Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for December, 2012

Listen and You Will Hear…

Often we receive advance notice when our loved ones are about to pass on. They seem to be trying to prepare us for the change that is inevitable. At the time, we frequently miss the message or refuse to accept it as a way to protect ourselves. We don’t want to say ‘good-bye’ or even ‘see you later.’ After our loss we remember the hundreds of wonderful moments in the lives of our loved ones and we inevitably come to relive the moment when the particular message was given to us from them. It hits you like a ton of bricks and you realize they really were trying to help you cope with their exit by giving you a message that ‘all is as it should be.’

These messages can be subtle (and not so subtle). In part of my book, I wrote about these type of messages from both my son and mom. Their ‘notice’ which I chose not to hear at the time, has served many times to remind me that there is a reason, season and life plan behind everything. How long is a life plan? Exactly as long as it is supposed to be.

As my mom pointed to a particular tree on my property she said, “When the last leaf is gone from that tree I will be gone.” Late evening on November 18, 1999, I was at her bedside vigil and took a break to walk outside, the leaf was still on the tree. Three hours later she took her last breath. As my sisters went in to spend time alone with the woman who had given her all as a mother and to wish her well on her journey, I walked outside. The leaf was gone from the branch above but still present, laying gently on the grass at the base of the tree. Its life force had changed but the form was still evident. I have the leaf encased in plastic as a reminder that messages are given to us for a reason. They help us to accept the seemingly unacceptable as all part of a plan greater than ourselves.

Loss and grief are something we all live through in our lifetime. We learn lessons about unconditional love, energy and the importance of being fully engaged in the moment.

May 2013 be all you wish it to be!

My Christmas Wish

Christmas 2012 is only 3 days away! As we struggle to get into the spirit of the season we are reminded of what we experienced as a nation, a humbling of our spirit, this past week. We realize how quickly life can change and how imbalanced our world has become. It is up to each of us to do something to help us regain the balance we once knew.

To the parents who have lost their children, and the families who have lost their loved ones, my heart and prayers go out to you. I understand, I have been there too. I realize that there are no packages or bows that can heal your heart. Please know that the nation, the world is in mourning for those special human beings that gave up their lives to show us a better way. Each one is not only a national but world hero. The light of their lives will serve as a beacon of hope for all of us. They will be remembered. We are reminded of the proclamation, ‘a child will lead them…’

On my Christmas wish list I wish for a world that refuses to use or accept fear as a way of profiting or even existing. I asked for no more lives to be torn apart and for time to help heal all of our wounded hearts. I wish for a world that is full of peace and harmony. A world that causes us to remember that we are all our brothers (and sisters) keepers. A world that is just, giving and loving. A world that believes in truth and always strives to see the best in others.

As we remember the life changing events that happened last week, there is one Christmas carol that is especially meaningful to me. Let There Be Peace on Earth. The lyrics are especially fitting.

Let there be peace on earth and
Let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

May you have a wonderful Christmas.

Another Life, Another Tragedy

Another senseless death – a TSA worker simply doing his job – is gone. Didn’t the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school teach us anything? For those of us who have lost someone it reminds us that life is fragile, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. As we watch others live through the stages of grief, from a loss that could have been prevented, we wonder what will it take, how many more lives must be lost before we are strong enough as a country to make the changes necessary to ensure greater safety for everyone. The survivors, the family members will get through this over time but never get over it. As we know the death of a loved one changes our life forever.

These innocent people, including children and public workers simply could not have died in vain. These deaths have brought our nation to our knees, momentarily stunned into silence, as we watch people run, yet again, from the sounds of a gun firing into a crowd of innocent people. Is it possible that these human beings have given their lives to teach us as a nation that life is sacred and that gun violence should no longer be tolerated? Do we take pride in being labeled the gun capital of the world? I think not, we are better than that – or are we?

In a recent interview former President Clinton said he is the only president who stood up to the NRA and won. It seems that our elected officials are more worried about being reelected – meaning not standing up to the NRA- that voting the will of the people. President Clinton explained that in a recent poll 92% of American people stated that they support a ban on assault rifles. Yet when the critical time comes to vote they are NOT EVEN AWARE of a candidate’s position on the topic! We are blessed to be able to vote freely in this country but with that opportunity comes an obligation to be informed on the issues before simply pulling a lever.

The words of President Obama in January still ring in my ears, “We must change…doing nothing is not an option,” they should cause us to wake up and face the truth in our country. We have allowed violence to grow to epidemic proportions. We pride ourselves in being the leader of the civilized world and yet experience 32 murders per DAY in the U.S. What can we learn from countries such as England, Australia, Germany and Japan who have acted decisively, in a nonpartisan effort, to assure the safety of their people and defenseless children? Can we check our egos at the door, finally, and say we can humble ourselves enough to learn from others? We are strong, we are intelligent but we are not invincible.

