Rachel’s Ashes

Today my 23 year-old daughter would have turned 27. She loved to travel. In her final days her dad asked,

“How about mum and I take your ashes with us wherever we travel, so you can keep traveling too?”

She nodded.  Yes.

Rachel’s Ashes is a slideshow of the places she now lives. A legacy of love, a source of deep healing, my faith in new beginnings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXGlfiLpdyY

God On The Rocks

“Please let there be no one at my rock,” I’d whisper silently, picking up the pace. The deeply wooded trails behind me, I’d step out onto the promontory of rock and take the giant breath I’d been holding inside for too long. It was here at the edge of the world, all sky and ocean, that my body could lift the mask from its daily façade.

Lighthouse Park (2)In the months following my daughter’s diagnosis, a visit to this sacred spot became a weekend ritual; the one place I could find solace in a world falling apart around me. Lighthouse Park, a summation of all that’s beautiful about Vancouver, was my go-to place.

I’d head directly to the pocket of rock carved, it seemed, just for me to hunker down and take refuge from the world. Most times I went there to cry, for a life that was ‘never meant to turn out this way’. Other times I would talk to ‘God’, the Universe, whoever might be listening. “I wish for a long and healthy life for my daughter Rachel,” I’d say out loud, hoping that audible prayers might take precedence over the silent kind.

In later months when the sun had warmed deep in the Earth I’d lay back, arms outstretched on the ancient rock letting it absorb all of me, the weight of worry shifting from me to Her, without question or conversation, judgment or sympathy. Some alchemical healing began to work its magic.

When my daughter’s tumour was thought to be malignant, my rock beckoned more and more. Conversations with ‘God’ came thick and fast. Then came that unforgettable day. Curled up on my side, the hypnotic motion of waves and tide had held me captive for hours. I needed to begin the journey home. As I peeled my body from the rock and opened my eyes I saw it; the most perfect rainbow plastered across the skies of West Vancouver’s shoreline. A new bout of tears clouded my vision. But this time, I was smiling too. Certain that my spoken prayers had been heard, I lay down again and listened. Here’s what ‘God’ had to say:

“There’s always beauty in pain. Go find it.

And don’t worry, I’ve got this one.”

Never before or since did I believe in the power of prayer or feel accompanied by something larger, so much as on that day.

Each time I see a rainbow I smile at the memory of that day’s vision. I know now that great beauty originates in the graceful acceptance of sadness. As Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Unlike grief, nature is predictable. Its ebb and flow, its seasons and cycles offer us hope when little else can. To find our special places in the natural world is a calling we each must discover. My rock at Lighthouse Park, a meeting of land and sea, was the place I found to grapple with profound and painful change. Where’s yours? Where do you go to find peace, to mend your heart, maybe even talk to ‘God’?

How’s Your Wobbly Factor?

Change is constant. How we experience change…that’s up to us.

-Meredith Grey-

DSCN3861While a few crave change, most of us avoid it like the plague. Change knocks us off centre, makes us wobbly and uncomfortable. But when life gets tough, change offers us the hope that things will get better. Three years ago I said goodbye to my daughter, Rachel. Without faith in the power of change I’d have remained emotionally paralyzed.

Life is full of endings, full of goodbyes; change. Even as we finish the last piece of a chocolate bar we’re reminded that nothing lasts forever. Poet David Whyte suggests 50% of life is saying goodbye; until we absorb that reality we’re easy prey for depression and anxiety. Besides, one day we’ll have to give it all away. Everything. Maybe if we practice we’ll be better prepared for that Big Goodbye.

We just have to open our fingers, loosen our grip.

Daehyun Kim

Daehyun Kim

As Tim Kreider reminds us in this week’s New York Times: You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get. The mortality rate is holding at a scandalous 100 percent.” 

We all have a date of birth, and a date of death at yet unknown. Until that day maybe it’s worth shaking things up, practice feeling wobbly: sit somewhere different, give a gift anonymously, do something others might describe as ‘not like you.’ Call it prep work. Detachment from attachment.

Changing my living situation every few weeks keeps me wobbly. Trusting that everything happens at the right time inspires a calm resolve and intuitive faith in life as it is…traits absent from an earlier life that left me ill prepared for massive change.

How we remember our lives trumps how we experience them,” claims neurosurgeon and cancer-survivor Allan Hamilton.  Today I shall reframe my thoughts about Rachel’s departure from this world. Rather than think of it as the date of her death, I shall celebrate memories of the 8533 days she lived.

“Cos’ I gotta feelin’…”

-The Black Eyed Peas-

Sources

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 7, Episode 1

You Are Going to Die by Tim Kreider

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/you-are-going-to-die/

7 Ways to Make Happiness Last by Allan Hamilton

http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=378

David Whyte workshops

http://www.davidwhyte.com