Drumming Away that Blue Moon

Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on De...

Taken by Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, showing the Earth seemingly rising above the lunar surface. Note that this phenomenon is only visible from someone in orbit around the Moon. Because of the Moon’s synchronous rotation about the Earth (i.e., the same side of the Moon is always facing the Earth), no Earthrise can be observed by a stationary observer on the surface of the Moon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Has anyone here had an unusually chaotic August?” Marilee the Shaman asked those of us assembled for the Friday night class.  Almost every hand went up.  “Well, that would be normal during a blue moon, especially this one,” she said with a chortle.  Friday marked the first blue moon since 2009, something I reflected on in my August post, What Happens Once in a Blue Moon?With two funerals and assorted other chaos this month, the blue moon worried me.  Everything seemed askew, even up-for-grabs.  When I saw the flyer at the European Market in Chesterton for the Shamanic Drumming Circle at East Wind Studios, well, I just had to sign up.  I don’t know about you but I had never been to a Shamanic Drumming Session.  But like so many “out-there” things in the universe, I quickly learned that shamanic drumming had a following all its own.  In fact, there are fascinating explanations of how the drumming affects our brain waves and creates an ideal state for spiritual expression.

Yet, the week before the drumming, another set-back presented itself.  My parents and my dear friend Urban Schumacher died.  Not only were Urb and his wife Judy our long-time neighbors, we Gallagher children had a Schumacher in almost all of our class years.  And, as the local funeral director in Green Bay, Urb helped bury my mother, father and an assortment of dear relatives.  After my parents’ deaths, I grew close with Judy and Urb, visiting them often when I returned to Green Bay.  Even though he was 81 at his death, Urb’s death was difficult to handle.Obituary photo of Urban J. Schumacher, 1930 - 2012, Green Bay, WI

It wasn’t a question of whether I would attend, but how early I should leave Chicago to make the 11 a.m. funeral mass in Green Bay on August 30th.  If there were going to be two funerals in August, this was something that simply happened ‘once in a blue moon,’ however sad it was.

By 6 am, I was on the road with my son Mack.  Mack didn’t start school until the next week and had grudgingly agreed to accompany me on the funeral road trip, the promise of a pre-season Green Bay Packers game that evening as his reward.  We arrived early to the funeral mass.  “It’s all old people,” Mack whispered as we entered our pew.  He was right, there was an older crowd already seated.  As the 11 am hour neared, the church filled to standing room only.  Ten priests, including the Bishop, brought the casket down the aisle.  There was no question of Urb’s place in the community or in heaven — he was a man of great kindness and compassion, remembered and cherished by all.  We remembered his wit and great humor at the luncheon following the mass, reminiscing with his wife, six children and many close friends and family members.

When Mack and I left Green Bay the next day, we were ready to take the trek back home.  As we neared the Chicago border, I couldn’t help but think of the Toronto funeral I’d attended earlier in the month and the many signs we say on the way.

“Mom, look,” Mack pointed at a long black car pulling up next to ours on the Expressway.  It was of course a hearse and I shook my head in amazement.  As we pulled closer to it, we both saw the sign in its back window.  “Rest in peace,” it read.  Unlike the signs in Canada — of overt death, some fear and a glimpse to eternity — this one seemed to signal some much-needed closure.   “Quick, take a picture,” I said, handing Mack the camera.  He bobbled it a bit and we got only one shot.

 

Just then, I heard the Shaman’s voice, bringing us back from our drumming trance.  “There is a gret deal going on in the universe right now, the energy is very tense as we integrate new levels of consciousness into our world,” she said.  “It should all be integrated by the winter solstice in December.  Until then, buckle your seatbelts.”

We had drummed and meditated for nearly an hour and half that night.  It was August 31st and the blue moon rose high in the sky.  In the end, the blue moon had brought me back home to Green Bay for a funeral and reconnected me to many good friends from the past.  It made me thing about who I had been and who I had become through the years.  Not only had I crossed an international border that month, I realized that the connections through time never really changed, that you could pick up with someone as if the years hadn’t intervened, that as much as we all changed, we all were growing into current selves all the time.

Mack wasn’t sure what to make of the drumming and meditations, which would be only normal for a boy of 14.  I’m not sure I knew what to make of them either.  The drumming was soothing and the burning sage in the air — meant to cleanse and purify — smelled good.  Things seemed calmer as Mack and I got in the car to drive home.  The blue moon would not be back for a long time, and that was alright too.

