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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wisdom of a Child...

The rush of Christmas is over and for some of us we have taken some time off and are enjoying the relaxation and quietness that follows.  I hope all of you had a very wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter, family and friends. 
This Christmas was not an easy one for me, I did not wear my emotions on my sleeve, but a big part of me really felt what was missing.  As the day approached, I felt tightness in my heart, a sadness that seemed to come from the core of my very being.  As I went about the traditions and rituals there was an emptiness that I could not explain, and which I knew others would not understand. 
The gifts were wrapped and everything was ready.  My family and I went to Christmas Eve Mass and of course our pastor was at his best.  During the homily he shared a story that left me in tears, tears I could not control or stop.  To add to this, a child sat in front of us who reminded me of my daughter.  She wore pigtails, was lively and had a ready smile for all of us.  She would turn around and smile and play with my husband from time to time.  At the end of the Mass, she decided it was my turn to play; she grabbed both my hands, smiled and squeezed them tight.  My heart leapt, it was as if this small child was reassuring me, letting me know all was going to be okay.  I still cry when I think of her gesture, knowing that that 2 ½ year old knew just what I needed. 
After Mass we joined my husband’s family for a traditional Christmas Eve meal and fun.  We laughed; we danced and just enjoyed each other’s company.  I laughed, danced and had a good time and when I got home, as is tradition, I filled the stockings, filling Rachel’s with candy, toys and small trinkets for the children.   Everyone had gone to bed, so I was alone, which was good.  I finished my task and just sat quietly watching the lights flicker on the tree, looking to Rachel’s picture and allowing myself to cry. 
Christmas morning, my family arrived for breakfast, a tradition we started several years ago, we ate and then we all head into the living room to open the gifts.  Of course like any household with any number of small children, chaos ensued.  This is of course the sort of chaos I look forward to every year; I just love to watch the look on a child’s face when they get something they were hoping for.  After the gifts were opened my nephew asked ‘Titi is it time for Rachel’s stocking now.’  I smiled and we prepared a place for them to spill out the contents of her stocking.  It was a great feeling to know that when all the gifts were opened, this was still an important part of Christmas for my nephew and nieces.  They stopped everything to open Rachel’s stocking and each take their share of the prizes that awaited them.  It may not seem like a lot to some people, but this simple tradition has allowed Rachel to be a part of our festivities. 
You may find yourself doing something similar that allows your loved one to be a part of your family celebration that is not uncomfortable to others, but rather, to become something to look forward to, that helps you and others remember them in wonderful ways.
We spent the remainder of Christmas day with my aunts and uncles, starting with a life-long tradition of gathering at my grandparents’ home.  A note here, my grandparents are both deceased, but we have been gathering there every since I can remember, and my dad’s family has carried on this tradition.  My grandmother died in 1976 and my grandfather in 1997, my grandmother’s birthday was Christmas Day, and we all had to be there.  This gives you a glimpse of why traditions are important to my family and me. 
After all the visiting, we headed home, unwound a little and then headed to bed.  Sleep came after shedding much needed tears.  It still hurts, it still feels unfair at times, but I know I am beginning to fully accept that Rachel is gone, and in doing so, I am beginning to let go.  I know this is just another step in the healing, and even though I am uncertain at times, I am learning to welcome it. 
This holiday has reminded me and shown me that Rachel is not forgotten, will not be forgotten and that she is very much a part of all our lives.  It also made me aware of her presence in all the small and large occurrences that take place in our lives every day.  Be it a small child who makes you smile, a family member who remembers, the kind words of a stranger, or the familiar traditions that speak of family and love.  Whatever it is for you, it is there all around you.  Love is an incredible gift, and when we are open to its wonder and power, it transcends all space and time, giving us a sense of warmth; knowing that even though our loved one is no longer present in our lives, they are not far away at all. 
I received many gifts this Christmas, but the most wonderful of all was that of LOVE.  For me as a Christian, it is love that saved us, and it is love that keeps us safe and protected.  The amazing thing is that it all came in the form of a Child, the baby Jesus.  And in my life, I have found that there is much wisdom and understanding that comes from children, which many of us adults sometimes miss.  Their gift is unconditional love, they do not question, they do not wonder why we love them, they just know and give it right back to us. 
There is healing in love, and it is love that remains with us always.  Love never fails….
Blessings! and until we meet again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My First Christmas in Heaven

That first Christmas without Rachel a friend gave me this poem; Helen who has now also spent two Christmas' in heaven.  I was given this a few weeks before Christmas and an idea hit me.  I found Holiday letterhead, added Love Rachel at the end of the poem, and gave a copy to each member of my family.  For me it was reassuring and healing, for my family it was a gift from Rachel.

I share this with you on Christmas morning in the hopes of sharing a little comfort, warmth and joy.  It is also a reminder that our loved ones are not far away at all.  They are always with us, watching over us and keeping us safe.  My hopes and prayers for you this Christmas is that even though there is still pain, confusion and uncertainty; you will find healing in knowing that their love surrounds you on this holiest of days.  

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below
With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear.
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can't compare with the 
Christmas choir up hear.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart
But I am not so far away, we really aren't apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do
For I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear
Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

Love .......

(Author Unknown)

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.
May your home be filled with love and laughter.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the Sunny Side of the Street...

Life can be so unpredictable at times.  One minute all is right with the world, the next you are trying to figure out which end is up.  Changes, transitions, they all take place in our lives.  There are comings and goings, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, our life is in constant motion.  Some are good and welcomed; still others are looked upon with dread and fear.

During the holiday season we somehow become much more aware of this constant movement in our lives.  We hear of tragedy and the comment invariably is, ‘Wow!  Too bad this happened right before the holidays, it is so sad.’  On the flip side, when good news is shared, we may hear someone say something to the effect of, ‘Awesome, what a great way to kick of the holidays.’  

It seems that events happening this time of year are somehow connected to the holidays and how they will be affected.  It is almost like a barometer of sorts, indicating whether the mood will be happy and joyful, or sad and unpleasant.  

As I drove today, I reveled in the beauty of the freshly fallen snow, took in the sight of it.  I love snow; it just seems to provide a beautiful blanket, covering life’s imperfections.  As I admired nature’s handiwork, a tow truck went by bearing a vehicle that had been involved in an auto accident.  From the looks of it, not a simple fender-bender, I said a silent prayer hoping that no one had been hurt.  Immediately, however, the sight of this car flooded me with memories of my daughter, her accident, and the condition of her car.  I was instantly doused in a wave of sadness.

As I waited for the traffic light to change, I took stock of all the cars, and was reminded that some people may not make it home today.  I shook my head, trying to dispel these thoughts, who needs such negative thinking, and since when did I become so cynical.  It made me realized, however, just how susceptible we all are, and for those of you, who like me, have lost a loved one, how simple triggers can bring on an avalanche of feelings, emotions and thoughts that we sometimes cannot control.  

But yet, I drove on having somewhat successfully sent my thoughts packing.  I smiled as I greeted people, started doing what needed to be done, and began going about my business.  I needed to focus on the tasks ahead, finish taking my final exams for my classes, maybe get some last minute holiday shopping in, and so on.   A subtle reminder to me that life does go on, whether we want it to or not.  

I know that this time of year is not easy for many people, not just those who have suffered a loss due to death, but for so many other reasons as well.  In our area, so many people will be losing their jobs after the holidays; as yet another business prepares to close its doors.  Some of you are recently separated or divorced, and this may be your first holiday alone.  Others have relocated due to job transfers, military duty, or looking for a better life, and find themselves away from all that is familiar and their families.  

Our lives are a constant stream of change and we cannot alter its direction at times, we simply find ourselves riding this stream, hoping that the stops along the way, will be good, and in the event that there is difficulty, we can find the strength to bear it and carry on.  For so many of us, it may seem at times as if there is no hope, no way out of a current situation, and we get dragged into all the negativity that comes along with it.  

It seems easy enough to say, come on, get up, shake it off, and for many of you, there are people around you telling you just that.  The key is to help yourself think positively, to help yourself find the good in all that is around you.  It can be done, even when there seems to be no way out of where you are at right now.  

