Love is the Bridge

“I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.”
Roy Croft

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Everyone knows the words to this now infamous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’m sure we’ll be hearing them a lot more.

liabrooklynbridge

My beautiful daughter Lia Varga on the Brooklyn Bridge/Photo by Larry Yu

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the expressions of love and gratitude.  My husband still makes my heart skip a beat when he walks in carrying a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and my ears will never tire of hearing the words, I love you.  While my arms will be forever grateful for his embrace, however, I expect and want these expressions of love every day of the year.

Valentine’s Day has long been recognized as a day when we can show our appreciation and express our love.  Many believe this is best shown through big gestures like expensive jewelry and romantic getaways.  However, several studies have continually shown that the small, repeated gestures are what matter most.  Not surprisingly, researchers also found that people prefer behavioral actions over verbal expressions.

As I often say, words are cheap if your actions don’t follow suit.  The small little things we do are what help us to feel loved and appreciated every day and this applies to both romantic and platonic relationships.  It’s important to feel loved, wanted, and needed by all the significant others in your life.  Those little gestures that say, Hey, I’m here for you, I care about you or I still love you, are important to any relationship because they keep the bond of love going.

Recently, I went out to dinner with one of my closest friends, Karen.  We have been friends since high school (Yes, a very long time!).  Over dinner, we were talking about our high school years and I recounted how she bought me a new pair of sneakers with her very first paycheck.  Karen looked over at me and laughed asking, “How do you remember these things?”

At the time, I only smiled at her in response.  The truth is, though, I remember because those little gestures and those beautiful moments have left footprints on my memory.  I remember because each gesture, each memory has left an imprint on my heart.  And when the day comes for me to leave this Earth, there they will forever remain.

Naomi Judd’s career came to an abrupt end in 1991 after she announced she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.  The announcement was made in the midst of their Love Can Build a Bridge Tour at a time when the Judds were at the high point of their career.  Thankfully, she is now doing well and has since resumed some concert tours with her daughter Wynonna.

“Love Can Build a Bridge,” written as a heartfelt farewell song to her fans, won Naomi an Emmy.  Speaking of her mother, Wynonna said, “This next song represents the 10 years I spent on the bus with my queen.  Those were some of the best years of my life; I just didn’t know it back then.  But looking back, I now realize more than ever that the history we made together was a true miracle.”

(Wynonna Judd singing “Love Can Build a Bridge”)

Beautifully said, Wynonna.  I, too, have a fond memory with my mother on the bus.  My mother took the day off from work to accompany me on a school trip to the Bronx Zoo when I was in first grade.  I can still remember how proud I was to be sitting next to her as she sat holding my hand.  Like you, I was too young to realize just how precious those moments truly are.

Love cannot only build a bridge.  Love is the bridge.

 

 

Why I Believe in an Afterlife?

The bonds of love are what connect us to the other side.

John Edward 

Is there an afterlife?  Most Americans seem to think so.  In fact, according to a 2014 CBS poll, three in four Americans believe in some form of an afterlife.  Some closed-minded skeptics will tell you that those who believe in life after death are naïve and desperate to be reunited with their loved ones.

IMG7708_retouchThese same skeptics will say that the evidence for survival after death is merely circumstantial and subjective.  However, many who have had a near-death experience and still more who have had other forms of spiritual experiences strongly disagree—myself included.

Recently, I had dinner with a friend and we chatted about my research and the afterlife.  My friend who I would describe as an open-minded skeptic told me that she is open to the possibility of an afterlife not because of what I write in my books but rather because of who she knows I am as a person.  In her words, “I knew the person you were before your experience.  I know how much it changed you and I also know you would never make this up.”

She’s right, of course, I would never just make this up.  Interestingly, some atheists argue that there is no evidence for a heaven or an afterlife.  But for many of us who have had near-death experiences (NDEs) and other spiritual experiences, these phenomena are indeed proof.

Numerous people around the world who have had an NDE report being conscious after their body ceased functioning.  My book Visits to Heaven highlights many such accounts from around the globe.  The following are excerpts from two examples:

I knew that I had always known him as he looked at me and simply asked, “Are you ready to come?” I then exclaimed in surprise, “Already?” At that moment I remembered that my soul chose to come to Earth. I remembered who I was before I was born and that we are not here by random accident nor are we here as victims.  We come here not only to learn and grow but also to give and to receive love in the physical and so much more.

