Movies, Books, Eggs, Blankets, and Bodywork
Love lessons from the mixing bowl of life
“Love is the key.” This is the truth.
Have you seen the movie Interstellar? I know I’m late to the party here as it was released in 2014 — but wow! I watched it over the weekend at the advice of our 13-year-old son Jason. My sons often guide me to movies, books, and music that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of but that enrich my understandings about life and death. (I should share their recommendations more often — really good stuff. Thanks, guys!)
Thank you, Interstellar: Yes, LOVE is the factor missing from the equations we humans have tinkered with in an attempt to explain our world.
As Matthew McConaughey exclaims from across the veil, “Love is quantifiable — it is the key!” And it NEVER DIES. And from where Love lives, that infinite field of possibility, our passed loved ones are always communicating with us, always trying to guide us to our highest and greatest good.
Erin Duffy-Burke attests to the boundless force of Love in a grace-filled email to followers, published a few days ago and 10 years to the day of her beloved sister’s return Home:
I consider losing Caitlin, midwifing her into death, and this past decade of grief, as one of the most profound initiations of my life. In many ways, her death birthed my life and my work.
What if it could be that way? What if LOVE, even in the most difficult of circumstances, could be the ground of transformation, of rebirth, of MORE LIFE? Caity has taught me this is REAL.
It is that way. This is REAL. Across all time and space, no NASA rocket or A-list actors required.
What does Death teach you?
Barbara Karnes: Timeless Wisdom
If you’ve engaged with palliative care and/or hospice services of any sort in the last several decades, you’ve probably been handed the work of Barbara Karnes — most likely “the little blue book” entitled “Gone From My Sight.”
I often share her booklets with my clients; she offers 10 or so, each on different end-of-life topics. In fact, I just received a new shipment of her materials yesterday. I love them for their simplicity and accessibility; they magically meet readers where they are and guide them gently from there.
“People don’t understand that there’s a normal, natural way of dying. My materials are written to guide and support anyone who finds themselves addressing end of life situations. The goal is to help people have a positive experience so everyone involved will have a sacred memory to carry with them.”
— Barbara Karnes, RN
You can access her vast, rich wisdom for free via her blog: Something to Think About. I highly recommend her work to anyone at any stage of living. And if you are supporting the dying, she’s a must-read!
Egg: A Reflection
I love to cook. While making dinner for my family recently, I connected with a cracked egg. Here’s what flowed from there.
With a loved one’s passing, did you feel yourself break wide open?
We often claim a passing “broke our heart,” but did you feel even more than that? Did you feel your whole self split in half — maybe even into countless shards — like an egg tapped-tapped-tapped and then cracked open against the side of a polished stainless steel bowl?
I have felt this with a loved one’s passing. And I have witnessed my clients experience the same.
With the break, you look down to see the egg shell and any number of fragments in one hand, and the contents of the egg sitting in the bowl below — your heart, your soul, your beingness in that amalgam of yolk and white.
Who are you? The shell or the egg?
Are you the shell? Maybe for a bit. But do not attach to it, to this idea that you are “broken,” fractured beyond repair. Because that shell isn’t really you. It was holding you, containing you, protecting you while you grew, sure. And we thank it for that. But You, the real You — you are what’s inside, what was inside all along. You are now out now and in the light. Raw and real. Ready to be made into something new.
What if we claim for ourselves this rawness, this realness, this infinite potential — instead of the brokenness?
What are you going to create with it? (Cookies, an omelet, French toast? … Travel? More time with grandkids? That brilliant business idea you put on hold to care for your dying father?)
You get to decide. You choose the recipe. You make what’s next with who you are.
But you don’t need to know what that is right now, not right away! No way! You don’t need to choose the recipe today — or tomorrow, or in six months, either.
So, breathe. Think about your choices. Your cravings. Your desires for YOUR brave and powerful life.
As you think through these things, these decision trees of possibilities, grant yourself an abundance of patience, grace, mercy, forgiveness — all the things you granted your loved one as you helped them die. Grant yourself the same. Call it all in for YOU now. Feed the circle of life this way.
Grant yourself an abundance of time and space, too. Our culture won’t do this for you. So, do it for yourself — and then remember to do it for friends and family when they need it. Along with the egg shell, please compost our culture’s obsession with immediate gratification; it doesn’t serve you, any of us, or the planet.
Take TIME, because these things — all things — take time. Just ask Mother Nature.
Know the answers will come. They will.
