Monday, September 30, 2013

Tomorrow, October 1st ... Ahnung’s 8th birthday and my 25 years of being sober

Ahnung - July 3, 2013

Yesterday, as I was heading to meet the transport of animals arriving from Leech Lake Reservation a reminder popped up on my email . I forgot I had created a facebook event for Ahnung’s 3rd Celebration of Life party which I had planned for September 29th. My heart jolted. If only … if only, I was heading to Ahnung’s party. Instead, I was heading to meet her rez friends in need of a home and I could feel Ahnung telling me, I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. And I was continuing on with the work we had begun together. But my heart aches so much for her …. Tomorrow was going to be a special day for us. October 1st was going to be a day we were both going to celebrate together ---- her 8th birthday and my 25 years of being sober. I have been afraid to feel the deep grief lately, so today as I reflect on the significance of tomorrow I decide to open the door of the guest room where Grief has been taking residence for quite some time ….
Dear Grief,

It has been over a month now. I am sorry I’ve been ignoring you. I know you are in the guest room and I haven’t been able to invite you to join me for coffee, or tea. The truth is, I’ve been wanting to pretend you aren’t here. But you are here. I open the door to your room and I feel myself drowning all over again. I needed a break.

Hold my hand”, Grief says, “It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to distract yourself for a little while. It’s okay to give you heart some space …. When you are able to, come in and I will hold your hand, and let the water wash over you. I promise, you will not drown. Ahnung is in the water. She is filling your pores and your spirit and your cells with every tear that falls.”

Cake from Ahnung's Final Celebration party ...
Will the pain ever go away?” I ask, “Will I some day learn to walk in a new way with Ahnung? Will I ever stop wishing, and wanting, and aching for all that used to be? And for the memories to not just be memories. I ache for the moments with Ahnung when I created memories with her. Instead my memories are like paintings on walls.”

Grief holds my hand. I sit down on the edge of her bed.

And Grief repeats to me what she said to me on her many visits before Ahnung crossed over to the spirit world:

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I fall into the arms of Grief. And I cry and I cry …. and I wail.  Just Be”, Grief whispers to me, “Ahnung is right here with us. She is holding you. She is guiding you. And she will continue to be your north star.”

And so with Ahnung in my heart and in my pores and in my spirit, I trust this journey I am on …. And I trust the path I am walking, is exactly the path I need to be on.

I look Grief in the eyes, ‘Miigwech/thank you.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ahnung's healing work continues ....

Last night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I received an email …. An email that brought tears to my eyes, but also brought me great comfort.

Hello Marilou,

It has been quite some time since we have connected directly, however,  I love reading your writings on facebook, thank you for sharing them.  I have to tell you how sorry I was to hear about Ahnung, I am so lucky to have met her, I know the sorrow you feel is deep - it makes me teary and my heart feels sorrow thinking of her taken away so soon.  I wanted to write sooner, but I have no words - there are no words.

The reason I am writing is to share something with you.  It feels awkward to share it by email, and I hope you do not mind, but I wanted you to know this, and I am not sure I would be able to find the words in conversation - it is very emotional for me, I am needing to take breaks just to write this email.  Again, I really apologize for the informality of sending this by email, I hope my words and story will help you to look past this means of conveying it.

I don't know if I had told you, but last April (2012) we lost our golden retriever, Nike, he was 13, and cancer filled his body.  He also had some severe arthritis, despite the pain medicine, acupuncture, and supplements I gave him, in the end, he was so immobile we would carry him from room to room, he wasn't eating and loosing so much weight.  We finally made the decision to put him down ….. and this broke my heart, I felt I could never open my heart to having another dog in my home because I could never go through this again.  A part of me held on to the decision to put him down, it's not right that we are forced to make such decisions - we shouldn't, it was so painful.  Since that day I have had dreams of Nike, most have been scary, he is swimming in a river or lake and it is getting too deep and I can't get to him and he is being pushed under the waves and he is gone and I feel the loss all over again, the pain is fresh again and it takes me down.  Then, recently,  I had another dream, I had a dream of Nike swimming, I felt the anticipation that it would be the same scary scenario, but I see Ahnung, she is swimming with Nike, they are playing, and he is safe.   I feel I am letting go, letting go of the heaviness, and I can start to feel some peace.  How can I ever thank her for watching out for him.  How can I thank him for being a part of my life, for loving so freely and purely-he was a part of my heart, and when I had to let go, I felt it shatter.  Thank you for letting me know her, even the little bit I did.  I can't say thank you enough.  Again I am so sorry this comes by email, and I hope my words have conveyed the beauty and peace this has brought me, thank you.

