When I was 23 years old I returned home to my childhood home on Cape Cod with my 6 month old son in tow. I was going through a major life transition and needed a safe haven to regroup and my parents opened their arms to me. I spent a year there, working and raising my little boy with their help. My Mom, who although had MS was still ambulatory. She loved my little guy, as she later confessed she always thought she would have had 5 children…. My Dad was also an avid caretaker, perhaps not as attentive as I discovered one morning when he told me to sleep in- when I appeared an hour later downstairs my Dad was drinking coffee at the table and my son had constructed a sandbox with the kitty litter in the pantry and had redecorated the bathroom in an entire roll of wet toilet paper.
It was a year of growth and healing for me, I saw my parents from an adult perspective and watched them interact with their first grandson as only grandparents can. I realize now that beyond the obvious gift my parents gave to me, I gave them my gift of time, a chance to be part of my son’s first years.
Life is returning this gift to me…Some 30 years later, on the eve of the arrival of my two California boys it becomes clear to me that home is where your heart is. Last year I spent weeks in San Francisco with them as life had become turbulent. Despite the challenges we faced I loved my time there, not because it’s a beautiful city-(and it is!) but because my family was together. They are coming here as they transition into another chapter of their lives. I am grateful because the gift of time together, no matter the circumstances, is the greatest gift of all.
Once the door of grief is opened in your heart it never truly closes and with each new loss it reawakens the old dormant song of goodbye. The heart only knows love and it does not matter the object of the affection –human or beast- the heart feels the brokenness .
She was indifferent most of her life, although she had moments when she clearly communicated her affection and devotion to others, especially our dog Ruby. Fay the tortoise shell beauty loved her dog as a mother loves her child. When Ruby was in her final days unable to move it was Fay who curled up next to her head and purred offering comfort, love and peace to her last moments. She kissed her nose goodbye, it was beyond sweet.
Cats often go off to die alone, but Fay requested our presence, so we stood vigil as her breathe changed, as she fought her way to the edge of the rainbow bridge. I promised her the Ruby would be there to escort her, her spiritual furry friend would guide her across the bridge into the world of eternal love and endless catnip.
I sense the change of energy in the house, and even the greater world. Just now as I write this a blue jay noisily roots through one of my potted plants on the deck, with no feline on guard he pecks freely.
I deal with loss on almost a daily basis; mostly I see it through compassionate eyes as it is not mine. But this week my heart has been broken open again, grief has come back for a visit, it brings with it the remnants of all other losses yet to be let go, it reminds me that my human heart is tender beyond belief and this is the flip side of deep love. Grief is only a testament of love. I know that our souls move on -that energy is never lost it only changes form-that the bonds of love cannot be broken-I know these things, but my heart needs time to heal. The tears need to flow and wash my soul. There is no shame in grief, there is only love.
Yesterday my day was Divinely orchestrated by the Angels…
Yesterday my scheduled visits for hospice got rearranged with an emergency that took up two hours of my morning. I arrived to my last visit hours later. The patient was “actively dying”, unresponsive but not in distress. He was doing the work that needs to be done to pass from this life to the next, truly a labor of love. His wife had passed before him many years earlier so he had a live-in caregiver-“Bobbi”. He was concerned about the patient’s well being and so we spoke at length of the small things that could be done to ensure comfort. A cool compress on the forehead, the ceiling fan needed to be turned on, the patient need to be turned and repositioned every so often, gentle mouth care. All these seemingly insignificant things became the last offerings of compassion and love from caregiver to patient.
Suddenly his breathing changed, and his transition was clearly coming. Bobbi held his hand and I whispered words of encouragement. The air was still as was his breathe. We called the family who lived far away and offered condolences and virtual hugs through the phone line. Then I called the funeral home to come. One lone man appeared within a half of an hour. He refused help and transferred the patient into his care. We watched as he wheeled the red covered gurney out the door, a life well lived passing through.
As we returned to the bed to strip the linens there on the pillow was a single silk red rose. It was a sweet gesture of acknowledgement from the funeral home. It was the first time in my 14 years of being a hospice nurse that I had seen a funeral home do this. However it was clearly more- Bobbi became excited “Oh he loved roses- because his wife was named Rose!”
No longer separated by their worlds their love story continues in the realms of the heavens….
Some days are just plain magical. On my way to work I saw a vibrant blue jay feather straight up swirling around in a spiral of wind about 20 feet in the air….I had never seen anything like it and I burst out laughing as I drove. It seemed to be a definite sign from spirit I needed to lighten up and see the beauty all around me and unwrap myself of my preoccupation.
As I walked up to my second patient’s house a blue swallowtail butterfly fluttered by. We sat at her kitchen table, and chatted, well she chatted, she knew things were changing for her and she said she no longer wanted to spend time with anyone who was negative. She wanted to spend her time with the “good stuff”. I mentioned the blue swallowtail and she was very excited. She said when her husband died she had ordered butterflies in cocoons and they released them at his grave site. She said it was incredibly beautiful to watch the butterflies emerge and stretch and then hover over her husband’s grave before they flew off into the sky.
