Susan E Casey

Shift your passions into high gear. Make a difference. Thrive


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The Cardinal’s Message

River

On a quiet, windless afternoon in early July, I sat myself down to write about anything other than the horrid grieving process topic, and the river of memories that ripple through me in the waking hours. I inhaled a few fat breaths, prayed to the angels, and the guides, and God, and my brother to give me a few moments of reprieve, and keep me from trolling through old emails, that at this point, I could recite from memory.

With hands clasped and eyes closed, I began praying (which quickly turned into begging) to whatever spirits were around to listen, and “spirity” enough to answer my pleas for help.

hands claspedThree seconds into my session, I was interrupted by a series of thumps; sounds that mimicked a loose shutter rapping against the house on a windy afternoon.  I glanced outside, the maple leaves were still. Plus, we don’t have shutters.

As the thumping continued, I walked from room to room, paused, listened, and followed the noise. I opened the bathroom door, and let out a startled scream as a cardinal flew headfirst into glass. Dazed, he flew back to the limb of the lilac tree. I waited. I watched. Two, three, four more times this red-winged beauty determined, flew full speed into the window. Can a bird be crazy? I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure. I went outside and shooed the bird away before it sailed into the window one too many times and killed itself. I returned to talk to the spirits. Five minutes later, the rapping resumed.

cardinalMany of you may already be aware (though I wasn’t at the time) during mating season, this sweet bird attacks itself, because it can’t differentiate between its own reflection in a window and what it perceives as a rival for nesting territory or a potential mate. As this self-attack took place, I researched this bird-destructive behavior and how to stop it. I duct-taped newspaper on the inside of the window, proud that I’d found a solution to save the bird from itself. As I turned to walk out of the bathroom, the bird struck itself again. The little guy could still see himself, despite the newspaper.  I rummaged through the barn, found an old pizza box, and taped it on the outside of the window. It worked. No more reflection. No more attacks.

I’m  a deep believer that animals send us messages. Make us sit up and pay attention if we are open to whatever news they’re attempting to deliver. Here’s what I found: The cardinal asks us to examine our lives, those places we may lack confidence in our gifts and abilities. The cardinal calls us to be open to our creative energy and let it flow back into our lives.

As I read about the cardinal’s instinctual behavior to attack the imagined rival, and the spiritual messages they bring to us, I thought about how we wingless humans are just like those birds. We fly into and attack our essence when we deny or question or doubt our abilities, our passions, and skills that we are asked to share with the world to make it shine a bit brighter.

Light

When we shoo away our own gifts with self-doubt and negative talk, and remind ourselves that we are not as good at X,Y, and Z  as we thought we were, or measure our skills, talents and achievements (or there lack of) against others, we do become that cardinal, fierce and determined to attack the rival who is nothing more than our own selves.  This goes for parenting, too, by the way. I’d be a multi-billionaire if I got a nickel every time one of my friends have berated their parenting skills.

Over the past five months, from the moment my brother left this world, I’ve been so entrenched in my grief, and my parents’, I went to all of those places people go—the would haves and should haves and whys; circular and pointless. I perched on my own not-so-unique limb of self-doubt and did the whole flying and attacking repeatedly. It sounded something like this: first, I ran through all the things I should have and could have done while my brother was alive.  That uplifting self-talk spiraled into a litany of things I could be better at—a better daughter, friend, sibling, aunt, which led to the unequivocal fact that I love to write, but I SUCK at it. Don’t ask me how I landed there, but I did. A dizzying experience really and not one I recommend.

On that day, the cardinal and I saved each other from attacking ourselves. I hid his reflection and he mirrored mine back to me. I will recognize now when I’m perching and preparing for a rapid flight, headfirst, into myself.  I returned to my prayer session. This time I said a prayer of gratitude and made a promise to accept my abilities and talents in whatever form they take in my life, including my writing life, including writing about the grieving process.

We can never undue something that’s been done. We can never unsay something that’s been said to ourselves or somebody else. We can never reclaim the time we’ve wasted during those moments of self-doubt, during those internal rap sessions where we tell our fragile little egos that there are hundreds of people much better at X,Y, and Z  then we are so why bother. We don’t have to be Jimi Hendrix to play the guitar; Hank Aaron to play baseball; Picasso to paint, or William Faulkner to write. And we don’t have to win a Mother or Father of the Year Award to be the best mom and dad in our child’s life.

