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A consequence of getting older (50 is on my horizon in just over a year) is an ever-growing, deeper appreciation for this amazing thing called life. I suppose, in my youth, it was something I simply took for granted. After all, I was going to live for a very long time. Often reckless, I bumbled along always ready for the next crazy adventure.

 

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When my dad died four years ago, his life cruelly snatched in a car accident one rainy morning in Australia, I faced mortality in a way that impacted me more than any other person’s death ever had. Hell, if my dad—superman—could die, then what hope was there for the rest of us? My dad, who’d survived third-degree burns in a fire in Papua New Guinea, malaria, pneumonia, cancer (twice), triple-bypass surgery, was gone. Just like that.

 

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In life, I was all too aware of how different we were. I hadn’t realised, until his death, the things we’d had in common: workaholic and ambitious. His death was my turning point, and for that I am so grateful. No longer was it acceptable to work seven days a week. Seriously, what was the point? The only thing we take with us when we die is love. And so death taught me to slow down. Really slow down. I no longer put pressure on myself. I haven’t gone from Type A personality to lazy ass, but I have slipped into a way of living that rests on one thing: pleasure. Does it make me happy? Does it honour me and my loved ones?

Interestingly, today’s super Full Moon is in the sign of abundant, money-loving, security-conscious Taurus. When I held my dad’s hand in his open casket, thanking him for all the hard work he’d done so we could have an abundant childhood on our property in rural Australia, my overriding feeling was: what was the point?

 

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He had worked so hard. He’d earnt a lot of money (and lost it, too) in his life. He worked overseas for months at a time. All that work. All that money. None of it was with him anymore. That moment solidified for me the true meaning of wealth: it’s in the minutiae of daily life, and the joy we allow ourselves to feel. It’s never about money in the bank (or under the bed). It’s the wells of gratitude we feel for this amazing life, and the passions we explore. I actually don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure that out had I not experienced my father’s death or witnessed his dead body.

 

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I don’t measure my wealth by my bank statements, but by the feeling I have when I wake up in the morning (glad to be alive, and looking forward to the day ahead), and the sense of satisfaction that tingles through every cell of my body when I crawl into my cosy bed at night.

This Christmas will be the first time, as a family, that we will have one daughter at home instead of two. It was just yesterday, though, I’m sure, when I decorated the tree with all the baby booties knitted for the impending birth of my first-born child; and how my loving husband would massage my pregnant belly beneath the lights of the tree. And now, that daughter will be having a Christmas tree with her first-born daughter. She will be starting her own family traditions. Oh how swiftly life travels by!

 

Each day, I find myself wanting to slow everything down just that bit more. I bought baby clothes for our little granddaughter, Sarah, yesterday…always thinking ahead to what she’ll need. At 11 weeks old, and blessing our lives in such beautiful ways, I find myself looking at clothes for 6 month olds, and even a year old. And yet, as fun as it will be to watch her become more fully who she is, I want to treasure these moments of babyness forever, and to breathe in the delicious scent of her skin. But life doesn’t work like that, does it? And each day she spends getting older, is one more day closer to my mother (now aged 77, living in Tasmania, Australia) getting closer to her transition. I’ve not seen my mother for eleven years now, and each day I am conscious that I want to see her again, and wrap my arms around her tightly. I don’t want to find myself in Tassie at her funeral without having had more time with her.

 

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Death. It makes you want more of life. Makes you greedy for all the love, joy, pleasure, fun and happiness. Life is so precious. Grab it with both hands. Enjoy that cappuccino, laze in bed that little bit longer on a Sunday morning, slow kiss your lover,  throw out your scales, snuggle up by the fire with a good book, take luxurious walks in Nature, kiss your kids even when you’re busy, make time to chat with friends, be extra loving to your partner, create meals you love to eat. These are the things which make life rich and beautiful. These are credit in the bank of life.

 

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About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
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“This is what happens around the world;
if you love, you grieve, and there are no exceptions.”

