Sunday, October 26, 2014

Light .. in the midst of darkness

This morning the following poem appeared on my Facebook wall .. a post from the A Year of Being Here page and a link to the following blog post:

The Unbroken
By Rashani Réa

There is a brokenness
 out of which comes the unbroken

a shatteredness
 out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow
 beyond all grief which leads to joy
 and a fragility
 out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words
 through which we pass with each loss, 
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
 whose serrated edges cut the heart
 as we break open
 to the place inside which is unbreakable
 and whole
 while learning to sing.

I immediately thought of Ahnung ... of our journey together from that day in July, 2011 when I learned my sweet girl had cancer. For a little over two years from that day (and until she crossed over to the spirit world on August 25, 2013) ... we walked, we cried, we celebrated .. and there were many moments where my heart shattered into a million pieces, and I couldn't contain the pain in my heart as I thought of a day when I would longer have Ahnung by my side. And in those moments, as I held her close to my chest, praying and asking her to guide me and give me strength to walk this walk with her, Ahnung showed me that I needed to let go; that i needed to live and cherish the moment; that the light, yes, the light was there in the midst of what felt like pitch black darkness.

It's been 14 months now since Ahnung's spirit was set free. It was time for her to move on to the next stage of her work. Last October she led me to a young puppy (the first surrender at the October 2013 Leech Lake Legacy spay/neuter clinic ... and the first clinic where I did not have Ahnung by my side). I resisted bringing a puppy into my life, yet Ahnung continued to send me signs that this puppy was meant to come into my life even though I didn't feel ready. Ahnung's rescuer, Karen Good (an elder of Red Lake Reservation) said to me, "Marilou, sometimes it's not up to us." In 2008, I wasn't 'ready' to bring Ahnung into my life. I listened to my gut which told me Ahnung was meant to be in my life. That was the best decision I ever made in my life, and in all honesty, I believe is what saved my life with all my health issues.

And so that fall day on October 11, 2013 I opened up my heart and my home to a puppy who Ahnung asked me to name 'fire'. I welcomed an 8 week old puppy into my home and named her Ishkode (Ish-ko-DAY) which means 'fire' in Ojibwe. 

It's been a year since Ishka has been in our home. There were many moments when I would ask Ahnung, 'Why???' ... as I was on vigil with a puppy who was getting into everything and needed constant supervision. I soon learned she had many qualities that Ahnung had yet had many qualities that were different. It became clear why Ahnung wanted me to name her 'fire' and why she wanted me to have a puppy. Ahnung gave me two months to grieve deeply for her loss before leading me to Ishka. It was as if she was telling me, it's time for me to move forward. Ishka's constant mischief and antics kept me busy and she made me laugh as she would drag shovels around my back yard last winter, and pooper scoopers and anything else she could find to drag. Ishka was also a gift to Legacy. After Ahnung left there was a deep sadness in Legacy who grieved deeply the loss of his big sister. I witnessed an incredible bond between Legacy and Ishka that almost immediate, and has continued since then. I witnessed the life come back in Legacy.

Legacy and Ishka - winter 2013

And these past few weeks, I have felt the presence of Ahnung in Ishka in such powerful ways. There are moments when I look at Ishka and I swear I am looking at Ahnung. I know Ishka is her own unique girl with her own fiery, independent spirit. Yet, now .. after a year and maybe Ishka maturing somewhat, it's as if I feel that wise way of Ahnung manifesting in what used to be just a fireball trouble maker who was also an adorable puppy!

I witnessed amazing things happen with Ahnung when she was around. I believe she continues to work in her mysterious and magical ways .. and yes, I believe her spirit continues to live on through Ishkode. Thank you Ahnung for the gift of Ishka .... thank you for the gift of your presence in physical form through little Ishkode :)

Thank you for teaching me a powerful lesson ... that light is there in the midst of the darkness, and that to feel the light in our hearts, we must be willing to let go and to immerse ourselves in the darkness .. and Rashani says it beautifully in her poem, "There is a brokenness
 out of which comes the unbroken,
 a shatteredness
 out of which blooms the unshatterable .... There is a sorrow
 beyond all grief which leads to joy
 and a fragility
 out of whose depths emerges strength ..."


