Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

Leave a comment

Grace Guest House

I had the privilege of visiting Grace Guest House this week. My friend told me to check them out and now I know why. In a world filled with a bunch of nonsense, there are still inspirational things to counter them.

It is one of those beautiful, restored homes in South Buffalo, with embroidered signs and other pictures that warm your heart and calm your soul.

This sign pretty much sums up who they are and what their purpose is. Anyone that is in treatment in a medical facility is welcome here, including any supportive family or friends. Often, family comes in from out of town while a loved one is being treated somewhere, or living out the last days of their lives. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps family doesn’t live out of state, but lives far enough away that it is a strain to visit regularly. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps you are the one getting infusions, chemotherapy or some other treatment. You are exhausted and find the transportation back and forth cumbersome and additional, unneeded stress. Grace House gives you a place to stay.

If you have ever been in any of those circumstances, you will know how life-changing it would be to hear, “Rest awhile.”

There isn’t a way to capture the serenity in this place, but I can show you some of the rooms. It’s not a hotel, it’s a home. And they have tried to think of everything to provide convenience and comfort.

Keeping up with meals is a pretty taxing process when you are in a medical crisis. There is a homey dining area with a fireplace that is quite lovely. Cynthia Battista, president, tells me that folks get to know each other and often pull the tables together to enjoy a meal. Did I mention that Grace House can cook for you? No, you didn’t misread that.

For those who find comfort in doing their own cooking, there is a pantry stacked with food, and a lovely kitchen for use. When I was there, a mother was making homemade rice pudding. The room had an aroma of cinnamon. Rice pudding was one of my dad’s favorites. My eyes filled with tears of happy memories.

Then I noticed on top of all the kitchen cupboards, there is a display of sparking angels looking down. It certainly felt like they were overseeing the lives being lived there and sending their blessings down.

There is a chair lift to the upstairs rooms. Grace House is continuing to make adaptations for further handicap accessability. They also provide washing machines and dryers for the convenience of the families.

The cost for all of these things are unbelieveably affordable. For a shared room, it is $40/night. They have access to bathroom facilities nearby.

This is a shared room with a couple of the staff (who are mostly volunteers, by the way). They couldn’t be more pleasant to be around. There are suites available for $60/night that are private. The bathrooms are private. For exceptionally large groups who need to be together, there is a large parlor area off the suite where the doors can separate them for privacy.

Grace House lives by grants and donations. While I was there, several cases of toilet paper arrived from a local business. All of their supplies are given by gracious donors.

Obviously, I was incredibly impressed. The space is somewhere that feels like home away from home. When you are going through some of life’s toughest challenges, there is no way to describe the value of how that touches you.

But mostly it is about what this quote from Mother Teresa says. The love and generosity are felt everywhere. The picture reflected in the mirror is the family that inspired Ms. Battista to create Grace House. You can’t talk to her for more than a couple of minutes before her kind and loving heart send its energy to you.

There is a wish list for them if you, your church, school, or agency would like to contribute and be part of this service. Students and adults alike can volunteer their time.

I look forward to when I can help a client family by providing them this resource. Thank you Grace House, for this desperately needed service, and for providing it with such grace. You have done your name justice.

1 Comment

Collateral Beauty

I didn’t blog last week because I just didn’t feel inspired. Now I am snowed in and I just don’t have the energy… Excuses, excuses. Anyhow, I am going to cheat. I can because it is my blog so who is going to tell me I can’t? LOL!

I went to see “Collateral Beauty” this week with my friend Summer. I heard it got smashed down in the reviews. I can’t imagine why. I think it is one of the most brilliant, poignant, and profound movies about grief/loss and death/dying that I have ever seen. If you have the depth to see it, the lives and plots intertwine cleverly and many types of loss are addressed. Ok, not one of the most, THE most.

Will Smith gives you some visuals of grief that you will never forget. There are some lines in there that entire books could be written about. Summer cried several times throughout the movie. Me? I couldn’t cry. I was beyond tears. I was moved and riveted with my stomach squarely stuck in my mouth.

A perfect example of bittersweet. It was gut wrenching but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. If every person could watch it and grasp its meaning, I would never write another book or blog, produce a webinar, give a lecture. It just wouldn’t be necessary.

Personally, I couldn’t have watched it at a better time. Or a worse time. My dreams have been tormenting me by night, even though my conscious days have been fine. The movie was smack in the middle of the torture and I’m sure has inspired the last set of horrendous dreams.

