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gifts from the heart

My day of respite from the fog of grief lasted two days, a much needed break especially for my body. The sadness and grief had been manifesting in my body as headaches, nausea and leg cramps. Interesting that my two good days coincided with two good days for mom. She was upbeat and in good spirits. Funny how connected our body can become with those we love.

The next day the tears were back, welling up in my eyes and hard to control. Mom’s two days of feeling good changed quickly. Her sodium levels were dangerously low and blood pressure still erratic and high. She was back in bed and able to be open about how bad she felt. As we talked, mom commented on how amazed she was that I could remain so positive with all I had been through. It was difficult to be able to really explain how to her. In talking about how with her, I realized that I had merely made a choice to face the pain and live through it. Move forward one step at a time. I had other choices for sure, masking the pain or going crazy, literally. Maybe it was my two children who depended on me for strength and guidance that kept me going and led me to this choice. Maybe my growing ability to trust my faith was also a reason, feeling in my heart that even when I could not see through the fog, I knew whatever was happening was all for me. Just had to be patient some times for the clarity to be revealed.

At the end of March, mom decided to stop taking her blood pressure medicine since it was not working. And once again, she had strength. She was able to go outside and walk down the street, to the big tree in the middle of the road, about 3 houses away. Dad was convinced she had ‘turned the corner’. I was supportive of his positive outlook even while I felt this tug inside- kind of like a yo-yo. Mom experienced really good days and really tough, low days. The rollercoaster continued to change direction quickly and the emotions followed. The low days came back strong with a vengeance. As we moved into April, her headaches were increasing so much and with the low sodium levels, Dad became very worried and took her to the emergency room on April 1. When the doctor came in, Mom told him she was ‘not supposed to be there’. She told the doctor she ‘felt like she should already be dead and something was keeping her here’. Probably shocking for the doctor to hear and even more so to dad. Mom spent the day in the emergency room while they stabilized her. She would not let them run any tests on her so they gave her fluids. We did learn that the lung tumors were likely depleting the sodium in her body, and may eventually cause a heart attack. When she told me about the experience later, mom said she was trying to shut down her body, she really didn’t want to live in the state she was in. She was done. Mom actually believed that her mind was strong enough to shut down her body. She never ceased to amaze me with her expansive beliefs, even now. I listened intently, yet didn’t quite comprehend. A part of me had a feeling of wanting to help her, I just didn’t know how.

Dad was finally able to convince mom to let Hospice come help. Mom wanted to stay at home and Hospice would be able to help her feel more comfortable and manage the pain better. This news was a confirmation that her time to leave was really near. While I knew it was coming, it was shocking nonetheless, the pain in my heart increased and cut deep to my core. I knew it was time to take my children to see her, to say goodbye in person.

We traveled to Austin in early April. It was hard to see her in such a frail state. I realized that in her current state, she was not able to walk down to the lake anymore, something she cherished. Mom had followed Dad to several different cities and states during their 55 year marriage and she had always said she would get to pick where they retired. Her choice was to retire on a lake. As I reflected on this, a thought popped in my head. I could take the lake to her. Really? Well sort of. I realized I could in a way and took a plastic tub down to the lake and filled it with water, sand and shells. I carried it back up the many stairs to the house. Not sure how I managed to do that but something was giving me strength. I think my sisters thought I had lost my mind. When I brought it to her and placed each foot in the water, her eyes lit up so brightly and she seemed to feel peace. It was as if she was imagining standing in the lake while feeling it lap at her feet. It brought me such joy in my heart that I could grant her this moment in time, a break from the pain.

Feeling the well of grief trying to break out and needing support, I reached out to my friend Corinne. I asked her to go on an errand with me. It was healing to have her support and feel the deep pain for a little while, in a place I didn’t feel the need to be strong. We talked through the situation and the signs of the end approaching quickly. I was struggling to figure out how to help mom feel loved every day even though I could not be with her. I had read about the healing power of certain crystals and had decided to make her a necklace. Corinne and I went to the bead store and I found what I was after. A deep purple amethyst crystal and two smaller rose quartz crystals, mom’s favorite colors- pink and purple. I strung all three together on a pink piece of leather with the amethyst in the middle and the rose quartz on either side. Later when I brought it to mom and tied it around her neck, her face lit up again. Her joy was beaming from the inside, almost as if the light was shining straight out from her heart.

