Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I have been away from my post for a while. Yes, I got married, yes, my family from Norway and all my children where gathered in Chicago for a couple of intense weeks. I also had my five year old grand daughter with me for two weeks, oh the stuff you learn from children, and I delivered her safe and sound back to her mother in California. It's been hectic.

I think as a response to some insanely busy months, I've gone into a retrograde together with the planet Venus. My egg shaped aura, usually extending about 3 ft. beyond my body, has felt stretched and expanded. I've walked inside a large Christmas decoration complete with mesmerizing lights and the dreamy twinkling eyes of a newborn.
At the same time, I've been given a time with a focus on death and dying. This spring I had to put my 87 year old aunt in a nursing home in Indiana. Her house and belongings were sold at an auction, and I felt as if we were pulling apart her finished life, even as she was quite alive in her new home. She cannot comprehend what has happened, and I've been advised not to tell her. My honest goodie-two-shoes girl wants to tell her the truth, and my new role as her guardian tells me that it would be cruel to try to explain it to her while she's starting to be happy in her new situation. The financial guardian advised me to arrange for a prepaid funeral for my aunt. I went to the funeral home where her son had been buried. We planned all the details, and all was well until the funeral director handed me the newspaper clip describing my cousins suicide. I went to the grave site, an unkempt, unassuming, flat stone under a tree, and cried. Finding a silk arrangement at a nearby Michael's, I left the flowers at the names of the mother and son, where his date of birth and death is engraved next to her lonely birth date, and went to visit my aunt at the nursing home, not being able to share anything I had done that day.

At the same time, my brother in law died, and we dealt with three days of funeral arrangements, this time with people who were well informed about his declining health and his own blessings to his family. Quite a beautiful exit. I felt his presence at the funeral and saw his loving goodbye to his wife.

This month my aunt in California died on her 91st birthday. She had organized her cremation, her funeral and her good friend as executive director of her estate. All I could do was bring flowers and give a little speech at the memorial service. This woman wanted to be in control to the very last. She was a surgical nurse in a MASH unit in Korea with the title of Captain. My aunt knew how to give orders, even after her death.

I could bless my older family members in their later years, and bless their passing. But when my good friend was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, I lost it. Over the last year I have watched him slowly deteriorate. I drove him to appointments, I supported him as he practiced walking, I took him to the concerts he still did every month as long as he could play his guitar. Losing the use of his legs, I could handle, if he could still use his hands. When the disease made it impossible for him to play, I totally lost it. The voice I had heard sing for 16 years was becoming a raspy ghostlike shadow of itself. I started helping him with his computer work. He taught me how to work with the Garage Band program, navigate among his poems and organize his hundreds of songs on I-tunes, all by verbal direction. I answered his emails, writing his poetic answers to his friends in Paris, in Belgium, on Hawaii and all over Chicago land. When he wanted to dictate a poem, I had to hide my tears as he starts: "How happy and harrowing life is, concluded the last mosquito of October."
I watch his three year old daughter run about trying to look happy in front of her father. She understands that the best gift she can give is to be a delightful child in the midst of all this suffering. But when she cries as she goes to bed at night, her sounds belong to a younger child, and she gives went to her own frustration and grief. All I can do is hug his wife, help him with his medication and help her get him out of the wheel chair and into his bed. It's a two person operation to stand him up, turn him around and lower him slowly down hoping not to hurt his arms.

One of his songs is called One Life. One phrase is "me into trees". He means to say that all of creation is interconnected, but I'm wondering if his body is turning into wood. His knees don't bend properly anymore. His fingers don't move. In the morning, I have to fight with his legs to get them to bend after a night of lying straight.

I'm writing this to illustrate the world I'm in right now. The universe is trying to teach me something about life and death. And marriage and relationships and children. What else is new? Isn't that the lessons of life in a nutshell? Maybe, but I seem to have been given a crash course over the last six months.

At the same time, as I'm exposed to all these real life situations; the approach to death, the choice to pass over, and the honoring of a long life with an exciting story, I'm experiencing my own life as if I live with a foot on the earth and one levitating in open air. I just need to close my eyes, and I am one with my being and everything else fades away. I open my eyes a moment later and face the fact that I'm cooking a meal, doing laundry or admiring a sunset. I pause and look intently at the trees, at the waves of Lake Michigan and pick up a stone and squeeze it between my fingers, just to pinch reality and feel what is really real.

And is it? Why aren't the colored light I see behind my eyelids given equal validity? Why can't I speak of the colors, the sounds, the music, the words, the feelings I have, all this which I experience with my inner senses, which take me on these trips to beautiful places of peace, tranquility and comfort? What is it? I'm not conjuring it with my ever so lively imagination, if so, I would never be surprised at what I see, and the experience would be limited to what I can imagine. What I see and experience is always beyond what I could have made up. The words I hear, the answers I get when I pose a question to the ethers, is always surprising.

So I bury the dead. I make sure my aunt with dementia is well taken care of. I help my friend through his illness, and cry as his abilities are diminishing while I try to give his genius mind an outlet through my hands. And I continue on my own travels between the worlds, with one foot firmly planted on planet Earth while I explore what I can only see when I close my eyes.

Yes, we are mystics without monasteries. Where is the abbey where I could have asked an abbess like Theresa of Avila what it all means? Where is the monastery where the daily routine of prayers and meals and tasks would structure my days for me and ground my focus to earthly deeds, all the while allowing my mind to ask my questions and my heart to find God?