The Only Answer

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Dear Seamus,

There is a crispness in the air not common of a typical February morning. It is my birthday and you and I are up early. At your request, the movie ‘The Croods’ is playing on the television. Our whole household could very well recite most of the lines from the film, such is the number of times it has been re-played.
I tucked your legs underneath a blanket on the lounge.

“Are you cosy”? I asked
“I not cosy”; You replied, “I SEAMUS”!

I am perched on the other couch, notebook in hand and filled with inspiration. I have not written a letter to you in some months. Not for lack of trying I might add, but it just didn’t seem to flow out of me in the usual way. If I try to write when I feel like that it feels forced, so I leave it be.

There have been beautiful things to write to you about which has made the experience more frustrating. Last December I finally fulfilled a dream to travel to Uluru. An experience every bit as powerful as I had imagined and then some! A week after we returned, your Daddy and I were married. An incredible day of celebration, love and intimacy.

As is the dualistic nature of this world we live in, I also endured some painful experiences. They came in such quick succession it felt like the Universe was throwing flaming meteorites at me. After the joys of December, the challenges of January seemed almost impossible to bear. These events triggered a whirlwind of questioning and I quickly became a prisoner of my own mind.

It all reached a desperate crescendo with the ultimate question:
“What is the meaning of all of this”?!

One of my greatest fears is to have lived a meaningless life. That all of the experiences to which I had attached such strong emotions were actually just pointless. These thoughts were going against the very grain, the very essence of who I thought I was. It was painful and I felt like I was being torn apart.

I have always wanted to know. I have always questioned, enquired and investigated. I was the child who asked ‘why’? I was the teenager who didn’t do what I was told because I questioned authority. I was the employee who needed to understand the purpose of what I was required to do.

I am the friend who openly listens when others are troubled and I ask them why they think they feel that way. I am the wife that wants to dig deep in her husband’s life, that I may know the roots of the trees that grow in his garden. I am the Mother who has an understanding of herself and how she was shaped, so that I may help you find your own shape, in your own time, in your own way.

My search for the ultimate meaning became even more poignant when the Oncologist rang me a few weeks ago to discuss my latest scan results. He explained to me that the disease has rapidly progressed and didn’t appear to be responding to the current treatment protocol. His suggestion was to stop my medications and begin chemotherapy, sooner rather than later. The aim now being to control symptoms of the disease and to prolong life a few months more. That is a known trajectory in medical oncology.
End stage cancer – chemotherapy – small extension of life – death.

To receive that news, in the frame of mind I was in, felt like fear had swallowed me whole. I was groping in the dark for the compass to get my bearings. I was backed into the corner. I felt like my only life line was to know the reason why all this was happening. So many questions. Can I choose my own life experience? Is it already written? Who do I believe? Have I switched one set of illusions that made me feel bad, for another set of illusions that made me feel better? Have I bought into the idea of manifestation when the truth is it’s all mapped out anyway? Do I really have any choices?

Through incredible synchronicity, I then began to remember. A yearning to re-read a book… a long conversation with a family member… a prayer to my Father that I may know in my heart what to do…

I remembered that the questioning mind will always churn out more questions. When the questioning mind finds answers, it will then question the answers. It is the nature of the beast.

Your Dad and I had a meeting with the community nurse, who has become a dear friend. With an open mind I listened as we went through the details of chemotherapy treatment. I leafed through the glossy pamphlet, the cover emblazoned with a flower and middle aged woman smiling off into the distance. On the pages within I relived my experience with chemotherapy six years prior. Every cell in my body resisted the very idea of it and I knew, in my deepest being, the answer. The only answer I needed to know in that moment.

With all the courage I could muster and your Father at my side, I said no to chemotherapy. I said no the known. I said yes to the uncharted path.

At the heart of it, the only peace is in not knowing. So I found that place. The compass is within me. As are the answers. Fear was keeping me from them. So I released the fear.

When I said no to chemotherapy, one door closed and I felt one hundred doors of possibility open in every direction. It was remarkable and it was powerful as I stepped into the unknown.

