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Musings: Our Mortality

Yet another friend has returned to the great eternity.  Just over a year ago I dealt with the passing of five people who were close to me, some more than others.  Four of them died within a seven-week span, and the fifth, my dear church sister Susan, just two months after that.  At the time I remember feeling a sense of dis-ease, and although I have many spiritual tools and good friends to help me deal with this kind of thing, I was aware of “descending into greyness” and came to the conclusion that I was in a mild depression, which is not abnormal or alarming given the circumstances.

Last Thanksgiving, as Rich and I spent our now traditional week down in Orlando, I was on the computer and needed to make a rare (for me) foray into Facebook.  While there I found an entry by Rosa, the daughter of a dear old friend, Santiago.  Santiago was an engineer who I came to know very well, along with his wife Josefina, when I lived on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, Italy in the 70’s.  But more than an engineer, Santiago was an artist.  He painted using many mediums, he created exquisite mosaics, and he was a talented guitar player and writer.  Santiago was also my unofficial mentor, and he re-awoke my dormant Muse and I began writing and painting again.

Rosa’s posting was a photo of Josefina, and the caption read: “Here’s Mummy putting roses on Pappy’s tomb for his birthday.”  My hands froze over the computer keyboard as the significance of those words sank in.  I contacted Rosa immediately and she confirmed the sad news that Santiago had had a very serious stroke from which he had never recovered, and that he had passed last April.  Once the initial feelings of deep grief subsided, I was able to feel so grateful for his presence in my life and also for the fact that just two years ago my husband had gifted me with a week-long trip to Puerto Rico so that I could visit Santiago and Josefina and spend some wonderful time with them after about twenty five years of absence.

On our way home from that stay in Orlando, Rich and I stopped to visit with old friends from our time in Italy.  PA had been Richard’s Department Head on his first ship, U.S.S. Belknap (since decommissioned) in Gaeta, Italy in the mid-80’s, and then in the 90’s he had been his CO on another tour in Naples, Italy.  PA retired in the early 2000’s and on New Year’s Day 2006 he had a massive brain aneurism which robbed him of motor coordination and most speech.  He and Deb, his devoted wife, returned to live in DeBary, FL in 2007.  PA was wheelchair bound and had very little communication capability but when we visited them, which coincided with our Orlando trips each year, we could see that PA was “still there”.  Recognition and interest would flare in his eyes and we somehow knew that he appreciated our visit.

During the evening of 3 January 2013, we heard from Deb that PA was not long for this world and, in fact, he died in the early hours of the next day.  Yesterday we attended his funeral Mass and my husband was asked to speak about PA on behalf of the family.  As I heard Rich’s words of appreciation for this man, I was also drawn to my own place of gratitude – gratitude not only for PA and all he represented both as a a Naval officer and as a family man, and for the opportunity we had to know the whole family and be enriched by their presence in our lives, but also for life in general, the precious gift that it is, and for friendship and the gift that that is. I was also grateful that God had given us the opportunity to be present and supportive to our friends at their time of loss and deep personal grief.

As I remembered our last visit with Deb and PA, I then thought about the passing of my beloved soul-sister Cawne the week following Thanksgiving.  I will be writing a separated posting about Cawne because of the important place she held in my heart and in my life.  All that I will say here is that she was one of three people near and dear to me that I have lost recently all in the space of seven weeks.  That makes a grand total of eight losses in just over fourteen months.  I cannot help but wonder what is the “message” or the lesson behind all that loss, and I have been resting in the Creator’s loving arms about that.

There are three themes that have surfaced.  The first is that I have been prepared to carry this weight and, in dealing with my own grief, I have been able to support many people as they have journeyed through their grief. The second is related to my preparation as a spiritual director.  I firmly believe that I am being groomed to help others as they deal with their grief, to be a spiritual companion in this particular stage of peoples’ lives.  And the third is that I believe Creator is also teaching me about and gently bringing me closer to full acceptance of my own mortality.

And so as I close this blog I am also acutely aware that I want to write another blog dedicated to this particular topic.  So many people, in the Western world are scared to think about death and dying and live in a state of complete fear and denial of death, especially their own or that of their loved ones.  And yet death is the one thing that we are guaranteed to have to face in life.  Because of personal denial of the possibility of death and the general culture surrounding death in the Western world, many people are completely unprepared for the moment. Without being morbid,  I want to write about the subject so that whoever reads about it can choose to be somewhat prepared.

Musings: Revival of the Muse

Slowly she is resurfacing, the Muse that feeds my imagination and nudges the words out of my mind and onto the page.  I know the change in weather has something to do with it.  For about a week now the days have been warm and full of sunshine, just the right environment to entice me out into my beloved garden to work the soil, scatter seeds, and plant some flowers. 

Nature has also responded with much burgeoning growth.  Trees are budding out at the speed of light and the St. Augustine grass has gone from hay-colored to fresh spring green in the flash of an eye.  Tiny green shoots are poking through the earth, a promise of beauty and color yet to come.

