Frida Kahlo, Muere el 13 de Julio de 1954

I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return. – Frida Kahlo

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Frida Kahlo July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954 (china marker, dry pastel on newsprint)

Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away. – Frida Kahlo

Good night, Asterix.

I have been very aware of late that my parrot is aging.  The lifespan for domestic African Greys is about 28-32 years, whereas in the wild they live to about 60.

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I have always thought Asterix was born May 19, 1989.  That has always been my story, but it may have been earlier?  My memory is that my baby brother brought home a baby parrot that he purchased with some high school graduation scholarship money.  But that would have been 1985.  So, is Asterix 28 or 32?

No matter- Asterix has aged nonetheless.  And I have found myself acutely aware of the fact.  My daughter is 32, my son almost 30- they have almost always known life as including Asterix.

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I inherited Asterix (along with our dog, Tobey) from my mother before she passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2008.  My father had a stroke in 2005 and was in care.  Once those two pets came on board, I lived with my daughter (she moved in and out), son, two cats- Riley and Violet, Tobey and Asterix and all our stuff in a very little apartment and somehow it worked.  Chaotic, joyous, creative, – a full and loving life.

Since then, my mom and dad have passed away.  So has Riley, Violet and Tobey.  Asterix has been with us through all the other big life markers.  My two brothers’ weddings, births of my nephew Henrik and niece Vivienne, my kids starting pre-school and becoming teenagers and adults, my divorce, crisis, breakdowns, breakthroughs, moves and jobs and the passing of all the other pets- Milton, Tina, Oliver, Martha, Larry, Carbella…

He has ruined furniture and books.  And remotes,  He has chewed my foam boards, china markers and kept a close eye as I crafted.  Always a creative director.

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My mom and dad have lived on through Asterix– as he belly-laughs like mom, answers the phone like Dad, joins in our conversations in Swedish and English.  Yelling Hejdå as we leave.

As I mentioned, I have had Asterix’s aging on my mind a lot.  Why?

I met Mike from Mike’s Critters last week at my nephew’s 6th birthday party and I asked him about parrot lifespans.  Mike said “maybe 60 years”— I felt some comfort, but knew that in reality Asterix has reached his twilight years.  Mike also told me that parrots usually live sad lives as they are hard to look after- and tend to be dropped off at shelters, move from family to family, be returned to pet stores etc.  I am so happy that Asterix has never experienced any of that.  He (and his soundtrack) has always been celebrated.  Well- his loudness, stalking, nips, demanding food, squawking, chewing furniture etc. has raised some blood pressure.

Oh, how I love his cuddles, sharing pizza, watching him snooze as he sits on the edge of the laundry basket while I read in the tub.

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I frickin’ love him so much.  He’s my pal, my old man, my confidante.  And so of late, yes– I have been very aware of his aging.  Savouring each moment with him.

I got worried last Sunday when Asterix seemed very tired.  Unusually so.  I obsessed, I admit.  Keeping my eye on him.  Kept checking in.  He was— just quiet.  Probably needed sleep.  The next day I started a new gig and texted my son.

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And indeed Asterix was fine.  And he has had a great week!  Eating, chirping, laughing, whistling, hanging out, walking around.  Playing with his beloved bell.  (A new one after the old one was so torn and bent and too sharp).  Oh his bell obsession- true true love.

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He did seem a little subdued sometimes- spending a lot of time just observing us.  Keeping an eye.  Staying close, but gently so.

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And so here we are.  It is September 24, 2017 as I write this.

Asterix and I went to bed at 12:35 AM (just this early early morning).  I made my bed on the pull out couch in the living room beside his cage as my studio-bedroom is in chaotic re-organization mode and I wanted some space.  I covered Asterix and he said his usual happy and friendly GOOD NIGHT!

I was smiling as I covered him, happy he had had such a good day- playing and eating and back to his old self.  Saying hi repeatedly.  Hanging out around the house.  Playing with his bell.  He had a bath earlier in the day- his usual Saturday habit.