 I found a link that listed ways to improve your outlook, appropriately called ‘How To Stay Positive When You Know Your Life Sucks.’  Not necessarily my choice of words, but to the point and direct, just the same.  The following is a list of what is recommended:
  1. Ground yourself.  Realize that you need to get to know who you are and what your needs are, and make the choice to follow your own path. 
  2. Look on the inside.  What are some qualities you have that you like about yourself?
  3. Prove those negative thoughts wrong.  Change your mind.  Every person matters to someone.
  4. Appreciate what you see.  Look in the mirror.  Find some beautiful thing about yourself...
  5. It’s all how you look at it.  Remember, there are people who seem to have it all who are miserable, and yet others who appear to have nothing, who are very happy.
  6. Determine how your life could be better.  Make a few reachable goals and your own strategies.  The first step is usually the hardest – getting help or admitting you need it.
  7. Get motivated.  Give yourself a boost by focusing on what is important to you personally.
  8. Remember that some things can pass with time.  There will be tomorrow...
  9. Reminisce.  There will be many great moments in your life – don’t let a few obstacles get in the way.
  10.  Don’t stop yourself from feeling the joy.  Let yourself enjoy life even if you’re not at the best place you could be. 
  11. Develop a gratitude journal.  At the end of the day, write down five things that have made you happy or appreciative that day- not necessarily big things, even small ones count. 
  12. If you feel persistently sad, unmotivated, anxious, hopeless or fearful, seek professional help.  Remember there is always somebody there who wants to help you.  You are valuable!
You can read the entire article at WikiHow.

There is always a way out of whatever circumstances surround us.  I have had my share of ups and downs, achievements and disappointments, and yet I find that I am still able to smile, able to enjoy life’s pleasures, like watching snowflakes sail their way through the air.  Find what works best for you, what helps ease the sadness, and above all, know that you do not have to go it alone.  There is always someone else who has walked in your shoes, who understands your pain, and has worked their way through the disappointments.  

Enjoy the holiday season; find the beauty in all that surrounds you.  Think of those important people in your life; whether they are still a big part of your life, or no longer with you.  Let your memories carry you through this season, and throughout the year.  Above all, be good to yourself, take care of YOU.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Letter From Heaven

There are many poems, stories and letters that seem to reach us from some inspired soul, I came across this letter and the words were truly comforting.  Although the author is unknown, I am grateful that they were able to write something that expressed our hope, belief and desire for our loved ones.  They may not answer our questions, but they give us that light at the end of the tunnel.  For those of us who believe in life after death, this beautiful letter, gives us a glimpse of all we hope for and believe in.  

Rachel has come to me in my dreams, she has come to other family members as well, and the message is always one of happiness, peace and tranquility.  Just recently, my 7-year old niece told me that Rachel had spoken to her (yes, I believe they communicate with us somehow) and in their conversation, Rachel told her she was happy, and that God is really nice.  It was simple words from a small child, but they gave my heart wings, they reassured me, giving me a comfort that I cannot explain.  

We all want to know and believe that our loved ones are fine, that they are happy and that there is something beyond this life.  This letter for me, is just that, a comforting message which some beautiful stranger felt it necessary to write and share.  Who ever you may be, I thank you for your inspired words.

I hope it brings you hope and comfort, too.

Letter From Heaven

To my dearest family:

Some things I'd like to say, but first of all to let you know that I arrived okay.  I'm writing you from Heaven where I dwell with God above, where there's no more tears or sadness there is just eternal love.  Please do not be unhappy just because I'm out of sight, remember that I'm with you every morning, noon, and night.

That day I had to leave you when my life on earth was through, God picked me up and hugged me and He said, "I welcome you".  "It's good to have you back again you were missed while you were gone, as for your dearest family they'll be here later on."  "I need you here so badly as part of My big plan, there's so much that we have to do to help our mortal man."

Then God gave me a list of things He wished for me to do, and foremost on that list of mine is to watch and care for you.   And I will be beside you every day and week and year, and when you're sad I'm standing there to wipe away that tear.  And when you lie in bed at night the days chores put to flight, God and I are closest to you in the middle of the night.  When you think of my life on earth and all those loving years, because you're only human they are bound to bring you tears.  But do not be afraid to cry it does relieve the pain, remember there would be no flowers unless there was some rain.

I wish that I could tell you of all that God has planned, but if I were to tell you you wouldn't understand.  But one thing is for certain though my life on earth is o'er, I am closer to you now than I ever was before. 

And to my very dearest friends trust God for He knows best, I'm still not far away from you I'm just beyond the crest. There are many rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb, but together we can do it taking one day at a time.  It was always my philosophy and I'd like it for you too, that as you give unto the world so the world will give to you.  If you can help somebody who's in sorrow or in pain, then you can say to God at night my day was not in vain.  And now I am contented that my life... it was worthwhile, knowing as I passed along the way I made somebody smile.

