Tag Archives: Loss

#augustbreak2013 Day Six

Diagonals

quiltdiagonals
A beautiful mess of diagonals, another quilt made by my aunt.

dexterdiagonals
Diagonals of grief. This morning, I was fixing the blanket in Dexter’s empty crate because Sam had got in last night, dug it up and slept there for a bit while I was on my computer. As I leaned in to put the blanket back in place, I was overcome with a wave of grief. I got in (my dogs’ crates are big enough that I can fit), curled up and cried there for a bit, looking up at all the lines in the ceiling of that space where Dexter spent so much time. I told a friend the other day, “As far as I can tell, grief doesn’t end, it just transforms over time, but will always live with you. That tender, raw spot is permanent.”

memorydiagonals
Diagonals holding memories. These boards hold so much to remember — the program from my grandma’s funeral, my name tag from the last Open Heart retreat, pictures of my nieces when they were younger, ticket stubs from concerts and roller derby matches, polaroids of the day we adopted Obi and then Dexter, family pictures of the three and four of us together, a dried rose bloom from the plant at my parents’ house in Sublimity, pictures of a friend’s family back when they were only three, cards and postcards, the business card of the woman who did both my tattoos, my schedule from Career Day when I was in high school (April 4, 1986 — I signed up for sessions on Modeling, Floral Design, Entertainment, and Business Management).

Day of Rest

In my studies of Buddhism, I am constantly reminded that everything is the path. Good, bad, and indifferent, spiritual or secular, there is an opportunity to learn, to practice. No matter what comes, no matter what is, the instruction is to open to it, surrender to the moment, connect with the reality of experience.

Of course, when things are bad, this is harder to do. When someone you love is dying, and then when they are finally gone, it’s hard to stay present, open to the pain, to face the reality that they are gone. The amazing Amy McCracken said it best, when she talked about sweet Alyssa Doane’s memorial service,

Alyssa was buried this morning.
Despite all of the pretty flowers
and hundreds of messages
of love and support and the promise
that she was no longer suffering
and already dancing in heaven,
seeing Floppy in her casket and her mom at the grave site
made me want to go home and sleep for the rest of my life.

I cry every time I read that, for Amy, for Alyssa, for Alyssa’s mom, for everyone who loved Alyssa, for me and for everyone who’s ever lost someone they love, for the fact that so many of us can read what Amy wrote and even if we don’t know her or Alyssa, we know just what that feels like.

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, trying to understand how to do just that, live with uncertainty and change, with the promise of impermanence and mortality. Pema shares a quote from Steve Jobs that is helpful,

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No reason not to keep your heart open, let it all in. We all bought tickets for a airplane ride where the guaranteed ending is not a wonderful vacation but rather a fiery crash in which we are all going to die, we are taking a ride on a boat guaranteed to sink — this is the deal. I know this intellectually, and yet my heart keeps getting broken by it, I still want to “go home and sleep for the rest of my life.” I try to be curious, open, gentle, but I fail.

Pema says,

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen, so today I’m trying to make a little room, create some space, allow breath to be breath, love to be love, grief to be grief — allowing it all to just be.

#augustbreak2013 Day Four

Love

Eric and Sam on our hike at Horsetooth Mountain Park this morning

I love hiking.
I love where I live.
I love my boys, man and dog.

I am trying to love having just one dog.
One dog who is grown,
can take himself out to go potty,
can be trusted to not eat the couch while I’m in the shower,
who after a long walk will chill, hang out with me while I work,
and who, as far as I know, isn’t terminally ill.

But even as I open myself to loving this moment,
this just one dog,
I also carry the weight of love
for my two boys who are gone,
live that love/loss just as presently,
experience that love without a target,
love unbound from form.

Tender Hearted Warrior: Guest Post for Jamie Ridler

mettaprayerWednesdays are often the day I wishcast with Jamie Ridler. She provides a prompt and we provide the wishes in response. Jamie has been taking a break from her regular practices and posts because the day after we lost our sweet Dexter, she lost her mom to cancer.

