Today’s Quote

flowers ii

“I don’t know Who – or what – put the question,
I don’t know when it was put.
I don’t even remember answering.
But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone
– or Something –
and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that,
therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”

~ Dag Hammarskjold ~

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Tuesday Travels — Tanzania

Africa 2011 064

I have been fortunate enough in my life to travel to many different places; you have my parents to blame when they took me on my first plane ride (to Florida) when I was 16 years old. I was bitten by the travel bug, and I’ve been taking trips ever since.

Even the planning of them is fun – I research the destination, its history, the people and go from there. I’ve always believed that crossing borders helps to break down borders, and that visiting other countries helps us to learn tolerance and respect of other cultures, as well as offering discoveries not only of other places but also ourselves.

The essence of living is discovering.”
~ Vijay Krishna, Indian Scholar

When I return from a trip, I am usually glad to be home, even though it isn’t long before I am envisioning my next adventure far, far away. But Tanzania was different.

I didn’t want to come home. Really – I didn’t want to come home.

In all of my travels, in all of my adult life, I never felt more at home than when I was in Tanzania. I belonged.

The peace I felt in Tanzania, the quiet, the rightness of it is hard to describe. It was nature as it should be, without the technology or infrastructure or constant noise or smog or fast food or overcrowding. Just the animals ruling their kingdom, and a small number of humans trying to honor them in their habitat, without leaving too many footprints. We were the guests.

When we visited a residential school for Tanzanian children, they greeted us with bare feet and smiles. When I climbed out of our Land Rover, at least (no exaggeration) 100 children surrounded me, smiling shyly. I said hello to each one of them, and some of them shook my hand. But most of them just wanted to touch my arm; they seemed fascinated by my pale skin, and they explored with the gentlest of fingers. Their classrooms were wooden benches in old, plastered buildings, their dorms more of the same. The ingredients for their meals of beans and rice were stacked in burlap sacks in a storeroom.

But each child was so proud of their school, and the opportunity it gave their future. They actually had an old model copy machine under lock and key, but the school didn’t have enough money to buy paper for their final exams. Paper that cost all of around $10 was a luxury they could not afford.

Dung hut

All of the moments were special, but one rises above the rest in my memory, filled with laughter. We arranged a night drive in order to try to track a leopard that had been seen in the area. On this game drive, there were 6 of us in a tiered seat Jeep: the four of us from the USA, our Tanzanian guide/driver and a tracker who sat on the left front part of the vehicle, on a seat attached to the hood. In order to not disturb the nocturnal animals, we traveled without headlights. The tracker had a red light with him, so that if we saw an animal, we could actually “see” it without bothering the wildlife with the harsh glare of a spotlight.

At night. No paved roads. Barely a trail. No head lights. Driving a few feet from the edge of a 12-foot drop to a dried out river bed (Tanzania was suffering another drought). At a high rate of speed. Hitting bumps and tree limbs and rocks and mud wallows. The driver using one hand to steer and the other to hold a walkie-talkie, conferring with another guide driving on the opposite side of the river bed. Eyes glued to the darkness, hoping to see any sign of the leopard’s spots.

Did I mention the high rate of speed in the bush without headlights? Our bodies were literally lifting off of the (hard) wooden bench seats – there are no seat belts in the Serengeti Plain – as we tore off-road. (Note: it takes an awful lot of momentum to get my body to lift off a seat on its own!!!). I’m smiling, my son is whooping with excitement, his fiancé is quietly hanging on, and my husband – always practical – is yelling, “This violates every safety regulation I ever learned…”

All this time, the six of us, with two in broken English, were belting out “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with blistering enthusiasm. Everyone knew the words; this was something that transcended cultures and perfectly fit the moment.

“A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, aweema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, aweema-weh, a-weema-weh… In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight; in the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh… Near the village, the peaceful village, the lion sleeps tonight; Near the village, the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight…”

In that moment, there was nothing but sheer joy in the experience. No worries…be happy. That kind of joy. Why worry about safety or being eaten by predators in the wilds of the Tanzanian bush? This was heaven, and the only race here was human.

And I swear that I heard a clan of hyenas laughing along with us…

Oh – I almost forgot – were we successful in our hunt? Yes, we spotted the leopard and tracked him for a few miles, until he disappeared into thick brush.

