Finding Wholeness… – Chapter 4

The chapter heading ~ Finding Wholeness As Our Bodies Break Down ~ IS the very essence of Mom’s experience inching upward toward triple digits.  At 90, she wrote – “As the years tick by and my fixtures and fittings become unglued and the ‘fur’ is loved off, a stronger sense of being Real has moved forward.”  Am quite sure she would have written out the Maya Angelou quote that kicks off the chapter – “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”  – to keep on her night stand.

What a blast she would have had, sitting down with Rabbi Dayle Friedman, sharing her thoughts on Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older, mixing in some of her Swedenborgian wisdom on becoming an “Ancient”!

Rabbi Friedman is in italics, my comments (or Mom’s) in regular font:

While we cannot realistically dream of escaping physical limitations or suffering as we grow older, we can hope for wholeness. … Just as we can grow to appreciate the preciousness of each stage of the rose, we can come – with effort – to greater peace with our aging bodies. – – I’ll let Mom take this... “A favorite saying of mine for many moons is ‘Old age ain’t for sissies.’  Actually, managing to get to 90 relatively sound of heart, mind and body (or  any one or more of those three) indicates some grit.  As I inch closer toward  triple digits, being old has gotten a lot easier.  Somewhere around my late  80s, I began to see the humor and humanity more in things, to take upsets  less personally and put them more easily into perspective.”

 

The spiritual teacher Ram Dass, who suffered a devastating stroke in his sixties, works to great each pain or physical discomfort with tender compassion, saying, “Ah, so, even this.” – –  Handing it again to Mom…  “For whatever reason, growing feeble, infirm and even forgetful is part of the  Lord’s grand scheme.”

 

We can try contemplative practice to help us be with a pain or soreness, opening to what exactly the experience is like instead of bracing ourselves against it. – – Yep, back to Mom… “Moving out of that hanging-on state to one of accepting that the  body is a temporary shelter designed to house our eternal soul could be  compared to moving out of darkness and confusion toward lightness and the  light.”

 

We are more than our bodies. … What may help us is to let go of anger at ourselves, or at aging itself, and honor our bodies for doing as best it can under the circumstances.  This letting go may need to happen again and again as our bodies and abilities continue to change.  – – More Mom…. “Ideally, the concepts of physical being, of time and relationships,  are liberated as we get older and older.”

 

It may help us as well to turn our attention toward others who are suffering, to use our own experience of pain to develop empathy and connection. – – So much of Mom’s life focused on putting her attention toward others.  In the mid-1950s, Mom had a nervous breakdown & was hospitalized for over a month, undergoing every sort of horrific “treatment” that was the norm back then; unlike other people of her day, who would have never talked about it, even with close friends, Mom was open about what brought her to that point, helped countless people by talking about her experiences, letting others know what brought her to breaking – her refusal to seek or let others help with two family medical emergencies that piled on, one after another.  ~ When her youngest son was killed, Mom got through it in part by putting her focus on his best friend, who was with him when it happened, and on his family.  From that tragedy on, if a friend lost a child, Mom was among the first to show up to comfort & just be present.  ~ In her last weeks, Mom’s hospital rooms were centers of good humor, interesting conversation & healing peace for the hospital personnel.  She gave as much comfort to the friends & family who came to see her at INOVA/Alexandria, then at St. Mary’s & finally at home as they gave to her. ~  Mom’s greatest desire was that each connection be reciprocal & she did all she could to make it so.

 

We live in a culture that lionizes activity, productivity, and independence.  … We have accepted the notion that our worth is determined by our level of activity or by what we generate.  – – And we are back to Mom…  “The changes  that come  with old age are scary, especially changes in life roles.  I have  not enjoyed the hands-on role of wife for over 26 years.  At ninety, I cannot  even manage the role I played as a parent.  The resources just are not there.    I cannot provide massive emotional or even minor financial support.   I  cannot wash a floor or do the grocery shopping or even dust my own room. (I   can still shell hard boiled eggs and clean mushrooms!)”

 

In contrast, Jewish tradition teaches that our worth is not conditioned by any external measure.  We humans are ultimately worthy simply because we are beings created in the divine image. – –  Mom… “Growing old, even some of the sadder aspects of it,  is part of the Lord’s grand scheme.  Let go of time-bound prejudices and fears  of growing older.”

