Lessons Learned From the Death of My Beloved Son


This morning I walked downstairs and into our great room with a heart and body full of emotions.  My husband’s big comfy chair by the window was back in place after a few weeks of being upstairs in a bedroom.  We had become incapable of helping Rich navigate the stairs as he lost more use of his body so had moved first his bed, and then the hospice bed into that corner by the window.

We all lived an extremely intense few weeks and his stay here in our home was such a gift.  With the help of his wife and my husband, I was given the privilege of being with him in our home for the last six weeks of his life, and my sister came for the last week.   What would I ever have done with her too!  I was privileged, as well, to be able to do every single thing that a mother could do to save her son.

I have lived for many years wishing I could have a “do-over” raising my children.   I loved them but looking back, I didn’t know much of anything about love, about being fully aware and truly and consistently cherishing them while they were learning about life.   Fortunately I’ve been blessed with many years to cherish and love them and they clearly know how much they are loved and valued.

My daughter lived with me until she left home as an adult but when the boys were pre-teen, they went to live with their father and although only a few miles away, and back and forth between our homes, I often regretted my allowing them to leave.  I missed so much.  The little things and also some of their life-forming experiences.   I can remember at least once that each of them didn’t want to stay there after they had left and I could see in later years that it had impacted them heavily, the fact that I had allowed them to go – even though they wanted to be with their Dad.   At the time, he and I felt they should be allowed to decide where they wanted to live.   It had a heavy impact on all of us.

Many years ago, Rich and I talked it through and he said he had peace but that didn’t change the scars and fear of being alone and feeling abandoned that he lived with for the rest of his life.  Perhaps those issues had less power over him- I don’t know.  I have lived with a lot of guilt that I didn’t hold on to them tighter and refuse to let them leave.  Who knows what was the best for them.  I still don’t know.  I do know that over the years, I’ve been blessed with a very close and loving relationship with both of them.

I, along with my other son and my daughter, were with Rich in the hospital in the state where he lived when he was given the heart-wrenching diagnosis of glioblastoma multiformae Stage IV.  You can read his story here.   He and his wife had wanted to move back home – here in Washington State- for several years. Now was the time.  They packed what they could carry in their suitcases and 3 days later we were on the plane home for treatment at Oregon Health Sciences University and then to Compass Oncology.  Rich didn’t live long enough to get into treatment.  Maybe a blessing.   We were furiously fighting for his life but the tumor was on a mission of it’s own.  The tumor won.

He passed on Tuesday and this is Thursday.  I was in an abyss of grief and despair until last night.  I was adjusting to the change in my life – going from the intense life we had all been living for six weeks – every thought, prayer, breath, action included Rich and fighting for his life.  When he came home from the Hospital a week ago on Thursday for hospice care, I was challenged to change my focus – from fighting to accepting and simply making him comfortable.  That was a heartbreaking change in every aspect of my care for him.  It brought me once again to my knees emotionally and physically – in grief and prayer.

I’m so grateful that my sister and Rich’s wife were here to share my final experiences with my son. I couldn’t have done it without either of them.   My two remaining sisters are very close to him.  I know how I would feel if this were one of their children and I know how much they both love Rich and that they were experiencing very close to what I was experiencing during his final days.  There is huge comfort in shared experience.   Thank you!  I’m so grateful to you, Lynda, for being here.  I know Carlieta would have been here too if at all possible.

I had incredible joy and many “grateful” opportunities seeing my three children together during these weeks – nurturing, loving, caring for one another.   I know very well who they are but it touched me deeply to see them together.  Their living separately as young children had no impact at this point.  That was one of my concerns and pictures of a fractured family.  But this proved to be family at it’s finest.  I saw healing at a deep level for them and I know it was for me.  I am so blessed.

I have watched Rich go through many years of incredible pain, physically and emotionally.  My other son has navigated authentically and courageously through his life challenges and my daughter is a very courageous colon cancer survivor.  All three of my children are my great role models.  Their outlook on life, the way they navigate and function in life, their deep beliefs – somewhat differing but tolerant and strong, inspire me.  They are truly my greatest teachers, along with their children and grandchildren.  I’m so blessed and grateful to have these people in my life.

