Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not the end, it's simply a bend

I just returned from my trip to the Philippines to visit my mom/Mama. I was last there in July of this year. She's 83 years old now and her health, along with her memory, is deteriorating. My dad (to me he is, and will always be, Papa) died at the age of 39 years old. Mama tells me he was healthy and vibrant. My sister and I went through old papers, photos/slides and documents while we were there. I brought home his briefcase filled with old documents .... my birth certificate, marriage certificate of Mama and Papa, Papa's death certificate and his last passport .... his Thai passport issued shortly before he left Bangkok, his passport photo shows a young man whose drastic weight loss is reflected in his gaunt face. A visa was issued by the US Embassy in the Thailand on September 3, 1968. The immigration stamps on his passport are my way of tracking history ... the last months of his life. He left Bangkok on Sept. 12, 1968 and spent a few days in the Philippines. I wonder how sick Papa felt at that time. By then, he and Mama had received the "death sentence" from doctors in Thailand. A few days in the Philippines to say goodbye to his in-laws. On Sept 16, 1968 they began the long journey to the United States .... Papa's passport shows Honolulu, Hawaii as their port of entry - date of entry: Sept. 17, 1968. From there they traveled to St. Louis, Missouri where he was hospitalized at Barnes and on December 20, 1968 his spirit left his failing body; his essence, and his soul remains in my heart, Mama's heart, and the hearts of my brother and sister. While on the long plane ride to Manila I watched the movie "Time Traveler" about a young man who travels in the past and into the future. I wish I could travel back in time. I wish I could sit down for a cup of tea with Papa and have a conversation. I wish I could have a conversation with Mama when she was younger. As my siblings and I have gone through old photos I see photos of Mama, a young, vibrant woman. Mama is getting old physically, unable to walk far and unable to remember things. She takes 7 different medications every day. In a half hour, the same question will be asked of my sister and I more than five times. We respond to her question each time, like it's the first time she's asked the question. She says she's approaching the end of the road, she's on "borrowed time."

When I think of my mom I think of a strong-willed, somewhat defiant woman who will fight to the bitter end for what she believes in and what she loves. She did that for Papa. As she approaches the end of the road, it's clear she has lived her life for her kids. She has told me that over the years. She has told me, "after your Papa died I didn't want to go on. His last words were 'take care of the kids'". She has done just that, and she has loved us with the same defiance she has loved Papa. For that I will always be grateful. The road has not always been easy. In fact, for many, many years the terrain was extremely rugged and there were times I didn't think we'd get to the other side, but we have persevered and we will continue to persevere .... I don't believe it's the end of the road. I believe it's a bend in the road. I believe there is a God. I believe there is life after death. I believe our soul continues to live on forever.

My wish now, is to fight to the bitter end for Mama, like she did for Papa. As we turn the corner, I (along with my siblings) will do all we can to be there for her like she was there for Papa.

It's not the end ... it's simply a bend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ahnung's anniversary of when I brought her home ...

Today, November 18th, is the one year anniversary of when I went up to Red Lake to pick up Ahnung. You can visit Ahnung's blog which I started in March of this year. In her first entry she shares a movie of her story.

I named her Ahnung (ah-NUNG) which means star in ojibway because I wanted her to have a name reflecting her roots and also because I knew my heart she would be not only be my north star, but the north star, for so many. I went back to my journals, and the day after we arrived back to the Twin Cities, i wrote the following:

"I believe Ahnung is going to be the star that will help guide me out of the darkness of my past. There is something about Ahnung. Her gentle spirit. Her motherly way. Her calm presence...."

Ahnung did just that and continues to be my star. I feel my father's spirit in her. A strong, calm, wise presence.

Today, I leave for the Philippines to see my mom. I am postponing some medical tests and procedures till after I return from my trip. It's important for me to go home and to see my mom. Yesterday I had hoped for good news with the ultrasound -- I had hoped that the lump that is growing in my breast would be fluid and a simple aspiration would take care of it. My gut told me it wasn't fluid. It's very much like the lump I had earlier this year that was removed surgically in May revealing pre-cancer cells. The ultrasound confirmed that it's not fluid. I will need to have surgery again. My body also continues to have problems digesting fat and nutrients. More tests when I return from the Philippines.

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for me. I struggled to balance a body that feels fatigued and weak with my desire to keep pushing hard with the work I do for Pet Haven .... I have to remember we have good days and we have bad days. Yesterday was a mix of both. As I prepare for my long journey to head home, I am grateful that it is on the one year anniversary of when I brought Ahnung home from Red Lake. She is my north star. I believe my father's spirit lives on through Ahnung ... that must be why when I look up in the skies and see the bright stars I know I am safe and I am not alone. The spirits of our loved ones remain with us forever ... they simply manifest and show themselves in many ways.

