I’m finding my way towards what words wish to be shared following a very profound experience of illness and healing last week. How ironic that the day after I posted my poem “Gravity” and was inspired to write towards my lifelong dance with the holy descent into Body, I would be taken once again (for the first time in many, many years!) on a sacred journey of intense sickness into the very depths of my human life, it’s preciousness and fleetingness.
A week ago Saturday, on my sweet daughter’s 9th birthday, I woke up in such severe pain in my back that by mid-day I could barely move. At first I thought my back was out, but it was all on my left side, and the pain felt very neuromuscular~ radiating up and down my spine, from my sacrum into my neck. My spine felt like it was on fire. By Sunday I had a very high fever and it was determined what I was working with was actually an intense kidney infection. Even after I started the antibiotics I fevered intensely in my bed, on and off for 3 days. My kids Papa Chris had to come and fully take over with the children as I focused all my attention inward, in stillness, on healing.
I could feel how deeply challenged my children were by the powerful presence of the sickness, and the degree to which it consumed my entire attention. Like all mothers of little ones, we have traveled through our fair share of intense sicknesses~ flu’s, stomach bugs, parasites, severe mastitis, even 3 months of Whooping Cough last fall. My children are used to me rallying, like mothers do, in the most straining of sickness situations~ up sleepless for countless nights, all of us puking at the same time, or all of us up coughing and fevering through the night. They are NOT used to me traveling so deep in, so close to the very edge where life meets death, and they were NOT ok with it. Arayla (9) was very soft, quietly attuned, sensitive, checking on me frequently, deeply concerned, her little eyebrows furrowed. Ezra (5) was narcissistically disturbed by my absence, my weakness, my inability to receive his full-roaring, hugely embodied self, and had a very difficult time, tantrumming loudly in moments about his need for Mama. There was little I could do to soothe them. It WAS scary, and I needed all of my strength and focus to bring my energy back to health for them.
Last Monday night, in the middle of the night while I fevered and sweated intensely again, high into the 103-104 zone once more, my dear heart beating rapidly in my chest, I brushed cheeks with my friend Death, and was invited by her, gently, to peer through the window of what my life would look like without me in it.
I don’t know if most people do this when they get very sick and have high fevers? Or if my past brushes with death have made the pathway very easy to find? Or if it’s because I’m a shaman, priestess and death doula, and I am clearly meant to carry this death medicine in my medicine bag in this lifetime? Whatever the reason, it seems my life brings me, over and over again to this edge, this particularly profound place on the bridge, where there is truly only the finest line between inhabiting this beloved flesh, and crossing over into the purely luminous body of the other side. It feels like I’m brought here continuously to somehow change my relationship with it, and perhaps, I’m imagining, so I can support all the lives I touch, this larger village of beloved human kin, in changing our collective relationship with it.
It is not my Death itself I have feared. It is the thought of leaving my life unfinished, my precious children not fully mothered, my life lessons not yet fully received, the love I came to shine not yet fully imparted. In spite of knowing my life is in the hands of the Great Mystery, I have certainly been haunted many times at the thought of prematurely leaving my children: awakened in the middle of the night by a gripping fear of how much my children need me, horrified at the thought of them needing to live without my special mama love and care, should something happen to take my life from them while they are still young. I have even avoided writing a Living Will as though to write it would somehow communicate to life and death that I was OK with an alternative to my own direct raising of my children into adulthood.
And yet while I fevered, so close to the edge, and Death sweetly asked me to look through the window of my life without me in it, my children’s lives without their Mama… what I saw profoundly surprised me.
I saw YES~ it would be a tragic loss for them, to lose their Mama, one that would break their hearts in a million pieces. But the Light, oh the light and love and wisdom and care of the people who would rush in to take over where I left off, to help their hearts heal and nurture their lives! Oh the amazing wisdom-carriers in my life, my beloved friends, the soul aunties and uncles who adore my children, the devoted grandparents and other blood relatives. I saw, peering through that window at the height of my fever, that somehow, if the great Mystery were to beckon me over, to never return again in this Jesua form, that people would come together to do whatever it took to raise these beautiful angels into the leaders they are destined to be. All would not be lost. And I saw I have given my beautiful children a strong-enough foundation: in spirit, in heart, in attachment, in truth. I saw that the seeds I planted as I nursed them from the heart of my breasts and carried them on my back through their babyhoods and taught them so diligently all these years about what truly matters in life: love, compassion for others, self-respect, using their voices to speak their truth, and seeing always with the eyes of their hearts~ not only have they truly received these gifts, but these seeds have taken root, and begun to sprout from my own children’s hearts and mouths. That, if needed, ONLY if absolutely needed, I could go, I could go, I could go on in peace. What a soothing surprise to feel this, to taste this truth, to really breathe it all the way in.
And then, to let the fever break, slowly back away from the window, from that sacred edge on the bridge between worlds, and come back to doing everything in my power to heal my kidneys, heal my body, so it can live in total strength, health and freedom…for what I hope is a very, very long time to come. What a gift it will be, grace willing, to someday hold Arayla’s grandchild in my arms, bring her soft baby cheek to my ancient, wrinkled lips; to bare witness, through these very eyes of mine, to the many amazing gifts my powerful daughter’s life is sure to birth. What a gift it will be, grace willing, to witness Ezra as a grown man, radiantly fathering his potential children, rocking the boat of life with his strong, bright soul, and making gorgeous starry waves in all the ways he’s bound to. And all the gifts I’ve yet to bring, yet to extend with my life, books I’ve yet to write, dances still to be danced, love yearning to be deepened, shared, offered, lived. I’m here for it! I’m so willing. I’m fully available to serve. My heart is empty and full of nothing but love. The fevers stripped me bare of everything but what truly matters.
Today, this moment, I live for you, my friend. I live for your heart’s blossoming. Here’s to you~ tasting this moment for the first time. Here’s to you tasting the gift that THIS is your day~ the day you get to live your truest heart. This is the day we came to live with all our love. This is the day. And I invite you, without needing a fever, to peer through the window of your life without you in it. I invite you to meet what comes up as you courageously look and take in what you see. I invite you to see what’s still yearning for completion, release, resolution, forgiveness. I invite you to be surprised. Bowing: Love in all directions~ <3