as we watch the raging waters devastate towns, communities, cities, lives
we grieve the insurmountable losses being sufferedRead More
as we watch the raging waters devastate towns, communities, cities, lives
we grieve the insurmountable losses being sufferedRead More
Urban Dictionary Definition of Lost and Found:
"Where one loses their mind and finds freedom."
It would be more than fair as well as accurate to say, that yes, I have lost my mind and in doing so found freedom. Yes. I think that perhaps I could have dropped my mind somewhere along the freeway, driving to my late partner's chemo-therapy sessions. It would be so easy to neglect it on the rides from our home in the East Bay to the Veteran's Administration in San Francisco. Or- maybe it was when I scattered his ashes under the Golden Gate Bridge on the private boat that transported us, escorted by the friendly dolphins. Maybe it fell over board when I threw my lei into the great Pacific and I hadn't noticed because I was too emotional. I could have possibly left it behind when I sold our home and forgot where I stashed it away for safe keeping. Yes. That is a possibility. Regardless, some kind Soul turned it in and I have reclaimed it.
I have been fortunate to find my freedom in the process of reclaiming my mind at my local Lost and Found. Sure I could continue to discuss, intellectualize and dissect how difficult it has been and how challenging and painful life can be at times, but I would be missing my chance at fully engaging and basking in the glory of this feeling. Remember, nothing lasts forever. Allow me to be a reminder. I am moving on. I am gonna "keep on truckin'." The past Luvs and losses will always be my compass, as I now continue my way on my own personal pilgrimage, my own" El Camino de Santiago." There will be new friends, new faces, new luvs, new adventures, new places- new memories. All the dearly departed, guides, angels, beautiful Souls and my loved ones, want nothing more for me. They told me so...
As I continue to grow, evolve and adjust to my" elder wisdom," I have become more aware of the importance of stretching, pushing limits and making changes, which are ALWAYS uncomfortable. Especially in our later years. Flexibility is the key, in more ways than one.
With all that being said, you will notice changes in format, frequency, length of Blogs and perhaps a change in platform or website all together. I will be incorporating more of my own artwork, links to music, poetry and other artistic expressions that speak to me as well- because I can. This is me being authentic and true to my Soul. This is MY New Freedom!
My focus may become more on living my life going forward, than Death and Dying and looking back. Ultimately, I will be weaving the two together, as it should be. We can't have Yin without Yang. This is the balance and beauty of this Life that we are given. I have had more and I have had less in my Life, materially speaking, but never have I felt so Spiritually wealthy.
I have always found the importance of speaking the unspeakable and questioning the unquestionable. It is just my nature. I embrace, cherish and celebrate my imperfections and mistakes- my humanity. I lay them all before you, spread out like a vendor displays his treasures at the Alameda Flea Market.
We all need to make sense of our lives before our time is up. Most people wait until the end. One of the most important things that I have learned from working with Hospice patients, the dying, Buddhism, Meditation, Mentors and Teachers along the way, is to always walk hand and hand with Death, not run from it. Befriend it. Sorry for the wake up call but your day WILL come. Just a gentle reminder. Don't try to resolve all of your life issues in your last moments and before your last breath. Start now. Don't wait to try to make sense of all that you do not understand in your Life. Take it at face value. Accept it. Don't judge it. We don't always have to know WHY?
When I was a young boy, in elementary school, I used to lay in my bed at night listening to the sound of my younger brother snoring in a deep state of rem sleep. I would watch in twitch and blink. It was very comforting and reassuring somehow. I think that I also listened to make sure he was still breathing, as the thought of losing him was too difficult for me to bare. Another comfort that I would sometimes hear was what sounded to me like a mouse's voice whispering in my ear. It was inaudible but I enjoyed hearing "him" even though I was not sure what "he" was saying. I just accepted "him", "his" friendship and "his' foreign language that "he" spoke to me. I listened carefully, intently and made no comments. I would often fall asleep midway during "his" soliloquy. As best I can remember it went on for a few years. I didn't question the experience, as "he" was more friend than foe. (think Topo Gigio) I wasn't afraid and I also didn't know that this was unusual. I was a painfully shy young boy and was raised in a family where we didn't share things, good, bad but especially ugly....
