“It’s a great to be alive day!” as my Mom would regularly shout out throughout my teenage years. It was the way I knew her to connect with that which is larger than herself. There was no doubt in my mind that nature was her church and the animals, plants, woods were her sanctuary. And, when she was romping or doing her funny runs, I believe she felt most happy on the outside and on the inside. She was in “heaven”– She could better handle the parts of her life that were not so great and which were harder for me to see.
Little did I know that she would be dead of ovarian cancer at the young age of 59. I was 34 with my first child. I was scared, numb, and in shock. I flew home to attend the funeral of my aunt who died the week before of cervical cancer, and I was there to support my mother who didn’t feel quite right. She was scheduled to go into the hospital for exploratory surgery on a bleak November Monday and just three days later (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) she was gone. What had just happened? Nothing made sense. Now, with my world turned upside down, I was filled with fear and unease about hospitals, cancer, and life. It would take much personal work to begin to reach towards a healthier relationship with my own sense of living and dying, of feeling empowered in making diet and lifestyle choices, and slowly rebuilding trust with conventional medicine.
Today, 20 years later, I am regularly face to face with women who are going or have gone through cancer treatments when I offer Reiki and Healing Touch through LifeSpark, a non-profit organization in Colorado. I see these women for 12 weekly sessions and have the privilege to walk along side them as they navigate new sensations, pains, limitations, anger, sadness, new medications, pressures at home and work, etc. I witness them as they find gratitude in discovering the little things in life that bring joy and momentary freedom from fear, anxiety, suffering, pain. I see them as the beautiful and whole women that they are even when they don’t feel that way. I stay present when they describe the pain of waking up in the morning–why couldn’t they be dead?– and realizing they better find a way to make the day work.
Each woman I work with finds her way through the complexity of diagnosis, surgeries, and treatments. The women have one thing in common. They are in the present moment with what is. With many of them, they have endured a lot of pain–pain and uncertainty I hope to never experience. Their journeys are not easy ones. They have families and they have dreams. And, yet there is a strength and empowerment that I feel these women have that helps me to tap into my own strength and direction. For that I am grateful. I have learned much from their honest sharings and how they find the courage within to continually meet each day anew. They freely share their pain, their struggles, their hopes, their path. I listen. I invite them to be still and in that quiet space to see if they can identify an intention that we can hold for the session. It might be a moment–it might be five minutes but at some point there is a clarity with speaking that which is ready to be addressed. I am amazed at how in touch they are–how perfectly perfect that intention is for that person–because who am I to know what is best for them? I listen. I see them bathed in that intention. I see them whole.
There is a gift in serving. It is an honor to be able to hold sacred space for a participant. I am showered in thank yous–some are quiet and internal, some are short and sweet, but whatever way they show up, I feel their appreciation. When we sign on to volunteer our time, we agree to not accept tips or payment of any kind. This work fills my soul. I can see the difference in an hour session. Each session is certainly confirmation that every day is a great to be alive day!