It's no secret, if you're at all blog-intuitive, that my friend Marian died. The long silence between posts has not been due to grief, though. I haven't been devastated by her death although I miss her dearly every day. I knew she would be leaving our friendship the moment it was formed. No, Marian's life was all about compassion and light. She would be so angry if her dying left her friends in ruins.
The months have been full of activity. Growth. Seeking. Marian's website, Remembering Marian was a joy to create, and attending her memorial service at the San Francisco Columbarium with my family a blessing. Bessie, her Newfie, was there and looking lost; she'll heal with Marian's Dad, Phillip, by her side. We performed a puja for Marian outside the Columbarium with Jnani, one of Marian's spiritual teachers. Part of the ceremony had me lighting candles and incense while crouching in the wind. At one point I must have placed a smoldering something on my lap. The sudden burning sensation had me gasping and, looking down, I realized Marian must have been sending a fashion comment on my outfit: a favorite ankle-length dress now had an irreparable hole at thigh level. Ah well. Maybe it will work as a tunic top.
One of my tasks was to keep Marian's candle burning for 49 days. Day and night, for 49 days. After about three sleepless nights, I called Jnani with the news that the candle went out and I could not reignite it. My belief was that Marian's soul had already found her place as a buddha and there was no need for the candle to continue burning. Jnani said as long as I was able to reignite it by the 49th day the intention would be served. We were also given the ceremony flowers to dry and return to the elements.
Volcano Road Trip
The memorial service took place several weeks after Marian's death. By then we were near the middle to late part of July and if we were going to take a family vacation it had better happen. Somehow the idea of a Volcano Road Trip took hold and we put together a vacation visiting various volcanoes, from Lassen Volcanic National Park (gorgeous!) and Mt. Shasta to Crater Lake in Oregon. Crater Lake fulfilled a promise made more than 13 years ago when I first saw that wonder of blue: I said I would bring my kids back someday, stay at the Lodge and drink coffee on the veranda in one of the rocking chairs. Mission accomplished!
We decided to take the boat tour of Crater Lake. The only way to do this is to hike down into the crater, a fairly strenuous endeavor any day, more so during the high temps of our trip. We thought we'd have to carry Danny back up but he made it with breaks and coaxing. While at the lake we took turns with the fishing pole, still trying for the "first fish" with no success. Taking the small boat out on the vast water-filled caldera was one of the most peaceful experiences of the week. When we were over the deepest part of the lake Gracie and I took turns scattering bits of Marian's dried flowers onto the water while the other one kept an eye on the ranger. (There probably is no law against scattering dried flowers on the lake but we didn't want to get into a public discussion of what we were scattering or why.) I teased the kids that many years from now they would have to hike down to the lake with some of my ashes and, without letting the rangers see what they were doing, scatter them from the boat. All together now: MOMMMMMMM!
At the end of the summer I made a decision to pursue hospice work. After helping my dad and mom, then Marian, at the end of their lives, not mention too many cats and dogs to count, I know this is something I am comfortable doing. I've already attended an animal hospice symposium, have signed up for Healing Touch training, and am planning on taking bedside caregiving modules with Jnani at St. Mary's Hospital in SF this Fall. Not sure where this will take me. I do know that once I made the decision everything seemed to come together. Sometimes you need to put aside the doubts, take the steps and follow the path.
And that's what I did this summer.