Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Song at the End of a Life



"The death of a beloved is an event that rings and rings through life:
bearing it is not a problem to be solved, but a long, slow piece of music to listen
 to. And mourning, like music, is best listened to with others."    Sarah Miles 

I'm not one to avoid the hard things...and coming here tonight feels hard. Mom died 
in mid-October, the day before my birthday. She loved reading this blog and was one 
of my most enthusiastic supporters. My sister and I got to Florida in time to spend 
two good days with her before she began the active dying process. On Saturday when 
we arrived, she was alert, talkative, sitting up and and so relieved that we made it in time. Hospice came a day and a half later, and by Tuesday afternoon, she had flown 
away with the birds. There were profound gifts of beauty and love along with the pain and deepening grief. It was a gift to be able to offer her healing work during her last days, and to sing to her as she died. My sister and father sang with me as she slipped more and more into dreaming. In her final moments, we sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot and marveled at the chorus of birds outside her window as she took her last breaths. 



Being with the land is a great solace, as always, and soon some of Mom's ashes will 
be spread in the moss garden here, a decision that she made after I first moved here, 
long, long before her illness. I think a stone bench and a birdbath are in order, to 
tuck amongst the mosses and ferns, so we - the birds and I - can continue our singing. 


I don't have a lot to say tonight, so I offer you images. I needed to come here and 
write this to mark this moment, to say that I am OK, up and down as the grief process 
is - not making much art. I'm walking and looking and taking photographs, and marveling at the astonishing beauty of water drops on shriveled weeds and the November forest surrendering to the coming winter. 























89 comments:

Sylvanna said...

Beautiful. Sad. Sorry.

Nancy said...

Such deep beauty here, glitters through the tears. Hugs to you.

gz said...

A sad loss, but a gentle leaving.
You're in a good place and have a trusted feline friend who will know and care....cats do.

Beautiful images

kd said...

Love on your journey: one we must all walk. Such beautiful, poignant images too

Hindustanka said...

Sorry for your loss...hope you will overcome it and keep on creating some beautiful art pieces.. later...

ArtPropelled said...

Even through the sadness there is beauty in your post. Thinking of you, dear Valerianna.

Charlotte said...

With thoughts to you at this time. I wish you the solace of nature in this time of grief.

Stacie said...

A beautiful tribute to your Mother. Warm gentle hugs and my hopes that the land brings solace to you as a balm to the hurt. When you are ready, you will make art again and it will also help heal the grief.

Lynn said...

Such sad news.
But what a beautiful passing you, your sister and father - and the birds - gave to your mom.
Wishing you well through the grieving process; a deep and mystical journey of its own.

susan christensen said...

O Valerianna I am so glad you got to be with your family during that important and difficult but beautiful time. My prayers include you, friend. Love - sus and William Wallace

Barry said...

VA-sad but also beautiful that you could be there to see your mum across the threshold. Thinking of you and sending love and peace vibes. B

Marti said...

My heart goes out to you Valerianna. The loving way you and your family sang to your beloved Mother ushering her to another place, was so deeply touching and a loving tribute. When you walk about your land, while the ache hangs in the mist, as the day begins and the sky starts it's dance with light, her spirit surrounds you, in your mossy place, in your heart, simply, love never leaves. The Irish say, "when we lose someone we love,it seems that time stands still. What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness...a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch. We may not understand why they left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that they died, but that they lived. And that their life gave us memories too beautiful to forget."

Julierose said...

Your grieving is your art at this moment in time...take solace in the knowledge that you were there to send your Mom on her journey...my best Julierose

india flint said...

i'm so sorry for your loss. it's good to have woods and a furred friend in hard times. blessings.

Caterina Giglio said...

i am so glad that you got there in time to be with her before she made her transition. and now you will have her with you in the forest and will be able to hear her whisperings in the wind... sending you hugs xxx

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Sylvanna.

Valerianna said...

Hi Nancy - beauty glittering through the tears - life is this way, isn't it?

Valerianna said...

gz - yes, Pasha has been quite attentive and cuddly, just what one needs!

saskia said...

....I too am sorry for your loss; it was good that you and your family could be there to the end, leaving this world surrounded by loved ones: what more could one ask.

Valerianna said...

kd - thanks. Slow looking, deep seeing, seems the way of late.

Valerianna said...

Hindustanka - I'm think more than overcome the loss, it'll be more like integrating the experience and getting used to the Mom's absence, its so new even after a month.

Starr White said...

Such poignant images. And such a beautiful reminder that there is beauty to be found even at the end of a season, of a life. Blessings to you. May the trees and the stones sing a song of peace and solace to you during this painful time.

Valerianna said...

Hi Robyn - thanks... I think there is great beauty in sadness, too, and maybe because the open, shattered heart sees it more.

Valerianna said...

Thanks Charlotte - nature is a balm.

Valerianna said...

Stacie - feeling the tug to make art, but don't yet have the energy. I do think it will help transform the grief and the art will be infused with its depths.

Valerianna said...

