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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.

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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

De-Mystifying Intuition

9 Nov

A week or so ago I was presented with the opportunity by fellow Owning Pink Contributor, Jennifer Shelton, to write a piece on “de-mystifying intuition.”  I was immediately intrigued and felt I had much to say about intuition and how it became an integral part of my life.  Jennifer included my piece on her website, FemCentral.  (http://jenniferlshelton.com)

Unbeknownst to me, my spiritual teacher, mentor and friend, Kathryn Harwig, had also written a piece about intuition and common sense.  When I read Kathryn’s piece in the November issue of THE EDGE, I was struck by how closely our pieces parallel each other.  Here is the piece I wrote.  Kathryn’s piece follows.

I have always been interested in spiritual topics.  ESP, psychics, near-death experiences, spirit communication have always held a special fascination for me.  For the first 49 years of my life it ended there, with just a fascination … I had absolutely no personal experience with any of it.

Little did I know what an integral role some would come to play in my life.  Tapping into my own intuition came at a huge price however — the sudden, tragic and very unexpected death of my 20-year old daughter, Elizabeth.

On September 20, 2003, Liz, along with two of her roommates, died of smoke inhalation from a fire that broke out in her duplex, just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where she had just begun her sophomore year.

As shocking and unbelievable as the loss of my daughter was, it set me on a path to a spiritual knowing and understanding that I could have never dreamed possible.  As numb as I was during those first days, weeks and months, some part of me “knew” I had been set onto a spiritual path and I wanted and needed desperately to follow it.

The choice was always mine however.  I was never forced to do anything.  I could end my journey at any time if I chose to and it would have been fine, my life would have gone on.  I have never in my 56-years on earth felt so compelled to follow and felt so led and so loved by the God of the Universe.  That feeling propelled me down the path that has become my life, and I am eternally grateful.

People came into my life that had amazing spiritual gifts of their own and they showed me in no uncertain terms that my Elizabeth was fine.  She was happy and she was living a marvelous new life.  Of course I missed her physical presence in my life, but all a mother ever wants for their child is knowing that they are safe and they are happy — and I absolutely knew that was true for my Elizabeth.

But I continued to press the envelope … I wanted more and I didn’t even know what or how I wanted it.  I took advantage of an amazing opportunity to study intuition one on one with a wonderful author, teacher and mentor, Kathryn Harwig.  (www.harwig.com).

Could Kathryn really teach me to communicate with Liz on my own?  I certainly had my doubts, but I would never know unless I tried.  My classes with Kathryn were certainly life-changing.  Not only did I learn to communicate with Liz on my own, but what was even more amazing to me was realizing that by practicing the intuitive techniques Kathryn taught me, I was also able to obtain intuitive information for other people — friends as well as complete strangers!

The door to my intuition had swung wide open, when I realized that not only could I use my intuition to make my life better, but I could also help others make their lives better.  Not only that, but I also realized that I could communicate with the spirit world – receive information from spirits and be able to pass it on to their loved ones.   It was something that in a million years I would have never thought possible, but it was so concrete and so real that there was absolutely no denying it.

Tapping into one’s own individual intuitive abilities in not rocket science.  It is simply a matter of asking, and then being quiet, listening, and accepting whatever it is you receive.  “Ask and you shall receive” as the Bible says.  It really is that simple.  The hardest part is quieting the self-talk of doubt and that little voice that tries to tell you that it can’t possibly be correct.  For me, that is the hardest thing to overcome.  But, when you take the chance, be brave, step out and trust that what you received is of value and you pass it on, even though it makes no sense to you, that is when the magic happens.

This is not to say that you will always get it 100% correct.  You will not.  But if you always go in with your motive as purely wanting to help someone, you will not be led astray.  Always ask God to help you.  You can never go wrong with God.

It has been said that little children and elderly adults are closest to the veil.  Children have just come into the world and the elderly are closest to leaving it.  Imaginary friends that many young children have are  not imaginary at all, but are spirits communicating with the pure soul of a child.  In the same way, elderly people are sometimes labeled as delusional or demented because they may be talking to thin air — but again I say they are simply having a conversation with the spirit world.