I’ve learned, on a whole new level, about courage, trust, faith, humor, diversity, loyalty, compassion and truth.

Last night and this morning, I have grief, of course, but that really comes in small waves.  I’ve been given the gift of peace and comfort.  I still don’t know what I believe or how this has come to me.  After the last few days when I’ve felt lost and searching, trying to live what I think is my belief, failing and faltering,  I’m given this incredible peace and feeling of being more deeply grateful than I can ever remember.  And yes even joy!

I still can’t say that I’m able to live my belief but I do know this for sure.  I’m writing it down to remind myself when I need to…we are nothing more than visitors on this earth.  We are gifts and lessons to others.  My children are first and foremost a soul that I’m privileged to know in a special way but they are not mine.  I cannot hold on to them – I simply get to touch them and love them.  And when it’s time for them to move on, I can do nothing but give the best send-off possible and be grateful that I was so privileged.

I’m doin the Grateful Dance.  I was entrusted with that great soul in my life for a little over 54 years.  How deeply blessed am I.

“On the Children” by Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

 

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Can we get some sage words on experiences?…..


A comment on my post on the Abundance Challenge brought up a good question  – one that I think would be a great topic for comment.  Hope to hear from you.

Questions:  “How do you keep doubt away when your finances are in an upheaval …how can I attract not lack but abundance?” (in that struggle and mind frame – I’m adding)

My Response:  I hear you!  I wish I knew the answers but since I don’t, all I can add, relative to my own experience,

  • Every day, I set time aside to listen to inspiring books or music (usually during my walk), read (usually during my bath or at bedtime)  and repeat in my head and sometimes aloud, my intentions.
  • Having a truly grateful heart for what I do have and trying to focus on that helps to eventually get me thru to my answers – and accept what is right now so that I can move forward.  “They” say that what we focus on grows.  And I believe that.
  • Looking for the lesson in my situation and trying to learn from it helps.  My lessons are usually not  what they look like – outer, but always about the inner me – my thoughts and therefore my behaviors that influence my feelings about my situation.  My situation is whatever it is right now.  My emotions that I attach to my situation cause my turmoil – or not.  Sometimes it requires me to be very still and listen.  And again be grateful.

I’ve written in the past about lessons that I learned from drastic and very traumatic financial loss and adjustments  in my post-successful-career life that required, in retrospect, pretty minor shifts in my thinking (not easy – just minor) that initiated major changes in me and therefore my life.   Meaningful changes – for the better.  Way better.  Everyone’s lessons are different but  it seems to me that some of the same principles seem to apply.   We seem to have to go thru discomfort to get motivated to pay attention to our lesson?  I don’t know….

 

Happy New Year – 2012!


Peaceful Place - Original and prints available at sharonabbottfinearts.com

I want to stand on the highest mountain – well figuratively, of course – and shout “Happy New Year” to all mankind, to the universe!

I’m feeling so grateful and in a state of anticipation and excitement for this new year, 2012.

This morning, I had a mad desire to express my feelings in a poem, and made multiple attempts but it’s just not happening  So I’ve been reading poetry blogs and am in awe of these poets – some amazing gifts out there!  You poetry contributes so much to my world.   Thank you!

I’ve been enjoying blogs that share paintings, photography and graphics this morning.  And choosing not to be intimidated by the talent, but inspired.  Wow!  That’s a whole lot of inspiration…

Music rocks my world.  It makes a difference.  I constantly have music playing.  Sometimes just in my head.  But it plays.  And brings me joy!

The blogs!  The myriad of subjects, writing styles, humor, insight.  The list is long – the gifts endless!  Blogs broaden my world.   My life has been changed in so many ways.  By blogs!

