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Bright Spots in the Midst of Pain

16 Aug

Liz & her Wencl cousins

Sometimes you go about the business of daily life and you put yourself out there and you never really know if your words or the sharing of your experiences are helpful to anyone other than yourself.  Sometimes you even begin to question whether or not you should continue to do so.

But then, something happens and you know that there is no doubt … you are making a difference.

That happened to me yesterday. 

This identical post was published on the OWNING PINK website(http://www.owningpink.com ) on Friday.  I really had no intention of re-posting it here.  But, after receiving a remarkable piece of feedback that literatlly took my breath away, I changed my mind.

        Every now and then I will share some of my life experiences when a bright spot has emerged and helped me through a very difficult time — because no matter what our situation may be, there is always a sliver of gratitude that can be found. I will admit that sometimes we have to dig really deep to find it, but it will always be there when we need it most.  And, sometimes, if we don’t find it, it finds us.

Unbelieveable Circumstances

I was numb as I sat in the chair between my husband and my father. I could hear the funeral director talking…I could see his lips moving, but nothing was registering in my mind. Even breathing was difficult. In the past twenty-four hours, life as we knew it had ceased to exist.  Our oldest daughter, twenty-year-old Elizabeth, had died of smoke inhalation from a fire in her duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota, where she had just begun her sophomore year. Two of her roommates also died with her.

How can this be? Liz is gone? It just can’t be true. How can I go on without my precious first-born daughter? I had so many emotions running through my mind and I couldn’t deal with any of them. I was too shocked even to cry.

Question after question had to be answered. What is her birth date? Where was she born? What year did she graduate from high school? I answered each question without any thought, more like a robot than a mother. It was instinctual – it was rote – it felt void of emotion.

Part of me — no, all of me, wanted to scream and run out of the room, go home and find my beautiful, precious Elizabeth, safe in her room. She would look at me with that coy smile of hers and say, “Oh Mom, you just worry way too much! Nothing is going to happen to me! I’m just fine!”

Why couldn’t this be a horrible nightmare, or some cruel joke? Please God, please. No, this was real, and I had to sit and question-by-question try to acknowledge what I just couldn’t believe was my new reality.

Intense Sorrow and Pain

When the funeral director left the room for a few minutes, the silence was overwhelming. We each sat like statues, staring into space blankly. Conversation was impossible. The silence in the room was deafening. Each of us was trying so hard to keep it together, but it was an impossible task. My husband put his head in his hands and sobbed. Then he got up and said, “I’ve got to get some air.” We barely acknowledged him, as my Dad and I continued to sit in stunned silence with tears streaming down our faces.

The funeral director returned and gently told us that we would need to bring in clothing for Liz to be buried in. There was no hurry he said, but in the next day or two. As his words began to slowly sink in, I mentally scanned Liz’s closet – and it was empty. There was nothing left – she had taken everything with her when she moved into that duplex just three weeks ago.

An Unexpected Shopping Trip

The harsh reality was that I would have to go out and buy Liz an outfit to be buried in – one last, final new outfit. She always loved to shop and she loved new clothes, so it seemed fitting that a new outfit was needed for this occasion as well. But how could I shop without her? We never agreed on clothing, and now in this difficult, painful state of mind I had to pick out her final new outfit?!

My sister drove me to the mall – I knew I would go to a store where Liz used to work, as she had always liked the clothes there. As I pulled open the door and stepped inside I whispered, “Liz, you have got to help me here! I have absolutely no idea what to pick.”

I slowly walked around and began to peruse the racks. It didn’t take very long before I found a pair of khaki pants and a light blue sweater. I showed my sister and said, “I don’t know if this is what Liz would want, but even if I don’t get this right, does it really matter?”

A day after the funeral my sister-in-law came to visit. We sat in my kitchen drinking coffee and talking. The grim reality that Elizabeth was gone had begun to sink in.

A Precious Surprise

“I was going through pictures last night,” Karen told me, “and I found one of Liz taken last Christmas. I thought you might want to see it.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a picture, and laid it on the table in front of me.

There she was – my Elizabeth, smiling and happy sitting with her cousins. But… suddenly my breath caught in my throat and I couldn’t speak — Liz was wearing …  a pair of khaki pants and a light blue sweater!

your beautiful daughter

By Scott Sheperd  on Sunday, 08/15/2010 at 1:52 PM

Harsh reality, stunned, finality, sinking in, overwhelming and many more words that transcend discussion. I have worked for years with people who have lost loved ones, many times suddenly and unexpectedly. My oldest daughter lost a baby six months into her pregnancy totally unexpectedly. I sat here and read this and had all those words and feelings hit me as if your daughter was my daughter. I felt I in some way knew her. In these situations I always picture the survivors as almost like trapped animals. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to turn. Everywhere you look the truth is crushing. To not panic and go crazy just in and of itself is a major feat. You have shared and taught and inspired with this article. Most of all, I think, you have let us be moved by the beauty of your daughter. Your strength and that of your family is incredible but rising above all that is this beauty of your daughter. Her presence and spirit are tied into those khaki pants and blue sweater. Her smile in that picture shows a life raised in love and a life that loved and still gives that love. Words fail me Kim. I’m glad I got to know you and your family a little bit and most of all I feel honored to have met your daughter. Thank you for sharing her. In my own way I will pass her on to a lot of people.  

