A Legacy of Love Enriches Our Family Story

©Jane A. Simington PhD. 2017

 

Summer is a time when many gather for special events that add memories to the family story, that will last a life time. Such gatherings also connect the present with the past; for they can evoke strong memories resulting from conversations about the legacy left by family members who have helped to establish intergenerational links.

A legacy is a tangible (such as an item) or intangible (such as love and respect) substance that is left by someone who has died and helps keep the deceased person alive in the memories of those whose lives have been significantly touched by the death. For me and my family members, our Mother’s flowers are both tangible and intangible portions of her legacy.

Roots from perennials which our Mother shared with each of her children, now flourish and bloom; not only in our gardens but in the gardens of our children and grandchildren. Throughout spring and summer we share photos of their blossoms. During family gatherings, we relive our various visits to Mother’s garden and the conversations we had as she insisted she be the one to dig the roots of each plant (explaining she knew best how to) so that the roots would grow into a plant that would thrive in our particular home gardens.

Today I picked a bouquet of roses, the roots of which originated from Mother’s plant. Mother loved roses and had one large rose bush that was abundant with fragrant blooms from early spring to late autumn. As I enjoyed my roses this morning, I spent some moments in reverie about my connections to my Mother and her roses. My Mother’s name was Rose, and in my pondering, I reflected on the symbolism associated with the rose and how that symbolism was a reflection of her name and of my Mother’s legacy to her family. Symbolically the rose represents love, as the guiding principle for life, a symbol carried from mythological and ancient times into all the major modern religions.

My association with my Mother and roses also caused me to recall that roses have long been associated with spiritual messengers and messages from those who have gone before us, and my own experiences regarding this knowledge. Two nights before my Mother died, I smelled roses, even though there were none (visible to me) in her room. When I related this, Mother responded that the roses were from my son who had died and that I would know Billy was around when I again smelled roses. Days later, on my drive homeward, for a few moments only, my entire car was flooded with the unmistakable, fragrance of blooming roses.

Returning from my reverie, I gazed again at the rose bouquet I had picked this morning, and appreciated anew a grander image of the wholeness of life and of the continuation of family connections, intergenerational bonds, and ancestral roots.

As your family gathers this summer, if someone of significance will no longer be present, I invite you to relive that person’s legacy. As you do, honor how this person contributed to your family ties and recognize how those connections have impacted your life and then determine how you will strengthen the intergenerational bond that will link your legacy to future generations.

Being Grateful for Post-Traumatic Growth

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

During the month of October, many of us who live in countries of the Northern Hemisphere will gather in celebrations of gratefulness. For those who are newly bereaved, these days can add to their sense of loss and feelings of injustice. I clearly recall the first Thanksgiving celebrations after my son’s death. The closer the holiday came, the louder my inner voice chided, “What do I possibly have to be grateful for?” Now years later and only after much sorrow and having left few stones unturned in search of healing, I am aware that there are two aspects to grief: the destructive aspect, and the transformative aspect. While those who are now still in the early stages of grief, do not want to hear that their suffering will change and transform them; many who remain committed to achieving healing; and while it may take a long time, will at some point be able to acknowledge the personal and soulful transformation that resulted from their tragedy.

jane gratitude centre 1

Empirical research demonstrates that many people experience personal and spiritual growth following extreme trauma and bereavement circumstances.1  My own experiences and those of many I have helped through their grief and trauma, parallel the research findings. For most of us, the struggles to cope with the tragic events changed our priorities. What was once important became unimportant and what was once of no importance had become paramount. This shifting of importance seems especially true related to an increased appreciation of meaningful relationships.

For some of us, the shattering of specific religious beliefs was replaced with the acceptance of a broader and more flexible spirituality. For many, the need to rebuild shattered assumptions created an enhanced sense of the meaning of life and of the need to fulfill our life’s purpose. This ever-growing existential awareness led, in turn, to an enriched relationship with the Divine in self and in others; and after an initial period of being angry at God and feeling a deep sense of injustice, many developed a deeper and more personal relationship with the “God of now.” For many, this resulted only after there was a major reshaping of long-held ideas of God, of the Universe and of the Universal Order. In my particular case, the shifting and reshaping of these views deepened my sense of belonging within the greater plan of life.

