3 Birthday Feathers for Making Wishes

…he said: ‘Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.’ Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass. Then he left her at a great house to be laundry-maid for seven years and a day.

“Three Feathers,” More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, 1894

In this tale, a woman is not allowed to see what her own husband looks like. With untamed curiosity, one night she lights a candle so she can see him. Jacobs writes, “He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird.”

The bird-man exiles his wife to seven years and a day as a laundress so he can regain his human form; yet he also gives her three feathers for making wishes. Through the feathers she really doesn’t do seven years of labor. The feathers do the work for her.

Like the wife and her husband, I finally looked upon the truth about my son Tristan; soon thereafter he flew away into the unseen realm.

My friend Kay taught me to watch for signs of his continuing presence in my life.

A week ago would have been his 22nd birthday. Like the bird-man, he sent me three feathers to let me know he’s nearby, working his magic. And like the wife, I have labor to perform, writing a book about grieving. It is a labor of love.

The first feather presented itself a few days before his third birthday after passing. It appeared at Lake Isabella in Loveland, Ohio, while I walked and talked about him with my friend Laura. The large turkey vulture feather stuck straight up in the grass next to the road. Turkey vultures are symbols of devoted motherhood. Their plumage would probably make good quills for writing. Perhaps Tristan has sent me a Quick-quotes Quill from Harry Potter.

The second feather floated down out of the clear blue sky, landing right in front of me on the day before his birthday. I knew then that feathers would be the sign of his presence for this birthday.

On his birthday, I discovered the third feather–caught somehow on a gossamer thread hanging from the shelf above my laundry sink.

I believe my son, invisible to me now, left me three birthday feathers for making wishes as I labor on his book. And there will be three parts to his book–perhaps a feather for making wishes and receiving inspiration from my son as I write on each section.

It was a beautiful gift to me on his birthday.

Relieving Grieving:

Signs from our deceased loved ones can be subtle. Keep an open mind and heart and watch for them. My friend Kathy, whose sister Karen passed a year ago, writes, “It’s also interesting to me how often animals appear in some significant way when people move on… when Mother died, we heard a Mourning Dove…at 1:30am, a rather unusual time for bird song.

“As we walked to the door to enter the house to say Goodbye to Karen (after all the police/medical investigations were done – standard procedure for an “unattended death”), someone happened to glance to the left and there in the field was a doe, looking right at us. She stood for the longest time, unafraid, then bounded away into the cedars looking so graceful and free. ”

What signs have you received from your deceased loved one?

Source:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/meft/meft08.htm

When Sorrow Walked With Me

I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she; But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!

“When Sorrow Walked With Me”  by Robert Browning

 

The name “Tristan” means “sorrowful.” I knew that was the name I wanted for my firstborn son; it simply felt perfect. My ego led me to believe that with good parenting, I could prevent the sorrow.

I lived in a big fancy house I called The Parales Palace. I sent my children to private school. I was a soccer mom for a decade. I drove a Honda Odyssey van. I was in therapy and doing 12-step work. And the ultimate irony: For several years I did publicity for a coalition that worked to prevent substance abuse among teenagers.

Yet my son died a heroin addict. I could not save his life.

How could my son get into drugs? He had so much going for him. He was a very loving, sensitive, and bright child.

When he was three years old, he went with his child care group on a field trip to a farm. He knew that, at that time, I liked candy corn. When he returned, he ran up to me and eagerly gave me two pieces of candy corn he had clutched in the palm of his hand during the entire 30-minute bus ride home.

When Tristan was about four years old, he would try to rescue the earthworms on driveways after the rain.

During a trip to Colorado, he found a dead mouse and wanted us to have a funeral for it and bury it, which we did.

As soon as Tristan was tall enough, he was riding in the front car on the Son of the Beast roller coaster at King’s Island. He was called “Missile foot” by his soccer buddies because of his powerful kick.

When Tristan attended The Schilling School for Gifted Children, he loved saving up points in Mrs. Peak’s class so he could buy things from her store to give to the rest of us. One time he bought a beautiful oval china box with a lid. He could hardly stand waiting to give it to me, yet dropped it before he could. He sobbed, heartbroken. I so cherish that repaired china box.

Later he enjoyed the challenge of writing sonnets. He also was very proud of his youtube video, created during high school, that has already reached more than a million views.

Even with this beautiful soul, I was extremely challenged by Tristan from the beginning. When he was 10 years old, he said to me, “Mom, you don’t know what it’s like to live inside my body.” I tried many times to find the right therapist for him, which didn’t happen until he was 17—which, for him, was too late. I watched over his education so he had the best environment for his temperament and abilities, and I worked hard at being the best possible parent for him. It wasn’t enough.

