Archive | Life After Death RSS feed for this section

The Blessed Gift of Liz’s Presence

1 Oct

I have been very blessed during 2012 to have the opportunity to write several articles for Minnesota’s leading Holistic/Metaphysical Magazine called THE EDGE.  Here is my latest piece … The Blessed Gift of Liz’s Presence.

** ** ** ** ** **

Many extraordinary experiences have come my way since my daughter’s sudden and tragic death nine years ago. Very early on, when I needed it most, I was shown unequivocally that Elizabeth was alive in spirit and living a new life filled with joy and happiness. These signs and experiences brought me the peace and validation I so desperately needed in order to go on with life again.

However, there came a point when I no longer needed any validation that Liz was still very much a part of my life and always would be. Gone were the days when I would wake up each morning and ask for a sign that day. It was no longer necessary. Liz didn’t need to prove her continued existence to me — she had done so many times over, and I was confident in that reality.

I also worried that I might somehow hold her back if I continued to need constant affirmation of our connection. It took time, but eventually I was ready to completely let her go. We were both in good places…we were always aware of the strong bond of love that would always unite us. We knew where to find each other if we really needed to. So, one morning as I meditated, I took a deep breath and told Elizabeth that I was setting her free. I no longer wanted her to cling so closely to me. She was free to go and do whatever heavenly tasks awaited her.

Life went on and each day brought new joys. Family has always played a very important role in my life. As the oldest of four children and living only one block from my parents for the past thirty years, life has always been about family — celebrating our triumphs, achievements and milestones and supporting each other in our failures, disappointments and losses.

My father’s 80th birthday was just a few months away and I planned a gathering of our family at a local restaurant. I secretly hoped we’d have a private room, but after a couple of calls, it didn’t look very promising. I was disappointed, but I knew the party would still be special — but I sure was hoping for our own room!

The day of the party dawned and we all headed to the restaurant. As the waitress led us to our table, I was pleasantly surprised when we were directed into this large, beautiful room set with a beautiful table and a roaring fireplace. We had our own space after all! I was overjoyed, and it wasn’t until much later that I really began to wonder just how that had come to be.

My cousin, also named Elizabeth, joined us, and she brought along her camera. In addition to working for a photographer, Beth is also an avid picture taker on her own. She took many candid shots during dinner. As the celebration came to an end, we all gathered around the fireplace for one last group photo.

The next day, I received an urgent email from Beth. “You have to see this picture” she told me. “You are not going to believe it!” I opened the photos and perused them all. They were wonderful and really captured the joy we all had as we helped Dad celebrate his special day.

“There’s just one more you need to see,” Beth wrote. I opened the last photo and there was the group picture we had taken in front of the fireplace, just before we left. I slowly scanned the page and was happy to see that we all looked really good! But my eyes stopped abruptly and my breath caught in my throat — and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Just above my head, next to my husband, was a huge orb. It literally took my breath away as the realization of what it meant hit me. Beth realized it, too.

“Liz was with us, too,” she told me, and I absolutely knew that was true. It was Liz’s sister, Anna, who reminded me that if Liz had been physically with us, she probably would have been standing right where the orb had been.

“Can you believe it, Mom?” Anna excitedly asked me.

“Yes, Anna, I can believe it.”

Even though I had vowed to let Liz go, she still chose to join us for this special time. As I showed the photo to my father, tears filled his eyes.

“This is the best birthday gift I could ever have been given,” he told me, as he hugged me tight.

As I thought about everything that happened that day, so many things came together. My cousin Elizabeth joined us. If she hadn’t been there, no pictures would have been taken. The private room — how had we mysteriously ended up with it? How could this have happened? We each now have a reprint of this picture in our homes, and as I look at that beautiful picture each day, I smile — because I know the answer — it is love.

Copyright © 2012 Kim Wencl. All Rights Reserved.

http://edgemagazine.net/2012/10

Advertisements

The New Me is Someone I Never Expected!

5 Sep

My latest article written for THE EDGE  http://edgemagazine.net/2012/09/the-new-me-is-someone-i-never-expected/

In a few weeks  my 40th high school class reunion will take place.  Those who haven’t seen me in 40 years will be shocked and a bit surprised when they meet “the new me.”

In high school I was extremely shy and a complete introvert.  I felt awkward and didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.  Of course, looking back now, I know that wasn’t true – but at that point in my young life it was definitely my perception.

Very early on I made some decisions that were in my book, non-negotiable.  Public speaking was at the very top of my list.  I can remember giving speeches in high school and my knees would shake and my hands would quiver, and I was so nervous I couldn’t even think straight.

