My Introduction to Empathy

I am pleased to feature my first guest blogger G.M Lentz and her piece titled My Introduction to Empathy.  Below is her heartfelt ,honest story. I am honored to be able to post her piece on my blog. I know her story will inspire others who have experienced catastrophic loss.


I had a great childhood, including the quintessential pony.  My oldest brother, Howie, taught me how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, and play softball.  He taught me how to creep along the banks of White Creek so we didn’t scare the fish, ultimately reaching our goal of catching the largest trout there. He couldn’t have been more proud if he were my own father.

I remember the last time I saw him; he was gassing up his car and I was drinking with friends. We pulled into the same parking lot.  I told them, “shit, that’s my brother”, trying to hide the fact that I was drinking, underage; he never noticed us.

At 2:30 in the morning, we received a call from the hospital. He had been in an accident. “Is he ok, I asked?” The answer: “Well, he’s alive”.  He had fallen asleep at the wheel, drove through a telephone pole, and crashed into a tree.

He had an old Oldsmobile Cutlass; a 70’s model with the really long front end.  The front end was no longer long and my brother had sustained major head injuries.

He lived for ten more days, never coming out of a coma.  How I wished I had approached him at the gas station.

How does a 15- year- old grieve her dead brother?  I didn’t know. There wasn’t a handbook. I was sad but not tearful. The only time I almost lost it was when his friends came to his wake.  There were men kneeling there sobbing ;I bit my lip and sucked it up. People thought I was handling it wrong.  I just wanted to be left alone.  I was pissed that people came to the house afterwards and ate and laughed and stayed too long. That wasn’t in the handbook. Oh yeah, there wasn’t a handbook; but if there were one, laughing and eating shouldn’t have been in it.

I did not want to go back to school.  “Everybody’s going to be staring at me and feeling sorry for me”, I thought. I hated that people looked at me with pity.  I was angry and everyone knew it.

I don’t remember this changing until my friend, who came from a very traditional Italian family, lost her grandmother.  I remember going to see her and not saying much.  I knew that she knew that I knew exactly what she was going through. My presence was enough.

That is when I discovered empathy.  The loss of my oldest brother; friend, educator, father figure, contained a gift. And that gift was the ability to understand the pain of others.

I am a social worker and have told this story, without as much detail, many times over the years when asked why I entered this field.  I’ve had people tell me that I have saved their lives.  One life for many lives.  Trauma or a gift?  Perhaps a lot of both all wrapped up into one.

Still, I miss Howie…. but he saved his greatest lesson for last.

G.M. Lentz grew up in Clinton, New York. She received a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh and a Masters in Social Work Degree from Syracuse University. G.M. currently works for the Office of Mental Health in New York State. She is married and enjoys her horse, dogs, cat and traveling to Provincetown every year for a beach vacation.

 

Enjoy Every Sandwich : Teachings About Life and Death from Warren Zevon

 Connection Through Music

I have had a deep love of music since I was 15 years old. Many of the greatest memories I have of my daughter Jeannine has been through our shared love of music. In the early phase of my grief, music from The Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, Tom Petty, The Goo Goo Dolls and The Gin Blossoms and others helped me get in touch with the pain of Jeannine’s death, while allowing me to stay connected to her. Today in the 12th year of my journey, music is a major part of the ritual and ceremony that I have embraced to not only honor Jeannine’s memory, but to spend some time with her beautiful spirit.

The Wind

Warren Zevon was a brilliant American songwriter and musician who made many memorable recordings during his lifetime, and whose songs were adopted by a number of other musicians. He was diagnosed in 2002 with inoperable mesothelioma and died on September 7,2003. Between the time that he was diagnosed and his death, he recorded his 12th and final studio album The Wind. This album represented, to me his finest work, not only musically but contextually.  The Wind was one of the first albums that I purchased after  Jeannine died in 2003.  In retrospect, I didn’t find The Wind, it found me.

Keep Me in Your Heart

Hold me in your thoughts; take me to your dreams

Touch me as I fall into view

When the winter comes keep the fires lit

And I will be right next to you

From the song Keep Me in Your Heart, lyrics by Warren Zevon and Jorge Calderon

 

Keep Me in Your Heart was the last song on Warren Zevon’s final recording of his brilliant career. It was a touching reminder that his spirit would never die .There was also his poignant request to be remembered, if only for a little while, by those whom he would leave behind. It was one of the first songs that I listened to after Jeannine’s death that spoke to the importance of maintaining connection with our deceased loved ones as a way to navigate our grief.