As we sat together, I could see mom visibly relax. She closed her eyes, yet still had a grin on her face. When she opened her eyes again, she shared how calming the necklace was, how she felt more settled with it on. We then moved to a discussion about her time on earth being short. Dad had asked a few weeks previously for each of us to write an obituary. While the thought was quite sad on some level, I felt prepared mostly, as mom had shared so much in the months preceding April about her life. There was one more thing I wanted to know, in her own words. So I asked. I wanted to know how she wanted to be remembered, what she would say about her life. Mom said that ‘she gave all the time and love, and it was so easy for her to give. But so very hard to receive.’ It gave me peace to give a little gift from my heart back to her, with the lake water and necklace. In that moment, I felt in my heart that my gifts from the heart had made a difference.


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a celebration of love

As I prepared to be in Austin for mom’s 77th birthday on March 9, I could feel myself getting more depressed yet happy at the same time. In my daily calls with mom, I started to notice her coughing more.  Probably the part that was putting me in a funk. The happy part was mom had survived long enough to be able to enjoy all of her daughters, son-in-laws, grandchildren, and one granddaughter-in-law in Austin as we came together to celebrate mom.  My godfather and his son were able to come as well. It was probably the most enjoyable all family gathering I had experienced yet. We spent time out at mom and dad’s house on Lake Austin. And one day, dad rented a paddlewheel boat for all of us. We spent several hours out on the lake, enjoying the sunshine, relaxing out on the water, and celebrating mom. It was hard for her to receive all the love that was gathered just for her. She was not used to the spotlight and was more comfortable in the background. And she was becoming much more visibly out of energy and more introspective as days past.

When we got back to the house, I was able to give mom a foot massage, something that we were all starting to do more and more. It seemed as if this type of love was something she could receive openly. I was also able to talk a little to my dad. It was becoming harder for him to watch mom’s energy decrease and the signs of her health deteriorating increase. He asked that I make sure he was never put in a hospital after mom died, that he wanted to be left where he was. And that mom was the most giving person he had ever met. We were then able to talk about the need for hospice and he agreed that he needed to talk to mom about it. Although he acknowledged that they didn’t communicate well. He committed to try as he knew hospice was needed. The next day, we had a photographer come out to the lake to take family pictures. Such a fantastic idea and such a blessing that we were all together. Family photos we usually not a fond memory, after yearly trips to olan mills when we were growing up. Several of my sisters really did not like their pictures taken. On this day, we all seemed to surrender and participate, knowing we would have some lasting memories documented. Later as we all prepared to leave on the 12th, dad asked each of us to write an obituary so we would be prepared, not knowing how much time we had. That left a sinking feeling in my stomach as I headed to the airport. I really did not want to leave. I was not sure I would see mom alive again.

The next day, back at home, I learned from one of my sister’s that mom had a rough night after we left, with lots of coughing and difficulty breathing. One of my sisters had stayed behind. Mom shared with her that mom was not sure she would make it to her birthday and was surprised that she did. Now she could let go. With this news, I started to feel completely out of control and wanted to move to Austin for a short time. Be with mom and cherish each day that was left. I was quickly reminded of my responsibilities of raising two children and working full time and knew that was not an option for me. As I considered what to do, I let go and turned my situation over to a higher power. Asking and trusting that the details of my busy life would work out as they needed to while I prioritized time with mom. Thankfully, I was able to go back to Austin the next weekend, for St. Patrick’s day. Mom loved to celebrate all the special days and holidays with décor and special food. It was a nice distraction to focus on St. Patrick’s day and tell stories of growing up, with all my sisters around.

While in Austin, I was able to talk more with mom about where she was, what her life was feeling like now. She described a feeling of being almost ‘lost’ in her own life, unable to feel her strong life force guiding her forward each day. She was struggling with even being able to feel all of our love for her. When I asked her what she was thinking about, it was all negative. The inner critic voice inside was complaining, asking why ‘she could not just get up’. She was not able to walk much on her own these days. And her appetite had vanished. She asked me if I thought it was the cancer spreading through her body or the sustained high blood pressure. Neither of us really knew, and she was no longer seeing her doctor. She told me then that if it was her time to go, she accepted it but she didn’t want it to drag on, or be a burden to any of us. We both acknowledged that we didn’t really know how or when it would happen. I still felt in my heart that she would die in her sleep.