Lynn - it tryly was a beautiful passing, the hospice nurse was quite moved, to tears even. She said she has never cried in her years of hospice work, but she did with my Mom's death. She said families aren't usually so involved, as active or as open. That made me sad. She said often families wait in the other room watching TV!!!! they don't really know what to do. Strange that it isn't just intuitive.

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Sus, and William!!

Valerianna said...

Barry - it was a great gift and an honor. She died with enormous grace and peaceful surrender.

Valerianna said...

Lovely saying, Marti, thanks for this. Mom's ancestors were Irish...

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Julierose, I am doing just that. I'm so glad we got there in time, and that Mom was strong enough to hold on for us.

Valerianna said...

Thanks, India - yes, furred friends and the woods are good, and the feathered creatures who are now eating voraciously at my feeders readying for winter.

ramona said...

Oh! The water drops! Little spheres of crystal enchantment!! Such beauty you are finding now:)

Tammie Lee said...

my heart leans towards yours

i wondered where you were, i came here a few times to see if you were sharing

so glad you find comfort in nature at this time

Sandra Dunn said...

Dear V - Feeling tears. How tender you write and share at such a difficult time. Praying a gentle season upon you. I can only imagine what a special physical and spiritual space you will create for your mum's ashes in your woods - what an honor. Much peace, my friend.

(p.s. I'm going to get caught-up on reading about your family's sailing adventures ~~~ <)~~ ~~~

Virginia said...

I wish you peace, dear lady. I'm so glad you were able to be there. Three years on, I still miss my father every minute of every day and remain surprised that he left. But it was a gift to be with him when he died. I hope your having been there is a comfort.

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

My heartfelt thoughts to you and your family Valerianna... a fragment from Kathleen Raine's poem 'The Hollow Hill' always comes to mind at these times:

'But when a soul departs, a white bird flies:
Gull, gannet tern or swan? Not these,
Another kind of bird
Into the emptiness untrammelled soars.'

If you can find it, try to read the rest of the poem, you might like it, it is quite profound...
Best of wishes to you...

Velma Bolyard said...

be gentle with yourself, valerie, and keep looking and photographing.

Umā said...

I'm so sorry Valerianna. But I'm so glad that you and your family were all there together to ease your mom's passage with love and song. It is a profoundly life-changing experience to witness the last breath of the woman who witnessed your first. It closes a sacred circle that can never be broken.

Carmine said...

I'm sorry your family has lost your Mom, Valerianna, The thought of birds singing outside her window as you sit with her is so very poignant, it pierces my heart. How lovely that you were all together to sing her lovingly and peacefully to her rest. Thank you for writing so movingly of your experience, and may the hemlocks and oaks hold you and Pasha close as you navigate this new terrain.

Donna~Q~ said...

My condolences on the loss of your mother. I know how hard it must have been to make this post. What a gift it is to have shared in your mom's final days, and to have had the opportunity to sing to her during her passing. She will always be a part of your song, now.

I am glad that you are taking the time to find comfort in your dear forest and the beings that live within it. It is their gift to be able to offer you peace. Wishing you grace in grief and sending virtual hugs...

Beacee said...

Peace be with your Spirit.

acornmoon said...

I am sorry to hear of your loss. I know there are no words to take away the pain but I hope the knowledge that she departed this life surrounded by her loved ones helps you. I lost my very elderly father a few years ago. It was not possible for me to be with him at the very end as I had to stay with my mum. It is something I can do nothing about but how I wish I could change things.

Juli said...

I'm so glad you got to be with your mom, spend time with her and sing to her. I'm sure that your presence eased her passing. Wishing you light on your journey and the soothing balm of nature.

AkasaWolfSong said...

My heart goes out to you and your family at this deep time of sorrow and grief. May the Sweet Light of your Mother's energies surround you always and bring you peace...

Valerianna said...

Hi Caterina - I'll be listening for that whispering...

Valerianna said...

Yes, Saskia, I hope I have an equally loving death.

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Starr, even a short walk outside this afternoon with Pasha helped me feel better.

Valerianna said...

Ramona - aren't they amazing?

Valerianna said...

Its nice to feel missed here in cyberspace... its been on my mind for weeks to check in here, but just wasn't able yet.

Valerianna said...

Hi Sandra - I'm soaking in your prayer for a gentle season, my family could use one after a long year of stress and anxiety and now, deep grief. We were just coming out of the traumatic death of my niece's young husband two years ago... so its been a bit of an intense ride the last few years. I'm praying for gentleness right now.

Valerianna said...

Hi Virginia - it is surprising, isn't it? Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is true. And, yes, having been at Mom's side is comforting - and it not being a shock, we had some time to get used to the idea of it, though the reality is quite something.

Valerianna said...

Lovely poem, Carrie, thanks.

Valerianna said...

Continuing... practicing gentleness, keeping my eyes open and also my ears.

Valerianna said...

Hi Uma - yes... the sacred circle is a blessing.

Valerianna said...

Carmine - we are sitting at the feet of the trees feeling their warmth, their love. And watching the many birds foraging for seeds and bugs, I am close to Mom when I find joy in the birds.

Valerianna said...

Thanks for the virtual hug, Donna, it is very welcome right now! I'm looking forward to the fall clean-up and the winter prep to be done so I can sit and dream and heal with the land even more :)

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Beacee.