Eventually my "mouse friend" disappeared, never to return again. This was not the only visual and audible experience that I had as a young boy. There were several others, which I will address at another time. Don't ever think for just one moment that anything in Life is random.
Flash forward forty plus years and I find myself at a Dying Consciously workshop in Joshua Tree California, being conducted by the Four Winds Society. I had lost my partner less than a year earlier and it was part of my quest for something, after he had transitioned. Truth? As part of our Workshop, we learned how to shut down the Chakra System in the body at the moment of Death and send the Soul out through the top or crown of the head. This would separate Body and Soul, freeing the Soul to transition to a higher consciousness. We were also all required to go through the process ourselves, including our own mock funeral. Everyone was assigned a role by the "deceased" and instructed on how the role should be played i.e., husband, wife, significant other, mother, father, brother, sister etc.etc.etc. We tapped into some profound emotions and much healing was done on so many levels for all involved. When it was my turn "to die" for the allotted 30 seconds, before I was returned to my earthly body, I had the incredibly moving experience of meeting my partner in the ethers. We had just enough time to ask each other without words if we were "doing ok." We confirmed, exchanged Luv and were returned to our appropriate places.. It may have been the dry California desert, but that day there were many new temporary rivers flowing through the dry sands.
There was a beautiful closing ceremony after the three long days of emotional upheaval. We were asked to bring a small gift that we were to give to our Shamanic instructor at some point. The room was dark, candle lit, serene, quiet, holy, except for some rattling and chanting. When my turn came, I had to lay down face up on a mat on the dusty, wooden floor and a woman that I didn't know who was not our instructor, but was introduced to us, was there to help out. I liked her immediately. She felt familiar to me and had a stately and graceful presence. She had a kind loving, casual, natural beauty about her. She did a ritual and I presented her with my small gift. She accepted it graciously and continued with the Blessings. At this point, she was kneeling on the floor next to me. She bent down slowly to whisper something or say a prayer in my ear, and as she did the tears started flowing. I instantly recognized that "mouse language" that she spoke and her voice. It was the same one that used to whisper to me when I was a young boy. A river of tears flowed out of my stormy blue eyes, down my beard covered cheek onto the wooden plank floor and out the door creating tributaries and rivers nourishing all the desert life and animals on its journey back to the Great Mother...
Don't wait to try to make sense of all that you do not understand in your Life. Take it at face value. Accept it. Don't judge it. We don't always have to know-WHY or HOW?
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Aldous Huxley
Our daily lives are filled with the “rhythm of life.” More often than not, it goes unnoticed or becomes white noise. If it were an elaborate, big budget, Hollywood production, it would be inserted, woven and edited as a major component to set the tone of the story. Perhaps, even an Oscar nomination for Best Score. The reality however, is that this is actually the unique score of OUR personal Journey through the doldrum of mere existence, on a path to learn, comprehend and fully grasp the Universal Lessons that we were sent here to learn. Grief and Loss are the main attractions and ones that are way more important than the supporting roles that they have been assigned. They are, in reality, the Stars in a culture that chooses NOT to acknowledge their place in history, along side the other minorities in the "industry." (addictions, depression and other assorted flavors of psychiatric diagnoses.)
No acceptance speech need be readied here.
A certain kind of syncopated rhythm or symbology of sounds, narrates our daily routines. We may be aware, but pay it no mind until it is removed or it changes. Once a new daily routine is established, it then takes some time for our heart, brain and blood pulsating through our veins and capillaries to synch up. We then adjust and settle in to this "new tune" and it once again takes a back seat to our activities.
In my recent move from West Coast back to East Coast, my "soundtrack" was destroyed- "a hammer, taken to my vinyl." I currently do not have a "soundtrack at the moment. It has left me with a sense of free-falling through space. No gravity to ground me. I am however, still tethered to the Mothership. I am slowly making my way back, as I dodge the occasional asteroid and space debris, through the deafening silence.
