Our heart connections

Not surprisingly, I think a lot about death. I think about the experiences of my friends who have passed. I think about my own eventual death. I think about death as a concept and as a reality. I think about it from a physical perspective and from a spiritual perspective. I think about it from a distance and up close.

I am curious about what might exist after death. I’ve read the books written by Anita Moorjani and Eben Alexander. I’ve read the book Heaven is for Real and saw the movie. Like many people, I’ve had funky experiences where I can feel someone around me, then later learn that they died during that timeframe. I’m convinced they came to let me know of their passing. I’ve had random, unpredictable events occur, related to someone who has died.

Given this train of thought and my experiences, you would not be surprised to know that I believe in mediumship. Mediums vary, both in how they connect with those who have passed as well as in their ability to work with you, but I’ve found a few who I adore.

My favorites combine warmth and humor to convey their messages. I have a blast working one-on-one with Monica the Medium (based in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia), where she delivers personal and spot-on messages from those I love.

Two New England mediums I’ve seen, not one-on-one but in large auditorium settings, include John Holland and Maureen Hancock.

Working with a crowd of hundreds, John Holland was entertaining and captivating. So when I saw him scheduled for a smaller venue of about 60 people, I scooped up two tickets.

Then something came up (a memorial service – more death, ironically. It happens.) and I couldn’t make the event. Though I know many people who could use the tickets, I kept having this feeling that I should give them to my friend Marinda.

Marinda is a graduate student in therapeutic dance and in her early thirties. When she was two years old, her father died after his car was hit by a drunk driver. She and her mother became a tight team and best of friends.

Then almost two years ago, Marinda’s mother, Cheryl, died suddenly, thrusting Marinda into complicated emotions as well as an opportunity to help a woman by approving a face transplant from her mother. Cheryl’s story and Marinda’s unselfish, loving actions were the topic of many news shows and newspaper articles (including this NYTimes article). Marinda built these tributes to her mother for more than a year while she was also grieving and going to graduate school.

As I kept hearing that I should give these tickets to Marinda, I tried to convince myself it wouldn’t make sense. She could finally focus on her schoolwork and would be busy with finals and end-of-term projects. She wouldn’t want to drive an hour to attend a funky event where she may not even get called on. She might not find a friend to go along and she might not want to go alone.

But the voice was persistent, so I tentatively contacted her. She immediately said yes AND that she had a friend who could join her! I was thrilled that the tickets would be used and hoped that she would have fun. Maybe her mother would even come through for her. The voice gave approving silence and I went on my way.

Marinda and her friend checked into the event as me (meaning, no one there knew her name or could do prior research on her), and later that night, Marinda called me: Out of the approximately sixty people in the room, only about eight were called on. John called on Marinda right away and her father came through. Here are some excerpts, in Marinda’s words (and shared with Marinda’s permission and blessing):

He asked if I had a brother. I do, but not many people know this. My dad got a girl pregnant when he was 16 and then was forced to go to a boarding school. I have yet to seek him out and not many friends know this about me. “He wants to acknowledge his son.”

Then, he says “John and Mary”. Who are they? They are my mother’s parents who passed on when I was 10 and 16. I was extremely close to them. He didn’t fish for those names, he just said it.

Marinda – you are an artist. You are on stage and you are a good dancer. “New York, California”. I spent a very short time with my father on earth and taking me to NYC for my first birthday was his idea. When I was 6 months old we road tripped across the country to California. There are many beautiful pictures of this trip.

“Mom passed, and you weren’t expecting it. There are questions about her passing. Feels like she took the wrong medicine and it affected her body. Your mom didn’t act like a mom but more so a big sister/friend.”

He went on to describe how my father has been with me and has watched me graduate from college. “You did well in school.” “Take your parents love,” he said. I took it and feel lighter and loved like I’ve never felt before.

And right when I thought he was done, he said “Tommy, Tommy, who is Tommy?” That is my father’s name. With a smile he said, “Dad sees it all.”

