Slowing Down to Go Fast

Our world moves so fast we all want it done now, or yesterday – whatever “it” is. The paradox is, we don’t have time to go fast anymore. But it’s not just about slowing down. It’s slowing down, adding in intentionality, purposefulness and patterns of movement – often non-linear and iterative – to take us to places we’ve never been before but that we’ve dreamed and know have to be possible. We want to get to this new place but we keep repeating the patterns that have never gotten us there before – Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Add into the mix, the complexity of today’s challenges generally means it is not a straight path from A to B and even if it is, your destination is probably somewhere else.

What does slowing down mean?  One is taking the time to acquire new lenses with which to view the challenges and complexity we face.  Another is learning how to use conversational methodologies well – tuned into purpose and intention as a guiding principle for how to design, enter and engage the questions of most relevance to what’s needed now – in growing learning, tackling innovation or bridging organizational divides.  It is not simply a learning and development opportunity.  It can be a formidable strategy to grow an organization, engage a challenge, conceive of innovative processes and/or products that serve the mission or mandate of your organization – as you already know.

These things are all possible using the principles and practices alive in Art of Hosting practices and frameworks.  Art of Hosting is not just a training.  Seasoned practitioners use it in consulting work all over the world – in every sector, for small and large initiatives, to launch new organizations and teams and to shift whole systems.  It is not just theory.  It is today’s complex challenges made real.  And it takes time.

For the training work we do, we often get asked about three days.  When money is no issue the larger question that looms is, “Is it worth three days of my time?”  Well, that depends.  On how aware you are of the value of slowing down to go fast – slowing down to allow insight to percolate, new perspectives to digest into new approaches and new strategies to emerge in animated and reflective conversation with other bright lights called to gather together in three days.  Because there are an amazing number of bright lights who show up for any training – of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives.

The beauty of being in 3 days or more with the same group of people is it invites the pattern of divergence-groan zone/emergence-convergence to show up.  There are many times when I’ve been asked at the end of day 2 of a three day training how is it going?  If I write that story, it is a very different story of what emerges because even subtle things shift and change in one more overnight or one more conversation evoked through a powerful question.  There is something in a three day pattern that lets us sense more fully into what our questions are, explore them in the company of others also asking powerful questions, seeing not just synergy but emergence – where we all gain something that no one person brought into the room, and we begin to imagine, often with extensive detail, how we will use what we’ve learned when we go back to work.

Not everything needs to slow down of course.  Not everything needs three days.  Some need less.  Many need more. But we refuse to take the time – we believe we don’t have the time, other things are more pressing, we will get too far behind – lots of limiting beliefs we carry individually and collectively.   But what about the things that do need three days and maybe longer? Percolation does.  New perspectives often do.  Imagining – really imagining the new – does.  Shifting paradigms does.

When we give ourselves permission to slow down we also invite ourselves to be surprised by what emerges and how fast things move with new clarity.  It is a wise investment of time and necessary for those of us imagining how to shift the shape of the worlds we touch.

Innovation, Responsiveness, Imagination – Lessons from Apple

A few months ago, when I needed to replace my laptop, I considered switching to a Mac but was concerned about the learning curve. I put a note out on Facebook with an enquiry.  Of 20 responses, 19 were from Mac users.  “I love my Mac,” was the essential essence of the messages.  The lone PC user said, “I’ve used a PC for 20 years and never had any problem.”  which might have been a ringing endorsement if were not for the amazingly enthusiastic responses from Mac users.  I bought a MacBook Air.  I have no regrets.

Now, I’m reading Steve Jobs biography.  It doesn’t pull any punches.  It is a straightforward account of a brilliant, demanding, tyrannical, charismatic man, often running roughshod over people to get what he wanted.  He  had a love for art and technology – a combination that allowed him to imagine possibilities others just couldn’t see.  It was brilliant for Apple and more so for Pixar. He would never win any awards for his people leadership skills but he could dream the future, imagining products we didn’t know we wanted or needed and he followed his intuition all the way to the bank.

