‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY? Getting Through the Holidays after a Loss

tree“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with their heart and soul, there is no separation.” Rumi

Recently, I attended a bereavement group meeting with my sister who is grieving the loss of her husband John. While I will not disclose the private conversations that took place that night, I will say that everyone was struggling with getting through the holiday season without their loved one.

While the holiday season is a time for good cheer, joy and merriment for many, it is also a time when some are anxious to say good riddance as they count the days until it’s all over. For those who have lost a loved one, the holidays can understandably be the most painful time of the year.

One of the things I said during the bereavement meeting that night was you can’t come out of it unless you go through it. How then do you get through it? How can you get through the holiday season? How is it possible to walk down city sidewalks amid the holiday crowds when you don’t feel much like doing anything? For one thing, it’s important to remember that the anticipation of the holiday season is worse than the day or event itself. During the days leading up to the holiday event, we often feel the stress brought on by all the unrealistic holiday expectations and gatherings. Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday season:

1. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. Your feelings are your own and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. So be honest with yourself and allow yourself to grieve however you want. Take control of the situation. You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful just because the holidays are here. If you don’t feel like attending a holiday party, don’t go. If you want to attend, then go. Allow yourself the opportunity to feel your pain and sadness but also allow yourself the opportunity to feel happiness and joy. Try to remind yourself that your loved one would want you to be happy.

2. Don’t expect too much of yourself. The holidays are full of unrealistic expectations. Don’t feel like you have to put up a Christmas tree, for example. If you are having a bad day and don’t want to go out, that’s OK. If you are having a good day and feel like you can manage buying a few gifts, that’s OK, too. Don’t try to do too much. If you usually have the holiday dinner at your house and don’t feel much like cooking, delegate it to someone else. Your family and friends will understand.

3. Ask for help. During the holidays what was once festive and light can now feel dreary and heavy. If you’re having a difficult time and need help, ask for it. Many people are more than willing to offer their assistance.One of the things that was discussed during the bereavement group meeting was how family and friends don’t know what to say and do. While some people may not call because they are afraid to say the wrong thing it doesn’t mean that they are not willing to help when asked.

4. Find ways to honor your loved one. One of the ways that I honor my lost loved ones at Christmas and every day of the year is by lighting candles in their memory. I also talk to my loved ones acknowledging their presence. It’s my way of saying that I know that they are still with me.

There are countless ways to remember your loved one so just do what feels right for you. Here are a few more suggestions:

a. Have everyone share a special memory involving your loved one.

b. Plan a day doing something that your loved one liked to do. For instance, go to his or her favorite restaurant.

c. Donate a gift in your loved one’s memory.

5. Take care of YOU! No matter how much your family and friends might want to help you, they don’t truly know what you need or how you are feeling. And your grief does not give you an excuse to ignore your own needs. In fact, it’s just the opposite. If you need to take some time off from work, do it. Try not to ignore whatever it is you are feeling. Pay attention to your body. If you’re feeling tired, don’t overdo it. Take a nap or go to bed early. If you’re not feeling well, go see a doctor. Perhaps, a complete physical will do you good.

6. Remember, love never dies. As an author and afterlife researcher, I can tell you without a doubt that your loved ones are still with you in spirit. The love that you shared is still there and will always be there.   Your loved ones are still part of your life and are aware of everything that is going on here on earth.

As an example, my husband’s friend Rich died in the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11. This year we attended a high school play featuring Rich’s son in the lead role as Macheath in The Threepenny Opera. In October I attended a spirit circle featuring two psychic mediums, Dean and Stuart, from England. Dean stood directly in front of me that evening and told me Rich was there. He told me that Rich was saying that I attended a very important event for his son recently and he wanted to thank me for that.

Dean was unknowingly referring to the play that my husband and I attended.   Keep in mind that this was not public knowledge so Dean could not have read about this anywhere. My point in telling you this story is to remind you wholeheartedly that love never dies. Our loved ones are still with us and are very much aware of what is going on in our lives.

Everyone grieves in their own way. Do whatever you feel is best for you. Allow yourself time to deal with the pain but also allow yourself time to be happy. Our loved ones in heaven do want us to experience joy once again.

