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Death Blog 1- My Grandfather

Dear Ones,

On October 21 to October 23, I am planning offer a workshop here in California for people who work with the dying and their families, called FINDING YOUR RESILIENCE: RECLAIMING MYSTERY AND MEANING IN HOSPICE WORK . Together we will explore the opportunity for greater resilience and renewal that emerges from openness to the mystery and deep meaning which is present daily in hospice work. In preparing for this exploration and sharing of thoughts and experience, I want to offer a series of poems and thoughts about death before this workshop.

I was almost seven when my beloved grandfather died. Shortly before he died my Grandpa told me that he would soon be going to be with God, that he would be close to me and hear me and I could talk to him in my heart as we had often talked to God together but that I could not come and visit him. Soon afterward my Grandfather died. I was not allowed to attend the funeral.

As he grew sicker my mother, concerned that I would be deeply affected by his death, began reading books about helping young children meet with death. All the books she read said it was important to wait until a child brought up the subject or shared their questions before talking to them about death. As days and weeks went by and I did not even mention my grandfather’s name she became more and more concerned. When she finally asked how it was for me now that grandpa had died, I had simply said “different”. When she asked me what had changed, I told her that now I could take him to school with me. I have no recollection of this conversation but I do remember talking to my grandpa for many years after he died and drawing much strength and courage from a deep sense of his closeness and presence. Years later, in a discussion of childhood phobias, my mother told me that after Grandpa died I was no longer afraid to sleep in the dark.

Here is the beautiful poem I came across as I began preparing for this new workshop, which reminded me of all of this.

Cataloging Mistakes
—Erik K. Mortenson

And then there was the time her father died and she asked me where I thought souls go afterwards and I said why do they have to go anywhere maybe they die too and are finally at peace and what makes you think we have a soul anyway maybe when we die we die and that’s it and that’s all and sometimes dead is better and wasn’t that true for him and then she just cried harder than before but quieter and I knew she would the whole time I was saying this but I couldn’t stop myself I don’t know what made me think that would be helpful that it would actually be a comfort to her I just couldn’t say what she wanted like that souls go to heaven and watch over us but even worse was what I never thought to say at all which was that his soul was in the way she held her chin just there and in the curls of her
hair and the gold flecks in the blue of her eyes and in her mouth when she peeled and cut and ate a pear with a slim knife and in her thumb and that his soul was in her heart when she asked me the question in the first place.

Hope to see you at the workshop…..
Blessings,
RACHEL

More info and register here.

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Walking the Path

WHAT IS YOUR GIVEAWAY?

Belief in the Giveaway can be traced back to the North American Indian nations of the high plains. Our personal, sacred Giveaway is what we alone have come to contribute to life, our reason for being. Knowing and honoring your Giveaway imbues life with a sense of meaning and belonging, a sense of direction.

Everything is born knowing its Giveaway: trees and birds, stars and flowers know their Giveaway. Nothing is here at random. Everything belongs. Only humans are born not knowing their Giveaway, not remembering why they are here and how they belong.

From earliest infancy the Giveaway of each child can be seen and discerned by others. Helping every child recognize its unique Giveaway, its unique place of belonging is one of the most important functions of The Elders and the tribe. They observe the baby with stillness and patience. They look for signs with caring and watchful eyes. What is the baby drawn to? What draws its interest, what calms it? What makes it laugh with joy and what causes it sorrow or pain? What gifts come easily to it, what qualities are natural to it? They dream dreams for the baby that offer insight about the baby’s nature and its Giveaway. There is much help to come home to yourself.

No one says “good job” to such a child, no one influences the recognition that can only come from within by their approval and praise or their disapproval and criticism. Everyone helps the child to listen. The Giveaway of each child is a shared discovery, different for every child, every man and every woman. All Giveaways matter.

Our western experience is, of course, quite different. I recently went to visit a young friend and meet her 3-month-old son. When I arrived I found the baby sitting in a cloth jumper seat on the kitchen table watching “BABY EINSTEIN” on a laptop. Around him on the table were many brightly colored and noisy toys. As we talked and had a cup of tea together the young mother presented her son with toy after toy, taking one away and offering him another every few minutes. At my questioning look she laughed “Its the newest theory.” she told me, “The forming brain is highly plastic and needs constant stimulation.” By the time our tea was over I had learned that the baby was already registered for a prestigious private high school, Class of 2029, and letters had been written in his behalf to Princeton by his grandfathers both alumni of that institution. Other august Princeton graduates had been asked to write letters as well, the young mother told me. Chances looked good. I looked at this little boy wondering why he had come. Hoping he might someday be able to discover his Giveaway despite the powerful messages he would be given about who he was and how he was to be from the very beginning.

The closer we are able to live to our own unique Giveaway the stronger and more resilient we are despite external pressures, the more passionately and joyfully we can live, the deeper the satisfaction we feel in our daily lives and the greater the difference we can make in the world.

These ideas hold a certain magnetism for me now. What if you could find and follow your Giveaway at any age? And what if you could find your tribe, the people who watch and listen and help you to give birth to yourself? What if you already knew many such people but had not recognized why you were drawn to them? What if you could help others in this way as well? What if you did not need some catastrophic event like an illness or the loss of a loved one to finally remember who you are and why you are here?

At 77 I have decided to do only what I am drawn to do. To discover what is my authentic path. I have learned something about it from these long years of living but I have never given myself permission to follow it with all of my heart. I had thought that my profession was my Giveaway but a profession is only one way to offer a Giveaway and often it is not the best way. There are many ways to offer your Giveaway.

The best way I know to learn something is to invite others to join into a search for the thing I am searching for. So I will be offering a new workshop this Fall, and I have asked one of the wisest people I know, my cousin Mark, a founding member of my Giveaway tribe to join me in teaching this workshop.

Walking the Path with Heart is simply an exploration of the nature of your Giveaway… a look at familiar events and choices with new eyes… a recognition of previously unseen threads which are not random or peripheral but are the path itself. A remembering.

I invite you to join Mark and I in this exploration of that which is your beginning.
October 1st -3rd, 2015
The Acqua Hotel
Mill Valley, California

More info and register here.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.
T.S. Eliot FOUR QUARTETS

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