Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Tag: Mothers and Daughters

More Gratitude Than Grief

More Gratitude Than Grief

Although it’s hard to believe, three years ago today – Memorial Day 2014 – was my mom’s last day on earth. The last time the sun would set with life in her body. Of course, I miss her and think of her every single day. But I’ve also never felt closer to her. Although technically it has been three years since I’ve seen her or heard her voice, that’s really only true on some levels, for I see and hear her in my dreams from time to time, and her voice only grows stronger in my heart and mind. It’s actually quite astonishing.

Each time the earth returns to the place in its orbit around the sun where it was when my mom passed away, my body knows. It’s like traveling through a familiar belt of stardust. She died after lilac season and just as the irises were blooming. She didn’t live to see the roses in her garden bloom, but we did, and we were grateful she took the time to plant and nurture them with the same loving attention she gave to us.

Today, I am remembering but not feeling grief-stricken. More than anything else, I feel grateful for having a mother who was so warm and kind to everyone and who loved me so much. For having a mother who loves me so much and seems to have found a way to get through to me even though she no longer has a body that breathes and walks and loves and laughs and makes music here on earth.

One day last summer, I was sitting on a bench at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (where I feel her spirit strongly) feeling sad, and I heard her voice in my mind: Let it go. Let it go because it’s hurting you. You’re so wonderful. Now I can see you more completely and wish I could show you how beautiful you are – the amazing light that you are…because then you’d never be sad again.

I am so grateful for that voice that arises in my heart and speaks in my mind as if my heart and mind are one end of a cosmic telephone. That voice has been growing in me and helping me to heal and grow in ways I never could have imagined during the first, anguishing year without her.

My mother loved me so much, despite our differences. When she was alive, I was always giving her push-back because we saw the world so differently. Three years after she passed away, all I connect with now is her spiritual essence, which shone through more strongly as her body became weaker, and I gave up my role in the mother-daughter dance we had been doing my whole life and related to her as one spirit to another. I held her as she cried because she was nearing the end and was afraid her organs would eventually burst, and she was also afraid of upsetting my dad, who was not ready to let her go. I listened to her and assured her that what she was experiencing was normal (which I knew from my hospice experience and research) and that she and we would be okay. Although we loved her and would miss her, it was okay for her to move on. She liked it when I was with her and wanted me to be there as much as possible, and I’m so glad I had my priorities straight and took time off from work to be with her in her time of need, even though I had no idea how long it would go on. When my intuition told me I should take the day off from work to be with my mother or to care for myself so I could be stronger and more rested to care for her, I didn’t hesitate to call in sick. I am so grateful I did that. I knew it was time I could never get back and do over.

Three years ago tonight, when my dad was leaving the hospice house, he told her to hang on until morning, when he’d return. She was the one who took care of everyone, and she was hanging on for our sake. So I told him he needed to say goodbye and give her permission to go. Through some grace, I was able to get through to him, and he told her that he loves her, and it’s okay for her to let go. And a few hours later, she did, in the middle of the night with the adult child she worried about most sitting by her side.

May 27, 2014 was the first morning of my life I woke up motherless. It didn’t make sense that the sun could even rise.

When I reflect on May 2014, I think of being closer to my mom than I’d ever been and making her my priority. I remember keeping vases of fresh lilacs around her and dropping the role I’d played all my life to be truly present to her. I remember filling her hospice room with love and music and conversation around her bed with her bridesmaid from so many years ago who serendipitously found her just in time after not being in touch for decades and shared memories I otherwise would not have known about my mom during her early twenties. I remember doing everything I possibly could do to help my mom let go, even though I didn’t want to lose her.

May 2015 was actually even harder because I had gone a full year without her, and the realization hit hard that she wasn’t returning. I was also in so much emotional pain from grieving other losses that occurred throughout that year that I couldn’t imagine ever feeling good again. She was the one I would pick up the phone and call when I needed moral support, and she wasn’t there. The pain felt enormous, and I was weak from all that grief.

For the past year and a half, at the end of every month I reflect in my day planner on what dreams and goals came true, what lessons I learned, what I need to rant about, and what I’m grateful for. This month – May 2017 – there is not enough space for me to write about what I’ve learned and feel grateful for! To feel as whole, intact, and radiant as I do now is like a miracle.

