Posts tagged: death

Summer So Far

Ye gods! I just realized that the last time I posted on my blog was MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND!

I am a blog loser.

Well, I won’t beat myself up too much. It’s been a busy summer. I hit the ground running in June when my boys wrapped up their school year, and I traveled to Pennsylvania to teach a Tarot workshop for my good friend Gloria at her beautiful Spirit Education Center and Sanctuary. When I came home, I was ready to party with my theatre friends to celebrate the end of another successful community theatre season here in Cincinnati. By that time, it was July, and I celebrated my birthday with good friends in Columbus, Ohio. Here’s a glimpse of the festivities:

Yummy cake batter-flavored martinis created by my friend Jonathan. And  my husband baked a yellow cake with homemade caramel icing. I know, you’re jealous!

Once my birthday was over, it was time to pack and head to beautiful Lily Dale, New York to teach some workshops. I never tire of walking the lovely grounds there, working for Spirit at the outdoor message services, and meeting new people to share ideas and experiences. If you are at all interested in metaphysics, you should definitely plan a trip to Lily Dale for a future summer holiday. Here are some photos that might capture your interest:

The welcoming gate sign at the entrance to Lily Dale.

The Lily Dale Auditorium, where many famous speakers and mediums have addressed crowds.

The lovely Healing Temple, a space filled with amazing peaceful healing vibrations.

A gorgeous view of the lake from the Lily Dale grounds.

One of the gorgeous Victorian homes on the grounds. Need a new place to live?

While in Lily Dale, I also got to meet up with one of my best buddies, my dear friend, fellow author Char Chaffin. Without Char, my novel Merlyn’s Raven would not have seen the light of day. Here we are together for breakfast:

Photo taken by Char’s wonderful husband, Don, who was good enough to share his wife with me that morning. 

My workshops were well-received, and I truly enjoyed my time at Lily Dale. Coming home just last week, I celebrated my 22nd wedding anniversary with my husband. And now I realize it’s time to get back in the swing of things here at home. Only a few more weeks of summer remain until my boys go back to school. Time moves so fast, and we are left with our jaws hanging open, saying, “When did that happen?”

I have quite a few more things on my plate this summer. I am offering a one-day Tarot class on Saturday, August 4 at my office. I am starting a 6-week Mediumship Development class for beginners on Wednesday, August 8. On Saturday, August 18, I will go to Camp Chesterfield in Indiana to teach a 3-hour workshop on Protection. Lexington, Kentucky is my last destination of the summer, when I travel to Patti Starr’s Mystical Paranormal Fair on Saturday, August 25 for a book signing and gallery-style message event. Details for all of these events are available at the websites tagged above or on my website’s events calendar. If you are in the neighborhood and so inclined, I hope you’ll join me for some summer fun.

So now, I’ve got to wrap up this blog. My boys are learning to drive this summer, and it’s time to leave for our dental check-ups. The Universe continues to bless me with plenty to keep me busy. I hope you find the blessings in your everyday life, too.

See you soon!

 

A Perfect Mother’s Day

So Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I am looking forward to continuing my family tradition of spending the day with my boys (my twin sons and their dad) seeing an action movie. This year’s choice: The Avengers.

A little eye candy never hurts.

My mom passed away in 2000. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. She was a very special lady, and I miss her. I especially ache to share with her events from my boys’ lives that she’s missed since she’s been gone: all their school achievements, the funny and witty things they’ve done, the plays they’ve performed in and the artwork, stories, and movies they’ve created. As a Spiritualist, I believe she checks in on us, and I know she’s seen and experienced these things in whatever way that is possible from her place on the Other Side. Still, it would be nice to have her here in person.

Mom with my niece, Samantha, who is now 18.

I hope I’ve made my mother proud over the years. I’ve tried to be as good at mothering as she was. She wasn’t perfect, and neither am I. Still, I find myself thinking more and more about how she parented my brother and me, and I think we turned out pretty well. I ask her often to watch over my sons, to help them in their struggles, and to give me patience and understanding when I’m dealing with my dad. I know she sends energy to those ends, and I’m grateful.

So a perfect Mother’s Day might not be entirely possible for me, since my mom is no longer in the body, and I can’t hug her as I’d like to. But I know I’ll have a good Mother’s Day this Sunday because I get to spend it with my family, doing something that I know we’ll all enjoy.

My talented sons recently made a book trailer for my new novel, Merlyn’s Raven. I hope you’ll check it out. And if you’re so inclined, a copy of the e-book might make a nice gift for your mom. Or buy her a Kindle and load it up with some of your favorite titles. I highly recommend the book Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed. Do read the book–I hear the movie’s not nearly as wonderful.

