Thursday Re-View — Of Ladybugs and Dragonflies…and Love

There are signs.

Signs of our departed loved ones telling us all will be well and that there is life after death, if we only have the faith and willingness to believe.

For Mom, it’s a ladybug. ladybug

When she died 25 years ago from breast cancer at the age of 59, (see “Remembrance”), Mom left behind a husband, 2 daughters and 3 grandsons. Speaking for myself, her “baby,” I was in total shock, having spent the entire month of February driving to the hospital after work and watching her suffer. After her death, I was totally drained physically, emotionally and spiritually.

One of the first things we did as a family without Mom was to drive 8 hours to my best friend’s wedding in North Carolina, the wedding that Mom promised to bake her delicious Italian cookies for (what is a wedding without countless trays laden with homemade cookies made from recipes handed down through the generations?). Needless to say, my family was happy for my friend who called my Mom and Dad her “adopted parents,” but the absence of Mom was a raw ache, an emptiness, a longing that went unfulfilled.

During a rest stop, Dad, my sister and I stood stretching our legs before getting back into the car for the long ride home. As we spoke about how much we missed Mom, a ladybug landed on Dad’s shoulder.

Mom had always loved ladybugs; if one was inside the house, she would bring it outside and place it gently on a flower. If one landed on her, she would simply let it stay put until it flew away. Mom knew that ladybugs were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and had been called the “Beetle of Our Lady,” its name linking itself to spiritual ideals and mothers. To her, that sent a powerful message of devotion and love.

A ladybug on Dad’s shoulder…while we were talking about Mom…at our first outing as a family without her. Each of us looked at the ladybug, looked at each other, and without saying a word, started to cry. Somehow Mom found a way to let us know that she was with us.

Ever since then, in the past 25 years, ladybugs have visited my Dad, sister and me when we most needed the comfort. Dad would call us up on Mom’s birthday and mention that a ladybug was on his morning newspaper, or in the bathroom during the Christmas holidays – Mom’s favorite time of year – when he most missed her, or on the passenger seat of his car when he had a doctor’s appointment. If my sister was going through a difficult time, even though it might be the dead of winter, she would call me up and say, “Guess what I’m looking at right now, on my windowsill?” and I would answer, without missing a beat, “A ladybug.” Mom came through again and again.

After Dad died and I was particularly sad, having to make some big decisions without having either parent to ask for advice, I found myself driving to work and saying out loud, “I really need a lady bug sighting.” I thought of my ladybug collection at home that reminded me of Mom – pins, coffee mugs, journals, bracelets, note cards – but they just weren’t enough. I really, really needed her. As I slowed for one of the three stop lights in my town that foggy morning, I noticed something strange about the car in front of me. I blinked, then got a better look as I came to a top. It was a Volkswagen Beetle automobile. I’d gotten my driver’s license in one when I was 17 years old. But that wasn’t why I smiled. The Volkswagen Beetle was a red one with huge black spots painted on it. A car painted to look like a ladybug idling at the stop light. The ladybug sighting that I just asked for out loud – big enough just in case Theresa missed it.

I looked down and shook my head. Why was I not surprised??? [Note: I never saw that car again.]

For Dad, it’s a dragonfly.

flora goddess of flowers and spring

flora goddess of flowers and spring

Following Dad’s funeral Mass last year, we all proceeded to the mausoleum where Mom was buried. As my sister and I, our immediate family, and the rest of those who had come to pay final respects to Dad entered the marble building, for some reason, my sister turned around and looked at the wall of windows that covered its front. Just then, a beautiful dragonfly flew in and landed on the framework of the door. Quite large, it was a beautiful, iridescent blue (Dad’s favorite color, as well as the color of his eyes). It simply rested there, motionless. A cousin of mine turned to my sister and asked in a voice tinged with wonder, “Did you see that?” as they looked at the visitor. My sister nodded, unable to speak. When she told me about this later, I had no doubt that we had just received our first message from Dad.

In choosing the dragonfly for his sign, Dad chose a symbol of light, one of a select few creatures that are supposed to carry a deceased person’s energy to their loved ones, often seen as a harbinger of change.

This week, the final chapter in the managing of Dad’s estate took place when we had the closing for the sale of his house. My sister and I hoped that we would find a young family to bring the house alive, to transform it once again into a place of brightness and love and happiness. We got our wish when we met the couple who bought it, along with their young daughter. The conference room was filled with people – attorneys, realtors, secretaries, the buyers (the family) and the sellers (my sister and me). It was bittersweet – a relief, after a year, to have this last task completed, yet also very sad, to have this last task completed (see “Who Will Remember?”).

