Category: Bereavement

A Luna Moth Encounter

A Luna Moth Encounter

Last night, I  did something I’d never done before: I attended  a group session with a psychic medium. And it was mind-blowing. I hadn’t planned to do it, but it’s interesting how the universe works.

It all began with a visit from a luna moth Sunday night.

I was doing some work on the porch that evening. Before going to bed, I put everything away and proceeded to shut the porch windows. As I approached the last window, I noticed a lovely, emerald-toned luna moth about five inches wide, with elegant, feathery antennae, suspended on the screen. She seemed to be looking at me, waiting for me to notice. I gasped with amazement.

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I’d never seen a luna moth before and had wanted to ever since reading Eric Carle’s picture book, The Very Quiet Cricket, to my children when they were young. Even though I was quite tired, I took out my gear and spent the next 45 minutes photographing the luna moth from inside and outside the porch.

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It felt like a very special visit, and before I turned out the lights, I pressed my hands together in a prayerful gesture, bowed to the luna moth, and thanked her for visiting.

Then I did something I never do, not knowing why: I woke up Jack to tell him there was a luna moth on the porch window. It was action driven by pure intuition. And then he did something he doesn’t normally do: Instead of grouching at me for disturbing his sleep, he sat up and, in an interested tone of voice asked, “Really?” I was surprised that he wanted to see the luna moth. Unbeknownst to me, before he fell asleep, he saw a picture of one online and thought strongly about how much he wants to see one because he never had before. He fell asleep with the picture of the luna moth on his phone and thoughts of it in his head. In addition, he had an experience during the day that brought to mind someone named Luna. So when he saw the luna moth on the porch – right next to the table where he does his spiritual reading and writing every morning – it was very powerful and significant for him. The next day, after he explained the significance to me, I summed it up by saying that what we are seeking is also seeking us.

I went to work in the morning, and a woman who was a substitute teacher in the building had some free time and was sent to my classroom to help out. After the children went to lunch, we talked for a while. We’d conversed once earlier in the year when she was helping in my classroom. I sensed we were on a similar wavelength and told her I had a story to share with her that I thought she’d understand. So I told her about the luna moth on the window screen, and she got the significance of it. The conversation deepened, and she asked me if I’d ever been to a psychic medium. She planned to attend a session later in the week and thought I might be interested in going and wrote down the information. The way she spoke of him gave me a good feeling. Even though it was an incredibly busy week with report cards due, my intuition nudged me to go.

So I did, along with my adult daughter, an open mind, and no expectations. When the psychic medium, Adam, entered the freshly smudged room filled with the earthy fragrance of sage, I felt immediately drawn to his gentle, loving, joyful energy. No ego! As he explained the process to us before beginning, the electricity went out – something which apparently hadn’t happened there before! It’s often said that disembodied spirits are able to manipulate electricity, and I felt the presence of spirits was strong.

The session lasted for two and a half hours, and there were probably 20 women (interestingly, no men) in attendance. An hour and a half into it, nobody had “come through” for me, and we took a brief break. I went to the deserted second floor to use the bathroom and whispered, “Come on, Mom! Where are you?” In my mind, I heard her say, “I’m here! I’m just waiting my turn.” And that would be so like her – to stand back graciously and allow others to go first. She was never one to push her way to the front.

When the session resumed, Adam led us through a meditation to help us connect with loved ones who have passed on. My grandmother came through first, followed by my mom. (They were the same two who came to my daughter, seated next to me.) I asked each of them a question and received an answer. Then Adam went back to connecting with the spirits who were gathered to communicate through him. At one point, I heard my mom’s voice inside my head say, “I’m next!” and my heart began to pound. Then Adam said my sister’s name and mentioned a young boy with a musical connection. He said “she” (the spirit) was with him a lot. He said he saw an acoustic guitar, and I knew it was my mom coming through, so I spoke up.

For the next 10-15 minutes, so much information came through to my daughter and me from my mom and my grandmother! It seemed like my grandmother was there but letting my mom do the talking – which was often the case during their earthly existence. I am not going to relate specific information, but the content that came through via images, words, and the “language” of intuition was astonishingly accurate and meaningful. (I hadn’t provided any personal information beforehand other than my first name when I signed in.)

