Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Love Story - True Gift from Heaven

We are each blessed, at certain points throughout our lives, no matter how hard, with some events and people and circumstances that are just plain gifts from Heaven, probably having to do with what we choose to sustain us as we come in to this Earth life, even before we get here. I believe we work with other spirits before we arrive, to agree on certain possibilities, and I believe we recognize each other when we encounter these mentors and allies and beloveds during our lifetimes here.

I am almost finished writing my book, Coming Alive After Death, and here, present a couple of chapters to whet your appetite, should you choose to explore more after it is published. These are not the opening chapters of the book.

Divine Connections happen' here xoxo
Divine Connections

We were so blessed to have my sweet husband in our lives, escorting us through this foray into uncharted territory with my daughter so sick. My husband is one of the most accepting people I've ever met, next to my sweet and gentle grandfather. He doesn't judge people, and he believes the best in them. He has faith that they can work out their troubles and though he is always available to talk with, and his perspectives are always generous and enlightened, he's not a meddler or a controlling person. Raising our four kids with him was amazing. We were a blended family, both of us having experienced divorce when our respective spouses became bored with us.

It was magical when we got together and has been pretty magical ever since. 

My Littles in our tiny house in Colorado
when I first became a single Mom xoxo
Jess was 7 and Torey was 9 years old.
When I moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania with my children as a single mother, we lived in a three-bedroom apartment for a couple of years. We found ourselves surrounded by lots of other single mother families, and many students. And I found that most of these mothers were bitter towards men and not really the kind of people I enjoyed spending time with. I love men. I believe the world is full of really good ones, and I can't sit around dissing them just because the one in my first marriage was not trustworthy.

So I started looking for a place to live that offered more of a neighborhood environment, with a mix of families. It had to allow pets, since I had a cat and wanted a dog, and it had to be small enough for me to comfortably afford the heat in winter, and easy to take care of and maintain both inside and out. I came across an ad in the paper for a duplex and arranged to see it early one morning.

When I walked into the modest living room just inside the front door, I heard myself saying "I'll take it!"

All I had seen was the floor, the windows, and the empty bookshelves when I heard myself say,
"I'll take it!"
This is exactly when divine forces clicked into motion, though I didn't know it at the time. 

Life-sustaining forces are everywhere.
I am absolutely certain of divine forces working through my life, to bring me opportunities, to place right in front of me just what I need when I need it. I believe in this for ALL of us. And as I grow older, I get better at listening, feeling, recognizing, and responding to these beautiful, life-sustaining forces. I will add here, that I don't believe these divine forces are meant to save us from death, because death comes to all of us, and the beauty in death is how we navigate it both with those we love who are dying, and the grace in the experience ourselves. I also have come to understand that death is merely transition to another kind of LIFE, so all that we are given is ultimately life-sustaining. 

The current tenant, who was showing me around said, "But don't you want to see the rest of it?"

I said, "Yes, but I'm sure I'll take it," because I had fallen in love with the immaculately finished gorgeous wooden floors, the wall of built-in bookshelves along the back of the living room, and the beautiful, very large, wooden, multi-paned windows punctuating the walls of every room in the house.

The tenant showed me around the rest of the duplex and though the third bedroom was very small, the place was just as beautiful upstairs as down. The backyard was small, but had a very old weeping cherry tree in one corner, and the cherry tree, viewable from the kitchen and dining rooms, bloomed fragrant white blossoms whose petals fluttered down and across the yard like springtime snowflakes. It was a dream come true to find an affordable place that felt like home. Outside my bedroom window was a tall, sturdy sugar maple tree that made the room glow pink as its leaves turned color with the cold winds of the coming winter. There were kids in the neighborhood, and lots of retired folks, single moms with dogs, and starter families. It was good.

My two children and I lived there for three years, and it was a very good home for us. I loved cooking in the tiny kitchen that overlooked the backyard, and the children and I ate at the dining room table I'd inherited from my grandparents when they passed away. Spaghetti dinners, late Sunday brunches, giggles and songs and stories. There was much laughter at that table, lots of crafting, homework, puzzle building, and so much of the sweetness of life.

Living room in the duplex was cozy.
The family that owned the other side of the duplex (we were just renting, with the dream of eventually owning) liked to spend time outside, and they had lots of barbecues. The father spent a lot of time in their backyard, gardening and tending to his beautiful plants, and they had a little custom-built pond with a tiny waterfall. The pond was filled with beautiful goldfish and water-plants. I could hear it from my open windows as I worked in the kitchen or basked in warm water and bubbles in our bathtub upstairs. Sometimes I'd look over and see the four of them, and dream of the day when our family would no longer be lopsided, missing the comfort of a loving paternal influence. I wanted to be like them.

