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Balancing Grief With Love

It has been hard to breathe today.  The pain in my heart, eased for months now, has been a constant accompaniment to the hours of this day.

Today is the one year anniversary of Mom’s death.

I woke to the presence of grief and immediately felt a strange dichotomy of peace.  I sensed her presence right away and knew she was okay with my mourning–that seemed proper today–but she also wanted me to feel her peace.

So this post is the story of finding a broken conch shell and how I began to learn to balance grief with love.  It’s the story of feeling love’s presence, even as it transcends time and space.  Finally, it’s the story of energy that connects a mother with her daughter and how awareness sustains that energy.

This story begins with the explanation that over the years, when I’ve had extra money and inclination, I’ve had flowers delivered to my mother on my birthday as a token of gratitude.  This past April, as I celebrated my 50th birthday in the Turks and Caicos Islands, I was grief-stricken that it was the first year I couldn’t even call my mother on my birthday.

My traveling companion, God bless her, concocted a plan to ceremonially deliver a beautiful red hibiscus bloom to Mom.  At sunset, on the night of my birthday, we waded into the North Atlantic and after saying a few words to Mom and shedding a few tears, we released the bloom.  We watched for the longest time as it bobbed on the waves leading out to the sinking sun.

My hurting was immense as I realized there would come an instant when I would no longer see the flower and the symbolism was nearly impossible to bear.  Yet, the giving of the flower to her–sending it to Heaven on the rise and fall of water–felt right and good.

After a time, I turned and tears-streaming, walked out of the ocean, careful of where I stepped in the dusky light.  Then, as I looked down, half buried in the sand was a broken conch shell.  I bent, retrieved it and then caught my breath as I noticed that wedged inside the smooth opening was a tiny, baby-sized shell.

I knew instantly that Mom had received her gift and sent one to me in return.

The broken shell is now a treasured possession, as is my new Mother and Daughter figurine called Close to Me (a Willow Tree design by Susan Lordi).

That same traveling companion–the one who has walked every heart-wrenching step with me over the past year–gave the piece to me this morning.  Her love and support is the balm that soothes the grief and brings balance to the vulnerable spots in my heart.

Today is nearly done as is the first year of everything without Mom. But in reality, everything that I do and see and experience, is with Mom, if I nurture that connection.

I like knowing that she stays close to me, for now and for always.

 

 

Responsibility

A definition for the word “responsibility” is having the ability to respond.

Is that really all it takes?  I submit that responsibility also requires the fine art of discernment, i.e., knowing when to respond (because everything is not my responsibility!).

For example, recently when the guy sitting in the front row of the airplane rudely snapped at the flight attendant as she distributed the little bags of peanuts, “Hello!  Peanut allergy!”, I really wanted to respond to him.  And not in a good way.

Thankfully, I also didn’t respond with the first thought that came to mind when, upon walking into the little country store for a bottle of water, I was greeted by two grizzled old gents puffing on cigarettes, a stuffed jackalope and a blow-up candy cane.   I could almost hear banjos playing Christmas carols.

I believe my ego has an over-developed sense of responsibility.  I think I can do something about virtually anything.  But I couldn’t (or didn’t) respond to the senior standing along side a busy entrance ramp in downtown Detroit.  She looked so obviously green and uncomfortable, almost as if she were on her lunch break and couldn’t decide where to hang for a few hours.

Same with the older man dressed in slacks, tie and cardigan sweater holding a “wants to work” sign near a busy Dallas intersection. 

Don’t you think it is easy to respond from a place of irritation or incredulity?  But neither of the first two examples were my business. 

It’s much harder to respond to individual hurting faces and damaged spirits.  Are either of the last two examples my business?  When do I have a responsibility to respond?  How do I know when the response comes from my heart or my ego?

What would you do?  I’m really interested in your thoughts.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org

It is appropriate that my 50th blog post be a reprint of my company’s Thanksgiving wish.  My six-year anniversary with The Partnership at Drugfree.org is less than a week away and my gratitude for the organization, professionally and personally, grows with each annual date.  We–all of us, including the folks we serve–are dedicated to helping parents ensure that fewer families will struggle with addiction.

