Thursday, December 14, 2017

A permeable shield ....

I had just turned 4 when I experienced my first and deepest loss. The multiplicity and complexity of the stories that emerged after that defining moment shaped me, and unbeknownst to me, I began building and creating a shield to protect my heart. It became an impenetrable shield [super power strength, in fact :)] ... my Papa knew the way to reach his little girl, to chisel away at the shield, was through animals ... he has sent me so many angels in furry 4-legged bodies who have taught me, and continue to teach me, how to break open to a place inside myself which is unbreakable and whole.

My Papa knew I needed a shield, but a different kind of shield ... a permeable shield held up around me by my beautiful angel dogs.

Miigwech to my many teachers (Splat, Shen, Shadow, Ahnung, Mister, Piper, Missy, Ishkode, Legacy).

The Unbroken
~ Rashani Rea

There is 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
where serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mister visits in my dream -- go to the light, sweet boy!

Mister came to visit me in my dreams again last night. We received the most beautiful card from my vet and his staff with a personal handwritten note from my vet:

"I am so sorry for the loss of Mister but want to let you know what an honor it was to work with you and Mister during this process. I can only hope that I can approach life like Mister did. He was such a beautiful example of how life should be embraced and it was so special to see how you embraced that with him and celebrated him through the end. He is in a better place now and thank you, as always, for giving me the privilege of knowing him. Luther"

In my dream we experienced his last moments on earth again. I can see him so clearly and still feel his fur against my skin. My vet and my partner Joannie were in my dream but it wasn't at his clinic. We were in a large open space, like a field. Mister's eyes still had so much life in him, and his tail was wagging. In my dream I said to Mister (as I did the night of Nov. 6th), "I promised to let you leave this earth with dignity" and through his eyes I could see absolute trust and love. It was like we both knew this wasn't goodbye. In my dream, I could see this beautiful light. I knew that was where Mister was going. And I said to him, "it's okay sweet boy, to go to the light. Your work is done." I could feel this light inside of him, and I could feel this light inside of me. It was as if we were one - a bridge connecting us eternally.
Mister has touched the lives of so many. As my vet says, he was a beautiful example of how life should be embraced. Till the very end sweet boy, you did just that, and I honor and celebrate you, always.

Thank you for visiting me again last night. Thank you for the image and sensations i now hold in my body of the peace you felt in those last moments as you went to the light.

And a heartfelt thanks to my vet Luther (Dr. Luther Groth of Vet Partners Edina). It was an honor for us to walk with him on Mister's final ride!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Little Drummer Boy ... dancing to a new beat

With my beloved Ahnung in 2010 at Laura's home
Saturday night while at the Carrie Newcomer concert, and as I listened to her sing her song, Sanctuary, I realized I was listening with more than just my ears .. I was listening with my whole body and i returned to a sensory memory from 7 years ago. I had buried a memory from my childhood that was so painful (sexual abuse from a trusted family friend, a Catholic deacon at the time) and in the summer of 2008 while up in Ely, MN, for whatever reason the trauma reared and surfaced through nightmares and flashbacks. My journey to healing a childhood trauma began, at a different level. Little did I know that making that decision would then lead me, a year later, to choosing to end a long-term relationship that sent me into a deep, dark spiral. I soon found myself without a place to live as I fumbled, and crawled, my way through an incredibly painful transition. I returned to the memory last night in an entirely different way, of how my dear friend Laura Leonard was a sanctuary for me. Laura opened up her heart and her home for me (and Ahnung). While living with Laura and her son, I visited Missy and Mister every day in my old home while I searched to find a new home of my own. I landed in my current home in Bloomington, MN in January, 2011. As Carrie sang the lyrics, I also remembered memories of my Papa (Carrie is from Bloomington, Indiana where my Papa and Mama met and fell in love in the early 1960s).

