The Dying of the Year

We’ve passed the Autumn Equinox. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. The leaves are turning colors and falling from the trees. It is the dying of the year.

The Dying of the YearAnd we have a family friend who is dying. He’s been a part of our lives for… more than eight years, at least.

Jeff contacted my husband and me separately, about different interests, when he and his wife, Lani, were looking at moving to the Comox Valley. We were corresponding by email for several months before my husband and I figured out we were talking to the same person, just before they arrived.

We weren’t able to visit as much as we may have liked, as they lived on one of the smaller Islands when they first moved here, and ferry schedules are a thing. We discovered a lot of similar interests, from theatre to spirituality to tabletop and role playing games (those last two are more my husband’s interests than mine, though I’ve been known to play from time to time).

A couple of years ago, Jeff learned he had cancer. He’s been a trooper through several rounds of chemotherapy, and he was managing well. And then, this summer, he took a turn for the worse.

Though we were going out of town for the weekend, we took time to visit him in the hospital, because the doctors gave him days, or at most weeks, to live. Over the weekend, he improved, and the days turned into weeks, and possibly months. Husband and I (he more so than I because of my work schedule), regularly went to visit, and help our friend’s wife with whatever she needed help with – physical and emotional support.

jeff-2Jeff was improving, and they began looking at moving him into a nursing home, while we did what we could to assist Lani.

This weekend, he was moved to Hospice care. He took a turn for the worse. Jeff graduated this life at 7:53 pm last night.

He was not afraid of death. Neither am I. When one has lived a good and full life, there is nothing to fear in passing from this life, just as the trees do not fear the loss of the leaves.

I am honored to have shared a portion of his life. I will grieve his passing for my loss, not for his. For him, I will celebrate his good and full life.




My grandmother is dying.

Her health has been going downhill for the last two years, but my family is on death watch now.

This feels like deja vu.

Two years ago, my parents came out to spend some time with my children while my husband and I went away for a spiritual retreat over Easter.  My mom’s mother was dying at that time, and my dad’s mother had heart surgery and was in the hospital.  Within a week after my parents got back home, my mom’s mother passed away.

Three weeks ago, my parents came to spend some time with my children while my husband and I were away at separate business conferences, and then away again for a spiritual retreat over Easter.  They have been home for just over a week, and we don’t expect my dad’s mom to last through this week.

I’m still in the early stages of grief.  It’s painful to think of losing my last grandparent, the fun grandma.  My dad is an only child, so my sister and I were her only grandchildren, and we got spoiled by her.  While I was growing up, she and my grandfather lived in a house on a lake, and we spent many weekends there…swimming in summer and sledding in the winter; playing card games in the dining room overlooking the lake; enjoying the fire in the fireplace.

After I got married and moved away, she would come and spend a week with us to see her great grandchildren every year, until she was no longer able to travel with ease.  Every week she wrote me letters, and later emails about how her week went and what things she did.

Logic tells me she is just graduating this plane of existence.  She will get to be with my grandfather again (he died 25 years ago).  She won’t be suffering anymore.  She’s lived a full and good life.

And I will miss her very much.

I love you, Iris Swenson.  And I am so grateful that you have been such an important part of my life.

Fun With Grief?

Easter weekend 2008 I had the pleasure to return once again to the Spring Mysteries Festival that the Aquarian Tabernacle Church has organized for the past 23 years. This was the third time I had gone, and each experience has been different, though the theme is always the same.

The ATC Spring Mysteries Festival is modeled on the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. I can’t tell you much more, because the Mysteries have to be experienced to be understood.

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it this year. It was very important to me that I go, as I had prearranged for my parents to look after my children so my husband and I could get the full experience. We were also to be initiated as clergy with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada. It was all set well before Christmas.

But three weeks before the event, I was challenged. Both of my grandmothers were quite ill—one needed heart surgery, and the other was slowly dying. My parents could not decide whether to stay in Minnesota and care for their mothers, or come to Vancouver Island to care for their grandchildren.

To make a long story short, they came, and I returned from the Mysteries sleep deprived but exhilarated!

One week later, my grandmother died. Upon hearing the news, my first feelings were of relief and happiness for her. I know that my grandmother is happier now—she is young again, and healthy, and reunited with her husband, son and many siblings that preceded her to the Creator’s arms. I am tinged with sadness, because I will miss her very much, but I do not really grieve.

I returned to Minnesota not only for her funeral, but also to care for my family. My husband and children remained in BC, so I was free to lend my hands wherever they were needed. I was also there as a shoulder to cry on. I know I shed my own tears when I was there, and I probably shed a few for those who are not able to express their grief. But I did so joyfully, in the knowledge that I am serving others.

One lesson I brought home from the Mysteries that I can share is that if you’re not having fun, why are you doing it? I don’t mean that we should stop working, or cleaning the house because these things are not fun. The lesson I learned is to have fun in whatever it is you are doing, even if it is cleaning someone else’s dishes! When you come from a place of love and service to others, even the most daunting tasks can be fun. And that includes grief.