All Things Are Possible

Iris as a little girl.

Lent leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday were very important and sacred times to our mother. To give up her earthly body on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was a testament to her faith and her belief of the forgiveness of sins through penitence and prayer. For our mother, there could be no holier time than this to ascend to be with her Father and those she loves.

As a child, I remember my sister Anne and I going to the church on Friday evenings and helping my mother change the flowers. She loved flowers and looked upon her duty of keeping the altar and church filled with beauty as a sacred trust.

Anne and I would rather have been out playing but mom insisted we attend to the needs of the church first, especially during Easter season.

Solemnly we’d kneel with her in front of the altar, pray a rosary and then, help remove the deadened flowers from each bouquet. My job was to place each dead flower on a sheet of paper, wrap them up carefully so that no stray leaves or petals fell out and carry them to the waste bin in the church offices. Older and bigger than me, Anne was allowed to carry the water-filled vases to the sink and empty them.

Then again, Anne’s being allowed to carry the glass vases may have had nothing to do with age and size and everything to do with the fact my mother knew she could trust Anne to take her job seriously. Me. Well… She probably feared I’d try to dance with the vase in my hands or even sprinkle the water on the floor of the sacristy like a priest sprinkling holy water on a penitent’s forehead.

I liked to play in the make-believe. My mother never quit praying that one day I’d learn to keep my feet on the ground.

She often felt I was too irreverent, too wild by nature, too free-spirited and strong-willed. I can still hear her cautioning me to ‘be careful’. To take heed. To watch my words, my steps, and even my dreams.

She wasn’t big on dreaming. Life was meant to be lived in the service of God. It was serious business, too weighty for dreams to take flight. Life, for my mother, was about living by God’s will. Walking humble. Staying true to her faith and being His servant here on earth.

She was ‘pure of heart’. She held no hypocrisy. No guile. No hidden motives. She dedicated her life to God and through extension, to her family and community.

She imbued the spirit of the Church she loved so much. She wore its traditions and rituals, its liturgy and songs like a beautiful velvet robe of grace and sacred service.

She told me once that most of the gold and silver jewellery she carried with her from India when she left to build a life with my father at the end of WWII was sold off in the early days of their marriage. Times were tough in those days and she had to do what needed to be done to take care of her family.

There was no regret in her voice for the loss of her jewels. Family always came first.

What never left her possession, however, was the rosary and wooden crucifix her father gave her as a child, and the statue of her beloved Saint Teresa of Avila. They had travelled the seas and continents with her, always finding a place at her bedside no matter where in the world she was.

Like Saint Teresa, my mother prayed for peace. Of heart. In her family. In the world.

She prayed for her Church. For her family and everyone she knew.

My mother prayed. Always.

It is one of the things I admire most about her and hold in awe.

No matter the challenges, no matter her losses, her sorrow, my mother never gave up her faith.

She also never gave up praying I would learn to keep my feet on the ground.

It’s something I never had to learn how to do, keep my feet on the ground. I am blessed. My life has been grounded in the constancy and faithfulness of my mother’s prayers.

This morning I sit at my desk, tears flow and my heart breaks open, filled with the beautiful gift of my mother’s prayers. I know,  deep within my being, my mother is looking down on me now, clicking her rosary beads in an endless circle of love, whispering her words of benediction and praying I keep dancing and laughing, living and loving with all my heart.

My mother is praying I have faith. In Love. In God. In her prayers.

She is praying I live my life in kindness, grace and Love.

It’s what she prays for all of us because she believes, like St Teresa of Avila, all things are possible.

 

A Song For My Mother

In our home growing up, there were many icons of Mother Mary, Jesus, many Saints and the Hindu goddess/god Shiva. There were also carved elephants, always with their trunks turned up and tails linked and other lesser gods of the land where she was born.

Our mother was deep of faith, and very superstitious.

We used to tease her that she was covering her bases. She graciously let us tease her and continued to pray to her Lord, the Father and Mother Mary while Shiva sat in the corner watching.

She would never put shoes on a bed or table.  Never walk under a ladder. Never cross knives nor stir with one for as she used to say, “Stir with a knife, stir up strife.”

Our mother did not like strife. She did not yell. Cry out in anger, nor take the Lord’s name in vain. Though once, we did hear her say, “Oh eat it,” in response to some comment our brother had made that caused her to flinch.  We laughed when she said it. She had no idea what it meant.

