“Home” for the Holidays

What was happening? Describe the circumstances.  During the week between Christmas and New Years I was sitting around the table in the evening after dinner with my husband, our children and their spouses with the young grandchildren playing in the background. Nothing profound was being said, just reliving the same old stories and memories of years gone by.

How did it feel? I felt so complete like the proverbial chicken with her chicks gathered around her. Wholeness. At home. Peaceful. Contentment. The word “happy” is so overused and hardly means anything anymore but I felt truly happy.

What meaning do I give it? Coming from a family where I was the only child I have always longed for a connection with family members–to be a part of something larger. Also, having lost a daughter, I had the feeling that my remaining children and their families were all safe at that moment–I couldn’t ask for more.

What did I choose to do with the energy? What happened? I was so filled with emotion that I wanted to share my feelings with the family gathered around me. I tried to explain to them how happy I felt at that moment and how they were each and every one of them part of that moment. Unfortunately, I think my grateful tears left them uncomfortable and eye rolling at Mom’s mushiness!

–Gathering wisdom. What you learned about yourself.  Nothing really new. The experience just confirmed what I already knew about the importance of family and connection in my life.

–What did you do in response? After gathering my composure, I reminded myself that their response wasn’t important nor did it minimize my feelings. They are young. They’ll get it sometime later in life and hopefully will look back with fondness at that too. What was important was that I tucked that frame in time into my memory, which brought to mind the several times in Scripture where it is said of Mary, “…and she kept these things in her heart,” which also brought the connection I so long for.

Love, Joy, Gratitude

  1. What was happening?  I’m at Weight Watchers picking up a month’s supply of breakfast packages for my wife. The woman on the cash register asks me if I do anything special with all these. I tell her they’re for my wife. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis, a tough corporate job, and I do what I can to support her. The woman looks me right in the eye with a warm look and says, “You are a wonderful person.”
  2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now).  I have the impulse to cry.  A warm surge of energy expands from my heart upward, swelling behind my eyes. In hindsight I feel the impulse to hug the woman. My heart is so full.
  3. What meaning did I / do I give to it?  As I sit, breathe and feel the moment, I am filled with love for myself, for my life, with gratitude for all the love I have received that has opened and filled my heart. And I am joyful that I was seen by this woman as a vessel of love.
  4. What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened…  At the time, I warmly meet her eyes, smile, and say thank you so much. I’m also a little embarrassed by the sudden intimacy with a stranger, and gently take my leave.
  5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?                                     I am devoted to embodying love, and when someone sees this in me, and honors it, I am filled with joy. So much of my life has been dedicated to becoming this person. This woman’s words are a deeply appreciated affirmation.
  6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?  In a similar situation in the future, I’d like to acknowledge and let go of the embarrassment, stay with the intimacy of the moment, and see what would happen.


Curiosity, Anxiety, Guilt, Gratitude, Peace

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

Last August, I was diagnosed with a very rare and incurable form of blood cancer.  On Nov. 11, 2014, my daughter drove me to another city to be with me for my fist appointment with yet another new doctor.  This one would be my second oncologist that will have a role in my treatment.  This one will be in charge of my care when the chemo pill that I am currently taking stops working, and the time comes for me to have the only other care option available to me…a bone marrow transplant.  A new city, a new hospital, a new doctor, a new team of professionals, all working together for the sole purpose of prolonging  my life by winning  the battle over these defective, rogue cells that are taking over my bone marrow and, if left untreated, will eventually kill me.

2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

Needless to say, the start of the day was filled with curiosity and mild anxiety.  Mixed with that however, were also some complicated feelings of guilt and disappointment that, this year, I was not going to be able to take part in any of my normal Remembrance Day traditions to pay tribute to our veterans on this important day.

3. What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

My family has had a strong military history, and it felt peculiar to not be able to pay homage, in my usual fashion, to those living and dead, family and non-family, on this special day.

4. What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

Once I became aware of how I was feeling, I thought everything through and came to the conclusion that though the traditional time for the moment of silence and remembrance is 11:00 AM, it would be ok to have my time of reflection, remembrance, prayer and thanksgiving at another time during this day.  I also realized that I would also probably be able to see a re-broadcast of the memorial service in Ottawa, later in the day.  Most of all though, I gained the acceptance of the fact that caring for my health is important, and having my own personal time of remembrance later in the day would in no way lessen the tribute to our vets.  I was suddenly at peace!

5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

Funny how things happen!  As it turned out, my appointment s with the doctors were finished just before 11:00 AM.  I was sitting in the lab awaiting my turn to have blood work done when an announcement came over the loudspeaker.  The staff and patients were encouraged to share in a moment of silence to pay tribute to the fallen, and all vets, on this Remembrance Day!  There was then a broadcast of recordings of a bugler and piper playing the traditional military songs, and after our moment of silence, there was a reading of the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, written by John McCrae during World War I.  What a beautiful tribute and time of remembrance!

 This experience helped me to realise that although circumstances may necessitate a change from traditional routines, different recognition is still recognition, and if it meets the diverse needs of daily living, without minimizing the reason for the tribute in the first place, there is nothing wrong with it!  It was actually quite moving to see a busy hospital grind to a stop and have silence take over the normally noisy and chaotic hospital environment.  This was truly a moving memorial and tribute to our vets, and we did in fact “remember them”!

6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

 This experience has certainly reinforced my understanding of how much “tradition” means to me, and how and why I respond to days and circumstances that have traditions wrapped up in them.  However, it has also helped me to loosen up some of my perceptions of what honouring those “traditions” means, and how it is done.  I believe that this increased flexibility in my life will bring with it a greater sense of acceptance and peace, especially as I age and as health limitations change my ability to honour those old “traditions”, in what has become an ingrained and traditional manner.  Finding new, and equally valuable and respectful ways of doing so, is not only okay, but necessary as time progresses.  After all, doing things in a new way, is not always a bad thing, it is just different!.



I was reading an emailed interview of one of my friend/colleagues had done by a magazine. (He was gracious enough to send me the transcript.) It was early morning (for me) and I was still laying in bed.

The subject was his recent trip with his jazz band to Iran. The interview dealt with logistics, some politics and mostly the cultural exchanges. The feelings I got while reading his words came to me gradually. First, I was curious, knowing somewhat of his trip already but wanting to know more thanks to this thorough article. Gradually, I felt my body become more and more relaxed, and a general feeling of contentment washed over me as I reflected on his words of compassion, openness, generosity and honesty (along with some acute social criticism). I also felt warm feelings of hope, hope that something real had occurred, a definite sharing between worlds that made “sense,” emotionally as well as in other ways.

What his words did for me was to not only inspire me about what people can do to help promote understanding and peace between different cultures, but it also not surprisingly deepened our friendship. I chose to return the energy, completing a circle by letting him know in a followup email how his trip and the story he told in the interview had such a positive impact on me, the beauty of what he and his band did–and all the people from Iran he/they worked with and came in contact with–reaching me in waves of gratitude (not exact words, but to that effect) as the morning continued.

I learned that I too can respond to the excellence in others, and that praise is so easy to give when you come into contact with such wonderful and amazing stories of real people with real experiences to share. My friend knows I love him, because I have told him so. Here is one more “reason” why.

As cynical as we both can be about living in 21st century America, this experience helps to melt away some of that icy wall I maintain between me and everything and everyone else, that destructive, ill-fated illusion of duality.