A Tale of Five Days (And Beyond … )

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Friday

When I finally settle into the stiff, vinyl recliner and shut my eyes I see eagles soaring. The detail of the wings, batting like thick, brown lashes. The sky is blue-blue with just a whisper of clouds. I’m learning their sounds as they perch high above in the thin tangle of branches.

Then it is the crows in the crisp night sky. Thousands and thousands in ceremony as they prepare for sleep. I hear their calls and walk alongside their gathering as they flutter off to this tree and that. Quietly they settle in, families and community sharing this dance in the dark.

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Then I am brought back to reality as I hear the labored breathing. Air is catching in the throat and then a grunt as if the pain has taken hold. The first fifteen times I hear it, I jump out of my chair, startled. Then I mostly settle into the broken rhythm of this night.

The unexpected call. The trip to the hospital. She’s so frail in that bed. She’s like the littlest bird, a swallow maybe. Or a marsh wren. Her agitated earlier state has been arrested. She never said my name, though she was begging someone, anyone, to free her of this place. “Thank you very much. Goodbye, please” is the mantra. I don’t know if she knows me or remembers me in this flickering light of astronomical twilight.

But I know .
And I remember her.

Saturday

It’s hard to know what is happening now. There are the startled awakenings lasting only a moment, followed by a breathing so light you wonder if her lungs are doing any work at all. The gasp that follows the silence is alarming. I watch as her lips seem to form words as if in conversation. Maybe memory is flooding the airways and George is nearby …

I imagine the vison of them flying in their small plane as Mt St Helens erupted and watching the plume rising in the distance. Not many were in the airspace that day and she remembered it like it was yesterday. Or maybe it was that submarine trip or snowmobiling in the fresh, new snow as powder fell in beautiful chaos all around.

Whatever it is, something is gurgling and bubbling up to the surface. Sometimes healing is silent and sometimes healing is a tug and a pull and a blistering jolt. It is hard to know right now what is happening inside; which parts are stretching and which are relaxing into their recovery. I watch her and I hope she knows George is with her. I can feel his energy swirling in this room. I hope when she reaches out her hand that she finds his. She doesn’t have to do this alone. She’s surrounded by angels and a loyal band of friends.

Bless the helpers.

Sunday

It is the kind of morning where I could use more sleep but my body can’t stay in bed. As much as I’d like to linger I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Between yoga, my full day of hiking and my night on a stiff recliner, I can hardly imagine getting up, let alone making the bed. But I do both and sitting upright on the couch has at least shifted the discomfort. Grateful this morning for a hot bath and the promise of relief.

The spring on the garage snapped yesterday. Grateful for a kind neighbor who helped get it lifted and allowed us to get my car out. It’s just five years old. They don’t build things like they used to, solid and of the kind of quality designed to last. It seems everything has a shorter life and I’m sure there is a metaphor here that I am missing.

We’ll head back to the hospital after the garage door spring has been replaced. Praying that my friend found restful sleep overnight and that her body is beginning the daunting task of repairing itself. It’s a tall order. I hope to see the twinkle return to her eyes but I am keenly aware that everything is out of my hands. We’ll just load up on white light and prayers and do the next indicated thing. I suppose that rule applies for every day. And so we go.

Onward through the fog …

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Monday

So I have this rock. I know I should be a better steward and not pocket these tiny treasures, but Friday, this one spoke to me. At first glance I fell in love. It looked like Sassy … can you see her ? Then I held it in my hand and the smooth surface was a comfort to hold. Remember worry stones ? It was like that. I tucked it into my pocket without hesitation.

Truth is, when I hike I always pick up a stone to carry as I wander. I usually release it before I leave, but sometimes it is like a touchstone for a place and all the rules go out the window. It connects me. It grounds me. It almost becomes a part of me.

Today, (many times) I reached into my pocket to find this water-worn stone and I swear it calmed me. In a way hard to really explain, I have chaos in my soul as my friend slips away from all that she knows. Is it because I know it could be me someday ? Is it because life is really a fragile shell and when it starts to crack it can be confusing and startling ?

