When we first moved to Hawaii from Fiji, Dana was 14 and I was 13.
We were too young to work in America – and we were both pretty upset about it, as Fiji had had no such “child welfare” rules. Being suddenly dependent on our (broke) parents was awful.
Dana turned 15 (the legal age to work) first, and he immediately went out and got two jobs: one at the local frozen yogurt shop, and the other as a newspaper carrier. Since no-one checked in on their carriers, he gave me that job. I did the work; he got paid and he gave me the money.
Dana was that kind of brother.
I was so grateful it’s not even funny, even with those 4am Sunday morning (in Hilo rain!) drops.
Fast forward 30 years and I’m living in a house that was on my carrier route.
Sometimes I feel like things are coming full circle, that some things are looping around and, with the advantage of time and experience, becoming more clear. Things aren’t as confusing as they once were.
Other things – like the “how could ~ ‘s” and the “why did ~’s” are stronger than ever.
That’s the thing about experience: it’s one thing to not understand something because you are a child, and it’s another to be an adult and have children and not understand how someone could do something like that to a child.
All of these pieces are floating in this circle of mine, along with the memories of my brother and the missing of him.
I had a dream with Dana on the evening of what would have been his 46th birthday.
In it, he explained to me something I’ve been asking him in my dreams and my prayers this entire past year: why he left.
He told me in the dream that his leaving had everything to do with choices that he made in this life. It was shown to me in my dream as a linking – with each choice forming a link, and the next choice another link, and another, and so on.
It all ended in a consequence – only I don’t want to say “consequence” because that implies something negative. That wasn’t the implication in the dream. It was simply clear to me in the dream that all choices have a result, like cause then effect.
The result in Dana’s life with his choices was that he had to leave.
Everything in the dream was so full of love and clarity and I woke up feeling deeply happy. Like I understood.
And this is the thing: if Dana were around right now, he wouldn’t be hanging out with me. He’d be working, busy burning his candle at both ends, busy in a million ways trying to take care of everyone in his world and then some.
Busy trying to become who he needed when he was growing up.
The only way anything would ever be different is if he was still alive and I knew what I know now.
Knowing this, I’d climb into Dana’s truck for a long ride and I’d talk to him for 15 hours – just like I used to in Taiwan – and I’d reach him. I’d REACH HIM and things would change and he’d realize that he didn’t need to take care of anyone, truly, we’re okay, we’ll always be okay.
Then he’d be here, and he would be here like he was here when we were kids in Hilo.
The spider webs sparkled in the early morning mist.
Wave after wave of web glittered with dew, hundreds upon thousands of webs, clinging to the wild fennel and grasses that lined the walking path.
Their beauty was astonishing.
Bright, sparkling, so easily, clearly visible.
It struck me that I had walked that path a dozen times before, but had never seen a web, because there had never been dew to catch on the silk and show it’s presence.
The webs had been there all along. They hadn’t left, they hadn’t suddenly emerged either. They were always there.
I just couldn’t see them.
I am convinced this is the same as it must be with the spiritual world of those who have passed on. They are like those webs that were always there, hidden from eye only by dint of temporary visibility, but in the right conditions, become blazingly clear.
It is easier to deal with the absence of Dana’s physical presence now, because I can feel him so clearly at certain times. It’s as if the spiritual conditions that I need to have aligned come together and then BAM, it’s like he’s walking next to me as I stride forth.
It’s easier to deal with the absence of Dana’s physical presence now because he’s shown me so clearly through everything that has happened with the divorce that he’s with me, he’s helping. All of those nudges that I have felt, those little whispers in my heart and head – those are from Dana, who has a connection with the greater part of my spirit, the part that I may not be consciously aware of. He has a connection with the part that dreams in action and sees the sparkle of a spider’s web regardless of dew.
I find that the more that I lean in to the spiritual nudges and the heart whispers, the stronger the sense of them become and the more clear the world grows.
It is so clear now, the world has never held greater clarity for me, nor have I ever felt stronger.
These spider webs.
