Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blindsided

          
 
  When my eldest son was about fourteen, he came back from Summer camp having lost quite a bit of weight.  He was quite ill and was hospitalized shortly after in Richmond.  The eventual diagnosis with Crohn's Disease.  As a critical care RN, I knew that many if not most Crohn's patients respond to treatment, and are managed through their illness.   I also knew that some excellent new treatments were emerging at that time.  Although my son was extremely ill during the hospitalization, I truly believed that he would respond to the treatment being provided.

                  It was during this time that I heard this song for the first time.



Mark Shultz "He's My Son"



During this hospitalization, my son did not respond as was expected, and we began a major medical center to major medical center oddysey in order to find a treatment that would be effective and would return him to relative good health. I prayed as much as I could, especially when I realized that my son's Crohn's Disease actually threatened his life, and had disabled him. This song so well reflected my prayer. My son's oddysey was not to end easily. For years he continued to be treated, and did not live anything which approximated a normal life. The boy who originally had trained to be a speedskater as a teen, could no longer do this. He learned to paint in acrylics and oils and for a long time, this was his only activity. He was not well enough to attend school. I used to feel very badly in this time, not only for my eldest son, but for my daughter, and two younger sons, who did not get the same measure of my time. But there was plenty of time to make this up when my eldest son was well. Then, eventually my son experienced a heart rhythm disorder which the physicians attributed to a fluid and electrolyte imbalance related to the Crohn's Disease. Once again, we made numerous trips to the Emergency Room, and our eldest son continued to lose weight. At eighteen, he was given the option of having a radical surgery in which his entire large intestine, which was badly diseased was removed. He would never be completely normal, but he might not die, and this was certainly the path he was on. The surgery was done, and I spent two weeks in the hospital with him as his private duty nurse. I missed my other children very much. Eventually, my eldest son recovered sufficiently to attend college on a lighter schedule than most. Our eldest son had become engaged at college and was doing well, when Daniel collapsed and died inexplicably at the beginning of the Christmas season in 2008. All my prayers to keep my eldest son on Earth with me, were heard. Somehow, I did not instinctively know that God would instead call my youngest son home. The initial autopsy on Daniel found nothing wrong. Eventually, the pathologists offered the theory that Daniel had experienced a sudden heart rhythm disturbance and had died instantly. When I hear this song I remember not only how hard I prayed for my son who was known to be ill, but also how I somehow missed knowing that God would call Daniel home. Life on Earth IS difficult without Daniel here. Tonight it is five years and one month since his departure, we still miss him very deeply.   Our eldest son still battles Crohn's and other medical issues which are related to it. We are grateful that he has been able to remain with us on Earth.    We still miss Daniel and sometimes still can't believe that he was suddenly taken from us.. This season, and every other, please make sure that you spend as much time as you can with ALL your children, those who might be taken home, and those with no known medical issue, because the ride for us all may be short, and because sometimes, there are no warnings.


Daniel was always understanding when we had to spend so much time in hospitals with his older brother.  I loved him for it, but I also regret not being able to carve out more time just for Daniel, during his 12 1/2 year stay here on Earth.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Electronic Christmas Letter

        



I have a feeling that you can intercept my electronic data and my blog.   You, and the NSA, that is.

 
      Daniel,

            Here on Earth, this is the fifth Christmas we have experienced without your being here in flesh.   As you know, each Christmas, I have placed a Christmas letter to you in your stocking.  This year, the printer is not working and so, I will be writing it to you here, and I hope, printing it later.   It seems fitting as things electronic and internet were so clearly your domain when you were here, and I would imagine you still watch all the little megabits as they form.

    We still mention you, think of you, and laugh about things you have said, even five years after your departure. With time, our recollections are more complete and less tainted by grief.   I am so grateful for all the memories we have.  We may not have done all that I had hoped to, with you, but we lived a life.  We really knew you, and you knew us, and perhaps this was part of the reason for your trip to Earth in the first place.  As time passes, we accept that it is less that you died and more that you were selected by God for a particular path, and that you are away completing those tasks, for God, and also for us.   The "teen room" we created for you is still frequented by your siblings.  They borrow your Hancock DVD,  Black Adder, Jeeves and Wooster, etc.   We have stickers with your face on all your DVDs to ensure that they are returned to your room, eventually.  We act as if you are away, perhaps on an expedition with Papa Lawrence, and that you and he will pop in completely unexpectedly, as he used to while traveling.
     I am well and working on projects as well as keeping everyone else moving in a positive direction. The loss of you and Dad was a life defining occurence. I spent time fighting it from being, but nothing can ever be the same, in both bad ways and in good ones. I waste nothing now.  No moment is wasted and I am mindful that every interaction I have with someone could be our very last one.  I am also mindful that each day here could be my last.  I make time for the people I love, and spend absolutely no time with those I don't wish to, because I can't squander time.  None of us have that luxury.

    I think you know all that is going on with your Dad and your siblings. I catch a remnant of your being sometimes when I am working with the dogs and the alpacas.  I know the horses amuse you. I also feel you and Dad watching me sometimes as I give immunizations to horses, and particularly when I am moving a horse in a muddy pen.  Please tell Dad I am as careful as I know how to be, and that I still hear recollections of his telling me not to approach a horse from the rear.  From all the knots I use, it is clear that I was paying better attention in those years when I appeared not to be, than I think he realized.  Both of you have impacted me greatly and taught me so much. Thank you both for that.

       As always, I will try to make this as positive a holiday as is possible.  (Your dog) Jared is, for the moment, hanging on, and functioning fairly well.  However, I think this year, your thirteen year old Siberian Husky will be going with you, so please keep an eye on him.

        When you next see God, tell him I am grateful for the time in which I did have you, and Dad.  I am grateful for His gifts both seen, and unseen, and I give in to feeling sorry for myself only occasionally.  I love you, Bug, more than you'll ever know.   Merry Christmas to you both.








This is "Hallelujah: Light Has Come" Performed by Barlow Girl This appears here under fair use laws. Please buy it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Goodbye Townhome......A Christmas Story

            


                  My parents divorced after many years of marriage, when I was 24. I can only imagine the loss a young child feels in divorce because this was a saddening and traumatic time for me, even though I was already a young married myself, and pregnant, to boot.  My mother was a British subject and had moved here when she married an American.  Even though she lived most of her life here, she related that, after the divorce, she felt a bit as if she had been stranded in a foreign land.

                        This left my parents living in two cities.  My father seemed to fare better, at least initially, but my mother had a difficult time.  Her children were raised and she'd left a good career before we were born.  It was very difficult for her to define herself and be an individual in a sea of couples. She also wasn't emotionally ready to once again, secure employment.