Adam described features of a landscape I had been to recently and said that my mom had been there with me. He quoted – word for word – something my son had said to me three days prior about the ways in which my mom and I are alike and different. He knew my mom died of cancer and said she’d had it for two years then immediately corrected himself because he saw her bring her hands closer together in a “shortening” gesture and said she had it for two years but only knew about it for a few months. He referenced that I make “good bread” (which is true) and said that she (or my grandmother?) is with me when I make bread.

In addition to seeing an acoustic guitar, he saw an airplane and a theater stage. If I could illustrate my mom’s life in three symbols, those would be the ones I’d choose. She was passionate about learning to play guitar during the final years of her life, had a career as a flight attendant early in life, and enjoyed a long career working at a performing arts center for 35 years, until retiring only a few years before she died. She and my dad met when they both worked for the airlines and always loved to travel. For her funeral services, the three objects on the altar (as per her instructions) were her guitar, her flight attendant hat, and an autographed baton given to her by her favorite conductor.

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Adam explained that my mom is still very strong around me because I talk to her frequently, and she wanted me to know that I need not worry about these conversations keeping her earthbound because it’s perfectly healthy and fine, and she has free will to come and go. That really spoke to me because when I have my conversations with her – out loud if I’m alone or inside my head if I’m not – I often tell her that I don’t want to pull her back here. I worry that missing her so much or trying to communicate with her will prevent her from moving on to where she needs to be. So this seemed to be a direct response from her to my very sincere concerns about that. Adam didn’t say this to anyone else in the room.

The experience leaves me convinced that Adam truly was in touch with a dimension in which our deceased loved ones continue to exist. I could write many more paragraphs about the content that came through – meaningful and relevant content, including specific messages to my daughter and me and details about us that very few people are aware of. However, it would be difficult to truly understand the potency of it without experiencing the energy in the room. That is something I can’t convey verbally. I’ve continued to process the experience for the past 24 hours, making connections and remembering more details. One connection I didn’t make until this morning was that right when the energy was shifting from someone else to my daughter and me, Adam saw the image of a butterfly and said that when certain animals are around you, the spirit of your loved one is with you.

The luna moth!

The same luna moth that led me to Adam’s group session in the first place, when I followed my intuition and shared the encounter with someone I barely knew.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Waking from the Dream

Waking from the Dream

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
Hafiz

I’m getting tired of writing about grief and loss. My plan was to write my way through the first year without my mom. It’s not that I thought the feelings of loss would disappear or diminish after the one year marker had come and gone. I just didn’t want to dwell on them – for there is so much else going on!  So much else to write about! Positive, beautiful stuff.

There have been many moments in the past week when ordinary images have awakened me in some way. For example, waking up to the rising sun shining through the window filled me with gratitude and a simple prayer: May we rise in the morning fully aware of the value of the gift of this new day and resolve to bring our highest self into expression. In other words, may we wake up and shine! May the first thought we think when we wake up in the morning be positive and hopeful and set the tone for the day.

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On the creek yesterday afternoon, I was able to get closer than usual to a great blue heron and was impressed by the bird’s keen attention, which I interpreted as not thinking or planning but simply being fully present, and from that state of presence discerning where to be, what to do, and when to act. The heron reawakened me to the value of here-and-now presence.

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Opportunities to awaken and expand our consciousness surround us all the time, whether or not we notice them. It’s a matter of mindfulness and perception.

I could write about either of the above images – or many others, as well. But this is an extraordinarily hectic time of year as I wrap up yet another school year and attend to a dizzying array of paperwork, meetings, and deadlines. There really isn’t much time to write during most of June, so I haven’t. Then along comes something that demands to be written, immediately – for last night, I dreamed of my mom. And it threw me.

I barely had enough time to fall asleep before I dreamed that I walked out of the living room, and when I returned, my mom was sitting in the chair. Sometimes in dreams, it takes me a few moments to remember that she has died in waking life. But this time it was instant. I exclaimed, “Mommy!! It’s so good to see you!” (I haven’t called her “Mommy” since I was a young child.) Then I woke up.

The dream only lasted for a few seconds, but it took my breath away. I felt a bit panicked and anxious upon waking and realizing acutely that I will never again experience that particular joy and comfort in this lifetime – for she is physically gone forever from my life.

