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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween.  Happy Hollows Eve.  From ancient traditions and beliefs, to modern day trick-or-treating, and other festivities, it is a time that is celebrated by so many.  Though the celebrations may vary, the underlying theme is that we are remembering and honoring our dead.  In many cultures, they honor their dead relatives by clearing and cleaning grave sites, leaving a feast of their favorite foods and drinks, or simply having them remembered in prayer services and Masses.  

As I watched the children and some adults parading in their costumes, I am reminded of my children when they were little.  My husband and I would dress up with them and take them trick-or-treating.  We had as much fun as the children.  My baby is now 18 and definitely way too old to go knocking door to door, so now we wait and welcome the children who knock on our door.  I also have my grandson, which makes it exciting and fun all over again, watching my daughter and her husband get into the Halloween spirit.  

It also stirs up memories of my oldest daughter, she loved anything that was fun and Halloween was no exception.  I remember that year that she was going to a party and her and I made her costume.  We found a large box, cut construction paper, and found black electric tape, and transformed her into a Rubik's Cube.  I still laugh when I look at those pictures.  

Amazing how events and occasions trigger our memories, remind us of what is missing.  They are simply dates on a calendar but yet they hold so many memories.  I started thinking about all the costumes we had created over the years, from teddy bears to princesses.  From Raggedy Ann to witches, we always tried to make sure we didn't repeat a costume or idea.  It was fun, we had a great time as a family, and we visited family and friends that we may not have seen in a while.  It was all good.

Rachel would have been to a party or two by now, would be having a great time, fully enjoying the moment.  As I think of her and her antics, I can't help but chuckle and smile, she would be having the time of her life, and I am sure she would have come up with some pretty amazing costume.  

It is these memories and many more that help, it also reminds me that we enjoyed our family time, we valued what was important.  Today at Mass our pastor shared a story during his homily, he told us of a man who knew he would be too busy to stop by his mother's and visit her on Mother's Day.  So he went to a local flower shop and ordered flowers to be delivered to his mother.  While he was waiting to pay for his order, a young boy had picked out some flowers and was trying to pay for them.  The cashier told him he did not have enough.  The little boy was getting ready to leave, when the man stopped him and paid for his flowers.  After the man finished placing and paying for his order, he left.  As he drove by the cemetery, he spotted the little boy, stopped the car, and asked what he was doing there.  The little boy explained that his mother had died 5 years ago, he really missed her, and he always tried to bring her flowers for Mother's Day.  Well now this grown man was moved by this little boy and his gesture, he hurried back to the florist, and asked if his order had already been delivered.  They said no.  'I'll take them and deliver them myself," he said and he cancelled his plans and spent the entire day with his mother.  

Of course it moved me to tears in church, but it also reminded me that as much as we try, sometimes we take for granted those closest to us.  We forget to call, we don't have time to visit, or we think to ourselves, they know I love them.  But we really know what is missing when they are gone.  We realize that we didn't make that call, we didn't get the chance to visit, and yes they knew I loved them, but when was the last time they actually heard me say it.   Then all of a sudden they are gone, and now we are left feeling guilty, with regrets for all those missed opportunities. 

Yes, sometimes we are busy, and there are demands that need to be met, but a simple phone call, sometimes accomplishes so much.  Before Rachel's death, I traveled often for business, so I would sometimes be gone for anywhere from 2-5 days.  I would try to call home in the morning, I would call when I got a break, and I always called before everyone went to bed.  It just made me feel closer to my family.  Many a night I would cry after speaking to my husband and children, I missed them that much.  It was not always easy, and sometimes I couldn't call, but I tried my best.  

I watched all the parents who took the time today, to prepare the costumes and then take their children trick-or-treating.  As I watched and smiled at some of the wonderful costumes, I wondered how many parents actually realized the memories they were creating.  Memories of special times, fun times spent together as a family, focused on the most valuable people in their lives.  These simple activities create a lasting impression on not only us, but our children as well.  They remember all the little things we do for them, just like we remember what was done for us.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween, and I know that I and so many others, are not only thinking of their loved ones, but honoring them as well.  We remember them always in very special ways, and think of them often.  And like the sentiment that is etched on my daughter's grave stone, they are 'Always in Our Hearts.'

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh no, it's broken again.

This has been a crazy week, so much happening at the office, meetings to attend, trying to do this, trying to do that, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day at times.  But yet we manage to get it all done, and at the end of the day go to bed, hopefully, with a sense of accomplishment.

I started to think about how fragmented our days can be at times.  We are preparing for one thing, while we start planning for another.  Yesterday I marveled over the body's ability to cope, today it's the brain.  How do we manage to store so much in there.  How do the file cabinets of our brains know when we need what's stored inside.  But alas, I am no neurologist, so the brain is off limits, I'll just keep on being awed by it's potential. 

Back to fragments.  When someone we love dies, we feel fractured, broken, as if a piece of us has been lost.  It is like trying to finish a jigsaw puzzle, but the last piece seems to have disappeared.  Now we have an image, but a critical part of it is gone.  An author who I have had the pleasure of speaking to, sent me her book, 'My Beautiful Broken Shell.'  In it Carol Hamblet Adams speaks of how she compared herself to the broken shell she encounters on the beach.  How like the shell we at times have been tossed up against life, and even though we may no longer be whole, we are stronger for it.  

One of the passages from the book that struck me is 'Broken shells are shells that have been tested...and tried...and hurt...yet they don't quit.  They continue to be.'  Isn't that who we are.  All of us who have suffered life's trials, who know tragedy and sadness, who have experienced loss, who know the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Those who have dealt with or are dealing with illnesses, who have or are suffering from depression, and even those who are caring for a loved one, and feel pulled in so many directions.  We all know what it feels like to be 'broken,' to feel as if we are unworthy, or worse yet to feel as if we no longer belong.  

How so far from the truth.  I truly believe this brokenness is what builds our character, it is what shapes us.  I think of the blacksmith and how with heating and pounding, he produces a beautiful sword.  We like that sword are shaped from the metal into a beautiful piece of artwork forged by the Master's hand.  We go through the heat, we take the pounding, but in the end we become more precious, more beautiful and we become priceless.  We may have some imperfections, but that too is who we are, that is our character, but we are still a work of art.  

I like my brokenness, that fact that I am imperfect, it just reminds me that I am still being shaped, still being carefully crafted.  I would love to avoid all of life's hurts, but I know that it is of course impossible.  

Through my blogging, posts and the connections I have made, I am learning how so many of you have learned to accept your own brokenness.  I gain so much strength and comfort from the words I read, from the beautiful images that I am left with.  I am amazed at the raw courage that I encounter every day in your words.  So many of you, like me, are 'broken shells,' who have wiped off the sands of life and continue on your way.  I thank you all for your brokenness, and your willingness to share it with me and so many others.  

But the most fascinating aspect to me, is that it feels so much better when I share.  It also feels so comforting when I read your postings and musings.  I am reminded that I am definitely not alone, a sentiment that I keep hopefully reminding you of, and that so many are walking the same journey as I am.  Others may be on a different journey, one I do not understand, but yet, I feel encouraged by the fortitude that is demonstrated.  It lets me know that with faith, love and hope so much can be overcome.  I thank you for that.

So embrace your 'broken shell' and live your life.  Fill it with love, laughter and joy, and just relish every moment it has to offer.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How did I ever handle all that?

