Life is Adventuring – Colour Outside the Lines

WHEN MISS NORMA WAS DIAGNOSED WITH UTERINE CANCER AT THE AGE OF 90, SHORTLY AFTER THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND OF NEARLY SEVEN DECADES, SHE WAS ADVISED TO UNDERGO SURGERY, RADIATION, AND CHEMOTHERAPY. BUT INSTEAD OF CONFINING HERSELF TO A HOSPITAL BED FOR WHAT COULD BE HER LAST STAY, NORMA ROSE TO HER FULL HEIGHT OF FIVE FEET AND TOLD HER DOCTOR, “I’M NINETY YEARS OLD. I’M HITTING THE ROAD.”
— DRIVING MISS NORMA – ONE FAMILY’S JOURNEY TO SAYING “YES” TO LIVING

If you own this story, you get to write the ending.
~Brené Brown

After reading Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande Miss Norma’s family decided to take her on the road with them and spend an extended period of time travelling all over the United States.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer and had recovered from the operation to remove the mass in his bowel we spontaneously booked flights to Europe and spent six months travelling around the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Western Europe. We hired a car and, at a time when there were no GPS or Google Maps on our mobiles, navigated our way, through countless countries. We never had a specific destination, only finding accommodation when our day was done. Sometimes we stayed in one place for a few days but generally, we kept moving.

Ours was an amazing trip of a lifetime where my husband got to visit all those places friends had talked about. Needless to say, I can totally relate to the families decision to hit the road.

In our case cancer returned with an aggressive vengeance. Having borne witness to my husband’s long, futile battle which involved coping with the devastating effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatment on his wellbeing, I applaud Miss Norma’s decision to give surgery and treatment a miss.

Miss Norma has passed now but, as reviews such as this reveal, her legacy lives on, inspiring others to make the choice to live.

You can purchase a copy of Driving Miss Norma at Book Depository or other bookstores. Driving Miss Norma’s Facebook, which recorded much of the families journey can still be found online and there is also a Miss Norma web site.

The Magic Gate,
Elizabeth Layton
1987

Depression is an affliction Elizabeth Layton overcame. Art enabled her to say ‘yes’ to living. Mrs Layton, a native of Wellsville, Kansas…a few miles north of Ottawa, took her first art class at the age of 67. She had heard from a sister in California that art might help depression, which she had suffered from most of her life, so she enrolled in a drawing class at Ottawa University. The instructor, Pal Wright, just happened to be teaching contour drawing. He encouraged her to draw, and draw she did. For up to eighteen hours a day, she hovered over her makeshift drawing table set up in a corner of her bedroom, pouring out the fears, guilt and anger of her troubled life. Six months later, she announced to her family that she was no longer depressed. She felt free at last.

It is said that what distinguishes Elizabeth Layton’s drawings from others is their breadth, their freshness, and their expression of hope. Few artists have depicted such far-reaching social concerns such as capital punishment, homelessness, hunger, racial prejudice, AIDS, ageing and the right to die.

How will you, how have you said yes to living? What steps are you taking to own your ending?

Rendezvous in The Departure Lounge

When we think of Departure Lounges the image of chaotic, sterile, Airport Departure lounges, filled with crowds of people, sometimes lying sprawled out on furniture that has not been designed for resting, springs to mind. Certainly, Google immediately thinks of airports when you punch in the words ‘Departure Lounge’.

Because my mind has an inexplicable way of manipulating ideas and refashioning them to suit wild creative schemes, I have I found myself contemplating what a more private  Departure Lounge, space where I could arrange a rendezvous to farewell someone making their exit from this planet, would look like.

I also contemplated what spaces would be the most appropriate for me to be reunited with loved ones who are out there somewhere. For example, I am pretty sure my father would enjoy wandering and chatting in the mother of all vegetable gardens. Up until his death, he maintained a wonderful garden that supplied vegetables to various members of the family.

I think my mother would enjoy meeting in a space like this, especially if I had gathered together the writing group she loved coming to at my place when I was still living in North Fitzroy

The more I think about it I understand that our meeting places would magically transform and reshape themselves depending on who I was meeting. Older ancestors, who have not kept up with the dramatic changes that have taken place here on planet earth, would need to be considered.

As I write I am filled with a sense of anticipation. I find myself excited by the prospect of spending some time, not only with my husband, parents, my eldest brother, dear old friends and precious companion animals but also with grandparents and great grandparents I never knew. It is becoming a rather big list of people and companions to make contact with.

Of course, a challenge is to decide where each of these people would feel most comfortable. However, I do think that this plan beats meeting at a gravesite in an unmanicured cemetery. But, don’t get me wrong! For some time I have loved taking a picnic to historic cemeteries where I find some wonderful backstories on headstones.

Just think of the information that you will have after meeting like this. It may add a whole new chapter to your memoir.

Have a think about it! What will your Departure Lounge look like? Where would you prefer to rendezvous? Do you have a favourite haunt that is familiar to both of you? Who do you want to meet? What would you like to say to them? Is there any unfinished business to deal with? Perhaps you might prepare by formally writing to invite them to meet you in this particular place.

To help Sarah Wiseman does offer courses at Daily Om that involve guided imageries designed to help you meet and communicate with ancestors who have ‘passed over’. I loved the courses I signed up for. I found that Wiseman gave me more ideas about how to communicate with those on ‘the other side’.

Believe me! This can prove very therapeutic.

Parting Gifts

Dear Heather
I would like to be remembered for looking after my grandma. These are some of the things that I do for her. I get my grandma tea. I massage her back, I put cream on her legs and I help put her duck away.

I would also like to be remembered for looking after my animals. Here are some of the things I do. I take my birds outside, I give them water and I fill up their food containers

from Laura K

Susan Varley’s ‘Badger’s Parting Gift’ is the book I turn to when I want to give a small gift to someone who is bereaved. It is also the book I pull out in a Lived Experience Narrative or Writing for Wellness Workshop when I want to touch on the sensitive subject of death

I encourage you to watch this video and spend some time remembering not only the parting gifts of those you have loved but your own legacy. What are some of the footprints you will leave in the sand?

To make a footprint take off your shoes and socks and put your foot on your journal page. Trace your foot and then carefully draw in the toenails.

Meditate upon your footprint and consider some of the footprints that you have left behind, the things that people will remember you for, your parting gift. On each toe, write an impression that you have made, a footprint that you have left behind.

Choose one toe and circle it. On the sole of your foot write more information about this particular event and why it stands out.

Now make a footmark in your visual journal and write a letter explaining why you will be remembered.

Footprints also provide a great way to set goals. On the soles of your feet write about the footprints you want to leave behind. Fill a shoebox, decorate insoles, make shoes, write on the bottoms of old shoes, pull out your baby shoes….. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.