MITAKUYE OYASIN:We Are All Related ‘My Life Story’ Part 5

To love is to recognize yourself in another

~Eckhart Tolle

“If you want to help anyone else, the best way to do that is to make sure you’re sorting yourself out first. Then you’re giving out the right frequency and you’re attracting the things you want, you know?”

~Dhani Harrison, son of Beatle George Harrison

Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking about finishing ‘My Life Story’. I had just finished Part 4 a few days before and Part 5, I thought would be about the Hospice and AIDS work that I did. But I’ve already written about this so many times [ad nauseum John Bradshaw would say] and I don’t want to write anymore. If you’re interested, you can read about it here and on my gofundme page— people I worked with over the years wrote letters and stories so my gofundme page is sort of a record of some of the work I did, seen through the eyes of other people.

I never intended to write ‘My Life Story’. It just happened but I think it was meant to be because it has brought me a lot of unexpected insights and I believe now that writing one’s life story can be helpful for anyone. It helps put things in perspective.

Last night I thought back about the work I did for so many years. I worked very, very hard and when I look back, I can see that I accomplished an enormous amount. At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing–helping people who could not help themselves but I did this at my own expense-mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. I think now that I did at least some of this work because unconsciously I wanted credit for ‘being a good person’.  And I got a lot of credit, compliments and appreciation but last night I realized that none of this really matters..not really.

I often hear people say “If I had it to all over, I would do it again.”

I would not do it again.

So I thought then what does matter?, what was the point of all the work?, was there some purpose? And what did I learn?  I think I learned how to communicate with all kinds of people, hopefully how to be a better listener and I feel like I’m more compassionate but mainly I learned this – put into words by the Native American People ‘MITAKUYE OYASIN’ We Are All Related.

Because I worked with so many people from different races, cultures and walks of life, I know this is true..absolutely true. The world governments and religions preach separation, superiority and even hate because this takes people’s power away, weakens them, makes them into better, sheep like followers, takes away their connection with LIFE and with SPIRIT.

And then I thought about some of experiences and people that actually did make all the work meaningful, the experiences that taught me the most and I came up with the following…so maybe there are SOME things I would do again.

Dr. James Pittman

LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST AT 95

File dr jim!  marian                                                          DR  JAMES PITTMAN

“The most I ever charged when I was in private practice was five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars and that’s a fact. You can’t even get in the hospital now for that. And that would be the care before, during and after surgery, see.”

Dr. Pittman lived on a ranch not far from where I lived in the Texas Hill country but I first met him and his daughter at a talk that I went to in San Antonio. At the time, I was working on a photo/oral history exhibit called The Gathering of the Wisdom People and I wanted to include Dr. Pittman….. so I made arrangements to go out to the ranch, do an interview and take some photos.

In the meantime however, Dr. Pittman’s daughter called me early one morning and asked if I would pick Dr. Pittman up at his ranch and drive him to the horse races in San Antonio. She would meet us there. I didn’t want to do it, mainly because he was so old-I thought he was too frail and I couldn’t imagine him riding in my tiny Suzuki Sidekick for an hour. What if he would get sick and die on the way?

s sidekick

My Suzuki was white but otherwise, this is how it looked

And besides that, what in the world would we talk about? I knew that pittmn23 he had been Chief of Staff and Head of the Department of Surgery at one of the biggest hospitals in Houston so I was also slightly intimidated.

But his daughter had a very forceful personality and I felt no choice but to say yes. So I ventured out to his ranch and found him ready and waiting, perfectly dressed in a nice suit, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

He got into the Suzuki, I put the top down and we headed out for San Antonio… and we talked and laughed the whole time. Somewhere along the way we stopped at a convenience store because he wanted to buy us both Dr. Peppers. It was as if there was no difference in our ages when actually there was about 45 years difference. And I was reminded of something my stepmother often said when she was in her 80s. She would say to me “I know I don’t look like it but I feel just the same as I did when I was 35.” [I understand this even better now that I’m older]

Dr. Pittman and I became close friends after that and I often visited him at his ranch where we would sit on his big Texas style front porch, drinking ice tea and talking. Sometimes I watched him fix fences

pittman tractor

and drive his tractor.

pittmn drive

His daughter and granddaughters made sure to take him often, to places where he could be around people who appreciated him. I remember going to one of his birthday parties he celebrated at Planet Hollywood in San Antonio, Tx and even now, I can see him wearing a Planet Hollywood jacket and cap, talking with the many people who came to congratulate him on another birthday.

Then one year he went to a reunion at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas-it must have been his 70th. When he got back home, he told me with his ever present sense of humor “I didn’t recognize any of ’em. They were all on crutches or in wheel chairs.”

Me: What do you think about death and the life after? Do you think there is one?

Dr. Pittman: “I don’t know what that life is but the Bible tells us pretty well. And it’s not in flesh, see, so I don’t know, but I don’t have to know. I know there’s someone up there that’s lookin’ after me.”

Me: So, you don’t worry about it?

Dr. Pittman “No, I don’t worry about it, do you?”