I wish all mothers a bright and beautiful Mother’s Day celebration. May the loving bonds we share with our moms and our children continue to strengthen and enrich our lives.

Goodbye, Uncle George

My husband’s uncle George passed away this week. He was a good man who had a lovely family: a beautiful wife, Ruth; five sons; several grandchildren. He lived to the age of 93, an achievement all its own. The family resided in a small house in an older suburb of Cincinnati, and every year, George and Ruth had a Christmas party for everyone in the Van clan. The party was held in the unfinished basement of their home, with folding tables set up practically underneath the wooden stairs and the beer keg next to the washer and dryer. Once everyone arrived, it was pretty cramped, but you couldn’t have asked for a better time. The adults drank and ate and visited in the basement while the little ones played upstairs. Aunt Ruth brought down trays of dog food (a sausage mixture served on tiny bread slices and heated in the oven) to add to the feast while everyone admired cousin Dave’s leather pants. I daresay everyone looked forward to this party, a chance to visit with the family and catch up on each other’s lives.

I remember my first Christmas party at Uncle George’s clearly, even though I was only 17 or 18 at the time. As we drove there that night, Keith warned me that whenever someone brought a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the party, he or she had to know all the names of all the relatives by the end of the night. “There will be a test,” he said. I chuckled, thinking he was joking. How could there be a test? Did Uncle George and Aunt Ruth keep a Scantron somewhere?

When we arrived, Keith began introducing me to his family, and believe me, there were a lot of folks to remember. The cousin’s wife who liked photography. The cousin who was so tall and lanky, he reminded me of a cowboy. The uncle with the bad leg, and the cousin who used to dress Keith up in girls’ clothes when he was little. Their names, and all the others, spun around me like a flurry of snowflakes. I recited them in my head, hoping that the beer Uncle George had given me wouldn’t make my mind fuzzy. Keith quizzed me while we stood around the food table, but there wasn’t much time for practice. Too many people interrupted us, more names to add to the list.

Toward the end of the evening, Uncle George strolled over to me and took my hand. He led me to a metal kitchen chair set up in the center of the room and sat me in it. “Now,” he said, his eyes twinkling behind his glasses, “let’s see how many names you remember.”

I glanced around the circle of expectant faces surrounding me. I don’t get nervous in front of people very often, and that was true even in my younger days. But I was nervous then, and even though these folks smiled and teased in a good-natured way, I wanted to impress them. I knew I loved Keith, and I knew someday, this would be my family, too. I searched for Keith, drew some reassurance from his nod, wiped my sweaty palms on my pants, and started naming relatives.

I don’t remember how long it took, or how many I missed. Very few, if I recall correctly. I remember lots of laughing, and I remember Keith smiling proudly when I was finished. And then Uncle George came over to where I sat with a big grin on his face. He took my hand again, pulled me to my feet, and said, “Pretty good. You’re a keeper.”

Those words may not seem like much, but they meant the world to me. In that moment, I felt accepted and loved by the Van clan. And in that moment, Uncle George completely won my heart.

You’re a keeper, too, George. I know Bob and Helen will be so happy to welcome you to the Other Side, along with so many others who have gone before you. We’ll miss you. Thank you for so many happy Christmases and cherished memories.

Metaphysical Movie Review: GHOST TOWN

GHOST TOWN (2008)

Starring Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni, and Greg Kinnear

Directed by David Koepp

When I originally saw the trailer for the movie GHOST TOWN, I thought it looked fairly predictable: man has near-death experience, triggering a new and annoying ability to see ghosts. Hilarity ensues. Even though I thought I had the whole romantic comedy angle of this one figured out, I still wanted to see it, simply because the subject matter was right up my alley, and I really wanted to see Ricky Gervais perform.

If you don’t know who Ricky Gervais is, you must be an American. He starred as the obnoxious boss in the original British version of the television show The Office after co-creating the project for the BBC. I’d read nothing but rave reviews of that show, along with his other big project, Extras, which I’d heard him speak about during an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. I expected that Ricky Gervais would be a brilliant comedian, and although GHOST TOWN looked rather mainstream, I rented it from Netflix, hoping for an entertaining couple of hours.