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Owning Pink

12 Jul

I now “own pink” and you can too!  You don’t have to like pink or even wear pink – you can just “own pink.”

What does it mean to “own pink?”

You own pink when you are who you are, warts and all.  A blog called Owning Pink was started alittle over a year ago by Dr. Lissa Rankin.

Over the course of the past year, women and a few men, have found her blog (including me) and we became part of “the pink posse.”  We share our thoughts, our beliefs, our difficulties and our triumphs.   And it is all done in a very warm, nuturing and loving environment.

It was an amazing and wonderful opportunity to share my life’s stories with this great group of people.

A month ago, Lissa took the next big step by making Owning Pink a website.

She asked some of us to be regular contributors.  I was thrilled and honored to be asked to write for Owning Pink!

I will still be maintaining my blog, Love Lives On, as well as writing for Owning Pink.

Come on over and check us out.  I guarantee there is something for everyone!

http://www.owningpink.com/

If you would like to read my blog posts on Owning Pink, go here:

http://www.owningpink.com/blogs/owning-pink-bloggers

Gratitude

25 May

The Universe has been nudging me to write a post about gratitude.  Last week I watched Laura Ling tell of her time spent in a North Korean prison when she and fellow reporter Euna Lee accidently crossed into North Korea while working on a story.  They were thrown into prison, put on trial, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

To make matters even worse, the  United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and at the time of their arrest, North Korea was shooting off rockets and the underlying threat of a nuclear war was lurking.

Laura was in a precarious predicament, with not much hope for the future or release and a return to her family and the life she knew.

She was asked how she got through it.  What she said amazed me and has really resonated with my soul.

She said she was able to endure because she focused on gratitude.  Many of us go through our lives unhappy and complaining about what are really inconsequential and trivial parts of our lives.  The question is — when the chips are really down, can you still find your gratitude?

Gratitude is easy when we are happy, our family is doing well,  jobs are secure and meaningful, health is abundant, finances are stable — then it is very easy to be  grateful … most of the time we take it all for granted and assume that this is how life is suppose to be.

For many people in this world they do not have even a fraction of what we take for granted … and they are  grateful … gratitude can be found in the midst of deplorable, desperate conditions, death and destruction, famine and disease.  Just as God is always present no matter what – we can always find gratitude no matter what – we just have to be intentional and seek.  Once we seek, we will find. 

Once we start, it will become contagious and we will be able to find more and more in our lives to be grateful for

Laura Ling said it was easy to find the gratitude as she sat in her solitary, cold, damp, dark cell.  That in itself is a blessing to be grateful for.

She was grateful for the three meals she was given each day.  The meals were small, but they sustained her and she knew that there were many  in North Korea who were starving.

She was grateful to see a butterfly occasionally flit by her window.  It gave her hope, even though she could not smell the fresh air or feel the sunshine, she saw a butterfly go by and she was grateful.

This morning I received an email containing a you tube video of Nick Vujicic.  Nick is 26 and was born without arms or legs.  Nick is filled with gratitude.  Here is a link to the you tube video and to Nick’s website, Life Without Limbs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc4HGQHgeFE&feature=youtu.be

http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

Thank you Laura and Nick for reminding me that there is so much for me to be grateful for.

Wishing you gratitude!

Listen Live Tonight At 5!

3 May

I will be Suzane Northrop’s guest tonight on Blog Talk Radio. 

Listen Live at 5 pm CDT    OR    listen to the archived show

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suzanenorthrop/2010/05/03/the-suzane-northrop-show

Same Scenario – Different Day

6 Apr

Have you ever noticed that when The Universe is trying to teach us something, if we don’t get it, the same lesson just keeps coming again and again until we do?

Never has that been more apparent to me than in the area of campus fire safety.  When Liz died from a fire in her duplex, I automatically assumed it was just this freak accident that shouldn’t have happened.

However, just this morning I received  notification of another fire fatality in off-campus housing at Eastern Michigan University

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ed Comeau, Publisher
Campus Firewatch
www.campus-firewatch.com
413-323-6002 (tel)
413-896-5718 (cell)
ecomeau@campus-firewatch.com
Student from Eastern Michigan University killed in off-campus fire in Ann Arbor, Michigan
BELCHERTOWN, Mass., April 6, 2010 — A student from Eastern Michigan University was killed in an off-campus fire in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

According to the university, 22-year-old Renden LeMasters was killed in the fire.  LeMasters was a senior in the College of Technology.