Things have changed dramatically for me through the years.  I am more outgoing now and open to meeting new people and creating new experiences; which is what time and living life bring about.

There is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks … and sometimes I guess that is true.  But what I’ve come to realize is that if the old dog is willing … anything is possible.

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that I would bury my 20-year old daughter.  It was not the right order of things, and it still isn’t.   It was non-negotiable … but it happened and suddenly I had to incorporate it into my life, make peace with it, and work through all of the painful emotions to find joy again and a life worth living.

Once I accepted the reality of my daughter’s death, it was easier for other things that I had once considered non-negotiable to be held up for change.   Because of the strong connection that I still shared with Elizabeth I had an extreme sense of gratitude to God and The Universe at large.  I was no longer a stiff board of do’s and do not’s.  My life became malleable and I was molded into something far greater than I could have ever imagined.  There is a saying that God can dream a dream bigger than you can ever dream for yourself.   I can see this so clearly in my life since that fateful day in September, 2003.

Public speaking has now become something that I do at every opportunity.  And my topic is always the same – the most painful experience of my life – the death of my daughter, my journey through it and coming out the other side and back to embracing and loving life again.

The first time I spoke I had practiced for months and questioned my sanity daily.  How can I possibly speak in front of strangers about the most painful time of my life?  In truth, I didn’t know.  All l knew was that my story was important and sharing it could be the catalyst for others to view their own life situations in a different way.  I also was confident that if I did everything I could to prepare, The Divine would step in to help me.

This certainly was the case.  In fact, when I finished that first talk, I felt the strongest sense of accomplishment I have ever felt … it was a complete sense of euphoria.  Spirit had asked me to step up and I had done so.  Not without some fear and trepidation — but with the knowing that I would receive help whenever I needed it.  The strong presence of my daughter permeates my very being whenever I share our story.  In a sense we have become a team and we work together from both sides of the veil to help others.  For me, there is no greater calling.

What will the next 40 years bring?  I don’t know, but I look forward to whatever adventures Spirit sends my way!  Life is JOYOUS!

Life Lessons

2 May

Please welcome guest blogger, Dave Roberts!

I don’t know if I can point to the one most important lesson that I have learned in my life, thus far. Since my daughter Jeannine died on 3/1/03 at the age of 18 of a rare and aggressive form of cancer, many teachings /lessons have made themselves known to me. All of these lessons/teachings have helped me progress from the raw pain of my early grief to adjusting to a world without the physical presence of my daughter. These teachings have redefined me and in the process allowed me to develop a relationship with Jeannine based on pure, unconditional love. I have also been blessed with a supportive group of family and friends who have supported the expression of my experience as I see fit. They don’t view it as good or bad and neither do I. One of the lessons that I have learned in my journey following Jeannine’s death is that labeling an experience prevents us from appreciating fully the lessons inherent in that experience. Labeling someone’s grief experience as good or bad does not allow us to fully appreciate and learn from the challenges that they have encountered along the way.
I have been an addiction professional for 27 years and have also observed the impact of diagnostic labels on how we view clients/patients that we encounter. If we buy into the stigmas associated with labeling, our resulting biases will never allow us to get a complete picture of how the client sees the world and the inherent strengths that they bring to therapy.

Here are some other lessons that I have learned in the years since Jeannine’s death

Doing what we perceive to be the right thing does not guarantee a life that is pain free: Before Jeannine’s illness and death, I always thought that if I worked hard and did the right thing, that God would protect me and my family from harm. However, as God and my experience as a bereaved parent has taught me there are no guarantees in life. Life isn’t about being fair and unfair; it is about learning to negotiate the many challenges that are presented along the way. If we can successfully negotiate these challenges, we develop resiliency and a renewed sense of purpose. We learn to get stronger at the broken places.

There is a difference between entitlement and gratitude: In the early part of my grief journey, I regularly questioned God as to why He chose me and my family to bear the burden of burying one of our family members at such a young age. After all, we had always done the right thing in our lives; because of that we were entitled not to bear this burden of grief. I soon discovered that there were many more parents whose children predeceased them. Connecting with them helped me learn gratitude for having them in my life and gratitude for the present moment.
There is spirit in everything and in everything there is spirit: Many parents that I know have been graced with signs from their children (as have I). Let the signs that you experience not only validate that our children are with us in a different from of energy, but allow you to see yourself as a truly spiritual being. If we can commit to this way of life, it allows us to see life and death differently. We can change our perspective on life and death, if we choose to do so.

