Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ahnung's 2nd Celebration of Life Party!

On Sunday, April 7th, 2013 I was blessed to once again be celebrating Ahnung, in community with so many friends. This amazing spirit had her first Celebration of Life party a year ago on April 22, 2012 after she underwent radical surgery to remove a large tumor on her neck/back which confirmed a diagnosis of a second cancer. We were told she had a rare and very aggressive cancer, invasive adenosquamous carcinoma. Not knowing how much time we had left we decided to have a Celebration of Life party for her! At the end of November (2012) we learned her cancer had metastasized to her lungs and we started low dose chemo. At the end of December we learned the largest tumor in her lungs had grown 30% despite the chemo and after some deep reflection, we opted to stop chemo and simply enjoy our final walk and whatever remaining time we have left. The largest tumor in her lungs continues to grow and as of March it is now 4 cm. Yet despite the numerous tumors in her lungs she continues to be filled with life, spunk and spirit and is displaying no symptoms. On occasion she will get a little short of breath but 95% of the time is wanting to tear around the house and the back yard with her younger brother Legacy. With two luxating patellas and arthritis in her back my sweet girl is often dismayed when I put a stop to her rowdy play with her little brother.

So on Sunday, we returned to the exact same place where we held her first Celebration of Life party. Since her first celebration, Ahnung has  continued to return and rest by the healing river rocks that we took home from party last year. The healing prayer circle and the blessings of the river rocks filled the room with incredible love and healing. We brought the basket of river rocks back this year and Merry Sawdey, our dear friend who led the healing prayer circle last year (and again this year), added more rocks to the basket. This year we also received an incredible gift from Karen Good from Red Lake Reservation, Ahnung's rescuer. Karen sent us the four sacred plants ... gift of the Four Manido (Spirits of the Four Directions) to be used in our Celebration of Life party. When we are born, life begins in the east. The teenage years are in the south. The mid-life is in the West. When we reach the north we are ready to go into the spirit world .. the journey does not end as we go into the Spirit World and the cycle continues. "Ceremony is an essential part of traditional Native healing. Because physical and spiritual health are intimately connected, body and spirit must heal together" (from Native Voices). 

Merry led us through an incredibly beautiful and moving healing prayer circle:

East: tobacco
From the east, we invite the creator to be with us, to bring the light of dawn, to illuminate the places in us that need freshening and new birth. May our hearts and minds be clear and loving. 

South: Cedar
From the south, may this time and place be blessed. May we have courage and stamina. May we be renewed. May we feel gratitude and joy as we go about our ordinary lives. May we offer our gifts wholeheartedly. 

West: Sage
From the west, may we find the help, resources, creativity, and energy we need. May we accept what needs to be accepted and let go of what needs to be let go. May we be in community, aware of our love for others and for their love for us.

North: Sweet grass
From the north, may our mind, body, and spirit find strength, love, and joy. May we see light in the darkness, joy in the sadness. May we be and may we find love, companionship, and light. May we be and may we find companions and helpers on the way. May we find rest and may we give rest. May we listen. May we listen. May we listen.

We were blessed to have a beautiful Sunday afternoon for Ahnung's 2nd Celebration of Life party. Around 50 people came to honor and celebrate Ahnung, including a couple of Ahnung's friends from facebook whom neither of us had ever met in person. One new friend drove 2 hours to meet us and he shared with us how much we had made a difference in his life from our writing and our sharing. And He also gave us a card and a letter. What a gift and what courage for our new friend to open up his heart and to share tears ... as we met for the first time, face-to-face, I realized at that moment how truly, truly powerful community is; I realized at that moment that why I wanted to have another Celebration party was because I believe with all my heart that what is keeping Ahnung going, and what is keeping me going, with our shared health issues, is the love we have from such an incredibly, loving and supportive community; I also realized that each and every one of us is connected, and we can touch each other in deep and meaningful ways through our words, our actions, our intentions ... and often we have no idea ...

I have to share with you the most beautiful paragraph from our friend's letter: "Each of you is a gift individually and together you are even more. Both of you, on so many times, have broken my heart open and always in the most holy way. You have given me the gift of your stories. You have given me the gift of grace. You have helped me to listen to my life. You have given me courage. You have helped me heal. Your words have made my heart sing. You have filled me with love. You have walked with me. You too are sputniks, fellow travelers, companions along life's journey. And it is all the more sweet for being so for so long without knowing, I think ...."

Thank you "C" for your honesty, your strength, your courage and your presence in our lives.

I have been asked many times what made me start my blog. I started my blog for myself ... to write and to help myself heal. In writing I find myself returning to center; i find myself being grounded and rooted; and often through writing I am able to touch the deepest parts of myself. As I walk this Final Walk with Ahnung I have been challenged on so many levels to find peace and acceptance in a diagnosis that has ripped my hearts to shred. It is also two years ago this month when I learned of my rare heart condition ... one that comes with so many unknowns, a lot of uncertainty and eventual heart failure ... how much time I have left, is unknown. The reality though, is we all don't know how much time we have left. What I do know is that I cherish every morning I wake up .. it is a gift to be alive and it is a gift to fall asleep to the snoring and rhythmic deep breathing of Ahnung. On Friday I go in for another MRI .. a new lump and more uncertainty. As I write this blog I hear my sweet Ahnung breathing deeply. Her breath, her presence, her being touches my soul and gives me comfort. We are okay. We are both okay.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but what I do know is that the life I live right now, in this moment, is the most blessed life .... and I will continue to hold on tightly to Ahnung, my north star, and we will walk this Final Walk, with a huge community around us ... and we will walk with grace, dignity and joy. As Merry shared at Sunday's Celebration ... we don't know how this story will end. And until it's time for our story to close and transition, we will live life as fully as we can.

I am so grateful for everyone who came to Ahnung's Celebration of Life party. And a huge thanks to my friend Dorothy of Three Dog Photography for taking photos at the celebration and to my dear friend Terri for planning the party and ordering the most amazing cake!!

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