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hitting the Pause button

Most mornings I take time to sit ... to write ... to pause. It is what grounds me, centers me, and reminds me of what matters. On mornings where I don't take the time, because I am too busy, or my mind is thinking of my ever growing 'to do' list, I find that by the end of the day I am shifting off center.

There has been a lot of loss lately ... some expected, some unexpected.

New doors continue to open and the possibilities of big dreams I've had are starting to feel like they are within reach. I'm a dreamer. I believe anything is possible. I also believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and in the time frame it needs to happen, even as painful as it might. Losing Ahnung last August 25, 2013 was without a doubt, one of the deepest losses I have had to endure .... but I believe she came into my life for a reason, and she moved onto the spirit world that Sunday afternoon because her work was done here in the physical world, and it was time for her to continue her work from a different plane. It's human nature to want to know what know what will happen .. to feel like we are in control. I remember my first true encounter with 'letting go' ... it was on October 1, 1988 when I finally accepted that I couldn't control my drinking and I returned to an AA meeting. I had tried to give up drinking 2 years prior, and as months passed I found myself thinking, 'I can control my drinking; i can drink in moderation; only weak people can't control what they do.' I was drinking to be someone else .. someone more fun and outgoing; i was drinking because I didn't want to feel pain; i was drinking because in all honesty I was afraid to feel. And so yes, I relapsed. And unbeknownst to me, I began a downward spiral into the deep, dark abyss.

I'll be honest, the thought of even going to an AA meeting was absurd to me ..... but I had reached the end of my rope and was trying desperately to hang on [I wrote a blog post shortly after the passing of Robin Williams, 'The Courage to Stay': that shares more about the night of my last drink]. I guess that was my 'bottom' ... at least that's what I used to call it. But now I look back at those years, and those incredibly painful moments, and I realize I needed to go through it to get to where I am today, and to become the person I am today. I needed to simply ... let go .. i needed to surrender to something larger than me. And yes, in AA terms, I needed to surrender to a 'higher power'. Letting go. Two words that were the most difficult things for me to do, and quite honestly, my inability to do so, nearly cost me my life.

We all have our own journeys, and yes, our own baggage and wounds .. some fresh, some so old we don't even know they are there. And so, I meditate and I write every morning, because it is my way of grounding myself and reminding myself that my job is simply to quiet the busyness of my mind so that I can feel my heart ... and to listen to the signs and the messages that come to us in so many different ways .... and to trust that the journey I am on today is exactly where I need to be. And I remind myself every morning to find joy in the questions .. asking questions and living the questions.

And so ... as another day begins .... I invite you to hit the pause button .. i invite you to listen to the whispers .. i invite you to let go. It is what saved my life. And who knows what it might do for you??

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ahnung ... one year anniversary

Today, August 25, 2014 is the one year anniversary of when I held Ahnung in my arms, surrounded by a community of friends, as she transitioned into the spirit world. There are no words for the pain that surrounded that moment, and the days, weeks and months that followed. But I promised Ahnung I would be there with her when it was time to let her go, and that I would walk towards the pain, the darkness and the grief that I so desperately wanted to run from. Ahnung taught me how to live and cherish every moment. In 2011, two months after I was diagnosed with my heart condition, she was diagnosed with cancer and together we walked our Final Walk together. I imagine walking over a bridge with her. When we get to the other side of the river, Ahnung stops and tells me it's not my time. She must go on to the other side. Her work continues from the spirit world but I must return to continue the work she began. I desperately want to go with her, but in the 2 years she prepped me for this Final Walk, she taught me that she will still be with me and that I will just need to learn to be with her in a new way, and I will need to learn to listen to her voice and her messages in a new way.

