Monday, November 25, 2013

Reflections on Gratitude

I have been pondering the concept of gratitude for quite some time now.  

I have been evaluating what I am grateful for.  And in doing so, I discovered that there is an experience of greater connection with those things that I have selected to express my gratitude for. 

When I started to do therapeutic walking in nature with my camera in hand, the rhythm of my steps chanted a silent prayer of thanks for that moment and my perception of the moment changed.  Through the lens of my camera I focused on the details of the beauty around me and learnt to spot even the beauty in the objects that others might see as ordinary or even ugly. 

Red Bed's Trail Hike around the base of Devils Tower
I transformed, as I saw more and more of the myriad beauties all around me.  I started to find beauty in unexpected places.  I discovered that by stepping beyond the ugly I could find my way to the moment of beauty just around the corner.

Como Lake Park NY

My eye learnt to see things that I used to overlook and my photo followers often commented on how I manage to take an ordinary object and reveal its hidden beauty.  

Part of this is my innate talent (and for that talent I am thankful also) but mostly I think it is due to my spiritual me singing a song of gratitude when I am on my adventures and walks.  I feel a grateful connection to the moment when I am surrounded by nature. 

Something that I started to do as an escape, to step outside myself and my hurting and my grief became a blessing because I was able to be grateful that opportunity.  

It did not heal my sorrow.  
It did not change the circumstances that caused the grief.  
But it made life bearable.  

It opened me up to new acquaintances and new friendships.  It allowed me to see that there are other dimensions to my life outside the events that have hurt me so deeply.  That in itself, is a blessing. 

However that was only the beginning.  

The feed back that I received for my photography rekindled hope that there was something worth doing with the remainder of my life.  The praise awakened in me the desire to reach out, to reconnect and to get back to loving life.  To possibly helping others by sharing with them what I have learnt. 

The simple act of gratitude, while not healing the pain or the cause of the grief, opened up my life to new horizons, and new possibilities and the acceptance that just as a gem can have many facets so can my life. 

I can have sorrow and still have wonder and awe and gratitude.  
I can have pain and yet have joy, they can live side by side.  
I can experience the despair of things that have ended 
and yet celebrate the birth of new beginnings.  

And just as a gem can have inclusions and flaws, yet still be deemed beautiful; so I too can have flaws and still be a wonderful worthwhile person. 

Together all these all these facets create the preciousness of my life as it is now.  To do more and be able to accept more from the simple pleasure of living.  

Gratitude gave me an experience which in turn opened up for me the opportunity to explore other avenues of growth. Gratitude did not fix my life but it changed me.

The circumstances of my life have not changed, my outlook has.
The grief is still there, but there is a peace of mind.
The sorrow still haunts me, but there is a balancing joy as well. 

and who knows what lies unseen, just around the corner? 

Colorado - Steamboat Springs - Hiking down Mt. Werner

© Photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reflection on Remembrance Day

Yesterday was Remembrance Day.  I spent some time reflecting on the people who fought and died to create the world that I have the opportunity to live in. 

The freedoms that I take for granted were won by their willingness to sacrifice for the good of future generations.  I contemplate what the world would be like without these brave people, not just soldiers, but all the people that are willing to put their lives on the line to fight for what is right and what is good.

The people who fought for better working conditions and those that fought for the vote for woman and for equal opportunity are equally important soldiers in the fight for what is right.  These brave people that scarified so that I can live the life I have today.

I am a woman with freedom and rights.
I live in country that is for the most part caring and compassionate and concerned about people’s rights and opportunities.
I live in a country that accepts that people come in different races and creeds and beliefs and finds a way to be tolerant of the differences even when it is hard to understand them.

I find myself wondering if I would have had the strength to do what some of these brave soldiers have done.  Would I be able / willing to lay down my life for the freedoms of others in the future?  I like to think that if I was in that kind of a situation I would be able to do so.  However I also realize that it takes a lot of courage as well as determination.  Fear must be overcome.  One must be able to face oneself in the mirror every day and say “today is a good day to die”.  What an incredibly brave way to live life!

Renate Dundys Marrello
a proud Canadian

photo credit - unknown

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Sunday, April 21, 2013


The loss of a child changes your forever.  It changes how you see yourself.  It changes how you feel about yourself.  It changes your priorities.  It changes your very life.  You find yourself in a place you never expected to be, at the deepest end of a long tunnel and it is a journey just to even see the daylight at the end of the recovery process.

