Thursday, May 26, 2016

For Thor - 50 - New Ink

The ink of my life, my purpose, my very understanding of anything, erased the moment you died. I became a blank page. The inner landscape rendered featureless and barren. All that I thought I knew had crumbled into rubble. The pathways once drawn with the ink of service, duty, relationships and even sense of self, simply vanished. In one shocking moment, the utter temporariness of this world was forcibly thrust upon me. Our lives are sandcastles on the edge of a rising tide, never meant to leave a lasting impression, only to be appreciated and shared for the short time we have to share them. The stories of our lives are written in the sand, too, they are not even ink or pencil, merely soft indentions in the plasma of manifestation. It lasts as long as we hold them in our thoughts.

Twenty-two weeks ago a rogue wave crashed upon the shore of my heart. It flattened everything. Every effort since then is centered around learning to cope and reconciling the experience of losing my beloved son with faith and love. Some moments are easier than others. Enjoyment and comfort seep in to shine a sunny warmth upon me as I heal. Some moments are excruciating in their rawness. I feel separated from you and everyone. The sea of grief rages and tosses me roughly. Nana gave me a magnet the other day. It says "You can't stop the waves from coming, but you can learn to surf!" What I never knew about learning to surf is that one spends a fair amount of time getting tumbled by waves and crashing into the shore. It takes practice. Learning to surf on this sea requires mindfulness and daring.

I am at once on the ocean and the shore. I am consciously rebuilding the landscape of my inner life. To do so with the full understanding that it may fall into nothingness in a nanosecond, takes courage. I am learning to draw new lines with new ink.

The lifelines I called upon in the earliest days of this horror have become new habits. Creative, spiritual and faith-driven exploration and expression are, once again, part of my daily being. I am softened and smoothed on the edges sinking with melty openness into life as it unfolds before me. Thoughts and emotions that inspire anger or frustration find there is less and less inside of me where they can thrive. In this space, I am aware of you, Thor. And I am aware of life. I plant my feet and tip my face toward the sun, and I draw new lines with new ink with each thought, step, smile, hug, touch, and ounce of effort. And you are so close these days.

A few weeks ago, I took the art for the new tattoo to an artist in Scottsville. After we had finalized the design for placement, we set an appointment. It's just as I said it would be; tribal-style totem animals represent our family. Dad is a snow leopard for silent, strong leadership and efficient use of energy. Chaz is a raven for the playful and creative use of language, and joyful, mystical understanding of the balance of light and dark. Xan is an otter for playfulness, loyalty, family, adventure, daring and fun. (Doesn't that sound about right?) And eagle represents me, for high-level vision allowing me to see the connectedness of all beings and the patterns that emerge as we interact. You, darling, are a beautiful buck for the generous kindness of your heart and your ability to love and befriend so many. Also for your sense of adventure and fun. The totems are framed with turquoise, coral, and silver. The coral represents the earth, the womb, birth and this manifest world. The turquoise represents the cosmos, the Creator, and the spirit world. They are held together in silver that represents purity and allows for the highest expression of each. This frame is shaped in an infinity symbol to represent the cyclical nature of birth and death. In the lower loop of the frame is the sun shining rays upon the world and in the upper half is the moon floating in the cosmos. In this way, our Earth is referenced in the scope of all that is. And so our whole family is rendered together, in one spot, right here on my arm.

As we prepared to etch these powerful, meaningful images into my skin, we did one more thing; We added your ashes to the ink. This simple act was intensely profound; it allowed me to reclaim you to myself as your mother. Your body was of my body from the very beginning, and now I carry these final pieces with me, under my skin, for the rest of my days.

Yes, I am drawing new lines with new ink, Thor. What they will ultimately reveal and where they may lead is yet to be seen. I only know that I am drawing them with love from an open heart, with you as my angel guide and with your dad and brothers, and all the family by my side.