I did enjoy the film, especially Ricky Gervais’ performance. He plays Bertram Pincus, an uptight, misanthropic British dentist living in Manhattan. When he dies during a routine surgical procedure and is resuscitated, he wakes up with the baffling ability to see ghosts. The trouble is, these spirits are being held back from making their transition to the Other Side, and since they suddenly have found someone who can see, hear, and talk to them, they want him to take messages to their loved ones so that they can move on. Pincus, however, wants none of it–he doesn’t like his fellow human beings, and their being dead doesn’t endear them to him in any way. So when Frank (Greg Kinnear), a slick, Blackberry-addicted philanderer, promises Pincus that he can get rid of the other ghosts if the dentist will break up the impending marriage of his widow (Tea Leoni), Pincus reluctantly agrees. And although hilarity doesn’t really ensue, there are some truly funny moments along the way.

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Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) tries to hide from all the ghosts in Manhattan.

Ricky Gervais makes an amusing and endearing misanthrope. It’s hard to completely hate him, especially when you learn his backstory and see that he really does have quite a sharp wit. His scenes with Gwen, Frank’s widow, contain clever dialogue and bright acting, even if there isn’t much romantic chemistry between the two of them. And Greg Kinnear makes Frank an entertaining cad who delivers some of the best, most poignant lines in the film. It’s his scenes with Pincus that change the contrary, cynical dentist into a man who finally understands that compassion makes him a better, happier person. From a mediumship standpoint, I found myself shaking my head at the fantasy of it all, but the moments when Pincus finally accepts what he needs to do brought tears to my eyes nonetheless.

All in all, you won’t find any hilarious gags in GHOST TOWN, and you’ll probably see the ending coming a mile away (although one event in the movie certainly did surprise me), but you might turn off the DVD player feeling a little happier and lighter after watching one sardonic Brit realize his human potential.

GHOST TOWN star rating (out of 5 stars): **1/2

*****

So, do you like this idea of metaphysical movie reviews? I’m a film fanatic, so if you have any you’d like to recommend, please let me know! Blessings to all!

Pets and the Afterlife

Pets are an important part of our lives as human beings. They teach us many lessons, the most important, I think, being unconditional love. For me, there’s nothing better than coming home after a lousy day to see my little dachshund, Kip, waiting at the door, bouncing up and down with excitement, wagging his tail, deliriously glad to see me. He’s a joy to have around, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

kip-and-rose

Kip isn’t my first pet. I had many, many, many goldfish as a child, won at church festivals and doomed to the fate of the toilet flush days after they arrived. My brother and I had gerbils, too, and I can remember releasing them to run rampant throughout the house whenever my parents weren’t around. My mother, however, could not be fooled–she’d often find their pellets behind or under the sofa, which did not earn those little guys points in her book, especially when she’d been up half the night, listening to them gnaw away on cardboard toilet paper rolls. Even though I enjoyed these pets, I longed for a dog throughout my childhood. My parents finally relented, and we got Spencer, part Welsh Corgi, part who-knew-what, when I was a senior in high school. He was a good dog, but he couldn’t come to college with me, and he really was more my mom’s pet than mine, although she was loathe to admit it. Still, there was an emptiness in me that I knew was reserved for a dog.

When Keith and I married, we decided after only a month that we wanted to get a dog. We found Eliot at a local pet store, small and alone, surrounded by kittens in the cages above and below him. He was a dachshund-chihuahua mix (with something else thrown in there, too), a little black bundle of joyful energy with one ear that laid close to his head and one that stuck up, like a jaunty, cock-eyed chapeau. We petted him in the store, and I knew instantly that he was the right one. Still, we didn’t take him home that day…and the next, a Monday, I went on my lunch hour and bought him without telling Keith. We’d talked about him all night, and I could think of nothing else. My husband called me at work to ask if we could go back and get him that night. I said, “It’s too late. I already bought him, and I’m bringing him home after work.” We named him after a favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, and we became a perfect little family. 

Eliot was a big part of our lives for many years. When our twin boys came along, he felt displaced, I’m sure, and he often seemed confused by the chaos and the noise the babies introduced into our lives. Even so, he never tried to bite them or did anything aggressive. He did bark a lot, though, which, coupled with a lack of sleep and a loud household, didn’t endear him to me for several years. I even considered finding him a new home, knowing he wasn’t happy with the new arrangements. We never could find the right person to take him, though, and so he stayed, weathering my boys’ early years and gradually, begrudgingly, getting used to them.

