeneration. He was ready to go, and asked his doctor what that would look like if he stopped taking the plate full of meds that were keeping him alive (a regret of many, according to what Stephen Jenkinson refers to as palliative care causing prolonged dying, rather than prolonging life). The doctor said if he stopped eating and drinking, he would pass within a week or two.

And so, that’s what he set out to do. He discussed it with his wife and adult children, and the appropriate paperwork was established with DNR (do not resuscitate) signage posted throughout the home where he chose to die. Two weeks passed, and my grandfather… did not. He received news that a dear life-long friend of the family died in her sleep. He declared it was not fair. “Why am I still here?” He relented to the suffering and allowed his youngest daughter and caregiver to administer a bit of soup and water. It took that sweet man a month of suffering to pass from this world. It was a month of painful witnessing and space holding by those who loved him, too. It was an atrocity that he was not permitted to part in comfort and peace, on his own terms.

There are more stories of suffering at the end of life that I could use to prove this point and argue for a countrywide declaration of a Compassionate End for those with a terminal diagnosis who wish to die with dignity, but I want to return to my position of gratitude. I am grateful that this sacred being, whom I adored, who came into my life to play a vital role in preparing me to care for my father, was able to stand at the portal between the worlds, and step through the veil without regret.

I have a candle burning for him, just as I did when my father left in July. I wrote the words that came to mind as I held him close. The flame dances in the jar, and he inspires me to write.

It feels as if my world has come full circle. I met this man before leaving the corporate world, and our conversations ignited end-of-life study and the timely first steps on the path of making friends with death. I was able to walk, without fear, beside my father to the edge of the unknown. And now… both of these sacred beings have stepped off of my path. I am so grateful for every little thing.

Farewell mighty warrior and treasured friend. Your last name was the same as Dumbledore’s Phoenix, and I see that you have lit the heavens with your beautiful light. Your transformation from earthly appearance to energetic form renders you no longer limited. Knowing you has been my great joy, and I am forever changed by your friendship and love. Thank you in advance for communicating with me in ways that I can understand. I promise to keep my eyes and mind open to receive.

Thanks for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

The ‘After’ Life – Life After Dad

The absence of my father is such an odd reality. For 3.5 years, he was my primary focus. He was my purpose. His care, his survival, his wellness, his presence were up to me to preserve. A month and a half into life without him, I no longer go to bed worrying for his comfort and safety. He no longer suffers. He is safe. He will not call in the middle of the night requiring my assistance and care. He will never ask Alexa to ‘call Melissa’ again. My phone will never inform me that ‘Dad Needs You’ again.

I miss him. I’m glad he doesn’t need me. I had forgotten what that was like, until I started looking through old photos. There was a time, long ago it seems, when he could not only care for himself, but he also did a great deal to care for others. I’m grateful for the reminder that old photos provide. My swiss cheese memory invites me to live in the moment, rather than living in the past. I had been so focused on our current reality that I had forgotten about our past… his past.

My father was a man of integrity and unconditional care. Aside from our family, he cared about his beloved Unitarian Church community for 50 years, the wellness of his clients throughout 30 years of Vocational Rehabilitation for the State of Florida, for underprivileged youth in The Boy Scouts of America, and for those who beheld his visage and saw the manifestation of Santa Claus. But all of those things had fallen away over recent years.

He let go of his career at 62, when the stress of his job invited an increase in epileptic seizures. He let go of his Commissioner role with the Boy Scouts at 77, when his mobility challenges and a move to be near his daughter made release necessary. He let go of being Santa at 81, when December arrived and he was in the hospital and rehab after a fall. He let go of walking when he was 83, after the fifth fall in a week resulted in a broken hip.

Long before I ever dreamed of becoming his caregiver, when I was still in Elementary School, Pop placed an ad on an actual bulletin board in 1701, a local comic book shop, seeking others interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons (it was the late 1970s). My father was the Dungeon Master to a number of teenage boys (including my brother and cousin), who would later tell me stories of how the days spent with Pop in his scripted fantasy world were among their favorite childhood memories. He provided a safe space for a group of young people who craved a sense of belonging.

I love that my Dad was a geek. I never had to suffer through the annoying noise of a single sporting event. Our adventures included attending Star Trek Conventions (that’s what they used to call Comicon and the like, back in the day). I had a pair of Enterprise dangly earrings, and a color glossy 8×10 photo of Mr. Spock playing his lyre. We saw Star Wars in the theater, though I can’t say if it was opening day (I was only 8, after all). I can, though, recall being really WOWed by the opening credits, let alone the rest of the film – perhaps my first image of a ‘strong female lead’.

Sometimes, he went along for the ride on things that my Mom wanted me to experience. He stayed in the hotel room, after driving two hours from home for my benefit – while Mom and I attended my first concert (I was 9 years old). We were there to see Andy Gibb, live in concert. Oh, how I adored Andy. Oh, how I adored my Dad.