Nevertheless, this blog is a blatant commercial. I can’t say much else about the movie because I would not want to give any of it away. Take your tissues and go. If you have experienced a significant loss firsthand, I would bet money that you will resonate with it very deeply.

Bravo. Sometimes the critics are spot on, and sometimes they have no idea what they are talking about.


Drama Free

I have said before that as an author/writer, I have really grown to appreciate those that can write fiction. I can really only write about things that happen in my life. I have no idea how people make up characters and plots from their imaginations. When I have something on my heart, I can whip up a blog in a very short time. It usually just flows easily for me.

Because of my personality type, I am also drawn to the melancholy. That is why I could write a book about death/dying and then grief/loss. Sure, I added humor and hope to it. That is also my personality. But let’s face it, the topic falls on the sad side of the spectrum.

Lately, I have been experiencing a lot less drama than I usually do. Drama free is a bit misleading, because I don’t think life is ever completely free from it. But I have certainly decreased my daily intake of it. Now, of course that is a very positive thing that I am extremely grateful for. However, everything in life has its loss and its gains, no matter what. The downside for me, is that I find it harder to write on Thursdays. When I don’t have any gut wrenching things going on, the writing doesn’t flow very easily. In fact, I sit and stare at a blank screen for a while.

I asked Frankie what I should write about and he said he had no idea. I told him to try and he said he can’t because he doesn’t care about my blog. Then he blabbered off something about how he’s just being honest and honesty is the best policy. Damn teenagers.

There has been plenty of changes and stresses around lately, but it hasn’t really been mine. I’m totally involved, but it doesn’t belong to me. Big difference. We have been helping my dad clean his house out (simplify things), work on his finances, and discussing the possibility of moving to an apartment. I come home from his house with tons of things to do, both physically and mentally. My sister is moving south so she is packing, selling things, and making all kinds of preparations for a very big anticipated change as well. I try to help when I can and be as creative as I can about how to do that.

I’ve been super busy. And sometimes I get stressed out. But overall? Not much drama.

I feel like my blogs have been pretty un-inspiring lately. I am grateful to all you faithful readers who read them anyway. And for those of you who know and love me personally, you can actually be happy that I am writing boring stuff, because it’s the heartache that usually inspires me. So stretch yourself and be glad for blah reading, cause it means I am in a shortage of drama to write about. I like it!

Leave a comment


I try to blog every Thursday. Usually something happens that is on my heart that I blog about in my head and it’s just a matter of getting it out on paper. But some Thursdays I struggle. And when I don’t have something clear in my head, I don’t usually write all that well.

I have a lot on my heart and in my head, but it isn’t really anything that I can write about yet. I am in a holding pattern. I could probably write a book if I was free to, but I’m not. (By the way, this isn’t one of those legal issues…lol!)

So here is your chance. Got something you want to write about? Vent about? You are free to comment, or you can send me a private email and I will cut and paste your story. I know at least one of my readers is working on being more vulnerable. Perhaps he/she will use the opportunity to express some things. It can be just a paragraph or a sentence or two. Let me be the reader this time while I am in the world of waiting.

Here is an author I read recently that might inspire you, David Whyte. “Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another… To be courageous is… to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility…”

Ok Lions, live into your courage and send me some stuff.

1 Comment

Ode to a Dancer

Today I want to write about someone who I lost recently. In total, I only interacted with her three times over the last year. I engaged in many conversations about her, but only had direct contact with her a handful of times. Yet, I felt like she made an impact on my life. She inspired me. Some people are just like that.

First, let me say that she was Irish. That says a lot, right? I’m sure she could drink me under the table with her eyes closed. Her personality was larger than life. Her life’s motto was, “I’m not here for a long time, but I’m here for a good time.” She is one of the few people who could boast that she lived true to her philosophy, true to her ideals.

The last time I sat at her kitchen table, we were ironically talking about my mother and the experience of her death. My mom and I were close as close could be. Everyone was worried about me losing her because I depended on her so much. But I was one of the people who was able to accept her passing the most easily. Why? Because she was ready to go. We had sincere, deep conversations and she was completely at peace with moving on. She felt she had a fulfilling life and was prepared- and actually looking forward to- meeting the God of her faith.

Mrs. O’Dea chimed in about how she identified with some of that. The conversation turned to some of the frustrating ways that the medical system dealt with my mom and how she unnecessarily suffered. This led to her sharing a story about her own medical condition. She had been living a miraculous life the last six years. She had an issue that the doctors wanted her to be treated for and she made the decision to defy treatment and the odds. And she was sitting at her table six years later, enjoying life more fully than most people do.