They are a great metaphor for the invisible world of the spirit, yes. But I think they are metaphors for even more.
We live this life with intention – or we let life live us.
The intention with which we live is invisible, but we feel it in our every thought and movement. It’s like those spider webs, only visible when the conditions are aligned, when the dew is on them and they sparkle.
Invisible one moment.
Seen the next.
But it was there all along.
I want to live a life that I personally create, and not feel driven by situations and circumstances. I want to feel the power of my own intention and let that unfold into a physical reality.
I want to remember that those silken strands are always there, whether or not I see them with my eyes, just as my brother is with me still.
I’ve been waking up even earlier than my usual 5 in the morning, often at even 3:30. I get my coffee, my laptop, candles lit. Meditate.
I get online, ready and raring to work, and then… I lose focus.
I see your leg and how it was ripped open in half, gouged by the bullets and then by surgery. I think of the gunshots on TV and how being shot is never really shown, you don’t ever see what it really looks like, when your beloved brother is on a fucking hospital bed, pumped with air and compressors and his leg is literally ripped open, as is his chest, and you still think he’s going to make it and you celebrate every fucking little thing, like his rectum surgery.
This time last year, I was about to leave Redding because I was SO SURE you were going to make it, and because Mikey wouldn’t come and stay with me at the hospital because he “was working” and it was harvest and he was “busy.” All of this is in quotes now because who the fuck knows.
I was positive you were going to make it, Dana. I was positive you would wake up, and that it would be on Saturday, and that I’d miss being there when you woke up, but it would be ok, I’d be there for the rest of your time in ICU and would help with your rehabilitation and everything else.
I am so angry, Dana.
I am so sad.
I’m so angry.
And I can’t stop seeing your leg in my mind’s eye and I know I need to pivot and think about something else, but it’s so, so hard when I’m full of this anger and sorrow.
If I had known then that you wouldn’t make it, I would never have left the hospital, left Redding. I would never have left because I would need to know that I had done everything I possibly could to help keep you tethered to this world.
If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I would have begged Mikey come and take care of the kids in the hotel so that I focus on you, 100%.
I would have held your hand as long as I could have.
Your hardworking, warm, big hands.
Hands that have held mine for as long as I’ve been alive.
I would have grabbed on, and held.
I would have played every song that I thought might make you smile through your coma. I would have blasted our cheesy favorites and Hot Blooded and everything in between, disapproving hospital nurses be damned.
I would have joined Mom in sitting up all night with you in the hospital.
If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I wouldn’t have made those jokes about your feet or the leg compressors, trying to make your kids less scared of what was going on with you. I would have cried and made sure that we all stayed with you, one of us, for every second of every day that we possibly could.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee
Trust in the beauty and purpose of the universe is something I’ve always believed and worked hard at aligning myself with, you know that Dana.
Even as I sit here and type this out, I remember so many times in this very room where you’d sit next to me and we’d talk about this stuff.
I’ve never been angry with God for taking you – but maybe I’m angry with you for going.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Maybe I am really angry with you for going.
Maybe I am really angry at some choices you made along the road of your life.
Angry at the trajectories that lined up.
Angry that they resulted in your leaving.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners. Now, until the day of our death, amen.
If I had known you weren’t going to make it, I would have done more, been better.
I would have been perfect.
I would have arranged the world and restructured the universe to have had things been different.
I would not have lied and told you that it would be okay – that you could go if you really wanted or needed to, that we would be all right.
Because I don’t know how I’ll ever be really all right again in a world that has shifted so hard for me.
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I’m Learning How to Meditate
I’m learning how to meditate, and just writing that kind of makes me crack up because it sounds so terribly new-agey and I am not a hippie. You aren’t going to find patchouli at my place, yo.
Meditation is something I sort of wandered into through trying to cope with the grief of my brother’s death. I got hooked because through meditation, I could remember my dreams, and so often he was in them, and they made me so happy.
Over time, I noticed that they helped me focus and what I thought was my bi-polar disorder (but was actually completely PTSD) was getting better, so, WOW. Worth it.
