Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Music is such a big part of Christmas. We listen to Christmas carols, Christmas hymns, preschool programs, orchestra and band concerts, and recitals. We hear music in the car, in the stores, at the mall and we may even hear others humming the songs of Christmas. Sometimes we find ourselves singing along to the old familiar Christmas songs.

We know there was music at the first Christmas where angels sang to the shepherds announcing the birth of Christ. The heavens and the earth sang for the Christ child and I am sure he heard his mother’s lullaby as she gently rocked him in her arms.

Christmas music brings back memories from Christmas’s long ago and reminds us of family and connections to loved ones. Christmas music reminds us of our own childhood and the joy and splendor of sparkling lights, decorating the tree, baking in the kitchen, Christmas dinner, learning the story of Jesus, and playing the part of an angel in the Christmas play.

Music also has the power to reach tender places in the heart and release pain about sad times as well. Christmas music could remind us of finding out on Christmas Eve that your father has just passed away. Or it could bring back memories of finances being really tight and the family finding ways to give to others, or a Christmas when you were the recipient of someone’s generosity. Christmas music can bring a feeling of homesickness for family and loved ones who have passed to the other side.

This is our first Christmas without Lindsey and when I hear Christmas music I do feel buoyed up and light as I hear the choirs and the musical instruments singing out in joyous praise for God and the miracle of Christmas. But, it also reminds me of Christmas’s with Lindsey and her violin and how much I miss hearing her play. Lindsey started playing the violin when she was nine years old and she took lessons from an aunt that she dearly loved. She seemed to have a good ear and started to quickly learn the hand positions, the notes and the songs.

She played in the early morning orchestra at Grovecrest Elementary in Pleasant Grove for three years. She would get up early and carry her violin to school twice a week for rehearsals. They would start practicing Christmas songs early in the season to prepare for the Christmas concert. We were so thrilled when the music she had been practicing started to sound like familiar Christmas songs. Weeks of practicing and then it would be the evening of the concert. She would be dressed in black and white, the traditional colors for the orchestra.

When we would arrive it would be very chaotic in the lunchroom while the instruments tuned and families found their seats. Up on the stage we would see Lindsey sitting in first or second chair for violins. She would be nervously watching for us in the audience. Our eyes would catch and she would smile her very big smile, we would wave and she would seem to relax, so would we.

After the tuning of instruments and the audience quieted down, the conductor would welcome everyone and then turn and face the orchestra. With his arms outstretched and a nod of his head he would start the concert with the downbeat of his baton. Matching the beat of his baton the song would begin and we would hear the sound of Christmas music prepared by these little performers. They would be diligently playing so as not make a mistake and yet working to keep their eyes on the conductor all at the same time. Feet would be taping and pages turning and then in that moment there would be the most glorious rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, and other familiar Christmas music.

Then after the applause ended for the song we had just listened to, and the room had quieted down, the conductor’s arms would be raised in ready position for the final number. He would be waiting for the last pair of eyes to focus on him before he started. Then finally the nod and the orchestra would begin to play Silent Night.

Parent’s heads would be stretching to see their child play the most famous Christmas song ever written. Mothers and fathers with tears in their eyes hear the pure melody of Silent Night permeate the sacred space in that simple lunchroom. For a moment it feels magical as the melody transcends the hustle and bustle of Christmas and reminds us all of the greatest gift of all. . . a child.

And in that one moment time a powerful memory is created and stored in the hearts of the parents, where it can never be taken nor can it be destroyed. And this memory is wrapped around Christmas songs and realizing that this Christmas concert is a priceless gift that mothers and fathers will cherish, long after the concert and for a certain mother and father, even long after the life of their daughter.

After the final notes are played and the conductor turns to face the audience, the parents quickly wipe their eyes. The young performers are invited to stand and bow, while the small audience gathered in an elementary school lunchroom, stand to applaud them.

My fondest memories of Lindsey were watching her perform every year in her school orchestra Christmas Concerts where she would perform some of the most beautiful Christmas music I have ever heard. I remember her up on stage even in her older years and her nervousness would turn to concentration and then she would begin to play with such elegance and beauty. She would sway to the rhythm of the music and it was if her whole body was singing the song.

I remember being so grateful that she loved music as much as I did and that she was able to share the Christmas Spirit with her gift of music. We attended Lindsey’s orchestra concerts starting in elementary school through junior high, high school and college at BYU.

Christmas music brings the songs of the angels to the earth during this special time of year. Christmas music can help us remember happy times and can help us connect to loved ones who have passed on. Sometimes Christmas music lets us visit the memories of our childhood and in special moments lets us visit the childhood of our own children. Christmas music heals and renews our souls each year. This year it helped me remember Lindsey in a beautiful way by allowing me to revisit her childhood through the songs of Christmas.

My favorite Christmas carol is Silent Night and I can still remember rocking my babies and softly singing “Silent Night”. Lindsey I hope you can hear me singing the words of the most precious lullaby that I know. It goes something like this. . .

Silent Night

Holy Night

All is calm

All is bright

Round yon Virgin

Mother and child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly Peace . . . Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In The Spirit Of Friendship

