The title is cliche’.  It’s all I got today. I wake up this morning to just another “normal”day.  I get my gear on to go for my run/walk.  I’m up with the sun (technically before sunrise), but it’s hot already 77º and humid. I check Facebook and see a cryptic post asking for prayers for my cousin.  I text my sister, who is the loop more than I am, and I find out his son has been killed in a single car accident about 30 minutes from where I live.  She says it’s been a bad week. I ask her what else is going on.  Another cousin of ours (a fairly distant cousin by genealogy, but close by geography and friendship) has three grandchildren in the hospital.  Her granddaughter has recently been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, her grandson was in a car accident and his brother had a seizure while visiting him.  We hope everyone will be OK.

These are cousins that I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly how they are related. They are Englishes, my mother’s side of the family.  Everybody knows Shane.  He’s a big presence at all of the reunions. The boy who passed  is his son Shane- just 20 years old.  I head out for my walk and I wonder if losing Shayna has made me more compassionate or hardened me. It’s hard to say.  I now know what it feels like to have your child with you one minute and gone the next.  As I’m walking/running I get my answer.  Even though I barely have met Shane and have never met his son, I feel their pain.  I watched a video Shane made as he drove to the scene of the accident and I could feel his pain. As I walk, I try to energetically take some of it away.  I recall being at the reunion and seeing Shane and his son.  I remember people talking about “next year in Philadelphia” and me, in my morose way, thinking “Not all of us will be here.”  But, I was thinking of the older people. Even after Shayna’s passing, I don’t expect other people to lose children.

As I’m finishing up my walk, coming into the last ½ mile, I get a text from my sister.  I check the text.  My cousin’s granddaughter has just passed.  She’s just a teenager. I’m not sure of her exact age, but somewhere around the age of Shayna.  As far as I know she was just diagnosed with a rare and dangerous blood condition. I get back to the house and I text my sister.  And now I sit here just stunned.  That buzzing feeling I had after Shayna passed is back.  

The family reunion was tough for me. Being around all the shiny happy people with their kids and grandkids and having my shattered family missing Shayna.  I did more than a little feeling sorry for myself.  But, tragedy gets us all.  It’s just a matter of time. 

Two cousins, less than 24 hours apart, each less than 20 years old and they have transitioned with little to no warning.  I ache for all of the ache I know is coming to our family, to the parents, to the grandparents. 

Hold  your kids tight. Tell them you love them, every single day. When they walk out the door, do not assume they will walk back in. When they go to bed, do not assume they will get up in the morning.

The last few days I have read a few things about the afterlife that have reminded me that our departed or Risen, as I am fond of saying now, loved ones have not departed at all.  They have simply slipped into another room.  Or, even more accurately, they’re still in the room, but simply invisible to us. They have shifted to a different frequency that most of us cannot tune into.  Mediums are the exception to this rule. They can tune into those frequencies.

In the last few days, I have “lost” three items.  I lost a cell phone holder for my car, the sunglasses I use when I walk every morning, and I lost my hammer.  I looked for the cell phone holder for my car for two days.  I looked for my sunglasses for three days.  And I looked for the hammer a couple of times over the course of a couple of days.  

I looked for my hammer in my toolbox. It’s a big toolbox, so I took a bunch of stuff out.  It had to be there.  I looked around my toolbox.  Maybe I got lazy and sat it down on the floor around the toolbox.  No luck. I am going to have to buy another hammer. It’s gone. I know it’s in the house, but I cannot find it.  My sunglasses I looked for in the usual places.  Sometimes I leave them on the kitchen table. Sometimes I lay them on my messy desk in my office. Sometimes I leave them on the ottoman in front of the couch. For three days I had to wear other sunglasses because I could not find them.  The cell phone holder I knew was in my office. It had to be. It’s in a box. I’ve never used it. I looked and looked in my office, on my desk, on the shelf where I collect the gear I get for free to review.  I could not find it.