In an interview with Campus Firewatch, Ann Arbor Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain reported that the fire was reported at approximately 5:30 a.m. and started in the area of the front porch which contained upholstered furniture, trash and other combustibles.  The fire, which was detected by a passerby, then spread into the interior of the building through a front dormer window and two doors which were left open when the occupants escaped from the fire.  The victim was found in front of the building by the first arriving fire department personnel.  The cause of the fire is under investigation and has not been determined at this time.
The building is a two-story, wood-frame, building that had been divided into three units located in the basement, first floor and second floor.  There were interconnected smoke alarms in the building but no residential fire sprinklers.
According to Chamberlain, the Ann Arbor Fire Department had previously attempted to have an ordinance passed that would ban upholstered furniture from front porches but was unsuccessful.  Before this fire occurred, they were in the process of trying again because of the danger that these conditions present.  “These are incredible fire hazards,” said Chamberlain.
Nationwide, this is the fifth campus-related fire fatality to occur in the 2009-2010 academic year, all of which have occurred since January.  According to information compiled by Campus Firewatch, 140 people have died in campus-related fires since January 2000 with over 84% of them occurring in off-campus occupancies where a majority of the students across the nation live.
Campus Firewatch is a social enterprise focusing on campus fire safety. For more information, visit our website at www.campus-firewatch.com.
###

Campus Firewatch ● P.O. Box 1046, Belchertown, MA ● 01007 ● 1-413-323-6002 (tel)
www.campus-firewatch.comecomeau@campus-firewatch.com

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

The similarities are stunningly familiar:

fire call comes in 5:30 am

fire starts on a porch in a couch

the building is a wooden two story

How sad that an ordinance outlawing couches on porches was not enacted – perhaps now it will – but does it really take another death of a college-aged student to make it happen?

A Story That is Meant to be Shared!

13 Mar

Those of you who know me well, know that my greatest passions are sharing my stories of extraordinary connections to my daughter Liz and fire safety prevention.

I came across a story today that combines them both.  It is a wonderful story and for all of you skeptics out there, I hope it will make you stop and think, scratch your head, and wonder … maybe there is more to life than what can be seen?

http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/local/hero-boy-honored

Yesterday – a day of mixed emotions

6 Mar

Yesterday started off as a great day!  I was still on a high after a very successful speaking engagement at a new book club in town.  Over 40 people came out to hear me speak and buy a copy of the book my story is in.

Yesterday was also the day that my blog rolled over 10,000 hits.  I had been waiting and watching for that milestone for a few months now and I was excited and happy to see it happen.

Later in the day my happiness turned to sorrow when I learned of the death of Darcy Pohland, a reporter at WCCO in Minneapolis.  I have done two stories on fire safety with Darcy over the past three years and I could always count on her to make it happen.

Not only was she an outstanding reporter, she was also a very vibrant and bubbly human being.  Her enthusiasm for life was infectious and I loved being able to get to know her alittle bit more each time we did a story.

For those of you who live out of the WCCO viewing area, what you don’t know is that Darcy was also a quadrapalegic.  One of the few, if not the only QP reporters in the country.  At the age of 22 she dove into a pool and broke her neck … changing the course of her life forever.

For many people this type of accident would be devastating and hard to recover from.  I’m sure it was extremely difficult for Darcy as well, but you would never know it.  She never let her limitations stand in her way.  It is said that her favorite word was … perseverence.  That is something she had alot of.

Thank you Darcy … thank you for telling my story … for helping me to get the word out about fire safety … you loved the University of Minnesota just like my daughter did … probably even more.  I’m so glad you got to experience the new Goopher stadium.

I didn’t know until yesterday that you were as passionate about figure skating as I am.  I wish I would have brought my camera when we did our stories so that I could have captured a moment of the two of us together.

I’m sure you are now even more bubbly than you were when you were here … you no longer need your chair.  I would like to think that you and Liz have found each other and are dancing and singing with JOY.

You are one of a kind Darcy and I don’t think there will ever be another reporter who can tell my story and the stories of many others the way that you could.

Job well done my friend … you will be missed.

Books N Beyond

28 Feb

There is a new book club starting up in town.  The first book selection is True Stories of Messages From Beyond by Julie Aydlott and Friends.

I have been asked to be the kick-off speaker this Thursday night at 7:00 pm at the Hy-Vee Club room.

Our paper did a story about it yesterday.

http://www.owatonna.com/news.php?viewStory=114857

Guest Blogger

3 Dec

I’ve been asked to provide some of my writing for two different blogs.  Both of them have been published this week.  Here are the links:

http://lesleehorner.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/kims-click/

http://moniquechapman.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/putting-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle-of-life-back-together/

If I get enough hits on Monique Chapman’s blog, I will be a guest on one of her radio shows!

Enjoy your day!

Another Opportunity to Share My Story

27 Oct

I had the opportunity yesterday to be a guest on Achieve Radio with Nancy Wallace.

The show has been archived and it can be accessed at

http://www.achieveradio.com/archplayer.php?showname=The M

Enjoy your day!

Kim