Tag 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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Sharing The Light


Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. Winston Churchill

Richard and I  had a Christmas Eve tradition where he would make a reservation at one 20161219_220258of his favorite restaurants for Christmas Eve dinner and then we would take a ride down A1A in Palm Beach and Broward Counties to look at the spectacular Christmas lights adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.   We would always marvel at the tremendous configurations of lights as we motored down the road.   A palm tree wrapped in Christmas lights is something you just don’t see in Brooklyn or St. Louis.  I’ve made the same trip down memory lane the last two Christmas Eve’s and plan to do the ride again this Saturday on Christmas eve 2016.

It is amazing to me that I am approaching my third Holiday Season without Richard. (I use Holiday only because Richard was Jewish and I am Catholic)  My,  how time does fly!

The first Christmas without Richard was difficult.  One of the events that got me through the ride was Caregiving.com 36-Hour Christmas Care Chat.  While chats are available just about 24/7 on Caregiving.com, this chat was special, at least to me.  I will never forgot the kindness of the volunteer, @RoaringMouse,  that Christmas Eve in 2014.   We chatted for I guess almost an hour, we laughed, we cried, we reminisced… we were just there for each other.   Thanks to my chat with @RoaringMouse  I understood that while this ride would be different, the ride  would be just as meaningful as it was the year before when Richard was sitting next to me in the passengers seat. @RoaringMouse helped me  realized that I really was not alone on that first Christmas without Richard.

Caregiving.com 36-Hour chat starts this Saturday at noon and will continue on through midnight on Christmas night.  “Volunteers who understand” just like @RoaringMouse, will be there to lend support,  and be there for you, no matter where you are on your caregiving journey.   I know I will never ever forget, and will be forever grateful, for my time with @RoaringMouse on Christmas Eve 2014.

wpid-wp-1419525603576.jpegSure,  that old cliche’ is true, time heals all wounds, but wounds heal in their own time.  Each one of us adjusts differently when the one we love makes their life transition.  My mind tells me that he is forever pain free, my faith tells me that I will see him again, my heart tells me he will be sitting right next to me on our drive on Saturday night.

Sometimes in order to move forward,  we just have to look back on our past. 

Visit Caregiving.com to learn more about the 36-Hour CareGiving Chat and how you might be able to participate.

No matter where you are on your caregiving journey, you’ll be glad that you stopped by for a cup of comfort.

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Moving To Acceptance


The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu

I’m not sure there is a moving company one can call when you are preparing to move to acceptance.  Moving to acceptance is one of those moves you have to do on your own.  Sure, it is important to receive some help during the move, but in the long run, moving to acceptance is a journey that you have to travel on your own and in your own time.  Moving to acceptance does come with a few bumps inlights the road. While on the move to acceptance, there will be days when the roads will be smooth and the sky so blue that you feel you’re just a stones throw away from completing your move to acceptance. Those days will be quite beautiful! Then there will be days when those darn red lights appear at an intersection which just stops you in your tracks!  That red light just seems linger on and on which makes you want to beat on your steering wheel and scream to the top of your voice so that you can continue on your route. (Those are the days during this move when screaming is Okay!) When you get a red light that just seems to linger, this is a good time to take a break from your move before you run out of gas, because when you run out of gas, you never get to move to acceptance.

There is no GPS device that will help guide you on the move to acceptance however, from time to time, there will be many kind folks who will join you on your ride to help keep you on your path on your move to acceptance.  These “riders” often appear out of the blue sky, and when you need them the most.  They don’t mind helping you with your move, because they see your road from a different perspective and know just what to say, and just what to do while you are on your move to acceptance.   What is great about these “riders” is they reconnect you to your route after those nasty red lights stop you in your tracks so that you can continue on with your move to acceptance! 11410888-smooth-road-ahead-good-times-recovery-yellow-street-sign-1is84y6Some of these “riders” might be on their own move to acceptance, some might have already arrived at acceptance. There will be a “rider” or two who will jump in the car with you who you haven’t seen in a while, yet even after many years have gone by, you pick up just where you left off with these “riders” and your friendship is in full sail again. Heck, you might even pick up a friendly “hitchhiker” along they way, someone you do not know, who pops into your life when you least expect it, who has experienced their own move to acceptance and would like to share their route with you.  All these “riders” have their own place in the vehicle and tend to stay just long enough to ensure you stay on the correct route in order for you to move to acceptance.