We only have to commit to bring the highest and grandest expressions of ourselves into all that we do, to make the world better, to make it brighter, one heartbeat at a time.

sunflower

I invite you all to recognize when you’re being the cardinal and share your story here!

As always, for those of you who have taken the time to read my rambles, I’m deeply grateful.


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The Blogging Tour Continues….

laptop and coffee

Writers Write. Writers want people to read their work. Writers are humbled when readers like what they write. AND writers support each other or at least I personally think it’s the “right” thing to do. Several weeks ago I was invited to join a “writing process” blog tour by Kelly Byrne to do just that

SUPPORT talented writers and bloggers and help to get their work out to a wider audience.

So I’m offering you a Tuesday afternoon treat today. Go grab your favorite beverage, sit back and meet THREE talented women writers/bloggers who will shake up the way you think about things. 

 Meet Kelly Byrne, brilliant, hilarious writing genius extraordinaire. Kelly and I met a million years ago for all of ten minutes…and I was sucked in by her warmth and delightful sense of humor that is laced throughout her insightful blog posts.   

 

Kelly

 

Kelly Byrne at http://www.authorkellybyrne.com//

A little about Kelly in Kelly’s voice: An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters.

A friend of mine once requested that I put love in everything I write. I’ve happily obliged, but if I can make you laugh with my protagonists on their journey too, well, mission accomplished.

Because of my prodigious gift for empathy, I’m inspired by stories of great personal sacrifice, like when I selflessly gave two whole squares of my favorite chocolate bar to my boyfriend. You know, great and terrible sacrifice.

In my effort to spread kindness, I’ve been known to hug strangers, especially if they’re wearing something soft.

I believe in the good in people, except when I don’t.

I’m an avid pessimist reframing my worldview, so my glass is half empty. No, no, it’s half full. Wait, who cares? I just want to know who’s been drinking out of my glass.

I’m sneakers not heels, comfy not binding, no bling on my rings.

I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend and loopy dog, Lucy, AKA The Goon, where I’m working on my next project.

Thanks for spending your time with me. I know how precious it is.

And believe me when I say, Kelly is worth spending time with. She tackles important life topics  and shares her own “faults” and “feelings” and “insecurities” that we all have and handles these topics with humility, humor and grace. Here’s an excerpt from her latest post: Now THIS is How To Pay It Forward

Sometimes it feels like my expectations are alligators when it comes to other people. I need to learn how to handle them, and by handle, I mean wrestle those bastards to the ground and knock ‘em out with a tire iron. My gator expectations, not the people. Have I mentioned I’m in therapy?

I encourage you all to pop over to Kelly’s blog: http://www.authorkellybyrne.com/kelly-byrne-blog/ and while you’re at it…pick up a copy of her fabulous novel: Chasing Kate: http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Kate-Kelly-Byrne-ebook/dp/B006U1F9IG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404750382&sr=8-1&keywords=chasing+Kate

I’m honored to have Kelly in my circle of love and support. I learn from her. She inspires me to be better.  A better writer. A better human being. And to remember to laugh at myself.

 

Meet Alissia Thompson another beautiful, funny and poignant writer and therapist. I had the pleasure of meeting Alissia at a Passion Test Certification Training…enough said. She’s all about play and passion and getting others to embrace their inner authentic beautiful badass selves!

Alissia

 

Alissia Thompson at http://alissiajayne.com/blog/

A little about Alissia in Alissia’s voice:

Don’t ask me when or why, but I started jumping on my sofa.  Leaving singing voicemails for my sister.  Dancing haphazardly in my living room.  I resurrected a childhood nickname, which took on a life of its own.  And suddenly, I felt alive.  I felt like me.  I was having fun again, and it didn’t require hours of serious study or stoicism.  I had found my way, so when the email invite appeared to become a Certified Passion Test Facilitator, I knew it could serve as a way to share my overwhelming enthusiasm with others.  It was simple, after all. So, I jumped on that, too.  I jump on everything.  And you know what?  I still feel anxious, I still get afraid…but I DON’T let that get in the way of being the misfit that I am.  I am Alissia Jayne.  I am an athlete, a student, a spiritualist, a partier, a dreamer.  I am all of these things, and then some.  Words cannot encapsulate all that I am…nor all that you are.  I am nobody.  I am somebody.  I am EVERYBODY.

