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Living Where Everything Is Forgotten: A Mother and Son’s Struggle Toward a “Dementia-Friendly America

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 8:48 a.m.

By Robrt L. Pela

 

GUEST BLOG

 

“My mother is washing dishes. She’s using a paper napkin she found in the kitchen sink, and a little bit of leftover coffee from a mug on the counter. She scrubs at bits of egg stuck to a fork, sets it next to the saucer she’s just cleaned. Then she grabs the saucer, wets the napkin with the coffee, and washes the saucer again.

 

“Hey, Duchess!” I call to her from across the kitchen. “What’re you doing?”

 

“I’m getting all the train books ready,” she replies, looking cross. “She said they were eight coming, the children.”

 

She moves to the refrigerator, and begins to gather food for the people she imagines are on their way to this house where she has lived for 50 years: a half-empty Tupperware of minestrone, a hard-boiled egg, the bowl of oatmeal she refused to eat this morning. (“It’s too spectator pump,” she had complained, pushing the bowl away.) She piles these things onto the kitchen table, then heads off to her room, probably to dress for her phantom company.

 

By the time she arrives there, my mother will have forgotten what she wanted. Her 10-year-old Alzheimer’s diagnosis was recently reclassified; she’s now a 6 on the Global Deterioration Scale, a means of measuring the depths of dementia that tops out at 7. The Duchess will arrive at her bedroom, become distracted by something — a lampshade, her framed wedding portrait, my dead father’s key ring — and dressing for imaginary company will be forgotten. These days, for Maria Domenica Clemente Pela, pretty much everything is forgotten.

 

I don’t follow her to her room. I’ve got a kitchen to clean and a stack of insurance papers to fill out before I take the Duchess to her quarterly oncology appointment later this afternoon. A decade ago, I took my time with things: finished a project only when it was perfectly complete; awoke when I was done sleeping. Today, I’ve learned to take shortcuts. There’s never enough time to do everything, or to do anything especially well.

 

I am what is politely referred to as a caregiver.

 

I spend most of my days and some of my nights here at the suburban West Phoenix house where I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, where my 91-year-old mother and I have been playing a decade-long game ever since she began losing her mind to Alzheimer’s disease: She is the Duchess of Pela, and I am her minion. I awaken her, bathe her, dress her, and feed her, after which she sits in her kitchen, a gentle expression fixed on her face, reading and re-reading the story of her life, a 249-page, handwritten essay she composed a dozen years before she began forgetting who she was and where she lived. Several times a day, she looks up from her journal. “Have you read this?” she implores. “It’s good!”

 

In the afternoons, the Duchess is restless. Her journal no longer holds her interest; she refuses to play with her little box of paste jewels. She’s anxious to get home to the house in northeastern Ohio where she hasn’t lived since 1942, worried she won’t be able to find it on her own. She paces, maniacally tidying her kitchen, distracted by some puzzling chore she must complete but can’t quite fathom.

 

I’m distracted today, too. I’ve received a press release announcing that Tempe has joined the Dementia Friendly America initiative. Introduced last summer at the White House Conference on Aging, this yet-unfunded program means to create a “national dementia friendliness,” one city at a time, by training individuals, businesses, and first responders to recognize and respond appropriately to people with memory impairments. Thirty-six towns and cities in Minnesota, where DFA was launched last year, have adopted the initiative’s four-phase roadmap; in March, Tempe became only the sixth city outside Minnesota to join the dementia-friendly fray.

 

How’s that going to work? I wonder, as my mother ambles into the kitchen carrying three handbags and a toilet plunger, a wilted brassiere wrapped around her wrist. How is an entire city going to learn to deal with old folks who insist that Herbert Hoover is president, people who can’t tell a bra from a bracelet?