I love you,

Monday, May 23, 2016

For Thor - 49 - In the Other Room

The rain continues to fall. The earth is plump. All the cracks are filled in. Seedlings gently push through dark humus to emerge into the fresh air, their potential unfurled, reaching out to greet each new day. The app on my phone says this is the last of the long rainy spell. Sun and heat will return tomorrow making this the last day in my weather-driven retreat. I am grateful for the extended time afforded to me; contemplation and processing take longer these days. There is more busyness, now. There is more to do that needs my attention. Then there is the whole notion of learning to be me in the new paradigm; the one where you have taken up residence in another realm and I have a new scar on my heart.

A few months ago a beautiful message came to us through a friend who can do these things. It was clearly a message from you, and it included a call to action for me and all of our family. You threw down the gauntlet, daring us to pick it up and accept the challenge; Be aware of our purpose here. We are meant to LOVE and share LIGHT unconditionally. Messages that come from the angels should never be taken lightly. And messages that come from my personal angel who was so very recently my flesh and blood son, well, you can bet I'm going to take that challenge.

I wasn't sure at first how to get this message shifted into action, and it was clear that the message was for the whole family. One day as I read and reread the message from you, I swear I heard you say "Medicine Wheel." I knew at once this was the answer, to call the women of the family together into the sacred circle handed down to us from our Native American ancestors. We would offer this query from our hearts and process it together through the lodges of a Medicine Wheel. Aunt Sumati and Nana and I had all participated in Medicine Wheel work in years past. In the tumultuous years of child-rearing and general survivalism the wisdom and power of The Wheel had been forgotten. To return to it now, with my heart smashed to smithereens, when we are all processing the deep, lasting, effect of your death, Thor, it's nothing short of perfect.

And so we convened and completed the work of the Wheel over seven weeks. The beauty, power, wisdom, honesty, humility, humor and bravery expressed by all the women as we moved step, by step, together, from lodge to lodge asking, How does it look to radiate LIGHT and love? We felt your presence there with us, my darling son. There are times when I can feel your wings wrap around me as you whisper into my ear so only my heart can hear, "I Love you, Mom. Keep doing the work. Stay open. Show up. I am right here, helping, every step of the way."

We came up with a plan that we all vowed to do our best to enact. No matter what happens with it, I know that my heart has grown softer, sweeter and more trusting as a result. They say, be the change you want to see in the world. At least, I know we are doing that much.

Another message came to us, too. Someone asked the revered Guru, Dada Vaswani, how a mother who suddenly lost a son could learn to live, again. Nana and Grandpa along with several others in the family were there to hear this in person, and they knew they had to share it with me. The answer to that question shot straight to my heart. He said that first we must understand the nature of death. No one ever dies. The living part of each of us is alive forever! All that changes is the form. When the form here changes, it's as if that soul only moves into another room. Then he quoted Jesus from the Book of John 14:2, "My Father's house has many mansions." So, you've slipped into the other room, eh?

Meditating on this over the past week or so has shifted the grief for me. When it shifted, my body had a visceral response; I got so sick. My stomach purged, and intestines flushed, I spiked a fever and had to go to bed. It was like preparing for labor. In the aftermath of that short, but intense physical clearing, I feel you, there, in the other room. I can reach out to you and sense your presence, much like I know your brothers are in their room when I am in mine, out of sight, but very much in my awareness.

When I watched the video of Dadaji, he told a story to illustrate his point. The fact that the story featured Sharada Devi, for whom Sri Gurudev named me, simply added to its power, personalizing it so pointedly. Sharada Devi was grieving over the death of her husband and was about to strike a hammer to break the ivory bangles on her wrists. A sign of mourning in India, at that time. As the story continued, I didn't hear Dada's voice any longer, I heard yours. "Sharada! Sharada! What are you doing? (her husband had manifested before her and asked as she was about to hit her bangles) I am alive! I have not died; I've only left the room!" You've only left the room.

I didn't want you to leave this room. Part of me yelled, "What was so wrong with this room that you couldn't stay?" But it's not that something was wrong. You just had to go. I don't know why, only that you did.

