Thursday, February 27, 2014
..... seeking answers and hopeful outcomes.....
When the pain seared up along the right spine, scapula and into the neck hours after testing, I realized how much high tension and stress I was really experiencing. Despite the calm exterior, the storm within has been brewing for days and the spasms in the muscles send sharp pains when I turn my neck. Tuesday has me seeing the chiropractor. The pain has made it difficult to sleep and the cycle begins. I refuse to take any medications to reduce the pain, only a natural pain rub. It helps to ease me into a somewhat restless slumber. My mind refuses to release and it continues to play out my life......
.....my mind recollects an incident years ago while in the service of the armed forces .... one night I was preparing to take a shower in the common washroom in the barracks. The shiny concrete floor was wet. I stepped into the invisable puddle and before I knew it, my feet were pointing straight up to the ceiling and I was frantically grasping at the elusive curtain which slipped through my grasp and I landed with a thunk on the hard pavement with enough force to cause me to momentarily black out. I never forgot that frantic panic with the realization that there was nothing in my power to stop what had begun or the girls who found me wandering confused down the hallway naked. They had heard my head hit the concrete floor and had come looking for the source of the noise. I was not scared when they took me by the hand and led me to a chair and dressed me while they waited for the medics to arrive.....
In this journey right now, I am sitting in the chair waiting for the medics to arrive. I have no control over the disease, only faith. I am here and there are reasons for everything that has happened in my life. I am at peace with my decision to go ahead with the radiation trial and whatever may come my way. It is not a resignation but an acceptance of my life journey and all that makes it what it is. I am truly grateful for all that I have and my life is richer for those that have made my life journey truly happy and meaningful.
Yesterday I went back to Wellspring for the Yoga classes after a few years of being away. Valerie is amazing as she leads us through gentle stretches. I wasn't going to come out today because the weather was cold and the high winds were wrecking havoc with visibility throughout the region.....at least that was my excuse. I have become reclusive during this study week from the college.... I am working on some projects for a girls group coming to visit the college in May as part of their introduction to technology in post secondary. I am glad I went out and participated because the pain in the neck and shoulders has subsided tremendously. As always in this Yoga class, the sun always manages to peek through the clouds and shine through the windows. The sun is becoming stronger in the sky and as I peer out the window, the warmth kisses my cheeks and makes me smile. I close my eyes and take in the warmth. I am alone with my thoughts. I can no longer hear the other participants talking around me as they gather their belongings. I am truly grateful for this day.
I arrive back in the office and see a woman sitting in the chair near the coffee service. I ask if she is new and she responds that she is. That was me all those years ago and it takes me back in a flash. I introduce myself and ask if she is there to take Art Therapy? She is and so I introduce her to Wanda who has just arrived and who has been doing this class for about 12 years. I am careful to keep my voice lighthearted.
I decide to attend Art Therapy. I miss the group I started with in my first journey. I really connected with each of them and we were a close group. I miss Ruth. Ruth passed a few years ago and about the time that a number of our group members returned to work or moved on in their journey. I create a project using drywall compound coloured with acrylic paints onto a picture frame and glass. I think I will scrape off a little bit of the mud on the glass to expose some kind of art beneath it. I feel like I want to cover myself in warm soothing soul cleansing mud. The lady next to me is using a gold acrylic and offers a dollop of it on my plate. I incorporate the glimmering goo to the mud colour and like the result. The ladies are all chatting as they create their own masterpieces. Later, I help Wanda prepare a number of plates for the group who were supposed to be in attendance this week but the weather kept away. It will take a few days to dry anyway and should be ready to finish when we return next week.
I return to the office to retrieve my coat and boots and spy Bunty at the table next to the coffee service. She is wonderful and I run up to give her a squeeze and a kiss. She has been on this earth for over 80 years and is still so spry despite her quadruple bypass. She has volunteered for years and continues to do so despite cancer taking her husband a decade ago. I take the seat offered to me by the woman across from Bunty. When I am comfortable and look to her, she studies me and her brow furrows. She tells me that she knows from a distance, most people would see that I am handling my situation with calm, grace and strength but she knows that I have days that are anything but graceful. I love that about her... she is intuitive and cuts to the point without the fluff. So when she asks me "How are you doing?" ..... she wants the God's honest truth and not a scripted "yah, wonderful!" She looks me in the eyes and says she is glad I am going to do the radiation and she has a really good feeling about the outcome. I do too Bunty.... which is why I cannot understand the funk I am in this week.
Perhaps its the weather.... which seems to go on forever in this cold and wintery 2014. Perhaps its the wait before the radiation added to the weather. Today I thought of Ruth again and of the statement she made about not wanting to die because she felt she had so much more living to do. I have read the obituaries every day since her death over 2 years ago. I look at the ages and consider what took them in their prime... cancer, heart attack, cancer, car accident, cancer, stroke, cancer. The content of the obit reveals who that person was to the people who truly loved them.... they usually open with.... how much they are already missed and a listing of all who will miss them. Depending on the author of the obit, they will often times incorporate a synapsis of the lives they lived and of their accomplishments. The pictures are often of them on their very best day ever and the smiles encourage you to know them, if only for the minute it takes to read about them. I consider what I like about what is written of this stranger...... I read through their relative names just to see if there is anyone who I know and who might like a note left on the online obituary supporting them in their time of mourning. There have been a handful so far in the past six months whom I have left a note for.... today will be another one for the 90 year old man who visited his wife every day for hours at the Alzheimers ward where my father used to reside. She is restricted to a wheel chair and is unable to communicate..... I think of how much she will miss him but nowhere in his obit does it say how he supported her and others who visited the ward. He was always kind to me and offered hugs each time we met. He and his cronies had a little repair business on the side and would fix wheelchairs and walkers to donate to anyone who needed them.... the obit did not speak to this kindness either. Rest in Peace Ted.