Everything collapsed after my diagnosis of end-stage cancer. I got too sick for too long to be a decent mother. Tristan was 14 and began experimenting with alcohol, then drugs. I don’t know how much of this was from living for years under the continual threat of losing me, or from curiosity and a desire to explore his mind, or from growing depression, anxiety, and difficulty with focus, or from dealing with divorce. It most likely was a combination of factors.

Two years ago he started using heroin. I didn’t realize this for a full year. Not my son! Then he spent the next year deciding to get better and going in and out of treatment programs.

After his third extended rehab program, he managed to stay clean for three months. But then the sober living house where he lived was closed. I encouraged him to move into another sober living house, but he chose not to go that route. Soon Tristan fell back into using.

Again I tried to get him into treatment, but it just didn’t work out.

On May 26, Tristan sent me a beautiful letter, which is the most precious gift of my life. Like the 17th century mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal after his Night of Fire, I wanted to sew this message into my clothing so it would always be right next to my heart.

Dear Mom,

I really appreciate all the things you have done for me in the past year. Sending me to Fairbanks, Recovery Works, and Singer Island was a tremendous help… However, I am still a weak person and still have succumbed to this disease… I used again after more than 3 months of being clean, during which time you supported me at Trent’s Lighthouse. I did my best while I was staying there, but my best was not enough. I ended up using again, and creating yet another cycle of use. I am thoroughly ashamed that my efforts were almost useless. I continued to use until this past Thursday. For this I am truly sorry.

I wish I could take it all back, but I cannot. I truly wish that with the next round of treatment, I will become what I should have in the years past. I am truly sorry for all the pain I have caused you and dad in times past. I will do my absolute best to make it up to both of you in the coming years, as hopefully I regain control of my life and my actions in the coming months.

I love you, and shall never forget all the things that you have done for me in the previous months. I truly respect and admire you for all the ways in which you have tried to help me in the past months, despite the fact that I have essentially thrown it all in your face….  And for that I am truly sorry. I love you mom, and I love everything that you have done for me in the past few months … thank you for believing in me. I am trying my hardest to beat this disease, no matter what it throws at me.

Love, Tristan

According to my Codependents Anonymous sponsor, the number one hallmark of addicts is denial of their roles in their problems. By blaming others, addicts don’t have to accept responsibility for themselves and the pain that this acknowledgement brings. There are people who have been in recovery for decades who still can’t take the kind of ownership that Tristan shows.

Yet in this letter, Tristan openly sees and admits to himself and another human being what’s going on inside himself and the effect he has had on others. He blames no one and nothing else. The veil of insanity has been ripped away from his eyes. He is fully aware of what he’s doing, fully feels the weight of his responsibility for it, and he hates it.

He admits he is being defeated by this terrible disease. He wants so desperately to stop. He also is fully aware of his absolute powerlessness over his addiction, which is the first of the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous, which reads:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This awareness makes the addict’s pain far worse. It’s a necessary step for recovery, but it is so difficult. The old habit has been to hide from the pain. Now he really sees, and there is no place to hide.

I know how difficult this inner work is, and not many people are truly willing to do it—especially at such a young age. But Tristan had the courage to take a hard look at his life. Even though he hated what he saw in himself, he was able to stay with the pain, acknowledge his mistakes honestly, share his feelings, express his sorrow, offer his heartfelt amends for his addictive behaviors and how they affected us, and express gratitude. This honesty took incredible strength, and is so uncommon in the addiction culture. He was truly working the NA steps and hoping for recovery. Unfortunately, looking directly into the agony that had become his life probably proved too much for him and he fell back into the black hole of his insidious heroin addiction.

Two years ago, Tristan wrote a sonnet about the agony of lost love. This is a portion of his sonnet:

It feels like air

Can’t get inside my lungs. The lack of breath

Makes my head spin.

A few years ago, I watched a video about death. In it, someone said life is like swimming in an ocean, and dying is like breaking through the surface of the water and coming up for air. I believe Tristan is now filling his ethereal lungs with the fragrant breath of heaven.

I always felt a deep soul connection with Tristan. I believe we have been together in many previous lives, and that I will be with him again. I also believe he has only dropped the pain–wracked emotional and physical bodies he carried in this lifetime, and that his powerful, courageous, loving spirit is still nearby.

