A Year to Live

I picked up the book, "A Year to Live," by Stephen Levine a few weeks ago at our local street library (it's this huge birdhouse like shelf) that the community donates books and whoever passing by can grab 1-2 at a time.

That day, I had texted my friend who was going through a program in SF and I was invited to join in but due to finances and time - it just wasn't meant to be. Lo' and behold, walking around the neighborhood and viola! this book was in the shelf.

February holds memories of joy and heartbreak for me. Really, it's a month the month of my son's passing and though it has been 6 years -- it's still a tender spot in my being. I've accepted it, I've let go but I just know that there's a tenderness there.

I've digressed - so returning back to A Year to Live. I'm going to start. Tonight, I begin and it is my intention to journal this journey here. In the book, the 1st month is designated to reflecting on how I react/respond to a 1 year prognosis. Which beckons the question - "What is my legacy?" What will I leave behind when I am gone. My daughter? Yes and no. I can only influence and teach he what is/was the ever important question of "what is important?" And as I write this down - I already have an answer and it comes from one of my favorite books that I read to Reverie called, "The Three Questions," by Jon J Muth:

"When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?"

Answer: "There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side."

I think the practice to live the answer is a work in itself. So here I go, with 354 days to live.

Namaste. 

Cycle of Life Convo

It's been a month since I last wrote in this journal. Ahh... the healing in the return. So here I am once again, always always, here I am.

Tonight - as I laid beside my daughter as part of her bedtime routine, we got into the topic of death. life and interdependence. She had picked up a book "Berenstain Bears Grow It! Mother Nature Has Such a Green Thumb" at our local street library and learned about plants, their growing process and death (when we eat them). We talked about CO2 and O2 and how are givers and receivers of life and how much we really depend on each other. "Isn't it beautiful?" I asked her when I held the space of how - if you think and feel it - how we are all "one." 

At some point, I realized and shared this with my daughter that, "That's how, even if my physical body is no longer here -- I still / we are still here." My daughter looked at me and I saw her round eyes scanning my face - and I stared in her eyes. Her eyes started to tear up and I felt the unveiling there or maybe even the peeling of impermanence. Tears ran down the side of her cheeks, looking at me and clutching my hand and said, "I'm going to miss you mama.... can I love another mom?" (this kid). "I sure hope so kiddo" And told her that love does not divide, it only multiples. I asked if she loved her grandma, grandpa, cousin, auntie and uncles --- and she said yes. So I reminded her, "see baby... love grows.... that and I'm not going anywhere, any time soon."

"This is why we are present for every moment."

"We may never know when it is our last."

Musings of a mama. 

Curiosity

Sitting across from her, a sweet elderly resident with dementia, attempting to get out of bed and expressing herself in sounds I could not understand. I sat there battling within myself, all therapeutic tools to help her not get out of bed and assist in calming her. I would cover her up with her blanket which she insisted on pulling back and throwing the pillow beside her leg. We did this dance and I started to feel the tightness in my chest. Aha! Sit, breath and listen - so I slowly started to let go. I let her kick the blankets to the end of the bed, I picked up the pillow and put it by the bedside and I just sat there. Telling her what I tell my daughter, "______, you are safe here" when she would get agitated (at least in my perception). I sat there breathing as thoughts came and went.

How does one "get" dementia?

How was she like as a kid? As a baby?

I wonder how she's feeling?

and then it shifted.

How am I feeling?

I was feeling scared. 

Sitting with her brought up fear in me.

Am I going to end up like this one day?

Can I prevent it with the food I eat, exercise?

Breath

Breath

Breath

Then the gratitude practice kicked in.

Thank you for this moment.

Thank you for this teacher.

Thank you for this practice.

Thank you for this life.

Thank you for this opportunity.

And as I left her side, I thanked her and told her once again that she was safe.

Sending her well wishes

May you be well

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be at ease with life

Because - we all need well wishes wherever we are at with life.

Thank you.

Returning

There is a quote that I love, "The healing is in the return." Oh I've returned over and over again. At times the journey has been long and some days it's the thought of doing something and I come to awareness of "no, not that way my dear." And I smile to myself and say thank you, thank you. 

In my recent volunteer experience at Laguna Honda, I wanted to visit a resident that I had visited a few weeks prior to practice gratefulness. In our last encounter, I had felt unappreciated, dismissed, used even. Ha! In reflection of that day, I realized that I was unaware of the expectations I had of the experience we were going to have, and when that wasn't met, the feelings of un-appreciation came up for me. In that, I planned to meet with this resident again and practice gratefulness. 

On my way to his room that day, the nurse stopped me to say that he had passed away just a few minutes before returning to the nurses station. Stopped me dead in my tracks. Oh LOVE, how you humble me. Here I was, setting expectations again, setting the record straight, getting even, setting the bar to how to be in the moment and grateful - through this resident. And just like that, the resident was gone.

I was left with the lesson of, "be grateful" for every moment. Let go expectations. A lesson to healing over and over again. He died on such a beautiful day, the sunset filled the sky with a bright orange and bright deep pink color. 

Thank you for the lesson. 

Thank you for this life.

Thank you for this breath.

Namaste.

 

Day 1

Disclaimer: The following post are a trail of my thoughts going as roots go.

Driving to the hospice sanctuary where I volunteer - mid swipe from the windshield wiper of my car as it was raining moderately in the Bay Area - an awareness of being a witness of where I was at: mentally, physically, and emotionally came into view. 

The witnessed feelings of nervousness and excitement. 

Witnessing of when I was breathing in my chest vs. belly. 

In that pause - I was in a state of grace, of “welcome everything, push away nothing.”

Compassionate presence.

Being here. Now.

It dawned on me how this “compassionate presence” could be cultivated in other areas of my life.  

Here I was, setting clear boundaries on what time I needed to leave and what I needed to accomplish leaving today to volunteer.  

A moment where a light switch was turned on in a dark room.

The moment of Aha!

And in that moment my neck tilted to the side [an adorable comparison is a dog tilting their head when they look… you know what I mean.] The look of wonder and curiosity all rolled into whatever shape it takes for you. 

The intention created the space. 

I asked myself, “How can I increase moments of “compassionate presence?”

The answer of course, was in the pages of the volunteer hospice training manual - it was titled: Basic Communication

  1. Sit - Sit with the resident side to side “let me see from your point of view”
  2. Actively Listen - What is your message? What are you really saying vs. what I’m interpreting as what you are saying?
  3. Breathe - It’s one of the things that keeps us alive (a major thing really). It’s amazing how much we can voluntarily and involuntarily control our breath. Example: I feel tense, I notice that I am hold breath, my shoulders get scrunched, eyes open wide, looking at blank space. Then I take in a deep breath to relax (several times really) and often - if I’m beside my husband, he would ask, “You alright there?” Because he knows. Everyone human being has visited that state. 

The answer is simple and deep as these three practices: Sit, Listen and Breathe.

That’s the meditation.

That’s the practice.

That’s the work.

That’s the universal key.

&

Alan Watts would say, “You’re it.”