Tuesday Tidbits: Life and Death

October 2013 041

A nice fresh October rose in the back yard.

“Here’s what I know about the other side: women carry the doorway to this place within the womb. The womb is the connection to the spirit realm from which all spirits enter.” –Tami Lynn Kent (Wild Feminine)

After my grandma died, I read an article that paralleled good birth care with good death care. I saved a quote from it to share, but didn’t post it because I didn’t really have anything else to go with it at the time. This month marks the six-month point since my grandma died and I found myself writing about her and making my own birth-song, death-song parallel for my most recent essay for Feminism and Religion and I knew the time for this current post had also come. (Note: the FAR post doesn’t come out until Wednesday, so the link won’t work until then.) Here is the quote I saved:

My Oma was completely cared for. She was bathed in her bed. My mom made homemade applesauce for her. My uncle gave her drops of wine. Her clothes were changed to housedresses she loved. We whispered love notes in her ears. We stroked her arms and held her hands. Nothing existed besides her.

A woman in labor, with the best support, is completely loved up. Taken care of so that she can focus on following her body and natural rhythms. She is massaged, sung to, whispered words of power and praise. All to fill her up so that she can remember her strength, courage, and beauty.

via Life and Death. Miracles Abound. | Naturally Prosperous.

August 2013 001

My grandma’s perpetual calendar. Made by my dad and painted by my mom in the 80’s or so, it was passed along to me. When I finally changed the tiles to September, it prompted another bout of crying because I had to put away the tiles from March–the last time my grandma touched and set up this calendar herself. It was both sad and painful and also beautiful and generative to be setting it up myself and now…the wheel of the year continues to turn and I really should be taking out September and setting up October…

My mom doula’ed my grandmother through her dying process and it was hard, but she did it. This week, my aunt sent out some pictures from my grandma’s doll collection so that we could pick which dolls we might like to have. My grandma loved Shirley Temple and had a Shirley collection, among quite a few other dolls. I’ve written before that I guess this love of dolls is genetic and I definitely got it from both my grandmas. Anyway, I was looking through the doll pictures and feeling impressed with the effort and love my aunt had put into captioning and describing each doll, as well as deciding which one was my favorite and then my eyes were filled with tears. I thought about my own dolls, there on the shelves and in nooks and corners of the house and pictured my little daughter going through them and taking pictures after I die and it was just really flipping sad.

And, so to continue to the theme of today’s post I remembered marking this poem in my 2013 We’Moon datebook (I’m getting ready to order my 2014 edition and so I’m going back through the things I’ve marked this year).

 We All Become Small

…Above the hospital bed
hangs a photo of you:
black lingerie, red curls,
mouth alive with laughter.

You were flamboyance
boasting bold jewelry
and flowered baseball caps.
Everyone called you Mom.

Now you are thin and still…
…You are the end of my journey
the final portrait.

No matter how red our curls,
how bright our rings
we all become small.

We all grow silent,
ease out of our feet,
slip away from our hands,
rise beyond our body
and fill the room with goodbye.

Natascha Bruckner (in We’Moon 2013)

I’d also marked a poem about miscarriage:

Sept 2013 021

I recently added new miscarriage memorial charms to my Etsy shop.

I won’t forget
how cold that summer turned
or how my days developed
sharp edges or how
with time passing,
you still grow older.

You’re the girl I wasn’t
convinced I wanted,
and there’s no name
for the landscape I stand on.

–Joyce Hayden in We’Moon 2013

I really identified with the sentence, there’s no name for the landscape I stand on, feeling reminded of my own post-miscarriage drawing in which I tried to capture the sensation of having to walk over the bridge alone…

miscarriagedrawingOne of my friends does Prayer Paintings for mothers who’ve experience pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or stillbirth (she also does Birth Blessing painting to celebrate pregnant women). She asked me if she could paint one for me and as we talked it over, I realized I didn’t feel like I needed a loss painting OR one that was about pregnancy or birth, but rather something “integrative.” And, she created something beautiful for me that felt perfect. She titled it Empowering Circle of Reflection and I love the rich, red, surprising sky. It is perfect.

October 2013 020Returning to my grandma as well as thinking about the purpose of writing and exploring feelings in writing and so forth, I also want to share this quote from We’Moon 2013:

“I see beauty in all faces, all women, near and far. All  winds blow, all ferns and grasses grow, all cello weep, all hands write. In writing move the body, the memory in the bones. Lift me up into these trees and into these women’s arms, all branches intertwining..Get those stories down. The moon, the Milky Way, the cream smear of falling stars, the bats and frogs and wood chips, racoons on a log. My jacket hangs on a tree stump every night, and I wear a spiderweb each dawn. Remember this: preserve. Pass on, embellish, enliven and unfold. All winds will blow this history into dust—unless we write it down, and name it holy…” Bonnie J. Morris (in We’Moon 2013)

One of the realizations I had after my trip to the Gaea Goddess Gathering this year was that not everything has to be a story. There doesn’t have to be a blog post around every corner. However, after reading the above, I thought that maybe it isn’t so bad/annoying that I look for the story everywhere and that I try to write it down and name it holy.

And, one last We’Moon transcription:

A Meditation by Mia Howell (in We’Moon 2013)

Sept 2013 010

New mother-blessing tree of life pendants.

The Japanese say that even the other side
has another side. We need to keep turning
things over in our minds until we can see
them in circles of motion, in spirals, in
the complete roundness of their being, through
all the cycles of becoming, undoing, renewing.

We need to understand how we got to this point
and then we need to remember it is just a point.
We feel each beat as a beat but also as part
pf the rhythm of the greater dance of greater things.
We need to turn ourselves around, in order to
see our journey in its full-spiraled progression,
to see our self in its many iterations
of age, development, understanding,
to see how the layers peel away one by one
and yet each is part of the other,
to see how the edges blur, to see how sometimes
there are no sides at all…

One thought on “Tuesday Tidbits: Life and Death

  1. I cared for my mother before she died, since Hospice didn’t serve our area. I was only 15 and was not yet emotionally equipped to deal with the situation, but I can’t imagine it gets easier in any circumstance.

    Looking back now, I see the parallels between caring for the birthing and the dying. Our humanity is really on display at those times and it’s very sad that it’s often cast aside for the sake of comfort and convenience of the caregivers. I only realized much later that this was the foundation for my birth work.

    Your grandma was very lucky to have your mom doula her through life’s final transition. It sounds like she is still teaching you lessons about humanity, dignity and empathy.

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