Gaining Perspective

I received a notice on my blog that someone linked to one of my blog posts entitled “Children of Africa“.  After reading their site, I felt compelled to link to their page here and I commented:

“I give monthly to “Love 146″; an organization that helps victims of sexual trafficking. I’m a very positive person, but have an underlying sense of sadness that remains despite my “good” life. I believe we’re all connected and somehow feel deep in our soul the pain that so many people endure. :(“

The Ashe Keeper

 

A few weeks ago I took my mother’s ashes to the cemetery where my Aunt (her sister) is buried and spread them on her grave.  My mother died a year ago from Cancer at the age of 78.  She was one of eleven children born into poverty and she was closest to this sister.

My father passed away in 2006 from Cancer, my grandfather (his father) passed away in 2004 (at the age of 100) from old age, and my father’s mother passed away in the 1980’s at the approximate age of 80.  At one point, I had all of their ashes.  A few years ago I took their ashes to the Voice of America Park in West Chester (Cincinnati), Ohio and found a spot down a road without anyone around to sprinkle them.  The reason I chose the Voice of America Park was because my Grandfather had been one of the first engineers with them over in Germany in the 50’s.  He and my Grandmother probably would have preferred being spread in Germany, but I didn’t know when I would make it back there.  I was stationed there when I was in the Army back in the late 70’s.

My Grandfather led a very motivated life…was a talented Violinist in addition to his career as an Engineer, and other interesting endeavors/inventions.  If you’d like to read more about him, I have a post here that I wrote over a year ago.

Anyway, back to my Mother.  She believed she had a ghost that lived with her for about 10 years, until she moved in with me back in 2008.  She had some ghost detection people come out and spend the night to see if they could pick up anything with their equipment, and they did register some activity.  She told me before she passed, that if I felt something brush against me, that it would be her.  A few weeks after she passed, I was sitting here at my computer and felt something brush against my leg.  I didn’t think anything of it, just took my hand to brush at the spot.  Well…it happened again and then it dawned on me.  Have any of you had experiences with ghosts?

Back to her ashes.  I’m sure that cemeteries have a rule against doing what I did, but I couldn’t think of a place my Mother would have rather been.  I asked her before she died and she said to keep her for a while and then put her where I thought best.  Having never visited my Aunt’s grave (she died when I was nine years old), I found online what Section she was in and the general location.  This particular cemetery is very large, so once I parked by the Section, it took about 20 minutes of walking around to find her grave.  Some grounds employees drove by me in a golf cart and I tried to keep her bag of ashes cradled in my arm, so they wouldn’t stop to investigate.  I have two brothers, but I’m not in contact with one of them and the other one hasn’t asked about her ashes, so I didn’t think he’d be interested in accompanying me.

I also would like to be cremated.  I think it’s a waste of space and money to put dead people in expensive boxes and bury them.  When I die, I’d like people to celebrate my life if there is a funeral.  Make it a party!

 

5 Regrets From the Dying

I read an article yesterday about a Nurse who cared for terminally ill patients during the last 3 months of their lives.  She listed the top five regrets that they shared and realized that we can learn a lot from them…from the clarity that they had at the end.  These are the regrets and how they relate to my life…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all.  They knew that due to choices they had made…most of their dreams were not realized or even attempted.  Because I’m at a fork in my journey right now, the realization that I can fundamentally alter the course of my life, has been driving me a bit crazy lately.  I’m trying to listen to the Universe/God and not over-analyze…but sometimes I do!  When there are other people that are affected by your choice, it becomes more difficult, especially for women who are taught to be un-selfish and I believe are typically just wired that way.

They realize that they took their health for granted and that there was a freedom attached to it!  This is one of the reasons I take good care of myself…exercise…eat right (most of the time)…etc.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

When I was 13 years old, I started buying all of my own clothes and funding any recreational outings by babysitting.  I worked full-time for 30 years and raised a child until the last few years…at which time I quit work to take care of my ill mother and do some traveling.  I’m back at a temporary full-time job and financially can’t retire any time soon.  My quest is to find a job that doesn’t feel like work…to do something I’m passionate about! But…I have the travel bug!  Should I become a digital nomad… somehow make money while I’m traveling or perhaps Teach English as a Second Language in a foreign country?  Universe…I’m listening!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others and some developed illnesses because of the bitterness and resentment they held in.