After a time most who stay committed to their healing, recognize that the journey has changed them in many positive ways. Many report that they would never again want to go back to being what they were, personally and soulfully, prior to their tragedy; and while most of us wish we could have achieved the same personal and soulful growth in any other way, we are extremely grateful for all the experiences our suffering and healing has brought.

During October celebrations, many altars and table-centers will be decorated with fruits of the season. Prayers will be recited in gratitude for the abundance of the harvest. This Thanksgiving, let us also raise our voices for the greatest gifts we have received. Let there be songs and hymns of gratefulness for the post-traumatic growth and healing that we and each of our loved ones have received.

  1. Shaw A, Joseph S, Linley PA (2005).Religion, Spirituality and Posttraumatic Growth: A Systemic Review of the Literature, Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture, March, 8(1):1-11.

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Summer has ended and during this week we are in the energy of the Autumnal Equinox. Since ancient times, the Earth’s Peoples have re-enacted rituals to draw in the energies of these days believing that during the equinoxes, the universes are more directly in line; and thus celebrations of gratitude as well as rituals for supplication were more likely to be received and responded to by the heavens. According to NASA, there is indeed a change in geometric activity that takes place during the September Equinox. These changes actually increase the chances, for those of us who live in the higher regions of the Northern Hemisphere, to view the Northern Lights.


No matter how far removed we are from the soil and the smells and colors of this beautiful season, each of us is affected by the movements of the planets; and thus each of us can purposefully harness the energies of these days for our own life shifts. Here are some ways to draw into your own as well as into your groups, the power available to each of us during the Autumnal Equinox. Remember that rituals and ceremony do not have to be observed following any particular tradition or religious ceremony. In my experience, the best outcomes of any ceremony are achieved when they result from actions based on pure intentions that flow from my own Spirit to serve my personal needs and those of my groups.

 

  1. Examine the Balance in Life

This year the official day of the Autumnal Equinox is September 22. On that day the hours of daytime and nighttime are relatively the same. This has long been interpreted to mean that during this short period of time the world is in balance. Metaphorically, we can use this time to determine and re-establish the balance in our own lives.
 

  • Purchase two candles for each person who attends your equinox ceremony. Select one candle for each in a bright autumn color and the other in a dark color. During the celebration each person in turn, lights first the brightly colored candle and speaks of how and in what ways, since the Spring Equinox, they have been able to balance their soulful and personal needs and desires with their commitments to the outside world. The colored candle is then placed on the centre altar and the dark candle is lit. As the dark candle burns the person speaks about what actions are needed during the upcoming dark days and nights, so that the balance that is already achieved can be maintained; and so that there can be, by the Spring Equinox, a celebration of having achieved an even greater balance, between soulful and personal needs and desires, and their commitments to the outside world. The dark candle is then placed on the central altar. When all members have spoken and all the brightly glowing candles are on the centre altar, lead a group prayer in which you honor the balance in the universe; express gratitude for the balance each member has found, and request that each receive whatever they require to achieve the further balance they seek.

 

  1. Make a Wreath
     Invite each person to pick a piece from the bowl that you have previously filled with items representative of nature in autumn. After each person has picked their item, ask each in turn to speak of the significance of that particular piece to them and what drew them to select it; and to then place the item on the empty wreath (which you have earlier either purchased or created from willow, grape vines or birch bows). You will want to have a good quality glue gun available for the purpose of gluing the items to the wreath. Once all of the items are secured to the wreath, place it on the centre altar. Invite members to join hands and form a circle around the altar and then lead a closing prayer of gratefulness for the gifts of the Earth; acknowledging that as we celebrate the gifts of the Earth, we also accept that Her growing time is dying. Pray that each member of your group is able to embrace the dark times ahead as opportunities to be more inner-focused and from that, to place their newly gained strength and renewed purpose in readiness to meet the light of the Spring Equinox.