Me at my desk in the little duplex living room.
During those years I spent a lot of time working, holding down a full-time job as well as doing regular freelance work in my off-hours. One night I was working at my computer, tucked into a corner of the living room and the doorbell rang. I never had any company so was curious to see who it could be. When I opened the door, I discovered that it was the father from the family next door, and he introduced himself and said, "I noticed that you left the lights on in your car. Would you like me to turn them off for you?"

"Oh!," I said, "no, I'll go do that right away. Thanks so much for letting me know." For the next few seconds we stared at each other awkwardly. Then he said goodnight and slipped away to join his beautiful family. As he left and I trotted out with my keys to turn off the headlights, I felt my solitude keenly, wondering if ever I would feel the wholeness of family again.

During the first year we lived there, I said hi to the neighbors once, and the mother drove my children to school a couple of times when it was thundering in the morning and I had to be at work by 8 a.m. Usually my children walked to school. I so appreciated the kindnesses of my little community. Though we didn't socialize, I'd sometimes find my driveway shoveled out after a hard snow, and once the father neighbor came over and sprayed a huge ant nest that was in our backyard, because the ants were finding their way into their kitchen next door.

One night while the family was out in their backyard barbecuing, my children came to me with a dead bird they had found. Together, we picked tiny wildflowers and a couple of nice big green leaves, and I gave them a garden trowel and went with them to the far corner of our yard, underneath the cherry tree. We dug a little hole and lined it with the leaves and flowers, and laid the bird to rest. I asked the children if they could think of something nice to say to send it on its way. They each, with very solemn faces, blessed the little bird and I did too. We gently covered the bird with soft earth, and I went to sit on the steps by the kitchen door that overlooked the backyard and my two lovely children stayed with the bird for a while longer. My daughter was about nine years old at the time, and my son, 11.

As I sat contemplating death so close to the life that was happening right next door, I heard my children start to sing, and I had to run inside to keep them from hearing the laughter that erupted from my belly, for they were singing, at the top of their lungs, with all the passion of innocent youth "FooOOOOr he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fe-e-e-llow, which nobody can deny!"

Oh Lord, I'll never forget that delightfully sweet moment. What a treasure.

Were they too young to understand the solemnity of death? Or were they young enough to remember it's a time for celebration?

Celebration xo
As I am writing this book, I take little breaks, to go out on the porch and feel the warm sunshine, sniff the wind, and stretch my eyes across the expanse of trees in the distance. As I live and breathe, here is what happened to me just now.

I'm standing on the back porch, basking and sniffing and stretching my eyes, when I roll them down and what do I see? A little chipmunk, quite dead, that my kitty has brought to me. It's a gift, he thinks. And my heart sinks just a little. So I go into the garage and get my garden trowel and then I pick some lovely little flowers and a long, fat green leaf, and I pick up the chippy and carry everything out to the front of the house. I can't bury it in the backyard because I'm afraid the pups would be too interested.

The neighbors think I'm gardening. I dig the hole, line it with the lovely green leaf and tuck the little chippy into its soft bed. I place the flowers around it and check to make double sure it won't be awakening, miraculously recovered, before I push earth's blanket of soil over it. Nope. No chance of recovery.

And you know what I do then? Yes, I start softly singing, "Foooor he's a jolly good fellow. For he's a jolly good fellow. For he's a jolly good f-e-e-e-llow! Which nobody can deny." I sing it all the way through, and my heart feels warm. I picture Jess up in The Garden in the Sky, and she's picking Little Chippy up as he runs to her and they cuddle. I swear my kitty is in cahoots with Jess as I write this book. They're both hovering pretty close.

Joey Max when he was a kitten xo

Becoming Cinderella

Our lives went on, working, working, working, dreaming, sleeping, growing, and I would often sit outside on the steps with my coffee on Sunday mornings, soaking up the dappled sunshine and enjoying the peace of nature.

One morning the father from the other side of the duplex came out his back door, which was only a few feet to the side of my back door, and he said "Can I talk with you?"

I was in my bathrobe, which was perfectly decent, but my hair was a mess and I had not had my shower yet, so was not at my best for entertaining neighborly conversation, but something about him was quietly urgent, so I said yes, come on over. He sat on the step with me and shattered my illusions when he announced "My wife has asked me for a divorce." Oh, my heart sank to my toes to hear this, as I had thought them the most perfectly wonderful example of family. They were the stuff of my hopes and dreams, and I never would have imagined anything wrong. I didn't want for them to go through what our family had experienced!

