Epilogue from Jody  


  Jody, Jeff, and Dad at Jody's graduation from the Yale School of nursing, May 2000. Photo: Blake. [Larger version]


  Christmas of 2000 in Charlottesville. Photo: Menger's mom. [Larger version, showing a little of Jody and Jeff's house]


  October 25, 2001

The journey of grieving has led me into the darkest and lightest places I have ever been. Once we emerged from our first holidays without Mom in the winter of 1999, I began trying to carve new ways of being that would honor the life spirit. So much of my life had been shaped by discipline and academic success; the unrest and loss of familiar grounding I felt after Mom's death demanded new roots be deeply planted in the earth so that I could bloom again. Some of the inital roots I put down were in dance classes in New Haven, as I explored bodily creative expression for the first time since college. Mom had always urged me to do more with dance, and with these classes I found I could honor body, mind, and spirit. (Since then, I have completed training to instruct other people in this art form, called NIA, at a very basic, "white belt" level.) Not only did I gain strength, but I also learned about how letting energy flow through the physical body frees up the emotions to flow as well. Many a class would leave me in tears, especially when the instructor would encourage us to expand our reach "like eagle's wings" or to dip and "dive like dolphins," invoking two of Mom's chosen power animals.

As an adjunct to my nurse practitioner training and as another channel for the powerful waves of grief, I began exploring various personal growth opportunities in the spring after Mom's death. Suddenly her library of Jungian, feminist, spiritual, and psychological texts became much more relevant, and I longed for her to sit and explain them to me. I attended several retreats like the ones that she and Dad used to lead in the 1970s and '80s, and developed a new appreciation for Mom's commitment to the learnings of the life journey. Piecing together bits of life after her death has made me so grateful for the way she lived and died.

In case the upheaval of grief wasn't enough change for us, Jeff and I moved ourselves to Charlottesville, Virginia in June 2000 so that he could begin a three-year master's program in Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia. Jeff has poured his extracurricular energies into fixing up our fixer-upper house in a neighborhood of young couples, while I have focused on completing my family nurse practitioner degree and licensing requirements. I am currently in my first job as an FNP, working in a small family practice here in Charlottesville, where I often find myself echoing to my patients Mom's words of wisdom about dealing with anger, facing death or grief, or prioritizing nutrition for well-being. Occasionally a patient will come in wearing her perfume and I have to struggle to hold back tears of joy/sadness/recognition.

Most miraculous of all has been my experience this year of being pregnant. This two-year anniversary of Mom's death marks the 33rd week of gestation for the lively, kicking, expressive new life that grows inside me. Despite the early discomforts of the first trimester of pregnancy, I have felt blessed to have been chosen as the vessel for this baby and to be able to play an active role, as Mom did, in the endless, seamless cycle of birth and death. Mom might say it was "meant to be" that my first child is due to be born right around my own birthday, Christmas Day, thus repeating so closely her own beginnings as a parent. Some days I feel so angry and sad that Mom is not here to celebrate with me this glorious journey into parenthood and to share with Dad the arrival of their first grandchild. Usually I am able to take comfort in Mom's belief that "if I die before [your children] are born, I'll know them before you do." I like to believe that Mom played some role in bringing this little spirit into our lives and that she will be enjoying its birth and life as much as we will: "and she will raise you up on eagle's wings...and hold you in the palm of her hand..." Amen.

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