As we sat across the table from the family, my sister addressed the harried and exhausted looking mother, who had just finished telling us that they closed on the sale of their own house late the night before. “Your sweater – are those dragonflies on your sweater?” The woman stretched the front of the garment out so that we could see its print. Multiple dragonflies fluttered across it in bluish-purple beauty.


My sister and I both started to cry. As we brokenly explained what/who the dragonflies represented, the woman’s eyes filled with tears. “Well, I guess we know this was meant to be,” she softly commented, pulling her sweater more closely around her, almost like a hug.

She was correct. Dad was here to say that his house was being passed on to the right people, and that he was with us always. I would like to say a ladybug landed on the desk at the same time, but that didn’t happen. The dragonfly was enough.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for sending your love. Continuing bonds can never be broken.

There are signs. Our loved ones never leave us. We must simply open our eyes and our hearts will be filled.


Musings After One Year


February 26th marks the first anniversary of Soul Gatherings. What a journey this has been… It still surprises me that almost 600 followers actually check in from time to time to read my posts and daily quotes. Almost 18,000 views from 99 different countries. I’m humbled.

I feel such an obligation to the popularity of the daily quotes that I’ve purchased 10 different books related solely to finding the most inspirational, motivational, thought-provoking quotes for my readers. Ka ching!!!

If I had to choose one word to describe the action of giving birth to Soul Gatherings, it would be “remembrance.” So many of my posts have been remembering people whom I’ve met, who have touched my life in some way.  My readers have remembered these special people along with me, and in doing so, honored their memory.

Another word to describe this creation would be Light. Light shining into the broken places. Light building until the darkness is set ablaze with flames and sparks and life. Watchfires to light the passages of a journey begun, a beacon on the distant horizon.

Of hope. Always hope to light the way so that healing might begin.

Remembrance. Light. Hope. Inspiration. Support. Encouragement. Presence.

In the past year, I have learned these things about the blogosphere:

We are different; we are the same.

We share stories; we share ourselves.

We reach out; we touch hearts and hands.

We speak in different languages; we speak the same.

We harbor faith not confined by religion.

We believe and we dream.

We inspire and we offer hope.

We are present and never alone.

We are connected.

We are One.

Sacred ground.

Circles of Grace.

I am blessed.

Perhaps I will continue…


Monday Meeting — The Spirit of Sportsmanship

olympics II

The Spirit of Sportsmanship (CNN)

When Russian Anton Gafarov crashed hard during the finals of the men’s cross-country skiing sprint, he tried to finish the race with a broken ski. He was struggling badly — until the coach trucked out on the course and, without saying a word, replaced the snapped ski with a new one.

The Russian coach?

Nope. It was Justin Wadsworth, the coach for the Canadian team.

“I wanted him to have the dignity as he crossed the finish line,” he said.

That, right there, is what the Olympics are all about.



Thursday Re-View — “The In-Between Time”

It’s in the in-between
that the real magic happens.
The seeds are planted,
the roots take hold…
and we blossom into who
we were meant to be.

~ Kristen Jongen

I’m not good at this in-between time. That’s where I am at the moment. Since a health scare prompted me to take a “time out” from working as Director of a Counseling Center in a small, private college in late December, I’ve been on hold as far as contributing to the Gross National Product.

And since patience never was one of my strong suits, I’m none too happy with not getting up at 6:30 every morning, coming home at 6:30 at night, having done my part to save the world.

Some of you who follow me know that I expected big things from my health care professional retreat to Assisi, Italy this month (“My Pilgrimage to ????”).

While there, I expected nothing less in the town of St. Francis’ birth than for the heavens to open and rain wisdom down upon my thirsty soul, giving me detailed instructions on where/what/when/how I would be doing for the rest of my life. Give me my Divine Missive and I will obediently carry it out to the letter, and beyond.

I want a lightning bolt to strike the ground directly in front of me with the answer to my impatient question of, “Now what?????”



My therapist has respectfully suggested that perhaps my imagery of a lightning bolt striking directly in front of me might need to be modified.

Let me explain.

Since my husband’s illness prevented us from going on retreat, my pilgrimage was one of hospitals and doctor’s offices and bedside vigils. Now that he is slowly recovering…I’m ready for the lightning bolt.

Now what???

I can still hear my therapist, Dr. G, saying, “Theresa, I don’t like that image – the lightning bolt.” He’s trying to be polite and professional. That works for awhile. “That’s too much like a defibrillator!!! You need to use something more calming for the imagery – like a sunset, or a sunrise.”

My feet came off the floor as I burst out laughing. He and I have been through a lot together (…bless him…), ever since I first met him and, barely having sat down, informed him, “You have 6 months for me to get through this ‘whatever.'”