I wasn’t really a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, though it might surprise you. He and I didn’t really have much in common while I was growing up. He was always there, and I always knew I was safe and loved… but I think he and my brother had more in common, as members of the Central Florida Atari Club at the birth of home computers, while my mother was taking me to concerts and igniting my passion for travel.

As I reflect on the last few years of our lives, I feel enormously grateful for the gift of every little thing that transpired since 2014. My parents bought a house up the street from mine. My father’s mobility was in decline. In 2017, I left the corporate world and was later introduced to 72T, the IRS loophole that enabled an early retirement.

In 2018, I was fully present to recognize the signs of the need to step into a more active role in managing the lives of my parents. The prognosis of a friend with cancer led me to the discovery of a path of study for End of Life Doula. Dad started falling down and needing help up. I was able to be there. I was able to acquire the tools we needed to serve his needs. I gradually learned the intimacy and sweetness of washing his hair and helping him dress. I took him to every doctor appointment, every ER visit, every transfer into and out of Rehab for recovery from falls and infections.

In 2020, when he broke his hip and found that he could no longer stand or walk (which had long been a struggle), I asked him to let me care for him as he had cared for others throughout his 30 year career with spinal injury survivors. And… in 2021, this July, when I finally had a weekend of respite, and he decided he was ready to go to the hospital… saying to me, “I just don’t know how I’ll get out of here.” Well… we all know how he got out of there. Sigh…

Last week, I took Mom to lunch with her Salon group. These are a remarkable group of women from the church, where my parents have been members since I was 2. I seem to recall that they formed during the last Bush Administration, to share fears and frustrations about politics, among other things. Throughout the first year of Covid-19, before the vaccine, they met weekly on Zoom, to discuss current events, politics, and how everyone was surviving life in pandemic. I went along as her driver, but was invited to stay.

They had all been expressive about appreciation for the care I had offered my parents. I was asked if the online studies had prepared me and served me well in caring for Dad. The truth was, the actual caregiving seemed to come naturally. I had never been a parent, and I had never been trained in any form of nursing, but somehow, I acquired the skills I needed, in order to keep dad safe and at-home. Much of it was initially terrifying. I worried about failing him, a lot. But, when I had no idea of how to change a diaper for an adult, or how to get someone into a sling for the hoyer lift, Pop and I watched a YouTube video, and set to the task of mastering the art of whatever was at hand.

I do feel, though, that the End of Life Doula studies did serve me well. The required reading alone, helped me shift my perspective of death from something to fear to something to honor. I was consciously walking my father through the end of his days. Each day that I arrived to serve my father, I was fully aware of the honor and privilege I had to do so. That I was financially free to dedicate my time and full attention to his care was a blessing I woke and spoke gratitude for each day. Having the capability and desire to give him the love and compassion everyone deserves at the end of life was a gift to him, to myself, and to my whole family. There were times when the stress of it all was overwhelming, but I was very careful not to wish it away. Not to… wish… him away. But when it was time to let him go… I knew how to respect his wishes and had the strength to do so.

I had trouble finding tears during those difficult days. I suspect my consciousness didn’t want the universe to find me ungrateful. I often found myself aching for his suffering, rather than my own burden. With so many health issues and physical limitations, he was pretty much always uncomfortable. Either from osteoarthritis or neuropathy. It was difficult to witness his suffering without being able to fix it. All I could do was hold space most of the time. But now that he’s gone… the tears come with grace and ease. I cry daily, even if just for a brief moment. The release is a relief, and I almost hope it won’t stop. It feels good to feel.

His 84th birthday has come and gone… without him. The one month anniversary of his death arrived unbidden. Just like so many of my friends and loved ones who lost beloveds before me… we are facing a whole calendar of ‘firsts’ without him. Meanwhile, we wonder if we will find the files of stories he started writing for me a decade ago, after he, Mom and I attended a journaling workshop at church. I told him that I would love for him to write down stories about his life, that I might have when he was gone. Mom reported that he was really into that project, and when he couldn’t type anymore, he ordered software to help.

In recent years, I asked him if he knew where I would find those files, and he never had an answer for me. I did have a moment of clarity after he broke his hip (I’d always heard it said that people don’t live very long after this particular event), and recorded a couple of hours of him answering my questions and telling stories from long ago. I haven’t played them back yet. I’m a little afraid to hear his voice, I guess. I miss his presence too much. I’m not sure what his disembodied voice will feel like inside my broken heart.

I still walk up the street to my parents’ house… Mom’s house, a few times a day. Mom doesn’t require the same level of care that Dad needed, and she’s been trying to make me feel like she can do things on her own, so that I can have a little more of a life of my own. But, its hard for both of us to let go. We are still working on developing our new normal. I have noticed that sitting in his vacant chair feels unnatural to me, even though it is better for my neck and back to do so when Mom and I watch a movie. I am still holding space for him.

I have had canvas prints made and they now hang in her living room and mine, to ensure his image remains present, even when his body is not. I talk to him and ask for his support each morning and evening… reminding him to show up in ways that I can understand. I speak his name to the wind (Daddy-Daddy), and remind him that he is missed. And sometimes, I feel him near.