Those tickets were never meant for me. I felt honored to be a pawn who was moved to enable all this to unfold, and I thanked God that I actually listened! I marveled at the workings in our life beyond my intellectual understanding.

About one week later, I read a Facebook post from Debbie Whitmore’s sister. Debbie was a fellow cancer patient and friend who passed away in November. Debbie’s sister had gone to see Maureen Hancock and the first spirit to come through was Debbie! She, too, shared messages that were clearly personal and gave her family peace. (This is also shared with her sister’s permission.)

I love that Marinda now has a relationship with her father and that Debbie’s sister got a few more minutes with Debbie. I miss Debbie as well, so it made me feel better too.

I love how we can all stay connected. Maybe our heart ties remain strong enough to keep us linked to those we love. Maybe our souls stay around and heaven really is here on earth. Though it doesn’t replace the physical presence of those I love, I have experienced some powerful and fun connections. It gives me hope that my family and friends are okay.

I am reminded to listen to the voices that guide me, and to trust that our heart connections live on. I continue to marvel at the workings of our hearts and in our lives, at the things that we cannot see but can strongly feel.


The bigger picture

Thank you for all your prayers and good energy. This past week contained so many reminders of how you help me live this life and how amazingly blessed I get to be. For example, I could watch my son play tennis, attend a parenting class, chaperone a second grade field trip, help with homework, and host a large dinner party plus weekend guests. Each time, I felt happy and grateful to have the opportunity and the energy to do everything I could.

I am especially appreciative because, early last week, my friend Debbie Whitmore entered hospice, then died later in the week. She was married and together they have four boys (ages 11-19 or so). For each activity I did last week, I was acutely aware that Debbie would have given anything to be able to do any of that with her boys.

Last year at this time, four of us – all woman in our 40’s and 50’s, all with young children, all diagnosed with colorectal cancer, all who “should not” have had this disease, all seeing the same oncologist at Dana Farber – walked on this earth. Then Shira passed in February, Julie in August, and Debbie last week. Blessed to know these amazing women, I feel sad, sober, and reminded that each of us has a different path to walk. From the outside, each path may have looked like it had the same ending. But my up-close view of each one allowed me to see that they carried themselves through this in their own unique and fabulous way. I miss their physical presence though I still feel like they are with me.


As we raise our two sons, strangers and people I barely know offer “helpful advice” on our parenting. As you might suspect, the advice can feel like criticism. I have to remember that these folks don’t know the bigger picture.

For example…

  • I’m told that the boys should sit still. They don’t know that they just spent three days with me in bed, sitting quietly so that I could rest undisturbed.
  • I’m told that I should be more on top of their behavior. They don’t know that we all sorely needed an outing but it was all I could do to get us all to the playground or museum.
  • I’m told that they should know when to be quiet, but these strangers don’t know that my boys get so excited to be able to finally talk with me that they can’t stop.

These well-meaning folks notice that something is different about our family and they try to fit us into their picture of what our sons and our family could or should be.

I realize now that they just don’t see the whole picture. If they were willing to believe that there are elements they cannot see for themselves, they might view the situation differently.

I feel this way about faith. If there are parts of everyday life where I don’t see the whole picture, there must be parts of our existence that are outside my tangible frame of reference. So I try to go on faith that I can ask for help and that everything is working out the way it is supposed to, even if it doesn’t fit the picture I can see right now.

Thinking of Shira, Julie and Debbie…yes, I’m next. Of course I would be the next of us four – we all will pass from this life. But that would feel depressing if you only look at the four of us. The picture is so much bigger, there is much I do not know, and we all have so much more in store than we can imagine.

Blessings and love always,


Being cared for and carried

Last week, we got to travel to VT for skiing, snowboarding and, my personal favorite activity, visits with friends. They invited us for dinner, which included a chicken and chickpea soup in a thick broth. I no longer eat chicken but I love a thick broth and wondered how I could create that with a vegan soup.