This holiday season I have so much to be thankful for. I love my family. They are truly the love of my life. My husband, children and grandchildren bring so much joy and sunshine into my life. Because of my wonderful family, I feel fulfilled and have meaning in my world. We had a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and yes, I did make Lindsey’s apple pie and it turned out beautiful and very tasty. I didn’t even burn it.
This time of year I am also grateful for friends. I have such dear friends who have sustained me through the most difficult times in my life. I have literally been sustained through the love and support of my dear friends. I have received texts, flowers, hugs, listening ears, tender hearts holding me while I cried, meals, cards, emails, words of comfort and an offering of strength from other mothers who have lost children. These mothers have offered their love and understanding from a remarkable place of power that has come through their own suffering. I have truly been buoyed up by the love of God through the blessings of friends.
During our greatest struggles this past summer when it felt like I was in the pit of despair, I can see that I was sustained through the power of friends and family gathering around us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was my friends outpouring of comfort and love that helped me understand that God was calling Lindsey home. My friends also helped me accept God’s will as he responded with a firm but, gentle “no” to our desperate pleas and prayers in Lindsey’s behalf.
Friends loving arms around me helped me understand that I couldn’t go with her and that I am still needed here. I was being invited to surrender my will and trust in God even if it meant giving up my daughter. Friends have literally help me cross over the deep abyss of death and brought me to the other side.
So this Thanksgiving marked three months exactly from Lindsey’s passing. I did shed a few tears and we talked about her and spent time remembering her. We thanked God for all we learned through this blessed daughter. She was not only my daughter but she was my friend. I know that Lindsey is helping us from the other side, she and many others. I know she has helped me personally with my work over the last three months.
During all this I have been working on editing and preparing my book The Bright Red Bow for a second reprint. I have had friends working on this project for several months. This week it goes to print. We will have it at our Christmas Party Dec. 1, 2011. I just wanted to thank God, my family, and my friends for their love and support in all the many ways their support has been expressed. I have truly been blessed. I am acknowledging that all this couldn’t have happened on my own accord and that it has been through the work of many that we are even crossing this bridge of completion.
If you notice the cover, it was designed by Joshua Karr, Lindsey’s husband. The cover was designed in June and will always remind me of Lindsey and Josh and the time we spent together in our home. It is a beautiful design and again, brought forward in such a way that I cannot deny that it came from God in a loving and supportive way. The Bright Red Bow was rewritten during my last few months with Lindsey and if you put that with the creation of the design by Josh, and this book will live as a legacy in my mind and heart. The creation of this book will serve as a tribute to Lindsey and her life and the sacrifice Josh made in letting her go. They both participated in the coming forth of this book in the spirit of friendship. It has required great sacrifice to bring it forward. This book represents the beginning steps of my own personal healing and it has come back around to help me get through my healing after Lindsey’s passing.
I think the thing that I am coming to is that Lindsey was truly a friend to everyone she came in contact with and it has been the power of friendship that has carried me through all this. And I think about the Savior saying that “no man hath greater love than this, than he lay down his life for a friend.” I say that this kind of love is more powerful than death. This kind of love has the power to reach beyond the veil and is the kind of love that cannot die or be destroyed. It is the power to suffer with those that suffer, to mourn with those that mourn, and to lift up the arms that hang down.
As Lindsey was with us her last few hours in this world, her best friends and family gathered in the spirit of friendship and supported her til the end . . .when it was time for her to pass over. Such tender expressions of love and concern were shared with her, and heartfelt goodbyes with soft tears flowing, as we bid her farewell to the other side of the veil. A true spirit of friendship I have never witnessed than what was offered to Lindsey and our family on that day and since then.
I trust that I shall never forget that moment. I pray that as many gathered to support Lindsey and our family in friendship that I might be able to give back and be a friend in the ways that I have truly experienced friendship. I shall never forget the gentle acts of caring that have been shown to us by all of you and that have been given to us by God. God truly made the ultimate sacrifice, his own Son.
May we continue to learn about friendship and deepen our capacity to love in the ways that God and the Savior have shown us. May we come to understand on a deeper level, the beautiful gift of friends. From the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you dear friends for your sustaining influence in my life and especially this past year. May God bless you and may he bless us all with the renewal of the spirit of friendship.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Cookin" in the Kitchen with Lindsey

Thanksgiving is a great time of year. It reminds me of past Thanksgivings at my mom and dad’s house. When Lindsey was little, she loved baking and cooking and was always in the kitchen. She would often go over to my mom’s house, her Grandma Gwen’s, and spend hours cooking with grandma.
Lindsey would go to Grandma Gwen’s the day before Thanksgiving and they would bake pies and rolls together. She loved recipes and copied a large portion of her hand-written recipes from Grandma’s recipe box. Lindsey loved collecting and trying out new and different recipes. I still have some of her most used recipes, scribbled on bits and pieces of paper, stuffed in the canister on my counter. She would hide them there so she could have them for future use.
She would get the ingredients out and follow each recipe carefully. She loved to try new things. Last Thanksgiving, she was just re-cooperating from radiation and was still very skinny and frail. But, she was determined to make Jalapeño Poppers to share at Thanksgiving. It was something new she had tried before she got sick, and she was determined to get out of bed and come downstairs to the kitchen and bake. So Josh and I helped get the ingredients out and helped her make stuffed Jalapeño Poppers, a great tasting o’derve. She was laughing and giggling and it was so good to see her with energy and doing something she enjoyed. She was happy in the kitchen.
Cooking brought out her creativity and her playfulness. She got feisty in the kitchen especially if anyone got in her way. And if someone did get in her way, she would start throwing food at someone and then it would all end in a playful food fight. She talked to herself while she was reading the recipes and following the instructions. She loved spices and the way cinnamon and nutmeg smelled. She loved bread, cookies and especially food in general, she just loved to eat. However, she hated clean-up. She would always leave some part of her mess for someone else to clean up, usually me.
In the kitchen, she always worked in a methodical way and was brave in attempting difficult recipes. She loved making Tomato Alfredo and used an original recipe from Kate’s Italian family recipes. Kate was her best friend and they would cook together often even after they were both married.
Lindsey’s specialties were German pancakes that you bake in the oven, crepes which we called Swedish pancakes, baking powder biscuits, muffins, Grandma’s rolls and apple pie. This Thanksgiving if Lindsey were still with us she would be at my house the day before Thanksgiving, baking rolls and making apple pie for her dad. Yes, her dad is the reason that she practiced so hard with Grandma. She became our designated baker of the rolls and pies for our Thanksgiving dinners.
Now, the reason for this is because I have never been that interested in learning how to cook or bake. Oh, I’ve done enough throughout the years that we haven’t starved, but, my cooking and baking is downright embarrassing. Yes, now you know I cannot bake except chocolate chip cookies and rice krispie treats. If it wasn’t for Lindsey and my mom throughout the years, Todd would have been seriously deprived.
As a little boy, Lindsey’s dad, Todd, would beg his grandma to make him an apple pie every year for his birthday. It was all he ever wanted. Every year his own grandma would make him an apple pie. After we were married, he somehow got my mom to bake him an apple pie for his birthday. And when Grandma Gwen passed away in 2004, Lindsey took over making apple pie for her dad especially at Thanksgiving and his birthday in June.
We are having twenty five people for Thanksgiving at our house this year. I love setting the tables with the linens, the pretty dishes, goblets filled with red punch, candles, silverware, folded napkins and making sure there is a place for every guest. As I write this I am remembering that we will have one less setting at our table this year. And neither Lindsey nor Josh will be coming through the door. He will be at his parents for Thanksgiving and we will be missing Lindsey in the kitchen.
Of course, on that day everybody brings food and as everyone arrives, we will have the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, someone mashing the potatoes, the gravy simmering on the stove and Todd getting ready to carve the turkey. My sister-in-law will be bringing homemade rolls and everyone brings an assortment of delicious pies. Except this year, Lindsey’s pie won’t be getting any ooooo’s or ahhhhh’s at our Thanksgiving dinner. . .
But, there will be an apple pie sitting on the counter. . . I hope I can follow her recipe and that it turns out as good as her apple pie. This year I will bake an apple pie the day before Thanksgiving and pretend that I am spending time with her. She will be there. We will both be laughing, and she will help me follow the recipe. It will be a chance to spend time with her in the kitchen. I will remember all the funny things she would do and say. This apple pie will be in remembrance of Lindsey holding the space for her thanksgiving tradition and the apple pie will be for her dad.

