In memoriam: Papa, my grandfather

My grandfather, who I always called Papa, passed away recently. I was not able to attend his memorial service, but did my best to be there in spirit by writing a tribute to him, which my father so bravely read for me at the ceremony.

This is what is said:

I loved my grandfather immensely, and after his passing I felt compelled to write about that love. I loved my grandfather for so many reasons, but mostly because he was special. There is and never will be anyone else like my grandfather. He was unique, as we all are. He is irreplaceable. Because I know this, I recognize the privilege I had to be his granddaughter, and the privilege we all had to be included in his life journey.

This past January, I flew up to spend a day with Papa. On that day I learned more from him than I had in all my 30 years with him; in one day, Papa taught me a lifetime of lessons, many of which I really needed to learn. With grace, Papa granted me his wisdom and continued the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next.
Here is just some of what he taught me on that day:
1) It’s never too late to have a party.
When I greeted Papa in his room, he was shocked at my presence. We both began to weep, and just hugged each other until our feelings subsided. I stepped back from him and his wheelchair, to see him staring right into my eyes. The next thing he said really startled me…
“Do you like fudge?”
“What???” I said, sniffling the last of my tears.
“Do you like chocolate fudge? I have some in the fridge, and I think we should have some ice cream.”
“Ok!” I said with enthusiasm.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and we were going to have fudge sundaes to celebrate our gathering.
It was amazing fudge, by the way!
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“Stefie, would you do your grandfather a favor and give me a shave?”

After his stroke, Papa’s arms had lost their strength. Throughout the day, I helped him shave, put his hearing aids in, put his fleece on, stand up, reach for his water, and many other things. Each time he wanted to do something but couldn’t, he graciously – and without self pity – asked for help. He knew I was there for him no matter what, and that as long as he had the courage to ask I would gladly help. Asking for what we need takes immense strength, and that’s exactly what Papa did and had.

3) Silence is underrated
Papa never seemed to be a man of many words. All my life I remember him “MM hmm-ing” and “Yes, that’s right-ing” in the background while I was on the phone with Gramma and him. As a child, I remember watching him read silently, do yard work on the 80 acres silently, and eat silently. Papa didn’t really say much.
On that last day I spent with him, he didn’t say much either. But in his silence, Papa taught me how to listen and feel. Being in Papa’s presence was a profound experience for me – both as a child and as an adult. He taught me how to “be” rather than “do”. The man held such an amazing space.
4) Love transcends space and time
During our day, Papa started many of his sentences with “We” only to suddenly get choked up, stop himself mid-sentence, and start again with “I”. Papa was so used to speaking about Gramma and himself as a unit that it became habit. That habit was not limited to him; I also always thought of Papa and Gramma as a unit – two people joined together, a perfect union.
I did not get to say “Good bye” to my Grandmother. I never got to tell her how much she meant to me, how much I appreciated everything she taught me, and how special and loved she always made me feel.
When my dad told me Papa’s health was failing, I rushed to be with him as fast as I could. By his side is where I knew Gramma would be, and where I knew I was supposed to be, too. I knew being with him would somehow help us both mend our grief over her death. I also knew that it would be a chance for me to say to him all the things I never got to say to Gramma.
On that special day, I told Papa how special he was to me many times. But before I left, I made sure to say what I didn’t get to say to Gramma. He was lying down for his nap, and I had just put his covers on him. I sat next to him on his hospital bed, and took his hand in mine. We sat in silence, holding hands for several minutes. After a while, I kissed his hand, looked into his beautiful blue eyes, and said, “Papa, I love you so much. I’m going to miss you.”
I do, Papa. I still love you, I will always love you, and I miss you terribly.

Tips for Managing Fear (How I Learned to Manage My Crippling Fear)

I had a nice run-in with fear this past week. It all started at a routine doctor’s appointment. Things were going well, but then energy in the room dropped. She paused with her hands on my belly and said, “That’s funny. I can feel your pulse on the right side of your abdomen, but not on the left.”
In the past, I would have collapsed in this moment.
For me, health scares trigger a cellular memory of repeated, long journeys riddled with blood tests, tissue samples, emotional agony, family distress, surgery and painful recovery processes that followed a moment just like the one I described above. That moment used to define the beginning of my submission to fear, the beginning of the cancer process.
This time, though, I used every ounce of knowledge, wisdom, and faith I had to manage my fear. I didn’t rid myself of fear, nor did I attempt to control it. I managed it. I chose to empower myself, and use my fear as fuel for change.
Here’s what I did:
1. I assembled a team.
I immediately contacted all four of my healers (energy healers, intuitives, and an astrologer). I told them exactly what was going on, and asked for emotional and spiritual support. I knew they’d be able to help me understand the psychosomatic, spiritual and emotional messages my body was giving me.
2. I spoke to my fear.
As I drove home from my appointment, I said out loud, “Ok, I am totally freaking out. This could be anything from constipation to appendicitis to ovarian cancer. Oh my GOD! I’m totally freaking out! *deep breath* But… Even though I’m freaking out, I choose NOT to disempower or sabotage myself. I am NOT submitting to my fear, NOT this time.”
3. I gave myself a break, and didn’t self judge.
Not long ago, I would have tried to control my fear with denial. This time, I let myself feel my fear freely. I acknowledged it, then gave myself a break for being so freaked out. I said to myself — as I would to my child — tenderly and with love, “It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to be freaked out. You’ve been through so much, of course you would have this kind of reaction. It’s OK.”
I also didn’t beat myself up when I caught myself stress eating, when I noticed my normal laundry pile had turned into a “situation”, when I realized I had gone to sleep one night before saying goodnight to my kids (it was 6PM!). These things happen when you’re scared and stressed out. My mantra was, “It’s OK. You’re still a good person. I love you.”
4. I reached out for support.
This was particularly difficult. In the past, I didn’t complain or ask for support, because I had a long standing belief that I was a burden to those around me, my family in particular. For years, I felt immense guilt for having had to rely on them for weeks and months of support. I was also very secretive, never revealing the existence or extent of the illnesses and medical procedures I endured.
But this time I was ready to break that unhealthy thought pattern. More importantly, I was ready to ask for what I needed. So, with a shaking hand, an unnecessary amount of sweat, and a racing heart, I texted my neighbor, and asked if I could confide in her.
5. I practiced relaxation techniques.
During the week, I had trouble sleeping; the fear would creep in and paint terrible pictures of illness, loss, painful surgery and emotional turmoil. In these moments, I used EFT (tapping) and alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama). These two techniques are powerful for two reasons: 1) They helped my body relax, and 2) They helped me move through held emotions.
When I gave myself permission to acknowledge and feel my fear, to ask for what I needed, and to accept support from others and from myself, amazing things started happening! My fear dissipated, my intuition began to flow freely and give me guidance, my physical pain lessened, I made a new friend, moved through some major emotional blocks, and found peaceful sleep. I made it through!
As expected, my scans all came back clear, my pain is now completely gone, and I feel fabulous! I feel empowered, and I feel free.
What do you do to manage your fear? Perhaps some of these techniques can help you the next time you are triggered.
This article was featured on MindBodyGreen.