Eliot was 13 years old when we had to have him put to sleep. By that time, his eyesight was poor and his hearing even worse, but he still wanted to be a part of the family. He’d started having seizures, and he wasn’t eating much, instead trying to lie down but shaking all of the time. I couldn’t bear to see him suffer, and Keith and I decided the best thing for him was release. We had to do it sooner than we’d hoped, but we knew we made the right decision. It was hard to let him go, and even harder when, that night, I went into the bedroom, saw his little bed, and realized he wasn’t ever coming home again. I cried and cried; my heart truly did feel broken.

I think I missed his companionship most of all. In his later years, Eliot didn’t bark much (he couldn’t hear people coming and going), but he laid contentedly at my feet wherever I was in the house, and I appreciated his presence. He didn’t play anymore, but his personality, his stubbornness, his love of watching the squirrels in the yard, remained intact. When we made our final trip to the vet, even though he shook like a leaf and moved slowly, he tried to carry his leash in his mouth, anticipating a beloved car ride. He was, for lack of a better descriptor, a good dog.

Being without him left a hole in my life. I told my husband that I couldn’t live without another dog. A few weeks later, we went to a breeder a friend recommended and saw a beautiful, tiny dachshund pup along with his sisters and brother. He was the only red one–all of his siblings resembled his mother, a black and tan dog. But as soon as I held him against my chest, next to my heart, I knew it had been stolen away by this little creature with big, sad eyes and even bigger ears. We picked him up a couple of weeks later and brought him home, naming him Kipling after much debate amongst all of us in the household. He, too, is a good dog. He barks like a fool at anything and everything that goes on, and he’s quite sneaky about trying to lie on the couch. But anytime I need solace or warm legs, he’s there, my lovely lap companion. 

Why am I talking about pets today? Two of my good friends have had to face their pets’ end days recently. One of them had to put her beloved kitty to sleep just a couple of days ago. My other friend has a dear Great Dane that is nearing the end, and he fears having to make the decision to let him go. Sad times, and the grief we feel over the loss of a pet, these wonderful friends that stick with us through everything, is consuming and misunderstood by those who don’t have pets in their lives. 

People ask me all the time if pets cross over to the Other Side. Yes, they do, especially the ones that have been loved by someone in the physical world. They are cared for and played with in the afterlife after they make their transitions until we can get there to accompany them again. Pets even come through in readings, usually communicating through feelings and pictures what they need to say to the owners they’ve left behind. They will often visit their human counterparts from the Other Side and check up on them to make sure the house is still safe and that all is harmonious since they’ve crossed. I often see our dog, Eliot, in the evenings, lying near the couch or walking down the hallway. I only see him for a few moments, but it’s enough to reassure me that he’s still around, and he’s waiting for our reunion someday in the spirit world. 

That will be fun, I think. We can introduce him to Kip, and any other companion animals that we’ve had. We can all go for a long romp in the beautiful fields of Summerland. We’ll all be whole and complete again in every way, and the love we’ve had for each other will be amplified through the pervasive positive energy of the Other Side. 

So today, if you’ve got a pet, love him or her. Pet her, brush him, take her for a walk, give him a special treat. They all deserve it. 

Sending love and light to you and yours.

Thoughts After A Funeral

Funerals are strange events. They are about community and family and memory and shared grief, and they always leave me feeling wrung out, exhausted, and pensive. This funeral was no exception.

It was for the father of a close friend from high school. I met T. on the first day of 9th grade, scared and feeling alone in a new school filled with talking, laughing, confident girls wearing navy blue uniform skirts and lugging backpacks crammed with textbooks. We hit it off instantly, and soon we were spending after-school and weekend hours together at her house or mine. She always wanted to come to my house because we had cable television, and MTV had dawned not too long before, back when they still played music videos. I, on the other hand, preferred to go to her place because her parents were so, so cool. Her mom, so young and beautiful, always smiling, and her dad, handsome and perpetually happy, made me feel glad to be alive, especially in the throes of my teenage angst. My parents, so much older and so overbearing (that was, of course, how I saw them then) were everything T.’s parents weren’t. Going to their home was liberating and special. They even took me (and T., of course) to my first rock concert, something I could never expect my parents to do. As an adopted child, I’d always dreamed of what my biological parents had been like. I imagined them being just like S. and J.

T. and I stayed close through high school, and I always considered S. and J. dear to my heart. When we graduated and went to separate colleges, T. and I tried to keep in touch, but phone calls and get-togethers were fewer and farther between. We attended each other’s weddings, though, and I was thrilled to see her and her folks again. Now, with her living in another city, we’ve kept in touch via Facebook and e-mail, and we sat and chatted animatedly at our high school reunion a few years back. Her mom said to us once, “You two will always be friends. You’ll always re-connect, even if you lose touch.” She was certainly right.

