Tag Archive: Marinda Snow Righter


The Faces Of Love

For your listening enjoyment while reading – Carry On by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

My Life Through My Lens. Self Love at 24.

My Life Through My Lens. Self Love and introspection at 24.

 

Rarely do #TBT but I couldn’t help myself when I found this lonely picture at the bottom of a box. I was 24 and had just returned from a trip to Guinea, Africa​ with the lovely women of Marafanyi Percussion and I was starting to unravel. I was deeply moved by the connections made in Africa, though deliberately cut off communication because it was (sometimes still is) my way of coping with loss. I do not like this trait.

In this photo, my walls are covered with pictures from the summer of ’05 Bonnaroo road trip with my two besties from college, Erin and Adrianne, a gigantic poster of Dave Matthews (remember loving his lips in this shot), and a poster of Jim Morrison & his written poetry I had since I was 16​. We were single ladies open to adventure and LOVE!!

Love, the prospect of true love has always inspired me to continue to grow and be the best person I can be for myself and for the man I was going to shack up and make the babies with, haha!

The symbolism of this photograph is quite beautiful.  Did I intentionally leave a space in my heart-shaped hands for another head to fill or is that how I interpret it now? I recall there being a lot of self-love and necessary self-validation reminding me that I was in the right place during that time period. Because of this state of mind, the universe gave me all I ever asked for. I traveled the country with a couple of bands, Bonerama​ and Porter Batiste Stoltz​, from New Orleans for 2.5 years and was introduced to NO-LOVE.

Nearing the end of my time at this music promotional company, I was ready to find a man to settle down with. I was 26 and always felt I was born to be a momma. I looked for love in all the wrong places and sometimes it persistently pushed its way into my life (successfully), held on longer than necessary, and allowed me to catch a fleeting glimpse. I made mistakes but not without a lesson to follow. Some lessons repeated themselves just to make sure I was listening. Lucky me.

More than ever I can relate to that 24-year-old bright-eyed and inspired young woman; I’m single, on the right path, and open to opportunity.  The 26-year-old is present and continues to want a family.  The 32 present self welcomes these parts of herself but will not seek love.  She understands now that love will find a way because love is everywhere.  She is also wise and knows exactly what she wants and will not stay in an emotional holding pattern.

I will allow this photo to foster self-love and remind me that the right partnership will find its way. It is written.

I welcome life’s simple pleasures and will fully embrace the goddess within me, my connection to it all, and my life’s purpose.

Self Love at 32

I love you.

 

Transforming into 2015

I dedicate this reflection to my loved ones passed. And most recently (10.17.14), my great uncle F. Charles Froelicher (a newly found family support post-mother’s death), who believed in me and supported me as I made the leap to become a Dance/Movement Therapist.

Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing

~*~Thich Nhat Hanh ~*~

I have been struggling with finding the right words to express the many feelings and experiences I have been having for the past 11 months.  Twenty-fourteen was just a continuation of twenty-thirteen’s life shattering challenges and, finally, I’m beginning to see the patterns in the broken glass around me.  I am finding that there is beauty and bravery in looking at the broken pieces and understanding how they came to shape.  Among the chards of experience, there lays the glue made of truth, resilience, self-worth, a slew of emotions, inspiration and dreams.  I believe there are also unknown ingredients calling to be discovered, which I imagine will take the rest of my life to find.

The last I wrote I was one week away from giving a TED talk at a school my aunt teaches at in Greenwich, CT.  Days later I passed on this opportunity as I fell into a deep sadness.  Everything just felt more difficult when I’d get caught in the undertow.  School needed all of my energy and there were others who depleted it, including my own psyche.  I am gradually making the shift to focus on what I was set out to do and take a step back from things and people who are blocking that progress.  This also means getting out of my own damn way.

I’m grateful for this newly formed sense of self.  I’ve caught glimpses of *me* throughout the years but I’ve never been forced to look this closely.  Inside I’m finding the difference between what I want and what I need.  I’m picking up each piece/part of myself and trying to understand it and it’s relationship with other parts of myself.  If this does not make sense to you, click: Internal Family Therapies.  This therapeutic method works wonders for me and I feel that I am on a path to integrate the two (Parts Work and DMT) into my life and practice.

