Season of Loss, Season of LIfe

A dear friend had a severe stroke over the weekend. She and her husband, who live near Fresno, had been out gardening in their yard early, to beat the heat. When they came in to get breakfast, she collapsed onto the floor. Her husband knew right away it was likely a stroke: the left side of her face sagged and she was paralyzed on her left side. At the hospital, doctors immediately tried a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which works by dissolving blood clots. In this case, though, it didn't work, and they rushed her into emergency surgery.

That night, after surgery, doctors told her husband they'd gotten the blockage at the top of her carotid artery, but couldn't get to the one near her frontal lobe. It has been touch and go. Monday she moved her left leg and arm, and she was alert and asking for her phone and glasses Tuesday morning. Yesterday the report wasn't so good. We'll know more about the extent of damage in coming days and weeks, but we are all hopeful. She faces many months—perhaps a year or more—of recovery.

I've known these friends for more than 25 years. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, having married as youngsters on the eve of his going off to fight in Vietnam. He became a journalist and, later, a businessman. We met when we worked for the small daily newspaper in Redding, California, along with another friend. As couples, all six of us became close friends and have remained so to this day, though we all ended up in different cities far apart. We watched our kids grow up and vacationed together. We also supported each other when one of us was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago. Last fall, her cancer returned. Her husband, meanwhile, struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Earlier this year, my younger sister died unexpectedly, and another dear friend succumbed to ovarian cancer last month. Other friends are dealing with the sudden loss of his job; he is in his mid-60s.

This season of life for me has brought many joys—and, increasingly, illnesses, difficulties, sorrows, deaths. It is sometimes hard to remember that life is also death, and struggle. 

As I have gotten older, I find myself more introspective, seeking answers, looking for the reasons behind the events of our lives. I do not have the answers, but this I do know: None of us is immune from heartbreak or sorrow, and the only response to any hardship is trust, and gratitude for what is, and perseverance. And faith. I always come back to Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

A Wonderment of Earth

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My friend and gifted writer and photographer, Sandra Hunter, emailed our AROHO writing group this morning and said that in the 16th century, earthquakes were called "wonderments of earth." 

What a delightful way to describe the upheaval of earth and plane, the disruption, the stab of fear when you first sense the ground's movement. 

If we consider similar upheavals in our lives - emotional, psychological, mental, or physical - as wonderments of earth, it allows for a very different experience, doesn't it?

Instead of panicking, or reeling from something unknown and frightening, we can see it as a wonderment, a reminder that wondrous life is always about change, shakeups, the unexpected. And we can imagine them, then, as gifts - opportunities to view life differently, to embrace the change that is inevitable, to roll with the earth and trust that the ground will eventually stop moving.

It is, truly, a wonderment.


Quote of the Day - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I was strolling through the Old Mission rose garden a couple of weeks ago, and photographed this rose. It reminded me of how much we miss by worrying about things we can't do anything about: This moment is all that matters; do not let it go to waste with thoughts of past transgressions or frets about the future.


"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson