After I wrapped my head around the point of view that in fact I was with her as she died, just not the way I’d imagined it to look like physically, I was able to completely surrender to the adventure of figuring out how to communicate with her, and transform this cruise to a good thing, a gift rather than a nightmare.

My family assured me they didn’t need me to try to find a way home from Athens, which was our port of call the following day. They encouraged me to continue my trip as originally planned, said that the inevitable funeral would wait as they sorted out the arrangements and notified the many social groups with which my mother had been involved. I was grateful to my family because the effort it would take to try to get home mid cruise would be a significant and highly stressful interruption to the grieving process that had begun.

As the philosophy goes, it did indeed turn out to be utterly perfect for me to be away and undistracted for the next few days. With each new experience I invited my mother’s spirit to use my senses and enjoy the sensual delights of this exquisite life without any physical limitations. Almost as if I was on an impromptu spiritual pilgrimage I lit candles for her in many churches in Europe. From the sacred site of the last home of the Virgin Mary in Turkey I brought back holy water to sprinkle on her grave.

My mother loved to swim and I managed against the odds to frolic in turquoise waters off the sandy shores of Crete. I’m sure she delighted in the hazelnut chocolate Gelato, and other fine desserts that abounded. I gave her my ears to listen to gorgeous organ music in a tiny church off the Piazza Novella in Rome. She helped me understand the murals of biblical themes on the walls of the Sistine Chapel that were identified in Latin, one of her languages. And I sat and wept quietly each night on my balcony, grateful to have such a perfect blessing of a designated balcony room with my cruise package, as I looked out over the quiet dark water under the stars integrating it all.

The management of the ship was incredibly kind to me and allowed me to call home anytime I wanted, for any length of time, as a complementary courtesy. That generosity along with having a balcony to be alone on with my thoughts was what made it possible not only to be away from my family those first days, but to actually enjoy every moment of the gift of this adventure. With my mother’s insatiable appetite for new experiences, it actually made sense that one of us was traveling at the time of her transition.

The day after she died, although her passing was not yet confirmed to me by my family, I was in Athens at the Parthenon feeling quite surreal about the whole thing after a night of mystical experiences and dreams. While descending from the ruins a white butterfly came up to me and followed me around, flitting and circling close to my head, in no hurry to move on. It was extraordinary. I was reminded of Wayne Dyer’s written account of his experience with a butterfly on a Hawaiian beach; a butterfly he thought was a dearly departed friend which he started to communicate with it as it followed him home. With that recalled suggestion, I decided to believe that my mom was saying, ‘ Hi!’ in that ancient temple of higher learning, mythology and wisdom.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more deeply or so consistently present in the moment as I was those days traveling Europe and on the ship. Time was so richly textured, and I delighted in sharing everything yummy, beautiful and pleasurable with my mom in spirit. I was so relieved she wasn’t sick anymore. I was so thankful I could rest from the stress of the long year of her deteriorating health and increased care taking. And now with such appropriate timing, every need of my own was taken care of competently and thoughtfully by the crew.

Although I’ve traveled the globe for decades, on this journey I was filled with the wonder born from a deeper awareness and appreciation of how expansive this world is, how BIG life is; how lovely it is to flow with the bounty of it all, to be present and willingly receptive to the small and sizable miracles that align together like pearls on a string.

In my mothers death I became more alive.

And so on the morning of her funeral, after three short days to recover from jet lag, a cold that started on the plane, coming back to a broken fridge and the first experience of being at home without her familiar physical presence, I had the eulogy I’d written the day before in my purse. That morning I decided I was satisfied with my life with her, my time with her. It was enough.

The miracle that followed unfolded in the perfectly beautiful chapel she had chosen, which I was seeing for the first time. The photo montages we created were lovingly displayed, the flowers colourful and cheerfully arranged, the handmade blue urn stunning and restful, the wall to ceiling window as natural background. In this peaceful and beautiful spacious room, I along with my family greeted each friend who entered.

Shortly after, I began to physically feel the tangible presence of all the Love in the room. The space was virtually brimming, shimmering with Love. It became intoxicating to witness all the love that preceded each guest as they approached, as I inhaled it.

In that context, while inspiring both gratitude and amazement, there was no room for sadness or regret in my body. Only joy. I became happier and happier to see each familiar and unfamiliar face as my being literally received and expanded with their love for my mother and our family.

This feeling was reminiscent of the expansiveness I experienced while on the ship and in special sites in Europe. It’s like I was already stretched and prepped on the cruise to receive the true expansion of the life force pulsing within Joy, delivered by Love on this day. I was the only one in the room beaming with a cheerful smile and it was OK.

For those moments, on that day, I was far away from sadness and grief. Love for my mother pouring in from Heaven and earth filled the physical space she had left behind.

Laila Ghattas
11/01/08

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ON COPING WITH A DYING PARENT

EULOGY honouring Margaret Ghattas

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