I don’t know. I only know that this gray stone, with its squirrely lines and soft finish, helped me stay in my own clear center today when my every instinct was to fall away. Someday I’ll take it back to the shore of Bowman Bay. Until then, I’ll let it carry my worry and settle my spinning mind. A blessing of nature.

Tuesday

This is the first morning in a while I have wanted to stay in bed. As hard as it can be to stay lying down some mornings, I would have picked it today.

My friend is improving. Yesterday was a turning point and I hope to see that trend continuing into this new day. It is a complex story of recovery that is not entirely mine to tell, but I feel like I am one of the moving parts as the gears begin to grind again.

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Lord Byron once wrote: “I am ashes where once I was fire …” I can’t seem to escape the truth of that. It seems to apply in so many ways. I am trying to keep an emphasis in my own mind on the fire piece. Without a bright blazing flame there is no ash. The metaphor seems stronger for my friend today but it is true for many of us. We must be grateful for the moments when our lives roared and the flames shot high into the sky. White-hot heat. Invincible.

I am sad to think that soon, a decision will be made that will alter the life course of my dear friend. I will not be a part of that decision. My role will shift from keeper of the flame, to tender of the ash. There are beautiful things in those burning embers. My job will now be to swirl that burning ash and make of it the only thing I really can. A story. Her story, all the while reminding her of that wild flame, that had been burning as a twin to George’s.

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Last year I walked a favorite trail of mine that had been devastated by fire two years earlier. In the spring, through the burnt, barren, scorched earth, came life. And not just a stray flower here and there, but an abundance of life. It was almost surreal but it is helping me this morning to frame this new metaphor. Maybe Byron needed one more line ..

Sigh. It’s time to get moving. Even as my body and heart resist, my braen is charging up to drive this rickety bus into “the next”. Please send prayers. And white light. And chocolate.

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Story continues in the comments … ♡

Thank you for sharing this.

8 Comments on “A Tale of Five Days (And Beyond … )

  1. Tuesday

    I don’t want to sound discouraged but there are definitely days I falter and fail. I’ve been a little angry lately. I don’t even know where to direct it or where it’s coming from. But I feel it rising up and I’m impatient. Maybe I notice it more because of traffic or the weather. Maybe it’s just because things are happening I can’t control or fix. Maybe it isn’t anger at all. Maybe it’s helplessness. 

    It doesn’t really matter. The Universe has very unceremoniously fallen out of balance. When that happens, I know I need to balance it with positive thoughts. And I will. 

    Tomorrow. 

    Tonight I’m going to just let myself be sad that the light is dimming. Yeah, tonight I’ll just let myself be sad. 

    Like

  2. I think I have all that I need for the morning. I’ve stopped caring how I look that early as I pull the tight little skull cap over my ears. I brought the big gloves, too (which will later prove to be a very good decision). Life is full of these tiny trade-offs, isn’t it ?  It was snowing when I left home but I feel oddly optimistic beneath this cover of clouds that I will again see the sun break through. 

    The geese are graceful in flight, dipping and soaring in unison, but to listen to them sounds like a broken chorus.  Every bird, it seems, for herself. It isn’t a song, but rather noise against the drone of the freeway less than a mile away. They are spectacular in their various formations. 

    The eagle I came early to see is sitting on the rail just a hundred yards or so down the boardwalk. I walk softly and slowly but he takes off after a moment. I watch as he  swirls and then dips below the rail as he flies out toward the locked gate. Maybe another day. 

    As I walked down the boardwalk I am enjoying a different view. I’m rarely there for low tide so it’s a treat. The gate to the last 700 feet should have been opened yesterday, but is locked up tight. I turn to head back and run into my new friend, Pat from yesterday. He shares a few more stories as we watch a young woman on a tractor coming toward us. She’s there to unlock the gate and sand the slippery boardwalk, untouched the last three or more months. I join him to reach the end of the boardwalk. There’s another man on the rail, a photographer. I think he said his name was Bob. Caitlan is driving the tractor and the sand feed is clogged. We all glove up and throw sand on the last 700 feet Success. It’s beautiful out there, and a little service work never hurt anyone. The walk back was snow, rain and hail. Weird day. 