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Jim, Gerri & Jason Briggs

WALKING THROUGH THE STORMS/ TEACHERS OF COURAGE AND GRACE

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Jim, Gerri and Jason Briggs : A family with AIDS

  Never lose hope in the human spirit; we all go through things in life not knowing if we are capable of getting through them. But those who choose to face their fears and walk through the storms will see the rainbows on the other side

~Gerri Briggs, mother of Jason Briggs who died of AIDS at age 2

In 1989, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in Austin, Texas, we were asked to provide care and support for an entire family with AIDS. Jim and Gerri Briggs wanted to continue working in spite of their AIDS diagnosis and they needed someone to take care ofFile_01 bw jason loking  their 6 month old baby, Jason.

Because of their mounting medical bills, Jim and Gerri could not afford to pay but nevertheless, we –RITES OF PASSAGE provided care

jason breathing tube 2  for Jason File_01 jim and jasonand support for his family jason-jo-santa                 until Jason died at age two and a half.

During that time, Gerri’s brother died of AIDS and Jim’s sister died of stomach cancer and Gerri’s father was also diagnosed with cancer and had part of his jaw removed.

This young family-Jim and Gerri were just 24 and 22 when we first met them- faced one painful loss after another with the most amazing courage and grace. I have never seen anything like it before or since. We tried as best we could to document on film, their story so others could learn from them and from what they went through.  Jason-the way we live today  Angels Watch Over Me and Turning Toward the Morning

One of their unique challenges was being a heterosexual couple with AIDS. They were not IV drug users either and in the beginning, it was difficult especially for Jim to accept that his family had a disease connected almost exclusively with gay men. Many of the caregivers and healthcare professionals at that time came from the gay community but in time judgements and boundaries disappeared: MITAKUYE OYASIN’ We Are All Related

Just 2 weeks before they were all three diagnosed with AIDS, Jim and Gerri watched a TV show on AIDS. When the show ended, Gerri had turned to Jim and said “If AIDS is so bad, how come we don’t know anyone who has it?”

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quilt message

It’s been nearly 30 years but those us who were involved with this amazing family were forever changed and for me, whenever I’m in need of courage, I have only to remember Jim, Gerri and Jason.angel picture reborn

 One Night at the Turtle Lodge

CEREMONY AND SPIRIT/THE POWER OF THE DRUM

“It is the drum that carries the voice and the wishes of the people…..we came to the sacred site to ask the drums of the 4 directions to ensure that the spirit of these laws would be heard universally, would travel the universe, would travel around the globe…”

~Anisnhabe Elder Dave Courchene

red shadow:turtle lodge

This was an experience that I wish I could put into words but I don’t know how.

My son and I had been filming a documentary in Manitoba and we were invited to a ceremony at The Turtle Lodge.7-sacred12-1280x500

*The Turtle Lodge Center of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness is a place for reconnecting to the Earth receiving-painting-from-AMC-grand-chief-Ron-Evans& sharing Indigenous ancestral knowledge, founded on the 7 Sacred Laws.

The Turtle Lodge is situated in Sagkeeng First Nation (also known as Fort Alexander), Manitoba, Canada, on the Southern tip of Lake Winnipeg. 

On the night of the ceremony

8thFire_still_MOONthe moon was full and inside the lodge, which was filled with people…red shadow:gold lightjust the sound of the drums..red shadow sun:orbsThere’s nothing that I know of on Earth like the sound and the feeling of those drums being played.

Recordings never seem to come close and no rock concert can compare.

There’s an energy, a spiritual energy that cannot be described, that has to be felt…it’s an ancient feeling..it’s the reason for the survival of the Red Man–this energy, these ceremonies, the power of the drum.

The Elder, Dave Courchene once told me that it was not just the land that the White Man wanted to take from the First Nations People but perhaps even more so, their obsession with destroying the connection these People had with Spirit, they wanted to destroy their Spirit.

But hard as they tried, they were never able to destroy that connection and now the Wisdom and the Vision of the First Nations People comes to the forefront as they are to be the Teachers for these times.

Upon suffering beyond suffering: the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. ~Chief Crazy Horse 1840-1877

Jessica Locke

MESSAGES FROM THE WORLD OF SPIRIT

File_01 jessica last ch

A few minutes went by and I told her, “Jessica, wake up honey we’re almost home now.” and immediately after I got that out of my mouth …we were hit.

We were hit twice and I hope and pray that Jessica was immediately killed and did not suffer any pain. She was still asleep and I pray, I like to think that she just woke up in another life…and that’s what’s kept me going for a long time

~Mary Locke

I never knew Jessica but I met her parents, Cliff and Mary not long after she died and they shared her story with me.

Jessica was killed in a car accident only a few weeks after her 8th birthday. The accident  happened when they-Cliff, Mary and Jessica- were on their way home from church-it was Palm Sunday that year and just minutes from their apartment, their car was hit by a drunk driver. Cliff and Mary had very minor injuries but Jessica died instantly.

