The Best Show of Force is No Force At All

Kids Around The World
Kids Around The World

The widespread and seemingly more frequent acts of violence around our country and the world motivated me to reflect on my thirty-year human services career to determine what contributed to me not being a target of violence.

I believe that it was my approach that kept me insulated from violence. My goal was to treat individuals with respect regardless of their background. Respect empowers individuals to choose the course of treatment that is best for them, and enables therapists to present options that might not have been considered. Respect breeds trust. It creates a safe and therapeutic atmosphere for individuals to work through their challenges.

The Importance of Working Together

My late supervisor and mentor, Don Kapes, first taught me the importance of adopting a respectful stance in our interactions with individuals. I was part of an interdisciplinary treatment team that Don supervised. We worked with individuals who had extensive criminal histories, mental health challenges and substance abuse issues. In addition, they had a deep mistrust of authority figures. The first thing that Don impressed upon us is something that I have passed down to other human service professionals: “Do treatment with someone, not to them.”

Level the therapeutic playing field by empowering individuals to have a voice in their treatment.   Don taught me that anyone whose voice is honored feels respected, and safe. Silencing the voice of another person not only disempowers them, but also sets the stage for volatile reactions.

Honoring the Teachings of Others

One of the first individuals that I worked with in the chemical dependency field was a Caucasian veteran of the Vietnam War. He was involved in combat. When he returned to the States, to cope with Post –Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he drowned out the horrors of war with alcohol. During one of our first meetings, he requested to not have staff touch him when waking him. He explained that while in Vietnam many of his fellow soldiers were killed in their sleep.

Consequently, he became a light sleeper. He further disclosed that any physical touch would provoke him to attack, due to his desire for self-preservation. He had no desire to hurt any one else, or continue to fight a war. In retrospect, he was among the first people to teach me about the importance of adopting a peaceful perspective with my fellow man.

I was never a member of the military, but years later I would understand the importance of self- preservation as it played out in my early grief following my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003.

Global Peace

While revisiting my human service career, I reflected on what needs to be done to achieve global peace. I truly believe that the respect I cultivated with individuals in my care would certainly work towards achieving this objective. Society would first need to buy-in to the belief that prevention of violence and the promotion of peace is the responsibility of everyone. We need to witness and understand each other’s challenges without judgment. The time is now to inspire different perspectives on how we view our fellow man/woman. We are all from the same human DNA; we are all one.

Authoring a Different Ending

For many who have undergone catastrophic loss or other life-altering transitions, the world is not a safe, predictable place. Any uncontrolled and senseless acts of violence reinforce this point. With that in mind, I wish to focus my attention on Eric Garner’s encounter with police that resulted in his death. In the video that I viewed online, I heard Mr. Garner saying very animatedly and demonstratively that: “I did not sell nothing” and “I am minding my business officer (twice) and please just leave me alone.” Demonstrative and loud does not necessarily equate to violence. Mr. Garner was not looking for a violent confrontation, if anything he was looking to avoid it. If one of those officers removed Mr. Garner from the situation and further explored what was going on with him, he may still have gotten arrested. He would however, still be alive. We could be viewing this event as a prototype for peace, rather than as an example of man’s inhumanity to man.

I would love to watch a video of a similar incident with the resolution that I previously described. It would reinforce to the world that solutions motivated by peace are more desirable, permanent and healing, then those solutions clouded by fear, misunderstanding, and a need to exert superiority over our fellow man. It would also illustrate that the best show of force is no force at all.


Behind Every Face: Some Thoughts For The New Year


Here are some things that I have been thinking about since before the start of the New Year:

1) The older I get, the more my past has to teach me. Because of that I don’t label a moment that I experience, as a present moment. It is simply a moment.

2) I was at dinner this past New Years Eve with some friends , when I was asked if I had any resolutions or new things I wanted to experience in 2015. I simply said no,much to everyone’s surprise. I have gotten away from trying to script any experiences for myself, because of the limitations that imposes. I simply prefer to be open to any experience that continues to be a teacher to me.