Valerianna said...

Oh, I imagine that must have been hard - not to be with your father, and still is. There are some things I wish I could have changed, like not having been so far away during Mom's illness... especially towards the end, but that was what was. Surrender is all now.

Valerianna said...

Thank you Juli, I know Mom felt held in love...

Valerianna said...

Thank you, AkasaWolfSong.... beautiful words.

summertime dreams said...

So sorry to hear about your mom. I can't imagine a better suited place for mourning and for rejuvenation than your lovely surroundings shared with such a splendid companion. Take your time and take care.

Mo Crow said...

thank you for sharing the deep beauty of the land sharing the tears for you (((Valerianna)))

Sweetpea said...

There are worlds in those droplets of water and I think you see into them and past them. May your sore heart not linger long on passages.

My very best to you at this time,
Christi

A mermaid in the attic said...

Dear Valerianna, I am so sorry. But also, I am so glad for you too, to have been able to spend that time with your mum, sharing those last precious moments, singing and talking together, as it should be, and (these days), so often isn't. I know we've talked before, in emails, about death and its place in our society. To be able to share it with a loved one, face it with them, is a gift I think, though a hard and difficult one. Take care of yourself, hug Pasha, and know that I'm thinking of you, and your precious mum, from all the way round the other side of the world.
xx Christina

Valerianna said...

Thank you, its a good place to grieve - and heal - yes... sometimes more distraction is needed, though!!

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Mo...

Valerianna said...

Hi Christi - that's beautiful - "May yoru sore heart not linger long on passages" - thanks for that.

Valerianna said...

Hi Christina, thanks. I do cherish the memories of her last days, even through intensity of and sometimes horror of it. Truly, there was everything, but thanks be that we were all there holding her hand and loving her.

Beth said...

As always, a beautiful post. My thoughts are with you.

helen said...

Dear Valerianna, I am so sorry . It is such a comfort to those of us left behind to be able to say a spirit~full farewell. It was a similar experience for me with my mam, 27 years ago, and I still treasure the gift of it.

Your goodbye sounds beautiful.....and singing with the birds.

The droplets...oh the droplets...they hold whole universes.

Be gentle with yourself dear Valerianna. I am sending hugs.

Much love to you and Pasha x x x

Sharmon Davidson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharmon Davidson said...

Love and many hugs to you, Valerianna. I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad that you got to be with her at the end, and comfort her with songs.

jodi said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss and I wish you all the very best possible as you work through it. How good though that you had the chance to be with her as she passed and that you can take comfort in the fact that she was surrounded by her loving family. Warm wishes out to you.

Sandra Dunn said...

Some years bring deep etchings of pain or loss,,, but somehow,,, the good and best of times and places and people make up for it. May the new year ahead be filled with grace and healing.

tiffanydavidson said...

I rarely ever come to blogger anymore, but it is always sweet and gentle to come to your space here. I'm sorry to read of your mother's passing, Valerianna.
I can only offer you this, which has helped me before:

"The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier."
(Walt Whitman)

Emma said...

Dear Arianna, today my poem "Cycle" is for you.

CYCLE

For one brief day
my misty blue
fluttering veils
are like the sky
in which I dance.

Velvet blue
I wander midst
the flowers of
the realm of death
requiem.

First egg am I
caterpillar
nymph am I
transformed
butterfly.

In pearl grey light
urgently quivering
with life, with death
I tear myself free
from the earth.

I glide the land
through rings
of light and shade
and sense
the twilight calling.

Knowing my time
is ending soon
I will fly north
lay off my wings
become a soul once more.

with love,

Valerianna said...

This was a duplicate of below comment... I must have published it twice!

Emma said...

Dear Valerianna, I called you Arianna by mistake. Or did I? It is more likely that you remind me of Aria(d)ne who gave Theseus a special thread which he could follow on his way through the labyrinth, and also help others to lead them out of it again. Like you are winding your spirals through RavenWood.

Ruthie Redden said...

Dearest one, i hear your song and feel your words in these images. May you find moments of beautiful peace in amongst the healing heart of the land. Sending you much love across the ocean. Thinking of you and yours x ruthie x x

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Valerianna said...

Thank you, Sharmon. Yes, it did sustain me for a long while that we were all with Mom as she died.

Valerianna said...

Hi Jodi - thanks for the well wishes. I hope when I die it is with family around, too.

Valerianna said...

Lovely, Tiffany, thank you!

Valerianna said...

Wonderful, thanks!

Valerianna said...

I love Ariadne and the thread and weaving and spinning... so, who knows if that was a mistake or not, maybe just an alter ego for me. I love the idea of giving visitors some thread, cause they sometimes get lost here!

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Ruthie. The land is truly the place I find my healing now - as ever!

Valerianna said...

Don't know if you're a robot or not, but thanks for visiting!

Karen said...

I haven't had the time I would like to visit blogs lately so am late to this post. So very sorry to hear about your Mum Valerianna. Sending you peace and condolences. xx

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Karen - never too late with condolences, of course... it will be a forever thing :(