In Memory of Tom (1/5/71 to 6/16/86)

2016 proved to be quite a year. Quite a few major life-changing events occurred and I’m still processing many of them. Today, in honor of my brother Tom’s birthday, I’m going to highlight just a few; broad-stroking it. I’ll fill in the details as I go along.

So, let’s see – 2016 was my 30th wedding anniversary, the 30th anniversary of my brother Tom’s murder, my 50th birthday and the year my mother-in-law passed away. I’d say that was quite enough dramatic life changes for one year.

I think the one that surprised me the most with its impact was turning 50. I honestly believed it would be just another birthday but sometime after the 2016 Readers Studio and the lessons gained there I began to realize that I had entered an incubatory period and the me that emerged was quite different than the me who entered.

So, in honor of my brother Tom, I’ve decided to start back into blogging by remembering him. I’m also including articles from New York Magazine written about him. One when he was around 10 and the other after he was killed.

I still remember the day my mother went into labor with Tom. It was 1971 and we lived in Woodside, Queens. We had been staying with my maternal grandmother on the West side of Manhattan in anticipation of Tom’s immanent arrival but apparently the doctors told Mom that she still had a few days to go so we returned home. I can still smell the aroma of fresh baked bread that used to permeate the air going over the Queensboro Bridge emanating from the Silver Cup bread factory (now a movie studio). I remember the weird noises the cab’s tires made as they drove over the grating on the bridge. We finally arrived at our apartment and settled into our beds (my younger sister and I were in our pajamas). It seemed only minutes later when Mom came to wake us up – it seemed Tom had decided to join the party after all. So we put our coats back on and trudged downstairs to get a cab back to Manhattan so Mom could go to the hospital and give birth. We should have known Tom would create his own unique path in life.

In many ways, Tom was the best of us. He had a fierce temper which he eventually learned to control and channel into healthier outlets. He was a redhead like our sister and maternal grandfather. He was also quite the clown – he could make us laugh no matter how angry or tense things were. Tom loved animals. His menagerie of pets ranged from cats and dogs to parakeets and snakes. We all watched as he’d bring home new inhabitants – a nasty small turtle that was quite a snapper, goldfish, etc. He was a prankster – once setting up sofa cushions, clothes and a fedora to make it look like someone (possibly the ghost of our recently deceased great-uncle) was sitting there. His chuckle as he heard my shriek that morning was one we still remember fondly. I still miss him every day and wish I had the opportunity to see what kind of man he would become. Tom was quite the character and I like to think that despite his only 16 years on this earth he had a positive impact on a lot of lives.

 

A Death in Hell’s Kitchen

Because I could not stop for Death

Jodorowsky Death

 

Today for my AM Tarot tweet I drew Death reversed from the Tarot de Marseilles. The image is quite stark and dramatic. The only figure is the scythe-wielding skeleton. Various body parts are scattered at the skeleton’s feet, like something out of an episode of Dexter. There is a relentlessness and implacability to this image. Death no longer human, if it ever was. There is no reasoning, no pleading to be spared. Death does not make deals and no one is spared. As The Doors sang “no one here gets out alive”.

Modern society seems to do everything it can to stave off death or avoid facing its reality. Much of the medical treatment I’ve seen for the elderly seems to focus on maintaining life regardless of quality. They have the ability to stabilize the body but not actually improve the situation. So if a patient is suffering from liver disease or some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia, the doctors can keep the body going but not actually heal it. I’ve watched both my in-law’s go through this process. My father-in-law’s health would deteriorate to the point that he had to be hospitalized. We would be told he had a 10% chance of improvement. Then 2 days later he had been stabilized enough so he could return home only to have the cycle repeated a few months later.

I’m not trying to promote euthanasia (although the longer I see similar scenarios played out, the more of a proponent I become) and I don’t blame the medical profession for this situation. They are simply doing what society and the law demands they do. As a society we seem to have developed an imperative that death must be postponed as long as possible regardless of consequences. If a family decided to just let an elderly parent die at home by not taking her/him to the hospital, could the family be brought up on legal charges? After watching what my husband’s family went through with his father, I often questioned why we kept returning him to the hospital when his health deteriorated. We knew he would not get better. All the hospital could do was stabilize him enough so that he could return home. It was a relentless cycle that eventually broke my mother-in-law and led to the situation I now face.

