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December 2012

The Candle in Each of Us

There is an invisible thread that connects us all.  Most days we move through our lives unaware.  We watch the water circle the drain as we brush our teeth making a mental grocery list, move wet clothes into the drier, toss in a Bounce and remember that today is trash day.  We sit in a long line of traffic wondering whether the pan handler at the light really does have a limp or if this is his chosen profession, while little children in the white SUV in front of me happily watch Frosty the Snowman.  I found some solace in the 12in. Spider-man bike and Helmet that I delivered to the Salvation Army, imagining the smile on a tiny boy's face on Christmas morning, only to immediately begin to fret over those whose names did not find their way onto the Angel Tree at WalMart.  My heart is heavy.

I have tried for almost fifteen years to understand why Shannon left this life too early.  Today we are all wondering together, how to make sense of something that can not ... will not be understood.  We have all watched as the  faces of babies and their faculty flash across the screens of televisions and computers and telephones around the world.  We have wept together for families  who are no longer strangers and whispered prayers for those who will never be the same.

Perhaps that is my simplest understanding of tragedies that make our collective hearts so heavy.  We are connected and what hurts one of us hurts all of us. In the midst of such sorrow, we feel more deeply, quiet the mindless chatter, breathe into the moment and allow ourselves to be ... part of what matters most.  We share the pain hoping in some small way to ease the pain of another.  We hold closer and longer.  We stop and look deeply into the eyes of the little one calling our name and make that moment the only one that matters.  For a time we will dwell in this sacred moment.

And then life will move forward.  Once again we will be overwhelmed with the extraordinary pull of the ordinary in our lives, and be reminded to be grateful.  We will bake cookies and wrap gifts and sing carols.  We will remember not only the families in Connecticut, but the families of our military, alone for the holidays, those in countries in turmoil, children alone or afraid... and we won't be afraid to open our heavy hearts and really feel what it means to be connected, because even though sorrow changes us, it doesn't diminish us.

For years I have heard about the end of the Mayan calendar and the suggestion that it predicted the end of our world.  The world as I knew it ended on May 1, 1998.  The world as they knew and loved it ended in Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012.  In 58 years I have lived with great joy and great sorrow.  We have collectively experienced senseless acts of terror, natural disasters that devastated thousands, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, war and illness.  But if we look beyond the pain, we are blessed with a vision of such generosity of spirit.   Such compassion and love.  Have you noticed that in times of so much sadness there are no strangers?  We aren't reserved or shy about extending our arms to embrace another.  We aren't embarrassed by our tears or expressions of sympathy.  We become the human family that we are.

Perhaps this  very sick young man has, with so many others who have appeared to personify what is the worst and most abhorant among us, given us  the gift of stepping outside of ourselves...for someone else.  We are witnessing inoccense, heroism, selflessness, courage and love without measure.  Perhaps the Mayan's were right.  Perhaps the world as we have come to accept it is coming to an end.  Perhaps we are ready for something more.  Perhaps we want to see what is the best in all of us instead of the worst, we want to believe that in the face of great personal danger we will forget ourselves and do whatever we can to protect another, believe that in a world that sometimes feels so huge... we are never really alone. Candlelight
  For days I have read the messages on Facebook offering hope and promise and suggestions for random acts of kindness, and my heart has been lifted.  Our miracle is that offering love and gentleness has no boundaries and the comfort finds its way to those who need it most.

The soft fragile flickering light of a single candle dispels our personal darkness...but the light from a million soft fragile flickering candles will dispel the darkness of our world.


Another Year with my Path Director

On May 25, 2012 - Jules turned 60.

On June 8, 2012 - We celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.

On June 9, 2012 - Jules suffered a heart attack that went undiagnosed until Monday June 11.

On June 10, 2012 - OWN reran the Remembering Your Spirit segment about Shannon and gratitude.

On June 12, 2012 - Catheterization and balloon pump.

On June 13, 2012 - Six way bypass.

