“On This Trail”

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver

My friend Willow died today. I am facilitating a women’s retreat in Portland on the subject of passion, and during our break I checked my email – and there it was…the notice that I had been hoping would not come but it did. She was gone. The fact that the subject matter of the retreat was about following our passion was not lost on me with Willow’s passing. I had known her for about 25 years or so. She was a well-known and respected singer and songwriter with a women’s trio (Nicholas, Glover & Wray) that performed constantly. And yet there was an inner calling for Willow to do her own CD – something that would highlight her gifts as a songwriter, singer and entertainer. Through the years when I would see her at an event, she would confide to me that she felt stuck in how to make her own CD and asked if I would be willing to help her out. I would always enthusiastically say yes, that I would love to help in any way that I could…and yet the call never came. When I would see her again I would ask how her progress towards her dream was coming, and she would say she wanted to do it but was dealing with all the inner critics, the idea of it being the “ultimate” collection of songs, and other very justifiable reasons why it wasn’t happening. Again, I encouraged her and hoped that she could find a way to make it real.

Then she got cancer. All her time and energy went into her treatments and after about 7 months the cancer was winning. After a stay in the hospital, she was told she had about 2 weeks left to live. With her life-clock ticking, the time was now – and she went for it.

She left the hospital on March 27th, and on March 28th she began recording. With one last push of energy, and amazing love and support from all her favorite musicians and producers, she recorded 13 songs in 2 weeks! She put everything into it, and it seemed that the music was healing her. She had energy, was happy, and was thrilled to be doing this project. She sang her original songs, did all the graphics herself, and the CD was mixed and mastered and shipped off for duplication. Even though her body was declining, her Spirit was moving her through this whole process with love and grace. The hope was that the CD would be delivered to her in time so that she could feel and see her accomplishment. When the UPS truck pulled up at 4:00 pm on May 29th, a group of people rushed the truck cheering and excited to deliver the CD’s to her. By that time she was drifting between worlds and even though they put the CD in her hand, and played the music, she was not really awake enough to feel it. The miracle happened the next morning when she woke up, perfectly lucid, and saw the CD. She remarked how thrilled she was that she got it back so soon, and realized that it was done and complete. She read all the liner notes and then kissed the CD and tossed it into the air saying: “Okay, now go into the world and do your work!” Then she went back to sleep. The next morning she peacefully left this world.

Wayne Dyer says, “Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul.” In many of my women’s retreats this is a theme that we all deal with: telling the truth about what our dreams and passions are and allowing ourselves to go for it. It’s so easy for all of us to use those tried and true and sometimes so justifiable reasons/excuses of time, money, other responsibilities. For me, the gift is being able to recognize what my soul/Spirit is calling out for and doing it in whatever way I can. Taking baby steps, doing something towards it for five minutes a day, getting a friend(s) or a group to support me in my vision.

I can’t know all the reasons why Willow waited so many years to complete her dream, but maybe the timing was just perfect for her – and she did it – and now her legacy and music will live on. In dealing with my own sadness of her passing, I see one of her many gifts is how important it is to follow that longing of our heart’s calling and to know that we all leave a seed of love in whatever we do…as she writes in her song “On This Trail”: “…This trail, this road, will disappear with winter rain and wash away all traces of the places we have been, but seeds of love remain….”

Willow Wray – the Cosmic Cowgirl – October 5, 1950 – May 31, 2014

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