Funerals. They’re not something people like to think about, let alone talk about. They conjure up images from the movies of families huddled together by the graveside on a dark, grey, rainy day, sheltering under black umbrellas, as their loved one is laid to rest.

 

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Or maybe your own experience of attending a funeral immediately comes to the surface of your consciousness. Saying goodbye to someone who held a special place in our heart isn’t something we would willingly choose. The greater the love, the greater the loss. Grief hurts.

 

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If you’ve been involved in organising a funeral, you’ll probably have had a sense of the factory-farm nature of getting one lot of mourners into and out of a crematorium before the next lot of mourners arrive. There’s no time to be still. No time to let go. No real sense of having time and space to process what should be a meaningful and heart-felt ceremony. The same is often experienced in church services, too. You have an allotted time in which to be in and out. Does it have to be this way? No. Not at all. There are alternatives.

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What can you do if you’re responsible for, or part of a family that is, organising a ceremony? Firstly, consider all the aspects of what it means to create a meaningful funeral.

 

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The first step might well be to think outside the box. Do you have to use the church? Do you have to use the crematorium? I’m not saying or suggesting either of these venues is wrong, but do bear in mind that you will be placing yourself and other mourners under a severe time restriction. Regardless of your venue choice, you can still incorporate meaningful beliefs, whether they’re religious or otherwise.

 

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For any ceremony, creating a sense of sacred space immediately brings the human spirit to awareness. We see and feel that something out of the ordinary from daily life is about to happen. Whether you’re acting in the capacity of a celebrant or as a loving family member, there is so much you can do to set up a ceremonial space. Firstly, consider the venue. What was important in the deceased’s life? Were they a member of a sporting group? For example, could you hire a yacht club, or football club or village pub? Maybe they were a keen gardener or potter? Is there a garden or pottery place where you could hold the ceremony, and possibly the reception? Maybe you’ll opt for a graveside burial, and then have a longer ceremony in their favourite café (outside business hours). What about your local village hall?

Maybe your loved one was passionate about the sea? Could your ceremony be on a quiet beach?

 

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Perhaps there’s an old barn that could be used for the ceremony?

There are actually so many possible options for funeral venues that when you start thinking about them, you’ll wonder why people tend to go down the two routes of church/cemetery or crem. You will need permission, of course, from the land/building/venue owner. Legally, your only requirement for the ceremony is that the deceased’s body is covered. You do not need a coffin. You can use a shroud.

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The key for a mindful and meaningful ceremony is to choose a place where you will not feel rushed.

When considering how to set up the ceremonial space, think about all the human senses:

Sight: What decorations might you use? Flowers, plants, leaves, candles, lanterns. If you’re in Nature, let that be your décor.

 

Sound: Music, Nature (such as the wind or a babbling brook), bells, chimes, singing.

Taste: Maybe your loved one had a favourite drink? Could a small drinking vessel, such as a goblet, be passed around for everyone to share? (with a cloth napkin to wipe the rim after each person). Or you could use spring water…the foundation of all life. Maybe a small biscuit or chocolate could be part of the ceremony, as a way of honouring the sweetness of the deceased’s life?

Touch: Soft cloth for the altar, or a little memento for each person.

Smell: incense, essential oils, fresh air, scented flowers, or a sprig of rosemary on each seat for ‘remembrance’ which could then be placed on the shroud or coffin just before the committal.

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To enhance your sacred space, consider how you might define the area. Perhaps near the altar (a small table with a photo, candle, flowers, and anything symbolic of meaning to the deceased), you could make a circle on the ground/floor using: leaves, berries, rosehips, acorns, pinecones, flowers, or things that might have held meaning, such as marine ropes, bailing twine, paintbrushes, Matchbox cars, dolls, etc.

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Why not create a candlelit labyrinth using jam jars with a tealight in each one, inside a brown paper bag filled with sand. This is particularly beautiful if you’re having an evening ceremony. The coffin could be in the centre of the labyrinth, with each mourner taking the time to walk into the centre to say goodbye, and slowly going back out into the world as a different person. You can download a Classical Labyrinth pattern here: https://labyrinthsociety.org/make-a-labyrinth

Perhaps you could create a memory jar. Using a large glass jar, invite each mourner to write on a piece of card their favourite memory of the deceased.

Maybe you could decorate the space with Prayer flags/Love flags with colourful images or words relating to the deceased and their life.

Each mourner could cut out hands (drawing their hands onto cardboard, and then cutting them out) to put with coffin, and writing their names on saying ‘we are with you’.

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What about wooden or paper heart confetti to sprinkle over coffin or shroud?

Print cards with the words “I’ll always remember when…” and leave a pen/pencil for each guest to add their memory.

Consider a Lantern Ceremony (glass jam jars with thin wire and tea light)…glass paints or coloured tissue paper glued on the outside. Mourners could gather in a circle around the coffin/shrouded body, and create a circle of love throughout the ceremony. You can just imagine, I am sure, how powerful such a circle would feel.

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Use the deceased’s favourite colours as a theme.

Why not have a long piece of white wallpaper, and leave crayons or felt pens for mourners to create a timeline of the deceased’s life: they write down when and where they met.

This isn’t necessary, but you might find it inspiring: Consider ‘funeral favours’ for the mourners.

On each mourner’s seat, leave a bookmark of the deceased, plus their favourite quote.

Wildflower seeds. You can print your loved one’s name, dates of birth and death, and words of choice such as ‘forget me not’.
http://www.growamemory.co.uk/Wildflower-Seed-Packet-Memorial-Gifts/

 

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Flower bulbs. Give each mourner a bulb or bulbs to plant in memory of your loved one.

What about leaving a copy of your loved one’s favourite recipe printed out?

Depending on the location of your ceremony, you might consider a dove release, butterfly release or eco-friendly balloon release.

 

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In the midst of your grief, allow yourself to channel the adrenalin into creative choices.

By choosing an independent celebrant, you are taking a huge step towards gifting your loved one with a life-centred funeral. This is your final gift to them.

“When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” ~ Anon

Veronika Robinson is an Independent Funeral Celebrant who is available to officiate life-centred ceremonies throughout Cumbria.
www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
Facebook | Twitter | WattPad

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At the top end of Penrith’s cemetery, up on the hill overlooking town, there is a quiet oasis: a little haven away from the busyness of town. It’s the Woodland Burial Site.

 

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Woodland Burial Site, Penrith, Cumbria

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A peaceful haven: Woodland Burial Site

 

It’s fair to say that most people don’t think about how they will honour their loved ones or themselves after death in terms of funeral choices and disposal of the body.

 

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Penrith Cemetery

 

Increasingly, however, as people become more aware of the huge impact the funeral industry has on the planet, some are taking active steps towards honouring Mother Earth by choosing a low-impact burial. What does this mean?

 

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Penrith’s woodland burial site

 

It is about burying a body that hasn’t been filled with formaldehyde (which is used to preserve the body so a funeral can be delayed for a week or longer). Some people recognise that an eco burial also means thinking about the coffin. In some instances, families will choose not to use a coffin, though there a many eco ones on the market, and use, instead, something like a shroud. The only legal requirement is that the body not be seen. It is not a legal requirement to use a coffin.

 

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wildflowers on the woodland burial site

 

A woodland burial site doesn’t use headstones, but instead is a natural and holistic way of honouring death by allowing nature to grow unimpeded. Personally, I find it beautiful, simple and inspiring.

 

 

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A beautiful place

 

Oftentimes, people who have chosen the option of an eco burial will also practise home care: this is where the loved ones take care of the body, by keeping it cool with dry ice, and brushing the hair, cleaning the body, and keeping a vigil until the ceremony. Most people are unaware that using a funeral home is an option, not a necessity.