Lindsey’s Apple Pie Recipe from Grandma Gwen
(Taken from Lindsey’s well worn recipe card in her own handwriting)
Pie Crust
2 c. flour
1 c. butter (just a little less)
2 tsp. salt
7 Tbs. cold water
Fork in butter with flour and salt, fold in water. Roll into 2 pie crusts
6-7 thinly sliced apples
¾ cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons of butter
3/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/3 c. cold water
Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, butter, salt and lemon juice in mixing bowl with apples. Add cornstarch for thickening while baking
Mix ingredients and pour into pie crust. Use second pie crust to top the apple pie.
Bake at 425 for 40-45 min.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Celebrate your loved ones this Thanksgiving Holiday

Different families have different issues and lessons to learn. Certain families struggle with finances addictions, sexual abuse, divorce, autism, mental illness, depression, hyperactivity, issues with fertility and adoption, substance abuse, eating disorders, the death of a loved one, same sex issues, or suicide, etc.

Our family has really struggled with cancer. My mom died from multiple myeloma , a sister cancer to Leukemia in 2004, Todd’s mom died from breast cancer in 1995 and of course, we struggled with Lindsey and her brain tumors for over 11 years.

Our family lived in southern Utah in the 1960’s, when they were doing the atomic testing. We are considered “down winders”, people who were affected with certain cancers that have manifest with a higher percentage of occurrence for people who lived there during that time.

A couple of weeks ago we found out that my dad’s thyroid cancer had returned. It is known as papillary cancer. This is his fourth time and each one has resulted in surgery and treatments. They detected a small growth where his thyroid used to be. This came as such a surprise because our family hadn’t even begun to pick up the pieces from our experience the last fourteen months with Lindsey.

When I first heard the news from my dad, Todd held me while I cried. I am sure I was jumping to the future and imagining that I was going to lose him too. But, in the next few days approaching the situation with fasting and prayer, individually and collectively, I continued on the best I could.

The surgery would be more intense this time. The doctors had predicted a 10-hour surgery. It included reconstruction of the esophagus, a feeding tube and a possible tracheotomy, several days in ICU and six weeks recovery followed by radiation treatments. It seemed like it might be too much for my 72, almost 73 year old father to live through.

As I tried to “digest” this information, only six weeks after Lindsey’s passing, I wondered if I would be able to handle this. Of course, my mind immediately went to “I cannot watch another loved one go through all the suffering that this disease brings, nor can I watch another loved one die. It is too soon. I haven’t even caught my breath from my experience with my daughter.”

We prepared ourselves for what seemed like an aggressive surgery for Nov. 11, 2011. Much to our surprise the doctor came out after he had only been in surgery three hours. He indicated that the surgery was complete and dad was in recovery. He said that the tumor had not attached to the esophagus wall. He also informed us that there would be no need for reconstructive surgery and that radiation treatments would follow but, everything else we had prepared for would not be necessary.

I was there when the doctor reported on the surgery in the waiting room and also when dad was wheeled into his personal room, (not ICU). He seemed a little groggy, but still able to talk and respond. When we told him the news, I could see tears well up in his eyes with gratitude and thanksgiving. He asked if we would close the door. His wife, Cheryl, my step-mom, was holding his hand and my brother Jeff and I stood by his bed. He asked if we would offer a prayer of gratitude to God for this miracle.

I said the prayer and thanked those on the other side for their assistance and acknowledged that we could feel their presence, even my mom and Lindsey, I thanked God for allowing my dad to remain with us on this earth and expressed gratitude to all those who had fasted and prayed. I also thanked God that in this situation, he had heard our prayers and responded with a “yes” answer.

With tears streaming down my face I acknowledged that sometimes it is for our benefit that the very thing we desire (to have Lindsey live) is not according to God’s will. I thanked God for easing our pain and grief. I will always remember that moment and praying with my father at his bedside.

My dad is my hero. He is a man of great faith and in some of my most difficult times with Lindsey it has been my earthly father that I have turned to for guidance and counsel. He is loving and wise. Both my mother and my father understand and love the process. Both of them have been facilitators in the past.

My dad loves ropes and was able to attend with us Oct. 8th. At the time we did not know anything about the tumor.

My parents have been willing to address their issues through processing and other modalities and for that I am so grateful. They understand how important it is to have our hearts knit together in unity and peace, even to have the hearts of the fathers turn to the children and the hearts of the children turn to the fathers. This Thanksgiving I shall have my heart turned to my father as we celebrate his 73rd birthday.

