Victor Zammit’s analogy about the afterlife hit home for me this weekend when Kayla came home to visit. We don’t talk as much as we used to. But, we look forward to those times when we do. We have a tradition of Brian/Kayla weekends dating back to when Tywana and Shayna would leave us for Shayna’s sports. While the four of us got along great, we have different relationships one-on-one. Choosing a movie with the four of us was virtually impossible. While Kayla and I would watch just about anything, Tywana would veto about 40% of the movies and Shayna another 40%. Tywana didn’t want anything too scary or with too much action. Shayna didn’t want anything remotely connected to any romance or anything shot before 2000. Kayla and I would breathe deep sighs while these two tried to find something we could all agree on. OTOH, when Kayla and I are together, I’ll say “How about this?” And, she says “That sounds good.” Kayla can appreciate a classic movie, a scary movie, a philosophical movie. We like movies that make us think and prompt discussion. So, I’ll keep a queue of movies just for those times when we are alone. This weekend we watched the classics Fatal Attraction and The Machinist, discussing the mental illness of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and what caused Michael Douglas to risk his nearly perfect marriage for a weekend fling. Then, we talked about the acting chops of Christian Bale who went from 173 pounds to 110 to play Trevor Reznik in The Machinist and the torture of mental illness brought on by extreme guilt.

Brian/Kayla weekends aren’t only about classic movies. We stay up late and discuss philosophy, child-rearing (she’s a nanny), politics, religion, the afterlife, and relationships among other topics. We both prefer to have a nice meal at home to going out. So, I make special dishes for her. We decided on scallops for Saturday. Instead, we had Korean BBQ for the first time for both of us on Saturday since Costco didn’t have scallops this weekend. She appreciates nicely spiced food. I froze some of the chili I made for the chili cookoff a couple of weeks ago, because I knew she’d appreciate the hot chorizo and chipotles that give it a little kick. Ty and my neighbors said it was so spicy. Ty could only eat a couple of spoonfuls. So, I kept the rest for when Kayla was coming home. Kayla and I had it along with cheddar & jalapeno cornbread. Afterward, I asked her to rate it on a spiciness scale. She said she’d give it a 4 or 5- not super spicy. That’s my girl. It reminded me of the time she was about two years old and my mischievous neighbor gave her some spicy potato chips. He expected her to spit them out. Instead, she asked for more. After the chili, we watched The Machinist and baked some chocolate chip cookies

I love Kayla’s sensitivity. She worries about me being alone. So, when she heard that Ty was leaving for a girls’ trip, she planned time to come spend the weekend, just the two of us. Ty thought she was joking about coming because Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks. Plus, she likes being with her old man, which makes me very happy. Ty and I always were parents first, but we also wanted to be friends with our girls. I’m so grateful for the bond between us.

Brian/Kayla weekend is over. She’s in the car on the way back to Toledo. This old man is happy. And, I get to see her again in just 10 days for Thanksgiving break. Yippee!

A couple of days ago I posted this screenshot. Helping Parents Heal online group which started in May of 2017 is growing like wildfire. We crossed 3,000 members just after the conference in April. It’s October and we just crossed 4,000 members.

Several people commented that this was a sad milestone. I have to disagree. There are millions of parents out there whose children have crossed before them. What I see when I look at this number is there are 4,000 of them who have our help via this amazing group on Facebook. There are 4,000 people who have access to life-affirming and healing information and support. While the need can be overwhelming, we need to help who we can help. We can’t reach everyone but each and every one we reach makes a huge difference, to that one.

I was reminded of this story which is one of my all time favorites. After I posted it in Helping Parents Heal, someone in my Spirituality and Bereavement class referred to it, just a day later.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

I’ve been asking for signs, looking for synchronicities, trying to believe that the universe is conspiring in my favor (not against me as I was taught most of my life). And, it’s been working. The synchronicities become more evident. The validations come more frequently. The messages are more clear. I am a glass half empty, “realist”. My theme song is Paul Simon’s “Something So Right”.

When something goes wrongI’m the first to admit it
I’m the first to admit it
But the last one to know
When something goes right
Well it’s likely to lose me
It’s apt to confuse me
It’s such an unusual sight
I can’t get used to something so right
Something so right

It takes a lot to convince me.  So, I continue to diligently press for more. I keep asking for the signs to be more and more obvious. And, it’s working. So, I’m acknowleding that and offering gratitude.

Several months ago this message started coming to me, that there was something more in store for me, “just around the corner”, that I would know which path to take and, more importantly, the path would be opened to me. For a couple of years, I’ve felt like I was running in place on a treadmill that was spinning faster and faster, to the point where I wasn’t quite able to keep up with it, I was losing ground. To mix metaphors, a door had closed behind me, I was standing in a hallway and none of the other doors were opening. I’ve been praying and waiting, waiting and praying, and trying to be patient.