This hasn’t been one of my issues.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I regularly get together with my friends…I have a couple of girlfriends that I’ve known for over 40 years.  I’m open to having even more friends!

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The realization that happiness is a choice did not arise until the end for many of the patients.  People convinced themselves and others that they were content, when in reality, fear kept many of them from stepping outside of their comfort zone to reach for their dreams…to be silly…or to stop worrying and let joy take its place!

I am trying to become fearless!

2011 in Review

Looking back at what has occurred in my life in 2011, brings to light the observation that many of us don’t realize how much we’ve grown or what we’ve accomplished during any given period of time.  Until you put it on paper or…in the blog!

In February my mother was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer.  In March I had a family reunion while she was still able to spend some quality time with people.  The first photo was from 2007 – you can see how she changed in a few years.

March was a busy month…I took a flight to Los Angeles for the Travel & Leisure show– to network for employment within the travel industry.

A week later I drove my mother from Ohio to Ft. Myers, Florida for a mini vacation…knowing this would be her last time to see the beach…it was bittersweet!

April was filled with lots of exercise…hikes, hot yoga, a 5-K run, and my first boot camp.  I spent more time with my mother…picking her up to spend the day with me at my house.  She enjoyed soaking up the sun on my back deck…surrounded by trees and the beautiful beginning of spring.

I helped a friend organize her house one day, met with hospice for my mother’s evaluation, and did lots of yard work.  I bought a new camera (Olympus PEN) and won third place in a photography contest at the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati with this photo…

I volunteered at a food bank in May, took my son to the traveling “Cirque du Soleil” show, attended a derby party, organized a couple of social events for meetup.com–a motorcycle meetup–and a winery tour in Madison, Indiana.  I moved my mother into my home at the end of May to take care of her during her last week of life.

She died on June 9th and I made a short movie to show at the memorial service.  The rest of June was somewhat quiet.

July was filled with pool parties, boating, jogging, yoga, hiking and traveling.  I hiked on the Appalachian Trail for a couple of days with a friend and you can read about it here

We treated ourselves the third evening to an overnight stay at a beautiful bed and breakfast!

A week later I left for a vacation to Washington State and British Columbia that was absolutely breathtaking…filled with beautiful scenery and amazing hikes!  Read about it here

I quit smoking cigarettes one month from the date my mother died…and consider it my most significant accomplishment of the year!

In August…after only two days at home…I was blessed to be able to go on another trip…this one to New Mexico and Colorado.  It was truly magical and stunning!  Read about it here

In September I started training for a half-marathon that was coming up at the end of October.  I took photography classes to learn more about aperture, F-stop, shutter speed, etc.

I also made the decision to follow my passion for travel and enrolled at ITMI (International Travel Management Institute) for a two-week class that was starting in October, to become a Tour Director–to take people on trips around the world!  It was held in beautiful San Francisco…

The class took a trip to the enchanted Sequoia Nat’l Park and Kings Canyon Nat’l Park…

I ran my half-marathon at the end of October and completed it in 2 hrs. 15 minutes.

In November I went on a girls’ weekend to Lexington, Kentucky…

I joined Toastmasters!   And I started a temporary full-time job for the next couple of months until I start Tour Directing!

My blog was “freshly pressed” twice this year…which I am so grateful for and I’ve met a lot of interesting and nice people both online and off!

The two quotes or philosophies that have stuck with me this year are:

Your attitude + Your choices = Your life

Collect experiences…not things!

It was a year filled with beauty, challenges, sadness, joy, confusion, and much gratitude!

Peace in the Face of Death

As each day goes by, my mother approaches her impending death from Stage IV cancer…with acceptance.  We talk about death and what both of us envision after life will be like.  Although she has rarely gone to Church, she believes in God and Jesus and hopes that she will be with relatives that have already departed.  Her life has been difficult, having grown up very poor, one of eleven children, and having gone through most of life’s greatest stresses…divorce, the chronic illness and death of her second husband and most of her siblings and parents, and many more of life’s disappointments.

I think about what it will be like once she’s gone, when I forget and want to call her on the telephone and realize…she won’t answer.  Grinning, she says, “Once I’m gone, if you feel fingertips brushing your arm, it will be me”.  You see, she’s been the type of mother that would do anything in her power to protect her children, blurring the line between motherly nurturing and co dependence.

