more gray skies welcomed me to life
on this very holy Christmas eve.
the arbor vitae surrounding the yard
are robbed of color as well by the
surrounding gray as silence reigns.
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my mindheart wanders to Christmas's
past with you, luv, and family; the joy
of cutting down our tree on our land;
of awaiting the arrival of Betty and Art,
my dearest of dearest friends who most
often spent this day with us but now
there with you; of memories with family
gathered for mom's stuffing and turkey
and the blessings of love we shared.
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so many memories flood my heart today
as I sit by my fire in silence and alone-
looking back on the blessings and sorrows
of my years here on this earth...Bentley at
my side wondering if a miracle will allow
us one more Christmas season together.
the past becomes the present and we take
it all into the future; a future that looks
precarious and empty as i sit here today;
but one i must make meaningful by giving
to those around me and by receiving the love
offered to me, a humble recipient.
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now later, with NPR broadcasting Christmas
Mass from England, a favorite place of ours.
more memories of days in London flow through
me as chicken curry cooks in the slow cooker,
in anticipation of dinner here with friends
tonight...a first since you died, my love.
pies bake for tomorrow at a friend's home.
it is all so much when i think of those who
have nothing: no food, no home, nothing and
yet i, i yearn for more. just one thing more-
that the empty chair at tonight's table would
be filled with your physical presence on one
more holy, warm, and joy-filled Christmas eve.
may each of us, on this special day, acknowledge
the blessings and sorrows that have been ours
to embrace and may we make meaning by giving
of ourselves to so many who have so little or
who are in pain themselves...let we who grieve
become wounded healers in some way each day.
Many of us spend a good deal of time crying in the first few months of our lives. It all starts with the birth cry which occurs as the newborn's lungs expand with air. And then come the tears mothers read so well knowing when her infant is hungry, wet, uncomfortable, overtired, scared, angry and more. As adults, crying varies between the sexes, with women crying more often than men probably because it is considered more socially acceptable. As adults we cry when we hear lovely music or see something beautiful. Tears flow when we are sad and happy; frustrated, overwhelmed or trying to get attention among other things.
And most of us cry when we grieve.
Actually with grief we weep, sob, and sometimes wail because the pain is so deep. Sadly, in our society, we tend to be uncomfortable with tears be they our own or someone else's. As a result many hold them in far too often; apologize for them; and save them for when they are alone even though crying with someone is a sacred experience. My husband used to call my tears "holy water".
In our clinical practice, my husband Bill and I did a great deal of marriage counseling as a team. This allowed each person in the couple to have their own therapist and allowed Bill and me to model the much needed communication skills most couples lacked.
When Bill was in the last autumn of his life, the maple tree in our front yard served as a symbol of all he was losing as we watched Alzheimer's ravage his body and mind. Full and lush in the summer, this tree is a brilliant red and orange before it sheds each and every leaf. It is one of the most beautiful trees in our village. People often knock on my door and ask if they can have some leaves that have fallen beneath it.
Alzheimer's robs us of so much and living with Bill as he went from being brilliant and competent to a man who could barely function taught me the treachery and pain of this disease. As leaves fell from our maple tree, that last autumn, sometimes just one would drift slowly to the ground and other times a breeze would come up and they would fall in clusters seemingly marking Bill's losses. At the same time, on some days one of his skills would disappear while on other days it seemed he had lost several abilities all at once. I knew, that like the leaves, Bill's memories and skills would all be gone someday. Tears usually rolled down my face as I stood watching those leaves fall to the earth.
It happened a few times during these past two weeks. As Labor Day approached I flipped on the television only to see ads about Christmas. The first time was in the last week of August when an ad was aired about the upcoming Christmas movies. The second time it happened that week, the station aired an ad about Christmas sales. Just after Labor Day I saw a post on Facebook when someone reminded lookers that with Labor Day behind us, Christmas was on the horizon. So since the thought of holidays is already on the minds of those who grieve, I will jump in and address the subject now.
As I walk with my Golden Retriever Bentley every morning and evening, I find myself walking through falling leaves surprised and grateful that autumn has arrived. This was a tough summer for me and for Bentley who was diagnosed with lymphoma in June. Most of the summer was spent trying to deal with diagnosis and treatment to say nothing of emotions shocked as I was to know this ever healthy dog had lymphoma. Everything I tried that might help him seemed to end up failing, leaving him feeling miserable and leaving me frightened and
Finally we are on top of it and Bentley is, for now, stable with a couple more blood tests coming up to hopefully rule out two more possible sources for the symptoms we wrestled with during these many months.
I remember well a day when Bill and I were sitting at the edge of the Wisconsin River watching people row downstream. I said to him, “This scene reminds me of Betty,” Betty was one of my very closest friends who died of cancer in December of 2003. When she saw me rushing about or being too intense she would look at me and sing softly, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” When Betty first sang this little melody to me many many years ago, I knew she was reminding me to slow down a bit.
She was showing me around the tenth nursing home I had visited in as many days. Bill was in the hospital at the time and each day after visiting him, I would evaluate a nursing home or two in case one was needed eventually. In all, I visited 15 nursing homes.
On this day, the administrator took me to the activity room where I saw a basket of small towels sitting on a long table. “Some of the residents help fold these because it is something they can still do,” she told me.
I originally wrote this article for Marty Tousley's Grief Healing Blog. You can find it at: http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2013/12/meditation-helpful-to-those-who-grieve.html
It is only through holding our own broken hearts and wounds in an attentive and compassionate embrace, that we can, over time, move through our grief to some stage of peace and resolution.
~ Brad Hunter
Research studies confirm that the practice of meditation and mindfulness changes our brains and our lives; reduces pain, anxiety, confusion and stress; boosts the immune system; and increases concentration, focus and compassion, among its many other benefits. In addition, the practice of meditation and mindfulness can assist us in healing our grief, because it helps us live in the present moment...where our grief resides. It gives us better access to the "now," thereby helping us become more aware of our pain and sadness, and in turn begin to heal it. Distracting ourselves from our grief is necessary and helpful from time to time, but repeatedly avoiding pain and grief only serves to prolong the journey to healing. Any tool that can increase concentration and focus and bring us to that place where grief resides (the present moment) is surely a tool that will facilitate grief healing. As a dedicated advocate of the use of meditation and as a fellow mourner, my hope is that others learn how helpful it can be as they walk the labyrinth of grief in their own lives.
I was out in my back yard this week trimming Arborvitae back off the fence. I returned at 5:30 the next morning before the heat of the day to pick up the trimmings and load them into my Subaru to take them to the dump....it would probably take four trips. I imagine it took me a total of about 3 hours or more to do this.. My Golden Retriever Bentley came out with me and after smelling every corner of the yard checking for the presence of squirrels and rabbits, he stood by the door waiting to go inside. Each time I looked over to check on him, there he stood...patiently waiting to be let into the house. He did not bark or squeal. He just stood silently.