If You Build It…He Will Come

Hello friends, light carriers, hope mongers and those who grieve. I want to share with you a providential story of continuing connections that has just blessed my life. On this last Halloween night 2019 we stayed at the Shalom Spiritually Center in Dubuque Iowa. It is a very old Gothic religious structure built between two graveyards. Our room overlooked one of them.  It once was a Catholic school for girls/convent/chapel built in the last century.  We held a 3-day Proactive Grieving conference with fellow author/grief influence Mary Potter Kenyon with support from the center and sponsorship from Kramer funeral home. A small intimate delightful venue that is going on its 5th year helping to heal broken hearts that we look forward to every year.

Following the end of the conference we decided to stay another day in the area. We stumbled on a very old purportedly haunted hotel built in the 1800’s called The Decker in Maquoketa Iowa. It was not  not too far from “The Field of Dreams” movie/tourist site which we had been wanted to visit and they had vacancies. Freel, it was something right out of the movie the “Shining”! The room with strange “activity” noted was across from ours, and we were the only ones staying there; creepy cool, we dug it. We noted no nocturnal bumps in the night in our stay there, but the clock  in our room clock kept blinking 9:08 and did so continually.  We would change it over, and over again; it would always come back blinking 9:08, even after we unplugged it several times. We finally just left it unplugged. A few days later for kicks I looked up the angel number, thinking it may have some message for me, and I thought it was on spot where I am at. I paraphrase part of it below the photos:

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 ANGENUMBER  908 is a compilation of the energies. The number 9 is the number of lightworking and service to humanity, philanthropy and benevolence, duty and calling, leading by positive example, sensitivity and strength of character, non-conformity and idealism. Number 0 represents potential and/or choice, a spiritual journey, developing your spiritual aspects, listening to your intuition and higher-self, eternity and infinity, oneness and wholeness, continuing cycles and flow, and the beginning point. Number 8 resonates with giving and receiving, manifesting abundance, monetary and business acumen, mastery, management, self-confidence and personal authority, discernment and good judgement, insight and intelligence, the concept of karma, the Universal Spiritual Law of Cause and Effect.  Lovingly lifted from Angelnumbers.com

The next day we left the Decker Hotel early to drive back home and we stopped by the Field of Dreams movie site. It was a Sunday and unfortunately it was not open until noon. We walk around anyway and soon some cars showed up and a bunch of old guys in traditional uniforms of the day got out of the cars and headed onto the field.  Our mouths dropped as they walked out to the corn. We asked one player what’s up ? He said they let us old farts use the field on Sunday mornings when its closed. Smile.

The site was built for the movie filmed there that was released in 1989, 18 months following the death of our 9-year-old son Kelly. Seeing the film touched me deeply as it spoke of seeing, feeling, listening and following advice from spirit. The main character in the movie, Ray (Kevin Costner) accidentally “engaged with spirit” in the film. He was convinced it was a real experience and despite the many raised eyebrows of the community he followed advice from spirit: If you build it, he will come. He razed the corn field in front of his farmhouse and built a baseball field as directed.

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Once it was built, long dead baseball players walked out of the corn and played once again played ball on this newly created field. Only visible to the protagonist and eventually his family, it eventually took to the community and to the country at large. In the plot it appears the field was built for the ballplayers in spirit; if you build it, they will come. In truth the statement was “If you build it, he will come” meaning if Ray built the field, his father would come. His father had died when he was young, and he had longed to play ball with him again. At the end of film his father shows up in spirit and they play ball. A dream come true, hence the name a field of dreams.

My father died when I was 15 years old, I know that longing. My son died when he was only 9 years old, I know that longing. If you build it, he will come resounded in my head like an impossible siren of hope, but it was hope none the less. Can this work for me? Can I connect with my father and my son again? What can I build?

Coincidentally on the same day of very year that The Field of Dreams was released (April 21st 1989) another film of continuing connections was also released. Stephen King’s Pet Semetary was opened on the exact same day! This film was a dark horror movie involving reanimating the dead body of a couple’s young son using ancient indigenous burial grounds. It was fraught with the horrific negative impact of subscribing to meddling with fate and all its dark implications. Creepy.

I saw both movies that spring of 1989, less than 2 years out after my son had died; I cried many tears through both films… all the while asking myself the question: I have had both of those losses in my life, what would I have done given the same opportunity?  Would I reanimate my son’s cancer emaciated & radiated young body?  No, of course I would not. I do understand although the cognitive dissonance that was in that bereaved father’s brain. I understand the lure of possibility. I also understand the deep dark thoughts to take my own life to be with my son and the lure of that possibility…anything to find freedom from the continual pain.  People jumped from the trade towers on 911 because the pain of the flames was greater than the fear of the fall. We make choices, because we must; some choices are better than others; sometimes it’s a crap-shoot or a dart thrown in the dark.

We cannot reanimate bodies after burial, that is not a choice. We can although listen. Listen to body, mind, and to spirit unilaterally to achieve and nurture manifestation of our intention. If you build it, he will come resonated with me, and I wrote my first book “Letters to My Son, a journey through” a small soft covered self-published book whose publication changed my life. My grief became 3 dimensional, something I could literally share with the world, and I have. If you build it, he will come. My book eventually turned to more books, videos, films, articles, workshops, lectures on proactive grieving, continuing connections and autonomic resilience in grief and trauma.  I now speak across the nation and the world with my own radio show on grief. If you build it, he will come.

