We didn't share our sad news on social media. We didn't tell too many people. In fact we forgot to tell a few. The truth is we were still processing my mom's loss that we barely caught our breath and Alice's (mother in law) time had come. She took her last exhale on June 20, 2019 at 3:03 pm in the Bethesda Hospital. Exactly 34 days after my mom's passing, and exactly 24 years to the day from her husband's death, Norm Milliner.
To me Alice was know as mum as oppose to mom. This was the way she would sign her name in her greeting cards so that we wouldn't get the moms confused. She was this short 5' tall, little bright blue eyed woman with spunk right till the end. Lived a long life of 93 years.
The day before Alice's passing, she gave me a gift, one that I will always cherish. I felt a strong urge to go to the hospital early on June 19th to spend some "alone" time with Alice. We needed to chat and get a few things straight for I knew that she had begun the journey of transitioning.
That morning Alice shared with me that she feared she did not have much time left with us, and that she was tired of fighting. She shared that she feared death itself, and did not understand it. She expressed that she was worried about leaving us behind, and especially worried about Grant (her son, my husband). Alice felt awful that her timing was so off, as my mom had just died. So many emotions, worries and suffering. I realized that I could give her my biggest gift, my blessings, and share some of my truths with her.
I took a deep breath and chose my words carefully. I said: "Alice, you are not responsible for your timing in death that is up to the creator (God). You were not able to participate in my mom's celebration of life with us for you were sick in hospital. I can tell you that we "celebrated" her life. We shared stories and lessons we learnt. My mom's passing was filled with joy and peace. There is NO grief for me. My mom is in a beautiful place with the angels. There is no greater gift, nothing that you should feel guilty about." To this Alice continued to repeat that she felt bad and this is too soon after my mom's passing. As this was always her way, to worry needlessly I spoke in a stern voice and said: "ALICE, listen to me carefully. It is what it is. Listen carefully, look into my eyes and SEE my heart...I have NO grief for my mom. My heart is filled with JOY and PEACE. There are no more excuses for you. If it is your time to go, then you must do so with grace not guilt or worry." We release you with love.
Alice had given us a few scares in the past 3 years of being rushed to the hospital by ambulance for breathing emergencies. I always wanted to make sure that she was at peace with dying, this was important to me. I would approach the subject. But she would ignore me, or give me that gazed look like I'm not talking about this. On June 19th, the time had come, and her heart was opened to discussing the topic, well time was fast approaching! I asked her if she'd ever given much thought to what happens after life. She nodded no and confessed that she feared death. I asked her if it would be alright with her if I shared some shamanic wisdom. To this she agreed. I shared: "From a shamanic perspective we believe there are 3 parts to the soul at death. The first is your body soul. We understand that the blood goes back to the ocean, the bones go back to the earth and the breath goes back to the air. In essence the body decomposes and mother earth takes your body soul back and everything gets recycled again. The second is your ego soul. This is the part of your soul that has all your dual traits; you know the good and the bad. Its the part of your soul that can often get stuck on the earth. The one that has attachments to your loved ones. It tends to hang around if it has some unfinished business. We mostly recognize this one as "ghosts". The third part of your soul is the divine soul. The pure, source of light, love energy. What is important is that all 3 parts of the soul transition. But often if there are attachments to loved ones the ego soul stays behind, and we don't want that. This is not healthy for you or your loved ones. It prevents your loved ones from moving on and living their LIFE!"
She looked at me with the sweetest look and a twinkle in her eyes and said: "Thank you for sharing this with me. I think I would like to take this perception, I like it!"
Worries About Leaving Us Behind
"Oh Alice, I believe you can reach out and let us know you are thinking of us! Let's decide right now how you will communicate with us. Some departed loved ones leave us pennies, white feathers, purple butterflies you know signs like that. Dad still sends me the Pileated woodpeckers. If I'm thinking of him, the next thing you know he sends me a Pileated woodpecker. How do you want to communicate with us?" She looked at me and said: "I want to be a cell phone!" That was unexpected. But the truth was that the last time she was in hospital we did a group chat with all the nieces and nephews on Messenger and she thought that was the cat's ass. It was decided that she would reach out by cell phone, and she did not disappoint, as a few days after she passed Grant was speaking on the phone with one of her good friends and the cell phone went all wonky making these strange sounds as if someone else was trying to connect.
I thanked Alice for our heartfelt conversation. I expressed that it was important that we were able to talk like this. The conversation was a true gift one that my mom could not give me at the end of her life. What a beautiful gift to be able to share wisdom, truths and love like this.
