Category Archives: Grief

We’ve Only Just Begun: White Flowers and Green Shoes


Fond memory brings the light of other days around me. Thomas Moore

For some reason, I have been thinking  of Karen Carpenter’s popular song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”…

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
(We’ve only begun)

While “white lace and promises” are great…I wonder what the song would sound like if I changedwp-1489778736321.jpg those lyrics to White Flowers and Green Shoes? (probably not!) Well, I don’t think song writer Michael Williams has anything to worry about in regards to me, or anyone else for for that matter,  changing the lyrics to one of the most iconic songs of our time.  As many times as I have heard this song over the years, it wasn’t until recently that the song presented a different meaning to me after a white flower appeared in my life.

Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

So many roads to choose. I have debated long and hard about sharing this story with my readers on “The Purple Jacket” but have come to the conclusion that since our life has been an open book, this experience would be important to share with everyone who has followed our story.

A few months ago one of my longest and best friends said to me; “you have so many wonderful things happening in your life right now, have you ever considered going for a psychic reading?”   My theological background was skeptical, but I was open to the experience.

The experience was more than I could have ever imagined. From my past and present life, to future romance, to business success, every topic was touched without me really saying a word. It was amazing what someone knew about me, who did not know me at all!

Then we moved onto the topic of Richard…

“Richard wants you to know that he has made it to the other side.”

“He’s checking in on you, but spending lots of time in Paris visiting friends” (Richard loved Paris and he and Herman traveled to Paris six times)

“You’ll see a flower, a white flower, I’m not sure what kind of flower, but I know that the flower will be white.  I don’t know when the flower will appear, when you see the flower, that will be Richard telling you that he is okay, that he is with you, encouraging you, wanting to live your life to the fullest and that he will always be with you.”

an-american-in-paris-limited-edition-official-opening-night-playbill-3Two nights later, I attended the spectacular musical “An American In Paris” at The Fox Theater in St. Louis.  Thirty minutes into the performance,  one of the actors walked out on stage with… a white flower!     Yes, my jaw dropped!

There is really no explanation for this phenomenon.  Chance event?  Richard and his love for Paris?  The white flower appearing in a stage play about Paris?  The psychic didn’t know I was going to see that play two days after seeing her.

I’ve shared this story with a couple of trusted friends and now I am sharing it with you. Whether you are an ardent advocate for psychic readings, you do it for fun,  have never done it before, or abhor the thought of psychic readings, seeing the white flower in “An American In Paris” has changed me forever.

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

So much of life ahead: starts with me accepting, liking and loving myself which makes me happy, joyous and free.  This allows me not to worry about what other think of of me, allows me to stop being a people pleaser, brush resentment and anger aside, forgive every single person who has harmed me, while staying in the present to live happily, joyously and free.

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Together
Together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

So much of life ahead: starts with me accepting, liking and loving myself which makes me happy, joyous and free.  This allows me not to worry about what other think of of me, allows me to stop being a people pleaser, brush resentment and anger aside, forgive every single person who has harmed me, while staying in the present to live happily, joyously and free.

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Together
Together

Sharing horizons that are new to us:  When we are open to new possibilities, our life is full of new horizons.  No matter what side of the aisle you are on in this conversation, the mere fact that a total stranger said to me, “He wants you to know that he’s made it to the other side” opened up new horizons for me.  This experience helped me get to the other side of my grief. This does not mean I miss him any less, this simply means that I am at peace.  My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me he is forever pain free; my heart tells me he is standing right beside me.

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Songwriters
NICHOLS, WILLIAMS

And yes, we’ve just begun:   It’s never too late to start over; it’s never too late to live your dream; it’s never too late to find peace and happiness.   It’s never too late to find your white flower in the midst of a thing called life after caregiving ends.  Now, for me:  when the evening comes, we smile. 

Here are some simple reminders to help support you during your caregiving journey: 

  • Try not to isolate yourself from others
  • Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness
  • Set a daily intention for yourself
  • It’s Okay to admit that caregiving can be difficult
  • Remember to take care of yourself, too!
  • Share your horizons

I used to wish for visiting hours in heaven and then my good friend Sam said to me: “There wp-1489779515429.jpgare! Every time you have a memory of Richard. Every time you cry. Every time you laugh, Richard is right there with you.” Something tells me that Richard is up there, holding a white flower too

Oh and those green shoes you were wondering about? Those green shoes are Richard’s size 7 that he wore once a year on St. Patrick’s day for over 30 years.  White flowers and green shoes…find your keepsake memory.

