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How Will You Spend Your Dash?

19 Oct

I found this beautiful youtube video on my facebook page this morning and felt it was worth adding to my blog as well.


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

Promoting Fire Safety for Today’s College Students

28 Aug

Yesterday Anna and I had the opportunity to do a news story about Liz, the fire that took her life, and our lives since that day.

The main focus was to alert current students who are just moving into off-campus housing.

Getting them to realize and take seriously their own personal safety is a tough sell.

But all we can do is keeping repeating it at every opportunity.

Here is a link to our story:

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.

Another Opportunity

16 Aug

My plans have just been finalized and I am thrilled to be in Washington DC from September 16-20 as part of Campus Firewatch.

I have joined forces with CFW headed by an angel named Ed Comeau. Along with other parents across the country who have lost a college-aged child to fire, we support Ed’s efforts to educate students, colleges, landlords, and the public on fire safety and prevention.

Our goal is to get all 50 states to declare September as “National Campus Fire Safety Awareness Month.” To date, we have 14 states who have done so. We will be on Capitol Hill on September 17th as part of this effort.

I can’t think of a better place to be – it is yet another way I can honor my precious Elizabeth and for that I am so very grateful and happy.

To learn more about the work of Campus Firewatch, please check out the website at:

Photo Shoot

13 May

I’m sure it’s no accident that some of the events happening in my life right now are happening before Anna leaves for Thailand.

She leaves on June 15th … only a little over a month away, and I already miss her!

Last week I found out that my story of Liz’s Letter is going to be included in the September issue of Angels on Earth magazine.

Today I got an email requesting a photo of Liz (no problem) as well as a current photo of me (problem).

Luckily Anna finished work early and as I picked her up I told her I needed her to take a picture of me. Oh, yes and by the way could you do my make-up?

Being the great daughter that she is, she agreed and we worked for about 45 minutes pulling it together.

We came up with the photo on the right side of my blog. It’s me.

Anna not only took the picture, but she downloaded it and sent it to me so I could send it to the photo editor.

I never could have done it without her help … but now I have them and can use them again if the opportunity arises.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to hold out before I flee the country for Thailand …

We All Make Mistakes … and Some Are Deadly

30 Apr

I received this video clip in my email today and  I can’t quit thinking about it.  It’s so powerful – and it hits very close to home.

It is proof, once again, that our actions impact the world.  I usually speak about the good that our actions can create.  Not today though.

Please watch:

Watching this video brings back painful memories of Liz.  Did she drink and drive?  My gut says yes, but she would never admit to it.

Thank God she never killed anyone … but she did have an accident where she was driving and she rolled our car with two of her friends inside.  Everyone walked away with bumps and bruises … but it could have been totally different.

In my eyes Liz contributed to her own death. 

I will never forget receiving her death certificate some six weeks after 9/20/03.  I opened it and read that she had died of smoke inhalation … that was no surprise … but a large, contributing factor to her death was alcohol consumption … sadly, that didn’t surprise me either.

Liz loved to party … she smoked – she drank – she loved to “have fun.”  As her mother, it drove me wild with fear and anxiety and no one, and I mean no one, could tell me how to get her to stop.

Minutes before the fire broke out she had been sitting down on the porch talking, drinking and smoking.  Mistakes … that had deadly consequences.

Can she be an example of what NOT to do?   Yes.  Was that her purpose for this life?  Yes, I believe so, in part.

Do I forgive her?  Yes, always.  Does it change the way I feel about her?  No, never.    Am I still proud of her?  Yes, always.

Please pass this video on … it was meant to be shared.  Together we CAN make a difference … one person at a time.

Listening to that still, small voice

10 Apr

One of my favorite blogs is Phil Bolsta’s blog, Triumph of the Spirit.       Check it out at

I’ve never copied anyone’s blog entry verbatim … until now.  I read Phil’s post for today after I had written my own blog entry and it tied in so closely with what I was trying to get across, that I decided the best thing to do was to borrow it and reprint it here as well.

Here is Ken Gaub’s phone call – THE BEST STORY EVER!:

Do you believe that God not only loves you, but knows where you are and what you’re doing every minute of the day? I certainly do after an amazing experience I had several years ago.

At the time I was driving on I-75 near Dayton, Ohio, with my wife and children. We turned off the highway for a rest and refreshment stop. My wife, Barbara, and our children went into the restaurant. I suddenly felt the need to stretch my legs, so I waved them off ahead, saying I’d join them later. I bought a soft drink, and as I walked toward a Dairy Queen, feelings of self-pity enshrouded my mind. I loved the Lord and my ministry, but I felt drained, burdened. My cup was empty.