The story of the life you had here, in the form of Thor, my son, is over. That story was only nineteen years long. It was a good and beautiful story. Full of love and life and laughter. Full of friends and joy and heartache, too. Light shined brightly through those beautiful blue eyes, and your big heart moved you to care for so many people. The ending of a gorgeous story is what we mourn. Not having new memories to share is what we grieve. What I see now is that the story, your story, is continuing. Your time here with us was a chapter, not the whole book. I don't know when or where or how, but I know I'll see you again. We'll get another chance to dance in the kitchen and smile knowingly into each other's eyes. Our souls are connected, so we can always find each other.

Not too long ago in our history, when a person decided to move west, across the ocean or the plains, it was very likely they would never see their family again. The journey was so arduous and long made it a one-way trip. In my mind, you've gone pioneering, taking the point, scoping out the way and blazing a trail. You send us messages through many means to let us know that you are well and to help us to stay on the path of Light.

With love and an open heart,

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

For Thor - 48 - Keystone in the Valley

Time. Supposedly it heals all wounds. The jury is still out on this as far as I am concerned.

Tomorrow marks nineteen weeks since you died and while I could argue that I am better in some ways, the absolute reverse is also true. I lack clarity of purpose or even just sufficient reason to do anything, at all. And it's not depression that grips me in this lack of ambition and drive. It's indecision. I don't know how I want to reemerge into the world and what I can bring of value to share. Your death has triggered a fundamental shake-up of my entire priority scheme. Things that used to matter to me, well, they just don't anymore. This would be good if I'm talking about ridding myself of unwanted or useless habits and thoughts. But when I don't have the mojo to move back into a productive life, when nothing compels or intrigues me beyond strolling about in nature and writing prose or poetry, I have to wonder how I'll ever pay for my living again. How or when will I ever decide on a course and take those first declarative steps that return me to an engaged and serviceful life?

I am trying to stay open and tuned-in to hear the call from my heart, the call that connects me to the highest good and lays the path forward into conscious living. It's hard to know what I am hearing or seeing by way of a message to lead me back into Life when grief muffles my hearing and clouds my vision.

My life before you died was intense and densely populated with opportunity and vision and daring. I instigated and convened, innovated, argued and intrigued. I danced a wild dance with charismatic people in interesting places. But now, I look on that level of activity and shudder. Where was my heart in all of that? Who was I serving? Why was I running at such a pace? Was I happy? Did I cause harm? What the hell was I doing out so many nights? What did I miss that I wish I hadn't now?

I am standing on the precipice looking into that swirling eddy that is the remnants of my so-called life and, frankly, it scares me. The new me is at once too fragile for the rough-shod world and yet has no tolerance for bullshit and is willing to tell someone to stick it (in a most loving way, of course).

I still don't have much mental or emotional stamina. Four or five hours of work is all I can muster before I get a terrible headache or choking anxiety grips me. It's like the drain in the bottom of my pool of reserves is continuously open and no matter how much it rains, the pool will not fill. I carry grief with me like a two-ton stone tied around my neck. It is inescapable and threatens to drown, choke or crush me at any moment.

Right now the stone is terribly unwieldy. Juggling and balancing it makes me tired and exasperated. There is no comfortable way to move about with this burden. I have to learn to carry the weight gracefully since it is my new constant companion. This stone is chiseled with your name, birth and death dates, just as the truth of your death is now carved deeply into my life. There is no alternative to learning to bear this weight, unless I elect to stop living, that is. And I do want to live, with joy and dedication to usefulness and beauty. Perhaps time doesn't heal this wound, but will eventually allow me to set this Millstone of Grief in a new way. Perhaps I can learn to use it as a keystone in a new archway, the centerpiece of a new doorway into living. Repurposed into being a keystone, it not only lessens its weight but the weight of other burdens, as well. Something to think about, to use the weight of grief to leverage against life's many obstacles and travails would be a blessing, indeed.