He said, "I know you're a single mother, and you know more than I do about this kind of situation, so I'd like to ask you a question." I said, "Of course, however I can help you, I'm happy to share what I know."

"Do you think that the children need both a mother and a father when a marriage dissolves?" he asked.

"If at all possible, and if it doesn't harm them, most certainly," I replied.

We talked for a bit longer and he went back home, and I went inside my little home, each to our separate chores and duties.

And that was the beginning, though I didn't know it. The beginning of Becoming Cinderella with divine forces at work.

The pups, Tristan, Rob's lab, and Tyler, my sheltie xoxo
We both had dogs. His family had a golden retriever and my beautiful sheltie loved to jump over the fence between our yards to go and play with their pup. The dogs would run shoulder-to-shoulder through the neighbor's backyard, chasing the children and running after balls, and whenever this happened I felt embarrassed that my dog was so shameless about trotting around where he didn't belong. To make sure that the dogs would be friendly to each other, I took to giving them dog biscuits whenever I saw them together. It was the first bond of friendship, the love that those two pups developed for each other.

Though the father had told me his wife wanted a divorce, she continued to live platonically in the duplex with them for many months, and one day she came out to sit on the steps outside her kitchen door. I spent a lot of time on my steps, and so I went to sit beside her and asked how things were going. I asked her if there was any chance of reconciliation between them and she adamantly replied that there was no chance of it. "I'm done with him," she said.

And as I went back into my home after our conversation, into my little kitchen, I felt so confused that she would reject a man like him. He seemed so very kind. Well it wasn't any of my business, so I stayed out of it until one day in the late, late summer, the father stood awkwardly outside of his kitchen door and said to me, "There's a little art festival in a town nearby, and I was thinking of going. Do you want to go?"

I had decided after my gut-wrenching, life-shattering divorce that I had no interest in any kind of a permanent relationship, and was not at all actively looking for a relationship, and I knew he was feeling vulnerable. I got ready to politely decline, but the words that came out of my mouth were not my own and I heard myself saying, "Yes. Let's go." 

What?! My brain was completely surprised at my response to his invitation and I went inside to change and get ready to go explore the little town I knew nothing about. Ah, to be around some art and music, after all the relentless hard work of the past year. I scrimped and saved and the children and I only went out for free things, like beautiful hikes. The only money I spent on entertainment was to rent movies, and we practically kept Blockbuster in business for that time, since it was affordable, and it was a fun way to spend time with the children.

The little neighborhood was good for my children, and they made friends, sometimes doing sleepovers, and I was grateful for their experience of normalcy in other people's homes.

This was a sleepover day for them both, so my neighbor and I headed for the festival in the early afternoon. As I sat in his car while he drove, it felt awkward, since I was so used to driving myself everywhere and being both the man and the woman in my household. My children's father was mostly absent, living in another state, having relationships with women, partying, and spending his leisure hours as though he'd always been single with no responsibilities. He paid only half of the child-support the courts had awarded me each month. I had no knowledge of how to press for the whole amount, and truth to tell, didn't want any contact with him that wasn't absolutely necessary, as he was unstable in character and behavior.

When my neighbor and I arrived at the festival, he parked and we stepped out into the warm sunshine to walk through the streets, which were lined with booths of beautiful craftware. There were puppet shows and street entertainers doing skits, and coffee and wonderful foods and for a little while I forgot the toil of rebuilding life for my little lopsided family. I felt grateful for the reprieve.

My neighbor and I walked down to the beautiful gazebo located in a park at the bottom of the hill in this charming little town, and there we sat, alone, together, quiet in the twilight. It was a romantic setting, with tiny white lights twinkling all around the roof of the gazebo and couples strolling around the park. But he was not yet divorced, and so we did not kiss. Not then. We did not touch, all day.

And when we got back to our duplex we went into our separate front doors and slept alone, knowing the other was not far away, but unreachable for oh so many reasons.

One of those dog-walkin' days just after a fresh snow.
We took to walking the dogs together and we walked all over God's half-acre. We covered miles and miles of sidewalks past beautiful homes and gardens. We took the pups hiking through sun-dappled forests. We walked in the rain and the snow and the sun and the day and the night. It was our only time together. We talked. We laughed. We shook snow-laden branches on each other and snapped water at each other from the branches in the rain. We sank into huge leaf piles along the sides of the roads in the autumn, and we kicked and crunched our way through the leaves when there weren't enough of them to sink down into. The pups conspired to keep us close to each other, frequently entwining their leashes so that the father bent over with his arms around me to untangle them.

