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Newly released book with more details


Thank you for reading my blog. It was the launching pad for my recently released memoir, The Gift of Goodbye: A Story of Agape Love.  The book is an expanded story from this blog and covers the three-year period from my mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis to her death.  The book provides ideas on how to handle difficult conversations and ways to show your love, for those also going through similar situations with their loved ones. The story also covers my own growth through discovery and this loving relationship and the lasting gift of this process for me, a choice to live my most authentic life now, not wait for another day.

More details about the book are available at the following website:

Happy Reading,



transitions with peace

My heart was heavy as I flew to Austin. Even though I knew the time was near, it still felt like fresh news that my mom would be leaving us soon.  The tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of what I would find when I arrived. Focusing on the deep love I shared with mom helped me keep my composure. And I remembered the symbol again, delighted to have something unique to our connection and yet still had no clue what it really meant.

When I saw mom, she was quite weak and slept mostly. My sisters and I celebrated dad’s 82nd birthday with him while sitting on mom’s bed, including her in the celebration as best we could. We each did our best to celebrate while we knew the end was in sight. We even took pictures willingly. Mom went in and out of sleep as we celebrated. Her blood pressure was quite low these days, around 50, and she had stopped eating mostly.

As I sat with mom later one on one, I could hear her voice even when her eyes were closed and her lips were still. As if her soul was talking to me. She said she was scared to leave, not sure of what she would find when she left. How it would feel to transition and if she was worthy of receiving God. It was a little surprising to observe such a faithful woman still having doubts. What happened next was probably the most amazing and expansive experience for me yet, definitely pushed me way beyond my edges of understanding and belief. It was as if I was given the gift of being a vessel to help mom visit where she was headed, reassure her of the peace she would feel and help her embrace self-love completely.

I held mom’s hand and closed my eyes. Somehow she and I were all of a sudden standing on a beach, one of mom’s favorite places to spend time. It was similar to a dream or a vision of what was to come, a pristine place with white sand stretching as far as we could see. I could feel the sand between my toes and the water lap at our feet as I held her hand. All of a sudden we were not alone. There were hundreds of people around us clothed in white who shown brightly from the inside out, like a candle, and looked like they might be angels. What I felt was the most pure and expansive love in every cell of my being, as if I was radiating light myself. In the bible, Jesus spoke about the highest form of love being agape love. A type of love that gave life meaning and substance. In this moment, what I felt was this form of love, a source of pure strength and power that could transcend time and carry us forward. As I looked at mom, the fear started to dissipate from her face, her muscles all started to relax, and a smile began to emerge on her face. A smile of pure joy, without any pain or regrets or suffering, just pure light. Time seemed to suspend as we stood there, just taking in the beauty and grace of the light around us. After a while, mom spoke to me. She said she felt at peace and was no longer afraid of where she was headed next. All of a sudden, the experience was over and I opened my eyes. Still sitting on her bed holding her hand, in Austin, Texas, and still feeling the pure love in every inch of my being.

I had seen experiences like this in movies and had read of people’s experiences similar to what I was able to feel and see, but it seemed far out of my reach. Something only for the few to experience. For some reason, I was chosen to help mom in this moment one last time. Maybe through the process of opening my heart and allowing my faith to guide me over the previous three years prepared the way for me to be open enough to embrace this journey of love. Not sure. What I did know was how very grateful I was for that experience and the ability to provide one last gift to mom, a gift of service to set her free.

It was now Friday and time for me to go home, wrap my children in love and support them for what I knew was next. I was so torn about leaving, not really wanting to let go for good. As hard as it was to leave, knowing I would not be there when she passed, I knew in my heart that I was at peace with my connection to mom.  Over the past several years, I had practiced giving selflessly from my heart to mom, something she had done for me my whole life. I had the gift of time to say all I wanted to say and to heal the past when I could not receive mom’s love. I had transitioned from the little girl who was not capable of feeling mom’s love growing up, although she was so very thoughtful and giving, to a woman whose heart had expanded several times over and now shared a deep bond with mom.  And more than anything, I knew mom would want me to go be with my children and support them when she passed. I headed back to Nashville.