The Earth grows cold.
The soil lays barren. Six months of dark
Without dark we do not know light.
 Without barrenness we do not know growth.
Without death we do not embrace life
Without sorrow we do not appreciate joy
Great Mother, in your dark time, support me in mine.

As Life Ended He Knew He Had Done the Best He Could

Jane A. Simington

Developmental theorist Eric Erickson1 described our final developmental task as being the need to review our lifeto determine if the gods are pleased. In doing a life review, we sort through the various aspects of our life and conclude either with believing we have done the best we could, or determining there are things we need to make right within our self or in our relationships.

poppy-19658_640
Some time ago, my husband called me for help with the frightening visions that were being experienced by his dying father. As my father-in-law’s life was drawing to a close he began having visions of uniformed soldiers walking around his bed. Each time he described the experiences, he concluded these were the soldiers killed during WWII battles because of the orders he, as their commander, had given.
My father-in-law described that over the years he had often thought about these men, wondered how their families managed their grief and how they had survived without the son, husband or father who had been killed. He mentioned that he had often pondered what the dying soldiers thoughts were of him. Had they blamed him? Had they cursed him? As he reviewed this time of his life and these circumstances, he indicated that over the years, and especially now as he was examining the various aspects of his life, he thought a lot about some of the choices he felt were required of him during the war years.

As my husband and I listened to his testimony, I became aware it was likely that my father-in-law’s feelings about his fears and regrets had become embodied. Embodiment of emotion is not uncommon both during dying and during grief. Known as personification, it is a process in which inanimate abstractions or feelings become endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.
Acknowledging that part of bringing a satisfactory closure to his life required allowing him to share these deep emotions, and to describe in more detail some of the life events he was now reviewing, his son and I listened attentively.
Over the next days we became aware that in relating some of his experiences, most of which he had rarely spoken of, the visions of the soldiers moving around his bed seemed to lessen and become less terrifying for him. Following one such vision, when he described the uniformed figures and how threaten he felt by them, I asked if it was possible these were soldiers from the unit he had commanded, and that they were coming to welcome him to the other side where he would again be in comradeship with them? My father-in-law was able to accept this reframing of his visions, and through it, alter his own interpretation.

My father-in-law’s remaining days appeared to be peaceful, and since he never again spoke of the soldiers, my husband concluded his father had completed reviewing that aspect of his life and was now able to rest peacefully believing he had done the best he could.

Reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, is activated by many things including visits, photographs and song. These things naturally stir memories that when stirred can be explored. Happy memories can be re-lived and re-enjoyed, and ways can be found to release the emotional load attached to the difficult ones. In many cases, it is the sharing of a difficult memory with a trusted person that allows for the release of the emotion attached to that memory.

Robin Butler2 described life review as a human need to balance the good in life against the negative. The goal, when assisting another during life review, is to have the person recognize that while their life was made up of both positive and less than positive events, the good outweighed the negative. Circular questions, such as “Tell me what happened after that,” followed by “And then what happened?” and again followed by “And then what happened?” are valuable when helping the person acknowledge the positive outcomes that flowed from what was initially viewed as a negative experience.
It is also important to help a person who is examining past choices recognize we often judge past events based on today’s standards. There is great value in helping the person view events within the context of the circumstances when their choices were made, and then to assist in helping to reframe perceptions of those past circumstances so the person is able to acknowledge that the best possible choices were made.

References

1).Erickson, E. H. Childhood and Society. New York: WW Norton.
2).Butler, R. N. Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches. . St. Louis: Mosby.

Gratitude for Grandfathering of Grandsons

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. 