Leopard at night

On the day of our departure, each time we made a stop in our small plane, heading closer and closer to “civilization,” something in me would protest. My heart left a piece of itself imprinted on the land.

Why return to my fast-paced life when I could retain this simplicity – this authenticity – and be part of this more genuine-feeling “Circle of Life?”

Back at my American home, I wouldn’t think of sleeping with the doors unlocked or only a wall of screens between me and my neighbors. In Tanzania, out in the bush, on safari, surrounded by thousands of predators, I felt safe and at peace. I belonged there.

Come to think of it, I probably do.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to take part in the National Geographic Genographic Project, which, with the DNA of participants all over the world, historical patterns in the collected DNA would be analyzed to learn about each person’s “deep ancestry,” or the migration paths of our ancient ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago.

What were the results of my ancestral make-up, my “ground zero?” East Africa. Which includes Tanzania, the place that felt like home. Where I belonged.

My ancestors then migrated to West Africa, to Northern Africa (Egypt), then the Sinai Peninsula, Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, to the Western Mediterranean. This route, from Eastern Africa to the Western Mediterranean, coincides with my paternal and maternal grandparents all emigrating to the USA (through Ellis Island) from Italy and Hungary in the early 1900s.

In Tanzania, my soul recognized that I was home. My cellular makeup affirmed where it all began. It was as if the land and the animals sang a song to my soul, and I answered its familiar refrain from so very long ago.

I walked in the desert but had no thirst. I sat with the animals but had no fear. I watched the Maasai dance, and the rhythm of their drums was already a part of me. Its melody sang and my soul rejoiced.

I will return to you, Tanzania. To your land, your people, your essence. I promised my soul it would once again dance in your sunset and be at peace.

Asante!

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Eyes of the Heart

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

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For more than 8 years, I volunteered for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW), an organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children.

One visit brought me to Amber, an 8-year old terminally ill with a fast-growing cancer. She had been born disabled along with severe craniofacial abnormalities. She was small for her age, her misshapen head covered with a few straggly wisps of hair. Her feeding tube and 2 catheters didn’t slow her down; she attached, emptied and re-adjusted them in record time.

As with all the MAW children I met, her eyes held an innate wisdom far beyond her years. Her wish was to go on a shopping spree at a huge mall about 3 hours from her house.

On an icy morning in the middle of winter, another MAW volunteer and I picked up Amber and her family in a limousine. Upon our arrival at the mall, representatives met us and whisked Amber into the main entrance on a red carpet. Since she tired out easily, they had a wheelchair waiting, but she never did sit in it.

streetsie.com

streetsie.com

For 5 hours, her ear-to-ear smile never left her face. She was beautiful. She bought gifts for her family, a TV, a VCR, portable CD player, CDs, stuffed animals, Disney videos, a bicycle, hand-held computer games, clothes, toys…everything she wanted. Her favorite item was a camcorder, which she held against her chest, close to her huge heart, all the way home.

Her plans were to film her family so that during the month of quarantine following her upcoming bone marrow transplant, she could watch home videos. Her parents told me she watched them over and over in the hospital, including some of her riding her new bike in the snow before the transplant. Amber often fell asleep in the hospital wearing the headphones of her CD player, even though the powerful chemotherapy had caused her to lose all the hearing in one ear, and 90% in the other.

A few months later, on my birthday, Amber succumbed to the cancer.

At her viewing, while I kneeled at her coffin, I noticed the angel pin I had bought her when we first met, twinkling on the lapel of her blouse. Seeing that, my heart broke. Suddenly, I remembered Amber’s blinding smile on her shopping spree, when she was so very beautiful, happy, smiling, at peace.

The eyes of the heart saw no disfigurement, only the shining beauty of her soul.

Rest well, dear Amber. Sing loudly, smile brightly, and dance to the music that rings in your healthy ears.

And know that you are the prettiest little girl that I’ve ever been blessed to meet…inside and out.

cherub III

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Today’s Quote

Freydoon Rassouli

Freydoon Rassouli

Each person comes into this world with a specific destiny–
he has something to fulfill,
some message has to be delivered,
some work has to be completed.
You are not here accidentally–
you are here meaningfully.
There is a purpose behind you.
The whole intends to do something through you.