Finding Grace in Adversity

One of the most important lessons that can be learned from Warren Zevon’s life is how he chose to handle his impending death. Rather than run away from it, he embraced it as another part of his spiritual experience as a human being. He displayed grace in adversity and in the process crafted a recording for the ages, one whose teachings will hopefully be passed on for generations to come.

“You know, you put more value on every minute…I mean, I always thought I kind of did that. I really always enjoyed myself. But it’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich, and every minute of playing with the guys, and being with the kids and everything.”

Advice given by Warren Zevon on The Late Show with David Letterman when he knew he had terminal mesothelioma (10/30/12)

Retrieved from http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Warren_Zevon

Spirit Vs. Ego and Other Random Thoughts

On my previous blog, I posted a couple of entries with some miscellaneous and sundry thoughts on a variety of different topics related to grief, loss and transformation. I am going to repost  some of these here along with some additional ones that come to  mind. In a sense, this represents my first new post for my new blog:

  • I read a quote some time ago that went something like this: “Ego says when everything falls in place, I will have peace. Spirit says ,find your peace and everything will fall into place.” Such a simple, eloquent teaching, but challenging to assimilate on a day-to-day basis. For me, the challenge is about the conflict between my soul’s need to just be  and my ego’s desire to maintain or not relinquish or assume control over my surroundings. For any of us who have experienced the death of a child or other catastrophic loss, the ego-soul conflict will surface. Over eleven years into my journey following the death of my daughter Jeannine, most days my soul wins. Other days I honor my humanness. And I am at peace with that.
  • If someone told me upfront that they were self-serving and self promoting, I could deal with that. At least I know what the contents of the package are ; I could choose to unwrap it or leave it alone. What I have difficulty dealing with is someone who tries to disguise their self-serving behavior as service to others.
  • Change is a necessary part of growth;learning to negotiate the pain of loss is a necessary part of managing change.
  • I think it is better to have life changing events shift perspective, than simply put things in perspective. When perspective shifts,movement occurs ;we can embrace transformation from loss due to death or other life transitions.
  • I get more excited promoting the work of others than talking about myself. As long as the message I am promoting is motivated by honesty and integrity of the messenger, I will put it out there.
  • My soul family, past and present, is part of my healing and understanding in the present.
  • I don’t assume everyone that I know wants me to automatically pray for them when they are experiencing challenging times, I usually ask their permission first.
  • Once I stopped asking the “why questions” about my daughter Jeannine’s death, I got all the answers that I needed. There is a lot to be said for sitting in the quiet.
  • Spiritual development occurs when we commit to walking in awareness; paying attention to what is happening around us and understanding how it is all connected.
  • The older I get the more I realize that there is  more to learn, and that I am ready to embrace those teachings from anywhere, anybody and anything. I never not want to be unteachable.
  • Entitlement is another word, like coincidence ,which is no longer a part of my vocabulary.  Gratitude is a word that I use often, now .
  • You can see yourself as a person who is a victim of circumstances beyond your control, or as an empowered person who transcends those circumstances to find new meaning and purpose in life.  In the early phase of my grief after Jeannine’s death, I chose to see myself as a victim of circumstance, now I see myself as the author of my own life experience.

Wishing you all peace.

The Message is in the Smoke

Feeling Disconnected

Last evening( 12/26/13) I spent some time with my daughter Jeannine. I hadn’t spent quality time with her since August of this year. Since her ninth angelversary date, I make it a point to carve out time to spend with her in ritual and ceremony not only on her birthday or angelversary date but anytime I felt the urge. I always developed a sense of peace and increased clarity after our visits. Since August my schedule was full, between three college classes , helping to plan a candle lighting ceremony with our local Compassionate Friends steering committee,  and facilitating monthly bereavement support group meetings for families who experienced the death of a child. My interactions with my students and families were always fulfilling but as Christmas came and went, I felt increasingly empty and disconnected from myself and out of balance. The imbalance I experienced was due to the fact that I didn’t carve out any time to nourish my soul; and to spend time with someone whom I love passionately and unconditionally. In the process of taking care of others, I neglected to take care of my needs.  I took some definitive steps yesterday at 7:30 pm to address the imbalance.