Even now, with Jules sitting downstairs watching football, car parts all over the kitchen table, healthy, breathing... I feel as if I can't breathe.   Funny how the body remembers in every cell, what the mind is able to logically accept and put aside.  Calm on the outside... frantic on the inside...sitting in the room next to the one where I had seen my Shannon for the last time.  I knew what could happen.  I knew that no matter how many prayers I whispered to Heaven, how many friends and family members were praying with me, no outcome is ever guaranteed.  We aren't asked to understand, to make sense of something so unimaginable... but we are asked to trust... to keep breathing... to know that whatever happens, we are always and forever held in God's hands.  Even with all of that 'knowing'... all I wanted to do was run screaming from that hospital... but I sat quietly, calmly ... waiting ... breathing ... listening to the soft hum and thump of the machines helping Jules breathe ... remembering ... watching the numbers on the monitors... willing them to stay stable and strong... wondering why I couldn't by sheer will keep Shannon alive.


On June 15, 2012 - I started receiving emails from strangers who had seen Shannon on Oprah.  They expressed how their hearts had been touched and opened by her life.  They wanted to know if we were still making bookmarks and if there was a way they could receive them.

Ever since Shannon returned to Heaven, I have watched with wonder the synchronicity and timing of my unfolding path.  How could I not believe that my best friend, my daughter, my sweetest Angel has a hand in all of this?

Several months after Shannon's accident I had a dream... a visit.  I was dozing on the couch and I heard her footsteps.  I sat up and started to cry.  We wrapped our arms around each other there by the Christmas tree and hugged for the longest time.  She looked so bright and was so excited...

"Mom, don't be sad.  It's wonderful and I have the best job ever ! I'm a Path Director !  You know all of those things that happen that we called coincidence ? Well they aren't.  There is always one of us, a Path Director... making sure that you are at the right place at the right time.  It is such fun, and I am making $100,000.00 ! "

Then she smiled and winked and her pager went off.  "Ooops, Gotta Go.  I love you."  And she was gone.  I can't say for certain that she wasn't really there.  I was sitting on the couch.  I was wide awake.  The lights on the tree glistened and sparkled through the tears welling up in my eyes.  I remember those moments more clearly than I can remember this morning's coffee and it was almost 15 years ago.  Who can say ?

All I know for sure is that I am so very grateful.  Grateful for 23 years with Shannon.  Grateful for her Dad shouting at the television downstairs.  Grateful for the people who still allow Shannon to have a job "that matters.  One that makes a difference."  Grateful for my family, my home, my neighbors, my friends, my Path Director.

As this year comes to a close and a new year opens wide with possibilities ... I am reminded of the opening quote in Shannon's gratitude journal by Meister Eckhart ~"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."

And so I say ... Thank You.

Suave Shampoo and Subaru

This week has been incredibly full of single moments and surprises that twinkle in memory like the lights on my tiny Christmas tree, unobtrusive and still during the daylight hours, but beautiful and enthralling when night falls and life quiets.

A phone call from someone meeting Shannon for the first time through the repeat of Oprah's Remembering Her Spirit.  The Subaru commercial that brings tears to my eyes as life unfolds in the face of the family dog.  A YouTube video of Christmas shoppers standing still to listen as carollers spontaneously burst into song and welcome the "Holy Family".  Nicholas Cage softly explaining to Meg Ryan in City of Angels that tears are the result of emotions so large that the body can not contain them and weeps in response.  The warm steamy bathroom, fragrant with fields of Strawberries from the sensibly priced bottle of Suave shampoo.  Krinkle cut fries and chicken salad on wheat toast at the Mountaineer Cafe.  A morning of photos with loving families and adorable children. Prayers requested, whispers to Heaven in response.

Truth... we all laugh and cry in the same language.  Emotions cross all lines to connect us to who we truly are... and to one another. 

An 'expert' on happiness suggests that we smile three unnecessary smiles a day.  He professes that that simple gesture will slow our heart rate, lower our blood pressure, increase our metabolism (resulting in certain weight loss), erase wrinkles and lighten the burdens of any day or season.

I don't know about you, but I'm willing to try just about anything to lose the extra pounds that seem to have appeared over Thanksgiving, and with the added bonus of fewer wrinkles, a healthier heart and the unspoken connection to a friend yet unmet ... this may just be the miracle we've all been waiting for.  And to get you started....

Leafy gavin