Whatever you do; wherever you go this holiday season, reach within and feel the love in your heart. When you do, you’ll realize your loved one never truly left you.

Advertisements

Say Thank You

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

Zig Ziglar

Last week as my family and I sat down to enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner, we first took a moment to say thank you and acknowledge our gratitude. It was a touching, yet emotional time.  Not only did we express gratitude for our blessings that day but we also acknowledged our loved ones who were no longer with us and thanked God for the time we did have with them.

thankyouIt was beautiful and transforming as it really helped to shift the attention in the room. In that moment, we were reminded of the importance of focusing on our blessings rather than our misgivings and hardships.

Two words, “thank you,” have the power to create stronger, lasting bonds. These two words have the power to make people feel appreciated and work harder.  They have the power to increase our joy and happiness.  Yet, these two words are largely underutilized.

I once sent a gift to a friend. Afterwards, as time went by, I never heard from her.  Not a simple text; not an email or a thank you card.  Nothing.  To me, right or wrong, this sent a message that my gift was underappreciated.  This may not have been the case, of course, but I wouldn’t have known. Unfortunately, some people fail to see the benefits of these two simple, yet powerful words.

Gratitude is essential for healthy, long-term relationships—both personal and professional. In fact, studies show that the number one reason people leave their job is because they feel underappreciated.  You would automatically think it would be to earn more money but this isn’t the case.  A little show of gratitude can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line.

The benefits of showing thankfulness are endless. Here are just a few:

  1. Not surprisingly, people who focus on gratitude, live happier, more fulfilling lives. When people feel appreciated, negative emotions like anger, frustration and jealousy diminish. They also have a higher level of self-esteem.
  2. In addition to improving mental health, feelings of gratitude also improve our physical health. People who feel appreciated have stronger immune systems and live healthier, longer lives.
  3. Those who feel appreciated are more willing to be of service to others. They are not as materialistic and see the value of the simple things in life.
  4. Grateful people are naturally more optimistic and have a greater capacity to forgive others.

Simply put, feelings of appreciation lead to positive thinking and positive thinking leads to positive action. Positive thinking hence leads to a more positive, fulfilling life.

However, don’t say thank you if you are not sincere. Say thank you when you truly mean to say thank you.  Your insincerity will only show if you don’t really mean it.

Also, don’t sweeten the deal with a promise you can’t keep. People sometimes offer things that they have no intention of giving.  For example, if you say thank you to someone and also offer to follow up with a dinner, do just that.  Don’t offer things you can’t give or make promises you can’t keep.

So as you go through the holiday season, remember to say thank you often. When we focus on and appreciate what we already have in our lives and not what is lacking, we inevitably draw more abundance into our lives.  When we give thanks, we bring thanks.  And this is key to living a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.

“Heavenly” Cigarette Smoke

“Everyone is psychic to some degree, and really successful paranormal investigators even if they do not realize it are using their own psychic ability to sense the environment.”

Rosemary Ellen Guiley

SRJD2 (2)

Stuart James-Foy (left) Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Josie Varga and Dean James-Foy

Trust is vital to all relationships. In fact, without trust there can be no relationship. Trust is the basis from which all relationships begin. This includes our relationship with spirit and our ability to communicate with the other side.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a spirit circle with Stuart and Dean James-Foy, two accomplished mediums from England. The event was hosted by leading paranormal expert Rosemary Ellen Guiley and psychic medium Karl Petry.

Spirit circles are basically small open or gallery type readings. The psychic medium draws on the collective energy of the group and there is no telling what can happen as I later found out. At the start, we were told to focus on someone we wanted to come through. My mind immediately went to my brother-in-law John.

On September 5, 2017, John passed from lung cancer. He smoked cigarettes and cigars for many years. My sister is really having a tough time and I hoped to bring her a message of comfort from her husband. Suddenly, I began to hear the tune to My Girl by the Temptations in my head.

My brother-in-law loved Motown music and this song always reminds me of him. Once when we were at my brother’s house, John began singing and dancing to My Girl. So while he was on his deathbed, I sang part of the lyrics to him as my sister-in-law joined in. Another time when I was alone with him in the hospital, I hummed the song to him. So it’s easy to see why this song is so significant.