Read more: The Carpenters – We’ve Only Just Begun Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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Filed under After Caregiving, Caregiving, Grief

It’s All About Forgiveness


To understand is to forgive, even oneself. Alexander Chase

The road to Spokane is in its final stages as there are only two chapters left to write for my thesis “Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Work Place.”   I owe a big thanks to Denise Brown from Caregiving.com for helping me gather statistics for the thesis.   I had two hypothesis to prove in my thesis, so far the data tells me that I was able to prove one of them.  I will be sure to reveal the results of the study in May after the thesis has been approved and submitted.

20160323_081923.jpgWhile attending the American Society on Aging Conference in Washington, D.C., I was struck by not only the information that delivered at the conference, but the commitment of the professionals in attendance.  Another added benefit was the chance to connect with quite a number of social networking friends, people who I have collaborated with of the years online, yet have never had the opportunity to meet in person.  I was fortunate to be able to attend this event.

Something hit me square in the eye while in Washington, D.C. that is difficult to explain, but quite profound.   During one of our discussions at the conference, I suggested to the group that there is plenty of information for caregivers and those who are in the  aging profession, but I did not see much information on life after caregiving ends.  (A few eyebrows where raised when I made this point!) Yes, there is an estimated 43 million family caregivers today in the United States, but what happens to caregivers when caregiving ends?   Do family caregivers just go back to  daily life without recognizing, or better yet, dealing with the dramatic change in life when caregiving ends?

I had to look inside my heart for that answer.  And for me, that answer centered around forgiveness.

In order to fully grasps and move on with life after caregiving,  I had to first forgive myself, forgive myself for moving on with my life.  Seems strange after all most two years past Richard’s life transition, but yes, life after caregiving has to include a bit of self-forgiveness.   I then had to  forgive myself for the bad decisions I made during and especially after caregiving ended.  I had to forgive myself for not taking better care of myself both physically , emotionally, spiritually and financially.  But most of all, I had to forgive myself for being afraid to continue on with my life after caregiving ended.

HealingProjectYou see, caregiving was just a small portion of our life together.  Time wise, eleven years together, pales in comparison in relation to the six months of intensive caregiving that transpired in our relationship.  However those six months of intensive caregiving takes a relationship to new heights, new destinations and at least in our case, a deeper love and commitment that is impossible to replace.  I marvel, and often wonder about couples who have been together 30, 40, 50 years then suddenly find themselves in the role of a family caregiver.

Our time in caregiving ends: Our time in love is endless. 

For me, life after caregiving is about learning to forgive myself. When I came to the realization that I had to first forgive myself in order to fully move on with my life, a little bright light went on in my head, (thanks to a wonderful conversation with my friend Sam Chalfant) allowing me to understand and accept, that living in the past does not help the present, nor the future: living in the past puts life on hold.

Just like our caregiving journeys are different, so will our journeys be different when caregiving ends.  Sharing our stories after caregiving ends is just as important as it was while in the midst of caregiving.  Because in the end, somewhere along the line, forgiveness, in some form or another, will be part of the healing formula for each one of us to experience, so that we can fully embrace our life once again after caregiving ends.  Sharing is caring… before, during and after our caregiving experience, so  that our hills are light, and with a gentle breeze always at our backs.

Chris MacLellan is the host of “Healing Ties” radio program and the author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?”

The road to Spokane is my virtual story leading up to graduation from Gonzaga University

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A New Bloom


Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Plant 12

Plants on the patio

I have never considered myself to have a green thumb and until recently, quite frankly, always found gardening a little boring.  (Well, not as boring as fishing, but that is for another conversation!)  However, over the past year, I have acquired a few plants and have become fascinated by their growth, their response to water and their placement to the  sun.  It has been interesting to move the plants from one area to another, watching them respond with spurts of growth.  Heck, I’ve even gotten my hands dirty and re-potted a couple of plants.  Talk about going out on a limb! (No pun intended!)

Plant 6

Lovely yellow and green leaf plant

I wouldn’t say that I know all the names of the different plants, but I do know from studying Latin that green plants are called Viridiplantae.  Some of the plants sit outside on the patio and some sit inside around the house.  Just in the last few weeks, I moved a beautiful yellow and green leaf pant  from the shady side of the porch to the sunning side and immediately, the plant grew about 5 inches.    I have found this process amazing to watch and glad that I have found a new Saturday routine to follow.

