Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

A grieving mama and her spicy monkey

It's a rare occasion when I admire a celebrity.

Today is one of those days.  Pop star Taylor Swift wrote a beautiful song for our beloved Maya Thompson's spicy monkey, Ronan Sean, called "Ronan." The song is absolutely breathtaking. And not every celebrity is courageous enough to talk about the death of a baby or young child. Simply, it's a topic that most will avoid...

Maya is the same grieving mother I wrote about back in March when my rant about the DSM went viral. Since Ronan's death, Maya has endured 16 months of agony, and has put her grief into action helping to build an infrastructure that will fight neuroblastoma and provide grief support to families in the process of this nightmare.

All the proceeds go toward helping families whose children have cancer. So, please, spend the $1.00 on iTunes and download the gorgeous song, Ronan, and help us to help families.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Six Feet, Three Girls, and Smiles

After working more than 90 hours last week, I decided to take a family day.  Stevie Jo agreed to drive down from NAU for a hike and some mother-daughter time.  She texted me last night.

SJ: Mom, I'm so excited! I made a new friend! She's from Hawaii. You're gonna love her.

Me:  That's great honey! You can certainly bring her with you to Sedona tomorrow!

SJ: I'm going to because she's never been outside Flagstaff! She had never even been outside Hawaii. Wait until she sees Sedona. Sunday I'm taking her to the Grand Canyon.

Me: She'll have so much fun! Can't wait to meet her.


StevieJo and Deann arrived this morning around 10:30.  We chatted for a few minutes, 

Me:  So how do you like it here?

Deann: Oh, it's incredible! It's like a painting!

Me:  Yes it is! Hawaii is just as beautiful.

Deann: Yes, but in different ways.

Me: I would imagine! Someday we'll go there!

Deann: You'd love it. The beaches are amazing.

Me: Are you a freshman this year?

Deann: Yes, I just turned 18 and I've never left Hawaii.

Me: That's what StevieJo said! Are you scared about being here?

Deann: A little. I was really homesick the first few days, but I'm feeling better now...

and then they went onto the deck with Josh while I made them some drinks.

I looked out the kitchen window and saw them sitting there at the table. They were talking, giggling, and full-on laughing. I smiled.

Then, it hit me.

Wait. What did she just say? I shook my head side to side as if doing so would cause my brain to repeat her words. Must've worked because with great clarity I heard it again: "I just turned 18."

Oh man.

I stood there and watched. Tears filled my eyes. Good, good, good tears. This is what it would look like.  I just watched and watched in awe. It was about as strange a feeling as I've had in a very long time. I'm not sure I can put it to words, so I won't try. But... it was magical.

Deann has a deep love for nature. She loves anthropology and animals. She is spiritual and engaging and her smile is illuminating.  She loves going barefoot (she said one day she'd try my crazy barefoot hiking with me). She loves hippies. She loves sea turtles (for Z) and owls. She even meditates.

And she loves hiking too. So, StevieJo, Deann, and I went for a hike.

Three girls, six feet, and a smile on my face and happy tears on the edge of dispersal for nearly two hours at the tiny glimpse into my alternate-wished-for-reality (yes, of course, that's me, barefooted).

We walked up to the vortex and sat. Just the three girls in order of age.

I could tell StevieJo was feeling it too.  And seeing them together warmed my heart in ways I could never have imagined. I was bathed in immense gratitude for this priceless moment tinged with a dollop of sadness.

But so appreciative.

We came home and played our ritual card game, Spoons, and Deann was wild and fun and loud. She fit right into the place at the table that should have been Chey's. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

I'm uncertain if this is some remuneration for the excruciatingly difficult summer, but this was one of the best days I've had in a very long time.

Thank you... thank you... thank you. Bowing in deep, profound gratitude.

I hope they are friends for a very, very long time.

Cherry Trees in Winter and Too Many Dead Children

Dear Cheyenne,
I haven't written to you publicly for several years. But, it's been a long hard summer.  And something about sending this out to the world feels right.

In many ways, this has been one of the hardest summers in almost a decade.

There are so many reasons why.

Your prom. Graduation. 18th birthday. College. Hit after hit. And then there are the families...

So many, many new families. Really, the past 18 months I've noticed a significant increase in the number of families who have come to us desperately seeking help.  I'm not even sure how we've managed to help so many. It feels a little like the loaf of bread that fed thousands.

Oh, how I wish this didn't happen. How I wish children didn't die. American children, Italian children, Romanian children, German children, Irish children, Latin children, Canadian children, African children, Asian children, Russian children, Australian children, Maori and New Zealander children, Native American children, Arabic children, Indian children, Greek children, Spanish children, Icelandic children, all the children of all the world...

We are all connected. Their children are mine, mine theirs. When one child dies, it affects us all, even through the generations. I know this now, Chey. You taught me this.

Still, there are so many things about child death that I don't understand. Some of the most beautiful families are faced with life's most incomprehensible loss.

A student asked me yesterday how I "handle all the stress" of working with grieving families.

I really believe that the answer to that is through my mindfulness practices. They help me to feel you and remind me that you are with me, you and I are the same. We are one. Remember the first time I hiked barefoot? I felt you with me then. The first time I meditated? Then, too. The kindnesses? All you, sweet girl.

It's taken lots of time (they call it "practice" for a reason) but I've learned to tolerate uncertainty even about the big, unanswerable questions. I've learned to lean into my suffering and the suffering of others. I've learned to willingly turn into the darkness when it calls, not fearlessly yet still with some degree of courage. I've learned that I can truly love strangers and not fear being overtaken by their grief. I've learned that their grief is my grief. I've learned that it is our connectedness and integration that can heal the world. I've learned that if I still my mind, I can hear you...

I know my feet are yours. That we walk together. That all the children who belong to all the families walk together.

And so yesterday I meditated on cherry trees blossoming in winter.

I still cry nearly every day, mostly for us all, and I'm thankful for that. I'm alive.  The beauty and the pain live together in the same house. They, too, are one.

I love you and miss you every second of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade.



The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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