Following our time in Dubuque, my wife and I traveled to Parkland Florida where I was honored to share the stage with the drama club and their “Shine Choir” from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Parkland School.  I performed interpretive sign with them to the song “Shine” that they had written for the survivors of the school shooting at on School Valentine’s Day 2017.    https://www.facebook.com/jacquie824/videos/10156300516140764/

The event was held at the Bobby Resciniti Healing Hearts angel walk in Fort Lauderdale who has been working with the students/faculty, families and community since the shooting. Over 700 walkers with hundreds of angel signs honoring loved ones who have passed dotted the route of the path. An awesome day and we got to spend time with many dear friends and angel parents from many previous walks.

While we were already in warm southern Florida my wife and I also gambled on staying at an unseen Airbnb near Lake Okeechobee for two days to chill before returning home. We soon found out it was not near the lake at all, but behind a Publix/strip mall just off the main drag and the Federal Highway! Little did we know what a magical place it was going to be…

Rob the owner was gentle giant of a man with an equally large smile. He greeted us as we drove up his on his sea-shell chipped driveway. He lumbered up energetically equipped with a prosthetic leg that he seemed to use very well. It shined in the Florida sun with a deep shiny candy apple blue painted with powder blue flames that just happen to match his mint shiny blue S-10 pick-up that was parked proudly in his front circular drive.

A 70ish-year-old artist who never went past the 9th grade, bought this rundown old acreage with huts on a jungle lot over 20 years ago. He lived in the main house out front, a small tin roofed old military captain quarters house with several sheds. As an artist he created his own metal work/stained glass which were scattered throughout the property and in every building on site. His wife Carol from Japan has dementia and he with their granddaughter help care for her. Pictures on the wall show where she once played tennis with Chris Evert. Now retired to be with his wife, he rents out the “tiny house” cabin in the back yard among his studios for extra income. Lucky for us.

Rob showed me all his studios and he left them wide open and said anytime I wanted to look around, no locks anywhere. We had a hook-n-eye latch on our door!! and yet he said local bobcats would prowl at night so keep it locked! His studio was stocked with cold Rolling Rock beer that we were welcome to.  He struggled to get around the landscape of the yard with his Pogo-stick type prosthetic leg, but it did not slow him down. Originally from Pennsylvania (why the Rolling Rock) 🙂 he had an accent of sorts and rather humbly he said he had won a contest for the World Trade Centers Memorial for a work of art which is now displayed there. Cool dude. We both even remembered our Vietnam lottery numbers and watching the news; both peace advocates we recollected the thoughts of moving to Canada or becoming a Quaker; we laughed, but were both relieved we were not called. Barb said yikes you guys are like artist soul twins.  I was in heaven to be here. It felt ordained. We were simpatico.

I took photos everywhere all around the property and then sat blissfully on the front porch with a cold Rolling Rock and saw the sun shining through a stained-glass piece of artwork that was hanging in the window. We had made the right choice. The universe is incredible if you allow it. Take risks for joy.

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Meanwhile my wife was in the kitchenette admiring a stained-glass piece that was hanging there above the tiny stainless mini-sink and judging by the amount of dust on its surface, it hand been there quite a while. It was a photo of the artist’s father-in-law in Japan walking into the woods and it was infused into the glass. It was beautiful and to me it looked like the reverse image of an artwork I that I had created in pencil commercially for The Grief Toolbox.  It was called “walking through grief”. For me it bespoke of meeting in the middle light, that space between the darkness of both worlds coming and going. We both said we wanted to inquire about purchasing it. She then heard me scream.

Cloudy most of the day, the sun came out momentary and was shining directly through the stained-glass which illuminated the vase I was glancing at.  I stared in awe and screamed out loud: holy shit, Barb come here now!!!  Look at the vase in this stained-glass, do you see what I see? She said rather hesitantly “a lions face maybe? “I said look again at the top of the vase, can you not see your son’s eyes? Her turn to scream; she then said, OMG it is Kelly!!! Wow he is truly in that glass.

We held our book up to the glass, once you see it you cannot un-see it.   We called for Rob, he came out and we showed him; his jaw dropped, and he said he thought he could always see sort of an eye in there before…but said this is truly unreal it is just random molded glass I had on hand. I asked to buy it, he gave me a great deal because of the kismet of it all 😊. If you build it, he will come.

stained glass collage

.We are blessed to be Kelly’s parents. He only realized 9 birthdays on earth yet has celebrated 31 as an angel across a veil that we share. When you lose a child, it is like being sent to purgatory, a place between heaven and hell being separated from that angel that we love so much. It’s not a real place of course, but when you lose a child you find that purgatory & the land of misfit toys are very real places; a holding-pen for the hopeless.

Through continuing connection, we find hope, which is comparable to holding on to a rope on a slippery slope…waiting for the rain to stop. Eventually the prayers and compassion for one another helps to stop the rain. That slope was a long time ago for me. Today many calendar days that that once dropped me to my knees into a hopeless wreck, now drops me to my knees in adoration of the alchemy that makes our continuing bond possible.

Today is my son’s birthday, which for us is a holy day of obligation, a sacred day not for doing the mundane but one to honor our lives together the whole day. Today we honor his birthday in celebration; it may bring moist eyes and a tremulous smile, but that smile turns now to a grin knowing that death does not win.