The day after the accident Cliff and Mary went back to their apartment and found on Jessica’s bed, a drawing which they came to call ‘The Balloon Picture’. She had drawn it that morning and left it where they would immediately see it.

balloon

THE BALLOON PICTURE shows a happy little girl, floating up to the sky in the basket of a hot air balloon. There are 7 cylinders/markings on the basket and the little girl represents the number 8. Jessica had just celebrated her 8th birthday and her drawing seems to say that in her 8th year, she would make a transition. The colors: Blue represents peace, truth and tranquility. Purple: ceremony, spirituality and mystery

“I think Jessica had a premonition that her life was going to change very dramatically……that week I noticed a change in her…..maturity…”

~Mary Locke

A few weeks later, Cliff and Mary were given Jessica’s note to Dear Mr. God. She had written it the day after her birthday while staying with her great grandmother.

dear mr god

These drawings provided the greatest comfort to Cliff and Mary in a time of enormous grief and sorrow and they have since been shared with many hundreds of parents who have lost a child.

They told me too, of several other experiences which helped them really Know that Jessica watches over them — one of the most powerful of these can be seen in our documentary, Turning Toward the Morning.

turning front cover*Dr. Larry Dossey, New York Times Best selling author, wrote this about Turning Toward the Morning:

Turning Toward the Morning is a celebration of the human spirit. It is one of the most powerful expressions of love, compassion and transcendence I have ever seen. It is a reminder that we humans, for all our faults and failings, also contain the Divine. We are capable of great strengths, great visions, and great wisdom, which often surface in the wake of great pain. Watch this documentary with someone you love, and be prepared for magic.”

Larry Dossey, MD  author of “Healing Words”, “Reinventing Medicine”

I have shown ‘Turning’ at national conferences throughout the US and Canada and Larry is right. There is real MAGIC in Turning Toward the Morning….I have seen it so many times.

Turning Toward the Morning is available here

The symbolic language again: SOMEWHERE OUT THERE was Jessica’s favorite song the year before she died

The American Indian Film Festival

WINNING!

american-indian-film-festival-graphic

The American Indian Film Festival is the world’s longest-running exposition showcasing independent films of U.S. American Indians and First Nations peoples of Canada. For the last 43years, AIFI has served and celebrated generations of Indian filmmakers, performing artists and audiences, with the best of the most current Indian Cinema while drawing into the circle of Hollywood celebrities, industry professionals, student filmmakers, seasoned festival-goers and newcomers traveling to San Francisco from near and far.

Celebrating its 43rd annual, the San Francisco based festival has become a trusted guide to contemporary American Indian life. A reliable, celebratory and empowering event, the Festival’s array of programs – films, workshops, receptions, awards show – work to replace stereotypes with authentic representations of Native traditions, history and present-day life.

filming ekr

Cindy and Andy Pickard filming Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for the documentary, We’re Almost Home Now

My son Andy and I have made probably 20 documentary films since 1989. The first ones were on AIDS and Hospice, loss/grief, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Then we made a couple on aging and later still, we made 3 on Native American Visions and Teachings.  Most recently we started a documentary on the US Prison system.

These documentaries are a beautiful and powerful way to communicate a message but the process of actually filming and editing them is VERY difficult. I’ve often been disappointed to find that some of the people [not all] that we filmed and whose stories we told, were not really the heroes we had thought they were. Sometimes they made demands: they wanted to be paid even though we are doing them a favor by telling their story and even though WE never got paid, some wanted the title of the film changed and threatened to drop out if they didn’t get their way. Or at the last minute, they wanted a photo taken out because they decided they really didn’t like it.

And then finding the right music is a whole project in itself and finding money or trying to is nearly impossible. When we were filming hospice patients, if we had worried and waited to get enough money together, the people whose stories we were telling, would have been long since dead.

noel 3 piece suit

Noel Starblanket at age 24, was the youngest chief ever of all Canadian Indians.

In 2004 we began work on a film which we eventually called Starblanket A Spirit Journey, the story of Chief Noel Starblanket who became the youngest chief ever of all Canadian Indians. We filmed mostly in Saskatchewan and a little in Texas and I’m not going into the details of how difficult it was to film but just to say that we had no money and not even a camera when we arrived in Saskatchewan to begin filming. We had to hope and pray that a non profit organization in Regina, SK would allow us to use a camera….and they did.

Here are some stills and photos from the film.

File_02 OLD STARBLANKET

THE STARBLANKET BAND

unity ride-noel

Chief Noel Starblanket/UNITY RIDE

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Chief Noel Starblanket at his family cemetary

smallboy smile

Legendary Cree Chief, Robert Smallboy

smallboy-child

Robert Smallboy as a child

Bullet_Boots_color_correct copy

POWWOW

little boy-camp-1

Cree boy at Starblanket Reserve-Saskatchewan

When we finished ‘Starblanket’, we entered it in the American Indian Film Festival, not expecting much, but as time went along, it began to seem like we might make it to the finals. At least we had made it into the ‘Official Selection’ category.