A couple of days went by and early in the morning on May 22, I was awoken by the sound of pouring rain and loud thunder. It was 4 am. Mom used to calm my children through storms by telling them that when it thundered, it was the angels bowling in heaven. And boy were they loud on this Monday morning. I sat there quietly in my bed, listening to the storm, and then I felt it. Felt mom’s physical life come to an end.  At  4:30, the phone rang. It was one of my sister’s. She had awaken as well and gone in to mom’s room right as she took her last breath. I spoke with each of my sisters and my father for about an hour, feeling the peace that mom’s suffering was over. It felt as if I was in the room, transcending thousands of miles, and very connected to each of them and to mom. While a deeply sad moment for each of us, we had experienced a unifying bond that brought us all closer together over the past year, a great blessing in the midst of our loss for sure. A waterfall of tears started flowing down my face, in part selfishly for my loss, and in part pure joy, for the depth of love I was able to share with mom.

My children and I caught an 8 am flight to Austin that morning. As prepared as I had been, I was still deeply in shock of the reality of it all. Quite distracted and out of sorts. Something gave me strength to keep my composure for my children as we shared stories of grandma on our flight. When we arrived at mom’s house, she was still lying in her bed, as if she was sleeping. She looked so peaceful and beautiful, and the skin on her face was taught, with almost no wrinkles. One of my sister’s took my children down to the lake to build a sandcastle, giving me time alone with mom. I prayed for her peaceful transition and could feel her presence so very strongly, as if she was still there. I sat there in the stillness for some time and said my last goodbye.

Mom’s minister came over to perform a service with all of us in the room. My son read a note he had written on the plane about all mom had taught him and my daughter went over and kissed mom’s face and touched her arm. I was stunned by the strength and faith of my babies in this moment, not afraid in the least. Pure love surrounded us all as the minister spoke. He shared many wonderful things about mom, how she gave so much of her time to the church, as a Stephen Minister and more. And then he smiled and shared something new. That he was amazed at how mom could embrace her traditional Christian faith, and faithfully listen to his sermons, and yet also challenged him to expand his beliefs further. How mom had studied and embraced other religions and that she wanted her pastor to integrate some of those concepts in his talks. And she did it in a calming way, he said.

Mom chose to be cremated and wanted her ashes spread in all of her favorite places. After the lovely service, we followed the funeral home car with her body to the place where she was to be cremated, supporting her safe passage. Mom had learned through her studies of Buddhism that Buddhists believed it took seven days for a soul to completely leave a body. As such, the funeral home had agreed to hold her body for seven days before completing the cremation. The seven days also give us time to grieve somewhat quietly before joining with all those who loved mom at her service the following weekend. Even in her death, she was thoughtful and giving. As we flew home, I thought of mom’s life and the lasting gifts she bestowed on me and my children. And then I remembered the purple butterfly. Our unique symbol of connection. I still had no clue what it really meant and felt a little strange thinking about it. Little did I know what would come next, how my edges would be pushed one more time….

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a new chapter unfolding

I made it to Austin in early March 2005 to celebrate Mom’s birthday with her. We were able to go hear the live music she was enjoying and spend quality time together. I was able to share the exciting journey I was on with work.  One of the sales leaders in another state had asked me to take on a certain role, a valuable strategic consulting role, in another state. The reality of my life situation would not allow for consistent weekly travel and facing a move for a one year job was not a value equation I was willing to consider. However, it gave me pause for thought. The role was intriguing enough for me to evaluate and I ventured to push the edges a little in my mind, wondering if the role could be expanded into something more, something that was worth a move to a new state. I realized in that moment as I was sharing the story with mom that facing the disappointment of losing the previous job opportunity actually had furthered my practice of letting go of outcomes and following the process of my life experiences, asking questions along the way.

Mom was delighted for the promise of a new chapter unfolding for me and we agreed to meet for spring break in the city where the job could be based, in Nashville, TN. My children and I met mom and dad in Nashville in mid-March, sharing a wonderful and yet emotional time together. I was grateful to have the gift of mom and dad helping my children and me explore Nashville together, grateful that mom felt strong enough to travel and healthy enough to be playful with my children. We went for a walk in Centennial Park one day and went house hunting another. Mom was strong until the third night. She became very sick, unable to leave the bathroom. With all the excitement and activities of my big life change unfolding- a new job, moving to a new state, a new home- I was managing to stay somewhat in my detached state. It was a rude awakening to experience mom being so sick all of a sudden, kind of like one of the deep lows of a rollercoaster ride. We had enjoyed moments of highs- pure joy and love, celebration of this new place we were discovering and excitement of mom being able to be here with us. That night, mom’s body reminded us all that cancer was spreading through her body and our joy quickly transitioned to deep sadness. My heart grew heavy as I struggled with how to help her, how to be supportive. The reality was I just needed to be patient, and hopefully she would regain her strength. Mom awoke the next day strong enough to explore some more. We visited a church and enjoyed lunch at a locally owned restaurant. As we flew home to our separate cities, I put my sadness in a box and started to make my list of all the things required to move my children and me to another state.