Then, around June, I started getting messages from different people, messages like this:

“I see you on a much larger platform. You’re a star and a whizz at technology, so that sounds like spirit reconfirming for you that you are on the right path and there is lots more to come. I am telling you Brian, something very exciting ahead for you. Your Grandfather the preacher, he’s very much with you, pushing you forward.”

A few weeks ago, I got the gig with the San Francisco Theological Society, a part-time job, a few hours a week, but the first time getting paid for doing something like what I really want to do.  Also, in September, I had a one night gig with Thomas John where I was his assistant while he was in town, introduced him at his demonstration, and gave him a ride back to his hotel. This was my second paid deal in the month of September. When I told Kat, who predicted in June that this would all start around September (this was in June), she replied with:

Yeah, it’s a start. That’s how it started for me, but once they see what you do with it and your potential, Spirit will put more power and energy behind it. You’re going to go a long way, so just keep the love in your heart centre. It’s going to be magical. More money coming for you soon I think. Not just this gig, something more soon. Kat x

A medium that I haven’t met sent me a couple of messages. I’ll condense them to give you the gist of what she said (she speaks British, BTW).

Your energy really is amazing. You’re a very old soul with so much to share with the world from your past lifetimes You are a very wise soul with much to share with the world. Much love to you and all on hph. Everything is a bigger picture and you are here for big things to awaken this world with your voice/ your life. Honoured to meet you . I truly see your light ? I see you working very high with spirit. Your energy is very pure, very genuine. You need to have your voice out to the world with you public speaking/ a book/ your voice/ your story. I felt this the min I seen you. I know good pure energy and this is you my friend. I know spirit have great high work to do with you…reaching so many across the world and being paid. ??it’s what you came back to do. To teach others. You are a true inspiration ? xxx  what I want to say to you is that I see you as a Morgan Freeman and you can work towards that your voice is that big and needs to be heard but more importantly like Morgan Freeman it’s about being respected! So I’m here to pass on a message ????❤️❤️❤️ U are more than special. Spirit have being screaming at me to tell you for ages I tried to touch on it before without trying to come off as a weirdo. I know star quality and that’s u!!! U need to go forward ASAP with all u do ur voice and awesome energy is so pure and precious and RESPECTED like Morgan Freeman you need to do everything in ur power to get YOU out there to the masses!! Only Brian u need to be the voice for the world not just a group but the whole collective whole and the world will listen. I’m due again on a major radio show, I would like to be able to talk of you to others whom I know too ?❤️ word of mouth is so good and ur work you do for spirit is known. Ur a true treasure so much love and hugs ?❤️ But u are special like star quality special ❤️ I know energy and u ooooze it ❤️❤️ so I’m onto this for u. Energy doesn’t lie and ur energy is off the chart it’s on fire wooohooo.

Unbeknownst to the people who sent the last two messages to me, I have been working on creating an employment opportunity for about six months now. There is someone I wanted to work with. I began planting seeds hoping that there would be some capacity I could find to work with him. I kept finding reasons to make contact and show what I can do. I got an interview two weeks ago.  After the interview and before I heard back about the job, I got this email from a guy I’ve been volunteering with, helping him run a focus group for a course he is developing.

Thanks again for your help! Just wanted to touch base because it seems like a part of your purpose is to support and shepherd parents through the grief process. It just seems to me that as HPH continues to grow and expand that you and Ty will continue to play a pivotal role in its outreach efforts.
The organization is obviously growing and impacting so many people. As it continues to expand, I am curious if there has been any discussion with Elizabeth and Board Members about expanding and supporting its infrastructure. My understanding is that it is all volunteer now but as things continue to grow I would assume there would be a need for some paid staff to assist in supporting the organization.
It just seems that your skills, knowledge, passion, and experience would be perfect for some kind of role with HPH. And it also seems as the numbers expand and the tremendous value it provides people, that HPH could find some sustainable ways to financially support the people who do so much to help others.
Just thought I would pass this along for whatever it is worth to you. Happy to brainstorm some ways that HPH could responsibly and ethically generate some income to support its important mission. While obviously, you are not doing this to make money, there is a tremendous amount of VALUE provided to people through HPH. I think some of your members would not only gladly invest in this assistance but also want to sponsor and contribute to others who may not be financially in a good spot to do so.
Thanks again for everything and keep making the world a more loving place!

Currently, HPH doesn’t have any paid positions. I don’t know if they ever will. The online group just crossed 4,000 people. The international organization is at 11,000. Maybe one day… But, this got me thinking about opportunities I could create and I’ve been brainstorming about those with the help of the guy I’ve been volunteering with. I have some ideas that could work.

