Wednesday, December 16, 2009

May Peace Prevail

May Peace Prevail

May Peace Prevail by ArtfulAlchemist on

(Artful Alchemist is another of my websites focused on Expressive Arts coaching - visit for more information)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

(spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I do discuss the ending)

I’ve never read the book - not as a child, not to my own children. But ever since the previews for Where the Wild Things Are began playing on TV, I’ve been strangely drawn to the movie. I finally went to see it this past Friday and it has stayed with me in a way that few movies do.

First of all, there’s no denying that Max, the unruly, imaginative, emotional little boy in the film reminded me of my own little wild child, Cameron. It’s not that Cameron was just like that or that our family life had the same dynamic. It’s more that, for me, Max’s adventure played up the hurts of childhood as felt by a child and touched that emotional chord in me that still feels my own son’s pain even now, more than five years after his death.

Max’s mother is, most of the time, sweetly loving and displays extreme patience – a skill I never mastered to any degree. She listens to Max’s hurts and helps him clean up his messes. Even when she’s stressed by work, she takes the time to really listen to Max, to encourage his imaginative storytelling rather than brushing him off. She is the mother I wish I would or could have been. The only time we see her snap is when Max begins acting out in front of her new boyfriend. While she seems to love Max unconditionally when they are alone, she’s embarrassed by what her company will think. This is more like the mother I was. How many times I felt that sinking what-will-the-neighbors-think feeling when Cameron acted out in ways that were out of control. Max’s out-of-control behavior escalates into a rage and culminates with him biting his mother then running away. Cameron’s rage took him much farther away from me, into the self-destruction of addiction and a land of no return.

In Max’s running away fantasy, he goes to an island where the wild things are. He meets larger-than-life characters who mirror his outer circumstances and his inner responses. There’s one who smashes things in anger, just like Max; there’s another who feels unheard and wonders if anyone even knows he’s there, just like Max; there’s a mushy couple always wanting to kiss each other, just like Max’s mother and her boyfriend; there’s one who took off and abandoned the others to be with her new friends, just like Max’s big sister. This imaginative inner landscape is just like Max’s life – except that here, Max gets to be king. He sets out to create a place where only good things happen. He learns that it is a much more difficult job than he imagined.

Eventually he realizes he must say goodbye to his wild anger and sadness. He chooses to leave the land of the wild things and return to his imperfect home. The reunion scene with his mother is touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. It is a poignant, wordless mix of relief, forgiveness, acceptance and love – a true homecoming in every sense. Oh, that every little boy could feel such love.

To me, the film is a beautiful depiction of what we must learn if we are to grow up. And what we must learn if we are to heal our own grief. We all sometimes travel to where the wild things are. We live in a messy world where bad things happen. We get hurt and scared and angry. And we must learn not to squash or kill all those crazy things we’re feeling, but to befriend them and to rule them benevolently. Ultimately we must learn that however big and real and hairy those feelings are, love is always stronger and love is always waiting to welcome us home.

“It’s all yours. You’re the owner of this world,” wild thing Carol tells Max. May we each learn to rule it wisely. May we each choose to return to love.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Deep Water Leaf Society wins Honorable Mention

I'm excited to announce that The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief, just won an honorable mention in the Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards!

I'm doin' my happy dance . . .

Meanwhile, you may have noticed I haven't posted here in a while. That's because I've been happily busy developing my newest website and blog: and If you are interested in Expressive Arts and creative expression as a pathway to healing, go on over and check it out!

I'm not abandoning the DWLS blog, though. Soon I'll be posting a whole series around using art as a pathway to healing grief. So stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Declaring Independence from Grief

Here in the U.S. we celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day. It is the day that Congress approved a Declaration of Independence from British rule. It marks the birth of our nation as a free, self-governing entity. The Declaration asserts that everyone has the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" and claims that when any form of governance "becomes obstructive to these ends," it is our right "to alter or to abolish it."

When grief has reigned as king in our lives for too long, it may be that we, too, need to declare our independence and reclaim our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

Claiming freedom is only the first step. Like this country’s forefathers, we may have to fight to win our freedom. The energy of grief (one form of what don Miguel Ruiz might call "the parasite" or Eckhart Tolle might call "the pain body") will fight to hold on. It does not want to be vanquished. And there are factions within the psyche, just as there were colonies and individuals in our early nation, who may wish to remain loyal to the current king.

In the case of grief, we may feel that remaining loyal to the pain is the only way to remain loyal to our deceased loved ones. But would we wish for anyone who loves us to be in constant pain? Why would our deceased loved ones ask for such cruel loyalty? We would honor them better by living our lives to the fullest, freeing ourselves from pain and pursuing happiness and joy full steam ahead.

I know this isn’t easy, especially in the early days of grief. There is no timetable or deadline and everyone’s journey will be different. However, for me, there came a day when I recognized that if I ever expected to feel "normal" again, I had to make a conscious choice and effort to reclaim joy. Grief had become a tyrant under whose thumb I languished. I was tired of telling the story of my loss and tired of feeling victimized by it. I was ready to be free. Are you?

Reclaiming the right to feel happiness is an act of power and an act of faith. Declaring independence from grief is not a one-time choice; it is a commitment to consistently choosing life and joy, day by day and minute by minute. It is well worth the fight.

So here, very loosely based on the original Declaration, I propose a Declaration of Independence from Grief:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to experience the loss of another who was Deeply Loved, pain and sadness naturally result. And while it behooves us to feel what we feel and to mourn our losses, there comes a time when the Kingdom of Grief becomes a Tyranny best left behind.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we have a Right to live fully even though our Loved One has passed, that our Loved One would rather be honored with Laughter and Love than with tears, that while Life will always be different now it can still be Joyful and Fulfilling, and that we have the Freedom and the Power to choose Happiness.

We therefore, as self-sovereign individuals, solemnly publish and declare that we have a Right to be free of the Rule and Tyranny of Grief, that we have the Right and the Will to fight for that Freedom, and that we will emerge Victorious and at Peace within ourselves.

