death

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. 

Thank you for sharing and subscribing to my blog updates.

The Perfect Ending to a Deeply Personal Day

The Perfect Ending to a Deeply Personal Day
Visiting Frankie’s statue at Bookworm Gardens

It was the perfect ending to  such a sacred, deeply moving, magical day as I laid Frankie’s ashes to rest on the 5th anniversary of her passing yesterday morning. On Tuesday I wrote about how I came to this decision for this special day, and yesterday I shared how I followed my heart and how the timing of how this private ceremony would unfold. 

It became obvious to me as the last two days have unfolded that I have touched what my friend Diane said, as the collective heart. There was a small part of me that hesitated in sharing such a deeply personal experience because a part of me felt vulnerable. But now I have nothing but gratitude for doing so.

So many of you here, and on my Facebook page, shared so many beautiful thoughts and love that it truly only enriched this special moment in time for me. Also hearing from many of you sharing that I’ve helped you by being open with my heart about this experience, well, that means so much…and I know Frankie is so proud of that.

There are moments in life when you look back and you are able to really see the synchronicity and perfect timing of things – how life just flowed – and you were being guided by something bigger than you.

Such is the case the last two days – and really even before this. Last week I had gone to a second hand store wanting a new (or rather, I should say, pre-loved) casual dress or two. And it wouldn’t hit me as how perfect it was the one I found when my friend, Jessica sent me the pictures she took of me yesterday afternoon with Frankie’s statue at Bookworm Gardens.

I wasn’t even sure I was going to go to Bookworm Gardens on the anniversary of Frankie’s passing, but after scattering her ashes I knew I wanted to. And it just so happened I was having lunch with a lovely young lady, Jessica, who is my neighbor, and just graduated from college and will be getting married later this summer.  

The serendipity of us having lunch together near Bookworm Gardens, never really knowing each other too well all these years we’ve been neighbors… well, that is a whole other story I’ll write about some other time. But I have no doubt that God meant for her and I to be together yesterday, and for her to be the one taking pictures of me with Frankie’s statue.

While my love for Frankie and what we shared so deeply between us is something that will be with me always, being at the children’s garden yesterday, seeing her statue there, knowing her message lives on – touching new lives each and everyday – well, now I’m at a loss for words. 

The only word I can find is GRATEFUL and grateful I’ll always be.

It was the perfect ending to a day filled with such love and peace that I will carry in my heart forever. And thank you again to each of you for being a part of our journey.

When we share something from the true depth of our souls….and touch that collective heart…I truly believe we all heal.

Thank you for sharing and subscribing to my blog updates.

The Truth is, I Didn’t Remember…But then a Pause Reminded Me.

The Truth is, I Didn't Remember...But then a Pause Reminded Me.

Perhaps it was because I woke with a sinus headache, fed the dogs and went back to bed this morning, which isn’t like me to do. But I honored what I felt I needed.

An hour later I was feeling much better and knew today was the day I would stop procrastinating and get the back cover text written for my book coming out this fall, Wisdom Found in the Pause – Joie’s Gift. 

I planted my butt firmly in my writing chair and vowed to not leave it until I’d gotten a draft written. After three hours and may re-writes I was happy with what I’d written so off to my editor it went. Will see what she has to say.

One thing I have to remind myself to do is to take breaks and give myself small rewards for tasks accomplished. So being a beautiful day – suspended between summer and a hint of fall, I set out with Gidget in her stroller, for a walk around town.

As I walked through the senior assisted community complex, I noticed the sweetest, small leaf on the ground. When I looked up, I noted the tree is beginning to change.

red leaf

I enjoy savoring every bit of fall and decided to be on the lookout to create an altar from things found on my walk to place in my writing cottage when I got home.

tree

Small pine cones, two goose feathers, a stone, snippets of wheat grass, a yellow coneflower and two maple leaves were the items I collected as I walked.  Along with my collecting bits of nature on my path I paused to also take photos of things that made me smile. Little did I know it was going to lead me to remembering…

door

apple

bench

…and then I remembered…when I saw this wooden sign in a downtown retail shop…

bike

Today is three years since Joie passed away…and with it she left me the gift of what I would learn over the last three years…that pausing often in ones life is essential to well being…that the journey and purpose of life is to be happy.

I couldn’t help but feel a sweet joy well up inside me for the spiritual signposts I was rewarded with today. When I got home, I created the altar with a photo of Joie beside it, and have a battery operated candle lit in her memory.

And I’m reminded once again of the divine timing of her life with me…the gifts of transition…and the timing of the book I’ve written about her due out this fall…and trusting in what one can’t always see until it is time.

Thank you for sharing and subscribing to my blog updates.