Even though I am not sure how I will do emotionally this coming holiday, especially with the absence of Lindsey at our Thanksgiving table, I will be celebrating the presence of my father. May we offer our sincere love and gratitude to our families this Thanksgiving. May we renew our relationships with tender, heartfelt expressions of love. May we remember that the greatest pain we take with us to the other side is love that we did not express while here on earth. And the greatest pain we carry with us here on earth is the love that we did not express to someone who passes to the other side. Life is fragile. Celebrate your loved ones this Thanksgiving Holiday.

I love you dad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finding Comfort From The Ones We Love

As mother’s we have innate desires and strong instincts to protect our children from pain. It is a built in mechanism to be protective and to meet our children’s needs from the time the baby is in the womb, to feeding our babies, changing their diapers, and doing everything we can to ensure their comfort and safety.
As mothers we are so committed to meet the needs of our children that we give up our needs, space, time and food if need be. Mothering is designed to stretch us beyond our own selfishness and our own limitations. As our children grow, we work to help our children learn to meet their own needs. We want them to become independent and self-sustaining.
As Lindsey was sick and we saw her go through radiation last fall and watched her gradually decline even further in the spring. I saw Josh, Lindsey’s husband, my husband Todd and my children as they witnessed her suffering. It was so painful to be the mother and be aware of everyone’s pain. How badly I wanted it to stop and to see my family with a different story in some other circumstance.
I remember many times questioning God and praying that he wouldn’t require us to actually go through losing her, that surely things would take a turn for the better, that at her worst points it couldn’t get any worse, and yet it did. In looking back, I was trying to express to God that I personally couldn’t stand to watch Lindsey suffer, let alone watch my whole family suffer as well. I didn’t have any power or control over any of the physical or emotional suffering. I couldn’t really fix anything or even offer any promise of comfort.
As mother’s we feel we are successful when we can offer comfort or find solutions for our children so they can be happy and comfortable. I know I was not humanly capable to offer solutions or comfort like I desperately wanted to during Lindsey’s illness. Now, as I am going through some of the grieving, I still cannot protect my children from the pain of my grieving, nor can I take away their own pain.
A couple of days after Halloween, Jessica and our two granddaughters were visiting and she and I started talking and the next thing I knew I was crying and she was listening. I was expressing my loneliness and sadness and how much I missed Lindsey Halloween night and then, Jessica, who is a mother herself, was holding me while I cried. I realized that she had grown up into the most beautiful and independent woman and that she was comforting me.
I was sharing with her, and she was reaching out to me. We were both grieving the loss of a daughter and sister. Jessica and I need each other now more than ever. Instead of me worrying about Jessica and trying to protect her from the pain of losing her sister and best friend, I was able to receive her love for me as she held me and offered her love and comfort to me in a gentle, peaceful way.
I have been trying to protect my children from my sad feelings and grief thinking that they would be better off if they saw me functioning and trying to be happy. Yet, when she put her arms around me and I allowed her to be there for me, it felt so good to have her be there as my daughter. I understood in that one moment I cannot protect her from my pain. I also realized that God does not take us out of our pain because he knows that we are capable of handling it and that it makes us stronger.
What I am coming to understand is that grieving the loss of a loved one happens over a long period of time. Healing the heart from loss is a gradual process, mostly because the body is designed to compartmentalize the pain and hold it until we are ready to let it go. We would die if we were to feel all our pain all at once. I only know one person that was able to do that and it was Christ. In our humanness we deal with grief in portions or parts while the heart heals.
Each time we release a wave of grief it allows us to let go of some of that heavy sadness and moves us closer to finding joy and happiness in our lives in present time. I truly have so many blessings and so much support and comfort being offered to me. Every time I experience the overwhelming sadness a way is provided for me to get through it and come back to joy and happiness.
There are places for a mother who has lost a child to find comfort: from God and the Atonement, from processing and from the ones we love.