That afternoon Alice was surrounded by some of her beloved friends and family. She was in "high" spirits, joyful and energetic. Grant played the guitar and sang her all her favorite songs. She kept asking for "Three Cool Cats" and "White Sports Coat". Grant kept saying, but mom I just played that song. To which I would reply, so play it again! And he did. We enjoyed ourselves so much that afternoon, it was the first time we "truly" saw mum, her true nature, happiness, joy and beaming with LOVE.
We miss you Alice, rest well now, no more suffering, no more worries, only peace and love.
Bonne Nuit Maman Irene Tetreault April 10, 1935 - May 16, 2019
I’ve come to this point many times wanting to write about my mom’s passing. To share with you what an incredible mother, friend, confidante she was to me. But how do I summarize a life of 84 years in a couple of paragraphs? Surely my words won’t give her any justice as to the life she led or the impact she left on loved ones. Most of the time as I come to remember the memories, she bestowed on me, I only clearly remember the ones of the end of her life. And so, I will impart with you some of those memories.
In the year 2000 mom finally decided to take her retirement from teaching. The last couple of years started to take their toll on her, but she was determined to wait till 65. She was adamant about waiting to 65 as it would give her a full pension, and she in no way wanted to be a burden to us children in her later years financially. If it was one thing this clearly communicated to me was to always do the best, you can to be financially independent.
When mom first retired dad was ready to move into the Villas in Ste. Annes, Manitoba. They were like apartments with homecare readily available and a couple of cafeterias you could go eat at if you didn’t feel like cooking. Mom wanted absolutely nothing to do with that. She had just retired and truly just wanted to enjoy their home in the country. She spent the days sitting by the expansive windows reading countless books. She would spend the winters planning her garden and then the summer tending to it’s every need. We would all reap the benefits of her love for gardening as there was always plenty to share. At some point she discovered the bread maker, and mom became our family’s personal baker. She would always try on some new recipes and have us rate them, my favorite was the cranberry, sunflower seed one.
In her retirement years mom became somewhat of an entrepreneur. She spent time selling Epicure. This gave her the perfect excuse to make coffee dates with her friends to take their orders and then once the goodies came in she would make yet another coffee date and deliver. Everyone looked forward to receiving one of her handmade cards with their purchase, which was another craft mom spent time doing.
Mom did not get to spend a whole lot of time with my dad in retirement as he transitioned in June of 2007. Mom grieved my dad’s passing for a few years and needed that necessary time to redefined who she was without Donat. In 2012 mom took the opportunity to move into an assistant living resident in La Broquerie, MB called Le Chalet. She made some amazing friends here in this place, some that to this day I still reach out to and spend time with.
Mom was able to move into Le Chalet with her companion, Minou. He quickly became the star of the place, escaping occasionally from her apartment running down the hall tailless. Minou (cat) was a gift from the trees, and I believe sent from my dad to keep a close eye on her.
There are three things my mom loved most in life during this time; Minou, tomatoes and chocolate. Nothing like the aroma of fresh tomatoes picked fresh from the garden, sliced up and served with fresh toasted bread! When mom couldn’t supply her own tomatoes, she would head down to Evergreen Hot House and buy bags, and bags of tomatoes. She would then split them up and hand deliver them to family and her friends in Le Chalet. Mom was kind and always spoiling us with her gestures.
In 2013 mom decided she needed a new car. So, she asked me if I could go shopping with her. She came home with a shinny new Rav 4 in bright red. She was so excited, and it was like learning how to run a computer for her (which she had no experience). She studied the manual from front to back and showed me all the buttons, and then I would catch her giving rides to her friends and showing off her new car!
Within a short time at Le Chalet we started to notice some changes in mom’s behavior and in 2015 it became apparent that it was no longer safe for mom to reside there. As a family, we decided to move her to Le Pavillion in Ste. Annes, MB. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As most of you know this dis-ease strips you of your memories and cognitive abilities. It also alters your perception of this reality.
The last 5 years of mom’s life were for me the school of hard knox. She was a teacher right to her last breath. As her dis-ease progressed she taught me patience, how to release expectations, not take anything serious and a lot about grieving.
Patience, As a yoga teacher I took many long breaths of inhale and exhale with my mom. Although, I needed to practice patience for her, I mostly needed to practice patience with myself. As mom transitioned into her different stages of her dis-ease, I needed to be loving, kind and mostly patient towards myself as I was busy catching up to the progression of her dis-ease.
Expectations There is so much suffering in the world due to expectations. If you continue to expect someone to be the way they were with this dis-ease you will deeply suffer. Releasing expectations of not just mom but anyone, really sets you FREE. We could no longer expect mom to know things, to remember how to do the simple things like brush your teeth or speak words. We truly needed to release ALL expectations.