After several weeks of this, we returned from our walks dreaming of a time when perhaps we would not have separate front doors.

Finally they divorced, she moved out, and shortly after that, we held hands for the first time. I remember we were walking the pups through a paved alleyway in a neighborhood not far from ours when he reached out and grabbed hold of my hand and my body shivered inside the whole way home. It was the best kind of shivers.

I remember the moment when I fell in love with him. We were in the woods with the dogs, and by this time, his two sons and my two children hiked with us, and we were talking about the beautiful, thick moss that covered the rocks and boulders. He laid his hand on top of some deep green, thick moss, and as I looked at that hand, I suddenly knew inside that I loved him. That I would love him forever. No matter what.

We had the most romantic courtship that ever the world has known, living beside each other in our duplex after his wife went off to pursue her dreams. He raised his kids, and I raised mine, and we lived parallel lives for two years. We never had to call each other on the phone because we were right next door, and as the relationship grew, we shared our spaces with all of the children, sometimes barbecuing in his backyard, sometimes eating together in my little dining room. The children were able to get to know each other without the enforced confinement of mutual territory, and it worked well for us all.

We wrote love letters, which I still have, and he would tuck a single purple flower from the butterfly bush in his backyard into each envelope. He would open my kitchen door just a crack and tuck my love letter into the door as he closed it, and it would be the first thing I'd see when I woke in the mornings, with time to read and reread as I sipped my coffee. I loved getting his letters and I loved writing to him.

The antique desk where he wrote my love letters xoxo
Vases and more vases!
In the warm growing seasons, he would bring me huge buckets and buckets and buckets of beautiful flowers from the trial gardens that he oversaw as a professor of horticulture at the university in our town. Sometimes he brought me so many flowers it took me hours to get them all into vases. I put them into every room of our home. Big flowers, little flowers, all over the dining room, living room, kitchen, bathroom, children's rooms, my bedroom. Everywhere! And they were much appreciated since for several years I couldn't afford to buy flowers but would sometimes treat us to just one. I scoured the antique shops for inexpensive vases and sometimes used our drinking glasses and milk pitchers to put these beautiful flowers in. Yes, he swept me right off my feet, and I've been happily swept for all these many years.


Yep, that's Jess on the right : P

Sillies in the kitchen having a cake fight
Torey and Jess

Torey and Jess right before Jess moved to Portland

Alex and Danielle with Joey Max
Rob and Jess
This is the man who walked with me to scatter the ashes of my daughter, the daughter that we partially raised together when he picked up the slack my ex-husband had left behind and stepped firmly into the role of male provider and loving head of our now balanced families. We married two years after attending the enchanting art festival.

To this day, 18 years after that first time, we always attend the annual art festival in the little town of Bellefonte, where our magic first began.

Magic man. Wonderful man. Lovely flower man. My man. My beautiful, kind, generous, loving man.

My Love
So you see, my book is not so much about death as about life. It is not an easy read, as there is pain, but there is such beauty, and there is hope, faith, connection, and some mindblowing revelations as well as true comfort. I will post when it becomes available.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Why Am I Not Angry at God for Taking My Child?

Jess, Herself
I have had a rather horrendous life, in-between the victories and the hope and the beauty and the joy, and yet, it occurs to me that I am not angry at God, though I don't call that force of loving energy God, I call it my Creative Source of Love, the source from which I spring, the source from which we all spring.

I only got angry once, when I watched my daughter, who was sick and dying, get "teased" by a healthy, vibrant friend at the airport when that beautiful young, strong, healthy woman breezed in, noticed Jess sitting there waiting for us to get the luggage, and said, "Oh Jess! How ARE you? It's so nice to see you! We need to get together. I'm getting married! Maybe you can even come to my wedding!"

The young woman went off to collect her suitcases, but before she left, my beloved Jess, who had spent most of her time in a wheelchair through the journey from her home in Portland, Oregon, to State College, Pennsylvania, was the epitome of Grace itself, as she replied, "Yes, it's so good to see you. We should get together."

The girl knew nothing of Jess's struggles with her ailing body. Jess didn't elaborate on her condition. Not a muscle in her face twitched. She radiated p e a c e. And yet, she had no future, no impending marriage, no children, no work, no driving, no eating, no peaceful sleeping, no anything but pain since her sweet body was in major sickness and decline.