Just yesterday, I got the offer I had been waiting for. I had told no one but Tywana about accepting the offer. Last night, I had a meeting with Jamie Clark. This was our second Helping Parents Heal meeting with Jamie.  Jamie is a highly tested medium who has worked with Gary Schwartz in his lab in Arizona.  Normally, when there are gallery readings, Tywana and I don’t get a reading. Shayna isn’t pushy. She probably figures we hear from her enough and wants to let others have a turn. Tywana and I have been to several gallery readings. In Thomas John’s gallery reading a couple of weeks ago, Shayna made a short appearance, at the end. If she does come through, she normally hangs back. Last night, she came through saying she wanted to be first (yay Shayna!). Jamie mentioned that I had taken a new job. I don’t think Jamie has any idea what I do. He said I would be offered more in the organization. And, he echoed much of what the others have been saying. The thing is I’m currently working for three organizations. This could be any one of them or one of the things I’m working on without any organization.

Here is the video clip of the reading by Jamie:

So, what does all of this mean? I’ve been talking and thinking about the law of attraction. I struggle with it, openly. It seems if things are going great, it’s easy to believe you’re attracting it to yourself. But, if things are not going great, how do you break the cycle? Do you lie and say “All is well?” When you’re honest are you pushing success away? I have to say I haven’t fully embraced it. What I will say is that the intentions I’ve been setting combined with the actions of putting myself in the right situations, creating situations, and being open to even the slightest opportunity is paying off and the Universe keeps finding a way to send the message to me.

Today is the day, my nephew, Nicholas, and his fiance, Nicole, are finally getting married. Tywana went ahead to rural Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia to help prepare for the wedding. I followed a day later, hitching a ride with my brother-in-law so we wouldn’t have to drive two cars back home. Nicholas and Nicole live on the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The wedding will be held in Garard’s Fort, PA where they met and became high school sweethearts. They live and work a few minutes away in West Virginia.

I get up early to get my meditation in. I immediately think that Shayna should be here and as I do, I feel her presence with me even more strongly than usual. The tears flow, a mixture of emotions I can’t even put into words. I miss her so much, even though I know she’s right here. She’s not missing this. This is Nicholas’ and Nicole’s day. Her sister and her brother/cousins are here. Shayna is here.  I have to keep my composure and get through this.

Shayna behind the veil

I love being around my family by marriage. Tywana’s sister is just like my sister. Her sons are more sons to me than nephews. Her husband, Rod, is one of the most genuine and compassionate people I’ve ever met (even if he is a Trump supporter). Being around family after Shayna’s passing is often difficult. My birth family doesn’t talk about her much. Nicholas and his brothers act like brother and sister with Shayna and Kayla. Tywana’s sister, Shell, is almost as devastated by Shayna’s passing as we are. The boys were so close with Shayna that their high school football team, 300 miles away), wore bracelets in Shayna’s honor after she passed. The kids from their high school still talk about Shayna. As I drive to the farm where the nuptials will be held outdoors beside the creek in the spot where Nicholas proposed, I make the final turn and I see purple balloons. They are there in honor of Shayna. No one has forgotten her. The boys in the wedding are all wearing purple ties, in honor of Shayna. They each have a picture of Shayna pinned to their ties. Kayla has a picture of Shayna pinned on the inside of her dress.

For whatever reason (Tywan), we arrive at the wedding over an hour before it’s scheduled to begin. Kayla has to be here because she’s in the wedding party. They were late getting back from their hair appointments (of course). Since it’ll take me 10 minutes to get ready, I make the half-hour drive to drop her off and the half-hour drive back. When I get back everyone except Tywana is gone. I quickly throw on my clothes and then make the half-hour drive once again. Kayla is a groomswoman. Nick wanted her in the wedding. She is wearing a gray dress, the same color as the groomsmen’s suits, and stands on Nicholas’ side.

Rod, my brother-in-law, the talker, approaches me as I’m watching the picture taking. Rod, is the kind of person who will meet someone, spend five minutes with them and know their life story. Rod asks probing questions about deep stuff, always.  Rod looks me in the eye and asks “What thoughts are going through your head?” I try to deflect “I have a lot of thoughts, right now Rod.” He won’t let it go “What are the predominant thoughts?” I say “You know what I’m thinking, Rod.” We’ve known each other for 15 years and we know each other well. Rod knows exactly what (who) is on my mind. He says “They’re all right here.” I say “Yes. They certainly are all right here.” What I leave unsaid is I wish I could see them and hug them. I wish Shayna could be standing up there with her sister and her brothers/cousins. I know she’s here, but she can’t speak to us and can’t be in the pictures.

The wedding is short and sweet. Rod gives a mini-sermon. The setting is idyllic as butterflies are fluttering around, the creek is flowing the background. Rod even includes an anecdote about one day when the creek was stocked and relates it to Nick and Nicole’s wedding. And, the train that runs about 300 yards from where they are getting married even has the courtesy to not roll through during the ceremony.  The ceremony ends and I get a ride with Kelly and Lisa to the reception. Tywana will stay with Kayla who has to take more pictures now that Nicole has made her reveal and can be included. We drive three miles down the road before we can get a signal and Waze can direct us to the reception. As we pull into Jefferson, PA, we realize there is no cell service there either. I had tried to call Tywana at Nicole’s from the car on the way down. Voice communication was impossible, but I could get texts to and from her.  In Jefferson though there is no texting, no voice nothing. My theory is maybe there’s one carrier that covers the town, but I have AT&T, Lisa has Sprint, and Derrick has Verizon.  No one can communicate with anyone.