As I reflected on this new chapter unfolding for me,  it held so much promise, such expansive joy of a new start personally, and the exciting chance to awaken my strategic mind again. For the first time in my life, I chose to be fully engaged in the process of the transition, asking questions and seeking to understand more details, while trusting that the best outcome was unfolding for all. And while I was busy going through the motions, the universe moved some very large mountains to clear the path for my new chapter to begin. Mountains that my friends and even my lawyer said could not be moved. I convinced my former husband to let me move with the children to Nashville- yes I was capable if I allowed others to help and influence. And I convinced a couple of executives at my company to create a new position for me, pay for my move to Nashville, and allow me to start a new advisory services consulting practice, with me as the leader. I knew I had help in all of this, and much of the help was unexplainable in words. It was an expansion of my faith, a journey beyond the edges of all I knew- at least that is how I came to explain the clearing that unfolded over a mere month’s time.

Over the next month, I started my new position and traveled back and forth as I looked for a new home. I was blessed with some valuable advice from a co-worker Don, a Nashville native, on where to look for homes and how to navigate the city. After many tours in several neighborhoods, I finally landed on the house I wanted, one that did not fit my ‘criteria’ but that filled my heart with peace and felt like home the moment I stepped onto the original hardwood floors. I closed on the house in early May and mom agreed to come share mother’s day with me, in my new house, just the two of us. I knew she was not strong enough to help with boxes. That was not important to me at the time. Being able to share the beginning of my new life chapter in this lovely new city with my dear mother and enjoying each experience without any other distractions was the treasure I was after.

I felt in my heart that this might be one of those moments in life that would never be repeated, no real idea of what the experiences would bring, but sure they would be etched in my memory forever. And how deeply moved and touched I was with what unfolded that weekend. Mom and I were able to talk about what it felt like for her to wake up each day, not knowing if it would be her last. Before she came, she asked me what I wanted of hers, preparing for the day when she would pass from her physical state. What I wanted most were things she wanted me to have, something special to her. And she so incredibly touched my heart in a way that words could not express with what she chose. She brought me some special jewelry pieces that she wanted me to have, and shared the stories of each as she handed them to me. It was way more special that anything I could have thought of, anything I could have chosen on my own.

Over the weekend, mom helped me unpack and arrange my kitchen, something she wanted for me to feel settled, to be prepared for the children moving in after school was out. Somehow when we had gone to the store on mother’s day, she had snuck away from me and bought me something. I guess I was a little distracted with learning a new city, navigating new roads and learning the layout of stores that I didn’t notice. When we got home, she handed me a present. It was a coffee mug, with the inscription ‘The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.’ The thought was so deeply touching to me, so loving, and straight from her heart. The words on the mug reminded me of one of the most valuable perspectives mom had raised me to believe: that I should embrace the challenges in my life as opportunities for personal growth and to always trust that difficult times yielded new beginnings and blessings. And how true those words would ring out over the next year.

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this time felt different

Over the previous eighteen months, mom had been very forthcoming with new information about her health status, every time she had new test results or saw her doctor. This time felt different. Mom had waited almost a week before sharing her pet scan results in January 2005.  At the time, she told me that she had spoken with my sisters also so I assumed they were aware of what I knew. The results that 20 tiny tumors were scattered throughout her left lung and something abnormal was showing up in the lining of her lung.  My heart was breaking as I felt how scared she must be of this news. My dear sweet mother who always gave 100% of her heart and soul to everyone was not well.

