Hot Summer Daze

The long summer is drawing to a close and for me, hot summer daze seems to best describe this season spent in Southern California. I realize that as I grow older I tolerate hot weather less and less and find myself dreaming of crisp fall days, days when I step outside and become intoxicated on autumn air. Knowing I was grounded for the summer due to a minor medical issue, I vowed to explore the beauty right outside my door, but as temps creeped into the triple digits I fell short of that goal many days as spending time outdoors could result in an irascible, sweaty meltdown. So when this outdoor kinda gal found herself trapped inside, gym fitness and reading became my go-to activities. Nothing wrong with that, I might add, especially when I have a wise, beautiful friend who recommended a special book to me, knowing I might find myself in an introspective mood from time to time. She couldn’t have suggested a book more conducive to the kind of year it has been and is one we would all do well to read, “The Five Invitations”. I can’t thank you enough Erin.

This year has created an interesting array of emotions for me, bringing to life a trip I have longed to take for decades, that being our Patagonian adventure. Coming home with what I thought was a minor finger dislocation became that plus a ruptured volar plate, detached collateral ligament and fractured knuckle. This week I graduated from hand therapy with parting gifts of various torture devices…yay!

Even with 12 weeks of therapy my injury does not even make the list of the tragic turn of events so many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced this year. The list of those we know who have passed this year has now grown to double-digits, not to mention all the public figures whose journey in this life has ended – Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Barbara Bush, Winnie Mandela, Stephen Hawking, just to name a few. Beyond this, we have friends who have had significant medical events and are still struggling with major illnesses, some where hospice has stepped in to provide comforting care. My thoughts are with all of them as they traverse the next phase of their life journey.

The author of “The Five Invitations”, Frank Ostaseski, a contemporary scholar of ancient Buddhist teachings, had me reflecting upon what death can teach us about living, how embracing our impending death, whenever that may be, can allow us to be more fully present, more alive, living each day to its fullest.

“Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.”  ~  Frank Ostaseski

Although my thirst for wandering wasn’t quenched this summer, I am grateful for the insights gained as I practiced being more present each day. We head out for some autumn adventures soon and I hope to carry my lessons learned with me. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the blogosphere once again.

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Peaceful Passage

At 12:30 pm EST today Terry’s father, Morris, passed away in the loving care of Hospice.  We are grateful that his passing was peaceful and he is no longer suffering. Terry was able to spend this past week with his father when he was the most alert and is thankful for that time given him.

As many of you know, last year we spent six months at Terry’s folks’ home, helping to prepare them for the next phase in their lives.  We find ourselves reminiscing on this time and, although fraught with some stressful moments due to the changes his elderly parents were trying to embrace, we will be forever grateful for our time there.  We both felt we learned so much from the experience and discovered many things about his father that have become crystallized memories for us.

Morris was a quiet man, whose wants were few.  He was content to live a simple life and enjoyed being outdoors in his yard and garden, in touch with nature.  He was a kind, gentle soul with a wonderful sense of humor.   Sitting outside on a bench, with sunlight dancing across his features, I could sit for hours and listen to him talk of his childhood.

Baking him chocolate-chip cookies became a weekly routine and if I veered from the established schedule, in his quiet way, with a twinkle in his eye, he would ask me “what’s the hold-up?”

Both Terry and I were able to share with his father our innermost feelings of how he had touched our lives, how much he was loved, and in turn he shared his feelings for us. What a blessed gift it is to share the gift of time and heartfelt thoughts with those we love.

Rest in peace beloved father, until we see you again.

        November 25, 1919  ~  August 29, 2014
November 25, 1919 ~ August 29, 2014

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Solitary Thoughts

Something So Strong

I have never participated in a WordPress Daily Prompt before, but at this time of year, I am adrift on a sea of memories.  This prompt spoke to me.

On a warm summer day, against a stunning backdrop of shimmering red rocks, I spotted you sitting alone, listening to the music wafting through space.  It seemed my soul already knew you and raced to greet yours before my feet could carry me to your side.  Everything around me seemed to slow as our eyes met and introductions were made.  Deep within I knew ours was to be a lifelong friendship, even if you had yet to make this discovery.  I seldom left your side that day and quickly learned that on the surface we seemed to have little in common, mine a life revolving around finance, yours that of talented musician and artist.

