Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 49

November 21st was the 49th day after Sandra's death. We held a memorial service at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Day 49 is a significant day in the Buddhist tradition because it's believed that it takes 49 days of transition time from this world to the next. It's a period of time needed for the consciousness to find a new channel, vessel, or place to go.
Some people have told me it's simply because it's going to take around 49 days for the reality of death to start to sink in. Either way, it's a big marker so the memorial service was very timely.

Greg, the priest residing over the ceremony, talked about our intentions for the service and that to grieve a loss and simultaneously celebrate a life we need an open heart - a heart that is more often then not broken open in a most painful way. Honestly, after hearing that, I was a bit overcome and didn't hear what he said next. I tuned back in as he was talking about the mystery of death which is the mystery of life, and how we just don't know what happens after death but we bring the intention to help Sandra's transition nonetheless. He referred to Sandra as a pioneer, one who has fearlessly taken this journey before us, who knows by how many years, months, or days.

In the spirit of helping clear all obstacles from Sandra's path of transition, we offered incense at an alter with Sandra's picture and some of her ashes while the rest of the sangha (congregation) chanted.

Then Greg talked directly to Sandra (which is also another part of the tradition). As you could imagine, this was very moving and powerful. He talked about being deeply touched by Sandra's presence even though he met her only once. After Sandra was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she wanted to meet with Greg to see if the Zen tradition could offer her a perspective on the whole life/death/cancer thing that might help her deal with the upcoming onslaught of treatments. However, Greg was so struck by her attitude of acceptance and inner peace that he said that he left the meeting that day as the one who learned something about life. I think he can imagine those of us who were lucky enough to spend years with Sandra, let alone one lunch!

I was invited to speak, but it would have been useless. I was too choked up by the beginning of Greg's talk, never mind by the end of it. Besides, I talk directly to Sandra every day. Most importantly, I talked with her while she was alive and healthy, and there was nothing left unsaid between us. Anything I would have told her, she knows already. Anything she would have told me, I know already. My gratitude for that gift alone is far beyond words.

I'd like to thank, with as much heart and sincerity as I can muster, Greg for his openness which is apparent by his selfless sharing of his time, words, and compassion. I'd also like to thank the sangha at the Brooklyn Zen Center for their amazing love and support. It consistently overwhelms me.

**Just a small addendum by Greg:
"...the 49 days is not so much from this world to the next. It's more a matter of how long consciousness after death is in transition before rebirth into this world – 49 days being the estimated time it takes for the spirit to be reborn again into a new life. That said, it could be a symbolic number for two reasons. First, as you mentioned in your blog, it could be a ritual device to care for one's emotions. Or, if rebirth is the case, it could be a ritual device simply to mark return when this passage to one's new life actually has many time frames. Some in the Buddhist tradition feel rebirth takes 3 days, 21 days, 49 days or 100 days after death, and in some even feel it's 7 years. After all, everyone taking exactly 49 days seems like a math that might be a little too exact for life!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

California services for Sandra

Memorial Mass - Saturday, Oct 17, 10am at St. Joseph Church, 727 N. Minter, Santa Ana, CA.
Celebration of Life - Will be held in Pasadena following church service. Lunch will be served. Sharing of stories and your memories of Sandra are warmly welcomed.
In lieu of flowers/gifts, or simply when thinking of her - Please support Sandra's favorite organizations and causes (see below):
  • - Lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty
  • - People learn to live with cancer, free of charge.
  • - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Click "how to help," click "make a gift." Under "ways to donate" select "direct your gift to a specific area of research or treatment" then scroll through "select a fund" to ovarian cancer, then complete online form. Or, simply call 1(888) 675-4438 and direct gift to benefit ovarian cancer research or treatment.
  • reduce, re-use, recycle daily
  • support local agriculture, shop at your local farmer's market
  • become an organ donor, blood donor, and blood platelet donor

Please attend the the celebration immediately following the service!
It will be held from 12 noon to 4, care of:
Sonja and Albert (not Alfred) Alarr
999 No. Madison Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91104

Transportation via bus will be provided for those who need it.

Thank you all so much!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Update on Sandra

An update to all of Sandra's dear friends and family. On June 12, 2009 cancer was found in Sandra's brain, lungs & liver. The months following were a debilitating whirlwind of brain surgery, chemo/radiation, transfer of care to Memorial Sloan Kettering, ultimately ending at Calvary Hospital for palliative care of advanced cancer patients. Sandra's fight was valiant and heroic to the very end. At 5:07am, on Saturday, October 3rd, in peace & surrounded by love, Sandra's body released her and forever freed her from human suffering and pain. She was blessed to receive constant love from all of you. Thank you for your beautiful words & tributes already left on facebook. I encourage you to read them all. With love and appreciation - Deanna, Louie, Sally & EJ

Saturday, August 15, 2009

2 out of 3 ain't bad, but it ain't good either

so, this past week i had a brain mri and a ct scan of my torso to see where we were with this whole cancer thing. yesterday, ej, my family, and i met with my oncologist for the results. he started with the good news, "we found nothing in your brain." i had to laugh, but he didn't think it was funny. my lungs seem to be fine too. great! unfortunately, the cancer has been very busy growing in my liver. mr. oncologist refers to it as a tumor singular, but really, it's multiple growths.

this coming week we find out if radiation is a possibility. a change of chemo drugs is another possibility. and there's also some cutting edge mri/ultrasound procedure
in boston that i may be a candidate for.

i need to take a break now. i'll try and blog a little more often than once a month. xoxo