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Category Archives: Angelversaries

There and here.

img_1565Today is Julian’s sixth Angelversary. Six years since he lost his battle with leukemia and left the planet. In the early days, I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to live without him. Six years later, I’m living… but I’m not without him. Because he is both “there” and here.

Every once in a while, someone will shyly ask me, “Do you ever sense that he is with you? Do you communicate with him? Do you get signs from him?” And the answer is yes, yes, and yes. Constantly… if I’m paying attention.

Sometimes it’s little things, like looking at the clock when it reads exactly on the hour (to which I always respond, “Hi baby!”). Or, a parking lot that is completely full, except for the spot closest to the door (in our family, that’s known as the “Julian Spot”). Sometimes it’s coins crossing my path unexpectedly, dimes especially. Sometimes these are isolated events, but often they have a frequency. For example, in the past 24 hours, I estimate that I’ve seen the clock at X:00 at least 7 times. That’s not a coincidence, that’s Julian saying “Hi. I’m with you. Always, but especially today.”

Sometimes the gifts from Julian make me laugh in their awesomeness. As I’ve shared before, it’s because of Julian that we are good friends with a famous chef. He’s in the process of opening a new restaurant, and we recently received an invitation for a friends-and-family preview night before they open. The event is on March 12th, the day that would have been Julian’s 10th birthday. This was not a coincidence, this was Julian saying, “It’s my 10th birthday, and I’ve arranged a special dinner for you to celebrate!”

Sometimes Julian sends Earth Angels to protect my family. For example, when my parents were on a train in Russia, they were discussing their plans for getting to their hotel after disembarking at their station. There weren’t many English speakers on that train, but it turns out there was one in earshot. Not only was she listening to their conversation, she was the type of kind person who approached them and explained that their train wouldn’t be stopping at that station on that particular day. Not only did she help them figure out an alternate plan, she negotiated directly with the cab driver to make sure they paid a fair price for their journey. AND she stopped by the hotel the next day to make sure they arrived safely. This wasn’t just random. This was Julian saying, “I’m always watching over you. I see that you’re vulnerable right now. The plan you made can not happen today. I’m sending an Earth Angel to help you.”

My whole family has these experiences. Sometimes we share them with each other, sometimes we keep them to ourselves. But what we all know for sure is that Julian is not gone. He is obviously “there” in Heaven or whatever label we chose to use, but he is also very much HERE with us, all the time. And he confirms that message frequently, when we’re paying attention.

He is the puffy white clouds reflected in a mirror-like lake. The line between “down here” and “up there” becomes almost imperceptible. His spirit is communicating directly with us, just like the beauty of the sky is literally visible here on Earth. He is there AND here.

img_0363p.s. This past year I started making art again after many years. I created an artwork based on this visual metaphor, and it was selected to be included in a show called Spirit: Made Here in downtown Minneapolis. They even interviewed me and made a video about my work. The inspiration for this work of art, as well as the acceptance into the show, was yet another gift from Julian.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Angelversaries, year 6

 

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Forgiving the unforgivable.

J-fiveIf you’ve ever had a four-year-old in your life, you know how important the fifth birthday is. The turning point from four to five is more than just a number. It’s a whole hand. It’s half way to double digits. It’s a big deal. 

Today is Julian‘s fifth Angelversary. He’s been gone a whole hand of years. And in those years, I’ve changed a lot. Things that were important to me before seem silly to me now. Things that I spend a lot of time thinking about now never crossed my mind back then.

My grief journey has taken me on many twists and turns over the past five years. And today, if I were to pick one word to describe how I feel, it is “peaceful.” It goes without saying that I would do anything to have Julian alive and healthy again. But that is not an option, and I’m at peace with that.

After five years, I now know that forgiveness is a huge part of healing. It would be easy to rage against the fact that my son got cancer. I could be filled with anger that he got an infection that his body couldn’t fight. I could hold on to resentment that the doctors couldn’t fight it either. But I don’t.