Smoke and Light

On my desk, I placed a  green sage and citrus candle that we had burned at our Compassionate Friends candle lighting ceremony to the left of me, and incense holder in the center, and an orange candle that came with a wolf medallion, to the right. I lit both candles and incense ,played some quiet meditative music and held Jeannine in my thoughts. I also looked to the smoke of the incense and the light of the candles for further inspiration.

 

The Teachings 

Shortly after our ceremony commenced , I was experiencing thoughts that were coming through me at a faster than normal pace. I got the urge to write these thoughts down so that I wouldn’t forget them. Before I proceeded however, I asked for Jeannine’s permission to do so. I did not want my writing to detract from the time that we were spending together, sacred time. However, I got the clear sense that she wanted me to write, so I did. Here is what came through me and where appropriate, the part of the ceremony that inspired these thoughts :

  • I lit at least two different type of incense sticks and what I noticed with both is that the smoke was divided into two distinct parallel paths that would occasionally intersect. Here is what occurred to me in that moment: Respect the uniqueness of our paths, allow for autonomy, yet know that our paths, though parallel will intersect when spirit deems it to be time. In autonomy then, there is oneness, universality.
  • The flames of the candles also were different. The flame on the citrus and sage candle was dancing with a frenetic energy. The candle was on my left side and the left side represents the feminine. Jeannine, in this lifetime danced with frenetic energy. Further validation of her presence. The flame on the candle located to the right of me burned slow and steady.  Here is the thought that followed: Some flames dance, others illuminate in stillness. Each flame unique, but together provides an energy , a life force that helps us negotiate the darkness that challenges sometimes bring, a darkness that we sometimes allow to consume us. Of course we are human and can’t avoid it. Let us embrace it (the darkness) and find clarity in the flame; the flame of darkness. The flame of darkness now becomes our friend.
  • Others’ journeys will find us as long as we attend to our path and walk it with honor and integrity
  • When we are empowered ,our paths cross by choice, not by force. We share with each other and witness for each other, and our journeys become more enriched. We share our enriched teachings with others who become witness to the transformation and they in turn share with others. Sharing for sharing’s sake, releasing ego and agenda, gives us an earth in balance.

Alright For Now 

After the meditative music was complete, I dialed up the play list that Jeannine and I put together for her ninth angelversary and hit the shuffle button. I also asked her to give me a signal as to when our time should come to an end. If it were up to me, I would not have wanted it to end. The feelings of peace and bliss I experienced  were powerful

Our time together ended with this song by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers called Alright for Now.  This line in the song told me it was time to go…… for now:

Sleep tight baby

Unfurl your brow 

And know I love you

We’re alright for now

 

An Undeniable Thread of Connection: Mother, Daughter, Sting and Thomas Cole

Sadie and Sting

My mother Sadie Roberts died at age 77, on March 11, 1994 of a massive bacterial infection. For  some time after her death, I listened to an album by Sting called The Soul Cages.  He wrote the lyrics and music to grieve the death of his father. Listening to it was a cathartic almost surreal experience. Sting’s music and singing allowed  me to get in touch with the visceral experience that accompanied my mother’s death. Beyond that ,I saw no other connection with anything past or present in my life at that time. However as has been the case for me recently, I have looked at my past  experiences through a lens that has been altered because of my daughter and Sadie’s granddaughter Jeannine’s death in 2003. I felt it was time again to revisit The Soul Cages.

Jeannine and my mother shared a close bond. Jeannine was almost 11 when my mother died and she took it very hard. Little did I know , on 3/1/03 Jeannine would be reunited with my mother for all of eternity.

End of Life Synchronicities

Two priests came round our house tonight

One young,one old,to offer prayers for the dying

To serve the final rite

From the song “All This Time”, by Sting

From the album: The Soul Cages

On the day of my mother’s death, she was administered the prayer of the sick and last rites on two separate occasions by two priests, one young and one old.  A few days before Jeannine died a young priest and older deacon administered the prayers of the sick to her.  I had always ,before today, viewed my mother’s and Jeannine’s end of life journeys as separate ,because they occurred several years apart. However, the similarities of their end of  life rituals indicated there was a teaching or teaching yet to be discovered.