However, as I heard the song in my head that night, I began to doubt what I was hearing. Trust involves believing in something you can’t see and with that often comes uncertainty.

Shortly after this, Stuart and Dean led us through a meditation exercise. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t think I would get anything. However, almost immediately I saw my brother in law. He was sitting on a large rock fishing as I sat next to him. He looked younger, thinner and content. We chatted as he fished always looking straight ahead. He never turned towards me so I never saw his face.

I felt like I was with John a long time but in reality, it could not have been more than a few minutes. When I snapped out of my meditative state, I noticed my husband John looking at me with this odd look on his face. “What happened?” he asked. I looked at him and whispered, “John. John is here.”

At that very same time, Stuart stood up in front of the crowd and asked if anyone had an experience that they wanted to share. The woman sitting directly behind me whom I never met before immediately raised her hand. “I don’t know why,” she told the crowd, “I smell cigarette smoke.”

I let out a loud gasp as the look of complete shock covered my face. My husband stared at me in disbelief. Noticing my reaction, Stuart asked me to tell everyone what was going on.

The week after my brother-in-law passed, I was bringing groceries into the kitchen and clearly sensed cigarette smoke. There were no windows opened as I had the air conditioning on. Also, no one in my household smokes cigarettes.

Clairscent is the ability to smell something associated with your deceased loved one. It can be anything that is associated with them. For instance, you may smell a certain perfume or flower. You can smell a food associated with them or even cigar or cigarette smoke.

I quickly yelled for my daughter Lia to come down the stairs. But by the time she did, the smell was gone. I told Lia, however, about the smell and explained that I felt this was a sign from her Uncle John.

A few days later, Lia told me that she was in the bathroom when the room suddenly filled with the smell of cigarettes. She told me she instantly knew it was her uncle.

Last month, my daughter participated in a parish fundraiser for the homeless. On this night, she slept on the sidewalk outside of our church with her sleeping bag.

The following morning, everyone partook in a mass inside the church. Lia went up to receive Holy Communion and then went back to her pew. She knelt down and closed her eyes as she prayed. As part of her prayers that morning, she spoke to my brother-in-law privately telling him how much she loved and missed him.

As she was talking to her uncle, her friend Meghan (kneeling next to her) tapped her on the shoulder interrupting her thoughts. “Lia,” she said, “Do you smell that? It smells like cigarette smoke.” Of course, there was no one smoking cigarettes inside the church.

Lia smiled knowing her Uncle John was with her and acknowledged his presence. Keep in mind that her friend Meghan did not know about our previous experiences with the scent of cigarette smoke. So why did Meghan smell the cigarette smoke at the exact time that Lia was telepathically speaking to her uncle? Going through Meghan, someone who had no knowledge of what happened, serves as a validation that it was really him.

Getting back to the spirit circle, this marked the fourth time my brother-in-lawpresented himself in this way. Once our loved ones know that we recognize and associate a sign as being from them, they will most often repeat it. As I shared my story that night, the crowd was equally stunned as we all witnessed yet another incredible validation from the spirit world.

My husband later told me that he knew something was going on as he watched me sitting with my eyes closed meditating that night. He said I was making minor movements with my body and would make slight sounds.

Keep in mind that I am not a psychic medium but I have received many incredible signs or what I like to call visits from heaven over the years. But I have to admit that this experience is in my top 10. So can anyone communicate with departed loved ones? Yes, we can. It comes easier to some than others but everyone is born with some level of intuitive ability. Some people develop or fine tune these capabilities and others don’t. However, the opportunity to part the veil is available to everyone.

The spirit world communicates in many ways. Most often they are not as pronounced as the experience I mentioned above but rather subtle. It’s important that we learn to trust what we are given. In Parting the Veil: How to Communicate with the Spirit World, (Visionary Living, Inc./2017) Stuart and Dean James-Foy talk about how all mediums naturally go through a doubting phrase. “You may think, ‘That’s not right,’ or, ‘No, it can’t be’ or ‘Is my mind making this up’? Messages are given for a reason. Trusting them builds trust with spirit.” The book highlights a variety of useful exercises to help people connect with spirit.