Almost a week before both those sad events, I got an email from Jamie, inviting me to do a guest post on her blog, since she would be taking a break for a bit. She said,

I wondered what would honour my mom, all that I’ve learned from her, all that her life has stood for, and I thought about something she said recently, “It’s not about being tough. It’s about being tender.” And that seemed just right.

My guest post, Tender Hearted Warrior, is up on Jamie’s blog today. The prompt was “It’s not about being tough. It’s about being tender,” and Jamie invited those of us writing to offer whatever came to us as a response, “anything goes.”

It seems so appropriate to me that it was published on a Wishcasting Wednesday. Today, I am wishing Jamie comfort and peace as she lives and loves her way through this difficult time. I wish the same for all those who have lost their mothers, in all the ways that can happen. I wish this same comfort and peace for all of us who have had to let go of someone we love, anyone who has suffered a loss, who carries the heaviness of big love that no longer has the same, familiar place to land, for anyone who is grieving. May we feel this hurt and continue to keep our hearts open.

As I mentioned the other day, I was so happy to support Jamie by writing this post, to have the opportunity to do something, anything for her as she lives this loss. It is becoming more and more clear to me that the only way any of us make it through the confusion and chaos of being human is together, helping each other, showing up, offering support, being kind, because as Ram Dass says “we are all just walking each other home.”

Day of Rest

*sigh*

This picture is the last one I took at Lee Martinez Park, the place we walk almost every day, sometimes twice. On that morning, that walk, I had no idea that the next day would be the day Dexter died. I knew it was coming, we’d known for a year it was on its way, but on that particular morning it still felt unknown, uncertain, undetermined.

We haven’t been back to Lee Martinez since Thursday morning, the last time we walked there with Dexter, the walk we took knowing it would be our last. We’ve been to City Park, Big South Trail, and this morning we walked at Colorado State University, but we haven’t been back to “our park.” It still feels too hard, too sad.

We’ve managed other grief hurdles. Eric cleaned the living room floor yesterday. The raw wood in that room was covered with tiny spots where Dexter’s nose had dripped, (because of his cancer, he basically had a constant runny nose). I washed some of the blankets from his bed, along with his Little D baby, (I’d originally planned to have him cremated with Big D but in the end I couldn’t stand to lose them both). Eric brought home his ashes, and I put those on top of his mostly empty crate, along with his collar and a clay paw print.

memorialWhen I’m able to, I’ll open the ashes and put some in the urns I have that contain Obi’s ashes (one is on my writing desk and another on my meditation shrine) — I left room for Dexter so they’d be together again, they loved each other so much.

pawprints

I still haven’t been able to put clean sheets on our bed (the ones that are there were slept on by Dexter) and his toothbrush is still on the counter, and I’m still putting a tiny offering of food in his bowl every time I feed Sam. I know it’s silly, but I was devastated yesterday when I went out to do poop patrol in the backyard and couldn’t find any of Dexter’s. I was so sad that I’d never get to pick up anymore of his poop — that’s a crazy kind of love.

Eric has been dealing with his grief, in part, by cooking. Yesterday, he made three pies. We did a pie drive by to our friends’ house last night because even as much as I love pie, we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.

griefpie

Jamie Ridler’s mom, who also had cancer, passed the day after Dexter. Jamie invited me a few weeks ago to do a guest post in honor of her mom, the prompt being something her mom had recently said, “It’s not about being tough, it’s about being tender.” I have so much to say about that, will be finishing up my post and sending it to sweet Jamie later today. These losses (something we all face as we live and love), this prompt, has me thinking about how important it is that we have confidence in our basic goodness, the essential wisdom and compassion and power that rests in each of us, that we practice self-compassion and keep our hearts open, knowing that life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

In this audio recording, Pema Chödrön talks about basic goodness. She tells a story about burnt cookies and a fox that is such a great metaphor for how we can approach difficulty — we can allow ourselves to become hard, closed off, or we can stay open to reality, to be present for whatever might arise. Yes this means we will be vulnerable, we’ll get hurt, but we will also be amazed, healed.

