Tag Archives: losing a loved one

How Safe are Your Medications from Thieves?

A woman with stage 4 lung cancer was found dead in a wooded area in Kentucky, and investigators believe the motive for the murder—by her cousin with two accomplices—was to obtain her narcotic painkillers.

The suspect knew where she kept them, and she had just received another shipment of 120 pain pills on June 8. She disappeared from her home June 9, and her body was found six days later.

Storing opioids

If you have pain killers, where do you store them? I tried locking things in a footlocker with a padlock. My teenager could crack into it within minutes.

I have talked with others who have had cancer treatment. Do they lock up their painkillers? Usually not. Like me, some don’t realize many painkillers are basically heroin pills and addictive.

Here is a list of opioid medications:

Do you have any of these? If so, are they effectively locked up?

“My child wouldn’t take these.”

That’s what I thought. My child did take them. And became an addict. And if he hadn’t, a friend of his might have found and taken them.

I found a digital lock box is the best solution for controlled substances in my home. It costs more, but I know only I can access the contents.

Other addictive prescription drugs to lock up:
— Tranquilizers and depressants, including barbiturates and benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
— Stimulants, including Ritalin and amphetamines such as Adderall.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:
According to 2015 government estimates, more than two million people are addicted to opioids. Protect yourself. Protect your loved ones. Please put your medications in a digital lockbox.

Sources:

https://www.kentucky.com/news/local/crime/article213429614.html

http://local12.com/news/local/new-allegations-about-cancers-patients-robbery-murder-revealed

https://patch.com/kentucky/across-ky/terminal-cancer-patient-murdered-her-painkillers-report

https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/opioids-and-morphine-derivatives.html

https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA17-5053-12/SMA17-5053-12.pdf

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/03/22/most-addictive-prescription-drugs-on-market.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-opioid-prescriptions-dropped-20170707-story.html

Fathers Can’t Always Fix It

My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.

–Clarence Budington Kelland

Fathers in our culture are given the role of Mr. Fixit, like the repair fox in Richard Scarry’s children’s books. They are expected to be the family adviser, problem-solver, protector and provider. They are expected to keep their children safe. If their children get sick, they are expected to help fix it.

These expectations are enormous and completely unrealistic. Some things simply can’t be fixed. Even Mr. Fixit repeatedly fails in his role of repairing.

When we lose a child, we agonize. “What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t I have fixed it?”

This spring, the cardinal nest next to my porch provided an example for me of some things that simply can’t be fixed–even by devoted fathers.

Sometimes, I caught glimpses of the father cardinal standing next to the nestlings, probably feeding them.

I later learned male cardinals typically protect their territory and provide food for the little family. They even feed the mothers, calling them away from their nests for dinner.

This father clearly was doing his job, because his ugly nestlings grew rapidly.

About ten days after hatching, one of the fledglings perched on the edge of the nest. It had no tail feathers, and simply sat there awhile. Frankly, Fledgling 1 reminded me of a human teenager daring to take off on its own with no parental control.

Mother and Father chirped madly nearby.

As I continued with my day, Fledgling 1 disappeared. My son and I looked around for it a few times, but never saw it again. What became of the bird? Did one of the feral neighborhood cats catch it? It’s quite possible—only 15 to 37 percent of cardinal nests produce fledglings, and Fledgling 1 was quite vulnerable. The dangers were real and close. The parents had no say in what their offspring chose to do or not do.

The next day Fledgling 2 perched on the edge of the nest for a while. Later in the day I saw it hop from branch to branch around the shrub.

As I approached, both father and mother took turns flying at the bush and creating a ruckus, flapping madly and chirping with piercing volume. Both did their absolute best to lure me away from their remaining baby. Neither succeeded.

The next day, cardinal chirping slit the air from high in a nearby pine. And then it ceased. Fledgling 2 most likely made it into adulthood.

The parents provided a home, nourishment, and every attempt at a safe environment. Yet perhaps one of the two didn’t make it into adulthood. It is not the parents’ fault. We must accept that we are not in charge, ultimately. We do not control the choices of our children, nor any diseases they might endure. We can provide and influence and plead, but in the end, some things can’t be fixed. All we can do is our best.

May you find peace in the example you set for your loved ones.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:
Hear a cardinal chirp on this page https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/norcar/introduction and watch a father cardinal feed his young here: https://americanexpedition.us/learn-about-wildlife/northern-cardinal-facts-information/

Source:
https://www.wild-bird-watching.com/Cardinal.html

Remember the Rachels on Mother’s Day

Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.

