“Come home, Mom,” my daughter screamed over the transatlantic phone. “Cyndi is dead, and we’ve been trying to reach you.” All the money I had placed into the red lobster phone in Glastonbury, England, suddenly was swallowed up. The phone went dead. I looked at the woman behind me, waiting for her turn to make a call, and whispered, “She said that our daughter is dead. That’s impossible. I must have heard it wrong.”
Jane and I had only met in the writing retreat three days earlier, but the force of my words pierced her heart. She poured all her change on the table as she said, “Call back right now.” Jane fed the coins into the phone. My fingers wouldn’t work. I gave her our home phone number. My husband answered with tears in his voice. He described the police coming to the door and informing him of the apparent suicide of our 39-year-old daughter. “Come home, he cried.” I couldn’t speak. As I sat in the Abbey House chair trying to absorb his words, I stared at the cemetery below. Folklore claimed it contained the body of King Richard of Camelot. Suddenly, I knew what emotional crucifixion felt like.
If Cyndi had said it once, she repeated it 1,000 times, “I’ll have to live a long time. Ryan is going to need me.” Ryan was her 10-year-old autistic son. His diagnosis had broken her heart and shredded her marriage. The grueling struggle to find help for Ryan in 2003 was frustrating and exhausting. Divorce was looming in the future just before I left my eight-day writing retreat. There was no sign of suicidal intent as we had coffee the day before I left for England. Cyndi shared how she felt confident after her divorce she would finally become a butterfly, after being a caterpillar for so long.
Now she was dead. Dead! I couldn’t wrap my mind around the reality of it. In shock I flew home to New Jersey. Like every parent who has lost a child, I wanted to know what happened and why. Most importantly, I wanted reassurance that Cyndi was alright, even though we buried her. My shock became anger, then spiraled into depression when I faced the reality of her death without the information I desperately needed. I turned to faith, my physician, The Compassionate Friends and grief counseling for help. Each resource helped a bit but I wanted reassurance that my little girl was being loved beyond the veil.
Months before Cyndi died, I discovered a process of transpersonal journaling that helped me begin to heal the “unfinished business” I had with my own mother after her death. We called our communication “Celestial Conversations.” Through prayer, meditation and journaling, I discovered the information I needed in order to let go of my judgement, criticism and resentment about things that happened between Mom and me while she was alive. My transpersonal journaling encouraged me to focus on forgiveness, instead of anger and guilt. Even though that seemed impossible, it gave me something to do that was practical and purposeful. It also opened the door to my eventual resurrection from depression.
The opportunity to find out what happened to Cyndi through “Celestial Conversations” with my mother helped me to understand that love surrounds our dear ones beyond the veil. The information helped me accept Cyndi’s death and help her sons in specific ways. My grief counselor encouraged me to write a book about my process. She felt that my despondency was lifting, and my anger was disappearing. In the meantime, I began to use the transpersonal journaling with Cyndi. Cyndi’s words were remarkably helpful, with firm instructions for me to forgive everyone as quickly as I can. “How do I do that?” I wondered. “One thought at a time,” she responded.
My brother invited me to join him in the Holy Land. I flew to Jerusalem, seeking solace and inspiration from Mary, the Mother of Christ. She has been my rock since childhood. She also lost her child. “Mary, how did you survive? Teach me how to emulate your faith, love and compassion,” I repeated over and over as I walked the Via Dolorosa. “I want to be light, not dark; love, not hate. I need help to heal my broken heart. Show me how you did it, dear Mother. Help me to follow your example.”
In Jerusalem, it struck me that Mary’s child rose again. Mary’s child preached forgiveness. Mary’s child inspired her, even after His death, to help heal others. Could the death of my child inspire me to help heal other broken hearts? My faith in the possibility of my own resurrection took root in Jerusalem. I came home determined to grow from my grief, not be buried by it. I wrote my book as encouraged by my grief counselor. Mary, the mother of Christ, continues to be my model of hope. My journey led to the publication of my book and the opportunity to teach others about transpersonal journaling. My journey is an example of the truth that all grief has a golden nugget of healing possibilities. Resurrection from despondency is possible. Look up for the light. I pray that you too may rise into the world of forgiveness, compassion and healing which is the true meaning of Easter.