3) In the 27 years that I worked in substance abuse counseling I never came close to being a victim of physical violence. I think it was because I was respectful in all of my interactions with individuals with substance use disorder and tried to understand what motivated their actions in certain situations.

4) I was in New York earlier in December, at the time that protests were occurring over the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. I was walking in Rockefeller Center on Friday evening with my friend Patty Furino when we came across a black security guard with whom we immediately struck up a conversation. In the course of 15 minutes, we discovered that in the last six years of his life he had challenges resulting from homelessness and the death of his mother due to cancer. Yet he transcended those challenges through hard work, determination and an indomitable resolve. We can discover beauty and grace in the midst of challenging circumstances, all we need to do is commit to discovering it.

5) My encounter in New York reminds me of a line from a song by The Wallflowers: “Behind every face is the mask of another” and that regardless of outward appearance ,we are all cut from the same DNA. We are all truly one.

6) I had a brief dream visit from my daughter Jeannine last night. We were in the kitchen of our home. She looked beautiful and radiant, as I always remembered her . All she said to me is that : “We need to be up tomorrow by 4:00 am.” I haven’t yet searched for the meaning or symbolism of her words. If there is any meaning to her words,  it will be revealed to me in time. I was just happy that she wanted to visit.

7) There is truth and the illusion of truth. Both are crucial in shaping our life path.

8) There are individuals who disguise service to others as service to themselves, and there are individuals who are truly about the message and not ego. Learn to know the difference.

9) With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that Jeannine chose me to be her father. With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that my sons Dan and Matt,and Jeannine’s brothers, chose me to be their father.

10) I will end with a great quote that I discovered from a Facebook site called: Let the Wolves Run Free: ” Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others,because the world outside of you is only a reflection of the world inside of you.” I will continue to peck at my shadows.

Learning to Manage The Pain of Grief During The Holidays



Rather than reinvent the wheel , I am attaching a link to an article that I recently submitted to Expert Beacon on Managing The Pain of Grief During The Holidays. It contains some tips/strategies for dealing with the emotional pain that for many, seems to intensify during the holidays. Here is the specific link:

Learning to Manage The Pain of Grief During The Holidays

Please feel free to share with those whom you believe will benefit.

Colors of The Spirit

Embracing Sacred Law

This past weekend, I attended the 37th National Conference of The Compassionate Friends in Chicago, Illinois.I have been attending and presenting workshops for this great organization whose focus is to provide hope and support to families who have experienced the death of a child, since 2008. I always look forward to meeting old friends, making new ones ,and for the opportunity to share  teachings that I have discovered since the last conference. Since my daughter Jeannine’s death at age 18 of cancer, on 3/1/03, I have undergone a metamorphosis from an uncertain, pain wracked soul who couldn’t envision living in a world without his daughter, to a person who has found my peace in spite of the hand of cards that the universe dealt to me. In retrospect, I have found my peace by choosing to play those cards differently, and in the process have learned to embrace sacred law to facilitate transformation after loss.

Airport /Airplane Signs

Honoring sacred law to me , means , in part a willingness to discover the connections in everything, even in events that seem on the surface to be unrelated.  We then endeavor to discover the teachings associated with those connections and utilize them on the path we walk after our children die. To do this requires our commitment to walk in awareness and to view our lives and our loved ones’ death from a different perspective.

I arrived at the airport in Syracuse, New York  last Thursday(7/10) and proceeded to park in the section labeled : “North 12. I immediately focused on the numbers 1 and 2, added them and came up with 3, which is the month of my daughter’s death. On the flight to Chicago, I sat in Seat 10c. C is the third letter of the alphabet, so when I substituted the C with the number 3, I realized that my seat number contained the day and month of Jeannine’s death. These discoveries reinforced to me that Jeannine was not only signaling her presence with me, but would also be my partner in facilitating three workshops during the conference.