Another deciding factor has been the time change.  We sprang forward last weekend and the evenings are lighter longer which always brightens my soul.  And even though this afternoon the sunshine slowly disappeared and the sky became leaden grey, I was able to feel very grateful and even lighthearted when the rains came to soak the parched ground. 

We have had a very mild winter and we really need some rain.  I am especially grateful that it has rained today because this means that I do not have to expend time and energy to water the garden tomorrow.  We do not have an automatic system and it is quite time and energy consuming to move the sprinklers all around the garden to their allotted spots to make sure everything gets a good soaking.

So here I sit, in my wonderful lanai, outside yet sheltered from the rain, allowing the thoughts to flow and the fingers to run across the keyboard.  The sky is still mostly grey and I think we will probably get some more rain this evening.  Everything is a fresh lush green and, even though it is already 7.15pm, it is still quite light.  I love moving through spring into longer days.  For whatever reason it makes me feel more alive.

I think the change in weather and the change in time have happened just perfectly for me right now because both of these events have helped me to move outside and beyond the prevailing sadness that surrounded me and weighed down my heart.  This was due to five deaths that have happened among my friends and family since the end of October last year.  Dealing with death, even as I accept it as part of life’s cycle, takes its toll in a physical and emotional way.  I am just so grateful that I have strong support systems and the right tools to help me deal with it.

Just as nature cycles through her seasons, so too do we humans.  And to appreciate and enjoy the new life we also need to accept and appreciate the dying to the old life.  I am grateful to have a faith, a belief in God and in a life hereafter.  So once I move past the sorrow of loss I can rejoice and celebrate at the soul’s onward journey.  Who knows what joys and what adventures await us in the Big Beyond!!

Musings: Further Along The Road

Once again I have been on a writing hiatus.  It has led me to realize that I am unable to multi-task on many levels.  I have always understood “multi-tasking” to mean the ability to do more than one specific task at a time.  I am sure I have already mentioned in previous postings that this is very difficult for me to do. My brain and my body just don’t function well in multi-tasking mode.

I am always so amazed when I walk by my husband when he is working at his computer. I really should say “computers” – plural, because, although he has one computer (on his main desk – I’ll explain in a minute!), he has two screens and sometimes he is multi-tasking between the two and sometimes he is also multi-tasking on each screen.  My brain just cannot hold that!  It’s way too mind-boggling for me.

Apart from his main desk, he also has a secondary desk which holds another computer and recording equipment which he uses to create his “podcasts”.  When he is all set up to record in that space, it looks rather like an old-fashioned radio show.  He wears headphones and has a microphone in front of him and I almost expect him to break out into acapella singing.  Since he has been indulging in this activity, which is all linked to his web page work, (, I sometimes think of the computer room/office as a recording studio too.

The lessons I have learned about myself in the last couple of months are myriad.  I have lost three friends in that time frame.  Two were “expected”.  Is death ever expected?  The two people, although unconnected in any other way, had actually been struggling with the same lung disease over several years.  The third friend’s death came out of left field and left me, and many other common friends as well as his wife, completely mind- and heart-slammed. The first friend, died on 26th October 2011, the second friend died about mid-November, and the third friend died 16 December.

In other words, just as I was absorbing the news of one death the second occurred, and so it was for the third.  In the meantime, as death was occurring, life was going on.  Normal everyday events, commitments, and activities continued on despite what was going on in heart and mind.  Meetings were attended, friends were attended to, school and its accompanying homework had to be dealt with, volunteer commitments were kept, I participated in a retreat, Thanksgiving came and went as did Christmas, and on and off, in the back of my mind, was the little nagging voice that said “I need to write”.

As I look back, I realize that I was actually multi-tasking in general across the board of all these events.  Just to be able to deal with everyday life as well as grieve, and support others who were grieving, was a huge multi-tasking effort of its own, and I am so grateful for my relationship with God and my strong support network of spiritual friends who help me to get through tough times such as these and still stay sane. 

But to hold all this together and allow the Muse of creativity to come forward is, for me, an impossible task.  I have to put great energy into honoring and dealing with difficult situations and emotions such as death and grief, and there is little energy left for anything else.  And I need to honor myself and where I’m at in all of that and allow the various processes to sweep through me.  It is all important to my personal and spiritual growth.

So now, as I sit here and look out my window (no working on the lanai today, we had a near-freeze last night!), I feel some of the tension surrounding these recent events slipping away.  Even though it is too cold to sit outside right now, the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky is that crisp, clean, light cerulean blue that only winter can bring forth, and I am breathing deeply and easily as I notice the hawks circling above the pine trees, the other birds swooping across and into the garden, and the squirrels frolicking on the backyard fence.  Muse is creeping slowly back into my heart, honoring and respecting where I have been and gently inviting my fingers to once again play across the keyboard and put the words on the screen.