I made it through the weekend staying busy, enjoying my children and trying not to think of the news the next week would bring. I spoke with some of my sisters but we stayed away from the topic of mom and her health. On Monday, I went to work and was let down by the news that the job I was being considered for was offered to someone else. I had allowed myself to feel the life giving energy that this job process was feeding me, the chance to use my mind in a strategic way. All signals were that the job was for me. Every time I had interviewed and asked for feedback, all reports were glowing. As I processed the news, my heart sank and felt like it was breaking in two. Here it was, a promise of something new, a fresh start, and all of a sudden, the door was slammed shut. Or so it felt inside. Mom had taught me that when doors were closed or my dreams were not realized, it was God’s way of protecting me from things that were not right or could have been harmful. As much as I knew in my mind that something was not right for me in this job, tears of disappointment flowed down my face. As sad as I was for me, I knew I needed to turn the process over to a higher power, let go and focus on mom.

I awoke Tuesday and imagined holding my mom in my love as she headed in for her biopsy. A few hours later, one of my sisters’s called very upset. Mom’s biopsy was not even finished yet. All of a sudden I felt the depth of fear my mom must have been experiencing. Mom had only shared details of the test results with me and my sister had just found out.  This time was for sure different. I realized that if mom was that scared, she needed support but probably wouldn’t ask for it. When I checked in with mom later that afternoon, I offered to be at her side when she went to her doctor for the biopsy results. Mom was delighted with my offer and I flew in on Thursday.

She allowed me into her inner world, so very close the next two days. Mom picked me up from the airport alone, a first. I helped her cook dinner that night, something I never had really done before. I had always enjoyed baking sweets and my other sisters would help mom with dinner. She wanted it to be different that night and asked me to help her. So I did. It felt like we were in our own little pocket of space, spending time while the world stood still. As we were walking out the door to go to the doctor’s office the next morning, I learned mom had told my father he did not need to come. She really wanted him to go play bridge and enjoy his morning. I was quite shocked as I followed her out to the car. Wow, this time was different.

Mom and I drove alone to the appointment. We were led into the examining room by the nurse and one of my sisters’s joined us. As mom’s doctor entered the exam room, I could see the concern in his eyes. Mom sat on the table and I stood at her side, with my arm around her shoulder. I was facing her doctor as he lit up the xray on the box on the wall, displayed for us to see. Those 20 plus little tumors were cancer and it was spreading through her lungs. If only this was her breast cancer, he said, he could treat her with hormones. But he had checked that with her doctor in Houston. It was the rectal cancer, now metastasized. And radiation was not an option, because of the multiple tumors. Chemo was the only course of treatment, and he only had one or two drugs to offer. The same ones that had made her so very sick the year before.  I held her in close as we processed the results. One more test was needed- a bone scan. My heart was breaking but I knew I needed to be strong, needed most to focus on supporting her.

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letting go

Mom and Dad returned home after a lovely visit built on lasting memories. It was early January 2005 and I was awaiting results from mom’s tests. She had already shared the results from a pet scan, results that showed some activity in her lungs. We were in a holding pattern as her doctor had ordered more tests, a cat scan and some blood work. Here I was again, two potential life transitions taking shape at the same time, one I was definitely not ready for. As my breathing shortened and the muscles in my neck tightened, I braced for what I knew in my heart was not going to be good news from the second round of tests.

At the same time, I was facing a transition to a new role, in a new state. Before that was possible, I first needed to negotiate and secure agreement from my former husband to let me move with my children.  As I processed these experiences unfolding one right after the other, I reflected for a moment on how I was doing. In this moment, I was actually feeling a little stronger, a little less like the sky was falling. After surviving the events of the previous eighteen months combined with the continued expansion of my heart, I realized now that maybe I was strong enough to handle more.

I thought about this new role that had been created seemingly out of nowhere and realized that something about it gave me energy, made my heart sing. When I checked in with my lawyer on the likelihood of securing court approval to move with my children, he informed me that the Colorado Supreme Court had blocked two similar cases, even situations where the mom was the primary provider for the children. His recommendation was to convince my former husband directly, bypass the court system, and figure out something that mattered more to him to make this work. Wow. My lawyer really thought I was capable of negotiating an agreement with a man who had chosen opposite sides from me of any topic related to the children since our divorce a year ago. Not so much I thought. That type of agreement was legal and binding and seemed like quite an insurmountable task, definitely not in my direct control. I paused and closed my eyes, asking for answers. I knew my best chance for agreement was to focus on following the job process that was unfolding in front of me, let go, and rely more on my faith that this situation would work out, in the best way for all of us. Maybe my stubbornness and strong will was learning to listen a little more, take a back seat,  let my heart lead, and be comfortable expanding my edges beyond what I knew possible.

