The miracles were prolific before he passed. Could there still be miracles for us?
This week marks the four year anniversary since we lost our dear son, James. There is not a day, sometimes not an hour that I don’t think of him. He was with us for an amazing seven years from his pancreatic “c” word diagnosis until his passing. It would have been nine years if we had counted the time from when his symptoms began.
For a large part of that seven year period, our refrigerator displayed a white marker board. I’d written an Albert Einstein quote upon it.
” There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
We certainly needed and felt the presence of those miracles back then, but after he left his earthly existence it was different. I’d invested so much energy into doing what I could to help him, that my miracle mindset was dramatically subdued.
I remember a few days after his passing, I did tell his wife I’d heard if one sees a cardinal that it is a sign of our loved one. She then reminded me that he loved mourning doves. I acknowledged that was true.
Back at our place the next morning, my husband and I were relaxing with our tea and coffee on the deck. Our attention was drawn to the electric wire across the front of the yard. Not only was there a cardinal perched upon the wire, but also a mourning dove! What’s more is that they were singing a duet!
This seemed to be quite magnificent evidence that our loved ones can send marvelous signs to us from the other side! Perhaps miracles had not forsaken my life after all!
There are days, however, when I especially regret not having our son here. One such time was a month or two ago. There was a video someone posted on Facebook of a mother and her young adult son (From Jordan Rabjohn Music) singing the duet, Rise Up. Here is the video.
You can see and hear how this inspirational pair tugged at my heart strings. It made me long to have James here so we could sing our own duet. When he was a young boy, he, his sister and I would sing little childhood songs, then later we would vocalize along with pop music on the car radio or our home stereo system. He, of course, had vocal music in elementary school. In middle school, his vocal music teacher told him he was quite good at singing. Even though he was a sax and guitar player who loved to dance for the sheer fun of it, he opted to not take vocal music in high school. Alas, especially now, our duet was not destined to be.
Just last week, I had an interesting series of dreams. It started early one morning, shortly after 3:00 or 3:30 a.m. I’d briefly awoken, then fell peacefully back to sleep. Following that, I had a string of what seemed to be abandoned dreams, immediately and disappointingly becoming aroused after each. The first was a cheerful, bright yellow Volkswagen, covered in hippy style flowers, pulling into our driveway from the east. Then, blip, it was gone. In the second dream, I was one of a group of four standing together, facing east beneath our large maple tree north of our home. Then, boop, it disappeared. The third and last was a beautifully elaborate peacock drawn in ink upon a circular, pale golden-brown parchment paper. Then bop, this one left as well. It seemed strange and quite disconcerting to have these snippets of what appeared to be starts of wonderful dreams, then I would become abruptly alert. I figured I may as well get up as I was certainly wide eyed by now.
I did write all this down, pondering a potential meaning. Could these three unfulfilled dreams perhaps represent stunted hopes: having James in the earthly realm or experiencing a so called normalcy of post pandemic life…?
As my eyelids grew increasingly heavy, I eventually returned to bed around 7:00 a.m. Immediately, I dived into an unbelievable dream. James was strikingly dressed in a black tux and white shirt, strolling about a room and singing a cappella. I listened and watched in awestruck gratitude. Mysteriously, I joined in by harmonizing with him on the refrains of a melodic song I’d never heard or sung before! My heart leapt with joy! Afterwards, I gave him a big hug, requesting that we do this again. He agreed! What a beautiful dream!
The evening of that same day, guess who was on our electric wire out front? Of course, it was a mourning dove and a cardinal! I truly do not see them together often. When I do, it seems it is a special day that for some reason is strongly connected to James. The next morning, I began writing this very post. In the middle of composing it, I looked out our kitchen window. There was Mr. Cardinal on the wire again, along with a mourning dove. The cardinal was inch by inch slyly hopping ever closer to the mourning dove. Entertainingly, the dove was fluffing up its feathers as if to make itself appear more intimidating as the diminutive red bird approached! Well, sighting these two birds in an unprecedented consecutive pair of days confirmed that this time had a substantial connection to James.
In pondering my brief dreams which barely dared to play peek-a-boo, I’ve decided they were vignettes of the larger dream that was to come. Remember, there was the cheerful Volkswagen, the four figures standing together, and the beautiful peacock within the circle. These minuscule dreams seemed to be introducing a grand dream in which I would be cheerful, feeling the four (of our original family) can still connect and that there is continual beauty in the circle of life.
Do you wonder the title of the song James was singing? It was an unfamiliar version of “I Believe in Miracles”! Yes, miracles!