                        After I too moved out of state with my husband and small children, she wondered if she should do the same.  Winters in the Northeast were difficult, and perhaps an apartment in the South would be easier.   Within a year of my husband and I moving to Virginia, my mother followed, moving her things into storage, and at least initially, staying with us, in the new home we'd bought.   She needed encouragement to either rent something herself or to buy and so ultimately I pressed her to find something.  The choices were much better than in the Northeast.  She could have bought a quite lovely three bedroom home with a nice yard only about four miles from me, and she could even have assumed a preexisting mortgage which was at a reasonable rate.   I found several things that I believed would be excellent and nearby, but she had no interest in any of them.  Eventually, she announced that she had bought something.  She was true to her British heritage in that she had bought a home in a row house townhome community in a  more urban area than the one in which I lived.  Superficially, the building did remind me of some of the suburban housing in some of London's suburbs, perhaps Ruislip, but that is where the comparison ended.  My own personal prejudice is that I would always prefer to own something which is not connected or overly dependent upon someone elses property.  It is my belief that in a townhouse community, you are more vulnerable to potential bad behavior by your neighbors or poor maintenance of their homes. Your investment depends in part on your neighbors and this makes you vulnerable.  The home was also forty-five minutes from my home, and this would cut down on how often we would see one another.  It did have three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and nice sized kitchen, living and dining rooms, along with some of the best storage I have seen in a townhome, and it had attached storage. It also had easy proximity to the interstate, and in one or two exits, an international airport, which I believe she saw as a giant plus.

                         I don't think I ever had a chance to tell her this but I am proud of the way she redefined herself by building a new career.   After a series of jobs that paid well but that she absolutely hated, she found a job as a researcher and docent at a museum.  Her natural intelligence, great memory for facts, figures and her love of  history stood her in good stead.  She also liked meeting people, and was very good with dignitaries. She continued in that position making many friends as a consequence of the position until her passing, in her eighties.  Physically, at least, up to that time, she looked well, and appeared much younger than she actually was.

                  My mother had a Will in which I was the executrix for many years. My family and I moved to another part of the state when our four children got  older, but I retained a copy of this Will.  However, in the last year of her life, she forgot this existed, and someone at work drew a new one.

                    As a result of the new Will, her home was left to my brother who lived out of state, and was often out of the country. For a time,he did not know he owned it, and she did not have reliable means by which to contact him and neither apparently, did her executrix. The monthly fees to the townhouse began to climb and to accrue, along with utility bills, taxes, and homeowner's insurance and my attorneys instructed me, that since I was not her executrix that I was not to pay them.

                    Eventually my brother was reached.  He not only didn't want any part of the home, but could not come to sell it, and absolutely could not pay the thousands of dollars in back fees on the home which was now "magically his". He could not make use of the home she had kept and planned to give to him.  I decided, in order to help my brother, and in order to go through our family pictures and things which I presumed were in her home, that I would buy it from my brother, and then sell it fairly quickly thereafter.  My brother was happy to be finished with it.  He turned up for the closing, and was gone again fairly quickly.  Then of course, the financial and real estate collapse of 2008 occurred, and there were some terrible family losses to me personally as well.  Both my Dad, and Daniel passed, and having work done on my mother's home, in order to sell it wasn't on my list of top priorities.

                    Then, since two of my children were at the university about a half hour from the home, I kept it thinking that they might wish to live there and rent out one room for the income while in college.  They never did.    In addition, the family photos and the special momentos my mother had been holding for me for years, were not found in the home.

                   For five years I held on to the house I never liked and never thought she should have bought.  I have privately joked to my husband that it is the purchase that keeps on taking, and that the address really  ought to be Albatross Lane. For much of this time, the home had been up for sale, but with the economic downturn, and so many foreclosures throughout the US, there were no takers, and often no one who looked for a long period of time.   Then, last year I found a tape of a Christmas spent at her home, when her sister, my beloved aunt,  flew in from England.   It showed them,  my husband and I, and our children, and it some wonderful footage of Daniel when he was less than a year.  This was a tape of Daniel's first Christmas, a part of which he spent at my mother's townhome.  It looked so beautiful inside with the pale yellow living room,  blue and white vases filled with holly, and a five foot tree draped in gold and blue. There were lots of noisy toys that Daniel adored.   My mother is now gone, as is her sister, and so is my little Daniel.  They are all gone, but the townhouse holds the memory of that Christmas, and of our time spent together, on that magical day.  It now sits alone with new carpet and curtains, having not heard children's laughter in years.

                 Last month I had that tape copied onto several DVDs so that we will always have those memories.  I think the house served my mother well.  She paid off its mortgage within a few years and its reasonable cost allowed her to do things she wished to.    My mother's home finally sold at a great loss, last month, and the closing is in just a few days.  The costs of acquisition coupled with the taxes, fees, maintenance costs, repairs, and association fees have very much exceeded what I will get for it.  However, I think I did the right thing.   It's a nice home with three bedrooms in a central location, and it will be a good home to its next owner. Sometimes, all we can do is the best we can.  I am a little sad to see it go.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday, December the Thirteenth, 2013

Today, a courageous mother whose blog I follow is dealing with marking funeral arrangements for her three month old premature son, who was never able to leave the NICU. Her comments on making final arrangements for him reminded me so well of the day, five years ago, when I had to make final arrangements for Daniel. The fact that someone else has to endure the December burial of her youngest son has me in tears. I have no wisdom. I have no encouragement or words today to help put such a loss into perspective. There is no perspective, and I am not sure that there ever really will be.


       So, rather than leaving a sad and inane post, I am choosing to repost my post from December of 2011, when I apparently had more center and more wisdom.  


Picture from:    justletmevent.wordpress.com


Picture from    selfexcited.blogspot.com


    We come to Earth as babies, and many of us find a loving mother, often a loving father, grandparents and sometimes even siblings.  Uncles and aunts and cousins round out our families, and many of us are lucky enough to be woven into a basket of loving family as we are babies, toddlers and children. We have more connections to the world than we can count, and this is how it is meant to be.  Of course, this can change. Fathers can leave or die, mothers can return to work, or pass also.  Uncles can move and take cousins with them.  Disasters can take entire families as well.   Most often we enjoy our extended families and don't begin to lose large numbers of our family constellation until we are in our fifties or our sixties, when God prepares us one family member at a time, to begin the process of realizing that we will return to Him, from where we came.

            Please try to remember this holiday season that many people have not had the genuine treasures that we associate with Christmas and the holiday season. I am not talking about presents or material things we have. I am speaking of the real treasures of this life, the love, camaraderie, shared acceptance and joy that can come from spending time together as a family.   Not only do many people not have this as children, but it can be hard to create in one's own family when one cannot recall these moments well in adulthood.

              Some of us lose entire families when circumstances take us from them, and some of us lose family when they pass to God, one by one. In any event, people are often left here on Earth without the connections to others they had when they were younger.  At Christmas, when the hype of happiness, joy, and a glorious special day is all around us, it can be a very difficult day for many people.   Please remember this, and take part of your holiday season and share it with someone who might not have the connections to family or to friends that you do.   Jesus Christ did not send a blessing to all of us on a proxy date of his birth. He sent us blessings year round. The longer we dwell on Earth the harder it can be for us to see sometimes.  And this, is one of the most important things I have learned from Daniel and also from my Dad.   Merry Christmas all.