" ... Will you be my refuge
My haven in the storm,
Will you keep the embers warm
When my fire's all but gone?
Will you remember
And bring me sprigs of rosemary,
Be my sanctuary
'Til I can carry on
Carry on.
Carry on.
This one knocked me to the ground.
This one dropped me to my knees.
I should have seen it comin'
But it surprised me ... "

and this is from an old blog post (12/12/2010):

" ... The Christmas season has always been hard for me. Bittersweet, one could say. Every time I hear the song 'Little Drummer Boy' I go back to the 3 months I spent as a 4 year old at Barnes hospital in St. Louis, Missouri with my mother visiting my father every day ... my mother praying desperately to God to save my father's life. As an adult i've never put a Christmas tree up. This year with the ending of a long-term relationship and some major health issues I find myself having to reach deep inside of myself to find strength, and to reach outwards to my friends and family and animals, and to God and my Papa to help pull me through a painful and uncertain time in my life ... it's like i'm walking on a thin sheet of ice ... days of crashing through and feeling like i'm going to drown while other days I feel like I will make it to solid ground.
Christmas 2010 at Laura's

Yesterday we (Minnesota) were hit with a major blizzard. About 18 inches of snow. I am living now with my friend Laura and her son Walker as we go through this transition. She played Christmas music as we decorated the Christmas tree ... and the house was filled with warmth and love as she made chili and biscuits. And as she reached for the last ornament in the box, she pulled out The Little Drummer boy ornament. She knows my story and significance of The Little Drummer boy. She handed it to me and said I need to put this ornament up. Laura remembers the story behind all her ornaments except for this one. She said, "I think The Little Drummer boy ornament has been waiting for you and for your story." So as I clasped the ornament in my hand I could feel Papa; I could feel him carrying me; and I whispered to him ... this will be a new beginning ..."

And yes, it was a major dip in my life's journey in 2010, and another fork in the road for me.
My Papa has been watching over me and sending me many angels and guardians throughout my life. My dear friend Laura Leonard is one of them. From the bottom of my heart Laura, thank you for being a refuge and a sanctuary for me when I so needed it, and didn't know how to ask <3 p="">Just yesterday morning, I asked Joannie to help me move through Christmas in a different way. I made a request, I want to have a Christmas tree in our house. I want to celebrate Christmas, and for me that is also celebrating my Papa and his passing. Christmas has been associated with my Papa and my mother's pain. A childhood memory and pain I haven't wanted to feel or sense with all of me. Laura gifted me with the Little Drummer boy Christmas ornament saying, "I think The Little Drummer boy ornament has been waiting for you and for your story"

8 years later, I believe my story is ready to come out.

This year, we will fill our house with the spirit of Christmas, with Papa, with lights and smell of baking Christmas cookies. This year, we may be down to 3 beloved companions (Ishka, Legacy and Missy), but we will have the spirit of Ahnung, Piper and Mister with us as we celebrate Christmas, Papa, childhood, life, living. joy, peace .....

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grief's invitation

I found myself missing my boy Mister this morning. Longing for his presence, his physical presence - his goofy, joyful, unbounded way to being.

And so I did I what I have done for years. I wrote.

So Mister, these words are for you, for the gift of inviting my teacher Grief back. For your lessons that continue beyond your physical presence; for the teachings and support that reach back into places where more healing is asking for my attention; for the invitation to swirl and unravel so I may transform.

Grief's invitation

Grief unravels you
Creates new wounds
He rips the scabs off of old wounds

Grief is a shape shifter.
He is everywhere.
He becomes the first snowfall
The sound of lapping water.
The dog bowl, left on the counter, waiting to be filled.
He becomes the one lonely pair of shoes that finds its way into the backyard.
He becomes all of everything and everyone you have lost - longed for.
He becomes the 4 year old aching for her Papa; the teenager reaching for alcohol to numb the pain; the emerging adult looking, desperately. to fill the void she does not even know exist.

Grief becomes memories that make you smile, and rip your heart, in the exact same moment.

He becomes all that is, was and is yet to become.

Grief unravels you.
Grief exposes you.
Grief challenges you – pushes you to the edge of all that you know and into the space of who you are yet to become.

He invites you.
He swallows you. 
He asks of you what you think you do not have.