The only alchemy we need is love.

11/16/19 MC

The Quantum Physics of Continuing Connections

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December 1st, 1987 changed my life forever; my 9- year-old son Kelly James died from a malignant brain tumor. Twenty-three years later to the day my life inextricably changed again; my granddaughter Olivia Kelly was born. Same weight, same length, same face, same eyes. We were shocked by the resemblance and the incredible timing that she was born on the calendar day of his death, but we were not totally surprised. We knew. A friend, a psychic told me several months before my daughter even knew that she was pregnant; that this was going to happen; and it did.

This friend from high school called me out of the blue circa 2009. We had not spoken or seen each other since 1973 when we both graduated. She had seen my book in a bookstore (Letters to My Son) while browsing grief books, as she had too lost a son recently and felt a psychic connection with him. My contact information was in my book and she called me about using my publisher. While she was speaking with me, she said, wait a minute, Kelly is coming to me now…she then went on to say Congratulations, you are going to be a grandpa again, Kelly is coming back to be born into your family.

I was speechless for the first time in my life. My jaw literally dropped, accompanied by a rush of reactive hormones that seemed to be buzzing throughout my body. I literally could not speak.  I regained my composure within a few moments and I lamely croaked out: Wow, I will have to call my daughter; which I did poste haste. Meagan, what are you not telling me?  I have it on good authority you are pregnant. Her turn to be almost speechless but she quickly managed to say quite vociferously: Your friend is nuts Dad I am not pregnant.

I said honey don’t shoot the messenger and I explained the call. She went on to say that the lady is obviously confused, that’s is just plain bat shit crazy, no one can know that, besides I am on the pill, my husband lost his job, we are losing our house, we have no insurance with a 3-year-old toddler to raise. We are not pregnant or plan to be anytime soon. End of story.

Six weeks later I get a call from Meagan. Dad this is crazy, I missed my period and have taken two home EPT tests that read positive. She met with a doctor who confirmed that her home tests were correct, and she was indeed pregnant with a due date of November 16th, 2010.  My son Kelly’s birthday. Coincidence?

November 16th came and went, no baby. I was disappointed it did not happen on Kelly’s birthday but also grateful, as I was out of town at the time. She was now running two weeks late and they were considering an induction but did not have too as she spontaneously went into labor a little after midnight on December 1st, Kelly’s angel day.  Later that morning my daughter gave birth to a little girl, Olivia Kelly. For her birth and grateful for the miraculous manipulation of the mystery that provided us with such a gift.  Continuing connection.

Fast forward 5 years I find Olivia in our yard hugging a tree and crying. I asked her what was wrong? She replied “I miss Uncle Kelly, and when I hug a tree like this, he talks to me. I simply replied, wow what did he have to say today? She said, he said “we are going to call you Winnie the Pooh now”.  I replied that’s interesting and I dug through our DVD collection and found the movie and we watched it.  The whole 100 Acre Wood characters in this video were trying to fix Eeyore’s grief for the loss of his tail. Epiphany!  I then created a grief workshop “Who are you in the 100 Acre wood? “which is now part of the proactive grieving model used in my presentations ever since. Continuing connection.

December 1st, 2018 Olivia turned 9 years old, now the same age as her uncle when he died. She is now old enough to articulate better what she is feeling. She said she had a dream a few years back of her being in the ER at a hospital and she was so scared, and she associated it with Kelly.  She told us this spring she had a dream with Uncle Kelly in it and she asked him why she was born on his death day? She said he replied, “so I can see the world through your eyes”. Best thing I have heard in response to her unique birth circumstances.

I share this story publicly as my granddaughter has only known a continuing connection with her uncle by living it. It is not a learned behavior, hidden behavior or wished for, but it just is… as natural as brushing your teeth she has known nothing else her whole life. We keep Kelly in the present tense in a non-physical relationship. Quantum Physics theory supports a that a sustaining molecular relationship is involved in all matter and is not limited to time and space.

This summer I was asked to provide a full day Proactive Grieving seminar for the Canadian branch of The Compassionate Friends in Winnipeg. The seminar is broken into 4 pods of lecture & interaction; body, mind, soul, and spirit. In the “spirit” pod we focus on the topic of continuing connections, signs, dreams, and synchronicities. We talked about signs on the drive up to Canada from the Twin Cities. She said I want 4 signs this weekend from Uncle Kelly, a purple orb, a feather, a heart and a rainbow. Olivia was on the alert.

The first night at the hotel she scurried over to “the claw” toy machine in the lobby.  I think for the most part, it is impossible to win.  She saw a purple ball and said Kelly I need that orb! Of course, she picked it up!!! She later found a heart rock, and a feather, but rainbows are harder to come by.

At the conclusion of the day we had a candle lighting and we played Alan Pedersen’s’ beautiful and iconic song Tonight I hold This Candle that is used for ceremonies worldwide.  I was on stage performing interpretive sign to the song and was not at the table with my granddaughter, but my wife was and witnessed a miracle. When the lyrics came on…” if your looking down tonight and see this candle burning bright, it says I am wishing you were here” my granddaughter closed her eyes and she saw Kelly smiling at her, coming toward her and he hugged her. She said he had short hair and was wearing a long sleeve white robe with gold trim. She said to me later: It was real Papa; I saw him he hugged me.