Do not take anything seriously I cannot tell you how many times mom would behave a certain way that would either make you laugh or make you want to crawl into a hole and hide from embarrassment. One time I took mom to see a specialist who happened to be a very good-looking man. Mom walked up to him, planted a big kiss on his lips and told him she loved him. He was a total stranger, and I never seen anyone turn so many shades of red in my life. Another time I took her to the dentist where at one point she clenched her jaw shut, lifted her legs straight up in the chair (bow pose in yoga) and held her legs there for eternity. Her physical strength was unbelievable. I could not get her to put her legs down. And then there was her new fashion she wanted to display. She would still dress herself and put on 3 shirts with 2 bras on top of the blouses. She thought nothing of this and did not see anything wrong with the way she chose to dress herself. I say Madonna she had you beat on outfits. We came to understand that mom was full of surprises, and we never knew what she was capable of.
Grieving The final lesson that mom taught me was a lot about grieving. My first grief was the loss of trust with mom. I no longer could trust that she could take care of herself. The second thing I grieved was the loss of my dearest and closest friend. Mom and I did many, many things together, shared many feelings, and dreams. This friendship vanished. The third thing I grieved was the loss of my mother. Mother’s are nurturers, and mom had lost the ability to do so. I could no longer seek her out to receive this nurturing. In this last phase a role reversal took place. I became the mother and my mother became my daughter, my child. In 2017 when we moved my mom to the nursing home in Ste. Annes called Le Villa Youville, my services as a mother was no longer needed here, as this facility took care of all mother’s needs. So, here is where I grieved being her mother.
Along the way I grieved my mother’s mind, and in the end of her life there was nothing left to grieve but her body.
Don’t ever underestimate the lessons you can learn from your loved ones with Alzheimer’s. All of these were huge teaching for all of us.
In the yogic teachings we talk about the breath. We are born on an inhale and we die on the exhale. Our lives are but one breath inhale/exhale. What is really important is what we do in between that breath. Mom lived a good life. She spread joy, laughter, and love.
From a shamanic & yogic perspective we are made of elements; water, earth, air and ether. Mom’s blood went back to the ocean, her bones back to mother earth, her breath released into the air and her spirit is all around us.
Spirit is in everything and is everywhere. I can see mom over here and over there. I look in the mirror and I see my mother; she is in all my cells. She is infinite. She is here and there. Mom will continue to teach me from her formless self. She will continue to show kindness and generosity through my actions as I impart her lessons. She will always be an angel who has spread her wings. I asked my mom’s spirit if there were any messages she wanted to impart to her family and friends, and she did. Please take comfort in these 3 messages:
Sourier et la vie vous sourira. Smile and life will smile back at you
Be kind to each other. It only takes a kind smile to light up a whole community
Don’t stress about your weight. Dance sing and it all falls off
Namaste, the light in me recognized the light within you as it is also within me
We said our farewells to our male malamute, Trudeau on April 19th, 2018. It was a day stricken with sorrow, and joy. Sorrow because we said good bye to one of our furry children and it is never easy to do this. Joy because we were able to communicate with Trudeau and ask him what he wanted for his final resting day. The knowing, and honoring his wishes made the experience of his death much more meaningful for all of us. Some of you who read this will wonder how does one communicate to your dog and ask him those questions, and others know that it is entirely possible.
Now that we have respected a grieving period, I’m able to share with you the manner of our communication and the actual ceremony of his death, but before I embark on that journey I’d like to share with you the cause of his death, and the lessons learnt around it.
Trudeau was an 8 year old Alaskan malamute, the first descendant from the wolf. You are probably wondering why the name Trudeau? Well we both liked our former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and how cool to call your dog after him. However, I'm sure Grant has a different version of this story, I just can't remember what it is. Trudeau never appeared to be sick in our eyes, and always had a voracious appetite. I think he would have eaten anything you gave him, edible and non edible. Trudeau as a growing pup had some difficulties with his right hind leg. His knee would pop out every once in awhile, which was much cause for concern at the time, however, apparently normal for a growing, large bread. We brought Trudeau home with a sister named Luna, and they always lived outside in their pen. Never the 2 were separated, until the time Grant started to walk them separately for training. Our furry friends loved to pull the sleigh and they were the happiest when working.