Martha Cassandra St. Claire, MA

I remember slowing down, without my choice, at the entrance to this beautiful lighted place and was amazed to discover my mother and grandmother standing to the right and greeting me with so much love.  They communicated to me in some way, certainly without words or hearing, but clearly inside my mind.  I was astonished to see them healthy, happy, middle-aged, and so full of love and recognition for me. . .

I then passed into the place of Light: rolling hills, grass, flowers, and blue skies vibrant with color. What amazed me were the intensity, brilliance, and clarity of the color. It seemed to be coming from within each aspect of the landscape.  The grass glowed green. It was so beautiful. It was so very beautiful.

Joyce Hawkes, PhD

In addition to NDEs, countless others have reported deathbed visions, divine interventions and afterlife communication accounts.  My book Visits from Heaven highlights the story of one mom who recounts hugging her deceased daughter.

One night just before her sixteenth birthday, I walked into my room and sat at the edge of my bed.  When I looked up, Tanya was there! She didn’t say anything, but her eyes expressed so much love and she had the most beautiful smile.

Tanya wrapped her arms around me.  I put my right hand on her left arm. She was cool yet not cold, solid but not quite hard. My hand did not go through her, but it was just so different; it felt kind of like touching “Jello-O.”

The texture of her skin startled me. There are no words to describe what her arm felt like.  I drew a quick breath, and then Tanya gave me the most beautiful loving smile.  She just backed away and was gone.  I can’t even begin to convey how much her “visit” meant to me.

Carol Rhodes

In 2003, my husband’s deceased friend and former boss came to me in a vivid dream with a message for his grieving wife.  The message was confirmed by his family leading me to research the possibility of life after death.  At the time I was a young, happy mother of two toddlers and I was admittedly not thinking about the afterlife or whether or not I would see my loved ones again.

In fact, I had never even met my husband’s former boss and had no reason to have such a dream.  So to the skeptics who claim that those who believe are gullible and biased, nothing could be further from the truth.  I believe in an afterlife not because I am afraid of death.  I believe because my experience gave me a glimpse of the afterlife and now I know.

Stephen Hawking once said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.  There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  Everyone certainly has a right to their own opinions.  But luckily I, too, don’t believe in fairy stories and I’m not afraid of the dark.

If you have an NDE, afterlife communication or other spiritual experience to share, please feel free to contact me at josievarga@comcast.net.  You are also welcome to visit my website at http://www.josievarga.com. Thank you! 

Three Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

― T.S. Eliot

new-years-day-4157632_1280 (2)Nothing will teach you more than the book of life.  As I reflect over the past year and look forward to 2020, I am reminded of some hard lessons I wish I had taken more seriously a year ago.

  1. Nothing will change you like pain will.

In April I was walking to my car and ended up tripping over a crack in the broken sidewalk. Putting out my right arm to brace my fall, I had gotten away with a cut on my knee and a scrap on my right hand.  As I drove home, my arm and shoulder grew increasingly painful.  I didn’t think much of it, though, and simply iced it.  After about two weeks, the pain seemingly went away.

The following month I was making a U-turn in a tight driveway and felt a snap in my right shoulder followed by piercing pain.  After about an hour, the pain subsided so I assumed I had just pulled a muscle.  Since that day, my shoulder would continue to hurt every time I moved in a certain way. Then in August, I woke up in such excruciating pain that I was rushed to urgent care.

To make a very long story short, I was misdiagnosed by two doctors and spent two months in physical therapy before going to another shoulder specialist who found a huge calcium growth in my rotator cuff tendon.  I had surgery on November 21, I’m still recovering and now have what is known as frozen shoulder. I have not felt so much pain in a long time and the experience has certainly put me behind on my work.

2019 definitely dealt me some rough cards but I was also reminded time and time again not to ever take things for granted.  To put things in perspective, I could not even brush my hair for several weeks and I needed help just pouring myself a cup of coffee.  Nothing will teach you to appreciate the simple things in life then not being able to do the simple things anymore.

Lesson learned:  Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate!

  1. Make moments; cherish the memories.

Let’s face it.  Life can be hard.  Sometimes we spend so much time working and getting through the daily grind that we forget to make time for the things that matter most.  In July, I lost a beautiful friend to cancer.  Rosemary was a renowned author and afterlife researcher and we became fast friends.  We talked about all the things we wanted to do together that never happened.

Looking back, I wish I didn’t put things on hold.  We all think that we’ll have tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Part of the problem is that we often associate who we are with what we do.  Our work becomes our identity and it becomes increasingly difficult to separate a rewarding career from a fulfilling life.

You are not your work.  Yes, what we do for a living is part of our identity but it is not our identity entirely.

Lesson learned: Make more time. Make more moments.

  1. Put yourself first. Be honest.

This one is a difficult one for me to admit but nonetheless very true.  I spend so much time trying to be there for everyone else that I often neglect myself.  Time and again I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.  Recently, I read a quote by Penny Reid which said, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”  Well said, Penny.

Putting yourself first and foremost also means being honest with yourself.  It’s not easy to admit that you actually are setting yourself on fire at the expense of others.  Take a good look at your life and the people in it.  What do you see?  Part of being honest and putting yourself first also means taking responsibility. Don’t play the blame game. You are where you are now because of every decision—right or wrong—you made in the past.  Own up to your mistakes and move on.

Lesson learned:  Make yourself a priority.

Last year’s mistakes are this year’s lessons.  May we learn, discover and treasure the moments.

Lucid Just Before Death?

Death may simply be an alteration in consciousness, a transition for continued life in a non-material form.”  Edgar Mitchell

We’ve seen it again and again.  A terminally ill patient has been unresponsive for days yet just before his death he suddenly becomes lucid and is able to communicate.  Is this just a coincidence or is there something more going on?

CallfromHeavenCoverTerminal lucidity is a term used to describe the unexpected return of mental coherence and responsiveness in a patient who was previously incoherent.  Family members and even some medical personnel may see this as a sign of recovery only to find that death is imminent. Is there a logical explanation for this phenomena and how can this be explained to the patient’s grieving family?

First off, it is important to understand that terminal lucidity is nothing new.  In fact, one of the most incredible cases on record occurred in 1922 with a woman named Anna Katharina Ehmer (1895-1922).  Ehmer was severely disabled and lived in a mental institution located in central Germany.  Reportedly, she never spoke a word her entire life until the day she died when she suddenly began singing for about 30 minutes before she passed. Since then many such cases have been reported and science is finally starting to study the phenomena.

While working on my book, A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/New Page Books, 2017, I had the honor of interviewing Professor Alexander Batthyany, PhD who is conducting a study on terminal lucidity involving patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  His findings have thus far suggested that normal cognition can occur despite a nonfunctional brain. Batthyany is a professor at the University of Vienna in Austria where he teaches courses in the behavioral sciences and philosophy.

As you may know, Alzheimer’s disease kills nerve cells in the brain and patients eventually lose normal brain functioning and suffer from memory loss.  Yet, in many cases, many become coherent right before death with no known changes in the brain.  The nerve cells, for example, don’t suddenly become alive allowing patients to say their final goodbyes yet these cases of terminal lucidity are clearly happening.

Thus far, science has no explanation for this.  Professor Batthyany has called these deathbed phenomena “close to a miracle,” however, he admits, “I am not sure whether miracle is a good word but it is deeply mystifying given what we know about the relationship between mental function and brain integrity.” (A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/page 26).

But maybe the answer is not a scientific one but a spiritual one.  Perhaps a higher source is allowing those on their deathbed to bid a proper goodbye to their loved ones.  Regardless of which stance we take, we cannot deny that these deathbed phenomena are taking place.

One of the most recent cases on record involves a doctor by the name of Scott Haig in New York.  An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Haig wrote about a patient named David who passed from lung cancer which eventually spread to his brain leaving him both motionless and speechless.

David’s brain, he explained, was completely destroyed.  Yet just before his death, David suddenly woke up and was able to converse with his family.  He said his final goodbyes and after about five minutes he went comatose again and passed within the hour.