On her latest post, Mirror Mirror on the Wall, she writes: Certainly I’ve not always performed up to expectations. I’ve pissed some people off, been mindless and messy, inconsiderate and selfish. I’ve made messes and left them for others to clean up. I’m looking in the mirror, and what do I see?

It’s all good, friends. We’re all in this together. Look in the mirror and appreciate what you see…but watch out for pesky expectations! They’re a highway to hell.

Thanks, Alissia for reminding us to laugh. To play. To embrace the “misfit” that lives inside all of us.  

Now please, go check out Alissia’s blog here: http://alissiajayne.com/blog/

 

My last pick goes to Kim Sisto-Robinson, another brilliant writer who reached out to me when she read my blog after my brother’s death. She’s a woman who has helped to save my sanity. A woman who knows what it means to lose and lose BIG. She lost her sister/best friend 4 years ago to a deeply disturbed husband (a.k.a psycho) who shot her three times in the head. Kim, through all her pain and grief, did something life-changing with this horrific tragedy, she dedicated her website and blog to her beautiful sister, Kay. Kim writes about her loss in the most gorgeous pros that make you suck your breath in, TWICE! And she works tirelessly to help end domestic violence. Kim’s words are heart wrenching, inspirational, lyrical and always filled with glimmers of hope and light and warmth.

Kim

Kay on the left. Kim on the right.  http://myinnerchick.com/

A little about Kim in Kim’s voice:

Kim Robinson is a mother, lover, wife, educator, writer, obsessive blogger,  and a poet. She is extremely passionate about women’s issues, especially domestic violence, after her sister, Kay was murdered by her husband. Find her at My Inner Chick or follow My Inner Chick on Facebook. –

Here’s an excerpt from her post titled, 21 Things I’ve Learned Since My Sister’s Murder:

I still feel your cheek against my cheek.

I still smell your perfume lingering in air.

Your heartbeat is my heartbeat.

Warm. Alive. Pumping.

Your roots tangle & twist inside my roots.

Nothing much has changed

Except the world turned upside down.

Except my soul cries out for you in the middle of the night.

Thanks Kim for entering my cirlce, and  giving me the space to cry, to breathe and for offering me, and so many others, HOPE! 

Please do yourself a favor and check these blogs out when you have a quiet moment, your favorite drink in hand and ENJOY…laugh, cry…reflect. It’s an honor to introduce each of these writers and women to all of you. 

In closing, because this is the “writing process” blog tour, I was asked to answer these three questions:

1) What am I working on right now?

I’m working on rewrites of my second novel Butterfly Girl, trying to find representation for my first novel, Here’s the Truth and beginning a new non-fiction book titled: Rock On…Mining For Joy In the Deep River of Grief. This book is in honor of my brother and what I hope will be my saving grace. I will be interviewing people who have sustained a deep loss and have noticed the miracles that have risen up in the space their loved ones have left behind. Wish me luck, please.

2) Why do I write what I do?

I write because I don’t have a choice. It’s a calling deep in my bones that I can’t ignore and when I do, I get bitchy like I do when I’ve been traveling for hours and haven’t had a chance to stick a single almond in my mouth or  drink a drop of water. When I’m not writing, I feel “starved” and “parched.” And when I am writing, I still get bitchy because it’s HARD…but…but…but I LOVE it! Not the bitchy part. The writing part.

I write what I write because the characters and the stories find me, I don’t find them. They rattle around in my head until I listen and begin writing. For my non fic work, the same is true. I listen and I write. I’ve always believed that stories have the power to heal. They offer a venue for people to identify not only with the narrator’s pain, anger, and defeat, but to be lifted by the characters’ strength and will to persevere; inspired by their ability to overcome obstacles and oppression. Stories give readers permission to suspend judgment and lovingly accept their own perfect flaws. Stories give us courage to keep walking the walk toward our dreams that always await us on the other side of our fears, our grief, our “hurts.” If my stories and blog posts do this a little tiny bit then I can’t ask for anything more. 