Instead, I choose to forgive the unforgivable. I forgive the doctors for failing to locate and destroy the infection in time. I forgive the infection for invading his vulnerable body in the first place. I forgive the leukemia treatment protocol that destroyed his ability to fight the infection. I forgive the cancer for taking up residence in his blood. I forgive his human body for failing to keep his soul alive.

And perhaps most importantly, I forgive my own soul for choosing this path. What I know for sure is that grieving and healing are journeys of the soul. Just like life itself is a journey of the soul. We attend this Earth School, and we do our best with the curriculum we signed up for… and I do believe we signed up for this.

Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping sums up my beliefs perfectly:

“The World of Humanity is a spiritual classroom, and life is the curriculum. Our lessons are the events that happen in life. The objective is to awaken to the truth of who we are and return home.”

This powerful book goes on to confirm,

“Life is not random. It provides for the purposeful unfoldment of our own divine plan, with opportunities to make choices and decisions in every moment…. At the soul level, we get precisely what we need in our lives for our spiritual growth. How we judge what we get determines whether we experience life as painful or joyful.”

Five years ago, I felt nothing but pain. And yet, as the earliest posts on this blog indicate, I felt an instinctual pull toward finding joy again. I wouldn’t ever have imagined that forgiveness would be such a significant part of this process. And I’m grateful for the journey that led me here.

And my to my sweet angel Julian, I say: Thank you for everything you’ve taught me. Thank you for being my my guardian angel and my soul companion. High five, little one. We’re halfway to double digits on this divine plan.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Angelversaries, year 5

 

The beauty of life (and loss).

Today marks four years since my sweet Julian completed his assignment here on Earth, and transcended to whatever comes next. He died just before his fourth birthday, so that means he has now been gone longer than he was here.

But today I don’t want to dwell on the loss. Instead, I want to share perhaps the most beautiful video I have ever seen. I invite you to watch it, and join me in honoring Julian’s memory with the beauty in this journey we call life:

Because this is the four-year mark, I’ll share four parts of the lyrics that are significant — and True-with-a-capital-T — to me:

1. Our souls are here on assignment.

We’re on assignment.
Bodies on consignment.

Before Julian died, I didn’t spend much time thinking about where our souls came from, why we’re here, or where we go next. Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that our souls here to learn something specific. Our physical bodies in this lifetime are “on consignment.” When our assignment is complete, we have no more need for this body, and we transcend to what’s next. Julian completed his assignment four years ago. I (hopefully) still have many years to go before my soul’s assignment is complete, but I know that a big part of it is to learn how to survive the loss of a child. I can chose to resist this, or I can choose to accept it. I wish it were different, but I accept it.

2. We’re here to make a difference.

…in this existence,
I’ll stay persistent.
I’ll make a difference,
and I will have lived it.

Julian never even reached his fourth birthday, but he made a huge difference in the world. We all can take inspiration from his memory and ask ourselves, what difference are we making? Are we persistent? When our time is up, will we have really lived it?

3. Our inner guide will help us survive loss.

I cry for the creatures who get left behind;
everything will change in a blink of an eye.
And if you wish to survive,
you will find the guide inside.

We all experience loss. What happens next, and whether we survive it or not, is up to us. If we wish to survive — and some people don’t — we must find that survival instinct within ourselves. Our inner guide is waiting to be found.

4. We are privileged to have the responsibility of this lifetime.

Aloha, Aloha Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleana, Kuleana.

The literal translation of Aloha Ke Akua means “God is Love,” and Kuleana is defined as “the privilege of responsibility.” This message is a beautiful reminder that life is a gift; it is our honor and privilege to live our best life regardless of the ups and downs.

On this day, I give thanks for the years I had with Julian. Even on the days I want to rage against my loss, I accept it as part of my soul’s assignment. I recognize it as my privilege and my responsibility to carry his memory forward as I do my best to make a difference in this life.
 