 

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Secluded and peaceful: Penrith’s Woodland Burial Site

 

 

We’re blessed in the Eden Valley to have such a wonderful resource as this woodland burial site, and I hope in time that it becomes the norm to bury our loved ones in this way (or on private land) as people move away from environmentally unfriendly cremations, headstones, and cemeteries that require constant upkeep through mowing and toxic weed killers.

 

Veronika Robinson is a funeral celebrant who is available to officiate ceremonies throughout Cumbria. Her work involves creating, writing and officiating ceremonies based on the wishes of her clients, and founded on their beliefs, whether they’re religious, humanist, spiritual or other. She is happy to work directly with families or via a funeral director. She is passionate about eco-burials, and opening up the conversation around death and dying in a conscious way. She is a supporter of the Natural Death Centre. http://www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant/funerals-memorials.shtml

www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

Penrith’s woodland burial site

 

About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
Facebook | Twitter | WattPad

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Last night, my husband and I drove through heavy winds and torrential rain from Glasgow back home to our cosy cottage in rural Cumbria. We’d just left our younger daughter, Eliza, behind to begin her new life as a university student. Messages came through on my phone from friends asking me if I was ok. I guess they figured I’d be a blubbering mess: after all, I now live in a home with no children, and after 21 years of parenting, it’s a new land. Sure, the terrain is going to be different, but the traveller is well equipped for the journey.

 

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My overriding feeling, though, as we drove, was one of immense gratitude. That amazing man beside me, driving us safely through wind and rain, has been by my side every step of the parenting way. Not once did he ever say he was too tired to change a nappy, or rock a teething baby (even when he was up at 4am to work as a breakfast announcer on radio). On days when I flailed around hopelessly (and there were many), he was there, steady as a rock, providing practical support and humour by the bucket load.

 

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It might seem odd, given that I founded, edited and published a magazine solely dedicated to the holistic path of mothering for more than a decade, that I would today—the first day of living in a poorly named empty nest—be writing about the sacred journey of fatherhood. The truth is, though, that my path through mothering was made possible, and enhanced, by his constant high-level of awareness to my needs and those of our children.

 

 

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

My husband Paul catching our baby and passing her to me straight after birth.

 

Whatever decisions were made regarding our children, and there were many that flew in the face of popular culture, he was intimately part of and proactive in those choices. Not once, not in more than two decades of our parenting partnership, did I ever feel I was in the job alone.

 

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Parenting with another person is the ultimate business partnership. I used to joke with my daughters: don’t have sex with anyone you’re not prepared to have children with! But it’s not a joke, not really. The older (and hopefully, wiser) I get, the more conscious I become of the enormous responsibility and privilege it is to be a parent, and bring a new being Earthside. Surely the person we choose to share this parenting journey with should be up to the job? But, like mothering, there is no manual for being a fabulous father.

 

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To father consciously and from the heart means knowing one’s self, and constantly choosing ways of being and living that allow you to become the highest version of who you are. Sometimes this happens in the presence of children, and sometimes it doesn’t.

 

 

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I saw a post on Facebook this morning, which although was clearly meant in good humour, upset me quite a lot. Why? Because it was pretty much about how awful being married is, but you know, we stick at it anyway because that’s love. It went on and on about the fighting and screaming and inconsideration and suchlike that happens in parenting. I read it twice, and thought: that doesn’t happen in my home or marriage.

Did I just get lucky? Yeah, maybe. But actually, each of us is responsible for how we show up in relationship. It’s far too easy to blame our partner because they did or didn’t do something. If we truly love our partner, then we live in a way that respects them as well as ourselves. We only want the BEST for them. If that is the foundation of our marriage/partnership, then this absolutely flows into the relationship we have with our children.

 

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Many times over the years I’ve heard comments like: “If the dad bottle-feeds the baby he can bond with it.” NOT TRUE. This isn’t how bonding works. A bottle is an inanimate object. It does not connect father and child.