Perhaps you or someone you know may be experiencing grief. It could be from losing a loved one. It could even be from trying to cope with the severe changes that our world has been experiencing. Whether the cause of the grief is related to economic, safety, health, bereavement or other reasons, it can cause disruptions to the body’s field of life force energy.
Throughout the past decade or so, I’ve explored many different kinds of natural therapies which could be termed complimentary or alternative healing methods. Complimentary in this case means that it is paired with conventional Western medical practices. An alternative method means it is used instead of the Western medical ways. As with anything considered complimentary or alternative, it is recommended that one’s medical professional be consulted to assure that it is a safe practice for you. I do know that those affected by seizures or similar health concerns should not listen to these frequencies. Additionally, no medical claims are made, I will only be providing personal testimonial results for myself.
There is a school of thought that claims tuning forks can heal or alleviate certain symptoms. The frequency of 396 Hertz is one such example.
As a side note regarding Hertz, this term indicates the number of complete cycles per second or in other words, a single sound wave. So, one Hertz is one sound wave per second.
One of the wisest scientists of all time, Nikola Tesla, stated, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
When I was coping with grief over losing our son, I did find considerable relief by utilizing a 396 Hz tuning fork. I began feeling results of my grief easing after repeatedly striking the tuning fork for around seven minutes. As I continued listening, the effects improved and stayed with me longer with sessions of fifteen to thirty minutes. It just felt that the cords of grief were loosened and more of a joyful feeling filled my chest.
Since I purchased my set of tuning forks, I’ve discovered that there are now many YouTube videos with various frequencies. This greatly simplifies the experience and makes it more relaxing to able to just listen. Absolutely no vehicles or machinery should be operated while listening to these. It is recommended that one be mindful that this is a very meditative experience in which no other activity should be done simultaneously. (It is okay, however, for you to breathe!) Plan on sitting in a comfortable position or perhaps lying flat during your session. Just to warn you, it is possible to become light headed, so continuing to sit or recline is necessary until the feeling passes. Again, please check with your medical professional to be certain that this practice would be safe for you to try.
I’ve found two choices for your listening pleasure if you’d like to experience it. The first one is the single note electronically produced for thirty minutes. The second one is more musical and pleasant and runs for half an hour. Happy healing to you!
Below is a video of many of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces, accompanied by Don Mclean’s epic song, Starry, Starry Night. This was a favorite of my students who enjoyed pointing out pieces they recognized by this genius painter. May you find joy in the wonder of this remarkably prolific artist.
The arts can be particularly healing, not only by sensing the creations of others, but also by finding yourself within arts of your own.
The time is ripe and well overdue. The United States of America is entering a new epoch. We are ready to make this happen. Now is when each and every disenfranchised member of humanity receives the equity, respect and rights that all of us so richly deserve. All of us must band together to voice agreement that black lives matter. Let us take our cues from nature to smooth our transition.
I invite you into our backyard to observe one way Mother Nature encourages diversity. This is a close up of one of my favorite trees. Okay, perhaps it is my best plant friend in the entire world! Part of my attraction to it is its sheer size. The circumference of this lovely maple tree measured at my shoulder height is approximately twenty-one and a half feet. While it certainly is not a redwood tree, it is good sized by Midwestern standards.
Aside from the beautiful subtlety of color within its bark, just the other day, I noticed a minute detail. My tree was playing host, or perhaps hostess, to two tiny, baby trees! It is quite common for self-perpetuated suckers to sprout from a tree trunk, but this is the first I’d ever observed two different visiting plant species latched aside a tree. It was fascinating that the left wee one was a needled coniferous while the one on the right was a leafy deciduous. I soon perceived the lesson of the tree.
I saw that two new residents had moved to Maple Street. Miss Coniferous and Mr. Deciduous were new neighbors. Our tree was sheltering these new arrivals from the thunder and lightning of the world. In protecting the young ones as a nurturing guardian rather than a bullying warrior, our gentle giant of a tree was demonstrating a prime example of supporting diversity and equality. All of them are trees, after all.
You see, my friend, these two newborn trees could represent anything. It could be male or female, rich or poor, people of color or white people. As a leader of the forest, our stately one demonstrates total open branched, openhearted acceptance of all.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” Maya Angelo
Our nation has much work to do in order to be as wise in nature’s ways (as this tree appears to be) by embodying full blown acceptance of others just a bit different than ourselves. Trees have the ability to stretch their limits to the sky in full leafed glory in order to support, respect and embrace others.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman
If we wanted to personify this large tree, we could imagine it is aware that the two small guests are trees as well. There appears to be no division between them. In looking at our country, some are focusing upon divisive rather than uniting factors. What is that which has the potential to hold us together?
