Angels amongst us

My dear sweet friend,

My mom continues on her path to heaven, and my dad for the first time today began to accept that he will be separated briefly from his love of nearly 70 years until his body is ready to give up and his spirit ready to join her.   He has been in deep deep denial and slaps whomever tries to prepare him for the inevitable.

“don’t say that!  Stop talking like that!!! You’re giving up!  she is permanent!!!”

I took my dad to his oncologist, Dr. Safa, yesterday.  If ever you need an oncologist, he is the man you must seek.  I don’t care how far you have to travel.  He is the angel and doctor you must have. Two years ago, tomorrow, my dad was declared clear of lung cancer, thanks to Dr. Safa.  We were there to express our annual thank you to him and to have him check to see if there were any more growths.

I shared with Dr. Safa about my dad’s fear of losing his wife.  This doctor pulled his stool to sit down close to him.  He put his hand on his knee and spoke from his heart. I wish you could have been there to hear his wise words.

He spent the next 30 minutes consoling and counseling him and giving him love that angels speak.  It was the most beautiful moment that encapsulated the meaning of life.

First, he said, you must take care of your self.  There is no guilt – you, nor anyone outside of you is responsible for her dying.  Dying is simply part of life’s journey.  Our bodies weren’t meant to live forever.  Our spirits live on.  She will be with us forever.  “I don’t care about your lungs today.  I just care about the rest of you – your head and your heart.  We are not going to do any scans today.  We are going to talk.”

Then he went on to say how important it was to appreciate all the support and love he’s getting from family and friends.  He encouraged him to stay connected to the people he loves, and who love him and to make the effort to reignite friendships and to reach out and share.  “Yes, I want you to do things with others, but I also want you to share from the heart.  open you heart and talk to others about what’s going on inside.  Don’t hold it inside because that is what feeds cancer.  Cancer loves stress, and secrets.  Keep your heart open and share your feelings as much as you can.”

Finally he asked my dad what his favorite pastime was – music and art my father said.  Dr. Safa smiled and slapped his knee!  “Well, there you go!  you must dive into your music and art!  You must leave your legacy.  Tell your story through your music and art!   Next time I see you, I want to see what you have created.  Do it for your wife, your children, do it for yourself!  No more spiraling down a deep dark hole into that comfortable place of depression.   No more being a scared boy who has been cared for for all these years, you must now be the man your wife married.  You must be the man who provided for his family.  Do you remember that man?  You must pick yourself up and begin creating your legacy.  This is what will keep you alive and well. Nothing is more important than taking care of you and telling your story!”

Love yourself, share from your heart, tell your story and leave your legacy.

“I wish all my doctors could be like him.”  The love of an angel heals.

And for the first time, I could tell my father was in a place of acceptance.  He put his arm on my shoulder and we cried together.

 

 

 

 

The Miracle of Love

My dear sweet friend,

It’s been way too long!  oh goodness!  I have so much to tell you.  I’ve missed you.

Last week my mother was rushed to the hospital.  Her heart rate was 167 and she was experiencing a very irregular heart beat.  The doctor thought her Parkinson’s was shutting down her autonomic system, which operates the heart and lung.  Her system was no longer able to do its job properly.  They hooked her up to tubes, machines and meds, and soon she was breathing well and her heart rate began to return to below 100.

She was under a lot of pain with her heart having trouble delivering oxygenated blood to her extremities – her feet and legs especially.  She was put on morphine to relieve the pain.  By the second day,  I could tell she was beginning to drift away.  Her moments of recognition were diminishing and I began asking her questions as she became more and more agitated and anxious and in greater and greater pain.  I could tell she didn’t want to be living this way any longer.

Unable to talk, I told her to squeeze my hand for ‘yes’.

“Do you want to go home?”  – yes

“Do you want to have your feeding tube put back in?” – no response

“Do you want to go home without a feeding tube?” – yes

And so began my conversation with my father, the man who is afraid of losing her, and believes he can’t live without her.

He finally agreed to comfort care, which is another word for hospice.  It’s when the doctors all agree that there’s nothing more they can do to help, and we as a family agree to bring our mom home to live the rest of her life in comfort, away from the tubes and wires of the hospital.  Papers were signed, and exchanged.  My mom had already signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) years before, and even though my dad refused to honor it, in his moment of distress, we managed to convince him that these were my mom’s wishes.

He kept focussing on getting her home, and away from the hospital, not fully understanding that we were all in acceptance of the possibility of death.  (He remains in denial that she will eventually die, and I’ve realized as much as I try to explain to him that humans weren’t created to live forever, he refuses to believe it.)

“I’m not going to let her die without me.”

The doctors unplugged her and rushed her home by ambulance.  She arrived safely. My brother and I had transformed his office into a bedroom, with photos of all the family on all the walls, floor to ceiling, and some of her favorite paintings.  We had her favorite flowers, red roses and white orchids sitting next to her bed.  Over the bed we hung a mobile with all the photos of her grandchildren for her to see. She opened her eyes, and you could see the look of wonder and peace, and joy of feeling the love.

