Architectural Interior Designer
Loser of Keys
Family • Friends • Big Dogs • Books • Movies • Music • Writing • Cooking • Walking • Fishing
Travel (point me to a road, a path, a stream, a kayak, a car, a boat, a bus, or walking shoes)
Stories and Yarns (yours and mine!)
Photos (will look at anyone's family pix/home movies as long, of course, as they are decent)
Love. Forgiveness. All else is arguable.
The wells of grace and mercy are free-flowing. Dip into the pool!
Language is the most limited form of communication.
Hugs, smiles, kisses: vastly superior
Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.
Listen and wait.
Dance, sing, cry, laugh until your cheeks get cramps.
Every day is precious.
Have you ever had one of those years? I began hospice for my mother on 9/11/2001. She died three days later. Nine months after her death, my husband passed away. During this period, the last child had left home and the dog had died. Three months after my husband's death, our home of twenty-two years collapsed in a storm. Insurance didn't cover, ruling the chasm beneath our home not a true sinkhole. "Ma'am, you have the wrong geological sub-strata." Personally, I thought I had the wrong insurer. I was able to discount the past for a while. But all the hidey-holes filled eventually, the ensuing spillage an eruption of confusion and pain. The choice was to take time for the pain, stilling myself like a wounded animal, or to postpone the experience until the anguish was unbearable. True to my nature, I tried both. My experience was that the former brought healing and the gift of grace; the latter, agony.
I began to journal... the basis of my healing. Yet, although I dealt with each loss, I could not shake a sense of malaise and foreboding. As I wrote, however, another casualty of that year surfaced. In the course of those twelve months, I lost the context of my life. No longer wife, active parent, daughter. Or employee. Did I mention I my job evaporated when no new contracts materialized? I was surrounded, however, by family, by wonderful neighbors and friends. My heart goes out to those who are caught up in natural disasters where entire communities are destroyed. No infrastructure, families uprooted and life-long friends separated in the search for jobs and a new life.
I saw the present as a brief intersection of choices, events, and circumstances that I subjectively sorted as either good or bad. Time deconstructed these arbitrary boxes. A glimpse of a lovely memory on a nice day engendered gratitude, but that same recollection, in a darker moment, magnified the contrast, deepening the pain. I learned that, while powerless over such moments, I was free to respond positively: "when bad memories knock at the door, acknowledge them, but don't invite them in to spend the afternoon." And I learned - after running into many walls - that I can could grow and move forward or remain wedded to past injustices - some real, some imagined or exaggerated - forever the victim.
Three years later, I became ill: three separate but interwoven physical conditions, a perfect storm that was long in the making. Years earlier, a minister friend said that we frequently do not have the choice between good and bad, but between bad and worse. Many face this dilemma in life: often no easy solution exists. Our bodies bear the brunt of the maelstrom.
My friend and neighbor, Jane Hooper, invited me to stay with her in Kinsale, Ireland after I became ill. The Irish have a word for outsiders who land on their shores: blow-ins. We certainly didn’t blow- out quickly. For six months, Kinsale was our home and its residents our neighbors, friends, teachers. We were abiding blow-ins.
When I first arrived at the cottage, I picked up a book in the parlor, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong. The author was the Irish poet/scholar/philospher, John O’Donohue. I use past tense with sadness because he died at age 53 while we were in Ireland. I read it, not in great gulps but small sips...so much to digest in every sentence, in every word. One night I ran across a passage that I felt had been written especially for me. My illness had proven to be life-changing. At that particular moment, I did not judge this to be for the better. I copied the passage in my journal that night and returned to it many times during my stay, words of healing and hope:
The land of suffering feels like a land that blessing has never touched. Illness is a form of suffering that quickly takes us into the land without blessing. Illnesss comes and challenges everything about us. It unmasks all pretension. It tests the inner fiber and luminosity of your soul.
When we learn to see our illness as a companion or friend, it really does change the way the illness is present. The illness changes from a horrible intruder to a companion who has something to teach us.
[Do] not constantly quarrel with the illness or turn it into an unworthy enemy. Sometimes when you see a thing as the enemy, you only reinforce its presence and power over you.
Befriend the illness . . . travel with it, remaining very mindful and holding on as far as you can to the shelter of blessing. The illness can take you on an amazing journey, over mountains you could never have anticipated.
When health returns, you are a changed person . . . you have learned much. The soul enjoys a quiet depth, your gentleness grows. Your presence enriches others.
Geography doesn't cure, but my six months in Ireland provided a new perspective. Away from all that is familiar, the subtext of my life surfaced: an undercurrent of old tapes, habits, and fears that ran like one of those annoying scroll bars at the bottom of a newscast. The truth of what precipitated my crumbling is a story for another day.
Aside from the occasional journal entry, I did not write at all while there; the impetus, even the words, seemed to be removed from me. Instead of writing about observations, I received this gift of experiencing life: listening to the church bells, daily walks, chatting with friends, returning to the cottage to cook dinner, sitting in the parlor with Jane, sipping tea by a fire, going upstairs at bedtime, calling “good night” down the hall, then watching the stars, praying for my family and friends half a world away.
The process born during that hiatus continues, truly “progress, not perfection:” practicing stillness, learning to listen, meditating, praying . . . a more contemplative life. Abiding for six months brought the gift of community, an appreciation of the culture, and the humility of walking the ancient paths.
I wouldn't change a step. Today is richer for the journey. Life is good.