Sometimes you just don't know who you may meet, or what you might find yourself doing.  I met someone yesterday, at one of the wakes that I had spoken about, that reminded me how incredible are bodies are.  I was introducing myself and expressing my sympathies, when she told me she had just lost her husband.  I was about to say 'I'm sorry' when she said, his funeral was just a few days ago.  I was taken aback, and said the only thing I could think of, 'you must still be numb.'  

Now I'm thinking, how stupid of me, but she responded by saying, 'yes, thank goodness.'  We spoke for a while longer, this stranger who recognized empathy, who somehow new that I new.  This woman who had just buried her husband, and now was standing here getting ready to bury her father.  Life definitely has no rules.  I couldn't help but think about her all evening, and even today I marveled at her composure, her strength.  Then I remembered that shock helps, it keeps us functioning, it lets us do what we need to.  Then when we are ready, it begins to fade and we become acutely aware of the pain of grief.  

Shock was, I know, what got me through that week of making arrangements, taking care of the details, and even preparing an elegy and speaking at my daughter's funeral service.  I am sure that many of you, can look back at the funeral of a loved one, and wonder wow, how did I ever managed to do all that.  How did I stay sane, how did walk, talk and just cope with it all.  Those days may be etched in your memory or are simply a blurr.  

The first few weeks, we are still busy, we are still getting calls, cards still arrive and visitors still stop by.  The state of shock, of numbness, continues for a bit longer.  Then it starts.  My thoughts went to this woman that I had just met, and I began to hope that she had family and friends who could catch her when she begins to realize all that has happened.  Not that she doesn't realize it now, believe me, I knew Rachel was gone, I just hadn't truly begun to hurt yet.  

The first thing I remember feeling was the loneliness, a sense of emptiness, and a heaviness I could not explain.  I wanted company and I wanted to be alone, I wanted to talk and I wanted to remain silent.  Of course you can have it simultaneously, but that is what I wanted.  One thing for sure, I craved the silence when I was alone.  

We are all so different when it comes to how we handle grief, and we each need to find what works for us.  We also cannot let anyone tells us where we should be as far as the grieving goes, and that after a prescribed time, we should be all set with 'this grieving thing.'  Of course, circumstances, our relationship to the deceased and a host of other aspects, can impact our grief.  In some instances, grief can become complicated.  The  Mayo Clinic states that in complicated grief: 'painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the death and resuming your own life.'  

On their website, they list the symptoms that lead physicians and psychologist to diagnose patients with complicated grief, here are just a few:
  • Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one
  • Intense longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Preoccupation with your sorrow
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Inability to enjoy life
For a complete list, visit their website: they have a wide variety of information on grief.  

We all cope with death in our own way, but if it becomes too much to handle, we should not try to go it alone.  We also need to look out for others who we may know that are going through the grieving process.  None of us can make anyone do something they don't want to, but with gentle nudging, sometimes we can help them find help.  Yes we are all so very busy, but sometimes we need to stop and listen, to truly hear.  We may not be able to do anything, but just that fact that we stopped and allowed this person to share their pain with us, makes a difference.  

These simple gestures helped me at the time of Rachel's death, helped me in the weeks and months that followed, and very much help me today.  I know I can not help everyone I meet, but at least I know that I can let them hold my hand, I can let them share their story, and if they need and want it, give them a hug.  These were the things I cherished then and still cherish now.  

Even though you may not think you can go on, you cannot seem to find a way out, you will.  In time, you begin to feel the sun on your face, the warmth and the nurturing it brings.  Our bodies are amazing, they can handle so much, take on the world (so to speak), and love without tiring.  Even if we are ill, we still find the strength to love, to care, to hope and to hold onto to faith.

There is a beautiful bible passage from 1 Corinthians 13:13 that sums it all up:  'So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.'

Love what a beautiful gift.  Love is what we are given from the moment we met our loved one, and what remains long after they have gone.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Legacy, what legacy?

Speaking of funerals, today, two friends are waking relatives, one her godfather and the other his father.  As I listened to the conversations the last few days, I heard all about these men and their lives.  One had loved the outdoors, fishing, and anything that would have him enjoying nature.  He had married but him and his wife never had any children.  This godchild, was like a child to them.  I heard how he and his wife had met and so much more.  The other gentleman, I was told had been ill for quite some time now, had 3 children, was a chef, and enjoyed being with his family.

Yesterday when I spoke of the value of funerals, this is what I was referring to.  Those who may know the children, understand where their values came from.  We also understand certain hobbies and traits.  Even if we never had the chance to meet these people, we feel like we know them some how.  But most importantly, we can share in their sorrow, express our sympathies, and let them know they are not alone.  I may not know either of these gentlemen, but I do know someone who was special to them, who mattered in their life.  

We all want to be remembered some how, we want to leave a legacy of some kind.  As I have shared earlier, in my Thanatology class I have to plan my entire funeral.  This may sound creepy and macabre to some, but it honestly does not bother me.  I not only have to worry about my health care, but I have to prepare a will, decide what I want, who should be involved, etc.  One of the most important components is my life story, how I want to be remembered.  I have a stack of photos that my Mom found for me which I have to put into a DVD.  I have to write out what I want people to know, what I loved, was involved in, what truly mattered to me, a history of me.  

Since I have begun posting in this blog, I have come to know so many stories, so many trials, and learned so much about human nature and the strengths we all possesses.  I look back at my own life and realize that I am stronger, more compassionate, and have more empathy for others.  I have had my losses, struggled through upheavals, but yet I really believe all this has only added to the person I am, who I am becoming.  

If  you look at your own lives, you will see that you have overcome so many obstacles, have survived and are now are a stronger, richer person for it.  I truly believe that, even if we don't think so, we could all write a book.  Some a little meatier perhaps than others, but all the same, we all have a story to tell.  We all have parents, families, went to school, worked, traveled (even if only to the next state or province).  Some have married, some remained single, others have children and grandchildren, others chose a religious vocation.  I would challenge you all to write your history, you may be amazed at what you have truly accomplished.  

If you have ever had to prepare a resume, you are sometimes in awe of what you have done, the jobs you have held, and where you have worked.  The key is to truly delve into who you are, what is important to you, who has been instrumental in your life, and anything and everything that has made you who you are.  Once you have completed this, share it with someone, ask a loved one if they would add anything to what you have written.  This is your legacy, this is who you are.  Have fun with it.

When I think back to Rachel's funeral, my family and I were able to fill three collages of her life.  In addition to what we had prepared, her friends also had two of their own.  It helped us all to see that she had actually accomplished so much in her short time.  She had done more in almost 24 years, that some people never get a chance to do in a life time.  She had traveled, she had experienced life, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but every time she learned and moved forward.  She was secure in who she was, she knew she was loved and this was evident in all the photos, both ours and her friends.  She had tried new things, some of which had her father and I shaking our heads, but that was Rachel, always the adventurer. 

The most beautiful part is that Rachel actually left a legacy.  She was someone who loved completely, who made everyone feel special, and who saw everyone as equal.  She taught us acceptance, fortitude, and dogged determination to make a bad situation better.  She always had a smile on her face no matter what was going on beneath the surface.  She would drive us crazy once in a while, but I would not trade a moment of it for anything.  She always found a way to get herself back on her feet, and turn anything into a positive experience.  Trust me she was no saint, but she would give you the shirt off her back.  She was my daughter, she was a sister, she was so many things to so many people.  She still is for many.