A month ago, I woke to find that my phone had sent two text messages to two different friends. They were likely messages I had sent, but never went through… but the timing and the messages informed me otherwise. The first one was to a friend who had asked how we were doing, and I replied about my gratitude for a little extra care Pop would soon receive. The second message was brief… “I love you more.” Without a doubt, my father found a way to communicate, in a way that I could understand, his gratitude for all I had done to care for him, and exactly how he felt about me.

Mom and I are slowly getting to the other side of phone calls and paperwork to ensure Dad’s death benefits for her are secured. As we do so, she is moving toward ensuring the same for my brother and me, when she is gone.

But we are being gentle with ourselves. There are days that one task is handled, and then naps are had. Mom reminds me that she could drop dead tomorrow, and I insist that would be very inconvenient… and I am pleased each morning to receive a note on messenger that simply reads: “UP”. Keep them coming Mom! I’ll wait right here.

Thank you for walking this path with us. We love knowing you are here.

The Burden of Light

This week has been so heavy. It has been filled with monumental loss. Not unexpected, like the loss of my father just ten days earlier, but horrifyingly painful, nonetheless.

The ailing oak in my neighbor’s yard, which has blessed my property with glorious shade, beautiful wildlife, and extraordinary character for decades, was suddenly scheduled to come down.

My angel-neighbor, who had been fully present for the care of my parents during my (supposed) respite weekend, felt the stress of it all. She was warned of the insecurity of a tree with wounds that would not heal. There was risk to both of our homes. She was aware of how deeply connected her new neighbor was to the tree for which she had the responsibility to secure.

I knew it would be hard. I struggled with whether I could be fully present for the dismantling. It felt like the honorable thing to do… not to let a sacred being pass from the world without holding space and bearing witness. So, I stayed.

I missed the beginning of the work, due to a doctor appointment. I had one request for keeping a section intact, a branch that extended like a fork, where the hawk would perch, and the tufted titmice would gather to fly back and forth to the feeder. I would trim the leaves and create an art installation, so that it would remain in my life, in a new form. When I got home, that sacred limb was already in pieces on the ground.

The tree guy tried to comfort me. There will be more light. You’ll be able to grow grass. It is of no comfort to me, though. I don’t believe in grass. I find it to be a waste of valuable resources. My tree had been cultivated over decades to block out the light and the crowded lawn of the car-lover across the street. Its arms gave me the illusion of being in the middle of a woodland, with dappled daylight. The sun hurts my eyes, and I am struggling not to pull the curtains.

I sobbed uncontrollably the day Her trunk came down. Her branches showed no signs of decay. They were strong, and could have seemingly gone on for years. But the trunk did eventually reveal that deep wound. It was deep, dark, and smelled of rot. It revealed the threat, the risk, the reason for my suffering.

My sweet angel-neighbor felt every ounce of my suffering. I didn’t mean to make her hurt, too. I kept saying, “this isn’t logic, this is love.” I had given her my blessing for the removal, but I warned that I would grieve deeply. I was not wrong. I felt with my soul the teeth of the chainsaw chewing my flesh, and the descent of my broken body with each thud of falling wood.

The tree removal crew tore up my yard with machinery and severed limbs. It was a nightmare in every sense of a nature lover’s world view. Now that the work is nearly done, there is so much light that it hurts my eyes. It feels hot and unkind. I feel tired and defeated.

But I am also held and loved. Friends came on day one to say farewell to our tree, with a bottle of wine. Another friend came on day two to select bits of sacred wood, to later craft into a vessel of holding for my father’s cremains. He sat with me for a few hours, as I told stories of my family’s history on this land, near this tree. He held space for the loss of my father and the loss of my oak.

He listened as I worked through all of my own hard-earned wisdom. About how history has taught me that the worst things that have ever happened to me have mostly turned out to lead to the best things ever. That if I had not been catapulted out of one space, I wouldn’t have been open to receive when something wonderful came along. He understood the struggle of comparison between taking my father off of life support, and taking down a tree before it has fallen in a storm.

And my angel-neighbor… she got it all, too. She would never have chosen to do something that would cause me pain. She was being responsible to the safety of us both at the beginning of hurricane season. The tree guy seemed unavailable, and then he was suddenly onsite. We both knew it would be hard.

She came over with pizza and vodka the night before. 18 days apart in age, with a shared love of campy movies, we sang together every song in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The next morning, she held my hand as I said goodbye. We scattered rose petals for love, white sage for cleansing, and chips of morganite to heal trauma. We burned sage and three kings incense as an offering. We shared our gratitude and asked for forgiveness. I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.

In fact, she is the neighbor I never knew I longed for. She is kindred. She is another soulmate (I have a few). So, after a day of distress and uncontrollable sobbing… I walked out to greet her. I hugged her and told her that she is my soulmate, and that we will create something new together. She was already working on a plan, a friendship tree that we would select and plant between our two homes. We will create a path from her front door to mine. I will plant a tree for my father’s memory at the center of my yard to block out some of the offending light, and new life will blossom on this holy land. And the soul of our tree will live on in new ways.