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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Angelversaries, year 4

 

Angel Day #3: The 3rd 3/3

Today is Julian’s Angel Day. The third one. The 3rd 3/3. And he was 3 when he died. Lots of threes today.

I recently read Louise Hay’s latest book, You Can Heal Your Heart. I highlighted several quotes throughout the book, but the one that struck me most is this:

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“The person you were has forever changed. A part of the old you died with your loved one, but a part of your loved one lives on in the new you. This can be a holy transition instead of a lose-lose frame of mind.”

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So in honor of this day of 3, I’d like to share three insights from the “holy transition” I’ve been living through these past three years:

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1. I leaned in. And then I leaned back. And now I fly above. 

I’ve always been a driven person. Goal-setting was automatic; there was always a destination I was striving for. I was “leaning in” way before Sheryl Sandberg told us to. When I was 28, I founded a successful business that grew to support more than 10 families. I served on boards, and I was recognized as a “pioneer” and a “leader” in my field. But eventually I was just on frantic auto-pilot, working nights and weekends for years and years to maintain the leaned-in life I’d created for myself.

The first year after Julian’s death, I appreciated that auto-pilot life. The quantity and intensity of activity in my life was a welcome distraction. But by the time Julian’s first Angelversary came around, I realized I was completely burned out. I cracked. I just couldn’t do it anymore. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead — and I couldn’t do nothing — so I leaned BACK. I stayed in my business, but I redefined my job description and I cut back on anything I could cut back on.

Then, when Julian’s second Angelversary came around, I realized that leaning back wasn’t any better. Instead of achieving more “balance,” I’d gone from frantic auto-pilot to bored robot. I was going through the motions, without authentic passion for any of the things that used to excite me. So I made the scariest decision of my life: I decided to transition out of my business. I had some ideas for what I wanted to do next, but I didn’t have an exact plan. I wasn’t even comfortable calling it a “sabbatical,” because I didn’t know if I’d ever want to return to the work I’d done before. I took a running leap into the unknown — no specific goal, no specific destination. I wasn’t leaning in or leaning back. I was flying above.

And here I am today, three years after Julian died, feeling alive for the first time in forever. What am I doing now? For one thing, I’m writing a book. But more importantly, I’m pursuing what Danielle LaPorte calls “goals with soul.” Instead of traditional goals, I’m driven by my core desired feelings: Freedom, Creativity, and Abundance. And when I re-focused on what I really valued, I found that spark again. I was struck by divine inspiration (thank you, Julian!) for a NEW business that will merge my past career in website design with my newly discovered passion for spiritual technology. (More on that later. I gotta get that book done first!)

I leaned in, then I leaned back, and now I fly above. I’m more “me” than I’ve ever been, and it’s because a part of Julian lives on in the new me. And I thank him for that every day.

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2. I’ve examined my “primal thinking” about relationships.

Another one of my favorite quotes from You Can Heal Your Heart is, “Grief is the window that provides the opportunity to examine your primal thinking about relationships.” As I think back on the past three years, I see how profoundly true that is.

I learned two things about relationships shortly after Julian died. First, I was told that I’d be surprised by who supported me in those darkest days (I’d be surprised by who came forward, and I’d be surprised by who retreated). And yes, that was true for me. But what surprised me even more was how my friendships continued to change as the years went by. Friends who were once close drifted away, and people who entered my life after Julian died are now some of my best friends and biggest supporters. I treasure these new soul sisters, and I thank Julian for bringing them into my life.

The second thing I was told about relationships is that the loss of a child often ends in divorce. A child’s death can directly lead to divorce, like when one parent was fully or partially responsible for the death. Or the child’s death can indirectly lead to divorce, like when a spouse’s physical characteristics bring up memories of the child that are too painful to live with on a day-to-day basis, or when the parents fail to soothe each other and feel they must part ways to find joy again.

I’m happy to report that my marriage did not suffer either of these scenarios. When I look back on the past three years, it’s clear to me that Julian’s death brought my husband and me even closer. He’s had his own journey of grief and recovery, and he’s come out the other side with strength and determination. Together, we experienced the very worst thing that any parents can experience, and we learned that we can survive anything… because we have each other.