What now?

My friend and fellow Dance/Movement Therapist-in-training, Liana, posted her prayers today and I’d like to share them here because they resonate with my heart:

I pray that I seek the support that I need in 2015, have the bravery to receive it, and walk strongly toward the visions that sustain me personally and n

ourish us collectively.

I pray that I experience deeper vulnerability and greater love.

I pray for all people everywhere to rise up and protect the Earth.

I pray for the healing of the waters.

I pray that I may know my ancestors and heal myself for my great-grandchildren.

I pray for strength to speak my truths more often and utilize my privilege wisely, knowing that the work of peace and justice is never done.

I pray to listen more keenly to guidance in all forms.

I pray that I think before I speak.

I pray for more interaction with elders and children.

I pray for the deep knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly.

Aho, ase, amen.

As this year quickly came to an end, I have been reminding myself of the many things I am grateful for this year.  Here are a few:

❈ My late great uncle Chuck, who flew into my life with gentleness and ease right after my mother passed away.  I was living in New Orleans at the time, waitressing, doing alright, and then everything changed.  I was in need of financial and emotional support after having fallen into a depression, paralyzed by grief.  He diplomatically took me under his wing and showed me  he believed in me.  His support and kind words of encouragement got me through the first half of graduate school and I honestly couldn’t have done it without him.  He’s is now a guiding light and angel.  I will never forget his generosity, compassion, and perseverance.

F. Charles Froelicher - "an educator and conservationist who believed strongly in the value of the outdoors experience for strengthening young minds and bodies"   and a dear friend of mine for the last year and a half of his life.

F. Charles Froelicher – “an educator and conservationist who believed strongly in the value of the outdoors experience for strengthening young minds and bodies”
and a dear friend of mine for the last year and a half of his life.

 

Chuck as a young man.

Chuck as a young man.

 

❈ I have a wonderful relationship with the recipient of my mother’s face, Carmen Blandin Tarleton, and her love Sheldon Stein.  At times it feels surreal but there are no negative thoughts or feelings associated with this gift.  My mother’s death was out of my control and I quickly accepted this reality.  I feel lucky to be able to kiss my mother’s face on occasion and watch her lips move as Carmen speaks, smiles, and smooches.  I’m honored to continue to speak on my Mum’s behalf and the powerful gift of organ donation.  I will be speaking in San Diego in April with Carmen and am truly looking forward to seeing her.  She just became a grandma at the end of last year.  My first thought was, “wow, this grandchild will know her face as the same face I knew so well for 30 years.”  I can’t wait to meet sweet Judah.  And congratulations to Hannah and Davis.  He’s a precious little bean!

 

Sheldon (Carmen's sweetheart), Carmen, and Myself in my kitchen in Cambridge!

❈ I witnessed my mother’s bright smiling floragraph (natural material mosaic) cruise by on the Donate Life Rose Bowl Parade float on New Years day 2014.  It now resides in her hutch which sits in my bedroom in Cambridge.  What an honor – what a legacy.  Still feels like a dream.

The Rosebowl parade float unveiling.  Tears were streaming... Mom is on the top left.

The Rosebowl parade float unveiling. Tears were streaming… Mom is on the top left.

❈ Experienced my first spiritual medium, John Holland.  I was gifted two tickets by my beautiful friend Marie Pechet and out of the 60 people there, 8 or so received readings including myself.  My father came through… I now feel more connected to him more than ever.  If you’d like to know more send me a personal message.

The last summer we spent together... "Dad sees it all", is how John ended his reading ❤

The last summer we spent together… “Dad sees it all”, is how John ended his reading ❤

❈ My internship at The Guild for Human Services is a perfect fit.  I’m participating in expressive therapy groups and movement intervention with students with a wide range of disabilities – most having experienced trauma in one form or another.  This job has really put my life into perspective.  I’m learning every moment I am there and am able to exercise my enthusiasm for artistic expression and healing through movement.  It’s reassuring and validating that I was born to do this.  Loving graduate school ❤

Inside the Icosahedron in my Movement Observation and Analysis course!  Dance/Movement Therapy for life!!

