Farewell  …

“A death is not the extinguishing of a light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.” — Rabindranath Tagore

I am a Hospice volunteer.  It offers me a uniquely special means of learning … learning the diversity of the human death experience and the journey we each take in making the transition from physical to non-physical.  It also offers opportunities for connection and self-reflection, both cherished pieces of my life’s day-to-day tapestry.

I have a patient that is now transitioning to whatever awaits us all.  His journey touched me deeply, deeper than those in the past.  I visited one last time this past evening … a final connection as he moves closer to the Great Spirt and what it may represent for him.

What follows is my final message to him as he lets go of what “is” and steps into “what will be”.  Such a special journey … such lessons learned … such feelings felt.  Most of this message was captured in a final card I left and shared with him by his daughter later that evening.  His friendship and the friendship with his family are truly treasures … and has changed me.

Farewell my friend …

Yes … farewell my friend.  Your journey towards joining all things is nearing completion.  You have walked the path of a “kind warrior”, surrendering with grace to a body ready to change, and a life ready to transition.

I want to say thank you.  Thank you for sharing your stories of a life richly lived as we sat on your patio and I wrapped you in blankets as we talked.  Thank you for sharing your warm and wonderfully rich smile and laughter.  Thank you for allowing me to feed you and learn what a deep connection such a simple act can create.  Thank you for translating into English those news casts we watched together in the language of your birth.  And thank you for allowing me to learn from your walk towards the unknown … learn in ways that someday may help me in understanding and being peaceful partners with life’s final journey.

You will be missed in this world, but now you will experience whatever awaits us all in the next.  And as I hike, an act that opens my heart to nature and touches my soul, I will sense your presence in the space among the leaves, in the breeze that soothes my face, and the warmth that greets my day.   You will be there in all there is … your reward for traveling this journey called “being human” … and you will blend with all souls past and present joining you in your new existence.

You are loved by many.  You have lived a life worth living.  And now a new existence … a new journey will soon begin.  May you now be at peace with the Great Spirit in whatever form it may take.

You have added a rich chapter to my story.  Thank you, my friend.  Yes … your dawn has arrived … now may peace walk beside you forever more.

Sincerely and with great respect,

Me

Filling spaces …

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour

Yes … I cautiously emerge from a long period of silence.  A period where reflections continued, but my voice making them known felt weak and unresponsive.  Over time, this pattern became entrenched.  I gave up what I now see was a critical tool, my tool, for balance, self-understanding, and reflection … my writing.

So now I take a small step, venturing out once again into the realm of captured phrases and words.  My topic?  It is a simple one … one that more and more frequently surfaces as I travel ever deeper into my maturity.  Final transition.

I love hiking.  For me, it is a metaphor for life.  It offers precious physical and spiritual respite where personal facades drop and I am able to peer into my deeper self.  Such caverns are places needing visiting, especially for me.  Places I need to go when trying to understand my place in this Universe.  Places I need to go to find and hold on to the loving peace within me.  Places offering me a sense of balance in an unstable world.

Recently, my wonderings came across a moment where my spiritual eyesight suddenly sharpened and cleared.  It was during a treasured retreat, encountered while looking out from a deck surrounded by trees and framing a glorious view onto the surrounding nature I was about to walk within. 

As I stood in this place of peace and nature, I felt my inner being pushing away the facades to reveal understanding.  I realized an answer was being offered, one giving me both greater understanding and peace.  Added clarity to my understanding of my final transition.  Simply stated …  I will become the energy filling the spaces.

The concept universal energy has been shared with me before.  But now it is the “right time” not only to hear but feel and integrate it with my inner spiritual self and feelings.  And the setting … the context provided by the sacred space of my retreat enriches understanding.  As I was looking out from the deck, I could see the branches of close evergreens wave and dance in the strong winds.  And I could also see the spaces.  Places among the substance where emptiness resides and flourishes.  And I realized that it will be my energy at my final transition that will fill these gaps and help complete the cosmic picture always present around us.

Embracing my new understanding freed me.  I settled into the “now” for a moment and more clearly recognized the “path of living” I now can focus upon knowing what transition awaits me.  The path … “Living each day fully while unburdening myself from the mistakes of the past, or the fears of an unknown future.  Live free to experience … fill my life with experiences … live free of unnecessary limitations so that the full measure of my life may felt and embraced.”  For me, this is the human experience needed to play out as I approach my transition.