She was a dance teacher in her younger years. I’ve seen pictures of her. She was truly stunning. I ran into her about a month ago out at a store and told her she looked like a movie star. I wasn’t trying to flatter her, it was the truth. It wasn’t because of her looks in and of themselves, but the way she carried herself. Confident. Bold. Colorful.

We usually ended up talking about karaoke. I regret never following through on going out with her, but you know how time passes and before you know it, it’s too late.

What I won’t forget about our last get together, is her enthusiasm about her latest favorite CD. It was all Disney music, but they were performances by folks like Ella Fitzgerald. The conversation would be going on full force, and she would suddenly hush us all up. “Listen to this part,” she would say. And she would close her eyes dramatically and then say something like, “Mmmm… that was gorgeous.” As a musician myself, I loved watching her. She truly let the music move her. She was genuine and she was contagious. Then she would announce, “If you aren’t going to sing and you aren’t going to dance, well, you might as well be dead.” She rocked.

Then there would be moments when she would talk about her son and how much she loved his curly, blond hair when he was a baby. The fondness in her voice and the softness in her eyes, is something only another mother can truly identify with. It was like he was still four years old, rather than the 45-year-old man he is today.

Anyhow, how ironic that less than two weeks after our visit and conversation, she died suddenly. Loss of any kind can trigger your own history, but this one definitely hit me. She was 72, just like my mom was when she died. She had been married to the love of her life for 51 years. My parents had been married 52. Even though I may not have known for a long time, knowing her was a GREAT time.

I have often closed my eyes in the last week and just remembered her face while listening to that music. I want to live my life like that. I want to allow myself to savor moments like that. Especially because I know all too well, it can all be over way, way, way too soon.

Thanks, Mrs. O’Dea. You will be sorely missed, but remembered with great admiration.


No Soup For You!

Even though I was not an avid Seinfeld fan, I definitely know about the Soup Nazi.
I know when you do something nice, you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. But I want to share this story with you anyway.

Yesterday, my dad and I went to his doctor’s appointment. We decided to go for something to eat at one of my favorite restaurants on the way home. If you have a favorite restaurant, you probably have a favorite waitress. I generally like all of them there, but one of them is my most favoritest of all.

She is tall, slender, pretty. Reminds me of a dancer or someone like that. Every time I’m in there, she makes me smile. We sat down and looked at the menu. I decided on a salad with chicken and asked what the soup specials were. I told her I would also have a cup of soup. After taking our orders, she kind of disappeared. I thought that was a little unusual.

Anyhow, she brings our food out and my salad is huge. I figured out that she probably forgot my soup, but I went to tell her that if she was still planning on bringing it, I didn’t want it anymore. I couldn’t possibly have room for it. She was apologetic because she didn’t hear me say I wanted some. I assured it that was all meant to be because I couldn’t possibly eat it with how big the salad was.

I sat back down and again she disappeared. Someone else checked on us, but then she reappeared. She brought our check, but also set a brown bag on the table and winked at me. “That’s a little surprise for you for later.” I knew she brought me some soup to take home.

We got chatting and I found out she was in the back because she has been assigned the duty of scheduling everyone. It was stressing her out a bit trying to figure it out. She also just moved in with her mom because she has Alzheimer’s. At night she works another job with People, Inc. with a severely disabled boy. She said she was an organized person but just couldn’t figure out how to keep everything straight.

Well, she told the right person of course. I am a goddess when it comes to organization. And I had just modified my schedule a couple of days earlier to include color coding. Having a fifth job had pushed me over the edge and my client showed me how to add color on my phone. My waitress friend was duly impressed and quite grateful. Dad made some funny comment about how he barely knows how to turn a computer on. She told him he didn’t need to because he was obviously in good hands. 🙂

After she left, I started thinking about her life. She has such a sweet spirit about her. She waits on people for a living. She cares for someone with great special needs. Then she gets to go home between those jobs and at the end of the night and do the most demanding job of caring for a parent with an extremely difficult disease to manage. What a woman.

Dad bought lunch but said I could leave the tip. I was leafing through my wallet to see what I had. Every once in a while, I get a thought that is crystal clear to me about what I need to do. I took out a ten-dollar bill. Now it wasn’t a hundred dollars or anything, but it was half what the bill was. I got a piece of paper out of my notebook and wrote, “You deserve so much more” with a little heart. Dad thought I was nuts when he first saw the amount, but I think he understood.

