Category Archives: Death

As The Seasons Change

As I sit here and hold your pale hand, weakened from the years, I am too aware how paper thin your skin is

I try to amuse you with stories and questions, a ramble of triviality and I see a glaze come over your eyes

You are looking at him, at your wedding photo and I know that in your heart you are there

The love that you shared is still wholesome and fresh, you’d give anything for him to be here

For him to see how your family has grown, grandchildren succeeding in a variety of things and oh! all the great-grandies!

You just know he’d be proud and you’ve felt blessed to have witnessed, but now you keenly feel his absence

You are nearing your time, it can be seen in your eyes by any who choose to look closely

The discomfort and frailty have seen pride and dignity start to slip out the door, it’s not what you signed up for

As I sit quietly by you a new life moves inside and I almost embarrass us both with my tears

I watch as you prepare to join the love of your life while a new force awakens, readying themselves to begin

And this is the blunt force of the circle of life, I am powerless in the face of it

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

My beautiful nan passed away tonight, two days after I wrote this. May she rest in peace with her soul mate, my dearly missed papa <3

From grief and sorrow to loving rememberance

Our beautiful Sun Puppy Sheila left us on Monday. In the span of one single day we were placed in the gut wrenching position that anyone who has adopted a furry family member dreads. After 12 months or so of occasional illness, increasing weakness in her hind legs, and a kidney lesion which caused incontinence that clearly upset her, our baby girl fell very ill, very quickly. We thought we were managing, we thought she had a couple of years left still. We were not ready for the responsibility that awaited and the questioning fear and guilt, the grief that would follow.

Our Sheila puppy was, as I am sure most beloved dogs are, such a happy soul. She had a waggy tail of destruction, she liked clean blankets, scratches behind the ear, spoony cuddles, family walks, sniffing and chasing the cat, squeezing between your legs for a super firm hug, gazing into your eyes, treats and pushing the envelope of routine.

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One of our first dates

Sheila would greet you at the door with her favourite toys, croc or the blue elephant- both squeaked or used to. If she forgot the toy she would trip over herself to remedy that and hastily go and fetch one to present to you! She cried and sooked to get your attention, to let you know she was hungry, to be let in or let out, to mourn her dads going to work each day, to say “I’m lonely can you get out of bed now” or to say “I’m bored just love me”. She only ever barked to alert us to people at the door or at other dogs (puppies included) and as she got older even that quieted down.

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Settling in on a girls night after lots of dancing in the kitchen

She was such an engaging and communicative puppy. Throughout her lifetime she remained a puppy, “Shelia puppy”. Her expressive eyes could even melt my heart when I had reached my tolerance for sooking and pacing with her clippy cloppy paws. She never listened, always pushed boundaries and she asserted her own routine and punished us with more whinging, then the most delightful forms of passive dominance if we dared not obey. Her favourite form of passive dominance was to put her head on your lap and gaze up into your eyes, or push her head under your hand. I worked hard to give her affection on my own volition so that I felt it was because I wanted to give it freely rather than being instructed. Now I don’t see why it was such a big deal.

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Hugging her blue elephant

It has been easy to feel like we failed our baby girl, our Sheila puppy. The heartbreak of making the decision to “end her suffering” seems so disconnected to the days preceding because it was so very sudden. Our girl was our girl. Getting older, grayer around the muzzle but still happy and loving and well, behaving like a puppy albeit more gently and less frequently. We forget that she has been on incontinence medication that were not always effective and that she found it very distressing to wet her bed. We forget that she was incontinent because of a lesion on her kidney that the vet had gently counselled us that she was an old dog and our focus of care was to keep her comfortable. We forget that she had arthritis in her hips and knees and her hind legs were coming out from under her every day and getting out of bed was increasingly effortful. We forget that she was so very very unwell and there was no guarantees about her recovery and her subsequent quality of life.

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A rare still moment on a walk, she liked to keep moving and I enjoyed quiet contemplation

The hardest part in all of this is that you are left with silence. Because of that you question. Did we show her enough love? Did we do the right thing by her? And oh god how we miss her. We miss the morning greetings, the constant companionship and her “checking in” as I worked from home, the cacophony of noise when we arrived home at the end of the day “oh my gosh! You’re home! I’m so glad you’re home, I missed you terribly! Here have a toy, by the way I have NEVER EVER EATEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE AND I AM STARVING!”, the quiet way she would put herself to bed when she was tired, the kisses on her soft soft head, the way she leaned into your hand when you gave her ear scratches and licked the air when you scratched the base of her tail, her nose in your ear by surprise attack when you were laying on the couch, her daily sun baths, and her cheeky garden hollows where she like to sleep all cocooned up, the way she liked to be held. We did love our girl, beyond a shadow of a doubt she felt that love. In her final hours the only thing she lifted her head for was to watch her dad or I move from her and then back to her. But the trauma of her passing overshadows, for now, the loving way in which we got to farewell her- at home, in her own bed, with family, tight in our arms.

