Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Meditation Day at Cayucos, CA
Fossilized Barnacle on Meditation Day

Prayers through two tides. My camera finally jammed.

I didn't think I could. I was overwhelmed by losses of two very important people in my past. I did not know how to cry. And I had no concept of grieving. I did not know that it was slowly killing me joy, my hope, my loss of self, my will to live.

I shut down, and numbed out. I learned to do that a long time ago...when I was a small child. And it is my "go to" electric pathway that has been etched into my brain circuitry. 

In utter brokenness, in a place so dark, and vast, it might as well have been called a 'black hole', people reached out bravely. One at a time. I rebuffed them, I'm sure. Or maybe gave them another chance. I have no memory of those connections.

These were women, and a few men who were not afraid of hatred, destruction, insanity, and the blackest nights. They were with me. No matter what. For a very long time. 

One in particular became my mentor. There was absolutely no judgment, no pushing me to "hurry up and get my shit together!"; just a lot of coffee, listening, unbelievable patience, and prayer for me even when I did not want that at all. She did it behind my back, and I knew she was, because I could feel it!

She led by example. She taught me how to live in the present one second at a time. I did not know that was possible. Of course, I was working very hard with a therapist too, and applying Cognitive-Behavioral Therapeutic knowledge as much as I was able. I took that very seriously. But my mentor was now my "go to" person in a crisis. I let her down a couple of times, but I never lied to her.

Whatever she suggested, I tried. But she asked me to visit a dying acquaintance by myself at a local hospital. I do NOT do hospitals. Obviously, I immediately said, "Yes." Because she was my mentor, and following her suggestions was helping me. So I went. I wept before I walked into her room. I sat with her, prayed with her, while she was maxed out on morphine, and held her hand. I sang, "Amazing Grace," which held special meaning to her. She squeezed my hand. I could see acute pain on her face. I kissed her, told her I loved her, walked out of the room, leaned against a wall, and cried.

And I walked with her, all the way...and learned from my mentor how to care for the dying. How to love them without having to say a word. A caress on the brow. A stroke on the hand. Brushing a strand of hair off the face. Being there for a partner, or child. All of it. 

And I've had to do it again. And I will have to repeat this process until someone does it to me. 

There are two things I have learned I think are very important for you to think about: Someone in the process of dying is in the tenuous balance of clinging to hope, yet not be willing to face the prospect they are dying. If you are able to gently help them keep their hope, but teach them to make sure they have said all the important things they want to say to loved ones, you are truly being an amazing friend. That is a difficult situation. It is true. A friend is born for adversity...and tells the truth, gently and with deep compassion.

Death is a part of life. Period. Sometimes a mother miscarries. That is a death. Or a homeless drunk freezes on the street. Death. A pile-up in fog on the freeway takes many lives. Death. Your kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there is a drive-by shooting, or a shooting spree at his school. Death. Cancer takes your husband. Suicide takes your mother. War takes your children. We, none of us, are immune from accidents, incidents, evil intentions, or whatever it may be. We live and then we die. 

We each get one day. This day. Yes, you may make tentative plans for your future, and the future of your children. But do not hold on to them for dear life. Instead, hold on to this day as a miraculous treasure. What will you do with it? It is a gift. Truly. And it is a gift I believe you are meant to share. You can change the world in one day by touching one life, be it the life of your own child, or words of hope to a stranger on the street.

One day. This day. You have no control over this world. Nor do I. But I do get to choose how I will live on this day. I do get to say, "I can do death; I can do heartbreak." Someone loved me. Someone taught me. And I get to pass that on.