Coincidence or Sign

Some time before Michael’s prognosis, I felt the presence of his father. I was widowed at my age of 33 years. Michael was nine. There are many stories I can tell you about my “interstellar” experiences with his father, but, that is not particularly what this post is about.

Other than… I felt his father’s “presence” a few months before all this dread with Michael began.

I particularly remember being in my kitchen, cutting onions, or dicing peppers, or… doing something and I “felt” him. I knew his presence. I had lived with him. I had loved him. I had fought with him, hated him, and lost him and became lost afterward, he was my husband, my hope and my dream.

His presence had rested from my spirit for many years and I wondered why he was suddenly coming to me “now.”

I believe it was some kind of forewarning. His presence was comforting. That is all that I can recall. I had no idea why he was coming back to me after all of these years.

I am sensitive, I am kind, I am the kid that my own mother accused of being, “….Susan, you let people walk over you like a rug!…” And I looked back at her and my sister, who had her fists in the air, and I said nothing.

If I need to be a carpet for you to find your way, then, so be it. I never stood up to my aged mother for her ruthless comment. She did not know how much strength it takes to be kind, to think as is my nature, about the “other guy.”

Speaking of “the other guy,” I recently learned about my own capacity for kindness. I know that I am different. I know that I let people walk over me. Maybe that’s because I’m strong enough to uphold them to where they need to go. Eh?

Back on track now…

So, I felt my late husband’s presence a month or so before hearing the news about Mike’s death sentence. I even “felt” his hug as I was working in the kitchen, making dinner. Gheez, it’s been nearly thirty years since his death. I still know his spirit, his touch.

I didn’t “talk” to him. Why was I feeling his presence after all of these years?

We had a volatile marriage. Mostly, I confess, it was probably my fault due to crazy hormones and an innate passion for drama, probably caused by the additional nature of being a firm Virgo and crucified ego from my youth.

Nevertheless, I knew the feeling of my late husband’s spirit but could not understand why he was holding me, comforting me, until I learned of our son’s death sentence.

My late husband’s spirit seemed to have abandoned me once I learned of Mike’s death sentence. I was on my own.

——– I never asked for “signs” after Gerrit died, Mikey’s dad. I was too busy trying to raise the kids, but, one day, maybe I wrote about this somewhere else in my blog, but I don’t care right now. I’m going to write about it again.

One day, coming home from grocery shopping and rushing to get the groceries into the house and rush to pick up the boys for hockey games or practice; with hands full and keys in my mouth, I opened the front door and was blasted with the presence of a “spirit.” It knocked me to the ground. Groceries were everywhere. I had no breath. I was between worlds.

When I regained my breath, I KNEW it was him. It was my late husband that passed through me. His SPIRIT passed through me.

We lived in the between world of here and there until I finally asked him to move on. — I have not had a dream or encounter since then.

I never asked for those visits from my late husband. I have asked for visits from my son.

I have asked for “give me a songbird in the night who doesn’t sing at night,” “send my bluebirds,” “send me an owl,” “send me something…”

We have songbirds where I live. We have bluebirds and butterflies and cardinals and all those other “signs” that people think are “SIGNS” from the afterlife.

I know what the “afterlife” presence feels like, I felt it with Mikey’s dad, he haunted my dreams for years — actually, it wasn’t a haunting, he was guiding me, but that’s another story.

These things are mere coincidence, the bluebirds, the owl, the butterflies. There is only one way to reach me and you, Mikey, need to figure it out because I cannot.



Mikey, Forever in My Heart

Last night, I experienced one of the most incredible moments of grief since my son’s death June 9, 2015 from pancreatic cancer. I was inconsolable as an ocean of tears rushed down my face and my thoughts were not really thoughts at all, just a mind full of grief which no words could convey as my husband listened silently, knowing there was nothing he could say except that, “…it’s okay to cry…” And, cry, I did.

Since arriving home May 22nd, my body was filled with stress of not knowing whether Mikey had died during the night. I wondered how much worse his pain had increased, of which he never, never ever complained. He suffered in silence, and believe me, the torture his body endured was something I cannot imagine.

Yes, he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer which was diagnosed too late – they all are. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. There is, at least not yet, no early detection for it and even if there were, I do not know what treatment might give the patient years instead of weeks or months. In my son’s case, at the time of diagnosis, the cancer had metastasized to his liver. A short while later, days, it was discovered that it was also in the abdominal lining (ascitis) and his lung and his bowel. The doctors said that he “might” have three to six months left. Mikey was game to do whatever they prescribed, to give him a few months of quality time with his young family.

The complications of the ascites were incredible, it was a vicious cycle of fluid accumulating in his abdomen, causing bloating and inability to eat. When they began draining him, he became dehydrated and the home nurse would come to re-hydrate him and then the next day, drain him. The largest quantity of fluid they drained in a twenty-four hour was seven liters. SEVEN LITERS!

