More Reflections on Funerals and Family Stories

Family funerals mark the passage of time.  People gather to pay their respects who may not otherwise be showing up in the same place together, from near and far, some literally seem to come out of the woodwork.  We can see threads of connection not always evident and ghosts of what might have been.  Receptions following funerals are places rich with stories, not just about the person who has passed on but about families and friends and the weave of lives over lifetimes.

While earlier this week, immediately after my uncle’s funeral, I wrote a reflection about one of his sons whose path in life has been forever changed because of an aneurism he had decades ago when he was in his mid-twenties – there are also other reflections that stood out that mark the passage of time.

The family funeral before this one was for my other uncle – both uncles are my mother’s brothers.  My mother was at the last funeral.  She was missed this time around and she was the topic of some conversation, partly because of the post I wrote about her for her birthday which has circulated to many people in this small town and partly because so many people know and love and miss her.

The last funeral was before I knew the story of my adoption – although many who attended the funeral would have known.  It wasn’t like people were deliberately avoiding the topic, it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar and in some ways just not important.  But now that I know the story, I can talk about it and, in so doing, it invites other stories.  Stories of being adopted. Stories of giving children up for adoption.  Stories of connecting family threads in more coherent ways, filling in gaps with beautiful and rich stories of love.

One of my mother’s cousins, who I only seem to see at funerals, who knew the story of my family when I came into it shared just how much joy I brought to my parents as I came into their lives.  She shared the story of her adoption and how that came to be – one she always knew.

And, she shared the story of what happened the day my grandfather died back in 1973.  She as at my grandparents’ home with her three year old daughter.  My grandfather, recently retired, was filling in for someone’s vacation, out on  the sea, captaining a ship.  The sea was in his blood.  When he was at home, he had a favourite chair, downstairs in the rec room.

On this day, this little three year old started to go down the stairs and suddenly began to cry.  She said to her mom and my grandmother, “There’s a ghost down there.”  She proceeded down the stairs, went over to my grandfather’s chair and put her head down on the seat.  It was perhaps right at the moment that he was transitioning.  Her mother reflected that at three years of age, this little girl would have had no known reference points for ghosts or death.  The story gives me goosebumps even as I write it.

Then there is my cousin and his family – my uncle’s oldest son who is a couple of years older than me and who I don’t know as an adult.  I just remember him, his two brothers, me and my brother as children who for a time when we were young celebrated holidays together with family dinners at each others houses.  We sat at the children’s’ table.  Tumultuous family stories intervened and after awhile, we didn’t celebrate those occasions together very much.  There was much I didn’t understand then and now, so far into the future, I still don’t really understand the things that led to hurt feelings and isolation in our family constellation that never seemed to be repaired.

What I am aware of now, is that my cousin, and me too, has lived a very full life.  He has a beautiful wife and two amazing grown children.  I am struck by the realness of this person I only remember as a child in the distant past.  Of his warmth and caring.  Of a connection I didn’t realize was there.  Now I find myself curious about him, his family and his life’s path. I am curious about who he is and I feel some sadness in not knowing him and some hope about knowing him in the future.  He lives in Alberta and I plan to visit my sister in Alberta this summer.  I have pledged to myself to connect with my cousin when I am out there.  For some reason, connecting these threads in our family constellation seems important and has my attention in a new way.

My mother is the only member of her immediate family left.  My father is also the only member of his immediate family left.  It makes me very aware of the shifting shape of life and our roles in life and in our families and the stories, told and untold that have shaped our lives, our communications and our connections over the course of our lifetimes.

Giving Birth to Freedom

Giving birth.  I have been thinking about this a lot this past year.  I have given birth to a new company: Shape Shift Strategies Inc.  I am giving birth to a new book: Healing Across the Ages; Releasing the Hold of Family Secrets.

Most importantly, 2009 marked the year I gave birth to the second half of my life.  This birth had a nine year gestation period and it is only now I realize its correspondence to the last decade.  How lovely that 2010 is  marked with this newness for me.

As I’ve been reflecting on the quiet and alone time I have had this holiday season, what has registered for me is also the birth of a new feeling of freedom – and that brings great joy.

It is the freedom that comes from being really good with my own company – not feeling martyred in being alone or feeling sorry for myself, but truly settling into being with myself.  It doesn’t have to be happy alone time – it can also be time to just sit with what arises in me, especially as I consider the journey, and the people who have influenced it, over the last three years or so.

The freedom of not wanting, and not being lost in the wanting, of what isn’t.  The freedom of accepting people, situations and relationships for who and what they are.

The freedom of accepting myself for who I am,  for the essential soul qualities I have been unearthing and sinking into and for the talents I have been allowing to flower so I can do what is mine to do in this world, in this lifetime – boldly bring my healing gifts to the shifting shape of the world and the regeneration of its people.

2010 is the beginning of a new era.  It is for me for sure.  I sense it is for others too and for the world.  I believe we are at a pivotal time in the evolution of the human race, where we really know that the old ways of walking through life and tackling big issues do not work any more.  We are more ready to wake up than we have ever been and it is for the waking up process that I have been preparing.

I am only in this place of freedom thanks to a decade long awakening journey that I’m sure is not completed yet but is now on a new plateau, a new level of vibration.  It is thanks to people in my life – good people, friends, colleagues, coaches, and some challenging relational experiences over the last decade – including the challenging relationship I’ve had with myself, that I am able to be in and recognize the birth of this freedom.  These have all been great gifts to me and, at the beginning of this most important decade, I sit in a place of deep gratitude and appreciation for all those people and all those experiences.

The best is truly yet to come and, my intuition is, that it will look very different than what we’ve seen and what we can imagine.  I have never been more ready!  Happy New Year, happy new decade and Happy Birthday to all that is good in this world.