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a new chapter unfolding

I made it to Austin in early March 2005 to celebrate Mom’s birthday with her. We were able to go hear the live music she was enjoying and spend quality time together. I was able to share the exciting journey I was on with work.  One of the sales leaders in another state had asked me to take on a certain role, a valuable strategic consulting role, in another state. The reality of my life situation would not allow for consistent weekly travel and facing a move for a one year job was not a value equation I was willing to consider. However, it gave me pause for thought. The role was intriguing enough for me to evaluate and I ventured to push the edges a little in my mind, wondering if the role could be expanded into something more, something that was worth a move to a new state. I realized in that moment as I was sharing the story with mom that facing the disappointment of losing the previous job opportunity actually had furthered my practice of letting go of outcomes and following the process of my life experiences, asking questions along the way.

Mom was delighted for the promise of a new chapter unfolding for me and we agreed to meet for spring break in the city where the job could be based, in Nashville, TN. My children and I met mom and dad in Nashville in mid-March, sharing a wonderful and yet emotional time together. I was grateful to have the gift of mom and dad helping my children and me explore Nashville together, grateful that mom felt strong enough to travel and healthy enough to be playful with my children. We went for a walk in Centennial Park one day and went house hunting another. Mom was strong until the third night. She became very sick, unable to leave the bathroom. With all the excitement and activities of my big life change unfolding- a new job, moving to a new state, a new home- I was managing to stay somewhat in my detached state. It was a rude awakening to experience mom being so sick all of a sudden, kind of like one of the deep lows of a rollercoaster ride. We had enjoyed moments of highs- pure joy and love, celebration of this new place we were discovering and excitement of mom being able to be here with us. That night, mom’s body reminded us all that cancer was spreading through her body and our joy quickly transitioned to deep sadness. My heart grew heavy as I struggled with how to help her, how to be supportive. The reality was I just needed to be patient, and hopefully she would regain her strength. Mom awoke the next day strong enough to explore some more. We visited a church and enjoyed lunch at a locally owned restaurant. As we flew home to our separate cities, I put my sadness in a box and started to make my list of all the things required to move my children and me to another state.

As I reflected on this new chapter unfolding for me,  it held so much promise, such expansive joy of a new start personally, and the exciting chance to awaken my strategic mind again. For the first time in my life, I chose to be fully engaged in the process of the transition, asking questions and seeking to understand more details, while trusting that the best outcome was unfolding for all. And while I was busy going through the motions, the universe moved some very large mountains to clear the path for my new chapter to begin. Mountains that my friends and even my lawyer said could not be moved. I convinced my former husband to let me move with the children to Nashville- yes I was capable if I allowed others to help and influence. And I convinced a couple of executives at my company to create a new position for me, pay for my move to Nashville, and allow me to start a new advisory services consulting practice, with me as the leader. I knew I had help in all of this, and much of the help was unexplainable in words. It was an expansion of my faith, a journey beyond the edges of all I knew- at least that is how I came to explain the clearing that unfolded over a mere month’s time.

Over the next month, I started my new position and traveled back and forth as I looked for a new home. I was blessed with some valuable advice from a co-worker Don, a Nashville native, on where to look for homes and how to navigate the city. After many tours in several neighborhoods, I finally landed on the house I wanted, one that did not fit my ‘criteria’ but that filled my heart with peace and felt like home the moment I stepped onto the original hardwood floors. I closed on the house in early May and mom agreed to come share mother’s day with me, in my new house, just the two of us. I knew she was not strong enough to help with boxes. That was not important to me at the time. Being able to share the beginning of my new life chapter in this lovely new city with my dear mother and enjoying each experience without any other distractions was the treasure I was after.

I felt in my heart that this might be one of those moments in life that would never be repeated, no real idea of what the experiences would bring, but sure they would be etched in my memory forever. And how deeply moved and touched I was with what unfolded that weekend. Mom and I were able to talk about what it felt like for her to wake up each day, not knowing if it would be her last. Before she came, she asked me what I wanted of hers, preparing for the day when she would pass from her physical state. What I wanted most were things she wanted me to have, something special to her. And she so incredibly touched my heart in a way that words could not express with what she chose. She brought me some special jewelry pieces that she wanted me to have, and shared the stories of each as she handed them to me. It was way more special that anything I could have thought of, anything I could have chosen on my own.