3) How does my writing process work?

I sit my ass down, shut off the internet and stare at a blank page for hours if I have to. Sometimes, I get up several times to make tea, toast a bagel, let the dogs out, let the dogs in, and do almost anything I can to procrastinate the sitting in front of a blank screen. Then I give myself a good talkin’ to…more of a lecture, sit back down and start typing anything at all.

Please now go check out my writing buddies who have important words to share!

Kelly Byrne at http://www.authorkellybyrne.com/

Alissia Thompson at http://alissiajayne.com/blog/

Kim Sisto-Robinson at: http://myinnerchick.com/

 

 


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I Can’t Find What’s Not Lost

I’ve asked myself in those quiet moments, WHO am I now? who AM I now? Who am I NOW? Each time I ask the question, stress a different word, it leads me back to more questions. A sister with one less brother? A daughter whose parents feel as if they’ve driven into a concrete wall? A woman who wants to shed her skin like a molting lobster?

woman walking through the fieldFor the past 3 ½ months since my brother walked out of this world and into the next without saying goodbye, without any warning at all, my attention drifts and floats when I’m alone. I’ve not been able to read anything longer than a Haiku poem. But over the past two weeks, I was ready to be pulled into another world, if only for a couple of hours at night when QUIET comes a-knockin’.

I went into my office, sighed my sighs as I stared at books yet to be read. I picked up WILD, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed that sat on my bookshelf for two years, because I didn’t want to read about a woman on search for herself after a tragedy.

Cheryl’s mother died at 45 when Cheryl was 22, leaving a hole in her heart the size of the Grand Canyon. Four years later, she hiked 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail ALONE to find herself and heal a broken heart. (I highly recommend this book http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Found-Pacific-Crest-Vintage/dp/0307476073 and all other books by this author)

ImageUnder the sun, as I read her journey through hell, I imagined myself lacing up boots, stuffing dried nuts, a water filter, an army knife, and a cracked heart inside a backpack. I imagined hiking that trail, finding the new courageous, healed me.

Plain truth: NEVER in three lifetimes would I have that kind of courage to hike three months by myself.

But, I did ask myself, “What FEARS are holding me back now from going after those dreams I’ve dreamed about under a star-speckled sky? What fears are living inside the new me  who was kicked in the heart with a steel-toed boot? The me who understands that now is all we truly have–at least in this flesh and blood form?

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In this knowing, I wait for a new, bolder kind of courage to rise up through the fears and crack in my heart, because what, truly, do I have to lose? Yet, I continue to dream about chances and risks I want to take. I journal about them. I talk about them. I prepare and re-prepare to molt and climb out of my old self.

Though I’ve taken risks, they’ve been calculated with very few unknowns—other than jumping on a plane to Asia three days after my brother died. Even then, I knew all I needed to. Rocky was dead and would not be waiting for me when I arrived.

The kind of risk I’m talking about feels equivalent to driving a hundred miles an hour into a thick wall of fog, or soaring off a cliff without a safety net to break my fall, or hiking a thousand miles alone.

ImageBecause I’m a great “sign” seeker—not as in highway signs—more like celestial NEON signs, I search for them daily to get the green light from the universe that I will be okay if I take this one chance to discover the person I’m becoming without a net to catch me.

One Friday morning, I drove to Boston to be a guest on The Dr. Stem show, a local half-hour TV show, to talk to parents and kids about the importance of discovering their passions and to live accordingly; A topic I believe in wholeheartedly, until, that is, it comes to following the whisper of my own heart.

As I followed Cheryl, with her profound courage, down the barren and lonely Pacific Crest Trail, as she sidestepped rattle snakes, came face-to-face with a black bear, and was on the lookout for lions, it led me to a conversation with my brother, Rocky, the MOST courageous person I know. I prattled onto him the way I do every day, asked for another sign to give me the green light, to let me know I had a pinky-sized portion of his courage, of Cheryl’s, and that’s when a ROCK hit my windshield and cracked it in the left hand corner.