Time is a healer, but healing is a choice, and how far you go is up to you. Every moment – and in some moments more than others – there is a choice between healing and habit. My experience has taught me that healing begins with mindfulness and an intention to feel good. When you pay attention to what’s going on inside of you, instead of fleeing from it or fixating on external stimulation of any kind, you become aware. When you are conscious of something, you can heal it – even if it really hurts and feels enormous, and you feel powerless against it. Over the past three years, I have learned that pain that big – grief that penetrates all the way down into your bones – isn’t as big as it seems because who you really are is SO MUCH BIGGER! I still feel sad or weak from time to time, but it arises along with a witnessing presence that allows the energy to be felt and expressed. Instead of identifying with the sadness, I allow it with the tender, loving presence a mother would give to a hurting child and realize it’s just a passing storm. The witnessing, unconditionally loving presence that I identify with is much bigger than the emotions – big enough to absorb them in what feels like a ginormous hug. It’s similar to how it feels to be on the seashore: uplifted and part of a rhythm and energy that is much larger than your small, separate self.

So here I am, on my mom’s third angelversary, immersed in gratitude for everyone and everything that has brought me to this point, and for my mother’s love, which has never left me and continues to grow by leaps and bounds in my loving heart and – miracle of all miracles – has replaced my Inner Critic with a nurturing Inner Mother that guides me to practice tender, loving self-care every day.

The past three years have been the most challenging journey of my life, but I’ve emerged from the depths of the forest of grief. From the perspective of my larger self, I know that all is well and that the journey served a purpose. It is the most amazing grace ever to be able to say this after everything I’ve experienced in the past few years. There is hope after loss.


If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂

More Light

More Light

Yesterday morning, I was driving to a Reiki training an hour away feeling agitated and anxious, which is not how I wanted to arrive at the training. I needed to get an important message to my daughter before going into the all-day event. I hoped I would calm down before I arrived at my destination and practiced feeling the emotional energy in my body, allowing the uncomfortable feelings, generating compassion, and choosing better feeling thoughts (which included feeling grateful for all the tools I have in my healing toolbox). I found it interesting that peace blanketed me, just like that, as I crossed the Twin Bridges over the Mohawk River.

I’ve loved Kahlil Gibran’s writings ever since a friend introduced me to The Prophet at age 22 – the age my daughter is now. As I continued driving in a more peaceful state now, a few lines from The Prophet (“On Children”) came to mind out of the blue:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

That was a significant poem to me – so much so that we had our parents take turns reading lines from it during my first wedding ceremony. I was 25, and my parents weren’t thrilled with my choice of a husband. They had lots of opinions about how I should live my life – because they cared about me. But it really bothered me that they weren’t able to trust me to make my own choices and even mistakes and seemed to believe they knew better than I how to live my life. Hence, the poem at the wedding.

Twenty-five years later, it was still relevant as I drove to the Reiki training. I had been able to give my daughter the message, and she was able to adjust her plans accordingly. I wished I could do more and wondered if I should turn the car around and spend the day with her. But the poem helped me to realize that I had done my part, and I needed to trust her journey…and go to my training.

When I arrived at the training, I put my stuff down and went into the restroom. What do you think was hanging on the wall next to the mirror in the bathroom? The very same Kahlil Gibran words that came to me in the car!!

Instant tears. I had to pull myself together for a moment before returning to the room.

That synchronicity was the first special gift of what ended up being a very powerful day. I went into the training with no expectations. I hadn’t even received a Reiki session prior to the training and was there simply because I felt guided and followed my intuition. Something very intense happened to me during the attunement ceremony after I accepted the possibility that I might not feel anything at all, and tears kept streaming down my face. I felt a little disoriented as I walked out of the building and into the warm, sunny day for lunch break. Something really big had shifted in me. I knew intuitively that I had said yes to healing myself so I could be a better healer for others. It felt like I had made a deep, inner vow.

During the afternoon, we paired up to give and receive a full Reiki session to a partner. I worked with a highly intuitive practitioner who was there as a helper. At the end of the session, she shared with me what came to her as she flowed Reiki (universal life force energy) to me. She described an image of a willful, young girl and a bicycle that I knew referred to my daughter. A voice was singing the “Hush, Little Baby” lullaby. The woman asked if there’s a message she can give me, and the voice replied, “Just tell her we’re with her.” She asked me if that means anything to me, and it was the third time I was moved to tears.