Trusting is not always easy, however. Your ego will often be there telling you something different. In my case, for example, I thought hearing My Girl was just wishful thinking. Even though intuitively I knew it was my brother in law, my ego got in the way.

Knowing the difference between the voice of your ego and the voice of your spirit takes practice and trust. But if you’re willing to take the time to listen, I promise you spirit will not disappoint.

In the Face of Evil, Love and Compassion will Always Prevail

“There are no greater treasures than the highest human qualities such as compassion, courage and hope. Not even tragic accidents or disaster can destroy such treasures of the heart.”

Daisaku Ikeda

thI honestly can’t wrap my head around it. Violence seems to have become the norm in so many ways around the world. From school shootings to terrorist attacks at home and abroad, it has been overwhelming and extremely disheartening.

Yesterday, as my 16-year old, daughter Lia got into my car at the end of the school day, she asked, “Mom, did you hear about what happened in Las Vegas?” I looked at her sadly not wanting to discuss yet another mass killing with my daughter.  Lia proceeded to tell me that she rushed to text a friend who lives in Las Vegas as soon as she heard the news.  “My friend is OK,” she said with a sigh of relief.

“I don’t get it, Mom,” she said. “Why would someone do that?”  Unfortunately, I had no answers for my daughter and I still don’t.  It sickens me to have such grim conversations with my children. As a young girl growing up in the 80’s, I honestly don’t remember ever having such chats with my mother.  Don’t get me wrong.  Bad things happened then, too, of course.  But it just seems like they are happening far more often today.

At least 59 people were killed with over 500 injured, some critically, when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday night.  It is being deemed the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

Both the injured and the dead represent people from all walks of life. From police officers to teachers and adults to teenagers; the bullets did not discriminate.  An arsenal of firearms, including automatic weapons, were found in the killer’s (64-year old, former accountant Stephen Paddock) hotel room.  As of this writing, law enforcement officials can find no clear motive for such a horrendous crime.

As I said, I just can’t wrap my head around it nor do I have an answer for my daughter Lia. But there is one thing I do know and that is love and compassion will always prevail in the face of evil.  If you look at any of the recent terrorist attacks or shootings at home and abroad you will find the heroes.  You will find the compassionate souls who risked their lives to help complete strangers.

Sunday’s shooting was no different. My eyes filled with tears today as I read the many brave accounts.  I read about the mom who used her body to shield her daughter and the many who drove the injured to the hospital in their personal vehicles.  I heard about the young girl who once out of harm’s way decided to turn back into the violence.  When asked why, she explained that she wanted to help the victims.

Then there was also a bartender named Heather who held a stranger in her arms as he died. She then remained with his body not wanting to leave him alone.  If you look at the many pictures posted online, you’ll see numerous shirtless individuals who used their clothing as tourniquets to help the injured.

Many of these heroes were among those who lost their lives. If it weren’t for the selfless acts of so many caring strangers, countless lives would not have been spared.  President Trump summed it up well when he said, “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today—and always will, forever.”

Very true. It is love and the countless acts of compassion that define us.  In the face of terror and evil, we are no longer strangers.  We are one; our hearts forever united.  In the midst of tragedy, the goodness of humanity stands unshaken.

 

This blog is dedicated to all the victims of Sunday’s attack. A special heart-felt thank you goes out to all the unsung heroes.  It is this love and compassion that will forever define us. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Stay in the NOW

“Forever is composed of nows.” Emily Dickinson

liveinthenowRecently, my brother in law John was on life support battling lung cancer. As we gathered in the hospital’s family lounge, my sister Virginia panicked as she thought of the future.  How was she going to take care of him?  How would she handle his loss?  How would she make the funeral arrangements?  How would she manage on her own?

Her mind raced as she thought of the future. But then my sister in law Shari said something that seemingly made time stand still.  “Gin,” she told her, “let’s just focus on right now.  Stay in the now.”

Over the years, I’ve spoken and written many times about the need to stay positive and live in the moment. Yet, all the stress and the fatigue was getting the best of me that day.  I, too, jumped ahead to the future.  The upcoming radio interviews, the deadlines, my kids, the dinners that I had no time to prepare and all the laundry that remained undone, etc.