 

The very idea of a dementia-friendly world strikes me as preposterous. I can’t convince the respite care workers I sometimes hire, who are supposedly trained to deal with the memory-impaired, not to tell my mother that her husband died three years ago. She thinks she’s 9, and little girls don’t have husbands. It upsets her to hear otherwise. Some of the medical professionals who look after the Duchess, when told she has Alzheimer’s, speak more loudly, as if volume adds clarity — even though she’s not hearing-impaired. If I can’t get my mother’s own children and grandchildren to take part in her care, how can Tempe expect to sell sensitivity training to a reluctant universe of clerks and bankers and doctors?

 

“Is this yours?” my mother asks, holding out the toilet plunger.

 

“Yes,” I lie, taking it from her. “I’ve been looking for it everywhere.”

 

“Well,” says the Duchess, looking me up and down. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to fit.”

 

The statistics are bleak. According to last year’s annual report from Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of people with dementia worldwide has grown to just shy of 47 million. That figure is expected to double by 2030, and to triple 20 years after that…. For now, one in nine seniors has some form of dementia. Arizona alone will see a 71 percent increase in the number of residents with dementia over the next 10 years.

 

….There are other hurdles to a dementia-friendly anything. According to that ADI report, about half of all dementia patients go undiagnosed, in part because most people figure there’s no point in being diagnosed when there’s no cure.

 

“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Jan Dougherty tells me when I call to ask about this Dementia Friendly thing “Right now, dementia is where cancer was in the ’60s or HIV was in the ’80s,” Dougherty explains. “People are really just starting to talk about this disease openly. There’s more education on the stupid Zika virus than there is on dementia. But we have to start somewhere.”

 

The program is designed, according to that press release, “to help communities better understand, embrace, and support residents living with dementia.”

 

Okay. But how? I watch an animated video on the DFA website in which ethnically diverse line drawings are made happier because everyone they meet knows how to interact with dementia patients. According to the cartoon, DFA will educate local businesspeople about how to support customers with dementia, convince employers to support employees who are caregivers, and teach law enforcement and city service providers how to deal with the demented. DFA is also proposing changes to transportation, public spaces, and emergency response that would allow people with dementia to interact in their community.

 

In some cities, “memory cafes,” where memory-impaired people can gather, have made it onto the must-have list. Businesses will all, according to this plan, one day post a logo on their doors.

 

“To ask priests and rabbis if they want to learn more about dementia?” I ask. “To request pro bono representation for Alzheimer’s patients?” I apologize to Mitchell for being slow on the uptake.

 

But even with the help of the little cartoon, I’m still struggling to grasp how Tempe will implement a program whose four phases include vague bullet points like “Form a community engagement sub-team” and “Develop an organized process flow and timeline,” and wraps up with “Create and implement a community action plan.”

 

“One person at a time,” Mayor Mitchell replies. “Fifteen hundred people in my community have dementia, and I need to get the city educated on how to help them.”

 

Okay. But would Mitchell have climbed aboard the dementia-friendly bus, I ask, if his own mother didn’t have Alzheimer’s?

 

“I don’t know,” he answers. “Would you be writing a newspaper article about it if your mother didn’t have that same disease?”

 

Touché, Mayor Mitchell.

 

The Duchess and I are seated in the waiting room of her new general practitioner’s office, waiting for the results of her annual tuberculosis test. She is stressed out about getting home late for supper and being grounded by her father, who died in 1958, and I am entertaining myself by counting the number of times she tells me she hasn’t any pancakes in her purse (17 times so far, and she’s not carrying a purse today).

 

The woman seated across from us smiles at me. “My mother had dementia, too,” she quietly confides. I return her smile and think to myself, Okay, I’m about to have this conversation again.

 

“I took care of her for two years before we had to put her in a home,” she is saying, and I’m thinking, Two years? Really? Two.

 

“How difficult that must have been for you,” I say. “And how does she like it there?”’

 

“Oh, she died three weeks later,” the woman replies, after which the Duchess and I excuse ourselves and move to the other side of the waiting room.

 

A little while later, we’re taken to an examination room by a nice medical assistant named Juanita, who talks baby-talk to my ancient mom.