My daughter has been dreaming of her deceased grandparents a lot over the past few months, and I feel that they are with her. And that brings me comfort.

Sometimes we just don’t know what people are dealing with in their personal lives. My daughter has been going through a very challenging time lately, in which she was living in an environment that was very wrong for her and felt powerless to get out. She didn’t even have a car. Now she is out, thank God. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are able to remove yourself from toxic relationships and turn your life around, and she is motivated to do just that. One thing I’ve learned from my 50 years on this planet is that if you are living in a way that is not in alignment with who you really are and what your soul wants, the signals will keep getting stronger until you can’t ignore them any longer and are forced into action. Sometimes something that seems like a great misfortune saves you from something even worse.

I think of the Zen story of the farmer’s luck, which I’ve probably referenced before because it’s one of my favorites:

One day, a farmer’s horse ran away, and when the neighbors heard the news, they sympathized saying, “Such bad luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, the horse returned to the farmer along with three other horses, and the neighbors exclaimed, “How wonderful!” The farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The next day, the farmer’s son broke his leg when he was trying to ride one of the untamed horses. Again, the neighbors offered sympathy for the family’s bad luck. And again, the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, military officials came to the town to draft young men but passed over the farmer’s son because his leg was broken. The neighbors offered congratulations, and the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

With compassion for my daughter and for other women in similar situations, I offer a reminder to refrain from passing judgment on others when you have no knowledge whatsoever of the context, relationships, personalities, miscommunications, intentions, etc. behind a soundbite of information. Before jumping to conclusions, try walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Things are not always as they appear. As for me, I’m beaming strength, light, and so much love into a world that seems to need it now more than ever. A world in which many people are quick to jump to conclusions that serve their personal or political agendas and to create divisive characterizations that somehow make them feel safer and better about themselves…at someone else’s expense.  A world in which people are guilty until proven innocent rather than the opposite. Into that world, I send light.

And you know what’s great about that? More light. Just as the trees are putting out new leaves to collect sunlight, more light equals more growth. This, friends, is the growing season.


If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂

What She Wanted

What She Wanted

When my mom was alive, before any holiday or birthday she would ask me what I wanted. I almost always answered that I don’t need or want anything. My mom liked material things, and I tended to rebel against that and distinguished myself from her through my response to that question.

But it was true: I wasn’t interested in things or clothes. Never went on vacation. Didn’t watch TV. I bought the wedding dress for my first wedding off the rack at Macy’s for $70 only a week before the big day, and I just wore my favorite outfit for my second wedding. I was content where I was, with what I had. My maternal grandmother would comment that she and I were very much alike because we didn’t need fancy things. Give us the wind in the trees, and we could be content. In fact, the last time I visited my grandmother at her home before she fell and went into a nursing home for the last couple months of her life, we sat on her front steps appreciating the sight and sound of the wind in the late summer trees. I loved that, at the end of her life, she found contentment in something so simple and ordinary and that I could join her in that space.

It seemed my mom always wanted more. She loved going to the mall, even if only to look (which I totally didn’t understand because the only time you could get me into a mall was if I had a specific, unavoidable purpose). She grew up poor and was determined not to live that way as an adult. She started working right after graduating from high school and, with the exception of taking some years off to raise children, kept working until a few years before she passed away – at which point she retired from what many would consider a rather glamorous job at a performing arts venue.

She was so generous every Christmas and experienced obvious joy in giving gifts to everyone. Anytime she’d give me money for my birthday, Mother’s Day, or just because, she would tell me to make sure to get something for myself and not spend it on household bills or anyone else. She wanted me to treat myself. Occasionally I would, and more often I would intend to, but inevitably somebody would need something, and I would pass on getting something for myself because the gift was needed elsewhere.

A year or two after my mom died, I was downtown and walked past a shop that had something in the window that captured my attention. Normally, that doesn’t happen because I couldn’t be less interested in shopping. (Retail therapy is not in my self-help repertoire!) I can’t remember what the object was, but when it caught my eye, I felt sad that my mom wasn’t around to ask what I’d like for Christmas…because she was the only one who ever asked, and this time I would have had an answer. And it would have made her so happy that I had an answer!