Dear sweet Ahnung .... I let you go on August 25, 2013. That first night without you I thought I would die from the pain. My heart shattered into a million pieces and I wanted to be with you, to hear you snore, to hear your body thump on the hardwood floor and to watch Legacy yank on your back legs ... and watch the two of you roll around in play :) You asked me to trust you and that my journey has not ended. You are right sweet girl ... my journey has not ended. The month of August has been filled with more doors opening than I could have ever imagined. I know you are the reason these doors are opening up and why I am connecting with people I need to be connecting with at this time.

so sweet girl ... I will keep listening to you. I will keep walking with you in a new way ... and I will share the amazing wisdom of what you have taught me, and continue to teach me through The Ahnung Way. I don't know what lies in store for me ... but I what I do know is that you are right by my side, and you will continue to guide me.

In 2011, you inspired me to co-found Leech Lake Legacy. It was my dream for Leech Lake Legacy to serve as a model for what can be done to provide resources and options for managing animal overpopulation challenges on reservations across the country, and how through reservation animals we could heal ourselves and communities .... 'We Believe in the healing and transformative energy of animals to build a bridge for a kinder, gentler and more compassionate world. We Believe reservations animals challenge us, teach us and guide us to our deepest sense of Home."

I believe you led me to Diana Webster, president/founder of The Native America Humane Society. Tomorrow Diana arrives from California as we take steps to begin what I could only dream and imagine when Leech Lake Legacy began in 2011 ... to explore how Leech Lake Legacy can serve as a model for what can be done at reservations across the country. And this week, we will not only be visiting Leech Lake Reservation but on Friday we will be visiting Karen Good (your rescuer ... and the amazing woman and Red Lake elder who led me to you) at Red Lake Reservation. I have no doubt none of this is a coincidence ... I have no doubt you planned for me to return to Red Lake this week .. to return to your roots and so we could sprinkle your ashes at Red Lake Rosie's Rescue outside the cat house where you lived for a couple months in 2008, in an igloo with the other big Rez dogs (Grandpa, Hazel and others).

As Diana and I meet with tribal leaders and elders of Leech Lake, White Earth and Red Lake reservations I know you will be with us, guiding us, and opening up doors so we can continue the work you began.

Today, and this week is symbolic on so many levels.

I miss you sweet nung-nung. Thank you for all you continue to do ... for being a beacon of love, hope, healing and resilience. Miigwech for being my north star. Always in my heart.

Ahnung in 2008 at Red Lake Rosie's Rescue on Red Lake Reservation

Ahnung .. an amazing observer of life.

At the Leech Lake Legacy August 2012 spay/neuter and wellness clinic
Ahnung with her friend Jaycee

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The courage to STAY ..

Yesterday, it came as a shock to many to hear of Robin William's death. It brought memories back for me and my heart hurt because like millions of others, I have walked in that dark valley.

Krista Tippett shared the following words on the On Being Facebook page this morning:

Upon hearing the news of Robin Williams, I offer these closing words from Jennifer Michael Hecht's book "Stay":

"None of us can truly know what we mean to other people, and none of us can know what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find our way back to happiness. The first step is to consider the arguments and evidence and choose to stay. After that, anything may happen. First, choose to stay."

In 1988, it was my intent to choose the path Robin William's took. In January, 2008 I wrote a piece titled 'The Rope' ... I share excerpts from it in hopes that my journey, my story, may give hope to someone, that there can be another ending; that we are not alone, and that even in the deepest, darkest moments ... choose to STAY. In 1988, I didn't have the courage to STAY but somehow, it wasn't my time to go, and so I share my story ... This is my story. I  believe many others share a similar story.


I remember the darkness and stillness of the room.  I was sitting on the edge of the queen size bed, alone, in a Hampton Inn motel in Hazelwood, Missouri, a small suburb north of St. Louis, right off of highway 270, the outer belt of St. Louis.  At 22, I had reached the end of the rope.   The slow descent began at 4 with the death of my father .... The gradual descent dropped into a downward spiral the year we left Bangkok.  It was 1979.  I was 15.  My father’s death at age 4 was the first ingredient poured into the old-fashioned pressure cooker.   The years passed, and more ingredients were added:  sexual abuse by a trusted family friend and Catholic deacon, alcohol, peer pressure, struggles with sexual identity, sudden loss of my “second mother” to a drunk driver.  Without a safety valve, an explosion was imminent.