Mikey had already lost an incredible amount of weight by the time I arrived to be with he and his little family. When I saw him at the hospital, he was skin and bones, I thought, “He looks like an advanced AIDS patient.” I do not know how he pressed on for two more months, two more weeks and two more days.

What I saw during my stay, was my baby, my son, sitting at the kitchen table, trying to eat, trying to eat a bowl of Rice Krispies. He managed two spoonfuls and moments later, retreated to his bedroom where he vomited in the master bathroom. He spent more time kneeling over the toilet than anywhere else.

The bones in his spine were protruding. I was afraid to hug his frail body. Mikey had never been overweight, he was six foot tall and on the healthy, thin side. Now, he was starving to death. He could not keep food down, the pain medicine disallowed him to have bowel movements, or was it the growth in his bowels not allowing anything to pass? On the other hand, what was there to pass since he could not even keep water down?


Mikey’s little ones

I watched my son look at his four year old daughter and how I held back my tears, I do not know. I wondered how tortured his mind must be, knowing that he would not have the chance to raise her. Did he wonder if she would remember him? Most likely, his two year old son would not remember him. I, on the other hand, will never forget him.

Mikey is in my every thought, every breath, every heartbeat, every tear, every daydream. A part of my heart has been torn out by the roots, like a tree ripped from the bosom of the earth during a tornado, the earth’s wound would heal in time through the help of bull dozers and graders. For my heart, even though scar tissue may form over time, it will bleed for the rest of my life.

I kept busy from the break of day until evening, keeping busy kept me sane. Or so I thought. I think subconsciously I also wanted to honor my son by “doing” things. Mikey was always busy, always “doing.” My busyness helped at the start. There was so much to do at home after being gone two months. I had a dog who was incontinent who stunk up the house (my husband loss his sense of smell) and I had carpets to clean. Meanwhile, my other dog had severe lesions on his legs which I had been treating since August of 2014 – cleaning, applying antibiotic ointment and bandaging sometime twice daily. I made projects for myself, sometimes big projects.

AZandOK 00026

Buddy, my white shadow.
In his healthy years.

On June 5th, as I bandaged Buddy’s leg, I broke down and cried and told my husband that I must take Buddy to the Vet, we cannot continue like this, there were tendons hanging from one of his open lesions. (My husband has issues with death and no matter what, did not want Buddy to be euthanized. I, on the other hand, do not believe in extended suffering if there is no cure. I believe in euthanization.) So, off I went to the Vet with Buddy and I came home alone.

Four days later, I got the call from one of my other sons, hesitantly informing me of Mikey’s death. I had been waiting for that call. I did not fall to the floor and wail. I knew it was coming soon. All I could say was that I was glad that he was finally out of his excruciating pain. I couldn’t believe it was my voice saying that. I heard myself say, “I’m glad he is out of pain…” And I was glad that the pain was over for Mikey. My pain, a different pain, will be with me for the rest of my life, like a shadow person walking along side me, one who I will try to learn to live with since it will never go away.

– – – – – I have avoided writing about this experience. I thought that I needed to get my thoughts organized first and then I learned that in my case, there is no such thing as organizing grief, there is no such thing as making sense of my son’s death. I have also learned that keeping busy was also a way to avoid facing the ugliness of my new reality and the wound in my heart.

I had saved every text message, every email shared between myself and my other sons during my stay at Mikey’s home. I thought that when I was “ready” to write about this, I would refer back to the dailiness and write in some congruent fashion about that time. I know now, that that approach is not the right one for me. I just need to write. I need to re-learn how to live in this new place of loss.


Mikey, forever in my heart.

None of losing a child makes sense and my writing may follow suit and be incongruent and senseless, but, that is the only way back for me. I have to write.


Chi Town Lingo

Daily Post: Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).

This is more about dialect rather than wrong usage, which can be just as embarrassing.

Having been born in Chicago, I acquired the local dialect naturally. Our family was somewhat large as I was one of six children and money was tight so we never traveled, except for the annual summer vacation to Knowlton, Wisconsin, to my paternal grandparents’ farm. Exposure to differing dialects or languages was limited, if not for my Polish grandparents.


©The Sopranos

It was difficult to understand my grandparents as they were immigrants from Poland and maintained extremely heavy accents and very little usage of the English language. But, with such infrequent exposure to them, my own language and dialect were typical for a south Chicagoan. I never realized how “mafia-guy” my dialect was until I moved to Canada.

Canadians speak the proper, Queen’s English, without the British “accent” which was replaced with what my ears interpreted as a type of ‘lilt.’

Having lived in Canada for sixteen years, I never acquired their dialect, but my children did. Of course they did, they were raised there, “Canadian English” would be their native tongue and I can identify a Canadian in a crowd of voices 100% of the time.

