Category Archives: Reflections
A professor stood before his Philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
Now, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things – your God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.
Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.
[SOURCE: This story has a couple different versions.]
Click on image below to REVEAL the cover for
the new inspirational book: Gentle Reminders!
Dear Fellow Human Beings,
This morning, at her request, I took our 9-year-old daughter to a coffee shop. She brought with her a little crocheting activity; I brought the newspaper, a notebook & pen, and my phone. This was going to be an outing not unlike others we’d had before: while sitting at the same table, we’d do our own things — she’d keep herself occupied with something, and I’d catch-up on emails, organize my week, get work done, etc. Sound familiar? Today, she made one additional request: “Daddy, can you not read the paper or doodle or check email today? Can we just be together?”
I’m not trying to be melodramatic; that was her question. So today, we were together. She showed me her yarn project. I recalled the day she was born. We compared notes about whether or not couples at other tables were on “dates” (she likes to impersonate people on dates — resting her smiling face on her hand and practicing a starry-eyed stare). She told me about her friends and their hamsters. I watched her chew her breakfast sandwich and melted a little bit as I thought about how much I love her. I wished it hadn’t taken her past experience and her courageous reaching out for me to give her the attention she so wanted and needed.
Before we left, I went up to the counter to order a take-out snack for her brother. When I returned to our table, there was a note, left face-down, in front of my seat. My daughter told me that a woman, before leaving the coffee shop, had asked her if I was her father and said that the message was for me. I looked around (nobody was there) and flipped over the paper to find the words below. This anonymous message was enough of a reinforcement for me, that I hope more people might be guided by its power and by its author’s thoughtfulness.
Please don’t wait for your child or other loved one to plead for your attention like mine did — he or she might not. Expect that no one will leave a note for you — such beauty in this world is far too rare. I invite you to share the gift of this experience with me: choose to be present today — even for just a little while — for someone you love. If you see it happen somewhere, consider leaving a note — it sure does leave an impression.
In 2011, a 71-year-old widower found a penguin on a Brazilian beach, soaked in oil and struggling to survive. João Pereira de Souza picked up the dying bird, placed him in the shade, cleaned him and fed him sardines before bringing him back to the water. João expected the penguin to swim off, but amazingly, he refused to leave. Thus began the epic friendship between João and Jingjing the Magellanic penguin.
Jingjing typically leaves in February for the cooler climates 2,000 miles away — but he never fails to return to João’s remote seaside shanty come June. Every year for the past four years, the two friends spend eight months out of the year together, strolling along the beach and swimming in the ocean. Jingjing has become something of a celebrity in this small Brazilian town. Locals have come to recognize the penguin is like a son to João, a former bricklayer.
Magellanic penguins are classified as a “threatened species,” primarily due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off the coast of Argentina.
This is such an incredible story, and certainly a friendship like you’ve never seen before. Go to Little Things to watch the video below and see the awesome bond between João and Jingjing, and please SHARE their story with your friends on Facebook!
That’s my boy over there in that photo. Jeremy Winston, a few weeks before he died, playing with leaves and dump trucks in his sandbox. He lived for only four years, three months and ten days. Then, a simple error in judgment ended his life and his baby sister’s in a traffic accident. He’d be 26 now. My first daughter Amelia Louise would be turning 23 in August.
My only living child Sophia Rose will be 20 on July 8. I am amazed she has survived to adulthood – it’s more than I dared to hope. She was conceived after they died, because my then-husband and I figured we should start again.
The first days after Jeremy and Amelia died, I was in ICU. All the drugs they pumped into me couldn’t dull the stark anguish and incredulity I felt. There was no way they were dead! We were on our way to get Jeremy some British French fries (“chips”) for dinner. I’d promised them to him. Where was he?