 

If a father truly wants to be connected to his child (and the child’s mother), he needs to spend time with them.

 

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It’s not just women who have hormones in relation to parenting, men do too.
Vasopressin (also in women, but to a much lesser degree) is a ‘monogamy’ hormone which promotes strong, paternal behaviour. This occurs when a man is living with his pregnant partner.

 

Testosterone drives a man, encourages aggression, and tempts him elsewhere. Vasopressin has the opposite effect. It encourages a father to be dedicated to his partner, protective, stable, and want to touch and be touched. It helps him bond with his baby. The hormone is triggered through being near to the mother in pregnancy, and with mother and child during and after birth. The ability of his body to interpret his partner’s hormones is due to him detecting the change in her pheromones (steroid hormones on her skin).

 

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Paul, Eliza and Beth

 

When my husband and I met, I invited him for dinner. He moved in the next day. Six weeks later, I was pregnant. Our relationship has been a creative partnership of raising two wonderful daughters. Now, as we explore life as a couple (thinking ‘honeymoon time’) without children to raise, I allow my heart to be filled with an immense ocean of gratitude for a man who not only loved me fully, as a wife, a woman, and a mother, but who always had time for our children. It has been a sacred journey, this path of loving our babies into adulthood. I know with absolute certainty that I couldn’t have been the mother I was without his excellent fathering skills.

 

About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
Facebook | Twitter | WattPad

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When I was a little girl, there were two women who were large in my life although I never had the pleasure to meet them in person. These women, my Omas, lived far across the world from me. I was born and raised in Australia, and my grandmothers lived in Germany. Even though they weren’t part of my daily life, and I never got to sit on their knees or hear their stories, they were every bit as present in my heart as other family members.

My Oma Minna (my father’s mother) would crochet me dresses. Oh the delight to open those parcels. She did this for years on end.

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Oma Minna Marie Herbers, 1929

When I was of writing age, I would exchange letters with my Oma Leiselotta. I was about ten or eleven when she died, and that was the first time I ever saw my mother cry. My heart broke that I would never get to meet her.

I keep their photos nearby, and often ‘chat’ with them in the spirit world. I have a kitchen oven hand protector that Oma Leiselotta once crocheted. It’s a simple thing, but it means the world to me, and has survived moving countries a number of times. Even at those times when I have whittled my whole life down to a suitcase or two, that yellow item of Oma-love comes with me.

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Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have my Omas in my childhood the way other children have grandmothers, and perhaps it’s because my daughters haven’t seen their Oma since 2005 (she lives in Tasmania, Australia), that I feel even more strongly about wanting to be a living, loving and generous presence in my new granddaughter’s life.

 

It was such a joy for me to meet our little Sarah Hope a few days ago. What a treasure! I am so in love with her. Throughout Beth’s pregnancy with her, Sarah would visit me in dreams. I remember one dream in particular where I was teaching her to say Oma, and she was repeating it after me.

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Kissing my beautiful new granddaughter, Sarah Hope, who was born on my husband’s birthday.

One of the first things women who are already grandmothers ask me is “what are you called? Granny, Nan, Nana, Nanny, Grandmother?” I proudly say: OMA. For as long as I can remember, it has felt such a special word to me, and I will wear that title with joy for the rest of my days on this earth.

(I treasure this little video clip of me meeting Sarah)

For anyone who knows my husband, Funny Boy Paul, you won’t be surprised to know that he isn’t going to have a regular Grandpa tag! He jokingly said one day that he could be Grandalf! (for those who aren’t familiar with Lord of the Rings, there is an old man in there called Gandalf). Anyway, the name stuck! So, here we are, at a new point in our lives (Eliza leaves home this week for Glasgow University). We’ve become grandparents to gorgeous Sarah, and we’re about to experience life without children in the home.