Grief creates a hole in your heart
The size of a crater.

You stand at the edge of what was ‘normal’; of what is now trembling ground; at the edge of unknowing, questions, uncertainty.

Grief reaches his hand out.
“Dance with me”, he says.

There is glows that surrounds him.
There is a glow from deep inside him.
There is a glow extending out and into me.

      ...  Surrender
         ....  Unravel"

And so I stand at the edge ...

I stand, an observer of the intersection of life's complexities, multiplicities, mysteries.

One hand over my heart. One hand extended.

I look Grief in the eye. 

"I accept"

I jump. 
I surrender.
I fall into my wounds, old and new.

I unravel.

Thank you Grief (and Mister and Papa and Ahnung and Piper and Shen and Shadow and Splat), and so many more who have crossed over) for the invitation to unravel and to face into that which scares me; to experience vitality and aliveness in my deepest sorrow and invigorating joy; to surrender and rest in the mystery and miracles of life and death.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thank you Mister for the Gift of Joy

Before I left for California I asked Mister to please guide me in my decision. To let me know if it was okay for me to go ... despite X-rays showing cancer had clearly spread, he showed no signs of difficulty breathing and other than the same limp he had which did not stop him, he was joyful Mister. He was telling me to go. I went through an incredible amount of internal struggle and turmoil. I was willing to cancel this trip even though I knew how important it was on so many levels on this next part of my life's journey. Over and over the signs he kept giving me were, 'Go mom. This is important work you are doing. Go.' So I went to Strozzi ranch in northern California to spend 5 intense days in a dojo ('a place of awakening') to study and train and practice being in this world in a new Way, an embodied way. I was in a place and a circle and a tribe of teachers, colleagues and friends who were able to hold space in a way I could bring all of me out; to shake and cry at the beginning and to make a request for 30 loving, open beings to hold my beloved Mister in healing light; to pray. I learned I could carry grief and worry ... and I could also be present, and I could also be joyful and feel Mister's joyfulness work through me.

On Saturday morning I woke up with a powerful feeling of Joy in my heart; I could feel Mister's Joy. I shared that morning in the dojo, how I could feel Mister so powerfully ... I could feel him beginning to transition. That day I was infused with his Joy.

Before I left for California, I told my boy that if he needed to set his spirit free while I was gone, that it was okay. I said my goodbyes. I knew in my heart, he was safe in the loving hands of my partner Joannie and my friends Laura and Abra. I told them I trusted them; that if Mister took a turn and it was clear it was time to go, that I trusted them to make the best decision for Mister; that I did not want him to suffer; that I will be okay because I am with him from wherever I am.

As I return to text messages shared between us, I see that it was Saturday when Mister began to show more signs of pain. That morning was when I woke up sensing his JOY so powerfully and knew in my gut he was beginning his journey to transition. With additional meds and under the loving care of Joannie he was able to get comfortable and rest. I asked J to look Mister in the eye and to ask him what he is saying. She said, he is saying he is tired. I asked if he is saying, Is it time? She said, not yet.

I am so grateful for Joannie wrapping Mister in healing, white light ... he had begun his journey to transition, yet it is clear now he wanted me to be in California to train and practice in this new path I have embarked on. He didn't want me to worry. He was waiting for me.

The image I have of Mister before I got on my flight Monday afternoon in CA was Mister laying on his back in Mister style. He didn't want me to worry on the flight. Joannie tells me 20 minutes after I got on the plane Mister began to take a clear turn. He knew I was coming home. He knew it was okay to let go. He knew his work was done. He also knew I needed to be home so I could be there with him and J. He knew I needed to go to CA, to continue my training so I could learn to live in a new way and to have a tribe and community of mentors, teachers, colleagues deeply committed to living life, fully and embodied and facing into our fears, pain, hurt, traumas and not running, freezing or numbing ourselves .. to have a community and tribe who could support me in moving through this grief in a new way.

