And So We Danced

The Dartnell Siblings

And so the sun faded on another day and my sisters and daughters and I continued to sit with my mother as she breathed slowly, drifting in and out of wakefulness and sleep.

At a particularly awakened moment, she told us about her five brothers who loved to dance. I told her that the four who are no longer with us would be waiting for her on the other side, dancing with two of her sisters, telling jokes and drinking wine and smoking Gitanes. “They’ll throw such a party for you mom.”

And she smiled and I scrolled through my ITunes and found a Charles Aznavour song she knew and as it played, the five of us danced to his voice crooning and my mother lay propped up in her bed smiling. For a moment her eyes sparkled with joy and when we stopped turning around and around and swaying our arms, she laughed and clapped her hands and whispered, “Oh my dancing girls.”

And then, she fell back to sleep.

She has been mostly sleeping since that moment of joy last night. My eldest daughter, Alexis, remained throughout the night at her bedside, curled up on the easy chair in the corner, keeping watch. And my breath catches in my chest when I think of what a gift she has given my mother, and what a gift this special time we are all sharing in is for both my daughters. For all of us.

By this morning mom had fallen into a deep sleep, stirring only briefly when the nurse comes in.

Waking her is difficult now. And still, if she does open her eyes, she says, as if disappointed, “I’m still here?”

And we smile and touch her crippled hands and tell her it’s okay to go, whenever she’s ready.

We do not know when the time will come and so, we continue to sit with her in the numinous light of what Angeles Arrien calls ‘The Gold Gate’ in her book, “The Second Half of Life. Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom.” We all come in through the Silver Gate and we all go out through the Gold Gate, she writes. There are many gates in between…

This is the gate of surrender, faith and acceptance. It invites us to befriend the death of our physical form and accept that holding on to attachments is not necessary.

I am learning to befriend the death of my mother’s physical form. To accept its journey here on earth is nearing its end. To surrender to her will and faith and to not begrudge this time of her departure.

I am learning to live in the grace of this waiting time, this vigil, this holding space for her to cross over with our arms full of love gently holding her up. To accept that this death is part of my life because her gift is this life I breathe into every day.

I do not know how many breaths my mother has left to take. In the grace of watching her take each breath, I am learning to embrace the ephemeral and ethereal nature of all life. It is a slow walk home to what lays beyond what I can see and know and feel. In its mystery and its majesty, I breathe deeply into the mystical moments we get to share in my mother’s final journey and say a prayer of gratitude.

Namaste.

________________

In the photo above my mother is about sixteen years old. She is the girl sitting in the front, on the left, with the shorter hair.

 

Rise and Fall. Rise and Fall.

Mom with her daughters, June 10, 2019

“She’s still sleeping peacefully,” my eldest daughter, Alexis, texts from my mother’s room at 6am. She has spent the night curled up in the easy chair in the corner of her room, keeping watch.

Along with my sister who lives on Gabriola Island, she flew in last night from Vancouver. The nurse at the centre where my mother lives had suggested we ‘gather the family’.

“I feel like I am fading out,” my mother whispered late last night as the three of us sat around her bed.  “I know my time has come.” And for a brief moment her gentle humour glimmers in the room, “So why am I still here?”

For a 97-year-old, her heart is strong. It is her body that is failing her as her will to live fades with each breath.

Surrounded by her 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters, my mother sleeps. Her breaths are short and shallow. Her contorted, arthritic hands lay folded on her chest. It rises and falls with each breath. I watch the movement closely.

We sit and chat. We sit in the silence. The lights are dim,  The midnight hour is upon us.

My mother opens her eyes. “I’ve had a good life,” she whispers. “God has been good to me.”

And she closes her eyes again. She drifts back to sleep. I watch the rise and fall of her hands on her chest.

Yesterday, she saw my father. “He is waiting for me”, she said. And then she makes an effort to smile. It is a small one. She doesn’t have the energy for more. “My mother and father are waiting too,” she says and closes her eyes.

And I keep watching her hands on her chest. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

Oh Dawg. She’s Gone and Done It Again (An SWB Story)

I know. I know. It’s me. Again. Pawing my way through this blog ’cause yup. You guessed it. I gotta write the things myself. She’s Gone. Again.

Oh dawgy dawgy. She has once again flown the coup and this time, she took HIM with her leaving me with my sis and her man and.. wait for it… that she-hellion four-legged vixen who hisses and swipes her claws every time I walk past.

Sigh. Folks. I am beyond devastated. I am a sad ‘ole dawgie in the window blue!

To read more of Beaumont’s pleas for your support, please join him on his blog — (not that he needs more sympathy!) 🙂

CLICK HERE

Oh Dawg. She’s Gone And Done It. Again.