And I keep trying.
First things first though: What IS Meditation?!
I’m jumping ahead of myself. I didn’t even get to what meditation is. Here’s a short video that I think does a great job of outlining what mediation is, and how to meditate:
Right? Pretty great, huh.
I really like this one on how to meditate, too:
“Monkey Mind” – totally says it all.
So, like I said at the beginning, I’ve been trying.
I’ve been trying really hard, and really consistently. Every morning, first thing after I roll out of bed (pretty much – I mean, I go to the outhouse and have a few sips of coffee, get arranged, and then go for it).
What Worked & Didn’t Work in Learning to Meditate:
I know people that love everything that didn’t work for me, and hate everything that DID. I think it’s super important to remember that this is NOT one-size-fits all. If you are not digging something, swap out and give something else a shot. Keep going till you find something that works for YOU.
This is what did and didn’t for me.
Headspace: an app that guides you. It didn’t work for me, too talkey and British-y.
Meditative music: a channel on Spotify that has “deep meditation” music, designed to really get you in a space. It didn’t work for me. I got too distracted.
Meditation Mini-Podcasts: also on Spotify, a free podcast by Chel Hamilton that doesn’t work for me for trying to really get in the zone, but is great to listen to if I’m driving and pissed off. It has stuff like “Tigers Don’t Struggle and Neither Should You”
Calm Piano Music for Meditation: on Spotify, kind of worked but not really.
No sounds at all: nope, didn’t work, I get too distracted.
Hemi-Sync – this weird, buzzing sound-stuff that I found on i-Tunes that is supposed to connect the spheres of your brain. So far, it’s really working for me. I don’t know what it is, but when I get my headphones on and turn that on, it’s a lot easier for my mind to not get distracted. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t at all – the monkey still goes; it’s just a lot calmer.
Kundalini Yoga:All yoga is about breathing, but kundalini yoga is intensely focused on it, more so than other types. It can help get me in a meditative state. I tune into the yoga videos on Gaia(and Gaia is awesome: captioned yoga, captioned meditation series – you can try one month for free by clicking here).
Walking: yep. Especially uphill.
You don’t need stuff to meditate. I hope that’s crystal clear. You can be a zen-master of a meditator with absolutely nothing. This is not a case of you have to buy it to get better at it, because the only thing you really need to meditate is to be alive, and have focus.
I use my meditation cushion – I sit with my butt on it and my knees on the floor – it helps keep my back straight and my breathing aligned. I thought it was baloney before I tried it (how much can a cushion really do?!); now I’m a convert.
Which one do you get? I got mine online, from Amazon – you can see a whole bunch of meditation cushions there by clicking here.
If you use a smelling candle that is synthetic (like, added chemicals that smell like something natural), it affects you, and not in a nice way. Either get a candle that has no scent and is made of something natural or make sure it’s scented naturally. While I love Target, I don’t buy any candles there because it feels impossible to buy something that is actually natural there – they ALL have chemicals.
For scented and natural, I haven’t found anything better than Coventry. Hands down, they smell the nicest and are the most wonderful candles, ever. Protection is my favorite, it’slinked here. I also get the unscented plain candles,linked here.
3. Kundalini Yoga:
I originally got into this type of yoga when I worked in Berkeley and was trying to quit smoking cigarettes. It was great because it focuses so much on breathing.
Well, it’s not just great for trying to quit smoking; it’s the best yoga there is, I think, for meditation. It’s all about breath work and focus.
This link to Gurmukh’s Kundalini Yoga DVD is the best Kundalini DVD that I have. I love it. I do also tune into Gaia most mornings, because they have CAPTIONED Kundalini yoga sessions on, as well as this fantastic series called “Yoga Every Day” (it’s Hatha yoga, but excellent). Link to Gaia is here.
4. i-Phone, Headphones and Timer: no link here, but these really helped me. I set my timer to vibrate – always on a set 15 minutes so I keep it short (so I’ll keep trying). I use headphones because those help me focus on the Hemi-Sync sounds.