Someone could look at Tristan’s life from the outside and see it as a total waste and that he lost his battle with addiction. But I was privileged to see him from the inside. He lived and loved fully and deeply. Near the end he also woke up. Not many people have the courage to reach that level of inner depth and awareness, especially when so young. For me, Tristan’s eternal, beloved soul gained something far more precious from his ordeal than he ever could have from a long, productive life, and it will always stay with him. He experienced, at least for a period of time, consciousness. Nothing else could have made me more grateful for his life.

What message did you want at your addict’s funeral?

 

Special Delivery

Give thanks in all circumstances…

1 Thessalonians 5:18, Christian Bible, New International Version

 

A large package appeared on my front porch a week before Christmas. I hadn’t ordered anything, and didn’t expect any gifts from anyone.

lville stoneware web.jpgThe label included an unknown name above my address. Hmmm.

I called the delivery company, the former homeowners, the return address phone number. After two hours on and off the phone, the originating company representative told me the package was mine.

Excited, I cut through the tape and pulled out a large red stoneware container holding potpourri. It featured an embossed fleur-de-lis.

My son Tristan’s favorite color was red. Fleur-de-lis is French for the lily flower, which is used to symbolize resurrection. The Boy Scouts, an organization to which Tristan belonged for years, uses the symbol.

Was it somehow, through a series of small errors, sent to me by Tristan’s energy? No one can say for sure. My friend Kay, who lost her son, taught me to see these unusual events as signs from our loved ones. She would say, “Thank you, thank you, send me more.” Because she is open to the possibility and watching for it, she notices what others might readily dismiss, and she feels a precious sense of connection with and gratitude toward her son.

So I am going to accept this gift as if my son sent it to me and give thanks for this unusual and wonderful circumstance.

What kind of signs have you received from your loved one who passed away? 

Memorial Gathering for my Son Tristan

(Posted June 11, 2015)
My beloved son, Tristan, passed away on Saturday, June 6. He was only 19.

Tristan Parales on Mother's Day 2015
Tristan Parales on Mother’s Day 2015

Tristan was 14 when I was diagnosed with end-stage cancer. I got too sick for too long to be a decent mother. Without my knowing, he turned to drugs. I do not know how much of this was from the pain of hearing I probably was going to die, or from curiosity and a desire to explore his mind, or from growing depression, anxiety, and difficulty with focus, or from dealing with divorce. It most likely was a combination of factors.

After a few years of trying a variety of drugs, Tristan tried heroin.

I did not know this for a full year. Then he spent the next year deciding to get better and going in and out of treatment programs.

I tried so hard to help him, and to find help for him. Many prayed for him and were involved in his care, but we couldn’t find the right key to turn the lock.

Heroin addiction begins the first time someone shoots up. This addiction is one of the hardest things in the world to stop. Heroin is readily available and, from what I have been told, is cheaper than marijuana. When the police came to my home to notify me that my son’s body had been found, they mentioned that this type if scene is no longer uncommon.

During the coming years I will be considering what steps I will take to help stop this epidemic among our vulnerable youth. The price families pay can be devastating.

In the meantime, I will continue to practice what I have been learning in psychotherapy, Nar Anon, and Codependents Anonymous. My sponsor has encouraged me during this time to keep my side of the street clean. I worked hard to identify and stop my enabling, codependent behaviors. These are insidious and can be difficult to see without outside assistance.

My inner work did not save my son’s life, yet I am not living with the terrible guilt others might experience in a similar situation.

The grief, however, is great.

I would love to have a written copy of any happy or funny recollections you have of Tristan.

Instead of flowers, if you feel so inclined, I would prefer, for myself, plants to grow in the garden of the home on which I have a pending contract. The closing is June 29, so I am not yet ready to receive plants. A contribution of a plant in memory of Tristan, after I move in, would be a cherished gift and would help with healing. One of the songs Tristan shared with me that we both enjoyed was “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. At the time, Tristan was deeply in love with his high school sweetheart. Anytime I hear the song I think if him and how happy he was with her. I am so grateful he got to experience this. The song includes the phrase, “Show me a garden that’s bursting into life.” My new home already has a garden, and it’s bursting with life. He never saw it. I want this garden to be my healing memorial to him, bursting with life, including plants from those who remember and care about him.

I have lost a great love, with a great soul, yet I am grateful for the time I had with him, and for all I learned and will continue to learn from being his mother. I think Rumi wrote something like the anguish of the heart opens the gateway to God.

Tristan now has the ultimate healing. Eventually I will find peace and the gifts such a nightmare can bring.

(Tristan’s memorial service was at Tufts Schildmeyer Funeral Home, 129 N. Riverside Dr., Loveland, OH 45140, http://www.tuftsschildmeyer.com/_mgxroot/page_10718.php )