So my son, daughter-in law and I made the trip to San Francisco, thinking it would be an adventure no matter what. aiffAnd what an adventure it was when after watching clips from all the nominated films roll across the big screen, we heard “For BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, the winner is Starblanket A Spirit Journey/Cindy and Andy Pickard.”

We’ve won other awards but this was the most exciting and also a great honor, because most of the winning films are from Native American producers and directors.

aiff award

star cover38STARBLANKET A SPIRIT JOURNEY IS AVAILABLE HERE. Included with the DVD is the fabulous CD Soundtrack which came very close to winning ‘Best Compilation’ in the Native American Music Awards.

Ricardo Anglada

THE MIRACLE/ We just cancelled out everything the doctor said. What he said did not make it fact.”

ricardo nyOn October 26th, 2013, during the intermission of a performance in Laredo, TX, Ricardo Anglada suffered a severe ischemic stroke that affected his cerebellum and brain stem. Doctors told him and his family that he wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, eat, and breathe on his own. They said he would never be the same…….We had faith God was going to fully restore him. We just canceled out everything the doctor said. What he said did not make it fact.”

~Rick Anglada

Not too long after I moved to New Mexico [8 years ago] I got the idea that I would like to give some presentations for the Police Departments in the area.

I had shown our documentary, Turning Toward the Morning to all kinds of audiences including clients of drug and alcohol rehab centers and I thought it could also work well for the police. It deals with death… from a car accident as well as suicide, painful situations that police officers often face.

I live about 2 hours from Taos, NM and I thought that Taos would be a good place to start. Also I had a friend, Ed Cardenas who was related to the Chief of Police there so it would be easy to get an appointment.

rick anglada

Rick Anglada former Chief of Police, Taos, New Mexico              Former Lieutenant- New Mexico State Police

Rick Anglada became the Chief of Police in Taos after retiring from several years with The New Mexico State Police.

When Ed and I walked into Rick’s office, we found him sitting on an exercise ball behind his desk. He was friendly and welcoming and his office felt friendly too.–he had a Superman lunch box that his kids had once given him and I think there was a Superman poster too and lots of photos on the wall and and inspirational quotes taped to his desk.

He seemed interested in the presentations- He told us that there was nothing taught at The Police Academy about the emotional/psychological side of dealing with death and he thought the presentations could be helpful for his officers.

But the main thing we talked about in that visit, were his kids, in particular his son Ricardo. ricardo before sRicardo, he told us, was one of the top flamenco guitarists in the United States,

He asked if he could play some of Ricardo’s music for us-he had several CDs and he told us that the music made him cry. What a most unusual Chief of Police I was thinking, really what an unusual man!

After we listened to the music, I gave Rick a copy of the DVD and told him I would check back with him… but not long after that visit, Rick Anglada resigned from the Taos Police Department and moved with his family to Albuquerque.

And then it was a long time before I heard anything about Rick. When I did, it was not about Rick but about his son, Ricardo: From a mutual friend, I heard that while performing in Laredo, Texas, Ricardo Anglada had suffered a severe stroke and the prognosis was poor. He was 29 years old.

Through friends and Facebook and some newspaper articles, I tried to keep updated on how Ricardo was doing but all I could learn was that he was recovering very slowly. He was first flown to the Stroke Unit ricardo hospitalat the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and then, after a period of rehabilitation at UNMH, his family had brought him home.

Nearly a year passed and I got few updates but in July of 2014, I emailed Rick to ask if we could dedicate our newest documentary to Ricardo. We always dedicate our films to someone and Ricardo Anglada seemed right for this particular film which is, among other things, about the music and the art of northern New Mexico, as well as living off the land.

Rick was happy about the dedication and he told me that Ricardo had been making progress though he still had a long road ahead of him. ricardo-acuRicardo’s family had used a combination of faith, alternative therapies-acupuncture, massage, healthy food, time spent in nature and a huge prayer chain to bring about his healing.

So my son and I started working on a dedication for Ricardo and then I got an email from Rick:

“I’m wondering if Ricardo should play a little piece of music too. To show how far he had come.”

I thought this was a great idea and told Rick so. We were planning a premiere of our film, ON THE LAND ~Together with the Earthposter at the Taos Center for the Arts and  were expecting positive media coverage. And the Angladas had a lot of friends and family in Taos so it seemed the perfect, welcoming place for Ricardo’s first public performance since the stroke.

Rick wrote again

“Ricardo is working on a piece to play. It will be a great testament to healthy living and getting back to the basics.”

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It was a magical night, that night of the premiere — the auditorium was filled with probably 250 people. There were some speakers, a very young drummer from Taos Pueblo and a band playing high energy Spanish music.

And then Rick Anglada talked about his son. He explained the cause of the stroke: Ricardo had often popped his neck because of the position he was constantly in, playing guitar and that night in Laredo, when he popped his neck he had ruptured an artery.

And he talked about the doctor who had originally treated Ricardo and how this doctor had likened his condition to an electric cord with the plug cut.

Then he introduced Ricardo.

