Elise Boulding's Journey with Alzheimers
Index to Postings
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I (Russell) still have not found time to compile and post the many beautiful tributes to Elise that have come in from all over the world since she passed. In the meantime, I would like to at least post a link to Ginny Benson's tribute: A Beautiful Fulfillment: Remembering Elise Boulding. In preparing this tribute Ginny edited the chronicle of some of her earlier visits that were posted here (May 6 Visit and May 9 Visit) and shares her journey with Elise during the last seven weeks of her life: May 11-June 23. I hope to share more tributes in the future.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Elise Boulding, July 6, 1920-June 24, 2010
Memorial contributions may be made to:
National Peace Academy, P.O. Box 306, Shelburne, VT 05482
(please identify Elise Boulding Scholarship Fund,
which was established to honor her life of dedication to peace, on check)
At 4:40 pm, Thursday, June 24, Elise made her final Transition. She stayed with us eight more days after I (Russell) sent this email update on June 18:
Elise's strong Norwegian constitution continues to amaze the family and hospice nurses and her vital signs have remained stable for longer than those of us who have kept vigil with her anticipated.
I don't have much in way of words to share now or time to update Elise's web page, but here are a few pictures. June 12 my granddaughter Petra was able to meet her great grandma Elise:
June 15 Christie and Ginny with Elise (taken by Philip):
She remained peaceful for the duration, waking intermittentaly, and the Hospice and Skilled Nursing Facility staff ensured that her physical discomfort was minimal. On June 20, Ginny took this photo, which I titled Elise Ponders Leaving.
On June 21 I received this email from Christie to my brothers and me:
I just got home from North Hill. Mom's color has changed slightly, is more greenish, and she is completely unresponsive to even touch now. Her Hospice nurse Joyce was there this morning and can't believe she is still breathing, and her North Hill nurse Suzanne says "I don't know anything anymore!" She hasn't had anything to drink in 5 days, and nothing to eat in a week.
For some reason unknown to us she is still here; all I can think of is that she has some work she is finishing up.
In mid-May I asked a small group of energy healers who I have worked closely with to form a Healing Circle to support Elise make her transition. Someday, I hope to be able to share more fully the experience/work of the Circle for/with Elise, but for now I can say that Kenneth's energy was strongly present and supporting us from the very beginning. We received some inklings of the *reasons* Elise kept her connecton to her physical body as long as she did, and she was fully active in her service to others and Mother Earth right up to the end.
The week before she crossed over, as the Hospice aide Claudia was tending her, Elise reached out and said "My husband is going to take me to meet all these people!"
Kenneth was on the boat that arrived to take her across the waters to a joyful multitude waiting to greet her on the Other Side.
Yesterday I received this picture from Anna, one of the members of the Healing Circle, saying that there was a bit of a change on the Altar where Mineral and Animal Allies were present supporting Elise (and the entire Planet) in their transition: The Kenneth and Elise Bears, reunited are meeting with Mama Bear.
Beloved friends, one reason Elise stayed around as long as she did is that she checked in with each of us to make sure to her own satisfaction that our work, whatever it is, whether seemingly large or seemingly small, will continue. The best tribute we can give her is to carry on.
Thursday, June 10, Near Yet so Far
When I arrived ten days ago I was pretty sure that I would be able to be with Elise when she made the final Transition from her physical body. In many ways it would have been easier for me if she had, aside from my own desire to be with her, but this evening I came into her room and found her sleeping, head held high. I don't know how it is possible for someone bedridden to give the impression of sitting erect, but that's the energy she projects. Her vital signs remain strong. It seems her body still wishes to stick around a bit longer. I leave for Indiana tomorrow where a host of things are requiring my attention, so I'm not sure when I'll find time to post here again.
Thankfully Philip arrived this morning for six days, and Christie returns this evening, so a shifting configuration of family remains close to her. On Saturday my granddaughter Petra may get to meet her great-grandma Elise as a bonus to visiting her other grandparents in Northhampton. That is a beautiful circle to close.
It is a blessing to have Philip here:
And Kenneth watches over her:
Today Elise was more awake than I've seen her for three or four days. When Philip and I came in she said My sons! and later I have a wonderful family. But not a lot a what she said today was coherent, and even when I could make out the words they didn't make much sense. It was easier for me when she was sleeping peacefully most of the time, not that she shows any signs of discomfort. When I began this web page I made a commitment to myself to share the journey as it unfolded, both the goodness and hardness of it. Twice I have said good-bye to Elise, feeling that I probably wouldn't see her again, and now I leave her again without a sense of completion. When I wrote to my siblings four days ago that is felt like it would be a matter of days, I added But then Mom has surprised me more than once.
So, the Journey continues...
Wednesday, June 9, Coming Close to Full Circle
When I began this webpage in November, 2008 I wrote:
I have shared with a number of you the perspective I have on my mother's Alzheimers, which is quite different from that of mainstream medicine, which views it as a degenerative disease. For me this has been a journey of mutual healing in ways I never could have anticipated.
Elise is unlikely to get out of bed again, and today I realized that it is time to create an openness in her living space, which had become quite cluttered, to better match the expansive of her Spirit at this time. I carted away about four dozen books, kept a few significant family photographs, and decluttered the board at the foot of her bed.
In the process I found her personal journal, titled Aging: A Spiritual Journey, #5, 8-4-05. Reading it brought tears to my eyes more than once, and I suddenly realized that this mutual healing journey has been going on much longer than I realized. It's not been an entirely easy journey, but as I see us coming close to Full Circle I can see how far we have come together, and it has been really special to have so many of you joining in the journey in your own ways.
In Elise's wallet I found this poem, written on or around July 6, 2005:
I'm 85 and still alive!
What am I called to do?
Get behind the plough?
No, just learn to Be Here Now.
Reading her journal, it's heart-breaking to realize how much easier it was for her to say that than to accomplish it!
8-22-05 Physical condition a daily trial--ears getting worse, not better, and dizziness worse too. Usually medicine clears up ear infections, but not this time.
9-6-05 Breath of your breath,
Light of your light,
Seat of your hereness--
oh how wonderful to sit in the sun on the bench outside our entrance on this lovely September afternoon!
These have not been easy days.
I did not expect them;
Still here, still here,
To be impatient is to be absurd.
Yet I am, too often.
9-25-05 Yes, surely I am in my last days. But days stretch into weeks, weeks into months, months into--years? How long, oh Lord, how long?
July 6, 2006
Now I'm 86
In a year filled with fear.
What shall I do?
With help from Above
Fill the world with love.
Yes, these words came to me this morning. I am still here and trying to walk god's walk. dizzy and tired, but stll enjoy times with friends so much.
Feeling strange is part of my daily life now! Yes, I have a packet of pills for when its time to go, but it doesn't seem right to use them. Why am I still here?
I remember the mantra from years ago--I think when I decided to go to Dartmouth (time of William's wedding)
9 years teaching
9 years thru practice preaching
9 years heavenward reaching
Yes, I did the teaching, the activist--but I haven't done the heavenward reaching! How could I have missed consciously entering that stage?
[Note: William was married on August 19, 1978, so the timetable, if she had followed it, would have completed August 19, 2005]
6-22-07 [written in anticipation of upcoming birthday]
Now I'm, 87--
Well along on the road to heaven.
There's time to think and time to pray!
And time to enjoy every step of the way!
Almost too mentally and physically exhausted to write, but here I am having rediscovered this book...
11-29-07 [next entry]
Yes, still here. Still walking eery morning--my Big Event of each day, greetings god's Earth. God's trees, how I love to watch them dancing in the wind. Leaves falling, still surprisingly many left on trees. Like me, a leaf left on the tree of life. Ready to go, but body stays. It still enjoys the earth, as does my heart and soul...
In many ways very hard to be still here, very ready to go. But I will continue to love and enjoy god's Earth as long as this body hangs on. Not for me to bring the end by choosing to die, hard as it is to get on with each day. As long as I am here, I am here.
12-24-07 [next entry]
Reading A Monastic Year which asked to be read from my bookshelves! Discover I wrote the Introduction, am now remembering the year I discovered monastic life and frequently visited Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in upstate New York. Now I am rediscovering the joys of this life of the spirit. From minute to minute, new discoveries! The word recreation doesn't mean doing what's fun. It means again creation--over and over again! What a wonderful word.
4-1-2008 [next entry]
Wakened from an afternoon nap with a Wellspring of Love arising in my heart!
What an incredible gift!
The branches of the trees blowing gently in the wind outside my window are pregnant with buds getting ready to open up--but not yet!
But getting ready!
The Holy Spirit is blessing our Earth and all of us living creatures on it.
Thank you, Holy Spirit!
7-9-08 [next entry]
Now I'm 88
Standing at Heaven's gate
Ready to go.
Dear Lord, please make it so!
7-11-08 [next entry, written in hospital bed in Needham Hospital]
Now I'm 88
Standing at Heaven's gate
In a hospital bed.
Thank you god for helping me here;
7-23-08 [next entry]
Now moved to the nursing facility at North Hill.
Will I ever get back to my own apartment?
Must make room in my life for a chapter I had never imagined!
If only I were on my way to heaven!
Learning to Be Here Now...
As a lesson, it's not as wow!
Surely I can do better than this, whatever "this" is (the indignity of being washed and dressed like a baby in the mornings. Beyond imagining)!
Oh well...What does "well" mean? Back to the NY Times and then James Naylor.
8-13-08 [Last Entry]
What did I do today? The daily calendar tells me...[enumerates a few things]
Now sitting by my window watching the evening sky cloud over--7:25pm--loving god's world I can see thru my lovely panel window--so lucky to have this tiny space--bed, window, chair...
I love my window.
I love god's world.
But what a way to spend my last days--a bed, chair, window--
And--god--the Holy Spirit-- is ever present, here--everywhere!
There is only a gap of a little more than three months from Elise's last journal entry and the time I created this webpage to chronicle her/our journey as it was unfolding. How far we have come in those seventeen months!
Elise is fine. Long-time friend Ann Levinger said it very well in an email to me a few days ago: Are we correct in feeling that, at this point, visits from us are more likely to be to meeting our needs that they are to meet hers?