Learning how to meditate
It’s sort of easy and really hard. It can be boring and an exercise in distraction and focus. I am constantly dealing with my “monkey mind.”
What keeps me going is how different I feel after I do it. Even if I spend most of the 15 minutes trying to keep my mind from drifting around, even if I only spend about 30 seconds truly centered, the space that I end up spending the rest of my day in is immeasurably better.
I’m not kidding. It’s amazing. I hope you try it, and I hope this helps get you going if you are interested in it.
I’ve developed a routine: I wake up in the morning, go and light a candle for my grandparents and for my great-aunt Ruby and place it in my shrine.
I light another for my brother, Dana, which I carry with me to the couch. I wear Dana’s warm and fuzzy jacket, cross my legs and practice meditating – breathing in and out, focusing on the light of the candle, or closing my eyes.
Either way, any way, I want to know how to do this, how to meditate, how to silence the monkey in my mind.
My brother has been gone for 4 months.
I can’t explain what it’s like to see these guys hanging out and having fun together.
It’s happiness at what they have, pain in what I’ve lost:
This bittersweet joy that they are now experiencing what I once did.
As pure and true and whole as it gets.
A brother and sister who will hold each other’s backs. Best friends. The only person in the world who knew all of my secrets, who’d hang out with me and talk apps, pinterest, self-improvement books and in the next breath, call me a wimp and laugh at me (not with; at).
My back-up plan has always involved Dana – “if something bad happens, I’ll go to Dana,” – he was only barely a year older than me, but I turned to him more than I ever turned to my parents.
That’s Dana. Bright light, golden boy.
Micah picked the lemons and the mint, then made lemonade and brought out a couple of cups to his brother and sister to enjoy while they soaked
What a kid!
Micah made this, too – a home-made hummingbird feeder.
I’ll write a post at some point about his school pieces, but in a nutshell, he’s going to school 3 days a week now and at home for bigger projects for 2 days. We’ll see how it goes. We’re discovering that Micah’s an exceptionally gifted person, and an asynchronous developer – which means that he’s developing on-par with his age for some things (like his social skills), and through the roof with others (like his critical thinking, reading and more). We’re trying to figure him out, and in that figuring out, I think we will be testing him in a wide-range of things soon.
He’s a very interesting and unusual cookie.
We’ve been going to Blue Lake – my Mom is working on transforming Dana’s house (and also where my Grandma lived) into a grief and loss retreat.
It’s so painful to be in the spaces where Dana was, sometimes it just about knocks me over.
But those places are also where I most want to be. Not because I like pain; it’s just memories, the physical connection.
I want to hold my brother close for as long as I possibly can, never let him go.
I know it’s moot, but in replaying the last time I hung out with him, I want to go back to that moment and take Dana with me to Oregon, kidnap him if necessary. Keep him with me until the day that he was shot passes.
I want to wake up and have all of this be one really bad dream.
Did you see “The Little Prince” on Netflix?
The rose in the end, right?
I loved that. I think of that all the time now, with Dana.
Because I need to see him in everything.
He is the beauty in the sky now, the bird flexing his wings.
He is the morning mist, the song of the wind, harmony in water.
My heart still physically aches.
I simply can’t think of the reality of the rest of my life without Dana.
I can’t go there.
It hurts too much.
I’m still just walking, step by step.
One foot in front of the other.
Trying as best as I can to move forward in the light.
There’s a part of me that wants this post to be helpful in some way. Point out something that has been useful to me in this grief process.
Say something positive like, ‘these walks really help!’
And it’s true, I suppose, that the walks do help.
Walking is better than sitting inside all day.
But often I’ll be walking and I’ll come upon a place where Dana and I once stood and laughed, or a memory will flit through my head and I swear I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, I stop, I can’t breathe, I just choke on my tears.
No fucking way I can do this.
So I find myself blocking off my emotions because the pain is just too intense, the reality is more than I can handle.
This is why I instinctively turn to meditation.