ImageThe striking Rock, struck something more deeply inside of me. I’ve walked my own thousand miles to get here. I’ve faced my own rattle snakes and black bears and lions. Some internal. Some external. It is the painful grit of life that calls to us to surrender, to stretch, to trust.

The darkest and most frightening times in my life when I felt as though I walked alone along my own Pacific Crest Trail, I had a partner. Me. I’ve never been alone. Not in the fog. Not in the sunshine. Not inside myself. And not since Rocky died. I can step off the cliff, barrel into a wall of fog, or molt my old skin, because I will be with myself wherever I land.

We only have today. This one moment. And it’s time to choose what you want to do with it.

Are you ready to jump off a cliff, drive into a wall of fog, and molt an old skin? Is there a dream you have just waiting to be realized? Is there a fear that holds you back? Share it here!

 


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A Wingless Angel

Saturdays are sacred. It’s the one day of the week that I can serve the woman who gave me and my four brothers life. The woman who nurtured us into the men and woman we’ve become. The woman who has already had to say goodbye to one son. (first one on the right…my brother, Rocky)

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I can serve the woman, our mother, who taught us how to love by showing us love, never favoring one over the over. Each of us were handed a free pass of forgiveness since we inhaled our first breath, even when we all, at one time or another, made decisions that caused her pain.

I can serve the mother who gave us permission to cry, by letting her tears flow when they needed to. The mother who gave us the courage to fail so we’d inch closer to success each and every time. The Mother who taught us the feelings of a stranger are as important as the feelings of those we love. Don’t hurt either intentionally. Open your arms and welcome the homeless and those with homes. Welcome those with addictions, and afflictions, and disabilities, and those who live a more balanced life.

I can serve the mother who taught us to Be KIND. Be GENTLE. Be GRATEFUL. Be LOVING. Be PATIENT. Be ACCEPTING. BELIEVE in yourself so you will have the capacity to believe in others. Be STRONG; let your friends lean on you, because the day will arrive when you’ll need to lean on them. Be FORGIVING, because one day you’ll be asking for it from someone else. Show COMPASSION and EMPATHY for the weak and the strong, for the hurting and the lost. Yes. I can serve my mother, my teacher, one day a week and take her wherever she wants to go.

Grocery shopping used to be my mother’s social outlet where she’d bump into friends and they’d catch up at the meat counter, swap recipes, and laugh about inside jokes. What was once a joy had morphed into a daunting task that my father had taken over since Mom’s stroke. On this particular Saturday, grocery shopping was her requested destination. She wanted to roam the aisles and choose her own food, instead of those choices being made for her.  With my dad’s help, we jotted down “must have” items to minimize our frustration in what used to be an ordinary task. But nothing was ordinary anymore.

Before my brother died, Mom’s world had already shrunk to the size of a grape.

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ImageAphasia has a way of doing that to people. Her speech pathologist used to say, “People with Aphasia are the forgotten ones.” They’re left behind because attempting to communicate is too frustrating for both parties. It requires patience. Endless patience.

 

Imagine knowing what you want to say, but the words knot up on your tongue and come out as unintelligible. Imagine walking into a grocery store, and among the hundreds of products available, you only want a box of baking soda, but you can’t form the words.

What typically would take 30 minutes, took my mom and me three hours. Though we only had a few items on her list and mine, there were indulgences she wanted that were not written down. I was tired and took deep breaths to stave off my impatience. I bowed my head, and said a mini prayer, asking God to please make this a little easier. Then I touched my mother’s hand and began our Twenty-questions game.

Do you eat it? Yes. Is it a meat? No. Is it seafood? No. Is it in the produce section? Yes. We were getting somewhere. Ten minutes later, I struck gold. Cherry tomatoes. She wanted cherry tomatoes. I asked her to please stay put while I ran back to the produce section and grabbed cherry tomatoes.

ImageNext, we landed in the hotdog section. “Do you want hotdogs?” No, yet she stood and scanned the rows and rows of hotdogs, picking up package after package. Another ten minutes passed when I asked, “Are you sure you don’t want hotdogs?”