So if you meet somebody who is down and feeling low, just lend a hand to pick him up as on your way you go.  When you are walking down the street and you've got me on your mind, I'm walking in your footsteps only half a step behind.  And when you feel that gentle breeze or the wind upon your face, that's me giving you a great big hug or just a soft embrace.  And when it's time for you to go from that body to be free, remember you're not going... you are coming here to me!  And I will always love you from that land way up above, I'll be in touch again soon P.S....God sends His love.

I am so sorry....but, remember....God knows best!  My prayers and thoughts are with you always.  I love you more than you will ever know

(Unknown author)

Blessings! and until we meet again. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Letting go!

What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.  --Helen Keller

...becomes a part of us.  They are not gone from our lives, completely, they remain with us, a part of us.  Rachel is always in my heart, on my mind and forever on my tongue.  Rachel, like so many others, is very much alive in the people they loved and in turn loved them.

That first Christmas was, as I mentioned before, a very difficult one.  Of course I added to my stress and anxiety, by working myself into a frenzy in the weeks before Christmas, thinking I would never make it through that day.  Yet Christmas arrived, yes there was grief, but it had been worse in the weeks prior, by the time it arrived, I had, without my realizing it, worked my way through it.

As will be the case for many of you.  You will stress about it, feel that there is just no way that you can do it, and then find yourself on the other side of it all.  As the years move on, you find that the actual holiday is not so bad, it is the days and events prior that can be taxing.  When you are out shopping, you know that you have one less gift to buy, there is one less Christmas card to send, and that can leave you saddened and heavy-hearted.  

This year I am having a slow go of it all, it seems that I am procrastinating more, and just not getting into the swing of things.  I have made some purchases, put up the tree, sent out my Christmas cards, it just seems as if my whole heart is not in it.  One thing I have begun to realize, is that I can feel the healing, and with this fact, comes the knowledge that I need to let go.  It does not mean that I am forgetting, on the contrary the memories are now more prevalent and have much more meaning; it just means I am realizing that I need to move on.  What is hard for me, is that now I truly know in my heart that Rachel is gone, she isn't coming back.  I have awakened from the nightmare, and now know it is a reality.  

For example, since Rachel's death, I have added her name to our Christmas cards, this year I felt that I could let go of this tradition.  For me she is in my heart, she is a part of me, and to those who knew her, she is still a part of their lives as well.  I met up with someone who received my Christmas card, they thanked me and proceeded to tell me that they missed seeing Rachel's name on the card as well.  I didn't know what to say at first, and then simply said I felt it was time.  Even though I felt I had done the right thing, it left me second guessing myself, was it to soon, should I have included her name, and so on.  Then I realized that they were not ready to let go, they still wanted to hold on.  

This simple encounter made me realize that others are still grieving Rachel's death.  That I am not the only one who is hurting, who is questioning, who still wants to hold on.  This is true for people in your life as well, they may not express it or share it with you, but they are hurting and missing too.  I know that Rachel, like your loved one, touched many people's lives, and their loss is whatever our loved one brought into their relationship with them.  They maybe a sibling, aunt or uncle, cousin or friend, or any other type of bond that they may have shared; and because of this bond, they feel their own special type of loss.  'Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.'  Dennis Klass

This is good to remember as you go about your life.  Yes their pain may not be as deep as yours, their relationship may have been so different, but yet there is something there, that neither of you can explain.  The gift in all this, is that you share a common loss, you, family and friends all long for and miss this beloved individual, and want so much to keep their memory alive.  Simple things can mean so much for all of you, like adding their name to your greeting cards.  

According to Dr. James Miller in his booklet entitled 'Helping the Bereaved Celebrate the Holidays' he reminds us that: 'Sometimes it's difficult for family members to support one another because each person is caught in his or her own feelings of grief and abandonment.'  It can also be hard on your friends, they may be uncomfortable with the loss and how it is effecting you and others.  If you find yourself unable to speak to those nearest to you, find support groups, speak to your pastor, rabbi or minister, or seek counseling, especially during this time of year.  It helped me to speak to a counselor, when no one else could or would listen to me.  Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help, it is okay...really. 