And I clearly see the song I will sing at transition.  My part in the Universe’s opera.  Among the trees dancing before me I see space.  I see that all is energy in some state of existence.  And I sense my pending role being one of transitioning from my current physical existence to one of energy … energy that will fill the spaces I see among the branches.  Pure energy partnered with all existing energy, filling the void among the physical elements making up the whole that is existence in this Universe.

My burden is now lighter.  I sense less fear knowing my intended journey.  The idea of partnering with all energy, suddenly joining that which exists in all places, creates a peaceful presence within me.  Connection among ALL things at a single moment … Sensations not limited by humanly senses but integrated with new, expansive, and breath-taking means to experience.  To feel everything everywhere in the same moment, and not filter it through some physical receptor but to simply “be it”.  Could it get any better?  I think not.  And to know it awaits me brings deep, rich peace to each breath and step of this and all remaining days as I live following my path to transition.

The destination is known while the route is not.  It represents life as we humans experience it.  It represents the “where” of our future as we realize the wealth drawn from our being in the now.  But the idea … the concept … my filling the spaces … brings peace, a sense of understanding, and a sense of enthusiasm for continuing the living of life fully, unburdened by fears or self-created and self-imposed limitations and boundaries.

Ahh … the branches dance with such grace.  Yes, I too will someday move as gracefully while experiencing all the Universe offers in a single moment.  And how it will feel is unknown because instead of “feeling it”, I will simply “be it”.

Stepping over the cliff and living life …

“Intimacy is not purely physical. It’s the act of connecting with someone so deeply, you feel like you can see into their soul.” — Anonymous

I am one that enjoys the rich reprieve from life’s challenges offered by time away.  Where some might plan “vacations”, I create retreats … prolonged windows of time where escape and deep, self-reflection is achieved.  For the past several years, I begin each new year with a “retreat” to the beautiful Sonoma coast and spend a week or more in a remote yet very comfortable setting.  Solitude, nature, views that inspire, and convenience to hiking are only some of the treasures I find while visiting.  And among such treasures, I find the most precious golden coin … time to reflect and re-discover myself, my journey, and the intentions guiding my life.

This year’s retreat has ended.  It has proved to be different than in past years, likely a result of the state of the world, COVID, and my own increasing awareness of my approaching life horizon.  However, it’s also different because I am on the cusp of undertaking significant change, change possibly affecting key relationships and the directions I travel on my life’s journey into the final frontier.

I have placed upon the table my most significant relationships.  Relationships and their connections are truly at my core.  With them revealed, I can see how they “fit” into the puzzle of my life, and how they offer a diverse richness meeting my needs.  I clearly see that am truly fortunate, for the collage of relationships I see before me have filled my heart with joy and richness.  Even so, I sense a “gap” … some place where my inner voice suggests that something remains untapped within me, wanting to express itself within the context of deeper, more intimate connection.

So, with the loving help and encouragement from a trusted best friend, I have set sail on an adventure.  A quest to find a loving, welcoming port to dock with so that feelings held within me and not yet surfaced can finally be released and experienced in their fullness.  New seas offering unfamiliar currents and tides await me.  As with many such adventures, discovery of the intended land is not guaranteed.  But without stepping over the cliff while clutching trust, kindness, and love, one may never experience one, final truth … one final set of moments filled with the deepest of feelings spawned by the touching of souls.  Feelings meant to be carried along into the next phase of existence.

Life is indeed a journey.  Life never offers guarantees.  Life is sometimes a walk close to the cliff’s edge.  And life is occasionally and purposefully jumping over that cliff trusting that some soft place exists to land so that the journey can again continue.  So, I have stepped … and we will see where I land.

Rain …

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore.

 

The atmospheric river has arrived and passed.  The sounds of its washing over the land tells me that this morning and the day behind it are likely wet and chilly.  Rain has such a wonderful way of finding passage through whatever barriers mere mortals try to erect.  But I will do my best and the rest will simply be life’s “wet spots” carried along until I can shower and change.