I was not really looking for a chance to change jobs at this point. My current role was increasingly requiring that I travel more, work more in California at the company headquarters. Traveling often was something I was not able to manage very well. At least not while giving my children love and support they needed and a strong foundation to heal from, with me around. While the role I had been in for almost a year had afforded me the grace of space and time to heal, I was learning to adjust to my new way of life. I was mastering the balancing act of competing demands and juggling my many roles – as a mom, sister, friend, marketing director, house cleaner. In the meantime, my mind increasingly felt like it had fallen asleep.

I was not feeling intellectually challenged in my current job and my creativity seemed stifled. My passion had faded and taken a back seat to day in and day out responsibility. My life was kind of leading me I guess. I had somewhat accepted that as my norm and was not so sure that anything needed to be different.  And as I considered this new opportunity that had fallen into my lap, my heart was jumping for joy and guiding me to let go, let something bigger than me reveal the path, if I would just get out of the way and let God lead. My part was taking the action I needed to and becoming clear on what was important to me. My priorities seemed so very simple at this point in my life- what was becoming more important was to be present in each moment and passionate about what I was doing, how I was feeling, versus achieving some feat or conquering the world.

My thoughts shifted back to mom as she awaited more results. My earlier feeling that mom was not long for this world all of a sudden resurfaced from the box I had tucked it away in so neatly. The box was shattered wide open as I listened to her share the news. There were nodules in her left lung that required a biopsy the following week, she said. I could hear the fear in her voice as it cracked when she read the report to me. It didn’t look like cancer on one report but did on another, she said. What did that mean, I wondered, how is it they couldn’t tell? I could feel that mom was in shock and didn’t want to talk anymore. I hung up and imagined wrapping my arms and love around her, prayed that God would fill her with grace. On one level, I had been preparing for this day, on another, I was in complete denial. My heart knew I had to let go and honor mom’s journey as it unfolded, that I had no control and couldn’t change the outcome. In that moment, I was grateful that mom was still seeing her oncologist in Houston who had guided her so successfully through her breast cancer and recommended the surgeon who had operated on her a year before. When mom had returned from our visit a few weeks earlier, Dr. Smith had recommended the tests and now the reason for mom’s pain was being revealed, one test result at a time.

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awakening to love

As my heart began to expand, I started to see more than before. Maybe just from a different perspective, not sure. In the same year as my knee surgery, I met my husband. I was at work one day and Mike, the guy across the hall from me, was giving me a hard time for being so dedicated to my work. He said there was more to life and he had someone for me to meet.  

Mike convinced me to be brave and oblige. He introduced me to a guy on his team, someone he had worked with before and knew well. Only issue was we lived in different cities. Or maybe that was by design. I was probably a little more open to consider dating him if he was not around every day. After a first date hiking in Muir Woods, I decided maybe Mike was right. After a few more lovely weekends getting to know each other, and a long distance love affair was born. My heart continued to expand. Faith in something bigger than me and the joy and playfulness of this love growing began to have my daily focus, more than the fear of my heart getting stomped on. The following year, I joined him in Northern California and we were married in 1997. The armor started to dissolve, inch by inch, with the persistence of my husband’s love. An emotional thinker, a passionate dreamer by nature, he acted in a spontaneous way, much of the time. Opposite in some ways to me, probably a good model to help encourage the softening of my edges, the expansion of my heart.

My sisters and our families gathered in Austin just before Christmas in 2003 to surround mom with our love and support. Her energy was low but again, she pushed through each day and was happy to have us all around. Mom was the unifier of our family, always trying to bring us all together and keep the peace between us.  For this first year of Christmas as a divorced mother of two, I was glad to be away from my new home and distracted with the family activities and conversation in Austin. The tension and stress was high as we all knew what we were facing just a month later, mom’s surgery. When I returned home, my heart was broken wide open. My reality came back to the surface.  The depth of pain was greater than any I had felt before. Here I was- a newly divorced mother, starting over, while my mom’s life was at the mercy of the evil ‘c’. In that moment, my awareness and understanding was heightened to see why some people turn to drugs or alcohol to mask pain. I had two young babies depending on me and knew I had to be strong, push through the pain and move forward, if not for me, for them. So I carried on, relied on my faith and the help of a therapist and good friends to get through.