Won’t you join me this day in signing the Declaration? By doing so, you will be creating your own personal Independence Day, and that is truly something to celebrate.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Choice AND Consequences

I’m undoubtedly dating myself when I say I remember an old game show called Truth or Consequences. Of course, it’s the Bob Barker era of the show that I remember – I’m definitely not old enough to be talking about the original 1940’s radio program hosted by Ralph Edwards. (The only reason I even know about that is from this Wikipedia entry.)

The reason I bring this show up is because I think the game of Life (not the board game – actual L-I-F-E) is a very similar venture. Except instead of Truth or Consequences, the real title of the game is Choice AND Consequences.

In the game show, contestants had to answer a trick question in a very short time frame. The questions were generally impossible to answer, and the buzzer would go off before the contestant could even try to make something up. When the contestant couldn’t answer, he or she would have to face the consequences. Most often the consequences involved some slapstick embarrassing stunt, but sometimes the consequence was a heart-warming reunion with a loved one.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like life?

We are faced with trick questions every day. There are mundane questions, like the one that usually hits me as I’m already en route: “Will I be able to take the short route to Scottsdale or is the Loop 101 Freeway closed today?” Buzzz. You lose. Detour 1 mile ahead.

There are more philosophical questions like: “Can I create my reality with my thoughts?” Buzzzz. Time’s up – you already have.

And then there are the seemingly unanswerable “Why” questions that surround every challenge and loss we face: “Why is my job the one to be cut?” Buzzzz. “Why did I get this disease?” Buzzzz. “ Why did my child have to die?” Buzz, buzz, buzz.

Here’s the thing. In all of life’s situations, it’s not so much a matter of finding the “Truth” OR facing consequences. We’re already facing consequences all of the time – consequences based on the choices we make. It’s all about making a choice AND experiencing the consequences. And then making another choice about how we respond to those consequences, which leads to more consequences.

Of course, I’m not saying anyone consciously chose to lose their job, their investments, their home or their loved one. Usually there are a whole bunch of unconscious choices and beliefs at play. And not all of those choices are our own – after all we each share this planet with another six billion or so conscious and unconscious choice makers. So, as the bumper sticker says, sometimes Shit Happens.

When it does, you can spin your wheels trying to answer the trick question “Why?” before the buzzer goes off, or you can simply CHOOSE to respond – mentally, emotionally and practically – in the way that creates the best next consequence for you.

You see, no matter how tricky the question, no matter how painfully challenging the situation, the choice we make about how we respond makes all the difference. It always makes more sense to choose joy than to choose pain.

So, I guessed wrong and found the freeway closed? Oh well, the extra time on the road can give me just enough time to listen to some of my favorite music. Or I can take a brand new route and maybe I’ll discover a fabulous shop I didn’t know was there. If I CHOOSE to look at this as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience, I completely reshape the consequences.

Sure. That’s easy. But what about the bigger consequences? What about the loss of a loved one? What about the loss of my son? I still have a choice. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would prefer it didn’t have to happen. But it did. Shall I spend the rest of my life trying to answer “Why?” Or should I choose to experience joy and live the rest of my life fully? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no buzzer. But time is very definitely moving on whatever I choose and even if I choose not to choose. It’s all Choice and Consequences.

So here’s your next question on Choice and Consequences. You have just 3 seconds to answer:

“Is anything inherently meaningful, or does it only become so by the meaning you give it?”

Buzzz. Time's up. Here’s your consequence: a slapstick pratfall or a joyful experience. The choice is yours.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Prickly Kind of Love

I’ve been wanting to write about this ever since Mother’s Day a few weeks back, when my brother brought me a very unusual gift.

I’d spent a couple of hours with my Mom that afternoon and apparently had just missed seeing my brother there. We’d probably crossed paths on the road, as I later learned that he’d headed to my house when he left Mom’s. I was surprised when I got home and my husband said, “Your brother was here. He brought you a Mother’s Day present. It’s on the back patio.”

Why would my brother bring me a Mother’s Day present? It became a little clearer when I saw what it was.

This Prickly Pear cactus had started as a volunteer in his yard a couple of years ago and he’d had it in a pot for a while. His wife reminded him that I see and find hearts everywhere and told him he ought to give this cactus to me. A perfect gift for Mother’s Day, as most of the hearts I find I attribute to my son Cameron – little love notes from the other side. So maybe it was a gift from my brother or maybe he was just the delivery boy. The Universe works in mysterious ways.

When I think of my relationship with Cameron before his death, the prickly nature of this particular heart seems quite appropriate. There was nothing soft and gentle about our love for each other in this lifetime. It was dysfunctional, co-dependent, fear-based, manipulative and controlling. It was not a soft and gentle love, but it was love.

This prickly little heart has gotten my mind to working on the whole concept of love. What it is. What it isn’t. It’s been one of the mysteries I came here to solve for myself this time around, I think. I’ve so often heard that fear is the opposite of love. That always puzzled me.

The fear/love dichotomy is one of the questions I tried to sort out after Cameron’s death in my journaling and in my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society. My love for Cameron was deeply rooted in and expressed as fear most of the time. But if fear is the opposite of love, then did I have it all wrong? Did I ever truly love him? But if I didn’t love him, then why would I have feared for him so deeply?

At the culmination of my healing journey in a profoundly moving and transformative experience in Egypt, the goddess Sekhmet instilled in me a visceral knowing that Love is the only power. I can feel the truth of that in my gut and in my heart, but when my mind tries to grasp it I find all kinds of paradox and evidence to the contrary. I see so many things in this world that sure don’t look like Love. I see all kinds of things in me that sure don’t look like Love.

I was talking to a friend recently about how most of the care I provide for my mother feels like responsibility rather than love. How I get impatient and go through the motions without really connecting much of the time. I wrote a piece some time ago (you can read it here) about one of my mother’s hospitalizations and my thoughts around the fear of death and dying. In that essay I wrote, “I’ve learned to ask myself, ‘What would love do? What is the loving response?’ The answer isn’t always clear.”

