Of Love & Loss: A Tribute to Rowen
Dear readers, Every week there is a plethora of subjects rolling around my head regarding what the topic of this weeks blog will be. This weeks subject was almost 'Ten Steps to Prevent Breast Cancer', but when I allowed myself to drop into what was real for me, the topic of love and loss took the stage.
This photo was taken exactly one year ago. I am on the left and my dear friend Rowen is on the right. (Rowen was the mother of my twenty year old niece, Jasmine. She was a dear friend and family member and has been like a sister to me.) In this photo she was visiting Wind Horse Sanctuary for a week with her sweet dog Satya and became inspired to move to Grass Valley. Rowen had been diagnosed in January of 2016 with Stage 3 Colorectal Cancer. During her visit she was feeling healthy and was motivated to make a positive change in her life. It was a hopeful time, one where I was excited to have a dear friend come live in the area (one year earlier, my best friend, Deb had died from Leukemia) and having Rowen close sounded like a healing prospect for the both of us.
Rowen moved to Grass Valley in September 2016. Two weeks after her move I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. Wow. The diagnosis turned my world upside down. Rowen, being the dedicated and loving friend that she was accompanied Syris and I to all of my first doctors visits: oncologist, natural doctors, surgeons, radiologists etc. She held me as I cried in the parking lot after one particular doctor told me in order to survive I had to dose my body with massive amounts of chemotherapy, radiation, hormones and surgically remove my breast. (Please note: I did none of the prescribed therapies and am thriving and healing at a rapid pace!) Rowen was on her own scary health journey and had a nine month head start on the shadow path of cancer. She knew what I was in for and held me with tender compassion.
As time unfolded it became clear to me that my choice of cancer healing would be an exclusively natural route. Rowen was a licensed midwife, health practitioner and highly knowledgable about supplements and methods of healing cancer. In many ways Rowen midwifed me through the beginning of my journey. With her help, love and encouragement I became more solid in my healing plan and knew I would find my way.
This past winter in Grass Valley and all of Northern California was hideously rough. The blinding rain, thundershowers, snow, hail and incessant turbulence wore down even the most resilient of souls. Rowen and I were no exception. To walk the path of cancer, whether you choose an allopathic or natural route requires a fierce courage. To show up through constant tests, following a strict protocol and facing the mental demon of one's fear of mortality is arduous to say the least. One must not only choose to find the positive through every twist and turn of the road but also acknowledge the daily fear of one's death.
I witnessed Rowen's spirit gradually become whittled away by the heaviness of cancer, the sheer discipline it took and certain life circumstances which played out for her that were challenging to her soul. It was heart-breaking to feel helpless in the face of her illness. The most painful thing is to see someone you love decline and not be able to help.
In April, one of Rowen's closest friends Kathy stepped forward and performed the herculean task of moving Rowen to Santa Cruz, where she could have 24/7 care. Jean, Rowen's mother, came out to Santa Cruz to care for her. Between Jean, Jasmine, a few generous friends, and my family, Rowen had solid, loving care for the last few months of her life.
I last saw Rowen in the beginning of May. I was blessed to be able to massage her aching feet and arms and sit quietly with her holding her hand. Those precious moments spent in silence will never be forgotten. Little did I know I would never see her again.
Beloved Rowen died on July 9, 2017. She touched many peoples lives with her fierce dedication to her midwifery path, her devoutness as a friend and all whom she loved. Her daughter Jasmine was the light of her life. Second to Jasmine was Satya, her 12 year old Blue Heeler dog whom I am fortunate to care for now.
Rowen lives on. I think of her everyday. As the light plays upon the pond shown in this photo here, I think of her as the bright beam of sunlight she was. I have family photos going back to when our kids were little scattered around my house. Satya's wagging tail and silly side movements of her head remind me of her. There are the countless gifts she shared with me over the years, which hold her memory. Her spirit and love remains even though her body is gone. I will never forget her quick slicing humor, she could always make me laugh. Then there were the moments where I feared her and her scorpionic tongue, she was raw and real. I loved her for this but was always careful how I phrased things!
Rowen lived a short life. Gone at 47 she leaves behind a legacy of self-proclaimed 'baby-catching, butter loving' grace. There is another dazzling light in the sky.
I'm giving myself time to be with the loss of another dear friend. Grief is not easy. At one moment you're fine and then another a tempestuous hurricane hits.
"To walk through grief is a heroic journey. No other challenges in life approaches it. Grief resembles a fire raging between us and our destination, and we cannot go around, over, or under it; we must go through it." 'The Gifts of Grief' by Therese Tappouni
It is a mystery to me why two of my closest friends, Deb and Rowen died at such a young age (46 and 47) within two years of one another and I am healing my own cancer diagnosis at a remarkably fast pace. (I'm actually breaking records in the particular healing route I've chosen!) On one hand, I'm grateful my fate is to live to tell the tale of healing cancer naturally but on the other, I'm sad to not have these two beauties by my side.
May we all deeply love and cherish those we're blessed to care for. If it's one thing I've learned in the past few years though the death of two of my closest friends and my own cancer journey, it's that life is unbelievable short and precious. Do not take anything for granted. Make sure you tell your beloveds you love them as you never know when your last moment might be.
With love and gratitude,
PS One of the side benefits to the incredible amount of loss I've experienced in the past few years is the creation of 'Grief Rituals with Horses'. I've been holding them for almost two years now and each one is cathartic and life changing. It's a safe space to give voice to your grief, be heard, validated and acknowledged in the process. For more info go to 9/3 Grief Ritual. They do fill fast and there are just a few spots left for the one on 9/3!