I spent two full months this year decluttering my home completely. After getting rid of all the stuff I didn’t love or use, I focused on making my home a sanctuary aligned with my authentic Self. I looked around the house and received clear insights about what could make it feel more like I wanted it to. I had received some insurance money after my dad passed away in October and bought some things to elevate the energy of our small, 1840s rental home: a couple Japanese shoji room dividers to create closet spaces where none existed, several plants, a standing desk converter, a digital photo frame loaded with hundreds of my images – things like that. I also finally did something I had wanted to do for many years, which was to wrap some silk vines around the railings on the stairs and weave fairy lights through them. So magical! Now, everywhere I look in my house, my eyes rest on spaces and objects that are beautiful, useful, and/or intentional and that bring me joy. Everything else is gone! It’s an amazing feeling.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there was one final thing that needed to be upgraded: my bed. The bed I had been sleeping in was tiny and uncomfortable, and when we moved everything out of my parents’ house, I claimed the bed from their guest room, which seemed like an improvement. But it, too, was small and didn’t feel quite right, and eventually I discovered it was more than 20 years old, which was at least twice as old as the bed I previously had been sleeping on. A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed looking at my vision board hanging on the wall and was drawn to a picture of a large, comfy bed. That’s when I convinced myself to let go of the hand-me-down beds and buy a new one. And with that purchase, my home improvements felt complete.

This morning (Mother’s Day), I got out of bed and created a Mother’s Day altar, which I’d never done before. I clipped some lilacs from a tree in the yard and put them in a vase my mom used for lilacs she clipped from our yard when I was a child. I also placed on the altar her funeral candle and a Mother’s Day card I’d just made, along with a crystal heart and a small turtle with the words “Live with joy” on its back.

Living with joy is my Mother’s Day gift to my mom, wherever she is. Isn’t joy what mothers ultimately want for their children? It’s what I want for mine.

Two years ago, grief felt enormous, as if it penetrated all the way down into my bones. I can’t remember ever feeling sadder than I was during May two years ago when my first Mother’s Day without my mom and the anniversary of her passing were complicated by additional losses. But time really does heal. And having the energy to finally take charge of my home and make it beautiful, uplifting, and joyful was both a big deal and a milestone. It felt like stepping out of the dark forest I had been wandering in since my mom passed away.

I have to believe she would be happy for me because the journey I have been on since February is one of learning to love and value myself and ramp up the joy by creating a sanctuary to support my vision of my best self and who I want to be moving forward. In other words, it’s a process of reclaiming my life. I have created a joyful, uplifting infrastructure from which to create my future. That infrastructure includes details such as:

  • an elegant, crystal pitcher of local spring water on a small table in my bedroom (found when clearing out my parents’ home)
  • red, silk roses in a vase next to my bed
  • a bed tray for having tea and reading a nourishing book before falling asleep
  • an aromatherapy diffuser for creating a lavender-scented bedroom to facilitate sleep
  • a comfy pillow that wraps around my entire body

And that’s just the bedroom! At night, I look forward to “lavender and rose” time with lavender aromatherapy and rose tea while reading or listening to something nourishing so my last impressions of the day are positive and empowering. That’s important because they are what my unconscious mind will marinate in for the next eight hours!

None of these items would have crossed my mind back when my mom asked me for gift ideas. I didn’t think of them until I cleared my home of clutter and reflected on what would make me feel comfortable, joyful, and loved – which is exactly how she wanted me to feel and was the intention behind her gift question. As I decluttered the objects and spaces in my home, a powerful, parallel process took place inside my head that rippled into other areas of my life. The work I have done in my home this year is an act of tender, loving self-care that grows from my mother’s love, for which I have immense gratitude.

The special touches in my home feel like what you would put in place if you were expecting an honored, beloved guest. Throughout the course of decluttering and uplifting my living space, I have become my own honored guest and best friend, which is no small thing coming from someone who used to have a strong inner critic. What parent wouldn’t want that for his or her child?

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my angel mom! My light is bright again, and I think it’s the best gift I can give you because it’s what you always wanted for me.


If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂

Birth Stories

Birth Stories

Over the weekend and for the first time in my life, I had the privilege of being present for the duration of a labor that was not my own. After a marathon labor of nearly 60 hours, my daughter gave birth to 7 lb., 10 oz. Ava at 11:50am on Saturday, January 23. It was an awesome experience, and I am excited to share some magic moments and a few gems of life wisdom I unearthed in the course of witnessing and participating in the powerful process! Even if the topic of childbirth doesn’t interest you, I hope you will stay with me because the end is quite amazing – as in goosebumps.