The Voyage of Life

And all this time

the river flowed

endlessly to the sea

From the song “All This Time”, by Sting

I shared my observations with my wife Cheri about the almost identical rituals that were conducted at the end of life with our mother and daughter. She immediately directed my attention to four portraits on our wall, depicting The Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole. The following information has been retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_of_Life

The Voyage of Life, painted by Thomas Cole in 1842, is a series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.Allegory is a literary device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. The paintings follow a voyager who travels in a boat on a river through the mid-19th-century American wilderness. In each painting, accompanied by a guardian angel. The voyager rides the boat on the River of Life. The landscape, corresponding to the seasons of the year, plays a major role in telling the story.  In childhood, the infant glides from a dark cave into a rich, green landscape. As a youth, the boy takes control of the boat and aims for a shining castle in the sky. In manhood, the adult relies on prayer and religious faith to sustain him through rough waters and a threatening landscape. Finally, the man becomes old and the angel guides him to heaven across the waters of eternity. 

The River of Life manifests differently in each of the paintings as  the voyager progresses through the four stages of life: 

To the child,the river is smooth and narrow, symbolizing the sheltered experience of childhood. To the youth, the calm river becomes rough, choppy, and full of rocks. In manhood, the youth has grown into an adult and now faces the trials of life. The river has become a terrible rush of white water with menacing rocks, dangerous whirlpools, and surging currents. The warm sunlight of youth has been clouded over with dark and stormy skies and torrential rains. The trees have become wind-beaten, gnarled, leafless trunks. The fresh grass is gone, replaced by hard and unforgiving rock.The final painting Old Age, is an image of death. The man has grown old; he has survived the trials of life. The waters have calmed; the river flows into the waters of eternity. The withered old voyager has reached the end of earthly time. In the distance, angels are descending from heaven, while the guardian angel hovers close, gesturing toward the others. The man is once again joyous with the knowledge that faith has sustained him through life. 

Awestruck

I am in awe that both young and old were represented in almost identical fashion during both my mother’s and daughter’s end of life journey. There is an undeniable thread of connection between their transitions from life to death. There is also no denying that my mother’s and daughter’s voyages of life contained many moments of joy as well as many significant challenges, which at times made their waters rough .  I also believe that their faith in God or a higher power sustained them until their earthly time ended and their eternal time began. Jeannine’s voyage of life was short in terms of human law, but not on the depth of her experience.

I also discovered insights regarding life and death through Sting’s 20th century music and Thomas Cole’s 19th century art, two different forms of expression in two different eras.  When there is that much clarity between the past and present, the past not only becomes our teacher,but experienced almost simultaneously in the present.

 

“I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.”  

Julian Barnes- The Sense of an Ending

 

Perhaps the insights we develop when revisiting past events in our life is not due to recalled memories but evolved memories. Because of the teachings that I  have continually discovered during my journey following Jeannine’s death, memories of past events have different meanings for me   As more teachings continue to be revealed , my past memories will develop additional or totally changed meanings for me.Recalled memories in its pure form can at times, be painful because of the trauma that is attached to them. Evolved memories come from a greater understanding of the synchronicities in the universe and help an individual develop clarity during his/her life experience, while dealing with the challenges presented by death or other life altering transitions.

Life in the Cat Lane

I probably should have mentioned in my first couple of posts that I am new to WordPress blogging. The posts you will see for now are ones that were previously posted on my old blog through eblogger. That blog has now been disabled. I am reposting some of my blogs for the last year, so those of who who are new to my work, get a feel for the topics I like to address related to grief and loss. With that being said ,here is another of my posts. Wishing you all peace.

Animal Zen

Animals have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I have been both a dog and cat owner,and every time one of them died, the pain of grief was intense . It was equivalent to losing a member of my family. I have always valued my pets as loyal and faithful companions but never really gave much thought until recently about the valuable teachings that they reveal to us. I became aware of the teachings from the animal kingdom during approximately the last three years of my life. These teachings have helped me develop clarity during my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child. Today, I have four cats in my household, two who belonged to my deceased daughter Jeannine, and two whom I have recently inherited from my son and Jeannine’s oldest brother Dan. Each one of them have unique personalities and are ,in their own way, zen masters. I will proceed to tell you about each one of them and the teachings that I have discovered through our relationship . I have included pictures and a phrase next to their name that describes their greatest quality, and/or exemplifies their most significant teachings.

