Tag Archives: losing a loved one

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

Weaving for Those Grieving

orb weaver“How can you be a symbol of strength?” said the chief. “You are small and weak, and I didn’t even see you as I followed the great Deer.”

“Grandson,” said the spider, “look upon me. I am patient. I watch and I wait. Then all things come to me.”

“The Spider and the People,” an Osage Legend

 

Like the chief, I almost didn’t see the spider in my garden a year ago—even though it was about three inches long. This black-and-gold arachnid had spun a large circular web. I stopped in time and held my breath.

I had heard arachnids symbolize the scribing arts because they weave webs as writers weave stories. This Yellow Garden Spider is called an orb weaver. Maybe like the large round web, it was letting me know there is a big story I am being asked to craft.

Yet I knew it wasn’t time. I had lost my son less than a year earlier and still needed months, if not years, to process my grief. The creature’s message was, yes, write; yet be patient. The time will come.

Another year has gone by. I have survived all the major holidays and anniversaries. I have blogged about the tears, the connections, the dreams. I have read through all my journal entries from the time I was pregnant with Tristan, reliving every one of the thousands of moments I had recorded about his life.

Late this spring I knew it was time to begin the way orb weavers start their mandala-like webs. They cast strands into the wind so the white wisps catch on something. Several weeks ago, I cast my story strand out to my publisher. Would he like a book from me about grieving?

Patiently I waited.

A few missed calls.

Finally, his voice on the line.

Jim didn’t ask me anything. Not about readership, not about marketing, not about platform. “This book is really needed,” he said. “Get crackin’.”

Like the orb weaver’s web, the first strands of this story are haphazard. Loose connections form the beginning structure of the book—a section about Tristan’s life to provide context and emotional connection, and a section designed to assist others with the grieving process, similar in style and voice to Thriver Soup.

Yet it was incomplete, like the initial lines of a web. My friend Mim Grace suggested another section for those standing on the sidelines. How do we interact with a person who is grieving? What do we say and not say? What about the sorrow of other family members, especially children?

To complete the sacred structure, I needed a professional editor. A man who knew Tristan years ago, who had lost his own son, and who had a lifetime of writing and editing experience, stepped forward.

The pieces are falling into place, as the initial spider’s home structures form a lattice. These beginnings have to be integrated for the rest of the orb to grow around and through them.

I am ready to weave around these structures, writing and editing, improving and revising. The filaments will form, with a characteristic orb-weaver ladder in place for me to move around easily within the wholeness of this gift. I plan to be patient, watching and waiting, and remain open to ideas, as some orb spiders frequently take down their webs and recast them.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Help me make this book the best it can be. Please forward this post to those who are grieving and ask for ideas on what would make this book a valuable guide for those navigating grief. Thank you.

Sources:

http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/The-Spider-And-The-People-Osage.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argiope_aurantia

http://southernwilddesign.com/argiope-the-common-garden-spider/

http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/orb-weaver

When the Deceased Call

“`Enter paradise; no fear need you have, and neither shall you grieve!”‘

Sura 7:49, Qur’an

Some people will be surprised by who enters eternal paradise, which is depicted as beautiful gardens, according to the Qur’an.

Sometimes those in the Elysian Fields temporarily pay visits to earthly plots. And sometimes they let us know when they have arrived. By phone, even.

What would you give to receive a quick call or text from a deceased loved one, letting you know he or she is okay—or even nearby?

This immeasurable gift came to me in a dream one warm morning in mid-February.

The phone rings and I pick it up. I hear, “Hi Mom, I’m in the flower garden.”

It’s my deceased son’s voice.

I wake up, filled with that oil-and-water mixture of deep gratitude, love, connection, joy—and terrible sorrow. Sound familiar?

I don’t rise quite yet. I bask in the afterglow and wallow in some grief.

Then I go to his garden, started for him behind my bedroom window. Along with the many crocus blossoms I’d already witnessed around Valentine’s Day, I discover that Tristan’s first daffodil has just opened its sun-ripened orifice. He had come to see his beautiful flowers and be near me.

When I started the garden more than a year ago, I had no idea my son would come calling in the middle of winter to see his first daffodil open. With help from several friends I had planted the flowers so I could sit and reminisce and make an offering. For him to visit surpassed my wildest expectations.

