Always Believe in the Magic

When I was in my teens, we lived in a village in southern Germany not far from the Rhine River.

On Sundays, my father and I would take Bijou, our black standard poodle, for a walk along the eastern bank that lined the river and soak in the beauty of life all around us.

Barges floated slowly along the waterway laden (I liked to imagine) with tea from China and silks from India and spaces from mysterious far off lands.

Sometimes, I’d see someone on the deck of a barge and I’d wave and they’d wave back.

Sometimes, a small pleasure craft would float past and I’d watch the people gathered on its deck laughing and eating and drinking beer and I’d wonder, “Where did they come from? Where are they going?”

And I’d make up stories about their lives and tell my father and he would harrumph and say, in his gruff, matter-of-fact way, “They’re just out for a Sunday cruise.”

And then, he’d stop and point out a ball of mistletoe growing high up in the bare limbs of a tree and quote a line of poetry that made my senses tingle with the delight of the words. Or he’d bend down and show me the beauty of a fallen leaf lying on our path and he’d tell me to always look for beauty. Always. And I’d know, like me, he believed in the magic.

Those days of walking the banks of the Rhine, of watching barges float by and stopping at a Gasthaus on the way home for a lunch of Weinerschnitzel and frites and hearing my father laugh and call out “Prosit!” to a stranger at the next table have drifted lazily into the past like the mists floating along the river this morning.

Yet, on mornings like this, when fog envelops the river and the trees stand barren and tall along its banks, I remember those days and say a quiet prayer of gratitude to my father.

He was a mysterious figure to me. A man of mercurial moods and sudden tempers that could blow in as fast as a summer storm.

He held many secrets. Yet, some days, walking along the riverbanks, a tiny fragment of his story would reveal itself in his words and I would feel like I was bathing in a ray of sunshine streaking through the clouds that hid the blue sky above.

It was in those moments I knew magic was everywhere because my father believed in magic. He believed in pots of gold at the end of every rainbow and genies sleeping in brass teapots waiting to be awakened just by the right touch and a whispered incantation of a magical word.

He believed I could do anything if I set my mind to it.

He believed in me.

Namaste

The WindSong Dance

I awoke this morning with an invitation from the muse to play! And what better way to play than to listen to the stories of the wind rustling in through the trees?

“And the wind blew wild and free full of the stories it had heard on its journey around the world.

It whispered its tales of wonder and delight into the bare boned limbs of the trees and the trees gathered the WindSong tales blowin’ in the wind and the branches danced and the leaves rustled and Nature sang a song of joy.”

I hope you join me in the dance!

The Frugal Fall Challenge

Mixed media on cardstock. 5 x7″
Embossed Christmas Card. Blank inside. Mixed media on watercolour cardstock

For the past few days, I have been experimenting with my Gelli Printing Pad, using inks and watercolours to create greeting cards – (seasonal and general).

I have packages of blank cardstock (and packages) I bought several years ago when, as a fundraiser for the homeless-serving agency I worked at, I decided to make Christmas cards to sell. The proceeds went to the agency and I got to play with glitter for weeks on end!

I also got to clean up glitter for months on end but that’s another story.

It is all part of the ‘Frugal Fall Challenge’ I’ve created for myself. It’s an invitation to explore what can happen when I limit the art supplies I can use and/or purchase. In this case, I am not allowing myself to purchase any paper products, including canvases, until November 21st.

Mixed media on watercolour cardstock. 5 x 7″ blank card (it is white, not bluish as the photo/computer screen suggests)

I’d originally made it ‘no art supplies’ but realized that if I wanted to set myself up for success, I had to make the challenge realistic. Believe me, going cold turkey on not buying any form of art supply was simply a recipe for failure before I even started! At least limiting myself to no paper and canvas purchases for three months gives me a modicum possibility of success — I have lots and lots of paper and canvases in the storage room at the back of my studio. Not being able to buy more was an invitation to explore what I have on hand and use it!

And that’s what I’m doing.

Engaging with my whole body in the art of letting go.

Mixed media on watercolour cardstock. 5 x 7″ blank card inside

See, letting go isn’t only about ‘releasing’. It’s about engaging with all that you are, all that you know and all that you have in ways that ignite your imagination, inspire your creativity and invite you to wander new and beguiling paths that lead you into deeper knowing of yourself and how you are in this world.

I have a habit of buying art supplies. Some may call it an addiction but I’m not into labelling it. Know what I mean?