When we get to the reception, I see a table with pictures on it of past family weddings. I see a picture of my father-in-law, Felton, who passed 7 years ago. And, then I see a picture of my baby at the far end of the table. Shayna is hear. Later, I will find out that she also made a supernatural appearance, appearing to one of the members of the wedding party in the mirror as they were getting ready. Everyone is missing Shayna today, but I think we also know she is truly right here, not just in our hearts.

Finally, the bride and groom arrive and the festivities begin. Kelly (Tywana’s brother), Lisa (his girlfriend), and Tim (Tywana’s brother), all want to watch the UK football game tonight at 7.  The wedding is at 2:30. When you go to a wedding, you do the wedding, go to the reception for an hour (maybe two) and you head out. Surely, we can get to a sports bar and catch the game. OSU is playing Penn State (biggest test of the season) at 7:30. I can do the reception and still make the game. Or so I thought. As someone pointed out, this is Nicole’s world and we’re all just living in, especially true on a bride’s wedding day. The mother-son dance and all of that stuff haven’t happened and it’s after 6. Kelly and Lisa are leaving. I have to make a decision. Do I stay with Tywana and Kayla and be here for only God knows how long? Or, do I escape with Kelly and Lisa? I ask Tywana what time she plans to leave here. The answer is “I don’t know.” I know what that means, leave with Kelly and Lisa. We drive the couple of miles it takes to get a cell signal then have Waze direct us to their hotel, next to the BW3s where we will catch the game. I want to text Tywana and tell her “When you leave the reception, turn right and just keep driving until you see civilization again.”. But, I can’t. She’s still in cell phone blackout town.

Long story short, we get to their hotel, they change clothes, and we head to the sports bar. UK’s not on TV here. They can’t watch the game anyway. We begin trying to communicate with the people at the reception. We try Tim, Tywana, Derrick, on a rotating basis. We don’t know if they’re still there or on the way somewhere else. We had said we were going to BW3s, we ended up at The Green Turtle. This “sports bar” closes at 10 PM (basically half time of the games). I ask Kelly and Lisa if they can drop me at Shell’s where I can catch the rest of the game on TV. They agree. It’s only 15 minutes away. But, oh what a 15 minutes. Waze takes us the “back way”. I’ve made the drive from this area back to Shell’s before. it’s very reasonable.  That is, it’s reasonable if you don’t turn right on “Dead Man’s Way”. That’s not the actual name of the “street”, but that’s what I’m going to call it from now on. Pro tip: If you’re driving in Western Pennsylvania and you see a sign that says “Winding Road” either be prepared for the ride of your life or turn around.  As Gabe said it’s “next level dark” out here. The road is about as wide as you’d expect a one-lane driveway to be. There are trees growing right up to the edge of the road (on both sides in spots). There are potholes that could eat your car and you’d never be seen again. I’m watching Waze and giving instructions to Kelly. He’s trying to go as fast as possible to get us out of here, but too fast and you’ll blow a tire. Two black men with a white woman in the back seat, in Klan country. This is not a good place to have a flat. I’m watching Waze count down the miles to the next turn which I know will put us back onto a road that at least has two full lanes when Waze gets stuck. It’s been saying 0.3 miles way too long. What is happening? Did we lose the signal again? Then, Lisa reminds me it’s not counting down because we are going so slowly. Finally, I see 0.2.  Then 0.1 appears and we spot the road that leads to Shell’s house. Hallelujah!

It’s then I realize that Shell has given me the code to her door but with no one home, I have to go into the house and face Dog alone. Dog is Shell’s dog. And his name is Dog. Dog is about a 100-pound German shepherd who likes no one but Shell. I’ve never been alone with Dog and I’m not sure how this is going to go. I ask Lisa and Kelly to wait outside the door in case they need to call 911 after Dog mauls me.

I’ve got the code and I know it’s right, but the door won’t open. I try, two, three, four times. Dog is barking and growling saying “Please just come through that door. Make my day.” Finally, the door opens, I open it just wide enough to see Dog, but not wide enough for him to get his massive head through the opening.  He’s not barking, not snarling, but he’s standing in my way. He needs to back up so I can get in. I timidly open the door and greet him with confidence. “Hey Dog, let’s go upstairs.”  He starts up the stairs, I follow. Whew!  I survived cell phone hell, Dead Man’s Way, and my first solo encounter with Dog.

I turn on the TV, pour myself a Buffalo Trace, and watch the Buckeyes make an amazing comeback to beat Penn State in the final minutes. Hours after we left the reception, I get my first message from Tywana “We’re on the way.” She, Shell, and Rod come home. Nick and Nicole are married, everyone’s survived this most bizarre episode of Survivor, and all is right with the world. Shayna, I know you were here.