She shook her head, lifted her fingers and closed them closer together, and then it hit me. Breakfast sausage links.

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As I leave her in the hotdog section, I speed walk, hunting for sausage links. Five-steps later, I turned to check on her. Mom moved the cart and bumped into someone. She teared up and said, “Sorry.” And then I teared up and told my mother I was sorry for leaving her. My mother has a right field cut, which means that part of her world doesn’t exist so she pushed the cart and I pulled it from the front to steer us through the aisles. I didn’t leave her again.

Two and a half hours later, we were ready to checkout, and we both felt as if we’d scaled Everest and almost reached the peak. ALMOST. Between walking up and down the aisles, and the mental and emotional exertion of our twenty-question game playing, Mom’s battery was in need of a charge.

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I divided the groceries. Hers and Mine. The groceries wouldn’t fit into one cart. As the young man loaded up a second shopping cart, I was busy devising a strategy of how I was going to maneuver two carts, and an exhausted mother who couldn’t push and steer the cart by herself, and had, at that point, become unstable on her feet.

I couldn’t leave her alone while I went to get my car. So, I had mom push one cart and I pulled it behind me, while I pushed my own in front of me. My tapped-out mother leaned on the cart and it jammed into my ankle. I hobbled outside as people walked by us.

Outside, I struggled to manage the grocery carts and my mother, frightened she was going to fall or wonder out into the parking lot and get struck by a car. And then it happened. An angel walked up to me and said, “Do you need some help.”

An emotion welled up inside of me, deeper, more profound than gratitude. I searched her back for a set of wings. I said, “Thank you. Do you mind standing with my mother while I get my car?”

I ran to my car, slid in the front seat, leaned my head on my hands and cried. What seemed like a simple gesture, safeguarding my mom for all of three minutes, was more valuable to me in that moment than a sack of gold. I pulled myself together, thanked God for making it a little easier, and drove over to Mom and the angel, who stroked my mother’s back.

The angel said, “Hell, I don’t have anything else to do today. Let me help you unload these bags into your car.”

I said, “No, really, it’s okay. I can get it.”

“Where do you want the groceries,” she asked, “in the trunk or the backseat?”

I choked on this new emotion—the one that felt deeper than gratitude. “Backseat,” I said, as I helped my mother into the passenger seat and buckled her in.

When we finished loading the groceries, the angel said, “Can I take the carts for you?”

“No,” I said, overwhelmed by her kindness. “I’ve got them.”

“I’ll take this one,” she said, and grabbed one of the carts.

As she walked away, I yelled to her, “Wait.”

She turned and I jogged toward her. “Can I give you a hug?”

“I’d love one,” she said.

We stood there in a 5-second embrace, stranger to stranger. “Thank you for helping us.”

“It was my pleasure,” the angel said. “I took care of my mother for twenty years.”

When I slid into my seat, my mother said in a perfect sentence, “She is beautiful.”

Angels walk—not fly—into our lives at the most unexpected moments. You never know how one small question, “Do you need some help?” can be a miracle in another person’s day. This woman helped us for about 8 minutes and it was the sweetest 8 minutes that I’ll remember for a lifetime.

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I stared at my beautiful mother, grateful that I had another day with her, wondering where next Saturday will take us and if this time, we’ll help to make someone’s day a little easier.

Pay attention, someone needs an angel today. Maybe it will be you.

Now tell us, when did an angel walk into your life?

 


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A FINAL TRIBUTE

Dear my beloved readers, I’ve received  several requests to post the tribute I wrote for my amazing and much-loved brother and read during his memorial on Sunday, May 4th, 2014. Some of the material is new and some are excerpts from earlier posts. As always, thank you for reading. 

 

Rocky, a son, a husband, a father, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle, and a friend—he played these roles in his short 43 years with us, but he was more than the roles assigned to him; he was a human being who lived his life with abandon. He didn’t skip around a fire, he danced in the flames, until he became one, lighting up this world with the spark and heat of his impassioned heart.

Image.

