No Memorial Service For Me

I recently lost my gram. This beautiful woman was such a vital part of me and was inextricable from my life. I feel as if a part of me has died with her. I was blessed to have been by her bed days before she left us to hold her hand and tell her that everything would be okay and that I loved her. To which she replied very lucid, “I love you too, I really do.”

I attended her memorial service to be there for my mom. She was the sole caretaker for the last years of gram’s life, while the rest of the family were off living their lives or too busy to care for the dying. At the end mom couldn’t even leave the house to go to the store or get the mail and yet the family still did not call or come to help. It was a great burden and took a toll on my moms health.

Mom and I did not want a memorial service for gram. Gram would have hated it. Another family member who is very much about the “show” insisted. That is what a memorial service is, a “show” for those who need to pat each other on the back and reassure each other that they were important to the deceased. Those who stand up and read a poem to the deceased while choking back tears, but hadn’t seen the deceased in years. Or the person who recounts a childhood memory and claims to be the deceased’s favorite but hadn’t seen or talked to the deceased in a decade. Who are these people to stand and speak out about a person that they had not loved or respected enough to come or call in years? Yet they have the gall to stand and speak as if they were a part of this persons life.

The whole service turned my stomach. I left before it was over. At the graveside I had had enough of the posers. They could continue their small patting of the backs and crooning over their very distant memories as they attempted to convince themselves that they showed the deceased love, comfort, concern and basic respect.

Memorial services are for this very type of activity. A funeral service ritual came about out of the necessity to transport bodies long distances after WWII, when the body needed to be preserved at a funeral home and a service held later at the deceased’s hometown. The booming and lucrative funeral service industry was born. Now it is big business to capitalize on people’s guilt. People that were not there for the deceased can assuage their guilt with the best and most luxurious coffin, service and buffet meal after while they read poems, recite memories from decades ago and make themselves feel better about neglecting to cherish a relationship with an aging person that was inconvenient for their life.

I do not want a memorial service. If you want to express your love for me, do it while I am alive. When I leave, those that were there in the end will have a party and drink my favorite wine, telling stories of our mutual adventures together. When I leave my body, cremate me and spread my ashes in my chosen places. No headstone, no grave. I will live on in the hearts and memories of those that loved me and showed up until the end. No posers allowed.

To my gram:

We said our words in person and there was no need for me to pretend that we were important to each other. We were together till your end and I will carry you in my heart till my end.

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Love American Style

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I spent my first Valentine’s Day out of the United States and I survived to tell about it…or actually revel in it. This post is in no way slamming American holidays or the need for them to break up the monotony of life, serve as reminders-of or give us pause to celebrate life. I rather have a new perspective this Valentine’s Day. I have spent over 15 Valentine’s Days alone or perhaps without a romantic partner is a better way to say it, as I have never been alone. This year was the first time I was truly alone on Valentine’s Day, without my friends or family around me. I had this light-bulb moment. What if love is not contingent on someone being there to fill the space beside you? What if love is just a feeling all on your own and always present…that you share with other people? What if love is not doing anything…what if it isn’t a verb but a noun? What if we are just big blobs of love walking around sharing it with whoever wants some?

I do think that being away from the media crazed madness that is consumer heaven wrapped in red cellophane heart shaped boxes has contributed to this epiphany. Instead of pushing against the imposing mountain of commercialism this year, I had infinite space to contemplate the deeper meaning of love, being in love, being love, giving love, and loving. The focus shifted.

In Bulgaria the day is a holiday as well and is called Zadushnitza (All Soul’s Day). It is a day that Bulgarians go to church, light candles and prepare their deceased loved ones meals that were favorites. The apartment manager where I am renting brought me a plate of bread, cheeses, olives and dips and told me about this day. What a contrast that our day of love is their day to honor the dead. Which had me thinking about loss, which brought me full circle to love and those I love, knowing I love them. Me, knowing I love me, so I can just be… love.  I spent the day loving myself more than I could ever imagine, sending love to my friends and family and holding them in loving thoughts. I consciously chose to love. I loved everything that I saw, felt, imagined, touched, looked at…just was love..all day. It was the best Valentine’s Day ever. I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of disco music from the disco near here, shouts of partying and fireworks going off.

The first sip of coffee this morning…was love all over again. Who knew it could be so easy but yet so hard…to find love.

New Year, New Beginnings, New Body, New Sight…New Life

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As we move into 2014 I am thinking back over the last year and what a year it has been. So many changes at a fundamental level for me. Friendships have been redefined, my body has become a healthy dwelling place, my mind has relaxed into a state of grace and really life has become closer to being what feeds my soul and gives meaning to the words, ” live with intention.”  Italy was one of the defining periods of my life over the last year, Italy opened me up and breathed it’s sweet wine into my spirit. My thankfulness is overflowing for that experience and as I have only left Italy 2 weeks ago…I am still processing what took place and how the levels that living as an Italian were transformed within me. I know that seeing my mom standing in the airport waiting for us was one of the best sights ever and being a part of all of the love and support from family and friends has been the highlight of this journey. True friends, the ones that support you even if they don’t agree with you or think your ideas are crazy and family that understands you and supports your dreams and even encourages you to follow them are what it is all about. These people are why I went to Italy and they are why I came home to live near them. As I think more about connections, support, community and where my energy flows I wish all of those that I call friend a wonderful new year and I look forward to being your friend in 2014 and supporting each other in all we endeavor.

Reflections

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What is reflected back to us is rarely seen for what it really is but rather a reflection of our own visions.