 

As Ram Dass observes, limits and fatigue “may … be a message to attend to the moment – to be with it … to taste it … to embrace it, a way of making us take time, finally to see what’s here now.” – –  Mom… “Today. my body constantly clues me in that it is merely temporary.  It is  breaking down.  That is in the order of things, however rotten it is to  experience. … Lots of things I loved to do are just memories.  Instead of gearing up into  depression over what is no longer, I find it simpler to shift perspective.”

 

So, what can we hope for?  We can hope for healing … for the capacity to feel whole even when the body that carries us is broken. – – Who else? Mom, of course…  “Whoever is ME is changing so fast it is hard to keep up at times.  It feels  like more is bubbling up to the surface than ever before – well, since I fell  in love, married and became a mom for the first time.”

 

As our bodies experience the illness and decline that are normal elements of aging, we can strive to expand our field of vision – – remaining awake to the present moment but also seeing beyond the moment and beyond ourselves. – – Letting Mom have the last word…  “Dependency has not turned out to be as bad as I thought it would be.  There is a wonderful passage from the book Still Here that expresses my experience over the past year – “When there is true surrender and service between people, the roles of helper and helped, and the boundaries between those in power and those who are powerless, begin to dissolve.”  That has been my experience with my daughter and son-in-law and with, it seems, most of the other people in my life – the boundaries have begun to dissolve.”

It may seem lazy of me, letting Mom respond instead of me (how astonished she’d be), but it’s pretty amazing that someone who was THERE can share her experiences.  Thank you, Rabbi Friedman, for this special way to reconnect with the amazing Katharine Reynolds Lockhart (aka Mom).

If she could see me now

In the midst of corresponding with a woman who’s an awesome force for aging expansively,  was moved to share the link to Mom’s The Velveteen Grammie article.  Gave me pause, skimming over it before sending it off.

Reminded anew of the strange but true reality that my here & now life is what Mom always saw for me.  Not the specifics, but very much the general “helping people” thing.

When I was unceremoniously & totally unexpectedly given the boot from the corporate world that I’d aced, it took me all of thirty minutes to realize that MOM was behind the shove out the door.  Literally – was driving home in tears, waiting to be scooped up in the waiting arms of my loving husband, when I came to a stop at a traffic light in Willow Grove, half way between BISYS Financial Services & home, and IT hit me with full force:   Mom had NEVER seen me in the corporate world.

Now that Mom was fully in spirit, seems she had more clout.  Yanked me out of my comfy cushy job & thrust me into the truly great unknown.  She knew the truth of what Jen Sincero writes in You Are A Badass At Making Money – – “Taking huge scary steps into the unknown is the best way to scare my BS to the surface.  It is like a 2-for-1 deal ~ ~ I make progress AND I unearth my shit.”

Not that Mom would ever use such language, but the underlying message – yeah, that was totally what I got, sitting there in my car, waiting for the light to change.  I had been thrown into the Great Unknown AND everything would be fine.  Just keep moving forward.

If she could see me now, Mom would be totally UNsurprised, just all, “Yes, that’s what I always saw.”  Mom – – thanks for the push & the belief.

Ornaments & Memories – Mindwalker 1910

One of our great treasures is an audio recording of Mom talking about treasured ornaments, made back in the mid-1990s.  We also treasure this Mindwalker1910 posting that’s in the same vein!

Subj: ornaments and memories
Date: Thu Dec 21 21:52:24 EST 2000 

The most precious ornaments in our house are the ones that we made after Peter was born. The yellow stroller crafted to celebrate his arrival. The little red wagon made when Peter was a toddler – which was stepped on two years ago, yet John managed to make “all better” with a little glue and some skillful application of his airbrush. 