I never knew my grandfathers; they both died before I was born, so I have no personal experiences of being grandfathered. After I married, my husband and I lived far from our families of origin so I saw few examples of my own children being grandfathered. Perhaps it is because of these voids I feel a deep sense of appreciation for the opportunities to learn about grandfathering as I witness my husband embrace this role. Through these observations, my heart floods with joy knowing our grandsons are receiving a love that is special, a bond weaving them into the threads of our intergenerational fabric.

Granddad and grandson sitting by lake

I recognize that as a grandfather he hardly notices the mistakes our grandsons make because he is so enchanted with the amazing and delightful things they do. Their little off-the cuff comments and sense of humor seems to quicken his desire to be even more available to them. In the abundance of the energetic force of their growing they apply a kind of salve to old wounds.

The lessons our grandsons learn from their grandfather are endless – sportsmanship, positive attitude, but perhaps the most important thing being passed down from him, aside from love, is generosity of time. Thank you, grandsons, for the sparkles in your eyes and the way you wave in excitement when your grandfather arrives to take over for your mom or dad. Thank you for the many times you allowed your grandfather to deliver you to, and pick you up from, play school, pre-school, kindergarten, or after-school programs. Thank you, grandsons, for the joy of watching you accept your grandfather’s sports experience, enthusiasm and wisdom as you play baseball, la cross and hockey. The way you lift your helmeted-heads so as to be able to give a look of appreciation for his attendance at your games, and the way you listen attentively to his encouragement and receive his validation of your efforts, lets him know you find his opinion worthy of paying attention to.

Through his story-telling gifts, your grandfather connects you to your heritage. In relating the history of his life and of our families, he helps you learn family lore. Through anecdotes about your grandparents, and your mother, aunt and uncle as children, he helps you to be a link in our ongoing family story. Thank you for listening attentively each time you hear these episodes; know they are reinforcing a part of his life that he wants to ensure also becomes a small piece of yours.

Thank you grandsons for sitting with your granddad as together you watch the Canada Geese come into our lake. Thank you for dragging him from his chair when he is all done-in and forcing him to play checkers, soccer or street hockey by your rules. Thank you for the wrestling matches and the games of claw, and for the many giggles that accompany them. Thank you for emptying the candy disk before your granddad can.

As I watch our grandsons go about their activities with their grandfather, I am in awe of how everyday experiences are not just ordinary experiences, but extraordinary ones, and are often experiences that will be enjoyed by both grandfather and grandsons for the very first time, and are also often experiences that can never be repeated. I am grateful to live close enough to our grandsons to learn about grandfathering, as I witness it first-hand.

As children, and as young men, while you know a lot more than you understand, I suspect you can’t completely comprehend the full meaning of your granddad’s love; how wise he is, how much patience he has, how much guidance he gives you by his example, by his helpful and caring ways and by the depth of his concern and the love in his protectiveness. I suppose you will only know these things when you are grown men and look back and see through older eyes and wiser hearts. I hope that when that time comes you will remember and fully recognize your granddad’s unconditional love, devotion, and family loyalty. I hope as well that you will then know these and many other things about your grandfather that will make you realize how lucky you are to have known what it is to be grandfathered. While being grandfathered is something I, your grandmother, have never known personally, I now have the privilege of being able to witness the extraordinary relationship you enjoy in allowing your granddad to grandfather you.

Threads of Gratefulness Woven within the Fabric of Life

©Jane A. Simington, PHD., October, 2014

“It is not a matter of brain damage; it is a matter of life or death.” Bill signed the consent; I was unconscious. The fall had fractured my skull and thrust my brain forward crashing it against the frontal portion of my cranium.

