Monday, January 27, 2014

Comfort Messages

God is...

It has been comforting  to receive consoling messages from friends on Ben's passing.  From those who knew him, "sweet boy,"  was most commonly used to describe his personality.  Above all else, Ben loved people.  I have been wondering this past week about his fierce unconditional love and how dogs in general are often ascribed as possessing this grace.  Did God forget to give dogs an ego or was it an intentional omission designed to teach us how to love in kind?

Ben makes a cameo appearance in the second last paragraph of my memoir, "God Never Hurries."  It reads:  "I have a new walking partner now.  His name is Ben.  A Yellow Lab--Peter Pan-like.  He'll never grow up.  But he is the incarnation of joy."  Bear, who died when Ben was a pesky puppy, played a major role in my life and memoir as I struggled with my aging parents' care needs.  My description of Bear reads, "He was a beautiful black Shepherd-Husky mix.  Wolf-like.  He loved our walks and me."  Lydia, a Beagle-Cocker mix with long silky black ears so comforting to stroke, preceded Bear and has a mention in my memoir too, "For most of her nearly 17 years we took a walk every evening.  It was a joyful ritual that allowed for reflection on the day and time to regroup for the next."  Looking back I now see how Lydia, Bear and Ben came into my life at the right time to help me walk with deeper psychological and spiritual discovery.  And now they wait for me.  

The following is from a winter walk to the beach with Bear:  

"With the waning afternoon sun the high bluff had already shaded the beach.  Its coldness did not beckon.  I climbed to an icy ridge at the valley's mouth and lay on my stomach to look into a crevice where I could hear chunky water rush to and fro.  When I looked out from this prone position, I could see the low angled sunlight shine through dense, light green waves.  Just before their whitecaps broke, I felt each wave's power.  Bear came and stood over me looking into the noisy crevice.  He gave me his puzzled look.  He doesn't get my fascinations and I wondered if it was because he is more naturally one with his surroundings.  But he licked my cheek anyway.  Then my happy face and Bear walked back through the silent valley."

What if we could each find courage, comfort and strength waiting for us outside our door where the mystery of God waits for us in nature?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Courage and Synchronicity

God is...
This past week I have become aware of the inter-relationship between courage and synchronicity.  And somewhere I remember hearing or reading, "Synchronicity is another word for God."  It took courage to make the irrevocable choice to have my constant companion, sweet yellow lab Ben, put down last week.  Thoughts returned to another time in my life when I needed courage while struggling with my aging parents' care needs.  In my memoir, "God Never Hurries," I even wrote a recipe for courage. The main ingredients are:  "...accept my fear; trust my mind, heart and gut; trust God; trust others and learn from their reactions...".  I think the need for courage to do hard things puts me on a heightened sense of alert where I become aware of the messages God sends through others and the natural world.  

The vet's recommendation to "not wait too long"; my niece's e-mail, arriving at the height of second guessing my decision, included a quote I once shared with her, "Indecision cuts like a dull knife;" and my neighbor's tearful telling of how very sick Ben looked the last time she saw him out in the yard, all felt like messages from God that it was okay.  An even before I knew of the futility of his diagnosis my shopping cart had rolled past a giant Kleenex sale display for twelve boxes of 230 2-ply tissues.  God knew I would need them.  

In the four days between my decision and scheduling the vet to come to the house, Ben was totally cherished.  My daughter's and my service was outstanding.  On Ben's second last walk to the woods my daughter came along and  took a picture of us about to cross the bridge over the Milwaukee River.  Just before Ben died I told him he would soon see Bear again and you guys can wait for me.  I'll come later.  He died with his tail wagging.

What if we could all cherish one another, feel totally cherished, and die with our tails wagging?      

Monday, January 13, 2014


God is...

He’s been sick, my Yellow Lab Ben.  Diagnosis had been laryngeal paralysis and now this past Friday widespread cancer was added to the list of our ache.  The vet’s recommendation was not to wait too long.  She’s coming to the house early Tuesday morning.  In the meantime she suggested I indulge him with whatever he wants to eat.  There was a bit of relief in knowing the futility, making the decision, and getting final preparations in place.   

When we got home we went in the back yard.  He sat and watched as I took a small shovel and scraped little frozen patches of phlegm and blood off the snow.  Then for just a moment I felt a dark yet unbounded and paradoxically luminous space where life and death come together and join with the Infinite.  I was reminded that suffering has been the door to higher consciousness for me in the past and accepting my pain is the only way to soften it.  The inevitability of change and the illusion of control also loomed  large.  And later that day I was presented with a Meister Eckhart quote:  “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” 

I’m not sure I will know how to organize my time going forward since everyday for over ten years had been planned around our daily, mostly off leash walks, in a wood, on a lakeshore or in a dog park.  And I am definitely not sure I want to give my heart to another dog to tear.  Rudyard Kipling knew The Power of the Dog.

What if there were other ways to higher consciousness?            

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pre-funeral Luncheon

God is...

The New Year got off to a good start with a telephone invitation to the third annual pre-funeral luncheon.  It looks like it will be an annual affair from now until nobody knows when.  I am grateful to the couple who host this unique gathering of old friends.  Criteria for attendance had been you had to be 65 years or older to attend.  I hear this year an under age couple is coming.  I saw the wife of this couple in the grocery store after last year’s second annual pre-funeral luncheon and told her what a unique and fun time it was and now she thinks they should be included because her husband has graying hair. 

Just like death it’s a little uncertain when the pre-funeral luncheon will take place for it is either on the Green Bay Packers’ first playoff game or the Super Bowl.  I’m really glad the packers made the playoffs so we don’t have to wait until the Super Bowl to gather.  And thank God the threatened TV blackout for the playoff game was averted.

The format for our gathering is the host couple provides multiple main entrees (way too much food) and drinks, with attendees bringing side dishes.  We eat before the game and during dessert we each share an assigned message with the group.  I think last year we were asked to share what we think is the most important thing in life.  I don’t remember what I said last year; I’ll have to check with the host for he keeps a file (for later).  If I was asked the same question this year I’d say forgiveness is the most important thing in life.  But this year we are to bring our favorite quotation, which made me anxious (there are so many) and I even fretted about what kind of salad the group would enjoy.  Then less than an hour after the phone invitation both my favorite quote and the perfect salad just came to me when I was calm and not thinking of either.  Which goes to show I still have anxiety and trust issues to work on along with the need for less perfection.

The quote I will take this year is from my late crone friend, Rosemary, to whom I dedicated my memoir “God Never Hurries,” and in which I wrote:  The freedom to be wrong was a priceless gift that came from my dear friend Rosemary.  Through a mistake of her own she learned to say, “This is what I know and believe today, but ask me tomorrow and I may know it a different way.”  Humility graced her.  And I just finished making a tangy beet salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, summer savory, salt, pepper, feta cheese and walnuts to be served on a colorful bed of organic baby greens.

Life and death are so inextricably intertwined and yet we keep death at arms length and in the shadows.  The pre-funeral luncheon is an opportunity to let us flirt with death, ponder and share what’s important to us in this life, and eventually be part of our own eulogy.  All this and enjoying one another’s company and a Packer game too.

What if we all had the opportunity to wink at death while still warm and ponder what’s important in the company of friends?