I often believe that our lives should be celebrated and not forgotten but in reality, despite all our good intentions, life continues as if nothing has happened. Some of my friends will visit their relatives in the place where they lay for eternity in the local cemetaries while others have moved away and are unable to. I drive past one of our city's largest cemetaries in the west end of the city. They have begun to remove more trees to make room for future 'residents'. I have mixed feelings about cemetaries. I like looking at the stones.... or at least I used to before my cancer diagnosis.... and imagining who these people were. The large catholic cemetary on Huron St. was next door to my apartment building and I would stroll through the large expanse and always end up in the children's section... Some of the stones here are ancient and speak to a time in our history when children dying was a part of every day life. A photographer in Montreal documented life in the turn of our last century by photographing the children in positions that made them look alive despite the fact that they had passed. Life and especially death was looked at differently and an accepted part of our short time on earth. Do I still like cemetaries.... the one in Havana, Cuba was the best cemetary I have ever been in... the woman still encased in a sarcophagus way past the time she was to be exhumed and relocated, is a draw to all the locals and a statue is errected in her honor at the foot of it. As the years have passed, this woman and the local legend of her bestowing their heart's wishes have accumulated hundreds of etched stone plates thanking her for bringing them their deepest desire. The statue is of her holding her child. They both passed in childbirth and were interred in the marble above ground coffin. The child was laid on her thighs but when the year marking their internment was up and the lid was removed, the legend says that she was holding her child and they had not disintegrated. According to the locals.... they looked as if they were sleeping. They simply reseated the lid of the coffin and soon there were visitors from far and wide praying to her for the things they desired... health, babies, success etc. The statue of Mommy and baby is made of marble and errected in their honor and is surrounded by these amazing stone thank you's piled and stacked in rows upon rows around it. The statue is an unpolished powdery white for the exception of the smooth green heel of the baby.... I reached out and touched it despite Max's warning to be careful. We were on our honeymoon and I desired another baby which Max wanted to wait for a few more years. We returned from our honeymoon pregnant. I lost that one and miraculously became pregnant weeks later with Lydia. I have often wanted to return and leave our own thank you to her.
I think cemetaries hold a rich history of our society. So why do I not want to be buried? Why do I consider to be cremated instead and have my ashes spread instead of contained..... because it appeals to the practical side of who I am. I am not steeped in tradition, although I deeply appreciate and admire it. I am pragmatic, practical and simply put... only a tiny link in the generations before me and those that will follow me. The parts that pass on long after I go should be the values and principals I live by and in whose children will pass along to the next generation. I will be long forgotten even into the next generation. I feel that I should leave this earth as I arrived - without taking up space and leaving the land to those who will use it while they are alive. We are technological and ever changing in this society and our populations are growing exponentially.
I found a photo of my Great Grandfather a few weeks ago. I never knew him and by all standards I do not look like him. I did say hello to the picture and imagined what life was like for him but I will never visit his grave and I am sure no one has for the better part of 50 years. His grave, like the one in Cuba (unless it is a mausoleum or this special grave) have a time limit of occupancy in order for the next generation to utilize the same space. The cemetaries are not sprawling and eating up valuable property but are well managed. The bones are removed, boxed and then relocated. I like this approach and it becomes the cemetary for the living.
I do not want to have a casket...it makes no sense to cut down a beautiful tree, carve it, polish it and then simply plant it into the ground to protect my body from what it is supposed to do naturally - to decay and return to the earth that created it.....or the stone that gets planted at the head to announce who is in residence. I didn't pay to be born and I am not willing to pay to leave. I have considered donating my body to science, which is free but the jury is still out on this one. Dying is a lucrative business. A basic cremation in a carboard box will cost over $3,000. A memorial hosted in the funeral home is crazy expensive when you add eats to the event.... every aspect of the funeral costs the family money. I was advised to purchase a plan while I am still alive so that the family doesn't get lured into guilt purchases. I do however want my ashes spread into my garden and then have a lovely backyard party... about $3000 ought to do it!!! My friend Ameeta has already offered to be the MC for the event and knowing her, the crowd will laugh... and then likely join in with their own stories. Life is to celebrate and our passing is just the end of our physical earth-bound journey. Knowing that I have met so many incredible people and have been given the opportunity in this particular space and time to create a life that I am truly proud of.
I am looking forward to the spring and the beginning of our urban gardens. There is still planning to do and the time frame we need to do it in. Thank you to Sarah for your Home Depot gift card for this purpose. Of course we will take any donations from anyone to put towards this life giving project. Max and Uncle Paul are on board and will be 'breaking ground' as soon as the earth softens in the spring. The greenhouse in the kitchen is doing well as are the tomato plants in the spare bedroom. The asparagus is now looking feathery and according to the seed package.... it will be two years before we can harvest this luscious vegetable. The vertical growing surface on the garage has to be designed and created for herbs. Again, we will accept rooted herbs to put into our vertical garden... I can even put the donor's name on whatever they donate...so they will be a part of our living garden. That's my blog for this week.... next week we begin my treatments. xoxoxo