He tried to be polite and professional back then as well. “Theresa, perhaps putting a time limit on the therapy might add more stressors to your life?”

Don’t you just hate it when people are right???

Perhaps putting a time limit on my in-between time will also add more stressors to my life. And stressors are what sidelined me in the first place.

So now I have to let go of one of my all-time favorite symbols – my lightning bolt – and attach myself to something (unlike the defibrillator paddles) more soothing, more peaceful, less shocking, less startling.

Something without a sense of urgency or that won’t be seen as an intrusion; something that will simply allow answers and inspiration to come forward slowly, in their own time, bringing me to a “new and stronger Theresa.”

[Whew! Is this the kind of stuff I tell my patients/clients/students?]

So naturally, I start thinking.

[That’s another thing my therapist has observed; when he presents an idea, I “run with it like a German Shepherd, dragging my owner behind me.” I’m not sure if that was praise or censure, but I’m still going to run with it.]

And in thinking, I recall my time working in the trauma bays of a near-by hospital (“Of Hospitals, Loss and Love” and “Wounded Hearts” ), when a man was brought in with extensive burns from electrocution. The palm of one of his hands was the exit point of the bolt of electricity, and it had blown open a hole where you could see blackened skin, tendons, muscle and blood.

Burned. Charred. Unrecognizable.

This is what I was praying for? Asking for? A lightning bolt?

Maybe not such a good idea.

So here I am in the in-between time, impatiently waiting for a lightning bolt beautiful sunset to remind me that all good things come to those who wait. To have patient trust in whatever has been written for me, even before I was born.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Do I go back to Hospice, working with people as they make the “graceful passage” from this life to the next (“You Are My Sunshine” and “The Last Good-bye?”)?

Do I return to Community Mental Health, where people are in desperate need of just about everything (“The Welcome Angel” and “I Wasn’t Enough...”)?

Do I return to a college campus, where students struggle to carve out an identity (“An Adolescent’s Christmas with the Infant of Prague“)?

Do I open a private psychotherapy practice?

Do I volunteer in an international setting?

Do I venture forth as a motivational speaker?

Do I continue my blog?

Do I finally write the book I’ve always wanted to, something to uplift and inspire and offer hope?

Or do I simply continue as is, taking care of my family and myself, working my way through the grief of the vast losses that took hold of my life in the past 14 months (“Remembrance II” and “Who Will Remember?”)?

What is enough? What is too much? Where do I belong?

I’m not good at the in-between time.

The time between who I was and who I am yet to be.

The time between chapters…between birth and rebirth…between death and resurrection…

But above all, I am a listener. A co-journeyer.

The seeds have been planted, the roots have taken hold, and I have only to blossom in another setting, with another offering of my self.

I will wait in the quiet. I will listen for the whispers. I will keep watch for the soft glow of the banked embers that is the fire in my soul.

I will open and stretch to the golds and oranges of the welcoming sunrises. I will rest, bathed in the muted purples and pinks of the sunsets.

I will be still and know that I am.

And that will be enough.

For now….

Come. Who will journey with me?


Kristen Jongen

Kristen Jongen

Monday Meeting — “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech”

Zach Sobiech died on Monday, May 20th, 2013. He was 18 years old.

When he was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer found in children. Zach endured months of chemotherapy and had several surgeries. In May, 2012, more cancer was found in his lungs and pelvis. Rather than have surgery to remove his leg and part of his pelvis, Zach and his parents decided to enjoy the 6 – 12 months he had left.

So, Zach decided to write songs. His song “Clouds,” which you can see below on YouTube, has had more than 4 million views.

“My closure is being able to get my feelings into these songs so they (family & friends) can have something to remember me by or lean on when I’m gone.”

“You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living…” ~ Zach Sobiech

Zach got to drive his dream car for a week, courtesy of his parents. His girlfriend Amy (“I love her to death; I will love her to my death.”) stayed by his side, as did his close-knit family and school friends.

He inspired so many people that Rainn Wilson of YouTube’s SoulPancake channel made a 22-minute documentary called “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech,” which you can watch below in its entirety.

Have a box of tissues close at hand.

But don’t have them because of Zach’s death this week; rather, have them handy because of Zach’s life. His wisdom is more than most 50-year olds, and his heart is bigger than most, too.

After I watched the documentary, I felt stronger and blessed for having met him, my tears more happy than sad. And I wasn’t able to stop my smile in the midst of my tears, just for having met such an amazing human being.

Zach – My life is richer for having listened to “Clouds” and having watched 22 minutes about your 18 year life.

Eternal rest, Zach Sobiech, and may perpetual light shine upon you.

Your soul dazzles and shines with your light.

You are beautiful. You will be remembered.

My thanks…