Life at the Center: Life Force at Full Throttle; Smiling; Cherries – Vol 12, July 2014

Sometimes forces of life feel bigger than anything we can possibly control. I remember the first time I was in labor with our eldest son. Man, was that big! From my Lamaze training classes, I thought all I had to do was “breeeeeeeathe and relaaaaaax” and all the pain would just melt away. So I tried my little technique, just as I had practiced, and WHAM. The contractions just kept coming and hitting me full force like a freight train. In fact, I felt as if I was getting dragged along behind the freight train, desperately wanting to get off. It never crossed my mind to ask for drugs since I had long ago determined it would be detrimental to the baby. So there was just no way of getting off – I was going to have ride this one out to the end of the line.

That life force ripped through me in a way I had absolutely no voluntary control over, and it was awe-inspiring, terrifying and humbling.

Eventually an image came to me during my labor: it was a large white bird sailing calmly through the sky above the turba down below. I used all my available consciousness to cling to my vision of that steadily flying bird, just as my hand might clutch a life raft in a tempest-torn sea. That’s what I’d do during the contractions; then in the minutes or long seconds in between contractions, I’d fall into a profound, dreamless sleep. It was almost 30 years ago that I survived the our first born’s entry into the world.

In the last few days, I’ve been sitting in the hospital with my mother-in-love, someone I’ve held dearly in my heart for the decades since I first met Cliff. A woman of indomitable spirit in a frail body, Sue has bravely weathered more physical ailments than anyone I know personally. She’s endured emotional tragedy as well, always retaining a sweetness and bright outlook on life, always interested in the welfare of others.

Now dealing with bone cancer, Sue has bones that are spontaneously snapping. In April her right hip broke without a fall and had to be replaced. She gamely went through rehab and physical therapy, pushing herself to be ready to attend our son’s wedding this Saturday. She propelled herself through her garden using her walker, showing us the flowers we might want to use in the bridal bouquet.
She was on the go, ready for the wedding!

The next morning she rose early and was standing at the bathroom sink when she heard a sharp crack above her right knee and fell to the floor. Her leg had broken from the sheer act of standing on it.

Fortunately, since all the family is here for the wedding, we’ve been able to take shifts spending time with her in the hospital. To us, she is such an exemplar of courage, knowing the pain she will face the longer she stays alive in this quickly crumbling physical frame, and yet persisting for the sake of those who count on her bright smile to cheer the day.

Last night at about 3 am, while I was at her bedside in ICU, her blood pressure, oxygen level and heart rate readings were all low, and she was receiving a blood transfusion to prepare for surgery on the broken leg. The blood had recently come out of refrigeration, and as it was making its way into her veins (arteries), she began to shiver violently, almost shaking the hospital bed. When warm blankets didn’t help, I put my hand over her heart to add at least a little body heat – she was too hooked up to tubes and wires for me to hug her. And she continued to shake for a long while.

That’s when I realized once again that I was up against a life force that I virtually no influence over. I could not stop her trembling from the cold, and I certainly had no ability – no matter how much I might want it – to stop this cancer that is raging through her system. It was humbling, and terrifying. I have yet to find it awe-inspiring. And I suppose that I eventually will.

As I watch Sue deal with a body so wracked with discomfort and full-bore pain, I often see her retreat within. She has mentioned occasionally that she meditates – I don’t know that she has formal training in it. I just know that when she sometimes seems to go inward for a while, I imagine her riding between the wings of her own great white swan, soaring above it all. Sue definitely teaches me a lot about life ‘at the center’.

Moving in Stillness and resting in Joy with you,



  • By yvonne 05 Aug 2014

    thank you for sharing a very special and personal moment in your life.
    very touching…aloha hui, imy

    • By Renee Tillotson 22 Aug 2014

      In a way, such moments are personal, and in a way they are the ones that we most share most deeply in common with the rest of the world. I can only imagine that you’ve had such moments yourself, and that’s why you could easily connect with my story. Yes?

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