It’s interesting: A while back, Jasmine asked family and friends to predict when Ava would be born. I predicted the 23rd. When her water broke in the wee morning hours of the 21st, I joked that the baby is so considerate and wants to come before the snowstorm that was forecasted for the weekend. When the sun rose outside the hospital room on the 22nd, Jazz was sitting on a birth ball managing contractions, and I thought, “Today’s the day!”

IMG_5192f1bw

But then I remembered it was the 22nd, and I knew today couldn’t possibly be the day because Ava’s birthday is the 23rd. It didn’t really have anything to do with my prediction at that point. It felt more like a well-established fact – as if we’d already celebrated birthdays with her, and her birthday was written on my calendar clear as day…and it was the 23rd. But how could that be? Labor couldn’t possibly last that long! Today was the day, right? It had to be. But no, it couldn’t be since her birthday was the 23rd! Anyway, it turns out my prediction and intuition were accurate, but I decided not to share my certainty with Jasmine until the day was done!

From the very beginning, Jasmine’s labor did not go according to expectations. Weeks ago, one of her midwives advised her to think of her birth plan as a wish list – for you cannot control the labor experience, only the way you respond to whatever cards nature deals. That turned out to be excellent, relevant advice – for labor and life in general!

Since her water broke ahead of time, labor needed to be encouraged to reduce the baby’s risk of infection. She was admitted to the hospital 17 hours later for a possible induction the following morning if contractions weren’t coming regularly at that point. By mid-afternoon, her cervix was still only 2cm dilated, which was unbearably discouraging after all that time and all those contractions. Although I’d long forgotten the physical pain of childbirth, I could feel her emotional pain completely because I experienced the same news during my own labor. The difference was that I wasn’t as exhausted as she was at that point and had the physical and mental strength (from my meditation practice?) and pain tolerance to continue focusing on one contraction at a time. I felt so powerless when she hit this wall and wished I could transfer the inner strength I found during my labors, to give her a boost! It took quite a while for her to get into hard, productive, “active” labor, and by that time she was exhausted from two sleepless nights, very anxious about the pain, and absolutely discouraged about her body’s ability to give birth naturally.

IMG_5203fbw

She had approached labor aware of her low pain tolerance and expected she would need some pain relief. However, she was dead set against having an epidural because she had a great fear of any kind of needle going into her back. But it turned out that what she was most afraid of and determined to resist ended up being the saving grace that allowed her to relax, get some sleep, regain her strength, and ultimately push out her baby. It was inspiring to witness her being empowered by facing her fear! How often does fear cut us off from possibilities that might be exactly what we need to take us to the next level?

But Jasmine did not consent to an epidural right away. It took some time. Back when I was birthing my babies, I was committed to delivering “naturally” without any pain relief and even gave birth to my second child at home. However, even I hoped she would consider having an epidural, and it was because I knew Jazz and trusted her midwife, Lisa, implicitly. As Lisa explained the options and likely scenarios given her understanding of my daughter as a unique individual, she took on a transcendent glow as if she were an angel on earth. It’s as if the light was coming through her eyes and words, and her energy felt like pure love. Her message was: I believe in you. I believe in your body’s ability to do this. I believe in your ability to do what is right for you. Here is some information based on my extensive experience that I hope you will consider. And I believe in you. She didn’t push Jasmine into having an epidural. She shared information in a loving, patient manner then gave her time to decide what she wanted to do so she could have as much control as possible over her labor experience. In fact, it wasn’t until several hours later, after Lisa went off duty and Caren had taken over, that Jasmine opted for an epidural.

As I mentioned above, in the meantime when she was refusing the epidural, I felt powerless to help her push through her discouragement and exhaustion and had my own issues to face. It became clear to me that, as a helper, you can only do so much – especially if “doing” is focused on changing the person or situation. You can’t change others or do the work for them. They have to do it themselves. In addition, empathy can only go so far, and there comes a point when other tools become more useful. You become mindful of what is really needed in the situation and dig a little deeper in your toolbox. You let go of your desires and expectations for a person or situation to be different and trust the process. You discern when to step back and give someone a little space and when to lean in. It’s a lot like tending to a plant or garden. You have to work with what arises and know how much to water it when nature doesn’t deliver ideal circumstances.