Darling boy I am telling you, when your current situation is telling you that there is no hope, that is exactly where hope lives. At these times your only responsibility is to dream the biggest dreams you can dream! I dreamed you into my life and you are the biggest reminder to me every day, that dreams do come true.
One step at a time, one answer at a time, one dream at a time. The rest is up to God.

“We have more answers ready within us, if only we choose to listen”Conversations with God book 1

Note: I remain under the close medical supervision of my Oncologist and GP. I have said no to chemotherapy but continue with my current treatment protocol. All my treatment decisions have been informed choices with open discussions and the support of my medical team.

The Ruby of Life

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Dear Seamus,

We seem to spend a good deal of time desiring and applying ways to live a good life. We don’t often give thought to experiencing a good death. A few weeks ago I was gifted my very first encounter of witnessing death and I must tell you, that it was beautiful.

This time last year your Father came home from a camping trip with a baby Kangaroo. He has had experience hand rearing Kangaroos in the past and it seemed that each time he had a new human baby, he managed to end up with an orphaned joey soon after. He handed me a reusable supermarket shopping bag, which was her makeshift pouch. Two shiny little eyes blinked up at me from underneath one of his flannelette shirts. It was love at first sight.

I spent many early mornings that winter heating two bottles of formula. Sometimes I juggled feeding two babies at once, depending on how hungry you both were.

I named her Ruby, Ruby Roo, and she was a much loved part of our family. As she grew she spent more and more time out of her pouch. Trying to get her accustomed to the normal life of a Kangaroo, we would put her outside in the back yard each morning so she would begin to eat grass and drink water. However she quickly discovered the doggy door and it became common for Ruby to appear in the kitchen where like you, she enjoyed inspecting the bins.

She was completely independent of her pouch when we moved to the farm a few months ago, so she happily relived her days as a tiny joey when your Dad put her into a large hessian sack to transport her to our new home. She loved the wide open spaces and while occasionally she could be seen hopping around in one of the paddocks, she mostly stayed close to the house.
I discovered some amazing wild rose bushes alongside the long driveway and Ruby would often keep me company while I pruned them beneath a sunny autumn sky. You loved the tree lined walk to the letterbox and Ruby would bounce along with us to check for mail.

Perhaps to Ruby you were another kangaroo and just like brother and sister, I would be called upon to sort out your tiffs. You would pull her tail and she would box your chest with her claws. However I did wonder if Ruby thought she was a chicken! She was usually found in their company as they scratched around the yard or had a rest underneath the bushes in the front yard.

One morning we discovered her lying in the sun along the side of the house. She lifted her head only to put it back down again. She flinched when you approached her but she didn’t get up which I thought was very unusual. I could see that she was not well. Your Dad and I coaxed her up to have some water and she moved around lethargically, smelling the grass. We assumed she must have eaten something that did not agree with her and that it would probably pass through her system.

She was not quite herself over the next few days. However she was regularly grazing on the lawn and I took that to be a promising sign of her improving health. It was lunchtime on a Wednesday and I realised I had not seen her all morning. When I mentioned this to your Dad he said he had done a lap of the house yard earlier but couldn’t find her. My heart sank but I hoped for the best and pictured her resting under a tree in one of paddocks, sure she would return that evening.

It was late afternoon when I decided to take you with me for a walk to see if we could find her. My hope that she was fine had been replaced by the desire to find her so she didn’t spend a night out in the cold. As we walked past the cattle yard the western sky was brushed with pinks and oranges. It was then I noticed her little frame lying on the ground near the storage shed. My tears started as I walked towards her. I knelt down and saw that her chest was rising and falling. She was frail and very ill but she was still alive.

You watched me with great fascination as I cried all the way back to the house to tell your Father. He carried her into our garage and made her comfortable on an old lambskin, which she had slept on in her pouch as a joey. I covered her with a blanket to keep her warm.

Just as she had shared her life with ours, I realised that I had an amazing opportunity to bear witness to her death. As I sat beside her I was so aware of the joy she had brought to our family. I gently placed my hand on her and could feel her heart beating. I literally felt her life force and marvelled at how lovely she was to look at. Her pulse cycled from weak to strong and back again. Several times I thought she was going to die but she would take a big breath and her heartbeat would resume vigorously.