Interestingly David’s wife was a nurse at the same hospital and witnessed the occurrence.  Doctors may not understand how these cases of terminal lucidity are taking place.  We also don’t know why many experience it while others don’t.  But of more importance is the fact these cases are happening and are, in fact, very real.

A biologist named David Searles once said, “Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of ocean.” It may look like the end when we are looking at the horizon because that is as far as our eyes can see.   But when we die we will all come to know that death is only a transition.  It is not an end but rather a new beginning that is not limited by the constraints of a dying body.

As an author and afterlife researcher for over 15 years, I have been asked many times if dealing with the death of a loved one is easier for me given my stern beliefs in an afterlife.  My answer is always the same.  Yes, it’s easier but, no, it’s not easy.  Losing my loved ones hurts but I do find comfort in the knowledge that life continues.  I do find comfort in the knowledge that the bond of love is the one thing that transcends death.  Nothing is stronger.

College and Bust$!!!

“You can’t continue to have higher education tuition grow at a multiple of the rate of inflation.”

Mitt Romney

 No need to be hush-hush.  Everyone knows the rising costs of college is out of control and there seems to be no relief in sight as debt continues to skyrocket for both students and their parents.  Last week my husband and I officially became empty nesters as we dropped both of our daughters off at college. I’ve literally been suffering from withdrawals as I pass their empty bedrooms but I’ve also been having trouble sleeping wondering how my husband and I will deal with our mounting expenses.

Over the years, we have tried to figure out every conceivable option to save for our children’s college education with 529 plans and the like.  Now, years later, nothing could have prepared us for how bad things have become.  Even with all the extra savings and the HELOC (home equity line of credit), we are both scratching our heads wondering how to get out of this mess and we are not alone.

My college graduation from Glassboro State College (1988)

Recent reports put student loan debt as high as $1.6 trillion in the United Sates with graduates paying an average of more than $35,000.  This is a far cry from what things were when I attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in the late 80’s.  Back then the total cost of attendance with room and board (in state) was a fraction of the $30,000 plus it is today.

In fact, the costs to attend college has risen over 200 percent since the 80’s.  The following is a breakdown of how costs have changed by decade with figures adjusted for 2017 dollars:

Private nonprofit four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $15,160
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $21,020
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $27,520
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $34,740

Public four-year institution

  • Tuition for 1987-1988: $3,190
  • Tuition for 1997-1998: $4,740
  • Tuition for 2007-2008: $7,280
  • Tuition for 2017-2018: $9,970

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/how-much-college-tuition-has-increased-from-1988-to-2018.html

My older daughter Erica is a junior at the University of Maryland/College Park while her younger sister Lia is a freshman at the University of Delaware.  For the 2019-20 academic year, UMD raised tuition for out of state students by 4.79 percent while UDel raised it by 4 percent.  A number of factors contribute they say to the continuous rise in tuition including high demand, construction costs, increased administrative staff and less state funding.  I’m certainly in favor of raising prices when it is warranted but I’m not in favor of overpriced education.

The cost to attend college has outpaced both inflation and wage growth. While increased costs have certainly lowered the rate of return for many students, it remains difficult to compete in today’s economy without a post-secondary education. Students continue to borrow money and many parents are struggling to make up the difference.  So with high demand and the increase in student loans why should these institutions keep costs down?  It seems to be a vicious cycle.

As you may know, many countries offer free tuition.  These include, for example, Norway, Sweden, Germany and France.  Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a plan to make college free in the United States.  His plan would not only make two and four-year public colleges free, it would also get rid of all student debt.  Yes, all 1.6 trillion of it! He wants to do this by placing a tax on Wall Street.

Truthfully, I have no idea if such a thing would work or if it is even remotely possible.  Personally, I don’t see how asking a few dozen financial firms to come up with an extra $1.6 trillion (and still stay in business) could work but I do commend Sen. Sanders for attempting to fix a problem that seems unfixable.  If our foreign counterparts can do it why can’t we?

While my daughter is happy and thriving at the University of Maryland, she did not get to go to the college of her choice.  My daughter Lia is loving the University of Delaware which luckily was her first choice.  Of course, many factors were considered when deciding on a college (costs, scholarship offerings, grants, choice of major, etc.) We explained how much we can contribute to both of our daughters.  They are responsible for the rest.