I clasped a bottle of sleeping pills in one hand.  In the other hand, a Bud light.  I hear the water filling up the bathtub.  I have reached the end of the rope.  The palms of my hands, once blistered from hanging on, had callused.  My exit plan – pop the sleeping pills, fall asleep, drown in the bath tub and never wake up.  Let go of the rope.  Finally, let go.

Images of my father flash before me.  Images of him catching me.  The four year old in me smiles, remembering moments in his arms.  How fun it was to play with his glasses.  How safe it felt in his arms.  The 22 year old is tired.  There’s no more fight left.  The threads holding the rope are coming apart.

And so, that night, I execute on my plan – pop the pills, and fall asleep; my body submerged in the bathtub.  Alone, in a hotel room with stale air.  The lights go out.  I am, finally, letting go.


My eyes open.  I awaken to the same hotel room.  It’s the middle of the night now.  My eyes fixate on the ceiling for a moment – a dirty white with specks of grey.  Surreal, stale air inhabits the hotel room like cigarette smoke hovering around lost souls in a bar, in search of that “something”.  There’s a heaviness in my heart.  I remember falling asleep in the bathtub filled with warm water, inhaling toxic fumes of bleach combined with other chemical agents.   Over the years, I have been asked, by the brave few wanting to make sense of how anyone could attempt to take their own life, “how could you?”, “what was going through your head?”

“Nothing.” I respond to them, as sadness fills my heart remembering the young adult whose palms, scorched from blisters and tired from the fight, decided that letting go was the only exit.  “Nothing,” I say, as I remember the protective layer that encased by battered heart.  I just wanted the pain to end.  I just wanted to rest.  I just wanted to emerge from the darkness.

Somehow, someway my submerged body was air lifted out of the bathtub onto the queen size bed.   Remnants of all I had ingested the past 24 hours had created a drunken pathway, from the bathtub to the bed.   A deathly stench consumed the room.  Somehow, someway, I took those steps – I don’t remember.   I have imagined angels lifting me out of the water.  I have imagined my father, gently carrying me to the bed, whispering to me “not yet baby, not yet.” As I realize I am alive and my plan has failed, the stale air is replaced with a stench of defiance.

I’m in my forties now.  What happened that night remains a mystery to me.  The unfolding of the “why” has been my life’s journey.    Mistakes and questions have become my friends.  In the midst of winter, when layering is what’s comfortable, I shed layers to keep warm; I strive for authenticity, warmth and truth found only at my core.  I am learning to revel in the mystery, and in the questions.  I am learning that there are bright colors in the darkness.  I am learning there are millions of threads, that make up strands, which in turn make a rope.  I am learning that every thread connects me to something, someone, or some purpose; as we find common threads and re-build strands from worn out threads, we strengthen the rope of life.  At 22, my tired, callused hands let go of the one remaining tattered strand, as I danced at the doorsteps of death, only to fall straight into a hammock, handcrafted from a mesh of rope.   At 22, I fell straight into the arms of my father, and into the hammock of life.


In 1988, I didn't want to stay. For whatever reason, I survived. And after a week at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis (interestingly, it was the same hospital where my father died when I was 4 years old), and the kindness and compassion of a young psychiatric intern who befriended me at the hospital, I left and attended my first AA meeting. My healing journey began, and my healing journey continues.

So today, I remember and honor Robin Williams for the life he lived. Thank you Robin for the gifts you gave to this world. And may your death shine a light on a topic (suicide) often swept under the carpet. And out of your darkness, may your light shine on in the spirits of so many whose hearts and lives you have touched.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What makes you feel alive?

