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?

 

Corridor of the Dying or Something Else?

It is such a small leap for me I don’t know why it never occurred to me before.

I went to visit my mother this weekend.  She has had dementia for more years than we know and she has been in long term care for almost three.  Awhile ago I wrote about only understanding her journey from a soul perspective.  This is becoming more true for me as she gets nearer to her transition.

During this visit, I sat on her bed with her, maintaining physical touch the whole time I was there.  When she looked at me and we held eye contact, she smiled and even laughed.  So did I.  Sometimes with my tears also flowing.  The rest of the time, I watched her lift her head to look very intently at things I could not see all around her room.  It is clear to me that spirit in gathering although less clear to me when she will finally decide to let go of her physical body, but likely soon.   We, her family, are becoming more ready as we walk this path her.

To get to the dementia ward in what everyone in the town calls “the Home”, you enter the front door of the building, walk a short corridor past the administration offices and enter through an electronically locked door into the main residential part of the building.  You then have to walk down a long corridor to get to the dementia ward, behind yet another locked door.

As you enter the residential part of the building, you come upon people – old people and in some cases, really old people – sitting in wheel chairs or chairs – just sitting there for the most part, most nodding off.  Those are the ones well enough to be sitting up.  As you go down the corridor, bedrooms are on either side and in most of them someone is lying on a bed, oblivious to the rest of the world.  Sleeping, snoring, unaware. And, as good as this place is – and I do believe it is one of the best, it smells of old people waiting to die, sometimes less so, sometimes more so.  It is a hard corridor to walk with regularity, know the shape of these people’s lives have shifted so dramatically.

I have always thought of these people as waiting to die.  We all know the only way people come out of long term care is in a coffin.  This is where some of our population go to die – when their loved ones can no longer take care of them and, believe me, that is not an easy decision.

For some reason, with this visit with my mom, I had a little revelation and I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but I’m glad it has now because it expands my awareness of what else just might be going on in these corridors.

My spiritual journey over the last dozen years or so has shown me pathways to altered consciousness, to spirit journeying, to spirit guides, angels and other entities.  I am aware that it is possible to “travel” in dream states – sleeping and waking – and that much good and healing work can happen in these states of altered awareness and consciousness.

As I sat with my mother and observed her looking at that which she could see and I couldn’t, I all of a sudden became aware that her physical body might be old and weak and her brain injured, as they say at the Home, but her spirit or soul is strong.  I began to wonder just where, how far and how often she may have been journeying while her physical body slept and that thought took me to all those sleeping bodies throughout the whole facility and a curiosity about where some of those souls might be journeying to while their physical bodies sleep.  I’m sure some of them may well be wrestling with their own demons, so to speak, but whose to say that most of them aren’t off doing much needed soul work in ordinary and non-ordinary reality.

Then I could feel a bubble of light surrounding this Home. The notion that these beautiful souls might be making contributions to the world that most of us cannot see or understand made my own spirit more joyful.  And now I hold my mother’s journey with an added degree of lightness and joy which I have no doubt she feels.  She is journeying well and will continue to do so, I have no doubt.  She is a great teacher for me.  And I love her and she know that.

Ode to My Mother on Her 79th Birthday and Mother’s Day

My mom and dad in 2000

As another Mother’s Day and my mother’s 79th birthday rolls around I am inspired to write a little dedication to my mother: Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain.  This beautiful woman now lives in long term care because of dementia.  I write in appreciation and gratitude for all she means to me because of what she has made possible in the shifting shape of my life.

When I was a baby, my mother took me in.  I didn’t know this until recent years and not until after dementia had already significantly  impacted her, but she loved me like her own – because to her I was her own, even if she wasn’t the one who actually gave birth to me.

She loves me so fiercely she was afraid to tell me this little bit about my life story.  And I certainly felt like I belonged, even in those teenage years when I wished I was adopted so I could escape the craziness of our family dynamics to some idealized dream family – which I didn’t actually think existed but now that I know they do, I know it’s also not an idealized dream family but real people with their own crazy family dynamics and stories.  It’s good my mother wrapped me in her warm embrace and shepherded me into life.

My mother had the gift of gab.  She could talk to anyone about anything, no matter who they were.  And in the summers when we brought guests aboard the Bluefin, my dad’s pride and joy, my mother had a storehouse of knowledge about just about every home you could see from the water and every island we cruised by.  She didn’t like being on the water so much, but she loved being the social director.

