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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: 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.

Musings: Rest And Pause

The other day a friend called asking if we could get together.  I opened my planner and started checking for my next available free time slot.  As I shuffled through the pages I began to feel a hint of panic rising in my chest.  I had nothing available until after Thanksgiving – at least a week after Thanksgiving!!  Feeling guilty, I took a few deep breathes and managed to squeeze a small space of time for a cup of coffee together.

When I got off the phone, I took my planner and went and sat in the lanai and just breathed in God’s air for a few minutes.  There is nothing calms me down quicker than sitting out there, surrounded by God’s creation, and just breathing.  Then I slowly checked through my planner.  Yes, it was very full but I could see that some chunks of time were carved-out-for-me (and husband Rich) time, and I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors for a few more minutes before I went on with my day.

I think the panic had come because somewhere inside of me there was this little voice saying, “so you still haven’t learned the Time Lesson yet?”.  This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn on my life journey, to rest and pause and give myself some dedicated time to relax and restore.  My life has been so much about doing for others and being busy and productive.  I was a do-er, not a be-er. I was always taught not to waste time, and some of those lessons die hard, even when they no longer serve me.

This all got me thinking about how even more busy life seems to get around this Holiday Season, and I think that’s what caused the panic.  I thought I had fallen into the old trap of getting ridiculously over-busy just because it was the Holiday season.  However, a whole week of time is a mini vacation for me and Richard.  Right now I’m also enjoying a sort of two-day vacation in Orlando as Richard is involved in a conference and I’m “along for the ride”.  And on the way home from here on Friday he will drop me off in Sanford for my Audire program instructional weekend.

I have time slots marked down for Christmas card making, and other spaces for doing my Audire homework.  I have some para-professional appointments with people and a doctor’s appointment too.  Scattered in and among these appointments are my Pilates classes and a massage appointment; I have most definitely learned to take care of me even in the midst of busynessSmile.  There’s a concert with a friend and a Christmas party, even if it is an “official function” connected to Richard’s job.

I know I have written several postings about resting and pausing, sharing some of the reflections from the books I read each morning.  Just a couple of weeks ago in the October Daily Word, I read:

When I am out of alignment, my body feels out of sorts, my mind races with thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow.  I feel unsettled.

At such times, I have not lost my connection to Spirit, I’ve just become distracted.  In conscious awareness, I pause, say a prayer and step away for a few moments in the silence.  I immediately begin to feel the Spirit flowing within and through me.

I don’t think we can have enough reminders to “be still and know that I am God”.  Fortunately I have a good husband, friends, and many tools that I use to remind me constantly of the need to give myself time, to just simply be.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to be enjoyed, times to relax, times to give some thought as to why we are here in the bigger scheme of things.  Frenetic shopping and filling our calendars with too many activities are not conducive to our inner peace or the harmony of our souls.  I encourage everyone to make a commitment to plan some personal quiet spaces in the busyness of the upcoming Holiday Season.