Erica is in the scholar’s program at UMD and will be graduating with both a major and a minor in three years.  Lia decided to attend UDel despite the higher costs but has been working hard to offset her student loans.  I am proud of both of them but it saddens me to see how hard obtaining a college education has become. While the increased costs has made attending college less advantageous then it was years ago, it means the world to me to see them thriving and doing well.  I look forward to what the future holds for both of them.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), a nonprofit research firm in Washington D.C., has released a list of 25 ways to help reduce the high cost of college.  Here are some examples:

  1. Attend a community college: Attending a two-year college and transferring to a four-year university will cut costs considerably.
  2. Move more class offerings online
  3. Overhaul the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  4. Offer three year Bachelor’s Degrees
  5. Promote Dual Enrollment Programs: This includes taking college credit courses such as AP (Advanced Placement) Courses while in high school. My daughter Erica completed over 30 credits in high school which is allowing her to finish her college requirements in three years.
  6. Reform Financial Aid
  7. Eliminate Excessive Academic Research
  8. Reduce the Costs of Textbooks
  9. Reform Accreditation to Reduce Barriers to Entry
  10. Promote Competition Based on Value, Not Reputation: Colleges love to boast about their acceptance rates these days.  We need to care less about how many students they admit and more about the value they provide in relation to the dollars they charge. 

It does not surprise me to hear that more than 1 million default on student loans each year with 40 percent of borrowers expected to do so by 2023.  What does surprise me is that the government makes it extremely difficult—if not impossible—to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.  As I said earlier, it is a vicious cycle that leaves both students and parents with few choices.

Good luck to my fellow empty nesters out there.  May your children be happy and fulfilled with their college education and may your hard-earned nest eggs not run dry!

Advice about Life: A Final Facebook Post

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

Why is it that we don’t appreciate what we have until we don’t have it anymore?  Why can’t we see the value in what we already have?  We are always thinking of the next best thing and wanting more.  In fact, what we had in the past and what we want in the future get so blurred and distorted that we can’t focus on what’s right there in front of us until it’s gone. 

On January 4, 2018, Holly Butcher, a 27-year old from Grafton, Australia, passed away from a rare bone cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma.  Just before her death, she wrote a sad but inspiring message to her friends and family.  Below are her wise words taken from her final Facebook post.

So why is it so hard to appreciate what we already have?  I think Holly said it best:

hollybutcherphoto

Holly Butcher (Facebook photo)

It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey—most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; it is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared—I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to its inevitability. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!

Those times you are whining about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; it is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that—breathe.

You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.

Let all that shit go. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.

I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise. Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.

I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.

Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body. Work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness, too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not. Be ruthless for your own well-being.

Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is shit but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away.

Whine less, people!  And help each other more.

Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.

It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.

Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewelry for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.

Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are shit at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate. You will gain respect too! Amen sister.

This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves . . . strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. Mind you, it was also easier to do in our house because we had no little kiddies there. Anyway, moral of the story—presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas. Moving on.

Use your money on experiences. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.

Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.

Get amongst nature.

Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo . . . enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.

Random rhetorical question. Are those several hours you spend doing your hair and makeup each day or to go out for one night really worth it? I’ve never understood this about females.

Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises.

Listen to music… really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.

Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.

Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay?

Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.

Work to live, don’t live to work.

Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.

Eat the cake. Zero guilt.

Say no to things you really don’t want to do.

Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life… you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay.

Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.

Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.

Anyway, that’s just this one young gal’s life advice. Take it or leave it, I don’t mind!

Oh and one last thing, if you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple.

Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year—a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.

..’Til we meet again.

Hol

Xoxo

 I share Holly’s inspiring, beautiful words and dedicate this blog in her memory.  As Holly said life is unpredictable and “each day is a gift, not a given right.”  Appreciate what you already have before you don’t have it anymore. Go out and enjoy the breathtaking sunset and if you can, watch the sun rise again and again.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

“You have no idea the numbers of people that God may want to influence through you.” Andy Stanley

One of my favorite Bible verses is, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”  (Matthew 7:7 NRSV)   But what does it mean exactly?  Does it mean God will give us whatever we ask for no matter what?  No, of course not.

