Monday, April 16, 2012

Personal Earthquakes and Tsunamis

This past week my personal landscape hosted an internal earthquake. A sweet friend of mine who fearlessly and gracefully navigated some health challenges in the last couple of years, took gravely ill. She had done a round of tests, which came out clean and she mused on how many ways there was to say yippee.  But suddenly everything changed. Her daughters chronicled her progress for friends and family with daily email updates. We kept watch as Thelma hoisted herself from life support and ICU into a world of conversation and condo renovation plans. Each day I opened my paper free envelope to smile and cheer her progress. Wednesday when I greedily tore open my note, hungry for more good news, I found that instead, she had taken a turn for the worse the previous morning and died peacefully in the evening.

Even though we know death is inevitable for all of us, there is a great sense of loss when someone dear to us leaves the world. Wordless tsunamis of grief washed over me during the week. Snuggled right up against the  quivering news of Thelma's death was a week long visit by birding friends which pulled us out into dripping forests to hear the call of wrens, view the totem pole work of woodpeckers and shimmy under giant fallen trees. It was a time to hold both joy and sorrow in the same container. It was a time to say quiet prayers under the canopy of old firs afloat in deep carpets of velvety moss, to wish Thelma auspicious good fortune on her new journey, through her own forest.

On the easel

It is always a surprise to me, how we can, as humans, hold contradictory ideas and feelings in our heart, how one doesn't stand against the other, how sadness and joy can lock fingers.  There is, if we allow it, a gentle back and forth movement like sunlight  peeking through the trees as the wind plays in its branches. My old Zen teacher used to say this: "one thing doesn't stand against the other." It's simply our western minds carving things into black and white.

Thelma's gifts to us were many but mostly I remember her for her gentleness, grace and fearlessness in facing life's difficulties. As a parting gift she tapped me on the shoulder to remind me of the fragility and preciousness of this human life. She lifted the cloud of stupour to remind me to attend to what is important because we never really know what day our next journey will begin. To Thelma, may she return to this lovely blue planet as a beautiful being to enrich the lives of others as she did here, perhaps as an actress or a songstress in some exotic locale with a heart free as a bird, that's how I imagine her. Here's to you Thelma Midori. And to you, dear reader, may your life be filled with gentle beings as sweet as Thelma. And may you constantly savour the preciousness of your life and attend to what your heart longs for.


  1. Thank you for sharing Thelma's story with us.

    How true that joy and sorrow are almost always constant companions - indeed without great sorrow we would not know joy.

    1. this is the human condition isn't it and you are so right, how would we know one without the other. Welcome!

  2. her parting gift to you is priceless - we have so little time on the planet - how many times do we have to be reminded to use the gifts that we were given - your words are so well put down - thank you for sharing this moment in your life, xo

    1. Thanks, Jeane and it is a priceless gift. I certainly need reminding of the fleeting nature of this life!

  3. carole, may you constantly savour the preciousness of your life and attend to what your heart longs for. i wish that for you, for all of us...

    thank you for your words, your energy...


    1. thanks, Lynne for the sweetness of your words! you are one of the beings that bring smiles and joy to my virtual world!

  4. Dear Carole, Of course am so sorry to hear of your friends sudden passing. And am always amazed at how we can hold such paradoxes of life - embracing and allowing it all in a gentle sway of love.

    Thank you for your well wishes for us all. May they return to you 100 fold: gentle beings that fill your heart with joy and love everyday, and following the longings of your Heart to their fruition. And may you have many precious days of life left...
    Heart Bows ~ ~ ~ ~

    1. Thanks, Christine for your heartfelt wishes. And yes, the complexity of humans is astounding, what we can hold and balance in a single breath.

      You always share what comes to you so eloquently , especially the joy in those wonderful photos. May your scale tip in the favour of joy as Spring turns to summer.

    2. I seem to have tripped over Joy this week... More to come :)

  5. Carole, by sharing this with us you have passed on the gifts of Thelma. Take care.

  6. Ah my friend! I am so sorry for your loss and so joyful for the treasures you've gained.

    Joy and woe are woven fine
    A clothing for the soul divine
    Under every grief and pine
    Runs a joy with silken twine

    It is right, it should be so
    We were made for joy and woe
    And when this we rightly know
    Through the world we safely go.

    William Blake

  7. well who could have said it better than that! thanks, Lynette for taking the time to pass this on!

  8. may you be blessed
    in the midst of
    sorrow and joy,
    both guaranteed
    and necessary
    parts of this crazy life!
    thank you for
    the vulnerability,
    the generous

    1. thank-you anca. today we were blessed with a lovely celebration of Thelma's life. This life definitely can seem pretty crazy sometimes, you are so right! Beautiful, sad and mysterious all rolled into one.

  9. Beautiful appreciation and reminder to us all. Thank you. The below is the poem I work with whenever death visits near:

    In Blackwater Woods

    Look, the trees
    are turning
    their own bodies
    into pillars

    of light,
    are giving off the rich
    fragrance of cinnamon
    and fulfillment,

    the long tapers
    of cattails
    are bursting and floating away over
    the blue shoulders

    of the ponds,
    and every pond,
    no matter what its
    name is, is

    nameless now.
    Every year
    I have ever learned

    in my lifetime
    leads back to this: the fires
    and the black river of loss
    whose other side

    is salvation,
    whose meaning
    none of us will ever know.
    To live in this world

    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.

    ~ Mary Oliver ~

    1. this is beautiful and doesn't it just take Mary Oliver to express what we hold in our hearts. The last two stanzas say it all. bows, to you Stonecutter!

  10. Thank you, Carole. Beautifully said.
    And thank you, Thelma....

    1. and thanks, Suzanne. So nice to spend time with you yesterday after the amazing celebration for Thelma.

  11. AH ! This great life / this great matter / live well / die well / while living / love as much as you can / while dying / know that others / will continue in this way / for all time....

    1. Bernard, thanks for the poetic and uplifting words