Please read on:

Hello,

We have much to be grateful for on Thanksgiving, but above all we want to thank you for helping make the important work of The Partnership at Drugfree.org possible.

Because of you, millions come to drugfree.org and benefit from the deep, credible and science-based resources for parents and families. Through the generosity of all our supporters we have accomplished so much. We have:

Unveiled Time To Get Help – a first-of-its kind, multi-faceted, online resource for parents and caregivers who are seeking a community of support and advice on treatment options for a child who has a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Motivated people just like you to “Give and Get Involved,” helping families and individuals who want to help others through grassroots fundraising activities.

Expanded PACT360, our community education programs – and coupled with a brand new website featuring more in-depth information – we’ve added a community blog, providing parents the opportunity to ask hard-hitting questions of law enforcement regarding substance abuse.

Collaborated with community organizations like the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and Wounded Warrior, in an effort to continue meeting the needs and concerns of families across the country.

Come closer to realizing the creation of the Parents Toll-Free Helpline for parents who need information or are coping with a child’s drug or alcohol addiction. Through a Challenge Grant we’ve just received, all donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000.

Re-launched drugfree.org as a user-friendly gateway to our programs and resources, focused on prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery and community education. The new site also features interactive tools, compelling videos, engaging blogs, comprehensive e-books and online communities.

We thank you for allowing us to partner with you in helping parents raise healthy children. We extend our sincerest gratitude and wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

–Your Friends at The Partnership at Drugfree.org

P.S. Now through December 15th when you donate $25 or more you will automatically be entered to win a $100 shop Beehive.com gift certificate.

Heart and Home

I woke this morning thinking of heart and home.  Yes, the phrase is actually, “hearth and home,” but heart and home are two words that are major themes in my life.  I’ve recently learned that I can shape those themes; heart and home don’t have to continue in their time-worn traditions.  In fact, both heart and home are worn out.

Hearts are about love but love requires much more than heart symbolism.  I can believe I am in love with the added value of an intense heart connection but circumstances may keep me from fulfilling that love the way I want to, or at least in my desired time frame.

Another person’s heart may be torn between two worlds and is ripping from the weight of moving between the two.  As much as we would like to be a part of an other’s heart, sometimes we represent a portion of the heart that bleeds.  We are powerless to stop the blood flow. 

There are times when I grieve for the heart that breaks even as my own feels pummeled.

So I step back from trying to patch up what I can’t fix and focus on the only thing I can fix–my own heart.  Simple but not easy, as my 12-step program tells me.  After all, many of the puncture wounds are self-inflicted.

This is where the concept of home comes in.  As a child, when I was hurt on the playground, I ran home to Mom.  As a teenager, exploring the angst of those years, I didn’t exactly run home because that was the source of many grievances, but I knew home was there.

As an adult, I’ve had many homes and they have all been good, nurturing places.  Those homes were apartment, townhouse, duplex, three owned suburban houses and a rented urban loft.

When the door closed for the last time on each of those places, it shut with varying degrees of excitement and expectation, as well as sadness and grief.

Why do I continue leaving my homes?  There-in lies error thinking.  I am actually leaving structures that I’ve called home.  I can’t leave my true home anymore than I can leave my mind (although I have tried!).  Home is within, the core of me where God and I reside as life partners.  Ultimately, when I remember to go home, I am safe, I am comforted, and yes, my heart heals.

Notes from God

Dear Beth:

Write these words, “Peace begins with me.”
Peace is your barometer.  If it doesn’t elicit peace, then it is not of me.

You can live in your circumstances without awareness or even knowledge, but you can’t live without peace.

The plan is simple.  Follow my will each and every day.  My will is for you to be peace.  Be at peace.

Seek peace first, second and last in your day.  Nothing else need exist; in truth, nothing else does exist without peace.

Whether others possess peace is of no concern to you except as subjects of prayer.

Be diligent, be strong, be dedicated to growing peace.  That is your sole objective until, and unless, you ask me for something else.

Peace, be still.

Still, be peace.

God, aka, Holy Creator