Today she was very far away most of the time, but when a nurse would try to rouse her to ask her how she was feeling she would give a radiant smile. Two days ago when I came in the morning it was a bit chilly outside, but she asked Can we go outside? I said we could if she still wished to go out in the afternoon when it was warmer. Those were the only words we really exchanged all day, until around 7 pm her eyes opened wide and asked, Can we go out now? It was getting cool, but I bundled her up warmly and this picture of her basking in the rays of the setting sun is the way I will remember her:
The same day I found a collage tucked partly out of sight that she must have made fairly recently during some craft activity. These close-ups of parts of it capture how freely flying her Spirit is, even though it keeps some attachment to the body:
Elise is standing at a golden shore, waiting for the boatman to take her across. What a joyful reunion it will be on the Other Side when she makes the crossing.
Kenneth waits for her, and this evening I read her two of the Sonnets he wrote for her when they were courting:
I'll count the strands of your soft-flowing hair
And say, as each one slips my fingers through
I love you dearly, you, and only you,
For only you my weight of love can bear.
Then into your reflecting eyes I'll stare
And see my own back-shining from the blue,
Yours mine, mine yours, until, though lost to view,
Deep thought sees infinite reflections there.
But if for each of these infinities
I said "I love you", still I could not speak
Good words enough, for words are all too weak
To map the bound of love's still, shoreless seas.
Strange miracle! That love should have no end,
For all the more remains, the more we spend.
And this one feels so fitting at this time:
Was that swift glance, the very first we gave,
A glance of recognition? Have we met
On some serener sphere, above the fret
Of this poor planet, the uneasy grave
Of that past life, too beautiful, too brave
For much remembrance? If it be so, yet
Something remains that we can not forget,
Some echoing chord from an unearthly stave.
Let that be fact or fancy. This we know:
Our love is grounded in eternal grace,
Not made by accident of time or place,
But rooted deep, where all true love must grow.
And no unravelment can separate
Two strands so twined upon the loom of fate.
It's not quite so easy for those of us who remain here on this beautiful, hurting Earth. Even feeling, as I do, the growing joyful anticipation of those waiting for her on the Other Side, it still hurts to see her leaving. I've been crying a lot when I'm alone. They don't feel like they are all just my tears. So many of us will miss her. If you feel them rising up as well, it's fine to let them flow. They are all Sacred.
I don't know how much this was for me, and how much for Elise, but yesterday evening after I left her I visited the two most favorite places for her to go on the times I was able to take her out for a drive after she became confined to a wheel chair. First, the Audubon Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary:
I was quite amazed when the place spoke to me and told me how much they loved Elise in return, and that she would be missed when she makes the final Transition. It's not just we Humans who will mourn her passing.
The Peace Abbey in Sherbourne lies not far from Broadmoor. Emily the Cow was as serene as ever:
And Gandhi's beneficent countenance gave me some comfort:
Who knows, perhaps he will be part of the welcoming party for her. It feels to me that soon Elise will be joining the multitude of Great Souls who offer love, support and guidance to those of us who carry on their work, if we but take the time to ask and listen.
Early June, 2010 Moving Further Within, Shining Ever More Brightly. I (Russell) have been with Elise daily since June 1. Most of the time we have been together she sleeps. There doesn't seem to be much need for words now, but there are times when she is fully and cogently awake and present. I don't have much myself to add in the way of words, so would like the following images to speak mostly for themselves.
The Ikeda Center event on May 13 included a beautiful poem by President Ikeda to Mothers, sung in Japanese by a friend of Ginny Benson:
Mary Lee Morrison, Elise's biographer (right above) and Ginny made beautiful tributes to Elise:
Around the same time I took this photo, which captures nicely the far-seeing look that I see most of the time now when Elise is not sleeping:
And yet there are times when Elise is fully and joyfully Present (Photos taken by Ginny Benson.on May 28 with Lilac and June 1 with Peony)
On June 2 second Ginny and I visited and were amazed to find her playing wheelchair volleyball. She used to play this game quite competitively but now she plays with a serene presence, tapping the ball like she is giving it a blessing, never losing that far-off look:
After the game we took her outside and I sang her one of my favorite songs, Rainbow Race by Pete Seeger
One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping all our shores,
One Earth so green and round, who could ask for more?
And because I love you, I'll give it one more try
To show my Rainbow Race, it's too soon to die. [for me]
I also read her some of Kenneth's Sonnets From Later Life 1981-1993. This one was marked as one of her favorites, written less than six weeks before he died:
And today (June 4), Elise's friend Nancy Wrenn, and member of Journey Songs, arranged for them to sing for Elise. It was a beautiful sunny day and Elise sat in the shade facing the fish pond:
She remained joyfully awake for the entire concert and joined in singing Dona Nobis Pacem:
Their last song, I'll Fly Away brought me to tears:
Some bright morning when this life of over, I'll fly away
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away in the morning.
When I die hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away.
Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away
To a land where joy will never end, I'll fly away.
Early May, 2010 The Final Stage of the Journey Begins.
On April 27 Elise came down with pneumonia. She responded well to antibiotics, and on Tuesday, May 4, I received this amazing report from Martha Holden, a friend from Vermont:
Wow, she was sharper and more with it than the last time I visited a year or more ago. It is a spectacular Spring day here-- she was already up in her wheelchair and dressed. We went out doors and she reveled in the sky and the flowers and the trees. God is in it all -- "everything that flows, everything that blows" -- we are a part of God's gracious dance, all creation.
After this visit we received word that her doctor was concerned that swelling in one leg was the result of a blood clot, while at the same time her liver functioning was deteriorating. That evening Christie and I decided to let nature take it's course without any further interventions except to initiate Hospice Care and keep Elise as comfortable as possible. As our brother William said in an email the next morning: It's wonderful that Mom is in such a state of grace and is still producing joyous moments in her interactions with others. At this stage we saw no reason to limit the possibilities for joyous moments with others and extended an invitation to anyone to visit who wished to, provided they checked with the nursing staff first.
I am quite awestruck by how effortlessly Elise's Spirit has entered this final stage of letting go its connection to her physical body. On May 6 Elise received two visits. Andrea Strimling shared this about her visit with Elise:
She was in her room when I arrived. She didn't remember me, but said she was happy to see me and to have visitors in general. When I told her that I had been her student many years ago at Dartmouth, she asked what I had been doing since. She was interested and focused as I discussed my work in conflict resolution and my current research, and she was remarkably clear about the substance of what we were discussing.
After a few minutes, she asked if I would take her outside. The nursing staff agreed and arranged for a volunteer to push her in her wheelchair out to the little pond beyond the patio. We sat there for about fifteen minutes, enjoying the fresh air, the birds. Elise rolled up each of her sleeves with delight. She spoke of enjoying each day.
Elise has deeply inspired my life and my work. I am touched and grateful every time we are together. Thank you for all you have done to stay in touch with those of us beyond your family who love her.
Later the same morning Ginny Benson had another remarkable conversation with Elise. The Full Conversation is well-worth reading, but I'll share an excerpt here:
Then, Elise leaned forward and spoke to me earnestly: This is the time, now, to do what we're called to do. I can feel it!
I told her that Mr. Ikeda is saying the same thing about this moment in the history of humanity, that now more than ever, we need to make peace cultures happen. Why does she think that is?
At this point, Elise was smiling joyously and I was tearing up. She was speaking from her depths and drifting in and out of what seemed like a sleep state. However, she seemed vibrant and fully alive when she spoke. We can't escape the now. To fight it, would be a terrible thing to do. It would be like keeping a child from being born. The thing about peace being born is that the sun has to rise every day, peace also rises every day.
On Friday, May 7, Kevin Maher from the Ikeda Center visited:
This morning my colleague Beth Zimmerman and I had a wonderful and moving visit to Elise. Similar to description of Martha's visit from earlier in the week, we left North Hill feeling inspired by her high spirits and awe for nature. She was full of joy and humor as well as appreciation for everything around her. As it was a beautiful spring day, we went outside to sit and enjoy the sun. Once outdoors, Elise's enthusiasm sprang to life. She commented on the trees, the sky, and flowers. "I wish I could be a tree as trees get to dance in the wind," she stated as a warm gust of wind blew past us. Elise went on to reflect on her love of dance and her love of nature, saying, "I like to think I belong to world and the world belongs to me."
In our time together, Elise repeatedly shared her appreciation for the present moment. She urged us to enjoy what there is to enjoy with a confident smile that was hiding some wisdom on the deeper meaning of life. The poetic way with which she views life and the world at this time is something I won't soon forget. I wish I could take some of that spirit of appreciation and awe for nature in my daily life.
Ginny Benson continued her ongoing conversation with Elise on May 9, and in her latest chronicle it is evident what a mutually healing journey they have been on for a number of years. Again, the Full Report is well worth reading, but I will include a few excerpts here that especially moved me:
I commented on how much more peaceful she seems to be now than in years past when, for example, she used to express lots of frustration with her heart condition and trying to keep up the pace of peace activities she used to engage in. She agreed that her state of life has changed, but this talk of struggle seemed to remind her of a struggle to come. She blurted out, It may be time to swim across the Atlantic Ocean again. I feel a long journey coming on. I don't have to sit and figure anything out. It just comes to me where I should be and what I should do.
I said, Mr. Ikeda wants to empower women to lead the way to peace. That's why we met! As a Buddhist, I believe you and I will meet again in our next lifetime, and connect again with Mr. Ikeda. Elise seemed delighted and relieved, You mean I can be a baby again? She looked very happy...and exhausted.
Various Visits, March and April 2010. Ginny Benson visited Elise on March 9, not long after the event at the Ikeda Center and reported:
I had a great time with Elise on Tuesday. It was unseasonably sunny and mild, with a gentle wind blowing. I decided to take her out to the back yard behind the facility. Carolyn found a great pink cloak for her and I grabbed her blue beret. She was ecstatic to be outdoors. Her first time in a long time. We toured the grounds and then sat together and read the poem that President Ikeda wrote about her life. She read it aloud herself in a good strong voice, full of feeling, almost as though she had written it herself, she had so much conviction, and she would pause at intervals, to share the memories that his words evoked. This brought tears to my eyes and a feeling of unbelievable connection with her. Then, Lynn came out and took pictures of us reading the Into Full Flower book [photo below]. Then, she wrote an inscription in the book I will take with me to Japan on Tuesday for Mr. Ikeda. Here's what she wrote: Dear Daisaku Ikeda, Wasn't it fun what we did? We have to keep making it happen. [in reference to cultures of peace] , Elise Boulding.
On Thursday, April 15 Virginia Swain, founder and director of the Institute for Global Leadership visited and wrote:
Elise was delighted to see me and seemed to recognize me. We had a "writing" visit as she had just misplaced her hearing aids. Picture attached. Please feel free to add this to the log! She was in great spirits!
