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My Days In D.C.

22 Sep

I’m back from spending five wonderful days in our nation’s capital. I had never been there before and was able to see many things I have only dreamt about for many years.

The purpose of my trip was two-fold. The main purpose was to partner with Campus Firewatch and promote fire safety issues on college campuses across the country.

On Thursday we kicked off the day with a press conference which included speeches by Congressmen, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Joe Wilson of North Carolina.

The highlight was the speech given by Edye Smith, a parent like me, who lost her son in an off-campus house fire.

The second part of the day consisted of breaking up into groups of fire personnel, current college students, and parents.

My group visited staffers of Cong. Keith Ellison, Sen. Al Franken, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, all of whom represent my state of Minnesota.

We were able to convey the urgency of continued education on fire prevention, along with the need to offer incentives for landlords to improve their rental units by adding sprinklers.

There are currently two pieces of legislation that address both of these issues.

It was such a personal day for me. To be able to share the life of my daughter and share her picture with people who never knew her, six years after her death, just boggles my mind and brings me such happiness and peace.

My intention is to spend the rest of my life honoring her and to have the opportunity to work to improve the lives of today’s students is very comforting and rewarding.

And, it was also a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the workings of our government. The fact that most people never have this kind of opportunity was always on my mind throughout the day.

On the second leg of my trip was spent with my daughter Anna and her best friend Stephanie. Roger and I consider Stephanie to be our unoffical third daughter.

We crammed alot of sight seeing into two full days. The weather was absolutely beautiful and we had a grand time. Here is a list of what we accomplished:

toured the Capitol, including the Rotunda

toured the Supreme Court (saw Judge Sotomayor’s new chair).

visited the Smithsonian to see a Lincoln exhibit, dresses of the First Ladies, and Julia Child’s kitchen.

We visited the White House and saw the First Dog, Bo Obama, out on his afternoon walk! (I was really hoping to see Barack or Michelle, but hey I’m happy we did get to see one member of the Obama family!)

We went to the top of the Washington monument where you can see the entire District as well as Virginia and Maryland.

We ate at a favorite hang out of the Obamas, Good Stuff Eatery, and enjoyed the best hamburger and fries I have ever had … and the beer was great too!

We spent most of Sunday the 20th at Arlington National Cemetery; we visited the graves of JFK, Robert and Ted Kennedy.

We also had amazing seats to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I thought about Liz alot that day because it was the 6th anniversary of her death. It seemed fitting that we should spend the day at Arlington.

As we sat in the trolley waiting to start our tour we noticed that the gentleman sitting right next to me had a large butterfly tattoo on his forearm. We all smiled because we knew it was a sign that Liz was with us in spirit.

We returned home Sunday night, very tired, but very very happy.

To view pictures of the trip click on the links below.

My Day On The Hill – 9/17/09

Sightseeing Marathon – 9/18 – 9/20

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Today

12 Sep

As I write this it is 8:40 am, I’ve been up for almost three hours … I so enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of early morning both inside my home and outside on my patio.

But why am I feeling so completely exhausted and heavy? After all, I’m getting plenty of sleep these days.

Of course I know the reason – today is Liz’s birthday. 26 years ago my beautiful girl came into the world. And it wasn’t an easy entry. She was born on a Monday at 6:00 pm. I had been in labor for most of the weekend. We finally went to the hospital late Sunday night. And, although my contractions continued to get stronger and stronger and closer and closer together, I was making little progress. It was the most physically painful day of my life.

Finally the decsion was made to do a C-section, and my girl was born. She had a huge head of wild black hair and the biggest blue eyes ever.

She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. And at only a few hours old, her very strong personality was already coming through.

My parents came to see their first grandchild. As they looked through the window of the nursery, Liz lifted up her head and looked right at them, as if to say, “Here I am.”

She made our life “interesting” for the next 20 years. And “interesting” is not always a good thing … but most of the time it was.

We will mark her departure from this earth in eight days.

But all in all, even though I’m sad for what could have been, I’m also very happy for what still is.

And that is that Liz is still very much a part of my life. I know she is still very much a cheerleader – leading me, pushing me on to do things I never would have considered had she not left as she did.

The glass is more than half full – it is overflowing – and for that I will be enternally grateful.

With Gratitude

19 Aug

For most of these past six years, I have known that the experiences I have had were not just for me. They were meant to be shared.

Today I took another step in making that a reality.

My story of “The French Lesson” was published in the Sept/Oct issue of Angels on Earth magazine.

Liz’s picture and story will be read by countless people now and I am so incredibly grateful to God for making it happen.

Opportunities & Choices

11 Aug

We each have opportunities and choices given to us each and every day. We have the ability and free will to ignore them or to use them.

The sixth anniversary of Liz’s death will be here in about six weeks. My intention is always to find a way to honor her in some way as each anniversary comes and goes.

I never know how I will honor her. However, I haven’t had to think too hard because many wonderful opportunites just seem to present themselves about this time each year.