Mom chose to have her surgery in Houston at Methodist Hospital, just two blocks from where we grew up, on January 19, 2004. We were all there to support her, along with our many family friends in Houston. Her doctor recommended that we go out into the hall and see her as she was being taken in the operating room. She looked so angelic, as if lit up from the inside out, had a very peaceful smile and rosy cheeks. As mom was wheeled away, I closed my eyes and imagined God’s healing light surrounding her. Focused my attention on healing her body as she had taught me.

While mom was in surgery, we went for a drive by our old house where we created so many memories together. What an eye opening experience that was. As we pulled up in front of the house, I saw something spectacular, so amazing out of the car window. It was a clear day and the sun was shining brightly, rays of sunlight beaming through the trees. The light rays were golden at first and as I turned my head ever so slightly, I could see colors in the rays of deep blue and purple. As I moved my head an inch or two to the right or left, all I saw was the golden light on the green leaves. When I moved back, the vivid hues of blue and purple shone brightly again. Almost like an opening, a path to heaven. Definitely not something easily explainable in words. What was most amazing was the feeling in my heart, kind of like an awakening of the purest love I had ever felt.  

Mom’s surgery went well and she was only in the hospital for five days, recovering quickly as was her norm. We each slept one night with her at the hospital, caring for her needs and wrapping her in love. As she recovered, mom mastered the challenge of living with a colostomy with determination and perseverance, succeeding through trial and error day by day.  She didn’t focus on the frustrations of adapting to living with a bag. She figured out clothes that would work, what schedules and food supported her new body function, and carried on with grace. While I knew mom’s journey had more chapters yet to unfold, it was time for me to focus back home. I had put my life on hold while I traveled many times back and forth to be with mom. My babies needed my love and support and transitioning to a new job needed my attention. The time had come to get settled in our new home, unpack the boxes, and adjust to our new way of living day in and day out. I felt almost like a child myself, each step feeling like something new as I figured out how to handle each daily task by myself while attending to the needs of a five and three year old. I relied on my faith more each day and was grateful for a saying that gave me strength and calmed my heart: ‘when you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen- there will be something soft to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.’


invincible me

Mom raised each of us to believe we could master anything we put our mind to, nothing stood in our way. I took this to heart as I grew up and became a young adult. Add a little strong will and stubbornness to that confidence, and there I was. While my career followed a different path than I had planned, I ventured into the corporate world from college and achieved quick success, gained expanded responsibility and was praised for my efforts. Even after I changed careers five years later, I focused intently and succeeded in my new role, just as mom had modeled for me. As such, I grew to believe this success was easily achieved in other parts of my life.

How soon I would learn otherwise. On New Year’s Eve in 1994, I was snow skiing with my friend Stephanie. Having grown up in Texas, I had only been snow skiing a handful of times and had taken minimal lessons. I could get down the mountain but not in the prettiest of form or with much grace, Here I was, skiing with my friend, an expert skier, following her closely as we made our way across the top runs of Breckenridge. I was confident of my ability to conquer and pretended I knew what I was doing. ‘I am in good shape and can keep up with her’ -or so I thought. It was snowing so I couldn’t see very far in front of me. All of the sudden I was flying through the air, skiing off a jump and wow, I landed straight up! Shocking for sure. Quickly the confidence took over- Easy stuff I thought. I can do this! Keep going. Next thing I know I am knee deep in a mogul field, crisscrossing the bumps. I am just getting going and then on one turn, my left ski keeps turning after cresting the mogul. Then I heard it- POP. Ouch. I plopped to the ground and thought, I just needed to rest a little while. I am ok. I will be able to ski down. Boy was I wrong. Next thing I know I am riding down the bumpiest run in Breckenridge behind ski patrol. Yes, I was invincible, or so I thought. Riding down the mountain staring at the sky above, I realized- not so much. It started to sink in that maybe I had limits.