She settled into a deep sleep, and the next day, the hospice nurse took me aside to tell me I needed to call the mortuaries and to begin preparing for the inevitable.  My father was crying by her bedside, holding her and squeezing her, begging her not to leave.  Her lips were purple, and hands swollen.

The very next day was the miracle.  After my sister sat with my dad all night listening to him beg us to put her tube back in, I sat with him and asked that he just try and remember all the stories and memories he’s had with her, and to try and share them with her by her side in a loving way – not focused on his fear, begging her to stay, but focusing on the love they share and have shared.

He held her hand, and stroked her head, and began to tell their story.  Before long her eyes opened, and she looked like a little girl listening to her first bedtime story. It was a moment I will always cherish.  She was awake, alert and happy.

“Mommy are you hungry?”  – yes, she squeezed.

She slowly ate her soup, which I had to deliberately and intentionally spoon in tiny amounts since she lost her ability to swallow without danger last year and resulted in the feeding tube that my father insisted she have.  With no feeding tube, and a defective epiglottal flap, food could easily go down into her lungs, and she could aspirate, we were warned.  The nurses could not feed her knowing the danger and risks involved, but we as a family knew how much my mom loves her food, and had decided that that was a risk we were willing to take, rather than deny her food.

By the end of this miraculous day of love, hospice had moved this tiny woman who was non responsive, from critical continuous care 24/7, to stable, twice a week visits. We were all witness to the miracle of love, the power of faith, and the courage and will of a tiny woman who wants to enjoy her last days surrounded by family in the quiet of her home.

As she fell asleep for the night, I read her a note that Riki had written to her, thanking her for the lessons she had taught her.  She had told Riki (my second daughter) to not be ‘frugal’ – to not be afraid to spend your money on experiences and life.  You can save your money for things, but it’s the wealth of the experiences with the people you love that will be with you forever.  I could see my mom smile as she drifted off to sleep.

 

 

The Love that Grows from Being Broken

My dear sweet friend,

It’s been awhile.  I’ve been traveling and writing, and being in a state of constant bliss and gratitude.  I spent five glorious days with Odin, refreshing and refilling my Odin tank of pure love.  He’s at that age where he is just absorbing every possible movement and expression that he observes.  He has me laughing and crying all the time!  I closed the trip, spending time with my closest brother from another mother and his sweet family.  It was unbelievable as I experienced so much pure love and laughter, so healing for my soul.

In between my days with Odin, I was on a magical farm along the Hudson River in New York.  I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast with friends from college, sharing memories from our past, and stories from our changing selves and sometimes challenging lives.  It was wonderful and amazing.

Life is truly a journey about learning the meaning of love.  Watching my best friend, Diane, from college with her husband, his lover, and her new boyfriend, dance all at the same time, all on the same dance floor, while surrounded by all her friends, and children, her newly wed son and his new wife, and her family, it was just all about the magic of love and forgiveness.  It hasn’t been an easy journey learning that her husband is gay, but it’s one that has left her dancing, free from the burden of resentment or anger, experiencing the grace of compassion and understanding.

We never know the timing of the journey of learning love.  Each person’s journey is different.  I guess you could say that this journey of love begins the moment you exit your momma’s womb.  But the love that you learn from the most challenging of times – the time when your world is falling apart – is the part of the journey where you find the meaning of life.  For Diane and me, it began just a over a decade ago, our stories so different, and yet the same.

 

Experiencing Something New Reminds Me of the Awe and Wonder in Every Moment of Everyday

My dear sweet friend,

Will Rogers state park — 300 acres of bliss.  It is a hidden gem!  You must check it out.

I really didn’t know much about Will Rogers before this visit. What a guy! He was such an important person in US history with his sense of humor and diplomacy.  We could use someone like him now.  He had a weekly radio hour and a newspaper column that would run nationwide, where he’d share his perspective on politics for the most part, always with a sense of humor.  President Roosevelt would schedule his talk with the nation right after Will’s show since he knew he’d have an audience.

I love the idea of sitting around the radio with family and listening to a humorist’s perspective on the current state of affairs.  Something we could use today.

Will loved horses and had built a giant Polo field back in the 20’s. He lived in Beverly Hills and this now park in the Pacific Palisades was his weekend retreat – having grown up on a horse ranch in Texas there are horses everywhere!  Every Sunday there’s a polo match – with horses, not water….hehe.

My parents and I were in awe watching our first polo match.  More than anything, it was the sound that brought me to a new place and time. The clomp of their forceful hoofs on the hard ground and the announcer… wow.   I love experiencing something fresh and different! – a place of awe and wonder…so cool.

They have a bluegrass concert every third sunday of the month and my parents are excited about returning for the one in August.

Our bodies may Age, But inside it’s All about Love

Dear sweet friend,

My parents are officially in my brother’s house!  We’ve been moving all the boxes and furniture over the past month, but we physically moved them out of their apartment this past Sunday.  I’m exhausted!  It was nice to have family pitching in and to see how happy my father was in his new home.

Today we returned to the Village where I teach a meditation class.  My parents wanted to say ‘hi’ to their friends.  Everyone with their walkers and scooters slowly entered the room happy to see my parents, “We miss you!  Do you like your new place?”