At the End of Life, we are much more in tune with Nature, as we make our way back to our origins. Our "soundtrack" or "score" accompanies us, yet changes accordingly to reflect this. In the last weeks and days of my caregiver role to my partner William, he would call to me to come watch and listen to the bird outside our bedroom window that came to "sing to him" on a daily basis. He was taken by it's beauty of bold colors, the tall feathered plume that adorned its head and its skills of catching insects by skimming the surface of our pool with its stubby beak. Its simple song obviously touched him on a very deep level. On several occasions as I prepared our evening meal, I would hear him call out to me from our atrium, where he stood staring, gave fixed, drinking in the setting sun through the windows of our Eichler orange front door. "Hurry before you miss it" he would say. His beckon calls are no longer notes in the rhythm of my life. They have been edited out. I have also witnessed this renewed connection to Nature in my Hospice work, especially in Skilled Nursing Facilities. Patients are left to experience the world outside their windows and engage with Nature. "There is a cat coming around to visit me and crying" or "I heard the most beautiful deer with big, sad eyes munching on some leaves right outside my window", they would explain. "God is angry with me. He made a big thunder storm last night."
Long after my partner was gone, (4 years), I sold our home, and downsized. I moved into an apartment just blocks from the house we shared for 11 years. It took awhile for me to become aware of the New rhythm. It would start early, 4 or 5 am. A Chihuahua snoring, a Labrador retriever grooming herself, the shower of the couple next door being turned on at 5:30, the slamming of the glass shower door as they entered. This was followed by the repetition of it once the shower ended, water turned off, knobs squeaking and they exited. A loud muffler of the white pick up truck in our complex's parking lot, an alarming bark of the terrier next door, Fluffy. Cars rushing on the street out front of the complex and an occasional motorcycle coming or going. Muffled conversations, the slamming of a steel security gate. The occasional cry of a stray cat and the day has begun....
There is comfort in these repetitive sounds, this "rhythm of Life," though we may not realize it. That is, until the soundtrack is erased and a new one is composed.
“Life is like a road trip. We may appreciate the smooth stretches, but the bumps in the road are what truly make the Journey memorable.” Susan Gale
It is dark, still, quite cold, 9 degrees and oh so quiet. There is a slice of moon pinned in the upper left hand corner of the sky. It reminds me of a Henri Rousseau, the French post-impressionist painter done in the Naïve or Primitive manner. I stare at the simplicity of natural beauty before me through the mud and sand streaked lines of my icy windshield. I sense they are symbolic of and mirror the lines that have settled upon my face, as I travel back to my origins, my true roots. Had I stayed in California just one more month, I would have lived in California longer than I did in New York. This was not intentional, it is serendipitous. Each passing rusted, billboard sign is plastered with a personal memory of mine as if to remind me of each lesson and life experience that I am bringing back with me and leaving behind, all at the same time. They are my growth chart, marked with pencil on the wall, to measure my Life's progress.
I stare at the reflective, silver desert floor as I make my descent down into Pumpernickel Valley. The isolated highway of dotted white lines is for my eyes only this morning. An unending, undulating, curly ribbon leading me home to my next chapter, my new life as a single New Yorker once again. I adjust and wiggle into the new/old title that has an added “skooch” more room for comfort, since the last time I wore it.
Cathartic experiences insert themselves into one's Journey at the oddest of times. I am listening to "Everything but the Girl" and have heard it hundreds of times, I'm sure. Each song however, has a brand, new meaning and perspective as if they had foreshadowed what was to come. Is it possible that my perspective and life view has changed that radically or am I just a completely different embryonic being now?! Maybe I never really listened to the words that carefully and just sang each one without really feeling or understanding them. Is it the loss that is feeding shovels full of coal into the raging fire of awareness, this new awakening? Clarity? Can everything REALLY feel this magical and senses SO heightened? Free of bills, life pressures and technology, this is a heavenly limbo. I am a soaring raven in this dense blackness.
The sound of ice crackling under my tires sounds unnerving at times. A shattered mirror of the past. It calls me back to the road.
Life IS never what you expect. Perhaps that IS the ironic beauty of it. Absurdity. Disillusionment.
I pull my journal from the handful of dress shirts that I stuffed in the back of my Toyota Rav 4, with the rest of the few items that I took with me from my 30 years in California. I will need them while seeking new employ. I had planned on shipping everything back initially, but as usual plans were changed on me by Universal circumstance. I have learned to become flexible, which is a good skill to have as we grow older. “What if I just left it all behind?” I thought. What if there had been a fire, tornado or earthquake and I had lost everything? How many times have I seen a solitary person on the news clasping a single photo to their chest among the ruins of what used to be their life?
QUESTION: How can a person fit 30 years of their life into the back of an SUV? ANSWER: They can’t.