So I learned something about myself in the role of helper or friend, and the shining midwife modeled so beautifully how to support and empower others without taking on responsibility that is rightfully theirs. It was something I needed to learn, which is why I believe she appeared so radiant to me. It was as if the Universe wanted me to take notice and really pay attention. (In the course of living our lives, I wonder how often we teach or give others what they are in need of, without even realizing it? How often do we act unwittingly as angels on earth?)

IMG_5208fbw

The long, tumultuous labor also spoke to me of the value of surrounding yourself with an excellent, trusted support network you can rely on when times get tough, and you feel confused and discouraged. People who will be honest with you and support you in making healthy, productive choices. People who value your work and truly believe in you and your ability to rise to the task and accomplish your goals.

During her third trimester, Jasmine’s growing unease with her obstetrical practice and the hospital in which she’d have to deliver resulted in her reaching out (by expressing her feelings to me), connecting with the right person (whom I referred her to), and finding a midwife practice that was a perfect fit for her and allowed her to deliver at the hospital she preferred above the rest. Acting on her intuition, she drew the right people and resources into her life, and the journey unfolded from there. So when she went into labor, she was surrounded by caregivers whom she trusted completely, who understood, honored, and believed in her, affirmed her ability to give birth, and empowered her to own her experience.

IMG_5199fbw

My favorite advice from the second midwife, Caren, is that we try out different positions and options and see what works. If something isn’t working, we try something else. You don’t stay stuck. You try all kinds of different things to see what works. If something works, you can go with it. But then you can try out something else, too. When something is not working for you or getting you where you want to go, don’t waste your time with it. Another nugget of life wisdom extracted from childbirth.

One night, I slept in the recliner next to my daughter’s bed, and it reminded me of being at my mom’s bedside when she was dying in a hospice house. It felt eerily similar. Once again, the door between worlds was swinging open, but instead of someone leaving, this time someone was entering. How refreshing to say hello instead of goodbye!

I’m saving the most incredible part for last. It happened a few minutes before Ava was born. During what would be the next to last contraction my daughter pushed through, I was holding up one of her legs while the baby’s father supported her other leg. All of a sudden, I felt my mom standing right behind me, as if she had her arms around my waist! Her presence was so strong that I even turned around to look behind me. Then I remembered that the psychic medium I saw in the spring said my mom was going to help the baby come into this world, from the other side. He said it was her spiritual mission! Shivers! So I focused on the warm light I felt coming from my mom’s presence and directed that energy to Jasmine. It seemed that doing this provided her with the extra oomph to push out Ava. The next contraction, I did it again, and Ava was born.

IMG_5243f

But there’s more!

My dad showed up at the hospital a couple of hours later, and as we walked back out to our cars, he reminded me that my mom worked in that same maternity ward when she was a nursing student back when my children were young. I had completely forgotten that until he mentioned it. Then I remembered her talking about how much she loved her maternity nursing experiences. My guess is that if she had completed the nursing program, she would have wanted to be a maternity nurse.

Have you seen the movie, Field of Dreams? In the movie, there is an elderly physician, Doc Graham, who had dedicated his life to caring for people. But when he was younger, he wanted to be a baseball player. On the same day in his youth, he both made his major league debut and retired from professional baseball without having the opportunity to face a major league pitcher. He went on to pursue his medical career and earned respect and admiration from the whole community. After he died, he returned to the “field of dreams” and seized the opportunity he’d missed out on during his life.

Similar to Doc Graham, my mom didn’t finish her nursing degree and therefore never became a nurse, which was a lifelong dream. She chose to continue in her established career and after retiring kept her dream alive by becoming a hospital volunteer. Perhaps she was able to fulfill her dream of being a nurse when her granddaughter was delivering her great-granddaughter in a room in the same unit where she did her student nursing. Perhaps she was in the room helping Ava to be born, from the other side. It’s such a lovely thought that brings on shivers and tears when I contemplate it. Maybe she had her chance after all. I’d really like to think she did and that she is sharing our joy.

IMG_5285f

Below is our first three-generation picture and my favorite picture of my daughter and me after she gave birth.

12473741_1109726705706365_2873232838507742803_o

Had this picture been taken about five years ago, it could have been a five-generation picture. But I imagine my mom peeking over my shoulder and my grandmother smiling over Jasmine’s. They remain with us even if we can’t see them – and my grandmother’s last name is now Ava’s middle name.