I have come to appreciate that there truly are worse fates than death. Lingering on in a state of limbo is one of them. In fact it’s made me question why anyone would want to be immortal – assuming it was possible. Watching everything one knows and loves die or change has to case psychological damage. I become melancholic just thinking about the changes I’ve seen in my life. What would my mental state be after centuries of change?

In the original Star Trek they dealt with such scenarios in two episodes that I recall. In one, Capt. Kirk finds himself on an empty Enterprise with a female he doesn’t know. We eventually learn she is the daughter of the ruler of a planet The Enterprise has recently visited. The planet knew no death or illness and as a result had become so overpopulated that it could no longer support itself. At various points throughout the episode Kirk hears heartbeats and we eventually learn this is the sound of the hearts of the populace of the planet that surrounds the fake Enterprise. It is overwhelming to hear. The woman eventually becomes ill and is happy. That was her goal – to become infected with a disease which Kirk carried but was immune to so that she could bring it back to her people. Many had volunteered to become infected in order to ease the pressure on their planet and because they no longer wanted to live. In another episode, (Requiem for Methuselah) Kirk and Spock meet Flint, a man who has lived for centuries. He had been Leonardo da Vinci, Brahms, Alexander the Great among others. In an effort to ameliorate his loneliness he had created a android companion. The crew eventually learn that Flint is slowly dying and it seems it will be a relief for him.

Dark Goddess Death

Humans seem to crave immortality (some moreso than others). Many see their children as a way of achieving that goal. Others pursue public works or donate money so that hospital wings or even buildings will be named for them. The sad truth is that nothing lasts forever, not even the greatest works of humanity. The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza and Stonehenge are slowing eroding. “Civilizations” great achievements – towering skyscrapers, enormous damns and glittering arenas can be washed away in an instant. Today’s celebrities are tomorrow’s “whatever happened to?” fodder. Today’s heroes become little more than entries in a history book to the next generation. The truth is that everything changes, everything dies. We do not need to court death but I think if we can manage to appreciate the blessings it offers we might find a sense of peace within ourselves about its inevitability.

Death – Blue Rose Tarot

Blue Rose Death

 

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: In the Blue Rose Tarot, the symbolism of the Death card mirrors the continuing, unfolding journey of the Fool. In the foreground stands the very gateway, here represented by a human skull. It is the Threshold leading from one existence into another. The skull is flanked by two roses – one red and one white. They symbolize the dual aspects of the Fool. The red rose symbolizes human existence in the material, physical world. The white rose symbolizes the spiritual being. Within the empty sockets of the skull are two dice. Snake eyes. When playing dice, rolling snake eyes means finality — the game is over. And for the Fool, this particular stage of the Game is over. But look further past the forbidding gateway, for in the distance, we see the Fool, symbolized by the lavender butterfly winging his way across the dark terrain, following the beaming rays of light leading him onward towards a horizon that we cannot interpret or see beyond. What is beyond that mercurial sky? That sky filled with light, electricity, color and movement? It is not for us to know. We will find out when the time comes. When it is our turn to follow the rays of light and continue our own Great Journey.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card reminds us that sometimes we need to stare what we fear the most in the face and learn to see beyond it. The crystal skull, with its burning red eyes, represents our fragility and a state of being that we ultimately cannot avoid. As the saying goes “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes”. Well ladies and gentlemen, this is death; this is what we are when we are stripped of our flesh, our hair, our personalities. Stripped to the bone we all become amazingly similar, all those external factors that allow us to create barriers in life are gone and we are all truly equal now.

Even as we face this image of our greatest fears we see the beauty and wonder in life too. The two roses, the butterfly and even the color of the sky and clouds overhead are wondrous and beautiful. And the crystal skull has a pink tinge to it, a reminder that once we pass the skull, once we open that door and pass through this fearsome gateway, we will find a new beauty. It represents the potential and transformative energies that await us. Those black cliffs might look fearsome and overwhelming, but once we cross them we will find ourselves embraced by the beautiful sky above. We too can be like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon. We can spread our wings and enchant those around us with our grace, beauty and joy. But we can only experience this transformation is we dare to open that door.

