My Aunt Pat

Start from where you are

Not from where you wish to be.

The work you’re doing

Becomes your path.

–Ram Dass

I wish these words had entered my awareness sooner than 2020!

December 2017, I had just helped my father move for the fifth time in four years and admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. I wanted to return to studio practice for much-needed rest and rejuvenation. Then my aunt died suddenly mid-December, and I was awash with a grief that took me totally by surprise.

Aunt Pat in one of her favorite RED sweaters.

I had been my aunt’s power of attorney for five years, assisting her with legal affairs; shopping; numerous emergency room visits; hip surgery and rehab; and the sorting and dispersal of belongings for her move to an assisted living facility. For all of this, it was a ten-hour drive each way for me. After agreeing to move to assisted living only eight miles from me in North Carolina, she fell and fractured her pelvis the night before I was arriving to load her remaining belongings and begin our 2-day drive to NC. It was necessary to quickly find an acceptable rehab facility and convince the NC assisted living to hold her room.

And then… And then…

Sigh. Breathe in. Breathe out.

In addition to those more stressful lowlights, and more importantly, I usually enjoyed her company and spent pleasurable hours working on jigsaw puzzles, laughing, chatting, sitting together quietly, having lunch with card games at my house, or going to restaurants for lunch.

Card Shark Aunt Pat. She loved whooping my dad and me in Rummy 500! It used to be scotch on the rocks or wine, but at this point, she was sipping lemonade, coke, and water. Winning can make you so thirsty 😉

In addition, and to be honest, I was also the recipient of much of her anger and confusion during those five years. She could say the meanest and most-cutting things. An assisted-living staff tried to soothe my tears, saying it was common for the primary caregiver to receive the full assault. Hearing that on an intellectual level didn’t always reduce or eliminate my emotional responses though. It was challenging to NOT take those moments personally.

All this to say that I had a complicated relationship with a strong, independent woman who wanted “to live longer than Mama,” which she did when she breezed by 93. We planned her finances for longevity, and she bounced away from the precipice so many times I believed she’d live to 100 for sure! That’s why, during that final ER visit and return to her home, I thought she would rally. I really did. She was ‘only’ 96 years old, for goodness sake!

Grief is confusing, distracting, and paralyzing. It rises and falls, ebbs and flows.

I shifted into learning how to be an executor to settle my aunt’s estate. My art practice reduced to a small pilot light within.

ALL OF THIS was my path at the time. Not what I had imagined, or planned, or hoped for… but what LIFE presented. My path became how I chose to respond to life’s circumstances, an idea I’d been exposed to through meditation practice and sangha. No sense being frustrated and angry “waiting for my life to start when this is over.” Rather…

‘Start from where I am,

not where I wish to be.

The work I’m doing IS my path.’


P.S. My intention for this post was NOTHING close to what you’ve read!! I guess Aunt Pat wanted to visit again; she would have been 99 this month.

A real beauty!!