Please know she is in my thoughts and heart.  I can never thank her enough for watching over my Nike.  I hope she is watching over all of the other animals I have loved that have passed.  I will always think of her when I think of those animals I have loved who have passed.  Please forgive that this story comes by email.  Thank you Marilou, for sharing her with us.  

Thank you Rose, for sharing this email; thank you for telling me this story and for opening up your heart; thank you for your courage to reach back into a place in time that brought so much pain and to allow yourself to heal. You have also brought healing to me by sharing.

The past few days have been very hard for me. I have been missing Ahnung deeply. I look for her on her favorite dog beds and her favorite spots. I look for her to greet me with her wagging tail by the treat jar when I come home. I look for her in the passenger seat when I am driving. I have asked her to come visit me in my dreams but so far she hasn’t come. The only time I have felt her presence in my dream was about a week ago when I had this lucid dream where some energy was telling me there was a new lump in my breast, but it could only be seen with an MRI. In that dream I could feel Ahnung in my dream.

Ahnung makes her presence known to me in my waking state most of the time. There a moments when I am holding Legacy where this wave comes over me and I feel Ahnung. I feel joy. And Rose’s email reminds me how my sweet girl is continuing to live on. She is reminding me that she is in the hearts of many others and how she is continuing to help in the healing of other beings, but her work is at a different plane of existence now. My heart often aches and hurts because I miss Ahnung deeply. Yet when I have felt her presence, it has been Joy. And I cherish the image of Ahnung guiding Nike and playing with him in the river. From the moment I laid eyes on Ahnung I knew there was something special about her. What I didn’t know was the path she was going to lead me down … the depth of connection, of healing, of insight  … I hear her telling me that our journey did not end on August 25, 2013. I hear her telling me we got to a fork in the road. It was her turn to take a new path and I was to continue down the path we had started together. We both had work to do, separately and together, but in a new way.

As much as I want Ahnung to visit me in my dreams, I have to trust she will come when it is time. It appears she has been busy in the hearts and spirits of others. I am reminded of a visit to a classroom we did a few years ago. On this particular day her typical behavior changed and she found her way to a young boy who had disengaged himself from the world and his classmates and family for 2 weeks. I didn’t know it at the time. Ahnung planted herself, like a service dog, next to the young boy and wouldn’t leave his side for the duration of the class period. Towards the end of my presentation (we were there to share Ahnung’s story), out of the corner of my eye I saw the young boy reach over to pet Ahnung … and at that moment, I could feel a connection, a heart starting to open up. I look back at that moment, and I feel honored and blessed that I was chosen to be her guardian while she here on earth. I am honored to have witnessed her work and to feel hearts opening up .... magic. mystery. love. hope. resilience. trust. connection. community .... yes, all those words = Ahnung.

Over and over, I feel her spirit and her energy speaking to me …. ‘our work isn’t done.’

So thank you Rose, for sharing your story and for giving me comfort and for reminding me Ahnung’s work continues. Ahnung is with your Nike … and yes, I believe she is sprinkling her amazing wisdom and healing, but now she is no longer limited to the constraints of a physical world or a physical body.

What is a heart?
It is not human, and it is not imaginary.
I call it you.