My “primal thinking about relationships” has shifted a lot in the past three years, and I’m grateful for it. I’ve made beautiful new friendships, and I’ve gained even more strength in my marriage. Julian inspires me to appreciate every relationship I have.

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3. I’ve learned the Truth: love never dies.

Before Julian died, I described myself as “spiritual but not religious.” I still describe myself that way, but now I really understand what that means. I’ve found myself drawn to books like Proof of Heaven and Many Lives, Many Masters. I know in my heart that Julian and I have been together before, and we’ll be together again. But also, WE’RE STILL TOGETHER NOW.

Louise Hay says, “The ultimate truth is that love never dies.” I’m here to tell you, that’s true. And I don’t mean conceptually or abstractly true. I mean, literally capital-T True. Julian is no longer in human form, but he is not gone. He is present in my life every day. In large and small ways, he gives me signs that he is with me. Like for example, last year my whole family was celebrating Julian’s birthday and our server introduced himself to us. His name was JULIAN. That wasn’t a coincidence. That was Julian saying, “Hi! Thanks for celebrating my birthday! I’m here, too!”

Our loved ones’ bodies die, but their love never dies. Their souls live on, and connect with us ALL THE TIME. If you pay attention, you will see it, too.

So there you go. A trinity of transition. Three ways Julian has become a part of the new me. He blessed me in life, and he blesses me still. 

Happy third Angelversary, little one.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Angelversaries, year 3

 

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Four years a boy, two years an angel.

Julian smile_11Today is Julian’s two-year angelversary. It would be easy to write about how much I miss him, or how I would do anything to hold him in my arms again. But if you know me at all, either in real life or through this blog, you won’t be surprised that I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to thank him.

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First, I want to thank him for joining our family in the first place. Before Julian was born, I knew our family wasn’t complete yet. But when John and I decided we were ready for a second child, he wasn’t quite ready for us. After several months of disappointment, we started to wonder if maybe my body wasn’t going to cooperate. But I never lost the feeling that someone was missing. That someone was Julian, and he joined our family when he was good and ready. Just after he was born, the first thing I did when I was alone with him for the first time was look into his eyes and tell him, “I’ve been waiting for you.” He stared back at me; he knew. He’d been waiting for me, too.
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Second, I want to thank him for the four years he was with us on this planet. He was loving and independent. He was generous and determined. He was smart and scrappy. He was a leftie and a Pisces. He was completely his own person, and he added a whole new dimension to our family. As I walked out of Children’s Hospital exactly two years ago today, I remember saying to my brother Alex, “I feel so grateful to have had him for almost four years. I would rather have had him for four years than to have not had him at all.” I was in shock, and I don’t remember much of anything else that I said to others or others said to me, but I remember saying that. That was my Truth in that moment, and it still is. All the pain of the past two years pales in comparison to the joy of the previous four years.
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Lastly, I want to thank him for the gifts he’s given me in the past two years since he became our Guardian Angel. There have been many gifts, and I know they are from him. Not from God, not from the Universe, not from luck. From HIM. He gave me the gift of new friends who have changed my life. He lead us to our cabin, which is now my favorite place in the world. He has given me countless gifts of experiences and insight. But the most profound gift he gave me was the gift of my Self.
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The person I am today is so different from the me of two years ago. Life is deeper, sweeter, truer. Things I used to question are now answered. Things I used to believe have turned into things I just know. Things that I used to waste energy on are now easy to let go of. Things about myself that I used to regret but accept as “just how I am” have been replaced by attributes that enable me to experience life from a deeper place.
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Somehow, life is just warmer now. Pema Chödrön‘s book Taking the Leap includes a chapter called “The Importance of Pain.” Old Emily probably wouldn’t have picked up this book in the first place; New Emily appreciates her wise words. She opens the chapter by explaining,
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“Before we can know what natural warmth really is, often we must experience loss. We go along for years moving though our days, propelled by habit, taking life pretty much for granted. Then we or someone dear to us has an accident or gets seriously ill, and it’s as if blinders have been removed from our eyes. We see the meaninglessness of so much of what we do and the emptiness of so much we cling to.”
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She concludes the chapter by describing exactly what I have experienced over the past two years,
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“When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced.”
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Two years ago today, my life was shattered into a million pieces. Today, I embrace the warmth of empathy and kindness.
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Julian was an Earth-bound boy for four years, and he’s been an angel for two. He changed my life for the better when he was born, and he continues to change my life for the better. And for that I feel nothing but gratitude.
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Happy second angelversary, little one. Thank you for everything.
 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Angelversaries, year 2

