The Real Cause of Teal’s Death

Teal leaping in farm fieldLast week we finally got the report from the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office regarding Teal’s death. (Yes, it has been two years. No idea why this took so long.) While the cause is still listed as complications due to her seizure disorder, we learned that she also had the very rare hantavirus. This is caused by exposure to country mouse droppings and is often fatal. Several people died after exposure to hantavirus about the same time in Yosemite National Park.

Here is the totally weird thing: Teal had been sick with a serious case of the flu and what a doc called walking pneumonia and appeared to recover about 8 days before her collapse. Then she went back to work for three days. She called me the day before I saw her and complained of feeling like she was having panic — or possibly was gearing up to have a really big seizure. Now I realize this may have been the difficulty one often has breathing with hantavirus.

When I had dinner with her that last night, she was really disengaged. Quiet. An hour late. Somewhat drifty and very much not herself. She spiraled down from there, after she left me, becoming really unsteady until her cardiac arrest two hours later. So she may have been suffering from oxygen deprivation from the hantavirus in her lungs while we ate dinner … but no one had any idea. Certainly not me.

Knowing how my girl died can’t bring her back, but getting the full picture at least helps me embrace reality, however scary it may be. And reality is always richer and stronger than a thousand made up stories.

I am grieving anew, but this time with the understanding that no matter what Teal died of, her time had come. Also that neither I nor anyone else could have prevented her death. And so it is. Thanks for listening.

PS. This is a picture of Teal taken by a friend while she was farming in Belgium


Getting Through the Pain of Transition

transition-network-2009-survey-report_2pdfToday I am in despair. There is no particular drama in my life – all my physical needs are well met. I feel loved by my friends and family. There is money in the bank. My health is fine and I like where I live.

Instead … I am shedding. I am letting go of an old me that grew past her prime. My son is nearly twenty, an independent young man who’s thriving on the other side of the country. My daughter is a speck of dust in the Universe, a memory, a spirit who still drops in to dazzle me from time to time. My ex of 25 years is living his own life, and I am living mine.

These people don’t need me in the same way anymore. My days of being a van-driving, homework-helping, pie-making mom are over. As were the days of being a devoted, straight wife when I left my marriage to come out as a lesbian.

So … who am I then? This is the question all of us face when we are in the despair of transition.

Maya, my coach, likens such change to a game of cards. She calls this phase the ‘The Shuffle’ – cards get dropped, passed back and forth, and generally mixed up by the hands of life. And that is just how it feels … turbulent at times, then strangely orderly.

So I shed the small, masked self I was for most of my life – the daughter, wife and mother who defined herself through service, albeit with a career as well. In this way I am learning to serve the least likely one of all … me.

My transition is a grand lesson in putting myself first. And honestly, I am just learning how to do this. If you grew up in a dysfunctional household with a needy mother like I did, your own needs were not well met.

In fact, they just became dusty furniture in the house – always there and often ignored. So how do you know what your needs actually are?

A much-desired pocket of time appears and you grab on to it hungrily … but then you can’t decide how to fill it.

You feel half-sick and sad, so you climb into bed knowing there is something you need to do. But what? Journal? Cry? Eat chocolate? Call a friend? You know if do nothing you will feel worse.

Or perhaps you bury yourself in work, or shopping, or meds, or food so you don’t have to notice those troublesome needs in the first place.

It’s like your soul is buried under a thick sweater and wool socks; it’s there but you can’t quite feel it.

So meeting your needs becomes a practice of continually scanning for clues … How do I feel today? What do I need right now? This practice requires becoming intentionally ‘selfish’ – that charged word from childhood.

Then slowly, over time, answers present themselves as you learn to serve yourself, and the world, far more powerfully.

This is a process of becoming intimate with the Self, this unfolding into a new life. Acute attention is required. You must end the numbing, dulling behaviors that cloud your perception. Then you have to start trying things on, just like you would when you’re shopping.

Bear in mind that all of this awkward discomfort and pain is necessary. The despair of shedding has to happen to make room for the new.

There is a bigger plan, a brighter life, a stronger love, a more powerful calling just ahead. And to get there you must release the old patterns and the well-worn grooves that simply don’t work any more.

Relax, trust, and feel your feelings … and then listen like you never have before.

Believe me. Everything really is going to be okay.


The Magic of Feelings

Today may you find the courage to let in your feelings and so begin the rich work of healing. It’s easy to forget … but at the end of the day, life is just love.

Can't heal what you can't feel