That night we go up to our hotel room and we see a huge storm blow in right before sunset. They had not had rain in 6 weeks. Olivia was praying for rain to get her rainbow. We heard thunder and looked outside to an approaching storm. It rained hard briefly, the sun came out and a huge double rainbow appeared outside our hotel room. The look on her face indelible in my mind, one of pure love and gratitude stamped with eternal hope.

Hope is validated by quantum physics. Our thoughts, actions and intentions are not limited to constraints of classical mechanics. Our ability to communicate with our loved ones who died is backed up by the quantum mechanic’s entanglement theory. This occurs when two particles are inextricably linked together no matter their separation from one another. Although these entangled particles are not physically connected, they still are able to share information with each other instantaneously — seemingly breaking one of the most hard-and-fast rules of physics: No information can be transmitted faster than the speed of light…yet it does. And for the bereaved its a miracle. Even Einstein acknowledged the unusual phenomenon in physics…by saying it is real, but just plain spooky.

Continuing connections, communication and even choice is integral to subatomic particles creating matter, which is life itself and eternal. Quantum theory proves it is impossible to be separated; death does not win.

cogito ero sum

 

 

 

Shift Happens, A Perspective on Change in America

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A Perspective on Change In America

Wow, can you believe it?  We are 19 years into the new millennium, soon to welcome in its second decade with the year 2020. I was born in 1955 the quintessential baby boomer born at the peak of live births in this country with a little over 4 million births in the United States that year.  I am considered a leading-edge Baby Boomer. Who knew? That makes me a full-fledged card-carrying prime product of the 1950’s and proud of it.

My father was a police officer and our local milkman (my parentage obviously secure) who worked two jobs to support 7 kids. My mom did not work but she cooked a lot, times were good, we were well clothed, well fed, well educated. The country was celebrating rock and roll across the nation; post WWII American life was robust, jobs were plenty, technology was booming at unprecedented rates, some folks even had color TVs. Life was good if you honored the flag, understood your role, your age limit, accepted gender restrictions, you respected your elders, worked hard, shoulders back, stomach in, chest out, hair short and you were white. It would be decades before people of color, women, and those with gender identity issues would gain equal footing.  We actually believed we lived in Pleasantville, that is until the late 1960’s when reality came rushing like a Tsunami; The Viet Nam war and the Beatles changed America forever.  Shift happens and we go for the ride.

Protests, psychedelics, marijuana and a man on the moon; peace, love, dove and Boonesfarm wine took over our country like flies at a corn feed and it shook the foundation of our country’s silent generation. The baby boomer’s parents almost lost control of a generation that was 4 million strong, mostly idealists wanting to make a difference. The Viet Nam war and its sociological impact changed our country. Although much good resulted with increased social harmony, better laws for human rights, racial equality and social programs, it also catalyzed derision between political parties that did not support the same views.

The KKK and other covert melanin challenged interest groups went underground; they did not disappear, some discreetly graduated from law school to maintain the status quo in the legal arena keeping their hair short, their necks red and their mission intact. Others with less opportunity and less financial means grew out their hair & beards to hide their red necks and blend in with the hippie’s movement of love. The summer of love produced partisans of social equanimity and compassion, but also produced partisans of social destruction and hatred. Newton’s third law of physics: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The extremists from those days on both sides of the fence have now elevated to high levels of politics and/or support grass root organizations that represent the continued passion for their personal political world view. They are the mentors and direct influencers on our millennial generation that will soon oversee all facets of our country, from top to bottomness; to embolden and prepare the country for the next shift in social consciousness. The pendulum keeps on swinging and why a two- party system is inherently a good one.

Our left-wing love bunnies and our right-wing red necks are now back at it again, polarizing our country. Many on both sides are hard to detect especially dressed in a suit. Left- wing tree huggers are now missing their ponytails and are dressed in pastel shorts with Under Armour T-shirts and are very effective capitalist with a splash of socialism; eventually hippies had to get jobs.  The red necks found a great resource in the internet to spread their virus of hate and bigotry which is gaining momentum by increasing numbers of there are those who are acting upon their nefarious intentions now bolstered to rise by current political support. Is it coincidence since the last presidential election in 2016 mass shooting incidents with fatalities in this country has almost tripled? This year 2019 is on pace to be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one mass shooting a day. The sleeping giant of a nihilism,apathy and discontent was awoken, and they elected a president from their end of the gene pool.  Shift Happens. Its time clean up the shift.

The Silent Generation gave birth to the Baby Boomer generation, they in turn gave birth to our Millennial Generation who are now raising and nurturing our Centennial Generation.  These children of the Centennial Generation will inherit the shift we find ourselves in now, as well as the condition of the planet and its resources that we leave for them. It’s time to get our shift together and make America the model of the great democracy that it once was to the world.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Mitch Carmody October 7, 2019

Proactive Grieving Post 1: Taking Emotional Risks In Grief Processing…learning the dance

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Original drawing I created for and borrowed with permission from www.thegrieftoolbox.com

When my nine year old died in 1987 I was thrust into a dark womb of despair and I felt my system shutting down. How can I possibly survive this? I did not want to, nor did I know how. The foundations of my existence were shaken, “this cannot be happening to me” I said over and over again as though it would somehow awaken me from the nightmare.  For the first time in my life I could use word “surreal” with an understanding of its meaning, as it seemed the only way to describe my waking hours as I experienced them.