The lead vocal in this song is performed by Jody McBrayer.
Jody was one of the vocalists in the group Avalon.    He left the group some years ago due to an issue with an enlarged heart, and released some great work as a solo artist.      Jody is once again working on some exciting new projects.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Update on Daniel's Dog Jared

        
Is that an Arctic wolf in the Mud Room ? No, it's a beloved Siberian Husky who is under the weather.


   To those of you who follow Daniel's beloved animals, who are of course, aging, this is an inspiring post regarding Siberian Husky, Jared.


http://lifeaftertherescues.blogspot.com/2013/12/updates-on-jared.html



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Great Cosmic Happenings on the Day of Daniel's Departure




   This week, it will be five years since that difficult day in which Daniel, the day after Thanksgiving, walked into the bathroom, collapsed, and never returned to us in body.  This year, rather than talking about how much he is missed here, by myself, my husband and his siblings, I thought I would talk about something Daniel cared about, and perhaps something of which Daniel has a ringside seat.

                Daniel left the Earth on November 28, 2008.  This year, November 28th is important for another reason.  Daniel cared very much about astronomy, and this year, this date will be astronomically significant.Comet Ison, which is also known as Comet Nevski-Novichonok was only discovered on September 21st, 2012.  You see, although we can see a great deal of the Cosmos through telescopes by looking away from the sun, historically it has been difficult for us on Earth to see comets and asteroids which come from the direction of the sun, and therefore we only detect them on relatively short notice.  This comet was discovered by Vitali Nevski and by Artyom Novichonok. both in Russia.  This comet follows an elliptical path near the sun and is therefore also described as a sungrazing comet.   On the anniversary of Daniel's passing from the Earth, comet Ison will come to perihelion.   Perihelion is when it will come closest to the sun. This is very significant this particular year because it may spell the end of existence for Ison.  On this date, Ison is thought to be passing so close to the sun, that it may not survive. It may pass, and disappear from view, just as Daniel did, those five years ago.   It's actually a very important event as Ison has been traveling the heavens for potentially millions of years, and may cease to do so, after this day.

                Ison was hailed to be the comet of the century earlier this year. Astronomers the world over thought that it would appear so brightly that people on Earth could see it easily and clearly as brighter than the full moon.  It hasn't brightened as significantly as they believed it would.  My guess, which is far from an educated one, is that Ison is not made of as much ice as others might think, and this is why it did not brighten as expected.  My thought is that it will survive it's very near encounter with the sun's heat and punishing cosmic rays. I hope it not only comes through, but that Daniel and my Dad are watching with ringside seats.  There are advantages to no longer being tied just to Earth !

              If Ison survives it's trip past the sun, as I believe it will, then on its return from the sun, it should be visible with the naked eye to those of us on Earth until part of January, 2014.  Daniel would want you to try to see it. In this way, we will all be doing the same thing, and in those moments, Daniel and the rest of my family will still be doing something together.
              
 



"Universe"        by Sarah Slean
(Sarah wrote and arranged this piece and is playing the piano portion as she sings. )







UPDATE: November 29, 2013 Comet Ison did survive its encounter with the Sun. (Initial reports were that it did not.)  A much smaller portion of it will be flying through the universe with a tail intact, hopefully for eternity. 

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/12/the-truth-about-ison/

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Try Not to Be Bitter

          




       Some years ago, a friend of mine was wrongly accused of voter fraud.  He was prosecuted for voting for several elderly relatives for whom he had power of attorney and their permission, but without an obscure form that he did not know was needed.  Rather than simply disallowing those votes, the municipality prosecuted him. This had great fallout to his career, his family and defending himself was a great expense. He was also hurt by the fact that he knew and had held in high regard those who chose to prosecute him.  This was one of those cases of "No good deed ever goes unpunished."    I remember supporting my friend through this injustice, and I remember his saying something I thought was interesting.  He said he prayed not just for a positive outcome, but that he would not become bitter, as a result of this experience  I thought this was interesting, because I thought that we alone were in charge of whether we chose to become bitter or not.  I am rethinking that perspective now.

           Most of the time I concentrate on the very good things in my life. I was given the gift of terrific kids. I have been fortunate to have great faith and I have felt the love of God.   I have enjoyed all the homes we acquired or built. I take very little for granted.  I have known terrific animals and had them in my life for long periods of time.  For all these things I am grateful.

           Of course, into every life rain must fall.  Rather than reciting a litany of losses and disappointments, because we all have had them, I will just say that adulthood has been strewn with losses and sorrows, most of which I have weathered.  However, I would be foolish to say that my strength and resiliency was not adversely impacted by the layered losses of the past.  Sometimes it seems like a great deal of the joy on Earth has gone somewhere else.   Daniel who was only twelve has passed, friends have moved to Belize, others to Europe.  I get the distinct impression that smart people, (or perhaps just wealthy people) are getting out of the United States as quickly as they can, and they don't plan to come back.  Everywhere I look organizations and systems which worked well before are eroding or being dismantled.  I don't like the world that is emerging.  The result is that I no longer invest my time or my money in many of the activities I once did.  I don't trust people as I once did.  Too many of them have been proven to be wholly self serving.   My adult children are a good deal more guarded and reticent about business deals and people than I was, and I think they may be right.  The world has changed into a darker age.

           This week, as Thanksgiving nears, I pray that each one of you who reads this post, whichever blog on which you might find it, finds a measure of peace and some time to recharge.  A dark age does seem to be coming. However, we don't have to become dark inside in order to cope with it.  We can still do the right thing. We can still support our friends. We can still choose not to become bitter from all the layered losses.
I'll try, if you will.
          
        

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How Time Flies By






       Daniel,

              This next week it will be Thanksgiving, and of course the day after will be "Black Friday", the perennial awful day when in just seconds, you left the Earth.  I don't mean it to sound quite so dramatic, but I suppose the loss of a child is something with which we never quite come to terms, while we ourselves still occupy the Earth.   You would be proud of your siblings.  They have each carved a path and they move along as best they can.  Please know that you are missed, not only each day, but on those special holidays and on the anniversaries of your birth and of your departure.

               This week there has been a lot of evidence of the passing of time.  I gained some weight after your passing. For a time I seemed to think that I could eat your share for you, until you returned, and of course, it doesn't work that way.  I have now lost all of that weight and I have the energy I had in my thirties.  The rest of the world has not fared so well.  Some dear friends of ours, I know you know who I mean, were in an accident, and are having a hard time. Their children are grown and gone, and are far away, with the holidays coming soon.  This week, I reacquainted with a friend I had twenty-five years ago.  I remember well when she was expecting her daughter.  I learned this week that her daughter is 25, a working adult, and is living in Northern Virginia. I am still finding people who knew our family long ago, and although they knew about you, they did not know of your passing.