I’ve written previously about the waves of grief. When these waves hit, they hit hard. It feels like a wave crashing over me with such force that it knocks me over, and I lose my footing. I suppose I should just allow myself to float back up to the surface without so much resistance to “what is”. It’s a very unpleasant feeling.

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I believe it is also an invitation to go deeper and to get in touch with who I Am at the core. The totality of (my) consciousness, where I experience love through being the most loving person I can be, rather than depending on a certain person to fulfill certain emotional needs. It is so much more fulfilling to relate to others from the higher, infinite Self than from the lower, egoic self. The higher Self is like a sun that shines its light freely. It doesn’t need anything from another person in order to feel complete. It is free to appreciate and enjoy the other without any expectations, to be grateful for what was and what is. It is able to find beauty in the present rather than focus on what is missing. When we walk with presence and gratitude, we don’t worry about the future because we trust our footsteps and know we will be okay.  In this manner, each step blesses and enriches our journey.

I recently listened to an Enneagram presentation by Robert Holden and was struck by the notion that on a spiritual level, there is no such thing as a broken heart. Our expectations and hopes break, but not our heart. The essence of who we are can’t be broken because it is made of love. When the waves hit, it’s useful to remember who we are when we’re not suffering and to reconnect with the groundless being that can contain it all – the ocean, itself, which is so much greater than a single wave.

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There’s oh so much I wish I could talk about with my mom, but I won’t be able to, ever, in this lifetime – at least not in the way we were accustomed to communicating. It can be painful to awaken from a dream to the realization that I don’t have a mom anymore and will never experience the joy of seeing her in the same room as me. When I fall into ego and forget who I really am, it feels so lonely.  And when it happens, it’s time to call upon the inner Mother and nurture the little egoic self with kindness and compassion. It is a call to be present to the beauty and goodness here and now rather than get lost in yearning for what is missing. To experience love by loving, rather than yearning for love. Generate it from within.

Why do we characterize others with qualities that we think we don’t have in ourselves and therefore need from them, when who we really are contains the totality of consciousness? The solution is not to look to others for what they can give us – to fill our holes – but to expand our consciousness and cultivate those qualities in ourselves. And then we can REALLY love, from a source that is a blessing and not a burden for others.

From where I am writing, I can see the river sparkling with sunlight. It’s time to engage with the splendor of this new day, one grateful footstep at a time.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Year Later

One Year Later

Soon buds and leaves
will fill the empty spaces.
In the mind of this love
The fissures mend themselves.

-Sharon Salzberg

This week marked my mom’s first “angelversary.” In the early evening on Memorial Day last year, our family gathered around her bed to say goodbye. She passed on during the night, in the wee morning hours.

This year, Memorial Day weekend was pretty rough as I remembered each day leading up to her death. Ideally, I would have been more mindful and resilient, but I was worn out from various personal and work-related matters and was not at my most resourceful. I cried a lot. However, one morning later in the week, I woke up feeling peaceful and hopeful. Mercifully, the energy seems to have shifted.

On the evening that marked the official anniversary, the weather and the colors of the sunset were essentially the same as they were exactly one year prior.

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There was a familiar holiness to the evening, a deep, comforting peace in the air. Before going to bed, I stepped outside and savored the intoxicating fragrance of black locust blossoms that permeated the warm, evening air as a few fireflies flashed under the light of the rising moon. I returned to the practice of writing in a daily gratitude journal, realizing that gratitude makes all the difference in the world.

The remainder of my mom’s ashes were interred during the week, and yesterday, family and a few close friends gathered for a ceremony at the cemetery and formed a circle of love around her grave. The circle of the year – a long cycle of holidays and rituals – is now complete.

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But I have to say… This past year has been the most intense, challenging, and vulnerable year of my life, as I tried my best to adjust to the physical loss of my mother and best friend. The toughest parts have been not being able to pick up the phone and call her to share news and yearning for the kind of presence only a mom can provide. 

I  journeyed deep into the wilderness, although on the surface I continued to go to work every day and did my best to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities. I functioned to the best of my ability despite feeling like I was living two different lives. And I learned so much.