As part of the class we’ve been moving through the alphabet, sharing about words that begin with a specific letter of the week.  This week was the letter “S”.

Betty, who is 96, started us off.  She leaned over to me and whispered, “SEX”.  Usually the person who comes up with a word, shares a story using that word to initiate a memory.  But today, Betty told the group she didn’t have a story, but that she wanted to hear what others had to say about “SEX”.  We all laughed.  My mom is the youngest in the group at 87.  Everyone else is well into their 90’s and here we were talking about “SEX”.  How awesome is that?

Gerry was the first to talk, ” I’m happy to report that there is definitely sex in old age.”

I must admit, I was very happy to hear that, and to see how comfortable everyone was in sharing their stories about sex.  They all reported that ‘in those days we got married quickly because we just couldn’t wait to have sex, and in ‘those days’ you didn’t have sex until you were married.’  We went around the circle sharing wedding anniversaries and honeymoons and how long it took for the first baby to arrive.  It was amazing how many firsts arrived close to 9 months after their wedding day!  and how we all giggled with the memories!

The truth is, these 90 some year old folks are just as precious as can be.  They’re just like me – our spirits frozen in time.  In many ways we’re just kids inside.

Flo closed the session, “I have a stranger living with me in my tiny apartment.  Every morning I look in the mirror and there she is.  I ask her ‘where did you come from?’

We all laughed, and every single one of them said, ‘It’s not easy getting old.”

The Uncertainty and Miracles of Life on my one Little Street

My dear sweet friend,

My apologies for not writing for weeks.  My site was having technical difficulties that we were finally able to resolve!

Did I tell you how much I’m enjoying my new neighborhood?  I live on a tiny dead end street where the people in the ten homes know each other well.  It’s what I used to imagine as the ideal old fashioned place where you could knock on your neighbor’s door and ask to borrow a cup sugar and there’s no hesitation nor expectation that anything would have to be returned or owed.

Angelica across the way gives me lemons from her prolific lemon tree and I give her green snacks that I bake when I have time. Matthew and I trade books that we know the other would appreciate.  My next door neighbor, Sandy, gives me clippings from her succulents and I give her sugarless, gluten free home-baked goodies to share with her husband who is battling congestive heart failure.

At the end of the cul de sac, I befriended Carlos and Ophelia.  Their daughter, Ophelita, grew up playing with the little girl, Brandi, who used to live in the house across from mine.  The two girls would ride bikes, play ball and push their baby dolls in carriages.  Brandi and Ophelita grew up and Brandi moved to Denver.  But Ophelita began to have problems with her kidney and had to be put on dialysis.

The week I was moving in, Pam, was in the process of moving to Denver to be closer to her 38 year old daughter, Brandi.  As I emptied boxes from my move, I would walk the boxes over to her house so she could re-use them to pack up for her trip to Denver.  We quickly became friends.  Sadly, a few weeks ago I learned that Brandi had suffered a brain aneurysm and was in a coma – they were having to make the difficult decision to pull the plug.

As Pam was making the sad decision to pull Brandi’s plug, she remembered Ophelita’s situation.  Within a day of her reaching out to Ophelita’s parents with news of Brandi’s healthy kidney, they had run all the blood tests and found that the two girls were a perfect match.  They flew the kidney to LA, and performed the surgery.  Ophelita now has Brandi’s working kidney.

I share this story with you, because it is the beautiful reminder of the preciousness of life, the ends and beginnings, the sadnesses and happinesses, the uncertainties and synchronicities.  As I sit hear knowing how happy Carlos and Ophelia are for their daughter who is now out of the hospital, no longer dependent on dialysis, I also know the sadness Pam and her husband must share with the loss of Brandi.

Everyday I think about these two sweet families living miles apart, sharing in the knowledge that they are truly connected now, and I feel the joy they must live every moment with the reminder that life is unpredictable, and at the same time sacred, divine and filled with blessings.

 

 

 

 

Identifying with my Spirit

My dear sweet friend,

Yesterday I ran into a lovely woman at my parent’s village who just couldn’t believe I was a grandma,

“How is that possible?  You look like you’re 18!”

I laughed and hugged her.  Milly is 94 years young, and must have very poor eyesight.  What I love about her is that her spirit connects with mine whenever we see each other.  61 years is my chronological age, but my spiritual age is that of a kid – I definitely like to experience the world the way Odin does.

Ten minutes later, my father and I ran into an acquaintance.  She looked at my dad and was just so happy to see how healthy he looked.  She looked at me, and asked,

“Are you his sister?”

My father’s chronological age is 90.

In less than 15 minutes I went from looking 18 to looking 90.  I laughed and hugged her.

“I’m his daughter.”

My father was glowing.

Each of us sees the world differently.  Yes, it’s true I have lots of white hair now.  These Wisdom Wires age me many years, but how people perceive me is none of my business.  Inside, my spirit is how I feel.

This morning’s quote on my tea bag was perfect,

“The difference between a weed and a flower is a judgement.”