But, I just couldn’t sleep- my heart was racing.  I hadn’t had my usual evening coffee- so could’t blame it on that.  Yes, rent is coming and it is time to hustle, but it was not that kind of feeling.  I lay with my hands on my chest trying to soothe my heart.

Stay neutral, stay present.  

I must have slipped into some kind of stupor.  At 3 AM, I shot out of bed as Asterix was making a strange repeated squeaking sound.  I lifted the blanket and he was in distress,  clutching the side of his cage with one claw, and holding on with his beak, one wing strangely draped over one of the cage perches.

I knew.  Just knew.

I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a little towel, gently pried his claw off the cage, pulled off the cage (which sits on a stand) with my adrenaline and gently wrapped Asterix in the towel and held him like a little swaddled baby as I sat on the edge of the bed.  I looked into his eyes, and talked to him gently- saying I love you.  I love you.  He continued to make the the repeated sound for a minute or so, then let out a little gasp and… he died.

Asterix died.

I held him warm, gently.  Look at his sweet face.  This little bird- with such a large presence.  Has died.  For 30 minutes I walked around holding him.  Thanking him for what he has given me.  I cried.  Cried for losing him.  My companion.  For losing my mother’s laugh.  My father’s hallå.  For the beauty of sharing my life with him.  I cried in relief that I was there for him.  That he didn’t die alone, hanging in the awkward position.  In relief he had lived a rich, happy, family life.  That he died in my arms- in his lady‘s arms, the way he loved to cuddle.  Cried in gratitude that he managed to live the full lifespan of the domestic African Grey with never any health issues.  A natural, beautiful, good death.

I called my daughter and woke up my son.  He and I chatted for hours about what it all meant.  How stunned and moved we are.

And me, the person who draws dead birds, drew my sweet Asterix as he peacefully laid on my couch bed.

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His cage has been cleaned.  And sits.

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The oven mitts that used to protect our hands.

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His last food dish and water.

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The tag on the stuffed animal bears his signature chew marks.

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The sock version of Asterix pulled out of the toy box.  He is now at rest in a basket that matches his colours.

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By a candle, and the angel card Asterix once picked out (and modified) for me.

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How appropriate and poignant that it reads: Birth.

Good night, Asterix.  Good night.

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I always left the TV on in the background if Asterix was home alone during the day.  Please press play on one of his favorite shows in his honor:

We had a sweet surprise ceremony late this afternoon.

November 4, 2017: Click on image below

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November 10, 2017: Picking Up Asterix

So beautiful- Asterix was cremated with his favourite bells and the staff at Until We Meet Again wrapped the bells up for me. I am crying! I so wanted them back and they intuitively did that. And his ashes amount is very very tiny. The cedar box smells beautiful.

From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 13: The Act of Dying

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

Part 6: Famous Last Words

Part 7: Fear of Fear

Part 8- Noticing

Part 9: A Commitment to Life

Part 10: Fear of Dying

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

Part 13: The Act of Dying

1. I return to a journal entry October 26, 2012:

In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I documented our last day together.

I came up early in the morning yesterday and spent some hours by myself with Dad before the rest of the family arrived for our daily vigil.

I set up the space  I had an intense need to offer some kind of guidance for him.

I played the Tibetan Book of the Dead audio for Dad.  We were not interrupted and it was very powerful.

My father’s feet showed signs of mottling, so I had a lovely gentle conversation with the nurse and we inspected him and nodded silently to each other.  Dad continued his rhythmic breathing. interrupted here and there with some abrupt harsh intakes of breath.  His heart beat on, but there were arrhythmic moments and his pulse was weak.

His senses were shutting down.  Hearing though may be one of the last things to go.

I felt he needed to hear more gentle guidance, so I played him Swedish lullabies into his left ear, sung by his favorite actor, Allan Edwall:

The family arrived and we spent another beautiful day together.

My friend, Darcy, dropped off Sunshine Cake:

We played some of Dad’s favorite Swedish comedy and some of his favorite Disney movies:

The artist’s hand lies still.