When we first moved to Canada, I was not aware of how difficult it was for people to understand my speech, (imagine Joe Pesci in the movie “My Uncle Vinnie” explaining to the Judge what a “yut” is) until one day, while at a local grocery store, I asked the store manager if they had any boxes (we were preparing to move to a newer home.)

“Hi, would yew haaahve any spare boxes (pronounced: bahx-es) thaaht I could haaahve?” I asked the store manager.

He looked at me as if I had antennae growing from my skull, “What?” His attitude was quite unfriendly.

“Bahxes,” I repeated, “do yew haaahve any bahxes thaaht I could haaahve?”

“BAHXES,” he yelled, “BAHXES! What are BAHXES?”

“Bahxes, yew know, thah square things thaaht yer merchandise is shipped in, bahxes.”

He stared at me, thinking for a moment, “You mean böxes?”

“Yeah, I think so, bahxes.”


© Google Image – Pantomime

The manager’s patience with me was clearly waning. I looked around to see if I could find any boxes. I did not want to grab a cereal box fearing that might confuse him even more. I decided to try my skills at pantomime.

With full hand gestures drawing a box in the air, I felt that my pantomime skills might break through our language barrier.

The manager looked at me blankly.

“Yew know,” I tried to explain without using the word “box,” “thah containers to put things in when a person moves from one place to another. Thaaht’s whaat I need.”

The manager walked from behind the counter, held his index finger up to indicate that I need to stay where I was and not follow him. I waited.

A few seconds later, he returned with an empty box. “Is this what you want?”

“YES!” I was so elated! “Yes, thaaaht’s whaat I need.”

“Well, up here, we call them böxes, and I don’t have any right now.”

“Oh. Ok, thanks for your help.”


© Google Images – Box

I left his little store wondering if he was lying to me. It was evident that he did not like people whom he could not understand. But, to this day, I never say “bahx-es” anymore, I speak the Canadian version, böxes, which I learned since moving to Oklahoma, the locals do not understand the Canadian pronunciation either!


I’ll Call You ‘George’

Daily Post: Game of Groans
Think about an object, an activity, or a cultural phenomenon you really don’t like. Now write a post (tongue in cheek or not — your call!) about why it’s the best thing ever.

Oh Weeds, you’re here again,
Pulling, and hoeing,
are breaking my back.
I think you’ve won,
I’ll let you live,
I’ll love you,
And feed you,
And call you “George.”

And THEN, you will die, like all the other plants I ever called “George.”


© David K. Leff


More thoughts on today’s Prompt:


Got is the new Energy

Daily Prompt, 2015,0730   ______ is the new ______
Click over to your favorite blog, and pick out the 4th and 14th words (that aren’t “the” or “an”). Drop them into this phrase:
“_____ is the new _____.”
There’s your post title. Now write!

Visiting a random blog, counting the 4th and 14th words, mine are, “got” and “energy.” Which might do well if we had been asked to replace the word “milk” in the popular ad campaign, “Got Milk?” I could have replaced milk with “energy” creating a new, yet overused cliché, ad campaign for a new caffeinated beverage, vitamin supplement or gym. But, no, I’m stuck with “Got is the new Energy” and I do not like this prompt. It would have been much more fun to simply ask us to fill in the blanks.

Everyone who writes/participates in these Daily Prompts are creative thinkers, well equipped to fill in the blanks with some engaging, imaginative interpretations. I think we should have been trusted to use our own imaginations. If that had been the case, I would have chosen to fill in the blanks to reflect this thought: “Tomorrow is the new Today.”

But, since the Daily Post’s instructions are what they are, I have nothing to say about “Got is the new Energy.” And since I in fact, have no energy this morning, am not going to write about what I might have written if I used my own fill-in-the-blanks, but, it would have been a fun topic on which to write.


Other participants in today’s Daily Post:

Johns Hopkins, Cancer – Bad Luck

Here is an interesting study from Johns Hopkins regarding cancer and its “causes.”

Johns Hopkins – Bad Luck of Random Mutations


The high schooler who invented a test for pancreatic cancer: A Q&A with ‘teenage optimist’ Jack Andraka


Science is everywhere and cures are in the minds of those who pursue … here is an incredible young man…

Originally posted on TED Blog:


Jack Andraka is not your typical teenager. The high schooler spends his free time in the science lab concocting better, cheaper ways to spot disease. One such project — a test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer — won Andraka first place in the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

As Andraka explains in his talk, his “teenage optimism” played a big role in this accomplishment. [ted_talkteaser id=1787]At age 13, after losing a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, Andraka began researching the disease to better understand what had happened. Andraka was shocked to find that 85 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed late, when a patient has less than a 2 percent chance of survival. Alarmed at the lack of affordable and accurate tests to detect this cancer at its earliest stages — when treatments can actually work — he pored over a list…

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