And to know that your child did it to you on purpose, that they removed themselves from your life to punish you for not being perfect, just adds an extra dimension of pain and suffering.  

With death you know it was fate, whether it was an illness or an accident.  However, with estrangement the message is “you are not good enough for me to want to spend time with you”   So not only do you lose your child, you also lose your inner confidence that "love conquers all". Why? Because your love was not enough to create a lasting bond.  Your love was not enough to reach beyond error to forgiveness.  Your love was not enough to create the kind of people that stick by you when the "going gets tough". 

With rejection, fear is allowed in the door; fear that you really are not good enough.  Fear that your best was somehow really flawed.  Worry is also allowed into your life, worry that you are maybe not good enough to be loved.  Worry that you are unlovable.  Worry that you maybe really are not as good a person as you thought you were.  For you see, rejection destroys you to the very core of who you are, right down to the rock bottom of self confidence.

Rejection is the most evil and wicked of all weapons. For it leaves the body alive and destroys the soul, the spirit, and sends your emotions into a tailspin.  It leaves the victim battling for survival.  Every day becomes a battle to re-establish self worth.  Everyday starts with willing yourself to take another step on the journey to healing.  And you do it alone, because the very people that are supposed to be there for you when your spirit is broken, family, are the very ones that wounded you in the first place.

       Is it any wonder that it takes us such a very long time to recover?

       Is it any wonder that we can’t just finish grieving and move on?

Is it any wonder that we are in such a swirl of emotions that one day we can be feeling positive and think that we are making progress and then the next we are right back to the start of the process all over again wondering “what went wrong?” 

Van Gogh

Ugly Shoes

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in other's eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try to walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so that they don't hurt quite so much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think
about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.
~ Unknown 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Today’s New Friend is Tomorrows New Family

Recently, I watched an NCIS episode and there was a heart string tugging scene between Gibbs and Abby.  Abby is struggling with the concept of “is all the good she does enough.”  And Gibbs pulls out the fortune cookie slip she had given him on the day they first met. 

It says, “Today’s new friend is tomorrows new family”  

He returns it to her.  The fact that he has kept it all these years shows Abby that the little things she does, do have a good effect.  Gibbs was given a second family because of Abby’s generous nature.  And as she ponders the slip that has been returned to her, she realizes that she too now has a new family.  A family that stands by her when she has a bad day.  A family that appreciates and values her contributions.
The special message that I was left with is that, the family we are born with may not be the family we are meant to be with.  Circumstances happen, events take place and things change.  We all face moments of doubt, when we wonder if our best efforts are good enough.  Those people who rally around us in our times of self-doubt, they are our “family” in the truest sense of the word. They are the ones who lift us up and allow us to be the best we can be.
The “family” you are born with often take you for granted.  They see mostly your  shortcomings and often they can’t see past your mistakes and inadequacies to the sum total of YOU. 

  • Or because they are upset with you they chose to overlook your good points.  
  • Or because you cannot fulfill some need in them, they decide that you are at fault.  

They see the negative in you therefore chose to focus on those moments of conflict.  It is this picture of those moments that they use to judge you. This is the picture they reflect back at you.  This is the picture of you they act upon when they reject you. 
Relationships cannot remain healthy and vital without the nourishment of positive encouragement. Relationships cannot move forward in the vacuum of estrangement.  Sometimes what was once good withers and dies through neglect.  Rejection is the ultimate expression of the diminishment of the value of a relationship.  It is the ultimate expression of “you do not matter enough to expend any effort upon.” 
Friends who become like “family” are those people who see the good in you.  They remember the very characteristics that attracted you to them in the first place.  And because they remember the good they elevate us.  They are like a mirror reflecting back our best qualities.  Because the events that led to friendship meant something to them and are cherished; you the individual are cherished and elevated.  In such an environment we become better people because we see reflections of our best selves in their caring actions towards us.
When you see a tree that has fallen and is decaying, you can choose to see the decay or you can chose to see the new growth that springs from the fertile soil the decaying tree created.  “Friends who become family” see the lush new growth whereas family members who have fallen into the trap of taking you for granted remain focused on the decay.
For any relationship to be healthy we must expend effort, looking to see and appreciate the vitality of new growth.  We need to reflect back life affirming and positive messages to those who we care for.  And we also need to have positive and life affirming messages reflected back at us.  Focusing on the decay, and ignoring the growth, or even the potential for growth, will lead to the inevitable decay of the fabric of the relationship. 
So I challenge myself and others to “cherish those people who make up your family.”  Seek the potential in each person.  Be a "positivity" mirror. Nurture and encourage and lift up those in need of your kindness and empathy and compassion. 
Renate Dundys Marrello
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

A symbolic death and rebirth journey

In life things end and we find that we are forced to face new beginnings.  These journeys are not always easy, but in the struggle to make life meaningful we must face these challenges with equal parts courage and strength.

