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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: Tears ……

I carry my reflection books in a small plastic tub.  It keeps them all tidily in one place, and makes for easy transportation when I go away.  As I reached down to pick one out this morning, my fingers encountered a loose piece of paper.  There, at the bottom of the tub, lay a small 3” x 5” piece of printing.  I pulled it out and recognized it immediately as something that a dear friend had given me about a year ago.  It was the copy of page 242 from a daily book of goddess reflections that she reads.

At the time, I was going through an immensely sad moment in my life.  In hindsight, I realize I was probably verging on the edge of depression.  I am very fortunate that I have many tools that I use on a daily basis that help me to never sink into the desperate depths of that particular disease.  And then too, I have wonderful friends who walk a similar path to mine who care about me and give me exactly what I need when I need it.

And thus I received page 242 at just the right moment.  The goddess who was addressed on that page was O-Ryu.  She is referred to as Grandmother O-Ryu and is the Japanese goddess of the Willow tree.  This is what was written about her.

She waits for you in her sacred tree temple beside the quiet night river.  A golden Moon whispers above her long and hanging
branches, casting a twinkling outline around her wavy edges.  “Come to me”, O-Ryu calls out as she reaches her long and
leafy branches toward you for a loving hug.  An owl flaps a low, deep hoot from somewhere inside her soft green tendrils,
and you notice a spider’s web gleaming silver on the tips of her twiggy fingers.

”I am the Witch’s Tree, sacred to the Wise Ones”, she reminds you.  “My branches are for making magic wands.  My bark
supplies aspirin, the remedy for pain.  Come.  Sit beneath my weeping branches.  Let me hold you close.  It’s okay to feel
sad.  Let yourself mourn and cry and weep.  The relief you are seeking is in letting yourself feel.  Do not hold back.

Perhaps you have postponed your mourning too long,” O-Ryu urges.  “Mourn means ‘to remember’.  Who wants to be
remembered today?  Can you whisper their name out loud?  Call their spirit to come and sit beside you here by the River.
Let us cry together and gather the wisdom they want to share with you.  The spirit of someone deceased wants to talk
with you.  Something you need to know will be revealed in a powerful feeling.”

At the top of this page was a statement:  “Tears, too, are sacred and can wash away your grief.  Honor your memories.”  At the bottom of the page was another statement: “Mourning my losses and grieving are necessary processes on my spiritual path.”

When I was in High School there was a small section of the playground that was a grassed area where we could sit in those rare warm English summer days!  In the corner of this place was a large weeping willow tree that I loved to sit under and feel protected and safe, cocooned if you will.  As I read page 242 I was reminded of those days and, because I firmly believe that nothing happens “by chance”, I chose to work with the imagery of O-Ryu for the next few days, weeks, however long it should prove necessary.

In those days, I discovered that I was mourning the loss of my daughter.  No, she had not died in the physical sense, but I had “lost” her all the same.  The details of this loss are not important to this writing.  What is important is that I discovered what had been destroying me inside during that moment in my life, and I was able to release it with O-Ryu’s help.  I also discovered that I needed to mourn the loss of my mother at a deeper level, I came to understand some of her pain that I had helped to create.

Tears are cleansing.  They are an important part of our journey to wholeness.  They wash away the grief and allow for new seeds of happiness to bloom in once broken hearts.  Welcome your tears as the refreshing waters for new growth.  As the tears evaporate and dry on your cheeks, so an inner peace will enter your soul and bless you on your way.      

Musing: The Muse Has Been Gone – Again!

So I have been in a Muse-less slump again.  Inspiration has not been my companion, days have passed and my fingers have not felt the urge to run eagerly across the keyboard of my computer.  There has been no “de-pression” and I have not sighed deeply, mournfully,  every time I walked past lap-top.

I no longer struggle with feeling inadequate or as if I “should” be writing, no matter what.  I am totally comfortable with the fact that there are periods when inspiration pours down on me and through me like the waters in a continuously gushing fountain.  And there are other times when I seem to be walking through an arid desert.  But at least I know that the oasis is just a little way across the dunes and I have learned to be patient until it comes into sight.  I refuse to accept mirages as excuses just to get on the computer.

At the moment I am on vacation with my husband in Orlando, Florida.  It’s become a yearly tradition for us now during the Thanksgiving week.  We have a small time-share and we come away from our “normal” routine and just relax together.  But that in and of itself always brings some small rearranging within myself.  It’s that “change” thing again.

I have to adjust to not having “my stuff” around me, although, not hindered by luggage restriction (we drive here), we do our best to bring whatever we want to have with us.  This includes lap-tops, games (in my husband’s case), books (that’s me), and I lug everything I need to do my yearly Christmas mail drop. 

I have hundreds of cards, stamps, address labels, silver and gold gel pens, purple pens, etc and while Rich plays games or does his geekie stuff on his Net-book, I attack my list of approximately two hundred friends around the world. Being in the military you either choose not to make friends because you’re constantly moving, or you make lots of friends and stay in touch.  I fall into this second category.

So for part of each day I have been writing inside cards, addressing envelopes, attaching stamps and applying Christmas stickers.  The weather has not been wonderful so I have only been to the pool twice in four days.  But because I have to be outside, my Christmas card project takes place on the balcony overlooking the pool. 

When I’m not card writing, I bring my current book out and read with the noise of the pool’s waterfall in the background.  The resort is full at the moment and is hosting quite a few families so I am grateful that the overall peacefulness is not broken by shouts and screams and general noise created by many people gathered within a restricted area.  I am mostly just grateful to God that we are able to do something like this given today’s economic climate.

Today must have been “breakthrough” day, although I think it started yesterday evening but we had plans to go out.  When I got up this morning, I knew I was going to write: wasn’t sure quite what about, but that is often the case.  The subject matter was not fully formed in my mind but there was a bubbling sensation in my heart and soul and I knew I needed to sit at my lap-top.

I think that God must have arranged the weather to accommodate this plan too.  We had actually thought of going to the Holy Land exhibit today but, upon seeing the steady rain and the general all-over grayness of the day,  we changed our minds and chose to “stay home”.  I have to admit there was an internal, silent sigh of gratitude and my eyes went straight to my lap-top.

So here I am, words running from my brain, through my fingers, over the keyboard, and onto the screen.  It just never ceases to amaze me watching and reading the end result of this process.  I hope you, the reader, can share and appreciate the joy that my writing brings to me.  Already there are thoughts running around in my head about the great murder mystery dinner theater we enjoyed on Monday evening.  Then last night we got to experience the incredible Blue Man Group and I have so much to say about that. 

We have been to see the awesome actress Sandra Bullock putting in the performance of a lifetime in Blind Side, and we also visited the quaintly interesting and somewhat Europeanized town of Winter Park. Even our weekly attendance at Mass on Sunday was in the very beautiful and unique “shrine church” of Mary, Queen of the Universe.  But these will all be inspiration  for other postings.  The Muse has been most generous in her gifts again!