Support groups are great, and many are designed to meet specific needs.  For instance, there are groups for bereaved parents, grandparents, widows/widowers, siblings, children, etc., and of course, general grief groups, where anyone is welcome.  Why they help?  These are individuals who are where you are, or have been where you are going.  They have a better understanding of what you are going through, and can help you make sense of what is happening to you and those around you.  Many groups have special gatherings to help the bereaved during this time of year, take advantage of these.   I have attended a few support groups myself, and I have found those that work and some that were just not for me, don't be afraid to shop around until you find one that is right for you.  My overall experience, was one of knowing that I was definitely not alone, that I would survive, and at the end of the day, I would be okay.  

None of us needs to go this alone, especially during this time of year.  There are so many people right in your own families, communities, schools, workplaces, and places of worship, who have walked in your shoes, who know and understand your pain, and are more than willing to help you, your family and friends, survive the holidays, and beyond.  Take that step, reach out, I am certain you will find a helping hand stretched out to grasp yours.  If you have someone in your life who is trying to cope with grief and does not have the strength to reach out, you can help them.  Invite them to come along with you, seek to help them by asking them to help you.  

Many years ago three wise men set out to find a baby, led only by a star, and their belief that something wonderful awaited them  We too are on a journey, and like those men so many years ago, they traveled from afar, they met with difficulty I am sure along the way, and many who traveled with them, more than likely wished to turn back, holding onto the comfort of what they knew and understood.  We are like these wise men of long ago, we are on a journey, we are led by our faith and what we believe, we have met with struggle and pain, and wish we could turn back time.  But yet were persevere, we move onward, and we continue, knowing that what we seek lies ahead.  For those of us who are grieving, what we seek is healing and understanding, and the only way we can do this, is by letting go, trusting, and knowing that our love for them and their love for us, will forever sustain us.  

May the peace of the season surround you.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Tree is Trimmed...

This past weekend we put up our Christmas tree.  It was the usual, bicker about the placement of the lights, put this here, place that there and so on.  When all was said and done, it looked good.  The stockings were hung up, all the animated decorations recharged with fresh batteries, while Christmas carols played in the background.

The beauty of this year is that we have our grandson who is just a delight to watch.  His eyes light up at all the lights, sights and sounds of the holiday.  The best part for me is the perspective of seeing all this through his eyes, the newness of the entire experience.  All of you who are grandparents, know exactly what I am speaking of, it is beautiful beyond words.  This is all wonderful, but it also reminds me of what is missing.  

I couldn’t help but think of my daughter as I watched my grandson and all his animated antics.  My husband and I loved watching our children’s expressions and excitement during this time of year.  I especially remember Rachel’s second Christmas, Rachel was just over a year old, she would walk into the living room, and just sit on one of the presents (luckily a sturdy and non-breakable gift), and stare, mesmerized by the lights and colors on the tree.  She would do this for long periods of time, just totally amazed by everything.  She wouldn’t touch anything.  I love taking pictures and this was and still is one of my favorite holiday photos of Rachel.  

As we decorated, all those beautiful memories kept popping into my head.  Rachel was very much a part of that entire day, as ornaments bearing her name were hung on the tree and her stocking was hung in its familiar place; all these things serving as bittersweet reminders of what is missing.  Yet, even with the missing and sadness, I am so grateful that I have these memories and reminders of my daughter.  

Yes this is a very difficult time to be missing and mourning a loved one, because the holidays evoke such wonderful memories (hopefully) for all of us.  It is a time when we set everything else aside to be with family and friends.  It is a time when we reach beyond ourselves, and extend kindnesses to others.  Even in all the hurriedness, will still feel the joy and happiness that is this time of year.  Unless someone is missing from your life, then the holidays can become a drudgery, seeming to go on forever.  

It has been difficult for me this year, somehow it seemed more so than last year, maybe because of my grandson, I am that much more aware; maybe because my son didn’t want to help decorate, for reasons only he knows and understands.  Whatever the reason, it just seemed more tedious, more draining.  But like I stated before, when it was all decorated, it felt good.  

Yesterday, after the house had quieted down, I sat in our living room enjoying the Christmas tree and watching some TV.  Occasionally, I would look at the tree and photos nearby and just let myself cry.  It felt good, and it allowed me to just release all the emotion I had kept in check since the tree went up.  Everyone else was in bed, and I knew I could cry as much or as little as I liked without feeling that I would be upsetting anyone.  

