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An Unexpected Gift

Heart Rock on Beach

A wise mentor once told me that when we let go of expectations we are never disappointed. Sometimes easier said than done. One of the most painful challenges I have faced is loving and trying to understand a family member who struggles with mental illness. When she first disappeared into herself, my expectation was that she would go to the hospital, try her best, take her medication, go to therapy and I would get her back. What I am slowly coming to terms with is that even though she is still here, our relationship has forever changed, and she may never be the vibrant mom I once knew.

Working as a medium I talk about grief and dying almost every day. I have seen the face of grief in my own life and I have held the hands of others struggling with the pain of loss. But since my mom's first hospitalization I have found myself grieving my best friend. I have found myself ebbing and flowing like the tides of the ocean, somewhere between anger and acceptance. Anger that at times it seems she has chosen to live in a world I cannot share. Acceptance that even though she may be different, she is still my beautiful mom.

I have seen mental illness and addiction up close and personal among my family members and friends. So many have been touched by these illnesses but as a family and a community it's not something we talk about. At least not with company and not over dinner.

When I think of my mother I have so many fond memories. One of my favorites is from when I was a little girl growing up in a small lumberjack town in Oregon. We had gone to Sears, one-stop shopping in those days, and while walking through the clothing section I spotted it -- gleaming under the fluorescent lights like a beacon of loveliness on the manikin. At just five-years-old, it was without a doubt, the most beautiful red dress I had ever seen. It was red, with vertical pleats in the skirt that fell just above the knee and a white collar around the neck. I asked my mom if I could try it on. She said no. I said goodbye to the beautiful red dress and went on with my life unfazed playing with "My Little Ponies" and "guns and robbers" with the neighbors.

A month later, it was the first day of school. My mom handed me a box wrapped in red wrapping paper with a golden yellow ribbon. She said to open it. My eyes beamed with excitement. What on earth could it be? It wasn't my birthday, why was she giving me a gift? I tore open the wrapping paper and let out a gasp, there it was, shiny, perfect, and new, the red dress of my dreams. I ran to my room and put it on. It fit perfectly and felt like silk even though it was polyester. It was a perfect day, a perfect moment, one I will never forget. I felt so happy, loved, and special.

Every day when I wake up in the morning I look out my window, at the sun shining in, and I think about what the day may bring. Like a present waiting to be unwrapped, a small piece of my heart hopes for a miracle and I will find my mom just as she once was, perfect, happy, and healthy.

On our most recent trip to the emergency room we shared a special moment. I sat on her bed and hugged her. In the quiet of her room I saw a glimpse of the mom I knew and loved. Tears rolled down my face as I cried and asked her to do her work this time. She said to me, "It's hard, Lori. It's day-to-day." I looked at her and pleaded with her to try. To do her best. I cried in her arms like a child, begging her to come back to me. There was nothing left for me to do but surrender everything to God.

Working on accepting the things I cannot control I have been doing a lot of inner work and self-reflection. Taking time to meditate and feel the presence of God in my life. Although I may not have gotten the miracle I asked for in the way I had hoped, perhaps there are many blessings I have yet to realize. I asked God and the Angels to send me a sign, to send me hearts. I want to see love every day, in unexpected ways.

Today at work I was greeted by a woman with sparkling blue eyes and much anticipation as she walked into my office. There were many on the other-side she was hoping to hear from, and her husband in spirit, a former teacher and indeed a charmer was so kind to meet me at the beginning of our session. He relayed tender memories of the life they shared, their love, and a message to live in the moment. To express the things we hold in our hearts, not taking anything for granted.

It seems the teacher was teaching me from the other-side. And his wife gave me a parting gift that touched my heart yet again. With a warm smile she reached into her pocket and handed me an amethyst heart. She said she had meditated before coming and felt this was the stone for me. She couldn't have been more right.

I smiled in turn, accepting my gift. An unexpected surprise that reassured me that, no matter what happens, everything will be OK. I am exactly where I'm meant to be even if I don't know where I'm going. She'll never know the power of that gift but I do. It is with a humble heart I say, "Thank you," and acknowledge the incredible gifts of the human spirit -- here and on the other-side. It seems there is always hope.

Mental illness has a face and is more common than you might think. Nearly one in five Americans suffers from mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). That's approximately 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States.

Please consider joining us for the 5th Annual McLean Hospital Hello from Heaven Fundraiser on May 12 at the First Spiritualist Church of Quincy, 40 West St., Quincy, Mass. This event is in loving memory of Robbie Bowker-Kelly and Eric Breyan. It will be a celebration of life with the purpose of raising awareness for the treatment of mental illness and addiction. All proceeds from the event will be donated to McLean Hospital. The evening's program includes mediumship from mediums Lori Sheridan and Liam Galvin, along with guest speakers sharing stories of recovery and hope. There will be a silent auction and raffle.

Tickets available for $30. Learn More

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