Last year I was able to send some words of advice via email to the parents of current U of M students moving into off-campus housing. That gelled into more opportunities to create a flyer to hand out at a picnic for U of M students on 9-20-03 at Van Cleve park, just across the street from Liz’s house. I also was given the opportunity to do a TV segment to mark the fifth anniversary of the fire and note the progress made in making off-campus housing safer for today’s students.

This year, once again, the opportunites are beginning to present themselves to me.

Liz was an avid cheerleader in high school. I learned last week that for the second year in a row, the alumni cheer team will perform at our county fair in memory of Liz.

In September, a story I wrote about Liz will be published in Angels on Earth magazine.

Today I was contacted by a local TV station and asked to do another news piece on fire safety. The story will air during the first week of classes at the U of M.

There are no words to express my gratitude for these opportunities to make a difference AND to remember my girl.

I’d like to think, and I am confident, that Liz is playing an integral part in pulling it all together and making it happen.

We are a team and together we make a difference. And that, makes life worth living.

Signs

30 Jun

I’ve been asked a lot lately if I still get signs from Liz.

I’m happy to report that I do. But it’s not like you might think.

I have no control over when a sign will come. Early on, I was obsessed and would wake up each day wondering if something would happen.

That’s very normal for new grief – and I’m certain that Liz needed to send me signs just as much as I wanted and needed to receive them.

And I have to state the obvious here — I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why I have received so much when others in similar situations feel they have received no communication from their loved ones.

Alot depends on the loved one on the other side. Alot depends on the openness of the people left here on earth to look beyond what they can see and touch.

The signs she sent in those first days, weeks, and months were not always for me. In looking back, that was a very good thing. It brought validity to them. If I had been the only one to receive signs I and others probably would have questioned my sanity.

But she reached out to her friends and her family and spread it around. Those she chose really “got it” and most importantly were not afraid to share their experience. That is huge.

I went through a stage where I tried to get her to do something on a particular day and time. It didn’t work and was particularly frustrating and just plain made me mad.

But it made me realize and finally accept the fact that I can’t control this. It is completely out of my control. Once I had that realization, I was able to come to the conclusion that I had to be thankful for the experiences I had already received. And, eventually I was able to accept the fact that even if I never got another thing from her, it would be ok.

I knew without any doubt whatsoever that Liz lives on. Not only does she live on, she’s extremely happy and she is doing important work. I no longer feel any need to worry about her. As a parent that is HUGE!

So, getting back to signs. No, I never know when one will come. But they pop up every now and then – usually when I least expect them. And, they are a wonderful surprise.

I was told early on to “expect the unexpected” where Liz is concerned. That certainly was true when she was physically here … and it still rings true today.

We have a bond that is unbreakable. I feel now, after almost six years without her physical presence, that we are closer than ever.

We are a team – stronger than we ever would have been together on earth. She knows what I do not. God is the playwright and we the actors – and by sharing our experiences with others, it promotes hope, promise and healing.

We’ve all heard the statement that “everything happens for a reason.”

From my perspective that is essentially true. Although things happen that we don’t like and that are completely and totally unfair … but that is life.

What we do with those losses are what counts. And it is always our choice.

We can be sad, angry, resentful and unhappy for a time or for the rest of our earthly lives if we choose to.

We can also learn from our pain, use it for good and reach out to help others.

We can choose to live our lives in love or in fear.

Make good choices — choose love!

Dr. Louis LaGrand

30 Mar

Dr. Louis LaGrand is a world-renowned grief educator and author of eight books as well as numerous articles on the phenomenon of “extraordinary experiences of the bereaved” also known as after death communication.

I first learned of Dr. LaGrand’s work when he was a guest on Carolyn Carlson’s radio program, Life After Loss.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity to share  many of my own personal extraordinary grief experiences with Dr. LaGrand, and it has been a real blessing.

Dr. LaGrand also publishes monthly ezine articles that deal with the various aspects of grief, mourning, death, and dying – but most importantly he focuses on how to heal and live life in joy.

The topic of this month’s ezine was “What To Do If You Uncover A Secret About Your Deceased Loved One.”

Reading this article reminded me of an anonymous letter we received shortly after Liz’s death.

Dear Family of Elizabeth Wencl,

I know you must be feeling incredible amounts of grief right now, and I am so sorry about your loss.  But I never got a chance to sincerely thank Liz, so I want to thank the people who brought her into this world.

When I was in high school, Liz was a senior.  Liz didn’t know me, but I guess she knew my older sister a little.  I had a crush on one of Liz’s friends.  One night at a party he decided to take advantage of that.    I was very scared and very sad, and I was crying hysterically.

I knew nobody because they were all two years older, and the guy was too busy making fun of me to care.  Your daughter saved me.  Liz asked me if I was ok.  She sat and held me and talked to me and told me that it would be ok.   The next morning she took me out to breakfast and gave me her phone number and told me if I needed anything I could call her.