              This Autumn is different from the one in which you departed.  That Autumn, the progression of the leaves was slower. It was warmer. This year, all the leaves are completely gone, and we have had three hard freezes already.  This morning was foggy. I can feel Winter looming as if behind a curtain.  Sometimes I wonder if during Fall, you could somehow must jump from one plane to another, and spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with us. It's crazy, I know, but sometimes, the unreality of what happened that day, your passing with no clear explanation, and then layered conjecture after the autopsies, makes me wonder if with such a bizarre happening, if we could be visited somehow with bizarre luck and some type of a brilliant resolution.  I know intellectually that you are no longer here, but my heart is still ready for you to come home, as if you are at a heavenly university of some kind.

               I remember you, at 12 1/2 as if I saw you yesterday, although I know your soul soared and you grew when you left this plane, and went on to Heaven.  I try hard to imagine who you have become.  You would be seventeen now, had you remained on the Earth. Please know that you remain one of my life's greatest joys, even if you combine your time here with the inexplicably day in which we lost you. I wouldn't trade one single minute with you here.  I do have regrets.  I still wonder sometimes if I had somehow supernaturally known what was about to happen, if I could have taken you to a bright physician at University of Virginia, and simply made something up so that he could have looked you over with a fine tooth comb, and somehow have interrupted the process which was about to occur.  Of course, in my less tortured moments I realize that you were called by God, and that no amount of intervention or interference really can change the will of God, if it is his intent to call you home.

              Please know I love you very much, and I hear your echoes here in the house. I know that you and my Dad are together and this comforts me.  Please give him my love also.  You know you have my respect, my love, and are always in my thoughts particularly during the holiday season.

               I love you both so much.....




Lara Fabian "For Always"

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reminders of Daniel

           




     In about twenty days it will have been five years since Daniel, excited about going Christmas shopping, walked into the bathroom, collapsed and died.  Most days I don't replay those moments in my head, again and again. Of course, for a very long time I did, hoping to understand how a child with no particular health history could collapse and die without warning. I still don't get it, but I accept that he is safe at home, and I know he does not suffer, and this helps me. I do think about him every day, and I often wonder how his awareness is entertained in the next dimension, and who he sees and talks to, besides God, of course.

                 Today I ran a few errands with my eldest son.  Both of our errands were useless as the items we ordered hadn't come in. We decided to take a longer trip into the city, as we were half way there.  By then, it was lunchtime.  We spotted a Chic-Fil-a and I had a salad while my son had some really delicious looking nuggets without breading.  While we were there we spotted a boy who was about seven, standing with his teen aged sister who was taking him to lunch.  He so reminded me of Daniel.  He had the same haircut as Daniel at that age, and the same clear skin.  He had shining blue/green eyes and a kind and gentle face. He also had a muscular build which also reminded me of Daniel at seven or eight. I smiled at him, and he didn't see. As I walked past I felt that same longing twinge I experienced the entire year that Daniel passed.  He reminded me of Daniel, but of course, he wasn't.  My Daniel is no longer with me on Earth. I felt empty and sad.  In the next moment I wondered if the boy who looked so much like Daniel should be eating at Chic-Fil-a since they fry some of their food in peanut oil, and Daniel was allergic to it.  "Don't be silly", I told myself.  All at once, a young man with neat short hair called the boy's sisters name. She collected their food and out they went, about as fast as Daniel left Earth that day five years ago.
                
               I know that I had a very great gift in having Daniel on Earth at all.  I know that my remaining kids are also very great gifts. I know that Daniel was such an excellent "model" of kid that God would certainly use elements of his looks and personality again in other children.   I remember that as I watch harried mothers and fathers shouting and occasionally slapping kids they don't realize could be gone from their lives in a flash.  I said a silent prayer that none of those families would ever know the loss of a child. May they never know this feeling, even five years past Daniel's departure.



One of my favorite songs: "The Right Words" Written and performed by Sarah Slean

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013

              

           
             When I was a child, Halloween was my absolute favorite holiday.  Christmas was carefully choreographed by my British mother. Other holidays were clearly controlled by adults, but each Halloween, our rural community was controlled by the children.  In the late sixties and seventies, we believed as children that if we traveled in groups that adults were not a hazard to us.  This freed us to walk miles and gather treats in whatever bag you could gather.  Costumes tended to be simple. We would walk miles that night and who wants to be encumbered by a costume, or worse, having your sight impaired by one ?  These were the days when most everyone's mother was at home.  Only Dad worked outside the home and money was tight. Costumes were child inventions and employed paperbags, sheets, etc.  One friend constructed a robot costume from boxes which was not to be believed !   This was a magical time where we met neighbors we didn't know, had pizza free at the pizza shop we couldn't afford the rest of the year, and walked to places we didn't have the courage to do the rest of the year.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of Halloween.
                For a short time while Daniel was small we lived in the suburbs in a large house everyone called "The Christmas House" because we decorated the large white colonial rather elaborately in the Williamsburg style, each year.  We saw more than a hundred children for trick or treat in those years. In fact, my husband used to have to go out one or two times to a grocery store to keep up with continuing demand as the night continued, and the celebrants continued to ring the doorbell. 
              When we moved to a secluded farm with our children, at the end of the nineteen-nineties, we didn't think we would get as many Trick or Treaters.   The first year there was no one willing to brave the long gravel road to see us, if they knew a house was there, or not.  Our kids happily split the candy.   The second year, the road to the farm was gated, and we knew that no one would be coming.  In those years, local churches had concerns that this was now a dangerous holiday and so they encouraged children to dress in costume, and come to the churches for costume contents, bobbing for apples, candy apples, and games. Our homeschooling group had an annual gathering, thanks to a very nice family who annually offered their rural home for a Harvest Festival with a potluck dinner for kids and their families, complete with a bonfire, games, and a hayride.   How Daniel loved that gathering.  I remember they had games set up in their garage also, and he and friends spent time playing there.  Daniel never knew the long distance trick or treating that I did. I feel a little sad that he didn't know the glorious Halloweens that I did, but then I never knew the Harvest Festivals that he enjoyed.
             As we near the time of year in which Daniel departed Earth so suddenly and inexplicably, I am caught in twinges of sorrow.   Sorrow that Daniel, who would now be 17 is not here to enjoy the only world I really know. Sorrow that each of my parents departed Earth very near this time, also.   I have sorrow that he didn't experience all of childhood and adolescence as I did, rightly or wrongly.  I am also sorrowful for our nation which has deteriorated so significantly since Daniel's departure from it. So many children live in poverty now and are dependent either upon foodstamps or foodbanks or both. I hope your holiday is better than mine !




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Memoir of Ben Breedlove is Now Available

These are the Breedlove kids.  Ben is on the left.  (Photo: Facebook)


              Those of you who visit this blog regularly may remember my mentioning Ben Breedlove.   Ben is a young man who had a know cardiomyopathy as a teen and who experienced multiple cardiac arrests, and near death experiences before he suddenly passed on Christmas Day in 2011.  I like to think that he and Daniel have met and therefore that Daniel is in very good company.     Ben is known to many of us through his Youtube videos in which he told us of some of his experiences during codes.
              Ben's memoir, which is written in part by his teenaged sister Ally, is entitled "When Will the Heaven Begin ?"
    
One source of this book is found below:


You can buy Ben's memoir on Amazon at this link.