In talking this out with my friend, I said, “Most of the time I haven’t a clue what love would do, what it would look like in any given situation.” My friend wisely pointed out that just because I don’t feel loving as I do the things I do doesn’t mean that what I’m doing isn’t, indeed, the loving thing. I came to the conclusion that rather than asking what love would do, I should just invite Love to flow through me and do what it knows to do. The freedom in that is that I don’t have to figure it out. All I have to do is be available and open for the One Power to do its work.

I’ve just finished reading Neale Donald Walsch’s new book, When Everything Changes, Change Everything. Walsch talks about fear and love quite a bit in this book and he has a refreshing take on it. It helps to clear things up for me. Rather than saying that fear is the opposite of Love, he says that “fear is a demonstration of Love.” As if to echo my own thoughts, Walsch writes, “If you did not love another, you would not fear for another, or be afraid of what might happen to that other, because you would not care what happened.”

Walsch asserts that “fear and Love are the same thing, expressed differently. Likewise, every other emotion is Love in another form. There is only one emotion. That emotion is Love, expressed in a thousand different ways.”

If Love is the only power, and I believe that it is, then despite any appearance to the contrary everything I see in the world must be an expression of that Love. Perhaps it is as don Miguel Ruiz says in The Voice of Knowledge. Perhaps humanity’s “fall” was our disconnection from knowing that everything is Love and our buying into false perceptions and judgments of things as good and bad, pretty and ugly, right and wrong. Perhaps we create expressions of fear and anger – sharp, twisted expressions of love – because we’ve closed ourselves off from the Source. Love still finds its way through, but it is shaped and molded by the restrictions and limitations we imagine within ourselves.

And so, like this little heart-shaped cactus, what I can do is vow to let Love express through me, even though I may be an imperfect vessel for its expression. I can try to release those things that block Love's flow, including all those judgments and perceptions about myself and others. I can choose to recognize and welcome Love in all of its thousands of prickly forms in the world around me.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tear Down the Bars

Today is the fifth anniversary of my son’s death – or his fifth “re-birthday.” I feel like I should blog about that, but I’m just not feeling inspired. Which is a good thing. It shows me how much healing has occurred. There’s no gaping wound, there’s no scab, there’s no scar. I’m just feeling at peace about it and thinking of Cameron with love.

So, I’m going to blog about something else.

This swine flu thing really bugs me. It just seems to me to be so much fear-based hype and hysteria. I’m not saying people haven’t gotten sick from it and I’m not saying people haven’t died from it, but it just seems overblown. I figure I could walk out the door and be hit by a bus just as easily as I could contract and die from this flu. And if we create our reality by what we focus upon, why in the world do we choose to focus on something like this. We are like moths to the flame of fear. Or like baby's sucking on the very pig's snout that we fear will kill us.

A friend of mine on Twitter (where swine flu has been one of the top trending topics all week long) recently wrote this post called “Swine Flu Immunity” and I think he’s got something. After reading the article, I tweeted him about it and that set off an interesting “twittersation” between us that went something like this:

Me: Love your Swine Flu post - I'm with you - they say wash your hands - how about washing our mental hands of it! I have.
Emmortal: LOL! You make way too much sense, Claire. Would you believe that I've already had 5 hits from Google on that after 3 hours?
Me: Not surprised at all - seems nothing reproduces quite as fast as fear - imagine many readers were surprised/disappointed at your POV!
Emmortal: Fear travels by thought at light speed, disease has to travel through space MUCH slower.
Emmortal: Disease is a common "plausible entry scenario" for fear that answers "Why am I afraid?" No one can stand fear with no cause.
Me: I’m working on ways to help people process/release fear. Positive thinking and affirmations are only a doily on a cesspool if fear goes underground.
Emmortal: Wish I could say you're wrong about the doily, but I can't. :( Did you read my blog piece "Fear Itself"?
Me: I did read "Fear Itself" and I think you are right on the money (as usual!) ;-)
Emmortal: I thought you had read that. Did you also see this one?
Me: Yep-fear/love is a big learning theme in my life. I think I'm finally getting it! (I faced my biggest fear & it disintegrated into love)
Emmortal: The weakest point is the belief behind the threat. The more specific you get, the more absurd it usually becomes.
Me: I was once told to speak any fear story in the voice of Mickey Mouse. So absurd you have to laugh. I think of Mr. Bill - "Oh Noooooo!"
Emmortal: Another key: whenever you decide you're unwilling to experience anything, you put another bar in your personal prison.
Emmortal: It's not just about getting past a certain fear. All fear in our lives rests on a few beliefs. Lose them, and it all changes.
Emmortal: A belief in personal powerlessness must be present in some form for any fear to exist. But people take it for granted.
Me: Re: bars in the cage – I did a great piece of collage art around that theme some years ago - will TwitPic it later if I can find it.
Emmortal: Cool! I'd love to see that. :>D

So, as promised, Emmortal, here it is. This is a collage I created in June 2004, a month after my son died. I was feeling lots of rage, grief, powerlessness, despair. The collage was sparked by a chance email forwarded to me by someone I didn’t even know. There was a whole bunch of astrological stuff in it from someone named Gururattan Kaur Khalsa, PhD. Most of it meant little or nothing to me. But one paragraph really grabbed my attention. It was about Pluto’s role in helping us to “uncover our darkness, expose our fears and examine what controls our thoughts and actions.”

One statement in particular really resonated with me: “There is no way we are going to set ourselves free without examining how we are imprisoned.

What is it that imprisons us? Fear, surely. But fear of what, exactly? I explored my own feelings of stuckness, limitation and fear by creating this collage.

(click image to view larger)

I wrote the statement, "There is no way we are going to set ourselves free without examining how we are imprisoned" on the top and bottom bars. There are 14 images and 14 vertical bars. On each vertical bar I tried to write a phrase that seemed to capture the feeling of one of the images.