Rain is a powerful thing.  It evokes memories long placed on shelves of the past.  It evokes feelings, many that are soft and touching the realm of sadness.  This morning I rest in such a moment … close if not integrated with each character I type or thought I materialize.  Rain “seems” to be the catalyst, offering the magical background rhythm triggering m reflection upon a life lived.  Lived in a window of time called “a life”, and unique to all other windows of all other humans that have come or will arise in the future.

Questions surface … “Has there been purpose?”  “Has there been meaning?”  “Has there been love?”  “Has there been a difference made for the spending of life’s mental and physical energy?” And likely even more questions await reflection as the day progresses.  Are there answers?  Maybe some, but none really exist since life happens … the dance occurs based upon a rhythm set by the choices I make, the feelings they provoke, and the Universe’s creativeness with what occurs.  Yes, I am a passenger on a train to an intended destination.  The challenge (one among many) is to rest in peace with traveling without knowledge of the actual route … traveling while becoming more of an observer of what unfolds then using my “compass” of feelings to make more choices to continue taking me towards my intention or at least in the direction I desire and wish to go.  A process requiring trust and practice … at least for me.

And there is more … but will remain unsaid.   But the juices flow … the mood is present … the song of the rain plays … and the train continues its journey.  The search for understanding will continue even though simply accepting may offer relief.  Using my compass, choices will be made, and I will continue looking for that peaceful place to rest as I continue to change while staring out the window of the train, watching a life unfold.

A formula … my formula … for walking my path … 

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

At this time in life, every minute has added value.  With the more frequent sensing of the approaching horizon, I must act swiftly.  Each “now” must be fully lived, and personal work needs doing to help me linger longer and longer in this “now”.  I must be a catalyst for change because it is only through change we grow, and it is through growth I enable myself to experience new, fresh, and joyful extensions of who I am … who I was meant to be.  And it is through experience that I discover feelings … the rich treasure awaiting my discovery.  Once discovered, the “taking in” and integration of feelings allows me to live a new, freshly defined part of the precious life being lived in the moment … life lived in the “now”.  A formula … an approach to ensuring I experience the richest and most fulfilling life possible.

So, it is feelings that await me at the end of the rainbow of the “now”.  Feelings remain the focus. They calmly await my discovery, knowing that it is within my control to remove and set aside barriers in my peaceful and loving path.  And by continuing the path revealed, my temporary existence in this physical plane will become richer and more complete making this lifetime a lifetime worth living. 

When a friend passes …

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison

Sadness, emotional pain, feelings of emptiness, and more visit me in volume as I move through these early stages of grief.  A trusted friend … playmate … loving irritant … and amazing partner in life has died.  His death sears my heart with a hot iron, leaving a fresh, deep, and painful wound.  And though I know that with time healing will occur, I also know that the residual scar will always bring forth the loving memories connected with the time we spent together.  Ollie was his name, and “friend and kitty” was his game … and yesterday’s painful decision to take away his suffering will linger for some time until healing begins.

At times like this, the most powerful losses in your life parade by, lingering just long enough to pull hidden feelings from deep cavities within your heart.  This newest pain will soon begin to find itself into these archives and add to future moments when one must feel them to move through the intense emotion of deep loss.  But now the wound is just too fresh and still moist, so time … more time … is needed to allow enough healing to enable me to travel the journey of life unencumbered once again.  Until then I simply need to “tough it out” while honoring my feelings and allowing them to vent in meaningful and healthy ways.

The intensity of the pain is a measure of the depth of loving connection.  In life, the formula is that to experience the joys of deep, loving connection one must become vulnerable and with such vulnerability comes the future cost of painful loss.  Its just the way it is (through my eyes) … the price of admission so to speak … but a cost well worth the incredible joy experienced.  Life is supposed to create joy in our journey, and creating deep, penetrating, loving connection is an enabler to doing so.

So, I mourn and reflect. Dry my eyes at moments of intense, spontaneous sadness. Fondly recall joyful moments and behaviors that brought life to its richness and travel the journey of grief.  It’s a journey one cannot escape for the treasure of love gained.  It simply is what is … and I will walk in occasional pain until the pain becomes memories.

Good by my friend … my loved one … my Ollie!  I am grateful I got to hold you in my arms as you drifted into your new phase of existence.  I miss you so very much, but I am happy that you suffer no more.  Thank you for enriching my life and making me more whole and loving in the process.  You were a gift that I will never forget.  Be peace and joy …

Life is a leaf …

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
                                                 ― A.A. Milne

A leaf … unfurled amidst the rich greenness of a Wisconsin driveway and embracing its share of the sun’s rays as it is proudly displayed on its host tree.  Rays traversing their journey of 93 million miles and making the 8-minute voyage for each ray of luminescence.  What a magical occurrence!