With a torn ACL and meniscus, I returned to Austin for surgery. Characterized as outpatient surgery, I would be released in 23 hours, so the doctor said. I ended up in the hospital for four days. While I am not a believer that God is responsible for bad things happening, I am grateful for the outcome as this accident altered the direction of my life- in a positive way. Mom raised me to believe that good can come from our life experiences, if we chose to see the glass as half full. This perspective has served me well so far and taught me that I could choose my response when ‘bad’ things happened. During the four days in the hospital, the care I received from the nurses was minimal at best. Here I was a young adult and guess who was at my side, mom, caring for me lovingly as if I was still a child. She stayed with me day in and day out, all four nights. Cared for me, made sure I had pain medicine, and helped me relax. It was in this moment, this turning point for me where I first felt my mom’s deep love, in my heart. She selflessly gave me her time, support and mostly unconditional love. A turning point on my journey for sure- the birth of a deep and growing relationship between us.

So in 2003, it was my time to give to mom. And how blessed I was that she wanted me to. That I had started to learn how to, by listening from my heart. Mom was in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals over the month of October. Being the obedient patient, she bravely faced the radiation and chemotherapy day in and day out, starting on November 3. Mom had 27 radiation treatments and chemo six days a week for four weeks- through a fanny-pack like bag that released the chemo slowly over the week. The doctors said her chance of survival would increase dramatically with this approach before surgery, so she agreed. Mom was ever so strong as these chemicals poisoned her body. After her treatments were finished, she had a regular dermatology appointment. Just a routine visit. Unfortunately, it was not so routine. Her doctor discovered a mole on her back that looked questionable and removed it. The results came in- melanoma. Shock once again. I started to feel a lump in my throat as I processed this news. Deep sadness of accepting reality. Her body is speaking loudly- feels like it is tired. Probably worn out from caring for everyone else. I felt paralyzed in my steps. As tears streamed down my face, I prayed- ‘Lord, fill me with peace and wrap me with love as I face this unknown, the transition I am not ready for, the biggest of limbo’s in my life’. Here it was- more news, just a few weeks after I signed my divorce papers.

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a warrior from the start

Mom came into this world a warrior. Weighing in at 4 pounds at birth on March 9, 1929, it was a miracle she lived. She was the only one of her three siblings to survive and grew up an only child. Mom was born under the sign of Pieces. In her journal, she captured some key descriptors of the sign: generous, compassionate, receptive, imaginative, and efficient. All representative of the mom I came to know growing up as the youngest of five girls.

It’s now August 28, 2003, and I feel the wall of grief hitting the hardest. A time when everything about my identity with my home, my job and my marriage continues the journey to an end. I remain amazed with the support and love that mom and dad continue to give to me. Pure unconditional love. I finally convince mom that I am stable and to go home and see her doctor. She went soon and her doctor ran several tests. Wow, what a difference a day can make. In early October, we were all stunned when the test results came back. An ulcer-like tumor the size of a grapefruit, cancer. A fast growing, atypical type of cancer. Shock and fear paralyzed me. How could this be?

My warrior mom was not a novice to cancer. She had faced the challenge of cancer once already when I was in college. Out of the blue, a call came with news. Mom had late stage breast cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the next day. 2% chance of survival – statistics her oncologist only shared with her family, not her. At that time in the mid 1980’s, mom became a quick study of the beliefs that your mind can heal your body, in part from the book Love, Medicine, and Miracles. I remember sitting in her hospital room after her radical mastectomy and her teaching me about visualizing her body being healed. She would say- ‘Imagine the cancer cells evaporating like water on a hot sunny day.’ Mom survived her breast cancer with persistence and determination as I graduated college. She survived with grace and reverence, all while she endured painful bone marrow and liver tests every six months for 15 years.

As I sat in my soon to be former home back in Boulder, I was paralyzed once again, that evil ‘c’ disease was coming back for another round, a different type of journey this time. Something felt different. As the fog started to clear and my depression of the transition I was living through started to subside, I had a feeling. Call it a dream, a gut level thought that popped in my head. Mom is not going to survive this time. I quickly dismissed it. No, God, I am REALLY not ready for this. I am not strong enough. Her clinical prognosis was not good. Through clinical research, I learned what the likely outcomes would be for someone with her pathology. In five years, less than 12% chance of survival, for patients who could withstand the entire treatment pre and post-surgery. The cancer had spread to her lymph node that was connected to all her major organs, something I learned from reading her pet scan. Mom’s body had a strong voice this time around, something I would come to learn.