Nature Comes To Life

When I fly , I am always pleased to get the seat by the window. The view of  the outside world from up above the clouds is to me, simply majestic and all-encompassing. I also find that I am able to quiet my mind and focus on the moment at hand much more effectively when I commune with nature. During the trip, I saw heart shaped clouds and an image in the ground that looked like a bald eagle. This is what Ted Andrews has to say about eagle ,in his book  Animal Speaks:

Those with eagle as a totem, reflects several needs:

  • 1) There must be an involvement with creativity.
  • 2) A willingness to experience extremes in a controlled condition and thus facilitate the alchemical process within your life. Andrews uses as an example : The fire of the sun and clear water are opposite elements brought into harmony in a manner that elicits change.
  • 3) A willingness to use your passions and use your abilities even if it means being scorched a little.
  • 4) A willingness to seek out the true emotional aspects of oneself and immerse yourself within them,and by doing so rediscover the lost child and awaken a higher sense of purity,passion, creativity,healing and spirituality.

I didn’t discover the teachings of eagle until after I returned from Chicago, but while visiting them realized that I have embraced creativity,honored the yin and yang of my emotions and immersed myself in them to facilitate transformation and to speak my truth about my experience ,with passion and conviction. Eagle reminded me to continue to embrace this path and to reveal  what I continue to discover with others.

Our airplane flew over bodies of water ,the ripples of water were luminescent and had a life of its own. Nature is one of the many colors of the spirit, with a life of its own and a beauty that can not be described in words. I have developed a reverence for nature and am thankful everyday for its presence and the clarity it has allowed me to develop.

Learning to Witness

One of the highlights of my conference experience was having the privilege to present a workshop with my “soul brother” Kris Munsch of  The Birdhouse Project. We addressed a variety of different topics during our workshop, such as empowerment ,self discovery and tools for transformation. It was effortless presenting with Kris, I felt like we had done this together many lifetimes before. Kris and I are different, yet we are united by the passion we bring to the teachings we have discovered and our willingness to witness those perspectives with each other without judgment. All of us who have experienced loss  due to death or other life-altering transitions embrace different paths to transformation. Being a non-judgmental witness to another’s life path, facilitates understanding. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand. When we commit to understanding, we become teachable. As long as I seek to understand and remain teachable, I will be understood and able to teach others with honor and integrity. If all of us can commit to being each others witnesses, we will be able to transcend the outward differences we perceive in each other and create a world that is governed by unconditional acceptance and love, which to me are the true colors of the spirit.

Many colors of the spirit
Many lives below the sun
We are colors of the spirit
We are many, we are one

From the song, Colors of The Spirit by Journey


Memories of My Mother

An Introduction to My Mom

In the days leading up to Mother’s Day , I have been thinking a lot about my mother’s influence on my life. My mother Sadie Bridgett Roberts was born on April 4, 1916 and died on March ,11, 1994 at the age of 77, due to a massive bacterial infection that ravaged her immune system. My mom was the only parent I had ever really known, my father left us when I was five years old. My mother never  remarried; she raised me  as a single parent. I was her only child.

When she died , I felt orphaned ,even though I was (and still am) married with three children at the time of her death and rebirth into a new existence.  She was my last surviving parent and one of the biggest influences in my life. Who I am today is because of who she was; she taught me the importance of integrity, honor and treating others like you’d want to be treated. She never spoke badly to me about my father; never showed a trace of bitterness. She always told me about my father’s good points. She lived with the drama he created because of his shortcomings; she chose not to  pass it on to me.

Warrior of The Light

My mother was the model of service to others. She started working in retail at The Boston Store, in Utica, New York and eventually worked for Project Head start as a case worker . In addition to working full-time, she obtained  her associates degree from our local community college. When I went to college, she stayed up late with me, helping me study for tests and typing my papers.  In retrospect, I should have had her name inscribed next to mine on my B.A. degree. My mom had a variety of physical challenges, from high blood pressure to two hip replacement surgeries and arthritis. She never once complained and chose to see only the positives in her situation . Also when she was  18, she developed tuberculosis and was not given any hope of survival. However she dealt with the challenges of her illness head on and six years later her tuberculosis went into remission. Any resiliency that I have developed in my life is due to my mother’s influence and the way that she lived . My mom chose happiness and peace, in spite of the challenges that she faced throughout her life. She was truly what Paulo Coelho would call a Warrior of  The Light.

