It was September of 2003, and my daughter, Elizabeth, who had just turned 20, was beginning her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota. During the early morning hours of Saturday, September 20th, a fire broke out in her duplex, and she and two roommates died of smoke inhalation.
The question I’m often asked is how can you find joy when you have suffered such a devastating loss?
The answer is simple, yet complex. It is a journey and not a destination. I wouldn’t be where I am today had God, or The Universe as I like to call it, not stepped into my life in a very strong, yet tangible way to lend a helping hand.
During the first few days, weeks and months, I was in a state of shock. Nothing can prepare you for such an event. I also felt guided by something far greater than myself that I knew was God. Not knowing what else to do, and feeling pulled and compelled, I listened and followed. Thankfully, the signs I received from the Universe were down right blatant, and I could not help but pay attention.
As soon as I learned of my daughter’s death, I felt a complete sense of deep peace. It was something I had never felt before and it is very difficult to put into words. The best way to describe it is that I was experiencing “the peace that passeth all understanding.” I felt as if a path was put in front of me and I could follow it if I wanted to … but I didn’t have to. I was free to do whatever I wished. But this sense of peace was so tangible, so strong, and so real that it pulled me slowly step by step down the path, and I’m still on this path today.
Within the first week, three people shared a sign they felt came from Liz — one of her closest high school friends, my mother and my husband. As I learned of each of them, it confirmed for me that this sense of peace I was feeling was indeed real. It also gave me the courage to embark on this journey – to take a step, and then another, and another, and I am still taking steps today, over seven years later.
As a mother, all I have ever wanted for each of my children was that they be happy and safe from harm. I realized that Liz was both of those things and that I no longer needed to worry about her. It felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
This strong presence of peace enabled me to immediately talk to Liz … asking for her help to deal with the many details that had to be handled. Eventually, I came to realize she answered me in very real, concrete, and tangible ways.
The day after Liz’s death, I had to go out and buy an outfit to bury her in. Everything she owned had been in the fire. I told her point blank, that I needed her help – that I had no idea what she would want me to pick out for her. It only took a few minutes and I picked out a pair of khaki pants and a light blue sweater. I didn’t immediately “know” this was what she wanted. In fact what I did “know” was that what she wore didn’t really matter. That knowing was unusual in and of itself — Liz was a “fashionista” – she loved clothes and always wanted new outfits. The fact that what she wore no longer mattered proved to me that she now viewed life and the world in a new and different way.
Two days later, my sister-in-law told me that she had been going through pictures and found one of Liz taken the previous Christmas. She was wearing the identical outfit that I had picked out. My first thought was, “oh good, I think I got it right.” It took several months before the light bulb came on and I understood that I got it right because Liz truly did help me.
My family and I did our best to resume our life. We went back to work and school and we did the things we always did. But life for me continued to be a journey down a path – one step at a time. Each time a new opportunity presented itself I would have this intense yearning to follow. I have never, ever felt such a strong compulsion to do something in my entire life.
Many of the opportunities presented to me were completely out of my comfort zone – driving in a busy metropolitan area, meeting new people, not worrying about what other people thought, and eventually stepping out to write and speak my truth for the world to take in.
One month after Liz’s death, the smoke alarm in our home went off, and I was the only one to hear it, even though my husband and younger daughter were also home at the time. I immediately knew it was a sign from Liz and not just some strange coincidence. It represented yet another step on my path.
A month later, I found myself in just the right place at just the right time to meet a woman who changed my life and continues to this day to be my teacher, my mentor and my friend.
Kathryn Harwig is a psychic, an author, speaker, teacher, and lawyer. I learned of her ability to speak to the dead and immediately knew this was to be the next step on the path of this journey that was now my life.
Kathryn confirmed what I already knew – that Liz was fine – she was living a marvelous new life. She told me how much Liz loved me – and I told Liz how much I loved her. Nothing else really mattered. Kathryn helped us to forge a new connection as mother and daughter, but more importantly as kindred souls who will always be united.
For a long time, I questioned why all of these amazing things were happening to me? I was very reluctant to share them, and I lived in fear that I would be judged harshly.
It took time, but little by little I began to tell my story to those around me, and I came to understand that my experiences were meant to be shared with the world — to allow others to perhaps see things in a new way, or, to realize what The Universe has available for all of us — to be open to the possibilities, to ask for what we need, to pay attention, and, most importantly, to be grateful for whatever it is we receive.
I have learned not to live in fear, but to trust and follow where I am led. My fear of being judged harshly by telling my story has never happened.
Please know, that I am not a special person – with special privileges or abilities – I’m just like you – I lead a very normal, ordinary life — and my message is that guidance from The Universe is available to each of us.
Sometimes we cannot move through our pain and grief, but instead we become stuck in it. My hope and prayer will always be that my story will open up a world of new possibilities for those stuck in the pain so that they can see things in a new way and move through the darkness of the pain out into the light of joy and happiness.
People sometimes feel that if they are happy – if they laugh or smile, they are somehow betraying their loved one. I can’t buy into that mentality. The best way to honor someone is to live a good life — to laugh, to love, and to do whatever possible to make the world a better place.
Do I have difficult days? Of course I do. Do I wish things could have been different? Yes, of course. The key is acknowledging our feelings – feel them to the Nth degree. If we do so, we will move through the pain and will not stay stuck in it. Tomorrow will always be better. If we stuff or deny our feelings, they may subside for a time – but they will return with a vengeance on another day at another time.
Our relationships are gifts and sometimes gifts must be returned, even when we don’t want them to. Our physical bodies die – but the essence of who we are and the love we share never dies.
“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” I don’t know who penned those words but they are words to live by. The bond we all share with those we love is never broken – not even by death – and that is the best news of all and it’s what makes life worth living each and every day.
Kimberly Wencl 2010Tags: belongings, funerals, money, signs and connections