And Ricardo, the professional flamenco guitarist, dressed all in black, came from the back of the stage andricardo _taos sat down and played so perfectly to an emotional audience in awe, an audience who gave him a standing ovation that went on and on and an audience who will never forget that night that they witnessed a miracle.

I haven’t kept in close touch with Rick or Ricardo since that evening but I know that Ricardo is playing regularly ricardo flamenco fabwith his original flamenco group just as his father wrote in the dedication: “He will be back with greater fervor and deeper musicality because of what he has gone through.”

FLAMENCO 2You can watch Ricardo perform in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and sometimes you can catch Rick Anglada in an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Better Call Saul’.

So in the words of the prophets:

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending.

MITAKUYE OYASIN:We Are All Related

Below is the dedication we did for Ricardo and also a version of Jessica Locke’s favorite song, ‘Somewhere Out There’ which she often sang….the year before she died…

On The Land – dedication only from Andy Pickard on Vimeo.

COME TO THE EDGE [My Life Story Part 4]

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.”
~Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

*I took a little break from writing ‘My Life Story’ but then I got some unexpected encouragement so I’m continuing on. Photo above: Cindy Pickard, Dr.Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Andy Pickard

THE ‘THERAPIST’

I sunk to the very bottom when I was 26 years old…I was drinking day and night and I was cutting myself-my arms with razor blades. I was desperately unhappy and I didn’t know who to talk to or what to do. My parents were not sympathetic..they had dreamed of the life they thought I should be living and I was disappointing them hugely. I had a few friends but none who could understand what I was going through.

I made an appointment with a therapist someone recommended. This ‘therapist’ was a former Catholic priest married to a former Catholic nun. He was cold and unwelcoming and what he said to me was “I will only see you if you agree to work on your marriage.” “Work on”? How do you”work on” something when there’s nothing there? What I needed for the sake of myself, my son and my husband was to get out of the marriage.

I remember too that at that time I was wearing the engagement ring my dad had once given my mother.ruth:pearlsAnd even though I hadn’t liked my mother much..my mother died when I was nine ..the ring was really the only thing I had of hers. The ‘therapist’ spotted it and said to me “Why are you wearing that ring? Are you married to your father?”

What an idiot!! Trying to analyze someone when he knew nothing of life and this is true of so many ‘therapists’. There are very, very few who have the sensitivity and understanding to work with people in crisis and this man was not one of them. I didn’t go back for another appointment and I wrote a letter of complaint to the American Psychological Association.

I was even lower than low then…I was at the END.

JOHN BRADSHAW

But in my darkest hour something amazing happened: my stepsister got me an appointment with John Bradshaw..it was the 11th hour because John had decided not to take any more private clients. I was one of the very last.JOHN BRADSHAWJohn Elliot Bradshaw was an American educator, counselor, motivational speaker, and author who hosted a number of PBS television programs on topics such as addiction, recovery, codependency, and spirituality.

From the time I first walked in to John’s office at Palmer Episcopal Church in Houston, I knew that as bad as things seemed, somehow and in some way everything was going to be OK.

I think it was because John had the gift of Really Listening. I could talk to him freely about Everything without being judged….maybe it was because we were both the astrological sign of Cancer [Cancers are known to be sensitive and intuitive..and of course they also have their weaknesses] but John and I understood each other.

He had a sense of humor too…When I told him about my drinking problem, he told me he wanted me to go to AA. I told him I didn’t want to go and he said “Just try it for 6 weeks and if you don’t like it, you’ll be right in time for the holidays and you can start drinking again.” I liked this non serious approach to my shameful problem and I went to AA meetings.. for a while.

Then after maybe 6 months, I couldn’t stand another meeting. I think the end came for me when a homeless man walked into one of the meetings..he had a six pack of beer and he sat down hoping I felt, to be somehow included. This particular meeting was made up of doctors, lawyers and business people mostly from the upper class and they would have had nothing to do with him beer or no beer. So sadly, no one spoke to him and I never went to another meeting.

When I had my next appointment with John, I told him that the only time I had ‘a desire to drink’ was after an AA Meeting. “Then don’t go” he said “They aren’t right for you.” And I didn’t go and I didn’t drink for about 5 years and when I did start drinking again, it was no longer a problem….because I ‘had a life.’

John understood from the beginning that I had to get out of my marriage..he was supportive all the way through and often when I didn’t know what to do, he would say “Make a decision not to make a decision today.” And that helped me a lot.

Eventually I got a divorce and though it was painful in some ways and I was totally terrified, I was free to start on my journey. I could never have followed the path I’ve followed in this lifetime if I had been married or even in a serious relationship. I needed to be free of the expectations of others.

DR. ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS

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“Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, a pioneer in Near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying(1969), where she first discussed what is now known as the Kübler-Ross model. In this work she proposed the now famous Five Stages of Grief as a pattern of adjustment.”

My time of therapy was ending with John when Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came to Houston to do a lecture at The University of Houston. I had no plans to go to the lecture but my boyfriend at the time had a ticket and he gave it to me.