 

The last of the firsts.


Today is March 3rd. That means it’s Julian’s first Angelversary. One year since the worst day of my life. The last milestone in a year of unimaginable “firsts.”

The first time I woke up, convinced it was all a horrible nightmare… and later, the first time I woke up and knew it wasn’t. The first time I laughed… and later, the first time I realized I had gone a whole day without crying.

The first of his birthdays without him; the first of my birthdays without him. The first Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; the first Christmas and New Year’s. The first time someone asked me how many children I have; the first time I heard Oscar refer to himself as “an only child.”

There’s a surprising amount of relief in reaching the last of these firsts, the first anniversary of his death. Perhaps the only thing I’ve heard about grieving that might be universally true is, “the first year is the hardest.” And as of today, my family and I have survived that year. It’s behind us now. Another bereaved parent recently told me, “it never gets better, but it does get easier.” I believe that will be true for us, too.

Today, I’m thankful for many things. In this particular moment, I’m thankful that my parents encouraged John and I to take a week off of work and take Oscar out of school to join them in Mexico, at the resort that we spent many family spring breaks growing up. I’m thankful that we agreed to it, despite the fact that we had already planned a vacation for the end of March. It’s peaceful and relaxing here, and I’m grateful to be able to spend this day with my husband, oldest son, and parents.

Today I’ve been reflecting on how I have changed in the past year, as I listen to the waves crashing nearby. As irrational as it seems now, I remember that in the first days after Julian’s death, I felt a very real fear that I would somehow forget him. I also started feeling internal and external judgement about my grieving process — as if intense grief indicated intense love, and healing from grief indicated a lack of love. And if I stopped grieving, I would forget him.

But with time, I gained confidence in my own approach to grieving and healing. Thankfully, I eventually came to the conclusion that Martha Whitmore Hickman described so eloquently in Healing After Loss:

“Of course time eases our grief, provided we let it follow its course and give it its due. Few of us would want the intensity and desolation of early grief to stay with us forever. That’s not what we’re afraid of.

But we may be afraid that we’ll lose the intensity of love we felt for the one we have lost.

At first these two–the grief and the love–are so wedded to each other that we cannot separate them. We may cling to the grief in desperation so we will be sure not to lose the love.

Perhaps the grief and the love will always be wedded to each other to some degree, like two sides of a coin. But maybe after a while, when we flip the coin, it will almost always be the love that turns up on top.”

Today, I’m thankful that in fact love almost always does turn up on top. I’m also thankful that a year has passed and I can say with all certainty that he isn’t alive, but he isn’t gone. I still have a relationship with him. I see him everywhere. I see him in my dreams. I saw him in the whales that appeared a short distance off the beach this morning, despite the fact that they weren’t expected for a couple more weeks. I see him in every sunset.

Sometimes, even in Mexico, the sunset is obstructed by clouds. But that doesn’t make me question whether or not the sun exists. Similarly, even if I don’t see or feel him, I know he’s there. A year ago I was afraid he was gone forever. Today I know he’s with me always.

Today is the first anniversary, the last of the firsts. And as my mom said to me just a few minutes ago, “It’s a good day.”

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Angelversaries, year 2

 

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