I recently returned from a trip to The Windy City and the Pacific Northwest, both to visit family whom I had missed dearly. The thin veil of life had just slipped from my maternal Grandmother who was in home hospice a brief nine days. She had passed away in early August, and I just couldn't get there soon enough. Grandma passed peacefully but left behind an empathetic Golden Retriever dog named Dash, and my Aunt Sandy, who was her constant companion and caretaker until the very end. I didn't make it in time to see Grandma in person, but she told me a joke over Facetime, just two days before she passed, that the ages of my children made it obvious I was getting old! As fate would have it, I arrived in Chicago two weeks later and was able to be more attentive to my Aunt, and Dash the dog, who are figuring out a new life together at home without Grandma.
Although I wasn't able to assist my aunt in caretaking for my Grandma as I had expected when I scheduled my travels, another opportunity presented itself to which I am well suited for the task. What my Aunt needed more than anything at this time was care for her. Not merely in grieving, but in visualizing a new life in caring for herself. She expressed a desire to eat more healthy and to reduce stress naturally. We talked a lot about ways to balance her life with work and the things that refuel her: chiefly her dog, Dash, and playing music.
Over three days I took her shopping and showed her some simple, healthy, one-bowl meals I would make if I suddenly found myself cooking for one. Making the most of her kitchen resources, I made us on-the-stove oatmeal with organic strawberries and coconut yogurt in the morning, and a 15 minute put-together couscous dish with fresh cut vegetables and microwave baked potatoes at night.
We washed out two identical reusable water bottles for our day trips to reduce our plastic use, marking our initials on the cap "K" and "S." After shopping for lavender and citrus based essential oils, I taught her my "three-breath ritual" of slowing down to enjoy the breath and smell of essential oils. On one morning when she mentioned a recurring headache, I introduced reiki to her through some simple chi-gong moves and slow, full breathing. Within 20 minutes, she was able to feel the reiki and her headache went away, to which she said astoundedly, "That's just like martial arts!" Little did I know that she had learned some form of martial arts when she was in college, and was reminded of how much she understood energy that had gone dormant, buried by years of family responsibilities and duty.
This weekend would have been my Grandmother's 93rd birthday. My Aunt Sandy is throwing her a cool party with a live band with many friends, coworkers, and neighbors who have known and loved both of them for decades. Over the past few weeks I've reflected on how I can continue to give to my family even when I can't be with them. The magic of Facetime and periodic trips between California and Chicago, we have promised to visit each other more often. The tables have turned for she and I. I am happy that I inspired her to take better care of herself and she inspired me to embrace my weirdness when I was an eccentric teenager. All my life I've said about my Aunt Sandy "I want to be you when I grow up." Now she tells me the same thing.