I have kept many branches and bits, for I could not completely let go. A large segment of trunk will become an altar, and at the Winter Solstice or at Imbolc, the element of fire will be nourished in memorium. Everything will be okay.

It may seem like melodrama, to display such dismay over the loss of a tree, but I hope you’ll see it as an extension of my love. One who loves deeply must also grieve deeply. So much has been lost these last two weeks. And yet… so much has yet to be brought to birth, and I cannot wait to bear witness to what the universe has in store. Everything will be okay.

Today, there is a great big hole between our two homes. There is a flattened stump where a sacred being once stood. Like photos of my father, there are only scattered logs and sawdust. The absence of them both leaves me with the burden of light. Maybe I should close the curtains, and forget for a moment that they are gone. It feels like too much empty space. It is sometimes hard to breathe. Everything will be okay.

The tears arrive unexpected and unbidden these days. Not long ago, I could not cry, for it seemed I might appear to the universe to be ungrateful. I was always grateful! And now… tears flow freely. Because… I am grateful. I am grateful to have known such love and to have felt such love so deeply. I am grateful for the shadows these two larger than life beings cast upon my path.

Today, I hate the light. Today, the light is too heavy. Today, bright light illuminates terrible emptiness. I am grieving. I am heartbroken and filled with sorrow. But I am also loved deeply, and held compassionately. I am grateful. I am tired. I am at peace. Everything will be okay.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Boxing Up The Former Self

Mercury Retrograde is a good time for reflection and release. So, this weekend I started clearing out my closet. I left the corporate world in 2017, and I’ve spent the last four years, it seems, metaphorically unpacking. I started by figuring out what I DON’T want to do. I determined that I didn’t want to return to the corporate world, and I didn’t want to continue doing what I’d done for the previous 25 years. I spent a couple of years writing out where I’d been and who I was; curious about where I’m going and who I might become.

In the last year and a half, I have found purpose and direction. I have chosen to take what I learned managing the lives of executives – transforming those skills into eldercare management for my aging parents. Being of service is my joy, and I can think of no better way to serve in the foreseeable years to come, than to the endeavor of helping them each feel safe, nurtured, and loved for their remaining days. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to do so. Not only because I want to, but because my retirement savings and the 72T loophole allowing access to it, provides such freedom.

For quite some time, I have been aware that the clothing I actually wear is a tiny portion of what fills an entire closet (or two) and dresser in my home. My style never was corporate, especially since the last phase of my career was spent where business casual and jeans were permitted. But between no longer identifying with anything ‘business’, binding denim, or the maxi dress, bohemian goddess style that once resonated, there is quite a bit of letting go to be done in my dressing room.

What surprised me, as I started flipping through clothes hangers, was the hesitancy I felt. A lifetime has passed since I last donned any of these items, and yet… there was momentary uncertainty in pulling down each piece, folding it, and placing it in the box of surrender. Contemplating how much money was spent on each piece. Pondering a number of items never worn – as if I tried on someone else’s style, then failed to claim it as my own. Can I do this? Can I say farewell to that woman who abandoned her wardrobe? Will she return with regret for all she’s lost? Am I leaving her naked and vulnerable?

This culling feels like an act of severance. The woman who purchased these garments and wore them, doesn’t live here anymore. The current resident is different. Her once long hair, no longer dyed blonde, as all falseness and pretense has been cut away. Shorter, white and silver curls now frame her full and make-up free face.

This woman no longer tries to fit in where she doesn’t belong. She is finally exactly where she is meant to be. She is valued, appreciated and loved for exactly who she is, exactly as she is. Consequently, clothing once sought to make her feel pretty, professional, or desirable is being replaced with that which makes her feel nurtured, comfortable, unhindered, and unburdened. No more binding required, she is abundantly at home in her own skin. The opinions of others are not more important than her own comfort.

There is glorious freedom in this second half of life. Discovering that one can live a simple and joyful life with less (less income, less expectation, less judgment, less time given away to those who don’t matter) is liberating.

Perhaps I once bought clothing to fill a hole. I guess they call it ‘retail therapy’. It all seems silly and wasteful now, but I won’t belittle the woman I was. I will simply sit in gratitude for the woman I have become. I am now hole-less. I am becoming more whole.

As I pack up the remaining items that have caused me to pause, I will bless each piece with love for the new body it will embrace. As for each new owner of my former closet couture… May she feel nurtured, protected, comforted, and held in the light of love. May she know that she is already goddess incarnate, not because of what she wears on the outside, but for who she is on the inside. May she walk through the rest of her days in belonging, feeling valued and treasured exactly as she is, for exactly who she is. May she know that she is sacred and whole. May she feel safe, secure, and free to speak her truth and may she walk in beauty, having all she needs and plenty to share.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

This former wardrobe will be joyfully donated to a local charity called Adriana’s Attic, Inc. Their mission is: “To help adults and children in need of clothing, hygiene items, food, and medical supplies. We believe that spending a few hours volunteering your time to help the working poor and homeless in our community and around the world is critical.”