She tells me the same story every week of when I was little and looked up from my stroller and said, “Me push Mommy, let me push”, and of how independent I was, even then.

I am proud of the grace that she is showing during this process and realize I am my mother’s daughter.

My Mother

When my mother was living with me last year, I composed a five-page typewritten mini “autobiography” for her. Following the ideas from a website called “Living Legacies”, I questioned her extensively and discovered many things about her that I previously wasn’t aware of.

When she was born in the early 1930’s, there was a mid-wife to herald her birth. She was one of eleven children, born into poverty. Her parents did share-cropping for a few years and life was difficult in the country.

There was no electricity or running water. Coal oil lamps were used and there was an outhouse. They didn’t own a car, so walking was a necessity. A horse and wagon was used to transport their possessions when they moved. The boys were the horsepower to pull the plow for farming!

Rainwater was collected to wash hair and bath time came around once a week. Her mother would cut everyone’s hair when necessary. Although mom was a tall and skinny girl, she chopped wood, carried water from a spring, helped with doing laundry on a washboard, and would knock hens off of their nests, so she could gather their eggs. One of her sisters milked the cows. They had pigs and usually a few dogs and cats.

The boys would sleep together in one bed and the girls in another bed. Mom remembers having to pick dandelions for soup, because they had very little food. There were the cherished memories of her mother making cornbread, fried chicken, milk gravy, chicken & dumplings, bacon, eggs, and homemade blackberry pies.

Mother wore hand-me-down clothing and Grandma would make broom-stick skirts for the girls. When the holidays came, there were peppermint sticks for Christmas and Turkey was a treat for Thanksgiving.  She has fond memories of playing hide-n-seek, swimming in the creek, playing with dolls, and her brothers making homemade toys out of sticks.  They picked berries and shelled walnuts.

Gathered together, sitting on the floor, the children enjoyed listening to radio broadcasts of “The Shadow”, “Inner Sanctum” and the “Squeaky Door”.

She left home when she was 17 years old and lived with one of her older sisters for a year, before moving to the YWCA. She married my father in her early 20’s.

Life was difficult for Mom as she was raising her three children, because Dad changed jobs frequently and the lack of money was a constant. She felt frustrated because she couldn’t provide much for her children in the way of clothes or any activities that required money. There were no family vacations, except for camping.

Dad and Mom owned a Deli for a while, and Mother worked behind the counter, while Dad grew his beard long and traveled through Amish villages, purchasing meats and cheeses from them.

Mother’s next job was laundering napkins at a restaurant/nightclub. I had left home at this point and was in the military.

There was much turmoil through the years in my family and they ultimately divorced in 1981 and Mother moved to a small apartment. She met her next husband shortly thereafter and remarried in 1983.

For the past 20 years she was an Apartment Complex Manager and her husband was the Maintenance Man there. She has fond memories of her years with him, before he died in 2001. They went fishing, had picnics and grilled out, went to dinner with her sisters, had friends that lived in the apartment complex and enjoyed many good times with them.

Beginning around 1995, Mother had a ghost that would harass her every night in the apartment that she and her husband lived in, until she moved out in 2008. She had a team of paranormal investigators spend the night once and they recorded activity.

In November, 2008, Mother was informed that she has a giant aneurysm at the base of her skull and they didn’t want to operate on it. She was in a nursing home and not doing well, so I quit my job and she moved in to my home so that I could take care of her. She improved rapidly and a year later she moved into a senior citizen apartment nearby.

Just recently she fell and broke both of her arms…so she went back to a nursing home for a month before returning home.

The following are some of mother’s thoughts, beliefs and opinions:

• She believes in God, heaven and hell.

• If she could have three wishes they would be to own a small compact house, that my older brother would stop drinking and that her aneurysm would disappear.

• Her advice to young people is: To live life without drinking too much and without anger.

• Her advice to married people is: To love one another like you would love yourself.

• She is sometimes afraid of the thought of death and other times, not.

• Her greatest challenge in life has been her oldest son, because he has been mean and angry with her for most of his life.

• The most generous thing she’s ever done is: sacrificing many of her wants/needs/money in trying to change her son into a loving son.

• The meaning of life to her is: It is what you make it. God gave us life to see what kind of individuals we would be on earth.