That time, I did curse the Heavens. I cursed the gods. I cursed cursed cursed for my daughter's helplessness and the ill-timed appearance of the vibrant, healthy, young woman who epitomized what Jess was not, and would never be, though we didn't know that at the time. We were smack in the middle of trying to help her heal. Bringing on six more doctors and tests and treatments and medicines and everything we could possibly do to help her regain her own vibrancy.

Yes, that time I cursed the gods for flaunting perfect health and vibrancy in the face of my beautiful, shattered daughter. It was cruel.

But, that was the only time. Through all the sickness, doc appointments, disappointments, medicines that worked, medicines that stopped working, physical therapy that worked, PT that stopped working, seizures, and death, I did not become angry at "God."


Because I learned that "God," or as I call it, our Creative Source, is a part of EVERYTHING. This force of energy does not oversee us as a "Father figure," protecting us, OR "taking us away" from our beloveds when it's time for us to die.

This force simply exists. It IS. And we are PART of it. We are MADE of it. It works THROUGH us. Not upon us, not at us, not for or against us, THROUGH us as we live, AND as we die.

So as Jess sat there responding to what I perceived as unutterably cruel, she was totally connected and being her most true, high Self, absolutely imbued with Grace. Peace. Gentleness. Certainty. Beauty. LOVE. Wow.

And as she went through the ups and downs of her illness that led to her death I also went through major ups and downs. My heart was either right in my throat or down in my feet somewhere, depending on what we were going through. Her heart was shining. Glowing. Giving.

She said to me one day, "Mom, come and look in the bathroom at the floor." And she moved the rug back and swiped her toes over a bunch of little cracks that make a picture. "Doesn't that mark look just like Joey Max?!" she said. "Why, yes it does!" I agreed. And we both laughed. (Joey Max is our beloved kitty, who spent every single day and night with Jess while she was here. Jess loved kitties and they loved her right back.) This, she did while she was so sick and so weak, and when I look back at all the kinds of things she did like that, I am reminded of such grace and love through this process of her death where she was giving, giving, giving, to fill me up for the time when we would feel the separation. Sweet child. I wonder if she knows how much treasure she bestowed upon me during the time she was here with us. I think very much so, yes.

Looks just like our kitty, Joey Max xo
And if we look very closely and pay attention to our beloveds as they prepare to exit this planet and go to our Celestial Home, if we're lucky, we become aware of many lovely gifts and assurances along the way.

I am not angry at "God," because I have learned that "God" is very much a part of all that happens during our lives as well as during our departures. It is that force of Love and Energy that radiates out from those who are exiting, however long that takes, as long as they are not afraid, and it is that force that brings them into healing and wholeness after their Earth adventures are over.

It is the force that allows us to reconnect with our beloveds once our hearts and minds have settled, once they have reoriented themselves to the place where we come from, where we belong, the loving place of our origin. All of us!

It is that force that reminds us that we have birth here, on beautiful Earth, and we have death here, but Life itself is ongoing, infinite, regenerating, rejuvenating, and totally based in Love.

I am not angry with "God," because I didn't expect "God" to save her. I expected God to LOVE her. To hold her in the dearest arms of love and to surround her with it. And that is most definitely what happened.

I do not measure her life by the length of it, or by potential "milestones," such as marriage or having children. I measure it by the living she did. And she lived with all of herself.

And I do not "measure" God by the number of days she lived here, or whether they were good or bad or easy or hard. The only "measure" of that force I can perceive, in relation to Jess, is the immeasurable absolute joy or poignancy that came pouring directly out of her, depending on the circumstances she dealt with.

I have recently framed a couple of gorgeous photos she took while she was here, while she was strong, while she was being her photographer Self. And they are most beautiful and make my heart sing when I look at them. I see the world through her beautiful eyes and heart. Thank you sweet Jess. For your living. And your being you. Excellent job babe! xo

Jess's photo of Mt. Hood in Oregon with the moon overhead,
and the poem called Someday a Mountain.
I just love it.
Jess's photo of a gorgeous green twirl of leaves; Life.
I just love that too.
The "Workout Room," the "Life Room"

So this is the room she slept in while she was here healing. I sold the beds and we put all our workout equipment in there. It is now a place of life, a place to come and restore our tired bodies, to listen to beautiful music and stretch out, sometimes meditate, and sometimes dance. I love that her photos grace the walls to remind us of the love and life that we shared here, and that we continue to share, just in different ways.

Yes, we will keep on dancing....

I gave Jess that little dancing doll and she kept it on the wall next to her kitchen. Now it hangs in the workout room by the door. Each time I leave, I pull the string xo