~ Osho ~

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Today’s Quote

panhala.net

panhala.net

Journeying god,
pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions,
toward a wisdom not based on books,
toward a strength not bolstered by might,
toward a god not confined to heaven.
Help me to find myself as I walk in others’ shoes.

(Prayer song from Ghana, traditional, translator unknown)

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Thursday Re-View — “The Last Good-Bye”

Ira Byock, M.D., a nationally recognized authority in end-of-life care, says there are only four things left to say that matter most at life’s end (indeed, while living as well):

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

These words have the power to transform relationships, whether to heal connections at the end of life, or during day-to-day living.

As you know from several of my earlier posts (Dancing with Chopin, You are My Sunshine), my past work in Hospice was a profoundly moving part of my life journey, a vocation to which I hope to return.

I was called to a nursing home to be with with Mary and her family as she entered the final stage of life known as “active dying.” It was only a matter of a few days. Cancer had ravaged her middle-aged body to the point that she looked much older than her years. Mary was kept sedated most of the time because of the constant pain, only occasionally coming out of it to become partially aware of her surroundings.

Mary was a widow with two children, both in their mid-thirties – a daughter who lived in North Carolina and a son who lived at home to care for his surviving parent. Mother and daughter had a falling out some years ago, and their relationship was strained at best. Mother and son were close, and Tom was always at his mother’s bedside. The most time away was perhaps 5 minutes for a bathroom and coffee break. Without a family of his own, Tom was devoted to his mother. The staff told me that for the past 6 weeks, he had never missed an 18 hour day at his mother’s bedside; they often had to force him to go home for some rest.

As hours stretched into days, Mary’s coma deepened and her body temperature rose, her moments of lucidity few and far between. The attending physician noted that Mary’s core temperature was 108 degrees; he had never seen a person live with a temperature that high. For days, I watched Tom talk to his mother, telling her how much he loved her and how he knew she could beat this cancer. Mary’s doctors had explained to Tom that her organs were shutting down – her death was imminent; his head understood the facts, but his heart could not – would not – accept them. She was suffering and I found myself wondering why she was hanging on to life when she was in so much pain.

wrongfully injured

wrongfully injured

I gestured for Tom to join me in the hall.

“You need to tell your mother that it is alright for her to go,” I counseled gently. “That you’ll be okay here without her…”

He pulled back, shocked and a little angry. I was asking him to give his mother permission to die; the person he loved more than anyone in the world, the person he needed more than anyone in the world. It went against every feeling of normalcy, safety and love that coursed through him. He couldn’t find words.

“Your mother is suffering. I know you want her to be with you forever, but her body just can’t do it anymore. She needs to hear that you’ll be okay after she’s gone.” I paused. “Does your sister know just how sick your mother is?”

Tom explained that he had called her 2 weeks ago, but heard nothing since. She wasn’t even planning to come to see their mother one last time.

So that was the reason Mary struggled to stay; she needed to hear from her children – both of them – that they would be okay. Only then could she drift away, finally at peace.

“Tom – please give me your sister’s phone number. It’s essential that your mother hear her daughter’s voice. Would you like me to call her?”

He nodded his head, eyes filled with tears, then turned to go back into his mother’s room. Changing his mind, he instead went through the door marked “exit” and ran out of the building.

While I stood looking at the door, hoping to see Tom, one of Mary’s nurses came by. I told her what happened. She was as surprised as I; Tom was never absent from his mother’s side, let alone in her last few hours. She left to get the daughter’s phone number.

Anna, Mary’s daughter in North Carolina, answered on the second ring. I introduced myself, told her I was at the nursing home with Mary and advised her of the doctor’s prognosis. If Anna wanted to say good-bye, it had to be now. Her answer was crying on the other end of the line, and in her tears, I could hear regret, shock, fear. And love…I could hear love.

I explained that Anna didn’t have time to get here from North Carolina, but that I would hold the phone to Mary’s ear so that her mother could hear her voice. Even in a coma, hearing is the last sense to leave, so I felt certain that whatever Anna wanted to say to her mother, it would be heard and accepted. I told her Mary was suffering and needed Anna’s permission to die.