My prior post on Ben Breedlove which include links to the Youtube videos.




Another Sudden Ballfield Death

  

(Picture: www.hudl.com )
 


       Next month, it will be five years since our Daniel collapsed and died at our home, with essentially no real medical history which suggested such a thing was even remotely possible.   Since then, Daniel is never very far from our family's thoughts.  Since that time, we have tried to being awareness to both SUDC, sudden unexplained death in childhood, and to SADS, sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, without a great deal of success, I might add.  Since then, we have noted many other sons and daughters who have collapsed, received CPR, or perhaps later, aid from an AED, who have also been lost to their families.  Today was no exception.

            Jacob Vick, a fifteen year old New Kent High School (Virginia) sophomore, was a stand out kid with a 3.7 average.  He was also a starting linebacker on the school's football team.   Jacob seemed fine yesterday according to his coach, but during practice, he collapsed.  They had the good sense to airlift him to a major center at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital.  Jacob died at the hospital.

         Of course, an autopsy will need to be done to rule out other potential causes of his collapse and sudden death.  However, the pattern sounds a great deal like sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.  A young healthy teen without a known cardiac issue who is bright and diligent plays a sport, seems okay, and then collapses in a cardiac arrest. (Often falling forward.)  Professional attempts at resuscitation, in this scenario, often fail.

           As a nation, we still aren't doing EKG screenings and specialized EKGs such as the microvolt t-wave alternans for those who have a family history of syncope (fainting) or a history of sudden death in the older members of the family. Better screenings should be done on all twelve year old students, and in advance of full participation in sports.   I can assure you that if anything could be done to detect students at risk of a sudden demise such as this, that the families who remain would have wanted that done.  I know I would have.

         Jacob had been treated for a concussion recently, but had been medically cleared to return to practice, on that score.  This collapse could be related to the concussion, as sometimes bleeding or undetected aneurysm can worsen arrhythmias in an arrhythmic prone person, or Jacob's passing may be due to a spontaneous disturbance in heart rhythm.  My family and I send our condolences to the family and friends of Jacob Vick. Those of us on Earth will miss you.



Jacob Vick's Hudl profile


This is Jacob's obituary with funeral information:

VICK, Jacob Aulman, 15, of New Kent, went to be with the Lord on Tuesday, October 29, 2013. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Conley and Joyce Vick. He was a member of Corinth Baptist Church in New Kent, Va. Jacob was an excellent student and enjoyed sports. He was a Texas Longhorn and Redsox fan. Jacob was a member of the Varsity Football team and Junior Varsity Baseball team at New Kent High School. He also enjoyed playing the electric guitar, skimboarding, surfing and fishing. Jacob always managed to set time aside in making sure he was a great big brother to his two younger sisters. He is survived by his parents, Robert and Susan Vick; sisters, Lucy and Lauren Vick; grandparents, Ronald and Elizabeth Jones; uncles, Kevin Jones (Robin), Tim Vick, Mike Vick (Bobbie); aunt, Beth Vick (Jay); and cousin, Morgan Jones. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 1 p.m. at New Kent High School, 7501 Egypt Rd., New Kent, Va. Interment services will be private at Washington Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made, in memory of Jacob Vick, to Corinth Baptist Church, 11650 New Kent Hwy., New Kent, Va. Online condolences may be made at www.nelsenrichmond.com.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Daffney, the Duck



                As you know, one of the devotions we have, since Daniel's passing, is caring for his animals.


                Back in the early two thousands when Daniel was a small boy, we bought some ducklings for him for Easter.  We bought some ducklings that were Khaki Campbells, and some yellow ducklings which were to grow to be Silky Swedes.   Daniel adored the ducklings.  As they grew, the Silky Swedes grew to be larger and heavier. The females were white and the males were grayish white.  The Khakis grew to be brown, and a few of the males had some greenish head markings, which reminded us a bit of mallards.  They were a happy bunch.  There is something very satisfying about feeding ducks. They like bread crusts and slightly stale bread and muffins.   Daniel and I used to buy a fresh bag of kale or collard greens and toss each piece to them.  They enjoyed the greens especially.  Originally, we started out with twelve but lost a few when some of them flew out of the enclosure at night and were caught by a fox.  The females began to produce large eggs which Daniel and I found made gorgeous omelets.  The eggs were a little gamier than chicken eggs, but with homegrown chopped chives and some small cheese squares, the omelets were fantastic.  Duck eggs contain more protein than chicken eggs and for this reason, when used in cakes, they produce a very high cake.  We got into the habit of always using a duck egg when baking a birthday cake.
Overall, the ducks have done well.   They came to us in 2003 and the group above have done well.
               This week, Daffney, the duck on the far left of the picture passed away after a brief illness. She had been ill for a couple of days and we tried an antibiotic and some B vitamins.  She passed a couple of days later while we were present.  It hurts each time one of Daniel's animals leaves the Earth, but we know that he has them now.   Daffney was the last of the females to survive this long.  She was more than ten years old.   Goodbye sweet Daffney.  It was a joy to have you here. We will take good care of your remaining family on Earth.



"I Will Take Care of You" This is Canadian recording artist and amazing woman, Amy Sky

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pulling in to Autumn's Station

    


        October is here.  Once again, we find ourselves in the season of Autumn, a bit like a train which pulls into a particular station only  annually.  Had it not been that the passings in my family have always occurred in Autumn, with Daniel's being no exception, I think Autumn would be my favorite season.  The trees shed leaves in brilliant colors. Here, the days turn from the blistering heat here so often seen in Summer, and then the humans return to the outdoors. Once again we are clad in longer pants, thicker dresses and jackets. Autumn reminds me of returning to school, starting new projects, a beginning of sorts. I generally receive a burst of energy when Fall comes, no doubt designed to help me rake leaves, plan new projects, begin a new school year as either a student or as an instructor, and prepare for Winter.  In a rural community, Autumn is less about fashion as it might be in an urban center, and more about the changing of the Earth and the adaptations we must make in order to survive both financially, and with our animals intact through the Winter. Winters in my region can be mild, but they can also be severe some years. Sometimes we see feet of snow and ice storms which make animal care and travel impossible, especially in the more mountainous regions of our state. I do recall some years when the Winter was more like a mild autumn, without a single snow, and with light autumn-like rains.
          Late this Autumn, both Daniel and my Dad will have been gone from Earth for five years. Some days this feels like a very long time ago, and others, the hurt and seeming bomb blast to our lives seems very recent and very fresh.  I think this may always be true.
           This year, it feels as if we will have a severe Winter. We have higher numbers of squirrels than normal, and they are frantically storing acorns and stealing suet and seed from our bird feeders. Many of our trees decided to turn in early.  The Gingko Bilobas yellowed early.  Some of our trees turned red at least a month early.  Birds seem to understand the sense of urgency also.  Our large contingent of hummingbirds left for Central America a little early this year,   Other birds seem to be taking Autumn seriously.  The young cardinal group which was raised late this Summer has been working so hard to get suet, that they have it all over their young beaks !   All the signs for a bad Winter are there.  Soon, this will have implications for us as well, and we will need to ready vehicles and do some other things which better prepare the human beings for cold, snow and ice, and perhaps difficulties travelling.