My habit means I have a storeroom full of supplies and ephemera some of which has sat around for a long, long time.

The Frugal Fall Challenge is my invitation to myself to explore new ways of being present – in my studio, in my life, in myself.

Too often, when I engage in the practice of ‘letting go’ I make it all about the release and don’t stop to explore the breath within the spaces created by letting go.

It’s as though in getting rid of all that ‘stuff’ I feel uncomfortable with the empty/calm spaces and so, rather than sit with them, I start filling the space up again.

And I wonder… am I uncomfortable with the empty spaces of my life (read body, mind, spirit) and so, keep acquiring stuff (read knowledge/information/techniques/new ways of doing things, being present) so I don’t have to face the silence of the open spaces inviting me to rest and breathe and be present with and within all that is already here…?

Now that’s a heady question for this rainy October morning. Perhaps, rather than seeking answers, it is time to heed the words of Rainer Maria Wilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Namaste

Just hanging On!

Hang on! Hang on! The leaves cry frantically to one another. The fall is coming. The falling is coming. Resist! Resist!

Let’s stick together, they tell one another as they huddle closer to the branch. There’s strength in numbers.

In time, none of it matters. Resistance is futile. Defiance unnecessary.

As predictable as the earth’s orbit around the sun, the fall beckons. The leaves fall. Winter descends. Spring follows.

Nature always has its way.

Let’s face it, hanging on is sometimes the only way we know to avoid the thing we fear even more than speaking in public or dying — change.

Change is in the air. It always is. Change is here to stay.

Have you ever…

Stayed in a job you hate? A relationship that made you unhappy?

Are there clothes in your closet that no longer fit? Shoes that hurt your feet? Sweaters with holes and pulled threads that you no longer wear but just can’t get rid of?

And, what about memories?

Do you keep a reel of unhappy stories on repeat in your mind? Do you replay them and replay them so that your ‘poor me’ story becomes the only story you know how to tell?

Do you wish you could change the past? Redirect the movie of your life into someone else’s story?

Well, here’s the deal. No one is powerful enough to change the past. And someone else’s story will never fit you.

All you’ve got to work with to create the life you dream of is this moment right now and your willingness to bet your life on your heart’s desires, whatever they may be.

So… what’s holding you back? What are you hanging on to?

Ask yourself,

“What am I feeling right now? Do I want to be feeling these same feelings I’m feeling right now in a week, a month, a year, five years time?”

“Is there a burning desire deep within me to make a dream come true and I am doing nothing to make it happen because I’m afraid to let go of… [name your poison] Fear of failure. Looking silly. Falling down. Being laughed at. Being right. Having to learn something new. My story of why it isn’t possible. My deeply buried belief my dreams are not worth fighting for…”

“Am I holding onto past hurts and pain because I tell myself at least I can count on the past? Nothing changes there. And anyway, I’m not ready to let go of them yet.”

Once you’ve examined your feelings and thoughts around those questions, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I let go of [fill in the blank] and my fear of change and the stories I tell myself and decide to just do it anyway?”

Fact is. You might fall.

Then again. You might soar too.

You’ll never know until you let go of what is holding you back…

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About this post:

When I took this photo yesterday on one of my walks with Beaumont, I was fascinated by how this one bush was still covered in leaves when all through the forest the trees stood bare, stripped of their autumn finery by wind and snow and the changing of the seasons.

I wonder why this one tree hasn’t lost its leaves yet, I wondered… and then, the parallel to my life began to form.

What am I holding onto that I need to let go of? I wondered.

I think it’s a great question to begin my day.

Namaste

Love Finds Me. Here.

On the kitchen island, sunflowers stand in a white vase. Their yellow heads are beginning to droop. Time is passing on.

In my studio, two cacti blossom. Life’s natural impulse to grow and flower is on display in riotous pink pressed against winter’s presence lying in pristine white outside the window.

In the trees that line the bank between our yard and the river, a squirrel scurries down. Winter is coming. There are preparations to be made.

It scurries towards the birdfeeder hanging along the fence at the back of our yard. It has become a squirrel seed depot.

The squirrel grabs at the tiny lip of the feeder and hangs on. Its body swings precariously from side to side. It steadies itself and opens its mouth ready to catch the seeds as they spill out.

Pouches full, it leaps back to the fence onto a tree branch, scurries up the trunk, sailing effortlessly from one branch to the next until, high up, it reaches a hole in the tree and disappears.

