Category Archives: Events

Remember the Rachels on Mother’s Day

Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.

Matthew 2:16-18, New Living Translation

Rachel was an early biblical character who died giving birth to her second son. She was buried by the road to Bethlehem. Bethlehem would later become the birth location for a king, according to Matthew’s gospel. And Herod, the jealous and frightened ruler at the time, sent his soldiers to kill all the male infants and toddlers near Bethlehem to remove this new threat. One cannot imagine the kind of imperishable grief such an act would produce on a vulnerable population.

This story is part of the birth narrative of Jesus. When was the last time you heard a preacher talk about this trauma in connection with the nativity story? It seems to me that mothers who grieve their children appear easily overlooked.

The world is full of Rachels who weep disconsolately for their deceased children. My friend Joan just lost her daughter to diabetes.

With the current opioid epidemic, mothers who are cancer patients need to be wary. I was told in 2011 to “stay ahead of the pain,” and was sent home with a month’s supply of what I now realize were heroin pills. Recently I talked with a cancer survivor who also had leftover opioids and a teenaged son at home. I urged her to get a digital lockbox or return the pills to a pharmacy. Even if her son doesn’t find or use them, a friend of his might. Then the treacherous slide into heroin overdose begins.

If I ever doubt myself as a mother fighting for her children, all I have to do is look at this Mother’s Day card my deceased son made for me about ten years ago. I’m seen as firm with my words and my sword… with a kind smile on my face, all centered in a heart glowing with love.

I’m hardly alone. Even my son’s memorial garden was just visited again by Rachel’s weeping. A mother bird in the sweet gum tree had fought valiantly for her eggs, evidenced by the circle of feathers; but her efforts simply weren’t enough. The nest fell to the grass and her babies were hungrily consumed.

Mother’s Day is approaching. Ugh. For me, and for perhaps hundreds of thousands of mothers, this time on the calendar is a terrible reminder of broken hearts and empty arms. Despite all we do, sometimes we still lose our children. Some mothers lose their only children—I know two such women who lost theirs to heroin. I have heard of one woman who lost all three of her children to heroin overdoses. Losing your children is bad enough. Add on the stigma of death to drugs and you have an unfathomable nightmare.

I am most fortunate that one of my brothers will be here and we will spend the day making and eating delicious meals our mother made when we were growing up—a time of innocence. My younger son will get to indulge with us. (He loves to tell me there’s no food in my house.) Foods I typically now avoid, yet that give comfort and solace to an empty heart. Corn fritters, hamburger pie, cheesecake, springerle. I’ll still be weeping for my child, as I do nearly every day, yet with social support I also will have some consolation.

Easing your Grieving:

Mothers fight for their offspring, though not always successfully. Many of these mothers are single. It can be such a lonely time, especially with the isolation that can come from losing a child to drugs.

On Mother’s Day, please pray for or send positive intentions to the Rachels everywhere. Those who have suffered heavy losses need comfort and love—a kind word, a simple text, a card—something to let them know they are not entirely alone.

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 Brennan; 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 Brennan 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

Memorial Gathering for my Son Brennan

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

Tristen on Mother's Day 2015
Brennan on Mother’s Day 2015

Brennan 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, Brennan 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 Brennan.

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 Brennan, after I move in, would be a cherished gift and would help with healing. One of the songs Brennan shared with me that we both enjoyed was “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. At the time, Brennan 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.

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