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Endings as Beginnings

There is a certain freedom in the finality of the last scene in Thelma and Louise.  The motor guns and the ’66 Thunderbird soars almost triumphantly above the cliff to Thelma and Louise’s inevitable deaths.  It is surprisingly fitting and peaceful.

When my friend Tina and I heard the news of Ann’s mother’s death, we agreed to make the 8-hour drive from Chicago to Toronto to attend the wake and funeral.  Instead of that ’66 Thunderbird, Tina pulled up in a large black Infinity SUV with Ann’s personal assistant Tracy riding shotgun and her trusty beagle Riley next to me in the back seat.   We had never done a road trip together, weren’t sure of the route but were ready for whatever lie ahead.

Ann had been at her mother’s bedside for weeks as she lay dying and we knew how important it was to her to see and feel our support in person.   Women have a special way of supporting each other and we couldn’t let Ann down.  Although Ann’s mother was in her 80s, the death came as a surprise after a very brief illness.  For anyone who has had a mother pass one, you know.  No matter when or how your mother passes on to the great beyond, it is one of the most challenging events a daughter ever faces.  We weren’t quite sure how best to support Ann and so we hoped for a sign as we picked up coffee at Starbucks and headed east through Illinois on to Interstate-94.

It wasn’t long before the hearse appeared alongside us on a flat-bed truck.  “U R Next,” read the license plate.  We locked eyes and let out giggles.  Were we?  Aren’t we all?  Yes, we’d asked for a sign but what exactly did this one mean?

We drove on, making pit stops for gas and food, all the while trying to drive fast enough to make the wake.  We’d left late and desperately needed to make up time.  The wake ended at 9 p.m. and we were nowhere near the Canadian border.  Just then, traffic slowed down to a grinding halt.  In Chicago, this would be expected, but we were on Highway 69 in Michigan and there seemed no logical explanation for the big-city traffic jam on a relatively untraveled highway.  And then we saw the police cars, the overturned truck and the small boy covered in a blanket on the side of the road, nestled in grass.  A policeman stood near him, holding him, rubbing his shoulders.   It was obvious he was the sole survivor of a terrible crash, the entire top of the truck having been cut off as clean as if a knife had sliced it.

The mood turned somber.  Death had made its not-so-subtle entrance.

We drove quietly and then in unison turned our heads to see a large, white truck lumber up next to our overly large SUV.  Written on the back of the truck in blue lettering was the word, “Eternity,” with pictures of three crosses and a biblical verse.

Now, there are signs and then there are signs.  The rule of thumb is that when they come in three’s, it’s time to sit up and listen.  We sat up.  We were traveling to a funeral after all.

With 15 minutes to spare and by some quick changing and partial nudity in the car, witnessed by only one passing motorist in the parking lot, we made it to the wake.  Ann greeted us gratefully, half surprised we had made it under the deadline.  “So, you showed up?” she chided us with a smile.  Her mother lay peacefully in the casket across the room.  “It’s sinking in,” she shared and we felt her sorrow.  Deeply.

We were slap-happy after our long road trip.  But Ann’s pain filled the room.  We watched as she and her family said goodbye to their mother.  We walked out of the funeral home together with them, meeting up later at a pub.

When the funeral began the next morning at St. Anthony Catholic Church, Tracy, Tina and I appeared right behind the procession, having mixed up the Torontonians’ directions, arriving in the nick of time.  Ann looked at us as she walked in to the church behind the coffin, her eyebrow raised in the “seriously?” gaze at us.  It was all happening so fast.  How could it seem like a week had passed when we’d been in Canada less than 24-hours?

“Funerals are the window to eternity,” Father John Mullins said as he opened his eulogy.  Remembering the message on the white truck, Tina, Tracy and I turned to each other.  Eternity had just called out to us.  “With God, the fulfillment is greater than the expectation.  The struggles in life as we heard in the beatitudes* are the coin of the realm.”

Just then, Tina gasped.  As we looked over to her in our pew, she help up a shiny Canadian penny.  Tracy and I gasped.  “What does it mean,” I asked, even though I was well aware of the phenomenon of finding pennies.

“Someone is watching over us, someone is here for us,” Tina said and we knew it felt true.  Ann watched over her mom and now we were watching over her.