Then one by one, the things started showing up.  I had asked Tywana about the hammer, but I decided to ask her again while our employee was here working in the basement.  Lucky I did.  Lexi spoke up and said, “I saw the hammer, it’s on the shelf.”  I went into the back room and there sat the hammer, on the shelf, not ten feet from the toolbox where it was supposed to be and where I had looked more than once.  Then I went into my office and, when I wasn’t looking, found the cell phone holder, in the box, sitting on my desk, not two feet from where I sit all day long.  I had forgotten what the box looked like thinking it was twice the size it actually is, so when I looked for it, I literally could not see it even though it was right in front of my eyes.  This morning, as I was getting ready to go for my walk, there were my sunglasses, on my dresser. They were sitting right next to the place I grab the remote to turn off the alarm system every single morning, but because they were out of place and I was not looking for them when I was there in the morning, I had looked right over them for three days. Today, for some reason, I finally “saw” them.  As my grandmother would say “If they had been a snake, they would have bitten you.”

I think maybe this has been a lesson for me to reinforce what I have come to believe.  At a meeting a few weeks ago, a woman who sees spirits approached me and said: “Your daughter goes with you everywhere. She said to tell you she still greets you the way she always has.”  I totally believe that our loved ones are still right here with us.  I imagine Shayna still playing with my ear lobes and squishing the veins on the back of my hands.  I say “‘Good morning’to her every morning and ‘Good night’ to her every night.”  I tell her I love her all the time.  And, I believe that she’s right here listening to me and watching me. She’s hiding right here in plain sight, I just don’t have the eyes to see her.

Madonna said “I am a material girl and we are living in a material world.”  Madonna was wrong.  

Max Planck said: “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Max Planck was right. As I was listening to my good friend Roberta Grimes’ latest Podcast this morning, something that has been dancing around the back of my mind for a while finally coalesced into a coherent thought.  It’s this notion that we think what we call reality, our “material” world is the ultimate reality. This relegates the “non-material” world, the afterlife realm(s), the astral planes, to something that is less than reality.  When we call them the mental planes or the non-material, to me that connotes a dream-like ethereal place that is less real than our world. I think it’s a mistake to call this the material world and the other the non-material world. 

The reality is there is no material world. It’s all consciousness.  It’s all energy. The universe we happen to inhabit at this time is energy just slowed way, way down until it appears to be “solid”.  An atom, which we who are of a certain age, picture as a solid mass in the center, with some smaller “particles” zipping around in orbit just outside of the nucleus is mostly space. And when I say mostly space, picture this.  If the nucleus were the size of a basketball, the closest electron would be 20 miles away.  If the nucleus were the size of the White House, the closest electron would be somewhere around Denver, CO.  Our universe is mostly “dark matter” and “dark energy”. The reason they’re called “dark matter” and “dark energy” is they cannot be detected. Scientists have determined they must be there to balance their equations, but they cannot detect them with their instruments. What do I mean by “mostly” here? Well, somewhere around 90-95% of our universe is undetectable to us.  Could this be where those who have transitioned reside?

I have a really difficult time grasping the reality of the afterlife. Some say we become “light beings” having no bodies and just being pure consciousness.  We become perfected at death and merge with the “One”, but most reports are exactly the opposite. We still have bodies, which are very analogous to these bodies. They are solid. They are real.  It’s called the etheric body. We are in physical environments, with flowers and trees and streams and mountains. We can work.  We can garden. We can learn to play an instrument.  We can explore.  And, they say when we get there, we will realize it’s not there that is the shadow, the dream-like state, it’s here that is the shadow.  This is a shadow of our real Home.

For a deeper look at this, from a purely scientific perspective, check out this film The Simulation Hypothesis   I don’t think we are Sims residing on some giant teenager’s hard drive, but this look at the nature of our universe I think does point us in the right direction when it comes to finding out what our Source and the natures of the one great reality, of which our material universe is only a tiny fraction.

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.