~ Rumi

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ahnung .... tomorrow will be four weeks

Ahnung ... pre-cancer diagnosis
It's hard to believe tomorrow will be exactly 4 weeks since Ahnung's Final Celebration ... since the last time I held her, the last time I heard her snore, the last time I saw her magnificent tail wag, the last time I rubbed her belly .... nestled my head against her head and felt her heart beat, the last time I saw her burrow in the bush by the back door, her head resting on the the purple ball ... the last time I witnessed just how amazing she is with all beings, 4 legged and 2 legged, and how she touched and opened the hearts of everyone she met. I've been told we have a soul connection. I knew that the moment I laid eyes on her in October, 2008 on my first visit to Red Lake Reservation. I made a promise to my sweet girl .. that I would let her go when it was time. There are days when I wake up and I can almost feel the lightness in my heart again, and then there are days, and moments, when the pain strikes and I just want to scream and I just want her back again ... I just want her back again. Tonight is one of those moments. I close my eyes ... please, let this all just be a bad dream. Let me wake up and find my sweet girl next to me again. I just want her back again. Is that too much to ask?

Legacy - 21Sep2013
I haven't been able to write lately because part of me has been afraid to .... writing helps me move through this grief; writing also connects me to that part of myself that cannot hide from my feelings and when I write I reach into the deepest part of grief and hurt and pain, and there's a part of me that wants to run from it all. I know Ahnung is still with me ... she is in my heart and in the hearts of so many people, and her spirit lives on strongly, especially in Legacy. I am grateful she left pieces of herself with Legacy. Today, we played out in the backyard. And he leaped, and jumped with sheer, ecstatic joy ... and it made my heart sing. I could hear my sweet girl telling me that that is how she feels right now, and some day when I move through these intense waves of grief, that I too will feel sheer, utter, joy again ...

All I have left now of my sweet girl are memories .... I pray for continued strength, for peace, for acceptance ... for her spirit to cradle my fragile heart and continue to light the fire inside my soul so I can keep doing the work we were meant to do ....

I miss you sweet girl.

I miss my co-pilot ....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Letter to Grief

Ahnung - Grand Marais (Dec., 2011)

Dear Grief,

It’s been over two weeks now since you’ve come to stay … sometimes I peak in the guest room and I don’t see you … a ray of hope that the fog is lifting. I see the sun shining in through the windows. I wonder, have you left? But I see your bags are still here.

And then there are times where everywhere I turn you are there. In the living room, in the dining room, in my writing room, in my office, by the treat jar, by nung-nung’s favorite sleeping spot, by the healing river rocks, by her favorite hiding bush by the back door, in the studio, on the patio, next to Legacy, in my car, in the squirrels that come to visit …

I know you told me you would be here to stay for a while. Most days I am okay with you hanging around … you are a dull constant ache, and then out of the blue you hit me with sharp dagger pains and tsunamis and I fumble and flounder to find my way back to that center that has grounded me. But how do I ground myself, when my center is Ahnung?

Remember … you are One with Ahnung” Grief says.

I look Grief in the eye and ask her to leave.

Stay with me” she says… “Stay with me for a moment. Let the tears fall. Stay with the pain … just for a moment.”

And so I fall into Grief’s arm. I fall into the pain.

And each time I do, the pain lessens.

Grief repeats to me what she told me a year ago,

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

I see more rays of sunshine now. I feel Ahnung’s spirit in me. I am learning to walk in a new way with my sweet girl. But when the moment of missing Ahnung hits, and when Grief breaks down doors …. I do my best to keep my promise to Ahnung and to honor her … I stay with the pain; I stay with the Grief … no more running … and so I write, and I write, and I write ….  I pray for strength and I lean on an amazing community of friends, and I hold Legacy, Missy and Mister … and I close my eyes, and feel Ahnung in my heart.

She’s there” Grief tells me. “Listen. Listen with your heart …. She is right here with you.”

So as I walk this unpredictable terrain of Grief, I create space to ride the waves, to jump off the rollercoaster, to simply put one foot in front of the other, to cherish moments when Hope and sunshine are in full blaze like they once were, and to know that there is no roadmap for this journey. The only roadmap is my heart, my truth and the promise to Ahnung to carry her spirit and her essence forward in the work we began together.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ahnung ... Still Missing You

“No more counting, Marilou .. no more counting of days since your sweet girl left!” I talk to myself. I talk to Ahnung. I talk to the stars. I talk to Legacy. I talk to this vast open space that feels like a bottomless pit and valley. I find myself counting the days since I last held my sweet girl, since I last saw that magnificent tail of her’s wag, since I last prepared breakfast or dinner piled with her many meds and supplements, since I last heard that majestic thump on the floor, since I last saw her burrow herself in the bush outside my back door and rest her head on the purple ball, since I last saw her race Legacy around the back yard and to the back door, since I least heard her foot steps scurry to the treat jar, always hoping ... since I last walked with her in my neighborhood or saw her patiently wait for squirrels at the bottom of trees ....

