Friday, August 17, 2012

Hommage à Ma Mère

From the light of early morning, 11 June, to the deep dark of night, 26 July, change came fast and harsh to my Mom, my Dad, my siblings, and to me. There is no way to prepare yourself for cancer and the havoc it wreaks. There is no state of normal to return to once it is all over, just a new state; one that no longer allows me to hear my Mom's pretty voice on Skype asking for every detail of my sometimes wonderful, sometimes frustrating life in France; or receive her lengthy emails updating me on every member of the family and the progress of every plant in the garden; or feel her warm hugs of relief when I return to the family home in upstate New York to share coffee, cottage cheese, and long morning talks.

However, it is a state which requires that at every moment I believe she has become my light and my guide and that all of these conversations and connections will continue to happen, just in a different, more subtle form. And to believe this, to truly feel it, requires that I become the best yogi I can be. The pain of loss and the ego's resistance to change will try to take over and under the weight of that suffering, one can feel just half alive. It will take time to fully live again. Yet, that is why it's called a practice; the practice of the Warrior and the greatest way I could honor my Mom's memory and her lessons of life and love. Read on to meet the first True Warrior in my life...

Ella Marie Dates 
10 September, 1932 - 26 July, 2012

Sterling United Methodist Church
August 1, 2012 

I’m going to start by reading something from the French author Charles Peguy:

“Death is nothing at all, I have only slipped away into the next room.

I am I, and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used, put no 

difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we shared together.

Let my name ever be the household word that is always was.

Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.

It is the same as it ever was.

There is unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.

All is well. »

Mom had nothing more to prove, nothing more to accomplish, nothing more to acquire. She had lived a life; a life well loved. And truly that’s all that really matters.

I believe she knew this. I believe she knew she had given the world her best and all it needs to carry on. And that she had given us, her family, her best and all we need to carry on.

In the last six weeks she had told me on a number of occasions that “before all this”, she had never noticed the number of different hues of green on the leaves in a grove of trees. She told me she had always loved her wind chimes, but never really listened for the depth of the tones that she could now hear so clearly.

During this time, we had also talked a lot about forgiveness and the soft spaciousness that can be felt when we’ve let go of the resistance and finally surrender.

This all requires settling into a certain solitude; a quietude; a melting away of much of the noise that troubles the mind; the anger, the guilt, the fear, the lack; letting go of much of the worry of daily life and embracing a sense of calm and inner peace, even if it just happens in fleeting moments.

It requires truly realizing that we are all connected to something larger than ourselves; a Divine force that creates the conditions for us to realize that we are loved, we are LOVE. We are peace. And all is well.

Ella Marie Dates: a devoted spouse, a loving mother of seven, a proud grandmother and great grandmother, a loyal farm wife, a dedicated career woman, a community leader, a tenacious patriot, a  lover of the arts, a voracious reader, and, a non-sufferer of fools.

Yesterday, in the never-ending receiving line at the Memorial, we heard words like: “mentor”, “best friend”, “beautiful human being”, “awesome lady”, “strong as nails”…the list goes on.

Today, I have another one to add ~ True Warrior.

In my work and my practice we study the principals of the True Warrior. Indeed, we break it down into three parts: Warrior I, Warrior II, and Warrior III, with all three parts equaling the whole; the whole of our being and the totality of our life experience.

Warrior I ~ Show Up.
No matter how much we may not want to, we must show up, day after day, with as much integrity and dignity as we can muster. Sometimes we’ll put on thin armor, sometimes we’ll suit up with thicker armor. We may be tired or stubborn, bored or apathetic, but we must at least show up; steady and grounded.
And when we can’t, we forgive ourselves and try again tomorrow.

Warrior II ~ Commit.
Commit to something. No matter how scary it may feel, we must make commitments and honor them; doing the humble work required, without praise or accolades. And, remembering that we do not exist in isolation and our decisions and behaviors affect others. Commitments make us vulnerable, so being willing to open up to that vulnerability; taking the risk of being hurt, wounded or let down.
And when won’t, we forgive ourselves and try again tomorrow.

Warrior III ~ Charge Ahead.
Charging forward and going all in. When the temperature rises and life’s stakes run high, retreating not back to what is safe, but throwing all we have into the charge and not looking back, acknowledging
that we may fall, but forging ahead anyway. 
And when we don’t, we forgive ourselves and try again tomorrow.
Mom walked into lots of battles in her 79 years, but never lost herself in her despair. She was ever the True Warrior. She fiercely lived her life by this example. This is the legacy she left to us all; to all the lives she touched near and far.

Having the faith that God creates all the conditions necessary for us to be the True Warriors of our own lives is the greatest strength we could acquire. It is the greatest gift a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, colleague, or friend could bestow.

Whenever we doubt, feel alone, afraid, or in the darkness; whenever we lose our way, we must close our eyes, stay still, get quiet, and call the spirit of this amazing woman into that very moment of our despair. The gentle rush of calm we’ll feel will most assuredly be Mom, Grandma, Ella Marie… reminding us of our True Warrior selves. 

She is reminding us that we are loved. That we are LOVE. We are peace. And, all will be well.

The last few days I spent in Strong Memorial Oncology ward with Mom, we talked, gossiped, laughed a little, looked at photos, and listened to lots of music. In particular, we listened to Mom’s favorite symphony, Beethoven’s 9th. Together we quietly sang Ode to Joy, the poem that made this epic composition a choral symphony. I didn’t necessarily plan this. The idea just came to me in a quiet moment when we were sitting together. What I know now, but did not want to know then, was that Mom was already telling me that she had nothing more to prove. Nothing more to acquire. Nothing more to accomplish. She had lived a life; a life well loved. She had given the world her best and all it needs to carry on. She had given us, her family, her best and all we need to carry on.

She had been a True Warrior.

Ode to Joy 
(Choral accompaniment to Beethoven’s Symphony #9)

Brother, sing your country’s anthem

Shout your land’s undying fame

With your people’s golden name

Raise on high your country’s sign

Brother, lift your flag with mine!

Hold the war clouds closer furled

In the rainbow of the world

Wise as age and proud as youth

In the great white light of Truth

Build it wide and deep and long

Help the weak and curb the strong

None shall let another fall

Light the wondrous tale of nations

Tell your father’s noble story

Join then in the final glory

Hail the sun of peace, new rising

Blend our banners, oh my brother

Red as blood and blue as heaven

Melt our colours, wonder woven

Build the road of peace before us

Speed the slow and check the eager

None shall push aside another

March beside me, oh my brother

All for one and one for all.

"Maa tantush chedi vayato dhiyam me," "May the thread of my song remain unsevered as we sing!"
Rg Veda

I love you, Mom.