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memorial

Memorial in the Woods for Mom’s Ashes

I spent a couple of hours this morning reading journal entries from the year after my mother died. What a story they told. Grief stitched its way through the tapestry, leaving knots of sadness here and threads of gratitude there. In awareness of my mortality, I frantically set out to live life more fully.

The busy-ness of that year was both comforting and numbing. I traveled nearly 20,000 miles (by car, by plane, on foot), perhaps trying to outrun the pain, but more likely simply because I could. After nearly five years of care giving, I was finally free to come and go as I pleased, and, boy, did I ever come and go as I pleased!

This grief retrospective was triggered by present circumstances as my husband prepares to travel to Phoenix to attend his step-mom’s funeral. Our son is accompanying him, the ever strong, compassionate, resilient one.

There have been other deaths in the last two weeks. My friend said goodbye to her father. My former neighbor lost her precious aunt.

As I approach my inventory to choose yet another sympathy card, the cycle of life appears scrawled on the sides of small greeting card boxes: Birthday … Graduation … Wedding … Anniversary … New Baby … Get Well … Sympathy. I sigh deeply as I notice the words Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Why do I still have those? No parents, but I still have the boxes of cards. As I think about throwing them away, tears trickle down my face. Oh, I remember now why they’re still there. Maybe they can stay a little longer. Not ready for that step quite yet, it seems.

The grief journey takes as long as it takes. That first year was incredibly difficult, as I embraced and moved through the pain, one step at a time. Just last month I sorted through Mom’s recipe books and cards, put a few in with mine, put a few in storage, and threw out the rest. The process was full of smiles as I remembered the dishes she used to make. I joyfully baked her “Easter Cake” and shared it with friends. No tears, just happy memories.

Today as I stand on the fringes of the wordless grief of those around me, I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and envision their inner spirits being rocked in the arms of angels, comforting, protecting, loving. I pray they will find the strength and courage to work through the grief, however long it takes, and that they will be gentle with themselves on the long and winding road to a healed heart.

 

Mom's Ashes

Still missing you, Mom. XOXO

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Painting

One of my paintings that was inspired by a guided meditation. It’s entitled, “Source.”

One week ago today, an important person in my life died. I met Debbie Ford in January of 2006 at the Shadow Process Workshop in San Diego. It was the first step of an incredible, transformational journey that proved the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I was ready, and Debbie taught. She taught me so much and so well, it’s hard to remember how resistant I was at first, how terrified, how uncertain. Debbie taught me to trust my heart, to believe in my own inner wisdom, and to trust the process. After a lifetime of holding myself to impossibly high standards (i.e., perfection), it was Debbie who taught me how to accept and love every part of my humanly flawed self. The last seven years have evolved my soul and transformed my spirit.

This past week has been a roller coaster of emotion for me. I will openly admit I’m no good at dealing with death–with anyone’s death. My parents modeled nothing but avoidance for me. Death has claimed my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, cousins, and both of my parents. I have not attended one funeral of a family member. We don’t “do funerals.” I guess in my family, it is expected that people have the consideration to die with as little disruption to the world around them as possible. We are to disappear quietly, leaving behind as many good memories as possible along with adequate instructions for the distribution of our belongings. Death in our family is treated sort of like the person moved to another country. We talk about them, remember the good times, but they’re so far away that we never quite get around to visiting or calling.

So, this week I’ve been bouncing off the stages of grief like a pinball being flipped around inside a supercharged arcade game. On a daily basis I may decide that Debbie’s death doesn’t affect me (denial), followed by the urge to go back to bed (depression). Then I find myself raging in an email about something she said four months ago (anger). Soon I am painting in the cottage and feeling as though I am one with the universe (acceptance). Before you know it I’m telling God that it was her time, but it’s not my time; her work was complete, mine is just beginning (bargaining), only to be interrupted by more tears and an angry declaration that she just wasn’t that big a deal to me in the scheme of things.

See, I told you I was no good at this! And that’s okay. I love that I’m no good at this! Because I’m not a bit worried that I’m not “doing it right,” that I am somehow “less than” because I don’t grieve like everyone else, or that I won’t find a way out of my sorrow. I learned from Debbie Ford that whatever I choose as a way to process my grief is perfect for me, and if I just allow my heart to guide the way, the process will lead to the evolution of my soul.

Goodbye, Debbie. I love you, and I will miss you.

Debbie Ford and Barbie Dallmann

Debbie Ford and me in San Diego, 2009

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