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver
Remember or imagine the experience of being young, aged, striving, weak, or strong. Surely we could adopt the wisdom of this tree. We can have open hearts and reach for the stars to change the world. We can be tender, compassionate, sympathetic and tolerant. If we gaze in the mirror, we can see those qualities. Then, we must feel and use those characteristics for the common good. All of us are people, after all.
The wisdom of my tree tells me it is not coniferous or deciduous. It is not male or female. It is not people of color or white people.
In truth, it is deciduous and coniferous, female and male, people of color and white people. We must delete the “or” to insert “and”. It is so necessary for us to break our enslavement to the word “or” and welcome all as our true brothers and sisters. It is for you and me! This is America’s New Direction, The AND Movement of unity that will lead us toward peaceful co-existence with all.
“We’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
You’ve heard when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Well, today the world gives us flowers, so we have flower power!
The phrase, flower power, takes me back to the 1960’s, the hippy days of peace and love.
Looking at the condition of our world now, it seems the focus is on the extreme conditions we are experiencing: particularly the world pandemic, murderous intolerance and divisive opinions. We could use some flower power.
In looking at the concept of flower power, peace and love are paramount. The focus is on the positive.
By way of contrast, Eckhart Tolle states, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen and what you resist persists.” https://eckharttolle.com/ If we participate in or even concentrate on brutal protests, what happens? The world deteriorates further. If we zero in on what we do not want, guess what we get? We receive that which is foremost on our minds: the unwanted.
During the last decade in particular, the process of attracting or repelling has come to the forefront of my life. I’ve used various kinds of energy work in helping our son while he was coping with pancreatic cancer. One of the first techniques I learned was the science of Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ). (While clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota have found SFQ to be effective in various ways, it is not their policy to endorse. The research does the speaking.)
Master Chunyi Lin, the creator of SFQ, tells us that the universe does not understand the words “no” or “not”. If we were working to rid someone’s body of cancer and we asked for “no cancer”, the universe would hear “cancer” but not “no”. Asking in this manner would give more cancer. Master Lin teaches us an alternative way to request the desire for good health. His answer is to say “all channels open, completely healed”. This statement would assist in opening up the energy meridians, or pathways in the body, thereby allowing the free flow of health enhancing energy. https://www.springforestqigong.com/
I feel the same concept of word choice is also important with prayer, thoughts or every day conversation. We would be remiss in praying to “get rid of someone’s cancer”. It is preferable to pray, think or speak on behalf of their “good health” since that is the goal.
So, in our world of today, do we want the illness of the pandemic, the unbearable intolerance or the increasing division of the world’s populace? Should we ask for no pandemic, no intolerance, no division? Should we ask a very young child to not run into the street? I think not, but remember the world, just as a child, is incapable of understanding “no” or “not”. I must admit, it is tricky to keep the word “not” out of this concept!
As in the case of what we resist persisting – illness, intolerance and division tend to strengthen when all of our energies are concentrated on those negative paradigms. What are we to do?
Let’s go back to the philosophy of the flower power days. Be the change you wish to see. We must project positively stated qualities such as health, love, compassion, unity, peace and tolerance. We can do this with our words, deeds and motives. The world, after all, is a mirror of ourselves.
The visual arts can be an effective tool to assist the transformation of grief. I invite you to explore four art examples with me to feel through the process. Expressing one’s emotions while enveloping oneself into an artwork can allow the feelings to be felt and then released while making room for more uplifting emotions.
The loss of a child has defined and colored my life. With the initial approach of this devastating possibility, I felt as if I’d stepped into several of Picasso’s Blue Period paintings. My mind wandered from the grief and loneliness of one unspoken canvas to another. Join me if you will.
While we are in quarantine, I’ve provided a virtual tour of these artworks with hyperlinks. The first of the four works is located in the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. The Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada houses the second. The third example is hung in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY, while the last is displayed at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.
This process will take you through expressing and releasing grief and eventually transitioning to welcoming and revealing joy.
Let’s take a look at one of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period paintings, Old Guitarist. (See https://www.pablopicasso.org/old-guitarist.jsp) The Spanish artist completed this painting in 1903. First of all let your eyes slowly circulate throughout the painting, noting what draws your eye. Once you feel an acquaintance with the work, mimic the seated posture of the man (or imagine yourself doing so.) Cross you legs, let your head drop. Visualize playing a mournful tune on your guitar. Maybe your singing voice is catching from your grief. The sad, cool blue tones are swirling all around you. Allow the tears to flow. Unbind the sorrow. Ah, upon a second study of the painting, notice the contrast of the warm hued guitar, as if it is your only hope. Ponder the promise of the arts and music to rescue your mood. Breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale and expand hope. Expel despair allowing it to dissipate. Thank Pablo for his message.
Our second artwork is another Blue Period Picasso painting, The Soup. (See https://www.pablopicasso.org/the-soup.jsp ) This work was painted in 1902-1903. Please familiarize yourself with this work as well. Feel into the implied poverty depicted in the work. Perhaps your grief has left you impoverished. Feel the weight of your sorrow. As your heavy tears drop, you see them splat into the hot soup. It is okay. Let your grief go. Rest your eyes on the warm tones of skin on the two figures. Find yourself positively identifying with the spark of youth. As the adult are you giving or receiving the soup? Or, perhaps you play the part of the child. As you smile, wipe your eyes and nourish yourself with the imagery. Again acknowledge Pablo for his help.
French artist, Pierre Bonnard’s Dining Room Overlooking the Garden is our third piece. (See https://www.moma.org/audio/playlist/1/105 ) He painted this in 1930-1931. Investigate this interior scene as you enter into the artwork. This particular painting offers more of a balance of warm and cool colors with the ability to balance your emotions. Welcome and breathe into the peaceful feeling of being invited to a table prepared just for you! Notice plenty of elegantly served food from which to choose. Feel the delight of sampling new delicacies with a friend or two. Sigh into the deep conversation, the familiar chuckles, the warm embrace of an enchanting atmosphere. Occasional glances out the window are as a breath of fresh air. Breathe deeply and thank Pierre for the welcome repose he offers.
One year was especially astounding when we brought our fifth graders to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. This Chihuly piece is visible inside and outside the museum! As soon as my art students viewed the sculpture from the school bus windows, my ears were greeted by a chorus of ooo’s and ahh’s as if they’d witnessed the most spectacular of fireworks!
Entering the museum, as you climb the stairs to the second level of the atrium, take in the immensity of this roughly thirty foot high piece of over 2,000 individually blown bubbles of glass. Imagine yourself standing inside the building directly in front of this inspirational piece and being given the ability to fly! Swoop and dive with joy through the rainbow of hues enticing your vision. As your eyes dance from one gorgeous color to another, laugh and clap. Let your sight bounce from one sparkling glass texture to another. Notice the different perspectives achieved when viewing the outdoor sculpture garden via looking through a piece of Chihuly’s glass. Contemplate all the energy and hot fire that was needed to create the blown glass in this phenomenally heavy structure. Visualize Inside and Out as alternately firing up, then cooling your emotions, much as the journey of each precious piece of glass. Think of the strength it takes to twist and blow and turn each individual piece to perfection. Imagine this very strength infusing your body and emotions. While reaching, stretching, mimicking the flow of the sculpture, revel in the sense of elation this piece achieves. Give your gratitude to Dale and his factory of helpers for completing your journey beyond grief!
Truly any artworks which speak to you can take you to a place of solitude to express and heal your emotions. I wish the best to you on your journey!
Now that the school year is winding down, it is an optimal time for reflection. Are you an educator or perhaps a parent or grandparent who just earned the new title of teacher? It doesn’t have to feel as if you are hammering concepts or that you must nail your children’s pants to the chair!
“You can’t force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer.” Rachel Naomi Remen
This pandemic more than likely created additional stresses for you and your family. Looking at different and creative approaches to how we educate may be an answer. The best learning comes from playing with your children’s talents. Just ask Howard Gardner! An American psychologist born in 1943, Howard Gardner has had a significant impact on the field of education.
After a good number of years spent teaching art as well as talented and gifted classes, I count myself as one who was also influenced by Mr. Gardner. While at a conference, I fell in love with his Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
The beauty of this theory is that a student’s innate talents and interests could be tapped to prove mastery and understanding of a certain concept. Having more personal investment from the student makes the learning stick with them longer.
Here is one way the multiple intelligence theory could be used. It could be approached as an interdisciplinary method of combining various disciplines. For example, all students could be studying basic concepts from the discipline of social studies. For the proof of learning, some students might pull in visual-spatial (art) and linguistic (language arts) for a final project. For another person, it could be mathematics and musical-rhythmic. Yet another student may utilize naturalistic (science) and bodily -kinesthetic (movement). In this example, all students would study the same concepts from the discipline of social studies, but differing end of lesson products could result by opening into other disciplines.