“It’s really the end now, isn’t it?” Tracy asked.  “I mean, the funeral really signals the end.”

“I think it might be the beginning,” I said.

The signs had prepared us, had brought us this far.  The longer I live, the more signs I see.  When you open the door to a little guidance, it comes in droves.  It never fails.

I took the Canadian penny and replaced it with two American pennies.  Someone else could find a little bit of hope.

It was time to begin the journey home.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

*The eight beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 during the Sermon on the Mount are stated as Blessed/Happy/Fortunate are:[2][3]

  • the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)
  • those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
  • the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5)
  • they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6)
  • the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
  • the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (5:8)
  • the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. (5:9)
  • those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)

A Fresh Look at Illness and Death

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papill...

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papillary thyroid carcinoma are composed of cuboidal cells. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering how pervasive illness and death is in our lifetimes, it still usually comes as surprise when you hear about it.

When I learned my voiceover compatriot Lynne had thyroid cancer, I gasped aloud.  When her note explained she had thyroid surgery, my eyes bulged in shock.  Now writing in her blog, Prognosis Positive, even Lynne explained that some 27 million Americans have some sort of thyroid issue.  When you think of 27 million people having a thyroid issue, it stands to reason that a someone you know would likely have a thyroid problem, even thyroid cancer.  But logical theory always seems to shock when the practical reality becomes a living, breathing person you know who has an icky disease.  The news was especially tender to me since I am one of those 27 million people with a thyroid condition (hypothyroidism) as are two of my siblings (hyperthyroidism).

And then I heard about the death of cousin Marv.  Marvin was 75 and still his death was sudden and to many of the us relatives, unexpected.  Seventy-five is a respectable and (by today’s standards) a somewhat young age to push up daisies.  Just as the news of Lynne’s thyroid cancer shocked me, so did the news of Marv’s death.

At Marv’s wake in Wisconsin, relatives and friends packed the funeral home, with an hour or more wait in line to pay respects.  Amid illness and death, everyone looked vital and healthy.  Chatter of relatives and friends filled the room, catching up, checking in, learning what was new and interesting in everyone’s lives.

“How is your book coming along?” cousin Joanne asked me when we found time to have a chat.  A little like molasses, it slowly moved forward. Of all my relatives, Joanne is among the most interesting.  Single at 50, she adopted her first daughter.  At 60, she adopted her second.  As she career as a nursing professor waned, she hung out her shingle as a solo practitioner in healing touch.  “Have you looked at the chakras affected by your accident?” she inquired.

Leave it to Joanne, in her late 70s, to remind me to look at the metaphysical issues behind illness and death.  There is always a voice to illness and even death, if you care to look deep enough.  I took her suggestion to heart and took a look at the chakras, once again.  When someone reminds you to look again, maybe it’s a voice you should hear again.

Thyroid is a 5th chakra issue.  The leg relates to the 1st, or root, chakra.  This from www.chakrahealing.com:

Fifth Chakra/Throat
Resting at the back of your throat, the throat chakra is more than just the words you speak. It is the mouthpiece by which you communicate your truths. Energy from the fifth chakra is rightly associated with a pure blue color – representing the ‘true blue’ essence of your soul. When you express your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions to others, you are sharing this essence through your energy. Appropriately, the Sanskrit word for this chakra center is vishuddha, meaning “pure place.”  All forms of human expression – including body language, spoken words, writing, dance, music, or art – profess certain truths inherent to our existence.  As we find ourselves progressing through life, we must learn to effectively communicate our ideas without bringing harm to others; simultaneously we need to be able to obtain what we want using our own words. It can be difficult to achieve a balance between speaking up and being quiet.

A person with a closed Throat Chakra might feel as though they ‘don’t speak the language’ – that is, they aren’t able to use their words to share their thoughts with others. This inhibition might stem from fear; past experiences of ridicule or embarrassment can cause some to choose to remain quiet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people who experience fifth chakra imbalances talk incessantly, where their fear lies in hearing silence. People that resort to lying to hide their true intentions, or to avoid hurting others also deny the energy of their Throat Chakra. Fifth chakra deficiencies can also contribute to physical ailments including bronchitis, ear infections, hearing problems, laryngitis, mouth ulcers, and tonsillitis.