Remember to be good to yourself that way.  If you need to cry, let yourself do just that.  Even shortly after Rachel’s death, I found that if I let myself cry, really cry, it helped ease the pain somewhat.  Even now, those late night cries by myself are excellent therapy, and let’s not  forget the shower.  The shower is a great place to cry and let the water wash the tears away.  We all too often don’t allow ourselves to cry for fear of upsetting others.  But we all need to release our feeling and emotions from time to time.  If you find it hard to let them flow, this time of year is great for all the feel good movies that inevitably have you shedding a tear or two.  Besides what better way to disguise your crying!  The Hallmark channel does it for me every time, and anyone watching it with you is probably crying too.  So they won’t know why you are truly crying, they just think the movie had something to do with it.  

However you express your emotions, don’t be afraid to allow yourself this luxury, if you will.  Especially at this time of year when there are so many reminders of what is missing in your life.  Touch that special ornament, light their favorite candle, or simply pull out the holiday photos and reminisce.  Do whatever it takes to help you make it through the holidays.  In time you will find creative ways to express your emotions and feelings.  Whether it is baking an extra batch of cookies to be given away in memory of your loved one, or making a donation in their name, you will find how best to remember and honor your loved one.  

But the most important thing to remember, is to take care of yourself, allowing yourself to cry, to rest or to just sit quietly with your thoughts when you feel like it.  I know the holidays are not the same and will not be for quite some time, but you can and will make it through them.  The years will slowly pass, and even though it may still be difficult, you will have all those wonderful memories, that you can unwrap every year.  What a wonderful present to look forward to each and every year.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

'There is Love'

We trust that beyond the absence;
    There is a presence.
That beyond the pain:
    There can be healing.
That beyond the anger:
    There may be peace.
That beyond the hurting:
    There may be forgiveness.
That beyond the silence:
    There may be the word.
That beyond the Word:
    There may be understanding.
That through understanding:
    There is Love.
                       from Gates of Prayer

There is Love!  What a beautiful expression of what our loved one means to us - There is Love.  According to, love is defined as: noun, verb, loved, lov·ing. –noun - a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.  - a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. - a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart. - affectionate concern for the well-being of others: the love of one's neighbor. 

Love is what we personally know it to be, what we feel for those who are important in our lives.  Be they physically present day to day, living far away, or deceased.  These individuals make up our understanding and perception of love and all it entails.  When someone we love dies, they may no longer be a presence in our lives, but they are very much a part of who we are.  They helped form and shape us, and as children (even adult children), we are an extension of our parents love.  

The opening quote for me speaks of all we go through in our grief.  We want to know they live on, even if we can no longer see them.  We hold on to the fact that healing follows pain, that calm is a given after the storm, and that true forgiveness can blossom from our hurts.  I know and have come to understand that through the silence so much is heard, and from this that love is ever present.  

Of course, this is my interpretation of this prayer, but you too can equate it to what you are going through at the present.  Especially during this time of year, when grief seems to grip ever so tightly on our hearts, refusing to let go.  It is when I have sought out the positive to whatever negative thoughts are vying for my attention, that I have been able to look beyond my own grief.  It is this process of 'looking for the silver lining' that has helped me cope and move forward.  I have always been told throughout my life, and more particularly when I worked in the medical profession, that your outlook on life makes all the difference in the world.  

It doesn't mean that you walk around wearing rose colored glasses all your life, but that you look for the good in the bad situations.  Recently my husband and I were talking about some of the things we have survived together.  Several years ago we had a fire in our home, it left us homeless for over 4 months, we were shaken, but the most important thing, was no one was hurt.  Everyone was able to get out unharmed.  When we talk about it now, we are actually thankful, it took care of much needed repairs.  Rachel's death has given me new awareness, has helped me grow personally, and has truly been pivotal in my life.  The blessings in her death: the gifts she has left me, the legacy she shared, and a love that was truly unconditional, a love that will last a lifetime and beyond. 

There is so much comfort in just knowing this, and believing that we live on through our love.  That the memories are a gift of love, of times cherished and remembered, of the beauty of their life, and how it is reflected in ours.  This doesn't lessen the pain, but it sure helps with the healing.  Our sorrow can be turned into singing and dancing.  Seah Sarfe Kodesh expresses a person's sorrow in three levels, the quote:  There are three ways in which a person expresses their deep sorrow: the person on the lowest level cries; the person the the second level is silent; the person on the highest level knows how to turn their sorrow into song. 

My hope and prayer for you, is that you can find the song in your own sorrow.