And remember, you’re okay. It’s okay. And you are not alone. All of us are eggs at different stages of cracking, at different stages of life. You’ll figure this out. We all will.
Blanket of Stars — Ever Expanding
On 11-11-22, I launched The Blanket of Stars Project with the help of St. Louis meditative artist and poet Angela L. Chostner.
We collaborated to create a blanket for my death doula clients, a gift intended to provide both tactile and spiritual/energetic comfort as they transition — and an infusion of light and beauty when needed most. After the client transitions, loved ones then have this keepsake to cherish, too.
Simply put, Blanket of Stars helps bridge life and death in the form of sacred imagery, but it’s also so much more than that.
Humans navigating all sorts of lessons have found comfort in invoking and literally wrapping themselves in the imagery because, at its core, Blanket of Stars is about life! And it’s available as a tool for anyone and everyone to use, not just my clients!
Many people have been gifting Blanket of Stars items to friends who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. It really is a perfect gift for these times. I share prayer cards featuring the image for free, so if you want a few of those, just send me your snail mail address.
If you are interested in ordering the blanket or candles, let me know. Angela also sells silk scarves with the image.
Angela and I intend to offer a Blanket of Stars workshop spring/summer 2023, during which we will guide participants in creative activities that put the healing imagery to work. Till then, you can explore the (very basic for now) Blanket of Stars website for more details.
P.S. We held our launch party at TheBridge — check it out. This is a most worthy place to donate your time, talent, and treasures. It was just featured in Ladue News.
Caring for the Caregiver (YOU)
I’ve been in caregiver overdrive mode lately.
I love it, I’m here for exactly this, I’m not complaining, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (and the Universe wouldn’t let me).
But when your service is “invisible” so to speak (e.g. I’m not the woodworker building the deck that’s going up alongside my neighbor’s house), it’s easy to lose track of (1) how much you really do, (2) the profoundly positive impact you have on others and the world at large, and (3) how you need just as much care as you give so freely to others.
Cars can’t run without fuel… and oil changes… and inflated tires… We must maintain, replenish, and nurture our own systems. All of them.
A client recently recommended Maura Kay Buchheit to me for massage therapy — and holy guacamole was that a genius move. Best massage ever. Period. I found this time to be exceptionally restorative on many levels, and it reminded me to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Period.
So here I am, encouraging you to do the same.
Visit Maura Kay at Brick City Wellness in Benton Park West. It’s above Brick City Yoga — same building, different entrance. County people: FIELD TRIP!; worth it. City people: You have no excuse; Maura should be on your calendar now.
Wrap yourself in a Blanket of Stars. The actual blanket — or work with the imagery in prayer or meditation or in your imagination… However you conjure it, it is here to serve you. Use it!
Take salt baths. Regularly. They are intensely cleansing and restorative. I take mine in a completely dark bathroom with the white noise of the overhead fan running to buffer any household cacophony (bird + dog + teenagers). I’m gone for 20 minutes — and when I’m back, I’m better.
Walk outside. You don’t have to “power walk” or set a timer or goals or whatever. Forget all that. Just go outside and walk around. Without earbuds. And put your phone on silent. Better yet, leave it inside. (Did you know that we do not need to hold our phones all day long? True story! Put it down. Often.)
Watch great movies (Interstellar!) and read books that fascinate you (Jason suggests “Dune;” Steven recommends “Siddartha.”). Allowing a story to transport you to a different time and place stretches you out of the present moment, providing a much-needed break from our intense 3D density (yes please!) and nourishing our brains and hearts to continue their miraculous work of co-creation.
Maybe you feel all in balance and full and well. That is awesome. What about those around you? Does someone you know need extra love? Suggest the above to them, and then help them make time and space for all of it — especially if they have been navigating dying and death. (P.S. Gift certificates to Maura and holistic providers like her are a beautiful gesture, too!)
I had planned to publish this post on Feb. 14 but here we are. (See above: “Have patience! Forgive yourself! Take time!” Also, “WHO CARES?!”)
I am blessed beyond measure to have three huge loves living under my roof and in my heart. Here are the humans I love the most — and break a lot of eggs for. My forever valentines, from left: Jason (13), Jeff, and Steven (15). This was taken in June on Mykonos, Greece, during an amazing trip led by Steven’s Latin teachers. Both boys are about four inches taller now (no joke). That’s A LOT of eggs. I know what I’m talking about. ;)
In great love,
Fantastic article! You have a way with words Amy and I'm happy to know you.