Over the years, others have gained a special place in my heart and on our trees…

The ornaments from Tiffany that Mim presented as “favors” at an elegant Christmas Eve dinner that she planned ~ with great secrecy ~ every detail of, from the “Tiffany blue” boxes at each place (the iconic name emblazoned on each, each wrapped with the equally iconic white satin ribbon) -to- the perfectly cooked crown pork roast and even (inspired by Alicia) a “Yule Log” dessert -to- her adamant request that all of us ~ Pete, Elsa and I ~ dress for a “black tie” event, Pete resplendent in his suit, each of us women in beautiful evening gowns. Mim managed to keep everything utterly secret until we walked into the living room at Woodland Road, with a small elegantly set table in the middle of the room, a blazing fire roaring in the fireplace, chilled champagne waiting to be popped. The setting was only the living room at our Woodland Road house, but no supper club or 5-star restaurant could have been more stylish. 

The paper angels that Ian made in school have brought special grace to the tree and topped it until just a few years ago, when an angel bear – perfect for Squirrel Haven – took over the tree-topping duties; the paper Santa and cardboard clown that he made. 

The clay ornaments that Whitney and Reynolds made many moons ago that have long since crumbled, but which I lovingly remember each year as we put up the other treasures. 

The really really old Murphy ornaments, and so many more that I cannot remember at this moment – our tree is decked out with love and memories and happiness. 

Have a holly-jolly-getting-ready-for Christmas. KRL

Into the wilderness – Mindwalker1910

Neither Mom nor I gave a 2nd thought to her going down to DisneyWorld in 1997 – at 87, she was as eager to hit the road as ever.  It would be a life-changing trip, the long drive on which she first heard Stephen Covey, Marianne Williamson, John Bradshaw as I intermingled her beloved music cds with a carefully curated selection of personal development gurus.

It was also an illuminating trip for me, realizing that its success was rooted in letting Mom’s body clock set our schedule.  Putting her first worked for both of us, maximizing the pleasure we both took over our travels.  It was why, to her great surprise, she felt stronger, healthier when we returned home after almost two weeks away.

Twenty years since I fulfilled Mom’s dream of visiting EPCOT & she fulfilled one of mine by gaining the ability to detach from a consuming moment, to LIVE the truth gleaned from Viktor Frankl, learned through Stephen Covey – that between stimulus & response is the moment when we can choose our response.  And it all started with going into the wilderness.

Subj: into the Wilderness
Date: Mon Nov 6 23:12:48 EST 2000 

It is a relatively short hop from Jacksonville to Orlando, three hours at the most as I recall. As we got closer and closer to DisneyWorld, it seemed somehow more and more incredible that we were there.

I remember Elsa turning off the interstate and driving past lots of trees – as I remember it, it was sort of like the Pine Barrens. It felt like Florida because it felt like going to the shore.

The car was headed toward the sort of toll booths that welcome visitors to DisneyWorld. Except we were not visitors at DisneyWorld ~ we were going to be residents. 

Elsa took a road that pulled to the right and followed the signs. I recall the thrill I felt when we saw the sort of wooden twiggish sign that announced “Wilderness Lodge.” We drove down the road and finally there it was up ahead, a place that looked exactly like … well, exactly like a wilderness lodge.  It looked huge and like it was timbered and built with beautiful boulders and stones.

We parked the car out front, handed the keys over to a young man in a “ranger” outfit, saw our bags and our bag of stuffies whisked inside. We walked in the big doors and into the lobby and looked up and up and up. It was magnificent.

It looked just like one of those great lodges I have read about in National Geographic, except it was HUGE.   Yet,somehow, it did not seem huge.  It seemed cozy. 

We checked in and Elsa left me settled into one of the big chairs that reminded me of my big chair in our living room and went upstairs with another one of the “ranger” staff members. When she came back 15 minutes later, she practically bounced off the elevator. 

It seems that the “ranger” took her to our room – about as far from the elevator as you could get. The first thing she did was ask him what she needed to do to arrange a wheel chair for use during our stay. “Why?,” he wanted to know. 

She explained that her 87-year old mother would be too tuckered out after doing the walk to get to anything else. He was on the phone in a flash and before Elsa knew it, our things were bundled back on the cart and redeposited in a room on the same floor, but right around the corner from the elevators. 

Now, THAT is service.

The thing that amazed me with Wilderness Lodge from our very first glimpse was how it really did feel far away from everything. When we got off the elevator at our floor and looked out windows at the end of the hall and across from the elevator, all we could see were trees. All we could see from the balcony of our room was trees. It was more than I ever could have dreamed. 