I learned a lot about the nature of codependence and the importance of putting our foot down even when it breaks our heart to do so. I learned that we can neither depend on anyone else to rescue or complete us, nor can we save anyone from doing the hard work that is necessary for their own growth. The best we can do for others is to be a loving, radiant presence – a beacon of light and inspiration rather than a sponge. I learned not to look to anyone else to give me what is already latent inside me, for others can only support me in finding it within. I learned that what matters most is love and that we can only love and nurture others to the extent that we love and nurture ourselves. 

I learned that grief comes in waves that can throw you off balance if you’re not mindful, and I know what it feels like to have my body ache with the heaviness of grief – to feel it in my heart, solar plexus, and sacral chakras, and deep down in my bones. To feel it so intensely that I want to scream at the top of my lungs or do whatever I can to expel it so it won’t suffocate me, even though resisting it only makes it worse. It’s not just the loss of my mother but the loss of so much else as well. To restate it in more hopeful terms, it has been a year of clarity and clearing the way for what’s next – even though I don’t yet know what’s next.

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Perhaps most important of all, I’ve learned that when I feel shattered, empty, and severed, my core essence remains whole, immaculate, radiant, and indelibly connected.

For about 25 years, I’ve had recurring nightmares in which a door of my house couldn’t be locked. I feared an intruder would enter and harm me. On Memorial Day, I dreamed that two different doors had broken locks and was afraid when I heard a man call my name in the distance. Then I noticed two adolescent boys entering the garage and shooed them away. They returned later and took some of my possessions, which I demanded that they return. When they gave them back to me, I looked at the objects in my hands and realized I had no use for them. I told the boys they could have them – and anything else they wanted. I realized I was surrounded by things that I no longer needed and wanted to open up the garage and let people come and take what they wanted and thereby lighten my load. I wanted to let go of all the stuff, rather than hold onto it, and realized there wasn’t anything that really could be stolen from me. It was a wonderful dream that had a deeper meaning and also filled me with a strong desire to purge so many possessions in my waking life. Get rid of what no longer serves a purpose to make room for something new.

On this anniversary of my mom’s passing, I feel as if I am emerging from the forest. I spent a full year wrestling with the illusion of separation and loss and becoming clear about what is not healthy for me. Letting go is a process, but I am finding my way back to the Source and turning toward the light. My backbone, which had softened for a while, is on the mend.

I’m sensing that all the while during the deep, dark winter of grief, I was like a chess piece being moved by the unseen hands of a master. I am beginning to sense the brilliance of this cosmic dance we do on earth and the energies that come to our aid. Perhaps what felt like a humbling fall from grace is all part of the dance, and there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.

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Recently, I took my kindergarten class to see local puppeteers perform The Wizard of Oz. Before the performance, I summarized the story for them, and tears welled up in my eyes when I talked about how each character yearned for something they thought they lacked. They put their faith in the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to give them what they desired. However, in the end, Oz explained to them that they had these qualities in them all along. At the end of the show, Glinda assured Dorothy that now that she knows in her heart where Home is, she will be able to go there. And after she returned home, she always remembered and was enriched by her adventures in Oz.

What a great metaphor for the past year.

This morning, I woke up and realized that, like Dorothy, I was wearing silver shoes of protection fashioned by my mom’s love for me as I wandered through the enchanted forest. All is well – and I believe it always has been.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mother’s Day Anyway

Mother’s Day Anyway

I did not intend to write a Mother’s Day post. I meant to write about ferns, which I fell in love with all over again this week. However, when I walked the labyrinth this morning, I realized that ferns will have to wait.

Tomorrow will be my first Mother’s Day without my mom, and I wanted to pretend it’s just another day. Skip it. I made it through the week with my kindergartners. A substitute teacher read them a Mother’s Day story, and my classroom volunteer took the lead in helping the children put together a Mother’s Day gift. She bought all the supplies and planted flowers in terra cotta pots they decorated with Sharpies. She is an angel.

While walking the labyrinth this morning, it occurred to me that the best way to remember and honor my mom on Mother’s Day is to be the person she raised me to be. The person virtually every mother tries to raise her child to be. Simply put: A good human being.

There is a big difference between being and doing. My mom and I were forever at odds when it came to doing – the more superficial layer that made us appear to be so different. Being is who we are at the core, and it is where we are much more alike than we are different. It is the manner in which we travel rather than what we do along the way.

As a mom, I know from personal experience what mothers want for their children and how forgiving they are. Our moms don’t want us to suffer or have a difficult life. They want us to thrive.