One pivotal day  in those early years of gray I found myself holding myself in a deep soul embrace; I  was really unsure who was in control, yet deep inside from some internal gyroscope I felt a faint harmony  that I had never felt before; a quiet  sacred balance, a moment of new direction, of moment of new meaning. Just a flicker of hope, a spark in the abyss, but it was real. I was stirred from my slumber of dried tears and as surely as a butterfly emerging from its cocoon I said “I need to breathe…I need to fly” and I broke through the chrysalis, a chrysalis that always seemed so imposing but yet I soon discovered to be so very thin.  I emerged a newborn baby into a world of the unknown, and although exhilarated that I could breathe I did not know how to fly…and I was frightened.  I found that I missed the womb of deep grief, its protection, its security and its lostness. I had to rest and dry my wings before I could fly, but fly again I did.

We start over again in real years, in real time following a major loss. What is vitally important in our journey is what we do with those years. I proclaimed to myself “If I am going to start all over again I am going to take risks.  I am not speaking of physical risks, I am not going sky diving or mountain climbing although that may be healing for many, for me it was a needed shift in consciousness. I am going to take emotional risks. At risk of sounding prosaic I wanted my light to shine.

Through grieving my son I have discovered myself and have begun to like what I have found beneath the layers of emotional armor. I am a much better person, more compassionate, a more affectionate person, a more feeling person than I have ever been in my life; I laugh harder; I cry harder.  I take emotional risks to reach out to those in pain. I find it helps my own pain and builds my own hope in the process. It can also provide us a platform for change, our future and the world’s.  We can use the power in our grief to become better or bitter; or we become apathetic and another life is gone. We have choices.

Take the risk to be you, reach out to yourself, and reduce or remove filters (with discretion), express yourself, admit your pain, admit your flaws, admit your misgivings, admit your dreams, admit your joy, admit your potential…admit your gifts.  Use your masks whenever you need to get through a bad day, and to survive -but not every day.  Use your gifts to rebuild your life. Grief is hard work and there is no shame in hard work. It takes guts to be an intentional survivor. As Winnie the Pooh said “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”.

We as a society and a species we tend to process personal loss from the experiences of those around us processing theirs; it is a skill that is not taught in basic education but only in the school of hard knocks. Death is a natural flow in life and it cannot be denied; we will experience grief every day that we live, it happens.

The death of a loved one in your life is like coming upon an imposing river on your journey. It has no bridge and is deep, cold, dangerous and swift. We have four choices when we stand on its shore, we can try to cross it somehow,  we can try to fight the current and go upstream, we stay on the shoreline or we go with the flow downstream… all valid options. When someone we love dies we find ourselves standing on the shoreline unsure what to do and where we are truly confronted with our own fears and ignorance of the great mystery.

When my son was diagnosed with cancer we came to an imposing river and we chose to go upstream to try and save his life; when he died we went back to the shore and again looked at our options. The shore was not the same shoreline we left; we had no strength to go upstream, no desire to cross to a new shore, so we went with the flow and were open to see where it would take us. That is what I call faith.

When coming to grips with death and dying, our own death or someone we love we come to a crossroads of faith.  We may cling to our religious beliefs with more tenacity than ever before and strive to understand its teachings with a different eye or we may fall away from our faith feeling detached and abandoned. We may even turn our anger toward God for not preventing the tragedy.

We have those that claim God can heal everything with enough faith, including miracle cures and a even resurrection from clinical death. When that does not happen, the most ardent of the faithful may be tested and be at odds with a creator that would not answer their prayers. Often times it is this passionate believer that seems even more frightened of death and fight death as the enemy when paradoxically they strive to live a life with a goal to get to heaven.

On the other hand some say there is no God, and that there are no miracles. Interestingly enough these people that do not believe in a God or an afterlife  often feel just as frightened and alone in regards to death and dying as are some of the deeply devout find themselves .

The angst of death seems most apparent in these extremes of spiritual philosophies.  The more we know the more, the more we know we what we don’t know. The grief experience that we find ourselves in is a new slate, one we did not choose but one in which we have a choice in how we process it into our reality.  We can survive loss but I believe that to truly thrive again, that a belief in a divine intelligence and an afterlife is critical.

Everything in life is in a cycle of polarization, a sine wave to maintain equilibrium with no exceptions; darkness/light; heat/cold; pressure/vacuum; concave/convex on and on ad infinitum. This includes human birth and death. Life is not linear it is a true circle.  Then light at the end of a tunnel is the same on either end.  Going upstream or downstream whether you reach the spring or the delta both are source. There are no real endings only new beginnings.  Basic physics concludes that energy does not die nor is it consumed, it continual reinvents itself.  There is no real death only transformation, which in turn allows for hope of some kind of continued existence beyond our corporal one.

Through the experience of suffering a significant loss in our life, our faith and endurance is tested to its limits. We become are stronger in the broken places or we become crippled for life.  Our grief is an opportunity to use all that we have, and all that we can muster to let our heart light shine; we take the risk to be better than we have ever been. What can hurt us more? We can become bitter or better; we have choices. Grief is the price we pay for love, and it is directly proportional to our investment in that love. Allow that love to continue to give us proceeds as we rebuild our lives proactively by living the loss and not postponing its grief.

Sorrow yields hope when we discover our part of the symphony -is just that; the music goes on and we have the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.