We left but I couldn’t resist the urge to stay in the foyer and peek through the window. I watched her see the money and the note, get a tremendous smile on her face, then go show her co-workers with pride. She probably doesn’t get thanked for what she does very often. I walked to my car and choked back tears, already formulating the blog I would write. She was the one that made my day by inspiring me with her selfless life and gentle spirit.

Yes, soup for me and it was a wonderful treat later that cold afternoon!

1 Comment

Thanks, Lisa!

I have been thinking about how negative my thoughts (and therefore my blogs) have been lately, but honestly have had a hard time coming up with anything positive. Then I got this email today and cried my eyes out. Some of you may remember a blog quite a while ago that was written by David Breth. He wrote a very moving story about taking our Frankie to a hockey game while Tim was sick. I included it in the second book (which came out last week) with his permission. I joke with him all the time because his writing got more response from the editors than mine! Anyhow, I saw his wife yesterday and she bought the new book and sent me this incredible email and gave me permission to share it with you.

“I bought your book to give to David. I knew I wanted to read it too…but WOW! It is soooo good! You are AMAZING! I knew I would have a hard time reading it, but knew I would anyhow. I just didn’t think it would be so fast and I didn’t think it would be now, just seven days till Christmas! I started it last night during my daughter’s piano lesson and only planned to read the introduction…but I could not stop. I finished 38 pages during her 30 minute lesson! I should also tell you, I was looking forward to reading a book I had just renewed at the library, since I was just getting to a very exciting part of the book. So much for my plans. As soon as I started reading yours, I was transported back to those last few months with Tim, and the months after losing him. Not only do I remember reading the blogs when you first wrote them, I remember all those “moments” in your and Frankie’s life too.

I went to bed too late last night – almost ruined the surprise by telling David I wanted to go read more of your book, but managed to keep it hidden. Today I don’t go in to work till 1 pm and I got to stay in bed and read. Ok, so now I am starting at page 38 and you guessed it. I read David’s telling of the hockey game. Mind you I have read it before, talked to him and you about it, lived through it, and even laughed at how jealous you are of the way everyone calls attention to it. But I bawled my eyes out reading it! I can just hear him telling the story in his voice with all the crazy sayings and wincing yet again at his choice of the words about Frankie “chirping”… but it was so good. Thank you for including it and giving me the perfect gift for him for Christmas!

Keep in mind just yesterday I was trashing him (and all men) at work about how they do hardly anything at Christmas to get ALL THE THINGS done that everyone expects done during the holiday season. And how hard it is to get it all done while they sleep on the couch or chair each night! But in my heart, I know my husband is one of the GOOD GUYS and he will be responsible for all the special moments on Christmas day…and still continue to surprise and delight me and the kids. Thanks for reminding me of that.

I am so proud of him for “being there” for you and Frankie and so grateful you feel and know that! It is something that is so important to him and me that you all know that we as a family love and support you! Whether it is just listening when you call to just “vent” or taking you away on that tough weekend each year to be silly and crazy for a “MOM Break.” We are so grateful to be part of your family and support network. You have taught my kids more by just being you during the pain and loss, and moving on in grief than you will ever know. You CAN DO THIS! Because you are doing this! There may be stumbling blocks, and life is crazy, but you keep going with a smile on your face- and lots of warm hugs too! I am so amazed that you continue to find ways to speak about this to many others whether one on one or in your seminars… and do it so well. When I was a Youth Minister there was a saying- you may never see the garden made of the seeds you are planting, but it will be beautiful! It made working with moody and sometimes difficult teens a little easier. And since then I have been lucky enough to see some of the “seeds” I helped plant, make those same teens into wonderful adults and parents!

You are going to help so many more than just those of us lucky enough to be in your support network. Your beautiful and honest words of how loss and grief “SUCKS” will help so many. You are truly a “GIFT” to my family and me, and I look forward to hearing how much of a “GIFT” your honesty and bluntness will help so many others! The garden you are planting with the “seeds” of wisdom in this book is going to be the most beautiful garden ever…with a hummingbird watching over it!

SO SO Proud of you! This book is even better than the first! And sorry to tell you…I still think there will be more books in you. I know how you agonize over every word, the editing process, and Baby Coop Publishing, but it is worth it! It’s WONDERFUL!”

Lisa, looks like there are at least two writers in your family. I can’t thank you enough. This second book was a struggle and I second-guessed myself all the way through it, no pun intended. I am humbled, and grateful. And my blog readers are thankful for the boost in spirit :)!