Max Planck

Last night in my dream, I found myself sitting in a classroom.  I was there with several other people who were taking a course in grief.  This was no ordinary class on the theory of grief. We had each volunteered to experience the passing of a loved one so that we could learn what grief was like.  We were coming back to report on our experience so far. The instructor sitting up front looked at us and said: “It looks like many of you have chosen to lose weight.” That’s good.  People had decided to get healthier and were eating better and exercising. Then he looked at me and said: “What have you lost and what have you gained?”  I said:  "Well, I haven’t lost weight and I really don’t want to lose weight.  I have gained compassion.  I have a better understanding of what other people are going through. And I have gained a belief in the idea that we are eternal spirits and that we go on after “death”. I know that in my very being now.  But, I have also gained deep, sustained unbearable sadness.“  Then I wept.  People came up to comfort me.

Then I woke up.

Today is the day, the day we take Kayla back to school for her junior year, the first time we’ll be moving her into an apartment, the end of summer.  We take two cars up to Toledo.  I drive Kayla’s car so she will have it there. Tywana drives her SUV stuffed to the gills, as is Kayla’s car.  It’s a beautiful day for a drive we remark and begin the three-hour journey up I-75.  

I noticed that the VSC warning light in Kayla’s car is on. This has been a nagging problem since last summer and seems to usually present itself just about the time we’re scheduled to take her back to school.  We just had it in the shop a week ago and the light was out. Great.  Another thing for me to deal with. Ten minutes from the house, we run into an accident that has I-75 shut down. Waze lets us down by not telling us to avoid this.  We have to get off of the highway and start driving until Waze stops trying to put us back on the closed highway and finally routes us to the next entrance to the highway.  We lose half an hour of time here. 

It’s about 10 AM when we leave. This is very early for Kayla, so essentially Tywana is driving alone and I’m driving alone.  Normally, we’d talk and listen to Podcasts on the way up.  Thanks to technology we put our cell phones on speaker mode and just have a conversation like we’re in the same car all the way up.  The rest of the trip is uneventful, but as we’re driving through stop-start traffic in Toledo I hear this grinding noise coming from the left rear brakes.  Not good.  I’ll have to make arrangements to get Kayla to take the car to the Lexus dealer Monday morning. This car is getting to be more trouble than it’s worth.  But, for now, we’re here.  I’ll deal with that Monday morning.

We get Kayla unloaded from the cars.  She contacts her boyfriend and he meets us at her apartment. We head out to Target and Costco for some essentials. In Costco, I joke with Kayla that we are done shopping when the basket is full.  Well, we filled that puppy up.  Wow, have we spoiled that girl. She’s fully stocked with food. She’s got her blender, panini sandwich press, and toaster oven.  Her apartment is a brand new building. This is just the second year it’s been open. There’s a giant tubular slide to get from the second floor down to the first. The pool area has a covered bar with a grill where they are grilling something for the kids moving it.  She has her own bedroom and own bathroom and a walk-in closet. It’s a suite if you will.  She has a key to the front door and there is a separate key for her suite.  

As we’re coming out of Costco, we notice that the clouds that have been gathering have opened up into a downpour. But, they were so scattered, I’m sure it’ll stop in a minute.  As Kayla and Gabe are buying smoothies for the three of them, Tywana and I take the groceries to the car. By the time they come out, the rain has slowed significantly. We grab some chicken from Popeye’s and take it back to Kayla’s apartment.  I want to get on the road because it’s the last full night of competition for the Olympics and I really would rather not drive on the highway at night. So, we hustle out of there around 6.  By this time, the scattered clouds have become solid as far as the eye can see and the rain is coming down in sheets.  I get so wet making the two trips to the car that I may as well just have jumped into the swimming pool. 