In mid-April Mark and his wife visited and shared this report:
Patricia and I had two very nice visits with Mom last week. One visit was an hour and the other was only 45 minutes. The weather was gorgeous so we spent all our time outdoors. Mom seems really happy. She tracks for long stretches and can be quite amusing. When I asked her if she would like to be pushed around she said something like "yes, wait, can you phrase that a little differently?" "Push me around, but don't push me around." She seemed to have great fun with the pun. Another time when we were looking at the gold fish and they darted for cover, Patricia said, "We must have scared them." Mom said, "They're not afraid of us, they are just doing what they do. We should be afraid of them." I'm not exactly sure what was going on in Mom's mind, but it seemed very profound.
Mom still proudly lists off our names, but she can't say where we live. She seems to know who I am when I tell her, but after about 20 minutes she will say, "Are you one of my children?" I don't think she knows who Patricia is, or anything about the kids or grandkids.
The important thing is she is happy and enjoys being alive.
Philip has described Three Visits with Elise in mid- to late-April as part of Magical Strings Spring Tour. The links includes several nice pictures taken at the Peace Abbey Concert. Here is one that show the four generations:
The link above includes a more complete description of the visits, but I can't resist pasting in this dinner conversation on April 13 that Philip was privy to:
I arrived around 5:30, and Mom was in the dining room having dinner with three other elderly ladies—she was excited to see me, recognized me right away (although she called me "Russell" at first, but then, she's done that all my life!). I sat down to join them, and Mom was in a most jovial mood. "Here I am in a wheelchair, almost 90, but I go dancing all the time! I dance in the garden, I dance in the sky, and I dance among the stars. Of course, I'm dancing in my mind, but I'm still dancing." After a short pause, "Life is wonderful! I love life, don't you?" The lady to my left, younger and more recently admitted to the nursing facility, said reservedly, "Well, not always." I said "Mom, you're an inspiration!" Lady to my left: "Elise, you have a good son here, and I love his hair!" Mom says, pointing to the trees through the window: "See the trees over there? I go dancing in those woods sometimes." Lady to my left: "At night?" Lady across from us: "By the light of the silvery moon?" Lady next to Mom leans toward her with eyebrows raised, and half whispers: "Naked?" --to my left: "You'd better watch out, they're going to take you to the funny farm!" --to Mom's right: "I remember when I was young, we stayed at a cabin by a lake up north. One night I couldn't sleep, so I finally got up in the middle of the night and went swimming in the lake. It was against the rules you know, but it was wonderful!" her eyes sparkled from the memory. At this point I was nearly in hysterics-- but herein it hit me, the reason why Mom is still alive: obviously, her work isn't quite done yet after all. Here, at the skilled nursing facility, where people come and simply wait to die, my mother is bringing light and joy to everyone!
Various Visits, April 2009 to March 2010. My life has gotten very busy so it is a while since I (Russell) have found time to update this page. On February 3, long-time friends George and Ann Levinger visited Elise and reported:
Ann and I had a very pleasant 75 minutes with her. Much of it consisted of Ann's telling stories about past events that Elise had forgotten -- including amusing happenings in the Boulding family in 1952, when Ann lived with you, and other events in Quaker meetings. We both noticed that, although Elise's memory store is pretty empty, her language and logical thinking seem still quite advanced. She also seems to be enjoying her current existence, including the views she has from her windows and the visits she continues to receive.
On February 17 her Mary Lee Morrison, author of Elise's biography reported:
I read to her some excerpts from One Small Plot of Heaven. This was one of her books that most inspired me to write her life story, that and The Underside of History. Her views on raising children were especially meaningful to me as I was parenting small children many years ago. Specifically I felt led yesterday to read to her some parts of the essay in One Small Plot of Heaven, "Born Remembering", which I believe that she considers her spiritual autobiography. The reading seemed to spark some memories, of her childhood (she spoke a little Norwegian to me) and, specifically, of Kenneth, as well as some of the many pursuits with which she has been involved all of her life. For example, she was able to remember the first name of the minister of her childhood who, along with his wife, welcomed her spiritual seeking into their church home in New Jersey. It was as if she was hearing some of her life story and observing it, for the first time....with wonder, as she exclaimed many times....."I am me now......I did that??" She was delighted to learn all that she has done. At times she seemed to be trying to figure out who this remarkable woman was...."I am just me", she said. And she commented "wasn't I lucky to find such a man as Kenneth". I felt fortunate to be in the position of being privy to so much in her life and to be able to share some of this with her. Wouldn't we all be so lucky to be able to look back on our own lives with such wonder!
As a note to those who are able to visit her, there are copies of One Small Plot of Heaven and Mary Lee's biography on the shelves by her bed and she always enjoyrs being reminded of the things she has done by being read from these.
The next day, February 18, Kevin Maher and Ginny Benson from the Ikeda Center visited, and Kevin reported:
Ginny and I went to North Hill for a nice visit with Elise. She was in great spirits during our time there, reflecting on her love of dance, song, and poetry. We sat by the window in the dining area and she shared this great image of looking at the sky and dancing in the clouds. It was quite poetic. We also showed Elise an image of the book cover and talked at length about the theme of the subtitle Making Peace Cultures Happen. Elise emphasized that peace has to start with the individual. I really got so much out of the discussion and enjoyed the visit a lot.
The title of the book Kevin refers to is Into Full Flower conversations between Elise and Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International. I am still in Boston having attended to event at the Ikeda Center in Cambridge to celebrate the lives of Elise and President Ikeda. You can find more about the book at www.ikedacenter.org. I have posted my remarks at the event here: Russell's Remarks.
I also visited last week to attend a Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Greg Graham, my sister Christie's husband who died of lung cancer. Despite the sorrow we all feel for the loss, my youngest brother William and I had a lovely visit with Elise over lunch at the cafe at North Hill. Her delight in seeing us was infectious and she kept saying how much she loved to see us smiling. At one point she asked playfully, please frown for me. As you can see below we were unable to comply with her request:
I have only just now finished reading to Elise the more than one hundred letters and emails that people around the world sent in response to the card I sent out for her around Christmas. As people shared memories of the things they had done with here, she repeated with wonder over and over: Did I really do all those things?
Finally, here is a picture taken in April last year with Elise's grand niece, Savannah Hauge (grandaughter of Elise's sister Sylvia) when Savannah's band from Wisconsin played at North Hill.
Russell November 28, 2009. During my visit with Elise in mid-October I found her much the same as my previous visit in early August, in good spirits, frequently expressing appreciation and gratitude for being in a place where she is well taken care of, often expressing puzzlement as to why she is still around (my oft-repeated reply: Because you bring so much Light to Earth just by Being here). I was able to take her to Wellesley Friends Meeting for the first time since she broke her hip. Her spoken ministry during the silent Meeting for Worship was brief, but eloquent: Thank you God, for Being Here Now. We are your Children.
She listened with delight as I read her the first four chapters of Mary Lee Morrison's biography Elise Boulding: A Life in the Cause of Peace, various sonnets from several of Kenneth's volumes of poetry. I choked up and broke into tears more than once, but she took that in stride. All-in-all, though wheel-chair bound, she stays in reasonable physical health. She speaks of reaching 90, but opines that is long enough to live.
Mary Lee Morrison shared this about a visit on November 14:
She was alert and in good spirits. She was not aware of the context of who we are in her life, but her memory issues do not seem to be affecting her spirits, that we could see. I was delighted to be able to point out to her that the Ikeda Center is publishing a new series of dialogues between Elise and Daisaku Ikeda and showed her the mock up, since I was asked to write a little promo piece for it. She was pleased.
With the assistance of a wheel-chair van Elise was able to spend Thanksgiving Day afternoon with her daughter Christie, Greg and granddaughters Meredith and Emily. If all goes well she will join them for Christmas as well.
Here is a picture taken on October 20 when Heather Sensibaugh gave a presentation on the U.S. Institute of Peace for the residents at SNF.
Russell August 2, 2009. In the three months since my last visit I have seen a noticable loss of memory in Elise--about the only things she can remember unfailingly now are Kenneth (how many times have I answered the question "When did Kenneth die?") and the names of her five children. Gordie Fellman said it beautifully:
Clearly, Elise is going gentle into that good night. She seems so relaxed, so at ease. She repeated over and over that she has had a rich life. I think that in the best possible ways she dwells on that and the details of her surroundings
For the first time since her hip broke in February I was able to take her out in the car. On separate days we had dinner at her favorite restaurants--Marsala in Needham, Sherbourne Inn, and PapaRazzi in Wellesley--and I choked up at each location when the staff welcomed her warmly and said they had missed seeing her.
I read her the many beautiful messages of congratulations and appreciation that came in from around the world on the occasion of her 89th birthday. She listened to them all with child-like wonder and amazement. Elise is just fine. I can't help but grieve as I watch her memories of our life together fade away, yet I treasure every moment with her.
Gordie Fellman and Family Visit, July 11, 2009. My family (my wife, Pamela Blau, our kids Ezra and Talia, and I) visited Elise yesterday. We tried to get there early but could not and visited at 5, which meant Elise was in the dining hall but not eating yet. I arrived before Pamela, Ezra, and Talia--we had to come in separate cars). I brought an exquisite orchid for Elise's birthday last week. She was thrilled with it and kept commenting on its beauty. She asked whether I could place it on the table. I was able to find a vase and did just as she requested. Her face shone with pleasure.
When I approached her, she gave me a warm, full smile of delight together with a slightly quizzical look. 'Remind me who you are,' she said. I told her and reminded her of times at the Peace Abbey and also how she used to speak every fall for my class called War and Possibilities of Peace. (She always spoke without notes and gave a dazzlingly clear, powerful presentation.) We reminisced a bit, and she introduced me to her table mates Grace and Kate. They eat all meals together. Both seemed very pleasant, and the three of them talked about their having become friends.
Pamela and our children arrived. I had prepped Elise for their coming, and I had the sense she sort of had an idea she knew them. Again, she was bursting with delight. And gratitude. She seemed so GLAD to have visitors!
Clearly, Elise is going gentle into that good night. She seems so relaxed, so at ease. She repeated over and over that she has had a rich life.I think that in the best possible ways she dwells on that and the details of her surroundings (e.g., pointing out the greenery outside the dining hall). She said she does not have many visitors, but I expect that is because she forgets who came and when and that there is nothing to be done about that.
Elise remains an inspiration and a great shining light in my life. These visits will be increasingly precious. I look forward to the next one.
Elise's 89th Birthday, July 6, 2009. We (Elise's children) are very grateful that friends were able to be with Elise on her Birthday when none of us could be there.
