Snooks and Homeopathy

Snooks and Homeopathy

Love this animated video about homeopathy.  I know nay-sayers abound and many argue against homeopathy as a viable medicine.  But until any nay-sayer is willing to personally experience homeopathy, they don’t really have a reason to argue against its efficacy.

Frankly, I don’t have to wait for conventional mainstream science to give ‘official’ permission for it.  That’s the same thinking that once believed the world to be flat.

Little Sister, 1959 – 2009

Little Sister, 1959 – 2009

Letting go of the ones we love is probably one of the most difficult things we humans have to endure. It’s never easy, and the way is fraught with doubt, fear, and hopeful wishes. The challenge for each of us is recognizing that no matter how badly we want something else to be happening, what really is happening is that our loved one is dying.  And they will die with or without us.

We feel powerless.  We want to put on a cheery face and a gird ourselves with a brave demeanor – stiff upper lip, and all that.  Maybe we think that helps.  Truthfully, it doesn’t.  Being is what helps.  Just being.

Rather than thinking of something brave, chipper, or clever to say, why not just say,

“Shit.  I don’t even know what to say.  I’m sorry.”

Being that honest and that vulnerable is what helps, and there’s nothing else like it in the world that will support being with your loved one every step of the way.  Even to the final breath.

Yes, it hurts like hell.

But it’s worth it.

A couple of weeks before she died, Dee was dealing with anger, regret, and other difficult emotions and unresolved feelings.  I remember a moment of awful clarity during which I realized that as I struggled with losing her, she struggled with losing everything.  That moment was a turning point for me in being able to hold space for everything she needed to express.

This poem, written the day after she died, describes my last few hours with her.

Little Sister, 1959 – 2009

“The Man in the Moon is really a Woman,” I said,

And she smiled knowingly, sharing my secret.

Then she read to me from her Magic Book:

“There’s a blue fish.”
“And there’s a red fish.”

And I wept them into the river – she always did love Dr. Seuss.

I marveled with her through that last day as she reviewed her life and memories –

“It’s coming in bits and pieces, but I need more time; I’m not ready.”
“I’m not afraid to die, just afraid of the journey to get there.”

“Don’t be afraid, Baby Duck,” I whispered, kissing her head.
“You’ll know when you’re ready, just in time and not too soon.”

“Okay, thank you.” Nodding, a little girl again, believing me.

Then in little bits and pieces she shared her precious life with me again.
Emotions flickering over her face on fast forward – too fast for me.
Whispers, insights, sorting, shaking out, cleansing one by one.
I watched her check off each; an internal list, the final pages of her Magic Book.

“Okay, sissie, it’s time. Can you put my jeans on me?” Breathy, gasping.

I asked her if she was going to travel and she nodded again,
Wiggling her feet, whispering, “I want to wear my jeans.”

I pulled magic jeans over her frail legs, asking if she liked them.

And she smiled. The world is a great place when you wear magic jeans.

They must be like Superman underwear – they make you stronger, more able.

Holding her, reassuring, encouraging her to fly away,

I blew purple butterflies into her heart and then she was gone.

Valerie Lovelace, January 2009

A Pretty Strange Looking Canoe

A Pretty Strange Looking Canoe

I met Chuck Lakin of Last Things in March of 2014. The first thing I noticed about him is that he has what my son and I call “Arnie Eyebrows.” Arnie was a dear friend of mine who died in 2012. He had the most amazing, long white eyebrows that draped downward, framing his face. Something about those eyebrows spoke of Arnie’s gentle nature and general approachability. The same was true of Chuck Lakin. I pretty much liked him right away.

The more we spoke of his passion for coffin building, wood-working in general, and his interest in creating ways to engage in conversations about the ultimate end each of us must face, the more I felt him a kindred spirit. It isn’t often I meet like-minded others who are able to comfortably discuss such taboo subjects. It’s more common that I experience what I’ve come to call a lead duck—that awkward, heavy silence immediately following my reply to the question,

“So, what do you do?”

“I talk with people about dying.”

It can be a real conversation killer, but not so for Chuck on our meeting one another. It wasn’t long before I felt compelled to take his workshop to build my own coffin. I was curious about the experience and wondered what it would feel like, knowing the box I shaped with my own hands would one day bear the weight of my dead body. Although I didn’t need it right away, I considered that, in reality, it wouldn’t be that awfully long before I did need it.

After all, I’m approaching sixty years of age. It’s kind of a simple math problem, really—approaching sixty means I’ve lived more of my life in the past than I will live in the future. Thinking of my life in this fashion helps me stay close to what’s important.  Imagine my surprise, then, at feeling growing anxiety as the September workshop date approached. All manner of thoughts ran through my mind.

“You’re going to build a WHAT?!?

The first person I told about my idea to build a coffin literally jumped a step backward from me.  While I found that quite funny, I have to admit it triggered a bit of my own trepidation.

“Why am I wanting to do this?” “Why now?”
“Does this really make any sense at all?”
“And isn’t this just kind of creepy?”

I reminded myself several times that I didn’t have to use it immediately and that I should just relax and enjoy the process. Still, it was unsettling to have the heebie-jeebies. I consider myself pretty comfortable with death and dying. I had to wonder, though, just how comfortable could I be if I was suddenly experiencing all of this angst? Perhaps I had just been fooling myself.

I started to relax on arriving at Chuck’s workshop. Maybe it was the “Arnie Eyebrows” effect. Perhaps it was the smell of freshly cut wood. I stood still for a moment and breathed deeply.

“Yes,” I thought, “I can do this.”

I fell into an easier state as I gradually made my peace with the wood, the tools, and the pattern unfolding before me.

“Measure twice. Cut once.”

I very nearly heard my father’s voice from beyond the grave, instructing me as the day progressed. He had died in 2001 from lung cancer.

Plank changed to form under saw and router. I ran my hands over the wood, enjoying the fresh smell of pine. I again found myself quite surprised by rising thoughts and emotions.

“This is going to be beautiful,” I mused.

I wanted to take care with it. I wanted the corners to meet just so, and for the coffin to be square and true. I silently hoped others would view it that way and wondered if they would be able to see what I was beginning to see—a simple, elegant, capable vessel.

Chuck’s shop is laid out well and he’s created jigs and guides to make the process nearly seamless. Under his tutelage and watchful eye(brows), I had a coffin in about six hours.  I posted a photo of my handiwork on Facebook when I arrived home and smiled at this response from a friend in Kentucky:

“That’s a pretty strange looking canoe.”

I thought again of my friend, Arnie, a Penobscot elder. He had wanted to be buried in the traditions of his people: with a birch bark wrap encasing his body. I liked seeing him bundled that way at his funeral and felt happy for him as he was simply laid into the ground and covered with cedar and tobacco offerings. It was a fitting send off, the birch bark reminiscent of canoes his ancestors had built.

I ran my hands over the wood one more time.

I had not expected to make such an easy friend of a plain pine box. I actually liked it. And by the end of the day, I could see that it was meant for me.