Another squirrel replaces it at the feeder.

I wonder if squirrels have a sound for gratitude?

Do I?

Is gratitude heard in the deep sigh of contentment as I sit in the darkness at my desk breathing in the beauty and wonder of the world around me?

Is it heard in the quiet hum of the furnace blowing warm air into the house?

Is it in the rustle of Beaumont’s body as he moves against the hardwood floor where he sleeps beside me?

Is it felt in the quiet, slow lightening of the day seeping across a nighttime sky ebbing into dawn?

Is it known in the halo of the lamp that lights my fingers as I type or the glowing of the candle on the desk beside me?

Is it tasted in the sip of my latte, foamy milk flowing warm and silky across my lips, down my throat and into my body?

Is it seen in the silent shimmery dark silhouettes of the trees dancing in the morning breeze outside my window, their not yet fallen leaves black against a not quite morning sky?

It is all here.

Filling me with gratitude.

This beauty.

It does not wait for the right season. Better weather. For time to flow from one moment to the next.

This beauty is here. Now.

And so am I.

And so is Love.

Namaste

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My Mother’s Prayers. (Video flip-through)

Front and back cover of altered book art journal — My Mother’s Prayers

It is done. This journal I began several months ago with my mother’s prayer cards. It is done.

When I began my intention was to honour my mother’s life journey through using her prayer cards as a collage element on each page in the journal. I wasn’t thinking about healing. Or growth. Or change.

I was focused on diving into the creative field of creating an altered book art journal with her cards.

And then… Transformation beckoned.

Which makes sense, given that the premise of an altered book art journal is using an existing book to transform it into something else.

Don’t you love how art mirrors life and how when we open up to creative expression, life awakens in all its magnificent hues like a crystal prism hanging in a window refracting and reflecting rainbow shards of sunlight?

Through working on this journal, I have found myself falling with grace into all the colours of my human emotions. Grief. Joy. Sorrow. Gratitude, Regret. Compassion. Denial. Appreciation. Sadness. Joy. Anger. Love…

As I’ve written on one of the pages, “There are no mistakes in the human heart. There is only Love.”

In the end, and in the beginning… there is only Love.

There are no mistakes in my life. No paths not taken I wished I had. No roads wandered I wish I hadn’t.

Every path, every road, every step and word and gesture and action and encounter have all added up to create this space in which I live today. Breathing deeply of the divine nature of life.

It is here I find myself floating on a sea of gratitude, waves of joy and love and friendship and laughter and harmony and grace washing over me as I bathe in the waters of sacred communion with Life.

And so I say the prayer that stirs my soul and fills my heart with gratitude. “Thank you.”

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For the past two days I have been working on a flip through video of the book.

On each page I share the words that are most evocative of that page.

I am pleased. The book has turned out better than I imagined (Yes Jane. I’ll say it. “I did a good job!” 🙂 )

But, more than how the book has turned out, I am so very, very grateful for having taken this journey. I began without expectation of an outcome. I end with gratitude for the transformation that has appeared on my path through stepping into the creative exploration of My Mothers Prayers.

A note on the cover — my mother loved baubles and bling. She always wore sparkly things. On her fingers. Around her neck. In her hair. On her wrists. The original cover was orange – not one of my mother’s favourite colours. I painted it purple, covered that with gold spray paint and sprinkled gold dust over the entire thing. The jewelled pieces were my mother’s earrings and on the back, the embroidered bird is from excess fabric from the skirt I wore when C.C. and I were married. Made of hand-embroidered silk from India, I felt it would bring my mother to our wedding as she was too frail to attend. Underneath the bird is one of my mother’s prayer cards.

Forgive And Grow. Forgive and Grow.

We are, once again in the season of the long shadows. The sun’s light dims and shadows reach far across the earth like a memory that will not die in yesterday.

“How do you forget the awful things someone did to you?” a friend asked me awhile ago.

“I don’t strive to forget,” I replied. “I seek to forgive.”

When we forgive someone, or ourselves, it is not that we are saying the deeds that hurt us do not matter, or that it was right for those things to happen, or that the other is not accountable for what they have done.

Forgiveness isn’t about righting wrongs. It’s about accepting the wrong happened and letting go of the pain of reliving the wrongs day after day after day. In letting go, we become freed of the past. Freed of the past, we are free to walk in the light of today savouring its beauty, wonder and awe without carrying the burden of the past into our tomorrows.

