Slipping Away

As my mother slowly slips away into the unknown abyss of Alzheimer’s disease, I am helpless to stop it. As she walks deeper into the dark and dense forest of her mind, I have to let her go. The entry is barred. I cannot follow her in or bring her back. My role is to bear witness and to nurse my broken heart. To tend to those of us left behind. To be strong. I am familiar with this uncomfortable territory. I have been here before. I long for things to return to how they once were. I yearn for the past.

When I look into her eyes, I do not know where she has gone. There is a glimmer of the woman that I once knew. She smiles in recognition of my face. She kisses my lips with love. But there is a dullness in her gaze and a slowness to her gait. We walk in familiar circles along linoleum lined hallways. She talks about everything and nothing: words crashing together, landing in a tangled pile on the floor.

The fiercely independent woman who once forged her own path in life is now reliant on the help of others to complete the most basic of tasks. A life that was once large and colourful is now contained and beige. I am grateful for the people that help us. They are our community. We lean on one another; but I am sad for a loss that is not yet fully a loss. Her memory is breaking into little crumbs. She is leaving pieces behind her: trying to remember her way home.

I am mourning my mother while she still stands before me. It is a strange and confusing time; and I carry a sadness deep in my heart. It is a weight heavy in my pocket. I try to stay in the moment and appreciate the small things, without looking forward or gazing back, “How are you now?…and now?…and now? What do you need? How can I ease your pain?”

It is hard to allow space for heart break. The discomfort is easy to push against and resist; but it needs to breathe and express itself or it will take up permanent residence inside of the body. This is my work at the moment. Allowing the pain to just be. Feeling it and letting it burn. Knowing that it will eventually pass. Everything is transitory. Remaining grateful for the opportunity to love so deeply in my life that my heart can be broken open, and come back together, time and time again.

As Glennon Doyle summarizes it beautifully in her book Untamed: “…I learned that there is a type of pain in life that I want to feel. It’s the inevitable, excruciating, necessary pain of losing beautiful things: trust, dreams, health, animals, relationships, people. This kind of pain is the price of love, the cost of living a brave, open-hearted life – and I’ll pay for it.”

There is no way out but through

Woman In Nature In Sunset. People In Nature.beautiful Woman In M

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~Leonard Cohen

Over the past ten months, I have become intimate with heartbreak and familiar with loss. My twenty-one year relationship abruptly ended. My beloved dog Maggie died; and two of my close family members are very unwell. It has been both an exceptionally difficult and a transformative time.

Heartbreak is a visceral experience. Your heart literally feels like it is breaking inside of your chest. It clenches. It aches. Pain manifests itself as tightness in your throat and tension in your shoulders. It pulls down heavily on your ankles and arms. It whispers seductively in your ear: “Lie down. Rest here. Don’t move. Stay still.” It is in these moments that I cling onto the mantra: there is no way out but through.

Through the experience of loss, I have been given the gift of seeing the people and world around me, with new lens. I have experienced the incredible kindness, love and compassion of those around me: my friends, family, work colleagues and community. I have realized that I am not alone. People want to help. They walk the path alongside of me. They will hold me up, when I cannot walk by myself. My biggest challenge is to accept this help and to receive this love: something that is difficult to do when you are used to giving it all away.

I have learned that when a heart breaks, it not only cracks open, it expands. Grief reveals the depth of sadness and it reveals the breadth of love. It will show you the sphere of life, if you let it: birth. death. love. loss. light. dark. All of it interconnected sides of one perfect whole.

Someone once told me: “You cannot selectively numb yourself. When you numb pain you numb joy.” This is so true. I have learned that it is essential to allow space for sadness, grief and anger to come through. It is not only key to healing; it will give you a deeper appreciation of joy and love. I now understand that, despite my deepest fear, allowing these emotions to just be will not swallow me. Feeling these emotions deeply will not cause lasting harm. They will come and then they will go. It is all temporal and transitory. Less resistance equals less suffering.

In and amongst all of the changes in my life, I have gained clarity on what I deeply care about: the things that creates inner peace; the actions that offers me joy. I have defined where my boundaries start and where they end; and the more that I clearly understand these things, the brighter my inner fire burns. The easier it is to stay rooted yet pliable while the ground around me shakes.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my monthly newsletter in the link below. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Maggie Mae

maggieme

My beautiful friend, Maggie Mae, died on Thursday. She was a thirty pound, liver and white Brittany spaniel. I called her my “fur baby”; and she would have celebrated her thirteenth birthday on January 1st, 2017.

This little soul arrived in my life not long after I was first married: full of dreams, playing house, and feathering my nest. When that soft little puppy bounded into our home, I had my first taste of sleepless nights, random peeing and general loss of personal freedom. I also experienced a new kind of endless devotion, love and joy: all wrapped in one wiggling package. All of this genuinely helped to prepare me for the arrival of my “human baby” seven years later.

Maggie loved to go on adventure walks with me, until this August, when her little body could no longer carry her up the mountain. Her nose was amazing and she experienced the world through her incredible sense of smell. She was fascinated with birds and she loved to swim: especially in the lake and ocean. I often thought she was going to drown, as she relentlessly chased after a duck or a seagull. She considered herself to be an adept fisher-woman, spending hours pacing the water’s edge, certain she was about to catch the big one.

She welcomed me every day with a happy squeak, a smile and a vibrating tail. Smile! Who knew a dog could smile? I didn’t – until Maggie. Her right lip would lift up, exposing a lopsided toothy grin. It was an expression of pure joy and it was beautiful.

Maggie followed close beside me throughout the house as I folded laundry, tidied toys, and loaded the dishwasher. She stuck close to my heels, tags jingling, always ready to help clean up fallen crusts or crumbs. And when we finished our evening chores, she would happily put herself to bed: curling up into a warm ball close against my legs.

Maggie comforted me when I cried. She never let me down and she was the most loyal friend that I have ever had.  She loved me unconditionally, as I did her. I will deeply miss her and she will always live on in my heart.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my monthly newsletter in the link below. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.