Tag Archives: death

Anchor’s away.

or Aweigh, as it’s correctly spelled…

  
My Elder, who has been my anchor, is away.

But this time, it’s away away.

  
Brilliant, sweet, & at times a grump, my Elder-friend exhaled his last breath this past Saturday.

And a week prior, the Good Puppy, and full-on Ancient (he was 14 years old…) Bentley also exhaled his last breath

  

I’ll try to write more soon


Reflecting a bit about My Elder/s.

I remember the first day I worked for my Elders

  
– though I didn’t call them that then.

It was November 2009

  
And I remember feeling nervous.

  
Nervous that they wouldn’t like the lunch I had made…

Nervous that we wouldn’t find things to talk about…

  
Nervous that I wouldn’t be smart enough to hold a conversation with them…

I had met them in the Spring of 2008 while working on a landscape gardening crew – and we tended their beautiful perennial garden.

  
It’s funny to reflect on that nervousness now, because over time… week after week after week, their lives became a huge part of my life.

  
There was a kind of braiding together

Nervousness gave way to a sense of ease

They became my anchor.

  
Through changing homes, relationships, and a variety of other part-time jobs… They were my one steadiness.

  
I came to love them & their dog

They came to know me & my quirks

Their home became familiar territory

  
And as I look through the rooms

I’m reminded of them, of conversations, the many meals, hugs, mannerisms & habits I had the honor to witness & be a part of for the past almost 6 years.

   
 “Would you like some black pepper?” I asked, lifting the pepper grinder

& was told early-on “fresh ground black pepper”

And so, at lunch, went the question: would you like some FRESH GROUND black pepper?

Nearly always, the reply was YES

  

Markers of time, reminders are everywhere 

His chair where he sat

Her chair where she sat

The clock with large numbers, easier to read, marks the time after his surgery

  
A stuffed toy left on the floor, a moose chew toy belonging to Bentley, the ancient puppy

Pinching salt in a dish

The ubiquitous box of Kleenex 

  
Wedding invitations from a grandchild

A pile of letters from another grandchild

Well-worn sweatshirts (which I feel compelled to wear, though I stop myself…) 

  
There are numerous photos, the smell of cigars & cinnamon, and long-lived plants (a few which have stories told about them) like this Hoya now after 19 years, in bloom…

  
For this past week, my elder was home, surrounded by family, lovingly tended to, & there was only breathing…

  
And though I have no sense of what it was like for him during that time 

(He stopped speaking at that point)

It was an honor to simply be with him 

  
A sacred time

  A slow unbraiding

Even now, sitting here, pausing now & again to look around & really take in the surroundings, a swirl from past moments floods my mind

& then coming present, that sense of honor… What an honor it is to have gotten to be in these dear people’s lives over time

  
We got to really know each other.

“We’re such lucky, lucky people” she would say.

  
There will likely be other posts reflecting on them, & my time working for them…

It’s all kinda fresh, still.


Wave of grief

Death comes as a surprise sometimes
And something is felt in the heart

What is it?

Is it the connection that seems to live there like thin, strong layers of Braille embedded in the tissue…?

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What is it?

This tenderness…?

For the close-ones left “behind” here on Earth…
My heart and mind seems to turn towards them

And reflecting on how my life has been braided up, & impacted in countless ways by a family…

And reflecting on this man who is no longer embodied
A very kind, and generous man

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How his activities in this world have touched the lives of so many
Near and far
Impacting this region of the Northeast…

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Recently, someone commented on how they saw my thinking about death as something which sort of colors my life.
I don’t think it was meant as a positive noticing.
But keeping death in mind had me call the person & his wife now and again
To check in, throughout the year
To let them know I was thinking of them
To find out how his treatment was going
To let them know how grateful I am for the times we’ve shared together, and how they positively impacted my life.

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Life & death are inseparable.
Keeping death in mind, for me, supports me reaching outside of myself, stretching…
That is, it helps this often-fearful being find courage
A kind of motivator.

Because death and love go hand in hand in my mind
Or, as a friend said to me a while back,
Love and grief walk hand in hand…
Because if you love someone or something, there is the awareness of the tenuousness of life, and things do change, and death will come, and with that – grief.