 

“Will you get up on the scale so we can weigh you, please, Miss Mary?” Juanita asks with a big pout, her words all syrupy, rounded vowels. The Duchess shoots me a look that clearly says, Get this person away from me! and I look back at her with an expression that replies, Oh, right, you’re the parent I inherited my crummy attitude from!

 

“My mother has late-stage Alzheimer’s disease,” I explain to Juanita as I pantomime how to get on and off the scale. “Sometimes showing works better than telling.”

 

Juanita smiles at me and turns to the Duchess. “Have any of your medications changed since last time you were here, Miss Mary?” My mother begins a long, disjointed explanation of why she chose to wear this particular pantsuit, indicating the sundress I’d put on her that morning. Juanita turns to me.

 

“Is she always like this?”

 

“She has late-stage Alzheimer’s,” I remind her, handing over an updated list of medicines. My mother is still trying to tell her pantsuit story when the doctor joins us. Rather than talk to my mother as if she were a precocious toddler, he ignores her entirely, speaking only to me. It turns out Her Majesty does not have tuberculosis.

 

When we get home, I put the Duchess down for a nap and then I call Olivia Mastry, the executive lead for Dementia Friendly America. I want to ask her, “How come everyone gets to have a mother who dies except me?” I’d like to say, “How come health-care workers all call my mother Miss Mary, as if she were a plantation owner in antebellum Atlanta?” Instead, I ask how much importance DFA plans to place on training medical professionals to deal with demented people.

 

Plenty, she promises. “We have tools and resources that guide each sector of the community, and there’s a real emphasis on physicians and their staffs. It’s not all clergy members and clerks. We’re still defining what dementia-proficient means for medical workers, and once we do, everyone from doctors on down will be held to a standard.”

 

Really? Training the entire medical community seems like a pretty tall order. I call Dr. Pierre Tariot, my mother’s doctor at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, and ask him if this seems doable to him.

 

“While Dr. Tariot and I are saying our goodbyes, the respite care worker arrives for her twice-weekly shift. “Hellooooooo Miss Mary!” I hear her cooing in a voice typically reserved for really cute puppies. “Remember me?”

 

Maybe, I think to myself, I’ll die in my sleep tonight and I won’t have to deal with any of this anymore.”

 

 

labyrinth cardinals

 

Good morning, Duane. I have a pair of cardinals for you today in honor of you and Marsha. They visit us frequently although I did not take this picture. But it looks like they are on our labyrinth arch. Tom and I walked the large labyrinth in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France in 2000.

IMG_7764

A labyrinth is a quiet space….a sacred path….a metaphor for life….with its turns and circling….but the one path it has is never blocked, as in a maze….no, the one path leads always to the center, where God resides with his gifts…..and all the way in while you are on the path you can let go, accept and take your journey one step at a time, watching your feet place one foot in front of the other, and TRUSTING your Divine Companion is with you all the way.

Tom helped me build our labyrinth in the back yard. I will walk it for your intentions of healing.

IMG_7776

 

I Like It, I Like It

inspire-a-difference-corp-graphic

 

Napkinwriter likes this…..we “people of age” need to turn on our lighbulbs and create more new ways of living than what is available now.  This can also work for the singles and couples who make it into the elder years with sufficient physical, mental and spiritual strengths to not have to be “cookie-cuttered” into what exists now.

This French version of ingenuity came across my Facebook feed and I am happy to share it.

 

“It’s been 15 years in the making but the Babayagas’ House, a name taken from Slavic mythology meaning “witch”, has just been inaugurated in Montreuil, on the east side of Paris.
It’s a self-managed social housing project devised and run by a community of dynamic female senior citizens who want to keep their independence, but live communally.

“To live long is a good thing but to age well is better,” says 85 year old Thérèse Clerc who dreamt up the project back in 1999.

“Growing old is not an illness,” says the elegant, feisty Clerc. “We want to change the way people see old age,” and that means “learning to live differently.”

The building houses 25 self-contained flats. 21 are adapted for the elderly and four are reserved for students.

Residents pay an average of 420 euros for 35m2.

The five-storey building is in the heart of Montreuil, just a stones throw from metro, shops and cinema.