As I looked in her eyes while we talked, I could see a lightness I had never seen. Almost angelic light shining brightly. She drifted off and closed her eyes. I held her arm as we talked. Her body was so very cold to the touch these days, almost as if it was empty. She opened her eyes again and talked about her acupuncture. Something she had enjoyed weekly for over a year. Mom talked about how she was not able to relax enough now to receive the treatment and knew she wouldn’t get the benefit if she was not able to relax. She struggled with relaxing and thought maybe it was fear, scared to let go as it may be forever. She also described how hard it was for her to do nothing every day. Mom was used to a highly active state of being and not very comfortable sitting still, just being.  I started to feel pain in my heart as we talked. Then I shared that I accepted where she was at this juncture and if her path was to leave, I accepted it. She then asked how I would remember her when she passes. Another sharp pain shot through my heart. I was so very grateful to be talking so openly with her, yet my heart was breaking into pieces from the inside out.

Mom said she did not want me to remember her in her current state. I reassured her I would remember the incredible gift of sharing such deep love with her, the unending giving and incredible support she had offered me, and the valuable guidance she had given me as a mother, learning how to raise to children from one stage to the next. Mom then acknowledged how much she felt my love and how grateful she was that I had included her in so much of my life. How she felt my presence when I would call and how she could feel my love when I visualized wrapping my arms around her when I was back in Nashville, something I was doing daily now. Such great validation for me of the deep connection we had developed. Mom drifted off again and when she re-opened her eyes, she said she knew how much I loved her. More validation and my heart filled with peace. It felt as if this talk gave both of us strength. As if we were in our own little world having this discussion, while the busyness of everyone in the house moved around us. As I prepared to leave again, my sisters and I were figuring out how to communicate better and talked about death a little easier. Dad was understandably very sad and depressed. He had seen his wife of 55 years survive late stage cancer before. He was starting to verbalize more now how he knew this time was different.

The day after I returned from Austin felt like a gift. A break from all the emotion and stress of the past couple of weeks. Felt kind of like the eye of a hurricane, calm and clear.  I felt joy again and had a skip in my step. I also could feel the love and support from my dear friends. As such, I was able to focus and knock out a couple of items on the to-do list, a helpful change from the limbo I had been living in. It was so very nice to feel normal for a day. My life was in such transition with so many changes. I enjoyed the feeling of peace and calm while it lasted.

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time slipping away

As I thought about time with mom running out, I considered what I would do if I really did know mom was close to passing. It was hard to keep a clear mind. The fear kept creeping in. I tried to take deep breaths and focus on the deep love I shared with mom. As I did that, one idea that surfaced was that I would want a piece of her in my house, something more than a picture. Mom had become quite a talented water color painter since she had retired twenty years earlier. I decided that I wanted mom to paint each of us a painting, of somewhere we had been together. One for me and one for each of my children. Mom was thrilled with the request and started the paintings, even in the midst of her deteriorating health state.

In mid-February, I was scheduled to go on a business trip when I learned mom’s blood pressure had been extremely high over the past few days and was not going down. San Diego was my planned destination and sounded delightful at this time of year, a place to enjoy some warmth and feel calmed by the ocean.  I was having a hard time focusing on finishing my trip plans. My mind kept drifting back to mom. I knew I wanted to go see her instead. So I cancelled my work trip and went to see her. Mom was surprised and somewhat uncomfortable with my decision. When I asked her about it, she said that it was hard for her to receive the gift of my visit, knowing that I had prioritized her over work. And how glad I was to do that at the time. The little voice inside me was gaining strength, telling me mom’s time was coming to an end. Most everything was seemingly less important that enjoying time with mom at this point.