In Matthew, Jesus goes on to explain that God will only answer to what is good.  Our requests and prayers must also not interfere with the lessons we came here to learn. I once had a deep conversation with a Catholic priest about this verse.  Why is it that some prayers are answered and others aren’t?  Why are some cured while others aren’t?  Why do bad things happen?  His response was, “God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, He only allows them to happen.”

Growing up, I was raised Roman Catholic and always believed in the power of prayer.  My Godmother Lucy was extremely religious and I loved going to Sunday mass with her.  Despite so many hardships in her own life, her faith never wavered.  Lucy was one of the first to teach me how to pray but as I grew older my prayers have become more conversational than formal.

birdEach night before I go to sleep, I always ask God to help me do what I am meant to be doing.  I ask that He guide me in everything that I do.  As an author and motivational speaker, things are sometimes so overwhelming.  I feel a tremendous obligation to my readers and to the members of my Facebook groups, etc. but I also need to put my family first.

Last month, I was having a tough week and asked God if my work was really making a difference.  I felt like I wasn’t giving my work the attention it deserved and asked for a sign that I needed continue writing my books.

That same day I had to make an appointment with my daughter’s pediatrician in order for her to get her required immunizations for college admission.  When I called I was told that my doctor could not see me but since my daughter was only getting two vaccinations they would give me the nurse practitioner.   I did not recognize the name of the nurse practitioner and had never taken either of my daughters to her before.

When we arrived for my daughter’s appointment we waited in the office for the nurse practitioner to join us.  After about 10 minutes, she walked into the room and introduced herself and I told her why we were there.  I noticed her looking at me but didn’t think much of it until she said, “Varga?  Are you the author, the one who writes about near-death experiences?”

You have to understand that this doesn’t happen often and when it does I am always thrown off.  Yes, I am an author but it is always odd when people recognize me.  I looked over at her and said, “Yes.  How did you know that?”

“Because I read your book,” she responded.  Remembering my request for a sign, I looked at her dumbfounded.  She told me how much she believed in the afterlife and how much she admired my work.  I thanked her for her kind words.  But she gave me much more than kind words, she gave me the encouragement I so desperately needed.

Recently, I asked for another sign.  In September, I will have two daughters in college and have been worried about how we are going to make ends meet. One night I was again feeling very conflicted.  I know if I take another full-time job it will take away from my afterlife research.  It will certainly impact my work as an author and motivational speaker.  So on this night I asked for another sign.  “Tell me Lord if I am meant to stay on this path.”

The next morning I sat at the kitchen table drinking my coffee when a bird suddenly appeared.  I watched it as it sat on my patio chair for several minutes.  (Actual photo is above.) I was amazed by how long it remained in front of my window seemingly staring straight at me.  I wondered if this could possibly be a sign and grabbed my phone to capture a picture just as it took off.

Our loved ones in heaven are in spirit form and are pure energy.  This means that they can direct their energy into animals when they want to bring us a sign.  When this happens the bird or animal will act in a way it typically would not act.

Later that day I went on to my computer and found a private Facebook message from a woman named Anabel.  Her message read, “I recently bought your book and I was listening to your podcast and I just wanted to thank you.  You opened a part of my heart and I am so grateful.  I recently lost both of my parents and I have felt so lost without them but your books have helped me.  You gave me the biggest gift.”

Unbeknownst to Anabel, she had given me the biggest gift.  She went on to tell me how she had followed my advice in one of my podcasts and started talking to her mother asking for a sign.  That night she had a dream visit from her mother.  Her dream proved to her that her mother did, in fact, hear her.

At one point in the dream she asked her mother if it was really her.  In response, her mother replied, “Of course, it is.  Who else would it be?”  Anabel’s letter truly warmed my heart and literally brought happy tears to my eyes.

Anabel, thank you for allowing me to share part of your story.  You wrote, “You have opened a part of my heart that was so lost.”  Thank you sincerely for your immensely kind words.  But I hope you can now see that you opened my heart as well.  God works in mysterious ways.  It is up to us to listen.