Inside the Icosahedron in my Movement Observation and Analysis course! Dance/Movement Therapy for life!!

❈ I was given a miracle ticket out to Santa Cruz to meet my new fairy goddaughter, Lyra Anne, for Christmas.  My college roommate/dear friend for 13 years (along with her sweet hubby) brought a sweet gift into this world and I got to spend her first Christmas with them all.  I also played two full rounds (two of the best I’ve ever played) of disc golf at DeLaveaga park, which happened to be directly up the street from my friend’s new home. This would not have been possible without the help of my Auntie Do and Aunt Deb who knew I needed a warm and loving Christmas.

Lyra and Meme meet for the first time!

Lyra and Meme meet for the first time!

Adrianne and Justin Bortnick with their 6 week old Lyra Anne.  Blessed!

Adrianne and Justin Bortnick with their 6 week old Lyra Anne. Blessed!

Deb and I after we finished loading up the truck to move my mother's things to my home in Cambridge.

Deb and I after we finished loading up the truck to move my mother’s things to my home in Cambridge.

Hess- Foss- Righter Family!   (L: Dan Foss - Deb's son, Deb Foss, Me, Ben Hess -my aunt's son, and Donna Hess - "Auntie Do"

Hess- Foss- Righter Family!
(L: Dan Foss – Deb’s son, Deb Foss, Me, Ben Hess -my aunt’s son, and Donna Hess – “Auntie Do”

❈ My fairy godson, Jazz, down south in New Orleans.  He brightens up my day when I see his smiling face and every time I hear him say “Meme” my heart skips a beat. Because my mother never remarried or had children I’ve had to create brother and sister relationships on my own.  Jazz’s parents are a perfect example of my extended family and I’m blessed to know them.  Thank you, Good-Stone’s! I love you.

Jazz and Meme - Summer hang in RI.

Jazz and Meme – Summer hang in RI.

Good-Stone Family Love plus MeMe in the corner!

Good-Stone Family Love plus MeMe in the corner!

❈ I have the greatest friends in the world.  The amount of love and support that is given within the particular circle is never-ending.  I look forward to growing old with you all and welcome friendships as rich as those we have created through the musical web of the local Camberville (Cambridge & Somerville) music scene, Lesley’s Graduate program, and Life Alive connections.

Flowers from friends.  It reads:  We are thinking about you, praying for you, loving you, and here to support you through these dark days.  You're not alone, never alone. Love and light, The Cambridge-Somerville, Music Lovin', Dancin', Onesie wearin', Love Crew.

Flowers from friends. It reads: We are thinking about you, praying for you, loving you, and here to support you through these dark days. You’re not alone, never alone. Love and light, The Cambridge-Somerville, Music Lovin’, Dancin’, Onesie wearin’, Love Crew.

❈ Grateful to be still living in the same apartment I’ve lived in for 7 years (minus the 4 months I lived in New Orleans) in March.  It is now filled with my mother’s priceless household items… and her pendulum prisms.  Rainbows everyday.  Home sweet home.

Chai loves prisms too!

Chai loves prisms too!

Studying away in my cozy living room!

Studying away in my cozy living room!

Eye see a rainbow!

Eye see a rainbow!

As I enter this new year, uncertain as to how I can continue to attend Lesley full-time without getting a full-time job, I stay open to the possibilities of miracles.  I will continue to focus on my creative path and the healing art of Dance Movement Therapy/Expressive Therapies.  My life was not set out to be an easy one, but I do believe that making peace with my past, staying mindful in the present, and accepting the unpredictability of my future is the first step to healing and self-compassion.

Moving forward with love

Moving forward with love

I Am Here and She is Everywhere

My Family 11.26.82

I started this email blast well over a month ago, revising it every time I came back to it. Forgive me for my lack of communication.  You’ve been on my mind and in my heart.

a) I’ve never been busier in my life; b) Tasks that used to come so easily seem to take a lot longer to accomplish this year; and c) I’m running on fumes.  My heart is still very raw and I’m still getting used to life without my mother as well as getting used to being in the public eye talking about her – the woman she was and the gifts she left behind.