 

A Love Poem A day for a year

Several years ago, my beloved lived in another city for a while. Our relationship was still relatively new and the distance a challenge.

One Valentine’s Day, when he had sent me beautiful flowers and I realized I had done nothing, I decided to send him a gift of a “Love Poem a Day” (via email) for two weeks.

I was pretty excited thinking that he too will welcome my gift in the same exuberant way it was given.

Ah yes, as the saying goes, “Expectations are premeditated disappointments.”

He was very busy working on a project and didn’t get to opening my emails until much later in the day.

On the first day I was okay with what I deemed his ‘tardy’ opening.

The second day, seriously? He hadn’t opened it by 2pm even though it had arrived in his Inbox by 6am?

Harrumph.

That evening on our daily Skype call, I asked him about his tardiness. “Louise,” he said, “I don’t open my personal emails first thing in the morning. I’ve got too much to do and just don’t have the bandwidth.”

But… and then I gave him all the reasons why his response to my poems was all wrong.

Needless to say, the call did not go well and we hung up without having achieved the one thing I wanted my gift of words to do – bring us closer over the miles.

Of course, I told myself all sorts of stories about his response and why he was all wrong, but finally, after much rumination (along with a whole bunch of inner chatter criticizing him and our relationship and how ‘fine. If he didn’t want my poems I wouldn’t write them…’) I awoke to the truth — If my intention was to create intimacy over the distance, why was I insisting on having it all my way? What was in it for me to berate him when I wasn’t behaving in a way that was not very kind nor loving. The fact was, I was not creating safe and courageous space for intimacy to grow.

I wrote him an apology poem and acknowledged that in wanting my expectations met, I had created a ‘me versus you’ situation and he acknowledged that in my expectations, he had gone on the defensive.

I started to again write a love poem a day for 14 days and started including a photo from my day that went along with the poem.

One year later, I was still writing him a love poem a day.

It had become woven into the fabric of our day, with me eagerly awakening each morning to write a love poem about love, and him expressing his gratitude for my poem — whenever he got to reading it — which was often the first thing he did each morning.

Originally, my intent had been to close the distance with my words of Love.

What happened was even more profound. In writing about Love every single morning for a year, my understanding, my ‘knowing’ of love deepened, as did our relationship.

An unexpected gift was that I also realized how my expectations often set up barriers to our being able to be real and present with each others.

Those poems and photos did achieve what I set out to do, and then, they gave me even greater gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day. May your world be filled with Love and all its mysterious, magic and wonder.

 

 

This Beautiful Life of Mine

I am home.

Back to this stark, wintery land of snow and trees standing naked along the banks of an ice-covered river. Of frosty mornings where buds still sleep beneath a blanket of snow and the robin has not yet returned from its winter sojourn south.

I am home.

Home to my beloved C.C. and Beaumont the Sheepadoodle who is lying on the chaise beside my desk, his eyes glued to the stillness of the landscape outside my window.

I am home.

Yet, part of my heart, my mind, my soul remains captive to a 2-year-old boy whose laughter and giggles, sunny smiles and joyful nature hold me forever under his thrall.

I am home.

And I miss him so.

My daughter too!  (I had to say that so she wouldn’t feel left out. 🙂 )

But it’s true. I miss her too. Being part of her journey as she becomes a mother, watching her as she grows more and more confident, more and more assured of her gifts is a blessing.

I had a lovely time celebrating my grandson’s 2nd birthday and now I am home. Home to pick up the threads of my artwork, my writing, my being present in this beautiful life filled with the grace of all my blessings, of people I love (and a furry one too).

I love time by the sea. Time spent with my grandson and his parents – and this trip had the added bonus of my youngest daughter also being there as well as C.C.’s daughter. I love time spent wandering Granville Island Market and Jericho Beach. Time sitting in coffee shops with my daughter chatting and exploring what it means to be a woman, wife, mother, in this time and place. Time alone in a restaurant by the sea, writing in my journal, watching the boats bob on the water and people pass by on the street. And most of all, I love the time playing on the floor with my grandson, reading, playing with his blocks and fleet of toy cars and trucks.

I love it all and cherish each moment.

And I love coming home to this place where I know I belong. Where my beloved welcomes me with open arms and Beaumont’s ‘cold shoulder’ welcome doesn’t last longer than the time it takes me to take off my coat. This place where my heart is at ease, my steps assured and my creative soul awakened to the beauty of each sunrise, each moment passing because no matter where I am, my life is a vast richness of love and joy, beauty and grace.

I am blessed and I am grateful for it all, this beautiful life of mine.

Namaste.