My theory on heavy rain is it can only rain so hard for so long.  My theory for driving in heavy rain is to keep moving because the cells are only so big.  If a cell is stationary, pulling off means you’ll just be sitting in the heavy rain. And even if the cell is moving in the same direction as you are, you’re moving 70 miles per hour.  You’ll drive through it soon enough. This is also my philosophy on life. The heavy storms only last so long.  Just hold on and they’ll pass. And never stop.  Keep on moving. Well, that theory was tested last night.  It rained like I have never seen it rain for over three hours and for almost 180 miles.  Every time we got a break, it would start again.  There were even times I’d look over to the right and could breaks in the clouds and pink from the sunset, but the rain would just start all over again. People were driving with their flashers on.  People were pulling over.  I just kept thinking “Keep moving.  Slow down. Be alert.  Keep moving.  It can’t last that long.”  By the time we were coming through Dayton, just 30 miles from home, I was negotiating “Just give me 15-20 minutes of a break for these last few miles. Finally, 10 miles out, the rain stopped. The roads were actually almost dry. I wanted to get home and get the dogs outside   before the rain hit the house.  Just as I pulled into the driveway, the rain started at home.  Great!  Let me get the dogs out before it starts to really pour.

We walk into the house, hands full of Kayla’s boxes and suitcases and I hear Stevie yipping in her kennel to be let out.  We had a friend’s daughter come in at 4 to let them out so they wouldn’t have to go 12 hours cooped up.  I hear Tywana saying "Where’s Zoe?”  Zoe hates thunderstorms.  We put Zoe in the mudroom when we leave and we put Stevie in her kennel and put the kennel in front of the door along with a baby gate. This keeps Zoe in, not that we really care, and Stevie has company.  Zoe can get out, but hardly ever does.  We figure with the thunderstorms, Zoe has panicked and gone someplace she feels safer.  But she always comes when we call her- unless we’ve accidentally locked her in the basement or she’s gotten behind a closed door somewhere else.  The girl who let the dogs out reported all was well when she left. So, we know Zoe’s got to be in the house.  I go upstairs to look for her as I’m calling her and she is nowhere to be found.  Our bedroom door is pulled shut. Kayla’s bedroom door is shut. The other two bedroom doors are shut. She’s not upstairs.  I check my office.  Panic is setting in now.  I’m calling her name. Tywana’s calling her name.  I check the basement. There is no reason the basement door should have been opened while we were gone and it’s closed and even locked now, but Zoe has to be somewhere.  I call her. She doesn’t come.  At this point, Tywana and I are both thinking the same thing. She’s dead.  Where she is, we don’t know, but we know she’s dead. I’m wondering how I’m going to tell Kayla. I go all the way to the back room in the basement- the store room.  No Zoe.

Now, I think she must have been left outside.  In normal weather that would not be a problem. Zoe would simply wait by the back door until we got home, even if it were hours. But, it’s been thundering and lightning for hours.  Maybe she panicked and ran off.  I knew she was going to die, probably soon, but I didn’t want her to suffer.  I think of her alone in the dark with the thunder and lighting and rain.  There are coyotes in our neighborhood, too.  I think of my friend who just lost his dog a couple of months ago and found his body days later.  I’m thinking “How am I going to search for her in the dark?” Which way do I even go?  I tell Tywana to call the girl who let them out.  What happened?  How did she possibly not know Zoe wasn’t in the house when she left.  

Then, Tywana opens the door to the one room in the house that we hadn’t checked. The girls’ bathroom upstairs. Zoe is standing there, behind the door, silent.  Zoe rarely barks other than when someone comes to the door.  If she’ is stuck somewhere and we call her, she’ll just stand there by the door until we find her. She also likes to get into small spaces when she’s scared. Her favorite place is our closet, but our bedroom door was closed.  She must have gone upstairs and when she couldn’t get into our bedroom, went into the bathroom.  The third thing Zoe does is when she goes into these places, she will go behind the door and push it to with her nose.  The problem is she doesn’t have hands, so if she pushes it too far she can’t get it open again.  Sometimes she’ll bark and Stevie will come let her out, but Stevie had been in her kennel.

