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It almost couldn’t have been any other way, could it?

Though I wish it were for him and his family.

The fact that Martin Luther King died the way he did almost cosmically puncutates the point of his life’s work, doesn’t it?  And to this day, not just for the cause and outcome he sought, we have to be reminded of his non-violent stand in the wake of so many things that could make us all go postal (another pop culture expression that reminds of the kind of stress, fear and abandon that many of us feel from time to time, but don’t act on)

It is a sad sort of irony, that Martin Luther King died at the hands of a gunman– but thankfully, what we remember most, is the way he lived.

Some want to point out the flaws of a heroic man, but I remind us that we are all flawed and heros at the same time.  That is the perfect imperfection of it all.

It is the same thing with death and life and grief, sorrow and joy.

It all lives together in this mixed up scramble called life.

To see how another does it, in a time of unspeakable grief–that is–to remain in the place of desolation and utter despair, but still see the beauty –go to

It’s 2:08 in the morning and I am  in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit of the Robert Wood Johnson University waiting room, in New Brunswick, NJ.
I feel like I am in the middle of a miracle.

Our dear friend Harry is getting a new heart as I write this.
I keep pinching myself.
A new heart.

I am sitting with his wife  just to “be” here–they way I have for hospice patients, like a vigil…
But this has a twist, of course–and we hope…for renewed life.

The heart that is being placed in Harry’s chest came from a young woman, about 24 years old, who had a stroke today.   I can’t stop thinking about her.

Two people, one heart.
Giving and receiving.
One dies, One lives.
A stranger – one he’ll never meet, was the gift-giver.

The friends sitting with this woman’s family are likely having a different experience tonight, and my heart goes out to them.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for her family and loved ones.
I can hope that someday they will really understand the miracle of which they were a part–the gift they gave.

So, the the cycle of life continues anyway, we know this….but now it is up close and personal.
“Life goes on”, they say…
and we hope and pray that tonight—this is so true…

So maybe death and taxes are not that certain anymore……

or at least your voice and thoughts do not have to die with you. That is exactly the idea behind a few websites that will make sure that your tweets, messages, videos and thoughts get delivered to those you designate, after you die.  They can also be sent in intervals so they post at specific times, events or passages in another’s life.   So, imagine sending birthday or graduation greetings years after you are gone.

At first look it might seem creepy, that you get to literally haunt another.  Yet, how cool that even though science hasn’t figured out the “freeze dry and reconstitute” version of being brought back to life–but digital technology can keep you immortal as long as you have messages to send.

So, think about it—you still get to parent from the grave, should you die before you can give your fatherly advice.  Your old boss pissed you off royally, and now you get to say it all in one big stream of conscious flip off.  Or even Fido’s special needs diet, canine quirks, and favorite toys all get to be known and delivered without a blip in his care.    It appears that these services are free and I suppose available as long as the site owners are alive….so check these out!

Oh, and for those heartfelt messages…try to make it a point to deliver those in person before you die—less regret for all parties that way! – best, funny promo video!

P.S. I gotta learn this tweet thing before I die – I’m working on it!


Dance Away Your Grief

See, that is IT!  It is what I have been knowing–not just saying.  When you experience it, you get it.  How grief and celebration can occupy the same moment.  The New Orleans jazz funeral experience is a musical tribute to that very concept.  They get that there is a time time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  Even in Ecclesiastes 3 (The Byrds song from the seventies!)–it gives us that direction, though most people find that bigger space between a cry and a laugh is more appropriate.  I say, not necessarily so.  That space at a jazz funeral is quite shortened– from the dirge to the dance in a blink of an eye.

In this article in the delicious, sometimes irreverent, but mostly off-kilter  Obit-Mag, the writer Nancy Pompillio writes..”Then, as the music changed from funereal to joyful, I watched that same sober widow grab her skirt in one hand and begin to dance, her children following her lead. There was even a hot dog vendor who, catching wind of the event, was selling his wares along the road to the cemetery.
It was an incredible feeling, seeing that woman and her children twirling around, following the band. I remember thinking, “This is how death should be done. Life should be celebrated.”

Read the rest of the article here…Good stuffs!

The Boomers are all about dying well. And how exactly do we do that?
It seems there is a market here!