I shared with her my morning experience with the blue jay feather. She smiled and disappeared into her bedroom. Moments later she returned with a large white feather that had a small heart and iridescent ribbon wrapped around it. She presented it to me saying “My granddaughter gave this to me a long time ago; she told me it was a feather from an angel’s wing. I want you to have it!”
My heart melted, how sweet, I felt shivers of energy up and down my back and knew spirit was with us. I thanked her over and over again, and gave her a hug. I knew in that moment I would never forget this woman, she had touched my soul and given me the gift of joy.
4am thunder storms awaken me; or rather the anxiety of my dog during the storm awakens me. The sky rumbles and sparkles and the rains nourish my now crunchy lawn. It has been a hot summer already…. I check my phone and I have missed a text in the midst of my slumber…. Someone I love, someone who is far away in a different time zone reached out to me….and I was in the land of Nod. Disappointed I did not hear it, I text back with no results, hoping against hope he is sleeping….
I know his struggles….my heart feels them, as a mother’s love only can. He is an adult, he makes his own choices, I can no longer decide for him, I can only walk beside him, and only if he reaches out to me. Addiction is a disease of mind body and spirit; it is one that has flavored my entire life. My father was an alcoholic and it has been passed down the genetic stream. It is somehow so familiar at first I did not recognize it in my loved one; it was common place, a way of life.
There have been huge challenges in the past two years, significant events that threw everything off balance, but now we move forward, finding joy and gratitude in each day for the small miracles that remain. A new Light has emerged, one I was hoping would guide him back to himself but it is a long arduous path, and at times life continues to trip him up.
When he was a baby I worried as any parent does, staring down at him in the crib in the middle of the night, is he still breathing? I heard a distinct voice, outside of my own thoughts but not exactly in the room either, the voice told me “Do not worry; he will be with you for a long time!” This has brought me great comfort over the years, and while I try not to worry, I confess I do. This is when I pray, I ask that Archangel Michael with his Divine sword, protects him and guides him. I trust that the Divine source will always watch over all of my loved ones, near and far. And I will carry him in my heart until he can carry himself again, for after the storm there is always a new day.
I love the early morning sky as I listen to the bird songs and watch the colors of the day emerge from the rosy/fiery sunrise into the clear blueness of the day. But last night at 2:45am, albeit technically morning, the sky was dark and obscured by clouds. I was up with my dog and as I walked out onto the deck fully expecting the deep silence of the night I heard a lone Catbird singing his mashed up song in the oak tree of my neighbor’s yard. It did not seem to matter to him that the sun was still sleeping or that his voice was the only voice carrying into the darkness. The name Catbird must cause some crisis of identity. To live labeled with your arch nemesis name attached to yours seems somehow unkind -CATbird. Even his song is not his own, it is a combination of mimicked sounds he has found appealing, snippets of random songs of other birds; he is the DJ of the bird world. None of this deters him, still he sings into the night.
I trundle back to bed hoping the Sandman will be kind to me for at least a few more hours. When I reawaken I hear the song of the Catbird once more. The day has come and he continues to do what he does best, sing. His cares are not of the human kind even though he lives among us. His world is of the boundless sky, the trees and the song. I envy him for he does not worry his day away, he does not wander recklessly into the future of “what ifs”, he stays in this moment and he sings. His song brings me joy and hope and I am ever grateful for it.
There are many hard things in life, but to me saying goodbye to your child is probably the hardest. It is not something I have experienced directly although my youngest child has been at death’s door twice due to his epilepsy he has returned to me both times. When I was a toddler my aunt lost her daughter of six to cancer, she was someone I played with on a regular basis and so I felt her loss deeply as well as my aunts. My aunt has a smile that reflects her hidden pain, she is one of the best huggers I have ever met, she knows the feel of one last hug. I believe this experience in my life is the reason I became a hospice nurse, it colored my world with deep greens and blues, the colors of healing and sorrow.
This past weekend I accompanied my dear friend to the ICU 2500 miles away to bear witness as she said goodbye to her youngest son. He had been a brilliant young man who had made his own way following his dreams until alcohol slowly destroyed his life. It was not for a lack of trying; he had been through multiple rehabs but ultimately was unable to come out the other side of sobriety. There is no shame, no judgment; there is just life and choices. We are all God’s children, perfect and whole in his Light.
He had called to his mother in a dream earlier in the week, he needed her, and so she went to be by his side in his last moments. A mother’s love knows no distance. A mother’s love is unwavering. A mother’s love finds the strength to endure the unthinkable. He needed her to help him let go and move into the loving arms of his father who had passed several years earlier and this is exactly what she did.
As we stood on the street outside the hospital a crow silently landed in the tree above us. She said she thought it was the sign of death, yes but I said the Crow brings with it the sign of Faithful Love. It is perhaps little consolation in such a momentous moment, but it was a beautiful bittersweet gift of spirit, as a mother’s love is unconditional and ever faithful from this world to the next.
Posted in spiritual
Tagged addiction, alcoholism, cancer, crow, Death, death of a child, drug addiction, Epilepsy, faithful love, God's children, grief, mother's love