Serendipitously, the day after I put up my blog about the gifts of Fear and Grieving I received a message from a friend who was in the midst of deep grief, honoring her mother’s passing just four years ago. My friend had not read my blog, so truly, grieving, turning inward were places we were traveling to at the same time, for different reasons, without consciously realizing it.
So many of you responded lovingly to my last entry, I thought I would share with you a portion of my reply to my friend that feels universal to me…something we can all relate to through our own unique experiences of grief, re-membering and honoring our loved ones.
“… take time (as long as needed) to re-member your roots to the rest of your being here on this earth journey...the roots that connect you to heaven and all those beings you have loved who have crossed over. I visualize your roots upside down-reaching up toward the heavens...each being you loved (still loving you) reaching a wispy spirit hand down to hold onto the end of one of your roots like many colorful heart shaped balloons each filled with the pure love of your support team in the heavens. Your center is the trunk...solid, strong, textured with life-force (chiyyut) flowing through it. Your branches expand in many directions...each one an expression of the many voices that you offer to this plane of existence (like SoulCollage cards)...the leaves being the many people you have gathered into your life while on this adventure here on earth.”
(It’s important to note that in Kabalistic symbolism an upside down tree…roots reaching toward heaven and the branches reaching down to earth represents God in heaven nourishing our souls-the branches-like our hands reaching out to do God’s work on earth)
I also want to share with you a ritual my Spiritual Director Rabbi Nancy Flam reminded me about this week. Rebbe Nachman’s practice of Hitbodedut. (Hebrew for “to be in solitude”). He endured physical pain, depression and grieving over the deaths of several of his children in his short but spiritually rich life; he died at the age of 39, leaving behind a legacy of wisdom for the ages. His prescription to his students was to go out into the woods or fields each day (or evening) to pour one’s heart out to God…talking, crying wailing, whatever needed to be expressed for a full hour. There is no formal way to do this practice…the intention is to authentically bare one’s heart and soul to the Holy Blessed One in our own words and tears. He was also known to be a teacher of profound joy.
“In essence, music is made by sifting the good from the bad. The musician has to find the "good spirit" and reject the bad. A musical instrument is basically a vessel containing air. The musician produces the sounds by causing the air to vibrate. His task is to move his hands on the instrument in such a way as to produce good spirit, "good vibrations", while avoiding the "bad vibrations" - the dissonant winds of gloom and depression.
When a person refuses to allow himself to fall into despair but instead gives himself new life by finding and gathering his positive points, this makes melodies. He can then pray, sing and give thanks to God.” (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan I:282-this translation was found @ http://www.azamra.org/sing.shtml)
I love his analogy of a musician and an instrument to the choices we make in our lives. We too are vessels filled with air/breath. Our choices, thoughts, emotions and actions are the music we offer the world. Like I always say…"What is the blessing in this moment?"…and Rebbe Nachman, I imagine would add “What is the joy in this moment?”
So I have taken to spending some time each day (not a full hour and not in the woods…as I can’t walk that far yet) but at home, mostly in the bath tub (held in the warm womb of water it provides), talking aloud with God and allowing the copious tears I’ve held for so long to flow freely from the innermost chambers of my heart. And then I carefully climb out of the tub (I can do it myself now, as long as it’s early in the day!), dry off, dress and turn my thoughts, my heart my whole being back to gratitude, to the blessings unfolding in my life.
The past few days have been extremely stressful. Belin my poet daughter describes these complex emotional weeks as “standing precariously on the tip of a toothpick”. Since her weight check on Thursday we have spent hours and hours worrying/not knowing for sure if Rosie will need to be admitted into the hospital again for tube feedings and evaluation. As I’m typing this, we are sitting in the waiting room at the GI Clinic in Children’s Hospital Boston, with high hopes that we can put this off for a few more weeks until my parents come up to visit so we have some more support on every level if she can’t gain enough over the next 5 weeks and we do have to admit Rosie back into the hospital again. I must confess, there have been more teary moments than I would have liked this weekend. But pockets of joy seemed to have emerged here and there, sprinkled like fairy dust throughout a seemingly endless passage of time, and despite the inner anxiety and sudden drive to the ER with Rosie Saturday night (She was having difficulty catching her breath and experiencing some chest pain-she’s fine though, just a bug and a bit of dehydration). So today, God willing all will go well with the doctor, his thoughtful insights will soon be revealed. And yes I am nervous, and yes I am optimistic-holding all possibilities in the balance. (On the tip of this toothpick!)
In this moment, before we roll my wheelchair along side my husband and young daughter into the examining room… I am releasing fear and grieving to clear a path for joy, contentment and gratitude.
It pleases me to no end to report that ALL IS INDEED WELL. She received the thumbs up from her doctor, with the proviso that she stay the course with the slow trajectory of weight gain and all of her support systems in place at school and home. For now she does not need to be hospitalized, however, if over the next few weeks she begins to backslide (and there is absolutely no blame or punishment for not trying her best) then he will need to admit her for her safety and health.
I slept the whole ride home. And then for 3 more hours after our return, calling my parents to let them know the good news about their youngest grandchild. I’m completely exhausted…the weight of the stress I’ve been carrying in my heart, mind and soul finally caught up to my body in a big way. My legs feel like lead and my voice has slowed down and dropped its “R’s” again. But that’s ok, with a peaceful night of sleep I will sound like myself and be able to walk with lighter steps again in the morning.
I’m so glad I wrote the words above “I am releasing fear and grieving to clear a path for joy, contentment and gratitude.” Perhaps they opened space for an alternative possibility.
Today’s gift, gift 9 is Praise to the Holy Blessed One Above and Within All of Us…HalleluYah…Praised are you God! Thank YOU HEALER OF BROKEN HEARTS…for bringing us all home together today, allowing us to sleep under one roof in our own house in peace this evening.
...and now I release this blog entry to all of you.