Even though our bodies may be in the moment physically, our minds tend to wander to the past and the future. We tend to spend each moment getting to the next moment without so much as giving it a second thought.

The only thing we are guaranteed is right now. Right now is the only thing we can ever really control.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.  Truthfully, we don’t even know if we’ll have the next minute.  Deep down inside, we all know this.  Yet our thoughts continue to shift between the past and the future.

Think about it. Our thoughts are what make the past and future real. Our thoughts are what create our reality and the only certainty we have is this very moment.  So it seems logical, therefore, that we can only stay in the moment by being aware of our thoughts and feelings.

How, then, can we stay in the moment? A simple technique to use is to remember your ABCs:

  1. Accept: Become aware of your thoughts and accept what you are feeling at that moment. What are you doing? Why are you feeling the way that you are? What is consuming your thoughts: fear, anger, jealousy, worry, etc.? You can’t accept what you don’t acknowledge. Be honest with yourself and accept things for what they are.
  2. Breathe: Take a step back and just focus on your breathing. Turn off your cell phone or anything else that can distract you. Inhale. Exhale. Release each breath slowly.   If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. It is the simplest, most effective mindfulness technique. With each breath, slowly release any negative thoughts or worries which are preventing you from staying present. With each breath, pay attention to the here and now.
  3. Control:  Concentrate on your intentions and let go of whatever it is that is holding you down. Only focus on what you need and want in that moment. Remember, your thoughts are not in control; you are.

My brother in law John sadly passed away on September 5, 2017. His death was a long and difficult ordeal, especially for my sister.  Focusing on and living in the moment allows us to be grateful for what we have in that very moment.  Living in the moment allows us to embrace our life: both the good and the bad.

Looking back, I am grateful for so many things. For one, I am grateful for the life John lived and the happy moments we shared. And second, I am forever grateful for the showering of support and love that we received from friends and family.  Their love continues to bring me comfort and fills every crevice of my heart.

As Maya Angelou wisely said, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” No matter what happens in life, we can find something to be grateful for. We need only take the time to look.

The Gift of Heart Failure

I remember the day well.  My friend Dan Weiniger and I were hanging outside of the middle school awaiting the arrival of our daughters at the end of the school day.  As usual, we enjoyed each other’s company chatting about life and everything in general.

But on this day, Dan surprised me by asking, “So, Josie, do you really think there is an afterlife?”  As an author and afterlife researcher, people come up to me all the time asking about the afterlife.  But Dan, though a loyal friend and huge supporter of mine, was agnostic.

I looked back at him leaning against his car, “Yes, Dan.  I don’t think.  I know.”  Dan told me that he wanted to believe but wasn’t sure.  For the next several minutes I answered his questions about heaven and the afterlife ending with, “I’ll tell you what Dan.  If I go first, I’ll bring you a sign and if you go before me, you bring me a sign.  All I can tell you is when you die, you’ll going to be surprised. Because, yes, we die in body but not in spirit.”

He gave me a serious yet cheerful laugh and said, “OK, Josie.  You got a deal.” That day was February 18, 2014.  Below is a picture Dan took of us that day and posted on Facebook. Pictured with us is his dog Popcorn.

Daniel H Weiniger February 18, 2014 · Discussing life & afterlife with my good friend Josie Tropeano Varga — feeling great with Josie Tropeano Varga at Thomas Edison Intermediate School.Daniel H Weiniger

One year later, almost to the day (February 4, 2015), Dan suffered a massive heart attack losing 80 percent of his heart’s functions.  Basically 80 percent of his heart was dead and there was no place to by-pass to; no veins to stent.  Dan opted to have a LVAD (left-ventricular assisted device) implanted in his chest which is a mechanical pump that helps to pump blood. The surgery was a success and he was then placed on a list awaiting a heart transplant.

Sadly, Dan passed away on July 25, 2017.  The heart he so desperately needed never materialized.  The fact that a heart failed such a wonderful, kind, loving person is beyond my comprehension.  Ironically, he was all heart.

In April of this year, Dan released a book, The Gift of Heart Failure.  While he was working on the book, he called to ask if I would write his foreword and also wanted my advice.  We talked at length about his book and his reasons for writing it.  I advised him to include an introduction as well as a final thoughts section.  I explained that it was important to tell people why he was writing the book.