Discovering and utilizing one’s special intelligences can feel as if it makes one’s breath breathe deeper, heart beat stronger and voice sing sweeter! As it is what we are meant to do, it increases ambition for learning. Just think if these were tied to everyday classes!
Many times a simple discussion of these intelligences between an intuitive parent or teacher and your child can tease out which specific ones speak to them.
Gardner’s theory says that there are many ways to be intelligent. Initially, seven intelligences were identified. Later two more were added. The original seven are 1) musical-rhythmic, 2) mathematical, 3) bodily-kinesthetic, 4) linguistic, 5) visual-spatial, 6) interpersonal and 7) intrapersonal. Later, 8) naturalistic and 9) existential were added.
Musical-rhythmic would include singing, playing a musical instrument, or recognizing the music or rhythm in everyday sounds.
Mathematical intelligence would be working with numerals and their functions.
Using the strength and coordination of one’s body would be bodily-kinesthetic.
Linguistic intelligence is working with words.
Artistic skill as well as a sense of space as in map making would be visual-spatial.
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to work well with others.
A deep sense of self-knowledge is evident with intrapersonal intelligence.
Naturalistic intelligence is knowledge of the world of nature.
Existential intelligence deals with the purpose of life and the big picture of our existence.
Here are a few examples of products which would connect to various intelligences (as indicated by number).
write and perform a song 1
take a nature hike 3 & 8
write a play 4 & 5
perform a play 5 & 6
create a dance 3 & 5
paint a picture 5
draw a map 5
measure ingredients/double or halve a recipe 2
create a budget for allowance 2
build a bird house 2, 3, 5, & 8
pot plants, plant garden 8
care for animals 8
write about self-strengths 4 & 7
draw self-portrait 5 & 7
discuss thoughts on the meaning of life 9, 4, & 6
Think of yourself as a life-long learner. How do you sneak in new learning opportunities? The chances are good that the things you produce in your spare time are strongly tied to your innate multiple-intelligences. Our children are no different. Tying a student’s strengths and desires to that which needs to be learned creates a more valuable and permanent learning experience.
Remove the hammer from forced learning. Use it to build a bird-house instead!
Welcome to playtime, my friend! Children can learn a lot from play, in this case from blocks. Among the lessons could be balance, structure, aesthetics, perseverance, and emotions.
Let’s build a block tower. In order to achieve balance, the blocks must have sufficient surface contact to allow for subsequently stacked blocks. Placement of blocks is important to provide a strong structure. Generally a broad base is recommended to ensure a stable building. A small base could be used, but puts the tower at more risk. Does the arrangement of blocks look pleasing to the eye? An asymmetrical or random or perhaps symmetrical arrangement may be chosen. In order to create a structure, effort must be expended over and over to learn and create. Given time, practice improves the product. Emotions could be involved. Maybe a sense of accomplishment and pride could occur from a well-built tower. To a child, perhaps a toppling tower could be frustrating or funny depending upon the day as well as the cause.
Now, what would happen if the top blue block was knocked off my tower? It wouldn’t be entirely catastrophic, but perhaps a bit annoying. What if someone grabbed one of my yellow blocks? My tower would certainly crumble, but perhaps I’d still have my base intact. However, my tower would be the most vulnerable by the loss of the red block base. More than likely, I’d have to entirely start my tower over if someone messed with a red block.
This, my friend, is exactly what has happened to our world with the pandemic. Everyone has their own towers of blocks. Many have lost the top of their tower, some experienced crumbling in the middle, while the towers of a few were completely obliterated. We cannot fully function without a complete tower, particularly if any of the lower levels are extremely damaged.
In the fields of education and psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs perfectly describes what we are experiencing. This hierarchy model is depicted by a pyramidal tower such as my photo.
The essential red base represents our basic human needs of food, water, sleep, clothing and air. The orange level of blocks shows the necessary elements of security and safety resulting from financial resources, health and home. The yellow layer depicts a sense of belonging from relationships with loved ones, family, friends and organizations. Self-esteem from accomplishments is found on the green row. The very top blue pinnacle is fully utilizing one’s potential and talents.
Look at the tower of your life at this moment. Is the base strong? That must come first. Work your way up to check the weak parts. How can you strengthen those elements? Consider the balance, structure, aesthetics, perseverance and emotions of your life. If your tower is intact, how can you assist others in rebuilding their towers? Did I say children could learn a lot from play? Well, perhaps we adults can, too! We can rebuild our world, one block at a time.