No one could have guessed the depths our friendship would reach, something so strong drawing me back time and again to your beautiful melancholy smile. With each visit, familiarity gained momentum.  Vulnerability and timidity gave way to raw honesty as we explored our feelings, new discoveries about each other and ourselves unraveling.  A piece of my soul that had been lost once again had found its rightful place.

Yours was a life of great struggle Barb, a battle difficult to witness at times. However, even during some of your darker days, which brought forth tears of anger and frustration, I always felt a calm countenance within you, ready to face whatever life had yet in store for you.  Some of my most cherished memories will always be those rather prosaic tasks we shared that so many of us take for granted, exercises you coveted as your body began to turn against you. Greeting you in the morning and gently lifting you into your wheelchair, brushing your beautiful blond hair as you silently cried, seeking acceptance of the terrible affliction that had wracked your body, showering you as you struggled with the humiliation of feeling your dignity slip away, and sitting at your feet reading to you when you could no longer turn the pages on your own are intimate moments that have become encapsulated in my heart.

You left us much too soon Barb, long before any of us were ready.  There were stories still to be told and lessons for you to teach us, other lives for you to touch.  But you knew it was your time and with that same courage with which you faced your illness, you moved into the next life.

On this eve of your passing, I cannot believe three years have slipped by so swiftly.  The pain of your absence can still take my breath away.  But something so strong as your passion for life amidst your formidable trials has left me with the awareness that any obstacle can be overcome.

As I reflect upon our time together, a myriad of emotions swirl around, moments of profound joy, deep wells of sadness, contemplative stillness, and always the knowledge that we will meet again.  Until that time arrives ~ rest in peace my anam cara.

Beloved friend Barbara Burke
Beloved friend Barbara Burke

A Painful First

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.  ~ From a headstone in Ireland

Many anniversaries invoke warm, tender memories but for those who knew and loved Barbara Burke, this anniversary is anything but.  Today is the first anniversary of her passing and although I knew this day was drawing near,  I am in disbelief.  I cannot accept that you are gone, my dear friend, even one year later.  Sometimes my mind tricks me into believing that you are still sitting at your computer, creating vibrant works of art, all with your big toe.  But there is no one there to count down the days until my visit, as we always did.  Where are you now?

I walk along the beach and feel you in the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze on my skin, the power in the surf, the grace of the soaring birds overhead.  I see glimpses of your essence in others and wonder, is that you?  Are you trying to communicate with us?  Or is this what I do to comfort myself?

Some of the most intimate times we shared  is when I read to you.  The book “Anam Cara” by John O’Donahue was one of your favorites and the discussions we had after always touched me deeply.  It was beautiful; it was moving; it is so damn tough to finish without you here.  I can’t seem to pick it up and move on from where we ended.  How ironic it is that John O’Donahue, Irish poet, priest, and philosopher died suddenly at age 53, just as you.  Both of your voices were quieted much too soon.

An excerpt from his book “Benedictus”, a book of blessings written  shortly before his death, seems fitting at this time:

‘May there be some beautiful surprise
Waiting for you inside death
Something you never knew or felt,
Which with one simple touch
Absolves you of all loneliness and loss,
As you quicken within the embrace
For which your soul was eternally made.

‘May your heart be speechless
At the sight of the truth
Of all your belief had hoped,
Your heart breathless
In the light and lightness
Where each and every thing
Is at last its true self
Within that serene belonging
That dwells beside us
On the other side
Of what we see.’

You always loved flowers, particularly your morning glories, which always remind me of my mother.  When you sensed your time was drawing near and you were struggling with knowing when to let go, you captured some of these beauties at the end of their season, hanging on a vine by a thread, and developed a Power Point presentation which became an analogy for your life, when to let go.  How our hearts ached and the tears flowed when we watched this.

Your grace and beauty live on through your artwork, music, photos, letters to family and friends and the countless memories we hold so dear.  The grief that you felt at your illness and impending death we too experience.  We will come to the acceptance as you did, although not very soon I fear.  You touched us all so deeply Barbara and for me, you will always be my anam cara, my soul friend.