With less than two weeks from moving to my new house and not fully packed yet, I called mom and offered to come to Austin to be with her. My own drama seemed so insignificant compared to this news. Mom was ‘fine’ and I did not need to come. I could come later, she said. The next morning, the phone rang. She wanted me to come now, wanted my support. I made plans and went for the weekend. Mom was not afraid, or so she said, and was not sad or didn’t need to cry. We went for a walk in the rain. A bolt of lightning struck very close to us and we heard the loud thunder reverberate through the trees. Mom said that was good- lightening brought oxygen and her body needed oxygen to fight the cancer cells. Being present for her in this moment helped me put my grief in a box; hide it away for a while. We took her to get a makeover also. Wow, how mom’s faced glowed with pure light as the joy exuded from her heart.

Our deep and growing relationship continued to expand. One experience at a time. I was grateful to be able to start to give to mom from my heart, something that was hard for me to do. Somehow through my experiences growing up I built an armor of protection around my heart. My logical mind believed my heart was safe and no one could stomp on it with this armor. Funny thing- opening up and supporting mom now from my heart felt safe. So I continued to give.


venturing into the unknown

Real or make-believe? I actually used to think purple butterflies were make-believe. Something creative and lovely but not real in nature. Funny thing, I learned I was wrong. How you might ask? Through the process of saying goodbye to my mom as she passed from this physical life. And now as I look back, I see the similarities in a purple butterfly and what this blog premise is about. If you have never ventured to push your edges or beliefs, you miss out on things and experiences that are real and lasting. A connection of the heart is one of those things. We don’t really have to say goodbye to our loved ones as they pass. They just take on the form of angels, watching over us and cheering us on through our joys and tribulations.

Why start now? I actually started a few years ago, capturing some of my experience and using entries from my journals and my mom’s writings.  I recently saw the movie Brave with my children and Princess Merida spoke to me. I was taken back to the stubborn young girl I was, determined to make my own path in life. At church this morning, our pastor talked about ‘God loves us, now what’. ‘Go out and do something’ was the message he left with us. And here I am, venturing into the unknown to share my story of how a heart can expand beyond any boundaries a mind can imagine.

It was late summer of 2003 in Boulder, Colorado and I was struggling through one of those tough life transitions, a divorce with a four year old son and two year old daughter. Changing almost everything I knew, even the type of job I held. Good news is I had some constants in my life that pulled me through. My mom and dad were some of my strongest supporters. One day, my dad asked what I needed. He was thinking I would say money. What I needed most was for my mom and dad to come help me through, be by my side, wrap my babies in their love and help us all survive the worst. Or what I thought was the worst at the time.  My dear friend Lyn says God only gives us what we can handle. A divorce with small children was more than I thought I could handle, but figured I would take each day as it came, face the fear and uncertainty and carry on. Each day felt like a wall of grief. Some moments like quick sand, others like water. How soon I would learn otherwise- that my heart would grow to handle more.

My mom and dad came to live with us and help – a trip that had no defined end until I felt stable.  As my mom was picking up toys around the house one day, I saw her taking small breaths, kind of like the breathing taught in birthing classes to prepare for having a baby. She tried to keep it to herself and kept a smile on her face.  I started to notice her do this more and more often. My mother represented the rock of Gibraltar for me. Stronger than anyone I had ever met. Quick to offer help and always loving each of us with her heart wide open.  When I asked if anything was wrong, she said she was having a little pain but nothing to worry about. I was quite distracted with my own pain and dismissed it as nothing. One day we were hiking in the open space and she opened up a little more about the quick little breaths.Mom never complained once a day in her life. What she shared told me this was a whole lot more than nothing- mom was experiencing some bleeding and having lower hip pain, a pressure-like feeling near her tail bone. As we talked more, I learned that a year and a half before, her colonoscopy revealed a small benign polyp that was removed. Her doctor recommended another test in 3 years. Nothing to worry about, he said.

My heart grew heavy each day knowing that mom was helping me while she suffered inside. That was my mother, always giving to others, very selflessly. The wall of my own grief as I transitioned out of a marriage distracted me more. One day as I packed and prepared to move to a new house, my eyes welled up with tears. I was frozen in my tracks as my reality started to settle in. Could it be another life transition starting to take shape? One more life-altering than a divorce? Oh no, God, I am not ready. I am not strong enough. I grew up as a daddy’s girl and had only opened my heart enough to feel my mother’s love just seven years earlier. A deep and growing relationship was in the nascent stages of forming. I was starting to feel whole.