So I went by myself and I sat in one of the back rows of the auditorium…. Elisabeth was introduced and started to speak and the sound system went out completely. Elisabeth had a strong German accent and she was very soft-spoken so she was not able to project her voice without a microphone. She asked everyone who wanted to hear her to come to the very front row but most of the audience didn’t want to do that..they preferred to sit where they were and complain.

I moved to the very front row however..right in front of Elisabeth. I didn’t want to miss a word she said..there was something mystical and life changing happening..information I needed..I could feel it.ekr hand

Elisabeth talked about her 5 day live in workshops which were held throughout the world and which she called Life, Death and Transition/LDT Workshops.paul: ekr workshopShe explained that those people with the greatest need [death of a child, terminal illness etc] were accepted into the workshops first and at that time, there was a 6 month waiting list.

The moment I got home, I called the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Center and got on the waiting list.

COME TO THE EDGE

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

Six months later, with fear and trepidation, I traveled to Oceanside, California for my first LDT workshop.

It’s not possible to put into words what that workshop was like…..I’ve never experienced anything like it on this Earth, not anything that could begin to compare.

A group of 70 or so people from all over the U.S, Canada and Europe, came together, many of whom had experienced the greatest tragedies that life can bring: a woman who while skiing with her 9 year old son, watched him ski off a cliff and die,… File_01 ekr:khamalaA couple who after losing their 12 year old son to cancer, courageously brought their terminally ill, 14 year old daughter to the workshop…she died a few weeks later. A young dentist dealing with a recent ALS diagnosis,…

booksign-ekr-works1…a man whose wife/soulmate had died only a few days before in a Chicago plane crash. And then were those of us who were dealing with past losses and grief and as well, a few chaplains, social workers and psychiatrists. These were the people who made up the workshop.

Every one who wanted to [there was never any pressure to do anything] worked with Elisabeth one on one but in front of the group. She wanted us to understand that though we might think that we are alone with our problems and that our pain is unique, we all share the same feelings..we are not alone but rather all connected. Or in the words of the Native American People: ‘MITAKUYE OYASIN’ We Are All Related.

We worked hard from probably 9 am til far into the evening…there was a lot of crying and screaming and File_06 ekr wkshop singthen there was a lot of singing–people brought their guitars, flutes etc and we sang songs like Where Have All The Flowers Gone and Elisabeth’s favorite You Are My Sunshine.

During the workshop, from time to time Elisabeth’s ‘read’ our drawings. At the beginning of the workshop, we were all given a piece of white paper, a box of crayons and 10 minutes to make a drawing. This is a whole line of study in itself

eliza's drawing

This drawing though it is not from the workshops is an example of the kind of drawings that people made. This was drawn by a teenage girl who died a few years after she did this drawing

On the last evening a bonfire was built and everyone gathered around, sang songs and any spiritual leaders-ministers, rabbis, imams were invited to say a prayer from their particular religion.

Then one at a time, the participants came to the fire and threw in a pine cone which represented what they were leaving behind and what they wanted to take with them.

shooting starElisabeth usually told some of her favorite stories during the workshops. One that I never forget was the story of a woman whose young daughter was killed by a shark. This woman had taken her children to the beach; she had closed her eyes for just a few minutes and her daughter who was wading near the shore was suddenly grabbed by a shark. When they tried to recover her body, only her hand was left.

This grieving mother came to a workshop and she brought with her one of her daughter’s dresses-people often brought photos and personal items of the ones they had lost. Elisabeth suggested to this woman that she might let go of the dress..some time had passed but the woman didn’t want to and Elisabeth said no more. That night however at the bonfire, this grieving mother courageously brought her daughter’s dress instead of a pine cone and at the very moment she threw the dress into the fire, a huge shooting star shot across the night sky. This was the magic of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and the Life, Death and Transition workshops.

For me, these were the years of learning, and preparation for what would come next.

One evening I answered the phone and the voice on the other end said “Hello Cindy, this is Elisabeth.” I was so shocked, I hardly knew what to say. The world famous Elisabeth Kubler-Ross calling ME??? But that’s how she was..completely down to earth, always accessible except to those who she felt were using her–At the workshops, she was often up most of the night, meeting with the ones who needed her.

In this case, she called because I had contacted her Center a few weeks earlier to ask if there was a way I could get off Valium and she was responding to that. She also asked me to pick her up at the airport –she would be coming into Houston in a few weeks to do another lecture. And of course I was very happy to do that!

File_01 ekr & the nuns

Cindy Pickard, Andy Pickard & Elisabeth making the bunny ears, and friends who were involved in bringing Elisabeth to Houston.

My time in Houston was thankfully coming to an end–my son and I moved to Austin after almost every home on our block was broken into. Austin was a welcome change and I continued my work with Elisabeth there, organizing some lectures for her.