Reading his biography, the threads that contributed to Apple’s successful innovation, responsiveness to conditions and opportunity, and the imagination that brought so much alive in techni-colour, became apparent.

Jobs was obsessive about control and when he had an idea he fell in love with, he didn’t want to let go. He wasn’t always right, and he wasn’t impervious to influence, but when he was right he changed worlds.    He revolutionized the computer industry, then the film industry, the music industry and the book industry.

He didn’t treat people well, but he knew a thing or two about the business of innovation. A few themes caught my attention as I read:

  • beauty and intuitive
  • simplicity and focus
  • integration – not just of product design but of the people and departments responsible for all aspects of a product

Apple products were designed for beauty and intuitive use.  Anybody should be able to pick an Apple product up and figure out how to use it without a manual.  And they should love the look and feel of it. This influenced the design of products.  In the development of the iPod for instance, Jobs decided users should be able to get to anything they wanted intuitively in no more than three steps.  The guiding concept: a thousand songs in your pocket.  Products were designed with the user in mind.  The few times Jobs lost sight of that, like with NeXT his company after and before Apple, he didn’t do as well.

Simplicity and focus.  Apple picked a few key projects to work on in any given year and dedicated resources to the most promising of them.  Anyone could pitch an idea – without a powerpoint because formal presentations bored Jobs.  They had to know what they were talking about well enough to free flow it, discuss it (often heatedly) and not rely on a prop like a slide.  Although something tactile, put in people’s hands worked well.

For products under development, long weekly meetings were held with all departments represented to hash out ideas.  Prototypes were developed that could be picked up, turned over and handled to determine what worked, what could be improved and to know when they nailed it.  The conversations were no holds barred – animated, lively.  It all came out in the meetings.  The people who fared best were the ones who figured out how to stand up to Jobs, when to fight, when to wait, when to back down.

Jobs would not allow dissension between departments.  If they couldn’t get along, someone lost a job.  And when decisions needed to be made about product, design, colour or other relevant factors, it didn’t go to a committee for recommendations or a market study to figure it out – decisions were made, often on the spot, without hesitation.  They might not always have been right, but the speed of decision making capability enabled Apple to be responsive, resilient and a market leader more often than not.

Beauty, simplicity, focus, end to end control, responsiveness, imagination as hallmarks of innovation. Not that I’ve done it better than Jobs or come anywhere near to his success, but I would like to think adding in a strong people culture to this great list would only enhance capacity for innovation – so long as we really understand what this means, growing leadership and decision making capacity within an organization, not diluting it.  While there are one or two things that give me pause, there is a lot to be learned from Apple and from Steve Jobs.   After all, he did shift the shape of the world as we know it.

“Until recently”…. a Very Simple Strategy

“Until recently, my office was really cluttered.  Now, I’m in the process of organizing it.”

“Until recently, even though I liked you and wanted to be in touch, I was a little afraid of you.  Now, I promise to stay in touch because I’m no longer afraid of the questions you’ll ask.”

“Until recently, I didn’t know how to approach difficult conversations.  Now, I’m learning strategy and gaining courage.”

“Until recently, I was just walking through the experience of my life because I was afraid of my emotional response.  Now, I’m living into it. And, it’s not as scary as I imagined it to be.”

“Until recently, I was struggling.  Now, I’m feeling more flow and a smoother road ahead.”

It is a simple little strategy that, until recently, I hadn’t heard about.  But, now that my friend Robert Newman from Columbus Ohio shared it with me when I saw him in June, I’ve been using it and I’ve been sharing it with my coaching clients.

One of the aims of coaching is to become aware of old patterns that no longer serve and awaken new patterns that serve us better, generating greater self awareness, one of the goals of hosting self in the Four Fold Practice.  It is really easy to get stuck in the story of what was instead of engaging the story  or the future we want to invite, the one that shifts the shape of our world and our interaction in it intentionally in the direction we envision, the way we want to show up for ourselves and in relation to other people.