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Intellectually I know things are constantly changing
But emotionally, when things DO change, there is an impact

Today
I’m watching grief come and go in waves
Perhaps it has a sort of function
I don’t know.
I keep catching myself wondering when it’ll all pass & I’ll “feel better”

This is me rushing, again
The habit of trying to get away
Aversion.
And so I will continue to practice, albeit imperfectly, to stay.

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Time to sit.
May all beings be happy


Reminding myself, reflecting on change, & that word “forever”.

everything changes.

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Winter gives way to Spring

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Spring gives way to Summer

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Summer eases into Fall

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and so on.

every thing changes.

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simple, right?

obvious, right?

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but

but but but

there is still in me this *thing*

like an assumption

of forever

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which is a curious word

in and of itself.

forEverrrrR.

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(RIP Artemis)

this day has come

and it will go

each breath comes in, then goes

the people i love, this body i’m inhabiting, even the beliefs i hold about those i do not love…

everything changes.

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i watch how i live my life – and i see how i try to hold on to things

at times, so often, so graspy.

at times, now and again, with grace.

*sigh*

and just like that

things change.

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don’t get me wrong – i appreciate things that are built to last

older buildings being my favorite examples of such things…

or the telephone which sat on the table and was heavy and had the long curly cord attached to it…

people who are courageous, who vow to walk their lives together till death comes for one… signing up for that depth of future-grief.

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i guess it’s simply unsettling, still,

this sort of being-ness

like walking a fine line

which always feels like some being-in-between

and the dance of acceptance & effort is a delicate one

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i watch the longing – and then i try to practice settling in, or settling down – somewhere in the heart region.

the image that comes is leaning back, into a sort of low & very comfortable chair.

then my eyes, which are often quite alert & tense, relax.

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20 years ago this month, (a baffling thing to write) i moved to New York City to begin my formal studies of Shiatsu.

and for a while, i practiced… mostly part-time, and a stretch of years full-time after getting my NY state license to practice massage.

now i only practice every now and again

and find that i mostly enjoy offering it in a casual way – as needed.

“spot work” – and it has taken a long time to drop the judgement of not doing bodywork in that full-on professional way any longer.

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when i was 23 i thought i’d be practicing bodywork forever.

and at 34 at the farm i thought i’d be there forever.

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so as i look around now at my life

in this present day – there is the feeling of “forever”, and there is the awareness that this too will change.

Blessings on the day.

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breakfast is for the world of the living

i’m packing to move

and in a purse given to me by my grandmother long ago

my dear Yaya

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was a small silk pouch

holding three silver coins

given to me by my grandfather even a longer time ago

my dear Papa

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coins from the same year i was born.

and putting them into my hand

feeling their weight

their weight

weight is for the world of the living

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feeling their weight i thought of the practice of putting coins in the mouth of a person who had died

imagining these three coins in my mouth, perhaps, one day

i couldn’t remember where the practice comes from

or the symbolic gesture of coins in the mouth

sure, i could have paused, Googled the information

but i didn’t

kept packing

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packing is for the world of the living

as is breakfast

steaming, hot oatmeal

which now stands cold

in a bowl

after hearing the news the word

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news & words are for the world of the living

of my dear anchor, my friend, my Elder, my love

passing in the night

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tears & breakfast don’t go well together

if nothing else, i’ve learned this in my time alive here on the planet

and that is something, just to know that.

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full moon pulls in & out

birth & death – labors both

one, we are ushered in, labored in by another.

one, we have to labor ourselves, it seems.

a different sort of birth.

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with a mix of grief & joy with memories

sending blessings

to her family

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to the hearts of her family & friends

and to all worlds

for all beings everywhere.

sending Metta.

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we all know that things can change on a dime, but it’s easy to forget.

okay

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so i began to blog because i fell in love with someone last Winter.

someone who i loved in a way i didn’t really understand

in a way that called me to be a way i didn’t know i could be.

strange, easy connection.

but

it didn’t unfold in that capital R relationship-y way

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we were, and are friends

and i’m happy for him that he’s found someone with whom there seems to be a quite wonderful connection between the two of them

this is the best of things.

so

i began to blog.

because i had stopped farming

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and this relationship-connection where sharing occurred was no longer there…

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and

because i felt i had to do something

the energy had to go somewhere

so

i began to blog.

not because i think i have “something to say”

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it came more out of a sort of need

to share.