Art – in any form – is good for my soul.   I’m so grateful for life…for expression…for diversity…

I haven’t made resolutions for years but today am renewing my commitments to myself… and am writing them for days when I need a little reminder…

  • I am practicing my art, my gift, every day.  I make no expectation of the result.  I’m practicing.
  • I am present.  I am listening.  I am seeing – really seeing.
  • I am in service.  My open sign is on.  I’m showing up – and I’m there when I’m needed.  In the best way possible.

What will this year hold?  I can’t wait for the adventure…

Wanting


I was driving down the street today and realized I was feeling very intense.  And my posture was expressing my mental stance.  I wasn’t speeding.  I was just intense.  Then I had an immediate “A HA Moment”.  At almost 72 years of age (however feeling no more than 40 – at the most!) I had a moment of realization – that as a working adult, I have been used to getting what I want.   If I wanted something, I just worked a little harder and got it.  I was not necessarily discriminating in my wants.  And these wants certainly have not always been for myself.  Many times I want to do something for someone else, help someone else.   Sometimes too much.   This morning I was examining my intentions and motivators.   This morning I had a moment of clarity about my long painful lesson and how grateful I am at this moment for what I’ve learned.   It involves ego, self value, intentions, being conscious.  How I’ve tried to fill emotional needs with material things.  The old story.  But now it’s very real to me.

I grew up with very little in the material way.  Our basic needs were barely met.  But we sisters had a lot of fun together and probably because we had very few toys, and of course no tv, became very creative  and found innovative ways to entertain ourselves – built tree houses carpeted with lush moss.  We collected empty cans and boxes to fill our imaginary cupboards.  We usually had a couple of goats  ( I still enjoy them if I don’t have to milk or smell them) and I spent a lot of time following them around and pulling limbs of huge oak trees within their reach – they loved eating the leaves.   We strung laurel tree berries and created beautiful jewelry (to us) – necklaces and bracelets.  We were very competitive – racing and checking to see who had picked the most blackberries and red clover for our Mom.  She gave us a few cents for every quart we picked.  It seemed like a lot of money then.    Our family was large and money was very scarce.  But we had a lot of fun during that time.

My A Ha moment led to thoughts about how I learned to be self-sufficient, creative and so very determined.  There was a point that I remember – in junior high – when I spent much of my time in deep despair and intense “wanting”.  To have things that my school mates had – carefree laughter, nice clothes, a watch, cafeteria lunches instead of homemade bread sandwiches – whole wheat!  Oh no!  Just when white bread was what everyone was eating.   I so wanted to be like everyone else.  And I wasn’t.  I lived in “want”.   I wanted to be different than I was.  I wanted a family that was very close.  I wanted to be close  with my Mom – I wasn’t.  She just wasn’t available.  Neither was my Dad.  They were in a relationship break-down that ended a few years later in divorce.  A very painful and messy divorce.  In a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business.  Not a fun time.  It was an intense time and I formed some lifelong habits.

The wanting began to be a lifestyle for me.  When I started working at age 14, I discovered that if I wanted something, I could get it.  And that continued and escalated for most of my life.  As an adult, I’ve always had a good job and above-average income.  Eventually I started my own business and literally became a workaholic.  I was lacking in the “relationship department”, to say the least – for many years.    The wanting continued only I didn’t recognize it as “wanting”.  I wanted me – and those closest to me – to have what they wanted.   It was wanting and  it was a habit.  I just worked a little harder if I wanted to do a little more.  I didn’t even get it – but the “wanting” was driving me.   I was trying to keep up with the want habit and I was never enough and I never had enough.  I didn’t think about that consciously – ever.  It didn’t connect for me.   I called it competing with myself to do better.  But I drained myself and was always stressed and “behind”.