Staff came in regularly to tend him and to check in.  The doctor felt Dad could hang on another two weeks.  I was confused as it did not feel right intuitively, and felt a panic well up.  I did not want Dad to suffer any more.

We had a lot of family discussions and then we packed up around 8:00/8:30 PM and turned off the lights except for the Christmas lights and diffuser.  Dad was peaceful and apparently painfree.  I sensed he needed time to concentrate and to complete the journey on his own.

15 minutes after we left, care aide Kim went in and checked on him and he was still breathing.  Then care aide Mike went in and discovered that Dad had stopped breathing.  I received the call as my son and I bit into our dinner at Burgoo.

We quickly headed up and when we walked into the room, Dad was surrounded by his beloved caregivers.  They had tended him so beautifully.

My son Julian, my brother Fredrik, my brother Anders and my sister-in-law Charmaine and I sat for an hour talking, laughing, sighing, breathing, planning, sharing shots of Dad’s whiskey in his honor.  Dad’s “baby,” Tobey, lay on Dad’s legs as we awaited the transfer of Dad’s body.

Today we will be sorting his room.  I am filled with joy, relief, love, sadness and all the beautiful emotions a daughter can feel losing her beloved father.  I have also lost my best friend and I sense that once the numbness wears off, I will experience intense loss in this regard, but I accept and welcome it for I am so lucky to have had such a friendship.

Much love to all of you.

I feel my Dad doing his signature thumbs up!

You can read the book I created with my father (PDF file):

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

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This is how it is to die:

A sense of lightening, an expanding, a floating free…

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3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

(“The Sheltering Sky” – Paul Bowles)

[Thank you, Emma Varley]

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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When I draw a blank angel card, I smile, as I take it as my mom and dad telling me: YOU GOT THIS.  It is up to you.  Trust.  Stay in the “don’t know mind.”

Check out:

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From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 11: Fear of Dying

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

Part 6: Famous Last Words

Part 7: Fear of Fear

Part 8- Noticing

Part 9: A Commitment to Life

Part 10: Fear of Dying

Part 11: Fear of Death

1. Journal exercise:

WRITE FOR 10 MINUTES ON LETTING GO AND STARTING FRESH.  YOU OWE NO ONE ANYTHING.  YOU CAN START TOTALLY FRESH TODAY.  

Allowing myself to start fresh.  To go into the cave.  To be in solitude.

Loving less interaction.  Loving not trying.  Happy to be doing less.

Healing the sick body and the exhausted mind.

Let it go.

Let it all go. 

Hey! Not feeling valued these days?  Let it go.

Need to feel  more assured?  Let it go.

Figure out next steps?  Let it go.

Should be should be— let it go.

Simplify? Yes.


2. Capture chapter highlights:

Our fear of death is our fear of the uncontrollable unknown.  It is the same old fear.  It lies in wait behind our eyelids as we awake each morning.  It is the fear of fears.  It needs space to breathe.

When attempts at control become a prison only letting go of control will result in freedom.

– Stephen Levine 

3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

What is that hair ball of old energy you have been choking on?
… Let go of the need to heal old emotional wounds.The Power Path

4. Today’s angel card(s):

Death is not the end of the story, but just the beginning.

I am deep into the creative process this morning.  This current drawing is being prepped for embroidery re Molly, a True Crime Analysis as I simultaneously review forensic techniques and review my manuscript.  Multi-tasking.


Symbols within the drawing reflect:

Genetic discovery, the drosophila, Y-STR haplotypes, the Spiral of Inquiry, the web of intrigue, physical evidence, the forest, the triple timeline and circumstantial evidence.


I want to interpret the voices of the dead and reveal of their secrets.  Death is not the end of the story, but just the beginning.

Recycled sock craft: dead crow. #Graphicnovel fundraiser. 