I have recently faced just such a turning point in my life.  I was at an all-time low point, sorrowing for something valuable that I had lost.  The grieving was at that point where in order to survive, it was necessary for me to fine a new pathway forward.  

Everyone, at some time in life, faces those moments, where everything they believed true about their lives is suddenly turned upside down.  When something precious is lost.  The confusion and the pain are overwhelming.  The healing, a lonesome struggle to survive. It does not matter what the trigger event is, the common goal is the path to a new beginning.  For everyone the journey is different.  The time along the cycle of grief must be just right.  And at that point in time the rebirth can start to take shape.

For me the idea of the journey began with the approach of spring.  I had been reading about the historical significance of the “Pagan rights of spring”, the Chinese Wu Xing, where winter must happen before spring can sprout and finally the Christian Easter with its tradition of death and resurrection.  All these elements brought together, led me in the same direction; the importance of creating new beginnings.  I put together a 3 day journey of contemplation and meditation, one that I hoped would guide me in the right direction.

On Friday (Day 1) I reflected on accepting and putting the past to rest.

"We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."  ~ Charles R. Swindoll  

I began by thinking of my old expectations as something to bury.  Let go of the preconceived expectations that I was holding on to so very tightly.  I will replace them with new ideas and new concepts.  I will bury the expectations that I had for relationships that are over, instead I will start to think of ways to place greater value on new relationships and friendships and allow them to blossom.

When I started to look at it this way, the only thing that I have left to be sad about the past is the way hurtful / painful events made me feel inferior. The only way through that is to learn that my self-esteem should not be tied to the way I was treated.  My self-esteem should come from within. It should come from accepting that contrary to what other people might say or do, I am a good person. I am a kind person. I am worthy. And the journey includes accepting that it is necessary to allow the inner child to heal.

On Saturday (Day 2) I spent the day reflecting on substitution. Removing the expectations leaves a vacuum. It is this vacuum that needs to be filled and I am the only one responsible for filling the vacuum. As long as I am bound to the “what might have beens” in my life, I allow others to have control over my happiness.

“Nature abhors a vacuum”
Francois Rabelais

If I take control of my life, if I take steps to fill my life with events and people that bring meaning to my life, then I no longer allow past events to affect me. I can fill my life with new friends and meaning will come from being fully invested in the present.  I consciously replaced every item on my “this is what I have lost” list with and item of equal importance on my “this is what my present will contain” list. I am in control of establishing all these very satisfactory alternatives to a full and fulfilling life. The events from the past will no longer be given the power to bring me down.

“We all hope for breakthrough rebirth moments.”
Dane Cook

Today, Sunday (Day 3), is the third part of my rebirth journey. I am at a different place in my grief journey and the hurt is no longer so intense.  I accept that I am changing. I accept that I have allowed my experience of the negative event affect my spirit and my soul.

But now I am fighting back, I am taking my life back. If I can't have what was taken from me, I can still enjoy good times with others. Yes I will carry the scars, but every day is becoming easier.  The pain resides only in the memories of past events but those memories do not need to rule the present.

I can take back my life by not letting those past actions continue to have a hold on my feelings in the present. Accepting that which is over. The muses of the past have had their say. But I, no longer have to listen to those voices that say I am unworthy. Those voices want to bring me down, want to hurt me. I need to rebut those negative events with positive self-talk. I am worthy. I am a good human being. I deserve better. I have the power.  I have the option of choosing which voice to listen to.

As I continue forward I can accept that there may be sad days. But I have the power to decide whether or not I will allow those days to have control over me or not. I can choose to turn the message around. I can choose to not be the victim of the negative messages. I can decide that I will not stand for being the target of abusive and bullying behavior.

