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From Grief to Grace: A Mother’s Devoted Dedication to Keeping Her Creative Late Daughter’s Spirit Alive

While I’ve often talked about transition here on my blog, the transition one goes through when losing a loved one is undoubtedly the most difficult one we will ever endure.

I’m so honored to share with you, and also reminded, that even when the heart endures one of the greatest losses – that of a child – that somehow, someway, one can find their way back to finding joy again.

And so it is with my friend Monica, whose dear daughter, Lena, died unexpectedly from meningitis at the age of twenty-two in 2003.

It was the creative and magical imagination of Lena, that would carry Monica to where she is today to begin to experience joy once again in sharing the story Lena penned at the young age of ten, Hoofen Floofen Island.

The blessing of Lena, her creativity, and the many gifts she left behind for her mom, who misses her everyday, is what helped Monica to know that even when life is really hard and feels so unfair, that the magic of life can be experienced once again with courage and grace.

It was truly an honor to recently sit down with Monica in my writing cottage and talk about the book she co-authored with Lena, and the journey this has been for her which helps her to continue to heal.

Here is the interview. I hope you will enjoy!

Monica and Lena’s book is available on Amazon today with all the proceeds benefiting the Lena Kay Rufus Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

The fund was established in 2003 at InFaith Community Foundation (formerly the Lutheran Community Foundation). 

InFaith Community Foundation is a national charity with a mission to serve donors, spread joy and change lives. Together with donors, InFaith now grants $16 million annually to charities serving local, national and global communities. 

About Monica:

Monica Sword is Lena’s mother. As a writer and artist,  she shows others how they can mindfully find their way to a happier and more fulfilling existence. 

Her life was not always this way.

Three family members’ deaths at an early age caused her great sadness, especially the death of her only child, Lena. She struggled to balance home life with a challenging career. Several physical manifestations and discontent from this imbalance contributed to losing her way. She yearned to create a deeper connection with nature, the universe, and people. 

She tried everything from happy pills to talk therapy. Important life relationships started and ended. Her library was full of self-help books. She tried going “back to school”. She set up a basement studio thinking she would surely make time to be creative. While these activities kept her busy and much was learned, nothing really stuck. 

Then she discovered the problem wasn’t with her work ethic or what she thought people expected of her. The problem was how she was applying her conscientious, high-achieving style. 

Once she saw that honoring her passions, being mindful of her emotional reactions to life events and focusing on total self-care are applicable to a conscientious and high-achieving lifestyle, she developed a creative mindset that helps her do her best work.  

Although her grief experience is on-going, her life now has a wonderful flow of writing, painting, drawing, and connecting with people.  

About Lena:

My name is Lena Kay Rufus. Since March 28, 2003, I no longer live on Earth. On that day, quickly and unexpectedly, I passed away from meningitis.  

During my childhood, I enjoyed being around farm animals as well as living on the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Northern Wisconsin. I played Suzuki violin during first grade. I loved going to school and excelled in most subjects. 

Although my life was short, my accomplishments were many. I was active at Washburn High School where I studied diligently. I was able to spend most of my senior year enrolled in courses at Northland College. I played the clarinet and after learning French, traveled to Paris. I served as an officer in several high school clubs and associations. I was a Stanford University student at the time of my passing. As you can see, education was crucial to me.

On April 1, 2000, my life celebration ceremony took place on my home reservation. I said goodbye to hundreds of people I loved dearly. There are too many loves to mention except for Mom and Dad, who supported me in all aspects of my life. On this date also, the tribal elders honored me with the Ojibwe name of Ogitchidakwe, warrior woman. 

Look for the “Lena Speaks” area on Life is a Pretty Word for selected pieces written throughout my life. Mom thinks I was a good writer although I never thought so. 

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Excuse Me? Hello?

Excuse Me?...Hello?

Sometimes when one said little one can’t make up her mind…she ends up on the outside, looking in.

Reminded me of when I was little girl and I was in and out the door of our house during summer days when my mom would eventually tire of the door slamming so often that I’d hear, “Either in or out!”

And if that voice of my dear mom didn’t come out of my mouth today when Miss Gidget couldn’t seem to make up her mind.

XOXOXO

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Love and Grief are a Package Deal

 

Love and grief are a package deal. ~Elaine Mansfield

Yesterday John and I spent a few hours at his sister Donna’s house who lost her husband of twenty years a little over five months ago. Donna and I are the same age having graduated together. Words can’t express how my heart hurts for her as she now must move forward in a new way without the love of her life.

It’s certainly a time when one re-examines their own life when something like this happens. While you can understand to a certain degree what she is going through, one can never fully know until we each are faced with it. And grief…so very personal.

But Donna was in good spirits and is making steps forward which was a relief to both John and my hearts. She is such a beautiful, bright spirit in this world – and I’ve always said is the female version of John. They both know how to make other’s laugh and something I’ve adored about them both since I’ve known them.

John and I were both lost in our own thoughts, driving the hour home, when I saw this quote, love and grief are a package deal on my friend, Monica’s Instagram page. While I know this to be true, it really sank deeper in my being reading it at that particular moment.

The thought still on my mind as Donna is, while I puttsed around the house this morning, feeding the hummingbirds, changing the water in the bird bath, I look up to see a chipmunk sunning himself in the sun on the rock in the garden.

Whooosssh went my emotions…a heaviness in my heart for Donna while a moment of love for the sweetness of this dear little chippie looking so adorable on that rock. Oh, how he made my heart smile! So appropriate his timing, I thought. How chipmunks are so playful, skittering here and there, building new paths wherever they go.

And what I wish for Donna as she learns to navigate her world in a new way…that her heart will smile again someday too. One of the hardest things to endure….grief….but that to have loved with one’s whole heart is so worth it. So very worth it.

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