As I held the phone to Mary’s ear, I could hear Anna’s voice cloaked in tears. As Anna continued, Mary’s eyes remained closed, but her body visibly relaxed. At one point, I saw her lips turn up the tiniest bit, and I knew Anna had been understood. After a few minutes, I softly told Mary that I was taking away the phone. Then I spoke to Anna and described what I had seen, telling her that she had given her mother a wonderful gift and blessing. I thanked her and promised that Tom would call her in a while.

Out in the hallway, there was no sign of Tom. I went to the nurse’s station for his phone number. No answer, so I left a voice mail. Fifteen minutes later, another voice mail, asking that he please return to the nursing home. I went to sit with Mary and noticed that her right hand kept grasping the sheet into a tight knot. As I held her other hand, I explained that Tom had to leave but that he would be back.

Please, I prayed silently, please bring Tom back. In my heart, I begged Tom to return because this time, his mother needed him.

After a half hour passed, I looked up to see Tom in the doorway. He looked exhausted but determined as he entered the room. He leaned over Mary and whispered in her ear, tears streaming down his face as he clutched her hands to his heart. Her agitation disappeared as he continued, his words known only to mother and son. Finally, totally spent, Tom laid his head on their joined hands and closed his eyes.

I leaned against the wall in a shadowed corner of the room, listening to Mary’s breathing grow more labored. The intervals between breaths grew longer, until after one long exhalation, the room stilled, the only sound Tom’s choking sobs. It was over.

As the physician pronounced Mary’s time of death, I reached out to touch Tom’s shoulder in communion with his grief.

An ending and a beginning. Sacred Ground. Holy Words.

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

I offer these words up to my friends and relatives; indeed, to humankind.

But most especially to Mom and Dad, to whom I should have said all of these things while they were alive.

Please do the same, today.

Honor the Circles of Grace all around us.

hug

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Hero Dogs of 9/11: Legacy

Hero Dogs Of 9/11: Legacy

Ten years after the World Trade Center attack,
the working dog community comes together to honor the dog teams that worked at Ground Zero.

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Related post: A Few Thoughts on First Responders

Mychal’s Prayer
We’ll Never Forget

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We’ll Never Forget

9 11 tribute light

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Related posts: A Few Thoughts on First Responders

Hero Dogs of 9/11
Mychal’s Prayer

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We Remember — Mychal’s Prayer

In light of tomorrow’s date,
I thought it fitting to re-blog this post from March 23, 2013.
We remember 9/11.

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Mychal’s Prayer:

“Lord, take me where You want me to go.

Let me meet who You want me to meet.

Tell me what You want me to say,

and keep me out of Your way.”

Rev. Mychal J. Judge, O.F.M.

In Fr. Gregory Boyle (My Journey with St. Francis, the Jesuits & Pope Francis, Part II), I introduced you to a very special Jesuit. In Fr. Mychal Judge, I’d like to introduce you to a very special Franciscan.

Fr. Mychal Judge – Chaplain of the New York Fire Department. A gay, Irish, recovering alcoholic Franciscan priest, friend to the homeless, policemen, firemen, addicts, politicians, AIDS patients and so many others.

He was not a “conventional” priest, but rather a human being with flaws, like the rest of us. But a human being much beloved by thousands of people to whom he ministered, much admonished by those whom he antagonized. He was sensitive, humble, compassionate, extraverted, vain about his hair, a committed multi-tasker always on the go who kept a journal, still wrote letters and had a “wild” laugh. Hugging people, blessing strangers, ministering to the firemen and their families, advocating, listening, loving, serving and never judging.

He resided in the friary of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, the same saint who served as a role model for Fr. Mychal’s life.

Fr. Mychal responded to any fire of three alarms or more, so it made sense that on September 11th, he was at the WTC in record time.  One of the firemen who saw him in the lobby of Tower One noticed concern on Fr. Mychal’s face, his lips moving, “like he was praying.”  Minutes later, after giving Last Rites to a firefighter from Company 216, Fr. Mychal was caught in the debris from the collapse of the South Tower.

Rescuers carried him out of the rubble, captured in an iconic photograph by Shannon Stapleton, which one of Fr. Mychal’s friends calls “a modern Pietà.”

Mychal Judge III

Fr. Mychal was given Death Certificate Number 00001, a posthumous honor as the first body released from Ground Zero. Although already gone, the priest was given Last Rites by a Lieutenant on the Manhattan Traffic Task Force and a fellow New York City police officer, since no priests were available. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Sacred Ground. Light in the darkness.

