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Tag Archives: Angelversary

This “being human” is a guest house.

"The Guest House" by Rumi

“The Guest House” by Rumi

Today is Julian‘s tenth Angelversary.
Ten years since his life ended way too soon.
Ten years of creating new normal.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine living without my youngest son.
Yet, here I am.

Not because I’m “strong” or “brave.”
Not because I’m resilient.

It’s because I have no other option.

It’s also because, as the 13th-century Sufi mystic Rumi says, this “being human” is a guest house.

 

 


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)

You can also listen to this poem in a song called “Arrival” by Hiatus, an Iranian ambient musician. (I had it on repeat as I wrote this post.)



The first time I heard this poem was when a dear family friend read it at Julian’s Celebration of Life, and it’s taken me this long to really appreciate the truth of it. Like a Cosmic Joke, it really is as simple as that. This “being human” is a guest house. Our experiences and emotions are our guests, sent as guides from beyond.

It’s natural to want to fight it. But, like it or not, our souls are here to learn from each “unexpected visitor” that arrives at our doorstep. We all have different visitors; we all have different soul journeys. 

Our souls didn’t sign up for an easy ride. We learn a lot through love and joy, but we learn MORE through loss and heartbreak. It’s the full spectrum of experiences — *especially* the negative ones — that provide the lessons that we most need to learn in this lifetime.

Rumi wrote The Guest House in the 13th century, when life expectancy was under 35, and child mortality might have been as high as 50%. The earliest audiences of this poem would have been intimately familiar with trauma and loss.

Today, thankfully, our human journeys are longer and healthier. And yet, the challenge is the same: we must be grateful for whatever crosses our path in this lifetime, because each experience has been sent as a guide from beyond. And each one is necessary for soul growth.

I will always have a Julian-sized hole in my heart. I will always mourn my family’s indescribable loss. But when I remind myself, “this being human is a guest house,” I feel a glimmer of peace. Even when those guests are “a crowd of sorrows / who violently sweep your house / empty of its furniture,” I do my best to treat them honorably.

Everything I experience in this lifetime has been sent to teach me the lessons my soul signed up for in the first place. On my best days, I meet them at the door of my guest house and respectfully invite them in. I welcome each one as a guide sent from beyond.

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2021 in Angelversaries

 

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Loss is Soulcraft.

Loss is Soulcraft.

Today is Julian’s 9th Angelversary. It’s also Super Tuesday here in the United States. I never imagined I’d be inspired by politics as I write a blog post about grief and loss, but here we are.

I didn’t consider myself “political” until just a few years ago. It is one of the many ways I’ve changed as a direct result of experiencing the loss of a child. My family and I really get it that life is too short to be complacent. Life is too short not to pay attention to the world around me. Life is too short not to fight for what I believe in. Sometimes, life is too short… period. 

So I get involved. I do my research, and I develop my opinions. I’m vocal about my opinions, and I participate in good-faith debates when I have the opportunity. I recognize that my voice MATTERS.

And even if things don’t go the way I hoped they would, at least I know I was in the arena. I fought the good fight. I made a DIFFERENCE.

It is no secret that I was, and still am, an enthusiastic supporter of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. When he announced he was suspending his 2020 presidential campaign on Sunday night, I was heartbroken. I watched his speech with tears in my eyes and a sob in my throat. I was particularly touched when he said:

“Politics at its worst is ugly. But at its best, politics can lift us up. It is not just policymaking. It is moral. It is soulcraft.”

I thought about that word, “soulcraft.” That, I believe, is why we’re here on the planet in the first place. To craft our soul. We are here for our soul to learn and grow.

And that doesn’t happen without loss.

So, whether we are suffering from the end of a political campaign or the end of a life, these losses shape our human experience. They make us who we are meant to be.

Loss is soulcraft.

I’m nine years into my journey as a bereaved mother. I wish I had been given a different path. I wish there was a different outline for me to follow in this Earth School of soulcraft. But I accept it. I appreciate every opportunity for my soul to learn and grow. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for the glorious blessings AND the one devastating tragedy that my life has brought me so far.

So… to all the Super Tuesday winners and losers, to all the bereaved parents, to those who seek the fullest expression of life, and to everyone who goes ALL IN…

Congratulations on your successful soulcraft. 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2020 in Angelversaries

 

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Both are true.

Today is Julian’s seventh Angelversary. In the spirit of celebration and remembrance, I invite you to watch this video and take a moment to remember Julian and your own loved ones who have passed on to the Sky World:

Let’s put our minds together as one
And remember the ones who’ve passed on to the Sky World
Their life duties are complete
They are living peacefully
In the Sky World , In the Sky World.

This video moved me so deeply when I first saw it. If my heart took the form of song and dance today, this would be it. Because today is not a day for sadness and despair. Today is a day to celebrate the four short years we had with Julian, and to remember that he’s not “lost” — his life duties were complete, and he peacefully moved on to the Sky World.

Today is also a day for me to notice how my perspective on life (and death) has shifted in the past seven years. As my mind floats back to those early days, I remember talking to a woman who had lost a daughter many years earlier. She promised, “It may not get better, but it will get easier.” Initially, that seemed impossible.

When I was in the early stages of my grief, I couldn’t even imagine a life that would become easier… let alone better. Up to that point, I had spent my whole adult life working hard to create and control my life. Then, something profoundly tragic happened that was beyond my control — and no amount of hard work, good intentions, or desperate prayers could change that.

I realize now that I was not only grieving my son, I was grieving a total breakdown of my philosophy of life. But with time, I learned to surrender my need for control, and I released the belief that life was controllable in the first place. I stopped fighting the past, and eventually accepted the (unacceptable) present, including the aspects of the present that appear to be contradictory:

My son’s death was an unacceptable tragedy… AND I accept it. Both are true. 

I experienced the very worst thing a parent could experience… AND I have a lot to be grateful for. Both are true. 

I would do anything to bring him back… AND my family and I have had amazing experiences in the last seven years that were a direct result of Julian’s death. Both are true. 

My son died… AND there’s a lot to love about my life. Both are true. 

Today I am reminding myself, it did get easier. It got better, too. My heart is dancing and singing in remembrance of Julian. I am giving thanks for the love I feel and the lessons Julian continues to teach me, because he has passed on to the Sky World… AND he is with me forever. Both are true. 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2018 in Angelversaries

 

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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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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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