As I explore the inner landscape in search of clues to where my heart may lead, I continually test the stability of the ground beneath new possibilities. Ideas arise, and I give them some attention, frame them up with language, set them sailing into the world through electronic mail, phone calls or personal conversations. So far, nothing has stuck. Nothing is singing and dancing on the horizon just begging me to come and DO THIS! So, I have picked a few things, modest things, to do that are designed to help me rebuild the muscle of my resolve. In some part of me, I am worried about energetic atrophy, that my mental and emotional bodies have not been working out enough in these practical and worldly ways, and that I may lose my ability to engage at all. Part of me is worried, yes. And part of me wonders if it's such a bad thing to melt so softly into the source of peace and just dwell there. Just BE there. Not DO-ing anything. Something else to think about, what's so important about doing anything if it doesn't bring love and light into the world?

Yesterday you regaled me with cardinals while Lady and I were out walking. And today a beautiful cardinal couple seems to have selected our cedar tree to be their home for the season. I have never been so happy to see a bird in my whole life as I was to see those cardinals today. I feel that you brought them my way as I contemplate the wide-open terrain before me. It is a gray day, again, a day that calls me to look inside and still in stillness. Which way will I go? What calls to me across the horizon to set course and take steps to travel there?

In the 23rd Psalm it says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, For thou art with me." Most people take heart in the "thou art with me" part of this psalm, I am drawn to the part that says "I walk through the valley." Walk through. Don't stop and set up camp. Definitely don't stop to build a cabin and hang fucking curtains. Keep walking, fear not. The cardinals and a million other signs are proof that you are with me, Thor. The Grace that showers upon me and my life is evidence that the Lord is with me. Maybe I don't have to worry at all about where I am going. I need to remain open, a vessel for love and light, walking, showing up when I can and being willing to share whatever is happening in each moment as it unfolds.

23rd Psalm (KJV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

For the faithful, and I consider myself to be full of faith, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Huh. This is where I learn to reconcile "What is GOODNESS?" "What is MERCY?" with the terrible fact of your death. Something else to ponder as time ticks on. Still not sure if it can ever heal this wound, or will at the very least see me learn to bear it.  I just have to keep walking, juggling, balancing, praying, crying, writing, loving and hoping, Thor. 

I love you,

Monday, May 9, 2016

For Thor - 47 - Nature's Cradle

Bittersweet. Again. Still. Always.

A sun-dappled trail leading into the greenwood beckons me.
Footfalls crush quietly into the echoes of last year's leaves,
A decaying contrast to the hopeful love songs
That fill the canopy above my head.

Toadstools tip their canty caps as I stroll past
A silent salute to life that arises from the dead.
A butterfly lightly kisses their spotted crowns with tiny feet,
And fans them with a kaleidoscopic breeze.

A delicate fern unfurls her tentative fronds
To taste the golden honeyed sun.
Her feet are rooted in a thousand seasons
Of earth's turning.

Life and death are one. It is plain, here in nature's cradle.

I recall a summer so long ago.
When you were small.
And innocent.
And alive with a spark of the primordial stars
that tethered you in the heavens.

Your star-child laughter filled the wood with a song called,
Youthful Jubilance!
And you let loose the rhythmic dance of one who
Is free to kiss the sky and sing with the eagles
In a clear stream, you splashed diamond drops of pure joy
That fell like crystals upon on the
Soft, dark earth.

Fresh water runs over rock,
Cajoling jagged edges,
Smoothing them with a patience that
Lives in eternity.
Bedecked in moss, the stone gives way
To that persistent flow.

An intrepid little creek, so very like the
Essence of my heart,
Pouring forth.
Where you dance still
With wild abandon. Perfect in love.

I cannot kiss your face, my love.
I cannot hold your hand.
I cannot see your eyes, my dear.
Nor hear you sing so grand.

I cannot whisper jokes to you,
And dance with you so spry.
For you have gone to earth, my love,
And left me here to cry.

Nature is where you reside, my love,
You're cloaked in leaf and loam
Here, in the wildwood
You are the hawk that soars so high,
You are the deer that roams.

I have only to lift my eyes to see
That the sun shines brightly, still.
You warmly kiss away my tears
And hug me in the wind.