Fr. Mychal’s funeral, a two-day event, brought thousands of people – blue collar workers, policemen in dress uniforms , firemen in work clothes straight from Ground Zero, a former President, Senators, mayors, governors, archbishops, cardinals, priests, the homeless, AIDS activists – so many people from all walks of life. Fr. Mychal was buried on the 23rd anniversary of his sobriety. His body may have been buried, but not his spirit. Not his memory.

As Fr. Michael Duffy, homilist at at Fr. Mychal’s Mass of Christian Burial, said:

“I think that, if he were given his choice, Mychal would prefer to have happen what actually happened. He passed through the other side of life, and now he can continue doing what he wanted to do with all his heart. …Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death…to greet them (deceased firefighters) instead of sending them there.”

In the 2006 documentary “Saint of 9/11,” a younger Fr. Mychal, when interviewed, had this to say about his life:

“Life and death – so valuable.
I wonder when or what my last half hour will be…

will it be doing something for someone, trying to save a life?”

Yes, Fr. Mychal. Your wish was granted. Your last half hour was ministering to those in need. In the midst of the chaos, you presence offered comfort and peace. You did your job – you affirmed your calling – and you did it well.

So I recite Fr. Mychal’s prayer which so resonates within me.

And I hope – indeed, I pray – that my last 30 minutes of life will be even half as good as this very human, yet very holy, Franciscan.

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Prayer for the Physical Body

DaVinci's Vitruvian Man

DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man

Prayer for the Physical Body

Today, Creator, I promise to make a new agreement with my physical body.
I promise to love my body unconditionally as my body loves me.
I promise to protect and take care of my body.
I will never again reject my body, abuse my body,
or be ashamed of how it looks.

From now on, I will accept my physical body as it is.
I will enjoy my body, and be grateful for all the pleasures of life it gives me.

Forgive me, Creator, for believing all the lies about my physical body.
Forgive me for judging my physical body against a false image of perfection.
Forgive me for everything I haven’t liked about my physical body.

Today, Creator, help me to see my physical body
as a living temple where you live.

Help me to respect my body, to love and honor my body.
I know that to treat my physical body with respect, love and honor
is to respect, love and honor your creation.
Help me, Creator, to give my physical body whatever it needs
to live in perfect health, harmony and happiness with you.

Amen.

~ Don Miguel Ruiz ~

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When Did I Start to Look Like My Mother?

When I glanced at myself in a mirror the other day, I thought I saw my mother.

That’s pretty hard to do when she passed away more than 25 years ago. But really – I thought I saw my mother. Or at least someone who looked an awfully lot like her.

That someone was me.

Wow. What an eye-opener…

When did I get so old? When did my jowls start to sag and my hair start to show some gray? What about those lines in my face or that strange growth underneath my neck? The swollen ankles? The beginnings of an apple shape when I used to only be a pear?

body type

Like I said, when did I start to look like my mother? When I looked in the mirror and a stranger looked back, it was me. That’s sobering.

Remember when your parents used to warn you about how “time flies” when you get older? I think time must have flown on the wings of a supersonic bird for this transformation to have taken place. Maybe even a pterodactyl…

It’s time for a reality check. Let’s survey this venerable temple of mine to see its history.

That knot of muscle sticking out of my left shoulder? That formed the day my son got his tonsils out in 1st grade. I hadn’t met the surgeon ahead of time, and the thought of having my only child go under the knife with a stranger had me at the Emergency Room the night after his successful surgery, in pain. That knot gets worked on every two weeks by my faithful massage therapist, 20 + years later. A badge of honor…

That crevice line on my forehead, just between and above my eyes? That’s from hearing hour after hour of tragic situations from my patients/clients/students over the years – the loss, abuse, addiction, mental illness, shame, suicidal thoughts… It takes its toll.

That vertical abdominal scar that no amount of vitamin E could make disappear? That’s the Caesarean section (almost) 28 years ago for the birth of my son. I can still remember the feeling of the two surgeons’ hands inside my body (yes, you do feel pressure, but no pain with an epidural). Or else it’s from the hysterectomy that was recommended I have 2 years later because of my cancer history.