If you are struggling with the death of a loved one, look to their life for your healing.  Find what made them important to you, what they meant in your life, what you loved the most about them.  You will find yourself smiling once in a while, shedding a tear or two, but you will begin to find that you can move forward.  That they left you so much, they left you a legacy.  They left you with LOVE.  

Love is everlasting, death cannot steal it away, it is etched into our hearts.  Let this love live on, remember we love them in life, and we definitely love them in death.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Not another funeral...

Yesterday was very interesting.  I began my day with a psychology mid-term, which at my age, takes a little more studying.  I could give you life experience, but don't ask me to label it, but alas it is done and I survived.  My evening class was quite different, as I have stated in an earlier posting, I am taking Introduction to Thanatology (the study of death).  So last night we had a field trip, no permission slips required or school buses needed.  Our class met as usual and then we each drove to a nearby funeral home. 

When I was younger, funeral homes did not scare me, and they still don't, but they have now taken on a different meaning.  We walked in and immediately you notice the scent that is always prevalent in funeral homes.  Not a bad scent, but just for me their signature scent.  They all smell the same.  I immediately noticed how our group got quieter, my fellow class mates and I began to whisper.  There was no casket, no decedent present, but yet a funeral home has a certain air about it, which demands respect.  I guess that is where the phrase comes from 'to pay our respects.'  There is a certain air that speaks of dignity, and calls us to be more in tune with what is happening here.  We are sharing in some one's grief, bearing witness to the loss, and comforting family, friends and each other.  It is our chance to say good-bye, to express our sympathy, and to know that we shared, even it only for a brief moment in their loss.

Of course, we sat in the parlor while our professor spoke of the different aspects of the funeral, what each item in the room represented, etc.  The funeral director explained what is offered and how varying the services can be.  For examples if it is a Catholic funeral, there is a crucifix and all religious icons stay in the room.  If it is a Christian service, there is only a cross present.  For Jewish services, all religious icons are removed.  If there is a Hindi or Buddhist funeral, they set up tables for incense and such.  They even have had Wicca ceremonies, it was all quite interesting, and gave us insight into other cultures and religions. 

From there we now were given a tour of the funeral home.  For those who have had to make such arrangements, the office areas, conference rooms, and showrooms are very familiar to you.  If you have only gone to 'pay your respects' then the parlor would be the only area you would know.  I have of course had to make funeral arrangements more than once.  I helped with my grandparents arrangements, my brothers and I took care of everything for my Dad, even picking out the casket, and of course my husband and I, took care of Rachel's funeral arrangements.  So being in the showroom was not new to me.  I looked around at the coffins and caskets, marveled at the cost, and looked at what was new for families.  Now from here we went to places that only the funeral staff ever enter and I will leave it at that.  You can use your imagination. 

Once we completed our tour, had any of our questions answered, we were dismissed.  As I was leaving, I realized that I had felt a tightness, an unease of sorts, it still bothered me to be in a funeral home.  It's been four years and it is still difficult, but I have come along way since Rachel's funeral. 

It took me a long time before I could enter the funeral home that had taken care of Rachel and where we had made all the arrangements.  Rachel died in September, and a family friend died a few months later in December.  It was at the funeral home we had used, and I felt compelled to go, to express my sympathy.  One of my brothers wanted to go also, and said he would go with me.  Well off we went, I pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car and proceeded to the entrance of the funeral home.  As we approached, one of the employees opened the door for us.  I froze literally, I looked at my brother and simply said 'I can't do it.'  The employee looked at both of us, and recognizing me, said it is okay, I'll let the family know you were here.  I immediately broke into tears, uncontrollable sobbing, and ran to my car.  I cried all the way home. 

For the most part, I had gone to wakes, literally doing a quick visit, I still do, but I had not been able to go back to where Rachel was waked, until last year.  Early in the year a dear family friend had died, and even though they are not related to me we had called him Uncle Joe.  So of course I had to make an appearance.  I did the usual, signed the guest book, knelt in prayer before the decedent (us Catholics do that), and then went over to the family.  His wife, Aunt Cat, grabbed my hand, and asked me to sit.  Now this is the funeral home, I could feel the breath catch in my throat, feel the tightening, oh my God, how can I do this.  I don't even know what she said to me, I just began to look around.  I began hoping someone was behind me, so I could use the excuse to get up, I searched for an escape route, anything.  But as I looked around, what I found was no reminders of Rachel, this was totally different.  I began to relax a little, but still felt a little apprehension.

That same year in July, I was put to the test, my uncle died.  Our family, like many families, use the same funeral home for all our arrangements.  So now I had to not only express my condolences, I would have to sit there.  These would be many of the same people who had attended my daughter's funeral, we would be going to the same church, etc.  There were so many similarities.  I found my self sitting off in a quite room, I could not be with everyone else, it was just too difficult.  This was not the first funeral, but it was just too much like Rachel's.  From the funeral home, to the church, to the cemetery, and even the repast.  It was all the steps I had traveled that one last time with Rachel.  I knew in my heart that it would be a family member that would force me to face this demon, if you will.

I remember attending my first funeral after Rachel's death, being at the funeral home, going to the church, and then to the cemetery.  I felt drained for days, it seemed to pull at every fiber.  But I realize now that we are all part of the process, all part of this circle.  We comfort and we are comforted, we share in others grief and we grieve.  So many times I will notice that a funeral will be private, and I look back at Rachel's funeral and I think, what I would have missed out on.  I would not have known that she was loved, that so many people felt saddened by our loss, and that they needed like us, to say good-bye.  It gave me and my family great comfort and sustained us for days and months.  I still think back to her funeral and feel a gratitude that so many people attended, shared our grief and cared.  

We all dread funerals, we definitely don't want to plan one, but eventually we all attend and plan one.  But this is, I believe very important for the bereaved, it allows us to express our grief openly, to share our grief with others, even total strangers in an environment where everyone understands.  It also allows the public to grieve, to share in the loss, to say their good-byes, and for some to let us know they have been down this same road. 

I know some people may not agree, but for me it made a difference, it allowed me to share my daughter with others one last time, share our grief, and find comfort in the compassion of others.  I am always grateful to those who expressed their sympathy, either through cards, flowers, or just being there with us.  Never underestimate the power of a funeral.  What a beautiful tribute to our loved one.  What a wonderful expression of our love.

However you choose to say your farewells, or whatever your culture or religious beliefs prescribe, allow yourself have this one last opportunity.  An opportunity to do all you can for your loved one, one more time.

Share the love, remember the love, and know they are always with us.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How did you get past the anger?

Sunday, another week gone and a new one just beginning.  It is a day for relaxing, enjoying family and having a second helping of what ever.  A day for family and friends. Today is definitely following most of these norms.  

The family, got that covered, we had a mini sleep over if you will, I had my niece, nephew and my grandson.  So early this morning, we already had a full house.  I love it and would not have it any other way, but of course it is Sunday, so getting ready to go to Mass, can be fun with 3 children to prepare.  But we did it and off we went.  I am director of our Sunday School and I generally busy until noon time.  Today was not an exception.  

The parents bustled their children into the classrooms, as the rest of us made sure everything was in order.  As we served coffee to the parents, a parent started asking me some questions.  One they were impressed that my 18 year old son was helping out.  I shared their sentiment, but I told them he volunteered on his own.  He had not been attending Mass with us on Sundays for a while and they wondered if it had anything to do with Rachel's death.  I felt it was more teenage rebellion, but it could have been a factor, who really knows.  