Carolyn (Hamm) Arond, a long-time family friend from Ann Arbor day reported:
I got to visit Elise the morning of her birthday and it was a rare sunny morning so we took a stroll around the garden and pool. We called Eldon [Carolyn''on my cell so they got to talk awhile. It was a lovely visit. I wear a name tag so she always knows me. But more significant, she recognized Eldon by his voice! I asked her what her newest poem is and she thought a few seconds and said, "89, a weighty Friend!"
In the afternoon Dot Walsh and friends from the Peace Abbey visited and then Ginny Benson and Sarah Conn arrived and shared the following pictures and report:
On July 6th-Elise's 89th birthday-Ginny and Sarah arrived at North Hill shortly after lunch with a ready-made birthday party. We had birthday treats, flowers from Sarah's garden (and from a nearby parking lot) and a card from the BRC (now Ikeda Center) staff. The day was beautifully sunny and warm.
The nurses directed us to the back yard where Elise was visiting with Dot Walsh and friends from the Peace Abbey. They had brought beautiful flowers. Suddenly, the party was taking shape. The guests were all here. Sarah whisked us over to a table in the shade and broke out the cupcakes. Elise was about to say, "If only we had some..." when Ginny unearthed from the bottom of the picnic basket a little four-pack of Chardonnay. One of the caretakers there brought us plates forks and glasses, so we were all set to celebrate.
Pretty soon the conversation turned to poetry-making, since this has been a favorite pastime of Elise on birthdays. Her first attempt gratified us:
Life has just begun!"
We toasted that one as she thought of another:
"I love drinking wine
When I'm 89."
All right, then! Clearly, she was ready to compose a birthday rhyme. We put our heads together and soon the verse was flowing,
I'm feeling fine
I love sunshine
And I'm having a good time
With my glass of wine
On my birthday
Ok, we admit we got a little carried away. We remembered that Kenneth wrote sonnets. It seemed an ideal time for Elise to expand her two-line birthday doggerel into a baby sonnet.
Much laughter about our lame ditty put Elise in a philosophical mood: "It's good to laugh. Or you can't enjoy life. Laughing helps your enjoyment. And your enjoyment helps you laugh."
Our Peace Abbey friends had to get back to work, so we began a round of commemorative photos. Just at the right moment, Lillian from the North Hill staff came out with a special birthday balloon for Elise and offered to take pictures of the whole group. You'll find them attached. For the grand finale picture, Sarah revealed her hidden t-shirt, emblazoned with "Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History"-a fitting theme for the day.
After the party was over and our guests had left, we hung out with Elise among the cupcake remnants. She sounded a sad note, "Why did I lose my memory? Why? Why?"
Sarah responded with a thought-provoker from John Gardner: "We are all faced with a series of great opportunities-brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems."
We talked about the virtue of being in the here and now, and then Elise noticed the songs of the birds in the trees around us. This reminded Sarah of a poem about being lost, to offer to Elise as a way of finding oneself again. Sarah recited it for Elise:
Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two branches are the same to Raven.
No two trees are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
In Molly Young Brown, Ed. Lighting a Candle: Quotations on the Spiritual Life. Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 1994, p. 30.
Still listening to the birds, Ginny shared an odd bit of trivia about how birds descended from dinosaurs, thinking that this was an accepted fact. Elise said she'd never heard of any link between birds and dinosaurs, so Ginny promised to look it up and bring some proof on her next visit.
[Here's the result of a later Google search on the question, "So did birds evolve from dinosaurs?" As it turns out Elise was more up to date on the scientific literature than Ginny. According to URL http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/site/content/view/294/63/, scientists at Oregon State University published research in June that "throws into doubt the widely-held Darwinian belief that birds evolved from the Theropod dinosaurs."]
Elise then sounded another sad note, "I know that I've had a long and interesting life, and a wonderful husband, and five wonderful kids, but where are all my kids on my birthday?" [Note from Russell: I choked up when I read this. Thank you for being there friends]
This was our chance to rise to the occasion. Once again we reminded Elise that the "kids" were all upset to not be able to be with her on her birthday. We gave her, once again, the hug that Russell had sent with us for her, and began to reminisce together about where each of her children were and what they do - Mark, Christie, Phillip, William. Naming each one seemed to evoke their loving presence and Elise was comforted. We told her that Russell would be here later in July.
The conversation turned to Kenneth. We tried to figure out his age when he died. We did the math and ended up at 83. If this is correct and if it's true that he died in 1994, then Kenneth would now be 104 years old, we reckoned. [Note from Russell: Kenneth died in 1993 and would now be 99 years old]
Sarah suggested to Elise an ingenious way to avoid getting older. Sarah has a friend who declared an end to climbing the numbers ladder when she turned 70. After that, all other birthdays would become annual celebrations-for example, this woman just had her "second annual 70th birthday." Elise liked that.
Apropos of nothing, Ginny asked about the term, Extended Living Facility. "When did it happen that this term replaced Retirement Home or Nursing Home?" Elise misconstrued the moniker. "What?" she said. "Do you mean Extraneous Living Facility?" Another good laugh ensued.
We read savored two beautiful sonnets by Kenneth. One was about waking from a dream and the other was about death. Both evoked peace-and openness to the moment.
What a fulfilling afternoon for all of us!
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National Peace Academy Ceremony (pm), June 4, 2009. National Peace Academy Co-Director Dot Maver and Director of Organization Consciousness and Learning Patty Roedling asked Elise to take position and Honorary Chair of the National Peace Academy Advisory Board and presented Elise with a certificate "In recognition and appreciation of your foundational support and vision in establishing a National Peace Academy in the United States of America. For more information, visit the National Peace Academy website. Here are a few pictures:
Sherry Zitter's Visit (am), June 4, 2009. Sherry reported a visit after a hiatus of several months due to bronchitis:
She certainly has changed a lot in 2 months! For her sake, I was happy about the change - she seems to be so much more accepting of her situation. Her longing to go out was so diminished that when I suggested we sit outside and sing (I'd brought my guitar), and told her it was 70 degrees, she looked hesitant and asked to go back to her room to get a sweater. On our way back past the activities room, she noticed a staff member leading residents in wheelchair "dances" with arms outstretched and fingers wiggling, with wonderful old music, and her eyes lit up. She said "I LOVE dancing like that!" and asked me rather apologetically if we might join that group instead. Of course I said it was fine (But that I'd have to leave before it was over and could sing with her and go outside another time). She joined enthusiastically, eyes shining and fully getting into the dancing.
I found myself poignantly a mixture of joy for her, as she seemed so much more content, the angst for her old life practically gone, and sad for me, as I'd lost (at least for that visit) my friend who felt going outside and listening to the birds and me sing to her the most special thing in the world...
Ginny Benson's Conversation with Elise May 26, 2009. On Friday morning, I arrived on a beautiful morning just as an aide was finishing with Elise's washing up. Her hair was still damp so I searched for a hat and this time I found a bright blue beret. There was a morning chill in the air, so we opted for a fuzzy lap scarf with blue and lavender threads running through it. Then, we realized that her sweater wasn't the right color and soon we found the perfect match--a beautiful fuzzy lavender sweater. All the way down the corridor, passers by complimented Elise on her lovely colors. She was radiant, not so much about the outfit as about our intended outing in the backyard.
The Rhododendron bushes and other flowers were in full bloom, the air was crisp and the sky was clear blue. We visited each flower on our route around the yard and paused to drink in its beauty. Soon we began discussing how much Elise was enjoying the variety of flowers. When we settled down in the sun to talk she began to wax philosophical again.
Elise: It's a combination of things that have to be together for a full life.
This is true among human beings, too. Athletes are wonderful but we don't all have to be athletic. Music, too, is wonderful but we don't all have to be musicians. There are so many different ways we can learn to express ourselves as individuals.
Ginny: Do you hear the birds singing their various songs to us?
Elise: I can't quite hear them. I enjoy the trees dancing in the wind. As we grow old, we get deafer. The world gets fainter to me. That's a good way to think about departing this life. The world just gets fainter and fainter, and then, "Thank you, world. I'll go now."
(Looking at me) I'll always remember you, wherever I go. But I can't say where I'll be.
Some people say you know when it's time to die. How do you know? The body really decides. If we do everything we can to sleep well, eat well, exercise, and be active enough, if we do all that, that's good.
Nobody should want to live forever. It would be awful to. God designed this world well.
He designed us so we would only last so long -- some are short-lived and some long-lived. I haven't done badly at 88. (Looking at me) You have lots of good years ahead of you.
Ginny: Maybe, but I wish I could sleep better at night. That would help me live longer, I'm sure.
Elise: I wake up at night sometimes and then fall back to sleep. But I also enjoy lying awake and enjoy dancing in the sky in my Spirit Body. Look, God, here am I having a great time in the sky!
It's very interesting. There's a lot of funny, crazy stuff people think about what it's like to die. After all, dying is part of life. Earth couldn't have lasted if it couldn't have taken us all back to help fertilize the soil for our descendents. Even after we're gone, we're still fertilizing. Grandparents helped those bushes. My grandparents could have helped fertilize gardens in Norway.
Ginny: Did you know your grandparents?
Elise: I have very faint memories of my grandmother. She was a very strong-minded person. Grandfather could barely move around.
Ginny: Was he sick?
Elise: No, he was just old and dying. I didn't think of him as ill. Of course, he died of some bug or something. All of us, our bodies will develop something that will enable us to disconnect our body system, and once were disconnected, we're not eating, listening, enjoying people.
It's funny. We can't imagine it, life coming to an end, but we know we all pass on, passing on...
Ginny: What does that mean to you, passing on?
Elise: I suppose it means there's something that will still... What does Buddhism say about this?
Ginny: In Buddhism, there is a belief that we experience alternating cycles of active life and latent life, something like the flowering plants we're looking at now.
Elise: Are there Christian ideas like reincarnation?
Ginny: I think that in early Christianity there were ideas about reincarnation.
Elise: I think of myself as a Christian...that God made Earth. But there's something larger going on than any of us can conceive.
Inventors and explorers, the physical and the mental, scientists, world and sky, it's all...it startles me every once in a while, when I realize that the world is still coming into existence. They've discovered something like dead planets, where life...this has to do with space exploration. When we explore space, we run up against certain physical obstacles. The universe isn't a laboratory where we can do experiments. We can do it on a small scale, but not on this scale.
Oh well, I always end up in these discussions thinking it's just so fun to be human. All the things that one learns in the universe, on planet Earth and the other planets that all revolve around the sun.