1st Chakra/Root Chakra

The Root Chakra  is a flowing spring of energy which connects us to the earth and to each other. As the first of the human body’s seven energy centers it is the source of the low-frequency waves that drive our most basic survival needs, including our primal urges. In ancient Sanskrit, this place is referred to as muladhara, the foundation. It is the scarlet red Root Chakra energy emanating from the base of the spine that accounts for not only our connection to the physical aspects of our being, but also our sense of comfort, security, and belonging within the world. Beginning at birth, we are faced with situations that challenge our very existence. In these instances it is energy from the Root Chakra that feeds into the adrenal gland above the kidneys and activates our instinctual “fight-or-flight” response.

Given this role in our well-being, it is not surprising that a blocked Root Chakra center can result in difficulties meeting or moving beyond essential needs. Recurring financial struggles, weight and food issues, deep-rooted family problems, and an inability to create long-term happiness or stability are all manifestations of a deficient Root Chakra center. Blockages can also be observable as variety of physical ailments, including chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr virus, colitis, Crohn’s disease, or cancer.

So, I must ask:  Have you ever lost your voice or felt you weren’t grounded?

If we keep looking at the cause of “dis-ease” maybe then we won’t be so surprised by it.

 

August 5th: When Memories Remember You

Driving across the Indiana border into the country today, the Queen Anne’s lace and yellow coreopsis ran wild in the fields along the road.  The sun beamed into the car and a soft warm breeze blew in the window, opened just a crack to bring some summer air in.  When I wiped my face, I felt warm tears and wondered if the breeze made my eyes water.  With a tap to the automatic control, I closed the car window but the wetness still puddled in the corner of my eye.   Now that I’d noticed it, the tears seemed to slightly increase their pace.  The drive was pleasant and I had no reason to cry.

I’ve had enough mystical experiences to know that when the body overrides the mind, there is something I’ve missed that set off a physical reminder.  And then it hit me.  Of all the days of the year, August 5th is the one that started my journey into Anne on Fire, though I didn’t know it at the time.  On August 5th, 1996, my mother died after a six-month battle with liver cancer.

I glanced at the car clock and it showed 12:30, within an hour of the time my mother died on that August 5th morning, a morning much like today with the sun streaming in to the windows of her bedroom and the flowers blowing softly in the breeze outside.  Can the body really remember what the mind choses not to?

That morning I sat with the hospice worker and held my mother’s hand.  It had grown frail and bony like the rest of her body as the cancer withered her athletic frame.  Her breath rattled and I gave the morphine pump another squeeze to ease her pain.  When the hospice worker told me we were close to the end, she suggested I make a couple of telephone calls to let the family know.  I slipped out of the room and into the kitchen, dialing my aunt Mary — my mother’s only sibling.  I had begun to tell Aunt Mary the news when the hospice worker hurriedly appeared before me and whispered, “It’s time.”  I told Aunt Mary I’d call her back shortly and strided into the bedroom, grasping for my mother’s hand.  One breath.  Then another.  Then silence.  Her grip faded slowly from mine but I grasped even more tightly.

And then the most amazing thing happened  Her spirit seemed to separate from her body.  A transparent mirror image floated upward in excruciating slow motion.  I gasped loud enough to startled myself.  Then I realized my hands were hot, feeling intense heat in each one so much so that they began to tremble.  I watched immobile as the transparent image of my mother floated up out of the room.

She was gone and at the same time I knew she was with me.

Awe-struck I turned to the hospice worker, who quietly told me, “You have been given a gift from your mother.  Treasure it.”

“But what just happened.  Tell me?”

“Death is as precious a gift as life.  Not all of us are allowed to witness it.  Your mother gave you the gift of being with her for her journey.  We all choose when to die and who will be with us,” she said and I knew then this woman had witnessed many deaths and was a very special person to share this with me.

The rest of the day dissolved in a blur of activity.   Aunt Mary arrived as did my brother Jim and sisters, Kathleen and Susie.  Funeral people were called; arrangements began to be made.

Something unique had happened and I watched the activities unfold as if in a trance.  Something had changed in me as well.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but everything was different.  In the days and months and years that followed, I began to receive signs from my mother.  These were the signs that set me on the Anne on Fire journey.

More to come.

Eileen Gertrude Stark Gallagher.   1930-1996.  Rest in peace.