While many of us are comforted by curling inside a bubble of security where we have stable, steady jobs, in stable steady neighborhoods with stable, steady friends, that bubble was too thin, too small, too confining for Rocky. With a boundless spirit that stretched from one side of the world to the other, the universe was not too vast or frightening or risky, it was his playground. At nine months old, already tired of the slow pace of a crawl, he took his first step, ready and alert to begin his walk, then his run, and then his flight through his miraculous life

house inside a bubble.

At two-years old, he waddled around, kicking a soccer ball with his baby feet.NEW picture of toddler kicking the ball

Photo by Candy Hoehn and used with permission: http://www.sugashocphotography.com  

In high school, with agility and grace, he ran across the field, the ball an extension of his foot.  By the time he hit college, he soared across the field with Pegasus etched into his thigh with his dreadlocks flying behind him. I loved that tattoo, which has taken on a greater meaning for his life since his death.

Image Rocky embodied Pegasus’ spirit–the mythical immortal winged stallion, capable of everything, and symbolized the divine inspiration or the journey to heaven, since riding him was synonymous to “flying” to the heavens. Pegasus was represented as a good-hearted, gentle creature, always eager to help. According to legend, everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth. (http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/pegasus-winged-horse/)  This was my brother. Every life he touched, he inspired growth, inspired us to reach higher, to think bigger. People around the world left messages on his Facebook page of how he was a teacher, a mentor, an agent of change, earning him the award: The Most Influential Spa Leader in Asia.

purchased pegasus When he left the states to work on cruise ships and then accepted a position in Bali, Indonesia at the Four Seasons Resorts, we couldn’t begin to understand how he could live so far from his family. But that was who he was—a free-spirited winged creature that needed the space to roam, to explore, and to share those experiences with others.

 He rode  Camels in Egypt

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   Elephants in Thailand

Imageand scooters in Bali.

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 Through Rocky, he expanded the lives of so many. He expanded mine. If it were not for my brother, I never would have felt the Indian Ocean on my skin or run breathless into those waves.

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I never would have eaten sticky rice and grilled fresh fish under a smoke-filled sky on the Balinese beach.Image

or squinted at the blinking lights and neon signs during the Night Market in Hong Kong.Image

And I never would have known how one small child, his daughter’s arms around my neck, could bring sparks of joy when he was no longer with us. ImageEven after his death, he brought my brother and me on one last adventure to say goodbye to him, to spread his ashes in the Indian Ocean where they glinted under the Balinese sun…where he would be freer still to explore the next dimension without any constraints at all.Lotus

Maybe there were times when friends and family didn’t understand Rocky’s decisions, but here’s the truth: Rocky was not imprisoned by what he should do, who he should be. He did not follow another person’s creed of how or where he should spend his time in this world. Time belongs to us while we have a heart that beats. Rocky had courage: the courage to live, the courage to cry, the courage to love, and the courage to follow the calling of his own heart. People were drawn to his untethered spirit, his charismatic energy, his smile that could light up a midnight sky and a hug that could melt a glacier.

On Facebook, my brother wrote, “For anything new to begin, something has to end……this is the journey of life….and I love every minute of it!” In a blog post, I asked him: What “new” will begin, my brother, now that your life has ended? What miracles will occur in the space you’ve left behind? I will watch for them. I will wait for them. I will shine my light on the countless blessings you’ve brought to my life,  not on the dark grief of your absence. I will accept the lessons you’ve taught me. I will dance with you in the flames. And I will invite others to join us there, too. The greatest gift we can give to this unique soul who touched so many is to live fully. Know your passion, the calling of your soul and follow it. Dance in the flames. Even if you get burned, at least you will have lived.

We love you Rocky…we love you with abandon  

Note to my readers: Thank you for giving me the space and time to write my way through the early stages of grief. I can only hope that sharing my experience has helped (in some small way) those of you who know that depth of loss. Grief is universal as is joy. We share both.  Perhaps now I’ll be able to write about the miracles my brother has helped me to see. Thank you, too, for each and every time you take a  moment to write a comment. I want to hear your thoughts, insights and personal experiences. It’s the comments that help us all to remember we are never alone in our experiences. We are here to help each other through this miraculous journey we’re all on together.  With love and gratitude, Susan

ps. Very soon, I’ll be introducing you all to three of my favorite bloggers. Stay tuned!