    Bellevue is mostly socked in with grey clouds looming. I’m never sure what to expect and today is still another surprise. I arrive at my friend’s bedside just as she opens her eyes. “Thank god you found me ” she says ! She proceeds to tell me of still another wild night. “You’ve got to get me out of here” she begs. Some tears now for us both as I have to tell her that is a thing I cannot do. 

    Her mind is struggling to process everything coming in. Memory, dream … maybe the words she has captured of others. It’s all in her mind like a puzzle where every piece is the same distorted shape. Fragments. Scraps from yesterday. What is real and what is dream ? Nothing fits together. 

    I don’t know what to say today. 

    Not to her and not to you. 

    Keep the white light coming. 

     

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sunday and Collateral Beauty

    It’s been a long week. A hard one, really. There is always something that manages to pull us from our comfort zone into an unfamiliar place. This week has been illness, next week or next month, who knows what that thing will be.

    I have to say a heartfelt thank you to those of you who have reached out with love and story to help me create a framework for delicately navigating this new (to me) terrain. I have watched my Mom live this with her parents, and I had my own deep connections in those moments, but this place feels very new and my heart has been seeking guidance. I found it in you.

    A new friend shared s story recently and her words really resonated. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other well. In some ways I feel like I know the most important things already. To have people offer their own experience makes you feel less alone. Less isolated. A whole lot less lost. She spoke of collateral beauty. I held it like a compass.

    I know it’s a named movie. I know it touches on the ways through loss. It resonated deeply. It’s a perfect description of my ideal way of being in the world, and I admit, I am often not very good at it. That’s the beauty of having something come to you in an unexpected way.

    If I look carefully, the collateral beauty for me has been to see my friend’s intricate network of support up close. I know I have always been a part of it, but this past week I have seen it expertly weave itself into and together with others. The result has been this blanket of love and attention.

    But there’s more.

    The nurses. I’ve always known it takes a special person to serve others in their time of greatest need. They aren’t all perfect, but there are those gems that stand out. The people who exude kindness and compassion. The ones who who touch others like a rare book or a fragile doll. Bless the helpers. Collateral beauty.

    The today I found more.

    In the spirit of Imbolc, I headed to find water today. I walked and watched and listened. I made sure to remember to look up. Nisqually is full of surprising gifts every time I visit. The sky, the birds, the boardwalk. The people. Today I stopped and talked with two people I really enjoyed. Collateral beauty.

    The sky glowed. The heron posed. The light danced in a silvery, blue gown. At my “owl prowl” I learned a lot. I learned what to look for and listen for. I saw the snags and stumps differently, as homes for wildlife and not a blight on the landscape. I recognized the call of a perched eagle.

    Collateral beauty.

    I vow today to look for it. Even as people falter and life pushes on through the muck. I will look for all the good that lives on the fringe … on the delicate edges. I am so grateful for the friends I have who remind me and guide me and love me through every single thing.

    Every. Single. Thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saturday

    Imbolc.

    That word always catches my eye because I have no idea how to pronounce it. I like the look of it though. It feels unfinished … it feels like I should be expecting something more. Like a comma. A pause. So today, as I sat vigil listening to the gurgling sound of lungs fighting to keep clear, I read about it. 

    A beginning of spring and the start of new life. The original word, Imbolg, means belly. Expectectant and pregnant with possibility. I was right, sort of. It is a word that actually resembles it’s meaning. 

    So I’m thinking of how that resonates with me. I’m frustrated at the human body for not being more intuitive somehow. I’m surprised that my friend is slipping in and out of awareness like two very distinctly worlds. And, clearly, the two she is straddling are quite different. 