Not Again – An SWB blog

I’m in Vancouver for my grandson’s second birthday and haven’t got time to blog!

Here’s an excerpt from Beaumont the Sheepadoodle’s Sundays with Beaumont blog — click on the link at the bottom to read the rest — he will be very, very grateful for any support you can give him!

Not Again!

Hello? Anybody there?  Ya. It’s me. Beaumont. On my own. She’s done it. Again. Taken off for parts unknown and left me behind.

Sigh. What’s a dawg to do to get a little attention around here? Like I lay on top of her in an effort to keep her warm. I follow her all over the house so she doesn’t feel lonely. I fetch the ball for her so she can get some exercise. I even drop my dumps so she can pick them up (bending over is good for older folks (know what I mean?), though why she’d want to keep them in those little baggies is beyond this dawg’s ken. Seriously? What is with that?

Hoomans can be so weird but hey! She’s my hooman and I do love her. But dawg oh dawg. Does she have to keep deserting me like this? She said it’s only for five days but seriously? Do the math lady. In dawg years that’s a whole month!

To read the rest…. click HERE:

See you next week.

Where the light wavers, love flows freely

My mother. Photo taken Feb 5, 2020

Yesterday, David Kanigan over at Live & Learn shared an excerpt from – Ann Napolitano’sDear Edward: A Novel (The Dial Press, January 6, 2020)

The light wavers;
perhaps the person holding it is tired.
The steps slow.
The rush seems to be over.

Last August, my mother turned 97. She is mentally still sharp as a tack though her hearing is no longer what it used to be. Physically, she does not fare quite so well. Since a fall that broke five bones when she was 94, and two hip operations to repair the damage, she has been confined to a wheelchair. Her arthritis is crippling. Her hands are gnarled and her fingers crooked. She can no longer hold a magazine, her knitting needles or a pen to do her crosswords. The bones in her mouth have deteriorated making it painful to wear her bridge and impossible to eat anything but soft or pureed foods.

The doctor tells her that her heart is strong. Her body, she says, is tired.

Years ago, I asked my mother to tell me her life story. One of the things she told me she regretted was leaving her family behind in India when the war ended and she set sail to join my father in England. She was one of 10 children with lots of extended family around. They spoke French. Were raised Catholic – up until meeting my father, my mother was convinced she would become a nun.

My father was an only child. There wasn’t a lot of love lost between my father and his parents. He had never really recovered from feeling they had abandoned him when he was 9 and they divorced, shipping him off to boarding school from England to the prairies of western Canada. He spoke limited French when they met though he did speak Farsi, the language of the region in which my mother was born. My mother spoke limited Farsi as Pondicherry, where she lived, was a French protectorate at the time and her family was Euro-Asian, not as they were all sure to tell you, Hindu.

For my mother, family was everything. For my father, family, at least the one he’d known as a child, equalled pain.

Together they built a family of four children and then a huge extended family of friends my parents adopted over the years. They were well-loved by many. My father for his outgoing nature and generosity not to mention his amazing baking skills. My mother for her kind nature, gentle ways and her gift of creating beauty all around her.

My father left this world over 25 years ago. My brother followed a year and a half later.

My mother struggled to recover. Struggled to make sense of the loss of the men whom she loved with all her heart.

Up until my grandson was born 2 years ago, my mother often talked about how she wished she wasn’t in this world anymore. How life felt too heavy, too dark to see her way through.

And then, she met her great-grandson and she felt energized, alive, willing to perhaps even reach 100 years of age.

She’s not so sure of that benchmark any longer.

She has lived a full life, a life complete with love and sorrow, the lightness of being and the darkness of night, joy and loss, happiness and grief.

Last week, she said she felt her time was drawing near.

She has come to that place where ‘the light wavers’.

The beauty of her years has made this place poignant and gentle and illuminated with grace. There is acceptance mixed with love and gratitude for the beauty of her light in our lives over these many years.

The grief can wait until after she is gone, whether that is this month or in years yet to come. For whatever her time on this earth, it is a time to celebrate, to cherish and to love wildly this tiny matriarch who has travelled so far from the young woman who met a ‘flyboy’ from the RAF during WWII and followed love from India to England to Canada back to England then France and Germany and Canada again.

My mother’s light is wavering.

She grows more and more tired.

Her steps as she moves her feet along the floor beneath her wheelchair have slowed.

There is no rush to say good-bye. Only this gentle easing into what will inevitably come when the pain of one more exhale grows heavier than the life that rushes in with every breath.

I feel my heart melting quietly into that place where the light of Love does not waver. That place where Love is all that remains, to carry, to embrace, to share and to remember.

_______________________

Thank you, David, for the Lightly Child, Lightly inspiration.