Have I ever told you about my most memorable Mother’s Day? I’ve celebrated Mother’s Day throughout my life with the collective matriarchs of our individual families: my grandmothers, mother, sister, mother-in-law, aunties, cousins, and daughter-in-law as well as other family members. This holiday has been revered with numerous delectable meals, family gatherings, cards, store-purchased presents and home-spun gifts along with heart to heart conversations.
Even though this is my forty-third Mother’s Day, there is one particular year which stands out. As a mom who has a child who is no longer physically with us, my first Mother’s Day minus our son was not on my list of top ten things to experience. If you could imagine (don’t), I felt somewhat bereft of joy as I awoke that morning.
It promised to be a quiet day. I was thankful to be able to relish being with two of my favorite people – my husband and our daughter. Following our breakfast, we meandered out to the deck for our morning coffee or tea ritual.
The sun was deliciously warm as we basked in the beauty of the moment. My husband was the first to receive the visitor. A small brown and orange butterfly landed on his slipper! The little critter lingered for some time. A long last, it fluttered over to my bare toes. The winged wonder tickled my shin as it gingerly climbed higher. When I held out my hand, it graciously accepted. I brought it closer to my eyes. It appeared to be tasting, perhaps kissing my skin! Our daughter desired to greet the wee one as well. Finally, I convinced the insect to crawl from my hand to hers. Her body became a runway from hand to toes. Our butterfly encounter lasted at least twenty to thirty minutes, however, it seemed that time stood still. We felt as if our son was with us!
Then on Father’s Day that same year, my husband heard an interview with George Harrison’s son, Dhani. He missed his father terribly after his passing. The son had a dream one night in which George came to him. Dhani inquired, “Where have you been?” to which George replied, “I never left!”
Whenever something out of the ordinary happens in a miraculous way, it can be a sign of our loved ones. A prolonged visit from a butterfly is a rare occurrence. There was a message within the butterfly’s fascination with our feet and how it didn’t want to leave. When I pair this with the Harrison interview, it gave me pause. I believe that we are to know that our loved ones follow and influence our footsteps all the days of our lives. These were the most precious and powerful gifts to receive on our first Mother’s and Father’s Days since our son shed his earthy chains. Our guest provided the absolutely most memorable Mother’s Day that could be!
The specter of fear seems to have made its presence known upon planet earth. Due to Covid-19, humanity has been suffering various amounts of discomfort, anxiety, worry or fear. Our planet has never been immune to the emotion of fear, however when the entire globe is affected in numerous ways, we need to address it. Learning how fear can be transformed, as well as what the opposite of fear seems to be, can go a long way toward abolishing or at least reducing this negative emotion. I have been no stranger to the concept of fear.
In mid-summer of 2009, I was feeling self-conscious and mildly fearful. As a teacher, I had been finding classroom discussions increasingly difficult. Lunch time banter was occasionally misinterpreted. My hearing wasn’t what it use to be. Following a good sized investment in hearing instruments, I began enjoying “normal” hearing again, but was worried of what others would think if they knew I wore hearing aids. I will never forget what our son told me when I quietly let him know my predicament. His response was, “Mom, at least you know what is wrong with you and how to make it better.” That immediately put my puny health issue into perspective. Our son had been suffering from puzzling digestive issues for two years. He didn’t know what was ailing him, and what’s more, neither did any doctors.
Fast forwarding to the first day of school that fall, we received a 6 a.m. phone call from our son’s wife. (She considerately did not want to wake us too early.) As she worked nights, she wasn’t home when our son decided to drive himself to the hospital in the dark of the night. He was in excruciating pain, very nearly blacking out on the drive. Even though it wasn’t optimal to miss the first day of school with my students, we decided it was much more important to be with our son.
There were all sorts of tests and potential diagnoses. Initially, his liver demanded attention, so they placed a stent in his bile duct to allow his liver to properly drain. In fact, because the stent repeatedly became dislodged, he had this done three different times! A surgeon was absolutely certain it was his gallbladder, so it was removed. Following this surgery, the gallbladder surgeon assured us it would solve all our son’s issues. It did not. Our son endured countless scopes and biopsies. Fortunately, the doctor heading his case was transferring out of town. The new head doctor was a refreshing change. He doggedly pursued causes rather than treating symptoms. A month and a half following our son’s drive to the hospital, he received a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
I literally saw a house of cards collapse in my mind’s eye. My husband and I were devastated. We would much rather have had it be one of us rather than one of our children. He was only 31 years old.