Excerpt from Baby Boomers Set About the Art of Dying Well

“Even dropping dead suddenly on the golf course is less likely, with medical advances almost halving the mortality rate for heart attacks and strokes in a decade. But the flip-side of living longer is being exposed to the cruel, creeping, degenerative diseases of old age – certain cancers, or Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s – which we might once have escaped by the admittedly double-edged trick of succumbing to something else first.

That means the boomer generation will be confronted more often with death in slow motion: a cast-iron diagnosis, a prescription of so many months, with the luxury and the curse of time to reflect on the life being lost.

When Jobs’s sister, Mona Simpson, wrote that “death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it”, she struck what some felt to be an uncomfortable note – as if mortality was simply one more challenge for overachievers, or a product begging to be taken to the next level. The truth about terminal illness is often far from gung ho. But the idea that a good death is something to be worked at cannot be dismissed.

So, when you read the rest of the article you may recognize yourself in there somewhere.  None of us seems to want to “Do Death” the old way…hospitals, financial concerns, less than capable caregivers, alone, etc.  We want to “Do Death Differently”, which we do at  I, for one, would like to go while experiencing some spa services.  Please– massage me into the after -ife!

I venture to say yes…My mom had one on December 3 2012 at 6:15pm. It was in her own way and on her own terms—that alone for some would constitute a good death. But for many who have experienced the horror of a loved one in pain, or out of control symptoms—a good death is only an odd statement.

For my mom and our family, the definition of her good death meant that she was first and foremost as physically comfortable as we could make her. Given that she was on hospice, we knew that they were the experts in pain management, and we did not have to guess whether we were going to control her pain. She was conscious and aware when she made the decision for hospice.  She was given choices up until she could no longer make those choices–then my brother and I stepped in.  Having had the good fortune to have a mother who wanted to discuss end of life issues, we did not have to second guess whether we were doing the right thing.  In the last few days, as she waned in and out of consciousness, we asked her about pain and comfort levels, so that we could monitor our decisions accordingly.  When we could not always get an answer or could not understand her–if we got quiet enough, we knew what we needed to do with respect to morphine and other comfort measures.

Most importantly to my brother and me, our definition of a good death is that nothing was left unsaid, and there were no regrets. This I will cherish for the rest of my life. What is your definition of a “good death”?

At a recent training for certification by The Grief Recovery Institute, I was struck by one of the main concepts that grief is in part, about “undelivered communications”.

The idea is that our hurts throughout our lives, “get stuck”, because we are socialized to stifle or at least limit our feelings around loss, and as such, those feelings don’t get to become “complete”.  Think back as to what messages, even the subtle ones, that you may have been given.  Just a few may include; buck up, keep busy, good girls don’t say those things”, we don’t cry over those things”, don’t feel bad”, “it’ll just take time”, “he is in a better place” and so on.  Though well-intended, these types of statements can steal the normal and natural reaction to grief, and have us trying to feel better quickly, so others won’t feel bad—thus starts the cycle of undelivered communications.

On the non-verbal scene….Picture a fussy tired baby, and what do we do to calm him down?  We pat…pat, pat, pat, and sway.  Your child comes home to you after losing the audition for first chair in the orchestra.  Maybe we lovingly get the cookies or comfort food, then we hug and pat….pat, pat, pat.    Fast forward into adulthood.  We are comforting a dear friend after the loss of their spouse.  We hug and we…pat, pat, pat.  It is so ingrained for most of us.  The subtle message is “we care, but it will be alright and let’s wrap this up.” Pat, pat, pat.   Interestingly, the patting that we are so inclined to mindlessly do, can inadvertently halt or interrupt someone’s normal and natural reaction to grief.  We can be adding to a life-long pattern of those emotions “getting stuck” right where they are–certainly not what we would ever consciously want to do.

So, next time you swoop in for a hug or one comes to you—resist the urge to…pat, pat, pat.  See how hard it is, or if you can catch yourself, great.  Instead of the everyday, standard hug method, go for the full-on, heart to heart, no patting, hold on like you mean it, because–of course you do, hug!  Hold on until the other person begins to let go. Yikes, is that a different experience?  Maybe you’ll get to feel the authenticity of that hug vs. others in the past.  Maybe you’ll feel a little more vulnerable, a little awkward, but–good! So, get crackin’ and start hug-healing the planet. You are so….IT!