This takes a lot of energy… but I am trusting the process.

Trust the Process

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 31 (thirty-one-derful according to my friends) though I feel I aged 10 years this year.  Honestly, there is much to be grateful for and this birthday I was again reminded of the immense amount of love and support I have from friends and family near and far.  My 31st trip around the sun consisted of talking to my best friend and Fairy Godson in New Orleans, cleaned the house immaculate, created art and dedicated it to my loved ones, took over a section in a local club (Lizard Lounge) with 15 of some of my favorite people and danced the night away to one of my favorite bands, Session Americana.  It was truly a soul fulfilling day/night. Even the times I broke down and cried, I found it healing to not hold back my grief and tears.  I miss my Mom and my both my Mum and Dad are heavy on my mind this birthday.

Sidebar – I suggest taping your parents, children, and/or someone who is special to you singing the “Happy Birthday” song.  I did and I’ll cherish it forever.

For YOU From Moi

November 12th marked  nine months since my mother left this earth to carry on her agenda in her divine realm.  How fast the time has gone.  It still feels like yesterday when she and I spoke about what to pack for her visit to New Orleans.  She was planning on leaving three days after she died to spend a week in my new apartment •*¨*•.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• Life.

 As you most of you know, so much has happened between her passing and now.

I started grad school at Lesley University this fall studying Dance Movement Therapy.  This  is a profession I was born to do and both my mother and I knew it even before I was accepted.  I’m enjoying the material and the process of healing myself through authentic movement.  I’m just at the beginning stages of detailed intensive case study on myself that I hope will help others who have had significant losses in their lives process their grief through body-centered therapies as well as other mindful exercises such as controlled breathing, writing, visual art, yoga, and more.  My own grieving process feels very natural.  No medication, a lot of crying, and sharing publicly and in group therapy settings.  I never knew it could be so healing.  Though the interviews can be emotionally draining hours later, I love talking about my mother …the resilient, hard-working, selfless woman she was…

Flower Mamas

I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences with donating my mother’s organs and tissue dozens of times and am still filling my calendar with speaking dates for the next few months.  Below you will find a list of publications who covered Carmen Tarleton and my mother’s story since Carmen revealed her new face to the world.  Balancing interviews and school is challenging but I’ve managed to keep my composure and keep up with school work.

♬♪ Radio Interview 

NPR’s All Things Considered with Melissa Block 

✿~`~,~~Video Interviews~~,~`~✿

The Katie Couric Show

Press Conference ~ Carmen Reveals Her New Face 

Voice of America Interview 

The Verge (Article and Video)


Al Jazeera America (still waiting for the DVD to arrive in the mail – not online)

German TV (N/A)

German TV Shot

Chronicle is planning a 30 minute segment as well…

Printed Interviews

Daily Mail UK (very thorough)

NY Times 

Reader’s Digest – 20 page article – publication date pending (soon)

NY Times Magazine“The Lives They Lived” tribute

This story was picked up by publications all over the world.  The Daily Mail Online was the best out of the dozens I read.

Speaking Opportunities

New England Organ Bank – Training for new representatives

New England Organ Bank – Conference for ICU Nurses and Hospital Staff

UMASS Worcester Hospital – Nursing Professional Development Department

!BIG NEWS!

I knew that my mother helped many people, though I thought it was close a dozen.  I just got word today that I was off by 200!!  My mother’s beautiful and healthy body helped over 200 people.  This brings me comfort in knowing she has helped so many:

  • Liver
  • Left and Right Kidney
  • Facial graft
  • Heart for research
  • Bone: 194 grafts produced, 190 distributed to the following states/country:  Maryland, Massachusetts, and Utah; also to South Korea.
  • Skin: 13 Grafts Produced / None have been distributed yet to date / All Grafts will be used for Breast Reconstruction Post-Mastectomy.