The Way of Eagerness: Ginny Benson's Conversation with Elise May 13, 2009. This conversation took place the day before Elise's ninth great grandchild, Petra Boulding was born to her grandchild Kit Boulding (first grandchild for Russell and Bonnie).
I visited Elise yesterday at North Hill and we had another interesting conversation. When I arrived, a flower arrangement on her dresser caught my eye.
G: The flowers are beautiful, Elise. May I read the card?
E: Yes, please read it to me.
G: It says, 'To a wonderful Mom, who dances with the stars, from Pam and Phillip."
E: (Big smile...in fact, beaming.)
The day was warm enough for a wheelchair stroll outside, so we busied ourselves getting ready to go. I found her familiar black beret and put it on her head since her hair was still a bit damp from the morning shower. She glowed, overjoyed to be going outdoors. Years dropped away for a minute and I saw her as she had been before Alzheimers, eager for her daily constitutional. I found a shawl for her lap and we speculated about how maybe it had been knitted by someone in the peace movement for her. She looked a little skeptical about that.
E: There are so many people who need it more than I.
G: Yes, but you also did a lot for people in need as part of the peace movement yourself.
E: But, so did many other people, and I am just happy to be part of it.
G: Yes, and the more people we have, the closer we get to peace.
Then, I told Elise I'd like to talk with her today about her work on imaging the future. I briefly reviewed her background: first she translated the book, The Image of the Future. And then, inspired by Fred Polak's insights, she decided that people participating in the antiwar movement in the US at that time needed to have a more concrete and positive image of their ultimate goal. And so, she started holding Imaging Workshops in which people were invited to imagine in vivid detail a more peaceful world twenty years into the future. I told her that she taught us so much with this one important insight and these workshops.
We headed out. Once we had taken a survey of the budding flowers, bushes and trees in the back yard, we parked the wheelchair in a sunny spot on the patio and came back to the subject of her work. I went on to talk about Kenneth's insight, which we all embraced as well, that if peace is happening in any place around the world, then it must be possible for peace to exist everywhere. After I linked this insight with her next phase of work in which she explored the concept of cultures of peace, she seemed to be surprised and delighted at what a difference she and Kenneth had made in the world. And then she sighed loudly and exclaimed.
E: And now here I sit, and I don't do anything.
G: How do you feel about this, Elise?
E. I'm here loving the world, thanking God. For whatever energy I have left, I want to use it in a positive way. I'm here in a way of loving the world. If we were all here in a spirit of loving the world, we'd have a very different world--all living things making room for each other.
And some of us have to die. Who knows where we are when we're elsewhere. I'm happy to be here. And wherever we are when we are elsewhere, I'll be happy to be there, too.
Oh, look, let's swim over between the trees in the blue sky and we can dance in the sky. I love dancing in the sky, but I have to do it in the imaginary me. No, it's the real me, but it's the one that doesn't have to carry its body up in the air. We humans are something!
I think all living beings experience the world. Even the stones and the plants, what are they experiencing? But they're here, so they are experiencing the world. Everything on earth is. It's in the spirit of life. Even in the desert, it's life.
Why are you taking notes on what I'm saying?
G: I learn from you, Elise. And I share my notes with Russell and then he puts them on a website where your family and friends can see them. In fact, your friend, Kevin Clements wrote recently and said how much he would like to be with you in your "isness."
E: (obviously pleased) Have I seen them?
G: No, but I can print them out and bring them to you next time. Just as you've always done, Elise, you are learning and sharing with others, still.
E: We're all blessed. Every tree, every bud, and flower. Everything that's on earth now is, in a sense, if you think of the Rocky Mountains rising high into the sky, they don't go flying around, but they're alive because they are part of Earth and there's movement in Earth all the time, it's on the fly. Here we are on the Earth and we're on the fly!
G: Elise, when we saw the anthill just now, you wanted to see inside and find out what the activity was. And you are now seeking to see inside everything. You have a wonderful seeking mind.
E: To be fully alive, your mind has to be taking it all in. There's an all, but we can't see it.
G: One needs to be fearless to want to take in something you can't see. Now you are facing a future you can't see. It's even harder to imagine than it was to imagine a culture of peace in the midst of a culture of war, isn't it, Elise?
E. But, I know it's there!
G: How do you feel so certain of that?
E: It's an extraordinary thing, the human mind. We're here and where are we really?
G: When you look at death, what do you see now?
E: Here I come, universe! I won't say I can't wait to die, but I enjoy life and I'm enjoying every minute of the waiting.
G: What do you enjoy most about life now?
E: Being here now. I have done some things, though, that I didn't enjoy.
G: When you look back on your sufferings, Elise, do you see them as part of your growth?
E: We can't understand everything. There's always more and more. There's nothing we can complete and say it's done. Life is a job that's never done. I can't tell you what I'll do then, nor can I do it.
Suddenly the sun went in, Elise felt chilly and we headed back inside. At the doorway, she said,
E: There's always more and more and more. We can't be greedy but we're eager.
G: I love that attitude! We can't be greedy, but we're eager. Such a profound insight about how to live in a world in which there is always more and more and more. If you're greedy, you'll hold onto what you have, the past, and not be open to the more and more of the future and share it joyfully with others. If you're too reticent, you won't seek to meet the more and more that's coming your way. That's it! We want to live with eagerness.
E: In one sense, we're all living more profoundly than we think we are. We can't really learn the full extent of "to be" but we're here.
Once inside I pushed the wheelchair over to a dining table and we went on talking. I had picked two things from our garden stroll and now Elise held them in her hand. One was a dried seedpod, looking very brown. The other was a deep purple flower that looked a bit like a pansy.
E: Imagine these two flowers finding their way to me. Look how different they are. But they come from the same planet Think of all the things that come from the same planet. Wow! I'm lost. Be here now. Didn't that expression originate from a Buddhist insight? But where else could we be? Brilliant! I don't know why we consider this to be so profound. Of course, we're here. A lot of people wish to be somewhere else, but they're still here. Wishing for something else is part of where we are now. Wishes are part of you. You have to have an image of the future because you can't work for what you can't imagine.
My word! In some ways, none of us ever has new wishes. We are the idea. We are the idea of ideas.
G: Yes, we are. Human beings are the consciousness of nature. Life on earth evolved and finally gave birth to self-consciousness in the form of humans. So, in a sense, we are exactly as you say, "the idea of ideas."
I'm going to send this conversation to Russell, and I think I'll call it "The Way of Eagerness." Elise, I realize from what you've been saying how important it is for humans to wish for peace. What we wish for is very important. We want to wish for peace and share it. And, you, Elise, with your unique mission, you are still participating in the cycle of ideas among humans, because people come and visit you here and then they share your thoughts with your friends and family on the website. In a sense, this is what you've always done. You are still participating in the world of ideas and pioneering new ones, just as you always did, even though you are here at the nursing home.
E: Thanks for finding me, dear! You can always find me here.
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Russell April 27, 2009. I had a very good four-day visit. Amazingly warm weather allowed taking Elise for strolls outside several times a day. On this morning's wheel-chair stroll before I had to leave for the airport she make a couple of comments:
It's wonderful to get outside and breath real air...(after a pause), but then everything else is real too.
I used to have to keep track of schedules and when things were to happen. Now my schedule is Be Here Now.
I have noticed a subtle shift since my last visit two months ago. Elise made fewer comments like those above and I found myself shifting more into just Being with her. we also had lovely visits with long-time friends Peter Blood and Ann and George Levinger (going back to my own childhood) and I saw again the contrast between the *face* she puts on for friends who visit, and the *face* she puts on for family. I appreciate being present when she brightens up and seems almost like her *old* self when others visit. I simply ask those of you who are able to visit and see Elise's *good* face (it is certainly a genuine face) to understand that she is much more severely impaired in her functioning than may appear and that it isn't entirely easy for her children who see more of the *other* face.
At Easter I heard an Alzheimers joke that made me smile:
Q: You know the good thing about Alzheimers?
A: You get to hide your own Easter Eggs
You know what I like about my mother having Alzheimers? I get to remind her over and over again that I love her.
Philip, April 15, 2009 First visit on Spring Tour [of Magical Strings]: playing for the residents of SNF as a duo ~ Mom singled us out and recognized us, saying, "My son and daughter-in-law ~ they make peace with their music wherever they go!"
We saw her again on Friday prior to the Peace Abbey concert ~ tragically, she could not come this time because of her restriction at SNF ~ distressed me much because she has been part of our tradition there for years and she loves it so! The gaping hole left by her absence was palpable ~ the evening was simply not the same without her.
We saw her again the following day. Pam's sister, Polly, came down from N.H., and her daughter Phoebe from Colby College, and all of us convened with Mom for lunch at the cafe, which was delightful. After saying goodbye to Mom, we all went to Broadmoor Audubon Reserve (which Mom loves dearly, another distress for me), then to the Peace Abbey to show Polly and Phoebe . . . then parted ways, Pam and I on to Springfield, MA for our biggest concert of the tour, uNi Coffeehouse.
Further Conversations and times with Mom at North Hill,April, 2009
In thinking about Mom's conversations with Ginny Benson, I got to reflecting on what she meant by There is no such thing as simplicity ~ everything is the result of extremely complex interactions and relationships . . . but then talked about beauty and simplicity in the context of is-ness.
This idea then came to me as I was driving north to visit her (from Providence, RI) at the end of our tour:
All complexity is made simple by the presence of beauty.
When I expressed the idea to her, she smiled and tapped me firmly on the knee and said, Yes, that's exactly right!
When I told her about my New Year's resolution to simplify my life, and my subsequent realization that it required more of an inward shift than an outward one, she replied in agreement, saying, You can't simplify the outer world, you can only simplify the inner world.
All this took place sitting outside by the little fish pond/waterfall garden that lives just outside the window of her room. We gazed into the pond, where a red carp swam about slowly amongst the algae, and a frog lay half-submerged, sunning itself on this glorious spring day.
It's like a mini-verse in there, she says, I suppose they find beauty in that little world, and just get used to it . . . (after some silence) A bit like I've had to do here. More silence; I don't know why I have lived this long ~ there is nothing more for me to do. My body just loves the earth too much ~ it won't let me go.
I said, Our bodies are made of the earth, I suppose that's why . . .silence. Do you feel like you're ready for the transition?
The transition? She mused ~ I've been ready for a long time. Then, quoting from her own birthday poem; I'm 88, and standing at Heaven's gate.
I just have to be here now.