               “behind the mask of ice that people wear, there beats a heart of fire.”

Paulo Coelho,Warrior of the Light

Surviving Death

My mom was a person of unwavering  faith. She  believed  in the afterlife and had a  deep sense of connection to the universe.She  embraced  the readings of Sylvia Browne and Shirley MacLaine, among others. I didn’t subscribe to her  beliefs when I was younger and I, in fact, dismissed all of it. Today, however, I have embraced all of my mother’s spiritual beliefs. The event that was the catalyst for a shift in my perspective was  the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine in 2003. My mom however laid the groundwork ; and I believe that today both her and Jeannine are both guiding me down the path that I am currently walking. In fact, my mother first taught me that we do in fact survive death. About a month after she died, my wife Cheri and I were cleaning out  her apartment. When we came home, I went into our bedroom and I briefly saw my mother as a 24 year old woman ,sitting in a chair and smiling at me.

My Mothers Love

Though I loved my mother more than words can express, I was many times exasperated with her overprotectiveness and anxiety that was seemingly attached to it. I never really understood that until later in my life. I discovered that she worried about  my father trying  to kidnap me .  It seemed that we changed residences a lot when I was younger; there were also times when we got a lot of hangup phone calls. I also remembered a time when I was about six or seven years old and walking down the street with my mother; I turned my head and noticed a stranger snapping a picture of me. Perhaps it was my father trying to keep tabs on me. That one event led  me to conclude that my mothers fears were likely justified. Her actions were driven by her deep unconditional love of me and her fear of losing me, not because of her need to control my every move.

I Am My Mother’s Son

As I approach my 59th birthday and the beginning of my 60th year of life, I am proud of the fact that I am becoming more like my mother everyday. I let my mother’s overprotectiveness and my anger and resentment that was often attached to it, obscure the profound influence  that she had on my life, for a long time after her death .  Today I choose to celebrate my mother’s love for me and the influence of her teachings on my life.



The Singing Bowl

A Trip to Frankfort…….. New York

This past Sunday( 5/4), my wife Cheri and I went to a psychic fair in Frankfort, New York, which is about a 15 minute drive from our house. It was fun for me to observe all of the different vendors and talk with some about  the circumstances that contributed to them embracing a sacred path and using that knowledge to help others in times of transition. Cheri browsed the tables, bought a few items and  entered  a raffle in an attempt to win one of many health and wellness based items.

And The Winner Is

Later that evening there was a message on our phone.  A caller by the name of Toni, stated that Cheri had won an item at the raffle valued at  sixty dollars and that it would be at her place of business in Ilion, New York( a hop, jump and a skip from Frankfort) until pickup could be arranged. Cheri was going to go by herself on Monday to claim her prize, but could not because Toni’s shop was closed on Mondays. So Cheri and I drove out on Tuesday to  pick up her prize.

Earthly Matters

We met Toni at her place of business, Earthly Matters, where Cheri picked up her prize, a basket of  natural bath and body products. We  also discovered a great collection of crystals, incense, rocks and a variety of other items designed to enhance connectivity to self, others and nature.  In the process of browsing  the shop, I was drawn to this beautiful brass bowl with a wooden mallet inside,mounted on a small pillow ( pictured below)

My Singing Bowl
My Singing Bowl

Toni informed me that the item was called a singing bowl . She told me that the singing bowl is used to clear out any negativity from  a room or other sacred space. I also discovered through some online research, that singing bowls are classified as a standing bell. They sit with the bottom surface resting ;the rim of the singing bowls vibrate to produce  harmonic sounds . They are used for meditation, relaxation, music and personal well being. Cheri encouraged me to buy it and to learn to use it. So after a brief tutorial from Toni, I took my new toy home and began to see what kinds of sounds I could produce .