My bars became:
1) Hanging on to imprisonment through belief in lack and limitation.
2) Fear of death and meaninglessness.
3) Poverty of spirit.
4) Martyrdom – oh poor me!
5) Desire/Greed.
6) Belief in unworthiness.
7) Prejudice.
8) Fear over love.
9) Isolation.
10) Need for vengeance, justice, payback.
11) Expecting help from “out there.”
12) Wounded inner child.
13) Turning a blind eye.
14) Disconnect from creative self.

I was realizing as I wrote all these things on the bars, that I was creating my own bars. The bars weren't there unless I built them. I was creating my own prison. Just as Emmortal said in our recent twittersation,"whenever you decide you're unwilling to experience anything, you put another bar in your personal prison."

After completing the collage, I wrote this:

You believe in the bars

You pretend you have a captor

From that moment on you are a slave
to your own fears
A slave
to belief in lack
to belief in limit
to belief in your own unworthiness
to own happiness
to be yourself only and truly
to express what is your God-given right and command to express

Let it go…
You will not die unfulfilled
Your story is important
and real
and true

And only you can tell it
can live it
can breathe life into it

Tear down the bars
They are not real
only false shadows
mind games

The true you is
and always shall be
a shining star that only you can be

Life is short
the days are numbered
The only sin is not
living each one
holding it close
making it shine
as only you can do

But even self-recrimination
is a waste
for it is impossible
to truly waste a day

Every step
Every breath
Every heartbeat
Is your unique unfoldment

What are your bars? And are you ready to tear them down?

Wishing you peace on the journey...

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Universe in an Orange Shirt

Did you ever think that maybe the Universe is talking to you all the time?

There used to be a show on TV called “Joan of Arcadia.” Joan Girardi was a typical high school kid – except that God was always showing up as random people in her life. These people (who were really God in disguise) would challenge her to do things she probably would not otherwise do. Sometimes God was the cafeteria lady, sometimes a little girl, sometimes a goth kid at school. The theme song was Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (What if God was one of us? / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make his way home).

I had a Joan of Arcadia experience this morning when the Universe (my preferred name for God) showed up in the form of a city utility worker. On the last leg of my morning walk, I rounded the corner from the busy main street into my peaceful neighborhood and saw that I would have to skirt around a huge fallen eucalyptus branch. A City of Mesa utility truck was parked next to the mess. I removed my iPod’s earbuds as I was greeted by a smiling man in a bright orange shirt who’d been scratching his head and looking over the debris and the ravaged remains of the tree.

“Good morning!” he said jovially with a twinkle in his eye (think Morgan Freeman in “Bruce Almighty” or “Evan Almighty”).

“Did that fall down in the night?” I asked, stupidly pointing out the obvious.

“These eucalyptus trees do this all the time,” he replied, with a kind of pleased enthusiasm that didn’t seem warranted given that he’d likely be the one to have to cut it up and haul it off.

It was certainly true, I reflected, remembering when our neighbor’s eucalyptus had come crashing through our fence a few years back. Not just a branch – the whole tree. And my own eucalyptus in the front yard split in two one day and had to be cut down. Eucs tend to suck up all the water they can, growing faster and heavier than their frames can manage. When there’s not much water to be had, their giant limbs grow brittle. They’ll weather all kinds of wind and heat and then one day, when not a breeze is stirring, a humongous branch will come crashing down with no warning.

“Heat’s coming on us today,” he observed, not ruefully but with the attitude of a man about to do battle and relishing the thought.

“Yep. Supposed to hit 100 today,” I said over my shoulder as I resumed my walk.

It was just a brief, random exchange. Except that as I’d rounded that corner, I’d been stewing over some financial challenges my family is facing right now. I’d been feeling like things might come crashing down at any moment. I’d been worrying whether we could stand the heat, or if we’d have to get out of the kitchen. Like the eucalyptus, our national economy had grown top-heavy and it seemed like a great big branch of it was about to fall right on us.

Then I ran into the Universe wearing an orange shirt and a big smile and pointing out to me that these things happen all the time. The Universe, standing ready to clean up the aftermath of anything that might come crashing down, heat be damned. Suddenly, I felt better. There might be some hard work ahead, but I’m willing to roll up my shirtsleeves and see it through. And I know the Universe has my back.

I quickened my pace just a bit and started singing out loud to the tune on my iPod: Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.”

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's Cameron's Birthday, But the Present's for YOU!

Today is my son Cameron’s 31st birthday, or would be if he was still here. I’m not sure how old he is where he lives now, or if age is even a concept there. It’s been nearly five years since his death and rather than feeling bittersweet, today I am feeling very happy about his birthday. I’m going to celebrate by giving away 10 copies of The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief in eBook format. The book has been available since September in paperback and I’ll be officially launching the eBook release within the coming month. Here is your chance to get a free pre-release copy of the eBook, which includes full-color illustrations.

The Deep Water Leaf Society tells the story of Cameron’s death and the journey of awakening I experienced in the aftermath. While it is autobiographical, it is also a guidebook to healing for anyone experiencing grief. You will learn how to use art, journaling, dreams and synchronicity to heal and grow. Even if you are not grieving, the tools, practices and messages of the book can show you a pathway to transformation and personal growth.

Many people have asked me what the title of the book means. The name was given to me in a dream. You can read the dream in the first chapter of the book, which you can download here, or you can read about it in my very first blog entry here. Even so, many people still scratch their heads over the title, so let me tell you what I think it means.

Most of us live our lives like a leaf floating on a very deep lake. Just as winds and currents move the leaf around, we allow much of the direction of our lives to be determined by the people and events around us. We drift along like sleepwalkers living surface level lives, never finding out who we really are. I think of the “deep water leaf” as one who has had that smooth surface shattered, one who has been pulled into the depths and found that rather than drowning the experience has left him or her more alive than ever. Because it’s only in the depths that we will see the mystery, the magic, the timelessness of who we are and how we are connected. We can only find those things by diving deeper. We can wait for a tragedy to shatter the surface for us, or we can just take a deep breath and dive.