Today as I celebrate my 50th birthday I find myself looking back ... it has been a journey, an adventure to reach this half century mark. I will admit, after my diagnosis with my heart condition, I did not think I would make it to 50. But I realize now that I was given the greatest gift in 2011, the gift of learning to face fears I never knew existed, to go deep within myself and to learn to embrace and to appreciate fully each day.

So today, I share a few things I have learned. Life is a web of amazing connectedness; life is a blank canvas and we are the artist; life isn't black and white ... it's a blend of so many colors, both seen and unseen. What I have come to learn is that it is the mystery, the magic, the uncertainty, the questions and the willingness to leap, to reach for the stars, to BELIEVE, to HOPE .. and to LIVE as if each day is your last. Life is about connecting and I have learned that I am not alone, that I have a community of support, that if I leap off a mountain that yes, I will either learn to fly or I will be caught by a community of friends, or if I crash, that in the pain and brokenness that I will emerge out of the rubble even stronger. What I have learned is that I must STAY; i must be present; and I must not run from that which scares me.

In March, 2006 before I fell into the world of animal welfare (through the loss of my dog Shen to spleen cancer), I wrote the following in my journal ... it became the opening poem I would share with kids when Ahnung and I would visits schools or give presentations:

What makes you feel alive?

What makes you cry, makes you laugh, makes you angry?
Is there something you believe in,
feel passionately about, that if it is taken away from you
is like sucking the oxygen away from you?
Is there something you believe in,
you would be willing to give your life for?

What is that something, that lives and breathes
inside of you, and
outside of you?
That something that consumes your mind,
melts your heart, and energizes your body?
What is that invisible, yet transparent force?

Do you know?

Marilou Chanrasmi
March 13, 2006

And then in December, 2008, just a couple months after Ahnung came into my life, we spent a week up at Red Lake Reservation with her rescuer, Karen Good (of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue). I wrote the following 'We Believe' credo ... the original version at the end of 2008 was an 'I Believe' credo and with a few words added, and changing 'I' to 'We', it became the core values of Leech Lake Legacy. And now, in 2014, what I wrote with Ahnung by my side, continues to be what I believe and what guides in how I live my life and what I believe and what makes me feel alive.

So today, as I take a moment to reflect back on my journey, I realize I am truly blessed ... For I do know what makes me feel alive and what I believe in .... and I do know what I want my legacy to be.

I remember sitting in my writing room, early morning on March 13, 2006, journaling and reflecting and asking myself, 'What makes me feel alive?' I remember feeling lost, struggling to find myself, struggling to find what made me feel alive and wanting to feel that fire in my soul. Little did I know that I would be embarking on the journey I did ... and that grief and pain would open up doors I could never have imagined. Little did I know that it was GRIEF and pain that would break my heart open so I could explore new possibilities.

I don't know what tomorrow has in store for me. What I do know is that something magical is happening and that doors are opening and amazing new connections are being made. And in the words of Diana Webster (president/founder of The Native America Humane Society), there is a 'brilliant convergence' ... and all I know is something is happening. That something is beyond explanation and logical thinking. Our job is to still our minds and hearts enough to listen, to notice and trust in that wisdom and inner knowing that lies deep within each and every one of us.

Wishing everyone a day that fills your heart with love, passion, healing and hope.

May you feel that spirit of fire and flame of passion that lies within each and every one of us.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Celebrating The Ahnung Way ... Join us on August 10th!

Designed by Kel Miller
At 6:19 this morning I received an email from LLL volunteer and friend, Kel Miller ... "Something kept me awake all night and this is what I worked on. Do you like it?"

I was just sitting down to write and to reflect, as amazing things have been happening in the past few weeks. In February of this year, Ahnung (means 'star' in ojibwe) came to me in a dream, and in it was a clear image and a vision. I share more about it on a previous blog post. After that night the words 'The Ahnung Way' continue to appear over and over again. I reach out to Kel to help me bring to life what I am unable to wrap words around.