My friend Lora’s son Sydney had died of SIDS a few months earlier. She called my hospital room and gently suggested I try to go 30 seconds without crying. It took me a few days, but eventually I mastered it. I worked up to a few minutes within the month. A year later, I could often make it for several hours. Now, I cry for my babies just a few times a year. It’s been more than 20 years and yes, I still can feel the weight of the pain, but the anguish has subsided.
“It’s hard to watch your child grow up…in your mind.” — unknown
If you’ve lost a child, you already know there’s nothing anyone can say. If it’s been a while, looking back you can probably see that you did irrational, illogical, insane things in the immediate aftermath. You started a charity you didn’t really have the energy to carry through; you removed every trace of your dead child or you built a shrine; you screamed at strangers or loved ones; or you laid in bed for days thinking you would cry out every drop of fluid in your body and find peace in your own death.When I was finally released from the hospital and able to sit in a wheelchair, I took a razor blade and wheeled myself into Jeremy’s room. I viciously sliced the smile off every last cartoon elephant on Jeremy’s bedroom walls, screaming at them that they had no right to be happy since he was dead.
What I’ve learned in all this…is that it’s OK. Your reaction is OK. As long as you don’t kill or harm yourself or someone else, it’s OK. I know you can be fine one moment and lying on the floor howling in agony another. You can be hyper-productive at work and completely comatose the rest of the time, walking through layers of gauze. It’s OK. There IS NO NORMAL REACTION to the death of your own child. It’s is completely against the order of things. Someday, you’ll realize it’s far, far, far more common than anyone can bear to admit. And that you are far from alone in your plight. But for now, be real. Feel what you’re feeling.
But there’s a catch.
The way other people cope with their grief over the death of your child is OK too. After my babies died, my husband became a (worse) alcoholic and I became a (worse) workaholic. Neither is healthy. I hated the way he was handling it. He hated how I was handling it. We judged each other harshly. Worse, when one of us had managed to yank ourselves a half inch out of the quagmire of pain that is the loss of a child, the other would be having a “bad grief day” (as we called them) and accidentally pull the other back down.
I didn’t like how he was handling it. Nor his father. Nor some of my friends. Nor plenty of other people who should have been more upbeat, less upbeat, more supportive, more helpful, less imposing, more sad, more happy or at the very least, more something. Anything other than what they were!
With the 20/20 clarity of hindsight, I’ve realized that EVERYONE grieves in their own way. Everyone experiences the losses in their life the way their life has trained them to suffer so far. Most people – the vast majority – even those who do or say stupid things in the wake of your loss – are trying to be nice and helpful. I wanted to slap the head off the woman who leaned over my wheelchair and told me she “understood what I was going through”…because her cat had died “…and he was like a son to me.”
This is what I know is true about the death of your own child:
- It’s OK to grieve however you feel like grieving, for as long as you feel like it. When you’re ready to stop or to feel better, there’s plenty of help standing by (including some of my blog posts on this topic!) And you will reach the end of it someday. Promise. We all do.
- Let the other parent, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, all grieve in their own way. Someday, you’ll be able to realize they were suffering too. Give them as much space as you can to be who they are.
- Don’t let anyone feed you platitudes. If you’re polite, just listen, smile and say thanks. If you’re like me, give them a piece of your mind. “I guess God just needed another angel.” F*$& that! Other people’s beliefs are just their beliefs. You have a unique chance when your child dies to examine what YOU really believe – not just about religion, but about life and your place in it. Use it wisely!
- It will get easier to manage as time goes on. Time doesn’t heal anything, but it does give you the ability to develop coping skills, get over the shock and start to make some serious decisions.
It is a dreadful, terrible, incomprehensible thing you are enduring. It is utterly and completely wrong, unfair and excruciating. There are legions of parents alive today who have survived what you now face and eventually found reasons to smile again – sometimes through their tears. I promise, you can get through this.
Sending each bereaved parent who reads this my best wishes for your life to overflow with love, joy and most of all, peace.
Wendy Keller writes and speaks about healing, inner strength and surviving. Check out Wendy’s newest book : When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”: How to Heal from Divorce