Two Weeks Of Death Can Change A Life

The last week of February and the first week of March were intense.

We spent a week in Utah, visiting family and Petey’s grave. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t already said; only that acceptance is setting in, but if you confuse that with numbness or complacency, you’d be wrong.

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Grave Flowers, Moab, UT

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Mound and Cliffs, Moab, UT

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Roses, Moab, UT

As we made our way through Southern Utah we stopped at a few points of interest. Monument Valley did not disappoint.

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Sunrise at Mexican Hat, UT

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Spine, Monument Valley, UT

Then, back in Vegas, I was honored to spend the week with Lauren and Kerry from Lighthold Massage Therapy. They are massage therapists who teach courses about massage therapy for oncology patients (presently undergoing treatment as well as those who have been cancer-free for years). I took Oncology Massage 101 with them last summer and it heightened my awareness regarding client comfort and health issues in a big way.

When the weekend came around, Kerry flew home and Lauren stuck around to teach what I call “the deathy class” — Opening to the Mystery: Presence in Caregiving at the End of Life. To most, it probably sounds like a class about hospice massage…and that’s part of it. But it’s so much more.

Five other participants and myself followed Lauren’s lead through exercises in loss: loss of freedom, loss of faculties, loss of companionship, loss of touch. The course was three days long, and each day we could see more of each other as the space we created was tested and proven to be safe. We shared our doubts, fears, and plans; we shared our stories.

Friends asked me what the course was “about”. I told them I couldn’t sum it up in words but that I would try my best in a blog post. Opening to the Mystery was profound in that it provided a safe place, lead by a safe human, where the wisdom in truthfully admitting that we don’t know everything was embraced and celebrated. Centered around the impermanence of life, Lauren encouraged us to shift our perspectives from longing to loving, and from future to present.

If you think you’re up to it, I think you should enroll. Humility and vulnerability are prerequisites if you want to get the most out of the experience. Even if you’re mostly there, by day three you’ll be a changed person.

I’m not sure where my career as a massage therapist, esthetician and nail tech will take me in the years to come, but I can tell you my practice is deeper and more fulfilling because of journeys like these. Thank you.

 

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Vigil in Moab

Moab, Utah is beautiful; everyone says so. With the purist intentions, devotees call on the spirits of the red rock canyons and mesas, the blue skies and the Colorado River. I used to be right there with them, eyes as wide as saucers, breathing the air so fully I’d hoped I’d take a little bit of it home with me. Moab was otherworldly; a striking vortex of adventure, respite and awe.

But not anymore. Driving past the cliff walls, backed by Moby’s “Everloving”, we were on our way to visit someone who wouldn’t be there.

His body rests beneath the mound (as it has for one year now), the granite marker dutifully engraved with truth and lie. A fiction. I want to feel close to him again, to commune with memory, to find a glint of peace in the shadow, but these tasks prove impossible under the oppressive weight of trust gone so wrong.

Several yards away, a ragged American flag twists in the wind. We tend to his grave with eager hands and open eyes, painting monochromatic earth with reds, pinks, greens. “Just come with us,” I want to say.

Instead I make a promise…because here, now, that is the most and all I can do.

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Across the road, this guy.

Across the road.

We keep vigil for hours on a day he shouldn’t have been alone. When it’s time, we leave Moab in our ruddy, city slicker dust. With each mile wedged between ourselves and that soulless chasm, my chest cavity loosens and expands accordingly. That night, sleep is deep and restorative. It is clear that this was necessary.

The missing is constant, these twelve months a temporal arc flash of loss and emotion. I’d give anything to have him back with us, with the hope I’d get to hold onto the wisdom that tells us not to squander one damn living second on this planet when we’re with the ones we love.

A peaceful sight from Lehi City Cemetery taken on my last day in Utah.

Found. — at Lehi City Cemetery, taken on my last day in Utah

*I realize you may not fully understand what or whom I’m writing about here. If you wish, please visit these posts on The Young Thumbs (a massage therapy blog of which I am a participant) dated 3/19/14, 5/29/14, 8/15/14 and 12/1/14 for reference. Thanks.