When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate her gift of gab.  I may, I hesitate to say, have even been a bit embarrassed by it.  But as I grew older and found myself in situations where the ability to make small talk would have come in handy, I grew to appreciate what I now understand as a gift and wished I had the same capacity.

My mother only learned to cook when she married my father.  I definitely heard the stories about not even being able to boil water.  She became a pretty decent cook, except for when she wasn’t paying attention – Harlequin Romances were usually the culprit and sometimes it was Another World.  There was more than one burned dinner in our household when I was growing up.  Somehow that motivated me to learn how to cook and my mother gave me free reign to cook and bake as much as I wanted.  To this day, I love cooking and baking.  I find it relaxing to cook for a large crew of people.

She was, thankfully, an adamant voice when I considered whether I should actually go to University because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I went and I never looked back.

Over the years, as I got married and had children, my mother showed up more than once when I called.  When I was nine months pregnant with my second child and my husband and I both came down with flu and couldn’t take care of our toddler, she came, tended us, made chicken soup and watched our son.

When I was traveling and needed a hand with the kids, she showed up.  When I moved – both with and without my husband, she was there.  Never any questions or judgment when I got married or when I divorced.  Just always there.

She had a way of unobtrusively lending a hand.  She never got in the way, she just started helping out.  This is a gift I really appreciated as I saw other people clumsily get in the way even when trying not to while my mother just began to do what needed doing, gracefully and easily.

She was amazingly resourceful, resilient and always cheerful.  She loved the few years she worked as a waitress or host in several different places during the summer months.  She could regale friends and strangers with her stories as if they happened yesterday.

She doesn’t tell her stories anymore.  Even before she went into long term care on July 2, 2008 she was losing her capacity to string thoughts and sentences together.

The hardest thing we ever did as a family was sign the admittance papers that turned Harbourview Haven into her home, what will be her last place of residence.  At first, we could take her out for little trips.  We even brought her to my home for Christmas Dinner that first year.  But it wasn’t long before taking her out was just too difficult for her.

She went from walking to sitting in a wheelchair, using the wheelchair to motor around the dementia ward to moving less and less.

My mother, who never let me sleep in, now refuses to get out of bed a lot of mornings – making up for lost time maybe.  She never complains – and almost never did – although she’s been known to suggest that maybe some people should be thrown out the window!  Sometimes I think dementia removed a filter,  allowing her inside voice to become an outside voice, maybe giving her freedom to say things she would have been horrified to say pre-dementia.

I have written before about my mother’s situation and only being able to understand it through the perspective of soul journey.  I feel that even more so now.  What I know is that even though she doesn’t talk much and her thoughts seem all jumbled and incoherent, she brightens up when she sees people she has known and loves.  It takes a bit longer these days but it still happens.  She still knows what she wants and is adamant about it.  She’s on a bit of a hunger strike at the moment – not likely a conscious one – but she is refusing to eat.  I have no doubt she wants to be acknowledged for her choices.  She does accept the milkshakes they give her full of the nutrients she needs to sustain her physical body.

For her birthday and Mother’s Day, I can’t really offer her the kinds of gifts that would have excited and delighted her in the past.  Opening presents, which use to be a much anticipated delight, has no meaning for her now.  When I see things that I know my mother would have liked, I also recognize that as a memory and an honouring of my mother more than as a gift to buy.

My mother’s world has shrunk dramatically and she has too.  She has lost much of her vibrancy and joy in life and her ability to comfort others.  But she’s still a human being.  She’s in her journey, in her way, in her soul’s calling and I would only be fooling myself if I didn’t recognize that she is in a transition from he vitality of a full life to what’s behind the veil.  The rest of her will catch up when the timing is right.

She is still a person.  She is still loved.  She is still my mother even though our relationship has shifted yet again into a next phase – as has been happening over the whole course of my lifetime.  Even when the rest of her passes beyond the veil, she’ll still be my mother and she’ll still be loved – remembered for this most amazing journey she stepped into 79 years ago.  Who knew where it would lead but thank goodness she was here for me because who knows where I would be if it weren’t for her.