     
 Perhaps I can reach the days in which my Dad and then Daniel departed for Heaven this year, simply knowing that they are safe, happy and enjoying all that is there.  Unfortunately, in four years I have not been able to reach a point where I don't see what I have lost, by their no longer being on this plane with me.
         We only receive so many Autumns in this life.  This year, try to appreciate the Fall colors, if you have them where you are. Try to appreciate the majesty and miracle of all of the living things knowing each year how to prepare to survive the Winters of their lives.  I think there is a lesson in there for us too.









Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thinking of Those Who Remain from the Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami


            

           While I am cleaning, doing laundry and generally doing busywork, I listen sometimes to the news from different nations.  NHK News is news from Japan sent to us in English.  In general, its world news is very good and generally without bias.  It sometimes reports things about US News that our own news agencies seem to miss entirely. Today, after NHK News there was a program which profiled a man from Northern Japan who was on a business trip when the Great Earthquake of Eastern Japan occurred.  His wife, his two year old son, and his week old son survived the quake itself, but their entire apartment building was washed away by the tsunami.  The man had returned from the trip only to find his town, his family and his home gone, and unrecognizable. Of course, this man has been quite lost since. He was particularly upset because his week old son was born during his being away for work, and he never got a chance to hold him. The man clutched tightly to pictures of his family, including his sons, which thankfully still existed somewhere that was not destroyed. The man told the story that he was awoken from a dream by his sons who apparently went on growing and look like they are four and two now. They told him they are fine and happy.  This experience has allowed him to continue living a life on Earth, and even to volunteer as a surrogate dad to the boys who lost their parents or their fathers during the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.   The second story in this program was of a woman who lost her youngest son in the earthquake and tsunami.  She tells a moving story about how she knows her son was there while she and her other children celebrated her youngest son's birthday, supposedly in his absence.  These were touching stories about real people who knew devastation and loss, and yet know that they must remain on Earth and complete the tasks for which they were sent.  Some experiences and losses cross all the cross cultural borders. In a great many ways, regardless of religion and nationality, we are the same.






This is NHK's Disaster Recovery Song "Flowers Will Bloom"






Lyrics: IWAI Shunji
Music: KANNO Yoko
(Both are from Miyagi prefecture.)

 https://www.nhk.or.jp/japan311/flowers/about.html


Another version of the same song produced by NHK News


When I can get the English language version, I will try to post it here.

The English lyrics to the song are by:  Roger Pulvers

English lyrics:

My heart goes out to you.
When the Winter snows give way to Spring.
My heart is longing now
Longing for the town where happiness had been
Been a place of hope and of dreaming too
Been a home where my heart always went back to you
But for now, I only dream
Of the people who I loved and knew
Someone is singing, I can hear singing now
Someone is weeping, I can feel their tears

Flowers will bloom, yes they will, yes they will,
For you who are here or are yet to be born
They'll bloom, yes they will
And they'll bloom again until
There's no missing sorrow and no reason left to mourn

(Additional verses at score below)

The musical score to this song.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Sudden Passing of George Boiardi

          
George Boiardi


 As I have said here many times, our son Daniel is thought, by the teams of pathologists who performed his autopsy, to have died suddenly from a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance, which will have been five years ago now, this coming November.  Children, teens and adults all may die from a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance without prior symptoms.
             Today however, we are going to talk again about a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance and death which can occur following even fairly mild chest percussion or impact, called commotio cordis.
             Two years ago, 22 year old George Boiardi  (Yes, from the family who started Chef Boy-ar-dee) was playing lacrosse for his team at Cornell University.  He blocked a shot and was hit in the chest, causing a disruption of his heart rhythm which led to a  cardiac arrest which was fatal.




This is an EKG tracing of one heartbeat which shows the vulnerable window of when commotio cordis can occur.


            A relatively minor tap on the chest delivered accidentally at the correct time in the heartbeat can lead to a life-threatening arrhythmia or heart rhythm disturbance which all too often is not readily recoverable.  Besides CPR, the best chance a commotio cordis survivor has is an AED, but often, even an AED will not work to bring the heart rhythm back once it has ceased.   This is one reason an AED and CPR certified persons need to be an every sports practice as well as every game.

           There are a number of cases of this which have been covered in world news.  Remember that commotio cordis is the occurrence of a life threatening ventricular arrhythmia which occurs after a contact of mild, moderate or significant force to the chest of a person. This impact, with a ball, a fist or even an open hand, or even an attempt to demonstrate CPR on a live person causes the arrhythmia because it was delivered at coincidentally an essential period of rest or repolarization of the heart.  The effect is often devastating and permanent.

          There are multiple types of fatal spontaneous rhythm disturbances which cause death which can be completely independent of any type of coronary artery disease. Commotio cordis is only one type and it is the type which is caused by a known precipitant.
          We offer condolences to George Boiardi's family and his friends.

You can learn more about George here:     http://boiardifoundation.org/about/



This is more information about the foundation dedicated to George:     boiardifoundation.org


 



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How God Used the Life of Peter Francisco

           
This is a miniature portrait of Peter Francisco


   I am grateful to God for Daniel.  I am so incredibly lucky to have such a loving and bright boy who knew such joy while he was on Earth, even if it was only to be for twelve and a half years.  One of the things I remember so well is that Daniel really liked living in Virginia.  So many times we would learn about American history, and then we would go somewhere like Hopewell, Williamsburg, Yorktown, or Amelia and he would realize that we were in the place being discussed by the history books.  Virginia played such an important role in the early history of the United States and was the birthplace or home of many presidents. Daniel was quite small when we drove past Limestone Farm which had been owned by James Monroe, and Daniel realized that we lived fairly near President Monroe's farm, at the time.  He was similarly in awe when we went to Appomattox or Williamsburg.  He was also really interested when he realized that Pocahontas in real life, came from our neck of the woods and that we knew direct descendants of her.
                  There is one story about American history that Daniel did not know, because I did not know about it in order to tell him.  I am going to share it with you instead, and I think Daniel will see this post, if for some reason, he doesn't already know this in Heaven.

                   A young boy named Pedro Francisco was born in the Azores to  wealthy Portuguese parents.  He spent time in a large home overlooking the sea where he and his sister watched animals in the sea.   Political enemies of his parents from Portugal are said to have hired pirates to kidnap him. Poor Pedro wound up being purchased from them by a sea captain who dumped the boy, at age five, on the pier at City Point, Virginia. (South of Richmond in the vicinity of what is now Hopewell, Virginia)   The boy was dressed in European finery with silver shoe buckles custom made with his initials. He spoke only Portuguese.  Patrick Henry's uncle, Judge Anthony Winston, agreed to take the boy who was being housed at the Poor House, in Prince George County, Virginia. They called him Peter.