Through that, the monkey in my mind can be silenced (with work, and boring work at that), and I can get to a space in which I simply be, without thought, pain. Just be, exist in my consciousness.
A lot of the photos on this post are for sale on my photography site, Meriah Snaps. Or you could call it Meriahs Naps.
There isn’t a day – and often even an hour – that goes by when I don’t think of my brother.
This is the thing: Dana is in alignment with the universe now.
He is with Source (- God), and Source is all Love.
If you walk into a dark room, it’s only dark as long as the light isn’t turned on. If you bring light in, there is no darkness, just as if you bring love in, hate dissipates. I don’t believe in “satan” or an actual presence of hate – I simply think that all darkness is the absence of light, and that love is the highest emotion.
I believe that love is what the universe is made from, and I believe that God is the Source of it.
This being said, my brother is with love, the highest emotion. He can’t go low; he can’t go to the lower emotions, ones in which love is absent. He can’t join me, as he once did when he was alive in physical form, in being there for me if I raged or whined. He can be there for me – and is there for me – if I join him in being present in the higher emotions.
Does that make sense?
In a nutshell, it’s that if I’m happy and full of love, he can be with me. If I’m full of anger and grief, he can’t.
Added to this, I find that I’m in a state of grace.
The pain of separation from my brother is like a cocoon that surrounds me.
If I walk through this cocoon, if I stay and move through my life with that cocoon wrapped over me, I am in grace.
It keeps me close to God. In order to stay in the cocoon though, it is necessary to keep my emotions aligned. I can’t be hateful and stay in the cocoon.
But it’s really, REALLY hard to stay aligned. It’s really hard to stay centered in my heart. It’s hard to keep my tether straight. It’s hard to make my spirit the priority in my life. It’s like choosing between a party-pack of Tapatio Doritos and a bag of kale. It’s like, I know the kale is going to be good for me, I know the Tapatio Doritos do me no favors, I know how good I’ll feel after eating the bag of kale, I know the kale is an acquired taste and if I keep going, I’ll love it more than Tapatio Doritos (maybe…right?), but I’m NOT THERE YET. So I’m struggling.
I feel pinched off from Dana when I don’t have my alignment.
I want to start this post out by being really clear about one thing: grief is hard work.
There is no way around it: it is simply a process that one must fully engage in. I am quite certain at this point in time that grief is a process that will never be complete. To fully engage in it means that it becomes a part of the fabric of your life. It changes the design you weave, lends it’s light and sorrow to the threads that wrap you in your reality.
Perhaps for some, it is also a catalyst for spiritual growth, propelling you to where you want to be on that level.
This stuff that I’m listing below are simply (for the most part) material tools that I have found helpful in my process so far. They are NOT listed in order of importance, and I am not including things like ‘eat/drink right, exercise’ because everyone tells you about that. You know it already. I’m just adding the pieces that might be new to your own list.
Please dive in and add what you’ve found to be helpful too –
Proof of Heaven
I am convinced that my brother sent this book my way, and also nudged the Audible version at me. The last hour of the Audible version was far and away the most useful element in it for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough, because it described the process of dying, of heaven, of God (“Om”), the brain, this world, the next, karma and more in ways that resonated with me.
I use candles when I wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning to be alone. Coventry Candles come with affirmations wrapped around them, and are long-burning, made of essential oils. They smell divine, and the affirmations are comforting.
I think any natural candles are wonderful, especially right now, but I especially like the ones that are made with essential oils and “dipped when the moon is right.” The “Healing” candle is my favorite, but Protection smells fantastic.
Mom got me on these, too (you’ll notice “my Mom got me on this” a lot in this post). Essential oils have been a part of my life for a while now (remember my post on essential oils for weight loss?), and at this point, they take on a healing element for my spirit. My Mom has a massive collection that she is very generous with me – right now, I’m using a lot of Young Living‘s “Abundance”, “Inner Child”, and “Pan Away”.
