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Archive for June, 2011

My Aunt Bobbie, my dad’s sister, in the photo above between my parents, passed away Monday morning. She, too, had dementia but didn’t live as long as my dad because her beloved husband passed away a few years ago and she could never find joy after losing him. Watching my aunt die of dementia was very sad but, as with my dad, the overall emotion is relief that she is no longer suffering. I can tell a lot of people don’t understand the part about feeling relief when someone has died. If you haven’t lost someone you love to the slow death of dementia, I imagine it’s hard to envision feeling relief. At the time of her passing, my aunt’s personality was so far removed from the woman she used to be it would have been cruel to wish her to live longer. Now she can be free. Now she can go and do whatever it is we do when we leave here. I’m not sure exactly what happens but I do believe we go to a place where all the good you can possibly imagine comes true.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we learn to say goodbye to someone who is dying. I’ve come to realize that the goodbye is my own internal process, my letting go. Everyday I am met with countless moments that offer me the practice of letting go. When I make a mistake, I have a choice: let my mind run over and over what I did causing me more pain or let go of the episode and not beat myself up about it. When I eat a lot of sugar, which puts me into a sugar coma, I can either ruminate over the fact that I’ve been struggling with this compulsion for most of my life or accept what I did, let it go and see what I can learn from it. Several years ago I made peace with being single after having had many, many years of pain and suffering because of it. Letting go of that allowed me to see that I am actually happy on my own. These days I am letting go of worrying about being about 20 lbs overweight. I find it brings me more peace to focus, instead, on how strong and healthy I am.

Perhaps these smaller acts of letting go help prepare me for the bigger ones, like saying goodbye to my dad and my aunt. Maybe my ease with letting go these days was made possible by the nonstop practicing I’ve had my entire adult life, working to break free from the worry and thoughts that have held me prisoner. Maybe every single day is a chance to apply the art of saying goodbye in lots of tiny ways.

Godspeed Aunt Bobbie. Tell my dad I miss him when you see him.

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I’ve been working at my new nursing job for two weeks now and I love it. I was hired to do start of care assessments for a home health agency but what I’m really doing is meeting angels disguised as humans. I’m falling in love with most of them and it’s reminding me that even a city like Miami, which is pushing all my internal buttons, is filled with lovely people and many opportunities to focus on love.

I drive to the homes of our clients which translates to being in traffic a lot of the time I’m in my car. My friend, Kimberly, says my car is a church on wheels because it’s been said that with enough prayers and intention, one person can effect the attitudes of many people around them. So, every time I get in my church on wheels, and right now it’s Gretchen, my mom’s Volkswagen beetle while she’s in Canada, I set my intention for safety and smooth traffic flow. Believe me when I say it’s a challenge for me to maintain a sense of peace while driving in Miami. I’ve lived in many places and traveled a lot but I’ve never quite experienced anything like Miami drivers. The drivers here make New York City, notorious for its aggression and insolence, seem like the calmest, kindest place on earth. I am pushed, daily, to find a different way to deal with the anger I so often feel when confronted with a city that seems, in my opinion, to be mired in hostility.

I heard something on the show Addicted to Food recently that goes something like this: in any situation you can either react from anger or respond from love. I think about that almost every single day now. My goal is to come from love in every situation. I am far from that becoming a reality but I practice it every day, a lot. Here’s an example: I was walking with my dog, Ellie, yesterday morning. I tie her leash around my waist when we walk and have to keep focused in case something spooks her or she heads in front of me because I could end up eating the sidewalk like we did the first day we tried this. So, we’re walking and a man on a stand up lawnmower is coming toward us mowing the grass next to the sidewalk. Often, folks doing yard work will stop when I walk by, which I am grateful for. The noise of the mowers and blowers is loud and can send rocks flying and I always say thank you when they stop. This particular man did not pause or move over and Ellie jumped when we passed him, almost pulling me down. I instantly felt anger flare up. I walked past the man then turned around and got his attention and said “Señor, my dog got very scared,” I don’t know if he understood my English, but his hand flew to his heart and he knew what I meant. I could see by the look on his face that he was sorry and probably just hadn’t been paying attention. I moved toward him, grabbed his hand and said “Gracias Señor.” The interaction started with anger but ended with love. The whole thing took about a minute but I walked away filled with compassion and tenderness for a man who had put his hand to his heart when he realized what he’d done. I instantly forgave him. That’s what I mean by angels disguised as humans; like in my job, each person I meet these days seems to be an opportunity for me to practice responding from love. Will I do it each time? Probably not. Is it still my goal? You bet.

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