My Mother and Grandmother - 1991

Shape Shifting Poetic Reflection

Shape Shifting (1)

 

In over my head

Didn’t know the depth

I dived into

The deceptiveness

Of the calm

Hearing a promise

Of salvation

 

Under the surface

So much more

I didn’t want to see

Blinders on

 

Undertows

Grab hold of me

By the ankles

Yanking firmly

Sucking me down

Down

Down

 

Bubbles escape

All around me

I struggle

Wear myself out

Exhausted

 

I am lost

I cannot find myself

I am deceived

 

Struggle stops

I withdraw

Make myself small

Maybe this

Is how

I will survive

 

My soul whispers

My name

It is familiar

Like a breeze

Lightly on my skin

It is almost inaudible

With the din

Around me

 

Can I make myself smaller

Hide in plain view

 

I am sad

Angry

Poison

Is running

Through my veins

Hatred

Like I’ve never experienced

Before

 

Who is this person

Where did she come from

 

My soul whispers

My name

The undertow

Yanks me

Deeper

Into the abyss

I am lost

 

From the surface

Gazing through

The slight distortions

Of the water

I look calm

Only the occasional

Flicker

Gives clues

To onlookers

About the extent

Of chaos

Turmoil

Permeating

Every aspect

Of my being

 

My soul

Whispers

Louder

Calling my name

Begins to send

Messengers

Of hope

In unexpected

Delightful

Confusing

Illuminating ways

 

The water heats up

The seas

Unleash

The full

Fury

Of the storm

I am lost

 

Ahh

Ahh

But now

My soul

My soul’s journey

Is calling my name

Loud

Louder

Clearly

Beckoning me

Gently

Here

Here is your path

Here are

Your messengers

Here is your support

Drums

Guides

People

Places

Events

Timing

 

Open your heart

Tear down your walls

Tentative

Brick by brick

Peering out

Feeling

Little rays

Of light

Hope

Finding centre

Finding ground

 

The storm

Looms again

I rise

To meet the storm

 

STORM BE GONE!

 

Facing down

Ego

Facing down

Judgment

Self judgment

The most insidious of all

 

Yes!

You are safe

We’ve got you

You’ve got yourself

 

Love

Openly

Joyfully

 

Love is buoyant

Like a cloud

You will float

To the surface

 

I am finding

My way

Trusting

Just a little bit

Feeling buoyancy

Feeling joy

Letting go

Surrendering

 

Am I done yet

Can I graduate

What

No certificate

Life long

Life affirming

 

Why you are here

 

Surrendering

More fully

Trusting

More fully

Beauty

Unexpected delights

Surety of path

The how

Drifting off

Into the ether

Materializing

In its own

Unexpected

Glorious

Ways

 

I am found

My voice is found

My ground

My path

I am birthing

 

My soul

Is singing

Celebrating

Without the storm

Without drowning

I would still

Be lost

 

Meeting the Stranger Within

You know the stranger within before it is a stranger, when you are very young, before you learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil.  Before you build the constructs around yourself that become essential to your survival – shaping your life so that you fit in, to make people happy – particularly your parents and other figures in your life you look up to or depend upon for survival at a young age.

As a baby, toddler and child, you learn it is not safe to expose this inner being, that somehow it is a threat – usually to others around you.  You begin to hide it and so begins the journey of the stranger.  You seek it out less often and then you forget where you hid it or how to unbury it, for a long, long time.

This being has shifted into a stranger and you come to believe this stranger within lurks in the shadows.  Because you believe this, you are afraid, deeply afraid, of what you might find if you seek it out. After all, others were afraid of it so so should you be.  You spend much of your life trying to thwart the stranger, running from your fear instead of facing it.  In so doing you create more shadow obscuring the stranger within even more.

Every now and then, the stranger finds an opening and bubbles to the surface.  You glimpse it but it is so unlike what you are expecting, you don’t recognize it.  Maybe you have been inspired or encouraged by it and now want to find it, but it is elusive.  You find it hard to believe that this stranger you have glimpsed lives in the shadows so you begin to look everywhere for it but where it actually lives.

You look to others to validate you and your experiences.  You compare yourself to others.  You, on occasion, take false joy in your journey because you can measure your progress and success – externally.  But deep inside the stranger is rumbling, calling to you, sometimes gently, sometimes with a strength and persistence that rattles your cage.  It is trying to guide you but you cannot hear it, cannot feel it except for the deep tremble you interpret as fear.

You believe the stranger is the one that causes your actions to be incongruent with who you fundamentally believe you are – which just proves to you that what lies at the core must be in shadow and is not to be trusted.

These things happen in your life, conspire even, to force you on a journey to discover the stranger, or as Anais Nin puts it: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It becomes time to intentionally shift the shape of who you are and how you show up in your own life.

As you take those first tentative steps to know the stranger, you step into the shadow and you discover that maybe, just maybe the stranger does not live in the shadow.  That this stranger you have feared is at the core of all your failings, all your struggles, all our misguided actions, maybe that stranger is an illusion conjured up by the shadow you have both created and feared to keep you from the exploration of the real stranger – intended to keep you and the stranger safe but instead causing you countless struggles and detours along the way.