This leaf, now warm and being fed, is living out its life before me.  Its cycle of life and death synonymous with mine only compressed into something us humans call a season.  Its simplicity is something to envy because it is focused on living each moment fully without the burden of reflecting on the past or anticipating the future.  The leaf is truly and authentically in the moment.

This is likely one of many reasons I seek out and immerse myself in nature.  Its classroom of simplicity repairs what is lost as I navigate my human experience.  It offers opportunity to regain my personal perspective and create feelings of alignment with the Universe.  It slows me down, enabling me to rest more peacefully in the moment while casting aside expectations of what life should be … making me accepting of what life simply is, and more willing to freely explore opportunities offered in that moment. 

That leaf is meant to reach out and feel the warm of the moment, not wonder how the sun’s ray might feel later down the path of life.  That leaf has no need to concern itself with how it hung from the tree yesterday, nor does it worry about how the wind will blow it tomorrow.  It simply lives in the very moment, fully satisfied with everything, willing to experience all that is presented it, and fully expressing itself and all its personal essence.  What a wonderful way to live!

Where some mornings impermanence is the theme, today the theme is the singularity of the moment.  The act of being vulnerable, standing naked in the moment of the “now” and knowing it is what is needed to squeeze every oz of joy from a life being lived in my “season” called life.

Ahh … feel the breeze … sense the movement … bathe in the warmth … explore the feelings … life is made from the living of it.

A tapestry never woven …

“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

On my journey, I have come to see that my life is like many things … many metaphors that accurately reflect the feelings felt as each day is traveled and lived.  Recently, there is this sense that life is something of a blanket wrapped around me for spiritual and psychological warmth.  A blanket being woven as I wear it, the weave ever changing in color and texture and reflecting what is needed to feel joyful and whole. 

But as I wrap myself in this ever-growing blanket, feeling the warmth and tactile pleasure offered, I also realize that there are gaps … holes where the colors and treads fail to merge and join.  Spots, sometimes large, where the soothing warmth escapes and cold winds enter.  Gaps that seem to forever announce that life is imperfect and simply a quest for the best possible … not the absolute.  Gaps where emotional chills signal the quest remains for the right color and thread and needle to close the space and experience yet more warmth. 

And as some of the gaps are made whole and warmth created or restored, I also realize that the weaving of my personal blanket will never end.  No moment in my journey will ever bring that intense sense of completion.  Such feelings may be reserved for that final moment of transition where whatever is beyond the human experience presents itself and I step through the portal into the next plane, how ever it may look and feel.

So, the life task before me seems to be one of moving with intention to discover, assess, then close whatever gaps disrupt the flow of my blanket’s design and warmth while also knowing that gaps will always remain.  And once that realization is internalized, letting go of the concept of completion and moving forward simply focused on incremental gains in warmth and pleasure.  A subtle but dramatic shift for me, but one that I sense will bring greater joy.  At least that is how it seems today. 

And look there … a hole … now what color and thread might “feel” the best? Let me see …

It’s my life, and it’s now or never.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau

Recently, I spent a week in the Sierras.  It is a place like no other, offering my soul the deep emotional cleansing so often needed to maintain my inner sense of wholeness and peace.  As I sat on granite thrones, serenaded by ageless trees as they were touched by the timeless wind, my senses were flooded with “Tree Music” … a rich, powerful symphony played out in a theater hosted by the Universe and touched by God. 

Such sounds have always moved me … calling forth inner songs and melodies rarely surfaced but deeply felt.  In those moments I thought of its place within the puzzle of my life, and clearly realized it is pure, unequaled joy.  Alone, serenaded while gazing out onto the basin leading to other ranges, I thought of this moment.  Its richness. Its uniqueness.  Its rarity.  Such a gift, especially while knowing the fact that the forces collaborating in this instant will be gone forever in moments ahead.

As I reflected on the “feelings” being felt, I saw in the moment its significance … the “why” I have been given this rare instant in the Universe’s playground of time.  It is to tell me that my life too …  my instants of the “now” … will also soon disappear into the past.