If you are in Central Florida and wish to support this endeavor, please visit their site to learn more: https://adrianasatticinc.org/

Love is Viral – An Anniversary

One year ago today, I flew to Texas for a wedding. It was right at the beginning of the transition, from our former reality to the current (sur)reality of life in pandemic. This special occasion had been on my radar for quite some time. I did not know the couple well, at all, but I was invited by one of the great loves of my life… the boss who loved me.

Travel plans had been arranged in January, at which time, I was certain the concerns being raised about Covid-19 were overstated. Surely our leadership would make every effort to keep us safe. But days before departure, with an indication that our world would be shutting down after that weekend, the decision NOT to cancel overpowered the anxiety that affected my breathing. That empathetic symptom would rise, but not stay, over the next few months, as I questioned: Is this Covid, or is this anxiety? Is this Covid, or is this my annual allergy to oak pollen? Is this Covid, or am I just afraid that I will be responsible for infecting and killing my parents?

I flew in on Thursday night, and no one was wearing masks, but some were wiping down seats with disinfectant wipes. By my return on Sunday, there were several people in surgical masks for the flight home. The stress of travel in numbers was palpable. Gratefully, I had become conscious of touching my face twenty years ago, when I had lasik surgery and was warned about rubbing my eyes. So, I knew to be mindful of the transfer of germs from hands to eyes and nose, as a culprit for illness. Many trips through the subways in New York, holding onto poles and railings for support, helped nurture hyper-vigilance.

I arrived in darkness, and drove my rental Prius to the AirB&B. This was my first adventure with renting a room inside a house, as opposed to renting a whole house. I pulled up to the house, and received instructions via text message with a code for entrance, and how to find my room. There was no one around, but motion lights activated as I progressed through the foyer and up the stairway. I was quite pleased with my room with en suite bathroom. Though I never did meet my hosts, I felt safe and kind of appreciated the solitary nature of my stay. It felt like pilgrimage to me.

Because I was in a different time zone, I woke before the sun. I did some writing, googled nearby restaurants, and walked through darkness a few blocks to reach the one I chose. I was taken by the overwhelming cacophony of birdsong. I’d never heard anything like it. My friend told me later that they were migrating north from Mexico. I guess we don’t get that in Florida on the same scale. It was a glorious noise. There was one bird call that sounded to me like a slide whistle. It was dark, and they were in the trees, so I couldn’t see them. Later in the weekend, I figured out that they were Great Tailed Grackles… my new favorite.

Pre-Dawn Breakfast at
La Gardenia Restaurant, San Antonio, TX

I wasn’t going to meet up with the family until the traditional Chinese rehearsal dinner, so I had a full day for exploring the area. I’d heard a great deal about the Riverwalk area of San Antonio, and I’d hoped to find some good art galleries to devour. So, I started toward one end of the walk, thinking I would meander for a while and hit several along the way. Since I had such an early start to my day, I was apparently out too early for the art community, so I grabbed a latte at Halcyon Southtown, then walked along the river until Blue Star Contemporary opened. It was a beautiful day. I passed a few people on the trail, but it was clear that the world was starting to grow quiet.

My favorite exhibit was called Common Threads by Candace Hicks. She hand stitched 18 journals on canvas, each filled with synchronicities from stories she’d read and conversations she’d had. I read every single one, wearing white gloves and laughing or gasping at the brilliance of each piece. By the time I was done, I was ready for a nap… and then I would be off to start the family celebration. As I slipped into my private suite in a stranger’s house, my thoughts were on the words and letters that are stitched into the sturdy, canvas pages of my life with the boss who loved me, and how her beloved son’s marriage would be the beginning of a new journal for them.

From Candace Hicks’ Common Threads at BlueStar Contemporary

When I arrived at the restaurant, my heart was already reaching. The last time I had seen her, we dialed up the boss who needed me (who hired us both), and as we got caught up on each other’s lives, I shared that I was considering not returning to the corporate world. I remember worrying about what they might think of me, for considering such a choice, when they had both worked so hard and given up so much of their personal lives until they each retired near age 60. I don’t know why I would be surprised, there was no judgment, only love. As I am for them, they will always be delighted for my authentic happiness.

You will probably think this sounds goofy, but when I walked into the restaurant, and saw my tiny sacred being for the first time in two years, my whole body lit up. It was much like the moment in a movie, when two loved ones are reunited after multiple obstacles have kept them apart. My spirit released a heavy sigh, and said: “Finally… it’s you.” There might have been an orchestra playing, I can’t really say. It may have only been heard inside my head.

Sadly, the boss who needed me was advised not to travel, so upon arrival, I only knew two people gathered for the wedding weekend, having met the groom and the sister of the groom only once or twice over the years. The parents of the groom, I knew well. I was seated at a large round table with other loved ones… and despite my difference (the only white girl at the table), I felt accepted and embraced by the people who had gone to college with the boss who loved me, or who had been treasured neighbors where she lived before she started the last phase of her career.