“Heart failure has taught me how precious life really is,” he told me.   “And what do you want people to remember when they finish your book?” I asked.  Dan quickly answered, “Be grateful for the tough times because they mean you are alive.”

In Dan’s memory, I am sharing some of his enlightening words of wisdom from the book.

Kindness:

What I learned from this is that there is more to being kind than simply just being nice, more than being a good neighbor, more than doing the right thing. All of that can be driven by ego and have self-serving adulation and recognition.  True kindness is generated by our true essence and attitude not by our ego.  It taught me, besides my mother’s insistence, I am not the center of the universe.

Kindness is born of compassion for others.  It is a deep sense of understanding and caring that comes when your heart is open and your mind is not solely focused on your universe.  It is again showing us the importance of being able to look at our situation and ourselves from an unemotional, detached angle and see more than one perspective.

Your actions may appear to be kind.  I always try to display kind behavior.  However, what this experience has taught me is your thoughts have to be kind, kindness must initiate from inside, from your heart.  Are your thoughts kind?  If not, you are not expressing true kindness and compassion, because inspired kindness flows from the soul and it treats all things and all people with gentleness and respect.

Enthusiasm:

Your enthusiasm can cause a chain reaction of good in the world.  So live your life with enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Every great endeavor has been fueled by passion, which is the byproduct of enthusiasm. By passion, I mean zest and zeal, a fiery non-stoppable enthusiasm.  I’m talking about an inner force that relentlessly drives you forward.  Setbacks and frustration just fuel your passion to try again, and climb that mountain.  It is a burning desire that creates a commitment to obliterate one’s obstacles and live the life you imagine.

Mindfulness:

Control your thoughts and your mind.  To live more in the now we must control our thoughts and our mind.  To live in the present moment we need to develop more mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention, nonjudgmentally, to whatever arises in the present moment.  When we are mindful, we experience what life presents to us, and we are no longer resisting the flow of life. The flow of life energy, when you go with the flow, you are surfing life’s energy force. When we are mindful, we realize that we are not our thoughts; we become an observer of our thoughts without judging them.

Forgiveness:

There is always an opportunity. Mistakes offer a fork in the road. They represent a chance to choose one path or another.  Choose forgiveness, choose kindness and choose love. Use your past and a broad perspective as a light to identify the opportunity so that you can forgive yourself and others. One of the best opportunities and paths to forgiveness is to seek opportunities to help others. When we shift and focus on others a real shift takes place in us and in our lives: you can feel it. When you move pass your worries and look back at your mistakes and you are focused on helping others in this world, that is when some magical things begin to happen.

It takes a lot of strength to forgive someone who is not sorry and to accept the apology you never received. However, unforgiveness is a negative emotional mindset where you, as the offended party maintain feelings of resentment, hostility, and anger toward the person, or persons who offended you. If you do not forgive, all you see is an injustice.  This unforgiveness will take a huge toll on your physical and mental health and will destroy your relationships.

Personal Perspective:

Most of us see only the trees; we cannot or choose to not see the forest. We live our lives in small 24 hour segments, or even smaller.  The answer is personal perspective. It is not easy to step back from a present obstacle, especially a painful or emotional obstacle. However, by stepping back we can see a bigger picture, find the new angle, and look for the always-present opportunity. Yes, personal perspective is the key, and what a wonderful way to achieve wisdom.

Be a Miracle:

By making the choice to live as if everything is a miracle, every moment becomes something to appreciate and be grateful for. One of the biggest miracles I see in my life is my family, friends and the love we all share.  Love is the most amazing thing in our lives.  It is what makes us sing, dance and smile. The miracle of love also leads to what we have already discussed and that is the acts of kindness, forgiveness, thinking of others and seeing life from another person’s point of view.

Difficult times will happen. To find the light, we have to go through the darkness. Please remember while you’re in the midst of it, to try and take a deep breath and remember that the lessons you are learning from the very obstacles you are facing, will shift your view of life. You will learn what matters, who matters, how strong you are and how lucky you are to exist. That is what difficult times teach us, and they are some of the most important lessons we can ever learn.