And it is because of that impermanence … that known axiom of Universal experience, that a message once again clearly voiced itself.  The message … one must live in the instant.  One must not falter in the void of time for deeper consideration, but rather react from a wilder, less tame place triggered by emotion and feelings. 

My observation … when one reaches a place along life’s journey such as me, impermanence becomes more pronounced … nearer … more poised to sweep away the moment.  I see I must shed caution and deep consideration and focus on reacting based on feelings and instant response.  “If not now, then when …” a close friend recently proclaimed.  And that phrase … those simple, chosen words now serve as my reminder on how to live each moment given me.  The time is now … “feelings” drive the choices … and each moment must be lived, not skipped, or delayed, but embraced with all that dwells inside me.

As captured in a Bon Jovi song …

It’s my life, and its now or never.

I ain’t going to live forever.

I just want to live until I die.

Joyful life … joyful aging … a journey of change

“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.”   – Hasidic saying

My last entry talked to embracing “change”, seeing it as the catalyst to truly making joyful life decisions.  As I look back across this past month, I wanted to assess my movement in this new direction.  Have I truly “changed” and begun to embrace a new, daily awareness of bringing myself joy?  Have I tuned myself to a new melody … a new song reflecting a fresher day-to-day life?  Am I moving towards someplace new so that the old no longer defines the Me?  Just some of the questions surfacing as I reflect upon and explore answers.

Reflection and non-judgmental assessment … powerful tools for a man traveling his end years and who desires each moment to bring him richness.  A man that now wants to morph into his increasingly mature persona, benefit from wisdom gained on his journey, and walk more peacefully with the natural forces converging on his years.

So, I look back and compare now to then while determining if I resist or embrace the “changing” me.  I am encouraged!  Here are two examples of me being true to my intentions …

  • Wilderness backpacking and hiking – Backpacking and hiking are truly my passion.  Both are softer now, respecting a body aged by time and an active life.  The days where I defined myself by the miles hiked and the weight carried have morphed into a new metric focused on the time spent in settings that evoke a spiritual sense of wellbeing and deep sense of connection with nature.  Instead of working harder, I listen more to the songs sung by nature and the planet.  More often I now embrace kinder approaches to hiking where the need to briefly rest while going uphill is accepted and seen as simply part of my natural cadence, and not seen as weakness or failure. Acceptance of the new “natural cadence” both aligns with my physical reality but also offers joyful satisfaction, intensified by the increased focus on the spiritual qualities of the setting and connection with nature.  Yes, the package is quite different, both inside and outside, but the sense of “fit” is significant, resulting in more joyful play doing something I deeply enjoy.
  • Exercise and conditioning – Exercise, long a measure of my “who I am” now no longer is defined by miles ran or intensity of the training circuit.  The mantra of “no pain, no gain” is replaced by determining how my routines and effort enable me to remain active while years pass.  Yes, my body leaves my workout knowing muscles have worked.  My weight routines remain meaningful while the focus shifts and becomes more subdued and accepting of less weight in favor of less post-routine discomfort or injury.  But it is now more about how good it feels … how consistently engaging in weights and other exercise allows me to remain active and able to fully engage in my outdoor passions as I consciously embrace co-existing with my body as it leans toward stiffness and less flexibility.

More examples exist but I feel confident my new inner song is heard.  Much more change awaits, and I certainly have things I continue to cling to or have yet to define which create conflict between my “now” and my “once was”.  But I now use those moments as a compass pointing me to the places needing my personal work.

And why put effort into understanding and reforming these points?  Because each point of conflict reflects a place in my life where joy is locked out or impaired.  The payoff is great for the work directed at these points helps lead me in my desired direction.  And that exploration is now done with greater tolerance for things I cannot do as I did when a younger man. 

Yes, I sense I still have much work ahead to be more “living in the moment” and at peace with the idea of age and death.  My life has become so wonderfully full and rich, and my health so good that when something arises that might cause a crack in that shell, I can feel the attachment creating fears along with the yearning to understand and not fall victim to the message.  And if time were spent, I am sure other messages would emerge.  It is interesting what is being triggered.  The Universe seems to be opening a door into a room I have not decorated … maybe I should make sure that I take advantage of it … and bathe in the expressions it evokes.