It invites a gentle noticing: “until recently this is the way it was” – and it invites an intentionality: “now, this is what I choose. ” There is no harshness, no self judgment but a delightful invitation to choice.  To choose a better feeling story and invite ever increasing better feeling results.  It is like a mantra and a habit that can be remembered mid sentence in an old pattern:” I don’t keep in touch very…” pause, notice… “until recently, I wasn’t very good at staying in touch. Now, I’d like to set up a regular pattern of calls”.

It invites lightness into whatever it is we want to shift and grows the potential we will create the shift we want.  Try it.  Recently, I have discovered it is a very simple yet effective strategy.

Shadow Days

“Kathy,” she said to me, “You think your emotions make you weak.”

“Yeah,” that seemed self evident.

“You’re wrong,” she said.  “Learning to live into your emotional experience, be in it and learn from it will make you stronger and more powerful.”

I was highly skeptical.  She, by the way, was/is Sarita Chawla, a beautiful, elegant, graceful, powerful woman I met at ALIA in 2008 who offered to coach me.  I was skeptical but prepared to be proven wrong.  She nudged me, coaxed me and provoked me.  She made me angry and frustrated. She helped me discover the voice of my internal judge and find strategies to disempower its impact. She guided my journey from one of walking through my experience to one of living into it, learning to enquire into my emotional response to see, sense and understand what is there for me to learn.

She was right.  I am stronger, more compassionate and more powerful.  It’s been quite the journey, of course.  I am usually more serene, centered, present and calm.  Joy, delight and love are usually the emotions that dominant my day-to-day experience.

But not everyday is like that. I also have shadow days.  I can’t help but think that everyone does. That we all have days – or parts of days – where we go to deep, dark places.  The days when we are overwhelmed, when the internal judge is speaking nonsense to us about who we are or aren’t and we tending to believe it, when we are off our center, discombobulated, sad, feeling pulled in many directions or just want to let the tears flow – or perhaps we can’t stop them from flowing.

In 2009, a friend and I spent a day on the land at Gold Lake, Colorado.  Our dear friends Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea helped in the preparation for that day.  One of the things they suggested was that the sites we chose be far enough away from each other that we couldn’t see or hear each other – in the event that we wanted to cry out or wail.  At the time, there were so many other experiences that were alive for me, wailing was not one of them.

Recently, I went for a run in my neighbourhood in Bedford which took me down to the park on the water.  I needed the physicality of the run and the touch into nature, taking the time to sit on the grass, meditate and reflect while looking out over the water.  The sadness that was in me, triggered interestingly enough by the offer of a gift that I do not yet know if I will accept, was so intense that tears did flow and I had the feeling that I wanted to wail.  The intensity of emotion alive in me.  The vibrancy of experience.  Convention kept the wail in.  I wasn’t sure how other park users would respond if I gave way to such a depth of sadness and grief in a place one wouldn’t expect to encounter it. Not the tears though, I let them flow.

I’ve witnessed a lot of people cry.  One-on-one. In small and large groups.  Through processes where people are able to access their own emotional experience.   There aren’t many who can let the tears flow without apologizing for them.  One of my dreams is that we can live in a world where we no longer feel the need to apologize for our tears – such a beautiful expression of release.  I no longer apologize for mine – even when they show up in a large group experience.  I no longer try to diminish my experience but want to honour it and my passage through it.

Of course, I don’t want to be stuck in my experience either.  I want to understand the story that is alive in me that leads to the tears or the anger or the frustration or whatever else it is that is showing up.  When I understand the story I can release it, shift it or rewrite it – and I often do.  It is part of hosting myself to deeper places in my life and growing my capacity to host deeper space for others. It is part of my journey to open heartedness.