Suddenly, the impatient ringing of a telephone nearby jarred me out of my doldrums. It was coming from a phone booth at a service station on the corner. Wasn’t anyone going to answer the phone?

Noise from the traffic flowing through the busy intersection must have drowned out the sound because the service station attendant continued looking after his customers, oblivious to the ringing.

“Why doesn’t somebody answer that phone?” I muttered. I began reasoning. It may be important. What if it’s an emergency? Curiosity overcame my indifference. I stepped inside the booth and picked up the phone.

phone-booth“Hello,” I said casually and took a big sip of my drink. The operator said: “Long distance call for Ken Gaub.” My eyes widened, and I almost choked on a chunk of ice. Swallowing hard, I said, “You’re crazy!”

Then, realizing I shouldn’t speak to an operator like that, I added, “This can’t be! I was walking down the road, not bothering anyone,and the phone was ringing… “

Is Ken Gaub there?” the operator interrupted, “I have a long distance call for him.” It took a moment to gain control of my babbling, but I finally replied, “Yes, he is here.”

Searching for a possible explanation, I wondered if I could possibly be on Candid Camera! Still shaken, perplexed, I asked, “How in the world did you reach me here? I was walking down the road, the pay phone started ringing, and I just answered it on chance. You can’t mean me.” ”Well,” the operator asked, “Is Mr. Gaub there or isn’t he?”

“Yes, I am Ken Gaub,” I said, finally convinced by the tone of her voice that the call was real. Then I heard another voice say, “Yes, that’s him, operator. That’s Ken Gaub.” I listened dumbfounded to a strange voice identify herself. “I’m Millie from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You don’t know me, Mr. Gaub, but I’m desperate. Please help me.”

“What can I do for you?” I said. She began weeping. Finally, she regained control and continued. “I was about to commit suicide, had just finished writing a note, when I began to pray and tell God I really didn’t want to do this. Then I suddenly remembered seeing you on television and thought if I could just talk to you, you could help me. I knew that was impossible because I didn’t know how to reach you, I didn’t know anyone who could help me find you. Then some numbers came to my mind, and I scribbled them down.”

At this point she began weeping again, and I prayed silently for wisdom to help her. She continued, “I looked at the numbers and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had a miracle from God, and He has given me Ken’s phone number?’ I decided to try calling it. I can’t believe I’m talking to you. “Are you in your office in California?”

I replied, “Lady, I don’t have an office in California. My office is in Yakima, Washington.” A little surprised, she asked, “Oh really, then where are you?” ”Don’t you know?” I responded. “You made the call.” She explained, “But I don’t even know what area I’m calling. I just dialed the number that I had on this paper.” 

“Ma’am, you won’t believe this, but I’m in a phone booth in Dayton, Ohio!” ”Really?” she exclaimed. “Well, what are you doing there?” I kidded her gently, “Well, I’m answering the phone. It was ringing as I walked by, so I answered it.”

Knowing this encounter could only have been arranged by God, I began to counsel the woman. As she told me of her despair and frustration, the presence of the Holy Spirit flooded the phone booth, giving me words of wisdom beyond my ability. In a matter of moments, she prayed the sinner’s prayer and met the One who would lead her out of her situation into a new life. I walked away from that telephone booth with an electrifying sense of our Heavenly Father’s concern for each of His children. 

What were the astronomical odds of this happening? With all the millions of phones and innumerable combinations of numbers, only an all-knowing God could have caused that woman to call that number in that phone booth at that moment in time.

Forgetting my drink and nearly bursting with exhilaration, I headed back to my family, wondering if they would believe my story. Maybe I better not tell this, I thought, but I couldn’t contain it. ”Barb, you won’t believe this! God knows where I am!”

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:

Make Your Day Great!

When in Doubt — Choose Love

20 Mar

When everything is said and done, there are really only two emotions that we have:  love and fear.  How we choose to react to people and experiences in our lives is with some form of either of these two emotions.  Hurt, anger, lonliness, are all forms of fear.  Compassion, faith, helpfulness, are all a part of love.

We always are free to choose how we respond to everything in our lives.  And however we respond sends ripples out into the world to other people and other situations.

Consider for a moment how different our world would be if we all chose love instead of fear.  It would be a heaven right here on earth.

Consider also that everyone on the planet is important and has a purpose.  Whatever we do, no matter how small or insignificant we feel it to be, changes our world.

We’ve all heard the saying, you change the world one person at a time.  What if, we each tried to respond in love … we could change the world. 

Check out this you tube video by Susan Apollon … have a great day – YOU are important … choose LOVE!