When we returned to our place later that night, I noticed a recipe in my email for a vegan soup with greens and chickpeas in a THICK BROTH. The sender was a random cooking site, and I was thrilled with the serendipity.

These kinds of events make me feel like I am being cared for and carried.

Your positive prayers and intentions also make me feel like I am being cared for and carried. At this same friend’s house, I also recalled that we have been seeing each other during this same week every year for about four years. Four and even three years ago, I felt easily tired. Once, I had to find a bedroom to rest.

But this year, I feel like my energy was normal, even great. I likely overstayed my welcome, leaving quite late. And I got up to go skiing the next day.

I recognize this as the difference you make. I truly appreciate going to a dinner party and actually eating dinner with friends, being able to help a little with clean-up, and visit for awhile afterwards. I don’t take this for granted, and I thank God and each of you for your help in making this all happen.

It also makes me happy to know that this happens for others as well. About a week ago, I had tea with a friend who happens to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was bubbly and effusive and full of stories. She talked about the day she received her diagnosis. Months before she even suspected, she planned a gathering with a group of old friends from all over the country. They arrived and reconnected, then she got the phone call. Though the news was difficult, of course, she said she could not have been in a better place and with a more supportive group. She was totally taken care of.

In addition, between her diagnosis and the start of chemo, she was able to take an already-planned trip to Israel with her church, where she had all sorts of unexpected and spiritually uplifting experiences, strengthening her spiritually in preparation for her treatments.

I am grateful for all you do to strengthen me. It helps me to do the simple things that make up my life and mean so much. I am grateful knowing that my friend Debbie has similar moments of grace. And I am grateful that you are open to any and all possibilities as they unfold.

Love and blessings,


Sitting with the darkness

Last year, my friend Katy introduced my heart to the importance of bearing witness. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep and started to worry about life, it helped to feel my immense gratitude for your bearing witness.

Knowing that you bear witness to my life astounds me, as I have a hard enough time bearing witness to my own trials and tribulations. My specialty is to find the sliver of light, not to sit with the darkness.

My last chemo session was full of darkness so I wasn’t excited about going into my chemo session for this past week.

Typically, my appointments at Dana Farber start with a blood draw and getting ready for the infusion, followed by a meeting with my oncologist. My oncologist has a nurse (or nurse practitioner, or someone with some medical title) named Mike who can also handle these appointments, and this past week, I met with Mike for the first time.

Mike was nice though I was skeptical about the value of his role. It is an appointment I need to have on my way to get chemo, so I go. When he asked about my most recent chemo experience, I shared my litany of complaints, not looking for a solution, only so that he would have them for the record.

Then, I started to cry. This is unlike me. In the past, I have held it together to the point of vomiting. But, there I was, full of tears. And I was not happy about it.

“Getting people to cry is my specialty,” he said with sincere warmth and a hint of humor in his tone. He simply sat with me for moment before continuing. “In my experience, patients who sit with the darkness truly discover how strong they can be.”

I hate sitting with darkness and I don’t really want to discover how strong I can be. But then, I’m dealing with many things that I don’t really want, so I might as well add that to the list.  And maybe there is some sliver of light to having to sit with all that darkness. Mike shifted my perspective ever so slightly, and the view was better.

This chemo session went much better, too. I got to meet Debbie in person – someone I met via my blog who not only lives in the area but happens to see the same oncologist AND have some of the same friends!

As for the treatment itself, I accidentally skipped taking the steroids, which makes me much easier to be around. Nausea much better. No back spasms. Best of all, I still feel somewhat like myself. Big yay!

My energy is starting to climb again and I am looking forward to a good week ahead as we get back into the school routine for the boys.

I send much love and gratitude your way. Thank you for being there, for sitting with me in the darkness, and for bearing witness all along the way.

Blessings to you always,