I water the plants every Saturday morning and look forward in anticipation to my time with the plants.  Back and forth from the faucet, adding a little plant food to the water, ensuring that the water is not too hot for the plants.   Funny how caring for the plants sounds a little like Caregiving to me!

image (6)

Our favorite breakfast stomping ground in Lighthouse Point, FL.

What is interesting about the Saturday routine with watering the plants is that Richard and I had a routine every Saturday were we would go to breakfast and spend the morning together.  On Friday night we would talk about where we wanted to go for breakfast the next morning; we would plan elaborate trips to Miami or to Palm Beach, but more times that not, we always went to our old favorite restaurant in the neighborhood for our bagel and nova sandwich.   My good friend Denise Brown from Caregiving.com pointed out to me the other day about the symbolism of exchanging one routine for another.   I had to chuckle at myself and whole-heartily agreed with Denise.  The exchange of one routine for another, while innocuous at first, has true meaning  and is symbolic of the love, care and commitment that Richard and I shared for each other.

plantatfuneral

April 2014

Sure, I check in on the plants during the week to make sure that they are all in good health and prospering.  Yet I was taken back by one special plant today which started my foray into horticulture.  At Richard’s celebration of life last April, my sibling sent me a plant in his memory.  Over the past year, the plant has lost its beautiful blooms. Until this morning when I noticed two new bloom!  I was overcome with joy!

There were times during the past year that I thought the plant was not going to make it.  Yet somehow it bloomed again.  Come to think about it, there have been times over the past year when I did not think I was going to make it.  While the sleepless nights have dissipated, the crying spells have subsided,  the missing of him sitting next to me has never gone away.

plant2

April 2015

 Over the past year, I have read quite a bit about the different theories on the grief process. One theory said 30 seconds of grief is all you need; of course, there is the traditional 3, 6, 12 month theory for grief. From my experience, I really don’t think one particular theory on grief works.   Grief is so personal and so real, and so different for each one of us. Yet there is one theory that I do think applies to each one of us. Like plants that need to be watered in order to regain its bloom, we too, in our grief process, need to be watered so that we can bloom again.  There is no time-table for a new bloom, but without the proper nurturing and care, our soil does become dry and whither away.

 The symbolism of this new bloom comes exactly one year to the day when our Caregiving story, In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey was published in the Sun-Sentinel. I beamed a big smile of joy for the new bloom today because I was reminded how important it is stay the course and…to be watered.   And I shed a tear of joy knowing that this new bloom is Richard’s way of telling me that he is at peace and right beside me.

I think I will keep this plant for quite a long time, because I just don’t water the plant, the plant waters me, too!

Chris MacLellan is the Host of Healing Ties Radio which can be heard on

Health Cafe Live, iHeart Radio and UK Health Radio.

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Life AFTER Caregiving


 

 

 

Join us on Wednesday, January 21st at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com as we welcome back, by popular demand, Adrienne Gruberg from The Caregiver Space! Let’s face it, life AFTER caregiving is an adjustment. Not only are their legal issues to consider, there is also the task of getting back to life, a life that is different from what we once knew. On Wednesday, Adrienne and I will share our experience of adjusting to live AFTER Caregiving; the grieving process,  reentering life and beginning again. This will be an upbeat conversation with tools you can use in order to create Healing Ties all around you!

To listen LIVE at 7:00 pm click here!

Cannot listen live?  NO WORRIES!  Healing Ties is available ON DEMAND on our iHeart Radio Channel by clicking here!

 

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You’ll Be Okay!


Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important that your own ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr

Earlier this month, I was asked by my good friend Denise Brown from Caregiving.com and AfterGiving.com  to share a video for today’s family caregivers that comforts with three words: You’ll be okay.

While creating this video, I learned that I  was comforted, knowing that by sharing my after caregiving journey might help someone else, just like me,  who is also in the grieving and healing process.

Loss is so personal, so real.  No one can really tell us how to deal with the loss of a loved one, yet that old cliché, ‘time does heals all wounds’  is true! However wounds heal at their own pace and in their own time, and in your time…you’ll be Okay…. because it does get better! 

To see my ‘You’ll Be Okay” video for AfterGiving.com, simply click on the heart!

 

heart cloud

Click on the Heart to see Chris’ ‘You’ll Be OK” Video for AfterGiving.com

 

AfterGiving_Logo2If  you cared for a family member or friend? Please feel free to participate in  AfterGiving.com You’ll Be Okay campaign.

Like me, you will be glad that you did!

 

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Filed under advocacy, Grief, Healing, You'll Be Okay