Peace , love and healing

Mitch Carmody

Planes, Trains and Automobiles to Planet Grief and Back

image     Planes Trains and Automobiles to Planet Grief and Back
It has been 26 years since our son Kelly died, and what a ride it has been. He had just turned nine in 1987 and was actively dying of cancer with only a few short weeks to experience his life. In those last 8 months of his life, we flew to Disney world, Disney land, Denver, North Carolina, Hawaii, Mexico; we took the train to Chicago and a taxi to “Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum”. We drove to see Paul Bunyan, the Jolly Green Giant and the giant ball of twine. We cashed in our savings and did what Kelly wanted to do; we were proactively living and learning to proactively die at the same time and seemingly for the most part we did it in planes, trains, and automobiles. Then the movie came out on the big screen and Kelly absolutely loved John Candy movies. Although very weak and frail, the day before he died we took him to see “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. He laughed until it hurt, and despite the small doses of morphine -it did hurt; that was the last time I heard him laugh or smile.
Kelly’s sister Meagan was only six years old when she saw this movie and when her brother died. Today she is 33 years old and the mother of two girls ages four and seven. She is the same age I was when my child died and it’s impossible for her to conceive of this happening to her, yet she has witnessed it in us. We are bereaved parents and will always be bereaved parents as she will always be a bereaved sibling. She wanted to come with us to participate in the conference for the first time…and for us all to take the train to Chicago; the last time she was on this train was with her brother.
We made plans early, purchased train tickets to Chicago on the Empire Builder and we had good friends in Chicago who would drive us around when we got there. We would then catch a plane back on Sunday. It was our own Planes, Trains and Automobiles adventure, which it turned out to be. The evening before we were to depart we drove to our daughter’s house in Red Wing Minnesota. She lives only blocks from the small train depot where we would catch it in the morning. Later that evening checking my email I saw one from Amtrak stating that the train had been canceled and that they had made arrangements with their bussing service to provide us with an 8 hour bus ride to Chicago. We all screamed no way! There is no Bus in the title of the movie and busses make me car sick. We asked for a refund and I bought the last three flights on American Airlines to Chicago. I know Kelly is laughing his butt off, we should have known, that’s what the movie was about on the surface -a traveling fiasco. It was a hilarious movie but we also see someone (John Candy) who is grieving deeply for his loss but keeping it a dark secret and is the really the most important tenet of the movie.
In his role Steve Martin clearly had no idea about the man’s loss; he knows only that he is stuck with a very odd fellow who irritates him to no end. He tolerates him as many do with us in our grief, and we wear masks or practice avoidance to cover up our aching heart, becoming clever at faking it until we make it. The movie clearly shows how sometimes we as the bereaved relate to the world with unique survival strategies and the fortunate others seemingly have no clue to our inner pain. At the very end of the movie Steve Martin’s character starts reflecting in an almost whimsical way; not out of anger or irritation but with honest love and compassion; then and only then does he see the clues of the grief beneath the surface.
We all have those same mirror neurons that fire in our consciousness that makes compassion a physical reality and empathy a healing tool. It is the love that neutralizes the defense neurons and changes the neuro-pathways and our system is flooded with the hormone oxytocin. This is when our heart takes control and we feel that lump in our throat, our eyes mist up and our mind takes the back seat; we get it. When that happened to Steve Martin at the end of the movie on the city train in Chicago is what most would call an epiphany; a confirmed hormonal response that drives the need to do the right thing without regard to self (hero); changing both their lives in an instant when he responded to the revelation.
In many ways this is what happens at The National Conference of The Compassionate Friends it brings out the hero in us. We become heroes when we provide light in the darkness; we become heroes when we get it; we become heroes when we validate; we become heroes when we listen; we become heroes when we hold the elevator, we become heroes when we speak their loved ones name; so many opportunities to be a hero at the conference. When we save someone else we save ourselves, its hormonal we cannot help it.
So many come to the conference scared, apprehensive, even begrudgingly but the love and authenticity of so many attendees is almost overwhelming and it can be felt physically in many ways; it is palpable and very real. It can enervate you, as well as wipe you out. One must realize that with the group energy level of so many people and the extremes of hormonal and emotional responses it can be chaotic, unpredictable and even painful. Emotions will be all over the map, but we find unification and validation that we are not alone; we are not crazy, and we are not over it. We are doing the best we can to discover how to live with our loss and still have a meaningful life. Coming to a Compassionate Friends National conference can help us do that.
I want to conclude with an article below that I had penned following The Compassionate Friends National Conference held in Costa Mesa California in 2012.
Traveling to Planet Grief and Back
I am continually amazed at the choreography of the dance that I experience at a TCF national conference and the huge impact is has on my body, mind and spirit when I walk off the dance floor and return home. From spending 3 or 4 days on “planet grief” we return home to the mundane realities of the real world and try to blend in with its preoccupied inhabitants who for the most part know nothing of our secret planet. They don’t wear buttons of a dead child pinned to their clothing; they don’t wear name tags around their neck identifying their loss, and for most part don’t wear butterfly clothing or shirts with a broken red heart.
When I return to work I get surprised looks from people who are caught off guard when I hug them good morning without thinking. I feel a deep separation anxiety for my fellow travelers to planet grief with its honest hugs, cathartic kisses, and deep seated dialogues. The heart I wore on my sleeve now feels vulnerable and exposed to the harsh elements of the daily routine and the machine of the workaday world. I am jonesing for my friends, my family of wounded survivors who succor my soul and I theirs in our dance of the broken hearted. In a word I feel “drifty” and lost for a few days; like getting your land legs back slowly after a week at sea I feel unsteady and unbalanced and I weep easily. I miss my family from planet grief and feel the impact of its loss for another year.
Today I am decompressing, degriefing so to speak, remembering and cherishing the magic moments of the weekend and thanking God for the privilege to be there and serve the bereaved with every quark of my being. I help to facilitate healing in the most sacred of places, the human heart and sou. I am always humbled and healed myself by the experience. Cost Mesa California with its oceans of love and mountains of memories was an incredible experience and I had a lot of quality time with my family of the heart. I met many newly bereaved and made new friendships wish I will cherish as much as the old.
We all come to planet grief from many different worlds. Worlds of all kinds; a plethora of differences in race, age, religion, occupation, economic class, intellect and political views, yet we congregate as one family and find a common ground in compassion; finding common ground in love. It is in helping to heal that we are healed ourselves, like one beggar sharing his bread with another beggar both are sustained for another day.
On the walk a few years ago held in Washington D.C. it was revealed to us that TCF had to register our Sunday TCF walk as a protest if we were to walk as a group on the streets of our nation’s capital. First I was surprised and then I thought about it…and you know that’s quite alright -we are protestors. We have our signs, our banners, our bibs, our T-shirts, our name tags and buttons. We all arrived from a network of paths and losses as varied as the stars and together on common ground we protest society’s ignorance of our forever journey and the injustice to our hearts.
Together we are changing the world views of grief and loss. We are educating the fortunate others of our journey and how we survive. We are intentional survivors who are working on our grief proactively, living our loss, not letting go, not get over, not becoming bitter, but becoming better and turning loss to legacy and honoring of loved one.
God bless you all and until we meet again…like Brigadoon “planet grief” appears for a few days in the summer and for a short time we find the camaraderie of hope, hugs and heart to sustain us for another year.
Peace, love and light
Mitch Carmody