What is most important in this Life, I have with me.
I do not need to wrap it in newspaper or bubble wrap. It doesn’t need to be put into a plastic bin for safe travel. I have a few mementos and keepsakes. Everything else, I have stored, in my heart and in my memory. While it initially was difficult to accept as an option and solution, ultimately it has set me free. Prisons can sometimes be beautiful, deceiving and aren’t all ugly, difficult or painful. The door has been flung open and shackles removed. I move effortlessly across this vast, beautiful, diverse land of possibilities. I may physically be in the state of Nevada, but I am already home…
I am an immigrant. I have arrived. It is official. I have made it through that long, dark tunnel of grief. I have made it home to the light, only to find a wall and imagined borders that were once open to me, now closed. I can smell the fresh air and the subtle fragrances of plants and the branches of the all-embracing trees and brush that surround me.Read More
The Holidays are always the hardest after you lose a loved one, with the first one being the toughest. When I lost my first partner Ali to AIDS in 1992-ish at the ripe old age of 30- something, in “The City of Angels” where I was residing at the time, (ironic, NO?) I knew that, spread out before me like an old chenille bed cover, lay a rough road ahead. I needed a plan if I was to survive the oncoming “storm” and quick. I saw the angry clouds gathering and approaching rapidly and felt the sudden drop in temperature.” This could get ugly,” I thought out loud to myself. Planning ANYTHING was a tall order at the time, as my brain felt like it had been thrown into a Westinghouse blender and turned on to the “juicing” cycle.Read More
The above quote is from my Dad’s mass card dated August 30, 2009. For many years, I often wondered when I went to a funeral, what people did with all those mass cards. I found out this evening as I was cleaning off the altar that I have set up in my home to remember and honor friends, family, ancestors and guides. It made me smile when I read it and in spite of the conflicts and disagreements that my Dad and I navigated through, during the time he was here, we has resolved it all prior to his transition. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with him before he died and he was open and willing to talk with me about some of “our challenges.” To say that we were at opposite ends of the spectrum in beliefs, viewpoints and lifestyles would not be a stretch. I sat pondering if these mementos of our “dearly beloved,” would continue on in the same way or be replaced perhaps by digital ones or something else that has not evolved completely yet. Maybe we will send them telepathically and no words will even need to be spoken. Everything is changing so rapidly and we have more and more options at the end of life as we evolve both spiritually and environmentally. I lit a candle, and some of my favorite nag champa incense. I poured two glasses of Seagram’s 7 American blended whiskey seven crown for my two ancestral guides who had requested it. I greeted and thanked them for their unconditional love, service and unwavering guidance and set the bottle back under the altar. “The more things change the more things stay the same,” I said aloud as the two bulging brown eyes at my feet watched my every move and bobbed his head up and down.Read More
“Love and Death are the great gifts that are given us, mostly they are passed on unopened.” R.M. Rilke, Translation by Joan Halifax
I was recently asked to speak about Grief and Your Health by Mark Sackett (http://www.MarkSackett.com) from The Art of Active Networking, (http://theartofactivenetworking.com)
where he had started the new San Francisco chapter of The Health and Wellness Network of Commerce(,http://www.meetup.com/San-Francisco-Health-and-Wellness-Network) which meets at his venue, The Box. http://www.theboxsf.com/
I am proud to say that I am a founding member and have been watching this vital Organization continue to grow and flourish. Currently the new President Rae Roth, is building upon its inception and welcoming all involved in the Healthcare industry to join us on this important mission at an extremely important time in the Healthcare industry as we face and address some major changes and issues.
This month of October, I have chosen to share the presentation that I did because of the impact that Grief has on all our lives and because of the misconceptions. I also have taken on this plight to make everyone aware of the depths of its impact on our lives. Everyone is different and each loss is different, I will grant you that, but it does not diminish the power that Grief holds, nor the capabilities of this often misunderstood process. I use myself as an example because I have been through it and experienced it in my own life. I have found myself in a position of not finding the support that I needed, to make it through or the understanding of what was going on emotionally and Spiritually, because of it. I have worked in Hospice and seen the pattern of families and relationships torn apart by the devastation and the unbearable pain of loss. I have witnessed the inability of our Culture to speak of and address the emotions that choke our words, numb our tongues, clog our tear ducts and tear our beating hearts out of our chests in a single swoop. I have experienced the judgement, impatience, misunderstanding and well-intended comments of those who have grown weary of the process and want nothing more for us than to “move on”, “be strong” and “get a new life.” Grief is not an exact Science, does not always fit into a pretty little box and is often messy. Yes, two or three years seems about the right amount of time to get over a loss, but there are so many variables and many different kinds of grief. Grief is also something that we continue to experience and live over and over again with lessening degree and in new ways until we are “healed.” Each new loss in our lives can trigger old losses, IF we have not dealt with them properly and thoroughly.