I retired a few years ago and my financial picture dramatically started changing shortly after that.  The “A Ha” this morning was a recognition of what has been happening in my life for the last six years.  I was being pushed into a lesson  that I would never have jumped into by choice.  It has been obvious and definite.   This morning as I look back over the lesson years when I was feeling very humiliated and deprived, I realize that I  had all that I needed – and more.   I’m on the other side of this lesson – finally.  And yes – I got it today.  Clearly.   I recognized that for most of my life,  many things I thought were “needs” were actually “wants” and that I needed to learn the difference.  I needed to learn my value (I’m still working on that one) without my props, my things, my kudos.  I am enough.  I say that to others.  I need to listen to myself!

Today, I consciously realize how different my life is now – and why.  During my  involuntary lesson, I was forced to live with less and less, down to real basics – and I learned.    It feels amazing to finally really be living the difference.   With deep gratitude.   I feel a whole new consciousness.   These words don’t begin to define the impact of the reality in my life.  And I can clearly see the difference today.  And I’m grateful.   I’ve almost always questioned myself when spending – do I “want” this or do I “need” this.  But that very rarely had very much to do with my decision.  Today I realized that now it does.

I’ve said the words for years – “as soon as I get something I want, something else will take it’s place.  So just say no”.   I’d tell myself no and then justify reasons for needing it.   Woo Hoo!   I now truly know the difference between wanting and needing.     It’s a new lifestyle that I was forced into by circumstances, part of a lesson, but I’ve come to appreciate it  – deeply.  It’s been an incredibly difficult few years but today I realized how much I’ve grown and the joy that has come into my life.    It’s exhilarating.  Over the last few years, I’ve gotten rid of almost everything that I’m not actually using.  It feels so good.  I was carrying a heavy load of possessions and obligations, chaos and clutter!  Quietly but intensely.   “I don’t have a life” was my mantra for many years.  I kept myself busy even after I retired,  when I wasn’t actually doing something useful, I kept myself busy with stress and “mulling” and inner angst.   Even in my successes, I felt a deep void.  I felt that I didn’t do enough, that I wasn’t enough.    Arrrrgh!

Today I realized that I also have a different view of the wants and needs of those that I’m able help.   I really appreciate that.  Whatever that compulsion was to help others get what they “want” is gone as well.  Now I am free to help people that are in obvious need.   And I feel free to declare that boundary.   It’s such an awesome freedom.    I look for the best use of the comparatively small amount that I have.  I’m finally in control of my wants.  Appearances, status, and ego are not my motivators.  My Dad preached, “Be in control of your money.  Don’t let your money be in control of you”.   Material things do not fulfill my emotional needs.  How many times have I heard and said that!  And thought I understood….

Today I had a few moments of clarity, of remembering how my life used to be.  And how it is now.  Huge difference – in almost every way!   I have a life!   Even with much less, I have freedom!  Wanting is no longer an unconscious habit.  I feel content and relaxed.  I have joy!  My life is so full!

And I’m so very grateful!

Kiva – A Wonderful Opportunity!


Sometime ago I saw an episode about the Kiva Program on Oprah and was determined to join in.  I then promptly forgot!

I recently read a blog – check it out –our little candle.  It jogged my memory – and my excitement to become involved.   This time I did it – before it disappeared into the myriad of “to dos” on my list.

I so believe in this effort.  100% of loan amount goes to recipient.  It’s amazing to be able to help others, even if  in the smallest way.   It makes a huge difference to someone.  It’s truly an opportunity to make a big difference with so little!

I just love opportunities that expand – at many levels – and for everyone involved.

Here’s the link – I hope you check it out.   The stories are touching.   Kiva.com

I’m so so grateful.

Expectations! Lost Opportunities! Oh Really?


My lovingly awaited great-granddaughter was born three days ago.  I have adored her as my “hoped for great-grandchild” even before she was conceived and my love for her has grown stronger each day.  When I heard she was here, I was in a crescendo of love and emotion.  I was in tears of joy on the way to the hospital.  I couldn’t wait to hold her, bless her, sing and coo to her, feel her little body in my arms and kiss her little neck and eyelids.  And see my son hold his first granddaughter.

Expectations and assumptions.