 

Person to person and man to man, I’m back in touch with my long lost friend.
Listen to reason and understand and think of me from way back when.
He said, me and Melissa, well we fell out of love. We ran out of luck seems like lightning struck.
I’ve been thinking of leaving, but I can’t raise a buck,
James, I’m wondering could I borrow your truck?

I said that’s why I’m here. Got no other reason,
that’s why I’m standing before you, that’s why I’m here.- James Taylor- That’s Why I’m Here

 

I’m pretty sure I’ve quoted this song before because of all of James Taylor’s favorite songs of mine, this may be my most favorite. Today I get my first message through the contact form on my blog. I haven’t been given permission to share it. So, I’m going to change some of the identifying details. I want to share it not to pat myself on the back. I do what I do only because I believe that’s why I’m here. Fish swim because they were born to swim. They don’t expect any thanks or praise. This is what I was born to do.

I love getting this though. Is it ego? Is it validation that what I’m doing is indeed reaching someone, helping in some way? Maybe it’s just because I’m human.

 

Hi Brian!
I have to tell you that I came upon your blog through Helping Parents Heal, and I want you to know how very important your work is to me, a bereaved parent of 9 years! I thank you so much for your service to HPH, and for hosting most of the programs! I don’t often make the live presentations, but I do watch some of the replays, and I find such inspiration and upliftment there!

Your daughter Shayna is so beautiful…..I was totally struck by those amazing big eyes in the picture of her on your blog! I am so sorry for the pain that her passing has brought to your heart and Tywana’s. The suddenness of her passing must have been a jolt that left you breathless! I also have two girls, and my younger daughter Sophia died at 36 years old of leukemia, but I am sure I felt that same jolt when she was diagnosed. She only lived for several more months, but it gave us time to say all the things that needed to be said, and to love each other so profoundly that it still amazes me! There are gifts in every experience in life, including the passing of our beloved children!

I was especially taken with your recent blog post about your experiences with church! They mirror my own experiences in many ways! I am an MDiv. seminary graduate, and was ordained in the Methodist church. My background was Presbyterian, and fairly liberal, as opposed to your more fundamentalist upbringing, but my journey through the years has been similar…..including stops in the UCC church, Science of Mind and Unity! Now I just don’t attend church anymore at all….especially since Sophia passed. It just doesn’t hold any meaning for me anymore! Spirituality is hard to find in church, and that is what I search for in all that I do! My focus is on growing my soul while I am in a body, and being able to evolve so that my next adventure on Planet Earth (if I choose to come back here) or wherever my spiritual journey takes me after this earthly life is done, will be more advanced and fruitful!

Many thanks to you and Tywana and Helping Parents Heal for bringing such Light into the world of bereaved parenthood! I know the journey for you is still difficult, as it will always be for all of us until we are reunited on the other side with our beloved ones, but your honesty, the expression of your ideas and perspectives, and your commitment to expanding the views of the afterlife for more and more bereaved parents is beyond commendable and most appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Many Blessings to you and your family!

I’ve read this email over and over. I’ve been struggling more than usual in the last week or so.  I have no idea what direction to turn in. The email came at just the right time. Thank you so much!

p.s.- this morning on my walk I was listening to a podcast. The woman being interviewed lost a grandchild suddenly and a daughter to murder. She was in a meeting sharing her story with other parents. After the meeting one of the other parents came up to her. That mother had shared how her daughter died of AIDS, a long, slow decline. The interview subject was grateful that her daughter’s death was quick with no suffering and no prolonged grief before the passing and was thinking she couldn’t imagine enduring that. The other mother took her by the hand and said: “I can’t imagine the pain of the sudden passing of your child being murdered.” I guess we all try to make the best of the sucky circumstances we’ve been handed.

Today is Tywana’s birthday.  55 years on the planet.  We’ve been married 27-1/2 years.  Half of her life she has chosen to be just with me.  The last three years of the 27 have been the most difficult, but probably the most productive in terms of soul growth.

As I come back into this world this morning waking from my slumber, I reflect on our time together. In some ways, we are very different people.  In other ways, we are very much the same.  We are truly partners in every sense of the word.  We are business partners. We partnered raising the girls. We collaborate on just about every decision from paint color to what direction we’re going to take the business. I am blessed to have found her at the gym over 30 years ago at this point in time.

It’s not all sunshine and roses.  I’m not easy to live with. This is especially true over the last three years. I am appreciative of her patience with me as I continue to struggle to reintegrate into a world that is even more foreign to me than it was before. I don’t take it for granted.  It’s widely quoted that up to 90% of couples who suffer the death of a child also suffer the death of their marriage.  I, in fact, believed that right up until a moment ago when I found out that is a myth.  The death of a child does have a profound impact on a marriage and will expose and test any cracks that are there.  On the other hand, the death of a child, gives a couple a shared experience to walk through together, an experience that can, in fact, draw the couple closer. While the stress has taken its toll, the shared experience has made us realize just how much we have in common.