Elsa got our bags unpacked, the stuffies spread out over the armoire – around the TV and on top and all over the place – and tucked me in for a nap, then headed out to check out the Magic Kingdom. 

One of the things that made the trip work so well was how many times we were together yet on our own.

Elsa glowed when she came back. I had awakened some time before and was just having a marvelous time, sitting out on our balcony, soaking in the view. She told me about taking pictures of elmo and three of the four Sissettes* – Sissy, Baby Girl (Kelly Zeigler’s) and Sissette (Brenda’s) in front of the Magic Kingdom and how a man asked if she would like to have her picture taken with them. She thought his offer was a hoot (and, no, she did not take him up on it).        *Erin’s Stephie could not make it

Back in our room, watching as Elsa put the minkies back with the rest of the stuffies, I sensed something was not right. Picking up on my sense of foreboding, she did a head count and realized that Skylar, the almost life-size skunk puppet that Kelly found for John, was nowhere to be found! She looked high and low, no sign of Sky. 

The last time she remembered seeing him was at the car, perched atop the baggage on the luggage cart. 

Our hearts sank. Not only were we concerned to have lost him, we were trying to figure out what to tell John. 

On our way to supper – we stayed close to home, choosing to eat at the Lodge that night – Elsa swung past the front desk and filled out a missing item report. I remember what she wrote – “Large skunk puppet; very friendly and always ready for a good time.” We had a sort of quiet supper, a combination of excitement and concern. 

Afterwards, we soaked in the incredible beauty of the lobby, with its massive stone fireplace and chimney that reached up and up and up. We walked past the “mountain spring-fed” pool (the “mountain spring” started in the lobby and meandered its way along until it tumbled over a waterfall into the pool), out to the dock that lead to the boat that would take us the next day to the Magic Kingdom. 

Standing there on the dock in the comfortably cool night air, with the lagoon stretched out in front of us and the magnificent lodge in back of us, we seemed a hundred miles away from civilization. It was the perfect place for us to stay and it is a perfect memory, three years later. 

I expected that our digs for our stay would look sort of like a mountain lodge and that I’d feel sort of happy to be there. There was nothing sort of about it – it was wonderful, through and through.

As we looked around at the trees and water, we talked about Skylar – our storyline (which would continue and be embellished on for the rest of our stay) was that he had been overcome with the sense of the place as soon as he had clapped eyes on the lodge. Far from being lost, we figured, his wild side had overcome him and he had made a break for it when none of us were looking. We imagined him in the woods, having a high old time. The stories of Skylar’s exploits grew taller and taller as our stay went on – the next Disney production, Skylar in the Wilderness.

It is so lovely to go off to bed with a smile on my face and lovely, lovely memories playing tag between my head and heart. Am up the wooden hill. 

Love to one and all – Skylar’s Grammie

from deev – we ultimately did reconnect with skylar, on the last day of our visit.  returning from our afternoon outing, asking us to check, one of the “rangers” informed us the concierge had something for us.  will always remember the look on the young woman’s face as she reunited us with our wandering boy.

Blessed – a Thanksgiving gratitude from the Gramster (11/23/00)

 A thankful posting from Mom to her Mindwalkers….
Subj: blessed
Date: Thu Nov 23 21:47:24 EST 2000The “cpu” is still up and running, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and writing a longer note that more fully expresses my feelings of this day.

My blessings over the past year have been many. At this time in 1999, I was still in the early stages of recovering from my stroke in September. The doctors and nurses and staff who helped me through it all were God sent.

I live with two young ‘uns who seem to enjoy fussing over me, even when I drag John out of the studio or Elsa out of bed for the 4th time in the wee small hours of the morning. They almost always – unless totally groggy – come into my room and leave with a smile. They are fun and make my life lively.

The Bryn Athyn community has blessed my life for almost all of my life. There are so many ways it blesses it, from the wonderful recordings of the Contemporary Service which I love to listen to, to the rides that dear Ginny Tyler arranges to take me to appointments, to the friends she sends to be my chauffeur du jour and whose generosity and friendship are so very special, to the wonderful people who embody the word community and kindness.

