I’ve been writing this blog in my head all week. I just can’t seem to find a theme I can stick with for more than a paragraph or two. Or, if I’m honest with myself, a sentence or two.
Regular readers will know a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was this last weekend. I’m in the second or third tier of mourners. Tier one – the decision makers and those truly being overwhelmed with waves of grief. Tier two – the organizers. The ones asking the decision makers what they want and striving to make it happen. The people whose grief makes them prickly, rude, short-tempered, unclear and perfectly sure they have everything in line because keeping things in line is how they cope. Tier three – the support system for the first two tiers. The listeners. The worker bees. The one’s who are distant enough to put off their mourning until it’s convenient (at least a little more effectively).
Having the memorial made it real. That’s part of the point of course. Being gifted some mementos makes it real and personal (which it has always been, but denial is so convenient). Having nothing left to “get done” means there is no longer an excuse to put off the emotional response.
I’m sure the death certificate doesn’t say my friend died of cancer. But it is certainly the undiagnosed and untreated cancer that caused the heart failure.
I’m grateful my friend didn’t die alone at home, but had people around her who cared about her.
I’m grateful my friend went quickly, all at once, rather than having to slowly and painfully waste away.
I’m grateful her very elderly mother dared to get on a plane and put herself in the hands of a community of her daughter’s friends whom she had never met.
I’m grateful for the presence of people who spoke about areas of my friend’s life that I wasn’t privy to.
I’m angry that a cancer that large and impactful goes undiagnosed for so long. I’m angry that the complaints of a large woman (both exceptionally tall and not willowy) are dismissed by our medical community as always being about weight. I’m upset that no matter how good the insurance you’ve got, unless you know what to ask for medicine is practiced according to the insurance company guidelines rather than actual medical need.
I had breakfast today at Gilda’s Club. It’s a sort of monthly social event. At Gilda’s I am surrounded by people living with cancer, many of whom know they have no hope of a cure. I am always buoyed up by the spirit of care and acceptance. I am reminded that there is pain and sorrow, but also hope and joy.
I’m putting one foot in front of the other. Step by step.
Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free. That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems. It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.
Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations. Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations. The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years. There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.
Last week was our big annual fundraiser. The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area. Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support. We continue to imagine and to grow. That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money. I put in some extra hours last week to help out.
The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer. They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs. They were one of the first groups that offered free testing. They also provide education and support to their members.
I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have. One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life. Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project. It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.
In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life. (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.) We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant). We just got lucky.
We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided. We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants. It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.
Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation. We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed. We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.
How do you support your community?
It’s been cold and rainy here. Cold is relative. Two months ago I thought 50 degree evenings were crazy warm. It’s always seemed odd to me, a native Minnesotan, that Midsummer comes when it does. Pretty much this marks the beginning of our genuinely hot season.
Karina’s birthday is at the beginning of June and we couldn’t plan her preferred pool party unless we delayed it or held it indoors. Cool isn’t unusual.
Because of everyone’s crazy schedule we’re still delaying her birthday. We managed to all get together this weekend. Karina and I have a deal. I take her out to a high-end dinner for her birthday and she does the same for me.
This year she chose Pittsburgh Blue, a chain steakhouse. It was surprisingly good. The steaks were done to perfection and the seafood we had was also very tasty.
Orion and I also stopped by Gilda’s Club for Friends and Family Day. We’ve been doing this as an annual event, being sure to get our photos taken. Looking at those pictures I note I have a jacket or sweater on in most of them.
Orion brought his drum and we enjoyed a drumming workshop along with visiting. Hoof on the Roof, a folk band, joined us as we finished up drumming. It was a treat to jam with them.
In spite of the cold things are starting to bloom in the garden. I got behind so I still have a few things to plant. I’ve been worried that I’ll lose everything when we start tearing things up to get the remodel going, but I’m afraid we are stalled again. I really don’t want to wait for another year! I miss having a fully functional kitchen.
There are things I’ve been putting off (like a new microwave) in anticipation of getting this all taken care of. It’s frustrating.
Fourth of July is coming up fast and furiously. I’ll probably be off-line, so don’t worry if you don’t see a Monday blog next week. I will try to remember to take some photos.
Maybe parades and fireworks will fill my page. Maybe flowers and wildlife will inspire me. Maybe I’ll remember to take pictures of the family. Fingers are crossed for a fun filled, good weather, holiday.
Previous Midsummer Posts:
Midsummer – apparently I’m not very creative with titles at this time of year!
Charleston – I haven’t posted about Philandro Castile. It’s too close to home, too horrible, and I’m not the one. But I will say Black Lives Matter, because they should and it’s pretty clear that they don’t. I will say it’s important to remember.
It was a grey and cold and rainy week. I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out. I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.
This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples. The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived. Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation. Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning. 60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.
I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things. The little delights and surprises in my days. I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?” YES! I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend. I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine. I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect. Hmmmmm……..
I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood. It made me smile, after all it is the season. I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.
This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social. What a treat to have breakfast made for me. This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other. The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack. He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.
Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it. He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer. He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally. Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.
That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late. It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general. Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around. How are you coping?
What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time I was just starting out as a volunteer at the newly opened Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. I was blogging about my to-do list as I prepared for surgery.
Gilda’s Club, dedicated to the memory of Gilda Radner, is a welcoming community of support for anyone living with cancer, along with their families and friends. It’s a place where everyone is welcome, where no one faces cancer alone.
This year when we went to the Gilda’s Club Friends and Family Birthday celebration I participated in most of the events. Orion and I met some new friends, visited with old friends and enjoyed the Clubhouse atmosphere. I spent much of the day on my feet, and didn’t think anything of it.
The Clubhouse is really settling into itself. The gardens continue to expand, making lovely healing and meditative spots to just sit and enjoy the sunshine. There is the fairy garden, the new waterfall and picnic area (the first photo was taken there) and the healing fountain and gardens.
Last year the healing fountain was dedicated and Orion and I made stones for people we knew who had dealt with cancer. He made one for my Mom and I made some for friends I’ve lost to this pervasive disease. This year, unfortunately, there were more stones. Orion made one for me!
Inside the kitchen is often in use for classes or just the staff throwing something together for anyone who drops in. I decorated cupcakes and made Orion eat one, poor thing. I’ve attended several events in the kitchen this past year. (What can I say, if there’s food I’m more likely to show up – even now!)
The Expressive Arts Studio often displays projects members have created. That’s where we colored our stones for this year. It’s a great place to work out feelings through art. I’ve taken the Homemade Card Making class and had a lot of fun.
There was a lot of vibrational healing going on. We got to do a gong meditation in the Mind Body Studio. Orion and I also did some drumming in the Community Room. He’s pretty excited to show off his new rhythms the next time he gets to a drumming circle.
We participated in some short improvisation workshops put on by the folks from Brave New Workshop. Jenni Lilledahl, one of the owners of Brave New Workshop is also one of the founders of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. It’s great to have their support. The workshops were a lot of fun.
The biggest change though is when I compare the family portrait Orion and I took last year to the one we took this year. My daughter was talking to old friends, catching up. When they asked about me she told them I was genuinely happy. Maybe I am. I’m certainly grateful that so much has changed.