Our son, however seemed to be relieved just to have a diagnosis. He knew something was desperately wrong, but he felt empowerment in knowing what it was, just as he had assured me with my health issue. It remained to be seen whether anything could be done about it. In retrospect, this took me back to when our son was a little boy. He enjoyed watching G.I. Joe cartoons. At the end of the show, it was always stated that “knowing was half the battle.” This knowing felt like progress to him.
Even with this diagnosis it took another two to three weeks of further testing and scheduling before he would undergo a very lengthy, complex surgery called the Whipple procedure. This surgery would entail a pre-exploratory to determine whether to go on to the second phase. The second part of the process would remove parts of his pancreas, stomach and small intestine plus his bile duct. Then this expert team, who did over two hundred of these procedures annually, would have more piecing together to do. Basically the mid-section of the digestive system had to be restructured and reconnected to allow food to properly break down and pass through.
As one could imagine, this was one of the most gut-wrenching fears any parent could experience. Pancreatic cancer is notoriously challenging to diagnose and difficult to survive. We were so afraid of losing our son. While pounds and hair escaped my body, sleep eluded. We were still going through the motions of the workaday world whenever we weren’t at the hospital.
Prayers were frequently flowing from our lips. However, sometimes quite often, I felt far too exhausted to even pray. That is when myriads of churches, friends and relatives from the east coast to the west coast took over holding our son up in prayer. These connections and the support were simultaneously comforting, humbling and lifesaving.
By the time the Whipple procedure rolled around, our son had just turned 32 years old. He was welcomed to the post-surgical suite by close family members and friends. It was a huge, lovely room by any standards, but especially for a hospital room. I recall the space including a cushy, deep brown leather couch, various lounge chairs and of course our son’s bed. By far the best part, besides the support afforded by all present, was our son regaining consciousness following such a harrowing surgical procedure. As many as 25% of Whipple procedure patients died during or shortly after their surgery as recently as the 1970’s, particularly if the surgeons were inexperienced in the procedure.
Yet again, I was taken back to our son’s little boy years. Transformer toys and cartoons were part of his youth. The Transformer character, Optimus Prime stated, “The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how they love them while they’re alive.” This gathered group of friends and family were evidence that our son was a fortunate one with many who demonstrated their love for him.
One of my methods for dealing with fear was searching for ways to help our son. Coincidentally, an open, partially read magazine happened to be advertising a CD on energy healing. It has parallels to laying on of hands as well as prayer. This learning path led to quite effective ways to assist our son in managing pain as well as other various symptoms. In fact, while he was in surgical recovery at the hospital, medications were not phasing the pain, however energy healing did. This practice in turn began dissolving my fear.
Once our son returned home, he found a meditation for children to alleviate pain. Merely by visualizing that he was holding a piece of shiny, molten metal in his hand, he was capable of easing his distress enough to fall asleep. By morning, his hands and feet would be sweating! How powerful our imagination can be!
Back in the olden days toward the end of my pregnancy with our son, we attended the very first Star Wars movie. He truly kicked up a storm when the music became loudly dramatic! Our young son always loved playing with Star Wars toys of the era. Han Solo from Empire Strikes Back, bellowed, “Never tell me the odds.” There was never a time during our son’s bout with pancreatic cancer that he allowed any doctors to give him a prognosis. He believed only God knows the day or the hour. Our son as well as many of us were open to miracles – and we got them!
A few months following the Whipple procedure, he actually felt much better than he had for a very long time. Amazingly, he was able to return to heavy duty work as a semi driver delivery guy.
Miraculously, our son and his wife conceived a child some time later. Considering he had six months of chemotherapy following his surgery, they were very fortunate. Prior to their child’s birth, I decided to design a baby quilt with a poem around the perimeter. One of the purposes of my poem was to imagine what wondrous things I would love for this beautiful child soon to be born. The next to the last line of my poem was, “See rainbow beauty on your birth”. I gifted my quilt at their baby shower before the birth.
On a gorgeously toasty March day, our son informed us that his wife was in labor. We drove to the hospital to warm a couple of seats in the waiting room. Shortly after the birth, our son texted us a photo of our healthy, new granddaughter!
Within a minute, our daughter who lived several states away sent us a photo of a newly formed double rainbow! Wow, this was really “See rainbow beauty on your birth”!