We kept talking about all that had taken place since Rachel had died, and how my son did have questions.  He wondered why God had allowed his sister to die, why He hadn't been there, etc.?  He was trying at the age of 14 to figure it all out.  Something adults have been trying to do for years, but unlike my son, they maybe had a few more years before they were dealing with such a loss.  I shared further that I responded as best as I could, simply saying that God really could not have prevented it, Rachel was driving way too fast.  She was also tired and rather than pulling off to the side of the road, she fell asleep at the wheel.  

I also told him that God had not abandoned us, He was with us the entire time, crying with us.  God knew our pain, He knows our pain, He also had to watch his Son die. This seemed to satisfy my son's questioning at least for the time being.  We continued to talk and they shared how they had had a difficult time trying to understand what was happening in their lives, and how they felt they had been abandoned.  Stating further that they had even tried to bargain with God, in the hopes of getting a just and fair outcome.  

We spoke further about the anger that is sometimes felt after a tragedy or a hardship in a family.  How they could not understand why my husband and I were not angry at God, angry at the world, etc.  I simply explained as I had done so with my son, 'who could I really blame?'  No one had caused my daughter's accident, she was by herself.  The police and rescue workers responded quickly, the hospital did all they could for my daughter; even the other driver, who Rachel had bumped into, got out of his car, searched for Rachel on the road, and began resuscitation until the paramedics could arrive. 

We were actually grateful, knowing that from the moment of her accident, until her death, she was never alone.  She had someone with her the entire time.  

Death is one of those inevitabilities of life that we all wish we could be spared of, but it is a fact of life.  We are born, so too we will die, hopefully at a ripe old age.  This fact, however, does not make it easier to bear, I struggle with my daughter's death, every so often, I miss her, and think of her often, ever day actually.  But this is normal, after all I am a parent, and what parent does not think of or worry about their children, even their adult children.  So I continue moving forward, taking a detour once in a while to think of yesterday, to remember, to smile, to cry or to do whatever I feel like doing.  After all this is all new to me.  
But all this made me stop and think, made me wonder.  How many people, after a death or tragedy, allow the anger and hurt to consume them.  How many refuse to let go of something that they had or have no control over, something that cannot be changed.  I have watched as friends have allowed it to eat them up, so that all they see is the pain, the hurt and the anger.  

Yes, we have the right to feel angry, to feel as if we have been dealt a raw deal, but we need to let it go eventually.  We need to allow ourselves to move beyond it.  Trust me, I was angry, I felt cheated, I asked 'why me.'  I went through those days of questioning, and second guessing myself, allowing doubts to flood my mind.  But thankfully, I was able to move beyond this, to the recognition, that I really could not have done anything to change the outcome, to change what has happened to our family.  

I understand that there is some anger that may be necessary, especially if the death was as a result of a homicide, but even those bereaved eventually find a way through their anger.  Some have been moved to action, setting up laws and such to maybe prevent other families from going through the same thing.  Still others have been moved to forgiving the person who robbed them of their loved one.  They moved beyond the anger to find healing, and in their journey a way to help others.  

There is always a way out , there is always a helping hand, and there is always someone who has been there, done that.  Let go, and let hope, light and love in.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Riches Beyond Compare!

Yesterday, was quite interesting, I didn't realize it would be so difficult to add 2 photos to my postings.  As I searched through my pictures of Rachel, raw emotion just poured out.  I wanted at least a photo or two that would allow you to see her as we did.  It hurt, I cried, but it felt good to share, that was what Rachel was all about, reaching out to others.  Her goal in life was to make everyone feel special and cared for.

This morning as I thought about it and wondered who may have seen her photo, I laughed, thinking out loud; Rachel, look you are traveling the globe, you always loved to travel.  But even more importantly is she is still doing what she always did best, making people feel as if they are the only one that mattered at that moment.  

When you are reading my postings, you and only you matter, and hopefully you are able to take something away from my words, that can help you, that can maybe ease the pain a little.  For those who may be trying to help a loved one or a friend, you hopefully walk away with some insight as to what they may be experiencing or feeling.  I know yesterday, I gained so much from knowing that the world would know Rachel.  That she is someone's daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece and friend.  That she lived, she laughed and she loved.  

Your loved one was all these things to you and more.  They existed, they lived and they loved.  Your world would not be the same without them.  If they had never come to be, you would not know what you were missing, but because they were part of your life; you are all the richer for it.  All the treasure in the world could not replace what they gave you, what their legacy is to you.  

In my younger years, I always dreamed of being 'rich' when I reached forty.  I turned forty, and I had succeeded, not in a monetary way, but in what I had accomplished, the importance of my family, and the value of all those people who had made an impact on my life.  I was and continue to be rich beyond compare; I have a wonderful husband, 3 beautiful children,  a terrific son-in-love, and an exceptional symbol of love, my grandson.  I also have an amazing family, and many wonderful friends.  

It was because of this cache of treasures, that I was able to survive, to cope and deal with my daughter's death.  Our family, friends and even mere acquaintances reached out to us, helped us and provided the support we needed and craved for during those first few days, weeks and months.  They still help us today.  They let us know that they care, they let us know that Rachel is still remembered and they provide a helping, supportive hand when we need it.  

Yesterday was no exception to the outpouring of riches.  After I had published my post, I received comments, one here on the blog site, and others through my email accounts.  All the comments, were a thank you for sharing Rachel with them.  They felt the photos made a difference, they now had a face to go with the writings.  They could look at these and maybe understand or relate and find comfort in my words. 

I thank God everyday for the gift of each day, for the gift of the people I will meet today, and for the wisdom that I will gain from those I encounter.  I am a Catholic and being a Christian, my prayer is that I will always look for Christ in others and that I can be Christ to those who meet me.  But regardless of your religious beliefs or tenets, we all have the requirement to seek out the good in others, to recognize that we are all humans.  That we are all traveling on a journey and that we sometimes need to turn to others for guidance, for support, and to help us find our way, should we become lost.  

We need to reach out, not be afraid to ask for help, we are not required to go it alone.  We also need to be willing to stretch out our own hands to someone in need, help when help is asked for, and to avoid leaving someone standing alone.  Rachel truly believed this and she lived it as best she could.  She knew that we are all equals and no one wants to be alone.  I remember the holidays in particular, Rachel enjoyed the meals, and it was seldom that we had a gathering that a friend or two of hers was not present.  She would call and ask if she could bring a friend, they had no family nearby, and she didn't want them to be alone.  My husband and I always had a few extra 'children' for the holidays, because Rachel knew that we need each other, that love is a gift to be shared.  

Reach out to others either in your need or in response to theirs.  Seek out the help of others and in doing so you are helping them as well.  When you are lost, ask for directions, and when you find your way, lead others.  When you are feeling lonely or alone, seek out someone, they too may be feeling the same way, and now neither of you are alone.  

But most importantly, live as if this in your only chance to get it right, and love as if your life and theirs depended on it.  

Blessings! and until we meet again. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nice to Meet You!

Remembering and memories, are key to our moving forward.  I have shared some memories of Rachel, and of others who have shared their stories.  What I truly believe is that when we share, we are not only helping ourselves, we a very much helping others.  I always have a photo of Rachel with me, as I do my other children and grandchild.  And I show all of them off proudly.  