Piers Morgan of CNN has been relentless in his effort to help us understand the staggering statistics that, sadly, are unique to the U.S. Both professionally and personally he is committed to doing something to help. He is not letting the issue of our need for greater gun control drop as the rest of the country resumes their lives.

Senator Diane Feinstein saw the positive effect from the legislation to ban assault weapons succeed for 10 years, until 2004 when it expired as part of the sunset provision contained in the law. Yet, she has been back once again trying to pass legislation to ban the deadly assault rifles. As she said about Sandy Hook, “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back!” She is a model senator who will eventually receive the support of legislators in Washington when and if they are held accountable by us and not until.

What can we do to help? We must keep up the pressure to see assault weapon legislation passed again but this time with NO sunset provision. That will ensure greater safety for all of us – especially our children. Other major issues such as improved mental health services and reducing the amount of violence promoted on T.V., movies and video games must be addressed. Glamorizing violence, killing and maiming is simply wrong. When you put garbage in your mind you get garbage out. It is simply cause and effect. We know that we are what we think about most often.

The candidates running in the mid term elections in 2014 will be gearing up shortly. May we be strong enough, informed enough and tenacious enough to elect individuals who will do the right thing.

Please pass this blog on to others. We will need all the support possible to make the changes necessary in our country. Together we can change our world.

Letting Go Takes Love

Letting go of our loved ones for any reason takes time, courage and love. Letting go is a form of loss and it can’t be hurried or rationalized away. It takes time for your head and your heart to be in sync. In my book, Just Behind the Door, I have a poem that speaks to the issue of letting go which was written by Creators Syndicate, Inc. I hope it speaks to you, helps to heal your heart and gives you peace.

To Let Go Takes Love

To let go does not mean to stop caring,
It means I can’t do it for someone else.
To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning
from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
To let go is not to judge, but to allow another
to be him or her self.
To let go is not to be in the middle
arranging all the outcomes but to allow
others to determine their own destinies.
To let go is not to be less protective, it is to permit
another to face their reality.
To let go is not to dominate, but to be willing
to let things happen.
To let go is not to betray the past, but to
have faith in the future.
To let go means to FEAR less and LOVE more.

When we love and have faith that ‘all is as it should be’ we allow the Universe to deliver all the positive energy necessary for our loved ones as well as ourselves to not only survive but thrive. It takes courage to let go but it is necessary for the growth of everyone concerned. It allows each of us to follow our own unique path and learn the lessons we have chosen to learn this time around.

Have a great few days!

Gratitude, Grace and Love

Life is temporary for all of us. We have chosen our expiration date and various lessons for reasons known only to ourselves. The commonality I see in all the lessons is gratitude, grace and love. There is no better way to see these attributes demonstrated than to help those less fortunate. For many, circumstances and challenges seem to pile up and yet they seem to be able to see beyond and believe in a better tomorrow. These people recognize the importance of living one day at a time and are such positive examples of grace. They have so little in material possessions and yet they have boatloads in gratitude, and love. The various charitable organizations exist to lend them a hand as they continue to face the struggles in their lives. Maybe those less fortunate have chosen to live their lives to teach us to remember who we are, to learn what inspires us and to find our purpose in the things we can do for others.

Whenever I pass the bell ringers for the Salvation Army that we see outside the stores during the holiday season I stop and put something in the red collection buckets. Today at one of the big box stores a woman was sitting and ringing the familiar bell. As I was searching in my purse to get to my wallet she simply said, ” Thank you!” She had no idea what amount I was going to offer but her gratitude came shining through with her smile. She went on to tell me that of 30 people walking pass her maybe one would stop and drop something into the bucket. I was shocked. I know that times are tough financially for all of us but would giving a dollar or even a few coins to this worthwhile organization be too much to ask when we realize that it goes directly to someone in need?

I see this same ‘attitude of gratitude’ when I make my runs to Goodwill to drop off things I no longer need. The appreciation and gratitude on the faces of the workers once again comes shining through. I asked a man at Goodwill the other day what time the drive though drop off closes. He responded, 6 P.M. but explained that he is there every night until 9 P.M. so I could just go in and get him and he would gladly unload my car for me. I though to myself, once again, what a positive, uplifting attitude! If I tried to define gratitude I wouldn’t need to use words but simply use a picture of these two individuals. No matter what we have or do not have it really is about gratitude, grace and love. It really does make the world go ’round.