I know my mom would want me to be happy, kind, and hopeful about the future. She’d want me to be gracious and to bring light to this world.

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Spend more time with family.

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Keep company with people who are good to me.

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Work hard but also relax and have fun.

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She would want me to do what I love

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…and to continue growing and cultivating new interests and friendships.

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She’d want me to have a smile for everyone I meet – and that is probably the biggest and easiest thing I can do to carry on her essence because it comes naturally to me.

My mom modeled all of these qualities to me for nearly 50 years, so I have had a good teacher.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often describes his mother as extremely warmhearted, kind, and gentle and considers her his earliest teacher of compassion. He explains that when we are babies, our survival is completely dependent on our mothers, and therefore we learn warmheartedness and compassion from them. He advises parents to give children maximum love and affection so they may develop these qualities. Some mothers are kinder and gentler than others, and I was fortunate to have an extraordinarily nurturing mom who made you feel like the most important, wonderful person in the world. This didn’t only apply to her own children but to everyone with whom she interacted. That is how many people describe her. Being raised by such a loving, nurturing mother not only helped me develop those qualities but also served as the basis of my belief in a benevolent and forgiving Universal Life Force.

After walking the labyrinth, I went to my dad’s house, where my mom’s tulips were in full bloom. Her gardens look so lovely this year, and I spent quite a while walking around the yard photographing them.

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How wonderful that her flowers continue to come up in the spring even after she has departed from this earth. The flowers represent ways in which my mother made the world more beautiful – acts of kindness that carry on.

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The dainty lilies of the valley caught my attention. No flower transports me back to childhood like lilies of the valley. They grew at the edge of our yard right next to the swing set when I was young and emitted such a sweet fragrance that must have combined with leisurely hours of play to produce a sweet, indelible memory. I used to imagine that if you shook them gently, lilies of the valley would tinkle like little fairy bells.

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Upon spotting the lilies of the valley, I had a mental image of a few lily of the valley sprigs on the kitchen windowsill inside a miniature vase I got from a trip to Hawaii. I remembered how fragrant the mini bouquet smelled when I walked by and knew that if my mom were still alive, she’d clip a few lilies of the valley and put them in that little vase with the broken handle to brighten up the kitchen. So that’s what I did!

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Sometimes we parents are surprised when our children don’t recall experiences that we believed would make a big enough impression to be remembered. But sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that become planted deep inside us and grow into lifelong memories. Tiny but comforting gestures. As a mother, I find hope and comfort in that.

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As much as I have wanted to just wish Mother’s Day away, it happened anyway – a day early. And it seems my mom even made an appearance! As my dad and I drove past the local recreational field,  a car was backing into the road from the parking lot just as we went by. It was my mom, in her car (the same one in which we were driving)! I exclaimed, “There’s Mom!” It was so matter-of-fact, but when I was alone afterward, it hit me: Perhaps she has been trying to get through to my dad, but he needs some help to notice? Several friends have claimed they have seen her, but this was the first time I saw either her or her twin with an identical car! There’s more to this story because of the context in which it took place, but I’ll just leave it at that.

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Last night I went through pictures of my mom to send to someone who is making a video about the hospice house in which she died, and I came across pictures of her and my grandmother together. They both died within 3 1/2 years. Each was the epitome of kindness. Until recently, I was able to lean on them for the nurturing that nobody else in this world can provide. But now they’re gone, and I am the matriarch even though I don’t feel ready to step into that role. I didn’t see it coming so soon! It is a role I will need to grow into, and I hope everyone will be patient with me. I’ll get better at it as time goes on.

Fortunately, my mother and grandmother provided me with nearly 50 years of role-modeling, and every time I act with kindness and compassion, I feel their spirits being channeled through me. And thus, their legacy lives on.

Although many tears have been shed today, I realize I’m not alone walking this twisting, turning path of grief. And that does bring some solace. My heart is with everyone else who is missing his or her mom on Mother’s Day.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

It is May, the month my mother died last year, on the 27th. And lately I have been experiencing a gaping, intense sense of loss.