A big and unexpected blessing this year has been my involvement with an online group of men and women who are exploring the role of women in the ministry of the General Church. The discussions I have heard and participated in online have kept my noggin stepping lively and the get togethers I have attended have always left me with a sense of peace and trust in the Lord.

I was blessed by the circle of women who get together every other Wednesday for discussion about topics of interest. They are older women – although all are younger than yours truly – and the discussion is always interesting. I have not been to the get togethers for over a year, but did go last month when they invited Sonia Soneson Werner to come talk to them about the current discussion on the role of women in our ministry. I was so proud of them for asking her, I was so proud of her for going, and I was so lucky to be there to hear my friends’ willingness to listen to the unknown and to share their own experiences and their feelings about it. It was an unexpected and profound blessing.

The “dist list” that started my online life – New Church Women on the Internet – continues to stimulate and recharge me every time I read a new posting. Each and every one of you is dear to my heart.

The wonderful circle of women who gathered at Tonche and showed me such kindnesses throughout the women’s retreat weekend was a delightful blessing and what an unexpected bonus that both of my daughters were there with me.

Among my greatest blessings this year has been my relationships with my children, each of which is more clearly defined than ever. That has brought me a deep sense of peace.

My blessings include two new grandchildren – Kimberly and Chad. May their marriages to Scott and Whitney be blessed with all the happiness true married love offers.

This group – my Mindwalkers – continues to be a blessing. When I was confined to the big chair in the living room, I could always get up and about through this list. Just knowing each of you is out there makes a tremendous difference in my life and – this might sound strange but it is true – in my energy. I truly do believe that this has done more than I can imagine in helping me recover more of my energies than I would have believed possible.

My faith, my Creator and my constant love for my dearly missed Pete are my greatest blessings and the foundation of all others. I am a lucky lady and I know it.

Love to you all and my thanks to the computer for not going walk-about before
I sent this. The Lord upon you send His blessings – Grammie Kay

Late Bloomers – Mindwalker1910

A Mindwalker1910 posting from my mother – who bloomed at all stages of life, with a surprising burst of fresh growth & blossoms from her late 80s – about the richness of late blooms!
Subj: late bloomers
Date: Mon Dec 11 22:08:09 EST 2000 The three Reynolds-Lockhart ladies – Mim, Elsa and myself – are each late bloomers.

I did not marry until 26 – practically an old maid back in 1936 – and did not have my first child until 28.

Mim got her bachelor’s degree in her late 30s and her first very own apartment when she was in her 40s.

Elsa married at 37 and had her first “children” in her mid-forties – – a multiple birth, of “her” beloved 3rd grade, “adopted” back when they were in kindergarten.

Bloom we finally did.

Mim went on to be recognized by no less than the entire NJ State Legislature, who honored her with a official proclamation recognizing her work with NJ autistic organizations (VERY official, with high-falluting wording, fancy lettering and lots of seals).

Today, Elsa got to take a bow. She received the President’s Award for Excellence, presented each year by her employer, BISYS Financial Plan Services. What a surprise. It was actually presented on Friday night at the company’s big holiday bash, but John and Elsa were not there! True to form, they had cut out early from the corporate soiree, heading over to the newly opened Barnes & Noble/Plymouth Meeting, just a ten minute drive from the country club where the party was in full swing. She received a stunning star paperweight from Tiffany’s and a hefty tax-exempt check.

The paperweight takes me back to so many happy times with Mim in New York. Mim introduced us to Tiffany’s and we went there often. It was delightful to wander the story, looking at all the wonders. If you ever get the chance to see the Christmas windows at Tiffany’s, they are quite a treat, or at least they were back when we roamed the aisles.

Mim opened our eyes to the reality that a powder blue box with white silk ribbon from Tiffany was quite affordable. They had beautiful wine glasses that were only $5.00 a stem! One Christmas, Mim presented the family with a HUGE powder blue box, (which I still have, tied with its equally iconic white silk ribbon) filled with a set of Tiffany Santa mugs which she’d nabbed for a bargain $20!

Because of Mim’s early influence, the three of us pilgrimaged up to New York before Elsa’s wedding so she could register at Tiffany’s. (If you want an idea of what it was like, watch Sleepless in Seattle – the bride and her “advisors” walk along picking things out, a stylish salesperson walks a deferential few paces back, noting down the choices).