My heart is broken right now. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But there is so much worth showing up for. Such as:

A chance to get away. We hadn’t wanted to do this when Dexter was still here, were worried about being too far away from a vet if something happened. But now, sometime soon, the three of us are going to rent a cabin in the mountains and spend some time together in the green and the quiet.

Pie. Especially the ones made by my person, who is as sad as me, who knows just how I feel, just what I’m missing, who will talk all day about what we’ve lost and never get tired of it, who wants to do whatever he can to make me feel better.

peachpie

Friends, near and far, sending us love and light. So many have reached out to me, offering such kindness, making this heavy thing so much easier to hold.

The sweet animal bodies that are still here, that long for love and need care. It’s Sam’s turn to become my favorite, and when we are all ready, there will be another dog.

sam

Laughter. Last night, on the way to our friends’ house to deliver the pie, Eric suggested that they expected this happy gift of pie, so it would be funny if when they opened the door, we gave them a pie in the face instead. It was such a ridiculous and awful idea we laughed the rest of the way to their house. It felt good.

Brilliant nature — blooms and fruit and animals and trees and landscapes and sky and deep water and weather.

Practice. Yoga, meditation, writing, and dog — this regular attention, showing up and being open to whatever arises, moving in ways old and new, creativity and discovery, is medicine.

Music. I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and am totally in love.

because nothing lasts forever
some things aren’t meant to be
but you’ll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free

I’m so sad, kind and gentle reader, but at the same time I am so in love with my little life, my heart so full of every last wonderful thing that sometimes it feels like it will explode.

Gratitude Friday

1. Hiking. Woke up this morning to no Dexter. No cuddles in bed, no happy dance while I made his breakfast, no invitation to play with his baby. I am realizing with him gone how much he did to lift my mood, bring me joy, every moment I was with him. He was just such a happy dog, full of so much energy, even with cancer. We couldn’t stand to take our normal walk this morning to Lee Martinez Park without him, so we went to Big South and hiked for four hours instead. It was a beautiful hike, good to be somewhere different.

2. Samson. Eric and I took turns on this morning’s hike walking the dog, the dog we have to share, the dog who has brought us out of our grief over two losses now (he came to live with us four months after our Obi died), Mr. Sam. I can tell he’s trying so hard to know what to do, now that he is the only dog, and I’m making sure to do what I can to love him double and let him know that it’s okay, he doesn’t have to do anything, just be the goofy loveable dude he’s always been.

3. Home to Heaven, kind and wise caregivers like Dr. Cooney who will come to your home to help you let your loved one go, to release them gently from their suffering, all the while asking you all kinds of questions, letting you tell stories about how they came into your life, what you love about them, giving you all the time you need. Other than a brief moment when we thought Dexter might throw up (his belly hadn’t been feeling too good all day and the sedative made him feel a little woozy), it was an easy death for Dexter, peaceful and gentle, and I am so grateful for that.

4. Kind, generous friends. I’m not talking about just my local people, I mean all of you out there, people I barely know or have never even met, all of my kind and gentle readers and friends sent us so much love and support yesterday and into today. Knowing we are so loved, being sent so much good energy, made things much lighter — I did not have to carry this sadness alone. We absolutely were not alone in our loss, and I am so so grateful.

5. Eric. I have no idea how I would have made it through Dexter’s (and Obi’s) cancer and loss without him there to support me, to suffer with me, to cheer me up, hold me when I cry, cry with me, help me make the hardest of decisions. Having the right partner, a good fit and a good person, is such a blessing.

Bonus Joy: We didn’t make it a whole week this time, but still I am so grateful for our final days with the sweet Mr. Dexter. These are the last two pictures I ever took of him. I miss him so much, but I’m so glad he won’t have to suffer anymore.