All of these lessons have changed how I view the world. I am not the person I was before Jeannine’s death and frankly I don’t know if I could identify with that person. I have become a more loving, spiritual and centered individual as a result of the struggle with Jeannine’s death. Does it mean that I miss her physical presence any less or that I have achieved closure (a process that doesn’t apply to our journeys after the death of our children)? Absolutely not! My journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child will be life long. I know that I can revisit the emotional pain of Jeannine’s death at anytime. Today, I don’t have the same dread about re-experiencing it. I am, however, more conscious of it and try to discover what my pain is trying to teach me. We can learn from everything, if we are open to it.

David J. Roberts, LMSW, CASAC, became a bereaved parent after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He has been employed in the addictions field for 27 years and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York. Mr. Roberts also developed a topics course on Parental Bereavement issues, and teaches a Death, Dying and Bereavement course for Utica College. He is a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc, in New Hartford, New York and a member of the All Inclusive Care for Children Coalition.

Be sure to check out Dave’s website: http://bootsyandangel.blogspot.com/

A Wonderful Birthday Celebration

7 Feb

Elizabeth Helps Grandpa Celebrate His 80th Birthday!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 80th birthday.  I had so much fun planning a little party with our family on Sunday.  As time went on new ideas  to honor him popped up.  I put flowers on the altar at church  in his honor.  We put his picture in our local paper, and he even made the 10 pm news last Friday night!

We had a wonderful time on Sunday celebrating and honoring Dad.  Yesterday we all received a gift that we will all honor and cherish forever.  My cousins, Dawn and Beth (Elizabeth) and their husbands, joined us in the celebration.  Beth works for a photographer and loves to take photos.  All throughout the afternoon she was taking them.

Yesterday I received a note from her about one of the family pics.  There was a huge white spot right above my head and close to my husband Roger and my daughter Anna.  When Beth first noticed it she was alarmed that something had gone wrong with her camera and perhaps all the photos would be ruined.

Not the case – the white spot, otherwise known as an “orb” was only on one picture.

Excitedly I printed the photo out and called my Dad over.  He came into my kitchen, and I told him I had one final birthday gift for him but he’d better sit down first.  I explained what an orb was and the significance of it, and then laid the photo down in front of him.  He studied the photo from one side to the other and suddenly the realization hit him.  His precious first-born granddaughter, Elizabeth, had made her presence known on a very special day in his life.

We both shed tears of joy, and now we really do have a photo of the entire family!

The power of love cannot be broken — not even by death!

Life Conversations Radio

2 Dec

A few days ago I had the honor of sharing my story on Life Conversations Radio.  Click on the link below and check it out!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/life-conversations/2011/11/29/ask-life-coach-ade

Open to Hope Radio

24 Oct

 
      I will be a guest on Open to Hope Radio with Dr. Heidi Horsley and

      Dr. Gloria Horsley on Thursday, November 10th at 11:00 am CST!  

 

Eight

9 Sep

The number eight has been rolling around in my brain for the past few days.  I assumed it was because we will soon be marking the eighth anniversary of my daughter’s death.

However, it dawned on me yesterday that there was more to it than that.  I realized that September 12th would have been her 28th birthday and eight days after her birthday is the 20th – the day she died – eight years ago.

As all of those realities sank in, I began to see the number eight in my mind’s eye.  And I began to pay attention.

Notice that once you put your pen on paper you can make an eight in one fluid motion and you have two circles that intersect one on top of the other.  This is a metaphor for the relationship that Liz and I continue to share.

Our lives will always intersect.  She will always play a part in my life and I will always play a part in hers.  Each circle represents one of us.  The top circle represents Liz because she is now on a higher plain than I am.  Her energy vibrates at a much higher level than mine does.  She has moved on to a higher plain of existence or heaven, so she is the top circle – I continue my work here on earth so I represent the bottom circle – we are in different worlds – but yet still solidly connected.

Look again at the eight — it is like a path that can be followed.  You may start out at the top and work your way down (to earth) and then continue to go back up — Liz did that.  Or you can start at the top and continue down and follow the same road as long as you need to and then you switch lanes and move up — but whatever your path you always remain connected.

Whenever September rolls around I try to make sense of things — but most of the time there is no sense to be made — it just is.  Choices were made and consequences followed — for both of us.  But what gives me comfort and solace today is the gentle nudge that I believe Liz is giving me to remember that just like the number eight our lives will always be intersecting with each other.  And one day, when my job here is complete I will move to that top circle and we will truly be together – two balls of love-filled energy.

That knowing makes me smile and it is what will make the days of September just a little bit easier to bear.