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Bootsy/The Shadow

Bootsy was a Christmas gift to my daughter Jeannine from her best friend. He is 16 years old , and was a major comfort to me after Jeannine’s death. He slept with me and made sure he got me up every morning(He still does). Bootsy was also my shadow and a protector, following me everywhere I went in the house. A couple of years ago, Bootsy ,who is a long lanky cat anyway, began to lose weight. Our veterinarian had talked about putting him on steroids to promote weight gain, but my wife Cheri and I opted to supplement his dry cat for with canned food. I made sure that he was fed small portions of canned food at least 3-4 times per day. Bootsy took care of me, now it was my turn to take care of him . Shortly thereafter ,he began to gain some weight and thrive. Bootsy nurtured the care taking side of me and in the process helped me address the feelings of inadequacy that I had because of my perception that I was an inadequate caretaker for my daughter during her illness.  Bootsy helped me realize that being Jeannine’s caretaker was not my role in our relationship. I discovered that it was more important for me as  to allow her to make adult decisions not only during her illness but throughout her adult life, while providing emotional support and presence.

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Angel/Patience

Jeannine and I found Angel huddled under a mobile home about 15 years ago. Angel couldn’t have been no more than six months old when we found her.  Angel has this great quality of being able to sit in the quiet for hours on end,and many times purrs without any stimulation from the humans who share a house with her.  She teaches me about the ongoing importance of being able to patiently sit in the quiet and experience the highs and lows of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child. Angel also is also testimony to the fact that happiness truly comes from within.

When Bootsy and Angel die, my grief may also be intensified because of their connection to Jeannine. I will just need to remember the importance of sitting in the quiet as a way to develop clarity about my thoughts and feelings.

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Zoey/High Energy

Zoey, who is seven years old ,was one of the two cats that we inherited from my son Dan. Zoey is a high energy cat who attends to every waking moment as if it is the greatest adventure of her life. There is no moment in the day that she does not want to be a part of, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to me or the other humans in my life. She also loves to cuddle and is one of the most affectionate cats I  have ever been around. Zoey has reinforced for me the importance of experiencing as much joy in the present moment as we can, and that the basis of transformation due to life challenges is being able to give and receive love,without conditions attached.

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Nitske/Safety First

Nitske ,who is also seven years old was acquired by my son at the same time as Zoey. Nitske got her name because as a kitten, she was found in a paper bag on the side of the road in a town in Upstate New York called Niskayuna. Nitske is by nature a nervous,skittish cat until she becomes comfortable with her surroundings and the people in it. I quickly discovered that she would become easily startled,   even if I spoke  in an normal tone of voice, or made a sudden move to pet her.  I began to talk softly to her, telling her that she was safe with us and to explore her surroundings freely , without fear.  She  began to acclimate, became more relaxed and receptive to being petted..  Nitske reminds me that individuals who have experienced trauma from abuse and other catastrophic events need to be in an environment where they feel safe to disclose and just be who they are. Safety helps us become empowered; empowerment helps us shift our perspective during challenging times.   Nitske  also teaches me to continue to be aware of others limitations and to work with them constructively.

Every species of animal has their own unique characteristics and teachings that can help us change our perspective following the challenges presented by the death of a child and other life transitions. We just need to be open to the idea that clarity can be attained through the teachings of our four legged friends.

 

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” 

A.A. Milne- Winnie the Pooh

Some Suggested Resources

For those who wish to explore further the empowerment that occurs as a result of our connections with the animals in our lives, I would recommend  the following books:

 

Animal Speaks, by Ted Andrews

Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams

Dancing Otters and Clever Coyotes by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer

Thoughts on Down The Hallway: The Story of One Woman’s Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder

I worked in the human services field for 27 years with individuals who experienced challenges with chemical dependency. Many of those with whom I worked also had co-existing mental health concerns, many of which were precipitated by severe childhood trauma and abuse. I also learned that there were many grief issues that trauma victims experienced ,many of which were due to non- death related losses. There was  the loss of childhood dreams, innocence, and faith in the ability of their biological parents to take care of them; keep them safe.

I have read many books on dealing with individuals who have experienced trauma but none which had an impact on me as much as  Down The Hallway: The Story of One Woman’s Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder by  Sherry E. Showalter   Through Dr. Showalter’s work with Charmaine , we learn that she is beautiful, resilient and authentic. Her willingness and desire to take you down the hallway so that she could uncover the origins of her abuse is testimony to her courage and determination to find peace and clarity. I felt as if I was walking with both Charmaine and Dr. Showalter, down that hallway.This is a book that once you pick up, you will not want to put down . Charmaine’s journey will inspire anyone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with challenging life circumstances.