Oddly, his timing coincided with the passing of a pastor who, along with his caring wife, had gifted my son with coral bells for his garden. It was like Tristan had visited that particular morning, in time for a memorial gathering, to also say “thank you” to Gary and Liz for their thoughtfulness and for indirectly helping me heal my grief.

While I did not know Gary well, I knew he had worked for years with my friend who also had lost her son. My friend gradually attained serenity and acceptance around her son’s passing.

The moment she learned that Tristan had passed, she arrived to sit by my side, hold me, and sob with me. Yet through her tears, she glowed with the radiance of peace. I looked  her in the eyes and said, “I want that.” And she helped show me how. Because Gary had shown her how. Gary’s loving influence continues now through me. And Tristan’s lost life will be used to help others make better choices and also let go of grief and enter paradise.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

How have you connected with a deceased loved one? A friend of mine places a rose under a specific tree at the Kentucky Horse Park each year when she visits, honoring a special friend. The possibilities are as open as we are creative.

Source:

http://www.islamicity.org/quransearch/action.lasso.asp?-db=Quran&-lay=tblMasterTranslit&-format=SReply1.asp&-op=cn&Topics=1674&-token=Gardens%20of%20Paradise%3C!–Asad–%3E%7C%7C%3Cta%3Etrue%3C/ta%3E%3Ctt%3Etrue%3C/tt%3E%3Cts%3Etrue%3C/ts%3E%3Cdc%3Etrue%3C/dc%3E%3Ctx%3Etrue%3C/tx%3E%3Cal%3Etrue%3C/al%3E&-Sortorder=ascend&-Sortfield=cv&-find

Weighing of the Heart

tristan-hamsterO my heart which I had from my mother! O my heart of different ages! Do not stand up as a witness against me, do not be opposed to me in the tribunal, do not be hostile to me in the presence of the keeper of the balance, for you are my ka which was in my body, the protector who made my members hale. Go forth to the happy place whereto we speed, do not tell lies about me in the presence of the god; it is indeed well that you should hear!

“The Papyrus of Ani,” Chapter 30b, Egyptian Book of the Dead

 

One’s heart is weighed after one passes away, according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In this hymn to the Great God, a human is confronted by a tribunal and his deeds are balanced against the weight of a feather of Ma’at, goddess of truth and justice. His heart must be lighter than this feather to enter into the abode of the gods.

Did my son do his best? Did he face any kind of judgment when he crossed over? The Spirit knows us more intimately than we know ourselves—our deepest truths, our darkest secrets.

It seems to me we judge ourselves more than others judge us, far more than the Spirit of Love would. Does a mother judge her son harshly enough to cast him away from her for all time? If not, then how could Love?

I know my son judged himself harshly. Yet I also saw in him the boy rescuing earthworms after a rain, having funerals for dead mice, giving gifts straight from his heart.

None of us are perfect. We are perfectly human. My son had his issues, yet in my mind the love outweighs the unfortunate behaviors.

May his heart be lighter than a feather.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If you find yourself allowing negative thoughts to roll around in your mind, see them for what they are: thoughts. They can be changed. It takes some effort. My friend Kay offers me suggestions for updating my thinking and my words. I believe it makes a difference, because I now judge myself less. As I judge myself less, I judge others less, and the world is a smidgeon happier for it.

Sources

The Papyrus of Ani, Chapter 30b (second copy), from The Egyptian Book of the Dead, copyright 1997 by Neil Parker. Retrieved 8/24/2016 from http://www.bardo.org/ani/ch30b_2.html

https://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/3665_BOTD_schools_Teachers.pdf

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Egyptian_Book_of_the_Dead

 

Ways to celebrate the birthday of a deceased loved one

cupcake selfie Laura webMy peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not be troubled or fearful.

John 14:27, The Voice, Christian Bible

 

My friend Laura wrote out this verse and gave it to me on what should have been my son Tristan’s 21st birthday. Peace is a lovely legacy. I have some peace around his passing, and appreciate her encouraging that gift within me.

Laura and I met when our boys attended preschool. She came by this past week with several goodies for a celebration of sorts—flowers, bubbles to give away as random acts of kindness in honor of Tristan, incense and a candle we lit, and, of course, a dark chocolate bar to soothe my aching soul.

We went to Loveland Sweets and I bought candy Tristan would have liked so I could later share it with my other son. Laura, recalling Tristan’s pirate party when he was six and his love for money, bought giant foil-wrapped chocolate coins—pirate booty.

Tristan enjoyed the yellow homemade cakes I made for him each birthday–a pirate’s island one year, a rocket another year. This year I didn’t want to bake a full cake for two people. Instead, Laura and I went to a bakery. She found the perfect cupcake for us to split—yellow cake, white frosting with sprinkles, and the words “happy birthday” on top. I could not have planned it better.

We sat in the bakery and sang “Happy Birthday” together, out loud, to Tristan. Then we split the dessert.

I am grateful for the thoughtfulness of my friend. She really helped me get through the end of my day so I didn’t have to spend it alone. Her gift of presence soothed my spirit and brought me a small measure of peace.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Celebrate your deceased loved one’s birthday with gratitude for the role he or she played in your life and the opportunity to spend at least a measure of time together. Prepare one of his or her favorite foods, or even an entire favorite meal, as my friend Connie does. Set out another place setting for your loved one. Invite her or his presence while you eat. Sing happy birthday—why not? Maybe your loved one really still is with you.

Thriver Soup Thursday– Can Our Prayers Influence the Deceased?

The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.

-St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622)

Mary being crowned
Mary being crowned

Is the Rosary, a series of meditative prayers, the greatest method of praying, as this 16th century saint proclaimed? If so, would using the Rosary–or any other method of intercession–have any influence at all on the deceased?

What are your thoughts on this?

St. Francis de Sales must have had some reason for making this seemingly absolute statement. Catholics say the Rosary using a string of beads to keep track of where they are in the process so they can free their hearts and minds to focus on the connection this method makes with the Divine. Each prayer of the Rosary is said to represent the offering of a rose to Mary, mother of Christ, and when the cycles are completed, the person has symbolically given Mary a complete crown.

Maria Luisa Giuliberti, my former neighbor, asked if I would like to come pray the Rosary with her to mark the one-year anniversary of my son Tristan’s passing. Sure!

Synchronistically, Vince Lasorso, a tai chi grandmaster in Cincinnati, sent me a draft of his book, Healing through the Heart of Mary: A Miraculous Journey to a New Spiritual Way. “Mary teaches us, from her supernatural perspective, a spiritual process, The Rosary, that enables us to meld the two realities [the supernatural and the mundane] together in our lives,” he writes, “[to] heal ourselves, our loved ones, and our world through a heart-driven technology of inner peace and resonance.”

Maria and I sat at her dining room table and she showed me a pamphlet containing the rosary prayers. We set the intention of praying that Tristan would let go of shame, guilt, and remorse, and to experience peace. Holding our rosaries, we intoned together for an hour, raising up our intentions and prayers.

I am grateful to my friend for remembering the anniversary and for her willingness to spend time praying with me on my son’s behalf. What a beautiful gift. Was it the greatest method of praying for my son? Did it have any influence on him? I don’t know, yet I felt like I had done something meaningful, a gift from my heart to his and Mary’s. That is enough for me.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If praying the Catholic rosary interests you, here is a link to instructions and prayers: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-rosary

Sources:

www.catholicgallery.org/quotes/quotes-on-rosary/

Francis de Sales, a Catholic saint, was a Bishop of Geneva.

Vince Lasorso, Healing through the Heart of Mary: A Miraculous Journey to a New Spiritual Way, draft, pg. 7.

Tapestry: Cleveland Museum of Art

Burning diamonds

tristan candle web

You have the glittering beauty of gold and silver, and the still higher lustre of jewels, like the ruby and diamond; but none of these rival the brilliancy and beauty of flame. What diamond can shine like flame?

Michael Faraday (1791–1867), English scientist

What diamond can shine like flame? More than a million diamond nanoparticles that are created every second in a burning candle flame.

Chemistry professor Wuzong Zhou at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland discovered during 2011 that diamond nanoparticles exist at the centers of candle flames. The diamond particles are burned away in the fire.

This explains part of the natural human attraction to candle light for sacred rituals, including lighting candles for the deceased.

I recently lit a candle for my deceased son Tristan while visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the time I didn’t know I was burning up millions of bits of diamonds. How like the life of my brilliant son, shining brightly for nineteen years, burning up in the heat and pressure of his life, and then adding illumination to my life.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:
Lighting a candle to commemorate the passing of a loved one can bring a momentary, tiny sense of peace. Many Catholic churches are open during the day and have candles that can be lit. You will be creating and burning diamonds that can ascend, as heat and carbon dioxide, with your emotions and thoughts  toward the heavens.

Source:
Michael Faraday, lectures on “The Chemical History of a Candle,” 1860.
http://phys.org/news/2011-08-candle-flames-millions-tiny-diamonds.html#jCp
https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2011/title,72748,en.php

 

 

Lilies for Mother’s Day

Lilies symbolize motherhood.
Lilies symbolize motherhood.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin. Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:28-29, Christian Bible

The lilies in my neighbor Jennifer’s yard had grown so much that “on a whim” she was outside, digging up a large swathe of them. Just as my son and I were walking by—which we only do once every week or two.

Had we walked by an hour earlier or later, she would not have been working on the lilies and they would not have been available.

The timing of her whim proved perfect. She offered them to me. In time to plant for Mother’s Day.

Lilies are considered by some to symbolize motherhood. This arises from an ancient Greek myth that the goddess Hera’s milk overflowed, and the milk that fell to the earth splashed and formed white lilies.

White lilies often appear in paintings of the Madonna when being told she will bear the Christ Child, once again tying the flower to motherhood and new beginnings. This new beginning extends to restoration of innocence for the souls of the departed.

My own mother is among the departed–I lost her decades ago to breast cancer. And I lost my son Tristan less than a year ago.

These flowers aren’t the first lilies to show up near a holiday. A stylized lily, referred to as the fleur-de-lis, was on a red vase that appeared on my porch in time for Christmas—a surprise package I believe Tristan had a hand in getting delivered. Now bunches of the real deal are growing in my yard.

The connection is clear to me. I believe Tristan, and perhaps my mother as well, had something to do with my neighbor’s “whim” and the timing of my walk, so I would have lilies in his memorial garden in time for Mother’s Day. And there were enough to plant some in the front yard, adorning an area designated for my other son’s plants. I look forward to their summer glories.

Thriver Soup Ingredient
If you would like to grow lilies, here is a guide: https://www.almanac.com/plant/lilies

Sources:
http://www.whats-your-sign.com/lily-meaning.html

http://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/lily

Embracing the joys and unbearable agonies of motherhood

Even if a mother lives for a hundred years,
She will constantly worry about her eighty-year-old child.
Do you wish to know when such kindness and love ends?
It doesn’t even begin to dissipate until her life is over!

“The Kindness of Ultimate Compassion and Sympathy,” The Filial Piety Sutra

summer 2000A mother’s kindness and love remains strong throughout her life. I absolutely loved being a mother. I cherished those little arms wrapped around me, that soft sweet breath in my ear, the giggles as we played together.
That is only part of why losing a child is considered the toughest tragedy a human being can face.
And it makes Mother’s Day particularly painful. There is an emptiness, a hole, that nothing can ever fill. There is an ache that will never disappear. It is like a broken hand that leaves one impaired throughout life.
My first Mother’s Day without my son Tristan is this weekend. I read of another mother who lost her only child to heroin, and another who lost two sons to heroin in one night.
So while my heart aches for Tristan, I feel deeply grateful for my second child. Out of my six pregnancies, he is the only one alive today.
I cherish our time together. I now have a little time to read books he suggests so we can talk about them. We have a weekly ritual of eating out. And we discovered Escape Room adventures during which we are locked in a room for an hour and have a series of puzzles to solve. We’ll be doing one on Mother’s Day.
Tristan would have loved participating with us. I will invite his spirit to join us on this fun adventure. I will make the most of my time with Trevor. And I will embrace both the incredible joy and unbearable agony of motherhood.

Thriver Soup Ingredient
One possible way to celebrate Mother’s Day and enjoy connecting with family members is with a Room Escape adventure. There are many companies offering them in major cities across the country.

Source:
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/filial-sutra.htm