That cough that turns up when I laugh too much? That’s from 7th grade, when my teacher used to actually take points away from all my tests (I almost always got 100’s because I studied all the time), explaining to my parents and me, “Theresa doesn’t need all those As; other students in the class need them more.” It was weeks until our family doctor determined that my cough was stress-related; after all, it wasn’t fair that the As I worked so hard for were taken away from me, was it? What a fine example of a teacher…

Those cracked caps on my back teeth? Those came from when I fainted in the bathroom while recovering from “GOK (God Only Knows) Disease” and clenched my teeth when I hit the floor. After which my brain couldn’t put together thoughts, let alone sentences for almost 2 months… The only way this wordsmith could survive that frustrating period was to figure out that maybe God wanted me to be quiet and listen.
teeth

That tiny scar in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen? That’s the emergency gall bladder surgery, where my gall bladder went from 100% to zero percent functioning in what seemed like the space of a day. I never really liked fried foods that much anyway…

Those skin indentations on my face that look like scars every morning? That’s from the face mask that I have to wear because I stop breathing 11 times every hour while asleep – that’s with the C-pap machine. The good news is that the impressions disappear about an hour after I start the day.

That shadow of sadness that lurks deep within my eyes? That goes along with the crevice line on my forehead (see above) along with struggles with depression. You know – that “melancholy” that fueled Abraham Lincoln’s greatness and made him the perfect leader during our Civil War; that illness that Winston Churchill called his “black dog” and helped win World War II.

The graying hair that I put a rinse on now and again to make me look less “frumpy?” [An aside here – why is it that gray hair in a woman is often considered “frumpy” while gray hair in a man is often considered “distinguished?”] I think the most recent contributor was my husband being sick with his own GOK Disease, in the hospital for a week and unable to work for almost a month (see: “My Pilgrimage to ???“). That, along with the fact that there is yet to be a diagnosis…  Oh, and let’s not forget my own hospital visit last fall and the mini-stroke that brought about my stepping aside from my job.

The occasional swollen ankles? I don’t use salt, I drink plenty of fluids and I’m not going into congestive heart failure. I think my legs are just tired of carrying me around for so long. Plus, they outran wildlife on the Serengeti Plain – that’s no small feat!

The addition of a telltale apple shape on top of the always present pear shape? This one, I must say, is from the release of gallons of Cortisol caused by stress, which is directly related to belly fat distribution in women. Why it hasn’t disappeared since I took time off from working is a mystery to me. But, I just ordered an abs wheel and exercise mat on-line, so I’m going to get back to just a pear shape in the next few months. And I must say – I never thought I’d be glad to return to “just” a pear shape…

The road map of lines that cover my face? Let’s see – almost 12 years of higher education after high school, marriage, divorce, setting up my own practice, building a house and an office, moving, changing careers, death of both parents, multiple surgeries, responsibility-laden jobs, death of 3 cats in the past 14 months (see: “In Memory of Peanut“), my husband’s hospitalization, being a mother and wife… I’m stopping before I get too depressed; those transitions can do a person in! (see: “The In-Between Time“)

modernantiaging.com

modernantiaging.com

Last, but not least, what’s with the loose pouch of skin fat under my chin? The one that my Mom thought for sure was a tumor growing when she first noticed hers. The one that makes me look like I’m related to a turkey. This one is another mystery, but I know it must be related to the gravitational pull that influences ocean tides and sunspots.

But this seasoned body – so flawed, scarred, exhausted, sagging – is also the body that is still standing. It’s weathered a lot of storms, and by doing so, forged my own unique path that has gifted me with the privilege of being present with others while they examine their own scars – the kind that we don’t actually see.

And perhaps most sacred of all, 28 years ago, this maturing body delivered the miracle of my son, who I count as my greatest blessing.

So, I’ll ask again: when did I start to look like my mother?

I’m thinking that with everything she went through in her life (see: “Remembrance“), that’s not a bad way to look. Even in the last month of her life, battling breast cancer at 59 in the hospital, head shaved, feverish, swollen – she was beautiful.

She never complained, she knew the life stories of the nurses who brought her special foods and drinks to tempt her appetite, and she faced her cancer with courage for as long as she was physically able.

Like I said, Mom was beautiful. The essence of who she was – her spirit – the part of her that could not be diminished regardless of what was destroying her body – shone forth.

Now that I think of it, I’m honored to look like my mother.

slowjams.com

slowjams.com

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