Post surgery, during moments of semi-consciousness, I became increasingly aware of my inability to see. Each time I slipped back into unconsciousness I begged three large Beings of Light to open my eyes. Weeks later, Bill told me that my failed attempts to force my swollen eyes open had caused me to become more and more agitated, to the point of where I was pulling out life supporting chest tubes.

jane gratitude centre 1

Those events occurred three years ago. While it took months to heal the many symptoms caused by a brain injury and the psychological effects of the trauma, today I am grateful for life and for a body and brain that function well. Every time I run along the lakeside, I recall the days when I had to be aware of the exact placement of each of my feet so as to ensure I would not fall. I am grateful to have regained balance. Each time I answer a student’s question, I breathe a silent “thank you,” knowing that both my long and short term memory are once again intact. I am thankful for my sight and hearing, especially because the location of the damage to my skull and brain makes the retaining of those senses a miraculous gift. I am grateful for my husband Bill who held and stroked me for three days and nights, assuring me he was there, and knowing his touch and reassurance were the only things that would calm my anxiety enough to keep me from pulling out tubes, and keep me from causing permanent damage to my eyes from my attempts to force them open.

As a nurse, when I worked with an unconscious patient I always believed that an unconscious person could hear what was being said to them. While I have little recall of most of my unconscious days, I do have some memory of Bill’s supporting words and because of my experience I will continue to encourage people to speak in loving and caring ways to those who are unconscious and to those who are dying.

I am grateful for what my time in the realm of the unconscious taught me about the Spirit World. For much of my life I had a belief in Spiritual Helpers. That belief has been substantiated and has become a knowing for I witnessed and was cared for by Spiritual Helpers when in a state of unconsciousness and I witnessed them once again after I gained consciousness. I now know, not just believe, that I have help and support from a spiritual realm.

October is the month when we pause to take stock of our abundance, and in turn give thanks for all we have received. I share my experiences and the gifts I garnered from those experiences trusting they will inspire you to reexamine your own difficult life events. When you do so, I encourage you to recognize and share with others all the golden threads of gratefulness that because of those events, are now beautiful parts of the wonderful fabric of your life story.

 

A Time for Renewal and Transformation

©Jane A. Simington PHD, 2014 

This morning at dawn,
prodded by a magical stirring in the air,
I wandered a wooded area
to capture signs of spring I knew would be there.
The Geese are back, the Robins too;
Pussy willows? I saw a few.
Wild things need no temple; they need no bells to ring.
The breezes coming from the South
have told them it is spring.
In this outdoor cathedral, standing on holy ground
I marveled at the lessons of rebirth that I found.
The unborn beauty beneath the earth
again reminded me,
That life renews with joy, and peace, and immortality.

My time in nature always brings a deep sense of awe and gratefulness for the many lessons gleaned from seasonal changes. The metaphoric similarities of the repetitive cycle of birth, death and rebirth bring promise of renewal. Since ancient times, spring festivals have been based on this theme and those still held in sacred circles around the world continue to honor our Human-Earth connections. Such ceremonies acknowledge how the external reminders of spring parallel a rekindling of light and warmth in our inner world. In Aboriginal cultures, the metaphor of the movement from cold and darkness into warmth and light is that of the journey of the Great Bear from the cave. Hibernation is brought to an end, by the warming rays of the Eastern sun. Hungry and eager to ingest the goodness and warmth of spring, the Great Bear leaves behind the cave’s cold and darkness.

Springtime can be any time when the light increases in our mind and in our spirit, for anytime this occurs, an increase in our sense of freedom follows. A butterfly’s process of metamorphosis and release from the entrapment and darkness of the cocoon is a common symbol of the transition from darkness into light and freedom.

geese Jane's lakeSpringtime and all of its reminders of renewal provide a great opportunity for recognizing that difficult life experiences have two separate aspects: the destructive aspect and the transformative aspect. During the destructive aspect we feel robbed and stripped of what we once had and have no longer. We grieve and we mourn. Yet, our long days of darkness, our times in the caves, times in the cocoons, change us, transform us. When we emerge from the caves, when we crawl from the cocoons, we know we are not the same beings that entered.

As spring replaces winter, I hope that the seasonal changes awaken for each of us a renewed hope in the cycles of life and death and transformation. May the increasing hours of sun deepen our recognition that every year spring brings bare earth to bloom. May the seeds we have sorted during our long winter days and nights, and selected for planting, be fertile and sprout with many new leaves in the light and warmth of the spring sunshine.