Many times when I am out socially people will ask your typical conversational questions.  For example, 'What do you do for a living?,'  'How many children do you have?' and of course so many more that we generally ask when we are introduced to someone for the first time.   

When it comes to the number of children I have, I simply reply, 'I had three.' and for the most part it is a statement that many glaze over, not really hearing it.  Occasionally someone will hear the past tense, stop and ask for an explanation.  I share her story, show them a photo if they ask, and go from there.  One thing that is very important to me is it allows me to remember that I am and always will be the mother of 3 children, no matter what happens in life. 

One of the amazing and wonderful aspects of sharing my story, is I hear the stories of so many more.  I learn that I am not alone, that so many people have and are traveling on the very same road I happen to be on.  I have met mothers and fathers who even years later still struggle with the death of a child, regardless of the age.  I had the privilege of meeting a woman last month who had buried her 40 something year old son.  Her pain and grief was as intense as that of any mother, she had lost a part of herself.  

When we are open to others around us, we can gain so much guidance from their wisdom, from their journey, and from their pain.  In almost every encounter I have had with someone who has lost a loved one, they have a photo, a memento, prayer card or something they carry with them that serves as a constant reminder of their loved one.  I have Rachel's photo, as an adult and as a small child and her prayer card. 

Rachel and her cousin Catie searching for Easter eggs, Spring 2006
Let me share Rachel with all of you.  I know I have been sharing her with you in my postings, but now I want you to meet her.  To see what we saw, to get to know the person she was and still is to us.  She had a love of life, and truly enjoyed being with family.  She always had time for family, and her little cousins loved her.  Just the other day I received an email message from a family member just letting me know that he keeps Rachel in his prayer always.  I know I do, but to know that others still keep her memory alive is a great comfort to me.  I have often run into people who knew Rachel and attended her funeral, they tell me they still have her photo, they still remember.  

Rachel and Catie, August 2006
It is not the same, and will never be, we like so many of you who have lost a loved one, have a gaping hole in our lives, that nothing can fill.  But even with all the pain, all the uncertainty, we have our cherished memories, the photographs, their stories, and most importantly, their love.  I read something the other day about messages that come from the spirit.  And yes, I do believe that they reach out to us.  The message was, 'please do not stop loving me, I am still with you always.'  

I know I will love Rachel until the day of my own death, and that she will always be a very important part of my life.  Others may forget, but my husband, my daughter, and my son will not. And my grandson will know all about his Auntie Rachel, because we will share her story with him.  

Cherish them in life, and love them always, even in death.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What are you looking for?

Tonight as I drove home, I noticed how clear the sky was, how many stars were shining brightly, I even spotted the planet Venus, twinkling brightly.  I searched the sky for any evidence of the meteor shower that is taking place over the next few days.  Of course I didn't see anything, there was a huge bright light in the sky, the moon is so bright this evening, making it very difficult to spot anything.  The meteors were to be shooting from around Orion's elbow, which happens to be in the path of the moon of course.  None the less I searched. 

Isn't that what we are all doing, searching for something.  We may be searching for answers, searching for the truth, searching for a better life, job or just simply searching for something that we feel maybe missing in our lives.  

When my daughter died, my husband and I searched for the whys, what nots, we wanted to find out as much as we could.  We sought out God asking him for an explanation, for a reason as to why this had to happen.  There are days when the search seems futile, and still others produce answers.  

A few postings back, I discussed suicide, my daughter's death was from an automobile accident, not suicide, but a friend was attending a funeral for the young woman who took her life, and she just wondered.  As I mentioned in that same blog, a friend tried to take her life a few months ago, so I really felt compelled to talk about it.  How does it relate, in both cases these people we searching for something, that they believed was out of their reach.  For my friend it was acceptance, wanting to be liked for who she was.  I don't know what struggles the young woman was going through, but I am sure that she couldn't find what she needed, so in despair taking her own life.  

I can promise you those parents are searching for anything that can help them during this most difficult time.  They are trying to piece together this puzzle called death.  They are also going through everything, trying to look for any overlooked clues that something was wrong.  But life doesn't always give us clear cut answers.  

Death and its companion, grief, leave us looking for anything that can help us get through the days, weeks, months, and years.  We struggle with our feelings, our guilt, and just trying to understand why it even had to happen. We may not find answers, but we do find acceptance.  We begin to realize that there was nothing any of us could have done to stop what had occurred. 

Acceptance - what many consider the last stage of grieving.  This is when we finally have come to accept that your loved one is gone.  There is no time frame for 'acceptance,."  each one of us grieves very different from the other.  We are all so so very unique, and our grief is as unique as we are.  Besides, depending on the type of death, this can have a significant effect on us, we may be struggling with how it happened, why it happened (especially in suicides and homicides), and how can we possibly go on, etc.  So added to our own uniqueness, is the uniqueness of the individual death. 

Search for answers, search for the truth, but do not let this be your only focus.  There are so many questions and happenings to worry about, that we could end up bogged down in our searching.  Do not search for added guilt, for excuses, or anything that will only bring you down.  Just know that you were loved, and remember to always let your loved ones know that they are the most important people in your lives. 

Search for peace, acceptance and quietness, and you may find yourself flooded with answers.

Blessings! and until we meet

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I remember when...

Memories, they are all we have some times.  I was in traffic and happened to be behind a tour bus which was getting onto the highway.  I began to think about where they might be headed, and I remembered that I had taken many a bus trip with my children.  My son and daughter were talking about a trip they had taken when they were younger, just the other day.

As I drove, I reminisced about the bus trips and road trips, that we had taken with our children.  I felt grateful that we had and still do so much with our children, and now our grandchild.  But then I started to wonder, had I done enough with Rachel, had I made her brief stay here on earth memorable.  I smiled and I cried, but deep down I felt good, we had done a lot with her, her sister and her brother.  The amusement parks, the camping trips, vacations, and even day trips, we had enjoyed ourselves, we had fun as a family.  

And when we didn't go somewhere, we had Friday night picnics in our living room.  My son who is now 18, still asks us to have a movie night on occasion.  We also still have an occasional game night.  All this from simply driving behind a tour bus.  

We never know what will trigger a memory, what will make us cry, what can leave us feeling empty.  Even the scent of something can cause memories to come flooding back to us.  I'll spot a parent playing with their child, and I remember my husband and I doing the same thing.  I'll she a little girl with pigtails, and I remember Rachel at that age.  

Today was a day for subtle reminders of Rachel, even before the bus, I had stopped at a local drug store.  There near the cosmetics was a young woman that looked and sounded just like my daughter, I actually had to look twice.  I smiled to myself, and just wondered.  It was probably this episode that opened my mind to other memory triggers.

All too often someone will say that they are afraid they will forget the person, what if they cannot remember their face, their smile, what if it all becomes a blurr?  Most of the people I have spoken to have told me that they can still remember specific things and looks that were unique to them.  My father died almost 11 years ago, and I can still hear him call my name, and I can still see his smile.  I don't dream about him, but I have not forgotten what he looks like, what his favorite sweater was, and so on.  As I typed this last sentence an image of my father sitting in his favorite chair popped into my head.  

We don't forget, unless we want to, they are with us, they left their footprints on our hearts.  In time even anything bad begins to fade and you recall what was good.  This past weekend I met someone who had been violated as a child, she did not want anything to do with this person.  But yet when she was told this person was dying, she called, she told them she forgave them, and was able to be at peace with what had happened in her past.  So even though this person was a reminder of darker times, by letting go she freed herself.  Allowing good to permeate her being. 