    In one world she sees me. The other, she is puzzled by who I am. This afternoon she is insisting she is not at Overlake and has been moved. I am not quite sure what to do, although the doctor assured me my consistent presence is helping ground her and keep her oriented. 

    When company is here she is engaged in conversation or listening. It keeps her more awake. Just us two, it’s harder. It frustrates her when I say we are in the hospital, same room as yesterday. It frustrates me that with all the miracles that exist in medicine there isn’t one to clear the mind and throat and lungs and bring with it some recognition of “what is happening” to those who are suffering. 

    Imbolc. 

    Brigid is the goddess of healing and so I’ll lean on her tonight. The TV has gone to snow and the white noise of the suction tube seems comforting. 

    Tomorrow we celebrate Dad’s birthday and the titans of sport on Superbowl Sunday. 

    Tonight I’ll burn a candle and create a small new altar. 

    Tomorrow I will rise before the the sun and walk the boardwalk. I’ll listen for owls, I’ll watch for my heron friends. I’ll breathe deeply because I can and because others can’t. And I’ll give the Universe a nudge in the direction of healing and love, miracles and possibility. 

    Happy Imbolc. 

    Is that a thing ? 

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Friday

    For as hard as Thursday seemed to be, Friday afternoon was it’s opposite in good. My friend seemed better early afternoon and when the OT team came, she seemed better than she had in days. Stretching and sitting, giving those muscles a needed wake-up call. The two women working with her were angels and I’ll be sure to share that with the hospital. She was even joking and laughing.

    After they left and she was better situated we talked for awhile before she drifted off to sleep. She told me she was trying as hard as she could. Bless that fierce little heart. Thursdays “rattle” was all but disappeared by the time I left. I know this is still a fragile moment in the greater scheme of things, but in taking this one day at a time, this was a good day.

    My evening was a completely new experience. Doing new things gives my spirit the kind of jolt it needs. When a dear friend offered a ticket to the sold-out “Owl Prowl” with the Seward Park Audubon group, I was all in. New place, new people, new stuff to learn.

    I spent the dinner hour dissecting an owl pellet. They are fascinating creatures to look at, but also in how they process what they consume. Gently breaking apart these pellets with tweezers and fingers, I found the bones and fur of what must have been a vole. Yummy.

    It is mating season, so the idea was to venture into the forest at the park for a chance to see or hear an owl in the trees. They are quite active right now and an engagement of some sort was our optimistic goal. We learned about the different calls from the different owls and donned our raingear and headed into the woods.

    No flashlights, no headlamps. Last night was crazy windy and the trees were dancing. Your eyes quickly adjust to the darkness and the sound of the wind was all you could hear.

    At one point we are standing on a muddy path deep in the woods, with closed eyes …listening. I live for stuff like this. To be immersed in the trees, wild wind in my hair, eyes closed … it was the most exhilarated I’ve felt in a long time. This is what it is to feel totally and fully alive.

    We heard a few calls, but never got that sighting. The wind was magical in that darkness. I’m guessing the owls were there, watching us … probably thinking we were crazy. When it seemed a little dangerous to go any deeper in the woods, we dropped down to the path by the lake for a walk back. Glorious night.

    Spending time every day for a week in the hospital lends itself to noticing decline. Spending just over an hour in the dark woods on a stormy night lends itself to rising up. Life is a pendulum and yesterday was a full swing. Keep those prayers and good thoughts coming. It matters ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thursday night

    I drove in to Bellevue today, distracted.

    In the south, even after 12 noon, the sky was like a creamsicle in my rearview mirror. After the sunrise this morning that took our collective breath away, I thought the familiar gray sky would cover us back up like a blanket. But instead Mt Rainier was wearing a thin cap, albeit a little sideways, and the sky around her was orange and white. Ordinarily, I love days like today.

    I’m sitting here with my friend and her chest is rattling with each breath. It took me back to a night I spent with my grandfather at hospice. I can’t stop the tears. It is painful to witness and I am praying (in my own way) like crazy, to whoever is out there listening. It shouldn’t be this hard. Not to fight or to let go.