Matthew 2:16-18, New Living Translation

Rachel was an early biblical character who died giving birth to her second son. She was buried by the road to Bethlehem. Bethlehem would later become the birth location for a king, according to Matthew’s gospel. And Herod, the jealous and frightened ruler at the time, sent his soldiers to kill all the male infants and toddlers near Bethlehem to remove this new threat. One cannot imagine the kind of imperishable grief such an act would produce on a vulnerable population.

This story is part of the birth narrative of Jesus. When was the last time you heard a preacher talk about this trauma in connection with the nativity story? It seems to me that mothers who grieve their children appear easily overlooked.

The world is full of Rachels who weep disconsolately for their deceased children. My friend Joan just lost her daughter to diabetes.

With the current opioid epidemic, mothers who are cancer patients need to be wary. I was told in 2011 to “stay ahead of the pain,” and was sent home with a month’s supply of what I now realize were heroin pills. Recently I talked with a cancer survivor who also had leftover opioids and a teenaged son at home. I urged her to get a digital lockbox or return the pills to a pharmacy. Even if her son doesn’t find or use them, a friend of his might. Then the treacherous slide into heroin overdose begins.

If I ever doubt myself as a mother fighting for her children, all I have to do is look at this Mother’s Day card my deceased son made for me about ten years ago. I’m seen as firm with my words and my sword… with a kind smile on my face, all centered in a heart glowing with love.

I’m hardly alone. Even my son’s memorial garden was just visited again by Rachel’s weeping. A mother bird in the sweet gum tree had fought valiantly for her eggs, evidenced by the circle of feathers; but her efforts simply weren’t enough. The nest fell to the grass and her babies were hungrily consumed.

Mother’s Day is approaching. Ugh. For me, and for perhaps hundreds of thousands of mothers, this time on the calendar is a terrible reminder of broken hearts and empty arms. Despite all we do, sometimes we still lose our children. Some mothers lose their only children—I know two such women who lost theirs to heroin. I have heard of one woman who lost all three of her children to heroin overdoses. Losing your children is bad enough. Add on the stigma of death to drugs and you have an unfathomable nightmare.

I am most fortunate that one of my brothers will be here and we will spend the day making and eating delicious meals our mother made when we were growing up—a time of innocence. My younger son will get to indulge with us. (He loves to tell me there’s no food in my house.) Foods I typically now avoid, yet that give comfort and solace to an empty heart. Corn fritters, hamburger pie, cheesecake, springerle. I’ll still be weeping for my child, as I do nearly every day, yet with social support I also will have some consolation.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Mothers fight for their offspring, though not always successfully. Many of these mothers are single. It can be such a lonely time, especially with the isolation that can come from losing a child to drugs.

On Mother’s Day, please pray for or send positive intentions to the Rachels everywhere. Those who have suffered heavy losses need comfort and love—a kind word, a simple text, a card—something to let them know they are not entirely alone.

Message in a Cardinal

If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young;

Deuteronomy 22:6, JPS Tanakh 1917

The compassionate act for a hungry person of ancient times was to take only the eggs from a bird’s nest and leave the mother. This created benefits: humans had food and birds could again reproduce, making more human food.

Fortunately I can walk to a store open 24 hours every day and get a variety of foods to eat. I don’t need the eggs in the nest by my porch to satisfy my survival needs.

The cardinal nesting by my side door probably is the one that tried to create a nest on my porch light. Hanging from this light fixture is the beautiful wind chime given to me by Kay so my deceased son could make it sing for me.

Perhaps the mother bird gave up when the door kept swinging open and shut, open and shut. So she moved to the tree next to the porch. As close as she could get without the constant disturbance.

Her nest cradles two eggs. I enjoy seeing her as I walk by.

How did those eggs get out of her little body?

How does she know to sit on her eggs? The sea turtle lays her eggs and abandons them, returning to the sea.

How does she know to leave the eggs alone? If she were human, I imagine she’d be neurotically inspecting the eggs, rolling them around, listening for any sounds.

Nope. She sits calmly, quietly, still as stone. Watching. Waiting. Being.

She makes me wonder about my way of being as a mother. I was anxious, wanting everything to work out perfectly for my two offspring. Instead, one turned to drugs, and three years ago lost his life.