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Grandalf with his beautiful granddaughter, Sarah, born on his birthday: August 25th

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Paul and Sarah.

What adventures await Oma and Grandalf!

 

Paul Robinson. Veronika Robinson. Sarah Carlile

We love Sarah to bits! I could just kiss her all over! She’s so scrumptious.

 

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Our daughter Eliza getting to know her new niece, Sarah.

 

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My first role as Oma, apart from congratulating Beth and Chris on becoming parents, and giving kisses and cuddles to my beautiful new granddaughter, Sarah, was to make soups for my daughter’s freezer to sustain her through the Babymoon. A bit of edible mother love, so to speak.

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I made two huge pots of soup from my recipe book The Mystic Cookfire.

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About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
Facebook | Twitter | WattPad

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When Saturn first kissed my ascendant, a few days before Christmas last year, my elder daughter and I were sitting in the car at the train station. She’d just got off the train from university, and wanted a chat with me before I drove her home for Christmas break.

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I wrote an article for Dell Horoscope magazine about my love of the planet Saturn.

 

 

I had been wondering for months, maybe longer, what Saturn crossing my ascendant would tell me. As a Capricorn, Saturn is strong in my natal chart. I was determined it would be a conscious transit, and not wipe me out. After all, I love Saturnian energy. By nature, I’m disciplined, focussed, determined, a planner, reliable, responsible and every other Saturnian word.

“I’m pregnant,” she said to me casually waiting to see my reaction.

I almost had to laugh at how literal Saturn’s message was. Saturn, the great marker of time and age, was slap bang on my ascendant (identity). So, I am going to become a grandmother. This was the most amazing news, and I was overjoyed!

I knew at some point Saturn would retrograde, and discovered it would come back to this exact point at the time my grandchild was due to come Earthside, and also at the time my younger daughter would leave home for university.

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Enjoying this last bit of time with Eliza before she leaves home for university.

 

So, my precious, beautiful, delightful, gorgeous granddaughter, Sarah Hope Carlile, has arrived Earthside. And what a joy! She also happened to arrive on my husband’s 68th birthday. Becoming a grandfather for the first time was a pretty awesome gift.

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Late at night on Paul’s birthday upon hearing the news that our granddaughter and niece had arrived Earthside. Oh the joy!!

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Sarah Hope

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Chris, Beth and Sarah

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A natural waterbirth makes Sarah a 2nd-generation waterbaby! In 1995, I set up the National Waterbirth Trust in New Zealand to help other women access information on birthing in water.

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And in nine days Eliza leaves for university, officially leaving me with ‘an empty nest’. Well, whoever came up with that term clearly has no idea that my life is anything but empty. But what is true is that Saturn crossing the threshold (over my ascendant), at the same time as my Chiron return (in my 5th house), is bringing change to who I am. I have invested twenty-one years of my life as a mother, for the most part in quite concentrated ways, such as home educating and publishing a holistic parenting publication for twelve years of that time span.

I may be a ‘young’ grandmother (48), but I plan to be a fit, healthy, happy and fab one.

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My first run after becoming an Oma (grandmother). I intend to be one fit grandmother to our beautiful Sarah. Thanks to Saturn on my Sagittarius ascendant right now, I am discovering the discipline that comes from using my legs (Sadge rules thighs/upper legs)

 

I have had many dreams of Sarah during her mother’s pregnancy, and if there is one thing I learned in that time, this little girl will have quite a sense of humour. Our synastry shows that our bond will be strong, despite the miles between us. I look forward to getting to know her, and watching her parents blossom as their family life unfolds.

Next week, I will wave off my other daughter as she flies the nest and explores this amazing thing called life.

The family home will always be open to my little chicks, but oh my how full my heart feels to watch them flying, flying, flying.

Saturn may be considered a karmic planet, but let us remember that karma isn’t ‘bad’. It is the story of what you sow, shall you reap.

About Veronika

Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.

You can also find her on:
Facebook | Twitter | WattPad

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