Here's what i say to my father: "Papa, you did good by picking Ahnung!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mama and Papa: Love that defies death

I just got off the phone with my mom. My sister and I are scheduled to leave for the Philippines next Wednesday to see her. I am planning on going but need to confirm with my gastroenterologist that it's still okay for me to make the trek out of the U.S. Endoscopy this past Monday was a breeze. Waiting on results of the biopsies taken ... i believe he took tissue from my stomach and small intestine. He indicated nothing looked unusual so i'm guessing the biopsies will come back negative. Still doesn't explain malabsorption symptoms I continue to experience which are now going on 2 months. I realized this morning that the first day I had the symptom was the night of 9/14, which happens to be my father's birthday. September 14th, 2006 was also the day we learned that our dog Shen had spleen cancer ... she died the next day, on a Friday afternoon, just like my father who died December 20, 1968 on a Friday afternoon. As I deal with health issues, I know my Papa is with me, protecting me. I feel his spirit. On Tuesday I have a ultrasound and diagnostic mammogram scheduled to deal with the lump in my breast that has come back. If it's determined to be solid, my surgeon recommends excisional surgery again to remove the lump. I'll know for sure on Tuesday.

With malabsorption issues getting worse, I need to confirm with my doctor that a trip to the Philippines will be okay. There's a followup test he wants me to go through ... it appears the organ that both my doctor and acupuncturist are thinking is the culprit is my pancreas. The holidays are always a little hard for me as I remember my father. I wrote a piece about him and the loss of Shen back in 2007, and have re-posted it on the Pet Haven website. Weight loss and no pain ... my mom tells me this morning when we are on the phone, "your Papa never complained. He kept losing weight and had some stomach cramps." I have to remind myself that even though "I feel fine" my body is clearly sending me a message that something is wrong. I think Papa is telling me to listen, to pay attention. I have an open, heartfelt conversation with my mom this morning. She wants so much to come back to the States. I tell her I want to come back to see her but need to make sure my doctor gives me the okay to travel out of the country. As much as she wants to see me she says, "take care of your health first and do whatever tests you need to have done." Her strength and health is deteriorating yet she says she will come here to see me. I tell her "no, I am young. I will come and see you." She goes on to tell me, "yes, you are young. Your Papa was young. He was only 39 when he died. I still get angry at him for leaving us. Didn't he know how much I needed him?"

For decades I don't think my mom and I ever told each other we loved each other. The deep loss of my father (and the love of her life) took something away from us.... we have healed a broken bridge, and for that I am eternally grateful. We end our conversation with, "Ma, I am planning on coming next week. I want to see you. I miss you and I love you very much." She says as her voice cracks, "I love you very much darling. Please take care of yourself."

I may not have had a father around me, physically, growing up ... but I believe he has always been with me. I also have a painful, yet beautiful image and memory, of my mother who loved someone with a depth that defies this earthly world. An image etched in my memory of a woman - my mother - who loved my Papa so much that she tells me "I am approaching the end of the road. I am ready to be with your Papa again."

Their marriage vows, "till death do us part" was not accurate ... even death could not break the incredible love that existed between my Mama and my Papa.

I love you both with all my heart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spirituality of the eagle

The eagle is present across a range of beliefs and philosophies ... the eagle represents spiritual protection, carries prayers, and brings strength, courage, wisdom, illumination of spirit, healing, creation and a knowledge of magic. The eagle has an ability to see hidden spiritual truths, rising above the material to see the spiritual. The eagle has an ability to see the overall pattern, and the connection to spirit guides and teachers. The eagle represents great power and balance, dignity with grace, a connection with higher truths, intuition and a creative spirit grace achieve through knowledge and hard work (from Eagle Spirit Ministry).

On Sunday morning, while up north at our lake home in Nisswa, Minnesota we decided to head into town so that my partner could get a cup of coffee. I wasn't feeling so good -- stomach pains and fatigue. Something inside of me said, I should go. As we drove out the country, windy roads leading to highway 107, up ahead I saw something around the bend ... "is that an eagle??!" As we turned the country perched on a branch was the most magnificent eagle. I was upset I didn't have my camera with me. Fortunately my partner convinced me to turn around and go back to the house and grab my camera. We return 5 minutes later to the eagle still perched comfortably, confidently, majestically ... on the branch. The eagle took me outside my body .... I got out of my car and walked up to the eagle. Fatigue and stomach pain lifted by the spirit of the eagle.

There's a reason the eagle appeared to me Sunday morning .... a gentle reminder to me that I have the inner strength and wisdom to face whatever lies ahead of me. I am not my body. I am not any diagnosis that may be presented to me as I meet with doctors and undergo procedures and tests and possible surgeries in the coming weeks/months.

The eagle teaches us how to go through life without becoming attached to anything, how to accept what comes our way and see everything as a gift from the universe. With their acute hearing they hunt as much by ear as by sight.

The eagle is an incredibly patient being, often perching in a tree, holding the same position for hours on end. May i learn from the wisdom and patience of the eagle who blessed me with its presence on Sunday morning ...

Dear eagle: thank you for showing up Sunday morning. Thank you for reminding me that my strength and healing come from within. Thank you for reminding me to be patient. May your spirit remain with me as we meet with my surgeon later this morning to discuss the lump in my breast.

After the beautiful encounter with the majestic eagle ... we went on to the town of Nisswa where my partner was able to enjoy a scrumptuous cup of coffee. Even though part of me would've loved a cup 'o java, i opted for a soothing cup of ginger peach tea. I vicariously enjoyed the cup of coffee through my partner who savored every sip ... now THAT'S the way to drink a cup of coffee!! :)