Sunday, June 26, 2011

Virtual Tour: Reiki and Resilience

Wow, I see it's been two full weeks since I last posted. I've been writing a short story to submit for publication; hopefully it will be accepted and I'll be able to let you know when it actually appears.

In the meantime, the final stop on my virtual book tour for my memoir was Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem, in which I wrote a guest post on Timora's experience with the Japanese healing technique Reiki. Here's the post:

At the age of twelve, my daughter Timora was diagnosed with leukemia. I’d like to share with you how Reiki, a traditional Japanese healing technique, helped her for a good part of her time in this world, until she left it at the age of eighteen. The story is, I believe, a wonderful example of how body and spirit are intertwined, and how attending to our spiritual side can help us even as we face physical hardship.

Reiki, which means “mysterious atmosphere; spiritual power,” channels healing energy from the spiritual world through a practitioner’s hands into the body of a person who is physically or emotionally suffering. When Edna, the Reiki Master to whom we turned, laid hands on Timora, her pain would decrease, the color would return to her face and lips, and she would relax as she could under no other circumstances. She told me it was if a gentle light was radiating from Edna’s hands and spreading throughout her body. Edna taught her to lay hands on herself between sessions, which relieved not only her pain, but also the depression that would grip her from time to time, and helped her sleep on nights when everything seemed just too much to bear.

No less important than the treatments themselves were the five Reiki Principles that Edna taught Timora to recite every day:

Just for today, I’ll let go of anger.

Just for today, I’ll let go of worry.

Just for today, I’ll be grateful for what I have.

Just for today, I’ll work with integrity.

Just for today, I’ll be kind to others and to myself.

Timora, raised in our observant Jewish family, had always had a strong religious sensibility, but Reiki gave her the opportunity to express her spiritual leanings directly and practically. After three treatments, she asked to study Reiki in order to practice it herself.

I’ve written a memoir entitled And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, which describes my journey with Timora over the six-plus years of her illness, and without her after she died. In it, I describe how she delighted in her ability to relieve other people’s suffering, even when she herself was undergoing the most extreme of treatments:

Timora was a natural healer, a vessel for a life-affirming energy that would pass through her to others when she laid hands on them…. Once, while she was hospitalized for her second bone marrow transplant, Tehila, [a hospital] volunteer… came to visit her feeling nervous and upset about something that was happening in her life at that time. Timora got out of her bed and made Tehila lie down. She then stood by the bedside and gave her a Reiki treatment. Tehila fell asleep almost instantly and woke up a short time later feeling much better, saying she hadn’t had such a refreshing and relaxing rest in a very long time. Timora later told me the healing energy that had passed through her body into Tehila had refreshed and eased her as well – physically as well as spiritually.

Timora’s Reiki journey didn’t end, it seems, even with her death. Edna has told me that sometimes, when she is treating a client, she feels Timora right there alongside her, strengthening the energy that is pouring through her and into the person they’re both helping.

Edna told Timora the day we met her, “Reiki won’t cure you, but it can heal you.” After my daughter’s experience, there is no doubt in my mind that whatever our burdens, if we open ourselves to what the spiritual world has to offer us, it will help us heal – by easing and enriching our path through this unpredictable, and often cruel, material world.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Virtual Tour: Another Very Positive Review for Twice the Marrow

As part of my virtual book tour, Jody Nicholl reviewed my memoir on the blog Susan Heim on Parenting. Susan Heim is editor of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, and author of other parenting books. Here is the review:

I can’t even imagine losing a child, and I pray that I never have to deal with that. My husband lost his sister when he was 10. She got sick with a brain tumor when she was 2 and passed away when she was 12. It was 10 hard years of being in and out of the hospital for them, and I am sure it took a toll on the whole family. She was loved so much and, still to this day, 27 years later, tears are shed at the mention of her name.

Reading And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones made me thankful for my healthy little girl. Susan Petersen Avitzour writes this heartfelt memoir of how she lost her daughter, Timora, to cancer. She talks about the journey she went on with her daughter, which started at the young age of 11, the struggles they had to endure, and the way they had to sculpt their lives to meet the needs of not only Timora, but the other children in the family. All this makes this mom a hero in my eyes. It must have been so hard for her to stay strong and keep positive in the eyes of others. The writing is beautiful, and even though some people try and stay away from a non-cheery read, I really suggest you give it a shot. There is just something about this book that made it hard to put down … something about this mother that made me want to try harder and do better. It’s one of those books you will want to read and recommend to others.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Virtual Tour: How I Learned to Live in the Present

This is a post I wrote for Stephen Tremp's blog, Breakthrough Blogs, as part of the virtual tour for my memoir:

We usually think of a personal breakthrough as a realization, or a new idea, that all at once changes the way we see things. I’d like to tell you about a more gradual kind of breakthrough – a personal process that slowly but dramatically changed the way I experience my life.

