Category Archives: Reflections
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
Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are.
The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do.
Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.
— written by Bob Marley
Don’t let past relationships and old mistakes ruin your future. Don’t let someone or something that didn’t make it in your life continue to hurt you. If you do, you’re still giving a portion of your life to something that no longer exists – it’s like letting your happiness slip into a black hole. Learn the lesson, release the pain, and move on. Scars remind us of where we have been, not where we are headed. — Unknown
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A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups, and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard.
As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt tug on his overalls.
He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”
“Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat of the back of his neck, “these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.”
The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket,
he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve
got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”
“Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here Dolly!” he called.
Out from the doghouse and down ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.
The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight.
As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed
something else stirring inside the doghouse.
Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller.
Down the ramp it slid. Then in a awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up….
“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt.
The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”
With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.
Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”
With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup. Holding it carefully he handed it to the little boy.
“How much?” asked the little boy.
“No charge,” answered the farmer, “There’s no charge for love.”
Story Source: Unknown