I have seen remarkable growth in Tywana over the past three years.  The Tywana of June 24 when Shayna made her transition has matured and blossomed in ways I don’t think either of us thought possible in this lifetime.

Today, we celebrate this milestone, this achievement. Happy Birthday, Tywana.  Thanks for sharing your life with me.

A couple of days ago Kayla and I went to see Amy Lee (Evanescence) and Lindsey Stirling in concert. This was Kayla’s first major concert experience. She had seen Morgan James with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Black Violin.  She’s also been to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Evanescence is touring in support of their Synthesis album, which is done with a full orchestra. Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who combines ballet dancing with Michael Jackson like moves into her show. I’m maybe more excited about this concert than any I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind & Fire, some great shows. I’ve seen Morgan James in a couple of intimate venues and with a full orchestra. However, seeing Amy Lee with a full orchestra, and Evanescence I know will be an experience like no other.  I wonder how I’ll react when she comes on stage because her voice always, without fail, gives me goosebumps. Her songs often bring me to tears. I can’t cry in front of Kayla, but if it happens, it happens.

I adore Evanescence’s first album. The music is excellent and there are some songs with very moving lyrics. To think that Amy was 20 when the album was put out and to have a song with the depth of “My Immortal” blows my mind.  Their second album did not impress me. There are only two or three songs that I like much from that albums. So, when their third album finally came out in 2012, I wasn’t even aware until after the time Shayna had passed.  The girls and I used to watch the video from My Immortal and they both listened to the first album. I was in love with Amy Lee, but Evanescence, not so much.  I heard that the 2012 record was different from their second album so I decided to give it a listen.  This was just weeks after Shayna had passed and I was doing a lot of walking and listening to music to clear my head.  I gave the album a try. It was as if the album was written just for me. The key to an artist connecting to us I think is to take what is their personal experience, make it universal, give it to us, and we translate it back into our own experiences.  At the time I wondered what type of loss Amy must have experienced in her young life to write and sing with such passion about themes like loss, longing, dealing with seemingly unbearable pain, and hope for a better future.

Songs 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 16- My Heart Is Broken, The Other Side (Counting the Days), Lost In Paradise, End of the Dream, Never Go Back, Swimming Home (I can just picture Shayna going Home when I listen to this one), and Secret Door touched me to my very core.  My Heart is Broken is the feeling we have when they first leave. Then, we’re counting the days until we meet them on The Other Side.  We wander this Earth only half alive Lost in Paradise. We long for the End of the Dream, but we have hope knowing it will come.  No dream lasts forever. Never Go Back is that feeling we have when we want to go back but we know the only way out is forward.  The old days are behind us.  Swimming Home I imagine is that feeling that people report from NDEs.  They’re going Home. They still love us, but they’re being called Home and cannot resist that siren call. Finally, Secret Door is when our time finally comes and we get to fly Home through that Secret Door.

Anyway, back to the concert.  There was warm-up act- Cellogram.  He was just OK.  Now, out comes Lindsey.  I’ve seen her videos and know about her dancing.  What surprises me is she tours with a dance company. This isn’t just her standing the middle of the stage playing the violin. She does about five costume changes and dances for the entire hour and a half set.  A few songs into her set, she does Shatter Me from one of her albums, and Amy Lee walks out to do the vocals for the song. Lzzy Hale sings the song on Lindsey’s album. Sorry Lzzy Hale, I’ll never hear Shatter Me the same way again after hearing Amy sing it.

Lindsey’s done her set, and now it’s time for Amy Lee, I mean Evanescence. As I said, I’ve been to a few symphony performances. I’ve seen some rock/pop concerts. I have never felt the energy coming from the music the way I did from this combination of Amy Lee’s powerful voice, the lyrics that touch the soul, the band, and the full orchestra; which was used to perfection. I sat in my seat for 3-1/2 hours (except for standing for ovations and on a couple of songs).  I was completely enthralled. The fear of over-anticipation ruining the actual event was unwarranted. It was everything I hoped for and more.

Even though almost every single song made me think of Shayna, I was able to keep my composure during the concert.  Lots of goosebumps, but no tears. I belted out the lyrics I knew to the sky. I sent waves of love and gratitude to Amy for expressing so exquisitely what I cannot convey on my own. I hoped she felt the love that I and thousands of others were sending to her in waves. Interestingly, I most connect with the songs from the third album, the one I listened to the summer of 2015.  But, when she sang My Immortal something happened that I have never experienced before.  I’m not sure why except maybe that is the song Shayna most connects to since she didn’t hear the third album while she was in the flesh. I felt that Shayna’s energy was right there with me. I felt her presence in a way I’m not sure I ever have. I was sitting in my seat, and I felt an electrical charge from head to toe.  It was a sort of buzzing. I felt as if she sat in me. Not on me, not on my lap, it was as if her energy body sat in my seat with me and merged into me. This is the opening of the song:

I’m so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
‘Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won’t leave me alone

 

July 4th, Independence Day.  It’s a day for celebration.  With the day landing on a Wednesday this year everyone’s undecided about whether the weekend before or the weekend after is the holiday weekend.  When you own your own business, often it’s neither.  Our neighbors decide to have a get together on the eve of the day since most will be back at work on July 5th.  So, we head over, grill hamburgers, and do what we do now that we are mostly empty-nesters.

