Monday, May 27, 2013

Thank You For Sharing Toshi's Story - Guest Blogger Karen T.

This piece reminds me of how tomorrow is not promised. I've been thinking so much about my friend, Yvette, who died in 1989 from going toxic. She had chemotherapy for leukemia.
Karen is a writer, editor, poet, singer, spoken word performance artists

She was the person who taught me what friendship was about.

She was so religious. She and I used to talk about faith all the time, and she, like most true believers, accepted my atheism. She had a roommate in the hospital who had skin cancer. Her face was oozy and discolored. The woman whined all the time: "Why me? Why me? Why me?" She drove Yvette crazy, and Yvette said one of the most profound things I have ever heard, and that was, "She does not understand the crucifixion."

That's when I understood what her level of belief was. She accepted her fate as something that her god had control over.  She was a CPA/auditor type and didn't want to go back to that work. I told her to go to St. John's to study theology, and she was just about ready to do that when she died. Twenty-nine years old. Broke my heart down to the nitty gritty.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Gift of Uncertainty

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Toshi and I at the Event
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When I was 8 years old, I mapped out my whole life.  I would marry a wonderful man at 25, have two children (a boy and a girl of course), and live happily ever after in a house that I would design that sat on a wooded lot in northern California (I spared no details).  Well, despite my planning, many twists in my life foiled my plans.  I kicked and screamed through most of those detours cursing the fact that my precious plans had been derailed. 

The fight to know, to get it right, to make it work, to plan and schedule our goals and dreams seems to be the impermeable imprint on our lives.  I listened to the words of a woman whom I love as a sister.  This woman sits at the helm of an organization that champions other women.  Her words came at the most planned for, anticipated and seminal annual fundraising event for her organization.  At the event, our friend, Toshi, collapsed right after the sit-down dinner and auction.  She was unconscious.  Three nurses in their party dresses, floppy hats and high-heeled shoes were immediately by Toshi's side.  With moist eyes, my sister-friend said:

            "I did not plan for this."   

Her words haunted me.  She bore the burden of planning for someone's illness like I bore the burden of planning out my entire life at the age of 8.  Yes, we are to plan, to participate, to engage in the details of our lives, but we are also supposed to let go.  That letting go is a beautiful gift that we often restrict ourselves from receiving.  Elizabeth Lesser, author of Broken Open, said "My spiritual practice is all about becoming comfortable in uncertainty."  When we have planned the best we can, and dreamed as high as we can dream, the only next logical step is to let go.

I let go that night when Toshi was taken to the hospital by ambulance.  I let go when five hours later she remained in a coma.  I let go two days later when she passed from this life.  A peacefulness settled inside of me when I was told she was no longer physically a part of our world.  A deep sense of gratitude flooded my being for experiencing the power of Toshi's life.  Settling with ease and comfort into the mysteriousness of the unknown can yield greater gifts than our most tediously detailed and perfectly executed plans.  The ease of letting go is a necessary counterweight to the burden of our planning.  The gifts in the unknown are always surprising, and whether we understand in the moment or not, exactly what we had planned for.