Abraham-Hicks videos on YouTube Red:
Abraham-Hicks’ “Money and the Law of Attraction” and the book that started it all, “Ask and It is Given” (which my Mom also gave me). I’m NOT writing this to convince you, but if you are looking to make sense out of life or anything, this might help. It helped me get through everything that has happened in the past 8 years (panic attacks, PTSD, my Dad, postpartum depression, Moxie/Down syndrome, leaving my job, leaving my life in the Bay Area, full time family stuff, income struggles, isolation, friendlessness, washing clothes by hand in a Humboldt winter, the loss of both of my Grandfathers, my beloved Grandmother and now, Dana. If I thought anything was big before this, I was wrong. it was all piecemeal compared to this.)
I had to take a leap to get over some of the “out there” stuff to me (like the whole “Abraham” and channeling collective consciousness bit), but the actual content is gold, solid gold, priceless.
I’ve read and watched everything they have that I can borrow/buy – I’m on repeat-land here. So I was thrilled to find that with YouTube Red, you can save videos OFFLINE and listen to them or watch them whenever (which is a big deal because I can’t stream well off the grid).
The whole smorgasbord is there, and it helps me tremendously. For it to be of use to you, or for it to make sense, you might need to backtrack a bit and read the first book (Ask and It Is Given – that’s an Amazon link there but you can get it in the library for sure).
I watched this 30-minute video over and over for about 2 hours the other day, for example, as it spoke so perfectly to how I feel about where I am in my grieving process.
Yoga has always helped me with the active meditation that it provides, but with grief, it adds a layer of helping me connect with my body when the grief is overwhelming. Since I am rarely able to attend yoga classes, I tune in through Gaia TV . With Gaia TV, I can choose the type and level I want – it’s usually kundalini for me, but all yoga is helpful.
Breath is an integral part of meditation, and I have found that breathing is critical to move through my grief, when the grief just explodes and hits me. I absolutely have to stop, stop, STOP and breathe, focus, breathe.
Whatever gets the breath going is great; the “breathe” app is what worked for me (and I have it on my Apple watch, which means that it taps at me when it’s time to use it).
I have a therapist that I love.
She meshes talk therapy with action lists, nutrition and advice. Now, I was lucky because I had already started working with her before all of this happened with Dana, so I didn’t have to look for her. I’m not sure I’d have the wherewithal to if I hadn’t already had a relationship with her.
I think we all need to have a safe space to “let it out” and process things in our lives. Get help for hard things. The sooner we find a person that works in ways we find helpful, the better.
This isn’t a material item, but I wanted to include it because this has also been very helpful for me.
I can’t really be around people that much now. Kids, yeah (and they are very helpful for my spirit), but the strong energy that comes off of most adults is just often too much. I have had to learn to say things like, “I need to be alone now” – which I’ve never been able to clearly define before.
I just need to be alone. I need to have this space and walk this walk. I can’t physically talk too much about it or have other’s energy come into it, because it is so deeply personal.
The Grief Emails
This came from the Mortuary that helped my Mom with her parents and with Dana. Mom told me about these emails – they send one daily and it’s truly wonderful. It varies from ideas and tips to quotes, nuggets of wisdom. Daily Email Affirmations.
I have been slip-sliding around with food and exercise, but I’ve found that massage helps me find more balance and love with my physical self. I use my friend Nieves’ line of body oils. She uses essential oils and all good-stuff and I can really feel it as I put it on my skin. I use Legs n’ All, Bath Salt, and “C” Perfect Skin.
She also makes this thing called “Cloud of Protection” which is awesome – it has a really bright scent that can lift me up.
I’d be lost without nature. Living where I live, being able to walk the hills with the mist, the trees, mountains – it is a real gift right now. Nature is the closest I can get, perhaps, to God, and it’s there that I find the most healing.
Sometimes it feels impossible to talk about grief or even of the tools that help me get through the worst of it. It makes me angry, it makes me sad. Nothing will make it as it once was; he’s not coming back to life, he’s gone, what’s the point? Right. That is true.
But as I weave this grief through my life and create a new world for myself, one without my brother in it, I am grateful that there are some things that can ease the pain a bit and help me with the necessary process that I am going through.