Joyous Noise

I was instructed to first tap the top of the bowl with my mallet ,and move the mallet around the outside of the bowl. The sounds  are produced by gently applying pressure to the outside of the bowl  . After a few clumsy attempts to produce any harmonic sounds, I began to experience success at producing sustained joyous noise. The harmonic  frequencies I produced energized and relaxed me at the same time. When I have been relaxed and energized in the past, my ability to  walk in awareness is enhanced which allows me to  better develop the clarity I need to negotiate the path that I now walk. The path that has been redefined by the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine, on March 1,2003.

Finding My Music

I have disclosed in previous blog posts and articles the blissful memories  that were created by Jeannine’s and my love of music. Our shared love of music  continues to be a major piece in the ongoing development of  the pure relationship that we enjoy today.  I never played a traditional musical instrument growing up, so any memories that I have of Jeannine and the continued bonds that I have established with her , have been through music we both listened too during her time on earth. It is exciting for me to be able to further strengthen our connection and develop continued clarity and peace through musical sounds that I can produce, while holding her in my thoughts.

The Synchronicity of It All

I would have never discovered the joys and the transformative qualities of the singing bowl had Cheri not entered the raffle last Sunday at the psychic fair, won a prize and picked it up when and where she did. Had Earthly Matters been open on Monday, Cheri would have gone to pick up her prize without me due to the fact that I was teaching most of Monday. If that occurred, I wouldn’t have discovered the joys of  singing bowl. It was the synchronicity in all of these events that contributed to me not only purchasing the singing bowl,  authoring this post in this moment.

All roads ultimately lead to the same place, the present moment 

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers-a true story by Annie Kagan



A Day of Rebirth……. For The Both of Us

The following piece was authored by Patty Furino, a dear and trusted friend and witness to my growth and rebirth in the aftermath of my daughter Jeannine’s death. Patty has also taught me that we continue to evolve by having those people of the highest level of thought in our support network.  As you will discover, Patty walks a sacred path with honor and integrity and she has helped many negotiate challenging transitions in their lives. I first met Patty in July of 2010 and spent a weekend with her in Long Island in November of 2010, and the wisdoms that she shared permanently redefined how I viewed my daughter Jeannine’s life and death. Jeannine truly did bring us together and was very present during that weekend in 2010. I am sure there will be more to come in the future on our shared experience. I also hope that this submission from Patty will be one of many that she will share on this blog. 

I awoke early this morning and felt an urgent call to revisit your essay entitled “A Day of Rebirth.” ( It led me to revisiting our thoughts from that first weekend together, so I decided to read our journals from the weekend. Looking back, Crow medicine filled my thoughts. The book Medicine Cards, by Native American, Jamie Sams, discussed how Crow Medicine reminds us to Honor our past as our teacher, Honor our present as our creation, and Honor our future as our Inspiration. It is still amazing to me when I look back and realize how Jeannine brought us together on 11/11/10 for a program entitled, “Embracing the Power of Change.” Little did we know how you were going to be doing just that! You have mentioned your weekend on Long Island in different blogs. Every time I read our journals from that weekend, I am reminded of how far you have come on your journey of remembering. Your blog is a beautiful testament to the wisdoms you have received as you remembered and transformed the painful memories. My wish is that each person creates a circle of people that witnesses and supports their own journey of remembering and eventual transformation. This is the way we can become a planet of wiser human beings. We have the ability to walk with an awareness of the lessons we can learn, through all the experiences our life brings. Many of us get caught in the drama of life, and never look for the path that can lead us to peace. You my dear friend, found the rays of sunshine peering through the trees as you walked down the dark path. You are an inspiration. When I was ordained in 1998 as an Interfaith Minister, I vowed to walk the path with honor and integrity. I chose to follow the motto of St. Francis, “ Make me an Instrument of Peace.” I made a commitment to use my connection to the Great Beyond, only in ways that I could be proud of. My goal has always been to inspire a peaceful prospective for people during their challenging times. Your essay is one of my proudest moments. From as far back as I can remember, I have always had conversations with my “wise friends on the other side.” Back in the 1960’s, I saw people who were put in mental institutions and subjected to shock treatments to clear away their imaginary friends. I was determined to find the balance between my connection to Spirit, and the journey in my ‘zip code’. I always trusted that God would bring me to the people who would not fear my gift and would connect with my knowing. I have journeyed through my life always walking in faith. I have always been mindful that this connecting is a gift from God, and should not be used as people’s entertainment. Your journey brings me great joy for it validates my mission on the earth. As you mentioned, spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. I feel it is finally time to come out of the shadows on my journey, and share how working with the Creative Source within each of us, can help anyone transform their perspective and find peace on earth. I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on your Bootsy and Angel Blog.