The sun-dappled trail beckons me, Thor
To come, open my eyes and see
The beauty of the greenwood
And the love you have for me. 

I love you, 

Monday, May 2, 2016

For Thor - 46 - Mother's Day is Coming

First May - near Mother's Day 1997

I think there may be nothing sadder than a mom on Mother's Day, who's lost a child. This holiday once imbued with hope, love and appreciation, looms on the horizon still a week away and yet it already weighs on me. It is at once a concrete slab on my chest, a hole in my soul, a dagger in my heart. I'm thrown back to the agonizing pain of the first weeks after you died, Thor. That biting, deep, raw sorrow is here, again. The only difference is that time has passed and I've gained a tiny bit of perspective.

The first Mother's Day I celebrated was when I was still carrying you; Dad bought me a bright pink and yellow tie-dyed tee-shirt from the beach shop in Top Sail - a Mother's Day gift for the mom-to-be. I wore that shirt every day after, it seemed. It was roomy and lightweight. A good thing for a pregnant mom in the Virginia summer. The first time we marked this holiday after you were born was something truly unique. You and I were inseparable the first two years of your life. My sun rose and set in your cornflower-blue eyes, and I am pretty sure you felt the same way about me. I loved the way you insisted that I put you to bed and that no one else could do it. Even if I was tired and drained, you needed me, and I went to sing and cuddle you to sleep.

Tie-dyed shirt - my first Mother's Day gift for Mom-to-Be before you were born. 

I knew you so well. A thread of consciousness connected us from the very first moments. I knew what you thought like we were synched on a psychic level. Your mind mirrored mine. We reasoned the same. We saw the world the same way.

As you grew and learned to walk and talk, you and I had the most fantastic adventures and conversations. Sometimes we would explore outdoors and sometimes we would play in the house. You liked everything from Play-Doh to monster trucks. You loved to go fishing in Pap's pond with your Snoopy pole so we'd do that when the weather was fine. We went everywhere together, you and I - for years! We ran errands, did the grocery shopping, went to DMV and doctor's appointments. We had countless lunch dates at Wendy's or McDonalds. Early on, you grew to appreciate the vast array of music that I listened to; we'd jam to tunes, and you'd sing along from the car seat behind me. You loved living life, and it showed. Everywhere we went, you made friends with the checkout clerks, waiters, nurses, mechanics - anyone who took a second to look in your eyes was a goner.

I dug all the way to the bottom of the box of photos today and turned up the most precious memories of you and all of us who love you. The pictures of your and your three girl cousins are especially wonderful. It's no wonder you have an appreciation for strong women thanks to the fabulous females in your family. Picture after picture captures that heart-light of yours shining brightly through your eyes and in your smile. You were a sweet, smart, precocious, beautiful young lad. You grew into an intelligent, witty, charming and extraordinarily handsome young man. My gosh, Thor, I've been so proud of you so many times it's hard to remember them all. I like that I am proud of you for the little, thoughtful things you did, too, like texting your Pap and swinging round to visit Nana and Grandpa or helping a neighbor stack her firewood or hanging out with a friend who was feeling low. Your beautiful, caring heart shined through to light up so many lives. But mine was the first.

Play-Doh fun with mom and Nana

Beautiful, happy baby!

Checking out the Harleys, cuz why not?

The girl cousins - now we know why there is so much Shania Twain in your playlist!

Amusement Park fun...or not?

Going fishing!

I just love this one! What a sweet smile!

Ice cream and a carousel - what's not to smile about!

When you were born, I was transformed instantly into a new person. I became a mom which was a role I had started to think I would never play in this life. You, your birth, did that to me. Your precious brothers came later, and they each have my whole heart, just as you do. But you will always be the first one to light up the part of me that is a mom, the first to captivate me so.