This is a book that should be required reading for every college student in America who is thinking about going into the human service field and for any professional currently in the field. Dr. Showalter is a gifted, skilled and intuitive therapist who knows how to invite individuals into the process of therapy, create a safe environment , empower them to find their own truth and ultimately take responsibility for their healing. Dr. Showalter also demonstrates the power of creative ,out of the box thinking in working with individuals with challenging histories. She also allows us to see Charmaine as a person with innate gifts, that transcends diagnostic labels,which ultimately may be the greatest teaching in her book .

Dr. Showalter’s book also reinforced my existing beliefs on working with trauma victims. From my experience , if  trauma victims feel safe they will do the work. Once empowered, they will take us where they need to go,;all we need to do is bear witness and provide our observations if welcomed. From my experience this also is an approach that works effectively with grieving individuals as well.

I would recommend without reservation adding this book to your Kindle or paperback book collection. Dr. Showalter’s  and Charmaine’s teachings will stay with me for the remainder of my life.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Down-Hallway-Dissociative-Identity-Disorder/dp/1492247154/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388427541&sr=1-1&keywords=down+the+hallway+

Here is also the link to Dr. Showalter’s personal website

http://www.drsherryeshowalter.com

Have a safe, fulfilling and prosperous 2014.

A Day of Rebirth

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Unconditional and  Never-Ending Love
Today(3/1/14) marks the eleventh angelversary date of my daughter Jeannine’s death. In this moment, I look at her death as a rebirth into a new life in a world that is governed by unconditional, never-ending love, bliss and the absence of malice and rancor.  Jeannine and I share a pure spiritual relationship that embodies all of those positive qualities that are in her world.  I do at times yearn for her physical presence, and I believe she at times yearns for mine. Whenever I receive a sign from her ,I like to believe it is because she yearns for my physical presence, as well as the physical presence of my wife and two sons.  When a spirit makes themselves known to you, they are making themselves known to all that is a part of you.

The Gift of Peace
This morning I spent some quiet time inviting Jeannine into my sacred space and sharing my gratitude for the relationship that we continue to share and the teachings that she continues to reveal to me about life, death and the value of a life.  I also encouraged her to continue to evolve spiritually and if she so chose, to make herself part of the universal intelligence that guides all who walk in awareness to do so with honor and integrity and to help them  inspire others to do the same. To empower Jeannine to continue to evolve in her new life, is the greatest gift that I can continue to give her as her father. It is the greatest gift that I can give to myself,  for it is the gift of peace.

Changing our Inner Landscape

I had an appointment to get my hair cut( actually to get all of them cut), when I looked at the landscape around me and commented to Jeannine that not much changed since her day of rebirth,but that it was OK, nonetheless. That is the cool thing about nature, that there is a consistency in landscape, a landscape characterized by unconditional beauty that we can find anywhere we look. Of course, after our loved ones cross over, the pain ,anger,  and disconnectedness that we experience clouds our perspective and contributes to us overlooking  the magnificence of nature. However, once our inner landscape is transformed because of our desire and intent to see death differently, we again begin to appreciate nature’s splendor and beauty. So our transformed selves, allows us to see the same things differently.

Starting Year 12

Jeannine crossed over on 12:30am on March 1,2003. As of 12:31 am, I started year 12 of my new life path without her physical  presence. Here are my thoughts as I begin year 12:

  •  I can’t believe that it has been 12 years.
  •  I look forward to the day when I can begin eternity with Jeannine and with my ancestors who have entered eternal life before her. I am not however in a hurry to begin that next phase of my existence. I am inspired about what Jeannine has taught me in spirit. I want to continue to be inspired and to inspire others for as long as I am permitted to do so. I also have a wonderful wife and life partner and two amazing sons, whose lives I want to be a part of for as long as I am permitted to do so.
  •  My present moments become more enriched when the past serves as my teacher. My future will also be  enriched as long as I continue to be mindful of this truth.
  • There is a great line from one of the characters in a book by John Green, called : The Failure in Our Stars.  The line is : “Pain demands to be felt.”  There were many times in early grief after Jeannine’s death that I did not acquiesce to pain’s demands. It was only when I could honor my pain, that my metamorphosis began.
  •  Every emotion that we experience , both positive and negative, is a crucial piece in the mosaic that comprises the path we walk after the death of our loved ones. We can learn from everything.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me ,validated me and loved me during the past 11 years of my life. Without you, I could not embrace the path I currently walk and will continue to walk.

Wishing you peace.