Being central was important. “The message is ‘you will go out, you have a right to be active’,” says Jean-Paul Blery from the town’s housing department.

Janine Popot moved into her 29m2 studio a few weeks ago and still hasn’t opened all the boxes. As one of ten children, she says she wanted to live alongside others but not in a conventional home.

“I wanted to avoid ending up in a retirement home at all costs. When you don’t have much money, a retirement home becomes a prison,” she explains.

Growing old well means keeping the grey matter going. So the house isn’t just a place to live. The ground floor is reserved for activities and will house a university for senior citizens.

Residents were selected partly in relation to what they could contribute to the “community” and the extent to which they shared the Babayaga philosophy.

Many, like Jannine, are active in the voluntary sector.

The project cost nearly 4 million euros and funding came from no less than eight different public sources, including Montreuil city council which is accustomed to investing in innovative projects.

It was a difficult, long road, “a forceps delivery,” says Clerc.

Not least because getting funding for a project run by an association was genuinely innovative.

“Local authorities aren’t used to working with associations,” says 62 year old resident Dominique Doré. “Associations in France can’t buy land. Cecile Duflot (the French housing minister) is trying to change this.”

The Babayagas have generated a lot of interest, both here in France and in Canada, but Doré denies they want to launch a franchise and prefers to be compared with the slow food movement.

“Slow ageing? Why not!” “We want to exchange ideas, take what’s best out there.”

And while some Babayagas say their house must remain women-only, Doré says the structure is bound to evolve.

“We have the recipe, we have the saucepan, now it’s up to us to make the soup,” she says.

Two similar projects are underway in Palaiseau and Bagneux, and other local authorities are interested in following Montreuil’s example.

After all, a quarter of France’s population (17 million) are currently over the age of 60. By 2050 it’ll be a third.

The French will have to find solutions for the care of this growing elderly population. Helping senior citizens to help each other, as the Babayagas are doing, looks like a good one.”

Source:

From:   The World and All It’s Voices

Backyard Sunset

backyard sunset

A repost from Napkinwriter  September 19, 2015
I dedicate this to my friends, Duane and Marsha English
Duke, there are too many questions here, but we can make up the next step together, for I am along side of you.
Which question do you want to take on?
Where is Home? 
Lately, I’ve been involved in such a little matter of making order out of my little room where I spend creative time and energies when I write, draw, doodle, meditate or search the web.

Meanwhile all around me on a world-wide scale, millions of people are trying to make order of their lives, finding most of it destroyed by the violence of the human race or the ravishing energies of natural fires and disasters. Innocent people and their families are victims of random singular acts of violence; the threat of terrorism is ever-present. Whole nations are seeking new ground and new life in a setting which doesn’t threaten their daily way of life.

The sheer numbers are stunning and tend to make me feel like a sideline observer.

Yet, there is a call within that tells me I am a “companion on the journey”. That somehow, even in my own simplified and scaled down life, I walk with these others in compassion, in prayer, in belief and hope they  and all of us shall somehow be renewed. But just how do I “do something”?  Aren’t there many of us wondering that? Are there large needs that need to be fulfilled by small people or…..are there small needs that need to be fulfilled by large people?

Alfred Delp, who was a German Jesuit Catholic priest condemned to death by the Nazis in Berlin, believed and said we need to be men and women who are fulfilled. That faith is the path to fullness. “Fulfilled men and women are not pious caricatures,” he said. “They are people who are genuinely impregnated with the spirit of their calling, people who have prayed with all sincerity: make my heart like unto thine.”

In the midst of the destructiveness, pain and suffering of the Nazi power-driven and mad regime, he called people to have willing hearts that beat with compassion and return to the ideal of….service.  He defined this as meeting people on their own ground, in all circumstances, with a view to helping to master the challenges at hand. “That means walking by his side, accompanying him even into the depth of degradation and misery. Go forth, our Lord said — do not sit around and wait for someone to come to you.”