Thank you Liz — once again — you never cease to amaze me!

Love,

Mom

PS – I just realized – today is the 9th – I should have paid more attention and made this post yesterday! Oh well.

 

Wake Me Up When September Ends?

12 Aug

In a few short days,  the month of September will be upon us.  As I type these words, I can physically feel my stomach flip-flopping and a knot beginning to form.  What’s wrong with September you ask?  Technically … nothing  … I do enjoy the last days of summer and the soon-to-be fall weather.

But my oldest daughter’s birthday and the day she died are both in the month of September.  September brings up so many memories … both the good and the painful.

On September 12th my Elizabeth would be 28 years old.  What would she be doing with her life, I so often wonder.  Where would she be living, what career would she have chosen?  Would she be married?  Would she have any children?  Would she have dealt with the demons that plagued her in the last years of her life?  These are all questions that will forever remain unanswered.

On September 20th we will mark the eighth anniversary of her death as well as the deaths of Amanda and Brian, two of her six roommates.  Three young lives gone in an instant as the result of a fire in their old wooden duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where they were all just beginning their adult lives.  So much promise … so many dreams and hopes gone in an instant.

So, what do I do?  I could continue to focus on what is no longer possible … and, trust me, I do that on occasion.  I think it’s necessary and I owe it to Liz.  To sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened not only is a disservice to my daughter, but it is also a disservice to me.  Revisiting the pain is necessary and part of my grieving process.  The key, however, is only to visit, not remain stuck in it.

What is also necessary is to focus on the twenty years I had with my daughter.  The times she made me laugh, made me smile, made me so mad I could hardly see straight — the good times as well as the bad.  I remember that Elizabeth’s life was so much more than the way that she died.  In the end, all I can do is smile because when it is all said and done the only thing that really matters is how much we love each other.  Love wins out over pain and heartache in the end.

There is a song by Green Day called, Wake Me Up When September Ends.  My husband has commented that he would like nothing better than to go to sleep on August 31st and wake up on October 1st.  And, even though I breathe a big sigh of relief when the calendar turns to October, I would never wish not to have September.

So in a few days I will focus on remembering.  I will honor her each and every day  – in some small ways and maybe even some big ways.  I will celebrate her and love her for what she is and will always be, my beloved first-born daughter.  Death can never change that – nor can it erase the love that we will always share.

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Hospice Effect

24 May

        I had been thinking about becoming a hospice volunteer for a while. It would come to me as a passing thought every now and then that I would consider for a bit and then put aside. Little did I know just how soon and how clearly my indecision would be reconciled.

Our local hospice house is on the outskirts of town on what used to be a farm place. There is a windmill and a few trees but farm fields mostly surround the house.   And, it looks like a home – not a place of death. I had tour a shortly before it opened, but had no other contact with it, other than to read the obituaries of many a local who had spent their last days and hours there.

I had become familiar with death in the most painful of ways. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, died in 2003 from smoke inhalation from to a fire in her duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where she had just begun her sophomore year. It truly was  a “baptism by fire” and an experience I wouldn’t wish on the fiercest of enemies.

Almost eight years have passed since that fateful day, and I have come to accept that the physical presence of my beautiful daughter is gone forever. Her spirit, however, continues to burn bold and bright in my life, giving me the needed comfort and peace I so desperately sought in those early days, weeks and months.

My 82-year-old mother-in-law, Betty, had several health problems, but she managed them completely on her own, and she lived in a beautiful apartment just a few blocks from our home. She didn’t leave home much, but she was fiercely independent and had a love for family that could not be rivaled.

On April 2nd, Betty was busy in her kitchen when she made a sudden turn, lost her balance, and fell to the floor. Luckily, she had a lifeline around her neck. She pushed it and it wasn’t long before the authorities were there to help get her to the hospital.

Our local hospital determined that her hip had been badly broken, and it would be best to transfer her to Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic, just a short 30-miles away.

It was so nice to know that she was receiving the best care the medical world could offer. She underwent surgery to repair her shattered hip. She came through with flying colors and we all breathed a sigh of relief and began to focus on what we thought would come next – a rehabilitation center to get her back on her feet again and a return to her home.

It became a rocky road however. Betty’s ongoing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as congestive heart failure (CHF), was wrecking havoc with her hip rehabilitation. She would be well enough to move to the rehab center, only after a few days to suffer intense breathing issues and end up back in the hospital. This cycle went on for an entire month.

Finally, as her family, we had to accept that, despite the fact that her hip was healing nicely, her breathing issues were not. In fact, they were chronic, and they would not improve, we were told. In fact, they would only get worse.