The neat thing about a destination wedding, is that there are multiple gatherings over the weekend, which allows one time to get to know the other important people in the lives of those for whom you are standing witness. The weekend included a traditional Chinese rehearsal dinner with 12 courses on the first night, including a roasted suckling pig – a symbol of the purity of the relationship being honored. The second day brought the blessings of not only a wedding, but also, a traditional Tea Ceremony honoring both sets of parents and the newlywed couple, before the reception. The final event was a brunch at the same Chinese restaurant, to send-off the guests departing for home.

Each event offered a series of traditions that were honored. Always the teacher, the boss who loved me and her husband explained every step… in English and in Cantonese. I wish I had taken notes. After the extensive meal, there was a comb ceremony, where the bride’s hair and the groom’s hair was combed by their parents. Again, the traditional blessings were spoken in two languages by the Groom’s parents:

May your marriage last a lifetime
May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age
May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren
May you be blessed with longevity

The wedding ceremony was a ‘marriage’ of Western and Eastern traditions. The happy couple walked down the aisle in tuxedo and white dress, then changed briefly into traditional dress for the tea ceremony, then reappeared as before. The symbolism of the tea ceremony was of the children honoring the parents and their elders, while the parents and elders / ancestors offered blessings to the children. And then… there was food, wine, and dancing.

It was a pleasure to get to know the couple through their own eyes, as they spoke of their own love story, and to see in the groom the influence of his loving parents, whom I know so well.

Gathering for Sunday brunch before heading home was bitter sweet. These were now my people… those who threw the party and those who joined me in attendance. I felt accepted and embraced in this sacred collection of souls, and I was painfully aware that this kind of gathering would be the last, for a while.

I could have floated home, after a bookend afternoon alone on the Riverwalk, but for the heaviness in my heart. With a racist in the White House, xenophobia was already on the rise. I knew that my privilege was to travel while pasty white, while the person in the highest position in government was referring to Covid-19 as the China Virus.

I would be enormously cautious on my way home, and I would wear a mask for two weeks afterwards to ensure my parents’ safety (seems silly now that I didn’t do it the other way around, and wear a mask while traveling… the world was different in that moment). But I knew there was a very real concern for the safety of those from whom I had just parted. I worried for them, and I still do, as xenophobic attacks on Asians continue to rise. Those who enflamed, enacted, and enabled these actions are unforgivable and complicit in the harm that has come to our Asian American community, either physically or emotionally.

I would like to declare to the universe that LOVE, not hate, is viral. Let it be known throughout the world and for all time that we are all the same. We are all worthy of respect and caring, love and devotion, equity and fairness. We have all we need and plenty to share, so lets spread that love around. No one can be a threat to the love you have when you are inviting love to grow within and sharing it freely.

Finally, at this one year mark, many of us have or will soon receive a vaccine for our individual and communal protection. May the lessons we’ve learned stay with us long after the world has reopened. May we take not for granted the sheer joy of gathering in celebrations of love – new love, long love, family love, community love, earth love, lost love (especially poignant, as funerals and memorials have been delayed for so many), and every incarnation of love made manifest. May we hold onto what has been found in silence and solitude, as we have gathered up the beauty of our true selves formerly hidden in perpetual activity and distraction. May we find more ways to live fully, as we are no longer defined by the work we do, but by the love we give. And may all of the inequities and disparities revealed by this pandemic be permanently brought to light and find healing and grace for the change that is long overdue.

Happy Anniversary to the Happy Couple, and to those of us who made it safely through an extraordinary year. There is hope on the horizon and love lights our way. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
MAY YOU BE BLESSED WITH LONGEVITY.

Somewhere along the San Antonio Riverwalk, March 2020

Gratefully Exhausted

I cried… first thing this morning as I saw images of his departure. My whole being relieved with a sigh, a shudder, a sob. I was bullied as a child, and the last four years have felt like being on high alert, awaiting the final, fatal blow from an abuser.

That 73 Million countrymen and neighbors would have brought such a beast back into my home, after witnessing the bruises and scars of the last four years, gleefully handing him a bat to finish the job, remains something to be dealt with. Forgiveness must come, for we know it will only ooze beneath the surface – and look what happens when disrespect and loathing is left to fester – January 6, 2021 – another day of infamy. But still… accountability is necessary for forgiveness, and healing comes as words meet action. Trust has been diminished, but hope has been rekindled.

A woman who was once a boss, recently died. She remains an important part of my life’s story, despite having been one of those bullies and abusers. Her behavior and actions led to my departure from a workplace I thrived in for a decade. As time passed, I could see the beauty of that blessing. Her tyranny pushed me forward. What started as defiance to make a point to her, became the open door through which I walked into a new and better life. So, I have said a prayer of gratitude to her departed soul. Thank you for revealing to me that life can be so much better.

I feel that these last four years have been that sort of lesson for this beloved nation of ours. Pulling back the veil of denial and darkness. No longer willing to sit idle in apathy while our fellow Americans are brutalized, bullied, and abandoned – we are invited to ‘rise by lifting others’ [R. Ingersoll]. As we witnessed in our pandemic stillness that which we could not turn away from, it was up to those of us in privileged (if unintentional) ignorance to educate ourselves, to be vulnerable with our truth, to seek the forgiveness of those whom our lack of consciousness may have harmed, and to do everything in our power to make it right.