Death – Transformational Tarot

Transformational Death

 

Transformation Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Transformation and spiritual evolution. The stripping away of outgrown feelings or beliefs. The end of the old and the birth of a new cycle. The need to surrender to the inevitability of change. An ending that is illusory when viewed from a higher perspective. The natural conclusion of a stagnated relationship or familiar situation that stifled individual growth and change.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: In this card Death is portrayed as having not only a recognizably human face, but a heart too. This Death is not an unapproachable figure, but one who seems to offer welcome and solace. Yes, she wields a scythe which can separate us from the physical world. At the same time her love and compassion allow us to move closer to the spiritual. A snake winds around her legs and she stands on a rattlesnake skin, reminding us of the snake’s ability to shed it’s old skin and grow a new one. The is the blessing this Death offers us. She allows us to shed our worldly skin and grow in spirit. She guides us along the way, refusing to abandon us while we are at this delicate and defenseless stage in our growth.

This is the Goddess as Crone, she who destroys and releases so that the new growth has room to shoot through. She may be surrounded by skeletons and death but she is not forbidding or unapproachable. We can see her love for us and understand that she is helping to release us from the bonds of the past so that we can move into the future unburdened and ready to learn and grow more. Death may still seem frightening because it is so unknown, but at least with this Death card we won’t be walking towards it alone.

Mansions of the Moon Azazel, Angel of Death

 

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The LWP says: Traditional meaning – pale horse of revelation, Biblical imagery.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card shows a fairly dark, somewhat gloomy image of death. The skulls, black candles and horse’s head all give it the appearance of some type of dark mass or dark ceremony. The hooded figure, with it’s small gray head is ominous and eerie. The wings may be the wings of an angel or may be a cape of feathers. Either way this figure does not inspire hope and faith but rather fear and awe.

Maybe because it is so full of Biblical imagery, I don’t find much comfort or relief in this vision of Death. It reminds me of smoky, incense filled churches with voices intoning hymns for the dead. It brings to mind warnings of damnation and the need to ask for forgiveness and repent before it is too late. Once the bowl is broken it can no longer be fixed – once you have died you cannot make amends for your faults.

This card is about transformation, releasing and letting go. But it also visually and symbolically shows the fearful aspects of death – the pale horse upon which Death rides, the skulls, etc. But when we are finally able to peer into the cowl and face death head on – we see the humanity hidden there. And suddenly maybe, just maybe, Azrael, the Angel of Death is not quite so fearful and terrifying anymore.

The Liberator – Celtic Wisdom Tarot

Celtic Wisdom The Liberator

 

Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999
ISBN 0-89281-720-8

The Book says: Change, transformation, renewal of blockages, clearing the way for liberating change, letting go of old habits, regeneration, change of consciousness.
Reversed: Fear of change, stagnation, illness, impasse, stuck in old habits, clinging to outworn ideas, enforced removal.
Soul-Wisdom: The Liberator of Devotion releases the Soul to unconditional love and liberation if we can humbly face and befriend death. What do you need to let go of?

TarotBroad’s Buzz: Something about this image reminds me about the lady on the Land O’ Lakes box. She holds a Land O’ Lakes box bearing her image, which holds a Land O’ Lakes box bearing her image, etc. Only in this image we see the Sheila na Gig, symbol of rebirth and regeneration, bearing the image of the Cailleach Beare, symbol of release and clearing away. And within the Cailleach is the seed of the Sheila, bringing new birth, new hopes and change into our lives.

The Sheila seems so welcoming, as though she understands our weariness and our need for change. She offsets the cold and somewhat forbidding image of Cailleach Beare. The Cailleach’s fearsome visage may be frightening and unwelcoming but if we can face the changes she brings and accept her gift, we may find ourselves transformed and liberated in unexpected ways.

There are always two sides to any tale – light has darkness, spring has winter and death has life. Accepting this and working with it, instead of trying to go against the tide, can be liberating and allow us to release what no longer serves us and move on to a new phase in our lives.