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She loved her toys and this walled bed- it was all about the embrace 🙂

Our pain now must come not from guilt about our impossible choices. She passed painlessly enveloped in love. Our pain must be simply our loss and grief for a very dear member of our little family. Her absence is strikingly loud for its silence. We miss her dearly. I think that the fact we wonder if we did enough, loved her enough, cared enough probably means that we did do exactly enough. She was our baby girl and she lived her life surrounded by love. You enriched our lives and filled our hearts and you shall forever have a place in them. Rest in peace our beautiful Sheila Puppy.

Snuggles with dad from a happier time
Snuggles with dad from a happier time

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”  – Hilary Stanton Zunin

If I died tomorrow

If I died tomorrow, would you want to part like this?

Would you be happy with the words we shared? Is there anything you’d miss?

Is there something that you wish you’d said? Or that you never did?

Is there something that if you could take back, you’d do it to part in bliss?

If there’s anything you think you’d regret, should this life pass too soon… take a breath and retrieve it now, before mourning, guilt and loss barrage you.

Whilst I think I’m here a while, we can’t know for sure that’s true.

We must take the chance to vocalise the kind things and leave out the rougher hues.

Speak the things that trouble you then let them go, so that you can live a life of peace and let your true love show.

That way you’ll have no regrets should life take me too soon and you’ll be able to remember us with the love that has shone through.

No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. ~Euripides

Darkest Before Dawn

For some time now I have been haunted in the evenings, in the quiet spaces of the night, by the inescapable truth that we are fleeting. Dread washes over me and only my physical body’s wisdom can break through the fear. With conscious breath and a firm connection to the weight of my body on my feet or on the bed I can calm myself. But every night I do the same.

My fear of death, not just mine but yours and the critters we share this world with, has been a very strong experience that has shadowed the vast majority of years of my life. It started when I was a child, I would become so scared about inevitable nothingness that I would not know what to do. My dad’s heartbeat always helped but as you get older that’s not so accessible, practical or portable. Sometimes it would bubble up only once every little while, mildly so that I could easily let it pass. A year ago it was as bad as distressing panic attacks that made it impossible to hide from my beloved. At that time it would bubble up during work. Sitting in the lunch room eating, I would school my features to hide the saturation of fear from the people sharing the room as they talked about light every-day stuff. The truth is not that I have this fear. I have always known it. The truth is that I know how to alleviate it.

I understand that this is not a welcome topic in many circles. Who wants to sit with the discomfort thinking about your mortality creates?  If we broaden our scope outside of Western culture what will we find?  Death is removed from our reality with our “it won’t happen to me” attitudes and societal expectation that when someone you love passes you get over it “quick march” while the world cruelly pushes on. Once upon a time our dead stayed in our homes for weeks before burial. Nowadays our loved ones are whisked away, we might see them briefly but in a blur of ceremony they are truly gone. It never occurs to us that we might lose them, or that we ourselves are not going to be here forever.

Some of the happiest and most peaceful people in the world are aware every moment that the next might be their last. They make peace with the angel of death and make compassion their modus operandi. I am of course referring to buddhists and the toltec. I am sure there are many others, but these come to the forefront of my mind. Traditions such as these give thanks for the presence of life, they work at not letting the world humans have created get them down, and they treat each creature with kindness, recognising that we all share the same fate.

How does this help me with my scary-arsed panic attacks? There is a magic in this world and when I am able to see and hear it, I do not suffer. And I suppose in truth this is where work, as I have previously discussed it, plays it’s part. When I am constantly busy with no time to sit quietly, to observe the world and connect with it, then I do struggle. When I neglect my spirituality then I do suffer. When I fail to spend time around the people who matter most then I do struggle. It makes sense that these are the places I must look to reduce the impact of this shadow that has shared my journey thus far. If Tibetan monks can be so sure they won’t see tomorrow and yet be happy, I am sure it can be overcome.

I need to ensure I have a strong spiritual connection. Surely there are methods beyond measure to achieve this. For a person who believes in something greater, but not the man-made doctrines that make so many cultures spin, I will begin in nature and in being present.  I am reading a book (because that’s how I roll) on shamanism to help me be present in this moment. I want to always be able to feel connected with the energies of nature and to know where my own are going. I have started a garden in my new house because having natural colour and birds around is important to me.  I’m going to light more candles, burn more incense, go for nature hikes. I am going to lay on the beach facing the sky and let the heat of the sun light up every cell in my body, starting with the ones behind my eyelids that glow red when my face is directed at the sun.

To further connect with my spirit I am going to make more time to spend quality moments with my loved ones. It is the connections that we make, the ways we love, contribute and connect that make us who we are. Our loved ones are our community, they are the people we were born to, choose to spend time with, met in a fleeting moment and recognised from another place we can’t put words to. The people with whom we feel that everything makes sense. They are our training ground, our play yard, our reward for all that we express in the world. Knowing them, being connected to them, contributing to their lives and opening our lives to them makes everyhing worthwhile.