When we return home, I realize I have a text from a friend I haven’t seen in a while. He’s inviting me to go boating on the 4th.  We haven’t been boating with them in years.  I’m going to guess nearly ten years. I reply with a “Yes”. That is assuming it’s not too late to accept because he wants to go at 9:30 AM and it’s nearly midnight by the time I reply. When I wake up on the 4th, he’s texted changing the time to this afternoon.  I’ve slept in.  It’s nearly 8:00 AM. I think better of taking the entire day off. I’ve got a deadline on Friday that will cost roughly $400 if I miss it. I write him back and tell him I can’t make it today.  I need to work. I cannot miss this deadline. There’s no World Cup soccer today.  I don’t have that excuse to take the day off. Work it is.

Yesterday, I got an email inviting me to be on a panel at a symposium that people assume I will be attending. The email triggers a mixture of emotions. Tywana and I, well I, have decided to pass on the symposium this year unless we get a sign before then. I cannot justify the expenditure to go to a fourth symposium in two years when we’re in the financial shape we’re in. Tywana says maybe this is the sign. I clarify we need an economic sign. As soon as I send the email declining a fantastic opportunity, a step in the direction I want to go in, I start to have regrets. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If I go, I’ll stress about the expenditure. If I don’t, I’ll have regrets about passing on what could be a door opening. Oh well, maybe there will be another opportunity.

I have to focus on where I am now. All through the day, I say my affirmations.I do my meditation. I set my intentions to manifest the life I desire to have. A friend texts to ask me how I’m doing. How to put a positive spin on this? I can’t say negative stuff. It’s not allowed. She’s helping me manifest and corrects me when I say negative things. “The universe is teaching me patience.” I write back. How’s that? This isn’t happening to me. It’s happening for me. One day I’ll be grateful. So, today, I am grateful for the inevitable gratitude of that one fine day.

Today is the fourth fourth of July since Shayna passed. All of the milestones that were the first in 2015 are now the fourth in 2018. I think back to the first one. The milestones still matter. I still count them. I remember that first fourth, just a few days after Shayna’s Service, going to Champp’s (which is no longer there) with Tywana. Kayla had gone out with friends for the first time on Independence Day. I had never gone to dinner on the 4th of July.  Would it be packed? Would it be empty? I felt guilty. Shayna hated it when we would go out without her. I remember saying to her (in my mind), “I’d bring you with me if I could.” It would be a while before I’d adjust to asking for a table for just two or just three. Three years later and I’m still adjusting.

This fourth, since Kayla’s back at Toledo, Tywana and I have a quiet day at home. I try to not overthink about the way things were when we had barbecues with the girls and watched fireworks. We grill brats for dinner and we watch a little TV. The fireworks are nothing but a nuisance now. The dogs hate them. I can’t take them out for the final time until well after 11 PM because all they want to do is get back into the house. Finally, the fireworks slow to the point where they are far enough away and infrequent enough that Stevie manages to do her business and I can rest knowing she won’t wake me in the middle of the night to go out.

Four fourth of Julys without Shayna. Where am I compared to then? Better in some ways. I’m still undecided whether the pain lessens or our capacity to bear it expands. It seemed unbearable at first. It’s not unbearable anymore. I can endure. I will endure, somehow.

Yesterday was Shayna’s third angel day.  It was rougher than I expected.  It was much rougher than I expected. The grief was as raw as it was that first week.  It took me by total surprise.  I was hoping it would be merely another day, a milestone I would wave at as I passed by.  It was not.  I’m not sure if it was all of the reminders by friends and neighbors.  Tywana and I had a couple of hundred contacts, no exaggeration. Friends pinged us on Facebook, by text, on Messenger.  It was incredibly gratifying knowing people were thinking of us, but the flip side was each message was a reminder that I was supposed to feel bad on this day.  We got a call from Elizabeth Boisson, co-founder of Helping Parents Heal who has become a dear friend. Shayna drops in on Suzanne Giesemann (again- of course). We got a text from her.  The contacts are literally too numerous to mention.