So, if you’d like to receive your own copy of The Deep Water Leaf Society in eBook format (268 pages filled with color illustrations) totally free with no strings attached, be one of the first 10 people to post a comment on this blog entry telling me about one of your own “deep water leaf” experiences:
  • when have you found yourself experiencing the magic and mystery of the deep?
  • what triggered that experience?
  • did something shatter the surface, or did you just dive in?

To post your comment, scroll down to the bottom of this blog entry and click on the “Comments” link. In addition, please send an email to Claire@DeepWaterLeafSociety that includes your name, your email address and some reference to the context of your post. I will confirm your winning status and send a link to your download within 48 hours of receiving your email and verifying your posted comment.

Now, I know Cameron’s listening, so everybody sing along with me:
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you…

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This past Friday, March 20th, marked the Spring Equinox. Did you know it was also World Storytelling Day? The theme of storytelling seems to be weaving through my life right now, coming at me from many directions. When that happens, I know it’s time to pay attention.

We’re all storytellers, you know. That’s how we create our lives. It’s hard to tell, sometimes, which came first: the events of our lives or the stories we tell about them. They share a kind of symbiosis, feeding off of each other, evolving together. The stories we tell shape not only our present and future, but can reshape the past as well. The stories we tell change us. I know this has been true for me in the telling of my story in The Deep Water Leaf Society. My shift in perspective, which slowly unfolds during the course of the book, reframed a tragic loss as a gift beyond measure.

We tell stories about who we are at the individual level as well as at the tribal and global levels. Those tribal and global stories shape our nations and our world. They shape the evolutionary direction of our species as a whole. Many of our stories come from religion and many others come from science. Every one of those stories influences how we feel about ourselves and the world. Some stories divide and some stories unite. Some stories victimize and some stories empower.

The story of “The War on Terror,” for instance, creates fear and divides us. The story of “The Economic Meltdown” creates fear and victimhood. The story of “Landing on the Moon and Looking Back at Ourselves” empowered and created a new sense of one-world unity for a time, until we forgot that our planet has no borders except those we create in our minds and our stories.

I’ve been reading don Miguel Ruiz’s The Voice of Knowledge. He begins with a story about Adam and Eve in the Garden way back in the day. It’s a different twist on what happened and what the consequences were for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The snake in that tree was The Prince of Lies and what we swallowed, and what grows in us to this day, is knowledge polluted by lies: the lies we were told as we grew up, the lies we now tell ourselves and the lies we pass on to our children. These lies tell us there is not enough and that we are not enough. These are the lies of judgment that cause us to look at any person, place, thing or situation and judge it as “good” or “bad.” Before we ate the lies, we couldn’t make that distinction. Nothing was good or bad, it just was.

There’s an old Chinese story about a young man who lost his horse. The villagers said, “Oh, such bad news.” The lad’s father said, “Maybe bad, maybe good.” The next day the young man’s horse came home with an entire heard of wild horses following him. The villagers rejoiced, saying “Oh, such good fortune!” The lad’s father said, “Maybe good, maybe bad.” The next day, the boy tried to break one of the wild horses for riding. He was thrown and broke his leg so badly that he would be crippled for life. “Oh, such bad luck,” said the villagers. “Maybe bad, maybe good,” said the father. The next day, the Chinese army came and took every able-bodied son off to war. The crippled young man was spared.

The point is, events in our lives are not in and of themselves good or bad. It is our perception of them and the story we tell about them that makes them good or bad. It’s all a story, so why not pick a good one?

I recently watched a Barbara Marx Hubbard film called Humanity Ascending. Hubbard says, “The nature of nature is to transform. Crises precede transformation and problems are evolutionary drivers.” This film addresses at the macro, global, humanity-wide level what I experienced at the micro, personal, individual level: breakdown leads to breakthrough. Losing my son pushed me to grow into my next higher level of expression. Our current global crises—overpopulation, diminishing resources, economic meltdown, global warming—are exactly the conditions that can spark the next turn in the spiral of humanity’s ongoing evolutionary growth. We can welcome crisis as the wakeup call that will help us to shape a new story. Let’s pick a good one.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Monday, March 9, 2009

One Heart Singing

The tears hit me again on my morning walk. As long as it’s been (nearly 5 years) and as healed as I feel, sometimes something still sneaks up and hits me—blindsides me out of the blue. This morning it was the music on my iPod—my “Cameron” playlist (most of these are also on my playlist here on the blog). These are all songs that I love and that normally bring a smile to my face these days. Especially “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” which always makes me feel like Cameron is near. But today the words just broke me up and broke me open. There’s a line about “the day I set you free,” and suddenly the enormity of Cameron’s sacrifice and gift to me just overwhelmed me—not with sadness, but with gratitude. Because his death did set me free. Free from drama addiction, which was just as deadly and disabling as his own addiction to crystal meth.

And then “The Reason” came on with its apologies for all the pain caused and its assertion that because of it, the singer has found a reason to change everything about himself. The first time I heard this song was New Year’s Eve 2004. Cameron had died in May of that year. It was around 11pm and I was journaling and crying my heart out when the words to the song drifted into my consciousness from the TV where they were playing the top 10 songs of the year. That first time hearing it, I felt like it was Cameron talking directly to me through the lyrics. All this time, I’ve thought that it was Cameron apologizing, Cameron telling me he left here so he could start over and become something different. As I heard the words on this morning’s walk, I suddenly felt like I was singing the words back to him. I was apologizing for all the pain I caused and I was the one changing everything about me. When I think about all that’s going on in my life right now, all the writing and the coaching and the planning of workshops and presentations, I can truly say, there’s "a reason for all that I do, and the reason is you,” Cameron. The reason is you.

And then I wondered, is it Cameron singing to me, is it me singing to Cameron, or is it just One heart singing to Itself?

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Friday, March 6, 2009

The Tides of Life

I've recently returned from a week at the beach in beautiful Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) Mexico. Great time with the whole family, lovely beachfront home, 80 degree weather, good food, plenty of cerveza. In other words, a little slice of heaven.