Our lives in between childhood and old age are spent being busy — making a life for ourselves.  We go to school, we start and work hard on our careers, many of us marry and raise a family.  During this period of our lives, there is no time, (usually) to spend in introspection and searching for a spiritual connection.  Most of us have never even considered that intuition could be a valuable tool in our lives – we are just way too busy.

Everyone has intuitive ability, whether you believe it or not.  It is not some special ability that only certain people possess.  It is no different than musical or artistic ability – we all have it to some degree.  Some are better at it than others, but we can all learn how to use it.   When the time is right in each of our lives the opportunity will present itself and then it becomes our choice whether or not we listen and act.

Intuition is neither good nor bad — it just IS.  We live in a free-will Universe, which means it is always our choice whether to embrace something or totally ignore it and go in a different direction with our lives.

Intuition will always be there, in the back, quietly waiting and calling our name.  Whether we choose to quiet the chatter and listen and act is, once again, always our choice.

As someone who grabbed on with both hands I can only say to you that harnessing your intuition makes your life better.  It is a valuable tool for every day life.  You’re in a hurry and you need to make a quick stop at the store.  Ask your intuition to help you find a good parking spot.  You will be amazed at what will happen.

Another important part of intuition is acknowledging it, being grateful for it and thanking the Universe for sending it.  By following these simple steps, intuition will become an integral and very positive part of your life and the lives of your family, your friends, and everyone you come into contact with.  The choice is yours.

The Summer of Weddings

26 Oct

This summer was the summer of weddings for  Roger me.  Many of Liz’s high school friends as well as her cousin were married over the span of the last four months.  As I attended each wedding I  secretly wondered if Liz was present  … I always felt she was … although an outward sign as proof seemed like too much to ask for.

However, as I sat by the shores of Pelican lake and watched Suzy, Liz’s cousin, marry, I began to ask Liz for a butterfly so that I would know for sure that she was there.  This was a joyous wedding, but it also brought home the fact that Liz is gone and we will never get to experience her wedding day.  It was bittersweet and I was filled with mixed emotions.  I didn’t see any butterflies during the service … I was disappointed, but I reminded myself that you just don’t always get what you ask for.  I put it out of my mind and enjoyed the beauty of the day and the fun and joy that the reception held.  What happened next was indeed a very pleasant surprise.

Numerous people came to me and asked if I had seen the two butterflies that were flitting around during the ceremony.  I was very surprised to learn about this, since I had been asking for just such a thing to happen, and it did … but I just didn’t see it.  No matter, it happened and there were several people who saw it and realized the significance.

The last wedding of the summer was that of Tanya and Steve.  I was surprised several days later to see a picture of the bride and two of her friends — all close high school friends of Liz posted on Facebook.  Just above Nicole’s head was an orb. “Hey Nicole, someone wrote, it looks like you have a ghost above your head.”

I started to laugh – it wasn’t a ghost – it was Liz.  Once again, visual proof of her presence on one of the most important days of her friend’s life.

From Tragedy to Transformation – A Mother’s Story

26 May

After many months of waiting and anticipation on my part, I’m happy to announce that I have an article in the June edition of THE EDGE – SOUL OF THE CITIES magazine.   This is the twin cities premiere metaphysical magazine.

As many of you know, for the past six years, Kathryn Harwig has my teacher, my mentor, and my friend.  I would not be where I am today if Kathryn had not come into my life.

So I wasn’t surprised when I read Kathryn’s article – just a few pages beyond mine.  They tie in together quite nicely I think and of course this is yet another example of how The Universe works.  I was getting impatient and wondering whether my article would ever be published.  Now I understand why it happened when it did.

Another lesson for me in trusting that The Universe has it all under control.

http://soulofthecities.net/digital/2010/06/

See page 12-13 and page 16.

And, have a GREAT day!

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

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

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

Take A Soul Step With Me

25 Jan

I will be a guest on the radio program, Take a Soul Step with Me, hosted by Cathryn Taylor on Blog Talk Radio on Wednesday, January 27th at 5:00 pm CST.

Click below to listen to the show.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/healthandharmonynetwork/2010/01/27/take-a-soul-step-with-me-beyond-compassion

If you would like to learn more about Cathryn Taylor and her work please visit her website:

http://joincathryntaylor.com/

EnJOY your day!

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!