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is the eternal mystery.  Psalm 33 explores it. “The designs of his Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death and to keep them alive….” The promise is held in Jeremiah 29;  “I know well the plans, I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.”

Today, I received a reminder in my email from Betty Lue Lieber, who resides and works in the midst of the endangered California forests burning right now. She has been supplying reminders on a daily basis for ever so long, but today’s reminder speaks right to being a person fulfilled and one dedicated to service. I share some of her words here.

Thursday, Sept. 17 at 4PM
From Betty Lue.

Robert and I have been living in Hidden Valley Lake, our Reunion Lake House, for over five years.
We also have a holistic counseling and healing center, Reunion ReSource Center, in Middletown.
We have a Reunion Community Room for everyone in Middletown and surrounding area to use.

We have been very fortunate during these wildfires with everything still standing.
Many of our friends and neighbors have lost everything.
As soon as the highway opens with electricity and water available, we will return to be helpful.

Many are grieving the losses.
Some are already conceiving the rebuilding.
We are believing together it can and will be done.
We appreciate good thoughts, help and support.

Blessings multiply with gratitude and Love.
Betty Lue

Update on the Wildfires in Lake County.

Valley fire
(as of Thursday, 8 a.m.)
·       73,700 acres burned
·       35% contained
·       13,000 people displaced
·       7,650 structures threatened
·       585 homes, hundreds of other buildings destroyed
·       3,580 fire workers
·       4 injured firefighters
·       3 confirmed deaths
Butte fire (as of Thursday, 11:30 a.m.)
·       70,760 acres burned
·       49% contained
·       10,000 people initially displaced
·       6,400 structures threatened
·       252 homes, 188 outbuildings destroyed
·       4,403 fire workers
·       2 confirmed deaths

What Can You Do?
For the thousands displaced by the wildfires and so much more around the world!

What Can You Do?
What Can I Do?
What Can We Do?

When we want to be helpful, what can we do?
When we don’t know what to do, how can we help?
When things are unknown or unclear, what can we do?
When caught in confusion, conflict and concern, what can we do?

When we feel hurt and frightened, what can we do?
When we are lost and alone, what can we do?
When we feel disconnected and separate, what can we do?
When in grief and without comfort, what can we do?

We can let the tears fall to wash away the hopelessness.
We can sing a song of comfort to soothe the pain and sorrow.
We can breathe in inspiration and seek some revelation.
We can write a poem and draw a picture to begin to create anew.

There is always something we can do.
We can give thanks for everything we have.
We can watch the sunrise and feel blessed.
We can let go and flow with what seems to be needed.

We can do what is valuable.
We can forgive and erase what is not.
We can make up our own next step.
We can give what we have to feel good.

We can tell stories of hope and faith.
We can remind ourselves to be kind.
We can reassure those who are worried.
We can give what we want to receive.

We can build a new world of possibility.
We can seek inner guidance and outer information.
We can share the best we know with others.
We can give thanks we can do something good.

We can remind ourselves, we can do what we choose.
We can encourage those around us.
We can care deeply for those who are lost, depressed and confused.
We can do the work to repair, rebuild and renew.

I am with you in Love, trust, support and encouragement.
We can, because we are willing.
Betty Lue.

Because I am willing and because I live as a fulfilled person, today what I can do that matters is to encourage anyone in my surroundings today in whatever way I can. One of the ways I encourage is to write Napkinwriter and remain faithful to the writing of it. Does it put out the flames? I don’t know but I write in the faith that my words matter.

I can care deeply for those who feel lost, depressed and confused. I can also pay particular attention to and offer myself loving kindness when I feel those things.

I can always work to repair, rebuild and renew that which provides fullness in my own life and what touches others.

That’s a pretty complete TO DO list for today. I can always begin again tomorrow.

reiki-hands-heart

 

Part of my prayer practice includes writing something positive, something uplifting, something worthy of thinking about — I am sad that far too many have been a response to horrific prices to be paid by family and loved ones who have been taken from this earth in a violent action by someone who is AGAINST something.

Yet, the common media response is to highlight even more, the violent and disrespectful responses of those AGAINST something.