Can a Bereaved Dad Smile on Father’s Day?

Can a Bereaved Dad Smile on Father’s Day?

 

The dogs were barking strangely one early morning in July of 1970; I was 15 years old. I knew someone had probably driven up our driveway and were taking their time to come to the door which was driving the dogs crazy. I was up early to get ready to bring my dog to the County fair as a 4-H project and was eager for the day.  I went to the window and peered out to see who could be there this early in the morning. I then spy my Mom walking up with two neighbors close by her side, arms around her, covering her in an obvious shawl of compassion and they were whispering. The dogs’ barking was a harbinger of despair. My dad had died

 

 A few days prior to this my dad had gone in to hospital for a relatively new operation for clogged arteries to the heart and although in this century is now done routinely it was then a very risky operation.  My father had complications following surgery and later died.  Our neighbors brought my Mother home to support her in breaking the news to myself and my sisters. My mother reached out to me and embracing each shoulder with her shaking hands she said: “you are the man of the family now son, you need to take care of yours sisters, and the farm…your father has died.

 

I hugged her without a tear, without fear and just said…Okay… I love you Mom.  I never really did grieve or publicly lament my fathers passing.  I was the kid whose old man kicked the bucket over summer break. I was embarrassed by the quiet looks of consternation and thusly became the clown, to laugh it off preemptively and avoid the glares. I put away the grief, the pain, and did not lament, or mourn my loss.   It seemed almost too easy to pack away.  My mother soon remarried, then feeling somewhat abandoned, compounded with the strong feelings to stretch my own wings, I moved away from home at 18 years old.

 

Now years pass by, I get married and have a child, our firstborn, our only son. Soon we were blessed with the birth of his darling sister, life seemed again be joyful and the fulfillment of a dream.  Soon the dark clouds returned with death of my only son, nothing could have ever prepared me for the depth of pain that one experiences in losing a child. Nothing!  The world stopped and everything I ever knew had now changed forever. I was lost in hopeless pain for many years.  Father’s Day mocked my existence, for fate had slapped me in the face. Both my past and my future in fatal swoops were whisked away and I was left here in the present alone in so much pain. Why me?

 

I lost my father, then my son, it felt so violated, so cheated, earmarked by God for misfortune, It felt like I was playing a role in some Thomas Hardy tragedy where I played the main character whose life was built on misfortune.  I soon cracked under its weight, it broke my spirit, and I felt hapless, hopeless, innocuous and miserable, I wanted to die.  I had my daughter to care for and my wife who spoons my soul, but I had no zest for life, no passion, no feeling, no goal.  I struggled hard to free myself from the web of self pity, and I dug deep into my inner soul; from attic to basement I looked within myself to find a way out.

 

In my head with angels help, I went back to the day my father died. I literally went back and relived the moment, I screamed and I cried. I finally lamented for my father and let out the buried angst hidden for so long.  When that dam burst I could then make room for the lamenting of my son.  Only then did my road to acceptance begin.  Acceptance is not selling out, or letting go of their love, it is just accepting that they are dead and giving our selves permission to rebuild our lives the best that we can.