Ah… crisis averted, for today. Tywana and I talked about it on the way home. All those days you dread, the graduation of your kids, the death of a parent, your kids moving away, the death of a spouse. They all come, in time. Today, there were times when we both wondered if we’d make it home. I knew we had to, for Kayla.  Today, I wondered if it’d be the day I had to call Kayla and tell her Zoe was gone.  Not today.  But the storms continue to roll in.  Who’ll stop the rain?

I remember being a kid and, I think like most kids, I couldn’t want to grow up.  When I was grown I would be able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.  No more people telling me where to be and when to be there or what I couldn’t do.  Ha!  What a laugh. Shayna always had the right idea. Shayna cherished being a kid. Once she told us she didn’t want to grow up, she just wanted to stay our little girl forever.  Oh, how I would have taken her up on that.  We explained to her she had to grow up.  It wasn’t our choice. It wasn’t her choice. She asked if she had to get boobs.  She definitely did not want to get boobs.  She cried when we told her there was no way to stop the process.  Google “adulting memes”.  I’m not the only one.  This one pretty much expresses the way I feel today.  Adulting- We Hates It

When the girls were born, they were each joyous days, but there was that niggling feeling always in the back of my mind. I knew that it wouldn’t last forever.  One day- in the far, far distant future, they’d grow up, go to college, get married. But, that day was not today, so I’d set it aside and try to enjoy the day. Each milestone was bittersweet, kindergarten graduation, the first day of public school, all of those things. I celebrated for them, but my heart would break for me.  Each time would let me know I was growing closer and closer to these days which are worse than my worst imaginings.  Looking forward from four or five years ago, Kayla should be in college now. I was as prepped for that as I could be.  I would look at Kayla and think one day she’s going to get married and she’s going to want me to “give her away.  I can’t do that.  Maybe I’ll be stronger by then.  Shayna was supposed to be in her junior or senior year of high school.  I was not prepped for this- not even a little bit.

This summer has been a bit of a respite. Kayla has been home since May and it’s been joyous to have her in the house, even though I haven’t seen her a lot since we have such different sleep schedules.  A couple of weeks ago it hit me that it was almost time for her to go back to college. That’s been part of the funk I’ve been in.  Today, is the day.  Each of these days we dread, no matter how far out they seem, one day they actually do come around.  

Tywana has been awesome helping Kayla with her college. Tywana is the one who took her on all of the visits, helped with the scholarship applications, filled out the financial aid paperwork, helped her shop for her dorm and now her apartment.  She has done it all.  I’ve sat back and let her handle it because i just  can’t, especially now. I haven’t been much help with Kayla’s getting ready to go back this year and move into her first apartment. The best I’ve been able to do is not complain too much about all the stuff Tywana is buying for her to get her set up. Kayla will lack for nothing as she moves in.  Oh wait, her tapestry for the wall in her bedroom has been delayed. She won’t have that for a couple of weeks.  How will she manage?

In a little while, once they get up, we’ll head up the road to Kayla’s apartment. I will drive Kayla’s car. They will go in Tywana’s.  So, I’ll have three hours by myself to think about it.   They need my muscle to help her get moved in.  We’ll make a stop at Target for something Kayla needs and take her to the Costco up there to get her stocked up.  Moving her into her own apartment is the last thing I want to do right now.  Whose idea was it that we have to grow up?  Shayna, you were right.  This adulting thing is no fun at all.

I never thought I’d see the day when an REO Speedwagon song would bring me to tears.  But, it doesn’t take much these days.  I was on my walk/run this morning and this song came, In My Dreams, came up in my playlist.  It makes me cry every time I hear it now.