Stepping into the shadows is a necessary step to passing through the shadows to where the stranger actually resides – at your core, not in the dark but in a light that is ready to shine brilliantly as you brush away the shadow you no longer need, need to fear or need to build.

Some of the fear and the tremble that shows up is in the knowing that to allow this stranger to walk with power and strength in your life may require changes in your life and your lifestyle, changes in your relationships and changes in you.  What you need to let go of to allow your full essence to come into being.  These are often not easy shifts to make because they involve other people and they involve you, your notions of who you are, who you think you are and who you are capable and deserving of becoming.

The real stranger is no stranger at all.  It is the incredibly gifted, talented, beautiful, authentic soul residing inside of each of us, including and especially you, waiting for the opportunities, the growth, the courage, the love and the joy to burst out in full bloom.

This is what the step into the darkness will expose – that it is actually a step into the light, a journey to the core to the stranger remembered, not as a stranger but as a gift, a friend, an essential self.  What is the courage you need to meet the stranger within?

Resentment, Anger and Grudges as Soul Journey Teachers

“If I destroy you, I destroy myself. If I honour you, I honour myself.” Nunbatz Men MAYAN

This is a daily meditation offering from White Bison.  The message: if I secretly hold a grudge or resentment against someone, I will be a slave to that person until I let them go so let me remember to look at my brothers and sisters in a sacred way.

This is a hard lesson to really accept and learn when we so want it to be about the other person! Yet when we hold that grudge, the person we hold it against actually has power over us.  To be even more direct, we have given our power away to them.  Nothing can be resolved unless they do something, healing cannot take place unless they do something.

What a sad and wretched way to live if this is what we choose – completely at the mercy of another’s journey.  What if they never change?  What if they never offer us what it is we think we need of them?  Or, even worse, what if they do and then we discover that that isn’t really the magic cure we’ve been waiting for? It’s not nearly as satisfying as we were sure it would be?

Healing of the soul is not an outer journey dependent on someone else.  It is an inner journey that only we can navigate.  Fortunately, there are many helpers, guides and teachers who show up along the way – but only when we are ready and can either perceive others as teachers or invite them as such.  It is easier to understand coaches and mentors as teachers, less easy to understand those we hold a grudge (or worse) against as a teacher although they often catapult our learning once we open to it.

When we feel wronged, and particularly when we feel deeply wronged, it is hard to step into the path of inquiry that asks: why have I invited this into my life?  This is not to make us wrong, make us a victim or cause us to take responsibility for another person’s actions.  This is solely to help us understand our own soul’s journey and the lessons we need to learn.

When I have felt marginalized in my life, I learned to ask the question: Why am I inviting marginalization (or marginalizing myself)?  How does that serve me in the place that I am in now? In a place of marginalization, I hide from stepping into my own power and purpose in life and, for some strange reason, this feels “safer”.

When I have felt voiceless in relation to other people I wondered what was my journey to reclaiming my voice?  I recognized my own feelings of judgment arising – about others and about myself – and learned to step into it, initially with great trepidation I might add, inquire into it, ease up on it.  Voicing my fears, issues and concerns in the light of showing up in ways I do not aspire to (as judgmental) began to bring me back to reclaiming my voice – a step toward also reclaiming my power – as a being of compassion, strength and love with important work to do in the world.

Jerry Granelli in my ALIA module  Leader as Shambhala Warrior said: if you resent one moment of your life, that is aggression.  Wow.  Just one moment of resentment is aggression.  Powerful.  It resonated strongly with my journey and learning to find the gifts in life decisions I’d made that I’d come to regret.  In truly finding the gift, the regret left, creating space for more compassion, strength, love and great joy – qualities that Byron Brown describes as inherent soul qualities in his book: Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within – a book that literally changed my life.

Letting go of regret and resentment can be a daily exercise, a daily reminder that this is a journey and, when we do step into it, it is a shape shifting journey.  We get to make a choice about it every day.  We only come to understand it as a choice as we journey, as we learn, as we sink into the soul’s journey by inquiring – with curiosity – into resentment, anger and grudges as they show up in our life.

Life has an interesting way of bringing to us that which we most need to learn from at any given time. My experience is that by learning to embrace it, it is usually a gentler journey – and I’ve learned that the hard way – from all the choices I made that brought me into deeply intense learning experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have “chosen” for myself but which I now see that my “soul’s journey” chose for me to create the conditions necessary for me to step more fully into the gifts, power and talents that serve me and serve my work in the world.