Death is not easy, it is a very unwelcomed visitor, but it cannot and does not rob us of our memories.  It may take our loved one, but what we shared with them, remains.  Those are ours to cherish, to buoy us when we feel down, to let us know that they lived, they were loved and they meant so much to us.  We hurt because we loved, we gave ourselves over to their love.  

So for those of you who have said good bye to a loved one, whom death has claimed, cling to those memories.  To what ever you shared together, to what they brought into your life and to all those things you are glad you didn't miss.  For those who have special people in your lives, make memories with them, take no day for granted.  My daughter was here one day and gone the next.  We spoke on the Friday before her death, and she was excited, full of plans.  Saturday morning at 3:28 a.m., all that was gone, and all I was left with were her memories.  

Do not take anyone in your life for granted, we are all just passing through this life.  Some are here for a long time, and others accomplish what is needed and are gone.  Rachel was 23, my friends son was 17, friends of my parents lost their grandson at the age of 4.  A young woman at my church just lost her husband this past summer, he was 36.  Yet my grandfathers lived to be 98.  My point is we just don't know, so we should live each day as if it may be our last, or the last day for a loved one.  Tell them what they mean to you, let them know you love them.  Allow yourself to create the memories that will carry you through, that will help alleviate any guilt.  The memories that let you know that you did what was important, and that they were a priority in your life.  

Love them, cherish them always, and let them know it.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where in the World?

Wow, today my blog had more than 450 visitors, spanning the globe from over 28 countries, and it is just barely 7:30 p.m.  It is exciting to know that just maybe I may be helping others who are dealing with grief.  As exciting as it all sounds, it also lets me know how much of a need there is for just sharing our stories.  It also speaks to how universal grief truly is.

Whether you are right around the corner, or across the globe, have religious beliefs or none at all, we all share the basic elements of grief.  We all feel shocked, angry, fearful, deny that it is even happening, and eventually begin to come to grips with what has happened.  We all feel, we all ache, we all know the emptiness it leaves behind. 

Not one of us is immune to its grasp, we all face grief at some time in our life.  If we think back to our childhoods, some of us lost pets; one day our grandma or grandpa was there, the next they were gone.  I have friends who were orphaned at very young ages, losing both parents just months apart.  Yet some did not have to deal with death until they were adults, and some of you have yet to deal with it.  

But even if you have been fortunate enough not to have to face the death of a loved one, you have faced grief in other aspects of your life.  It is funny that even when we celebrate life, we sometimes experience grief.  A newly married couple, may find themselves anxious as they face their new lives.  The birth of a baby can scare a father, as he realizes he is now responsible for another human being.  You change jobs, buy a new home, move to a new school, graduate, just about anything that alters our lives can leave us with some anxiety, with some fears.  In some cases grieving what is perceived as lost.  

I only began blogging in mid-August, and every day I am floored by the number of people who visit this blog, and others of a similar nature.  I remember when Rachel first died how I sought out anything relating to grief.  I searched for what to expect, what was normal, what I should be concerned about.  I looked up facts and information on how I should talk about grief with my two other children, my husband and other family members.  I wondered how I should comfort the grandmothers, as Rachel should definitely not have died before them.  You name it, or think of it, I googled it.  I couldn't get enough. 

When I found blogs that had discussions, I would join in, eager to soak up whatever experience they had to share.  I wanted so much to know I was not alone, that I was not going crazy, that everything I was going through was in fact normal.  I sometimes found blogs in the most unusual places, about 2 years after Rachel's death, I was trying to lose some weight, and I joined Nutra System.  They had forums and blogs which were arranged by categories.  I of course joined the newcomers group, and as I searched the categories, was amazed to find a section on grief.  It was tied into overeating, and seeking out comfort food to help individuals feel better.  I found people like myself, who had recently suffered the loss of a family member or friend, and were now having a hard time.  Of course I joined in, and I honestly can say a gained much insight from their sharing, from our communications.  

Like I have mentioned before, I also, with the help of my physician, found a great counselor who helped me through some of the more difficult times.  Who helped me find ways to cope, and begin to live a more 'normal' life if you will.  But the key was that I searched for help, looked for support groups, and reached out for professional help when I could no longer do it on my own. 

Writing these postings is very helpful to me as well, it allows me to write down what I am feeling.  By sharing my thoughts with you, I allow myself to heal, to recognize that I am moving forward in my grief.  Yes, I have my days, weeks, or even months, were I still struggle with what has happened in my life.  If any of you have read some of my postings around Rachel's anniversary in September, I am sure you recognized the tiredness, the sadness and the longing in my words.  Of course you can't see the tears, but I know from reading other people's blogs, that you can sense when a particular entry has been a bit more difficult for the writer.  

I want to thank all of you who have read my blog, who are reading it, and for anyone who stumbles upon it for the first time.  I am truly grateful to all of you, and I welcome any comments, even if you just want to say hello.  I am most appreciative of any advice and knowledge that you believe will help me in this journey.  I also share any story that is related to me, as it may help someone else who may be reading at the time.  For example, a young widow shared her blog with me entitled: A Crazy Red-Haired Lady, in which she shares her recent loss, and what she is going through, and how it has been difficult raising 3 children on her own.  But it is stories like hers, and mine that help others along their way.  

We find strength in each others words, in each others compassion, and in the knowledge that we are not alone.  A quote that is so very true is; 'a grief shared is a grief diminished.' 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Sites Listing Available Resources

These are only a handful of resource sites, you can search for more specific support groups based on your circumstances and grief.  Besides these links, there are also resources for divorce, abduction, addiction, pet loss, and any other type of event that may leave you feeling lost, confused, and grieving.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Where can I find help?

Life is amazing!  It takes you down paths you would never imagine traveling.  If you told me 4 1/2 years ago that I would be taking courses, and studying Thanatology (the study of death), I would be saying 'what!' are you nuts.  But here I am, a college student once again.

In the last few months, I have heard the expression 'wounded healer' used quite often.  I have been given this title, and I have heard it used for survivors of all kinds.  A 'wounded healer' is someone who understands what others are going through, because they have gone through it themselves.  These are individuals who can share their life experiences with others, helping others find their way. 

I was at a youth convention yesterday, and the keynote speaker acted out several scripture passages.  In each case, healing of some sort was involved, and for the most part, those who were healed tried to bring others to be healed as well.  They shared their stories, what had been done for them, and how they believed that their family and friends could also benefit.  They helped others see that there was hope, and that if they reached out, they too could receive this grace.   They were able to share because they had experienced it. 

But too often, even after being made aware that they are not alone, that others have already traveled the road they are on; they still refuse to try.  A gentleman yesterday was talking to me about a situation he was going through, he had a suspicion that one of his co-workers was suffering from depression.  He had tried many things in order to help this person, but to no avail.  He feared this person, if nothing changed, might end up losing his job.  He tried to reach out to this individual, but of course, if someone does not want help, there is absolutely nothing that can be done for them. There is an old saying 'you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.'  How so true!  One can only stand by waiting and watching, praying that they do not harm themselves or others.