Death – Wheel of Change Tarot

Wheel of Change Death

 

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
ISBN #0-89281-609-0

The Book says: When this card is part of a reading reflect first on the skeleton, or framework of the issues you are dealing with. Try to see the elemental nature of your situation by stripping away the outer layers of the problem or situation. Get at the bones of the matter. When you have done this, you may recognize parts of the situation that can be pared away or given up in order to facilitate growth. These things will symbolically die, thereby fertilizing the soil of the present situation so that new circumstances can arise. When you complete one thing you are given room to try something new. This is a card of endings, completions, letting go. All these things imply a loss, but the loss may be of something old that you are finished with anyway and that you just need to cut out of your life pattern. When this card arises, you may be experiencing the fear of losing something that you don’t want to give up or something comfortable that you are afraid to do without. The Death card implies a big change, with the result that you must give up life in the way that you know it. Every moment of our lives is a moment of death, as we give up the past to step into eh present. This is the manifestation of the spiral path of life, on which we walk into and out of death in every moment.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card adds a beauty and majesty to death that is sometimes missing from other decks. Death, draped in its white cloth, almost seems to be dancing and celebrating that passing of this woman’s soul. Death knows the secret – just as the sun is setting on the day (or this woman’s life), tomorrow it will rise again. Everything about this image is beautiful; there is nothing fearful or frightening. Even the vultures take on an otherworldly beauty. The skeleton’s wrap spirals around its body and the way the edge floats in the air behind it gives the impression of something floating free, being raised higher and soaring to the skies. Death’s scythe may have descended and ended someone’s life on this plane. But it has also freed that person to cross over onto another plane. There is beauty in the darkness as well as in the light. There is a beauty to the cycle of death and rebirth. I think we may dread death because we don’t really trust that there is anything beyond it. But this card offers us hope. There is something beyond Death. It is merely a crossing, a passing, a transformation from one phase of existence to another. Maybe on the other side of that river is paradise, an Otherworldly garden of delight and joy. Or maybe it is a transformation to a different type of life. I remember reading a romance novel once where the heroine has a car accident and awakens in the South before the Civil War. She eventually realizes that she is can’t return to her own time and she no longer wishes too. And in the last chapter it returns to modern times and her sister, who is remembering the heroine and the car accident that killer her. To me this was an intriguing idea and this card brings it back. Death is the guide, the guardian and the catalyst. It forces us to face and deal with issues we might prefer to avoid. But if we never make those changes and cross that river, then perhaps that is when we are truly “dead” in the way that we fear.

Green Man Tree Oracle Ailm

When Ailm appears in divination, a new thing is coming into being. Someone may be pregnant or about to give birth, or you may be starting a new project, full of energy and the initial spark of enthusiasm. Your creativity is strong here, and you may find yourself on the brink of discovery, an epiphany waiting to happen.

Spiritually, you may be at the point of initiation, waiting in pregnant pause for that step over the threshold into a new life. It is possible that you are being presented with opportunities for new knowledge and understanding, or beginning a course of study, whether spiritual or mundane. An idea you’ve received may be at a point where incubation, persistence, and endurance are necessary, nurturing its growth for the birth to come, or it may be ready now to bring forth into manifestation.

Linked Concepts: Birth and death as beginnings, the cycle of life, origination, inception, conception, creation, children, pregnancy, initial understanding, epiphany.  (Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie)

What work am I starting? Strength R, 9 of Swords R + 8 of Pentacles (DruidCraft)

DruidCraft Strength DruidCraft 9 of Swords DruidCraft 8 of Pentacles

I’m not sure why but this reading seem a bit ominous to me. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but my initial interpretation to these three cards is that I’m entering a phase where inner strength, will and fortitude won’t help. In fact it might prove to be a hindrance. The 9 of Swords reversed may be indicating the nightmare is reaching an end but that end won’t be easy. The 8 of Pentacles may be letting me know that my current work is reaching its conclusion.

On one level I wonder if it refers to the situation with my in-laws. Is something due to shift? Is this part of my life going to change? Ailm’s message of birth and death and the cycle of life add an extra layer of meaning here. I don’t see this reading as indicating pregnancy or children – that ship has sailed. It might suggest new creative beginnings but that doesn’t quite fit the cards I’ve drawn.