I asked more questions about the blood pressure and learned that her high and erratic blood pressure was linked to her kidneys. Her doctor recommended for mom to see a renal specialist. All of a sudden, the words of a friend resurfaced in my memory. He had told me the renal system was usually the first to go, and may lead to hospitalization. My heart grew heavy as I processed this and asked more questions of mom’s doctor. Her cancer markers were 6.1, out of a range of 0-3. And had just been 1.5 three months earlier. Cancer markers were a way that her doctor used to track the progression of the cancer, and a 6.1 represented a strong acceleration of the disease. The news cut me to my core. Mom’s doctor also shared that her lung tumor had tripled in size in the past few months. I felt paralyzed and was walking around as if in a daze, didn’t even feel strong enough to go for a walk. How far I had come to open my heart to being so present in the moment and feeling deep love. And now I was feeling the raw pain as the details unfolded, one by one.

I went home and was having a hard time focusing, could barely carry out basic tasks and was forgetting things. Needing support, I went to my therapist seeking tools to help me cope.  It was healing to be able to talk so openly about mom’s situation, my feelings, fall apart in the process, and feel safe at the same time. In the visit, I learned something else about myself. That while I had learned and was continuing to practice how to feel love so deeply in my heart, it was this same depth that I was feeling the pain. Ouch. I chose to focus on the gift of feeling the deep love so I could get through my days, one at a time.  In the midst of feeling like my mom was slipping away, I was also facing another court appearance related to my ex-husband.  Not a pleasant experience but evidently required by the courts to adjust our agreements due to the move to Nashville.  I was not feeling strong enough to endure the stress of the court room. I grew angry that I was having to face such big things at the same time again. It was not fair for sure, but here in my life for a reason. And I remembered that I was not alone. I had great friends and family to support me, but I also had my faith. I let go and realized that I must be strong enough, as God only gives us what we can handle.

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reality settling in

As a new year unfolded in 2006, I took stock in all that had been for the past two years. I had survived a divorce, moved to a new state, and faced cancer once again with my dear mother. And she was still here, two years later. Quite the fighter, she was determined to live her live as she saw fit. And she was still with us largely due to her resolve of guiding her own path of healing, versus a path designed by traditional western medicine. As I reflect on this time, mom remains today the strongest and most courageous woman I have ever known.  I was amazed that she was still around although also aware that this could not continue forever.  A couple of weeks into 2006, I was reminded that something was changing. My reality was settling in.

It was January 11, 2006, and a stormy night in Nashville with lightening and strong winds and rain. As I walked to my bedroom, I passed the familiar pictures on the wall of my mom as a child, my father and his brother as a child, my parents wedding picture, and a picture of my maternal grandfather’s garage. Something I did several times a day without notice. Not this night. Something was different. Could have been the wind shaking the house, not sure, but all of a sudden mom’s baby picture fell off the wall onto the rug in front of me.  Shock filled my body as I had not been aware of something that seemed so purposeful before, yet quite scary. I was already unsettled by the storm and the picture falling down in front of me really frightened me on some level. On another level, I was calmed by something familiar, the feeling of my maternal grandfather, Grandpa Pat. It brought back fond memories of spending time with him when I was little in Indiana near his house, catching fireflies and fishing. I didn’t get to see him often but he always made me feel loved and calm. I remember being excited when I was five when I learned he was coming to live with us, only to be crushed when I learned he was sick. He passed away when I was six. Now, it seemed like he was trying to get my attention, but I didn’t understand how.

The storm passed and I was able to fall asleep. That night I had a dream. It felt so real, like I was wide awake. Grandpa Pat told me he had come to take mom with him, that it was time for her to go. The next morning, I talked to one of my sister’s and found out she also had a dream about mom and death. I started to feel in my heart that the time was nearing, when she would pass from this physical life. The letting go I had been practicing was serving me well, trying to trust the bigger picture called life and trusting that what came forth, was what I could handle. And that I would always have everything I need.

Despite my practice at letting go, the sadness started to catch up with me. I was not ready to say goodbye, especially because I finally was experiencing the relationship with my mom I had always wanted, one where I felt her deep love and where I knew she felt mine now as an adult. My sisters and I were in the planning stages of a big birthday celebration for mom in March at this time. Somehow, I knew she would not be around much beyond that. Her body was showing signs of fatigue. Her blood pressure had been irrative as of late and had shot up to 180 as her heart rate escalated. It reminded my father that this time was different, she may not be around much longer. He opened up to my sister that he didn’t know what he would do without mom. How in the world would we help him prepare for losing the love of his life, after 55 years of marriage? And help ourselves at the same time. Not sure we knew at the time, but each of us seemed to be moving to a place of acceptance in our own way.