I loved what Dan had to say about appreciating the little things in life.  “When we are faced with difficult challenges and when death stares us in the face, it is then that we often realize that our smallest joys and accomplishments are what matter most.”  As I wrote in the foreword to his wonderful book, The Gift of Heart Failure, sometimes it takes something bad to teach us something good.  Sometimes it is our greatest challenges that teach us our greatest lessons.

Dan once told me that if you wanted a miracle in your own life you had to first be a miracle in the lives of others.  I truly hope he knows as he now watches from heaven what a miracle he was and what a difference he made.  Thank you, Dan, for the gift of your friendship.

ONE LOVE, ONE HEART

“Remember that all is One… and what you do to your neighbor, your friend or your foe, is a reflection of what you think of your Creator.”

Edgar Cayce

This month my family and I vacationed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had a wonderful time. Although I found the beaches to be breathtaking and the many scenic landscapes to be unforgettably beautiful, what I will cherish most about our time in Jamaica is the people.

Everywhere ybobmarleyou went everyone was kind and free-spirited. One day we decided to go shopping and stopped in a gift shop to buy some souvenirs. While there, we struck up a conversation with a petite Jamaican woman (Nell). She asked how we liked Jamaica and I commented how much I loved the people. She looked at me smiling, “You know, one love.” All of a sudden, Nell began to singing the lyrics to the classic hit, One Love (written by Bob Marley and the Wailers).

My family and I quickly joined in singing, “One Love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right. . .” We left that store with something far more important than t-shirts, we left with smiles on our hearts and the feeling of oneness within.

Marley, who died at the age of 36 on May 11, 1981 after suffering from melanoma, was said to be very spiritual and intuitive. In fact, I’ve read that he used to read palms for people as a young boy growing up in Nine Mile, Jamaica. As some of his songs imply, he believed in monotheism which is the belief in one God or one supreme source. He also believed in oneness for all and the connection of all things.

The concept of oneness is difficult for our earthly minds to comprehend. Honestly, it’s not our fault. We live in a world of contrasts which gives us the illusion of disconnectedness and separation. But in reality, we are not separated at all.

The late Wayne Dyer explained it well when he wrote, “The idea of oneness is next to impossible to grasp because we live in this world of contrasts, and contrast requires more than one element. So here we are, persistently in our world of twoness. How can we grasp the idea of oneness in the world of nonbeing that we occupied before we came into beingness? One way might be to think of our fingers, legs arms, toes and eyes: We don’t think of them as separate entities from our total being. We don’t refer to our fingers as being separate from ourselves. So it is with our relationship to Source or God before we came into this world—in that world, we and God were one.” (www.healyourlife.com/what-is-oness.com)

If you think this is pseudoscience, think again. Albert Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.” Let’s start with the human body. When asked what your body is made of you might automatically think: blood, bones, skin, organs, etc. But if you break down everything that you can see and feel to the subatomic level what you will find are particles and atoms.

As you look deeper and deeper into the workings of the atom, you will discover that nothing is there. Well, at least nothing very tangible. What you will find is an energy field or energy waves. These atoms, in other words, are composed of nothing very tangible. So everything that you see around you (the trees, the sand, the sky, the ocean, your house, computer, cell phone, etc.) is made up of this energy and everything is connected to that energy.

Science has discovered that matter is 99.999999999999 percent empty space. So what looks and feels solid is not solid at all. It’s actually energy. In 1911, Max Planck was the first to demonstrate that the seemingly empty space between the planets, stars, etc. is actually teeming with energy.

If we all truly understood the implications of this on the nature of reality, the changes in our way of looking at life would be immeasurable. We are all connected by an unseen force that in turn infuses everything else. This is why it is so important to make sure we surround ourselves with positive people. The energy waves that make up who we are constantly collide or join with the energy around us.

We get back what we put out there in the universe. Taking this one step further, everything that we think, say and do influences our reality. If you want good, you have to do good. If you want love, you have to give love. You create your own destiny.

I will never forget the kindred spirit of the Jamaican people; someday I hope to return there. As we left the store that day, our bags filled with souvenirs, Nell looked over at us with her contagious smile and warm heart, “Remember, one love, one heart.” It was a day and a lesson that my family and I will not soon forget.