To forget we must be able to wipe the slate of time and our memory banks clean. I’ve never found the magic wand that will do that.

What I have found is the power of forgiveness to take out ‘the sting’ of remembering. Just as when stung by a wasp, it’s critical to take out the stinger so that you can heal more quickly, removing the stinger from the past frees you to embrace this moment without the pain and trauma of what was in the there and then casting long shadows over your journey in the here and now.

Forgiveness takes conscious practice.

I remember when I was in the depths of healing from a relationship gone really, really bad, well-meaning people told me that to heal I needed to write a list of all the awful things he’d done so that I would remember how awful he was.

I didn’t need reminders of how awful those days were. The evidence was all around me. His transgressions were many. My brokenness profound.

I was not powerful enough to make him change or even be accountable for what he’d done. I could be accountable for my role in the debacle and aftermath of that relationship. I could make amends in my life. To do that, I needed to focus on sifting through my brokenness to find myself in peace, joy, harmony, love.

And it all began with forgiveness.

Forgiveness was my path to setting myself free of him. It meant, whenever a thought of what he’d done and what had happened arose in my mind, I repeated to myself the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”

No listing of the countless ways he’d ‘wronged’ me. No remembering of all that had happened. I did not need to recite the litany of his sins. Recitation wouldn’t change them. Repeating “I forgive you,” could and did change me.

“I forgive you” had nothing to do with him. It was all about me. And after almost five tumultuous and devastating years of his abuse, I deserved and needed to make my life all about me.

It also meant I had to forgive myself. To write a litany of all my sins in those first heady months of healing, to force myself into ‘the remembering’ of all I’d done to cause pain to those I love would also have forced me to relive the trauma. And in those early days of healing, I was not strong enough to withstand my desire to whip myself with the lashes of all my transgressions.

I had to rest beneath the soothing blanket of being free of his abuse, until the cold, harsh winds of the self-destructive voices inside my head that wanted to ensure I never forgot how much pain I had caused in the lives of so many, abated.

Just as every spring’s arrival awakens new life, forgiveness awakens gratitude for the beautiful dawning of each new day.

In gratitude, there is no need to remember, there is only the call to forgive and grow. In gratitude. Joy. Beauty. Harmony. Love.

Forgive and grow.

And slowly, like snow melting under spring’s lengthening days, memory will release its hold on dark days and cold nights. As shadows shorten and the sun’s warmth awakens the earth, buds will once again appear and beauty will grow brighter day by day by day.

That Ain’t My Gig.

The words for this page appeared before I began creating it.

“And in the end, when the veil that separated life from death was lifted and she slipped through into the ever-after, all that she left behind were her prayers and the Love that carried her through her life into the eternal grace of God’s embrace.”

This is the final page of the altered book journal I’ve been creating for the past few months with the prayer cards my mother left behind.

When I first began this journey I thought it would be… effortless. Seamless. A traipse through memory sweeping the past clean and closing doors on remembered words and perceived hurts that haunted me in my mother’s silence.

It has been non of that and all of that and so much more.

This deep dive into the power of prayer and my ‘mother memories’ of the rights and the wrongs, the beauty and pain, has brought me face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the quintessential ‘mother wound‘.

Healing the mother wound has been a lifelong journey for me. While it might seem all about a woman’s relationship with her mother, it is bigger than that.

The archetypal mother wound is generational. It is the universal struggle to fit into a world that is constantly changing, yet struggling to transform. It is a world that does not make room for a woman’s exploration of her power and potential because the world itself is constructed by a patriarchal set of rules that do not acknowledge the power and potential of women. It is the fight against the ties that bind while holding onto the apron ties that taught us how to be women in a world constructed in man’s ways.

According to Dr. Oscar Serrallach in THIS ARTICLE on GOOP,

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“The mother wound reflects the challenges a woman faces as she goes through transformations in her life in a society where the patriarchy has denied us ongoing matrilineal knowledge and structures.”

“This agenda tells females not to shine, to remain small, and that if you are going to try to be successful, that you should be masculine about it.”

_______________________________

I am still searching. Scouring mind and heart for the words that will describe this journey I am on. This journey of reckoning.

With my mother’s passing. The words unwinding. The deeds undoing. The messages deconstructing. The lessons unlearning.

It is a journey of Repatriation. Reclamation. Restoration. Rejuvenation. Of myself.