For the past week my dear friend Terri has been asking me to post information about a birthday party she wants to host for me. I told her I don't want a party for my birthday; i don't want the focus to be me. This morning before I receive the email from Kel, I realize this month (August) is significant for several reasons.

On August 7th, I will be turning 50 years old. On August 25th, it will be the 1 year anniversary of when Ahnung crossed over to the spirit world. Ahnung is the guiding star for Leech Lake Legacy. In May, 2011 I met Jenny Fitzer (the other co-founder of Leech Lake Legacy) for the first time. We both responded to a plea from Karen Good of Red Lake Reservation (who was also the elder who rescued Ahnung and led me to her) to help the animals of Leech Lake Reservation. In May, 2011 I also learned I had a rare heart condition (left ventricular non compaction). My health challenges began at the end of 2008 at the same time Ahnung appeared in my life and was in and out of hospitals with surgeries and various procedures. Ahnung walked alongside of me through all of my health challenges.

2011 marked a turning point in our shared journey. I learned I had a serious heart condition with poor prognosis. 2011 marked the beginning of Leech Lake Legacy. 2011 was also the year Ahnung was diagnosed with cancer. I remember laying in my hospital bed at Abbott Northwestern in May, 2011 after a heart procedure wondering if I should continue with efforts that were beginning at Leech Lake Reservation. I remember asking my cardiologist how much time ..... his words ... "there are so many unknowns about this heart condition. It could be a year, 2 years or 10 years."

With Ahnung by my side .. my north star, she continued to guide me and to teach me and to bring a community together through her Celebration of Life parties.

I believe Ahnung continues to guide me from the spirit world and 1 year after her passing, she is leading me to people I need to meet so that we can move onto the next phase of the journey she began. In the past few weeks I have connected with amazing women: Sarah Haberman, the founder of Modern Storytellers who then connected me to Louise Woehrle, an award winning film maker who produced Pride of Lions ... there is a story that needs to be told, and some how, Ahnung is guiding and connecting us. This past week I met Diana Webster, president of The Native America Humane Society .... and new doors are opening up for both of our organizations in amazing ways. Diana says it best in the closing of one of her emails to me, "Looking forward to a brilliant convergence!" It is truly as if the stars have all aligned, and somehow, some way, the month of August represents a new beginning and the birth of a new path, a new way ... for me, it is The Ahnung Way.

My dear friend Terri has planned a party for Sunday, August 10th ... she has called it a Birthday Open house for Marilou. I would like to change it to a gathering of friends to Celebrate new beginnings and remember and honor Ahnung as she continues to guide us from the spirit world and inspire The Ahnung Way. I honestly didn't think I would be around to celebrate 50 years! As I celebrate 50 years, I celebrate Ahnung who gave me the greatest gift by choosing me to walk with her while she was on earth for her short 5 years ... and for continuing to guide and teach me to listen and walk with her in a new way.

Here is what Terri shared on the Leech Lake Legacy volunteer group. She has been wanting me to share this :)

Sunday, August 10th, 2014
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Shelard Village Party Room (space sponsored by Mary Skelly-Gaffney)
400 Ford Road
St. Louis Park, MN 55426
Off of 169 & Shelard Pkwy/Betty Crocker
Please come and celebrate Marilou’s BIG
Birthday with us! The more the merrier!


I did tell Terri that I do NOT want gifts. If you would like to give something, I ask for you to consider a donation to Leech Lake Legacy. I am fundraising for LLL as a part of the Best Friends Strut your Mutt event on September 27th, and have a fundraising page set up:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Grief ... the never ending journey

Last night, a dear friend lost his soul mate; the night skies gained a bright new star; and those of us still walking this earth have a new 4-legged guardian angel amongst us.

We are all connected. There are many out there I know who are struggling, who are feeling the excruciating pain of having lost a beloved companion; a soul mate who came to us in the body of a furry 4-legged animal. The loss could have happened yesterday, or 6 months ago, or a year, or even 10 years or more. And this morning, as my heart hurts for the pain my friend is going through, my heart also hurts for Ahnung, and so I reach out to her for her guidance and her healing energy and wisdom.