On my walk, I realized the day was going to be a lot more emotional than I had anticipated.  I had the same feeling I had had a couple of weeks after Shayna passed.  We were on a long weekend at Put-In-Bay. I got up early, prayed to Shayna for a sign, a specific sign, a dime and I took a walk. I can remember that walk like it was yesterday. And, I got the dime a couple of hours later (under the seat of a shuttle we were taking to the ferry).  I thought maybe Shayna could do it again. So, I prayed for a dime on my walk.  It’s a 7-mile walk. If there wasn’t a dime already on the road, she had an hour and a half to produce one. I scanned the ground as I walked.  I’ve found lots of change on the ground on this walk.  I fully expected to find a dime. Halfway through the walk, I spot the penny I’ve been seeing for a couple of weeks.  As I climb the porch steps back home, I expect to find a dime on the porch.  This is the last chance. There’s no dime though. Oh well.

While Tywana and I spent the day in the house together, I think each of us needed solitude. I didn’t see much of her. She did her thing- reading, meditating, whatever.  And, she had to run some errands for her mother.  I didn’t leave the house except for my walk and to take the dogs out.  Tywana floated the idea of going to church.  I was not up for shedding tears in front of a bunch of people, so I was relieved when I got home, and she said she was going for a bike ride instead.

I watched a lot of World Cup.  Between matches, I did some work for the church and for Helping Parents Heal. I was looking for anything to make the time pass. The day dragged on and on.  Two soccer matches were done.  I got my work for the church and Helping Parents Heal done. I turned on some more mindless TV to make the time pass.

Neither of us had planned dinner. We decided to go out for fast food Chinese.  Shayna’s friends call. They want to come over. They’ve been fantastic coming over on her angel dates and birthdays. Tywana decided to meet them for ice cream next week instead.

Finally, the sun went down.  The day was almost over. We turned on the BET Awards and watched for a while.  At 10:30 I announced I’m ready for bed.  I put in my effort. I really wanted to go to bed around 4 PM. I step out on the deck to take the dogs out for the final time of the night and I spot a praying mantis, on the post of the deck railing.  I don’t see many praying mantises. Coincidentally (or not), a few hours ago a friend has taken a picture of a praying mantis, very small- almost precisely the size of this one, on the back of her hand. She’s posted the photo to Facebook, and I commented about the time hundreds of them hatched from underneath our fire pit, and I was fascinated by watching these tiny captivating creatures.  Here is one on the deck, just a few hours later. Thank you, Shayna. I knew you wouldn’t forget my sign.

Usually, the Praying Mantis makes an appearance when we’ve flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us. Taking a step back and some simple meditation would be in order here because the external din we’ve created needs to be quieted so that we can come back to our own truth. She will always come to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives.

 

Today it’s three years.  Three years since I last hugged Shayna, kissed her, or heard her sassy voice. Three years of living an unimaginable life.  Three years of change.  Three years of tears. Three years of growth. And, three years, closer to the day we are reunited without this veil.

I don’t have anything profound or particularly insightful to offer today. I’ve been looking forward to this day for months. Seeing it approach on the calendar, it’s a milestone I wanted behind me, not in front of me.

Yesterday, my brother and his wife drove down and spent a few hours with us. We played Top Golf and had dinner. As we turned into the neighborhood, I noticed someone had placed fresh purple ribbons on the stop signs at the intersections near our house. Shayna’s friends did that when she first passed and they continue to remember her angel dates. It’s amazingly comforting to know that the neighborhood still remembers.

This morning as I reach the bottom of the hill at the end of my cul-de-sac, I stop to take a picture of the ribbon on the sign nearest us. When I turn to walk away, the tears start to flow.  They’ve been flowing all morning.  As I’m finishing up my walk, I get a text from a neighbor saying they’re thinking of me today.  More tears come.  It’s not even noon and today I’ve cried, sobbed, more than I have in probably a year.  I’m not sure why. But, it’s OK. The sobbing continues during my meditation time.  I recall a study I heard about the chemical composition of tears. Tears have different chemical compositions depending on whether they are happy tears, tears from cutting an onion, tears of grief, etc.  I wonder about my tears. I’m overcome with gratitude. That’s brought some. I’m missing Shayna even though during meditation I felt her presence very strongly. As I meditate to Jai Jagdeesh “In Dreams”, I remember my dream from a couple of night ago and I feel the peace of being a child, taken care of.  I sense my guides are right here, but in the background, as we agreed it would be.  The turmoil still swirls around me, but as I sit here on the mat, and I go in, I reach that place of still peace inside and I am grateful.  More sobs.

Shayna only spent 15-1/2 years in the body on this planet.  Today marks nearly a third of that time.  Three years after she transcended our world, her impact is still being felt. The ripples are still going out.  I say with confidence as long as I am here, she will never be gone, never be forgotten. And I say thank you to all who continue to remember her, Kayla, Tywana and me.

When Brenda was making her transition, they played this song.  My friend Lynette introduced me to the artist.  I meditate to her music often. Most of the songs aren’t in English so they keep my brain engaged without introducing thoughts. I leave you with this.  Do this for yourself.  Take 8 minutes, close your eyes and take this in.