Yet on one very still afternoon, I made the following observation:

Midafternoon Rocky Point

Today the sea is flat and smooth
Like a satin sheet
Pulled tightly over an empty bed
Black birds float
Stillness upon stillness
The raucous cries of the morning’s gulls
Silent now
No wing or feather moves the air
No boat breaks the horizon
Not a soul stirs on the beach
The tide itself seems suspended
Resting at its high water mark
Off to the hazy west
Sea blends horizonlessly into sky

I say that I crave peace
That at the core of my every prayer
Is the desire for peace, for stillness
But this stillness leaves me restless
I don’t want a life
Flat and still like this sea
I crave the motion of the waves
Their sparkling diamond light
The pull of the tides
The gentle slosh and roll
Of water greeting shore
The effervescent hiss
As thirsty sand drinks in
The delicious foamy brew

How often we resist the rise and fall of our own lives. How often we resist the changes that come. We cry out for peace, yet it is the very presence of ups and downs that lets us know we are alive.

In the past few days, I've had quite a few "ups" -- and yet, if I look at them honestly, they come directly from my biggest "down." They are all gifts that have come to me directly from my experience of loss with my son Cameron's death. Would I trade them all to have him back? Maybe. Would my life be as meaningful if I did? I don't think so. My loss has allowed me to begin to find a way to make a small contribution to this world.

I am now a Featured Writer at Open to Hope, a website that reaches 30,000 readers each month and whose mission is to offer hope to those who are grieving. You can read my first post here. I will be posting a few times each month.

I did a wonderful Internet radio interview on the Conscious Healing show with Sherry Anshara. You can listen to the archive here.

My book, The Deep Water Leaf Society, won First Place in the Self Help category and was chosen as the Best Non-Fiction Book of 2008 by Reader Views.

A new follower (see The Journey) of my blog honored me with her own "Top 10 Favs Award." I am equally honored by this award, because it means that my words are reaching real people. That makes my heart sing.

So, the next time you wish for peace and an end to your current drama, ask yourself if you are wishing your way out of living. Life comes with highs and lows. Let's make the best of all of it.

Wishing you peace on the journey...

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Just a few pieces of news to blog today:

I’m excited to announce that The Deep Water Leaf Society is a finalist (Self Help category) in the 2008 Reader Views Awards!! Wish me luck – winners will be announced at the end of March.

Also wanted to let you know that I’ll be on the Conscious Healing show on AchieveRadio at 5pm MST today. I’ll be talking with my host Sherry Anshara about finding a conscious and creative pathway through grief. Just go to, scroll down the page and click on one of the Listen Live links (some are geared for broadband and some for dial-up). If you can’t listen live today, you’ll be able to listen to the archive at your convenience later. Just go straight to the Conscious Healing page and scroll down until you see the show for March 4, 2009.

Check out the Open to Hope website for more resources on healing grief. They have invited me to be a featured writer. You can read my first Open to Hope post here.

If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you'll find a couple of new widgets on my blog page:

1) I'm now tweeting on Twitter - you can follow my tweets at the bottom of my blog, or better yet get your own Twitter account and follow me there.

2) I've also added a bookshelf of some of my favorite reads care of I'll be adding more titles over time. Check them out. Many are great resources for healing grief and personal growth.

And finally, I came across a few interesting articles on the web. Just thought I’d share…

If the U.S. were a person, would it be an emotionally disconnected addict?

And here is a fascinating look at how creativity happens in dreams.

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Dream Goddess

Dreamwork and expressive art were two powerful pathways through grief for me. Today the two came together as my dream group and I each created a mask to represent and honor our Dream Self. Here is my Dream Goddess:

Her lower face is midnight blue with gold filigree and her upper face is a cloudy sky. Her eyes are rimmed with gold in the way the ancient Egyptians rimmed theirs with khol. She has a jewel within a labyrinth for her third eye and wears stars and feathers in her hair. Her mouth is green, for she speaks only the truth of my heart (green is the color of the heart chakra).

She is made from a purchased plastic mask form decoupaged with scrapbook paper and embellished with acrylic paint, gold leaves, heart-shaped sequins, rhinstones, gold metallic marker, gold glitter glue, eyelash yarn, feathers and wire garland.

Plastic mask form: $3.99
Hot glue gun and glue sticks: $10.00
Embellishments: $3.00
Therapeutic Value: PRICELESS

While this was a more light-hearted project for me, mask making can be extremely therapeutic in processing grief. The first mask I ever made was a grief mask. I had a friend create a plaster mask of my face, which I painted and embellished. The journaling and dialogue work I did with that mask was very powerful for me. She became a container for my grief. It helps to be able to pull your feelings out into an object you can stand back and look at. It helps to separate your grief from your identity. Over time, I transferred more and more of my grief into the mask, allowing the mask to hold the pain for me when I just couldn't do it anymore.

I also created an anger mask while I was grieving. I created it out of a brown paper grocery sack and crayons. I put on some angry music, put the mask on my head and stomped around the house yelling and roaring for about 20 minutes until I fell to the floor laughing. What a great venting process that was!

You can make masks out of paper plates, construction paper, sheets of colored foam, plastic or papier mache forms, plaster cast over a form, or sculpted clay. You can make a mask of your grief, any emotion, your inner healer, your inner child, an animal totem, your spirit guide or anything else you might think of. Use your imagination, tune into your feelings and see what comes out.

Afterward, you can put the mask on and look into a mirror. Speaking out loud, complete the sentence, "I am the one who...." over and over again until you can't think of anything else to complete the sentence with. This is a great way to get in touch with what you are feeling deeply.

You can also do some journaling dialogue with the mask. Put the mask where you can look at it and with your dominant hand, write a question. Let the mask answer the question through your non-dominant hand (the one you don't normally write with). Some great questions to ask are, Who are you? How do you feel? Why do you feel that way? How can I help you? What gift do you hold for me?

I hope you will enjoy exploring the magic of mask-making as a path to healing. I'd love to see what you create!

Wishing you peace on the journey...

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

A New Blog Gadget

I stumbled across this awesome new blog gadget today at and I just had to add it to The Deep Water Leaf Society blog page.