More and more, I am understanding my experience in relation to me, to own it in relation to my journey, to not project it onto others  – or blame others – who may have triggered something in me.  The people around me are a beautiful reflection of where I am in the journey – the ones who trigger things and the ones who simply mirror back the beauty of the journey and the beauty of me as I show up – usually, often, in the depth of who I have been able to access since I began the journey of understanding that my emotions are my ally and that by acknowledging them, living into them and learning from them I grow my capacity to host deep space, to host another human being, to host myself.  I am deeply grateful for the wide array of friends who reflect back to me the depth of my journey.

I am not afraid anymore.  I know vulnerability is not weakness and that strength grows when we are willing to know what is rising up in us, willing to meet ourselves in the many ways we show up, allowing ourselves to be in our power, strength and beauty, also without apology but always with compassion, humility, delight and joy.

And it is okay for some days to be shadow days.  It is part of the journey.  We all have them.  They do not make us weak.  They show us the path to strength and beauty.  I no longer feel the need to wail in this moment, but who knows what the next will show up.  I am exactly where I need to be.

Not every day is full of light.  Not every day is a shadow day either.  But facing the shadow brings light to even the darkness of those days and by becoming aware of the story that is alive in me, I can shift the shape of the story, of the day and of my life – which I have been doing story by story, day by day.

Ode to My Dad – Raoul Hector Jourdain – on his 79th Birthday

March 29 is my dad’s birthday.  This year he will be 79.  I’m sure when he came into this world, and as the beginning days of his life unfolded, had he looked ahead, he would not have imagined where his journey would take him – the good and the bad.  I would not have imagined the shifting shape of it either.

Hector Jourdain and his youngest grandson on bridge of the Bluefin

I didn’t meet my dad when I was born.  It was some weeks or months later when he came into my life – or I came into his.  And then, for him, it was love at first sight.  Maybe for me too but I don’t remember.  What I became aware of later is the connection I’ve always had with my dad.

He was not always an easy man to live with.  There was a lot of tension in my house growing up and even after I left.  He and mom had their share of battles and I had some of my own with him, though few.

Having said that, people were always welcome in our home – from the earliest days of my memory.  No one was ever turned away – visitors, from near or far.  My friends from school came to play and often stayed for supper. Always room for more.  It fostered a sense of hospitality in me that only grew over the years.  That, and friends could be like family – experienced over and over again during Christmas holidays in particular for quite a few years as a large group of friends gathered for a traditional Gaspe meal after midnight on Christmas Eve.

The sea has always been in my dad’s blood.  He has owned a few boats over the years but his pride and joy was a beautiful wooden boat, the Bluefin, which he owned for thirty years.  With care and craftsmanship, he rebuilt that boat from stem to stern over the time he owned it.  If that boat could talk, many a story would it have to tell.

I already lived in Halifax when the Bluefin came to dad.  He and my mom always enjoyed having guests aboard – and that remained true to the final summers we went out on it.  In the early years, it was much more of a party boat.  I and my friends were always welcome.  Most of the time, anyway.

Dad's pride and joy - Bluefin

There was one time, during Chester race week in August, that a fairly large group of my university friends arrived for the weekend.  We boarded the boat, loading up with supplies we brought – food and beer… and a bit more beer.  My father watched as we brought two-four, after two-four, after two-four on the boat until he finally said to me, “How much is enough?”

Then there was one spring when we offered to help him paint the inside of the boat to get it ready for summer launch.  It all started off well enough… until the beer came out.  And then… well, let’s just say dad found yellow paint in places it wasn’t supposed to be for years afterwards.  I still can’t figure out why he never really responded to future offers of assistance!

When his first grandchild came along, he beamed.  It was probably the only time he stopped by the house unexpectedly on his way to and from the airport.  It was an unexpected delight – maybe for him too.