Several times our family participated in the pancreatic cancer walks to acknowledge those who dealt with the disease. The slogan is “Know It. Fight It. End It.” Many times, people get into the militaristic mode of fighting an ailment. Later in our son’s illness, he expressed great discomfort over this philosophy. Throughout his journey, he learned to become a person who was accepting of what was within him. When I ponder this, it makes sense because a willingness to welcome what is within ourselves implies being relaxed. If one is in an angry, fighting, ever vigilant mode, this tension would not be conducive to healing. Again, the Empire Strikes Back comes through with, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”
Our son endured many years of ill health with recurrences and corresponding treatments as well as eventually coping with regulating pancreatic enzymes and insulin dosages. Fortunately, there were also episodes of relative wellness peppered in between. He had three separate diagnoses of cancer with clean scans and markers after each. The fourth time was more than he could handle. Roughly three months prior to his passing, he told me that he just wanted to die. Oh, my heart hurt for him. As much as I thought I couldn’t bear life without him, even more, if it was in my power to release him from his suffering in this earthly realm, I would. Including his two years of symptoms prior to diagnosis, he was with us for an astounding nine years.
Twenty some days prior to our son’s passing, my husband was fortunate to view a bald eagle flying directly over our home! I had read that when one sees an eagle, a good practice is to begin a gratitude journal for twenty-one days listing ten items for each day. I decided to begin my own gratitude journal while our son was home bound in hospice. Oh my goodness, some days it was quite the challenge to think of anything for which I could be thankful. I searched high and low in the nooks and crannies. Perhaps it was a bit of tasty food or a loving, knowing glance. Maybe it was sunny outside, some days I was grateful for the rain. Amazingly, I was able to find ten items each day. The practice served to focus my mind on each individual moment. This was powerful to think that if a mother could be attending to her child in hospice and be thankful, then anyone can.
Since his passing, I’ve discovered that the club of bereaved parents is far larger than I realized. A parent never gets over losing a child. We think of him multiple times daily. There is probably no grief greater than relinquishing an offspring. It is out of the so-called natural order. It appears that there are varying degrees of acceptance of this type of loss. Every parent’s experience is unique.
I am grateful we were granted a slow good-bye to our son. Many are not given that. However, no matter what kind of loss we have endured, whether a loved one, a way of life or one’s own health, we can choose to be grateful. Anything upon which we place our attention tends to multiply. Gratitude begets gratitude. Concentrating on loss multiplies loss. Be grateful for what you had, what you have and what you will have, but mostly be grateful for now.
Since my first agonizing days of fear upon hearing the pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I entered into the classical dark night of the soul. Never in my life had I encountered such fear. In another Star Wars movie, Phantom Menace, Yoda gives one of the best descriptions of fear that I’ve ever encountered. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”
Many of the books to which I’m attracted speak of fear as being the opposite of love. Initially, I thought that hate would be the opposite of love. However, when I think of our life force and the energy of these varying emotions, it does make sense to think of fear and love as opposing forces. If we are oozing with hate, we may be shaking with explosive, boiling rage. While we are filled with fear, we may be quivering, withdrawing and not partaking of needs to sustain life. When we are overflowing with love, we are exuding the goodness of life to any and all. This ebb and flow of energy depicted between fear and love seem to be more polar opposites. Our life force energy is drawing inward while experiencing fear whereas our energies are expanding outward when feeling love.
Fear was harming my own health. I wanted to be strong to love and help our son as much as I could. I know that learning to work with life force energy not only gave me a more vital purpose, but it also revealed evidence that we are so much more than our bodies. This energy work skill set at times enables me to faintly see streams of light emitting from within. We only don our human frame as a vehicle in the earthly realm. I wonder if these occasional glimpses of etheric light are sneak peeks of the soul. Another Yoda quote from the Empire Strikes Back states it well, “Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter.” The Holy Bible also confirms this in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” Via my experience, I take this quite literally! This knowledge is also instrumental in banishing fear. Let your light shine, it scares away the fear!
These days of coronavirus are certainly trying, however, even in the darkest times a path toward the light can appear. As a teacher, it is quite evident to me that all which happens in our lives is actually part of a life lesson. I found through our son’s wisdom beyond his years that there is comfort in what one knows. Connections of love and prayer are sustaining. Imagining and visualizing the best outcome can bring good things. Acceptance wins over rebellion. Being grateful is possible even during the deepest challenges. Fear can be transformed.
Yes, we are coping with the tragic effects of Covid-19, but we can overcome. Let’s imagine and visualize an even better life-sustaining world with hope, love, peace and joy for the good of all. We must look for the miracles, relax and breathe deep. We can do this!
The book-length polished draft of my memoir is topically similar to this essay. As I am currently seeking agented representation for my memoir, any comments, follows or shares would be appreciated. I am grateful for you! L.M.W.