Monthly Archives: December 2014

In sorrow, learn that “all is well.”



My mother died three weeks ago. My sister and I held her in our arms and said good-bye.

We were by her bedside for six days and nights and we experienced many tears and much laughter because we opened our hearts to the moment.

During the first day she was deemed “palliative” when the staff suggested that they tape a “Do Not Disturb” sign on her room’s door, my sister and I decided that we wanted to fully experience each day – we did not want to be alone; we asked that the staff and the residents of her long-term care home be allowed to visit us and say good-bye to our mother (who was not conscious). And so they did…one by one, sometimes in pairs, the staff and residents shared their stories and their love and respect for our mother, with our family. And some stories were hilarious. One personal support worker shared a story of our mother initiating a food fight in the dining room. Another staff member had us in stitches relating the time they found mom in another resident’s bed…fast asleep. The resident had kindly allowed mom to sleep and she, herself, went into the bathroom to sleep. Well, that story was too funny – we all chuckled for days after just thinking about it. Each of the staff and the other residents spoke of mom’s feisty character and her spunk. At 91, she was an inspiration to my whole family.

I speak of gifts that we share many times…I wrote an ebook about my thoughts on gifts! But never was I more sure of how grateful I am to have been on this journey with both my father and my mother…I have been transformed by the experience.

I learned that even while grieving by my mother’s bedside, that love was all around me. I felt Grace. The love and laughter shared with us was a true gift; that gift sustained us throughout the six days and nights that we kept vigil.

My sister and I vowed to each other early the first night that we would embrace each moment…no matter how sad or sorrowful. We learned that even through the tears, that a kind word made us laugh and smile. We learned that we were not afraid of death. That even in grief, we could pay attention to each moment and fully embrace it.

Because we were open, we learned that in the dark of the night, there is a stillness that envelops one with true peace; we learned that at day break, the sky changes from blackened navy blue to streaky grey to streaky pink that take one’s breath away in its beauty. And we learned that other ordinary human beings want to support us and they do…with their simple and true words that make you feel extraordinary and connected to All. We learned that joy and peace (and yes, laughter) wells up within us, side by side along grief and sorrow.

And we learned to trust in the Universe.

I had looked for a sign that all would be well early in the week. Each day I searched for a cardinal (my sign that my father is close by). On the day our mother died there was a tapping at the window in her room. The tapping was loud and broke the silence of the room so both my sister and I turned to the window to see what was the noise. It was a bird. And then we looked at the pine tree outside of the window…a male cardinal in all its red glory lit on a branch. And then another, a female cardinal. My sister and I could barely believe our eyes! We knew then that all is well.  A few hours later our beloved mother died.

Sweet journey, mom. You will be sorely missed. But we are forever grateful that you lived such a rich life. Thank you for all the gifts.

Our care and love for you was our gift to you…


Our words matter; so does our energy

Lake HuronThe late Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto (Messages from Water and The Hidden Message in Water) demonstrated that words spoken to beakers filled with water, or that words written on pieces of paper that were taped to the beakers of water, “can alter the molecular structure and cause it to form into distinct shapes.”
The words – love, joy, peace and hope – produced beautiful snowflakes; but negative words such as hate, evil or despair caused the water to form distorted shapes.

I read about the water experiments a couple of years ago…it is something that Louise Hay talks about often in her books and on her website, and I am completely in awe of the power the tests reflect. Our words matter; our energy matters. When we absorb this information, we learn that we have the power in both our words and our actions to make a difference. Our thoughts truly can become things.

What happens when our good intentions go south? Our loved one who has a dementia-related disease is upset and/or angry and our visit isn’t going well. Unfortunately many visitors or caregivers are discouraged or worse, decide that they will either discontinue their visits or visit less often. I get that. It’s challenging to witness your loved one in an agitated state  – it’s scary. There is no manual that comes with this diagnosis. (Your father has Alzheimer’s; maybe your mother does, too. Deal with it.) There is no manual, nor is there a set of rules of behaviour and management that is predictable and one size fits all.

Instead we must use our internal compass – sometimes we just have to follow our instincts. Or as I like to say, just follow our heart. Our hearts will guide us and steer us in the right direction. Because it is our hearts that will remind us what would someone who wants to bring loving energy into the relationship do?

When faced with a challenging circumstance with our loved one, instead of losing our cool and adding negative energy to the situation, why not try this: do nothing. Stay still and silent. Do nothing. Yes, you read that right – do nothing!

Go into a stillness that changes your energy and just breathe. Take a few deep breaths and exhale each breath slowly. Very slowly. Stop your mind from the internal chatter – stop the thoughts of fear (the words/thoughts that transform water into distorted shapes). When you can let go of your fear (which is negative energy), you will recognize that you are not adding to the tension in the situation.

Now that you are silent and still, you can switch your attention to your loved one’s energy.  Focus on their energy and try to determine their (unspoken but palpable) needs and wants.

When we react negatively to a situation (especially when you have no idea what your loved one wants) our bodies and our emotions communicate our distress. Are we tense? Have we scrunched up our shoulders? Is a headache coming on? Is our lower back causing pain? Our emotions and our bodies are connected! We know that but we ignore that fact.

I am advocating that we begin to read our bodies and we begin to listen to them. We don’t need to be scientists to believe that the body/mind connection can transform our energy. And it is our energy that gives us power – power to transform our relationships with everybody. And that includes our loved one who has a dementia-related illness.

My friend whose husband has Alzheimer’s (and he is much younger than either of my parents) recently became very angry in a grocery store. My friend told me after the event that she was mortified, distressed, angry, humiliated…well, you get the picture. Those of us who have been in similar situations understand with a full heart!

But I have since learned from my own journey that we may not prevent a similar situation, but we can certainly transform our own personal energy so that we do not feed that negative energy. My friend cannot prevent her husband’s outbursts (we are not here as caregivers or loving family members to heal them), she can only learn to change her reaction to the outbursts. And she will (as I have had to learn) begin to understand that she is only in charge of herself. But that in transforming our own personal energy into a loving one, we can help transform our loved one’s energy. That is a powerful lesson.

When we become still and silent, we become aware of the moment…the Now. Practice letting go of the tension in your body. Become silent and still and allow your loved one his space. In this silence, we can find answers. And at the very least, our loved one feels validated; that he matters.

Think of this: what if your parent was ill from another disease (that was not one of dementia) and was yelling in pain? Wouldn’t you react with compassion? Yet I often see that when a person with a dementia yells, people become angry themselves. They become angry with the person as if they have forgotten that the person cannot control his actions or his words.

When we truly accept and understand the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or any dementia-related disease and its effects on the person, we can begin to let go of fear. Instead of fear, let us breathe in…compassion.

Be grateful for every moment, the good and the not so good. Change your energy just by relaxing your body. Take a few deep breaths and become silent. When you do that – you are paying attention to the Now. Trust it. It is all that you have. And even that is enough.

When you practice this…you are transforming the moment – into peaceful energy and acceptance. Just like beautiful snowflakes. Your words and thoughts can do that. They matter.