Not too long ago, within 7 weeks of one another, both my mother and my younger sister died of cancer. Mom was 79; Amy was 49. I loved them both with all of my heart and I think about them every day. Residing in the old family homestead about an hour away, they were my dearest friends and my earthly foundation. I am single, never married, and live alone. Sadly, they lived in the same house, sucking in the same god-awful yellow cigarette smoke, for decades. Happily, I always knew that no matter what, they loved me, and I loved them. Their antique kitchen table, living room easy chairs, and vintage wicker front porch rockers gave us all sheltered landing spots to share and re-group after an adventuresome trip or a tough month at work ... lots of chatter, lots of deep listening, and many comfortable, intimate silences just sitting side-by-side in the same room together embroidering, reading, watching television, or just thinking.
It is said that when people experience a physical loss, they often use spirituality to make sense of it all. In particular, when people experience a new physical disability, they often use spirituality to make sense of it. As physical losses emerge, perhaps spiritual gains will nurture us into a new life meaning, a renewed sense of hope, and a transcendent deepening of the soul. So it has been for me. As a woman with a complicated disability from polio, I have learned that my spiritual life could complement and more than make up for any physical disability. I lost normal mobility at the age of 4 and now, over 50 years later, the loss of half my family initiated a sense of being suddenly in need of renewal and rehabilitation again. I found that I needed a holistic wellness program that included physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual workshops.
Mom, Amy, and the old family farmhouse were (and still are) such influential pieces of my life's mosaic--who I was and what I did every day. They were central to my normal roles, accustomed family and friend relationships, and familiar perspectives. With their deaths, my entire mosaic had shattered! Its comfortable colors and shapes had changed or disappeared. Through the gray aura of deep grieving, I am slowly putting the mosaic fragments and chunks back together--led by a yearning to be deepened by all things spiritual. My soul wants to somehow connect with their souls because I miss them so. But I am also reordering my priorities in life. As I have become better friends with death and dying, they have gently pointed me back to life and living. Something in my spirit is tirelessly trying to lead me to a new level of meaning and purpose for the next stage of my life. I feel like I'm on a journey without a goal, but maybe that's okay. It is one of those essential life transitions that cannot be ignored. Obediently working to piece together my new life's mosaic, I search and I listen.