Betty was completely exhausted and we could all see that she couldn’t fight much longer.

Our thought pattern completely changed, and we knew that the best thing for Betty was a move to hospice to be pain free and comfortable. At that point, all we wanted was rest and peace for Betty, the matriarch of our family — a woman who was widowed at the young age of 50 after the sudden, unexpected death of my father-in-law Richard in 1979 from a heart attack.

I wasn’t that close to my mother-in-law, even though I had been a part of her family for over 30 years. Yet, that day, something compelled me to focus solely on her and I found myself continually standing at her right shoulder, patting her head, bringing cool cloths to keep her comfortable, and feeding her an occasional bite of ice cream.

The atmosphere at the hospice house was home-like and welcoming. The nurses and staff were there not only for Betty’s needs, but for ours as well. Even though we would only be with them for a short 12 hours, they very quickly felt like family.

I remember toying with the thought that, at some point, I would whisper in Betty’s ear to please give Liz a hug for me when she saw her.

With Betty resting comfortably and at the urging of the nurses, everyone except one daughter went home for the night. You need your sleep the nurses told us, and we agreed — but not until we decided that one of us would stay with Betty at all times.

Just a few short hours after returning home, our phone rang with the news that Betty was gone, she had slipped away during the early morning hours with her daughter asleep by her side.

After taking a few deep breaths and letting the news sink in, I realized that I no longer had the opportunity to ask Betty to hug Liz. As soon as I had that thought, however, I was immediately immersed with an intense sense of love and peace and the knowing that my mother-in-law was now with my daughter and she was indeed giving her that hug that I had only thought about.

A few seconds later that thought was gone. But, it was immediately replaced with a complete and utter sense of gratitude that I knew was my mother-in-law’s way of thanking me for helping her in her final hours..

My brother-in-law related a few days later, that although he had been on vacation in Georgia when he got the news, his intense sadness was quickly replaced by an extreme sense of peace – a peace given to him by his mother that there was no need to be sad. She was in a better place, she was no longer suffering, and she was reuniting with those she loved.

It’s been a few weeks now and these experiences have had the chance to sink in. My answer about becoming a hospice volunteer has clearly been answered, and I have begun the process to make that happen. Some day soon, I hope to provide the same peace and love that we received to other families who will move their loved one to hospice just as we did.

I consider it a gift — a gift given to me by God and by Betty.

I have been blessed, and now, I can be a blessing to others.

God At Work

31 Mar

A couple of weeks ago we had a speaker at our Compassionate Friends meeting.  Mitch Carmody lost his son Kelly to cancer in 1987 and he’s written a book entitiled, Letters to My Son.  I had read it several years ago and have wanted to meet Mitch for a very long time.  I contacted him last Fall and we set in motion his coming to town to speak to our group on March 14th.   Our local paper did a really nice front-page interview with Mitch that ran the day before our meeting.

We had a great turn out and the article brought out many more than our CF membership.  We had one couple attend who had not lost a child, but were about to.  The Harlicker’s have a 7 year old son, Tyler, in the final stages of a cancer battle.  When they read the article in the paper about Mitch, and the fact that he also lost a son from cancer, about the same age as Tyler, they felt compelled to attend as they said they felt it was a sign from God.
 
Everyone in town knows about Tyler and his cancer battle.  We have been praying for him for over a year in church every week.  Roger and I met Tim & Sue for the first time that night and they are amazing — very strong and we both were very touched at the openness with which they have dealt with this painful journey in ther family.  They have also talked very openly with Tyler and his brothers and sisters about his impending journey to heaven.
 
When Mitch Carmody’s son Kelly was in the midst of his cancer battle, he clutched a rosary and it brought tremendous comfort to him and his family.  Several years after Kelly passed Mitch came upon the rosary and began to lend it out to other people who were also fighting cancer or some other life crisis.  Some  were healed and sometimes the rosary became a very comforting symbol that helped them through the journey.
 
The rosary had been out on loan for the past three years.  However the week after Mitch spoke and met the Harlicker’s, the rosary was returned to him.  And, he immediately knew that it needed to go to Tyler.  The next day the Harlicker’s took a road trip with Tyler to meet Mich and his wife Barb and accept the rosary.  Tyler was able to see pictures of Kelly – who he knew would be his new friend in heaven.
 
Tyler completed his journey this past Tuesday and the rosary served the purpose for which it was intended.  Here is the heartbreaking but amazing account written by Tyler’s Dad, of Tyler’s transition from this world to the next.
 
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tylerharlicker/journal