I think these cards are giving me a heads up, a warning. The change might not be in the immediate future but it is coming – possibly within the next few months. I realize that the mother-in-law’s death is inevitable (it’s inevitable for us all) but I think this reading is telling me it’s time to start making preparations – both mental and physical. The work I am starting is to make sure those preparations are begun and hopefully in place by the time they are necessary.

Shadow Side Saturday: Soul Darkness

Lately I have been feeling very down, bleak and worn out. My spirit is exhausted and sore. It is as though a darkness is twining its way through my soul, weaving unhappiness and sadness through my spirit. It’s tendrils are wrapping themselves around my spine and won’t let go. I feel like a tower being overcome by ivy and hidden from the eyes of the world. Or like Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty whose castle is surrounded by a thick, impenetrable hedge of thorns.

My brain is hammered daily by the nonsensical ramblings of a woman I love but sometimes want to kill. I am a prisoner of this house with no chance of parole. Even on the sunniest day, darkness blots my view. There are days when I truly don’t care if I wake up because what is the point? I’ll simply be repeating the same day over again and that wasn’t fun the first time around.

I try to put a positive spin on things; put my best foot forward but there are days when that is impossible. I hate blowing smoke up my own ass and when I am in this frame of mind that’s how it feels. This sucks. There is every likelihood this situation can go on for years – she’s in good physical health, it’s her mental state that is challenged. I want to range at whatever deity let this happen and then I realize it’s not really any deities fault. Sometimes theses things are the result of human intervention (for example someone who might have died at 60 from a heart attack survives, living to 80 but developing dementia or Alzheimer’s). It makes me wonder if longevity is such a great gift. If living longer means dealing with this kind of mental state I’d prefer to die younger but with all my marbles unscrambled.

I know I’m a strong person but even I don’t know if I’m strong enough to handle this much longer. I hate to see her suffer and I hate suffering myself. I feel like my soul is shriveling and dying one small piece at a time and I have to find a way to stop that process. No matter how hard I fight it, sometimes there are just days when I need to let it sit and experience and then move on. Luckily to date that has been what happens. If I become lost in the darkness then I’ll have to figure out another plan. Right now just acknowledging these feelings and expressing them help alleviate some of the darkness.

Greenman Oracle Saille/Willow

Today I drew an ogam to see what I needed to consider in my daily reading.  I drew Saille/Willow.  In her book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, Erynn Rowan Laurie wrote “I have come to see this fid as an indication that the ancestors are sending messages in some way. It might be through the voice of falling water or through song and music.”   So I decided to see what insight or advice my ancestors might have for me today.  I drew the King & Queen of Swords reversed and The Tower reversed.

DruidCraft King of Swords DruidCraft Queen of Swords DruidCraft Tower

At first I just didn’t get this message. I was trying to see how the reversed King and Queen of Swords might represent aspects of myself. The Tower reversed was another puzzler. It puzzled me. Then I visited my former employer’s website and realized that some of the people I consider responsible for my termination, those who betrayed me, are still employed and doing quite well at the agency. I suppose I was hoping they’d be gone and I’d learned that they had flamed out in an explosive display of incompetence and ineptitude. I was greatly disappointed.

Then I started to reconsider my cards in light of this knowledge. It struck me that the King of Swords is FU, the former executive director who terminated me. The Queen of Swords is AC, my former immediate supervisor who I am sure undermined and denigrated me (but subtly, oh so subtly – she has mastered the art of killing with kind words). The Tower is the termination itself – that seminal, traumatic moment that is still impacting me no matter how much I claim to have healed.

The fact that all these cards are reversed tells me that my ancestors are telling me it’s time to really put it behind me. It’s in the past. Nothing I can do or say will change any of it. If I let them beat me and keep me down, then they’ve won. If it’s one thing I know, it’s that I come from a long line of fighters. We fought for survival. We fought to endure the curve balls life threw our way. We fought to prove our detractors wrong. I may have not been able to fight to keep the job but that doesn’t mean I need to let them win in my own mind.

Obviously I still have some issues to work out regarding that situation. I think it’s complicated by the fact that I haven’t been able to return to work. My new career is caring for the in-laws and somehow that’s not enough to wash away the sense of failure. I will heal and I will triumph again. I just need to allow myself to feel these things but not get stuck in the emotions. All that will do is make me angry and sad – neither of which is helpful in the long run.

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