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Day of Rest

pinkpeonies

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
~Mary Oliver, Peonies

Yesterday, I planted peonies, made a memorial garden of sorts. One Moonstone, “This heavenly-scented peony has large double white flowers with blush pink petals along the outer edges,” one Shirley Temple, “This early bloomer has double blush-white flowers with a hint of red. Pale pink fading to white, these medium-sized blossoms with petals arranged in whorls create a very delicate appearance,” and one Rachel, “This attractive perennial is prized for the amount of double blossoms. The late midseason blooming flowers are a bright crimson color and are held on strong sturdy stems above the clear bright green foliage.” I am completely and utterly in love with peonies, so lush and delicate, strong and soft.

At the nursery, the sign said peonies can live for 50-75 years. They live long, are “drought tolerant, deer resistant, and good for cutting.” My friend Susan, Kelly‘s mom, said she has one that her grandmother gave her for her wedding 45 years ago. I love that. Peonies were blooming at Kelly’s memorial service four years ago. Something about them soothed me, gave me comfort, even though looking at those blooms now breaks my heart all over again. Kelly was an avid gardener, and digging in the dirt, cultivating my garden makes me feel close to her.

peonies

I bought three to start. That number seems right — three for the three I’ve lost but still carry with me, (Heather, Obi, and Kelly), and three to represent all three of my dogs, (one I’ve already lost, one who is somewhere in between, and the one who will have been here for the grief of both losses, helping to heal me). I planted them in the mound where our cottonwood tree used to stand.

That tree was one of the main reasons we chose this house over the other options — that and the big yard, the location (close to Old Town and Lee Martinez Park, only a five minute commute to work for me), and the decorative plaster ceilings. In truth, at already almost 40 years old, the tree was a liability. It dropped a huge limb on our car once, causing $1500 worth of damage. I made a deal with her then that if she dropped another limb that big, we’d need to take her down (we live around the  corner from an elementary school and have lots of kids on our block, and that size limb was potentially lethal, even to an adult if it had fallen just right). A few years later, another came down, so we had to take her out.

she was massive

she was massive, and beautiful, and terrifying

Taking her down, losing her was traumatic. I still remember how it felt coming home and seeing her there, stripped of all her limbs, a man high in a bucket raising his chainsaw to start taking down the first section of trunk. I felt sick. I wanted to tell them to stop, but it was already too late. I hadn’t realized until she was gone that she’d provided more than shade. That she’d been more than a threat, she’d stood guard, somehow protecting us. Without her, without anything between us and the street, between us and the rest of the neighborhood, I felt exposed and vulnerable. It took almost six months for that feeling to go away.

Based on that, it might be surprising we didn’t simply plant another tree. We chose to put in flowers, vegetables and fruit instead, along with a spot set aside to remember everything we’ve loved and lost, with the intent of eventually getting rid of most of the grass. Eric was telling me that he heard a story on NPR the other day about the history of lawns, how people initially put them in as a status symbol, to show their prosperity — if they didn’t need that land for growing food or raising livestock, that meant they were well off. It reminds me of how at one point in history, having a tan marked you as lower class because it meant you had to work outdoors, but then later having a suntan became a symbol of affluence, showed that you had enough leisure time and money for travel that you could afford to spend your days lounging around in a lawn chair or by the pool or on a beach somewhere with nothing better to do.

So far we’ve put in three new raised beds for vegetables, made another bed for strawberries, filled in the front burm with irises and other flowers, created a spot for the peonies, and dug out other spots for various melons, squash, and cucumbers. I made sure to put a cherry tomato in the back yard for Dexter (we have three beds back there too), just in case he decides to stick around until there is fruit, (he loves them so much, I sometimes catch him picking them himself — if he gets a green one, he spits it out). This morning, he made it an offering of his Little D, so I think he approves.

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
~Mary Oliver, Peonies