Those first tears of the morning were a release and a relief. My body informed me of the tension she has held these four long years. The abuser has left the building. Thank you for revealing to us that we can be so much better.

Millions will surely write of today’s Inauguration. I feel that my words could never do it justice. I felt a sense of pride and gratitude to see that though it was far from normal, sacred ceremony continues to be a balm for healing… even when masked and physically distanced.

Every choice was made with intention and purpose, and every element delivered hope and glory. I cried… a lot.

Our country should have celebrated our first female president in January 2017. I am certain it will be revealed that the popular vote would not have been her only win, as more and more truths are revealed in the years ahead. But without the chaos of the last four years, I’m not sure that we would have progressed as much as we are about to. So many of us would have missed the opportunity for enlightenment. Gotta love that pendulum swing!

There’s so much more to say and to consider. We now have a President who is responsible and compassionate, and our first (but not our last) female Vice President, who is brilliant and strong. I will not pretend that they will always be the perfect leaders, but I am certain they will lead with mindful compassion for people and the planet, with truth and integrity at the core of each decision.

I believe the world is slayed by the poetic perfection of Ms. Amanda Gorman, whose words carry the weight and the hope for where we’ve been and where we wish to be. I am physically and emotionally spent from four years of fight or flight survival. We all deserve a hot bath and a nap today!

So, here’s to the end of an error, and to the light of new beginnings. May there be accountability and justice, woven with healing and growth. May we continue the hard work of creating a more perfect union bolstered by equality AND equity. Let this new decade finally begin, and let respect and caring help bring this pandemic to a close, as we grieve those we’ve lost, and lift those who continue to fight for the lives of those they took an oath to serve and save.

Thank you for walking this path with me. Please stay safe and well, for you are sacred. I love you!

Faith in Foundation

My parents were watching the news when I stopped by to prepare a late lunch for them today. As I was stepping back out to run an errand, my mother asked: “Don’t you want to watch the death of our country?” My reply: “No! We are witnessing our rebirth.”

I cannot tell you why, as we watched domestic terrorists attacking and entering our sacred halls of Congress, mingled with horror and disbelief was a sensation between my heart and stomach that felt like… well, excitement.

The truth is, anyone with an ounce of intuition and an ear for actual news, rather than the faux-kind, could see this event coming. So, even though a seditious mob ransacked the halls that house our laws, the fact is, there were already a number of seditious traitors inside. So, one can hardly be surprised that the behavior of those within felt like an invitation to those who left the rally at the White House to follow their leader’s instructions.

That’s how I see it from where I sit, anyway. I keep hoping Randy Rainbow will do a song about GOP sedition to the tune of “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.

As the news was unfolding, I could not shake that odd feeling of anticipation. I had this overwhelming sense that this was it. We are witnessing the final death knell of the GOP. Maybe even the beginning of the end of the patriarchy. As friends expressed disgust and dismay, fear of civil war, and the likelihood of things going badly, I did not lose my sense of awe.

So many images have come to mind today. One is of the Hindu Goddess of Destruction, Kali. Another is the Celtic Goddess of Rebirth, Cerridwen. Both archetypes inform us of the beauty and necessity of destruction. One cannot rebuild on a cracked and broken foundation. It will not hold.

In order to rebuild a bathroom, you don’t just remove the wallpaper, you take it down to the studs to see what might be cracked or rotten beneath the facade. That mold that festers can make you sick down the road, so it must be revealed and then sealed.

Other images that have risen for me today are from film favorites. I could visualize the invasion of our democratic process today in clips and photos, and it was met with a scene from Lord of the Rings. I saw the Ents arriving to liberate Isengard. That scene matched the feeling in my body. When that scene arrives, it is the beginning of the end. There is still darkness ahead, and many orcs to be vanquished, but even though the work remains difficult, one can tell that perseverance will be rewarded. The light returns and chases away the shadows. It always does.

The other day, a friend of mine was doing a tarot reading for herself, and into her future fell the Tower. (It is an image that seems unsettling, with a lightning strike and people falling as the building crumbles.) I squealed with excitement, which was counter to her sigh of dread. I reminded her that the most important moments of my life were ‘Tower’ moments. They were occasions when the rug was pulled from beneath me, but revealed a stunning hard wood floor.

To be sure, there is darkness ahead for our country (at least one person was killed in today’s terrorist attack, and it feels as if justice failed to remove her blindfold, not to mention that a lack of leadership has cost us hundreds of thousands of lives to Covid-19), but there is also light. The dark tower is falling. The gift of this nightmare presidency will surely be that the facade of our beloved country has been peeled away, and every crack and spot of mold has been revealed. There will be new foundations poured, and stronger supports installed.