I love you Jessica

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Place of Comfort

This past week I had some really good days, but by the weekend, as Halloween was approaching, a deep sense of sadness and heartache came over me. Grief is so interesting - it comes upon you so suddenly. Of course, in trying to deal with all the sadness, it spills into anger. So Friday night, tossing and turning and not being able to sleep, I realized that the tightness in my chest wasn’t just sadness, there was a deep rage welling up inside me.
Knowing that it was starting to feel really heavy in my heart and that I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep unless I addressed these feelings, I leaned into the anger. I allowed the anger to come forward, and just like we do in a process, I played out a video in my mind. I visualized everything I was angry about, and using pictures, images and words I saw myself releasing all my anger. After I played out the anger video, I pulled out shapes and colors and continued to play out even more anger videos. I did this for about an hour and then finally fell asleep.
In the dark hours of the morning, still feeling heavy, I continued to work through the memories, the anger and the sadness. I released quite a bit of emotion about the medical treatments and the day my daughter died. I am sharing all of this because I want to share what came as this deep overwhelming grief and sadness lifted. I had reached a point where my pillow was soaked, and yet I had been crying for so long that some of the tears were drying on my face.
I finally felt like I could move into the clearing. As I cleared the pain, the sadness, the grief and feelings of not wanting to be here anymore because of this deep, suffocating pain, I saw a light and felt some relief. It was truly as if the first hint of the morning light was coming into my room.
The dark cloud of grief that had been hanging around me lifted, I felt God, the image of a loving father, step into the picture and hold me while I cried in his arms. I felt the residue of hardness ad bitterness melt away and I felt like I was finally being offered some comfort. I felt a simple impression that he knew what I was feeling, because he had sacrificed his own son. He continued to hold me and my heart was able to receive the comfort he was offering.
After a time, I could see Lindsey dressed in white, she stepped forward. She hugged me, and held me close, it felt so good to feel her hugging me and smiling at me. She led me into a beautiful garden. I love gardens. I had never seen a garden like this one, of course, it was not an earthly garden. Beautiful plants and trees growing everywhere, we walked a short distance on a gentle path and came to stand in what seemed like the middle of the garden.
There she pointed out a beautiful rose bush, tall and well groomed. The first thing I noticed is that the whole plant seemed illuminated, it sparkled with glowing light. The roses were pink and yellow and a held the most beautiful fragrance. As I was drawn into the beauty of the roses I realized they looked like what is known as the peace rose. My mom’s favorite rose. She had a lot of them planted along the backside of her house as we were growing up.
Then I saw my mother who passed away seven years ago, standing there so clear and so fully present. She reached out to me, and I to her, with such a warm, real embrace. I sobbed in her arms. I miss her so much, how can a mother and daughter survive the pain of being separated. Lindsey joined us in the hugging. I found myself being comforted by my mother and my daughter. It was a glorious reunion. It was so real and such a gift from God. I saw my grandmother’s step in and hug us. Such warm embraces.
Then I saw others that live on that side of the veil. I saw the space open to include many people standing there gathered around us. Many were my family members. There were some that seemed familiar but that I did not know. They had come to acknowledge that they were family members of some of the people I have worked with here with processing.
It was overwhelming to say the least. This scene reminded me that I am not done. I still have a purpose and a mission to complete. My heart was starting to be filled with joy and an even deeper understanding that Lindsey is with my mom and many family members. She is not suffering, and she lives and works with me from the other side.
Of course, I know and understand these truths spiritually and intellectually, however, emotionally I was being given this experience to help this mother’s heart transition into this time in my life where Lindsey will not be with us physically. Grieving helps us move into acceptance of change.
Instead of feeling so alone in my personal grief, I allowed my heart to be filled with the love and support from those on the other side. I did not feel so alone but, rather felt buoyed up and supported. In my heart, I could truly feel that I had not been abandoned, nor had I been forsaken or forgotten. In those dark and heavy times of grief, where a mother’s human heart can hardly bear the pain of separation from her child, I had been given the simple power of the process and through God’s grace, found a place of comfort.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween with Lindsey

The holidays are approaching. . . We carved pumpkins last night as a family and put the assorted glowing jack o lanterns on the front porch. We had so much fun, yet still an awareness as we are laughing and talking, when I realize that family is not as many as there used to be . . . counting plates and silverware and noticing the numbers don’t match . . . I count and recount . . . everything is off by two . . . because Lindsey and Josh aren’t here . . . I am reminded of the quiet, sad place in my heart as I have to catch my breath just a little.
Lindsey loved to celebrate everything. She loved parties, birthdays, Christmas, Sunday dinners, baby and bridal showers, receptions and Halloween. She never wanted to miss anything and she counted everything as the social event of the year. And she always wanted to help with the preparations, decorations, planning and . . . not so much the clean-up.
I guess when you face the possibility of not being able to be with family or celebrate holidays they become extra special. With each of the four brain tumors over the last eleven years and every treatment we faced, we had to consider the possibility of an empty seat at the dinner table, or an empty place around the Christmas tree, or having her birthday come and go and not be able to see the joy on her face as she blows out her candles on her birthday cake.
Now that fear is our reality. Lily our first granddaughter who is three saw a picture last night of Lindsey and asked where she was. “Where’s Linzzy” “Where’s Linzzy?” Again, my heart jumps and I am aware of the tightness in my chest. I just say “She’s not here.”
Lindsey had faced death so many times that what grew out of that deep fear, despair and misery was a love for life and passion for the simple things, the smell of the autumn air or the sun coming through the window, or looking forward to the next holiday.
So, when it came to Halloween, Lindsey loved to celebrate . . . she loved Halloween almost as much as her birthday. She loved the harvest, the beginning of school, pumpkins, fall colors, warm fall days, and the opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes. In the last five years of her life she spent a lot of time during the year talking and brainstorming about ideas for costumes to wear at Halloween.
In 2008 she was a muscleman.

In 2009 Lindsey was Budda, and her husband Josh was Moses.

Last year Lindsey was "Jabba The Hutt" and Josh was "Yoda" with their dog as "Darth Vader"

We were so happy to make it to Halloween because it symbolized the completion of Lindsey’s 9 week radiation treatments of her spine and brain. There were days when she would throw up 7 -8 times a day. She had been so sick in the summer because of the cranial fluid pressure that by the time she was done with radiation Lindsey had lost 30 pounds. I have never seen anyone so sick.
Yet, true to Lindsey’s nature she wanted to come downstairs and be a part of the Halloween party. She sat in her place in the recliner and watched her nieces and nephews on both sides of the family play in their costumes. She got to hear the doorbell and the many requests for “Trick or Treat.” I remember her with just barely enough energy to hold her head up and yet smiling because she got to be a part of the family party.
We were all so hopeful that the treatments would stop the progression of the tumors in her spine. Last year our fall party was truly a celebration of gratitude for family, josh’s family, Lindsey’s presence and our trust in God that he was hearing our prayers and would grant Lindsey more time with us . . . even until the next holiday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Caught Up

So, the last couple of blog posts included ideas about helping children with their feelings and dealing with feelings as a parent. As many of you know I just had my second daughter pass away on August 24, 2011 from a brain tumor. I wanted to share my feelings as a mother, about what it was like to care for her for almost 11 years and then watch her quietly go to sleep and slip away from us.

It has only been a few weeks since all this transpired and in all honesty I haven’t even been able to talk about it let alone write about it. But, I feel like I need to write it down for my own healing and that I need to share Lindsey’s story.

Some of what needs to be expressed is so tender and sacred I hope in my sharing it with you it does not diminish the experience. It is my humble desire that by sharing her story, it will bless your life and the life of others. Writing about her somehow keeps her memory alive and helps me feel close to her.

This child that came into my world brought with her own individual issues, as each child does. And she brought with her, a unique set of gifts and blessings, the same as every child. All of my children have added to my life in miraculous ways.