Since her two falls, she can no longer leave the premises, other than to have someone wheel her outside, such as I did this day, and occasional outings across the way to the cafe or dining hall, when a visitor comes to wheel her there.
On this visit, I spent four hours with Mom, two of which were spent playing my harp for her as she lay reclined on her bed. She loved the music, often conducting with her right hand as she listened. This time she never asked who I was, but frequently asked where I lived. Every time I reminded her of Seattle and Magic Hill she would say Oh yes! I remember my lovely visits there.
I can fly, fly with the music!
And you fly with your harp!
I do believe my mother is teaching me how to fly.
Ginny Benson's Conversation with Elise April 14, 2009. Ginny continues to chronicle in a beautiful way Elise's spiritual journey with Alzheimers:
Elise and I had tea and pastry in the dining room on Tuesday morning. I asked her about her latest insights concerning her ongoing effort to live in the present moment and develop her spiritual life now that she has time to gaze at the sky out her window and meditate.
Elise: "Be here now" is her goal. And yes, she finds that as she gazes out the window from her bed it's important to "continually be stopping to check out that I'm aware of all the heavens and other earths as well as this earth."
"And somehow where I'm standing I can sense the co-happening of all these movements but they are inseparable, not different but all related to one another.
"God is the center of light and it's his way of being here. When there is darkness, he's not there. As long as you can enter into the sense of His being, then you don't feel the darkness. Some people don't realize it."
Ginny: Why do you think some people don't realize this?
Elise: They are over-organized. They feel so responsible for making things happen the way they think they should happen with the timetables they have in mind, etc. But, it's much more complicated than that. You can't speed it up or slow it down because it's the way of being that makes it be.
Ginny: Tell me more about your perceptions concerning darkness. Some people feel that darkness ought not be to used as a blanket term to cover anything negative. What do you think about that?
Elise: Some people are afraid that if you can't see the light, they'll be crushed by the darkness. Some days may be cloudy, but it's wonderful to feel the openness of the universe behind the cloudiness. To feel we are somehow able to enter into that openness. The only one keeping us from doing this is ourselves. No one else.
Ginny: I'm intrigued by your use of the term, "openness." I just read an article entitled, "Joy, Awe, Gratitude and Compassion: Common Ground in a Will-to-Openness," by someone named Brent Robbins. He speaks of a basic stance of openness being a necessary precursor to the primary four emotions included in the title.
Elise: Yes, his idea of joy, I would call the joy of "being heavy with life." And yes, it's amazing we have life, it's awesome, and this does inspire gratitude. The basic stance of openness, I agree with this.
Ginny: This may be why you love to gaze out at the sky so much, Elise.
Elise: I dance in the sky. Oh, what a wonderful place to dance!
Ginny: Do you mean that you don't experience the laws of gravity, then?
Elise: Now, there is still such a thing as gravity. Gravity isn't heavy, though, when you dance with it. Gravity dances, It is a dance. There's no way to get out of that. This is it. Life is it.
Mary Lee Morrison, April 3, 2009. Dear Russell-thank you so much for updating all of us on how Elise is doing and for sharing the reflections of visitors. I have meant to get back to you on my visit on April 3 with Elise. Ginny's conversation with her is certainly remarkable. Elise is certainly dispelling so many stereotypes of what is so often associated with those who experience dementia. As I have had some experience with family members with Alzeimers, it was interesting to me that Elise, in many ways, seemed very much like the "old Elise", not "ill", always the observant sociologist and, as confirmed by Ginny, also tapping with me into her creative philosophical leanings and commenting on so very much. She seemed freer than I remember her from days past, anxieties gone and so glad to be alive and to experience visits with folks. I feel she continues to educate us all! As I said to my husband when I got home, our minds seem to work on so many levels, she certainly shows this... her thinking is still very deep in many ways-she continues to make wonderful, creative thinking connections. I remember learning from her some time ago that it is important to make sense of whatever period of our lives we are in...she is continuing to do this and to share this with others-what a gift.
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Family Visits Early March 2009. I (Russell) had an extended visit February 27 to March 3 and the following weekend siblings Mark, Christie and William had not entirely overlapping visits. I shared the following observations on the last day of my visit with my siblings:
My extended stays in December and this time have given me a chance to observe all aspects of her daily routine and to have a lot of quality time with her. Since December I see a very positive change in her being for the most part appreciative and accepting of her current life situation. This visit I have seen very little of the obsessive worrying she did about her wine supply and other minor things (she is no longer receiving a daily glass of wine in the evening) and the few times she has commented has accepted it when I explained that it is no longer safe or healthy for her. I have really enjoyed watching her participate in, and enjoy the various group activities that are scheduled here, doing things that she would have disdained before her Alzheimers.
It is the nature of Alzheimers that the one we love can seem to act like a completely different person than the one we have known. Christie and I have both seen the angry, sullen aspect that sometimes comes out. I have not experienced that this visit.
It never ceases to amaze me how when friends who have been activist colleagues and former students visit mom can go for the entire visit and be fully cogent and insightful and like her old self. A former student from twenty years ago came on Saturday and even to my own observation mom did not exhibit any Alzheimers symptoms
This visit I have had many good conversations with mom, where she has been completely cogent, but quite different from when she interacts with others. These have been at meal times. She gets a far-off look in her eyes, sometimes closes them as if she has fallen asleep and then say something reflective about her life, or about the things that she appreciates seeing out the window, or about things that come to mind that she should be doing, but then immediately follows with the comment that she doesn't really need to be doing anything at this stage, and sometimes her ruminations are very profound. Again, during these conversations she is fully cogent and present, able to hear and understand comments that I may offer, but there is a "peaceful" feel that is new and positive from my perspective.
And then when it comes of family matters, daily routines, her short term memory is completely shot. She does recognize our names, but not necessarily where we live and may ask the same question three or four times in a conversation. I have told her repeatedly that Mark and William are visiting soon, but she may well act surprised when you show up. She does often ask about whether a family reunion is planned, and always accepts when I suggest that such a gathering would be overwhelming and confusing to her and that it is better for us to vist a few at a time.
Mark (visiting from Denver) and William (visiting from Durham NC) also have shared that Elise is in a good place right now. However, William, whose father-in-law's Alzheimers has progressed further than Elise's, has shared with us his feeling that the really hard part for us is yet to come.
I received about a hundred responses from around the world to the mailing I sent out to Elise's annual mailing list. Over the course of the five days I was with her I read all of them and these portions of my visit were a very special time. For the most part, with the things that people said to *jog* her memory she was able to remember and received the many loving messages with appreciation and gratitude.
Ginny Benson's Conversation with Elise, March 3, 2009. I (Russell) had the good fortune to get in on the tail end of this remarkable conversation, which Ginny transcribed and had kindly agreed to share here:
Ginny (Q) talking with Elise (A):
About her thoughts when looking out at the sky from her window: "People don't realize how much fun life is!"
About peace studies: "People don't realize the complexity of a single interaction between two people. Much more is going on than we think. We're interacting on many different levels--basic physical level of touch, levels of meaning in every word you speak, have to weigh the meaning of the words in very special spiritual ways."
Q: What do you mean by "spiritual ways?"
A: We don't begin to understand that the spirit world is an incredibly complex and highly interrelated one, so that the simplest facts--such as it's light or dark, morning or evening--are unbearably complex and incredibly simple at the same moment. Both.
Regarding interactions: The simplest one is so complex so that when a bird flies from one branch of a tree to another and then another, you think of the meaning of each of those flights, how each one affects ones that have gone before and ones coming after.
And yet, this complexification is extraordinary simplicity because simplicity is beautiful, and yet in that beauty is complexity.
Q: How would you define beautiful?
A: Everything that is. There is no such thing as simplicity. That is, that all of reality is interconnected so that anything we can perceive, understand, hear, imagine, will have so many dimensions. So, if you think of the multidimensional reality and what a complex structure and yet it is beautiful in its simplicity because it is, I S (she spelled it out), is.
It's overwhelming when you think of the complexity and beauty of the simplest moment you can think of with the simplest "is"ness because is-ness always has everything in it. Is-ness doesn't exclude anything. So you spend your life understanding the incredible, profound simplicity of is-ness.
Q: The language you are speaking now, Elise, is different than the usual way you speak and quite beautiful.
A: We really aren't careful enough when we speak. We don't think carefully enough about how we use words when we express thoughts. There are so many ways you can say something but what is the is-ness of it?
I never thought of myself as a philosopher but when we're talking together like this I think this must be what philosophy is. Philo-soph means love of knowing.
Q: And "soph" is also the root of the word, sophistry.
A: One can get very superficial in sophistication, which is always superficiality, because it ignores the profundity of reality, the is-ness of it all.
Q: Now that you are slowing down since you came here, Elise, are you grasping the is-ness of things more securely?
A: It's not security. Is-ness is. We can never fully understand is-ness. It's incomprehensible. That's not true. It's just that we can't comprehend it.
Q: There's a lot going on inside our own bodies, for example.
A: It's amazing to me that I'm still here. I'm so surprised. I would have thought I was going somewhere. But, I'm at the ultimate in nowhere-ness.
Q: Aren't you living in is-ness?
A: Yes, and is-ness is nowhere. You can't find it.
Q: It's everywhere, too. A: It's everywhere. There's no place for it to hide. How would you hide from everywhere?
Everything about being is about connecting. You can't be without connecting. I look out at the sky and know that it's full of realities. I love to look out there and see it all, and at that moment, I'm right in the middle of everything.
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Nancy Wrenn, January 21. I was able to drop in for a short visit with your mother last week on the 21st. She was in great spirits, very happy to have seen the Inauguration on TV, and hopeful for a better future. She was in the Activities Room and when I left, went to watch more of the news on TV.