 The great thing about moving to acceptance is that you do not have to take the interstate highway to arrive at your destination. Moving to acceptance is better suited for those country roads where you can drive at your own pace, and most importantly, in your own time. There will be days on your move to acceptance where you will want to pull off the road and take the scenic route: Do it! The scenic route will be filled with views of wonderful memories which will help you on your movemoving on to acceptance. Cherish the scenic view! As you get closer to your destination, the scenic views will be like a picture book that sits on your coffee table, however, this book will be forever yours, always entrenched in your memory, always with you on your move to acceptance.

Moving to acceptance can be difficult, but it is a worthwhile move! What is great about this move to acceptance is not only the terrific views, the awesome people you meet along the way, but the ultimate – arriving at the destination with all the memories of the this great move still intact!  Is there a specific “sign” that you have moved to acceptance? No, not really because the “sign” you have arrived at acceptance will be different for each one of us, and that is Okay because all our routes on our move to acceptance will be different, too. Yet a tell-tail-sign that you are getting close to arriving at acceptance is when those scenic views turn from sadness to joy, and you begin to accept, after your long journey in search of what you need – you come to know and understand that what you have been searching for while on your move to acceptance, has, and will always be, in your heart and forever at home with you. This is when then you know, first hand, that you have made your move to acceptance because you now realize and accept that the one you are missing the most, will always right beside you!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday Season

Listen and see our video chat with  Denise Brown from Caregiving.com  as Denise interviews me about Moving to Acceptance After Caregiving ends by clicking here!

wpid-wp-1448113432219.jpegChris’ Book, “What’s The Deal With Caregiving” is available on Amazon by clicking here!

 

 

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Relief, Sadness, Guilt, Joy


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Relief, Sadness, Guilt, and Joy all rolled up into on simple statement.  Yet how thdo four very different words, have meaning  to us when Caregiving ends?  I believe that these four words are the first emotions that a family Caregiver deals with when the journey ends.

Relief: That caregiving is over. Those long sleepless nights, sleeping with one eye open, are gone. Relief that the one you (loved) cared for is now pain-free.

Sadness: That the life you once knew has now forever changed.  That undeniable reality that something powerful has happened that has thforever transitioned our lives and the one that we (loved) cared for.

Guilt: Those ‘what if’ days or ‘if I could have done this differently’ days that make us wonder if we did the right thing.  And the greatest guilt of them of them all,  when you realize that you have to continue on with your life without the one you (loved) cared for. (We want to avoid this emotion as much as possible)

Joy: When you wake up that one  morning and tell yourself, ‘Job Well Done and the present and future will be all right! (The hardest emotion to get to when caregiving ends, but the most important one too!)

For every Caregiver, the stark reality is that there is always a beginning and an end to the journey, and david-austin-pink-rosein most cases, we are not prepared for either of these events!  Yet through our caring and sharing with others, we realize that through our own journey of  Relief, Sadness, Guilt and Joy, we find peace and comfort, knowing that we would do it all over again, even after seeing the staircase!

 

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When Boundaries Become Blurred


Join us on Wednesday April 29th on Health Café LIVE.com  at 7:00 pm (EDT) as we visit with Melanie McMillion from TrustBridge Health.  With 20 years of clinical experience working in hospice, palliative care and bereavement, Melanie has extensive skill in  assisting people and families with chronic and terminal health issues, caregiving stress and grief and bereavement. On Wednesday’s show, we are going to have an upbeat conversation about Caregivers working in healthcare and the importance of professional boundaries.  Tune in and learn how Melanie is creating Healing Ties all around us!  Cannot listen live?  No Worries!! Healing Ties is available on  demand at iHeart Radio and now on UK Health Radio.

To listen live on Wednesday at 7:00 pm visit HealthCafeLive.com  or simply click here! 

To listen to all of our shows on demand visit our iHeart Radio Channel by clicking here!