Like so many others in the modern world, I spent most of my adult life preparing for the future. But the future I anticipated never really came, because by the time my plans actually worked out I was so busy planning the next stage of my life that I barely had time or energy to appreciate the fruits of my labors.

Then, just after my daughter Timora turned twelve, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, there was no way we could predict what would happen the next day, let alone the coming weeks, months, or even years, and so planning became nearly impossible. Daily tasks like cooking and shopping gave way to scheduled and unscheduled visits to the doctor. Weekly schedules became subject to the possibility of sudden hospitalizations. And longer term? Well, with almost no notice I could lose my daughter. How could I possibly prepare for that?

I coped by developing a new skill – I learned to live in the present. I cultivated what I now recognize as mindfulness – attentiveness to whatever was happening in the present moment. I didn’t stop all planning, of course, but I directed most of my thoughts to the here and now. Most of the time I left the future to God, in whose hands it rested anyway.

This new (for me) way of being turned out to be a true blessing. Paradoxically, as I let go of the idea that I actually had the power to determine the course of my future, I also let go of a great deal of anxiety – and found myself better able to experience my life more fully as it unfolded. Also, realizing the extent to which nothing in this world is truly permanent made me stop taking the many good things in my world for granted, and appreciate them more deeply.

Especially people. Although I’d always been happiest spending time with those I love, I began to cherish more than ever my moments with them. I also found myself able to give them more of myself than I had before I understood just how fragile our lives really are.

Having learned to live in the present stood me in good stead when the worst finally happened, and Timora died after a six-year struggle. Losing her brought into the sharpest possible focus just how important my surviving loved ones are to me.

I’ve written a memoir called And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, which recalls – among other things – my personal, philosophical, and spiritual journey over almost sixteen years, beginning when Timora’s first symptoms appeared. One of the themes I explore there is the one I’m discussing here:

“When I can say, ‘I’ve done whatever I can for now,’ and at the same time manage to acknowledge the limits of my own power and give my fears and anxieties up to God, I come closer to becoming both whole within myself, and wholly with the other people in my life.”

Our family survived the tsunami of Timora’s illness and death not only intact, but closer than ever. And while I will always carry with me the grief of a bereaved mother, I know that my newfound mindfulness significantly contributed to my resilience – and, ultimately, to that of the rest of my family.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Virtual Tour: Another Glowing Review for Twice the Marrow

As part of my virtual tour, Joyce Anthony reviewed my memoir in her blog Books and Authors. Here's the review:

This is my seventh or eighth attempt at what has to be the most difficult review I have ever written. And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones has a fairly straightforward synopsis. Susan Petersen Avizour had a good job, a loving husband and seven children that meant the world to her. Their lives were ones many yearn for--until the day her middle daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.This book follows Susan and her family through the several years leading up to her daughter's death--and into the aftermath. Through weekly updates at her church, a blog written five years later, based on these updates and poems written by Timora, we get to see how Timora's life, illness and death impacted not only her family, but those around her.

What is complicated about reviewing this book is finding words to describe pure emotion. The author holds nothing back in the telling of her story. You feel her pain, the anguish of feeling that all hope is lost. You feel her great pride in a daughter that tries to make the most of every minute she has on Earth.

Words do not flow from the pages of this book. And Twice the Marrow of her Bones is an exercise in capturing and sharing pure, untainted emotion. The subtitle is "A Mother's Memoir" and that doesn't come close to describing this book. The closest description I can come up with is that this book IS a mother's love.

Women everywhere (and men too) will feel themselves in this book. Even if you have not physically lost a child, every parent fears that chance. As your child moves from babyhood to school and from school to adulthood, you feel a sense of loss for the being they once were. Take that feeling and multiply it a hundredfold and you can come close to what a parent feels when physically losing a child.

This is not an easy book to read. You will find the need to step back and get your emotions in check before continuing. You will have not only the wish, but an undeniable need, to hug your own child. You may even find yourself having to force yourself to let them go. In the end, you will feel as though you have been given one of the greatest gifts in existence, a mother's pure, unconditional love.

I am afraid there arent't enough colors on the Rainbow Scale to rate And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones.