Tag Archives: losing a loved one

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

Remembering with Forget-Me-Nots

At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this theme it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.
Vincent Van Gogh

forget me nots
forget me nots

This 19th century Dutch post-Impressionist painter was able to perceive the hues in the stars, even the brilliance of forget-me-not blue. I can’t see those colors in the night sky, yet I like greeting them hovering overhead when I come home at night and walk from my garage to my house.

I missed the stars Tuesday night when I arrived home in the rain after my first Compassionate Friends meeting. I finally had the energy and interest to try out this group of people who meet to work through the grief of losing a child. Display posters held beloved photographs of lost children, from infants to middle-aged adults.

How fortunate we are today to have the ability to look at color images of our children. Only a century ago I would not have had photos showing my son Tristan’s eye color–camouflage green–even if I would have been lucky enough to have a single picture of him.

There is a legend encapsulating the value of remembering someone’s gaze through eye color. In this story, the Christ Child is sitting on Mother Mary’s lap. He wants others to experience her heavenly gaze, so he touches her eyes, then waves his hand over the ground. Blue forget-me-nots appear.

Blue forget-me-nots have sprung up in my garden this spring, right next to Tristan’s developing garden. Through these flowers Mary gazes upon me and upon Tristan’s garden. And Tristan himself has witnessed her loving gaze on the other side. Now he is in her care. She is the best of mothers.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

A child is never forgotten. The grief might shift and there might eventually be acceptance, but we all will always remember our children. Perhaps some forget-me-nots would be a nice addition to a garden in memory of how cherished they are to us.

Source:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/343713

Asking for a Dream of a Loved One

“Nothing is so heavenly as the embrace of the angels’ love.”

Gramma, in Emily’s Dreamtime, by Heidi M. Bright

 

Have you ever wanted just one more hug from your loved one who has crossed over?

rainbow on ceiling
rainbow on ceiling

Nothing is so heavenly as the embrace of your own angel’s love, the angel of a loved one who has passed away and visits during dreamtime.

It’s been about ten months since my teenaged son passed away. I’d been complaining to him a bit lately. Why hadn’t he come to me during my dreamtime? He knew I tracked as many dreams as I could.

Yesterday he finally showed up. I felt so comfortable with him in the dreamtime that I didn’t realize for a while that he’d finally actually showed up. So I asked him for a hug. He felt so substantial, so real, as I held him for a few moments.

Then he evaporated and I woke up.

What a wonderful gift, to receive a hug from my son from the Other Side.

That afternoon, after I finished meditating, I looked up to see a gorgeous rainbow on my ceiling. A rainbow just as I’d pictured in my children’s book, Emily’s Dreamtime. Yes, Tristan had paid a visit, had hugged me. The circle is complete.

 

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If you have lost a loved one, ask the person to come to you during your dreamtime, and to help you remember it when you wake up.

One way to help another through grief

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 13:14, Revised Standard Version, Christian Bible

Jesus washes disciples' feet
Jesus washes disciples’ feet

What practical things have you done to help another through grief?

When Jesus gathered his followers for their last supper together, he started the evening by washing dirt off their stinky feet—taking on the role of a slave. Jesus was calling his disciples to be servants of one another. Little did they know they would soon be grieving Jesus’ crucifixion, yet Jesus had demonstrated for them how to deal with their anguish: serve one another.

Following Jesus’ example doesn’t have to involve washing feet. It can be washing your own hands after digging them in the dirt of a friend’s garden.

My friend Rebecca, a minister and chaplain, not only preaches well—she performed the ministerial role at my son Tristan’s funeral—she surprised me last fall by offering to come over to plant crocus bulbs in his garden and help me with other chores I couldn’t do alone. Rebecca works long hours in an emotionally demanding job and uses weekends to rest up so she can go back out and continue assisting people with major life events. Yet she cleared a full day so she could come over and help me out.

We planted dozens of crocus bulbs and did a variety of other jobs that would have been much more difficult to do alone.
I am honored by her generosity of spirit and gracious assistance. It was healing balm for my heart, as if she was picking up some of the slack that Tristan left behind. She symbolically did what Christ encouraged all of us to do—to wash up after others. She is living what she preaches.

Thriver Soup Ingredient
Sometimes the best help for a grieving person is coming over and doing the chores the loved one usually did. This demonstrates that even though there is a terrible loss, others can pick up a little bit of the slack and make life a tiny bit more bearable.

Source
“Jesus Washing the Feet of the Disciples” oil on canvas. Louis Comfort Tiffany. http://www.wikigallery.org/ Accessed April 6, 2016