Dear sweet Mister, thank you for being my teacher. Your spirit of JOY is infused in my being and my cells. Your work here on earth is done sweet boy. Your work continues from the spirit world. I carry and take your teachings with me, and I will continue the work you have begun.

Rest. Play. Run.

Beautiful Boy. Beautiful Soul. Beautiful Being.

I honor you. I celebrate you. I am You.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Safe travels sweet Mister ... We celebrate You!

Yesterday, November 6th, 2017 my partner and I held our beloved Mister as his spirit was set free. I want to share and write more; however, today, I am unable to do so. Today, I simply want to be with Mister in this new way. I feel his presence so strongly ... I feel his joy, his mischief, his zest for life ... so many stories. Today, a part of my heart feels joy because I feel him inside of me; the other part, feels this void and emptiness and deep sadness because I miss him. I share some photos.

We celebrate you Mister. We honor you. We love you.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Unknown

The unknown can be a scary place. When the earth beneath our feet shakes, and we can't feel that solidness, that foundation, it can shift us from our center. But where is our center? Is it always in the same place? Is it in our body? Is it in our mind? Our heart? Is it everywhere? Nowhere?

I have a Pema Chodron calendar, and for the month of October I see the following saying every day, "Nothing is as solid as it seems". The quote rings true for me. The past months have come with losses .. endings. We said goodbye to my partner's beloved canine companion, Piper; we are walking Mister's final walk (well, he says it's a ride!). As cancer takes over his body and his bones, he continues to cherish and live life fully each day. He is an amazing teacher. Live today. Live in the moment. We are not defined by Cancer, by disease ... we can live in harmony with that which scares us. We can Run. We can Run until the very end. That is what I see when I look at my boy Mister. That is what my spirit dog Ahnung did. She ran and played up until the very end, and then when it was time to cross over and leave her body, she let me know.

The truth is, there is so much that is alive that we can't see. There is so much happening beyond our sight, and all the physical senses we rely on (smell, touch, hearing ...); beneath the earth, when snow covers the ground, there is life; there is rest; there is transformation. Our beloved companion canines don't fear death like humans do. I imagine most animals don't. They have been, and continue to be, my greatest teachers in life .. in my journey on earth.

Some day, it will be my time. My wish, my prayer is that I may walk the final days of my journey with just an ounce of grace and honor that I have witnessed in my beloved canine companions. Ahnung has been, and continues to be, my greatest teacher. The Ahnung Way, has become my Way of being. I trust her to watch over Mister; to guide me in whatever decisions and choices I need to make in the coming days/weeks/months; i trust Ahnung to infuse me with her wisdom, courage and openness.

The humanness in me, and the hurt and memories of childhood losses and feelings of abandonment, have made endings and goodbyes hard for me. Unbeknownst to me I spent many decades with a suit of armor around my body and around my heart. I have been learning and challenging myself to release and remove pieces of armor ... one by one. And I practice every day in my mind's eye, and in my heart, to trust the shakiness of the earth below my feet; that the stars in the night skies are behind the clouds; the falling into the abyss as a falling into a new world of possibilities. And i practice stillness and quiet, while running. I practice holding life and and death. I practice holding joy and sadness. I practice holding fear and courage. I practice holding everything and nothing.

Today, I practice noticing my boy Mister as he Lives, Loves and he Runs!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fall ... vibrant colors ... preparing to rest

Ishka (October, 2017)
The weather these past couple days here in Minnesota have been absolutely gorgeous. Fall colors. Vibrant. I have been going on hikes with Ishka. She has been amazing medicine for me on so many levels. My hikes with her give me a chance to connect with my spirit girl Ahnung. I always feel her presence strongly when I am hiking with Ishka. It also seems like Ishka draws the deer out from the woods, as yesterday we had many deer sightings. When Ishka pauses and looks into the woods I know there must be deer looking at us. She makes no attempt to go after them. They just gaze at each other. 