If you've read my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society, you know that music plays an incredibly important role in my continuing connection to my son Cameron, who died of a drug overdose on May 3, 2004. Before Cameron's death, there were songs that always made me think of him and since his death there have been a number of songs through which he speaks to me. I always know when he's around, because one of these songs will play for me, often in the strangest places and situations. When I had a reading with the psychic medium Jamie Clark, I was told "He wants you to listen to the music...He wants you to listen and know that's him talking." So, speak to me in music, Cameron -- I'm always listening!

The playlist at the top of this page contains all the songs mentioned in my book (except for Michael Franks' String of Pearls, for which an authorized version is not available on the web). The songs are listed in the order in which they appear in the book, although I've set the player to play them randomly. I hope you will enjoy this new addition to my blog and that the music will convey my story and feelings and maybe speak to your heart as well.

Wishing you peace on the journey...

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Garden Clippings

I really let my garden yard, full of roses, grape vines and fruit trees, get away from me last year. When the heat of summer hit, I abandoned the little side yard and cowered inside with the AC running non-stop. When fall came, well…it was still summer. It stayed hot–well into the 100s—all the way through October. It stayed hot, and I stayed in. Every man, woman and rosebush for themselves! Winter came and went in the blink of an eye and here we are again with spring arriving in January.

And January finds the once lovely oasis is now a shambles of weeds, fallen leaves and scraggly, overgrown bushes. My little fountain sits empty and silent, its pump having given up many moons ago. Instead of blooming annuals, dull dry brown weeds as tall as trees surround the fountain. Climbing vines meant to soften the arched trellis seem rather to have swallowed it whole. The now leafless grapevines have spread and climbed into trees and trellises more than ten feet beyond their allotted corner. Let’s just say the garden is in chaos.


These past few weekends, I finally got out and got to work on clearing out last year’s residue from the garden yard. As I worked, random thoughts, ideas and questions came to me. Some relate to grieving and others just to life in general. Garden metaphors are certainly not new, but here, in no particular order, are a few of my “garden clippings.”

January is the optimum time in this part of Arizona to prune roses and non-citrus fruit trees, but calendar time is so arbitrary. It’s time to plant tomatoes here – but not back east or up north. There are rhythms and cycles and weather patterns that just don’t know how to read calendars. When does the grieving season end and the healing season begin? It’s not a date on a calendar. It’s not a set of five stages that you go through one after the other and then you’re done. There’s a rhythm and a pattern unique to each person and unique to each loss. Rather than measuring progress against the yardstick of time, we need to feel our own rhythms to know when we need the rest of lying fallow and when it’s time to bloom once again.


It’s been in the high 70’s for two weeks now and the peach tree is already beginning to bud out. I begin trimming anyway, hoping that new buds will form below where I’ve cut. Clip, clip, clip. Unopened buds fall to the ground around me. Then I find two large branches that have to go – one looks diseased, the other will be unstable when full of ripe fruit. Better to cut it than have it break later. Out comes the chain saw. Buzz, buzz, buzz. I stand back to admire my work and shake my head at what’s left of the tree. No minor pruning—this was major surgery. I console myself by saying that the poor little tree can only bear so many buds. Every year we lose at least one branch under the weight of all the peaches. Better to be brutal now, to select the strong branches. And later, to be brutal thinning down the little green fuzzy peach infants so that the remaining branches can hold their weight. At this cavalier snipping and chopping, does the peach tree register the same numbing shock that I did losing Cameron? Will it wither and die from the pain of it? I hope that, like me, it will bloom all the more and grow strong enough to birth its sweet juicy fruits without breaking.

What branches need cutting out in my life? How much blooming can I stand? How many peaches can I juggle without collapsing under their weight? I’ve got a million ideas, but I can’t see them all to fruition. Possibilities flood through me in profusion, but I’ve got to pick and choose, to weigh and balance, to cut out a whole lot of ideas, even really good ones, and focus on nurturing those blooms that remain.


Why is it so much easier to prune my fruit trees than it is to clean up my office? Cut and toss, cut and toss, cut and toss. With a discerning eye, I easily identify what stays and what goes. This branch stays, this branch goes, these shoots along the top can stay, these going off at odd angles have to go. Yet in my office I can stare at a pile of year old paper and the best I can muster is to move the pile to the other end of the desk or put it into a basket to sort through later. Maybe I need to tackle my office with pruning shears!


I keep working my way around the fountain and it’s entourage of weeds. Thinking about clearing them away feels overwhelming. Yet I’ve already purchased the annuals that will take their place. This is what I do. I get ahead of myself, put the cart before the horse. I want the blooming garden before the ground’s even prepared to hold it. I don’t want to do the weeding. I don’t want to do the tilling. I don’t even want to do the planting. I want to cut to the chase and enjoy the blossoms!

Maybe cleaning my office is more like pulling weeds than pruning trees.


Thank God for husbands! My DH musta read my mind, cuz he cleared all those weeds around the pond for me. Procrastination does pay sometimes! Did I say the weeds were as tall as trees? That was no exaggeration – when the weeds were finally cleared away, they revealed a “volunteer” oak sapling about 7 feet high with a trunk as big around as my thumb! First of all, how’d that get there? I don’t have any trees like that on or near my property. Second of all, what kind of 7 foot interlopers do I have in the inner garden of my subconscious, buried behind the weeds? Or in my office, buried under a stack of paper for that matter… Oh, Deeeeeee aaaayyccchH? Wanna clean up this mess for me too?


There’s an elegant and austere beauty to the newly pruned garden. It has a Zen-like quality. The little fountain, cleared of its weeds, stands ready to host the sound of trickling water, the newly pruned roses await their first unfurling leaves and bare tree branches curve up into the blue sky like an empty bowl holding space for the growth yet to come.

Wishing you peace on the journey...

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Changing Face of Grief

The morning after my Dad died, he came to me in a dream.