The crow guides my healing journey. It gives me the courage to enter the darkness of the unknown and to let go of fear. The crow reminds me to laugh, live and love fiercely as I embrace my life’s mission.  According to folk lore, finding a dead crow implies good fortune awaits.  I feel they also give us pause to celebrate the beautiful spiral of:

the void-birth-life-death-the void-rebirth

As you may already know from previous posts, dead birds are a continuous visual theme in my graphic novel, Molly.  They are a metaphor for loss of freedom and the struggles the main character faces in her short life.

See: Dead messengers

 

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As part of raising funds for the graphic novel project, I have designed this loveable little corpse made from recycled materials.  Strangely wonderful to cuddle!

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Makes you stop, sit, meditate, smile and perhaps let out a big sigh.  And maybe even talk about death.

Available [made to order] on my ETSY shop: POSTSTREET

        
This is my original design.

I thought I was holding on to this ONE life I knew. #journal

I thought I was holding on to this ONE life I knew.

My heart feeling the weight of  having died a thousand deaths.

I thought I was the tree, whose roots dug so deep,

So deep that it was surely invincible.

I thought I was the tree that houses the egg,

the chick.

Providing a safe place in which to grow,

and from which to leave.

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I thought my role was to grow deep roots,

and multiple branches,

and rich green leaves.

I thought I felt the a pain of my roots being cut,

my body toppled.

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But I have died a thousand deaths.

And I know now that I am one of the birds.

And as the roots are cut, and the tree is toppled,

My leaves turn to wings,

the wings of thousands of birds.

And I fly.

I fly.

– Katarina Thorsen

Frida Angel

Saying goodbye to the life of Riley.

Riley aka Mr. O’Riley 1998-2014

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My beautiful cat, Riley, passed away peacefully on January 1, 2014.  He wound down slowly all last year and passed away surrounded by love and his favorite people.   He loved the outdoors, so we placed him in the earth in a beautiful spot.  [Special thank you to Darcy for being there with us!]

Riley: A Short Biography of my Cat by Julian Bowers:

 1998: Born. Moved in with us. Kept me up all night with his meowing. We locked him into the bathroom yet he smeared his poo all over the walls. Nightmare kitten.
1999-2003: If there was a closed door, he would try his best to tear it down and annoy us, and it usually worked. He was an outdoor cat and he hunted things I didn’t think were possible to catch around our property. Voles, hummingbirds, bats, snakes, squirrels, every type of small bird you can think of. He was frustrating, but could be affectionate when you wanted it.
2003-2013: We moved to the city, so he had to transition to become an indoor cat. He had some aggression towards the concept initially, but he mellowed out over the years. Still annoying about doors, but a sweet cat.
2013-2014: Started to get skinnier but still healthy up until Dec. 26th when his legs started giving out. He started to slowly wind down. We gave him Fancy Feast and he was still affectionate yet understandably tired. On Jan. 1st, he couldn’t walk anymore and we moved him to a cozy spot. At around 5:45pm, he passed away.
I’m going to miss him, but I can take solace in the fact that he lived a good, happy life and he went out as comfortably as one can.

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A week or so before he passed, Riley managed to climb on to the toilet to hang out with my nephew.

A few days before he passed away, Riley preferred to lie in a spot where he could keep an eye on us.
A few days before he passed away, Riley preferred to lie in a spot where he could keep an eye on us.

The day before he passed, he wobbled in to the shower.  He loved drinking warm shower water.
The day before he passed, he wobbled in to the shower. He loved drinking warm shower water.

A few hours before he passed, I found him in the spot, trying to climb into bed with Violet.
A few hours before he passed, I found him in the spot, trying to climb into bed with Violet.

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Riley then spent his last hours comfortable on my bed. Violet by his side.

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After he passed, we placed him in the basket he loved to snooze in, with his favorite things- a can of Fancy Feast, a stuffed bird, a catnip mouse, a fresh chicken bone and a vial of shower water.
After he passed, we placed him in the basket he loved to snooze in, with his favorite things- a can of Fancy Feast, a stuffed bird, a catnip mouse, a fresh chicken bone and a vial of shower water.

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I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. – Jean Cocteau

Riley and Violet
Riley and Violet

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