                 Peter Francisco was a good farm worker. He was apprenticed by the family as a blacksmith, in part because he was extremely tall and muscular, even as a teen.  He was cared for and treated well, but he worked on the farm, but was not adopted as one of their own sons.  At 6 feet and 6 inches tall and 260 pounds in that day, he was a veritable giant.  Peter accompanied the judge, and Patrick Henry to the famous "Give me Liberty or Give Me Death Speech" at St. John's Church in Richmond,  as both extended family and perhaps also as a bodyguard.

               When Peter turned 16, he signed up as a soldier for the Virginia 10th regiment, and he fought valiantly.  At one point he was badly injured and shared a hospital room with the Marquis de Lafayette, with whom he became a lifelong friend.  It was Lafayette who requested that George Washington commission a specially made sword for combat for someone as large as Peter.   Peter became probably one of the first "Special Forces" soldiers that we have had in America.  He took on one difficult assignment after another, and is largely credited for winning a number of battles without which America would not have ultimately won  the Revolutionary War.  Peter also effectively spied on a particularly violent British general named Tarleton. Peter injured his soldiers when they attacked him to steal his silver shoe buckles, which he still always wore. The legend says that afterward, Peter took their horses, sold them all, and kept Tarleton's horse, riding him and calling him Tarleton.    Peter Francisco is truly one of the United State's founding fathers and yet for many years this was not taught in schools.  Francisco lived on a farm in Buckingham County, Virginia following the war.  He was not wealthy but was ultimately made the Sargeant-at-Arms of the Virginia Senate.

           Daniel would have been pleased to know that one more inhabitant of the Virginia towns and villages he frequented in his lifetime, played a role in securing the freedoms the United States ultimately knew.  Peter Francisco was by all accounts an orphaned child at five, alone in the New World. He didn't even speak English.  He came to a good family, but at first, he probably had more in common with the slaves of the household, than with the family members.  He also was not educated in the manner in which most of the gentry would have educated their sons in that day.  And yet, God used him, despite numerous serious disadvantages, to do very great and lasting things in the world.  This point would not have escaped Daniel.
            The many relatives of Peter Francisco have a great deal of which to be proud.


Additional information can be found at:


 http://www.peterfrancisco.org/        

http://www.peterfrancisco.org/aboutpeter.php

http://www.peterfrancisco.org/news.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Francisco



            
                  
                  

Monday, September 2, 2013

In the Quiet Moments

               





          Sometimes in the quiet moments of my life I think back, and I recall different passages of my life.  I remember, a bit more than a month before Daniel passed that my father was hospitalized in another city.  I had traveled there to remain with my Dad.  Daniel, my husband and the other kids made the trip that weekend.   When I saw Daniel, he had been crying.  He was very upset to see my father so ill.  I remember at the end of the hallway, far from my father, kissing Daniel on the cheek and holding him tight.  I remember telling him that Dad had been made my God and that if God called him home, that we needed to have faith in God's plan for him. I also told Daniel that I love him very much.   He seemed a bit better after we spoke.  As I held him that day, I remember wishing I could hold that moment in time forever.  My Dad was here on Earth, and Daniel was with me, and all my children, even those in college, were close. I wanted to hold time still.  I had no idea that the next month would bring so many challenges to my faith, and that my own faith in what God's plan for us might be.

                    God allowed many magical moments with both Dad and with Daniel before he called each of them, in an instant, one expectedly, and one so unexpectedly.  Sometimes I stand in awe that I, and our family have somehow still survived.  Daniel, I remember your flushed face and your tears that day. I remember our hug as if it were yesterday.  I can't go back to that moment, and redo it, taking you in that moment to the best electrophysiologist or interventional cardiologist I could find, to try to interrupt what I did not know was soon to happen.  I can't go back to that time.  Instead, I am racing forward through my life, taking care of your animals, your Dad, and your siblings and waiting for the moment when we all see one another again.  I still have so much to share with you.  I love you and miss you so.





"Through My Veins" Richard Marx

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Sudden Loss of Brandon Goyne

Brandon Goyne
         


    On January 18, 2013 Brandon Goyne, 20, a student at Louisiana State University in Alexandria was at baseball practice.  He was one of the younger team members, and was a sophomore outfielder, but the coach says he was a real standout there.  During baseball practice Brandon collapsed, experienced a cardiac arrest, and despite quick intervention, never regained consciousness.  Head Coach Brent Porche says that the team, had been overwhelmed by support following this tragedy.  There is no telling where Brandon's skill in sports and his zest for life would have taken him in the future.
           Normally, autopsy results are private and are not public record, unless a family chooses to release some information from one. Brandon's parents, Scott and Debbie Goyne, chose to release autopsy information in order to bring attention to this diagnosis.  Despite the fact that Brandon had two physicals in the months that led up to his sudden death, he did not have an EKG.  In Brandon's case, an EKG would have shown the diagnosis which caused his passing.   On autopsy Brandon was diagnosed with ARVD/C or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy.     This is a more specific diagnosis of arrhythmic death of a young person, than we normally receive.  It is in fact, not a heart attack or myocardial infarction.    EKGs are not necessarily required for students of any age who play sports. Although an EKG would have detected Brandon's cardiac diagnosis, in many, like my Daniel, it would not have.  Still, if just a few families could avoid losing their sons or daughter's suddenly, during sports or simply living their lives, this would be a task worth doing.
          ARVD/C is not the cause of all sudden death due to arrhythmia during sports, but it is a cause of a percentage of it.  This diagnosis is of genetic origin, and CAN be treated if the diagnosis is made. This is why it is particularly important for the family members of someone who experiences sudden death while playing sports to be examined by a university based cardiology team. For example, Brandon's arrhythmic death could have been detected and prevented by EKG and intervention, whereas our Daniel's likely could not have been detected prior to the event itself.
           Athletic model Krissy Taylor also died from this diagnosis, which was detected on autopsy.

           Brandon's parents and his brother Derek have started the Brandon Goyne Foundation. Its goal is to make EKGs available to everyone who plays school sports in order to detect as many potential Brandons  out there as possible. In addition, the family wishes to bring to the attention of schools, coaches and families that everyone who plays sports should have an EKG first.     They have details about this on Facebook.


          More information on The Goyne Foundation .