So in telling Lindsey’s story this is not to glorify her suffering, or propose that I loved her more because I am writing about her, I am telling our family’s story and how her illness affected all her siblings and our family as a whole. All of us were impacted by Lindsey’s Illness and her death. Some of the pain I carry is the pain of my other children who lost their friend and sister.

I am also writing her story knowing that there are other families who have lost a son/daughter or sibling in some way or another. I know that reaching out in this way could help us all find comfort together.

As family members who have survived tragedy, we are the ones with the broken hearts, unfilled dreams and goals, and grieving the loss of what might have been.

Whether the loss is due to tragedy, illness, addictions, giving up a baby for adoption, or infertility and not being able to conceive a child. This kind of suffering needs comfort that can only come by finding peace for our individual loss.

How do we get to peace?

How can we find a lasting sense of comfort in our grieving.

I am not sure, except that this is what we will be exploring together for the next little while on the blog. It would be so helpful if those that are following this blog share your own ideas about finding peace in spite of the loss of a loved one. Your ideas may bring a source of comfort that could help me personally and my family however, it could help others a well.. My role as a mother, caretaker, friend and confidant to Lindsey has come to an end in this world. She has progressed into another sphere without me.

For me I am left empty, wanting, and searching for something to fill that void where she lived, played, laughed and danced. A new life is emerging, a life without Lindsey. It feels strange and uncomfortable. I feel like I am clumsily walking in the dark and searching for something familiar so I can get my bearings.

Come with me as we take this journey together. Some of you are further down this path than I am and some will join us as we move along. At least we will have each other while we face separation and the pain of death and seek to find comfort in tragedy.

I have heard from those that have been down this road before me, that the first year is the hardest. I am nervous to face the upcoming holidays. If you have any suggestions or ideas please feel free to post them. Not only am I trying to navigate for myself through this time of grieving, but also to help my children.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Managing Anger in Healthy Ways

Like it or not, most of us parents flip out in front of our dear children from time to time. Sometimes the anger is aimed at them, other times not, but it’s almost always a deeply unsettling experience. Fortunately, there are simple—sometimes surprising—steps you can take to repair the damage, not to mention avoid meltdowns in the future.
The occasional, non abusive freak out is generally much less damaging than regular fireworks, which send a child the message that he or she is not safe and that there’s something wrong with him.
Kids can actually learn an important lesson from seeing you lose your temper and then regain your cool. This provides an opportunity to show kids that we all get angry, but what really counts is how we repair things afterwards.
Where is the line between an occasional melt-down and having an anger management problem? A little self reflection and maybe you will be able to evaluate where you are on the spectrum of anger management.
Do You Have an Anger-Management Problem?
Could you be past “hot-tempered” and into the realm of needing help? Answer the following questions honestly.
• Do you lose your temper several times a week, even daily?
• Does your anger cause problems in your relationship with your spouse and your children?
• When you are angry do you engage in dysfunctional behaviors such as: blaming, name calling, screaming or yelling, hurting self or the people around you verbally or physically, punishing others with the silent treatment, turning to addictions, spending money as ways of coping with deep-seeded anger issues, etc.
• Do you take accountability for your outbursts and apologize for your behavior?
• Are you aware that you have a problem with anger management and are already actively working to improve your skills with managing your anger patterns?
These patterns may sound all too familiar.
Here are some ground rules for managing anger that you can work on at home. Please be aware that if you need help with anger management, please have the courage to seek help for the benefit of your spouse and children.

Here are some simple reminders that can help you keep your cool:
• When, dealing with a child’s angry outburst, be sure to ask the right question. Focus on the obvious. Look at possibilities as to why the child might be acting out. Is he hungry, bored, tired, or in need of attention? Try to meet his need instead of letting your anger get the best of you. Choose to respond instead of react. See beyond the behavior and look for what the child might need.
• When addressing your anger. Keep a journal that documents when you lose your cool. Look for patterns—what time of day do you get angry? Under what circumstances? Are you tired or hungry? Do you notice other similarities with your anger pattern? Work to improve those times of the day with better planning or lowering expectations of self or the child. Knowing the factors that contribute to loss of anger gives you an opportunity to avoid those situations. Ask the child to offer ideas to improve the situation. By giving your kids a voice you are empowering them to be part of the solution.
• Minimize marriage disputes. In a calm moment, you and your spouse should agree to handle your next argument differently. Give yourselves permission to walk away if you are getting too angry in front of the kids. Make an agreement that you’ll discuss the issue later, in private, when you’re calmer. Spouses fighting in front of the kids can add to them acting out in their behavior with more anger. Stop the anger cycle by managing your anger as a couple and handle your disagreements without the presence of the children.
• Find creative outlets to minimize angry outbursts. Set up a plan that can help interrupt the old pattern. Count to ten, take some deep breathes, put on music to lighten your mood, write out your feelings before things get explosive, go for a walk or a drive. Whatever your course of action, make a commitment to follow your plan the next time you feel anger welling up inside of you. Know that it will take practice to implement these new patterns and as you make improvements in managing your anger so will your children. Work together as a family to stop the anger cycle by maintaining healthy ways to release anger and frustration.
• Always take accountability for your own emotional outburst no matter the trigger or the cause. If your anger has already boiled over do not give into the temptation to blame your child or your spouse. Be the one that can apologize sincerely for your part and trust that you can help facilitate others apologizing for their part. This brings resolution, closure and healing. Otherwise the damage continues and the recovery time is so much longer and harder.
• In a marriage, success in a relationship is based on the couple’s ability to recover from disagreements. Successful marriages are able to use their communication and their personal skills in clearing the air, being able to extend love to each other, and then move on. They do not bring up old issues unless they are exploring patterns and working on issues. These are the same principles you want to model for your children.