All the same we try, and occasionally someone will seek out the help of others.  In the last couple of years, I have found myself consoling others, really consoling others.  I may not know what they are going through, but I do understand the pain death leaves behind, the emptiness, the anger and the fears that arise.  I especially know the pain of losing my daughter, my father, grandparents and aunts and uncles, but I would not even attempt to say I understand what a widow is going through, I have no clue, nor what it is like to lose my mother.  

Never the less, I can listen, I can be there if they need, I can be a shoulder to cry on, I can be a hand to hold on to and a gentle embrace.  When my daughter died, it was these simple gifts that kept me going, that made me feel loved, cared for and what gave me strength.  

Support groups are a group of 'wounded healers,' these are people who have had to deal with death, faced the ups and downs of grieving, and who have made it through.  All too often people do not seek out support groups, or cannot find one locally to help them.  When Rachel died there was nothing close enough for my husband and I to go too, so I searched on-line, and when I couldn't go on, sought out counseling.  But I have since attended support groups in my area.

There are support groups for every situation.  Compassionate Friends is a group that focuses on parents who have lost a child.  Candlelighters are geared to parents who have lost children to cancer.  GriefNet is an online support group. For an International listing of support groups for those who lost someone to suicide.  A Listing of Suicide support groups in the US.   Hospice has support groups for all ages.  TAPS offers support groups for families who have lost a love one while in the military, both for adults and children.  Rainbows offers support groups internationally for children coping with death .  MISS for parents who have miscarried, still birth, or SIDS.  These are but a small handful of the many resources available.  Depending on where you live, you may find others.  Check with your place of worship, your doctor, local hospitals and funeral homes for what may be available in your area.  

In every support group you will find a caring group of people who have experienced what you are going through, who have been there and can help you find a new 'normal' in your life.  You will find many 'wounded healers' among them.  Support groups provide many benefits, some of the advantages of support groups are:  1.  Empathy - people who know the pain; 2.  Older grievers help newer ones, giving them help and hope; 3.  You will find people who will actually listen; 4.  Help you understand what is normal; 5.  provide you with a social network of friends; 6.  No expense; 7.  Opportunity to become involved in leadership role helping others.*

In my own life, not only have I benefited from the experience of others, of counseling, and my willingness to reach out, but I have also learned that I can help others along the way.  My goal is to achieve my Certification in Thanatology, and once I have completed this, helping others through my understanding of all things related to death and dying.  Helping them find their way through this maze called grief.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

*Course material from Introduction to Thanatolgy, Professor John Tormey, Bristol Community College.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why did they do it?

This past week we have seen perfect examples of persistent prayer, belief and dogged determination not to give up.  Of course I am referring to the saga with the miners, the nation and the rescue workers. 

But how often is this reflected in our lives.  Our children pester us for something or to go somewhere, until we finally relent or blow a gasket, which ever comes first.  We ourselves may nag someone until they finally given in.  We have seen it time and time again, if someone really wants something they will go to extremes to get it.  They never give up.

When we are grieving there are so many times that we want to give up, throw in the towel and call it quits.  I remember when Rachel first died, how I wished this would just pass and how it could be so easy to just give up.  So many of us are faced with problems and issues that leave us drained, feeling as if there are no outs of whatever it is we are dealing with.  I remember telling my counselor that if it all ended tomorrow, it would be fine with me. 

Recently a friend had to attend a funeral for a young woman.  This young girl who had so much ahead of her, who would be starting college next fall, just gave up.  She committed suicide.  It is hard to understand why anyone would find that the only solution would be to end their life, but yet suicide happens every day.  There is on average a suicide every 16-17 minutes, approximately 84 suicides per day.*  This does not even take into account the attempts that occur.  With each suicide or attempted suicide, at least 6 other people are effected.  These are pretty frightening numbers, but unfortunately a reality in so many homes, towns, communities, schools, etc. 

So how did these individuals, just like someone you may know, feel that there was no way out, that no one would understand, no one could help them.  They also felt that the only way out of the pain was to just 'end it all.' 

A few months ago, a friend of mine tried to commit suicide, it happened around the same time as the anniversary of my daughters death.  The anniversary is already a difficult time for me, coupled with my friends attempt on her life, really left me drained, wiped out, sapped of any strength and ambition.  Added to all this was the fact that I had so much to get done at work in a very short time frame.  Needless to say I got sick, and I am slowly getting back to having some drive and enthusiasm. 

I realized how much had been taken from me, how tired I felt, how I so wished I could just stop the world and get off.  Since my daughter's death, I tend to look at events, situations, issues and people's reactions and motivations, from every angle.  I know how dark some of my days got after Rachel's death, how taking my life would resolve so much, how maybe having a few more drinks might help me numb the pain.  It is amazing also how we can rationalize our behavior, how we can justify what we are doing, and come up with some very plausible excuses for just about anything.  Thankfully, they were just thoughts that ran through my head, (often unbidden) and I did not follow through on any of them.  My sharing with my counselor did not leave her concerned for my safety, they were simply musings of the mind.

If any of you are coping with the death of a loved one by suicide or have a loved one who attempted suicide, know that it is not your fault.  All too often we are too close to the situation to recognize any of the telltale signs.  My friend for example, has children, takes care of herself and her children, she would often have bouts of depression, but these down times never led me to believe that she would attempt suicide.   But attempt she did, and if she had not been found when she had, she would have succeeded.  When I was notified, I immediately went to the hospital, and all she kept saying was that she wanted the pain to stop and for people to just stop the gossip. 

As people found out, I heard such comments as, 'I didn't know she was crazy?' 'Wow, now that was a SMART thing to do?'  'Really, I bet she was just trying to get attention.'  How so far from the truth any of these people where.  According to Mental Health Matters, 'Every year thousands of people from every walk of life find themselves without hope and without a way to stop the pain. If their cry for help isn’t heard or recognized, these brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, seniors, adults, adolescents and youth, from all walks of life, of every color, creed, income level, gender, nationality and social status will be lost to us. No number of deaths by suicide can ever be considered an “acceptable level”.  They have lost hope, they cannot see another way to stop the pain. 

I have known people who have attempted suicide and who have succeeded, and in all situations, they were desperate, they could not see there way out of the darkness, they felt that no one would understand.  Society in most cases has placed a stigma on suicide, and it is viewed as a taboo, not to be discussed.  But we need to discuss it, we need to support the family and friends of victims of suicide and of survivors of suicide.  We need to know that it is a death, just like any other.  It robs us of our loved one, it leaves us with so many unanswered questions, so confused and so alone.

Reach out to others, do not go it alone.  We all need each other.  Everyone of us is loved, I Love You! and so many others in your life, love you.  When someone we love dies, 38 other people are effected.  The ripple effect goes even further than that, we are an important part of our families, our friends, we are important to our schools, communities, and workplaces.  We would be missed if anything should ever occur.  my daughter, Rachel has left a major void in our home, in our lives, and is missed by her friends as well, we feel as if a part of us is missing.  

So never think you will not be missed, do not ever believe no one understands, and please reach out for help, if you ever feel desperate and alone.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

*Data from

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Every country has a suicide prevention hotline, just check local listings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are you going to open that?

The miners were the topic of many conversations today.  I woke up to the radio announcer giving a quick update, we talked about it at work, and even later on at a presentation I was part of.  Their well being, and even what they would do first once they were medically cleared to go home, was a major part of the chatter.  