Taking The Bereaved Out of Parent

Through My Own Lens

For several years after my 18 -year- old  daughter Jeannine’s death in March of 2003, I commonly referred to myself as a bereaved parent . Today, as I embark on my 12th year of negotiating my world without Jeannine’s physical presence, I am no longer comfortable referring to myself as a bereaved parent.  According to Robert Kastenbaum author of Death,Society and Human Experience,the actual definition of bereaved or bereavement is: “The status of having lost a family member, friend,colleague,or other significant person due to death.” This definition also brings to mind ,one who is constantly distraught and powerless due to experiencing the death of a child or significant person in their life. I can honestly say that I was in that state of mind in the early phase of my grief , but that doesn’t apply to me now. As we make a choice to look at things differently, so should how we view ourselves. I am no longer a bereaved parent in the sense of the word. Jeannine’s death is a part of my experience as a father, husband, teacher and friend. Her death was truly the most life altering event I have experienced in my life. I now celebrate her presence in different ways, knowing that who she has become and will continue to become ,will always be a part of me. Choosing to look at myself differently  empowers me to be the author of my own life experience, and enables me to look at life through my own unique lens.

We Are Not Our Diagnoses

I am no stranger to the use of terms that attempt to label our experience as human beings. I worked in the human services field for 27 years and diagnostic labels were a big part of that world. Diagnosis, if done correctly, allowed human services professionals to develop accurate treatment interventions for individuals served. Diagnostic labels, if we allow them to, can also contribute to us defining individuals as their diagnosis. Because I am assessed as depressed ,doesn’t mean that is who I am. Any person has individual gifts and strengths that transcend their diagnostic labels. In other words, being depressed or chemically dependent is a part of that person’s experience, it is not the totality of their experience. Being a bereaved parent once defined my entire experience as a human being; it no longer does, nor will I let it .

Freedom to Discover 

Does that mean, that I no longer yearn for the physical presence of my daughter nor choose to acknowledge the impact her absence has had on my life?  Of course not; the yearnings will always be there and the impact of Jeannine’s death on my life always profound. I just choose to conceptualize Jeannine’s death in a way that fits how I now perceive my life experience. Choosing empowerment liberates me to continue to discover teachings as a result of  the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death, without the traditional expectations attached to being bereaved.

We All Have Choices

Of course, we can choose to not grow from our challenges and stay stuck in an endless cycle of pain ,despair and self-pity. We can also choose to not  avail ourselves of  support and resources that will promote transformation of self. After all, we do possess free will. I believe however,that it is crucial for us to take ownership of the consequences we are willing to experience, good or bad. Ownership of our experience can also be a catalyst for change.

It is my hope that all of us who have experienced the death of a child or other catastrophic events can at some point make the choice to embrace a path of transformation,empowerment and continued evolvement .

“It is not how life is treating me, it is how I am treating life.” 

Words of wisdom spoken to me by my deceased  friend and mentor, Donald Kapes

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)

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