When I opened T.’s e-mail the other day, I wasn’t expecting to read the news that J. had passed. He was only 60 years old, and for as long as I could remember, he’d been a runner and a bicycle rider, in excellent physical shape. But apparently his heart betrayed him as he ran on the treadmill, and he passed away just that quick. I couldn’t help thinking of my own mother when I learned how he’d died; my mom had suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly while mowing the lawn. Of course, she was 11 years older when she’d passed, but an unexpected death always leaves you reeling, no matter the age of your loved one. I knew exactly how T. must’ve felt because I’d stood in her very shoes not too long before.

So my husband and I attended the evening visitation, and I went to the funeral service yesterday morning. I didn’t know anyone there except for T., her mother, and their very close family members, but a huge crowd turned out. Three gentlemen, a friend, a co-worker, and a brother, gave lovely eulogies about J., and the montage of photographs set to “You’ve Got a Friend,” among other songs, were highlights of the service. And yes, I cried, the feeling of loss sitting heavy in my chest like a stone gargoyle on a church facade. I hadn’t seen T.’s dad for years, but I cried anyway, remembering J.’s smile, the way he’d make us laugh when we had a sleepover in high school, how proud he’d looked on T.’s wedding day when he danced with her at the reception. The men who spoke from the pulpit all talked about his love of family, his ability to listen, his passion for staying healthy, and his easy-going manner. I remember all of these qualities, too, and I cried for their losses, each of those men that spoke, and for the family that would miss J. most of all.

As I followed the long line of cars in the funeral procession, I thought about all of the things people had said about T.’s dad, and I couldn’t help wondering what people might say about me if I were to die tomorrow. Would folks call me giving, a good listener, a special friend? Would I be remembered as a loving spouse, a gentle and compassionate parent, a supportive ally, a role model, an accomplished professional? What mark am I leaving on the world and on those around me? Is it anything like J.’s indelible one, one that people will always recall with a respectful sigh and a smile? I wonder.

My friend’s dad inspired a lot of people, and I am among them. If half of the good memories and happy times spoken of at that funeral are recalled at mine, I think I’ll have done OK in this mortal existence. 

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Thank you, J., for the gifts you gave to me in your lifetime, and for the lessons you’re still teaching me now that you’ve made your transition. I’ll never forget you, and I hope I can live my life in a way similar to the way you lived yours.

Time Marches On

I can’t believe it’s March.

With deadlines looming and so many distractions occupying my mind, I sometimes don’t remember to look at the calendar to see what the date is. Whenever I write a check, I have to glance at my day planner, because although I usually know that it’s Friday or Sunday, I often have no idea of the actual date. It seemed hard to believe the calendar’s claim that it is March 6. And yet, why would it lie to me?

Here in Cincinnati, the weather is warm and blustery. You can taste Spring in the air, just around the edges, like a hint of lemon in a glass of water. I decided to take advantage of the pleasant temperature and walked around the lake at the local park when I’d finished with my two morning clients. It was wonderful to be outside, even with the overcast sky crisscrossed by naked tree limbs. The rich scent of wet earth filled every deep breath, and I smiled to see the bright splash of green moss on a downed oak. Tiny blades of new grass bent gracefully in the wind as if encouraging their mates to pop out, too. My heart felt lighter than it has in weeks; that 40-minute walk, filled with smiles and nods from other pedestrians, made my day that much better.

But time also marches on in a more somber parade. I came home to find several emails telling me that a friend’s father had suddenly passed away. He was a young man (I suppose once you’re 40, someone 20 years or so older doesn’t seem quite so old anymore), and he will remain so in my memory. Death is never easy to face, even when you believe strongly in an afterlife, as I do. Grief can be a monster; I’ve confronted it before, and it’s especially terrifying because it seems different every time it shows up on your doorstep. Often death, even when it’s not especially close to us, forces us to consider our own feelings about our successes and failures in life. Maybe it’s simply an invitation to engage in some self-evaluation, to reflect on who we are at our simplest essence. Whatever the larger message for those of us on the outer rims of the grief, my heart aches for my friend. I understand the deep loss of a parent, and I pray that she’ll find solace. 

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On another, brighter note: an excerpt from my book METATRON: INVOKING THE ANGEL OF GOD’S PRESENCE, has been put up at Belief.net.  You can find it here: 

http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Angels/2009/02/Metatron.aspx?p=1

That’s pretty exciting, at least to me. 

With that, I’ll leave you to your March contemplations. Enjoy Friday, and the weekend ahead.

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