Last year’s word for me was TRUST. I wanted not only to be surrounded by those I can trust, but I intended to be trustworthy, and above all else, I wanted to learn to trust myself. So, I have to say… this odd excitement that is rising within me on a very dark day in American history… I trust what she is telling me. She is teaching me about FAITH. She is informing me that the word for 2021 is TRUTH, and that we shall indeed… build back better. Bring it on, 46!

The Empty Calendar

Today, I pulled down the 2020 calendar to be replaced.

It was a gift from my financial advisor, featuring paintings from The Saturday Evening Post. Once upon a time, I would have passed on such a gift, seeking something more me… with artwork from a Pre-Raphaelite artist or Mary Engelbreit, but since I owe my current lifestyle, in part, to the compassionate insight of my financial advisor, I liked the idea of holding him close. (Thanks Tony!)

What a strange thing… to flip through the pages of a bygone calendar year like the one we’ve just narrowly escaped. To be honest, the world I manage resides mostly on google, but the big things would usually go on the wall calendar. Like a visit from my brother and his family, a trip that might take me out of town, or a workshop I designed to share with others.

In this case, January reminded me of a friend’s knee surgery, Second Sunday Supper, Book Group, and my 51st birthday. February boasted my second annual Seeds of Intention Workshop (where we would assess the different areas of our lives to determine where we wanted to focus our intentions for… the year ahead), filing my taxes, and what would be the last time we would get to see my brother and his wife, who had come up from South Florida.

Then, I flip to March. It’s kind of eerie to look at. There’s a trip to San Antonio for a wedding, followed by a countdown. 14 days to wear a mask each time I entered my parents’ home. Somewhere in this wordpress account, is an unfinished post about the beautiful wedding I attended. It remains unfinished… much like the calendar.

Page after page of 2020 is blank. Void of significant pronouncements. Right up until October 20, which reads: “Dad Broke Hip”. Then, “Pop to Rehab”. In November… there was one weekend marked with something completely different – a two-day escape with a friend to Merritt Island. Then the day before Thanksgiving, “Dad Discharge”. December, again, is blank.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I did nothing with my days. They were filled with enormous care, and loads of love. I have no regrets for the extreme caution we have chosen, in order to keep ourselves and those we love safe and well (not to mention those we don’t know, but care for just the same). Many of those days were filled with learning and growing, with spiritual deepening, with virtual connectedness, and the acquisition of new tools and new skills in the art of eldercare. We miss our people, but so far… though physically distant, we are still all present and accounted for.

But so many are not as lucky as we. Those blank calendar pages remind me of all the lives that were brimming with to-dos and check marks of accomplishment, with no more pages to be flipped. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones this year, whether to this virus, to dis-ease, despair, or the horrors of brutality. I grieve not only for those who were unable to have the hand of a loved one holding theirs at departure, but for those they have left behind, without the opportunity to be surrounded and held by those who love them, each longing to ease suffering in the smallest, but most meaningful way.

I remember feeling so lucky that Dad had remained relatively well all year, because I couldn’t imagine him being in a hospital or rehab facility, should there be covid restrictions prohibiting visitors. When that fifth fall in a week broke his upper femur, I was relieved to know that he could at least have one visitor each day.

My parents and I have stopped doing the whole gift thing for Christmas. So, this year I bought us the box-set of the 90’s TV series, Northern Exposure. We’ve been watching two episodes each evening. It is a delightful way to end each day. A gift that keeps on giving.

One of the episodes we watched tonight was an old favorite. I think of it each year around the solstice, as the town gathers to celebrate the birth of the Sun, through the indigenous tale of the Raven. The episode takes us through the lives of our beloved community, each unique and fantastic… valued for their individuality and authenticity. Each honors the season of light in their own way, and their community holds space for all of it.

I could weep to remember that this world my parents and I are diving into, with intense longing, is fictional… but frankly, it reminds me of what it means to be Unitarian. I was blessed to grow up, not in a dogmatic religion that excludes the ideas of others, but in a loving community that honors all traditions, and has space at the table for everyone, including Mother Earth, herself.

In a year that has made consumerism feel rather foolish, I was struck by a quote from the town DJ and philosopher, Chris in the Morning: “Happiness doesn’t come from having things… it comes from being a part of things.”

Being a part of several sacred circles this year has delivered great light and joy, in the darkest of times. The big events on the 2020 calendar were few, but commitments to weekly or monthly gatherings on Zoom were consistent and sustaining. We all long to gather again, in safe spaces that are free from shields and obstacles, but what I know for sure is that we can do hard things. We can love others enough to keep them safe for a few more months… or several, if necessary.

As I hung the new calendar where the old one used to be, I opened it to a blank January. So far, it is marked for Inauguration Day and my 52nd Birthday. These pages are holding space for hope. One day, I will get to mark a square with ‘Vaccines’ for the three of us. And then, maybe… at some point… my brother and his family will get a few squares. That will be something to celebrate, indeed.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful for your presence in my life. Please know that if you are walking through your own darkness, or living with the ache of longing due to a loss that cannot be whispered or spoken, you are held firmly in the light of love. May the Raven soon carry the light of the Sun to brighten your heart and sky. I love you.