It’s not just the loss of my mother. It’s how her death has opened my eyes to the brevity, gift, and opportunity of our human lives and shown me what is not working in my life and what needs to change. After a fairly frenetic summer and fall, I spent a long, dark winter wandering through the vast wilderness of grief. Deep snowfall covered the path for several months, and I lost my way, bewitched by shadows and longing for light. It was a very long winter of record-breaking snowfall. But below the thick, silent blanket of snow, there was movement. I confronted issues that were long overdue and witnessed people close to me undergoing painful yet powerful transformations. To witness extraordinary transformation – to know it is even possible – is a blessing. Even in the deep darkness of winter, there is a light that can nourish us and help us grow if we choose to turn toward it.

Eventually the snowbanks melted, the first flowers bloomed, and the birds began to sing again. Trees and shrubs sprouted buds from unpruned branches still hosting the lacy ghosts of last year’s blooms.

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The snow and ice to which we had become accustomed melted, and the water began to flow. The river levels rose, and grief took on a different, more fluid quality that came at me in waves, like labor contractions. Some particularly huge ones hit this week.

Again, it wasn’t just the loss of my mother – although that is big enough on its own. There is a confluence of loss arising in my heart, including the loss of my profession and having an empty nest earlier than I had planned. Two nights ago, I began sobbing uncontrollably. I felt grief and loss deep in my bones and in my heart. It was perhaps the deepest manifestation of emotional pain I ever have experienced in my life. I became a human waterfall that continued to flow all day yesterday. When a stranger wished me a good day and smiled at me, it brought tears to my eyes. And it occurred to me that when we have reached the limit of what we can endure and feel so broken, we are about to learn that we are much stronger than we believed ourselves to be. It is an opportunity to redefine our limits and our lives.  And to remember the importance of basics, like getting enough sleep and exercise.

Putting up the May pocket chart calendar in my empty classroom, I had to blink back tears – especially when I put the 27 card in place. Tears flowed again when I took out the May books and came across some Mother’s Day books – which I realize I will not be able to read to my class this year.

I checked my email and, as if on cue, received A Note from the Universe that read:

“Any and all forms of separation, disconnects, divides, partings, breakups, and goodbyes are temporary. Very. You’ll be together far, far longer than you will ever be apart.”

Realizing I was having a grueling day, a woman whom I consider a soul sister assured me that it will get better and that even when you think you have gone backwards, you will find that you moved forward but just didn’t know it. She assured me that I will be myself again, but it will take time. She said I will never forget but will find peace. I am grateful for her wisdom and friendship.

At the water’s edge, I recently watched several geese floating peacefully. Whenever a wave approached them, they floated calmly,  gracefully, and effortlessly up and over it, as if not phased by it in the least. Oh, to navigate the waves of life and loss with such grace!

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And I know I can do it. I have an incredible toolbox that has been underutilized in recent months. Now that spring has arrived, life feels more spacious, and it’s time to put those tools into fuller use once again. First of all, I must restore my own center as the axis about which my life spins, for it has wobbled.

Now that the snow has melted, the labyrinth I love to walk has revealed itself and invited me to enter. Filled with a bittersweet mix of gratitude and sorrow, I walked through the threshold of arched willow branches and along the winding path to the center. The sun was descending in the sky and shining through the daffodils surrounding the labyrinth, giving them the transparency of stained glass mandalas.

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The scene was just like it was a year ago, when I found it so breathtaking that I called my mom and asked her if she wanted to see something beautiful. She said yes, and I immediately jumped in the car, picked her up, and brought her to the labyrinth to be amongst the flowers.

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I continued to walk the labyrinth with hot tears streaming down my cheeks. One step at a time, I returned…to myself and to my sacred space. And the sunlit daffodils whispered: This is your life. Enter it fully. And I knew these words to be true.

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And I shall do so, with gratitude. This little life of mine is far from perfect, and there is much room for growth. But it is mine, and it is time to shake off the spell of the wintry wilderness and reclaim it, one mindful footstep at a time.

As for all that no longer fits or that moves beyond my embrace:

I release you to the universe with gratitude for the gifts we have given each other and for the seeds we have planted in each other. We exist forever in the places we were together and in each others’ memories and heart. All is well. And in the end, love is all that remains.