Ahnung, shortly after she became therapy dog :)

Dear Ahnung,

This walk, this walk through grief, of not having you by my side, has been a journey where my path to desperately reach you is covered with shredded pieces of my heart. You asked me not to say goodbye. You asked me not to think of death as the end. You asked me to not run, to stay with all the emotions that would hit me like a tsunami after you physically left … when the truth is, all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and never come out … and when drowning in my tears and pushing away pain was all I wanted to do. But your words, your Way, your wisdom was telling me to choose a different path. We walked together on this earth for a reason; we were brought together for the short five years we had together for a reason .. for a purpose; this Walk began before you even arrived – I just didn’t know it; and Our Walk continues even after your physical death. And I promised you I would learn to Be with you in a new way; I promised you I would learn to listen in a new way; I promised to honor your memory and to continue what you inspired me to begin with Leech Lake Legacy.

So dear sweet girl … I ask you to wrap your healing, loving, magical energy around all of us hurting.  Walk with us, and hold us up, when the path we are on feels like quicksand; show us that there is a way to reach you and others who have crossed over into the spirit world … Let us feel your presence, and the presence of your friends who dance with you, now free from the limitations of a physical body. Teach us how to listen, and how to trust that peace, joy and hope will prevail in the midst of uncertainty and pain.

Go and find yourself first
So you can also find Me.

Don't run away from grief , o soul
Look for the remedy inside the pain.
because the rose came from the thorn
and the ruby came from a stone.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Death Comes

We are approaching 9 months now since I held my sweet Ahnung in my arms as she transitioned to the spirit world. This journey began in July, 2011 when I first heard the words after Ahnung’s first surgery to remove a lump in her mammary chain … ‘I’m sorry. It’s malignant. She has cancer.” Her diagnosis came just 2 months after I learned I had a serious, and rare, heart condition … a diagnosis of left ventricular non compaction – a condition that would lead to heart failure. I asked my cardiologist when I was laying in my hospital bed at Abbott in May, 2011 how much time I had before the symptoms would start showing …  because of how rare the disease is and not much is known, I distinctly remember him saying … “it could be 1 year, 2 years … 10 years …” Funny isn’t it, how we can live our lives thinking we have all the time in the world, and then one day, it all just changes and that long road we thought we had, is abruptly shortened. 2011 was a year filled with so many new discoveries, and beginnings. It was the beginning of new paths for both Ahnung and I as we learned to walk with a new realization that our time was limited; it was the beginning of Leech Lake Legacy, a non-profit I co-founded to provide education and resources for the animals and pet-owners of Leech Lake Reservation.
Ahnung - July, 2011 up at Red Lake
So with Ahnung (a Red Lake Reservation dog) by my side we put our heart and our soul into the work of Leech Lake Legacy. She came with me to every spay/neuter and wellness clinic from the very first clinic in March, 2012 .. up until August, 2013 just 10 days before she crossed over to the spirit world. I just returned from a spay/neuter and wellness clinic up at Leech Lake … it’s the 2nd clinic without Ahnung by my side, but her spirit and her presence continue to be there with us.

In 2011, we were both given a new path to walk. I can’t say it was a path I would’ve chosen, but it was a path we were given. Ahnung came into my life at the end of 2008 for a reason. Her 5 years with me were to guide me and prepare me so I could continue her work …. There is a Way about Ahnung; there is a spirit, a wisdom, an essence about her that touches souls, lifts spirits and defies words.

And when Death came knocking on our doors, Ahnung taught me so much … and this morning there was an On Being blog post  that reminded me of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems .. a poem that Ahnung and I began to live and walk, side by side, in 2011. I may not have her physically by my side, but Ahnung is in me, and she will forever be my guiding star for as long as I am meant to walk this earth. And when the time comes for me to join her in the spirit world, my wish is that I too will have touched the heart of someone to continue the work we have begun.

When Death Comes
By Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited the world.