My mother is famous. So famous, in fact, right now a flora-graph is being created in her honor for the 125th Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena California on New Years Day.  Her portrait will be made up of organic materials, such as flowers, coffee beans, and seeds.  It is then mailed out to Cambridge MA where, on December 17th, I’ll be hosting a ceremonial decorating party for my mother at The Dance Complex to place the finishing touches on the flora-graph.  It is then mailed back to be placed on the Donate Life Rose Bowl float.  Donate Life is flying my sweetheart, Brian, and I out to participate and pay tribute to my mother.

Read her bio and find out how you can pay tribute by dedicating a rose to be placed on the float.

Mom Rose Bowl

If you’d like to see the slideshow I made for Mum’s memorial service click below:

My Mother is Love

For all of you who sent sympathy cards, I know I’ve told most of you in person how much your words truly meant to me.  I do plan on reading them all again and taking time with my “thank you’s” and one-by-one you’ll all know how I truly feel.  I will keep your words close to my heart as the days pass.

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I would like to share a few things that I am grateful for.  A list I should carry around with me as a constant reminder.

BLESSINGS

  • The 30 years I had with my mother.  Through all of our experiences we knew we had each other to lean on.  I am proud to to be her child and proud of the way I was raised.
  • My cat Chai Love.  A big ol’ tiger cat that loves unconditionally and doesn’t know how much he has changed my life.  Great traveling buddy, I might add.
  • My supportive and loving boyfriend, Brian.  He challenges me, makes me laugh, and is extremely helpful in so many situations. I love you.
  • My life long soulmate friends I have here in Cambridge/Somerville.  Words cannot express how honored I am to be in your lives.  You beautiful, positive, creative and supportive spirits inspire me everyday.
  • My family members who were always there but not close, who then became a positive loving light in my life when I felt like I was drowning. I love you so much.
  • My new friends post-Mom’s passing.  I cannot wait to spend more quality time with you and learn your stories and dance with you.
  • The very few high school friends and MCLA friends I still have who continue to amaze me as I lurk around on your facebook pages ❤ I miss you.
  • My friends down in N’awlins. You show me how to let go of my inhibitions and be my funky self.  I love your city.
  • The Good-Stone’s. I must single out my FAIRY GODSON, Alexander Jazz. MeMe love’s you. EMJ ❤
  • Letter’s I receive from strangers moved and inspired by my mother’s story.
  • Carmen Blandin Tarleton. Need I say more?
  • Norma Canner – the founder of Lesley’s Dance Therapy program.  You have paved a way for me to follow my dreams of helping people, young and old, express their playful creative natural selves and, in turn, heal themselves.  To start a movement through movement.
  • My apartment (almost 6 years in the same place) and my roommates.  We tell each other all the time how much love we have for one another.  We’re quite lucky.
  • My mobility.  I don’t take for granted that I can twirl and bounce.  I’m blessed to have these big hips, tiny feet and hands, and a head that can whip around while I dance.
  • ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Music♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ The universal language.
  • Easily accessible food options.  Again, we’re very lucky.  Food is love and comfort.
  • Kind hearted and selfless people who do what they can to help others when they’re in need by reading the signs, using common sense, and who believe in you because they see you.
  • My mother’s friends.  I feel your love and I know how much she loved you all.

I think that’s all the energy I can give in one blog.  I do plan on writing a year review before the new year which will include our summer road trip with Mom’s ashes, family visits, and more…

Write to me.  Call me.  Send telepathic messages. And I hope to spend some quality time with you all in the new year.

Gratitude ☆*:·. Choose happiness…

Marinda SnowMarinda Snow Righter

Image

Organ donation is usually the last thing on the minds of those who have lost someone suddenly.  I know it was for me.  But I am here today to share my experience and the impact it’s had on my life.  There’s absolutely nothing that anyone can do to prepare for a loss such as this.  But there were certain people who helped guide me through those last moments in my mother’s physical presence. They listened, heard what was unspoken, and showed compassion.