When my first marriage was ending, I knew I needed to tell my parents.  I took that journey alone.  Fear was in my belly and my mouth was all gummed up.  I was disappointed about disappointing, along with all my own disappointment about my marriage ending.  I thought when I shared the news – saying to my dad, “We are living under the same roof but it was like we are living very different lives,” that he would fall off his chair.  Instead, I almost fell off of mine when he said, “I kind of noticed that.”

No questions asked, he and my mom helped me move.  No judgement – not to me anyway.  A lot of love and caring.  I saw that love and caring demonstrated over and over again in obvious and less obvious ways.  In particular, I saw the love and caring my dad demonstrated towards my mother in the final decade or more of their marriage – more and more consistently than I had seen it at any other time.

If someone would have asked me years ago (and maybe they did), I would have imagined that my father would have died comparatively early in life (he did have his first triple bi-pass surgery when he was 45 – thankfully his health status leading up to that also triggered his decision to stop smoking) and my mother would still be living in the full vibrancy of who she was well into her 90s.

Instead, it was a different path that unfolded.  My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 20o1, again in 2005.  Somewhere in that period of time was the onset of dementia that ultimately took her into long term care in 2008 until her death a few weeks ago.

My father became my mother’s care giver.  At first it was in little ways.  Noticing the little things that were not quite right.  There were a few conversations about my mother forgetting this or that… like forgetting to turn off the oven, or turn on the washer.  Then it became more obvious, like mom put the banana bread in the oven, went to take it out five minutes later and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t cooked.

This eventually evolved into my father watching out for my mother 24 hours a day.  He watched over her day in and day out, night in and night out – including taking care of her hygiene – at home and sometimes in public places.

When my mother died, my parents had been married for 54 years.  On their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2008, my brother and I had planned a celebration for them.  We had hoped for a big celebration. It ended up being a small celebration in their home.  I spoke a few words.  I had already planned to speak about the two things I felt I integrated into my life from my experience with my parents – that sense of hospitality or everyone being welcome and unconditional love and support.

This took on whole new layers of meaning in the week before the 50th anniversary when I learned that I had been adopted and had never known or suspected it at all.  The feelings of unconditional love and acceptance were magnified as that story unfolded and I had a conversation with my father about aspects of my life I had known nothing about.

As the story emerged, I was asked if I was angry.  I pondered the question and then responded, “If I looked at this from the perspective of people have been lying to me all my life, maybe I would be angry.  But I look at it from the perspective that people made the best choices they knew how to make.  They wanted to do the right thing and choices were made out of love.

My father is a man who wants to do the right thing.  This was most evident in the latter years of his marriage to my mother.  He loved my mother.  He wanted to do well by her.  He exhausted himself as he watched over her, tended her and took care of her until the very last minute when we admitted her into long term care.  Then, every day, he went to visit her for over a year.  It was hard for him seeing mom in her diminishing world while he still lived in the house that had been their home for over 3o years.

There are many stories in this man’s life.  I only know some of them.  They are not all pretty but they are all representative of a man who has lived a complexity he might never have imagined, who has given a lot, cares about craftsmanship and doing things well.  He has traveled many roads and still has a few to go.

Dad is in hospital, yet again, as I write this.  This too has been a pattern of our relationship over the last decade.  He has an amazing will to live and is incredibly resilient despite health problems that have been challenging him over the years.  We live into and learn together – through thick and thin.

There are things I know about him and things I don’t.  We have a pretty dynamic relationship and a few patterns that have been showing up.  One thing I do know about him is that he loves me.  On the rare occasions when I tell him I love him he always says to me, “I love you more.”

I wish him a happy 79th birthday knowing he would be much happier if he was home for it.  I also wish there will be many more for him with a quality of life that allows him to pursue, in ever more gentle ways, the things he loves to do and do well.

Recognizing and Releasing the Potency of Your Internal Judge

The potency of the internal critic/voice of judgment is insidious.  It is a master chameleon showing up in many different cloaks, rending itself almost unrecognizable.  It creeps up on you when you least expect it, plays havoc with your centre and your ground and runs wild until disempowered. It can be persistently in your experience and it can reappear after a long time away.

