Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of my dad's passing. It was a beautiful and sorrowful morning, January 21st 2009. Dad had battled stage 4 kidney cancer for over 2 years, and in his last couple of days we had brought hospice care into the house. On January 19th, after droves of visitors had come by to pay their respects, dad fell asleep. On the morning of January 21st, his bright blue eyes opened, and the hospice nurse called us into the room. My sister, mom and I gathered around him. We looked into his blue eyes, so crystal clear. There was a look of fear, of unknown, knowing it was his time to leave us. So, we did what we always did for dad to make him happy, we started singing. We sang "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles and "California" by Joni Mitchell. We told him how much we loved him and we wanted him to be at peace. We told him that we would be okay, we would be okay, we would be okay....he can go now, to see his dad and his beloved dogs who preceded him into the other world. With that, he exhaled for the last time and was finally at peace, no more pain and suffering.
Writing these words today, I have tears streaming down my face. I miss him so much - i miss his soft cheeks after he shaved and showered, i miss his smell of aftershave, I miss his boisterous energy in the morning as he returned from a hike or a workout, and whistled while making his breakfast. I miss the piles of sourdough toast he would make, I miss his bizarre snacks like saltine crackers in a cup of milk. I miss how loud he could be, hollering through the house, laughing at his brother's jokes on the phone, clapping so loud for the Vikings on Sunday with a "WOOOOO!" every time they made a good play. I miss his music, always there was music: singing, whistling, guitar playing. The thing I miss the most, is how dad could always make you feel like you were always celebrating something, and, while he was around, everything would be okay. He was only 58 when he died, but his wisdom was so great. I believe my dad was a Shaman in another life. He was so spiritual and connected to nature, he could talk to birds and identify most plant and trees. He also wrestled with his spiritual and human identities, working to get the two to harmonize in a demanding world. What a gift to witness.
My dad was a provider, a man who cried often, resilient beyond belief; he had a powerful heart and a creative mind; he was so kind and compassionate. He always worked in business to make sure he created something that benefitted everyone. For dad, it was a win-win-win life, and I'm still reaping the reward of being his daughter.
I know my dad lives on in me. I feel him all the time. I hear him in the way I talk with a small Minnesota accent, the music I love, the jokes I tell, the people I touch, the way I live my life honoring and loving people. Since his passing, I can now see the silver lining: he taught me so much in his life, but in his dying, I was gifted an awakening. I see how short life can be, how we must do all we can to live fully, authentically, lovingly, without reservation and without hesitation. Now is the time to act, not when we're diagnosed with a fatal illness.
This week, on January 20th, I was staring outside at the woodshed behind my house. I noticed something fluttering in the window, trapped inside. I went into the shed and there was a hummingbird, trapped behind the window. It had gotten in through the holes in the rafters. From the advice of a friend, I gently put a towel around the exhausted tiny creature, held it with tender loving care, and set it free outside of the shed. Hummingbirds represent celebrating the joy and ease of life. The symbolism of this moment was not lost on me: I can sometimes feel trapped inside my negative thoughts and self-made prison. We can see the freedom and joy on the other side, just within our grasp, but we're trapped. So, sometimes, we may need a little TLC and guidance in order to get out there and fly.
Here is my call to the reader: live your truth, know your freedom of choice, and love everyone unconditionally. Dad used to say, "live and let live", and I still follow this advice. I am continually inspired by people who choose a path that is their own, so inspire me! Continue to find silence and stillness and listen to your heart. It will keep you on the path to your authentic self, and will allow you fly into the celebration and joy that is our brief life on this planet. Just remember, sometimes we need one another to provide a little TLC and guidance, we are not meant to do it alone.
Your in Unconditional Love, TLC and Guidance,
Jeanne Marie aka Yoga Jeanne