Whenever Elisabeth gave a lecture, she always saw a few people privately and since I was organizing the lectures, I was also in charge of meeting with and scheduling the people who wanted to see her. I remember one lecture where nearly all those who came to meet with her privately, were parents whose sons had committed suicide.

suicide note chris

excerpt from a note written by a teenage boy who killed himself soon after this was written..

ekr:chris c

excerpt from a letter written by Elisabeth to the father of the boy who wrote the note above

In those days, I was working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant at a Rehab Hospital in Austin and I hated it! I hated it because the patients were not helped emotionally–the focus was entirely on trying to rehabilitate their bodies. Many of these patients were young and were either paralyzed or had head injuries from motor cycle accidents, diving accidents or car wrecks. And then there were the stroke patients. The atmosphere was filled with sadness, despair and hopelessness and one of my happier days was the day I told my supervisor that I was quitting..quitting and furthermore, I hated Occupational Therapy. You can call it unprofessional but it was just the simple truth. I went down to the cafeteria and had a biscuit with marmalade and I felt free again.

But I did have one experience there at that rehab hospital that made it worthwhile. I worked with a patient named Robert/Roberto who was completely paralyzed from the neck down. He was from Mexico and did not speak English but I could feel how kindhearted he was and also how much he was suffering. He had loved riding his motorcycle but his wife-I remember her name was Mary-was afraid of motorcycles and would never ride with him. One Mothers Day however, she agreed to go for a ride. It was a beautiful day and they were riding in the country when an old couple accidentally ran them off the road. Mary was killed and Robert was left completely paralyzed. He wanted to die and begged those who brought him to the hospital..to let him go.

Elisabeth was coming in to Austin to give a lecture and for some reason, I felt that Robert might want to go. He wouldn’t be able to understand her but still…So I talked with Robert’s nurse since he would be responsible for getting Robert to the lecture. “It’s a waste of time.” he said. “He won’t be able to understand anything..it’s a waste of time.”

But finally he agreed that Robert could go.

When I picked Elisabeth up at the airport, she asked who would be at the lecture and I told her about Robert. “Then I speak directly to him.” she said. And she did somehow though there were probably 1000 people in the audience. She reached him in some way because he was changed after that. He committed himself to finding a way to care for his young children, he went back to school and I heard later that he married the recreation therapist.

I went to 2 more LDT workshops-one in California and one in Kamloops BC and I went to a few others that were given by Elisabeth’s staff. I also traveled to an ashram in India, consulted astrologers, went through some more counseling and read lots of spiritual books. I was learning a lot but I had no idea of what I was supposed to do with my life.

Then one afternoon I laid down to take a nap and as I put my head on the pillow, it was as if I fell into a sea of bright light. For a few minutes, warm bright light surrounded me. A change of some sort was coming…

PART 5 OF ‘MY LIFE STORY’ TO BE CONTINUED

Below is a video clip from a talk Elisabeth gave to high-school students and also the song, “If You Want To Sing Out” from the movie, Harold and Maude. I’m including it because it inspired me to quit my Occupational Therapy job which I needed to do in order to take  the next step on my journey. And it is one of my most favorite songs.

*If you appreciate this blog, if it’s meaningful in some way and you would like to contribute, I have a gofundme page and you can also contribute here Donate and Pay It Forward   MANY THANKS!

The Mustard Seed/Going to the Land of the Light

“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.”
― Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

This past Saturday, I drove to a little town west of Taos, New Mexico….penasco to visit 2 women whom I hadn’t met but had briefly communicated with. Both these women are in some way involved in the arts and I have been looking for places where my partner, Jody Armijo [the Brown Piglet] ….valentine altar flowers

red herat:gold rose:flower      ….could exhibit some of his art. *You can buy Jody’s art at LA CASA DE ROSAS

Many of these little towns have arts and craft festivals in the summer …. so that’s why I went.

On the way I stopped for a moment at Sipipu Ski Valley and while I was sitting in the parking lot in my truck, I heard a song I’ve never heard before….searching for it this morning, I can’t find it but the words were something like “Did you have something more to say when the angels took you by surprise..I’ll be your songwriter today..”

I drove on to visit Jean, the first of the 2 women..at her gallery. I always bring some sort of gift when I’m going to visit someone for the first time and for Jean I brought my most favorite documentary film that we have made, Turning Toward the Morning….about the loss of a child, about LIFE…..

turning front cover

“Turning Toward the Morning is one of the most powerful expressions of love, compassion and transcendence that I have ever seen…it is a reminder that we are capable of great strengths great visions and great wisdom which often surface in the wake of great pain.” Larry Dossey MD , author of New York Times Bestseller, Healing Words

When I handed Jean the DVD, she told me that she had lost 2 children, her only two. She didn’t talk about their deaths except to say that her daughter had died just a year ago and that she would be having a celebration of her daughter’s life in May. She said she would pass the DVD on to a friend who had lost a child 26 years ago and then she said “It doesn’t matter how much time passes, the grief never goes away.”

I drove on then to visit Natalie who is in charge of an annual cultural celebration in this tiny town.celebracion penasco We talked first about a common connection we had, a friend who we had both planned to meet with at the celebration in the summer. But this friend had died suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago. We went on to talk about other things: where Jody could show his art, the growing drug problems, the lack of restaurants in this small town etc. and in the course of the conversation, Natalie told me about her niece who had died very recently. She had been shot in the head accidentally when 2 boys she was with, got into a fight. She had left behind a 3 year old son.