The week leading up to “the phone call” was Carnival down in New Orleans (also known as Mardi Gras). I had been living there for only 4 months and looking forward to my mother’s visit the following week.  My boyfriend Brain was visiting for his very first Mardi Gras.  We were having the time of our lives.  On Lundi Gras night I got a voicemail from my mother telling me she had a bad headache “which never happens. I think I’d feel a lot better if I heard your voice”, she said.  It was very late when I got the message and I was babysitting my Fairy Godchild at the time, so I would call her in the morning. I never got to call her back.

After 9 hours of travel we arrived at UMASS Worcester on Mardi Gras day.  It all happened in slow motion after this.  We entered into a room full of somber family members and there was my mother, laying there peacefully in a hospital bed hooked up to all sorts of tubing.  I still didn’t know then, or perhaps I was in denial, that “there’s nothing else they can do”.   I stood there looking at my mother in disbelief.  Though the room was packed, it was just her and I.    I told her she looked beautiful (which she surprisingly did after having a massive stroke).  I then took out the two stuffed Grateful Dead “Dancing Bears”, which we bought on our first road trip to Colorado when I was 16 years old.  They were our good luck traveling bears.   I laid them on her bed along with a framed photograph of her and my father from the day of their wedding.

Image

  My sweetheart, Brian, took out his ipod and proceeded to play her “Brokedown Palace”. I closed my eyes imagining her dancing around with that bright and contagious smile of hers.

“River going to take me, sing sweet and sleepy,

Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.

It’s a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago.

Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left

home.”

A transformation was in progress and I was right there dancing with her.

Image

Most of our experiences we cannot control.  Scary thought, right?  I never want to hear those words, “there’s nothing else they can do” again, but if I have to endure that pain over, I can only trust and believe that “this is for a reason” and there is support in place to help me cope with such an immense loss.

Slide04

I accepted the reality of the situation and naturally wanted to move forward and not dwell.  I wanted to move through this heartbreak; through this deep sadness.  The only way out is through, right?  I kept reminding myself to breath and to do everything that felt natural for my body even if that meant laying on the cold hospital floor.  In that hospital room, a piece of me died while simultaneously being reborn; truly cathartic experience that would change my life forever.

The death of my mother was unfathomably painful.  My mother, my best friend, my soul mate, my everything, was moving onto bigger and better things; going on a journey I couldn’t follow her on (so I thought at the time).

Though I was still very much in a state of shock I conjured up enough strength to make decisions in a rational manner.  What would my mother want?  Like I said, we were one in the same, so the decisions were not “hard” to make, but they were nonetheless heartbreaking.  What made this emotionally

draining process a little easier was that little “❤” on her license.

 Slide05

Of course she was an organ donor!  That was so Mom; a selfless human being – a giver.

The staff at the Worcester Hospital was truly kind; changing my view of hospitals forever.  My family’s experiences at hospitals have never been positive; misdiagnoses, insensitivity, and a lack of empathy.  My mother was more Eastern in her beliefs, as am I, but Worcester went above and beyond to make us all comfortable. I felt blessed to be guided by some gentle souls through this process.  I was warned that the organ donation process was long but we could break at any time.  There were times I needed to lay down on the floor, stretch out my back, and breathe deep.  No one questioned that.  They were actually very attentive.  The hospital staff allowed me to hop in bed with my mother where I snuggled, held her hand, and napped by her side.  Knowing I was going to be there for a little while, they made us all feel very comfortable.  One nurse asked if she could put on Pandora’s “Grateful Dead” channel (one of my mother’s favorites).

 Slide06

When I awoke, there were more emotionally draining decisions to be made.  But I continued to feel the support.

My first angel organ donor rep, Denise ❤, was warm and nurturing.  I remember her kind eyes and calming smile.   When she arrived at the hospital there was no sense of urgency.  Filling out the forms, she said, could be very arduous task but kept reiterating that it’s perfectly normal to take a break.

Half way through, though I told her I was all right to go on, she read that it was time for a small break.  She took that opportunity to use the bathroom.  As soon as she left the room, I dropped to the ground and started stretching my body.  I was a struck with grief and I appreciated that small break.  When she came back in, Denise made sure I was all right (I think I may have worried her a bit) and we proceeded to fill out the papers.  My whole experience at the hospital was such a blur, especially at 1AM, but I remember Denise caring and I felt connected to this stranger.  She asked me who I was; and truly wanted to know.  I made a friend that night.