Healing Ties is on UK Health Radio, too by clicking here! 

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Melanie McMillion is a LMHC  and a Field Educator for TrustBridge Health. www.TrustBridge.com With over 20 years of clinical experience working in hospice, palliative care, and bereavement, Melanie has extensive experience assisting individuals and families with chronic and terminal health issues, caregiver stress, and grief, loss and bereavement.  Melanie lectures on these important topics and today we are visit with Melanie on the importance of maintaining professional ethics and boundaries, caregiver stress management, and end of life care

 

 

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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!

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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.

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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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Letting Go, Together As One


We loved with a love that is more than love ~ Edgar Allan Poe

As I pulled up to the boat dock on Tuesday, I was amazed at what a beautiful,  clear and sunny day it was in South Florida. At this time of year, especially in the height of hurricane season, one never knows what the weather might bring us. The boat caption’s words last week after I booked the reservation–“we will sail at 9:30 am, weather permitting–reminded me that even when we put our best plans in place, there are things beyond our control.   BoatWaves

Sure, we all know that we cannot control the weather, we can only work with it.  Yet for me, the plans to sail on Tuesday, September 9th was significant because Tuesday, September 9th was the six month anniversary of Richard’s life transition and it was time for us to let go, so that we could be together again as one.   I’ve never experienced a burial at sea, so I had no personal experience to go by, but I did know that what was important for both Richard and I, was to be set free from the perils of death and be free, free so that we can be together  again as one.

MCD

On this beautiful sunny Tuesday morning, it was a small gathering of friends as we motored out into the Atlantic ocean.  Making the decision to bury Richard’s ashes at sea was something that we had both talked about, and something that I knew he approved of since he buried his first partner, Herman at sea in 1999.  The biodegradable boxes were a work of art; one blue with the (last) remains of Herman and one white with the  remains of Richard.  Yet even in those conversations about burial at sea,  you really don’t know if you can ‘do it’ until you get right to the point or rather, the day of ‘doing it.’

In a sense, I knew that placing Richard’s ashes at sea WAS my last act of Caregiving for him.   Sure, I had the option of the funeral home ‘doing it’ for me, but I knew deep inside my heart that this was my sole responsibility and something I wanted, and needed to do.  Then the conversation started on the boat.  “I understand that we have to be more than three miles from shore before the boxes can be placed in the ocean,” I said.  Then in unison, two of my friends said…”You’re going to just place his box in the ocean, he wants to be set free, just like you, let the ashes out of the box and set both of you free!”  “Hummm,” I thought…”Another Caregiving decision to make, and how I thought those decision were behind me!”

As the boat slowed down and then anchored, I knew that we had approached our destination and it was my turn to act.  I had no special words to say, yet I shared pictures of Herman and Richard and talked about their 43 years together as I placed Herman’s beautiful blue box in the ocean. Ocean 2 As I reached for Richard’s beautiful white box, I was still unsure of what I was going to do, then the box slightly opened, I could hear him speaking to me, “let me be free!”  After a few words, I took Richard’s box, and spread his ashes in the ocean and then watched as a beautiful array of colors gleamed at the top of the ocean as his ashes floated away on his eternal cruise.  As difficult as this was, as I watched his ashes float away, there was a sense of peace that came upon me that is difficult to explain.

As the box emptied of Richard’s ashes and then dropped into the ocean, the caption circled Richard’s starting point of his life-long cruise, where everyone placed  roses in the water,  and I thought about how happy he was because he was free.  It was at this point when I realized that I was free, too.

My last act of Caregiving for the one I continue to love, was to set him free, so that we both could be free.  BRScar2

You see, I did not mind being Richard’s caregiver, in fact I believe it is an honor to be a Caregiver, but for now and forever, I can go back to just being his partner, which is what I miss the most.  My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me that he is now forever free; my heart tells me that he 20120407-002416.jpgis right next to me.

For now, he is just a port ahead of me on his life-long cruise, catching up with family and friends, while speaking to me in different ways, because  I know that one day, I will arrive at his port and catch up with him on that life long cruise.  I’m sure he’ll have reserved a good cabin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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