Anger itself is not bad, it is part of our human experience. It is a built in mechanism designed to help us know when we are in danger. However, we oftentimes over respond with anger even when we are not in danger of losing our lives. Because most of our triggers for anger are not life threatening, we must improve our skills to read situations with better accuracy and respond with more appropriate behavior. It is what we do with anger that makes it destructive. With greater awareness, improving our anger management skills and letting go of old anger patterns, we can heal. You can be part of the healing in your family by learning to manage your own anger in healthy ways.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Manage Anger As A Parent

Here is an example of a mother who shares her experience about losing her temper with her children on a family vacation: (shared in the May 2011 Good Housekeeping magazine by Julie Taylor)

“My husband, our two kids and I were enjoying an idyllic trip to Hawaii, and taking in the beauty of the cliffs and coastline. And then my son threw a water bottle from the back seat towards my husband who was driving. It hit the windshield and made a ferocious bang. By some miracle we didn’t crash but we did lose control . . . both my husband and I started ranting, raving, screaming, threatening: “Why would you do that. . . don’t you know we could have been killed? Here we are taking you on the vacation of a lifetime, and you throw a water bottle for no reason?” And on and on we went, spewing way more venom that our preschooler could ever deserve or even comprehend for that matter.

Tears began rolling down our son’s cheeks, and his lip quivered as he fought back his sobs. After what seemed like an eternity to him, we calmed down and continued on our way, and I tried to bury the incident in the back of my mind.

I had almost forgotten all about it when, a few weeks later, I replayed our Hawaii-trip video. There I was, recording a waterfall out the window of the car. I tucked the camera into its bag - accidentally leaving it still recording – and then the “water bottle incident” occurred. Though the screen was black, I heard my husband and myself screaming at our son, badgering him, shaming him. Then it was my turn to fight back tears. How could I have freaked out like that in front of my kids? The rant sounded so much more vicious and vile than I remembered its having been, but there it was on tape—proof that I was a bad mom. I may have erased that incident from the vacation video, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase it from my memory.”

Like it or not, most of us parents flip out in front of our dear children from time to time. Sometimes the anger is aimed at them, other times not, but it’s almost always a deeply unsettling experience. Fortunately, there are simple, sometimes surprising steps you can take to repair the damage, not to mention steps that can be taken to avoid meltdowns in the future.

The high price of losing it on a regular basis in front of your kids can cause some real damage to their psyches. Kids that live with parents who show a lot of anger end up with less empathetic children. These kids are more aggressive and more depressed than peers from calmer families, and they perform worse in school. Anger has a way of undermining a kid’s ability to adapt to the world. There is research to support that the younger the kid the bigger the impact on the child because of being around intense anger on a regular basis.

However, the occasional, non abusive freak-out is generally much less damaging than regular fireworks, which sends a child the message that he or she is not safe and that there’s something wrong with him. That said, kids can actually learn an important lesson from seeing you lose your temper and then regain your cool. “this provides an opportunity to show kids that we all get angry, but what really counts is how we repair things afterward,” says McKay.

If your anger has boiled over, the most important thing to do now is to own up to what you’ve done wrong. Don’t give into the temptation to blame your child for triggering your outburst. “Say, I am very disappointed at your carelessness, but I shouldn’t have yelled like that. It was wrong for me to lose it in that way, and I am very sorry. Don’t over-do the apology or you can make a kid feel as if he’s truly been victimized. Then promise that you will try your best not to do it again. Comfort your child as needed and then move on.

People who live together get angry sometimes. Sometimes fighting between parents can be destructive. Couples can demonstrate emotional maturity when they take accountability for their conflict and apologize to each other and the kids for yelling. It is helpful if the parents offer reassurance and show forgiveness towards the spouse. It makes the child feel safe in seeing that there can still be love expressed even if there was a conflict. Then commit as a couple to handle other disagreements and fighting somewhere else without the kids. No need to drag kids deeper into your drama.

It is okay to give the reason for your anger, however; not a long list, but at least acknowledge that you were angry and then apologize for the way you expressed it. “Emphasize that you would never want them to act that way.” Also say you are sorry if your outburst scared or embarrassed them. (Let’s face it you probably did). Explain that you let your emotions get the best of you, and that you’ll handle it better next time. And then comes the real challenge: making sure that you do something to improve the way you handle your anger.

In our next post we will identify how to tell if you have an anger management problem and what you can do about it, but for now, know that even parents can be forgiven. We do not have perfect children and we are not perfect parents. We are all learning from our mistakes. In our parenting there are gifts in our imperfection, and we can help our children learn important lessons from seeing parents lose their temper, regain their cool and then work to make things good again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Generational Patterns Part 3

Some of the generational patterns that have been passed on in families are beliefs about women and mothering. Different cultures, societies, and families have varying definitions about what it means to be a “good mother”. These expectations are linked to cultural and family expectations.

In our society, women link certain aspects of their self-esteem to their role as a woman and as a mother. Oftentimes women in our day and age place certain expectations towards self that are unrealistic. Mothers put a lot of pressure on themselves to be everything to everybody and in doing so, often judge or criticize themselves as women and as mothers, especially if they perceive they are falling short.

These beliefs are so rigid that if we, as women, are not living up to these expectations then we feel that we are failing. Living with this pressure to meet unrealistic expectations can weaken us in our mothering and undermine the work we were born to do as women.

Generational patterns are the spoken and unspoken rules that are modeled to the children that grow up to be parents. Our mother’s patterns of behavior and communication, verbal and non-verbal were modeled to her by her mother. These patterns are linked to cultural and family expectations.

Some unrealistic patterns or beliefs about mothering that become underlying stressors for women are:
• “My house is supposed to always be clean.”
• “Laundry is supposed to have an end.”
• “My body is supposed to look like what is presented in the media.”
• “Good mothers never get mad.”
• “Good mothers never need a break.”
• “Mothers are supposed to make everyone happy.”

Becoming aware of these deep rooted family patterns means we can let go of unrealistic expectations that are no longer useful. It means that we understand that what we are offering as a mother doesn’t have to match those that have gone before us or those presently living. It means that we see our weaknesses and our strengths in our mothering, instead of only seeing our weaknesses. When we can let go of these deep rooted family patterns we begin to notice and appreciate what we are doing that is working and what it is that we do well as mothers. This increases our confidence as a mother and thus our mothering skills improve.