Philip Boulding, January 2009. (Pam and I came east together; she stayed with Marshall's family the day I went up to North Hill and took Mom to the Peace Abbey.) Mom was barely able to walk up the ramp to the Peace Abbey's life experience school building with her walker, made all the trickier with patches of snow and ice all around. When we finally got to the door, I could hear that there was a meeting going on, of a large group of people . . . I hadn't made any prior arrangements, and with no idea who might be around, I just hoped for the oft-experienced Peace Abbey magic to happen, and that Lewis Randa would be around . . . well, the magic happened, plus some! As I stood outside the door, waiting for some kind of sign that it was OK for us to enter the room, I could just make out what people were saying; it became apparent that people were taking turns around the table describing experiences that had inspired them to come to the Peace Abbey. Then one person began to describe a concert by Magical Strings that they had been to; well, that was my cue! I swung the door open wide, and saw a group of about 30 people seated around the large central table adjacent to the meeting room. There was Lewis at the head of the table closest to Mom and me; his jaw dropped, and everyone around the table applauded as we entered the room, for Mom was of course a well-known celebrity here! It turns out this was a meeting of the sustaining board members and share holders of the Peace Abbey, and they were discussing its future. Lewis immediately stood up and had Mom take his place at the head of the table, and sat me down as well. She now became the guest of honor, center of attention, and people began taking turns describing ways in which Elise Boulding had inspired them in their journey within the peace movement. After a while the room became silent, and it was clearly time for her to speak. In true Elise form, she simply said I just happened to be in the right place at the right time! It was time for the meeting to adjourn, and we performed the ritual of the hand-washing, which has been done every day by the students and teachers of the Life Experience School for years: a bowl of water is held by one person as the person next to them dips their hands in, then has them dried by the other; this is then passed on around the table until everyone has had the opportunity to wash their neighbor's hands. This was done in silence except for music playing in the background, which happened to be Magical Strings. It was such a powerful moment for me, sitting next to Mom, that tears welled up in my eyes, I could barely contain my emotions. On the way back to North Hill, I tried to stop at the Audubon Nature reserve which Mom loves so, but it was closed due to the snow and ice. Well, we didn't need to add to an already perfect day. Mom was happy, and clearly on this occasion, we were in the right place at the right time!
Ellen McCambley, December 27. I finally got over to see Elise today and had a wonderful visit. She was in the activity room listening to music when I arrived at around 11 AM. She recognized me as a familiar face from across the room, and I got help to have her taken to her room. It was pouring rain, so I didn't think of taking her out. I brought her a little banner I'd purchased at a yard sale last year, with one of her Norwegian elves on it. I wasn't sure it was Norwegian, but she assured me it was:-) I also brought her a plate of cookies I made with my grandniece Eden and grand nephew Caleb. At 11:30, my niece arrived with both Caleb and Eden and they visited for 1/2 hour. Eden is 4 and Caleb is 7 and they remembered her from when they met her at my cottage. Eden is a little performer, so she sang a few songs for Elise. I'm not sure Elise could hear her, but she chuckled as she watched little Eden doing all the Hannah Montana moves as she sang. At 12, Dana, my niece, and the children wheeled Elise to the dining room and said goodbye. I sat with Elise and had lunch with her and two of her table mates, 99 year old Eleanor and 96 year old Grace. We had a wonderful conversation and your mother followed right along. At one, I wheeled Elise back and got her into bed for a little nap.
She seems to have adjusted well to the facility, and I found the staff very helpful and supportive. I helped Elise into the bathroom twice and each time her alarm went off and the aides where right there - when they saw I was helping her, they shut off the alarm, and it was good to see the quick response. Speaking of which, they kids discovered that when they sat on her bed and then got off, an alarm would ring. They had quite a time getting on and off the bed. Luckily the staff knew we were there and when they took a look at little Eden's innocent smile, they let it go:-)
Now that I've seen the place and see how well Elise is treated, I'll be sure to get back more often. I hate "nursing homes" and still don't like the idea of Elise being there. But she seems content, and this is most important.
Ginny Benson, December 23. I went by to see Elise this morning and we had a morning snack together and a wonderful talk. Many reminiscences on her part. One particularly moving moment came when she told me about your family tradition at Christmas eve of holding hands and dancing around the Christmas tree while singing Christmas songs with any friends you included. She said that Christmas eve was always her favorite part of Christmas, and then she sang me the Norwegian song about Yulaften (spelling) that she learned as a girl and then passed on to her family and sang together around the tree each Christmas eve. It brought tears to my eyes to see her singing that song and recalling all the joy she felt in previous times of singing it. We talked about Jesus and the meaning of his life on earth. She loves to talk about spiritual things together and so do I. Much wisdom! She also told me that when her mother died, she was holding her hand and reading to her from the Bible, a passage about love. Also, we talked about your father's death and how he said the day before he died, "Elise, I love the world!" She seems to be in a very good place spiritually now.
Russell, December 19. I am back home again in Indiana in my third day of *recovery* from the week in Boston clearing my mother's apartment, and having good times with her as well.
If I had *thought* about it the task would have seemed *impossible* and I would surely not have made it. As it was, I went from task to task as the way opened, almost every night past midnight (way past my usual bedtime) and up early. Tuesday evening with the help of a friend (thank you Hugh Guelch!) and a borrowed pickup truck (thank you Jack!) delivered her 300+ pound metal desk and similarly heavy Murphy bed to a Nigerian family 50 miles away (found by Sherry Zitter when I said by biggest remaining *worry* was finding a place for those items). Hauled these up three flights of stairs and got back about midnight and worked through the night packing the last boxes to ship to the Archives; delivered them at the post office at 7:30 am, hauled the metal deck furniture to the recycling center, a van load of household items to be distributed to those who could use them by the Needham Community Council. The empty apartment *passed* the required inspection and I barely made my plane flight home. Whew!
Here is what I started with (one of three similarly covered walls):
More than 1000 books distributed to various libraries, 30 boxes to the University of Colorado Archives, many boxes to family members, furniture distributed amongst friends and the needy later:
The only things requiring *disposal* were two small bags of trash and two bags of paper and cardboard for recycling.
Amidst all the packing I found time to spend with Elise, at meals, several nice outings. The one that will remain forever in my memory was our trip the last day to the Peace Abbey. It was a remarkably *warm* windy day. I had long been wanting to get a picture of her by the larger-than-life statue of Ghandi:
In the middle background you can see the life-size statue of Emily the Cow who has her own wonderful story: Emily the Sacred Cow.
The Peace Abbey had accepted my offer to donate many of the various awards Elise had received as a peacemaker and educator. However, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I wheeled my mother into the main building and after a warm welcome by Dot Walsh the Program Coordinator she showed how they had spread them all around the table in the central room:
Although it was not entirely voluntary on my mother's part, the *emptying* of her apartment feels like a major step in her *letting go* of her attachments to this beautiful planet. When we speak about this, she quickly *remembers* that we have had this conversation many times, that learning to Be rather than Do is the main focus of this stage of her life journey.
For my part, I would not have been able Do what was required to clear her apartment in the time available if I had not been able to remain mostly in a place of Beingness, so this has been a valuable lesson for me as well.
I will be visiting again in a couple of months and I will be able to focus on Being with my mother the entire time. What a Blessing that will be.
Carew Boulding, Early December 2008. Frances and I went to visit Grandma a couple of weeks ago (December 5-8) and had a great visit. It was hard to see how confused she can be, and she did need to be reminded who we were, but it was a lovely visit. We took her to lunch at the Sherborn Inn, and to the Peace Abby, and she seemed very happy to meet little Maya. She and Maya (who is is now 5 months old) really hit it off -- Grandma sang her Norwegian Christmas songs and Maya tried to chew on her finger, which set Grandma off in gales of laughter.
Ginny Benson, November 26. Dear Russell, I read your experience with Elise’s deep healing (and yours) and was inspired. Thank you for writing it and sharing. My mother had a stroke and was paralyzed for nine years before she died. Reading about your experience with your mother and Alzheimer’s gave me a greater appreciation of the mystery at work under the surface of my mother’s illness during those nine years and the amazing release I felt she made at the time of her passing.
Christina Lemmo, Wellesley Friends Meeting, November 26. Dear Russell, I just read your latest reflections of your days and "journeys" through your Mother's experience of advancing dementia. As you may, or may not know, I am a social worker in a subacute rehab unit in Dorchester. I have also worked on more than one long term care unit with folks who have varying levels of dementia. My own maternal grandmother had a mind dementing disease as well. So I see my experiences from both sides of the dementia diagnosis.
Dementia can be a very unforgiving illness. It is especially hard to see when it strikes people like your mother who was, and still is, in her own way very intellectual, purposeful and driven by that purpose. To me, the hardest part of the disease process shifts for both the individual who has it, and the family members who watch and see the disease unfold.
Initially there is the time when the individual may realize that there is something different with their ability to function, but they may not know exactly what that "differentness" may be. Instead of admitting that there is a change in their abilities - many try to "compensate" or "cover up" rather than admit it to their children, and/or to themselves. At this point it is more difficult for the individual. This level can exist for an indefinite amount of time. Eventually, there is a shift when the individual with the dementia, progresses to the point to when they forget about their fears, of the changes in their abilities and status. They become almost unaware of what, or who they used to be. At that point then the shift happens and then it becomes more difficult for the family members because they have experienced a loss of the "essence" of their loved one. it is a form of anticipatory grief. It is a "death" of their essence which can happen a long time before the actual physical death of the parent.
I will continue to hold you and Christie, as well as Elise, of course, in the Light. I hope that you can read and receive this information in the spirit in which it was intended.
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Russell, November 25, 2008 I have shared with a number of you the perspective I have on my mother's Alzheimers, which is quite different from that of mainstream medicine, which views it as a degenerative disease. For me this has been a journey of mutual healing in ways I never could have anticipated. I just recently reread something I wrote in September of 2005, two years before Elise was diagnosed with Alzheimers and I have to marvel at how Spirit *prepared* me for this eventuality. This is from the second volume of my as yet unpublished book Preparing Ourselves for the The Great Shift: A Guide to Personal Aspects of the Coming Dimensional Shift in Human Consciousness. Here is what I wrote:
13.5.3 Alzheimer's Disease. The incidence of Alzheimer's disease is growing and threatens to reach epidemic proportions as the baby-boomer generation ages. As devastating as the loss of memory and recognition of loved ones can be, I have encountered several sources that suggest that Alzheimer's may represent an altered state of consciousness that allows a person's spiritual growth to continue while still physically incarnated. This possibility was suggested by medical intuitive Caroline Myss in her analysis of Alzheimer's from a metaphysical perspective (Shealy and Myss, 1993), and she suggested that the same interpretation might apply to forms of schizophrenia, catatonic states, and coma. This interpretation has been confirmed by biofeedback researcher Elmer Green who came to understand his wife's experience with Alzheimer's for several years before she died as a spiritual journey (Green, 2001). The Higher Dimensional Being Emmanuel in response to a question about why people become senile indicates that it allows one to experience physical existence without the interference of a rigid and controlling mind: "Released, at last, from the confines of the tightly controlling intellect, the heart can soar" (Emmanual II, 1989:72). Could it be that loved one's who contract Alzheimer's are simply doing that bit of extra karmic release and healing before they leave their physical bodies?