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i don’t write much about relationship (or Relationship)

but find that i think about relationships a lot.

not just in that “longing” way, but just thinking about it.

i’m in relationship with everyone

and everything.

all the time.

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today

i feel sad, grief i didn’t expect to feel

upon seeing images of a beloved teacher who just passed away.

someone who was very warm, very present, and very kind.

and even though we didn’t share a lot of time out side of the school

there is something in me that feels a great grief in knowing that she’s not embodied any more…

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i’d often drive by her house, & every time i would think fondly of her

even though i had only been there once.

i knew it was her house, her home

and memory is a funny and wonderful thing

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i feel lucky, fortunate, to have shared some time with this very kind, earthy, strong woman.

and i guess it just brings home

that this time we are here is very short

and we all know that things can change on a dime

and

well

the truth of that kinda freaks me out, and i’m feeling it today.

feeling a kind of achy love feeling inside

for the people & critters in my life today…

thinking of her family, and those close with her…

feeling the web of connection today…

blessings.

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how to alienate oneself – thoughts about death and Oni.

or rather,

how i worry that i’ll alienate myself for speaking one of a thousand opinions…

(so many opinions…)

(so little diplomacy…)

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today

the creature with whom i felt most close with

died 7 years ago today

his name was/is Oni.

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this is a photo of Oni doing his welcome-home-flomp-&-roll-in-the-sand-thing back when we lived in the Mojave desert.

must have been around 2004.

so

i see posts

on Facebook where people write that this or that person who was incredibly dear to them “would have been” such and such an age if he or she hadn’t died.

and i guess i just can’t relate to that.

i’ve never thought like that and i can’t quite wrap my mind around it.

it feels like a dis-honoring in some way.

Oni lived for 10 1/2 years.

he was indeed my best friend

but never once have i thought of how old he could have been.

because he lived his life.  and then he died.

and wow it was a life-changer.

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today

is his yortzeit, the anniversary of the day he died back in 2006.

i’m so glad he was around that first year back in Ithaca…

a chance to live life on a farm – lush & green & barns to explore & voles to hunt…

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(view from the inside of the barn looking out)

i dunno

to me is seems like a disregarding of a life to project it into the future – like a torture of some kind.

(i know plenty about mental torture)

i dunno

i don’t feel ready to die yet, but that’s the trajectory when we come to this place…

welcome!  happy birthday!  now you are heading towards death!

it’s just the natural course of things.

and for some reason, it erks me whenever i see the “they would have been such and such an age” (had they not died)

but they DID

and that is part of a LIFE

and maybe i just wish people would say

o i miss them so & this is what i love/d about them…

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it’s like there’s this inherent, subtle meanness – some sub subtext of “this is not okay” or “it would have been better this way”

which seems like a dis-honoring to me.

as if to say

just how this life was

was not enough

or not okay

just as it was.

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(sigh)

i am interested

in honoring the arc of a life.

i suppose i might sound cold, heartless.

i suppose i’m not taking the time to explain or express the sort of connection that there was/is with Oni.

but that’s for another time.

(and for when i upload photos and drawings onto the computer…)

for now

it’s an opinion

about life

and honoring ones life

and death

and how that’s a part of ones life

in all its honor.

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Thinking about Yaya today

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an offering.

a blessing.

a year ago today

this was the last day of my Yaya’s life.

i’ve been thinking of her all through this day.

this is the first time i’ve let the feelings get closer…

she was a very private person.

i find a crouching wondering worry –

“will this upset her to write about her…?”

i want to be respectful…

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i used to love looking at and holding her hands.

she didn’t understand why – she never liked her hands.

i never understood why.

her spirit was embodied for 92 years

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i miss her voice, being able to kiss the soft skin of her beautiful face, the sound of her laughing…

i’m glad that these memories still live in my mind enough that i can visit them.

i wish i knew about her life better

she started a number of businesses

designed interior spaces

had many friends

she was generous

“o my lands!” she’d exclaim when telling her something she found outrageous

Sunday was our talk day when i went away to college

and write letters to each other.

when i moved to California, we’d catch up on Wednesdays and Sundays.

we’d talk at least once a week until about a year and a half before she died.

with her memory in a state that was named dementia, and then Alzheimer’s,

words didn’t come so easy

and it was hard for me to know if she wanted to be on the phone.

i’d go be with her when i visited home – once a year at the very least.