The overall atmosphere surrounding this entire event, was a feel good one, and something that is rare to find in the media at times.  People deep down really want to see others doing okay, being rescued, given another chance.  For the most part, they cheer on individuals who they feel will truly benefit from their support.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Rachel was an organ donor and today I was asked to speak to the medical staff at a local hospital.  I am invited occasionally to share Rachel's story, and to let them know what her gift has meant to our family.  At the time of Rachel's death, we told people that she had been a donor and some people were appalled that my husband and I had agreed to allow such a thing to take place, we heard comments like 'I would never do such a thing." and 'How could you donate her organs?' But yet people do selfless acts and deeds every day.  

Just look at the last 36 hours, people stopped everything to be at the site of that mine.  To be there to support everyone present and for their own support as well.  I look at the rescuers who knowing the risks, still agreed to be lowered into the depths in order to save others.  So many selfless acts that together brought about the miracle of the rescue.  

When all the dust settles, we feel a sense of gratitude, a sense of accomplishment and we feel really good about what happened.  The morning after Rachel was pronounced dead, we received a call that she had already helped two individuals and the third person would be receiving their organ later that afternoon.  We felt good knowing she had made a difference in some else's life, giving them a second chance, giving them the gift of life.  It also helped us to know that she would still continue to live on in others.  

I know organ donation is not for everyone, and trust me that is okay.  Some cannot donate for religious reasons, others for personal ones, and I and everyone should always respect the families wishes.  And what works and helps one family, may not be good for another.   Only we know ourselves, what will work and what will not, and you should never allow anyone to make you feel as if what you have done or decided is wrong. 

We need to remember that our loved one lives on in the simple things in our lives.  I sometimes am amazed at how subtle things make me feel as if somehow Rachel is present.  My other daughter will laugh, and I swear she sounds just like the sister.  I will watch my son and spot a mannerism that was very unique to Rachel.  Even my husband and I sometimes find us talking about Rachel when one of us did or said something that triggered a memory.  It is as if they left us each with a special gift of themselves.  

We are all left with a special gift that only our loved one could give us.  If you look around, you will find certain things or mannerisms that remind you a someone that died.  You may notice grandpa's smirk on your child's face, or a unique feature that truly reminds you of your dad.  We all notice certain characteristics in those around us that were the same as a loved one's.  In speaking to a friend, she told me that her sister was acting just like her great grandmother, a woman she had never met, it was as if her sister had somehow picked up certain traits that were unique to the great grandmother. 

The bottom line is we all want to find some way to get through the situation, get out of the darkness and live again.  We want to feel good, we want to be able to laugh and enjoy life, and we can.  Just like those 33 miners will be readjusting to a new outlook on life, so too, do we have to look beyond our tragedy and see that we can grow.  We all have the gifts of love, hope and charity, and these are the gifts that can see us through almost anything.  

Love of course, never fails (true love, unconditional love), it is what warms our hearts and allows us to see beyond the exterior.  Hope is what keeps us going when all else fails, it was what kept those 33 men alive.  Charity helps us to see beyond our own loss, beyond our own misfortune, and look at what we can do for others.  It is charity that allows us to be selfless, and give without reward. 

Like the miners, we must be patient, keep ourselves going, and know that in time we too will be rescued.  In time we will be able to fully live again, and maybe come out all the wiser for our experience.  They helped each other, they kept each other going, and they refused to let go of any hope.  Do not be afraid to reach out to others, they want to help you keep going and will be there for you to hold on to the hope for you, when you can't seem to do so for yourself.  

Allow yourself to begin to feel good, to look at life as a gift, and to find ways to share the gift of you with others.  I like to say that everyday is a gift, and that unless you open it, it can't be shared with others.  Open your gifts, and start sharing them. 

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Light at the End of The Tunnel

The world watched in awe as the miners were brought safely to the surface.  After so many days of being trapped so many feet underground, they were reunited with their loved ones, it was beautiful to watch.  To quote president Sebastian Pinera the miners 'experienced a rebirth.'  

The most wonderful thing that came to mind as I watched rescue after rescue, was how everyone was there for each other, supporting each other, demonstrating genuine emotions.   I was linked into a live feed that allowed me to witness several of the miners being rescued.  As I watched this live feed I was impressed by the number of folks who were also streaming the news live.  News broadcasts on TV said that billions of people were watching world wide.  

President Pinera stated that these days and events united the Chilean people, and that the miners were sustained by 'strength, faith and hope.'  The courage of a small country was tested once again.

It is amazing how through adversity, we can find strength, we rely on our faith, and we hold onto the hope.  These three components are what made the difference in those 33 miners lives, they held out for rescue, and did all they could to survive.  Their fortitude and the constant reassurance they received from family, friends, coworkers, and so many others, who sent messages and kept lines of communication open, made a world of difference for those men.  Not only did they not give up hope, but neither did the nation. 

When we look to our own lives, and we take stock of everything we have gone through, we will always find that some how we survived, we made it and we are the better for it.  For so many of you, who are dealing with the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of employment, or any other significant upheaval in your life, you may find it hard to hope.  Some days you do not have the strength to get up, let alone go on.  Faith can ebb like the tide, strong and sustaining one minute, and leaving us full of doubt the next.

But yet we persevere, we hold on to the last strand of hope, and we somehow get through it.  We, like the miners are in the dark for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years after a personal tragedy.  We wait for a glimmer of hope to shine through our darkness.  Then it happens, we begin to see a tiny spark, a ray of hope, and we begin to believe that we will be okay.  

We get thrown a life-line, we begin to find our way.  We realize that we have had so many people praying for us, ready to help us, and there always providing support, even when we didn't notice it.  And then there it is, the sunlight, we have made it, we can now begin to live again, to enjoy a 'rebirth' of sorts, we start to enjoy life and all it offers again.  

As I watched some of the miner's reactions upon arriving at the surface, I realized that they knew they had received a second chance, that they were grateful was more than obvious, but it was joy of life, of being alive that truly struck me.  These men fully understood that this entire situation could have had many different endings.  Will their lives ever be the same?  I am sure somewhere down the road, we will hear about these men again, and their heroic struggle to survive and live. 

So many events in our lives, could have ended in different ways, but unfortunately we can not effect the outcomes of what often occurs in our life, no more than I could have stopped my daughter from driving that fateful night.  We hold out for the last bit of hope, allow our faith to guide us and somehow we muster the strength to keep on going.  We open our eyes slowly to get accustomed to our surroundings, and we begin to live again.

May today's example of courage, hope, and perseverance, serve as a reminder to all of us who are trying to cope, to understand why something has happened, to find our way through the doubt and uncertainty, that we are not alone.  Like the thousands of people who cheered on the miners, the rescue workers and the families, you too have a support system.  These are your family, friends and even strangers who are there for you, who help you along your journey, who give you a hand when it is least expected.  These are people who care and love us, and want to see us doing okay.  

Allow yourself to feel the support, the love and the compassion.  As I watched the rescuers being brought back up to the surface, I was struck by the image of the tunnel.  As the capsule continued it's ascent to the surface, those waiting on the surface would look into the tunnel, searching for the light, calling out to their comrade until he responded.  When they finally spotted the light coming up the shaft, you could see the relief on all their faces, and they knew that all would be well.  

So look for the light at the end of your tunnel, and know that there is always hope.  Feel the love that surrounds, and let love be your light.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Congratulations to all the people of Chile, to the miners and their families, and to all those who made this rescue possible.  I am for ever grateful to all rescue workers who go above and beyond to save the lives of others.  God Bless!