Blessings! and until we meet again.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

That was so kind of you!

Lighting up the lives of those coping with loss

Patriotic Christmas lights will add sparkle to the Roberts family, whose lives have been devastated by the death in Afghanistan of their beloved husband and father.

Random acts of kindness, people going out of their way to help both neighbors and strangers, in the simple hope of brightening someone else's day.

The holidays invoke such behavior, even the media, at this time, not only report the bad news, but focus on the good that happens everyday, often unnoticed.  You hear reports of anonymous donations, families being helped by strangers, patients receiving visits from local celebrities and sports figures.  It truly is a time of giving, a time for putting aside differences, and showing more kindness, compassion and caring. 

When I was told about this episode of the Today Show, I knew I had to share it here.  The last few posts I spoke of keeping the holiday traditions going, of beginning new traditions in memory of our loved ones, and just finding ways to keep them always present, and a part of our lives.  It was beautiful to see that this young soldier was very much a part of the family, and his legacy is very much alive for his family.  He continues to give even after he is gone. 

For those of us who are grieving during this time of year, we often find ourselves caught up in the emotional seesaw and we can't seem to find a way off of it.  It seems the beauty of the seasons can get lost, and a heaviness that we can't seem to shake, takes over.  But yet, so much seems to be happening all around us, so much is happening day to day.  People reach out to others in need, and in pain, sometimes through there own need and pain. 

Let me give you a hand!
My Godchild and my nephew
I have come to know that when I reach out to help someone else, I find my burden always feels lighter, much easier to carry some how.  When I have reached out through my own grief, to help others who are grieving, I found that my tears seem to give permission to their tears.  They, like me, knew it was safe, it was okay, this was someone who understands, who has traveled this road.  That first Christmas, and each subsequent Christmas has not been and still isn't easy.  I still struggle with my emotions, I still procrastinate, and still find it hard to believe, truly believe, that Rachel is gone.  Yet, I continue on, I smile and laugh, and I manage to find my way into the holiday spirit. 

We need to find ways to cope, to enjoy the holidays as best we can.  For me, hearing stories such as the one linked hear, does so much.  It helps me realize that our loved ones are not forgotten.  Our families and friends remember, and once in a while you receive a card, a call, or something shows up at your doorstep that you were not expecting.  And your loved one is remembered yet again. 

I love doing things in memory of Rachel, for me it gives meaning to her death.  It helps me find new and creative ways to honor her memory, to keep her memory alive and to include her in all our memorable events and times.  There are so many ways that you can find to help remember your loved one.  I stumbled upon a sight that list Ten healthy Ways to Remember a Deceased Loved One. and I found that I do some of these.  I especially find myself thinking of Rachel daily, speaking her name aloud, and I keep her photo on my desk besides her sister and brother, and the rest of the family.  

It is not an obsession, and anyone who has lost a loved one to death, knows exactly what I am speaking of.  When we speak and think of our loved ones, we are keeping them very present, very much a part of us.  Even if only one person remembers, their memory lives on for ever.  My goal is to have my daughter's memory live on, and why shouldn't I, or anyone else for that matter.  They lived, they loved and they were very much a part of our lives.  

So let your loved one's memory live on.  Love never ends, as is evident from the segment linked above.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Tradition - A Christmas Story

Here is a beautiful short story that echoes my post yesterday, and how important the holiday traditions are.  It also speaks of the importance of continuing whatever traditions you have begun, in memory of your loved ones.  Yes it is a time of sadness, but it can be turned into to hope, not only for you, but for others as well.

Story posted by Chris Cade | Short Christmas Stories on Dec 21, 2009 in Inspirational Christmas Stories (If known, the original author is listed below) 

— Author Unknown

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas—oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it- overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t knowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids-all kids-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.
That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide- eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas Spirit, will always be with us.

– Author Unknown

Our loved one may not be with us, but their spirit definitely lives on in all that we do.  Just as I have kept Rachel's memory alive through small acts of kindness, and just simply continuing to include her in our holiday celebrations, you too will find ways to keep your loved one's memory alive.  Your loved one gave you a very special gift so long ago, a gift that continues to give every day, that gift is Love.  It is a gift that we cannot hide away, we cannot pretend it doesn't exist, how can we, you feel it in your heart, you sense in your life, and it brings a warm smile to your face.  Your loved one what just that, your LOVED one, and love never ends...

Blessings! and until we meet again.