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there are two messages saved on my cell phone

from 2006 and 2007

i listen to them sometimes just to hear her voice.

(and save them and save them and save them…)

she didn’t know she was beautiful

which is baffling to me.

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blessings

on her life


Digging a grave for Spritey

i got a call yesterday from my friend Sara

which normally wouldn’t be a big deal, nothing to write about

but the call came in the middle of the day – Saturday.

Saturday she’s usually working at the farmer’s market

she doesn’t have a cell phone and the call came from her home

so i knew something was up.

turned out that Spritey, one of her 4 horses, had died.

she was calling friends to help dig Spritey’s grave.

i wasn’t able to go yesterday but went today.

brought apple spice muffins & a shovel.

it was cold today, snowing some, & grey.

“a perfect day for a funeral” she said as we walked back to the house to make lunch

Spritey was 3/4 Belgian Clydesdale and 1/4 light horse.

a chestnut beauty with a calm disposition

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this is Connor & Spritey scratching each other in tandem with their teeth back in 2011

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we hacked & dug into the earth with pickaxes & shovels

the soil was hard

clay, stones

it was slow going work

people would come and go

working in the deepening pit

just near an apple tree

asking to take a turn as the cold settled in just standing there talking with the others

three was a manageable number of bodies that seemed to work safely in the 11′ x 8′ grave site

someone remarked how “this was the way ALL cellars were once dug…”

reflections on chain gangs, prisoners, slaves doing this sort of heavy labor…

talk of death, dying, living, life…

sharing ideas and experiences around beings we’ve loved who are no longer embodied.

as the other three horses stood nearby

sometimes watching, sometimes eating hay

Claire, the main mare – and Sara’s best friend for 27 years – got into the apple basket…

a mix of sweet and sorrow

people came to help yesterday, and today

a community net of friends supporting

the flock of wild turkeys that hang around walked by

a murder of crows – easily over a hundred – and one raven flew overhead

i have no tidy way of ending this post

i just wanted to try to share some of the beauty & poignancy of the day

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this is Sara working with Claire & Connor in 2011.

Sara is an amazing person – i love how deeply she appreciates friends and community

how she recognizes our connections and the interdependency of things…

the truth of the world.


ramblings about a day

you never know what a day will bring

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it can start with an unsettling dream

that sticks like muffin batter on a finger through the morning

only to burn off like a fog

some clarity comes with movement and purpose

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then to be met by news of cancer and more cancer at work

with no one to tell (which is all fine and good)

i suppose it’s a chance to practice holding such things… and being with them.

sometimes, though, i don’t really know how to do it

is this the right way?  am i doing it okay?

i have no idea.

the day unfolds

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out in the world, connecting with vendors, some friendly, some neutral

avoiding drivers who seem to not know what a stop sign is

the lift of a song on the radio

and after work sitting with a friend

who is in her early sixties – a lovely woman who practices massage and creates healing tinctures with medicinal mushrooms and plants

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with her ancient cat on my lap we talk and reconnect

i hear her speak about age and time and clarifying, simplifying her garden

“potatoes are too much work.  next year i’m planting BEETS!”  she says with a sort of triumphant surity

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i applaud and respect this gentle honoring of her own body, and it’s changing limits

as i have noticed my own body shifting and changing

its needs differ from 10 years ago

i can work with it, or against it

either way, the body will win

so i may as well follow its lead

she said to me early on in our visit

that she thought i seemed more clear, like my boundaries were more intact.

it was a high compliment.

“i’ve been saying “no” more”

and she smiled and nodded and understood

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this is a brave woman

living her life

with her dog and her cat

helping people and their children through loving attention and skilled touch

sharing the medicine of the plant world

soon she’ll be leaving for India…

with much gratitude i feel at the moment for this friendly acquaintance.

it was nice to be heard, telling her about how sometimes it’s sort of unnerving to never know what i’ll be met with in a day

she has worked with elders before

so she understood

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i guess i’ve thought about death for most of my life

not to be grim

but the awareness of it is always nearby

not that i’ve been skillful in this awareness…

rambling… rambling…