As soon as you try to debate it, convince it or argue with it, you engage it and increase its potency.  It loves a good argument.  It’s wily and it rapidly changes its stance to retain the upper hand.  You could be arguing a point and as soon as you get close to “winning”, it will change its direction.  Sometimes so much so that it now argues in the opposite direction and, if you are caught in the argument, you often miss the inanity of it.

My internal judge was running rampant yesterday but I didn’t recognize it until this morning – partly because it’s been awhile since it has been so present in me.

Yesterday I felt out of sorts, de-energized and unable to achieve any substantial progress toward my livelihood. Little things irritate me and make me impatient. I recently had a few days away on a little min-vacation.  My dad had a medical appointment yesterday that I attended with him and then went for lunch – a beautiful little pattern we have. My son is now beginning March break and I am dedicating time to being with him in some small adventures along  the way.

The internal critic is standing back with its arms crossed, shaking its head.  “Yup.  And just when are you going to get your work done?  Your emails sent? Meetings arranged?”  A little feeling of panic seeps in.  When am I going to do that? There is no time!  The panic rises up in me and now there are butterflies in my stomach and a promise of a headache in the offing.

“And, just what were you thinking, going off on a holiday when you have so much to do?”  it asks.

“Because we all know that a break away is important to maintaining energy and reinvigorating mind, body and soul so work and life flows easier.” I respond.

“True,” says the internal critic.  “But you know you couldn’t really afford it either.”

“I used points to fly.  I didn’t shop.  I shared accommodation.  I had some money tucked away for this break.” I argue, beginning to spin.  “And, in all that travel time, I did a full edit of my book.” I say, trying to find the positive, be appreciative, tune into what’s working.

The internal critic nods grimly, “Yes.  And what’s happened to your since then?  It’s been sitting beside your computer the last few days and nothing more has been done.”  (This would be a total of two days, by the way.) “Just how long do you think it’s really going to take to finish that puppy and get it published?  As if anyone is really going to read it.  Well, of course a few people will, but not the numbers you are hoping for.”

Wham. Wham. Wham.  Deeper and deeper in.  Fighting with myself to find my appreciative state.  To find my centre, my ground. Knowing in my mind I am my own worst enemy in this moment but not able to pull myself out of the spiral. Knowing I am out of my centre and it should be a simple matter to slip back in.  It’s not what I do – my actions that are important now, it’s finding the right internal vibration in me.  And my vibration is all out of whack which deepens my fear.  Tears of despondency show up as I believe into judgment, after judgment, after judgment.

Exhausted I fell into bed and dreamed.  I dreamed about flow.  I woke up this morning feeling better, feeling lighter.  Then the storylines began to filter in again.  Then the bolt of realization.  So self critical.  So self judging.  So the voice of my internal judge!  Big sigh.  Of course.  How had I not recognized this insidious internal berating voice taking me backwards and forwards in my imaginings, giving me no peace in the present moment.

A lesson I learned before: whenever my emotions run amok, it is a good clear sign that my internal voice of judgment is lurking in the shadows of my mind, making me a crazy woman!

In simply recognizing it and naming it, its potency is released.  Whoosh! I felt myself shift completely into the present moment, smiling at how this internal judge had found its way into my experience and rocked my core enough to have me questioning myself, my self worth and my path, once again.   No longer fighting and resisting it, simply naming and noticing.  Not arguing.  Acknowledging the power of an adversary that has so much to teach me when I pay attention; even the not paying attention is teaching me.  All it took to shift me back to my centre and my usual sense of joy, delight and calm was to pay attention, notice, name. Now I prepare to bake with my child and dance into this day in a whole new and renewed way thankful for the moments when I see the choices clearly.