Over the weekend, mom helped me unpack and arrange my kitchen, something she wanted for me to feel settled, to be prepared for the children moving in after school was out. Somehow when we had gone to the store on mother’s day, she had snuck away from me and bought me something. I guess I was a little distracted with learning a new city, navigating new roads and learning the layout of stores that I didn’t notice. When we got home, she handed me a present. It was a coffee mug, with the inscription ‘The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.’ The thought was so deeply touching to me, so loving, and straight from her heart. The words on the mug reminded me of one of the most valuable perspectives mom had raised me to believe: that I should embrace the challenges in my life as opportunities for personal growth and to always trust that difficult times yielded new beginnings and blessings. And how true those words would ring out over the next year.


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seeking to understand

In late January 2005, mom bravely endured yet another test, a bone scan, the week following her biopsy. The results were good and tough at the same time. The good news was the cancer was not present anywhere on the bone scan results. The tough part was she needed to be on chemo drugs for the rest of her life to stay alive. The same drugs that made her so sick, sick enough to go to the ER with dangerously low potassium levels. Mom decided she would try chemo again and if it made her sick, she would stop. She also chose to embrace alternative medicine, going to weekly acupuncture treatments and taking Chinese herbs daily.

Many people would have taken the news over the past couple of weeks of early 2005 hard and could have caved into a deep depression. Not Mom. She rose above it. The weekend following her bone scan, she spent a day outside building a new open space trail with one other person in her neighborhood. Part of mom’s passion was giving back, and what a great place to do it out in nature which she loved. Her strength and determination seemed to always overpower any illness, even cancer.

As Mom started the chemo, she became sick again. She was considering stopping the IV portion. Her doctor offered up an experimental drug as an option so she researched the outcomes. Even if this drug was effective, it would only prolong her life for about four months. No thank you, she said. With the alternative therapies, mom’s energy increased and she starting walking again. She researched special diets that might have helped prolong her life. She considered changing her diet, but saturated fats were such a favorite food of hers, and she was not willing to give that up. Mom wanted to live her life the way she wanted, even if it meant her time on earth would be shorter. She was so very strong, every step of the way.

Another avenue Mom pursued during this experience with cancer was trying to understand what the dis-ease in her body represented, especially since she had faced the evil ‘c’ before. She was an avid learner, always seeking to understand, and a voracious reader.  Through her process, she captured thoughts in her journal. She came to believe that any discomfort in her body was a direct message to her about where she was out of alignment with her true self. That ‘guidance came in the form of discomfort, if she would only be still and listen’. Mom uncovered that maybe the quiet negative voices in her ‘noisy mind’ were part of the reason for the discomfort- negative self talk about what she needed to do, should have done, always second guessing quietly inside. On her journey to heal her body, she continued to learn about and try different types of healing and even visited with a Buddhist Monk who visited Austin that year.  Along the way, Mom brought in new ideas and considered them, while balancing them with her strong faith and Christian upbringing- to her, faith was the great lever of life, and without it, man could do nothing, and with it, even as a grain of mustard seed, all things were possible.

I wanted mom to come visit Boulder in February 2005 but the chemo was making her hands and feet cold, so probably not a great idea. I knew I wanted to see her again soon and decided I would plan my next trip to Austin to be over a Thursday night so I could go with her and hear live music, at a new place she had discovered. In addition to spending more time in nature, mom was filling her heart with music more and in different ways.

As I processed the news of the first month and a half of 2005, I felt a little detached. I was still trying to understand why this time was different, how it was that mom was suffering quietly inside. And so unfair to happen to someone who gave so much, who loved deeply from her heart. As my reality sunk in, a new job opportunity surfaced within the company I was working for, one that held more promise than the last. A better fit for my skills. I welcomed the distraction and the promise of using my strategic mind again, and ventured into another interview process.