It is a journey not just through time and space and generational legacies and patriarchal ties that bind me to a way of being that does not fit my skin, my soul, my sense of who I have the right to be in this world. A world that does not know how to create space for the art of the feminine to rise up and be heard and seen and known with grace.

I have come to the final page of this journal I have been creating of my mother’s prayer cards.

I can no longer blame my mother or hold her hostage to my unrealized dreams. I can no longer pray for my freedom from the past, from all that has kept me tied with invisible threads of silence and shame to beliefs and ways of being that do not fit me.

I have come to the time when I must claim my right to be free or crumble beneath the sorrow and rage of a life not lived.

No 5. #ShePersisted Series Mixed Media 2017 Louise Gallagher “Rock the Boat”

My mother has taught me well. Through her silence and her belief it was better to not make waves, I have learned to rock the boat.

Through her insistence I walk with both feet firmly planted in obedience, chastity and faith, I have learned to peer into the darkest night of the soul and see the light within.

In showing me how to be a woman bound to man’s ways she has gifted me the freedom to be unbound. To run wild of heart and free of spirit.

And now it is time.

Time for me to dive into the rising tide full of the song of the soul rushing in to greet me on the shore where I stand in anticipation of life washing me clean of the past. Body arced, arms flung wide above my head, waves crashing over my feet, I dive deeper and deeper into the sacred waters of the Divine Feminine. Into the depths of the great mystery where magic flows free and life dances gloriously unbounded by the conventions of a way of being that is not mine.

It is time for me to hold onto only Love and say to the rest, “The hell with that. That ain’t my gig!”

Yup. It’s time to shine big and dance!

ThE Incantations

“Whispered into the holy night, her prayers were an incantation awakening sacred joy and delight.” Pgs 51 & 52 My Mother’s Prayer altered book journal

My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?

It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.

Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.

Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.

“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”

“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”

To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.

I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.

I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.

And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.

“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”

And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.

After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.

How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?

How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?

Namaste

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One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…

Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.

Magic.

The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)

The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.

For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.

I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.

The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.

And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.

Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.

Now is where Life happens.

Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.

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In The Garden Of Her Prayers

Her prayers became a garden. “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal. Pgs 49 & 50

I remember as a young girl my mother admonishing me after one of the squabbles my middle sister and I often had. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was one of her favourite sayings.

My mother kept her silence. A lot.

I used to think her silence hurt her. Filled with all the not-nice things she wouldn’t say, her silence constantly grated against her peace of mind.

As I work in this journal and come to its last pages, I recognize the limitations of that belief. As I paint and meditate on the pages. As I collage a prayer card on the page and allow the words to divine their way into being known, the awareness grows that her prayers were her way of transforming her silences, her secrets, her worries and fears and anger and tears into hope and love and above all kindness.

As a child, I never liked that adage of my mothers.

It was my inability to not be silent that frustrated my mother the most. Particularly, as my speaking out often came in the form of questions about things she never wanted to discuss.

“Let bygones be bygones,” she’d say.

“Stop making trouble Louise. It was long ago. It doesn’t matter today what happened then.”

“Don’t be mean. Be quiet.”

I never meant to be mean, but to explain to my mother the source of my angst or questions required speaking of the things she did not wish to speak of, at least not with me.

Which is one of the gifts of this journal journey.

There was a time when I thought that my mother just wanted to avoid talking about everything and anything that did not please her or paint her in good light with the saints to whom she whispered her prayers. And while she did like to ‘look good’ and spent a great deal of energy worrying about what others thought, it was her right to choose what she did or did not speak of.

In my constant questing for answers, and her desire to not speak of things for which she knew her answers would not be enough for me, there was no safe container for either of us to find our way through the turmoil of the past together.

In all probability, my mother did speak of the unspeakables she carried deep within her heart and mind. It’s just, the only one she trusted with her thoughts and feelings, fears and doubts, anguish and anxiety, was her God.

My mother, like me, was never perfect.

She was kind. Caring. Generous. Shy. Quiet. Creative. Loyal. Steadfast.

And above all, she was a woman of great faith.

A woman who wanted the best for others. And even when she didn’t know how to give it, or how to speak the words, she never doubted that her faith was enough. In her steadfastness, in her constant prayers, I was free to grow fierce and loving. Strong. Wild. Free.

As this page says, “Her prayers became a garden where Love grew stronger in the memories of those she left behind.”

Namaste.