 



My Summer Morning Prayer of Praise

 

roseMy summer morning prayer of praise is…

The awesomeness of awakening to the radiance of a glorious sunrise,
The rose planted by my husband last summer, which overnight burst forth into a profusion of golden- yellow blooms,
The glistening sunbeams on thin spider web threads hanging on my garden gate, making me dip my head to pass under, as I leave for a morning run.

My summer morning prayer of praise is…

The wondrous splendor of witnessing the nurturing of life taking place along the shore
The goose and her seven goslings quickly moving to the safely of the water, while the drake hisses to remind me of his job as protector of his family.
The young muskrat, a new arrival to the lake, perhaps determining the suitability of these surroundings for a home to sustain the new life he will parent in the coming fall and winter.

My summer morning prayer of praise is…

The wooliness of low- hanging clouds loosely draped beneath an expansive turquoise dome,
The movement of branches, the whispering of leaves and the breezes brushing my face, reminding me that Spirit rides on the wind,
The solidness of the hill beneath me, as I stand with outstretched arms to honor the dawn, to draw in the energy of new beginnings, and to be open to all the possibilities of this new day.

© Dr. Jane A. Simington, PHD.

Honoring Our Veterans: A Discovery of Inner Peace

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. (Oct, 2012).

 In countries around the world, every November 11, citizens stop and ponder the freedom they experience as a result of the sacrifices made by those who have served their country in the maintenance of peace and liberty. November 11th honors all living and dead Veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve, and often despite great personal costs. In Canada, the day of honoring our veterans is known as Remembrance Day; in the United States it is Veterans Day. In many other countries this day is referred to as Armistice, for it marks the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I.

It was believed that the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 at 11am (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) was a declaration to end the “War to end all wars.” Sadly, the positive predictions for that day have not been the reality.  

For many of us the search to find ways to end war and conflict has turned into a search for world peace. Peace symbols such as those of a dove carrying a green branch and the brilliant red poppy remind us of this quest.poppy

The red poppy which is now closely associated with November 11th symbolizes the peace brought to the world by the veterans who served during WWI. These poppies bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders; their brilliant red color was thought to represent the blood spilt during the war.
The tradition of wearing a red poppy to commemorate our veterans on November 11th began when a Canadian medical officer, John McCrae wrote this famous poem (1915).

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.”


His poem was published in Punch Magazine and by 1918, it was well known throughout the allied world. An American woman, Moina Michael, added her response.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

 

Yet despite the poetry and symbolism, the search for world peace goes on. Continue reading

Gratitude

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Research has shown life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier, more resilient.  It strengthens relationships, improves health, and it reduces stress.

Let me start by expressing my gratitude.  Thank you to all who have supported my work, my husband, my daughters, my staff, all who have read my books, taken my training and used my resources. Each has helped to move forward my desire to make this world a more healed place. For that I am thankful.

The Miracle of Gratefulness

When thou dost ask me a blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask thee forgiveness.”
                         ~William Shakespeare- King Lear

“Give us this day our daily bread” had, for me, always been a prayer of both requesting and of gratitude. Among my fondest memories of childhood are my memories of smell. Primary of these are the aromas that wafted from mother’s homemade bread. Enshrined deep within the recesses of my brain are the sights and sounds that encompass those delectable whiffs. Growing up in a large farming family, we had limited material wealth, but of bread we were assured. Bread filled the Roger’s Golden Syrup pails that mother secured into the little red wagon to insure their safe delivery, by my brothers and me, to our father and his harvesting crews. Bread, which filled those same Roger’s Golden Syrup pails, fed our hungry bellies during school days. And warm newly baked bread greeted us as we arrived home on frigid prairie winter afternoons. Bread was central to our survival, and it was central to our celebration. While bread graced every meal, and the numerous snack times between, special breads announced festivity. Sweet buns awaited the Christmas Eve or the Easter Vigil mass. Their appearance indicated the time of fasting and abstinence had ended. Continue reading