And so I wake up to the spaciousness of this new day, this new month – no longer a waterfall but with a heart budding with hope and open to the generous offerings of spring. The daffodils seem to be a good place to begin.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”   -Anne Lamott

I finally watched the movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It was selected by Mindful.org as the “mindful film of the year” and really struck a chord. I’m drawn to stories of people embarking on pilgrimages of self-discovery that involve backpacking through the wilderness, and Wild features a woman who is grieving the death of her mother and decides to hike 1,100 miles solo along the Pacific Crest Trail to reclaim her life, which had been thrown into disarray in the wake of her mother’s death. Unlike my sister, I watched the movie prior to reading the memoir on which it was based. Now I want to read the book!

Watching the movie made me aware of a deep-seated desire to do something out of the ordinary to honor my own grief and rebuild my life. I yearn for a rite of passage – a touchstone for transformation.

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Part of me longs to take a backpacking journey – as portrayed in Wild or The Way – or to retreat to the solitude of a simple cabin in the woods for a few months to get some perspective. I just want to stop the world for a little while to take inventory and forge a new vision – because my world changed ten months ago when my mother died, and it will never be the same again. I will never be the same. I want to create something fresh and vital from the ashes and make the most of this “one and precious life.”

At the end of Wild, a voice-over summarizes the woman’s journey:

But if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if I wanted to sleep with every single one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if all those things I did were the things that got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there on the last day of my hike. Thank you, I thought over and over again, for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know.”

-Cheryl Strayed, as quoted in the movie adaptation of her memoir, Wild.

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I have some of my own “what ifs.”

What if situations that seem dreadful or unfortunate on the surface teach us something? What if walking through the darker corners of grief is part of our journey? What if people who appear as adversaries are actually helping us to awaken and move on? What if getting pushed to our limit is exactly what we need in order to change?

What if I’m here to do my work in this world by using my particular nature and programming to the fullest, rather than trying to force my nature to conform to incompatible situations? What if my nature/essence/personality is no accident and serves a purpose that I have yet to understand and utilize fully?

During the winter, I prayed for clarity…and received it. And I’m grateful for it, even though the timing feels inconvenient. I have resolved to walk through a door that, for years, I’ve been afraid to walk through, even though doing so still scares me. And that’s why I’m now praying for courage – because not doing it would be too great a compromise. Certainly, there will be other “problems” that arise when I walk through that door, but at least I will not compromise my spirit any longer. That is a burden too heavy to bear.

I think of how preoccupied I was with what “to do” with my life – meaning what kind of work to do. For a long time, I equated work with livelihood but have since come to define it much more broadly, as the energy we give to the world. The specifics of it don’t seem as important as the context in which it is carried out. I acknowledge the importance of being in an environment that is aligned with my principles and values what I have to offer, an environment in which I have freedom to be myself and to release my best, most authentic energy and talents into the world. I’m realizing that if conforming to a system or environment devastates your spirit, you must have enough self-respect and faith to move on. When a situation isn’t compatible with your nature, you owe it to yourself to say, “No, thank you,” and move forward…because it would be a waste of your precious life not to. I think it would be a tragedy to get to the end of this life and see that I wasted time failing to express my highest nature by remaining stuck in something that requires me to be someone I’m not – something that binds my wings and has lost its spirit, meaning, and purpose. Remaining stuck is like clinging to a rotten branch. It’s allowing the lower, fearful self to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not living.

No, thank you. I was made for more than that!

I wonder: Does everyone go a little crazy while navigating the wilderness of grief – each in our own way? Can you ever be the same again after losing your mother? And is “sameness” something to even wish for? Or is it one of the great delusions? (As a photographer, I would answer yes because it is becoming apparent to me that, based on the interdependent nature of this world of form, nothing remains exactly the same from moment-to-moment.)

In recent months, I have been spending time watching the Battenkill River flow. Its movement is much more dramatic than the flow of the Hudson River in front of my house. The roaring Battenkill inspires and influences me greatly and has been teaching me about letting go and dislodging the fear-based belief that my present set of circumstances is the safest, healthiest place to be.

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The only thing I know at this point that my mother’s death has awakened me to the gift, opportunity, and brevity of our human life. Status quo appears to be over. And rather than focus on the time, money, and energy wasted on something that ended up not being a good fit, I can be thankful for all I have learned and the ways in which I have grown as a result. No stepping stone on our path is for naught. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without it. But it is not the end of the path. There is more to come.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.” And when it’s time to move on, may we do so with love, gratitude, and confidence.

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\© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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