It is said that “Problems cannot be solved on the level at which they were created.”

I AM FOR EVERYONE DOING THEIR BEST TO RISE TO A NEW LEVEL in their own personal lives. It is my commitment to do so in my own life, in every way in which I know how. I welcome company in doing this.

My friend was returning from an appointment yesterday and saw police cars racing toward the county courthouse. This is her response.

A letter from Katherine Hempel, writer-friend, resident in Berrien County, Michigan

“I love this space for here is a place where I feel the conversations, prayers and contemplation so needed in the world today are actually being had and encouraged and, thanks to our wonderful Abbess and Prior, taught and studied.
My update on the situation with our shootings and resulting tragedy, effecting so many here in SW Michigan, is long.
I thank you in advance for your prayers and love for a world, though in crisis, that is so worthy of our tenderest vigilance.
Update: our neighbor was not one of those killed or injured. Yet little to celebrate as our beautiful and peaceful Berrien County awakes knowing such can happen “even here.”


I come back again to a realization that we live on a world focussing in large part on all it is against…all it doesn’t approve of. It seems warped, away from any normal thought pattern, but I find myself relieved that the pigment of this man’s skin was not darker…and yet that of the deputy he shot was…why does my mind even go there. Recent events, of course, but I can’t help but wonder, would this ‘no history of violence’ shooter have been taken from his cell uncuffed were he black?


His ex-wife has made the statement that he had gotten involved with the wrong crowd. This is not an impressionable teen we are talking about here but a fully grown, closer to middle-aged man. How does one live that long and still be seem as one to be swayed “by the wrong crowd?”


Which brings me back to my pet peeve. For 8 years we have had a Congress working ‘against’ rather than ‘for.’ In the upcoming election few, either running or (hopefully) preparing to vote speak of what they are ‘for’ but rather what/who they will vote against. Ask individuals what they stand for and often the response is a litany of what they ‘hate.’ Is it any wonder weeks like this past one drifting over into this one now have exploded in the news?


It’s hard to imagine much will change until each of us as individuals begin to talk about what we do want, what we appreciate and take a stand…a well-considered stand, the result of quiet contemplation away from FOX and CNN…a stand that reflects our hearts and not just our fears. Only then, it seems to me, do we create a momentum forward. Only then, do we have any right to protest, in any balanced way, those things we are against and hope to come up with any positive solution to the darkness in the world. For it is only light…even the dimmest of lights…that can show us the way out of the darkness of this tunnel vision of negativity.

So…in the spirit of encouragement…what do YOU stand for? Let’s talk about that.”
(end)

*********
From Napkinwriter:

When I studied with futurist, evolutionary spiritualist Barbara Marx Hubbard, from all her studies tracing back to “the big bang”, she holds that preceding every major evolutionary turn forward in the earth’s existence that “crisis precedes transformation”.   Even the single cell was in crisis. To avoid extinction, it had to divide to become two and do it again and again and again.

Today, it seems more than true that we are in crisis. More and more people of responsibility and office are telling us, we must change.  The old ways are not working and they never have. Communication based on I am right and you are wrong lead only to increased voice volume. Officials experiencing and at the center of the pain of recurring violence are saying……come together.   What does that mean and how does that happen?

The vibration at the center of this, which is evil, is rippling out to us on an increasing level. There is no such thing  anymore as “I didn’t think this could happen here”.  It has happened in Kalamazoo twice in a few short months.  And now another close by shooting incident in Southwestern Michigan, and one narrowly avoided in South Haven over the 4th of July.

As the Dallas Police Chief challenged us, I ask myself  “what can I do to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.”  It can be as simple and unassuming as to be kind to my neighbor…or with a regular practice of listening within in quiet…..it may direct me to bigger things. Forgivenesss of hurts and grievances of the past….care of the water, soil, and all living things,…community with purpose…….faith and action working together for the good of all….building up of self and others.

But whatever they are, they are equal in intent. To be in our world as Gift.