 

I finally grieved for my father and I am still grieving for my son. Accepting their death is not forgetting them, it is merely accepting the reality of life.  You cannot have one without achieving the other. Accepting their death is not the end of the bereavement journey it’s only the beginning.  We shall continue to grieve for associated losses from their deaths the rest of our life.  Father and son banquets, hunting trips with the boys, working on cars together, sharing a beer or two, having a pair of strong shoulders to hug, so many potential moments  that we shall grieve forever. No grandchildren, or great grandchildren, no retirement party, birthday parties or graduation celebration, no parties of any sort.  We are always reminded that their lives were cut short and we grieve anew for what should have been.

 

Through the loss of my son and many family members I have learned much on the journey.  I found that I love deeper, I smell flowers longer, and I savor the sunsets more.  I feel the best when helping others and I thank God for my every breath.  These are all good things to have come to me in the midst and aftermath of horrific pain. How sad it would be if we were not compensated in some way for our tragic loss, for life would then truly seem meaningless.

 

Through the loss of my father and my son I discovered the randomness of death. That death can hit anyone, anytime regardless of genes, the environment, or the best of efforts to stave off the sting of its reality. There is nothing we can do that can adequately prepare us for a loss of our loved one; nothing. 

 

Do I feel sad on Father’s day?  You bet I do?  Do I celebrate it?  Yes I do. I am proud to have been a son for 15 years and proud to have been a father to my son for 9 years. I am proud to be a Father for my surviving daughter Meagan. I am proud to be a grandfather. Everyday is Father’s day when you find yourself surrounded in love from this world and from the next. 

 

Feel the sadness of your Father’s day; real men grieve. Feel the pain, but also feel, the joy, feel the love that alone makes it possible to feel the pain. When we have children that still live or that have died we still have the same pride… that makes me smile on Father’s day.

 

Love and light     Mitch Carmody June 2014

The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

The first line from the song The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel is “Hello darkness my old friend I have come to talk with you again”.  Those who are bereaved will understand that conversation we have with that old friend in our life.  Let me introduce you to my old time friend. His name is Grief. He is not my enemy; he is my closest friend and ally. Grief is that old friend that listens to my deepest pains, fears, and sorrows; he is always available day or night.  That friend who came immediately to my side together with his friend Shock. Together they held me up with invisible arms to do the impossible and bury my child.

Grief is an old friend; I invited him to stay with me when my son died.  When the funeral was over and my whopping three days of bereavement leave completed I went back to work. It was time to pull up my boot straps, get busy in my work and let time heal.  I told my friend Grief that although I was grateful for his support to get me through the funeral, there is no way he could come to work with me. It would be embarrassing; people would wonder why he was with me all the time and I would have to try and explain.  He agreed and for the most part Grief stayed home.

Being a good friend Grief honored my request and did not come to work with me those early weeks, but he did not leave altogether. I said he could stay in my son’s old room as long as he needed too.  He stayed to his room for the most part, but I would occasionally find him waiting for me, sitting in the car when I got off work. Sometimes he would even surprise me at work and say “let’s take the day off” and we would. He would seem to know the right time to pounce on me at work and we would go for a walk together, just he and I.

That second year my friend Grief started popping into the office more than before, he showed up at dinners, events, most every movie I went to,  and  he would even surprise me in the shower some mornings and I would lose it completely. In those early years most of our time together was spent kicking back on the couch and having a few beers together and drift /off to the sound of silence. After while he never seemed to leave me alone, at home, at work , at night, I could not get away from him and he was a slob, a slouch and a grouch on a couch.

My friend became my nemesis, my antagonist, he shadowed my day and owned my night and I wanted him to leave, but he stood fast. I began to resent him taking over and controlling my life and leaving it in such a mess. I no longer wanted him as my friend but I had no strength to throw him out so I gave in gave up my control and rested in my own vulnerability to his care.  I gave in to my captor the same as hostage can to their captor. It is not unlike The Stockholm Syndrome where a victim starts to believe the same values as the aggressor, they soon cease to see their captor as a threat and can rest.   So we rest.

Eventually at some indeterminate time Grief started to take a few vacations, longer and longer ones it seemed; sometimes I would not see him for a month. As much as I liked having my own life back, I missed him.  I experienced the very odd feeling of cognitive dissonance  by holding two opposing wishes. It muddled my brain like a difficult conundrum and I just accepted this is my life now. I am grieving. I am crazy. I am lost. My life is a mess and I need my friend.

I knew I could call him if I needed too, but I felt I had already taken advantage of so much of his time that I did not want to  bother him with minor complaints. Oddly he would seem to know the vision that was planted in my brain…and he would show up unannounced when I needed him most and stay as long as I needed him.

Sometimes he would stay for only an hour or two, at times a day or two but seldom longer and not once did we have a beer together.He seems to have grown up a lot; he stands a quite a bit taller now, and has lost a whole bunch of weight and he brought much less baggage than before. He is a whole lot less intrusive and domineering now;he mostly just listens with an understanding smile.

Today he still visits on occasion; he always stops by on his own birthday, most holidays, some weddings and all funerals. Grief is a good friend, he saved my life but in learning to live with him…I have learned to live without him. We do stay in touch however.

If you are lost and  cannot seem to find your friend, please lean on mine until you do, and keep listening to the whispers contained in the sound of silence, it whispers hope.

This blog was Inspired by the somewhat dark and haunting version of the song Sound of Silence by the Heavy Metal Band Disturbed.  Please watch, do not let the music genre influence you; do not judge a book by its cover. Albeit sad and morose, it is also hauntingly beautiful  Sound of Silence by Disturbed.