Mother's Day is coming. There is so much to be grateful for, Thor. Your brothers are here, healthy and hale. I see them every day, living their lives, making choices and continuing the journey into manhood. It brings me joy to see them growing into themselves, just like I enjoyed watching you step into your life. But it's hard to stay grateful when sorrow is so ingrained. Moms must be a little bit greedy when it comes to our kids. We want it all. We want it to last forever. We never, ever want to see it end. Our plan is to leave before you so that we don't have to stick around and see the end of your life. That's the way it's supposed to be, you know. Not like this. This is screwed up.

One time we went shopping for some new clothes a few years back, I think you had just turned sixteen. We found the perfect shirt and tie to complement your date's dress for one of the many dances you attended. I don't think you missed a single one after 8th grade! Anyhow, as we came to the checkout counter, we passed the jewelry displays. There, in the middle of a case of men's chains, was THE chain. You pointed it out to me saying that was the one you wanted. I nearly died when I saw it was $600. But there was a 50% off sale going on and I had an additional 30% off coupon…so I said yes and bought that chain for you. There are many times when I know you were jubilant in life, and a few times when I thought you were ecstatic. This was an ecstatic moment. I don't think your feet hit the floor for weeks. Getting that chain did something, too. It's like you grew up overnight, going from young teen to late teen. The foreshadowing of the man you would be became more defined with the simple donning of a necklace. It was as if I gave you my blessing to take the next steps to being a man when I clasped that chain around your neck. As far as I knew you hardly (if ever) took it off and took great care to keep it safe. This impressed me since I'd seen you lose boots, jeans, jackets, fishing gear, camping gear and a whole host of tools over the years. The fact that you had never lost that chain said a lot. I wear it now. Before the casket closed over you and I laid eyes on your sweet face for the last time, we took the chain from your neck, and Dad clasped it around mine. It hasn't come off since, and it won't.

I have mixed emotions about the time we bought your truck. Seeing as it is the chariot that you drove to your new destination in the angelic realms, I kinda hate that fucking Chevy. But then again, it was your pride and joy, so I can only be so upset with it. It was a good day when we got it. What a blessing to be able to buy that truck with you. When we picked it up (another ecstatic moment), you were so excited and sweet. You couldn't wait to get in that truck and go show it off to your friends. I think you grew a foot in height the second you slid behind the wheel. But there was more than just excitement; I could see in your eyes how much it meant to you that we were able to help you get you the truck you wanted. You were grateful, none of that entitled affliction that so many young people have these days. Once again, I watched you turn another corner, and you took a few more steps toward your independence and living your life as a grown man. It was a privilege to be able to help you out in the transitions, sweetie. Even if it was hard to do. It's tough growing up, needing your parents but needing independence, too. I hope I got the balance right, Thor. My hope is you noticed that I tried to let you make your way, and I only nudged you when there was a need.

I was always worried that I would nag too much so you'd not want to come around. And then I worried that you weren't getting some much-needed advice, and so, I'd go ahead and say something anyhow. Sometimes you'd take it in and sometimes you'd hop in that truck and take off. At least important words were not left unsaid, I never let you leave without an "I love you!" We have to let our kids make their way, even if it means they end up making their way back to heaven. I have to remember this so that I don't suffocate Chaz and Xan under my fear of losing a precious child, again. They deserve to have me walk beside them for as long as they want me there, and then I'll walk behind them when it's their turn to step out on their own. I'll support them when they need it and hopefully become a trusted friend and ally. (Something you and I came to share in the last year of your life.) My love for each of you never wavers, it is constant and growing in this life and beyond. Yes, I love you still, my darling, even as you continue your journey into other realms. It's not for the faint of heart, this kind of love.

Mother's Day is coming, Thor. The first one without you here. I'm trying to sit with the pain, feel the sorrow and even savor this Year of Firsts, as cracked as that sounds. Next year, the birthdays and other milestones will sting less. I suspect I will miss the sharpness of this pain then as you will be even farther away in time and space from us at that point. At least this is the advice that Aunt Radha has shared with me, and she knows something about loss, so I believe her. I tell you what, Bubby, it would be super awesome if you could drop by on Sunday for a visit, okay? I'll be looking for you by way of a sign. Make it a whopper, okay?

I love you,