Why I Added Detailed Advanced Directives to my Living Will

Elaine and her mom, 2007

Elaine and her mom, 2007

“What’s wrong?” I asked Patty. Patty was Mom’s aide at the skilled nursing home. She wore colorful smocks with floral prints and always smiled, but not today. Aides stood around in quiet clumps with frowns on their faces. Had someone died?

“There’s a patient we can’t feed. Everyone’s upset,” Patty said.

“Why can’t you feed her?” I asked. My heart pounded as I waited for her answer. My mom had been lying in a fetal position for years, unresponsive and comatose. All that was left of her was bones and a swallow reflex. They put a straw to her lips and she sucked. They put gruel in her mouth and she swallowed.

“The woman had a stroke and her Advanced Directives says we can’t feed her or give her water if she doesn’t respond,” Penny said with a sad shake of her head.

“But Penny, that’s what should happen to my mom.” Continue reading

Let the Warm Love Flow: Messages from Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman 2007

Marion Woodman 2007

Marion Woodman‘s last letter came in February 2011, almost three years after my husband Vic’s death.

I first met her in 1996 and we had corresponded since 2003. In the last years, her neat and orderly letters had become scraps on the back of an envelope or old greeting card. Lines wandered about the page, but she was still there with wise intuitions, reflections, and guidance. When I needed encouragement, she wrote, “DO IT!” When I needed comfort, she held my raw grief tenderly and wrote of her own marriage and how hard it would be to go it alone.

In her last note written on the back of an old birthday card, she said she was determined to write to me. Her note ended with this: “As you bring to consciousness your feeling and try to work with it. Be Gentle with yourself. Let the warm love flow.” Continue reading

Say Yes and Leave Your List at Home

Dad playing charades in 1958

Dad playing charades in 1958

“If you have your health, you have everything you need,” Dad said.

He looked fit, played golf, and smoked Lucky Strikes like the doctors in Life Magazine ads and the other men in Mexico, Missouri in the 1950s, but he was often too sick to get out of bed. My mother grew quiet then and cooked him special foods. She blinked and cleared her throat too often.

“I remember when your dad had rheumatic fever when we were kids,” Uncle Jim told me many years ago. “We plowed furrows next to each other, walking behind our horses. I’d get to the end of the row and wait for him to catch up.” Continue reading

Exploring the Spiritual Face of Loss

Liz's forest offering

Liz’s forest offering

Jean Raffa, an author I admire, invited me to join a blog tour highlighting authors who write about spirituality and intuitive understanding. I encourage you to visit Jean’s blog and website where she writes about Jungian psychology, dream guidance, the feminine, and her insights. Jean’s most recent book is Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World. I’ll return to my usual story-telling format on July 8.

Jean asked me to answer four questions about my work.

1) What Am I Working On? I kept a journal during my husband Vic’s two-year illness. He and I grieved together then. A few years after his death, I began writing Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief. Continue reading

Follow That Naked Intuition

New plans in 1981

New plans in 1981

I stood naked in my husband Vic’s office on a sunny afternoon. I had taken a fast shower after working in the garden. My wet hair was wrapped in a towel, but the rest of me dripped on the rug.

“I know what I want. I want to be a nutritionist,” I said. “I will be a nutritionist.” I spit the words out loud and fast so they wouldn’t slip away.

Vic turned his office chair toward me and grinned. He knew I’d been fishing for my next step. Our youngest son was starting kindergarten and I needed a project. I hadn’t thought about studying nutrition in years, but I came to Cornell in 1963 to major in nutrition. Instead, I was hijacked by anti-Vietnam war politics, marches on Washington, and “Hell no, we won’t go,” so I majored in government with a focus on Southeast Asia. Continue reading

Widow Misses Sparring Partner

Training Partners 2001

Training Partners 2001

Woman Misses Fighting with Dead Husband. That’s a headline for The Inquirer.

“E, leave me alone,” Vic said. I watched his cheek muscles twitch and his jaw clench. He pulled his office door toward him to shut me out.

“I need to talk to you,” I said, pulling the door open and sticking my foot in it. My voice was shrill.

“You don’t want to talk. You want to fight. You’re trying to make me the bad guy. You’re being a bitch.”

“Why does it have to be your way?” Tears of helpless rage dripped down my cheeks. Continue reading

I Want to Understand You: Hearing Loss, Grit and Grief

DSC05747It’s all a misunderstanding. I mean, I misunderstood. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I can’t always make sense of the noisy world. I feel far away and a little out of focus. Much of my hearing is gone.

Hearing loss began twenty years ago and progressed slowly. One hearing aid, then two, then higher tech models. I lost the pleasure of music and movie soundtracks years ago, but could hear your words.

Hearing stabilized during my husband Vic’s illness and didn’t change after his death, but a roaring began eighteen months ago. The diagnosis is Meniere’s Disease. Dizziness, tinnitus, and rapid loss of hearing in what had been my good ear. I grieve for this loss just as I grieve for my husband. In both cases, I deal with it, day by day, minute by minute. Continue reading

A Personal Grief Ritual of Remembrance and Release

DSC00565When the lupines pop, the bluebird eggs hatch, and lettuce seed germinates, I remember my husband Vic. His death is part of this season, part of the earth and the cycles of my life. Images of Vic’s last days float through my mind as I enjoy nature’s enthusiasm. I remember the moment he did not inhale, just after midnight on June 3, 2008.

Usually grief is my quiet familiar rather than a bleeding wound, but as the anniversary approaches, I feel alone and preoccupied, tense and unsettled. To honor my love and comfort myself, I create a personal ritual. By creating an intentional ritual, we consciously recognize the time of transition and ground ourselves in our new life. I use images meaningful to me and my ritual changes in time as I change, so create anything that feels right for you. Continue reading

Planting Joy in a Season of Sorrow

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

Go outside and plant, a wise voice in me says. You need flowers.

This year’s plants sit on the porches and at the side of the house. They’re hardened off and ready to go in the ground. Part of me thinks I have better things to do than plant a garden. It’s not true.

For me, sorrow permeates this season of bursting life. My husband Vic and I spent May 18, 2008, our fortieth anniversary, in the hospital. I bought him decaf cappuccino and read our favorite love poems out loud. Our life centered around his physical suffering. We knew it would be that way as long as he lived. He was dying. The question was how soon. Continue reading

A Dog’s View of Life and Death

DSC00024Where did they go? When will they come back? Will they feed me or will Cindy? Someone will. There is always someone.

She fed me early and left. Lots of people were in the house, but not him. Where are they? It scares me when I can’t keep an eye on them. She was jumpy like something was chasing her. She’s been like that for days. Where is he?

I want her to take me for a long walk in the woods. He doesn’t go for many walks now. He doesn’t play with me. When I bounce in front of him and wag my tail, he turns away. When the wood stove is hot, he lies next to it and uses me for a pillow. This makes me quiet and sleepy. I love being needed. Continue reading