In early March we noticed that Trudeau was not putting any weight on his right hind leg, and we assumed that perhaps his knee was popping out again. When looked over by the veterinarian, we were told that it was perhaps a torn ligament or muscle. It was suggested to supplement him with some calcium to help his bones; at the age of 8 he is considered a senior. The vet also suggested we take him on short walks, and to do some physiotherapy. So daily Grant would walk him slowly around the house, and we both would exercise the leg. I would daily give him some Reiki treatments in the hopes that the leg would heal. After a month passed, we were very excited to see that the leg had improved immensely. Trudeau was now putting weight on the leg, and he was even running a little. During this whole time his appetite never subsided.
One morning I came to check on him and do some work, and he was lying on top of his dog house, ears right back, and the look of intense pain in his eyes. This deep, sunken feeling came over me, and I knew something was not right. As I approached his leg, it no longer had any resistance to it. It simply flopped around. I’m no vet, but every ounce of intuition was telling me his leg was broken. How could it be broken? What the heck did he do? Did he fall? We knew we had to bring him to the vet, but it was a Saturday, and our vet was out of town, and could not take him. We really struggled with the decision to wait till Monday for an x-ray. But we waited. In the meantime, I did lots of energy work with him, and we gave him cannabis oil, and lavender oil.
The week prior to this incident, Grant and I had watched the video series entitled “The Truth about Pet Cancer” created by Ty Bollinger. It’s an excellent series and very informative. We had lost our first dog, Teiga to cancer. There was a lot of information in this video series, but the message we walked away with the most was that dogs and cats are not meant to eat solely dry pet food. They absolutely need raw, and wet food in their diets. The diet change was something I had been considering for awhile. I co-facilitate an Ayurveda and Yoga retreat four times a year and Purnima Chaudhari and we are constantly teaching the difference between intelligent, dumb, and dead food. Without getting into a whole lesson here in this blog, know that dead food is any food that has been processed and cooked at extremely high temperatures, or microwaved. Therefore, “kibble” falls into this category. Dogs are no different than humans, if their diet consists of nothing but processed food, they are essentially starving their bodies. The body can not get enough nutrients to be absorbed in order to feed all seven layers of tissues. All that consumed processed food is then being stored in fat, for the body sees it as a foreign element and does not know what to do with it. Eventually, your body starts to create disease, and we get sick, and fat.
Monday morning we took Trudeau to the vet for an x-ray and our fears were confirmed his leg was broken in half at the femur. But that news was not the worst of it. Around the femur was a shadow that indicated bone cancer. What the F@ck! Where did that come from? Our hearts were crushed! Our logical minds start wheeling and looking for the signs. Were there any signs that this was coming? Were we blinded to the signs? Are we terrible pet parents? If you have ever lost a pet you know exactly what I’m talking about. Our minds are trying to justify the madness. The vet said there is nothing we can do, you should put him down, as he is in a lot of pain. I’m a healer, I don’t like it when anyone, or anything is in pain! I told Grant that I did not want to rush into this decision and that we needed to sit with this for a few days. We would do the best we could to make Trudeau comfortable until we reached a decision.
As a shamanic practitioner, I have the tools to meditate (journey) to other realms to talk to power animals, guides, spirits, angels and so forth. I decided to journey to the spirit of Trudeau. The spirit is always available even if the person or animal is alive or has passed. My journey to the spirit of Trudeau was beautiful! His spirit came to me as a wolf, big large black and white wolf. His messages were as follows:
His purpose in this life time was to help us learn the importance of diet for all domesticated animals. They need raw meat, and raw vegetables in their diet.
His spirit was well aware of his cancer, and no longer wanted his body to carry the intense pain.
His spirit gave us permission to end his life.
His spirit wanted his final day to be done with ceremony; music, drumming, smudging
His spirit wanted all of us to be together, especially Luna, so that she could understand that he was no longer walking in this realm.
His body wanted to eat a raw rabbit for his last meal
His spirit wanted to be buried in the earth.
His spirit wanted my help to bring it to the light.
Up until the 19th of April, Trudeau no longer wanted to sleep in the pen with his sister, Luna. He was content to lie underneath the big old oak tree. I call this oak the grieving tree as we said good bye to 3 other pets here. We continued to do energy work with him, give him cannabis and lavender oil to ease his pain. My hope was that he would die naturally, however that was not the case. We chose the 19th to put him down. This number is significant as we have lost 2 other furry children on the 19th. The number for me signifies our ‘oneness”. In numerology, you add the 2 digits together until the number becomes a single digit so (1+9 = 10 , 1+0=1) One is the magic number.
