holy wow. what i found in my grandma’s gratitude journal

#gratitude quote - part of my post on losing my grandma, and what I found in her gratitude journal

Oh, friends. I have so much to tell you, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Maybe here: my Nana is gone.

After 40 days in residential hospice, she passed away on Saturday morning. And though I know I’ll hear from her soon enough (she promised, after all, to be in touch), I will miss so much about having her physically here. Her hugs. Her sense of wonder. Her sing-song voice. Her sense of style, even at 90. Her relationship with my kids.

I will never regret spending Nana’s last 40 days by her side (often quite literally, curled up in bed with her!). I did my best to be fully present when she was awake – taking walks, holding hands, listening to songs she loved - and Brad did wonders for the worrywart in me, frequently reminding me these were once-in-a-lifetime moments with Nana and that our little family would be fine while I devoted chunks of each day to being with her and my mom. He was right, of course.

Nana at Hotel Loretto in Santa Fe, September 2013

Nana at Hotel Loretto in Santa Fe, September 2013

As those of you who followed our journey on Instagram know, Nana’s health would take steep declines in hospice and then, to our surprise, she’d perk back up for a bit. Even at the end, after the nurses predicted she had mere hours, she stuck around several more days! Amazing resilience. In those times , I would stay overnight – not only to be there for Nana, but to give my mom support. I would tell Nana it was just like having another slumber party or girlfriend getaway. (Our last trip as a threesome had been to Santa Fe, exactly one year prior.)

The days since Nana’s passing have been crazy-busy, planning a celebration of her life and prepping for lots of family coming in. I’ve barely had a chance to let it sink in that she’s gone. But last night, as I was putting some things away at her place, I discovered buried treasure and found myself all choked up. I opened a drawer in her hutch and saw a familiar book – The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. My mom had given all of us copies one Christmas, many years ago. It was an odd place to find a journal, given that Nana’s hutch holds placemats, silverware and greeting cards.

Notes from Nana about Santa Fe, Inn at the LorettoI pulled out the book and when I opened it, several sheets of paper fell out. They were all from the Hotel Loretto, our favorite place to stay in Santa Fe, and contained Nana’s handwritten notes from our first girlfriend trip there 15 years ago, for her 75th birthday. Holy wow! Among her notes:

My plane took off a little late, and I was fearful that I was going to miss Tunie and Liv (and a connecting flight), but there they were, smiling ear to ear in matching cowboy hats. What a thrill to see them there – I am so blessed! Thrilled being with my girls. 

Finding that little celebration of our bond, in her beautiful handwriting, was such a gift. Neither my mom or I recall the cowboy hats (!!!), but we will always hold dear the thrills we had as a threesome. Even the very last one, as we watched Nana head into the sunset, into the Great Beyond. We showered her with kisses on behalf of everyone who loves her here and reminders that she’d soon be seeing all the loved ones waiting for her over there.

I need time to process the loss of a great light in my life and to soak up the warm hugs and belly laughs with family flying in to celebrate her. It’s what she would want, and it’s all I have energy for right now.

the art of choosing beauty ecourseSo, work will have to wait a little longer. I am so grateful to everyone who’s accepted with such grace and understanding my need to push back Firecracker Calls, classes, newsletters and meetings. I have postponed my Art of Choosing Beauty ecourse, which was scheduled to kick off this week; it will now launch September 22nd. That class is all about finding and making magic every single day – even (or especially) when life feels hard.

It feels like divine timing, really – to choose beauty with a bunch of brave hearts this month, and to be able to incorporate private stories and powerful insights from my journey with Nana into this next round of the class (the only time I’m teaching it this year). I believe that, like finding Nana’s notes, these gifts that feel like magic - the ones that catch us off guard and connect us to what matters - appear for a reason in our lives. Nana LOVED to give thoughful gifts, and I have a feeling she has no plans to stop. As Nana always said, God works in mysterious ways – and I bet she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve, too.

 

what dying people see that most of us miss

It's easy to feel down when we keep forgetting to look up. Via LivLane.com

I’ll never forget the day my dad cried over trees. A couple of months before he died, in 2011, we were sitting in the den of my parents’ home, him in his favorite leather chair and me curled up on the couch, looking out the big picture window at their heavily wooded backyard.

My dad’s cancer treatments were going pretty well and he was fiercely optimistic about his future. But, looking back on that day, I realize there was also a little piece of him that knew he was dying. I asked him what was making him happy that day. And that’s when he looked out the window at the lush green trees he’d seen a million times before and his bottom lip started to quiver.

His emotion hit me like a lightning bolt as our small talk turned real serious, real fast. 

He was feeling so moved by the goodness and gracefulness in those trees — the aliveness, the lushness, the history, the resiliency. And he was seeing those gentle giants in a new way, with the slightest suspician his view might soon be changing.

My grandma's hands on her handmade afghan, overlooking the pond at hospice. This is what I’ve noticed dying people do: they see beauty with their eyes and hearts wide open, blindsided all at once by the agony and euphoria of seeing it, really seeing it, for the first time – and maybe the last. My dad is not the only one I’ve seen brought to tears by the soul-stirring beauty that most of us miss.

In fact, I’ve seen it in patients at the hospice care home where we’ve spent the last 17 days with my Nana. Though she’s always noticed beauty in the little things, something has shifted as she faces the final stages of her journey with cancer. Her focus on what matters has deepened. In the hallway, for instance, when she sees fellow patient Clarissa – a young woman with cornrows and tattoos who’s been battling cancer for a year - they quietly embrace and say they love each other. And they mean it. They may never have crossed paths in their old lives, but here – in this place where what’s different about them no longer matters - they are willing to be soooo vulnerable and authentic together, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

I feel good about sharing our hospice journey on Instagram (and love that it’s touched some of you), but sometimes I notice that while I’m taking pictures of beauty in our midst, Nana’s actually breathing it in and holding it close – like she’s taking a snapshot with her soul. Letting the beauty seep in so deep, a picture can’t do it justice. It inspires me to step back and do the same.

When I first deepened my own relationship with everyday beauty eight years ago, it transformed me. And when I’m leading a community of women through the process, I witness the same kinds of change; there’s a tangible shift from going through the motions to joyfully attracting meaningful abundance, letting in what really matters – even if it brings us to tears. It starts with simply remembering to look up as we plow through our days. Today, we can choose to let beauty in and seize the day, the way so many people who are dying wish they had all along.

Note: If you feel ready for that kind of deep dive into cultivating your most beautiful life,  I’m teaching my 4 Weeks to Happiness: The Art of Choosing Beauty ecourse next month – and it’s the only time I’m leading this course in 2014. If you’re longing for a powerful shift, and to connect with other dear hearts who are ready too, I hope you’ll sign up. The $30 off early bird special ends Friday at midnight central; just enter the code earlybird at checkout. Full details here.