Would I blame the bird if one of her eggs broke, or if a hatchling fell out of the nest, or if a creature ate one? Today I found a broken robin’s egg on my driveway, not five feet from the tree where the cardinal nestles. This is life. These things happen. We do not control outcomes, especially with terrible illnesses like cancer and addiction.

James Hillman (American psychologist, 1926 –2011), in his book The Soul’s Code, calls the inordinate self-blame of grieving parents “the parental fallacy.” It is false to think we have enough control to manage every outcome. We can try and influence, yet ultimately, it is not up to us.

Perhaps this is why the cardinal tried to build a nest right above my son’s wind chime and the robin lost her baby. Maybe it’s a message, like, “It’s not your fault, Mom. You did everything you could. Sometimes terrible things happen. And I am near you now, singing through the wind chime, watching you through the eyes of a bird nesting by your door.”

They are reminders to have compassion for myself, as I have compassion for these mother birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the Loving Support of Friends

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.

Dalai Lama

Thanks to generous support of my friends, Thriver Soup recently made its way to North Carolina and Florida. My heart is filled with gratitude.

Cincinnati Friends Meeting sent me off with their prayers. Brecka Burton and Amy Elliott Elberfeld provided me with presentation clothing for my talks “Thriving Beyond a Dark Night of the Soul” and “Power Up Your Spiritual Vibration with Energized Food” at the Kent Cook Nook in Davidson, NC.

Marnie Poirier, one of my Sacred Sisters of the Healing Hearts, provided a bed for the first three nights. Marnie’s place truly is her home, with her favorite quotes painted on the front of her house, a life-sized mermaid swimming in front of her porch, and a femail box next to her front door. She sent me off with bloodroot for my son’s memorial garden and stinging nettle for its nutritional properties.

Then I stayed with Madeline and John Wood, board members for the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation, in their lovely condo. They had invited me to come when we met at the NLMSF National Conference where I spoke during 2015. Madeline did a lot of legwork publicizing my talk on “The ABCs of Creating Conditions for Healing” at Main Street Books in Davidson—I so appreciate her efforts, which produced some participants. We enjoyed delicious meals, a walk in a local park, and even a concert that evening at the local college.

Then I drove to West Palm Beach, Fla., to present on “Creating Conditions for Thriving” at the Annie Appleseed Conference. A generous gift from Women’s Way Ohio-Kentucky helped make this part of my journey possible.

On my way home I enjoyed a Spanish galleon treasure museum on a coastal island. I also set aside time to walk barefoot in the wet white sand along an empty beach washed by the powerful Atlantic surf.

To honor the happiest day of my life with my deceased son—21 years ago—I went to Disney Spring’s Rainforest Café in Orlando for lunch. The restaurant still features large, colorful aquariums, trumpeting life-sized animatronic elephants, and an overhead painting of a sky complete with large planet and meteoric lights. Every so often came the sounds of thunder and flashes of light, sans rain.

With focused attention, I could relive my son’s joyful two-year-old presence at the table… I am so grateful for the fulfillment he gave me as his mother and for the happy memories I carry inside. And I am so heartbroken about my terrible loss. Love never dies. It simply shifts.

The loving support of friends fulfilled their prime purpose. It also filled my trip with gratifying new memories and the fulfillment of my purpose sharing healing solutions and genuine hope with others.

I am grateful.

FREE presentations Feb. 24 in Davidson, NC

FREE presentations

Thriving Beyond a Dark Night of the Soul
and
Power up Your Spiritual Vibration with Energized Food

Saturday, Feb. 24
The Nook, 400 North Harbor Place, Suite C
Davidson, NC 28036; 704.896.3111

Join me at 10:30-11:30 am for

Thriving Beyond a Dark Night of the Soul
Your Take-aways
+ Understand what a “dark night of the soul” is
+ Learn how to use it to transform your life
+ Gain 14 healing solutions you can begin using immediately

and from 1-2 pm for

Power up Your Spiritual Vibration with Energized Food
Your Take-aways
+ Discover the spiritual qualities of certain foods.
+ Learn how to find out your nutritional status
+ Consider simple ways to reduce inflammation

Irises: Rainbow Bridges between Earth, Heaven

As soon as the goddess entered and brushed away the dreams that hovered around her, her brightness lit up all the cave.

“The Halcyon Birds,” Bulfinch’s Mythology

In the Greek myth “The Halcyon Birds,” the king of Thessaly dies at sea while his beloved wife Halcyone prays ceaselessly for his return. Halcyone’s prayers are heard by the goddess Hera. Hera can’t bear Halcyone’s pleading for the impossible return of the dead king, so she sends her attendant, the goddess Iris, on a mission. Iris dons her robe of many colors, then paints the sky with a rainbow on her way to deliver Hera’s message to the god of sleep. Hera wants the god of sleep to give Halcyon a dream about the king of Thessaly’s shipwreck so Halcyone will stop her incessant prayers. Iris’ radiance fills the sleeping god’s cave. She delivers her message to the god, then returns by her rainbow to the heavens.

The iridescent rainbow goddess Iris represents a connection between earth and heaven through the bows she creates with her robe—the female version of an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat—when she traverses the air.

The iris flower bears her name. Symbolically, this bloom bridges earth with heaven because of its great beauty. It represents the ability to communicate messages with those who reside with (the) God(s). If you have lost a loved one to cancer, the iris might take on some extra significance for you.

Irises have been growing for decades at Grailville in Loveland, Ohio, which has served as a spiritual bridge between the human and the Divine. It is sacred ground upon which my 19-year-old son Tristan inspired one final time.

Buckets of extra irises from the property recently found their way into my little car, thanks to Mary Lu. They now are planted in Tristan’s garden behind my home. From sacred ground to hallowed ground, the irises connect the spiritual with the profane, the light with the dark, the living with the deceased. They help bring the Spirit to my son who sought the Spirit in the false highs of heroin. The flowers now provide a symbolic way to communicate with him.

The iris has another symbolic connection for me. Early usage of the French royal symbol, the fleur-de-lis/fleur-de-lys, probably referred to the iris, which grew abundantly along the river Lys, rather than to the lily. The fleur-de-lis is a symbol for the Boy Scouts, in which Tristan earned the Arrow of Light honor.

I look forward to the flowers beaming their iridescent radiance in the spring. There is no more meaningful addition to his garden.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

To invoke the energy of the rainbow, or of communication with your loved ones on the Other Side, perhaps meditate with a drop of iris essence or essential oil on your forehead between your eyebrows, or with an iris blossom next to you.

Sources:

Richard Martin, ed., “The Halcyon Birds,” Bulfinch’s Mythology (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1991), p. 65

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur-de-lis, November 1, 2017

How to Manage Your Emotions

Enlightenment, peace, and joy will not be granted by someone else. The well is within us, and if we dig deeply in the present moment, the water will spring forth.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

 

Digging deeply into the present moment can be enraging, terrifying, or sorrow-filled. That’s why many of us are experts at avoiding our feelings, at living in our heads, at focusing on thinking and doing rather than being.

When we are stimulated into raw emotions such as rage, terror, or grief, we experience uncomfortable physical sensations in our bodies—a red face, butterflies in the stomach, an ache in the heart. This happens because our brains are programmed to respond to threatening stimuli by dumping chemicals into our bloodstreams, according to Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, author of My Stroke of Insight.

“It takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream,” she said.

Hearing this on her CD, I got my own jolt. She was giving a physiological explanation for what my psychotherapist had taught me, a practice called the map the emotions. Practicing the map provided me with enormous assistance for successfully navigating the traumas I’ve endured since 2009—end-stage sarcoma, then divorce, then the loss of my 19-year-old.

And suddenly the experience of grief rising, cresting, and crashing like ocean waves made sense.

During those 90-second surges, I had practiced staying with the physical sensations in my body without thinking about them, analyzing them, judging them, or making stories about them. I did not have a choice about what happened those first 90 seconds inside my body. I did have a choice how I would respond. I could observe and accept the sensations, staying in my body and in the physiological experience; or I could ignore the sensations and get stuck in emotional pain.

After the 90 seconds were over, I had another choice. Was I going to turn my attention to the source of that stimulation, allow my negative story-teller to re-weave a web of drama, get emotionally triggered again, and continue the pain?

Or was I going to live in the present moment, turn my attention away from the trigger, and choose to let the experience go?

Sometimes I allowed myself to be triggered repeatedly for more than an hour. Yet I stayed with the practice of experiencing the physical sensations with each surge of emotion. Finally I would want some peace and I chose to stop setting off my brain’s limbic system with my thoughts.

It takes practice, like any other skill. Allow time to develop these new thinking and behavior patterns. If you choose this practice, be gentle with yourself as you learn this new way of engaging your thoughts and emotions.

By practicing the map of emotions, I made a conscious choice. I became response-able. Taylor said, “If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you.”

You will be digging deeply in the present moment, and the water of life will spring forth.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If you feel a sudden surge of emotion, focus on the physical sensations it creates. Notice how it moves around or possibly gets intense. Notice it lift after 90 seconds. Do all of this without engaging your mind. See if it brings you a sense of peace or relief, and watch your thoughts to see if they want to re-engage with the initial trigger.

Sources:

Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (New York: Bantam, March 1, 1992), pp. 41, 42.

Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (Viking, New York: 2008), pp. 146, 148, 152.

Photo: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=5127&picture=breaking-wave

3 Birthday Feathers for Making Wishes

…he said: ‘Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.’ Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass. Then he left her at a great house to be laundry-maid for seven years and a day.

“Three Feathers,” More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, 1894

In this tale, a woman is not allowed to see what her own husband looks like. With untamed curiosity, one night she lights a candle so she can see him. Jacobs writes, “He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird.”

The bird-man exiles his wife to seven years and a day as a laundress so he can regain his human form; yet he also gives her three feathers for making wishes. Through the feathers she really doesn’t do seven years of labor. The feathers do the work for her.

Like the wife and her husband, I finally looked upon the truth about my son Tristan; soon thereafter he flew away into the unseen realm.

My friend Kay taught me to watch for signs of his continuing presence in my life.

A week ago would have been his 22nd birthday. Like the bird-man, he sent me three feathers to let me know he’s nearby, working his magic. And like the wife, I have labor to perform, writing a book about grieving. It is a labor of love.

The first feather presented itself a few days before his birthday at Lake Isabella in Loveland, Ohio, while I walked and talked about him with my friend Laura. The large turkey vulture feather stuck straight up in the grass next to the road. Turkey vultures are symbols of devoted motherhood. Their plumage would probably make good quills for writing. Perhaps Tristan has sent me a Quick-quotes Quill from Harry Potter.

The second feather floated down out of the clear blue sky, landing right in front of me on the day before his birthday. I knew then that feathers would be the sign of his presence for this birthday.

On his birthday, I discovered the third feather–caught somehow on a gossamer thread hanging from the shelf above my laundry sink.

I believe my son, invisible to me now, left me three birthday feathers for making wishes as I labor on his book. And there will be three parts to his book–perhaps a feather for making wishes and receiving inspiration from my son as I write on each section.

It was a beautiful gift to me on his birthday.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Signs from our deceased loved ones can be subtle. Keep an open mind and heart and watch for them. My friend Kathy, whose sister Karen passed a year ago, writes, “It’s also interesting to me how often animals appear in some significant way when people move on… when Mother died, we heard a Mourning Dove…at 1:30am, a rather unusual time for bird song.

“As we walked to the door to enter the house to say Goodbye to Karen (after all the police/medical investigations were done – standard procedure for an “unattended death”), someone happened to glance to the left and there in the field was a doe, looking right at us. She stood for the longest time, unafraid, then bounded away into the cedars looking so graceful and free. ”

What signs have you received from your deceased loved one?

Source:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/meft/meft08.htm

Something His Hand Touched

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies… Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go…

Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

The two-year anniversary of my son’s passing went forgotten by all but three people in my life.

This forgetting raises an irrational sorrow in my mind. How could they forget when my son passed?

But it wasn’t their lives that were devastated. Everyone has gone on with their lives. As is the nature of life.

What surprises me is not that people forgot. I expected that. What astonishes me is that some people actually did remember, and say something to me.

His passing happened the first Saturday in June. This year I returned to the conference center where he left this life.  After talking with other people at the vegetable stand, I walked to the room, the last room he ever saw with physical eyes. The door has been closed ever since that dreadful week, and a sign says under no circumstances is anyone to enter. The closest I can come to the last thing on earth he touched is the door knob to the room he had locked from the inside. So I held the knob to imagine some connection with his final few minutes as a human being.

Mary Lu knew where I had gone, and why, even though I had said nothing. She waited a little while, then came to check on me. This wise woman has always been a gracious presence in my life. She held me and listened as I rambled my jumbling thoughts.

I finally screwed up enough courage to ask—why had the room been closed for two years?

She said it was going to be remodeled.

Another friend later commented that the conference center people must have felt honored that my son felt safe there, and spent his final moments on their sacred ground. Its room had cradled his living body in preparation for its final rest. The room could never be the same again.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

There is some sort of connection one can experience with the objects left by those we love. If nothing else, it can elicit memories, which gives us a sense, however briefly, of being with the person again.

Source: http://clipart-library.com