My sister Anne and I used to try to get around our mother’s aversion to profanity. We’d say, “Oh hel…………p”, spitting out the ‘P’ like it was a stone caught in our throats. We’d laugh gleefully thinking we were putting one over on her.

I don’t think we did. I think she just preferred not to hear what did not please her ears.

She never liked loud noises nor angry words. She used to always tell us that, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I didn’t often heed my mother’s words when I was young. I thought truth-telling meant only my truth mattered. That my truth gave me the right to speak my mind without regard for the feelings of those to whom I spoke.

At times, I flung my words at my mother like daggers to her soul. I cannot take those words back and long ago learned to forgive myself for my harsh ways.

Today, I take my mother’s words to heart and hold them near. In their nearness I find myself falling with grace into the space she always held with her belief that God would answer her prayers for each of us to know how much she loved us. She didn’t care if Shiva watched, or we teased her for her faith and superstitions. She was imbued with the spirit of knowing within the depths of her soul, that He loved her, cared for her and lead her in Love.

Thank you, mom, for the lessons in Love, for your steadfast faith in me. Thank you for loving me as I  was so that I could grow with grace into gratitude for all that I am and all the Love that fills my world with such wonder and beauty, today and always.

We played this song for my mother as she lay sleeping. Alexis, my eldest daughter, who like mum, has the voice of an angel. She recorded an acapella version of it. It brought great comfort and ease to my mother while she slept and listened to the voice of one of her granddaughters.

The Celebration of our mother’s life will be held at 2pm, Tuesday, March 3rd at McInnis & Holloway,14441 Bannister RD. S.E. Calgary.

In The Eternity Of My Mother’s Prayers

Iris Marie (nee Dartnell) Gallagher
August 30, 1922 – February 25, 2020

The calls came while I was at the park with Beaumont. I hadn’t heard them. My youngest daughter. My beloved. They called several times. My phone was on silent, as is my habit when out in nature.

For some reason, though we’d been sitting vigil with my mother for over a week, I hadn’t expected it to come so soon. As I told my sisters, “I was expecting some sort of sign, some warning that mum was about to take her last breath.”

Instead, mum did it her way. No fuss. No inconveniencing of others.

At the time of mum’s last breath, I was walking along the river on my way home, the sun warm against my face, the fresh breeze caressing my skin. Later, I was planning on driving out to spend the night with mum.

Jackie, our eldest sister, was drying her hair and getting dressed to go spend the day at mum’s bedside.

Anne, our middle sister, was sitting by mum’s bedside, drinking her second cup of coffee of the morning. We’d been taking turns spending the night and Monday was her night.

And then, without ceremony or fuss, at 10:35 am yesterday morning, my mother took her last inhale.

Anne waited for the exhale.

It never came.

And in that one inhale this tiny, kind woman who travelled far from her motherland of India to the other side of the world to give life to four children. Who no matter how complicated and hard her life, was always kind. Who believed in God with all her being and prayed nightly for her daughters, the souls’ of her lost loved ones, her brothers and sisters, for those who are gone and those who are still here, is gone.

This fiercely protective and often stubborn matriarch for whom the world sometimes seemed too harsh and cruel, has left her earthly body to return to the spirit realm of her deep faith.

In her passing, I envision the endless ribbon of prayers she offered up to God in a constant entreaty for good-tidings, peace and health for all, entwining the earth and all of humankind in Love.

It was my mother’s insistence she would pray for me that used to drive me crazy. In days long past, I’d hear those words and want to tell her to keep her prayers for herself. I’d take care of myself.

Age and time, not to mention a whole lot of therapy, helped me understand and appreciate her prayers as what they truly were, and still are –  A gift of Love. Her way of saying, “I love you. Even when you make it difficult.”

Because my mother did. Love all of us. Even when we made it difficult.

And in these difficult days following her passing, it is her Love we carry. Her Love that remains. Her Love that fills each of our hearts and memories with gratitude.

My mother crossed over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday.

She took her final breath quietly. It was imbued with the grace by which she lived her life.

She is home.

This morning, I watch the sky bruised pink and violet by the rising sun and imagine my mother dancing with her brothers, sharing a smile and a cup of tea with my father and embracing the son she lost before his time.