And so the circle of life cycles on.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer andRiver Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Touching the Veil

Touching the Veil

This week, I did a photo shoot with my very pregnant daughter, whose baby girl is due on February 2. I envisioned photographing her in front of my dad’s living room windows with the afternoon sun shining through the sheer drapes. We stopped by his house after her midwife appointment, and he wasn’t home. So I transformed the living room into a photography studio, and we created some feminine magic. My dad returned home just as we were leaving, which made it feel like the photo shoot was timed perfectly and meant to be – just the two of us in our own private, sacred space.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from our session:

IMG_4928bwf

I envisioned all the images being black and white, but I loved how golden this one looked, so I left it in color (although it looks great in grayscale, as well):

IMG_4926f1_color

Isn’t she beautiful? A twenty-something vision of hopeful, glowing anticipation.

While the two photos above are my favorites, I found a third one compelling for different reasons.

IMG_4936f_bw

I love how one of her hands is touching her belly, and the other is touching the sheer curtain. It makes me think of a veil between our human world of physical form and the mysterious realm(s) beyond our understanding. Her daughter is less than three weeks away from passing through that veil, and when she is in labor, I plan to be (as she puts it) her doula, photographer, and mom.

About a year and a half ago, my mother passed through the veil as she departed from our world, and I assisted her, too – although she exited in the middle of the night when I was resting in another room. I think of how difficult it has been to adjust to life without her physical presence and how painful the grieving process has been. But the universe doesn’t just take away. It also gives back. And now we are awaiting the arrival of a baby! A new ray of light making its way to Earth. For the past year and a half, I have grieved the loss of my mother’s loving, nurturing presence in my life, and now it is time for me to love and nurture a brand new generation as the matriarch of the family. Rather than seeking love, I am undergoing an amazing process of becoming love as I prepare for this new role and imagine my mother and grandmother (who died six years ago) standing invisibly behind me.

The image of my daughter touching the sheer curtain that allows the light to pass through reminds me of an image I captured when my mother was less than three weeks away from slipping through the veil.

13997352807_8811617268_o

This image was photographed in the same room as my daughter’s pregnancy photos, and I love how the light shines through so brightly. It is an image of my daughter playing “Hallelujah” on the piano for my mother on Mother’s Day. At the time, we didn’t know how much longer she would remain with us, but we knew it wouldn’t be long.

Similarly, I took the pictures of my daughter, not knowing how long it will be until she gives birth. But it won’t be long. The juxtaposition of the two photos strikes me as powerful and poignant.

veilcollage

There’s another element in the images that is worth contemplating: They both take place in the living room, which is the room (in my house) in which my most vivid dreams of my mother take place. I had one such dream last week, although I’m not sure it’s accurate to call it a dream because it took place within 15 minutes of getting into bed, and I don’t think I had fallen asleep yet but had drifted into a dreamy, in-between state. All of a sudden, I was downstairs in the living room and heard a knock on the window. It was nighttime. I looked out the window, and my mom was right outside. Her face was close to the window, and she looked just like she did when she was still healthy. I moved closer to the window and realized I could hear her voice. She was trying to tell me something. Then I noticed the window wasn’t all the way closed. It was open several inches so only the screen was between us, which made it easier to hear her. I leaned close to the window and asked, “Do you have a message for me?” At that point, it seemed she faded out, and I couldn’t hear her anymore. Then I woke up, feeling exhilarated because it seemed she really did just visit me.

Perhaps my mom doesn’t speak to me in dreams because I can hear her when I’m awake – but first she needed to get my attention when I was in a receptive state. I sensed that was the purpose of this dreamy visit, and I got up, intuitively knew what to do, sat quietly, and tuned in to hear what she had to say.

Whenever I’ve “dreamed” of my mom lately, it’s taken place in the living room. And there’s always some kind of barrier that she’s either on the other side of or passes through for a brief time before returning to wherever she came from. So the living room and the window that separates the living room from the world beyond is something I’m really drawn to in the images above. To see them together has an effect that strikes me as greater than the sum of the parts. There is something transcendent about the pairing, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Page 1 of 212

There's so much I want to share with you! Subscribe to my mailing list so you won't miss a thing! And don't worry: I won't spam you or share your info with anyone!

You have Successfully Subscribed!