Brain trust

Just a few short weeks ago a friend of mine took a tumble, and the impact of her head striking the ice outside of her home resonated deep within my soul.  We talk about the cycles of the world, and how similar things tend to happen again and again . . . this felt like one of those, and for a short time I was taken back a few years to when my father had a similar problem.  I learned, or maybe was just reminded, that although there are patterns and cycles in the world, they don’t always end in exactly the same way.  For that, I am grateful.

Brains are fragile

So what happened is this:  a friend of mine, Carol, stepped out one day, slipped and fell on the ice, hitting her head.  She posted on Facebook about it, and how she’d gotten a killer headache.  Later her daughter took over, sharing with friends that Carol quickly developed nausea and disorientation and had been rushed to the hospital.  She had a subdural hematoma — there was bleeding in her brain causing pressure.  Carol had emergency brain surgery, friends and family clustered around her comatose form, and several days later she started to show signs of recovery.  She’s lost some beautiful silver braids and gained quite a surgery scar, but she’s now in rehab, rebuilding her strength.  From what I’ve learned, most of what she’s recovering from is being still in bed for all those days; swift action by family and hospitals seem to have prevented serious brain damage.

From the start I saw parallels to my own family.  My father had slipped and fallen when out shopping, and likewise hit his head.  I think the bleeding must have been slower, though, because although he had a headache, he didn’t develop other symptoms for several hours.  Unlike my friend Carol, my dad was only in the company of my mother, who is severely disabled and unable to get out of bed.  Once she realized there was something seriously wrong, she needed him to bring her the phone in order to do anything about it.  It took him over half an hour to do that, crawling across their room through his pain and disorientation.

It was his last conscious act.

In the first few days after Carol’s surgery I didn’t know what to say to her family.  They reported she was squeezing their hands sometimes, or trying to speak.  Dad had done that, too, but after two weeks the brain surgeon told us he would never recover.  Given that I’d had to honor his final wishes at that point, I wasn’t sure if Carol was going to be much better off.  I was seeing a cycle repeat itself, and I feared for the worst.

Fate plays a hand

My goddess candelabrum has performed
multiple duties over the years

My fear for Carol was real, and it was based on my own experience.  Rather than visit it upon her, though, I decided that I’m a Pagan, dammit, and I’m going to pray instead.  I quite literally dusted off the candelabrum that I had used for years to honor the triple goddess.  I’d found this odd, triple-stemmed shot glass at a garage sale, and converted it into a candle holder.  The three candles were always at different heights, representing the maiden, mother, and crone.  Their interplay caused some incredibly beautiful wax formations to develop, dripping between the stems and onto the carved wooden pentagram I used as its base.

After several moves I had stopped using it, and it was dusty as all get-out, and some of the wax had broken off of it.  Now that I am practicing Hellenismos, I took the symbolism back further in time, using it to honor the Moirae, the Fates, and ask their intercession.  I have never felt comfortable asking for things beyond my ken, so instead of simply asking for Carol’s life to be saved, I asked that her transition (either returning to her life or moving beyond it) be swift and uncomplicated.  I didn’t want her and her family to suffer as she lingered between life and death.

So now Carol is on the road to recovery, and her fate is not the same as my father’s.  I am thankful to be reminded that fate is not immutable.  I am also thankful that I have learned more about the Moirae.  Their number and gender are the only similarities to the triple goddess of Wiccan belief, and their role is quite different, as well.  I’m thrilled that some of my oldest ritual tools are finding their way into my current practice, because I feel like it’s a natural progression of faith rather than an arbitrary shifting of spiritual gears.

That’s about it for my ruminations on fate, religion, and prayer.  I have to get ready to go to a Quaker meeting now.

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