These soul journey teachers do not appear to be friends when they show up.  If we make them enemies as much as the others they show up about, we wither and die – literally and figuratively, spiritually and physically.  This is motivation enough to take the difficult first steps of seeing them for their enormous potential as teachers.  The more intense the experience, the greater the return in the soul’s journey.

Because at some point I embraced this journey – which was better than the alternative internal toxicity I found myself living in a few years ago, every day and most minutes in a day, I now find myself in a place of deep appreciation, gratitude and joy for my journey and the ALL the people in it who have contributed in some way.  Waking up feeling joyful does not get old!

Shifting Perspective on My Mom and Dementia

When I walk into the dementia ward of the long term care facility that is now home to my mom, her eyes light up when she sees me.  Does she know I’m her daughter?  I don’t know.  But she sure knows that she knows me and she knows that she loves me and that I love her back.

It is this language of love that is causing me to shift perspective on my mom and her dementia.

We think her symptoms began the year my youngest son was born – 2002.  Naturally enough, it was my dad who really began to see them – the forgetfulness – forgetting how to do things she had done all her life, even simple things like how to make a sandwich or turn on the washer.  Tucking folded tissues all over the house – in drawers, under pillows, in her purse, in her pockets, in the toilets.  Watching the weather network for hours on end and complaining that it was the same thing over and over again but not remembering she could change the channel.  Falling asleep in her chair.

Like so many other families dealing with this issue, we eventually faced the dreaded decision about long term care.  My dad was her main care giver and had reached the point of exhaustion with 24 hour care for her and especially interrupted sleep both because mom began to wander a bit at night and because she had incontinence.  My dad showed a whole new dimension of himself and of his love for my mother as her caregiver – something I never imagined I would ever see.

The day we took her to “that place” and walked away and left her was one of the most difficult days of our life as a family.  To see a wonderful woman lose her capacity to speak coherently, to dress herself, to care about her appearance, to become someone other than the woman we all knew and loved, living with a ward full of people who have also become someone other than the person their family and friends all knew and loved.

My mother has been there for almost two years now.  The scope of her life is this ward.  She has some mobility issues that make it very difficult for us to take her out.  It’s hard to get her moving without assistance and if she refuses, well, that’s it.  She used to just sit in a chair, looking out the window.  Now she has a wheelchair and can that woman move!  It is hard to pin her down to one spot.

I reconciled some time ago, that this was no longer the woman who raised me and I just needed to be present with the woman who was now there.  If I responded to her incoherence as if it was a fully formed thought and created a repartee with her, her spirits were fine.  If I was to get stressed or upset, she would too.  That was the first level of my discovery.

I have often wondered as I walk through the long term care facility filled with very old, sleepy people, to the dementia ward in back, what is the meaning of life when you are so old and incapacitated, just waiting to die or living in your own little demented ward with a whole bunch of other people also living in their own little world.

As I’ve pondered this, and visited with my mom – being present with her – I moved to my next level of discovery that is really shifting my perspective on my mom and her journey with dementia.  This is a soul’s journey.  When I visit with my mom I am not visiting with the personality and the ego that inhabited her body for all those years before dementia.  I am visiting with her in the spirit of her soul’s journey.  If I can look past unbrushed teeth, unkempt hair and incoherence,  and my own sorrow for the loss of this vibrant woman and mother in my life,  I can actually be with her in spirit and it is her spirit that shines through her eyes with delight when she sees me.  Her soul is connecting with my soul and she is relating to me on the level of soul, not the level of this physical plane.

I need to see her with new eyes in order to be in a place of appreciation for her journey.  I know that sounds odd and yet I can’t change her journey as much as I might like to.  I could be stuck in lamenting what I perceive to be her loss, or I can begin to see her in the beauty that is called forth in her as I greet her in the context of the soul journey.

“That place” is her home now.  She is well cared for by all who work there – people with special gifts of love for their charges that shines forth in how they treat them and interact with them.  There is a community of support – not just for her, but for my dad too.  Because it is in a small community, the irony is that there are a surprising number of friends who show up at the same time in this place – each living in their own little world that most of us would consider a confined space, each traveling their own soul’s journey.

Yes, it’s tragic but there is a strange kind of beauty that also shines forth and really shows up when invited.  And – when you’re visiting, there is never a dull moment.  Lots of stories that may be told someday or may have already served their purpose in causing laughter and making for a little brighter day.