Elise has always had a shining spirit and a strong sense of the spiritual, and the creative possibilities of imagination for shaping our future. Nevertheless, she was fundamentally a down-to-Earth person more focused on changing the world in practical and positive ways, more comfortable Doing than Being. My own spiritual awakening in 2002 (for those interested I share some of that journey in my Earth Energy Healing website: www.earthenergyhealing.com/AboutRussell.htm). My evolving understanding of a multidimensional reality much *larger* than my training as a scientist prepared me for was very much a stretch for my mother, but she took it in stride.
In the last few months I have been engaged in a very deep healing process guided by a group of very skilled healers. When I visited my mother in October it became evident that my own and her healing processes were intimately connected. I share some bits of my correspodence, including responses from the main person who guided my healing process, identified as [~A]:
October 24. It's heart-breaking being with my mother. During supper she got to talking about how animals communicate and said "You know there can't be life without communication." That's the mother I have known all my life. 80% of the time she is just confused.[~A] This must be especially difficult, knowing her many accomplishments and how she *used to be*... My sensing is... as an experiment, maybe you could *feel between* her words - especially when she's confused - so as to extract the Medicine of what she's saying... in other words, tune into the energy behind her words (rather than the words themself) and commune with her from *that* space - tune in to the Love... and speak to her from *that* level - even if it might sound like "gibberish" to anyone else. So what? What your mom said is quite profound, actually, as I feel into it... Yes, very profound. The confusion doesn't come from inarticulateness; most of the time she ask questions I have answered many times before, what are we doing next? where do I (my brothers, sister live?) and so on. When I tune into the energy of her words, about 20% of the time she is in the Now exclaiming how beautiful the trees and leaves are, the sky is, and the rest of the time she is making barbed comments, complaining that she never gets out and nobody comes to see her when she actually gets out quite a bit. There are many people in this area who love her deeply. Today she got quite belligerent when I said we needed to eat in the nursing facility dining room for dinner because one restaurant meal a day was enough. On the whole I did much better today than I did yesterday.
October 25. It has been a hard day. Just stopped to let the tears flow freely. I have been on the verge of tears many times today but not in places where I could express them. This time I could feel my angelic friends around me. Thank you friends.[~A] Know we are holding space for you, knowing that this time of being with your mother is holy and sacred... Thank you for sitting with us tonight, like this - I know how tired you're feeling... *sending you Strength and Courage.* Thank you for the reminder that this time is holy and sacred. I am gradully finding it easier to feel this.
I have shared a bit about my mother with H. and A.and would like others in this circle to know a bit about her beautiful soul. A Pleiadian Wanderer in the sense that Ra used the terms--a fifth density soul who came to Earth to be of service, but running the risk of any soul who incarnated on Earth in 1920, the risk of getting caught up in the density and accruing karma that would have to be dealt with. My mother is a highly respected elder in the Peace Movement, and remains an inspiration to many who carry on this work. 29 years ago at my youngest brother's Quaker wedding during the silence of the ceremony she was given a road map by Spirit for the rest of her life on Earth: 9 years teaching, 9 years practice preaching, 9 years reaching for Heaven. She was then chair of the Sociology Department at Dartmouth College and took early retirement nine years later. Then she spent years traveling around the world giving workshops on envisioning a world without weapons, and as a member of the Interfaith Peace Council representing the Quakers (the Dalai Lama was a member). But when the nine years was up she remained attached to her work and did not shift to a quieter, more contemplative life to do the personal healing that remained to be done before she could *leave*. Spirit imposed more and more severe physical limitations, hardness of hearing, a nearly fatal collapse after returning from a meeting of the Interfaith Peace Council in the Chiapas. Yet as soon as her energy returned she was back at it. Yet she had the road map in her mind and kept talking about *leaving* when the seven years was up. When she was still around when the time *had come* (about two years ago) she expressed puzzlement and frustration. Even before then when she talked about leaving I would explain that in my understanding of the road map, she hadn't followed it, so it no longer applied. Several years ago I did an Earth healing workshop with some of her peacemaking friends (all women) which included a time when I focused on each individual and expressed/released energies they were holding in their energy fields that did not serve them. I always explain that what I express may seem very intense and dramatic, but that if it is not accepted and acknowledged by the person, nothing is released. [~A] *smiling, nods understanding* The transformational work is not easy... When I came to my mother I emphasized this again. I then had to take a long pause to make sure I did not hold any attachment to the outcome. I can't remember exactly what my body and vocal chords expressed, but it was about as intense at I had experienced. At one point I was doubled up on the floor and it helped greatly that the others in the circle surrounded me and put their hands on me. When it was all done it was quickly evident that my mother had not acknowledged any of what I was expressing as coming from her. Once I asked her why she was so reluctant to look inward and she said "I'm terrified of what I might find" We have talked about this many times and she understands and accepts what I have suggested to her in her mind, and there have been times when I have lost my patience and she has told me to back off, that she felt like I was scolding her like a child. The last time that happened was probably several years ago and when we have had the conversation I have maintained my equilibrium. I think it is the higher dimensional source Emmanuel who described Alzheimers as a way the a person can remain in the physical body and do healing *elsewhere* that they are unable to do at a conscious level before they leave the body, because if it isn't take care of, it is much more difficult to clear later. [~A] this rings so true! That fits what seems to be happening with my mother perfectly, and it helps me accept the process more easily than I might otherwise. In a visit to her in May, I had the feeling it was the *last* chance for me to work with her energetically and for her to consciously release some of what she is carrying. We had many very deep discussions and remarkably she was able to acknowledge a lot of pain that I was expressing in her relationship with her Mother. [~A] I'm so happy you were able to assist her with this. She's still releasing much, while you are there now. Thank you for bringing this way of looking at it to my attention. [~A] I'm sensing this visit is healing balm for you both... Not quite at the healing balm stage yet, but I can *see* it coming. After that her Alzheimers progressed rapidly and she had to move into the Skilled Nursing Facility in July.
So my friends, please hold space for me and my mother as I work under very difficult circumstances. [~A] We are, holding space for both of you...Thank you. I have to get her apartment cleared before the end of the year. When I visited last month I hadn't realized how hard it would be to be attentive to my mother who hates being cooped up in the nursing facility and is always wanting to get out, and getting work done on the apartment which has over a thousand books and some 70 linear feet of files and papers that need to be sorted through to determine what should be shipped to the Elise Boulding Archives at the University of Colorado. This time it is proving to be even more difficult. There is a new level of expresion of hostility, subtle but persistent in the comments she makes as I am driving her places which push guilt buttons that I'm not real susceptible to because there is no other better place she could be for her care and I am a devoted and loving son, but it is wearing even so. [~A] Indeed... Comments like "Do you remember when I said I would never live in New England because there are too many trees?" (she lived in Colorado for many years, and moved to New England at my sister's suggestion with the full support of me and my three brothers). This evening at dinner in the nursing facility dining room I lost my patience with her complaining and said that she wouldn't be ready to go until she was able to be content with her present situation without chafing and she said I was making her feel guilty and like I was scolding her. And it was true that I had allowed myself to loose my patience and I started crying right there in the dining room. One nice thing about Alzheimers is that she has forgotten, but as I took her for a drive after supper and focused on keeping centered I realized that I'm not doing a very good job of practicing what I have preached to her. That will be a focus for me in the coming days. [~A] You'll be fine... something *bigtime* has shifted with the energies, and I am sensing that you're able to commune together on a different level now. There's been a bit of a time lag for it to express on the physical plane. As I said earlier she got quite belligerent after lunch and that continued until we got to Walden Pond. We sat for a long time on the beach looking at the water and the trees. It does seem that a shift took place then, although it wasn't until we had dinner that I sensed the energies flowing a little more freely between us.
Here is a picture of that visit to Walden Pond:
It is now November 24 and I am flying home after five days at North Hill with Elise and working on clearing her apartment. It was a wonderful visit despite the *difficulties* the added limitation of her being confined to a wheel chair created. Compared to a month ago I see her as being much more accepting of her limitations (not entirely of course!) and expressing gratitude often for the care she receives (sure there is still some *complaining* but it doesn't have the bite that it did a month ago). And it has been a marvelous feeling to come full circle and give back to her a tiny bit of what she did for me 24/7 when I was born and could not take care of myself. It is so much easier for me now to tell her that I love her and be affectionate with her. This journey is not finished by any means. If anyone else would like to share their own reflections on your experiences with Elise, I would be happy to post them here. In the meantime, I will close with a photograph that was taken at the Sherbourne Inn this last visit:
Emmanuel II. 1989. Emmanuel's Book II: The Choice for Love. New York: Bantam. [Compiled by Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton]
Green, Elmer. 2001. The Ozawkie Book of the Dead: Alzheimer Isn't What You Think It Is, Parts 1-3. Philosophical Research Society. [Reviewed in Shift, 1:44]
Shealy, C. Norman and Caroline M. Myss. 1993. The Creation of Health: The Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Responses that Promote Health and Healing. Stillpoint Publshing.
Index to Postings
(New June 10) Near, Yet So Far
(New June 9) Close to Coming Full Circle
(New June 4) Early June, 2010 Moving Further Within, Shining Ever More Brightly
(New May 11) Early May, 2010 The Final Stage of the Journey Begins
(New May 11) Various Visits March and April 2010 (See also new Postings by Philip for April 2009 and January 2009)
Various Visits April 2009 to March 2010
Russell's Remarks, Ikeda Center Celebration of Publication of Into Full Flower, March 6, 2010
Russell's Posting November 28, 2009
Russell's Posting August 2, 2009
Gordie Fellman and Family Visit, July 11, 2009
Elise's 89th Birthday, July 6, 2009
Kevin Clement's Visit, June 14, 2009 (clicking on this link should allow you to download Kevin's report to your computer)
National Peace Academy Ceremony (pm), June 4, 2009
Sherry Zitter's Visit (am), June 4, 2009
Ginny Benson's Conversation May 26, 2009
Ginny Benson's Conversation May 13, 2009
Russell's Posting April 27, 2009
Ginny Benson's Conversation April 14, 2009
Mary Lee Morrison's Posting April 3, 2009
Family Visits Early March
Ginny Benson's Conversation March 3, 2009)
Carew Boulding's Posting (Visit Early December, 2008)
Nancy Wrenn's Posting January 21, 2009
Ellen McCambley's Posting December 27, 2008
Ginny Benson's Posting December 23, 2008
Russell's Posting December 19, 2008
Ginny Benson's Posting November 26, 2008
Christina Lemmo's :Posting November 26, 2008
Russell's Posting November 25, 2008
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