Friday, May 30, 2014

Sweet Sorrow

single digits

double digits (23 to be exact)

Nine months ago today my beloved father died. Two days earlier, he had major chest pains and at 11:00 p.m. called for help. A neighbor later told me he watched my pop walk from the house to the waiting ambulance. That’s how tough he was. Left his home upright. Righteous.

My brother sent me a packet containing a copy of dad’s medical records from his final days. The large white envelope arrived in the mail yesterday. 

I opened to a page at random and read: “Patient is pleasant, alert, comfortable, with a blood pressure of 148/90, pulse of 88 and irregular chronic atrial fibrillation.” 

Pleasant, alert, comfortable. I find comfort in these words. 

William Hrycaj was pleasant and alert. And generous, curious, clever. A lover of sports, he also marveled at all manner of beauty in nature. A robust social animal, he was widely known about town. Full of life one moment. Shockingly quiet shortly thereafter.

My acute grief has eased a bit and I experience a gentler mourning. It’s still punctuated with intense, periodic episodes of pain and tears, though. It sucks.

But I’m grateful to have known him for so long. And, I’m grateful he is at peace. I miss and love you pops.

Monday, May 26, 2014

May All Beings Be Free From Suffering

A neighbor’s dog collapsed in front of my apartment building yesterday. The 10-year old collie/retriever mix had moments earlier soaked up my loving attention.

Bentley collapsed and now howled in pain. Passersby stop to help. One person called the local animal hospital about emergency care. 

My husband acted quickly and brought his CRV to the scene; six people gingerly lifted the 75-pound dog inside. Sweet Bentley continued to howl, clearly uncomfortable. 

On the way to the hospital Shannon, Bentley’s person, hugged him and repeated, “I have such a bad feeling about this.” We had seen Shannon and Bentley in the neighborhood occasionally and only knew each other in passing. Until now.

Animal hospital staff ushered the dog in for treatment. The doctor’s assessment was quick: Bentley suffered a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot in his hind quarters blocked blood flow to his back legs, which were cold and non-responsive to the touch. Bentley endured a great deal of pain, and medication helped only a little.

The doctor presented a grim scenario. Shannon could submit Bentley to testing to determine whether surgery would be an option. The humane choice given his crisis, the doctor said, would be to euthanize him. Stunning.

Shannon’s roommate arrived on the heels of the discussion. We left shortly thereafter so she could make her decision.

I awoke at 2 a.m., with Bentley smiling in my mind’s eye, wondering about his fate.

One’s life can change in the blink of an eye. Like Bentley. And Shannon. 

Being present for your life won’t prevent suffering. Notice and savor what life brings you as well as what you create. Find joy in simple pleasures, like pausing to visit with a neighborhood dog as he ambles up the block.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

With Gratitude

A blank sheet of paper can be intimidating. Or it can be exhilarating. And, it can be a tool for discovery.

The final 2.5 hour session of my eight week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course meets for the last time Tranquil Space tomorrow. Nineteen other beings have made the journey with me through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s life changing program.

We explored qualities of mindfulness — noticing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment, without judgment. We practiced sitting, walking, eating and listening, and cultivated loving-kindness.

This afternoon, I pulled out several pieces of blank card stock as I contemplated a gift to my MBSR teacher and fellow students. 

The seed of an idea emerged to wish each person well-being. Then, the words of a loving-kindness meditation arose, back lit with the soothing colors of soft turquoise and celadon. 

Moments later, when the paint dried, I added a prayer to each card.

I’ve tucked them away for tomorrow. 

The metaphor of a blank piece of paper is apropos of life. Especially my life over the last  eight + months.

I’ve rediscovered blank pages as an invitation of spaciousness to begin again. With a beginner’s mind. With an open heart. 

Details to come.