The Before Story….I was surprised that none of us were allowed to hold her.  Her Mommy didn’t want to share her with any of us yet.  I’ve never encountered that so it wasn’t even in my frame of reference.  Surprise didn’t come as much from expectations as past experiences.  Ellie – my daughter, and Sara – Mommy’s Sister and Sydneys Godmother – were beside themselves with joy as well.  Just before we had to leave, Mommy’s Sister ask if she could hold her new Goddaughter and was given a definite “No” by Mommy.  I saw Mommy’s Sister’s face and my heart ached for her and I forgot my own disappointment.  My two granddaughters’ ‘Nother Mother” – Ellie, Sara and I met later and talked for a couple of hours, expressing our disappointment, pain and yes, frustration.   We decided the moment had passed but there could be another.

After conversation over a glass of wine…I accepted Mommy’s decision.  It wasn’t that Mommy didn’t want to share – it was simply that she wanted to bond with her own daughter – her first chance since she was born!!   When I got my wits about me, I knew, of course, that it was as it should be.   I chuckled at my immature self – at 71!

My great-granddaughter is three days old now and timing has still prevented me from holding her.  I went back to the hospital the night of her birth but nurses were doing their duties and Sydney was fussy.  I know her Mommy was exhausted, had four hours of sleep in 48 hours, plus birthing a child.  She was apologetic and sensitive about the delay in getting to hold Sydney.   I understand all of that.  But I’m still so anxious to hold her!  For the moment it was really enough seeing them all tonight for a short visit.  I was filled with joy.  Sydney Sue was a reality and that sated me.

OK, Oh Mature Adult One!  Quick!  What have I learned?

What am I feeling?  First of all, I realize that I have some innate expectation of being honored as the great-grandmother.  Logical or not, I assumed I’d  get to hold her,  snuggle her and share my joy.   Timing.  I feel honored to get to share the unspoken joy of the moment with all of our family – this moment of new  life.     I will hold her soon, of course.   I love her and welcome her.   I love and adore her Mommy too, my precious granddaughter.  I honor her as a new mother.

Even though relieved, joyous, all of the emotions of having a new life in her life, my granddaughter is appearing a bit overwhelmed, she’s almost certainly struggling with many things – she seems pretty depressed and who would not be with so little sleep.  But she has absolutely no confusion about her role as a new mother and her love for her baby.   I remember those feelings – confusing mixtures of emotions.    It’s an intense time – for her as a new mother.

She’s now in the sisterhood of child-bearer.  I can’t wait for our closeness to manifest itself with that lingering eye contact between my granddaughter and I that says it all – that “we know” the meaning of this moment, even if we don’t have words to speak it.  That we are connecting and acknowledging our love for each other, this new life and in that, all mothers, children and life.

I honor my granddaughter’s choices – whatever they are.  She has every right to live her life and “mother” as she wishes.  She has wonderful hopes, guidelines and plans to be the best mother she can be.  And I’m absolutely sure she will be.  I’m grateful that she is being true to herself and had the courage to care for her needs and feelings.  She has “Mommy Rights”.

Flexibility, patience, 71-year-old grasshopper!

Update – My new great-granddaughter is now four days old.   My granddaughter texted to invite me to visit them.  They’re home, settled in, comfortable and so ready to share the joy.  I’m there!

I was so grateful for all I’ve learned from this new life already.  I was able to look beyond myself, feel my feelings and finally accept that although I totally understand my granddaughters decisions – got over myself and thought of my Beloved Granddaughter –  when I got out of my emotion and became “conscious” – that I could also  acknowledge my own feelings  about it and understand them.   One really has nothing to do with the other – honoring and validating others feelings doesn’t  mean devaluing or dishonoring my own feelings.

And, by the way, I felt my granddaughter and I  had a moment of  eye contact, the “knowing”, the love that could never be expressed in words.

I’m so very grateful!

PS:  Maybe this is why I missed O You?  I so wanted to be there, But!  If I’d had to choose –  my time with my new great-granddaughter and her family?

Yes, I now get it.   And I’m so happy!