I went to Austin to spend time with mom, something I was doing more often. Wanting to enjoy the time, however long I had. Our time was precious and lovely, difficult and tearful at the same time. I was also able to spend time with my dear friend Corinne then, who lived in Austin. She had lost her mother as a young child and was able to support me from a place of empathy, which felt different and comforting. Such amazing support she provided me, along with good advice. She said one of the things she wished she had now were some clothes of her mother’s, so she could make a quilt or something soft. Great advice for me and something valuable I tucked away in my memory for later. I was not quite ready to process such a thought.

As I moved into February, I felt in a state of limbo. Kind of numb, not feeling much. Probably had shifted into my detached state as the sadness and pain in my heart was increasing. I was moving through my days without much feeling, kind of going through motions without much intention. We were finishing the planning on mom’s birthday celebration, now just a few weeks away.  More news from the doctor confirmed what I knew in my heart. He said it was time for us to think about Hospice for mom. And then he said something more, put words out there that made it real. He said that ‘his thoughts and prayers were with us as we endured this time, that mom was not going to be with us much longer.’ One more example for me of my reality changing, a proof point guiding me to what was to come.

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treasuring each moment

My children and I went to Austin for the July 4th week, one of mom’s favorite holidays. We enjoyed the lake with full abandon, allowing the days to unfold and following mom’s lead. Not knowing the timing of when mom would leave us, we wanted to enjoy this time to the fullest, as if it would be our last 4th of July celebration with her. Mom always loved seeing the children’s eyes light up with various fireworks we set off from their boat dock on Lake Austin. She always had sparklers, ‘dancing’ chicks, rainbow fountain fireworks and every year we would try other kinds. Mom baked a special cake with my children and decorated it, keeping most of the icing on the cake.

I was able to spend some quality one on one time with mom, most days going for her usual 3 mile walk around her neighborhood. I was amazed to see her still walking, and while slower in her pace and with some added stops, nonetheless an incredible feat for someone in mom’s condition. I was finally able to ask more questions, continue my journey to learn more about mom. I started with asking if she had ever thought about her greatest accomplishments. Surprisingly, her first response was that she was able to raise the five of us without anything major happening to any of us or without much help or support. It was nice that she could feel how tremendous that was at this point in her life.

I then asked about the people that had influenced her most. Again, her response caught me by surprise. She said her mother and father influenced her most for encouraging her to go to college. That was in the late 1940’s and many women were encouraged to focus on getting married and having children, versus going to college. Mom then shared how she considered college to be a turning point in her life, for many reasons. I then shifted the questions to the present and asked if she had thought much about how she would want to be remembered when she did pass. She talked a little about wanting to be cremated and her ashes spread over the lake, but she spoke of it somewhat in the past tense, and I could tell by her reaction it surprised her.

So I transitioned to a different type of conversation. One where I was able to give her some feedback, share some things that amazed me about her. Mom listened very intently as I described how incrediblly amazing she was to me. She asked that I share more details, what was amazing about her. I continued with detail about her as a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a working mom, a student, a wife, a Stephen ministry representative and as a self-healer. Mom sometimes struggled with receiving praise or being called out in a setting of more than one person for her incredible gifts, but this time she was soaking in every word. I told her I would write it down so she could read them again and she smiled. I found a journal entry from about this time in her journal that sums up her desire to be worthy and to accept the best, ‘I am willing to release the need to be unworthy. I am worthy of the very best in life and I now lovingly allow myself to accept it.’  While outwardly we could see that she always wanted to be in the background, just quietly and selflessly give to others, I didn’t realize the magnatude of how inside she had deep feelings of unworthiness.

Over the fall of 2005, we continued our talks about her childhood and things she remembered. Mom grew up in a town of 600 in Indiana. Her father owned the only garage and gas station in the town and her mother was on the city council. Mom felt like her mother went to extremes to not have her only daughter grow up spoiled, and the pain still seemed real as mom described it. Mom learned how to smock and make quilts from her grandmother, Annetta. Mom experienced many wonderful memories from the time she spent with her and her eyes lit up as she described more.  Mom also shared how I reminded her of Annetta and how she wished I could have known her. Annetta died in the very early hours of the morning I was born.