To some people this may not seem like a big deal, but it was to me.  Your daughter, without knowing me, took me in under her wing.

Liz was an amazing girl.  Maybe someone in heaven needed her, like I needed her that night.  But like I said, I never got a chance to truly thank her, so I want to thank you for bringing her into this world and for bringing her up to be such a wonderful and caring girl.

The world will truly miss her.

To this day I have no idea who this girl is.  And although I am so sorry she had such a traumatic experience, I am so thankful that she was brave enough to send us such a wonderful letter.

Everyone who knew Liz, knew she loved to party … way too much.  But the fact that she was able to help someone else as she did, says alot about her true character.   As her family we are so blessed to have had her in our lives.

To learn more about Dr. LaGrand, his work and his books check out:

http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com

Make Your Day Great!

A Wise Teacher

1 Mar

In the realm of metaphysical thinking, everything is happening just as it should.  We often times can’t fathom that because we tend to see the world from a narrow perspective (or at least I do).

But I really believe this is true … everything happens for a reason … we just don’t always know what that reason is because we aren’t privy to the bigger picture.  But trusting that all is right with the world at all times brings a strong sense of peace and calm to life.

God does provide us with everything that we need.  He brings people and experiences to us on occasion and if we allow them in, amazing things happen.   A very wise and wonderful woman came into my life at just the right time.  Her name is Kathryn Harwig, and she has helped me more than anyone on the planet to widen my view of this world, to “see” the world in a new way, and to know that all is right with the world and with me.

If you would like to get to know her a little better, click on the link below and watch the 8 different You Tube videos.  It will give you a sneak peak into this wonderful world and will perhaps help to remove the side shields from your view of the world and take in something new and different.

http://www.thegigstunk.com/Listen_and_Watch.html/

I Hugged Liz Last Night

22 Feb

I seldom dream it seems … if I do the memories are fleeting.

But last night I remembered.  It truly was a dream and not a visitation.  It was fragmented, it didn’t make alot of sense, but Liz was there.  All I remember is thinking I need to go back and check on our house to see if anyone was there.  There were dirty dishes sitting on every table as well as dirty clothes.  But then there she was.  As I push myself to try to remember all of the details I recall her hair as seeming short and very curly, but still sandy blonde.  She was wearing a pair of jean shorts and a summer top … it was a blue plaid.  She was not wearing glasses as she always has in past dreams or visits.

As soon as I saw her I ran up and hugged her and told her how much I loved her and how much I missed her — which is what I would choose to tell her … or I do choose to tell her … always.  It is always what is most important. 

My dream didn’t end abruptly as they usually seem to do – in fact I don’t remember much of anything else after that … but none of that matters to me.  What matters is that I got to hug my daughter last night and tell her how much I love her and miss her. 

It doesn’t get any better than that!

Make your day great!

Hello From Florida

15 Feb

We have officially been in Florida for 24 hours and we are having a wonderful time.  I guess I have to admit that I must have a strong affinity (as opposed to an addiction) for always having access to a computer … and the internet!  For only $15 we can have internet access for the entire week … that was just too good not to take advantage of.View of the Sunset

Whenever we go on vacation I always wonder whether Liz will check in.  If she doesn’t … it’s really fine … but she almost always does. This trip was no exception … remember it’s only been one day!   Roger and I decided to eat supper at this cute restaurant right on the beach.  It was cheap, the food was good, and the atmosphere was festive … even if we were the youngest people there.

At this outdoor restaurant you go up to a window and place your order.  When it’s  ready the waiter comes out, yells your name, and brings the food to your table.  As we were placing our order at the window a waiter came out and yelled LIZ … LIZ ….LIZ … LIZ …. he continued to yell out LIZ as we went to our table.  Where the heck was this Liz?  We sat down and the waiter was still yelling LIZ!  Suddenly at the table directly behind us …. a woman sheepishly yelled out here I am!

By this time I knew what was going on and I was laughing out loud!  I looked at Roger and said, “You get this right?”  He looked at me and said, yah, some lady named Liz just got her food.  No, no, no, well yes technically that is what happened …. but don’t you get it?  That is your daughter making her presence known.  He looked at me, smiled, and nodded in agreement.

It’s Amazing

9 Jan

I use the word amazing alot in my life … but so many things are amazing and wonderful.  This blog link is no exception.

I’ve come to know Phil Bolsta a little over the past few months, even though we have yet to meet in person.  He is a fellow traveler on the spiritual path we each find ourselves on.

He’s written a very wonderful book entitled, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.  http://sixtysecondsbook.com

 It is a collection of 45 different life changing stories from a variety of prominent people.

There was an event last October … six of the storytellers are featured in the link below.  I believe you will find them as fascinating, interesting, amazing and just plain joyful as I have!

http://bolstablog.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/sixty-seconds-night-at-the-continuum-center/#more-2729