    Maybe you would have to know her. She has a wicked mischievious smile and an unexplainable presence. Her tiny frame and big personality are a combination not to be messed with. When we talk, and we talk about everything, I can always tell if I’ve crossed a line. The look she gives me is her “tell”. I learned to watch for it. She has strong opinions and strong convictions, some of which I share. Some of which I do not.
    Yet still, we found our way.

    I’ve learned from the nurse how to use the suction tube to help clear the secretions. She sees me and tried to say my name so she knows I’m here. All I can really do now is gently hold her hand as her body fights itself for control. I am hoping that the labored breathing, the rattle in her chest, is harder for me to hear than for her to endure. The nurse assures me that is the case.

    I’m not sure what it takes for a body to rally from this. I’m not even sure that is what she would want. We spend our lives clawing and climbing. We fall in a groove with that life force within us. We do it for our families, spouses .. even our pets. We reach into ourselves for the fight. How in the world do we ever know how or when to let go ?

    There isn’t a flashing neon sign announcing “NOW” in it’s loudest, brightest beam of light. But maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny, soft voice that gives us permission. It says that it’s okay to let go. Let go and let our bodies sort out the details. I’m not terribly religious. I don’t believe in a perfect heaven. Nor do I believe in hellfire and brimstone.

    I believe in “the next”.

    And it’s beautiful there ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thursday

    Last night was a beautiful blending of marinated chicken breast and lemon sorbet. Kelly cooked the chicken yesterday morning and it was delicious. The sorbet, I must tell you, has slivers of lemon zest swirled in and is an explosion of flavor. I don’t even feel bad for finishing off the pint.

    In some ways yesterday was the hardest day yet for my friend. Or maybe it was just the hardest day for me. While Tuesday was a burst of energy and conversation, yesterday day she had slipped back into the cocoon that is sleep. I wanted so much for things to be different. Then I remember that everything is exactly as it’s meant to be and I can relax. I’m not in charge.

    I know this is just the beginning of what might be a long, hard road. My days have begun to run together and this business of the heart can be a patchwork quilt of emotion. Yesterday I couldn’t help but think the trajectory of recovery was all wrong. I want it to be a straight line. I want the healing to happen in a linear way, but that is not always how it works.

    And so we wait. We let the map draw itself and we follow along as we navigate this winding road. There will be a new normal once we arrive and there will be no going back. I’m scrambling to put together my kit for the road: headlamp, snacks, patience and with compass in hand, we go … Onward ..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wednesday

    In the quiet and stillness of morning I have a few moments to collect my thoughts. I should probably be grateful for the service person coming to finally fix the garage door, but I hate this stuff. I don’t like strangers in my space, but sometimes we do what what we don’t want in order to have what we need.

    That seems to be a theme this week.

    My friend is in and out of awareness. Her body is slowly healing but her mind is still catching up. It’s like there is a web of memory she has been caught up in. The timeline is skewed for some of what she remembers. I understand it must be startling to awaken each day in a place where every frame of reference has shifted. Nothing is as it was. No routine, and familiar people, places and things have all been replaced with something you don’t recognize. Bless her heart as she tries to navigate this woven web of memory.

    Time is the healer. I feel like I am in my own grieving now for many things. Loss is a locked door and grieving is the desperate search for a key. Times like these I try to sit quietly in the moments and listen to what my body is saying with each breath. If I’m lucky, I find the place where each inhale is a gathering, each exhale, a breaking free. If I’m really lucky, it becomes automatic and thoughts fall away. I don’t come to the silence with a task. I can’t fix anything in my mind. I can only inch closer to a recognition of the here and now. It is all that there is.

    In the meantime, there is laundry to fold and dishes to do. If the rain stops, maybe I can take a rake and gather the small fallen branches and twigs of our towering birch. Calming the chaos. Because it’s time.

    Liked by 2 people

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