I thought the morning would never come.  I was advised by family and staff to get some sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be a long day.  When I awoke all I wanted to do was to lay down next to my mother.  My dear, sweet, peaceful mother who looked just as peaceful as she did the day before.  The nurses were kind enough to make space for me.  I climbed into her hospital bed, held her hand and fell asleep again.

Slide07

Not long after I was gently awoken and politely asked if I could get up; they needed to administer some tests.  As if on cue, my 2nd New England Donor Bank ANGEL, Dan ❤, entered the hospital room with grace.  He introduced himself and told us that he was here to support and guide us through the next phase.  Whatever this meant, it was going to be ok.  I trusted him.  He asked me if I’d like a few clay moldings of my mother’s hand.  “YES! We can do that?!” After we finished four of them, he asked if I would like a lock of her hair.  “YES! GOD YES!  I would have never thought of this.”  She liked to straighten her hair but I found a natural curl that I now keep in a bottle on my shrine.  Lastly, he asked me if I’d like her EKG papers.  He proceeded to give me four triangular glass bottles filled with her heartbeat.  What beautiful gifts.  I really didn’t know what to say.  Thank you, Dan.  I’ve created the most beautiful shrines and am looking forward to creating a “shadow/memory box” full of Mother Love.

Slide08

It was a long ride home from the hospital.  After barely making it up the stairs I pulled myself into bed and grieved my immense loss.   No more than 5 minutes later my house started to fill up with many loving friends.  All of them knew my mother.  I proudly shared her with my community of friends woven together by the local Cambridge/Somerville music scene.  They all welcomed her with open arms.

Dan called me a couple hours into this impromptu love fest.  I excused myself, and with Brian by my side, I took one of the most significant phone calls of my life.  He told me about this fairly new procedure that allowed those whose faces had been severely disfigured by traumatic events to have quality of life by receiving a facial transplant.  He couldn’t tell me who it was for, but he said my mother was a match and her beautiful face and skin could be the greatest gift ever given.  Without hesitation I said, “Yes, of course”.  It’s a decision I would want my family to make for me, and what my mother would want me to do.  As he explained what was to happen next, I couldn’t help but stare at this oversized Anatomy book that happened to be facing me on the floor.

My only question was, “is this person going to look like her?”  He explained that everyone had their own unique facial structure and it would mold to their face.  So, it was done the next morning… on Valentines Day.

Slide09

I would be here for another hour if I started talking about Carmen.  Carmen.  Beautiful, inspiring, resilient, brave, Carmen.  I think we both feel equally as lucky to be in each other’s lives.  Our bond is strong and I feel will only strengthen over time.  Their connection, my mother’s and Carmen’s is, well, ineffable.  Love fueled and on another plane.

Eight months have gone by and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think of her.  Every day is mother’s day.  Grief sure does come in waves.

Slide10

My mother and I have experienced so much loss in our lives.  The hand that we were dealt was not an easy one.  But the key players in your life are those who are around, supporting you however they possibly can, when all feels lost.

I think of all of the angels who guided me in that hospital – ICU Nurses and Organ Donor Representatives alike.  You, as health care professionals and organ donor representatives are in a unique position.  You are present for a life altering experience for those closest in the hospital to those passing on.  It’s a major transition that families are entering into without much guidance.  Without knowing how to feel and just feeling it all.

You have the ability to guide families into making selfless and life-changing decisions, which will, in turn, give life to someone else.  What an incredible opportunity.  The key is to hold that space for people by allowing them to grieve and showing them empathy.  It’s amazing how a little eye contact can bring so much comfort.

Slide11

Show your light.  Be a guiding light.  You have the ability to lead these grieving souls out of complete darkness, if only for a little while, by being genuine – by being human… and, sure, a little hand molding kit, a lock of hair, and a few bottles full of heartbeats can’t hurt.

Thank you.