Her son died in her arms.

At my favorite place, the grocery store, I met a woman whose son died in her arms. The story is tragic but beautiful. In his late 20’s her son began feeling tired but thought it was just “life.” He was only 20 after all. How could he be sick? Turns out it wasn’t just “life” and nine months later on a quiet evening in her home, her son died in her arms. She said it was a peaceful experience and at that precise moment of death, a sense of spirituality pervaded the room. She felt a heightened sense of awareness and a flood of memories ran through her brain. She also felt a deep indescribable feeling of love. I’ve never heard anyone talking about the experience being anything more than moving and always peaceful.

It’s been 4 years and she said it still felt like yesterday. Her son loved oatmeal and whenever she got to that part of the grocery store, she stopped and remembered him. That’s where we met – over GF oatmeal.

She asked me about my kids and I told her of my upcoming life change. She smiled and reminded me that life is a series of grief experiences which bring us to a new place of joy, love and peacefulness. She said that some people like to talk about grief in stages but that her “stages” looked like the scribbling by a child on a piece of paper — all over the place and with no rhyme or reason! I appreciated her being candid. I shared with her my own up and downs as I move closer to the boys leaving.

Before our good-byes she said a few things – which I hope my memory can do justice to:

  1. There is no magical way of dealing with change. You’ll have a range of emotions – appreciate each one. Some people bounce back quickly – some do not. There is no right or wrong.
  2. There is no “getting back to normal.” It will never happen. You’ll always feel pain from saying good-bye – whatever the reason for the good-bye. If you didn’t feel bad, that would mean you didn’t have love for that person. And love is the best reason to experience pain.
  3. You’re not expected to be perfect. This process builds character and each life experience makes us unique.
  4. When you decide it’s time to heal, then you will be ready to find peace from the change. Don’t let others rush you.

I never did get the GF oatmeal I was looking for. But I did get a hug (and got to hug) a stranger in a grocery store. And, I met yet another wise person whose life experience is reminder that we’re all going through the same life stages – just at different times and in different ways.

We’re all here to help one another through these life stages – whether by a stranger or a friend. And, it really doesn’t get better than that.

Have an amazing week!



What to do next …?

It’s 2018. This is a big year for my family. My daughter will be a senior in college. My boys will choose their college, graduate from HS and then start college … somewhere (please let’s pray they’re not on opposite ends of the country!). I will be happy, be sad, be crying, be traveling, be working (more!) and start my next new life chapter. We have a family trip in the planning stages and I’m contemplating a move. So, there should be no question in my world about what to do next — brace for the change. But what’s not on this list, and what we all should have on our 2018 list, is the oh-so-selfish item “Self-Care.”

I know you all were like me these last few weeks – juggling the varied demands of holiday, house guests, parties, home and work. Now its January and it’s time to take a step back, not to make resolutions (I don’t like resolutions) but just to take time for you. The magazines make it sound simple: Drink more water, exercise an hour a day, reduce your carbs, put down the computer. And, while, it’s a bit overwhelming to change everything at once – it’s also, frankly, a struggle. It actually feels unnatural … selfish.

It’s not!

Self-care should be the foundation that allows you to be healthy, grounded and present for all that life throws at you. It can be small changes, made over time, which add up to big results. The biggest hurdle is understanding the importance of taking care of yourself – and then implementing it.

I find myself thinking: “Once I take care of everyone and everything else, then I’ll take care of myself.” Sound familiar?

Authentic self-care is not selfish. It’s not a guarantee that we won’t gain weight, have an accident or get sick — although taking care of ourselves would probably make those things less likely. True self-care is about honoring ourselves and our bodies, nurturing and loving ourselves — both for us and for the benefit of everyone around us.

I once heard Dr. Andrew Weil talking about the importance of self-care. He said that the human body has a great “self-care” model — the heart. He said, “Each time the heart beats, it first pumps blood to itself, then to the rest of the body. It has to work this way in order for us to stay alive. … The same is true for us as human beings. We have to take care of ourselves first, so we can take care of others.” It’s the old – put your oxygen mask on first idea!

Given the nature of our lives, it’s not easy, logistically or emotionally, to implement self-care commitments. But, remember, self-care is not about creating a “plan” or doing it “right.”  It’s simply about remembering that we deserve to take care of ourselves, and when we do, it not only nourishes us but also allows us to be available for important things and people in our lives.

Have a great start to 2018!