We need benevolence and tolerance towards our self and other mothers as well. All of us are doing the best we can with what we have. Guilt only paralyzes us and causes us to feel powerless with our mothering. Let go of guilt and release what you don’t get done in the day, trusting that the dawn will bring a new start.

We can as mothers work with diligence and be committed to letting go of perfectionism. As we show tolerance and acceptance to ourselves it is then modeled to our children. Acceptance brings self-esteem and confidence. Learning to love ourselves and being patient with our mothering takes practice.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Generational Patterns Part 2: The Art Of Mothering

The baby is here! Rylie Kae McNeil was born June 3 at 12:49 am. She weighed 9 pounds and measured 21 inches long. She has a lot of beautiful black hair like her mom. Her mouth and face shape look like her grandpa Robinson. (Everyone has noticed!) She has her dad’s ears and her mom’s dark eyes. These are physical patterns that we can see.

There is also mothering or nurturing patterns that are noticeable as well. There are strong nurturing instincts when it comes to mothering in humans and in the animal world. Mothering brings out the beauty of being a woman. The need to protect and nurture are a powerful part of mothering. This is part of our genetic and our cultural patterns. Bonding between mother and child is important during the time right after birth.

With the two little ones to take care of now, my daughter as a young mother, will be bonding with a new baby and also striving to keep the bond she has with her oldest daughter strong and connected. With the arrival of a second baby in the family, it can mean a huge change for everyone. My daughter and her husband already have a game plan when it comes to handling this transition with a new baby. They have talked and come up with ideas to support their oldest child Lily.

They are aware of Lily and her need to still feel important and valued in the family even with the arrival of the new baby sister. Part of that plan includes:
• Special time with daddy while mom takes care of the baby.
• Alone time with mom while daddy takes care of the little one.
• Letting Lily help with the baby.
• Conversations with Lily explaining that they love Lily, even though there is a new baby in the family.
• Clear boundaries with Lily especially if Lily acts up. Teaching her to ask for love and attention with her words. Reinforcing that “words” are more effective than behavior.
• Focusing on praise when she asks for love in appropriate ways.
• Holding, cuddling, and reading to Lily as much as possible.
• Letting grandparents and other family members offer support.
• Being committed to date night. Knowing that mom and dad are better parents when they have consistent and regular time alone.

In watching this new beginning it brings back memories of my early days of mothering. I was very nervous about taking care of a newborn baby. (Yes, even the best game plan can end up with everyone crying and having an emotional melt-down.) But, there were things that had been modeled to me by my own mother that helped me and then there was information that came naturally to me about mothering. Also, I learned along the way what worked for each child and what didn’t. Confidence was established in me and my mothering abilities. It came over time.

Patterns of nurturing and mothering passed from my mother to me, are now being shown to my daughter, and she is modeling these same patterns of mothering to her oldest daughter Lily, who is watching and participating in taking care of a new born baby sister. And if you think about it, the baby is also learning about patterns of love and mothering through her experience. She is learning what nurturing feels like and the connection and bonding that her mother is expressing to her. This new little baby is actually learning, through her experience as a baby, about this special love that is created between mother and child. And when she grows up and becomes a mother herself, the art of mothering will continue to be passed on to yet another generation. Mothering is a part of our genetic and emotional patterning. The art of mothering illuminates the beauty of being a woman.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Generational Patterns Part 1

A new baby is coming into our family in the next few days. It is a new beginning for her and for us. She will be joining her sister Lily who is almost three. She will join us genetically and also in our family emotional patterns whether they are healthy or unhealthy. These generational patterns are not hers, but will be what she inherits as she takes on her body.

She is our second grandbaby and we are so thrilled about her arrival. We wonder what she will look like. Will she be dark haired or lighter in coloring? What will be the color of her eyes? What will her smile look like, her hands and feet? When her laughter joins her sister’s giggles, a friendship from heaven will be renewed.

We have been preparing for her for a long time now. There have been many who have come before her to provide a place for her here on earth. Their preparations include physical and spiritual preparations. Each family member has made a contribution to what we call “family” and “family learning”. I wonder what contribution she will make to our “family learning”?

We know her already, we know her from before we came here. Her body will not reveal her, but she will be familiar. How much of an influence will the genetics or “nature” have in her life? How much will “nurture” or her environment have in her life? We know that both factors will impact her.

We also know that her will can have power to over ride the effects of both. What patterns will she reject that she feels are no longer useful for her and what will she embrace and make her own?

Generational patterns include both genetic and emotional patterns as part of our life’s story. These patterns provide learning material and are part of our life’s curriculum. Musical, mathematical, linguistic strengths and other kinds of genius are born in families. Tendencies for addictions, anger, or depression also run in families.

Health conditions and genetic patterns for health and illness come with this physical body. These certain tendencies in so many different areas provide strengths to the individual and certain tendencies provide struggles or weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses provide opportunities for learning and growth.

As grandparents I pray that we will help her navigate through this world and her generational patterns, so that she can fulfill her dreams, her life purpose and mission. Thank God for her new beginning and for our opportunity to begin again as grandparents. We hold a deeper commitment to express our love in better ways than ever before. We have a desire to model respect for self and respect for others through self-mastery and effective communication. We welcome this baby with hope for new and improved family patterns for her and hope for a better world for all of us.

Check in next week for info about her birth and more about generational patterns.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's Time Again for Our Children's Clinic!

Your children ages 4-11 are invited to join us for our next children's clinic on March 19, 2011. We'll work on developing an awareness of our feelings and learn some healthy ways to deal with anger, sadness and loss. The children will work through a coloring concept book and also participate in a discussion, games and a craft project. Parents are encouraged to attend with their child.

Date: Saturday, March 19, 2011
Time: 4-7 yrs 10:00am - 11:00am
              8-11 yrs 11:15am - 12:15pm
Location: Institute of Healing Arts
Cost: $25 per child, $20 for each additional child
To Register Call 801-785-5259