In my dream, my Dad is sitting in a chair with a large Tefla bandage on the upper right side of his head. His blue eyes are clear and twinkling and he’s wearing a sort of self-satisfied, cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. Without any words, he communicates to me that he’s been fixed up good as new. The damage from his right-hemisphere stroke and the debilitations of dementia he experienced in the last year of his life (and even longer than that, to a milder degree) have been healed. I smile and say, “Well, look at you, Dad!” I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I love him.

I am amazed at how differently this loss is affecting me compared to Cameron’s death nearly five years ago now. Cameron visited me in dreams, too. But at first, every time he visited my grief and anger were so powerful that I ended up pushing him away. I would awaken from those dreams full of pain and sadness. My dream of Dad left me filled only with peace. It puzzles me a bit how unemotional I have been about my Dad’s death. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, but I have been giving it a lot of thought. People offer me condolences and I feel like there’s no consoling needed.

Recently, as I was perusing other blogs on the theme of grief, I came across this post called "Good Grief," which contains some good, basic information about grieving. The post includes a list of things that can affect a person’s response to a loss. I can see how some of the ideas presented there have applied in my own experiences of grief.

Anticipatory grief, for example, happens when death is anticipated over a long period of time due to illness or other circumstances. The reaction to an expected death is very different than the reaction to a sudden, unexpected death. It doesn’t necessarily mean the grief is lessened, but the shock is lessened. There is a level of anticipation or expectation that we will outlive our parents, but we don’t expect to outlive our children. The difference in feeling about these two deaths is partly because of that, but it’s more than that, too. With my Dad, I think my grieving happened before he passed. I felt more sadness in watching his brilliant mind fade away than I did at the passing of his body, which, at the end, seemed only a shell of him anyway. I had some anticipatory grief with Cameron’s death, too. He’d been struggling with addiction for years and I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. Yet, I was not prepared for his unexpected death in the county jail. I thought that there, of all places, he’d be forcibly protected from his self-destructive addiction. When the detectives from the jail came to tell me he was dead, the shock was incredible. While there was anticipatory grief with both my Dad and my son, in the end I expected and even hoped for my Dad’s passing while I resisted the idea of Cameron’s death right up to the moment I learned of it.

Another thing that impacts the grief experience is the relationship you had with the person who died. I was certainly much closer to my son than I was to my Dad. Even though I had been a caretaker for my Dad for the last several years, it was more out of necessity than closeness. Prior to the decline of his and my Mom’s health, I really didn’t see my folks much. Even though I love my Dad, my life was very separate from his life. Cameron and I, on the other hand, were extremely entangled – probably unhealthily so. I believe it is called co-dependence. So his death left a gaping hole in my own sense of identity. There was also a lot of unresolved business with Cameron, where with my Dad I felt I had no loose ends, no grievances, nothing I felt guilty about. Cameron’s death left a lot of things unsaid and undone. Over time, since his death, we have had an opportunity to resolve all those issues and to heal our relationship so that now I can think of him with love and with peace in my heart. But in the beginning, there was only pain and guilt and anger. So I guess it’s easier to let go of my Dad because there’s no baggage there.

One more thing the post mentions is that what you’ve learned about loss in the past will inform any future experiences of grief. This certainly seems true in my case. Cameron’s death and all the amazing experiences that followed have completely transformed my understanding of and feelings about death. Where before I supposed (or at least hoped) that death was not a final ending, I now know it without any doubt at all. I have had too many amazing communications with Cameron since he passed to think of him as “dead.” His passing also taught me that the bond of love survives the apparent separation of death. It not only survives, but becomes stronger and healthier. My sense of death now is that it is a return to our true soul state, while our adventures here on Earth are temporary challenges—learning and growing experiences. Rather than grieving my Dad’s passing, I can celebrate his homecoming and know that our hearts remain connected.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

As always, I welcome your coments here or by email (

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Love Never Dies

I sat with my father for the last time on Thursday the 18th of December. His condition was not much different from the past several days; he was sleeping and unresponsive. I was scheduled to leave the next morning on a 6 am flight to Colorado to go see my daughter graduate from CSU. I had a feeling he wouldn’t be here anymore when I returned on Sunday.

After turning on one of his favorite CDs of Tahitian music, I sat by his bedside and held his hand. I sang and hummed along with the music I’d heard a million times, as he used to play that CD over and over again before he began to slip away so completely. I told him once again that he didn’t have to keep fighting. I told him not to worry about Mom – that we’d keep taking good care of her. I told him I loved him and what a good Dad he’d been, what a great family he’d created. What an extraordinary life he’d led, winding his way from Quebec, Canada all the way down here to Arizona! He really had had some adventures in his time.

My eyes wandered to a poster of a palm dotted white sandy beach and azure sea that we’d tacked to the wall by his bed. I asked him if he remembered his trip to Tahiti, his time in Hawaii, and all his years of sailing. “Wouldn’t it be nice to just drift away on a beautiful blue expanse of sea?” I asked him. “To just let go and let the wind fill your sails as you glide over the waters? It feels almost like flying, doesn’t it?”

The rest of the day was busy, getting Mom picked up from dialysis and settled back at home and then visiting with a dear friend who lives in the same retirement complex as my mother. The parking lot was strewn with golden fall leaves as I walked out to my car at the end of the day. With the sun just beginning to set, each leaf seemed to glow. It was quite beautiful. One leaf, a perfect heart, caught my eye. “Well, look at you,” I said, as I bent to pick it up. None of the other fallen leaves were heart shaped. They were more ovalish and elongated. I craned my neck and looked at every tree surrounding the parking lot. Not one of them had heart shaped leaves. I believe they were ash trees. I smiled and said an inward hello to Cameron. He’d been sending me hearts since just after he died and I felt him there with me. When I got into the car and started the engine, the radio played Michael McDonald’s version of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”

The next morning, as my plane lifted up off the tarmac and into the clouds, my Dad died peacefully in his sleep. I wonder now if that heart-shaped leaf was from Cameron or from my Dad – if the song on the radio was a message from Cameron or from my Dad. I suppose it doesn’t matter, really. The bottom line is that love is what matters and love never dies.