This is additional reading on ARVD/C:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/arvd/index.html

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrhythmogenic_right_ventricular_dysplasia

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/arvd/_pdf/arvd_2013_summer_newsletter.pdf


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Of Roses and Carnations: A Friend Went Home

                


 
    I have a friend whose birthday was earlier this month.  I spent her birthday with her and we had a great visit.  I took her a big batch of birthday flowers in the colors I knew she would like. I arranged them as she told me which flower faces should be in the front.  We reminisced about a number of things, and when I could see she was getting tired, I departed.  I remember asking her if there was anything she needed, and she asked for a large type Bible.   I asked if she needed me to get it that day, and since I visit each month, she said "no".  "Just get one and bring it next time you come". She was well and happy. I see now that this was important.  My friend had fought organized religion for a long time, and now was more interested in God's word, and in studying it. It is true that most atheists don't die as atheists.
                      Despite the fact that I had arranged for someone to call me if anything ever happened to my friend, no one did.   I got up this morning to find that my friend had died suddenly this week. I am stunned.   Normally, I have a strange sense when this is the last time that I am going to see a person.  Perhaps it's from so many years of having been a registered nurse.  Perhaps it's only pattern recognition.  Of course, I don't have this 100% of the time.  I felt nothing during our visit but the joy of seeing a friend for her birthday.  All I felt was understanding and relaxation, and I got as much, if not more, from our visit, as she did.  Part of me wants to cry in that I won't be able to visit my friend each month, and that her unconditional acceptance and encouragement is gone for me.   On the other hand, I want to smile that her passing was smooth and I am told easy, and I know she deserved a safe and comfortable passing.  Just for today, I am going to cry. I am going to miss her, and then I hope I will begin to see things as they really are.  She spent a life well lived here and stayed serene and graceful with a fair measure of herself intact despite a nasty and serious illness. I am proud of my eldest son who spent a great deal of time with her in these last few years, and I am pleased that I took the time to know her.
                      Make sure that you touch base with your friends, relatives, and those who mean much to you. We all pass, sometimes quickly and quietly.   I will miss you, my friend.







Sunday, August 25, 2013

When Will the Heaven Begin ? A Book of Inspiration.

This is Ally Breedlove. You can see the family resemblance to Ben.



                  One of the most popular posts I have written about a person other than Daniel on this blog has been the post I wrote concerning Ben Breedlove.   Ben is a teen who was known to have had dilated cardiomyopathy, and who experienced numerous sudden death experiences in his teens.   Before he passed, Ben, who enjoyed his life immensely, conveyed on cards via video on You-tube, what his heavenly experiences were like for the rest of us. Ben passed away on Christmas Day, 2011.
                    This was an immensely kind thing for him to do.  His videos coincided with a difficult time I was having in terms of missing Daniel, and these videos, and the smiling face of this young man was immensely inspiring and supportive to me, and to thousands and thousands of other people also. Some of us had lost loved ones, and others grappled a potentially fatal illness.  Ben was an inspiration to us all.
                  I have always hoped that Ben's family would find a way to write a book about him, his times, and his experiences.  I think many people, besides myself suggested such a thing.  I learned this week that Ben's sister Ally has written such a book, which appears below.  I recommend it to anyone who has lost someone to Heaven, for inspiration in general and especially for those moments when faith seems thin.








  My earlier post on Ben Breedlove can be found here:

http://learnedfromdaniel.blogspot.com/2011/12/ben-breedloves-story.html



You can buy this book from Amazon at the following link:

It can be pre-ordered now, but will be broadly available October 29, 2013


http://www.amazon.com/When-Will-Heaven-Begin-Breedloves/dp/0451239644



               It comforts me to think that our Daniel, who passed of a rhythm disturbance that occurred spontaneously, is with Ben, who knew for an extended period that his enlarged heart predisposed him to potentially deadly sudden arrhythmic episodes.  It comforts me to consider the possibility that perhaps they are now friends.




Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thinking of Jean Fogelberg

             




  When I was a teenager and in college, long before I had a beloved son named Daniel, I used to listen to the music of another Daniel.   Daniel Grayling Fogelberg was born in Illinois in 1951 to a Scottish mother and a father who was of Swedish descent.  He was the youngest of three sons. Although Dan Fogelberg never reached the pinnacle of fame most of his fans knew he so richly deserved, by virtue of talent, he defined the era with his songwriting, and in his treatment of the songs of others.   He so clearly gave direction to so many other artists. An attendee of The University of Illinois at Urbanna-Champaign, he majored in Theatre and Painting.  By 1972, he released his first album, Home Free, and began touring as an opening act for Van Morrison.  He went on to release a number of other albums Souvenirs, Captured Angel, Netherlands, Twin Sons of Different Mothers with Tim Weisberg. Then came,  The Phoenix, The Innocent Age.   Later,  Windows and Walls, High Country Snows, Exiles, The Wild Places, River of Souls, Portrait,  The First Christmas Morning, and Full Circle.  There are other albums if you include the compilations, work with Tim Weisberg and special CDs.  These albums were filled with everything from intelligent rock, incredible arrangements, to Bluegrass music, as well as the ballads for which he is so well known.  Dan was also a passionate friend of the natural environment, and was steadfastly against nuclear power use.






                Though Dan wrote and sang the music for the relationships and weddings for the rest of us, he found the veritable love of his life later in his life.  He and his wife Jean, also a singer, were happily married when Dan's advanced prostate cancer was discovered.in 2004.  Dan and his wife left their beloved ranch in Colorado and headed to California for the most advanced treatment. For a time, there had been a remission.  Dan and Jean left the ranch and moved to their home in beautiful Belle Isle, Maine, full time.  Jean has related that for many years their solitude was complete there, as they didn't have a telephone in the home.   I think Dan was always a little uncomfortable with the trappings of fame and that privacy was very important to him. In the mid 2000s, I saw Dan driving a truck in the vicinity of Cary Street in Richmond, Virginia.  I think he was uncomfortable having been recognized and pulled his ballcap farther down over his face. I later learned that he was likely there to visit his close friend Jimmy Buffett (Margaritaville) who lives in the area.  Dan did help to spread awareness of Prostate cancer, and to encourage men, even those under 50, to have a routine periodic PSA test.  Some people, including Dan Fogelberg believed that more lives can be saved if the PSA test, a simple bloodtest, is offered annually for men getting a routine physical every year starting at forty, rather than at 50, as is recommended for most.

                Dan Fogelberg passed at age 56 at home in Deer Isle, Maine, with his wife Jean with him, in December, 2007.  So many people who had never met him grieved knowing that the soundtrack to their own lives had changed forever.   Dan's ashes were scattered off the coast of Maine.

               Of course for me, my own beloved Daniel, died at age 12 1/2 the following year.  My Daniel was certainly familiar during his own life of the large body of work Dan Fogelberg left to us.  When you have time, please listen to some of the music Dan Fogelberg left to the Earth.   He is certainly known for Leader of the Band, and Longer, and many others, but there are far more obscure pieces which you should hear.  I will leave one them below, one less known, and another that is probably already known to you. I hope that my own Daniel has better luck in thanking Dan Fogelberg for all the wonderful music, where they both are now, than I did in Richmond that day.

               I often wonder how Jean Fogelberg is doing.  Life is hard when your Daniel has moved on ahead of you, of this I am sure.



This song was playing in my head all week...

Since You've Asked         ~  Dan Fogelberg's version of this song written by Judy Collins.







Update:  Jean Fogelberg is an accomplished artist and photographer who continues to produce quality work and have it shown. She divides her time between the two places she and Dan loved so much, the Colorado mountains and coastal Maine.  She also does many good works in the field of bereavement and caregiver support, and is notable to me for her great compassion, most of all.    I think her own Dan would be so incredibly  proud of her.   Jean used to be known as Jean Mayer-Dailey and is a co-author of the 1980s song "Power" performed by Berry Gordy, of Motown fame.