The morning of the 19th Grant and I headed outside with drum, smudging tools, raw rabbit, guitar, Luna, and cats. We fed Trudeau his raw rabbit meal and he devoured it. I then began a ceremony asking the animal guides to join us and to assist Trudeau in his journey over the rainbow bridge. I drummed and sang shamanic songs, asking the sun to take Trudeau’s pain away. We danced with the spirits of nature, and all the cats came by to say good bye. Grant played a series of songs on his guitar, we sang and we cried. At some point I held Trudeau in a rhythmic breath of So Hum. A yogic mantra breath that literally means “ I am THAT”. It is a breath that brings deep calmness to the mind. Trudeau looked up at me with his head tilted and said in his own language that he was ready. Just as he finished looking at me, the vet drove up in the driveway, and proceeded to put Trudeau in his eternal sleep. He died at 11:11 the hour of awakening. I then proceeded to journey along side Trudeau as his spirit left his body. I guided him over the rainbow bridge where he was met by a pack of wolves, Oso, and Stu. He then gazed at me again, said his farewells and turned into a spark of light and shot out into the stars.
For me Trudeau’s death was beautiful, peaceful, and even magical. I felt so honored to have been able to create, assist, and lovingly release him. My heart is and was truly full. Trudeau has not been by in spirit yet to say hello. But I know that he is working with some of my other guides and I will soon be starting a new chapter in my life. His death has taught me so much, and I’m meant to share this with the world. How that looks like is being revealed to me as I write, and when the time is right for sharing it will be so.
I'm beginning to think that I spend most of my time being drawn to my blog to write about cats. Not sure what is going on there. Maybe I should start a whole new blog dedicated to this species of animals that touch your heart.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the loss of my cat Stu. Stu departed the earth realm on August 19th, 2014. I woke up this morning, knowing that today might be a little difficult. I knew that my heart might feel raw as the memories of his death would come flooding in. So I'd set out to do something special, a little ceremony in celebration of his life and death.
However, the universe had something special in-store for me. This morning I found myself looking for Oso. Oso is our little grey kitten that knocked at the door last November. You can read about his arrival in one of my previous blogs. Oso is a gift from the universe. I'd asked for him and the universe delivered him.
Oso was not around this morning for his usual feeding time. I thought this was a bit strange as he never misses a meal. I poured myself a cup of coffee and headed out to Stu's tree where I could converse with him and ask him how he wanted to celebrate today. In my silent conversation with him I'd asked if he'd seen Oso and that I was a little concerned. A few sips of coffee later, a voice peeped into my head and said "check the road". My heart skipped a beat, I put my coffee down and walked to our road. Up ahead, I could see something in the middle of it. A blob of something. Was it Oso? I put my coffee down and started to walk towards this lump in the road. As I got closer, I started to run. Well you know where this story is going. It was Oso. He'd been hit by a car in the night. My little Oso was gone!
Life on earth is truly precious. We have no idea how long we are here for. One minute here, next minute gone, in a blink of an eye. When does death come knocking at the door? Are we ever prepared for it? What about those of us left behind? Are we ever prepared for the loss of our loved one? I believe I have a very healthy attitude around death and I'm not afraid of it. But having said so, it doesn't alleviate the pain in the heart we feel when someone we love is gone. When the shock settles down, and the grieving begins, you start to remember the loss of all others before. You find yourself "feeling" a universal loss and sometimes can see yourself being swallowed up by grief.
Can you grieve for a cat just as much or maybe even more than say a sister, brother, father, or mother? Is there any limit to the love we can have for another living being? Is it better to grieve alone or with others? Do other animals feel loss as well? So many questions and so much pain.
For me this day represented 2 losses for 2 cats. As I sat and cried for Oso underneath one of our old oak trees, my dogs also cried the primordial cry. They sensed through my tears of grief that we lost one of our pack members. They too can feel, they too can grieve. As I shared the story of Oso's passing: all of my friends felt his loss and shared in the grief. And I know as you read this, you too will feel the loss.
There is no shame in grieving for a cat or a dog when they are gone. We bring them into our lives to join our families, so when they are gone it feels like a missing puzzle piece.
There is beauty in grief. A beauty so undeniable, that it awakens and illuminates the soul. For to have loved so much and to have felt the love in return, unconditional is one of life's greatest miracles that we experience as humans. If you are grieving it means that you experienced the beauty of love. How amazing is that!
I leave you with the riddle of love:
"Everything it gives you it takes it away. But would you have it any other way?"
Hello, hello my name is Oso, Hello, hello my name is Oso, I am your Calder House greeter, If you need cuddles I'll lay on your lap, If you need lovin' you can pick me up, If you need soothing, I'd be happy to purr in your ear, If you need fun, feel free to watch me play, Hello, hello my name is Oso, Hello, hello my name was Oso.