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

 

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.” (http://thegrieftoolbox.com/article/day-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

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.

A Day of Rebirth

23070950-young-tree-seedling-grow-from-old-stump

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.