There was a time some time ago
When every sunrise meant a sunny day, oh a sunny day
But now when the morning light shines in
It only disturbs the dreamland where I lay, oh where I lay
I used to thank the lord when I’d wake
For life and love and the golden sky above me
But now I pray the stars will go on shinin’, you see in my dreams you love me
Daybreak is a joyful time
Just listen to the songbird harmonies, oh the harmonies
But I wish the dawn would never come
I wish there was silence in the trees, oh the trees
If only I could stay asleep, at least I could pretend you’re thinkin’ of me
‘Cause nighttime is the one time I am happy, you see in my dreams

As I was listening to it, I broke down and started crying.  The tears come when I feel things are going to be this way forever. That’s when despair sets in.  And the “rest of my life” does seem like forever. That’s the perspective I’ve always had.  Time began the moment I was born and will end the moment I die. So, anything that is the “rest of my life” is forever from inside this life.  When this happens I have to shift my perspective. I feel Shayna right there beside me. I can sense her hugging me and telling me “It won’t be forever.  It won’t even be that long.  Just hold on for a little longer.”  Meanwhile, I have my dreams.

I end my walk/run with a personal best time. And as I’m finishing up, Do You Feel What We Feel by Frampton comes on pumping me up for the rest of the day.

… and so are you.  

Today I was taking my walk, making one of the turns at the end of a cul de sac. There I encounter a guy I see walking his pit bull  pretty often. He came across the street toward me.  I removed my headphones so I could hear because I saw his lips moving. “How far do you walk every day he asked?”  I answered “5 miles”.  “Good for you.” he replied,  He sees me out there struggling and sweating and was impressed by my determination. Ha! He doesn’t know the half. I put my earphones back in and kept moving trying to maintain my pace and get back to the time goal I had set for today.

Walking is therapeutic for me in many senses.  I sometimes imagine each step is another day on my road Home.  My walk is about 8,500 steps.  If each step were a day, that’d be 23 years.  Could I make 23 years?  No way.  But, each morning when I start out, I don’t feel like I can make that five miles. The first quarter mile is tough as my body is warming up. Then I hit a rhythm and it gets easier. At times I get tired. I feel the muscles in my calves seizing up.  If I think “Three more miles, I’ll get discouraged.”  When I feel like I can’t make the whole thing, I look down at the road and just focus on the next step, then the next step- one day at a time.

A few days ago as I was walking with Bill, he was concerned that I was “stuck”.  And in one sense he’s right.  I’m not in a good place. But, here’s what also came to me.  I’m getting up every day.  I’m going to work. I was walking with him.  I have started a group to help other parents get through this journey.  I am a warrior. 

I hope that one day some other parent who is dealing with the premature transition of her son or daughter will read this.  If you’re reading this and that’s you, I want you to know you are a warrior, too.  If you’ve gotten out of bed.  If you’ve eaten, if you’ve gotten dressed, if you’re just sitting there and drawing breath, you have won a victory.  You have won a battle.  You are a warrior. Give yourself a pat on the back and take a bow.  You deserve it.

Fight on.

Wow. Last night was one of those restless nights where dreams just kept rolling from one to the other, mostly incoherent. I remember meeting Kenny Loggins and singing songs from his This Is It album and reminiscing with him.  I remember bits and pieces of other things. Then, I remember being shown old pictures of Shayna when she was between being an infant and being a toddler.  It was more of the feelings that I remember than any actual event or people.  I was alone, I don’t even think I was in a body. These images of her just kept going by and I was loving looking at them until I realized that this wasn’t real and Shayna wasn’t with me anymore.  I remember thinking “This is a dream.” then I woke up, still in my dream, and I was in bed crying- again all alone.  Then I woke up back into this reality and I was crying in this reality.

Something Bill and I discussed a couple of days ago keeps coming back to me.  The reason that it’s so difficult for me to go on is I keep thinking this is permanent. This is my reality forever. I’m caught up in the illusion that this life is real and doesn’t really change. It’s easy to do. I wake up in the same house, have the same people around me, do the same thing.  I get caught in the routine and think what is now will always be.   I’ve had enough experience to know this isn’t true.  Impermanence, you cut both ways. You take away the good things we want to hold on to. And I’ have cursed you for that. But, you take away the bad things as well.  This won’t last forever. And for that I am grateful. 

Pressing on one more day.  One day closer to reunion.