The past few days have been rough. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something just wasn’t right. I spent Thursday in bed with a headache that I chalked up to physical and emotional stress and stress eating. Today I woke up feeling better but still, something just wasn’t right. The body knows well before the mind catches on. 11 years ago today, my grandmother Toby passed away after a few days of fading fast, losing her cognitive abilities to the brain cancer that doctors attempted removing a month and a half prior to us watching this speedy decline happen right before our eyes. I didn’t know at the time but my grandmother’s body was deteriorating from the inside out at 57, first bladder cancer then lung cancer, and finally brain cancer. My grandmother led a life of dignity, and never let her aches or her pains both emotionally nor physically get in her way of having a pleasant day and sharing it with the people she loved and cared for daily at her kitchen table. When she did mention her MS, she was shot down and noses were turned up in disbelief that anything was “wrong with her” despite her clunky metal forest hump style leg braces at 50 and missing toes from a lawnmower accident. Mhmm. To this day, I’ve had conversations recently with family members who denied her credibility. During my healing journey with Lyme, when I was in the thick of it, I asked for my grandmother’s guidance and protection and a new relationship developed, or our on-going relationship changed. She became my guide when I asked for and accepted her help. She’s always been there, but I invited her and gave her permission, and that’s different. I’m not sure but I think that’s how it works. This spring, when things were heating up for me, I had a shamanic healing session with a shamanic herbalist on Nantucket and I channeled my grandmother. She was annoyed and seemingly angry at first, clenching her jaw and pressing her lips, arms folded across her chest blocking her heart, and I asked her why she was angry. She said no one listens. I put my hand on her and I let her know I will always listen and she softened with a smile and said three potent words to me, “I believe you” — Anyone that has suffered from MS, Lyme, or any other chronic illness or autoimmune disease knows how life affirming it is when you connect with a person who looks into your eyes and says those three simple words to you. My grandmother didn’t know it at the time, and her doctors didn’t know it at the time, and no one knew it at the time, but her diet and her lifestyle of stuffing her emotions into her classic coach bag with a credit card receipt or on a list she kept on a yellow legal pad where she did her daily writing, scheduling, shopping lists, recording of phone calls and rude things people said, you know, normal things to write about for no one to see, just left on her kitchen table, and there it was left, for no one to see, and it was actually killing her. The kidneys are part of the filtration system of the body. She drank coffee. I never saw her drink water in my life. Also, she never gave herself time to process her emotions. I didn’t know what significance this day or the past few days had emotionally, but physically, my body has memory of breaking down on August 22-23, for the last 11 years. Bringing awareness to it changes the energy automatically and now I have something to work with. More processing of my grief over her passing, even 11 years later. How? By setting aside time to think about it, scheduling a half hour where I will sit and meditate and think of only this, and allow myself to feel whatever comes up. When the half hour is up, my time for grief is finished for the day, and I will move on, starting with something light like dancing to upbeat music to get my energy flowing back up as opposed to low and heavy. My grandmother held onto her grief from a life of disappointments and tragedies. The lungs are associated with grief. Cigarette smoke stained her grief filled lungs as she inhaled the smoke to stuff down her feelings, and then when it was too hard to bear it all emotionally, the cancer spread to her brain, and took over. Her diet fed all of the autoimmune symptoms in her body and the dis-ease where stagnancy developed into cancer. It was so painful that I had to figure it out. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started my actual healing work then and there with my own curiosity and need to know why everything. I thank her for her intensity, her wisdom, her matriarchal dignity, her model of a successful businesswoman, her vicious side eye, her laugh, her hugs and the weird and gross way that she loved making the wa-wa-wa-wa sound while nibbling on your chin - ugh, gross, (still gives me the chills, the kind that makes my eyes bulge and my lips go flat and I make a fire marshall bill face and neck) the way she watched ballerinas dance, lace and flower prints, old lady things, her tchotchkes, hippie dungaree mismatching outfits and the ultimate, the matching hanes sweatsuits. Jesus. (Shaking my head) Can I say Jesus about my Jewish grandmother? She was, in my eyes, at her time of death, super woman. So what the fuck! I never ever ever thought I’d ever see the day she’d die, but I did. And it was really hard. And now I’m 35, and a few other people who are very dear to me have also died and passed on, and that was really hard too. I’m feeling feelings today, and giving myself this time to write and process and to share, because it’s not just my story or her story. The best thing I can do for me, for her, for everyone, is to share. It’s surprisingly powerful to have had the shamanic experience of seeing my grandmother in my meditative state as the adult I am now, 11 years after she’s passed. She was so warm. and so proud. and I am so grateful to have that new memory, and that peaceful feeling to revisit whenever I sit quietly. Relationships don’t end when people pass on, they absolutely 100% just change.
Also, tonight, for the first time, I met a woman named Toby, and she told me all her mail is addressed to Mr. Toby (insert Jewish last name too). We laughed, and I thanked her, and realized that chance meeting was a nudge to dive in.