An hour or more passed. As the darkness descended outside the fluorescent light in the shed became brighter. The air felt heavy and frosty but my hand was warm against her fur.

In the final stage, after being still for so long, Ruby began moving her head forward slowly. She lifted her paws as she used to when she would come to me for a scratch. Then her head tilted back as though she was looking up even though her eyes were non responsive. I was reminded of a book I had read by David Kessler called “Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms” about experiences of the dying. Was Ruby experiencing her own vision of what was to come as she left her physical body and hopped into the afterlife?

As her heartbeat finally faded away beneath my hand, I felt deeply humbled.

Seamus, a gorgeous little Kangaroo gave me such a special gift. With her passing she took with her any lingering fears I had of dying. In her wake she left me marvelling at the grace and peacefulness of her departure. She set me free.

The fear of death and dying is a veil obstructing the truth. Death is merely a transition. Release your fears. There is only life. Always and ever more.

“There is no “death.” Life goes on forever and ever. Life is. You simply change form”- Conversations with God: Book 2

What is Right, is Right for you.

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Dear Seamus,

This morning I had an interesting conversation with your eldest brother. There was an infomercial about some cookware on the television. It had begun by espousing all the health dangers of the cookware that was very likely sitting in our kitchen, in a lot of kitchens all over the country. It could cause all manner of deadly conditions from birth defects and brain damage to the worst of the worst; cancer. It then went on to highlight the amazing ways in which food could be prepared using their cookware without inflicting these terrible things onto your loved ones. I explained to him that much of our marketing for consumerism is fear based. If your current frying pan was seen as a potential danger to your family, then they were offering the ultimate solution. With their cookware, you could be assured that your bacon and eggs weren’t going to kill anyone.

He nodded in agreement before a short silence. He then said to me “Mel, wouldn’t it be good if companies weren’t worried about making lots of money by selling things? Then they wouldn’t have to say those kinds of things to us”. I asked him why that was important to him. He looked up at me with his beautiful big blue eyes and said:

“I don’t know”.

He didn’t have to know why he felt that way, he just knew that he did. That was the wisdom of a 12 year old boy. His instinct was telling him that there is another way and indeed there is. When we are young we have a very finely tuned antennae to pick up lies and fear.

So children, without the mountains of conditioned behaviour and thinking still awaiting them, are still very much in touch with their instincts. I have observed your responses to various people. Some you are happy to have a babbling conversation with or even a cuddle. With others you are visibly cautious and quiet. You are sensing them, not with your eyes and ears, but with your inner guidance system. Some people you are drawn to, some people you will be repelled by. It will be this way throughout your whole life.

I want to create a foundation on which you will always seek this counsel first and not the idea of how you should be. Being true to yourself is better than being polite. Your honesty may well come across as rudeness to some. Being polite and being genuinely respectful of another are two very different things. Being polite is to show your good manners. To demonstrate that you have been brought up well by your parents by showing only the nicest side of yourself. It is all about the careful creation of how you are perceived by others. If you were to have a natural response that did not fit into the category of being well mannered and nice, you will be labelled rude. Rudeness is described amongst other things, as an act of ‘unrefinement’. I have witnessed plenty of occasions throughout life where politeness is the behavioural mode for being in public. In the privacy of home, where there are not the same judgements and perceptions, rudeness might be the only way to communicate.

Your authenticity is somewhere in between. It is a balance and it is how you feel about yourself. If you respect yourself you will be respectful of others, and not just putting on the mask of being polite. If you love yourself and trust yourself, you will have the confidence and conviction to be unwaveringly honest without the rudeness.

I don’t want to see you seeking to justify every feeling you have with logic, in an attempt to prove it. Your brother didn’t have a logical explanation as to why he would like to see a society which isn’t based on making the big bucks in exchange for the trickery of good marketing (my words, not his). He just knew that it didn’t feel right for him. That’s all he needs to know. That is all you need to know, what feels right for you.

So my wee Seamus, here is the interesting bit… Question everything. Question everything but do not seek the answer outside yourself. All the answers are within you. Even when you find it through an outside source, like a book or a conversation or even an infomercial, you will get the distinct feeling of rightness inside you. Then that is what is right, because it is right for you.

“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”

Shel Silverstein