Have a great day!

Remembering Others at Christmas

During the Christmas season it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. In addition to the gift purchasing, wrapping, tree decorations and outside lights to put up there are the Christmas cards to send. You might think twice this year about actually sending them. We debate all the reasons, as we try to get everything else accomplished, why the card thing could just be put aside- just this year.

I had a personal reminder this week of the importance of reaching out to others by sending cards. For those who have read my book you know that I am a Hospice volunteer. I have had the good fortune of being with my special person for 1 and 1/2 years. It is rare to have a patient last this long once they are officially determined to be hospice eligible. However, for this length of time we have visited weekly, discussing the books she reads, and I take her lunches that she can only dream about since she has been home bound for 2 years. Can you imagine literally not leaving your house or room for this length of time? And yet she does so with acceptance and grace. At 91 years old her mind is still sharp. It is her body that has given up the go. She basically lives in a 14 x 14 area that has become her entire life. She can no longer write the letters herself but loves to receive cards in the mail. It is her only contact to the outside world that she once knew.

Our job as Hospice volunteers is to bring a little joy to our patients during whatever time they have left on this earth. A big part of that is to keep them connected with others so they, temporarily, can forget about their situation or the inevitability of what they will soon be facing.

Just like last year, I asked her who she would like to send a Christmas card and letter to this month. She was able to give me a list after working on it for a week and then a few ideas verbally on what to say in her Christmas letter. Coming home I transcribed her thoughts and printed it on cheerful Christmas stationary then began addressing the envelopes. To my utter surprise she had 18 different people on her list for cards! She will probable receive 15 or so in return. That means that she will have 15 opportunities to read, remember the special memories of these folks and smile as she momentarily touches the outside world from her hospital bed. That may sound like a small thing to some of us but to her it will make this season, no doubt her last, something to remember. She has said to me many times that she can’t figure out why she is still here. What lessons does she have yet to learn, she questions. I think it is not her lessons to learn but her lessons to teach others, including me.

The next time I become harried with the things to accomplish during the holiday seasons I will remember with gratitude the fact that I can still do them. Christmas cards and letters will no longer seem like a chore to accomplish but something to be done that may make someone smile who receives it. All because of this special lady.

Regardless of our age, when the student is ready the teacher comes along. I was grateful I was reminded of the importance to keep this practice going. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we lived to 91 and still had 18 people to send and receive cards from? It is humbling and significant to think about how this woman has change people’s lives and continues to do in her ninth decade! She is a reminder of what the season is about, reaching out and touching the lives of others and warming their hearts.

As you check off items on your ‘to do’ list this week remember that there are others who really are interested in what you have been up to this year. They do want to stay connected in your life. Whatever form of communication you choose it will bring a smile to them as they remember a special memory of something you did together. As you read their messages in return you will also smile, remember and be grateful to have them in your life. It is funny, life is just like that, what goes around comes around.

Have a great few days!

Are You Worth 5 Minutes?

An interesting article on meditation appeared recently in The Week magazine. The editors have a way of informing readers without adding more stress to our lives. They engage the reader without the fear factor that seems a large part of most news coverage. Anything that can help us reduce stress in our lives is important. That is why the article on meditation caught my eye.

Many people think that they don’t have time to meditate daily because of the demands in their daily schedule. I would hasten to point out that your ‘to do’ list will always exist and you will be more effective in completing the tasks if you feel both physically and mentally better. Finding a no cost way to help ourselves – really help in many different ways – is a big deal.

Starting with even 5 minutes a day sitting quietly and breathing deeply will help you get started. It is a form of meditation that works for me. You may choose to increase the time later as your schedule allows but just getting started is the most important step.

Meditation has been promoted to help us get in touch with our higher self, find a greater sense of peace and well being and even help us connect us with our loved ones who have passed on. But imagine my surprise when I read about the positive effects of meditation in relation to heart attacks and strokes!

According to the article, sitting quietly and clearing our minds can ‘dramatically improve heart health.’ The researchers involved in this study divided 200 people with known heart disease into 2 groups. One group was taught to meditate for 20 minutes daily and the other group was taught to use the same amount of time exercising and preparing healthy meals. After a decade the researchers found that those who meditated reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 66 percent compared to those who didn’t meditate. The meditators also reduced their blood pressure and said they felt better able to control their anger! “What this is saying is that the mind-body interventions can have an effect as big as conventional medications,” said Robert Schneider, director of the Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention reporting to

Although they are unsure of just how meditation works, cardiologist Michael Shapiro said previous studies have also shown that meditation can reduce anger, stress, and increase happiness.

I think it is worth a try – don’t you?