Listening to a song I first heard a few years ago during a reception for a couple whose wedding I had officiated. Youssou Ndour and Peter Gabriel rocked the joint with their song called Shaking The Tree. It wasn’t until recently that I heard past the catchy lyrics, hand clapping and hip swaying rhythm to the empowering message that all of us; men and women can see beyond societally imposed strictures and become who we choose to be.
I was blessed to have gotten that message overtly from my parents who supported my dreams and sometimes left of center visions , but somehow missed the boat a bit, by attempting to mold myself into an image that I thought others would love and accept. It has taken a great deal of work to maintain a façade of ease and grace when I have felt tossed about by the winds of change. I have clung to a palm tree (which is the image that comes to mind when I think of this song), with gale force currents whipping about.
Today, I was answering preliminary questions for a book for which I contributing. The topic was surviving in the midst of loss and grief. I looked back at 3 major losses in my life: my husband in 1998, my father in 2008 and my mother in 2010. Each one brought with them different ‘flavors’ of grief and each one taught me about the sustaining power of love, from those on both sides of the veil. I also know that when I didn’t allow for full expression of mourning, however it wanted to show up on any given day, it had an impact on my health. I held on, rather than letting go into it, since I wanted to be able to maintain my persona of the go-to person, ‘the rock’ as my mother was, until I crumbled. Even all these years and several major health crises later, I still don’t feel fully human with permission to cry over these losses. Yes, I can justify my surrender into acceptance of death, since I know they are at peace and immersed in love wherever they are AND I miss them. Michael’s death has melted into memory, more than being an ongoing spectre. I communicate with my parents daily, as they pop into my mind randomly and intentionally. Their presence is a comfort and provides encouragement when I begin to falter. At cardiac care, my father’s coaching “Come on, baby doll, you can do it!” keeps me sweating it out when I want to quit. I hear my mother’s voice in my own expression, which my sister can vouch for.
Grief can knock us loose from our moorings and shake us to our roots. It is up to us to decide if we are going to come down from the tree and plant ourselves in the nurturing soil of love.
I spent the day today basking in the sun, dashing in the rain, lounging in a hammock, enjoying healthy munchies, singing, dancing, drumming, hugging, smiling, laughing; all in the presence of kindred spirits. No wonder the event I attended was called Kindred Spirits Labor Day of Love. I was surrounded by sweet souls; hosted by the irreplaceable Delane Lipka who takes on the role of everyone’s Jewish Mother (in the best possible way:) She and her husband Harry who has since passed into spirit himself, founded Mt. Eden Retreat in Washington, NJ decades ago and it has been the site for many workshops and gatherings. I have been blessed to have both attended and facilitated events there over the years and as I pull up the wooded driveway, I feel like I am home. One of the things Delane is famous for, is her huggability. A mutual friend named Tom Osher has described her hugs as being like those of Amma (the Hugging Saint). Today when I embraced her, I could tell why he felt that way. I have hugged many in my lifetime and two other spiritual teachers’ hugs felt like Delane’s. The first was Ram Dass and the second was His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From all three of them, I walked away soaked in love.
I had the joy of facilitating my first workshop since the heart attack in June that had me taking much needed time off from nearly everything. It was a hugging workshop in which we continued the theme of being immersed in love soup.
Music was a highlight of the day as Faerie Elaine Silver, Deva Troy and Don Slepian delighted the crowd with their transcendent sounds. I have been blessed to have known them all for over 2o years.
Feeling pleasantly tired and overwhelming grateful for having spent the day ‘in the garden’
Last night I watched one of my favorite movies that debuted in 1980. Resurrection starred Ellen Burstyn, Sam Shepard, Eva Le Galliene, Richard Farnsworth and Roberts Blossom. It is the story of Edna Mae McCauley, who in the first 10 minutes or so of the film, has a Near Death Experience (NDE) in an accident. When she returns, after having a glimpse of the Other Side, she is told by a doctor that because of the severe injuries she suffered, she won’t walk again. Traveling cross country with her sullen, angry and distant father, she returns home from California to Kansas. En route, they stop at a gas station where they are greeted by Esco Brown (Richard Farnsworth) who is of a spiritual bent and has on his bucket list to visit Machu Pichu. He has a sign painted on an old tire rim hanging on a wall that reads “God is love and versa visa,’ a phrase that remains with Edna Mae. As she leaves his presence, he places his hand on her head, offering a blessing.
While at a family picnic, she discovers that she has an ability to stop a nose bleed in a young niece which sets her on a path of being a conduit for healing energy for herself and others. Miraculous encounters have her stanching blood from a knife wound, restoring hearing to a deaf man, helping a woman walk again after severe spinal injury; oh and she defies the prediction from her doctor and walks again. She attracts the interest of scientists who validate her abilities and beckons the heart of the man she stopped from bleeding to death. Cal (Sam Shepard) becomes her lover and then an obsessed religious fanatic; having been raised by a ‘holy roller’ father. Since Edna Mae does not proclaim that The Holy Spirit heals through her- what she knows is the love is the essential element; he and his father assume that the work is of a less than benign source and are determined to take her down.
Good prevails in this tale and reminds me that healers come in all configurations and love is the Source, regardless of what name you give to it.
As I am in the middle of the fifth decade of my life, the world has become a patchwork quilt of experiences. In the last 55 years, I have splashed in puddles of joy and gasped for air while feeling like I was drowning in sorrow. I have been clutched by fear and basked in light. Through it all, I have been buoyed in an ocean of love. I have often denied pain in the service of keeping on keeping on. It was a temporary fix that led me to confusion. It takes courage to face loss. In the past few months, several people I know have died. As we age, that happens. I just wonder on some level, if they had completed their ‘assignments’ and were ready to move on. I question why some (like me) survive life challenging conditions and continue to live. Is it because I still have more work to do?
I have never experienced depression; although I have had a few dark nights of the soul. A month or so ago, as I was reading journals from as far back as the late 1970′s, I was shocked to recall that there was a time back in the 90′s when in the midst of major shifts (ectopic pregnancy, Michael’s diagnosis of Hep C and the loss of our home to Hurricane Andrew, business challenges, as well as marital discord), I had mused about ‘what if I wasn’t here anymore?’ I had no plan or intent; just a fleeting thought which I promptly dismissed. I can say with certainty that I am glad I stuck around, since my life has been a veritable buffet of delights. People, experiences, accomplishments, creative endeavors have enriched this existence, so that when my time comes, I will feel as if I haven’t missed much.
There are some who don’t feel that way and wonder if things will ever ease up. They seem to be caught in the swamp of despair. They may forget that they survived initial trauma and travail and can make it through the aftermath. What helps me to move past my own sometimes clinging doubt is the certainty that God/Goddess/All That Is has got my back. Listening to this song helps too. I love this cover of the Peter Gabriel piece.
Don’t Give Up-Pink and John Legend