Ishka as a puppy (October, 2013)
I have been asking Ahnung to watch over Mister. To guide us in this final ride; to keep him as pain free as possible; to let me know when it is time to set his spirit free. It has been beautiful to watch how Ishka has been purposefully seeking to lay next to Mister. It's not something she has done on a regular basis (unlike how Mister and his sister Missy have been bonded for a decade). It's behavior out of the norm for Ishka and it has been happening with consistency .. in the mornings during meditation, and at bedtime. Mister's spirit have still been high; his appetite strong, and he still has that sparkle in his eye. His body, however, is struggling more. The cancer is spreading. Yesterday we added gabapentin to his pain meds and tomorrow he will have acupuncture again. As I hiked in the woods yesterday with Ishka I was thinking about how much I love fall. It is my favorite season. I love the sound of leaves rustling under my feet (and Ishka's paws). I love the vibrant colors. I love the smell of autumn. 
Mister and Ishka

Yesterday I was reflecting on the vibrant colors, and how soon, all the trees will be bare ... the leaves piled up ... soon, it will be winter, a time for hibernation for some animals, like squirrels. For the past couple months I have been watching the squirrels in our front yard gather walnuts from our tree and carrying them away to prepare for winter. I was reflecting on how Mister is doing the same. His spirits are still vibrant, like fall leaves ... yet I know, it won't be long, before it will also be time for my boy to rest. This time I know his rest will be a long, long rest. I know we all will have to rest some time; that we all will also leave this earth, this beautiful planet; that our spirits will be set free. Trees and animals don't resist the seasons. When an apple is ripe it simply falls from a tree -- it is time. Mister's time is coming. I know that. I honor that. It doesn't stop the hurt or the pain. Because I will miss him, and all his goofy ways of greeting me with a 'present' in his mouth (shoes, dog beds, blankets, if i am lucky, some times dog toys!) .. i will miss how he follows me around everywhere, from room to room; i will miss how he sleeps sprawled on his back, often partially on a bed, or comfortably on a coffee table; i will miss his joyful way of being ... I will miss having him keep me company in my morning meditations ...

And as my mind wandered in meditation this morning, I would tell myself to acknowledge the wandering, the worry and to simply return to the present moment. Some days, it is hard. This morning was one of those days -- my mind moved ahead, thinking of Mister ... moving to a place of grief and sadness. And then I heard Ahnung remind me to return to now, to this moment, that the greatest gift I can give to Mister is to be here, right now, with him. So with a deep breath, I returned to the moment, and i kept doing that over and over again.

I am grateful this morning for another day with Mister ... and to have him Mister, Ishka, Missy and Legacy keeping me company in meditation this morning.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mister reunites with his rescuer Donna

Mister reunites with Donna
In spring of 2007 Mister was one of 3 puppies found in a ditch in Spencer, Iowa. He was rescued by Donna Erickson of People For Pets in Spencer, IA. In July, 2007 Mister found his way into my home as a 'foster' .... well, as many know, that didn't work so well. I fell in love with the goofy boy and adopted him :). I've been connected with Donna on Facebook since then and she has followed Mister's adventures, antics, goofiness and life for the past decade. When Mister's diagnosis of bone cancer was confirmed last week and that it has metastasized i just knew Mister needed to take a final road trip to visit with his original rescuer Donna, and to see the shelter that gave him a second chance and the reason why he has blessed me this past decade. I am sooo grateful to Donna and People for Pets for giving this sweet gentle boy a second chance.

Donna also graciously made arrangement with Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Okoboji, Iowa for a complimentary room with a wonderful view for Mister.  Many thanks to Donna and to Arrowwood Resort for this gift ... Mister's final ride and adventure back home to Iowa!!!
My heart melted as i witnessed Mister and Donna reunite after 10 years.  It was Love. Pure Love.

Mister slept well last night in our hotel. He snarfed his breakfast down and we went for a short early morning walk. The stars were shining brightly. I am so grateful to have this chance to take this road trip with Mister. My partner's parents also live here so she is able to also spend time with them. Probably not another coincidence that the place where Mister was originally from, is the place where my partner's parents have chosen to retire.

As I write this blog post this morning, my sweet boy is taking a post breakfast nap :).