Friday, February 24, 2012

The moment between bars

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My week has been full of opposites, reminding me how I vacillate and that we all are works in progress.

Sunday, I spent an enriching afternoon in the company of other Quakers as we studied and grappled with death and dying. Meeting monthly, we're slowly reading a book on the subject by a Buddhist that requires self exploration. We shared our responses to what we envision as the worst death possible, then the best. The answers were wide-ranging and astounding. One Friend remarked that I am probably the minority in understanding and embracing that my death will be only me and God. And I am completely happy with that. I should confess that I have had a few mentors along the way who've shown me it's nothing to fear.

Monday gloriously opened casting the beautiful and full belly of a pregnant friend in plaster. She was radiant and I loved gently smothering her 35-week wide stomach with Vaseline, then wetting, wringing and applying the gauze strips. I smoothed each layer, working from chest to lower abdomen, side to side, capturing a wondrous shape that immediately appeared sculptural. One daughter cut strips and the younger,  wandered away. Perhaps it was too much, but for me, one who has given birth, it was a reminder of the beauty in the entire life-giving process. It was a privilege to trap this moment, this shape, reconnecting to my experience and looking ahead to those of this mother-to-be.

Tuesday, I facilitated my weekly spiritual-nurture group on one of my favorite subjects: the living water. We drank Italian sparkling water, listened to a bubbling fountain, were led through a guided meditation as we lay on the floor pretending to float, completely surrendering ourselves and, ended by washing each others' feet. It was lively, fun, moving and life affirming. Why can't we always treat each other this way? I thought. It was humbling to sooth another's feet, but even more so to be on the receiving end.

Wednesday, I was on the phone with an old family friend, listening to her describe her husband dying of Alzheimer's. I had made the call, prompted by my heart in honoring the gift of their friendship. Life was never dull when they visited or we ventured to Chicago: the New Year's their son teasingly locked us out on a second-floor porch in record-breaking low temperatures, sitting in their built-in naughty chair, hearing the story of how ancestors had a copy of the Mona Lisa crated away in a musty attic or the countless times Chris, the one dying, made us laugh ... hysterically. He has the best sense of humor of anyone I've ever known. Last weekend, when his son visited, he saluted his father and asked: "Permission to board?" It was a joke between them, but also a sign of respect as the father had been a Navyman. After two weeks of not uttering a word, Chris replied: "Permission denied" and the room cracked up. His wife confessed how difficult it is to see her spouse withering in the 112-pound frame until he smiles and transforms. She even crawled into bed and held him one night until he slept. He finds comfort when they recite the Lord's prayer together and she continually prays on the trip to visit for strength and receives it every time.

Thursday, I let one daughter play hooky. She's growing up so fast and we rarely get one-on-one time. We shopped and dined at Ikea, then slid into the city, Findlay Market to be precise, for an Indian cooking lesson, drifting to the Korean store after for spices, bumping into an old friend and ending with me quaffing a Bavarian beer in the antique bar where the friend works. It was one of those days you'll always remember as the epitome of the perfect day. Earlier my 14-year-old asked "When have you been the happiest?" Upon my hesitation, she answered herself: "You're supposed to say right now because you're with me." And she was right.

Intermingled with these are prayers for my 95-year-old aunt who, on a jaunt to Florida, ended up in the hospital for surgery, then Hospice and has made a miraculous recovery and a dedicated Quaker friend struggling with a stern diagnosis and complications.

Today, I walked to yoga, but left early and in tears because my shoulder could not handle the planks. Usually it's not an issue, but today, the pain was excruciating. So much so that I almost cancelled a meeting with my spiritual friend. Glad I didn't because it was what I needed most. She let me whine a bit, then I discussed each of the above and we got around to the fact we live many deaths and re-births. I think she was also saying that I am currently in one of those and I agree. Her advice was spot on: "Think of the circus and the person on the trapeze. When they go to reach for the next bar, they have to let go of the other and there is a moment when they are grasping nothing. I think that's where you are."

The space between life and death, death and life. The place we're supposed to trust.

• What glimpses of life have I been given recently?
• What of death?
• How can I string those together?
• What message is there?
• How have I experienced the space between?

looking back,

and also
forging ahead


trying to
hold both bars
for fear of falling

thinking it is
our job

when we must
just let go

and surrender

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