On March 7, 2008 when you turned 67, cancer was winning. We feared it would be your last birthday.
At dawn, I heard muffled banging of wood against metal as you loaded the wood stove. Upstairs, I roused myself, washed my face, prayed for your health, and meditated.
I walked down the steep wooden steps and looked through your office door. As usual, you sat at your computer, drinking coffee and eating oatmeal. You wore a t-shirt, sweats, and a heavy fleece dusted with firewood flakes. I stood beside you. You wrapped your right arm around my waist and leaned into me. You smelled of coffee and cinnamon with a trace of wood stove smoke. I inhaled you and put my arm across your shoulders. Continue reading →
A small group of women and men gathers at the south end of Seneca Lake for a sacred water ritual of gratitude and protection. I wrap a Tibetan yak wool blanket over my winter coat. It’s 15 degrees and the north wind howls. It’s a crazy day to visit the lake shore but we can’t wait for warm weather.
The gas industry has plans to store LPG gas in empty salt caverns under and around Seneca Lake. Will the caverns leak? Of course. Will there be explosions? Probably. Will this turn our beautiful tourist and agricultural region into an industrial hub? Without a doubt. Permits haven’t been granted, but the industry has money and political connections. So I show up for protests locally and in the state capital. This monthly water ritual brings a spiritual perspective to the frustrating political struggle. Continue reading →
In 1967, Vic persuaded me to lie in a sleeping bag on the cold ground in March. We held each other while waves of green, yellow, and pink tinted the sky—a divine aurora borealis lightshow. It was the crescendo of our first winter of midnight love, Golden Delicious apples, Walter Benton’s poems, and Buffy Sainte Marie’s songs.
“Bring your sneakers,” Vic said on a sunny spring morning. He drove his battered VW bug to a rushing creek near the Cornell campus. He stood in the stream bed, grinned up at me, and held out his hand. I grabbed and stepped into the cold water. My feet were numb, but my body was on fire. We waded and walked up small waterfalls. He named the trees and pointed out the wildflowers. He was a physics graduate student, a motorcycle racer, and a wild dancer. He was also a nature mystic. Continue reading →
The previous guides focused on Body and Soul, but Life doesn’t divide into neat categories. Body, soul, and spirit spill into each other, overlap, and affect each other. Here I focus on our relationship to the Higher, to Spirit wherever we find it, including the Divine in Nature.
1. Pray or meditate—in your own way or according to your religious or spiritual tradition. Consider spending part of each day in silence rather than seeking constant distraction. Meditation and prayer comfort us. In silence, we honor our loss and pray for our future. Breathe deeply and be with what is right now, even if your heart aches. Continue reading →
This is the second of three Survival Guides. The first focused on Body and the next will be about Spirit.
1. Share your grief with close friends. Steve said my grief allowed him to feel his own sadness, and many others invited me to share my feelings. I often felt exposed and vulnerable, but I did not feel isolated.
2. Grieve with your children and family if possible. My sons and I spoke about our memories, love, and loss. We grieved for the same person, although I had to avoid overwhelming them with my sorrow. They needed space to speak of their loss or to say nothing at all. Continue reading →
This is the first of three Survival Guides. I’ll post “Soul” and “Spirit” in coming weeks.
During my husband’s illness and after his death, grief exhausted me. Who cared about staying healthy? Some part of me did, but it was hard to get it together. I knew vitality and strength would help restart my demolished life. Poor self-care added depression to my sorrow. As a nutritionist and personal trainer, I had a weight lifter’s discipline before my husband’s illness, but I needed a nurturing, gentle attitude toward my wounded grieving self. Here’s what worked. Continue reading →
“Why? Why…Why did this happen?” Catherine Tidd yelled at a pastor she barely knew. “We did everything right. I don’t know a better person than Brad. Why did this happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to live? Why would God do this to us? You have to tell me! Why?”
There was no answer.
Catherine continues: “For the first time, I really started to digest how I was not in control of anything in life. None of us are…none of us are running the show here…And even if I got an answer, it wouldn’t stop what I was about to feel. He would still be gone.”
“Have you heard about The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman?” our dear friend Richard asked as we soaked naked in their hot tub and talked about life with Richard and his wife. The summer night was cool; the stars glowed.
“A book with a name like that should make the author a bundle,” Vic said with a snort and a twinge of writer’s jealousy.
“But it’s an interesting idea,” Richard protested. I imagined his scowl, but it was too dark to see it. “You need to know the language of love essential to your partner. It may not be the same as yours.”
“OK. Tell us,” I said.
“Quality time. Touch. Gifts,” Richard began.
“What else?” I asked.
“Hmmm… Acts of Service and something about affirmation. Oh yeah. Words of Affirmation.” Continue reading →
Last week, my community turned out for Martha’s memorial service. It was a celebration, what I imagine a New Orleans’ funeral might be.
Martha was one of seven kids and many of her siblings, nieces, and nephews are musicians. They told funny, touching stories and sang spirituals and favorite family songs accompanied by guitar, folk rock style. It was an antidote to the suffering of Martha’s last years and her husband Sam’s grief. No one said Martha was too young at 62 or life was too cruel. Instead, we gave thanks. After the main service, chairs and rugs disappeared, and a dance floor appeared along with drums and more musicians. As always, I was one of the first on the dance floor. Continue reading →