I am going to be grateful every day for the small and great things in my life. I am going to look for ways that I can be helpful. I am going to hold compassion as my first attitude whether it be for another human being or other creature because we are all the same. I am going to hold myself lightly and respond to the demands of life with curiosity before stress and anxiety. We each have the right to live well, to be ourselves, to not be persecuted nor persecute ourselves. We live, we die, we can’t take our gadgets or our wealth with us. We can leave a loving legacy. I am going to live each day as if it was my last chance to contribute something good, be that a smile to a sad passerby, an extra warm hug for a loved one, or taking a risk to make a big difference.

My journey right now is to make peace with death and the inevitability of dying so that I can truly live. Freely. Fully. With my whole being engaged in the cycle of death feeding life and life feeding death. I do not expect this to be a smooth or easy task, but it is a worthwihle one. I expect that each time a bubble of panic rises to close my throat it will be less intense and more brief than the last one. It is time to embrace the little deaths of change and be at peace with the greater. I will make the angel of death my friend and advisor so as to not waste a single moment.

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” ~John Muir

Don’t press delete

When we try to dig into the deeper parts of ourselves to lighten our being it is easy to go along the path of least resistance. Recently I have been on a journey to discover the root cause of apathy and a lack of drive. I had thought that it might have something to do with feeling unworthy of my work role, feeling as though somehow I am not good enough. Work takes up so much time in my life that it is easy to view it as being at the core of all that feels uncomfortable. It is not.

There is a space in each of us, filled with moments from our birth until now. Filled with experiences, good and bad whose echoes linger. We have fears that we try to quiet, hiding them even from ourselves. So when something needs clearing from our psyche, it will likely manifest itself in the place we consciously have to stretch the most. Where we spend the most time. Where we have the greatest responsibility. For me that is work. It was a natural process for me to think that was where the problem lie.

I would have been satisfied with that discovery and set-to on a pointless journey of trying to ramp up my enthusiasm for my job. Except that repeatedly I catch myself buzzing with excitement when I talk about my project and the work that I am doing. I grin like an idiot when someone asks me a question about work and I have to invite them to signal when they’ve had enough because I can go on and on and on! And self-efficacy? In the throws of responding to any work related demand there is only joy, curiosity and complete focus. And when I think of my perfect job, where I can make a difference in peoples lives, have a broad spectrum of tasks from hands on with participants to writing and analysis, travel and flexible work hours- this is it! I couldn’t see where I should start my repairs. I can see now that it is not my work, or my ability to carry it out, or the space in which I undertake it that is causing my unease. It has nothing to do with my work. My work is a blessing, it is a vehicle for me to express my soul’s purpose. My discontent runs much deeper than that.

My growing levels of stress and subsequent poor health is caused by a more permanent, unavoidable terror so I just stick my head in the sand and break into a cold sweat every night pretending like I’m not scared out of my mind. It was easy for me to claim that the thing I needed to express was a feeling of inadequacy at work. Simple. The ramifications of that are that you simply work harder and problem solved. No. That was too convenient. And this is difficult for me to write.

When I realised I was wrong about where I am getting stuck I wanted to delete my last post. It simply is not true, work has nothing to do with it. It is beyond simplistic to even have thought so. It is embarrassing and makes me wrinkle my nose at myself, how could I have let myself be drawn along that line of thinking? Well, I happen to know that it was because I was highly stressed and anxious recently about doing a presentation. I got stuck on it like I have never been stuck before, but that doesn’t mean that I am not good enough for this role, it means that was a difficult presentation and nothing more. It took a great deal of reflection on being vulnerable, being okay with sharing a journey honestly that stopped me from pressing that oh-so-easy to select button. After all, I did think that it was as simple as a crisis of confidence. I hoped, because I know what to do with that. But pressing delete was only going to deny that part of this journey.

Thinking, even for a short while, that work was the sole cause of my growing angst was important. I was able to explore what work means to me, what I want from it, how it contributes to my life in good ways and bad. It was this process of trying different ideas on for size, seeing what felt right, what really rang true, that I was able to figure out that I was sniffing at the wrong tree. Well, maybe I was just exploring at a too superficial level more so that at the wrong tree. I have been conflicted about work because it takes up so much of my life. A life that is so full of promise and adventure. There is much to experience and to learn here and I can’t help but feel that we have done ourselves a disservice by designing our culture around full time (and then some) employment. By celebrating over-workers and not having enough time for ourselves or our loved ones, the days merge together, seasons speed by and the years pass without notice. Suddenly we have spent a lifetime in busyness because that is what is expected and what do we have to show for it?

What scares me most is something we just don’t like to talk about. It stops me in my tracks and makes me question everything we value in our society. It leads me to think that we shouldn’t be spending our lives engaged in the slavery of full time employ. It causes me to wonder how our moral compass can be so offline in the face of it. Our culture avoids it. Popular media devalues it constantly. It makes people uncomfortable. We focus on accruing shiny objects and filling our lives with the newest gadgets, faster cars and bigger homes so that we don’t have to face it. The end of this life. Our mortality. The fragility of life is what most frightens me. And our lack of care for each other and our natural world compound it.

The truth that I must speak to myself. The empath I wrote about was totally right. There is a truth I must speak to myself and it has everything to do with the only thing that has ever really worried me. The truth is not that I have this fear. I have always known it. The truth is that I know how to alleviate it.

 

“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.” ~Zen Proverb