I am putting one foot in front of the other. I am desperately searching for some semblance of solid ground, to regain some footing … and yes, there are times when the light does seep through the cracks of my broken heart, and there are times when I feel alive again, and there are times when I feel that yes, this too shall pass and I will move through this … and I am grateful for my friends, for the incredible support, and for so many sending their love through this incredibly difficult time …

But this journey through Grief plain and simple .... just sucks. I promised my sweet girl I would hold her and be there with her when it was her time to go. I promised her I would take care of myself and carry on her work. I promised her I would embrace the grief and the pain of losing her so that I could come through this with a fire in my belly that would scream her spirit and her essence to the world. I promised her I wouldn’t run from the hurt, from the pain and that I would keep my heart open.

Legacy and Ahnung - August, 2012
Some days, some moments, I question if I have the strength to keep my promises to her. And on those days, and in those moments, I have to tell myself …. One day at a time Marilou … one moment at a time … one foot in front of the other … I have to remind myself, that the best way I can honor Ahnung is to keep living and loving … and I have no doubt she picked Legacy to leave behind for a reason … to remind me to laugh and to play and to Be Joy because that is what I see when I look at Legacy. I see Ahnung’s spirit sprinkled in Legacy and as we both figure out how to live without Ahnung’s physical presence we will lean into each other. And Legacy leans also on his brother Mister, who in turn leans on his sister Missy, and Missy into me … and so the circle of life continues. And nung-nung’s spirit and fire continue to live on in each of us.

But when, when will I once again feel like my feet our planted solidly on the earth? Will I ever feel grounded again? As I look out into life it's as if I am looking at my life through my camera lens and everything is out of focus ... the colors are dull ... the essence is gone ... Will the crispness return? Will the vibrant spirit I saw come through my viewfinder return? Will i find my way back Home?

and even in my darkest moments, I can still hear my sweet girl, 'Yes mom. It will return. New colors are forming ...  a new vibrancy, and a new focus. I am with you and I will continue to guide you. I just need you to keep your heart open. Trust me."

And so, sweet girl ... I trust you to guide me, as you have done so in the past, through these dark moments. I miss you nung-nung ... and so does your little brother Legacy.

Legacy as a pup with his big sister Ahnung

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This time last week I was holding you

Dear sweet girl, this time last week I still had you with me. This time last week I was holding you. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember feeling you next to me as I laid next to you on the studio floor where we spent our last two nights together. I remember how grateful I was to see you resting comfortably. I also remember moments when I would start to question whether I was making the right decision … was it time to let you go? Could I hold onto you for just a little longer? And you would send me a clear message. You got up and scratched on the studio that led to the backyard. You threw up and burrowed yourself in the plants. You looked at me and with those eyes clearly said to me, ‘mom, it’s time.’ And as much as my heart was breaking I also knew … It was time. I had made a promise to you ... to love and cherish you and to be there with you when it was time, holding you and loving you. It's a promise we made to each other. A promise I vowed to keep.

I am learning to walk without my you by my side. I am learning to listen, to see you and to feel you in a new way. I am learning to be with a gut-wrenching, primal pain that screams and thrashes like a baby ripped from her mother’s womb. I am learning. And I am faltering and I am floundering.

“Keep walking …one foot in front of another, “ I tell myself. I pray, that one day … one day my heart will not feel so heavy. And today, I lean into the comfort of my pups (Legacy, Missy, Mister), and a community of so many loving friends … and to words --- my own words, the words of poets like Mary Oliver, and to the lyrics and the music of Melissa Etheridge …

Heavy – Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying.

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It is not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

When you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind and maybe
also troubled—
roses in the wind,
The sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?