Death and Dying – Lessons I Learned From My Mother

Never having been present at a death before, I didn’t know what to expect; and, it wasn’t what I expected.  My brother, father and I held vigil, practically holding our collective breath, as my mother, Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain, drew her last, peaceful breaths on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, falling quiet at 12:30 pm.

Then there was silence.  Her silence.  No more rattling breaths drawn with some effort through her lungs into her ravaged body; ravaged from dementia for many years and the refusal to eat for many months.

Our silence.  In reverence for my mother, her journey and the honour of witnessing the final stages of her transition from physical form into spirit.  I already believed much of her consciousness was active in the subtle realms even as her physical presence diminished.  With her last breaths I imagined her spirit gently tugging until the last wisps of it were finally released into a delightful little dance of joy and freedom.

My mother’s journey with dementia was a long one.  My journey through hers was an inspired one.  Her greatest teachings for me may have been in these last few years when she could no longer string coherent sentences together, during the contrast of those times when she seemed to have no awareness of my presence to when I knew she was aware I was there.

I had one of those moments of her awareness the night before she died.  We had moved her to a special room where I could stay with her overnight.  One of her medication times was missed.  I was aware of that but she didn’t seem to be in distress.  So, I sat on the arm of the couch, eye level with my mom.  I looked into her blue eyes and she held my gaze.

When I say she held my gaze, I really mean she held my gaze.  She was just as present as I was.  In fact, I was mesmerized.  I couldn’t take my gaze away.

So, I talked to her.  I told her about some things in my life.  I told her how beautiful she is – not was, is.  I told her how gifted she is and how loved.  I thanked her for being in my life, for being my mom.  Mostly, I held her gaze with love.  Until she began to exhibit signs of distress and I went for the nurse.  And then she was gone again until the moment of her final breath.

Four of us still in the room but now the shape of our lives fundamentally shifted.  As long as we stayed sitting in the room, it was like she was still there in her emaciated form.  But, of course, now she was free of form.  Eventually we had to move and leave her next steps in the capable hands of the Harbourview Haven staff who would transfer her into the equally capable hands of the Dana L. Sweeny Funeral Home.

The staff at Harbourview Haven taught me about human dignity and respect through how they related to my mother.  Even up to the last moment, they treated my mother as if she was fully present and aware.  They called her by her name.  In the middle of the night they would come into our room.  “Mary,” they’d say, “We’re going to turn you over now.”  “Mary, we are going to give you your meds now.  It might sting a little.”

On the morning of her death, a care worker came in to wash her face and freshen her up, providing a depth of love and care, dignity and respect to a woman in her last moments on this physical plane.  I can’t say enough for Harbourview Haven and the care they provided, not just in those last few hours but in the three years and eight months (plus a few days) that my mother lived there.  And not just care for her.  Care for my dad too.  For our family.  They understand about death and dying.  That it is a process and a transition.

My nine year old understands about death and dying.  Enough to ask to visit his grandmother with me when I told him I was going to see her.  He hadn’t been there much lately.  I told him what his grandmother looked like and how she was.  He still wanted to come, even when the call came to say it might be her last day.  And his older brother and his girlfriend came too.  We all sat vigil the day before she died, for hours.  Watching my mother with sidelong looks every time her breathing stopped – for the eternity that shows up in a moment.

I am now aware that dying and death requires the same kind of loving care and attention as birth does.  It is birth.  Birth back to spirit.

When my older boys were young children their grandfather on their father’s side died.  Their dad and I had already separated.  They went to the funeral and afterwards I asked them how it was.  We began to talk about death.  They said to me, “We think it’s kind of like this.  You know when you dream and when you are in the middle of a dream it seems real?  But then you wake up and you know it was just a dream.  We think life is like that.  It’s really just a dream but it seems real.  Then you die, but really it’s like waking up and realizing it was just a dream.”  Such wisdom out of the mouths of babes.  Closer to source.

I wonder how my mother might be reflecting on the 79 year dream that was her life as Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain this time around?