Shattered

IMG_7849

The world breaks
broken places
shattered mirrors
to reflect what is neglected
in dark corners.

My efforts are needed
i will turn to meet my destiny
reflected in shattered mirrors.

Unmolded clay
in my hand
nourishes new life.

The world breaks
I am a humble artist
molding my earthly clod.

Prayerful hands

i will trust to love.

Several years ago, I was grateful for the opportunity to return to a weekend workshop at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and be with my artist sisters of WWAM  (Women Writers and Artists Matrix). A loving, powerful, far-seeing community of good living and loving in the world.

In one of the workshops, we played with broken pieces of glass added to a collage we made on a trypearche.  Color, fabric shapes and designs and paint went on the surface.

Then we added the lines of a poem, selected from many she handed out. We cut these lines and added them to our art form in any order we were inspired to. I only wish I had added the name of the author of the original poem to the back.  Yet, the beauty of it is that I “create” a new poem by reading the lines in different order any time I want.

Last, we we glued pieces of glass to our piece and shiny gem shapes and buttons.

I have kept my art piece in my sight. It has luminous energy about it. It speaks daily truth of the state of the world and the challenge before all of us, in any way in which I choose to read the lines.

Try it yourself. Take my poem I wrote today and write your own, choosing to start with “I will trust to love”.   See what happens.

I am trusting us to begin and continue the work and loving and listening to be done.

lotus - whitelawPhotography by Christine Whitelaw

 

Remembering Christine Whitelaw

My last words on Napkinwriter from Christine were posted on June 28, 2014, in response to my post on our 3 day family vacation on Mackinac Island in early June. Just a mere  five days before she passed.

Just for the Family Record, June 28, 2014 archives: ” what a fabulous holiday Sue, I loved the butterfly house, and the pic of you three in rain gear … truly such fun and love to remember!” dadirri7

The sweet lotus was her favorite flower and her photographs reflect this. Christine, a flower of perfect sweetness.

In the late afternoon we sat watching the lotus. A cool breeze took the edge off a hot day, but the water was still…Dancing in the afternoon light, pods and flowers together, celebrating the lowering sun, turning their heads to whisper sweet secrets to each other. We bow, united, our dance concluding with the sunset.” Christine Whitelaw. Dadirridreaming.

We entered into our friendship through words…blogging…..and our hearts met across time and space, her in Australia, me in Michigan.

Christine Whitelaw and I met through my Napkinwriter blog nearly three years ago. She was one of the few who commented on my writings. Then she began blogging herself which grew into a wondrous photographic blog. Through her writings came her light, compassion, and “stretching” into the wonder of life itself.

That’s what she said. “We ARE it, whatever IT is!”

Through her photography, we shared nature’s embrace and brilliance as gift to us. She opened my eyes to always include my horizon, always respect my environment and always LISTEN to its teachings. I thank her for that.

Light….in her words…..and shining in her photography.

I wanted to go to Australia, but I wanted to visit Christine when I did. I wanted to walk on the beach with her, each with our cameras, each with our sharing about life with eyes wide open. I wanted to go to Australia and attend one of Christine’s Yoga Nidra classes. I wanted the grace to participate in one of her annual Women’s Weekends.

We daydreamed about that…..Dadirridreaming and I….we did. We looked forward to that happening.

Christine and I shared a love of poetry by Hafiz. Christine, too, quoted Hafiz on occasion and the poem she selected below gives us a glimpse of her acceptance of the “impermanence of the body”.

She posted these words on March 20, 2014 by dadirri7 — Christine completed her travels of this mysterious existence quite abruptly on July 2, 2014.

She wrote:  “More on life and death from Hafiz: do you like the idea of being simply “a midair flight of golden wine”?

lotus pods and bloomsPhotography by Christine Whitelaw

Deepening the Wonder by Hafiz

“Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.
The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes
Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks
And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world
Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.”

 

Through the permanence of our words, Christine and I now transcend the impermanence of the body.

I remember the fun and love of our friendship.  Like the treasures she found on the beach.

Christine - Seashell

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