What is Grief? Grief is a reaction to death, divorce, illness, job or home loss, or any other major life changing experience.
7 Stages of Grief
1) Shock or disbelief
7) Acceptance/ Hope
Physical symptoms that occur in response to major loss are very similar to those of a post-traumatic stress disorder victim or those who have served in combat.
In many ways, major loss is as traumatic as being in a war zone. If you are one of the lucky ones, you get a week or two off from your job to deal with it.
What are some of the physical and emotional symptoms that we can expect from Grief?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Chest pain
- Breathing is too rapid or too shallow
- Dizzy spells
- Cold feet and hands
- Pale skin
- Dark circles under eyes
- Feeling detached from others
- Not caring if you live or die
- Being on “auto pilot”
- Emotional Numbness
- Loss of appetite
- Nervous eating
- Nightmares- especially those in which you relive the loss
- Frequent urination
Some of these symptoms could also signal serious physical illness. See your Doctor if you experience persistent symptoms, any kind of chest pain, or symptoms that are accompanied by fever, cough or vomiting.
* IF YOU EXPERIENCE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS OR IDEATION Or ARE THINKING ABOUT HARMING YOURSELF CALL 911
Be aware of what your weakest link in your Health Armor is. This is NOT a judgement. Where do you hold stress? Where do you have recurring physical problems? What are some of your emotional issues that arise when overwhelmed or stressed out? This is NOT a sign of weakness, this is just how some people’s symptoms reveal themselves. We are all different and one symptom is better or worse than another.
Be It Physical OR Emotional, some examples and many of which I have experienced myself, include: back, lungs, heart, stomach, knees, depression, anxiety, addictions, insomnia, claustrophobia, agoraphobia etc. There are plenty others specific to one’s own body. The good news is that these are temporary. Once we get through them we can just pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and move forward. Always have someone to confide in that you are comfortable with and that you trust with the most intimate of details.
THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP, IT IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH!
There are generally two ways that we as a Culture or Society Deal with Grief:
1) Keep busy
2) Withdraw or Isolate
Neither one is bad because they are both helpful. The solution is to find a delicate balance between the two.
People most often ask “Is this Normal ?”
There is NO Right or Wrong Way to Grieve. In The Game of life, your body keeps score. I call Grief, “life’s shrapnel.” It is always with us and becomes a part of us, just as shrapnel buried in the body and becomes encapsulated by tissue, cells and flesh.
What Can You Do To Get Through?
- Get out in Nature
- Eat Well and Exercise- even just daily walks help
- Express ALL of your emotions and feelings
- Prepare for Holidays and Anniversaries
Keep talking about it and continue to “speak their name out loud.” This keeps them close to you and they also like it!
It was only months ago that my mentor suggested that I start writing a monthly blog and I was immediately thrown into a state of anxiety and fear at her suggestion. I chuckle to myself now, as I stand (sit actually) here taking on this huge question that theologians and philosophers alike have tried to unravel, understand and explain over the centuries. I have read many theories, explanations and opinions on the subject and always felt that I liked mine better. Maybe it is because we all have our own theories and they suit us and our time here on this earthly plain. Maybe my theory and explanation will change at the end of my Journey when I am preparing for my own transition. While time has absolutely no relevance on the other side, here on this plain, it is an opportunity to acquire both experience and knowledge. Time will tell.Read More
I am not sure if it is the same for everyone or not but, for me, each month of the year has a certain feel or personality to it. Usually defined by the memories, holidays or events taking place during that particular month. I believe that they have remained fairly consistent for me throughout my life, in that they haven’t changed much how they feel, in spite of the memories and life events that may have occurred. Perhaps they are formed early on, as it has been claimed, and they become the foundation on which all else is built.Read More