I believe the first time Mim went to Tiffany’s (back then, there was just the one 5th Avenue store) was with Brooke, when Brooke was still in elementary school. Mim likes to tell the tale of checking out the diamond rings and necklaces, then asking the dapper gentleman behind the counter “Now, where is the good stuff?”

After we were done at Tiffany’s, it was our tradition to head across and down 5th Avenue to Rizzoli’s, which was the most beautiful book store I have ever seen. The wood work and shelves and architecture was out of this world. I was sad when Rizzoli had to move to make way for a new building – although I did feel like I got a lovely bit of innocent revenge when the building inspectors, checking out the structure before demolition could begin, found a Louis Tiffany or Lalique glass in the facade; the architects had to go back to the drawing board because the preservation codes would not permit them to move the glasswork outside of its original setting, let alone destroy it.

We have come a long way since they destroyed the magnificent Penn Station to build Madison Square Gardens. Architects forced to redesign a building in order to preserve a pane of glass – amazing.

My goodness, here I meant to be writing about daughters and late bloomers and I end up in NYC! What I meant to say, many paragraphs ago, is that I consider the personal changes I am currently experiencing as a late bloom, one after what I thought was a hard frost.

Reynolds-Lockhart ladies may be late bloomers, but my what a lovely bloom it is.

Love to all as I toddle up the wooden hill – TechnoGram

WILLIAM WOLF DAVIS – Mindwalker1910

This posting from Mom about her staunch Methodist grandfather always makes me crack up – especially the part about Wife #3!

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 07:11:21 EST
Subject: William Wolf Davis

The Reynolds branch of my family may have the more distinguished heritage but the Davis side is rich with interesting characters.

My grandfather, William Wolf Davis, outlived three wives. His first and the mother of his children was Katharine Rebecca. I am named for her. She died when she was 45 years old. At that time, everyone thought she’d lived to a good age. Since she died before I was born, I have no memories of her.

I barely recall Grandfather Davis’ second wife. In fact, I cannot remember her name, just that we called her Mom-Mom.

That woman was a piece of work. When she cooked anything, she went strictly by the recipe, cooking something no longer and no shorter than it called for in the recipe. This was back in the days of wood-heated stoves, without the temperature controls we take for granted these days. My grandfather developed a stomach condition because of eating too much undercooked food. The kitchen was her department,so he would not say a word. One time, my mother made an early dinner for her brother, Aram, who was going out for the evening. Mom-Mom chewed her out, saying that if Aram could not eat with the family, he would not eat at all. She was a real tartar.

I do have more distinct memories of Sarah, my grandfather’s last wife. Sarah was attractive to the eye, but inside she seemed to be a dried up, withered prune. A maiden lady when she married Grandfather Davis, he got the surprise of his life when she denied him the privileges of the marriage bed. Sarah said that, at their age, they were too old for that sort of thing. I got the impression from my mother that my grandfather did not agree, but what could he do.

As a staunch Methodist household of that period, there was no drinking, no dancing, no cards, no nothing at my grandfather’s house. He only took liquor if he was having ”a spell”. It amazed me how many spells that man had.

I recall one time when he was visiting at our house in Arbutus. My brother Al made ginger ale and bourbon drinks for everyone, except grandfather. Grandfather Davis perked up and asked if he could have one too. Al was only too happy and poured a generous serving. Just as he handed it to Grandfather Davis, who should walk in but Uncle Aram.

Now, Uncle Aram was the staunchest of the staunch when it came to the “thou shalt nots.” Everyone shot around a look of “what next?”

Uncle Aram looked at them all holding their highball glasses and grilled, “What are you drinking?

My brother Al remained completely unflustered. (I was quivering in my boots.) “Why, we are all enjoying some ginger ale. Could I get you some?

Yes,” replied Uncle Aram, “But add some water – ginger ale is too strong a drink for me.”

So there we all were on the wraparound porch, Uncle Aram with his ginger ale with a splash of water and the rest with more spirited beverages.

A toast – to the characters in our families, who help build the character of our families!

Much love – Gocky