Learning more helped me feel closer to mom, more connected, and helped keep the fear at bay, at least for a while. It helped me give to mom in a way she could receive and filled my heart with joy in the process. During the last months of 2005, the reports of the cancer markers increasing continued. Nothing any of us could control or change. Just a process we were to respect as it unfolded. Mom didn’t seem very interested in the reports. She mainly wanted to enjoy each day to its fullest. A great model for me, even in this situation. She was always teaching, always seeking to enjoy life.

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learning how to cope

Two weeks went by and I began to settle into my new home a little each day, now with my children at my side. I chose to spend the weekend connecting the stereo so we could enjoy music and unpacking the children’s toys. They were much happier once they could see their toys and things in their new space, appeared more relaxed and secure. I caught up with one of my sister’s and heard some unsettling news. Something I knew in my heart but had been keeping tucked away as I managed through the move and new job. Mom’s doctor had shared with my sister that mom’s cancer was fast growing and there was nothing any of us can do, except love her and spend time with her. Appreciate all that has been. Wow. The reality of an ending shaping up without knowing how or when. It was special to be able to talk openly with my sister and I was grateful for the candor. While not what I wanted to hear, something I knew I needed to face.

A few more weeks of unpacking and settling into our new lives went by and I had cleared out a few more boxes. As I made my way through another box, I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. A well of grief formed in my throat and heart as I started to read. It was an article on grief, given to me in Boulder. And all of a sudden it hit me hard, the reality that my mom was dying. I reached out to my sister for support. We both cried as we discussed the change and loss that was about to come. Something I had been able to detach from for the past several months. Crying and talking with her helped me realize that I had sunk into somewhat what of a depressed state as I had put these feelings on hold for months. Now that I was in my new space, the physical transition complete, I was able to be still, and let the sadness flow. Allow my feelings and fear of the unknown to have a voice. And I felt in my heart then that I probably needed to reach out for help, and start to learn how to cope.

I went to the computer and started researching about cancer support and ways I could get support locally. From the research, I discovered a local resource and ventured into an unknown space for me, a cancer support group. Growing up in a family with five children, most of life happened in groups of some form or fashion. It was the reality of numbers and my sisters and I outnumbered our mom and dad. So off I went to a group that I thought would help me, a great resource called Gilda’s Club. As I started to introduce myself, I barely got five words out and the tears started flowing. Just introducing myself.  The good news was I was not alone, not the only person feeling sadness and pain. I listened to the other five people in the group share their story of how cancer had impacted their lives, where they were in the journey. Then it was my turn. I spoke of the reality that my mom was dying yet no one was able to tell me when it would happen. I reflected on the past six months and shared how special it was for me to be at her side when she learned the cancer was back. To be able to share the special memories with mom of each experience from month to month, since that moment of truth. How it touched my heart to be able to be present and love her with my heart wide open. As I shared these stories with the group, the heaviness in my gut, fear of the unknown, started to slowly dissolve.

My learning to cope had begun. I had reached outside of my inner circle of family and friends for help. As I drove home from the cancer support group that night, I felt a warm feeling of gratitude in my heart. I realized that I was appreciating mom for who she was, in the moment, fully present. I was honoring her journey and accepting her path. I decided I wanted to ask her more, hear more about what life was like for her each day. Then I thought about the support group experience. I was relieved for the ability to sit with people like me, to learn that I was not alone. Many people were also facing tough situations and trying to cope. But did I really feel comfortable in a group setting, I asked myself. Not really. I realized I was sharing details about my situation with them, but not talking about my feelings of sadness and impending loss. The greatest loss one can experience, a deep loss of the heart. In the group setting, it felt complicated to describe my story of cancer and how it was impacting my life. All I wanted was to fall apart and have someone dear hold me. Not to have someone fix me or make it go away. Or to have to listen to someone else. For now, I learned that I needed my support to be all about me. I went to sleep thinking about my experience and decided I would start looking for a grief counselor to support me through this journey. I awoke from a dream in the early hours of the morning. I sat straight up in bed. In my dream, I saw mom die in her sleep, sometime before dawn, so very peacefully. It gave me comfort to know something about the how. Just still no answers to when.

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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.