I imagine her holding a rosary in her no longer crippled fingers, counting off the tiny round beads as she prays each decade. And as she did every night of her life, she prays for her children, her family and all those left behind on this earthly realm. Gently, she places her rosary into the folds of the ethereal gown that floats and flows around her body like angel’s wings, turns back into the circle of Love to which she has been eternally enjoined to dance like the whole world is watching. Sing like the whole world is listening. And Love like the whole world is beating as one with her heart.

That is what I believe my mother is doing now in the eternity of her life ever-after.

Namaste.

_______________________________

I had no intention of writing this morning and then, I heard my mother’s voice whispering how much my words meant to her.

There was a time, I never thought they mattered.

Now I know.

And so, I wrote.

My Mother’s Hands

My Mother’s Hands

These hands
that have been worn through time
their knuckles swollen and distorted
by years of living and caring and praying.

These hands
that have feasted on joy
and been consumed by sorrow
that have collected tears
and rainwater in their cupped palms
and washed clothes and floors
and sprinkled flour on a counter
to make pie crusts roll out
in round circles of perfection.

These hands
have never fallen idle
in the passing of years.
They have carried me
soothed me
fed me.
They have pulled back my hair
when I was sick
and stroked my back
while I lay sleeping.

These hands have woven stories in the air
with their dancing insistence, they can speak
without words
they have given benediction and disapproval
without sound
always silently carrying
the burdens
of a past hurt, a long-ago pain.
In their silence
they have grown tired and weary.

They are resting now
these hands
that do not need to knock
at the door of eternity
for these wise and loving hands
know God is waiting
at the open door of the eternal beyond.

These hands are resting now.
They lie silently on the heart of my mother
who rests at this sacred threshold
as if to catch her breath in the here and now
before crossing over
into the forever after.

These hands are resting now.
Soon, they will be at peace forevermore.

Beau: The Doga of Yoda (An SWB post)

Beaumont: Louise. You know Nana’s going to be okay. Right?

Me: How do you know?

Beau: She’s walking to her Rainbow Bridge. That’s a cause for celebration. She’s had a good life.

Me: Yes Beau. It is. (pause) Ummm… How did you know?

Beau:  About Nana? Oh ye’ of little faith. How could I not? I am a dawg. My seventh sense is strong.

Me:  Seventh sense? What’s that?

Beau:  To see into the heart and soul of humans.

Beau shares his Doga/Yoda style wisdom and comfort on his blog — click HERE to read the rest.  Thank you.

To Love No Matter What. It is her way.

Four generations – This photo was taken April 19, 2018, when she met her, then two-month-old, great-grandson for the first time.

When she awakens she cries out to God asking him to please take her. She is ready.

It is in her cries I feel my heart. Breaking. Open.

It is in her cries I feel my tears. Falling. Falling, into the cracks. And with each tear, the cracks are filled by their healing touch washing away the helplessness I feel in these moments of despair.

And then, she asks me to pray with her. And so, in the quiet that blankets the night before the dawn, we pray the prayer she taught each of us as a child when every Friday night she would gather us four children and together, we knelt in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary that graced our living room and prayed the Rosary, “Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus….”

Her lips move ever so slightly. Her voice whispers in the dark as soft as a feather falling.

We repeat it, again and again. And softly as a feather falling, her eyes close and she is asleep once again.

I sit in the silence watching her folded hands upon her chest rise and fall. Gently.

Her body weakens every day, yet continues to be strong. Her faith is stronger. God will come for her soon. She prays.

It is in her faith, I find comfort. In her faith that never wavers no matter how dim the spark that is her life becomes in my world, the light of Love becomes brighter.

My mother is traveling her path towards the transcendent light of eternity. Her way.

Sometimes, in her awakened moments, she apologizes for taking so long. For keeping us waiting at her bedside.

It has always been her way. To be more concerned of the welfare of others than her own. To not want to be a bother. To not want to inconvenience anyone.

There is no where else we’d rather be, we tell her.

It is the truth. There is nowhere to be than here, at her bedside, breathing with her. Loving on her.

And with each breath, my mother bestows upon us a gift born of the Love that brought us each into this world. This love she holds so fiercely. This love she has carried throughout her lifetime carries each of us now in her final days.

It is the Love of family. The Love of God. The Love of her enduring faith.

It is her way.

To love no matter how dim the light.

To believe in God no matter how dark the night.

To have Faith no matter what.

In all things, Love is her way and God is her light.

Namaste.

 

 

 

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.