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I see in you what is also in me. I see the vision of my spirit in the waves, the colors, the wings of a butterfly.

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The sky becomes the sea and the lines blur between above and below, in between somewhere I float without boundaries, just color and light, mist and rays.

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We are all one reflection of life. Live love and move through the spirit of one.

Well Hello Universe!

Can I just begin by saying I am eating the words of the last post as I write this? The Universe has a funny, strange and at times sadistic sense of humor. Just sayin. But I see that some journeys, okay all journeys have many, many detours, road blocks and huge scary cliffs that you find yourself hurtling off into the abyss. So my journey down the path of acupuncture ended abruptly when I found out that it costs $75,000 to go to school and then you have to start your own practice to work. WELL…no.

But to be honest I am not sure my new path is any less crazy and unpredictable or expensive for that matter. I pretty much decided to give up trying to decipher what my path is (studying puritan’s beliefs did this) and just give it over to the Universe and boy does that change things up. Let’s see, since I have done that I have faced childhood demons of the worst kind and decided to love the people that destroyed parts of me anyway, became integrated completely with my shadows, decided to love everyone, fell in love with myself, changed my major to Art History, and now am going to Italy to study the masters and learn to say, ” atraversiamo!”

So this blog will still be about healing at all levels. It will also be about following your passion, taking huge leaps of faith, listening to the Universe, and traveling in Europe! September 24, 2013 will find me on a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland. Where I will find my way to Siena, Italy to spend the next three months studying painting, drawing, culture, Italian language and how to make a very good cappucino. Unlike the last blog where I was sure I was on the path made especially for me…I have no clue whether this is the “right” path for me, I just know that when I got the notification that I had received a Gilman scholarship to go to Italy, every part of my being was already packing to go. There was no doubt that this is where I passionately wanted to be. Step by slow and small step, it has all been unfolding. I keep my eyes open and ready to take into account any signs that this is not supposed to happen but there hasn’t been any signs like that. In fact there has only been signs that point to go, do this, love it, feel it, embrace it, revel in it, rejoice …YOU ARE GOING TO ITALY!  Chiusure Siena Italy

When people ask me if I am going to Italy to study, I say, “yes.”  I don’t say maybe or I hope so. There have been obstacles, like the program I initially applied for and listed on my Gilman scholarship being suspended and having to scramble to find one that was twice the cost and would let me apply past the deadline, get it approved by Gilman, madly apply for more scholarships with a deadline two days away, arrange for alternate housing since I am taking my son with me and various other hoops. But I never saw these as signs not to go but what I saw was incredible amounts of help being given me to make this happen. At one point there were four different advisors from two different college campuses, a Gilman representative, and a study abroad program representative all working on finding me an alternative program and making this happen for me. I watched with that objective eye as all the pieces came together like a puzzle. The ending picture was of Siena, Italy.

Come back and follow my travels…it will all be here. The Universe will be our tour guide, I will be documenting my thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams for all to see. I promise it will be crazy amazing and full of all of life’s vulnerabilities and joy. Cause it is all love after all…right?

Making soup for one…

 The heart-shaped bowl may mislead you to think this blog is about being single, it’s not.  It is about the other forever love that we hold close to us; love for our children. Society defines that period of time, for parents, when your children mature and begin to leave their childhood home as “empty nest” syndrome.  I can think of many adjectives or definitions to give it that would more accurately describe the emotions and adjustments that arise from this one simple act of growing up.

My “letting go” period began with a drive to U of O campus, lugging stuff up two flights of stairs and helping my daughter settle into her dormitory. Her new roommate and parents were also crammed into the small dorm room. So as I started to leave, I hugged my daughter and walked out the door into the hallway where no one else in the room could see me but my daughter. Not wanting to embarrass her, I turned around and mouthed the words silently, “I love you.”  She laughed out loud and said very loudly, “I love you too Mom.”  I beamed all the way down the stairs and then I cried.

That was in 2007 and since then she has moved  farther away to Southern Oregon State, back home to live with me, out on her own and is married now. My son, 8 years her junior is turning 18 years old this week. He reminds me of this daily. I believe his independence increases by the minute. I can see it expanding in all directions. Of course he still needs me I tell myself. I still cook for him, clean up after him and check in with him when I am out late.

We went through a period a couple of years ago when this growing and stretching our relationship boundaries began to frighten me. As the last child in the “nest”, I held on tighter and resisted change with an iron fist. As a result he pushed harder against my boundaries and rebelled against my need to hold onto the little boy.

My bending moment came when I asked myself;  When did he get to be this way? Oh…wait, I raised him this way!!!  I taught him to be an independent thinker, question everyone and everything,  make his own choices, not based on other people’s opinions, suggestions or examples.  Whoops. My bad. Or good.

Our job as parents is to teach our children to be independent contributors to our world, to make choices and understand the consequences that come as a result. When we have completed that job, our children, equipped with that knowledge have to go out and test it and learn new knowledge on their own.

So flash to me making soup. It seems that making food is the last thing to change and adapt to being less full, less more. I intend to start small and end up making a big pot of soup. More soup than I want to eat in a week. Soup that I could freeze for later but know that after a week of eating it, I will not want it again until a year from now, at which time the soup will not be any good.

I may never be able to make soup for one. I continue to aim for it. I may just adjust my soup making days to coincide with visits from my kids or friends. I know one thing is certain, my kids will one day face the same challenge of making soup for one.  And so it goes around…