Ahnung at the Leech Lake Legacy August, 2013 Clinic
... this was just 10 days before she crossed over into the spirit world

A video I created in honor of Ahnung for our Final Walk.
This video was created in January, 2013 after our decision to stop chemo.
Ahnung gifted me with 8 more beautiful months.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A new Way .... The Ahnung Way

I had just arrived in Walker, MN last October 10,  2013. It was my first trip back to Leech Lake without Ahnung; it was my first Leech Lake Legacy spay/neuter clinic without Ahnung. I had Legacy with me and before continuing on to the Tribal Police headquarters to meet up with the other volunteers who were setting up for the clinic, I decided to check into our room at the Country Inn. It was a beautiful fall day and leaves were a flaming orange. My heart felt this huge hole … this emptiness, this void, and this piercing pain in my heart as if a hand had reached through my chest, pried open my rib cage and grabbed the already broken fragments of my heart. With Legacy by my side we walked towards Leech Lake. I promised Ahnung I wouldn’t run from the pain; I promised her I would walk with her, stand by her on our Final Walk together, no matter how long or how short it was; I promised her I would cherish every moment, and when it was time to set her spirit free, I promised to hold her and be there with her.

She promised me she would always be with me; she promised me she would guide me; she promised me she would always be in my heart … I would simply have to learn to listen, and to be with her, in a new way.

The pain in my heart was fierce; it was unrelenting; it was breaking me. But Ahnung gave me the gift of knowing our time was limited; she gave me the gift of knowing that the path we were to walk together on earth was limited, and that we would approach a bridge soon … a bridge where she would have to cross over, and I would have to stay behind, for now. In 2011, we were both diagnosed with a ‘terminal’ illness … I learned Ahnung had cancer and that I had a rare heart disease that would lead to heart failure. Interestingly, this awareness came within a couple months of Leech Lake Legacy coming to be. We chose to continue the work of Leech Lake Legacy. Somehow, I just knew it was work we needed to do.

So that fall day on October 10, 2013 I walked along Leech Lake with Legacy. I promised Ahnung to walk toward the grief and the pain, and not around it like I used to. But so much of me wanted to run and to escape the pain. A part of me wanted to numb the pain, but I could feel Ahnung’s calm and wise presence next to me .. and with her spirit inside of me, I put one foot in front of another, and I kept walking. With Legacy by my side ... we experienced what I share below, from my blog post on October 16, 2013 ( …

We continued walking ... as the trees opened up and we could catch a full view of Leech Lake up above us I saw what appeared to be a large bird flying towards us. At first I couldn't tell what kind of bird it was. It flew closer and closer to us. In moments, the bald eagle swooped down and hovered right above us. There was a momentary pause, and in that instance all I could feel and sense was Ahnung. 'I'm here." And the eagle flew away. There was no beginning or end, or life or death in that moment. We were One. I said outloud, 'miigwech (thank you) Ahnung' ... and my heart was filled with her spirit and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be ... continuing the work at Leech Lake Reservation.

And then Ahnung appeared in my dreams about a month ago. She gift me with a vision …

a circle with with people of all colors, races, ages .. of animals, of trees, of rocks .. and at the center was a fire and flame that reached up into the skies; and with us were stars, a squirrel, an eagle and a turtle. And I could hear drums. It was as if I could hear the heart of the earth beating. I could hear Ahnung's heart. I could hear my heart, everyone's heart. We were one heart .. and then I woke up"

The eagle appeared again. Ahnung is choosing an eagle to communicate with me. She has also guided me to Ishkode (means ‘fire’ in ojibwe). She has gifted me with the most beautiful vision. She is guiding me and she is asking me to walk a new path now … The Ahnung Way.

Teach me to remain rooted and grounded, while soaring like an eagle. Teach me to slow down, to watch, to listen, to observe, to be patient, to live in the moment and to know when to let go.

Teach me the wisdom of your way.

Teach me the wisdom of The Ahnung Way.

Legacy and Ahnung - Grand Marais