Driving home, I thought about how everything that day had seemed to be connected: the song I heard, the DVD I brought to Jean, the friend who had brought Natalie and me together before she died and Natalie’s niece who had died so young and unexpectedly.

And I thought too about the story of the Buddha and the mustard seed. The story goes something like this: kisa-gotamiKisa Gotami’s young son had died and she went to see the Buddha hoping he could bring her son back to life. He told her he would but first she had to visit every family in the village and bring back a mustard seed from any family who had never experienced a death. She went from house to house but she could find no one who had not had a death in their family.

“Kisa Gotami finally came to realize that there is no one in the world who had never lost a family member to death. She now understood that death is inevitable and a natural part of life.”

Putting aside her grief, she buried her son in the forest. Shen then returned to the Buddha and became his follower.

Death has been my teacher in this lifetime: the death of my mother when I was nine, the death [suicide] of my brother when he was 16 and I was 19, a late miscarriage I had on my 21rst birthday plus the usual expected deaths: grandparents, uncle, father, stepmother etc.

For the early part of my life–teens and early 20s, I thought that I must be a REALLY bad person to have all these things happen but later, after time spent with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I understood that death was my teacher and I set out to learn from it.

So I started working with terminally ill patientsme:ot:hospice art

and sometimes with parents who had lost a child

shirley:coryCory Enebrad died of cancer at age 9 and like many children who die at a young age, he was ‘an old wise soul’. The words of this song are his and his mother’s

EVERMORE

by Shirley and Cory Enebrad

Where are you going my little one, little one?

Where are you going my little one, my son?

I’m going with God to the land of the light,

the light we all shine in our hearts.

And why are you going my little one, little one?

Why are you going without me my son?

I’m going with God to the land of the sun.

My time here on earth is all done.

I loved being with these people. Visits with them always put my life in perspective because many [not all], had reached a place that I was unconsciously seeking: a place where there was no future or worries or fear. A place of peace because there was no future.

And as I spent time with them and also with parents who had lost a child, I found too, that many were very in touch with ‘the other side’. I remember a man we took care of who was in the very last stages of AIDS. One day he said to me “My father is coming to see me in 2 weeks.” I knew that his father had died several years before but I also saw that he was in touch with his father in spirit and exactly 2 weeks later, he died. His father had come to get him. I have written a lot about this in previous posts so I won’t go into it here but just to say that this world of spirit is as real, maybe more real than the one most of us live in.

And I found that this world was accessible to the most unexpected people. Hip GrandmaMy stepmother was one of the most superficial people I have ever known. She was completely untouched by other people’s suffering and I remember when I was about 13, riding in the car with her and her best friend, sitting in the back seat and listening to their absolutely SHALLOW conversation. Making faces at them behind their backs and wondering how anyone could be this ridiculous.

My stepmother’s life consisted of going shopping at the very best stores, taking expensive trips to England, Scotland, Russia, India [she never saw the poverty there] and playing bridge. She loved parties and vodka martinis and she would have nothing to do with anyone who wasn’t, as she put it “from a nice family”. An example of a nice family would be the George Bush family who lived down the street from us in Houston.

My stepmother and I were not close and didn’t like each other until a few years before she died. She was in her 90s then, most of her friends had died and I knew she was lonely so I started keeping in touch with her more and more.

One Friday night, I called her. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer but she was not expected to die imminently…. the doctors had given her at least 6 months or more.

“I love you and I miss you. When are you coming to see me?” she asked. “I’ll come on Monday” I said.  I was in New Mexico and she was in Houston. ” I won’t be here.” she said “I’m going to fly away.” And she died the next morning.

The weekend visits with Jean and Natalie were a reminder, a good reminder of how fragile life is or as Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene once put it ” Our time is so short here on this little planet.”

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on Earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had. ~
~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

I just looked outside to see 2 of my wolfdogs playing.shiloh with roadie Apollo, who I rescued last summer from a very abusive situation, is playing with Shiloh, the alpha. Apollo, the omega, is even putting Shiloh down on the ground. Shiloh is allowing this. Their big wolf tails are wagging and they are leaping in the air with joy and I feel so happy watching them……. And after 3 days of dealing with wet wood, I finally got a nice fire started in the wood stove. Death has not touched me yet tonight.

.

A favorite poem followed by my usual request:

 

BUT YOU DIDN’T

Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?

I thought you’d kill me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was
formal, and you came in jeans?
I thought you’d hate me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the times I’d flirt with
other boys just to make you jealous, and
you were?
I thought you’d drop me…
But you didn’t.

There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,
to keep me happy, to love me, and there are
so many things I wanted to tell
you when you returned from
Vietnam…
But you didn’t.

~Merrill Glass

 

If you want to contribute to the continuation of this blog and myself, you can on my gofundme page. There are many stories on that page about how I arrived at where I am today  BUENO AND THANK YOU.