So today I am reflecting on rebirth. The rebirth of my life, a new life, a different life.  I will remind myself that different does not imply inferior.  Different is just different.  And who can say, it may even end up being infinitely better than anything I could have imagined.

Some things will not be in my life because of the choices others have made.  But new and different things will find room in my life because of the choices I make!  It is in my power to negate other people’s ability to hurt me, manipulate me and control me.  In so doing I gain my freedom.  I give myself permission to resurrect my own new life. I free myself to be a different me.

2013 – 03 – 31

Renate Dundys Marrello

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reflections on the Nature of Unconditional Love

We use and consume goods.  We dispose of objects when their usefulness is obsolete and replace them with the latest and the newest.  

In our throwaway society have we come to view people as disposable as well?  Are relationships becoming more about having the newest and the best and less about understanding and caring?

Practicing unconditional love and accepting all aspects of family or friends requires that we reject the media version of only accepting and appreciating the perfect. People are not perfect.  Their character is the result of all the turmoil they have survived in their lives.  The scars they have overcome mold them into the person you see.

The media is forever showering us images that to be “loveable” one must be perfectly dressed and coifed and made up etc.  Is it any wonder that so many today reject people based on their unlovable characteristics?  There seems to be an epidemic of casting aside the imperfect.  Life leaves scars on our psyche.  Are we discarding relationships because empathy would require us to embrace those imperfections and scars?

“All you have to do is revise your point of view. Instead of trying to achieve perfection, simply relax and enjoy human imperfectability. … You see man as infinite possibility always in the process of becoming.”
~ Robert H. Rimmer, That Girl from Boston

It is easy to love the lovable. 

It takes compassion and empathy to love the not so lovable traits.  A person is molded by the experiences they have had.  The positive experiences as well as the negative leave a trace upon their character and shape the way they see and respond to the stresses of life. 

Mature love accepts the good as well as the not so good aspects of a cherished person.  To accept another person’s weakness does not lessen us as person but rather, elevates us.

“Compassion crowns the soul with its truest victory.
~ Aberjhani, The River of Winged Dreams

It is easy to pass judgments based on outer images. Our biases will cloud these images for, as with the iceberg, there is so much more to know about a person that what at first appears. There are depths to a person’s character that we may never know.  The events of their past that shaped them are a mystery to us.  Empathy does not imply understanding nor agreement, but rather acceptance of the unknown.

“Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.”
~ Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

To unconditionally love a person requires the maturity to accept those weaknesses and scars that are left behind by events that shaped the person that you see and interact with. Rejecting a person based on their inability to perform to your standards punishes them for the hurts they have had to already endure to become the person they are.   

“Love is without a doubt the laziest theory for the meaning of life, but when it actually comes a time to do it we find just enough energy to over-complicate life again. Any devil can love, whom he himself sees as, a good person who has treated him well, but to love also the polar opposite is what separates love from fickle emotions.
~ Criss Jami, Venus in Arms
Occasionally, we need to take stock of the nature of our relationships and ponder the quality of love we show those we say we love. Are we falling prey to the throwaway society of loving only the newest and the best?  Or are we cherishing the well-worn and frayed, sometimes tattered personalities that deserve our unconditional love.

Renate Dundys Marrello

last edited on 2017 - 02 - 23 
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Abundance is a way of living

Abundance is so much more than material goods.  Abundance is a way of living.  It is feeling on the inside that today was worthwhile.  It is the happy feeling we experience being content with the richness of today’s experiences.

When you unwind at the end of the day and reflect on what you have accomplished, when you are satisfied that you met some of your goals for the day, then you retire with a feeling of abundance, "today was a good day".

On the other hand when your day was filled with disappointment, when things you did or said were met with disapproval, you finish the day with a feeling of regret or sadness.  A sense that today was not a good day.

Most of our lives we have both kinds of days and they are the ups and downs that create the tapestry of our memories.  Often we take the abundance of our lives for granted.  It is so familiar that we don’t take proper notice of the little things that fill us with joy.  Simple things like the contentment you feel after creating a great meal for a family event where everyone comes together to share the celebration.  Or the review at work that gives you positive feedback on your progress.  Or maybe you just completed that job or project and there is a feeling inside yourself, “I did it and it is good”.  These positive “report cards” of life fill our self-esteem bucket gradually one drop at a time.

On the other hand, negative or critical content knocks a hole into the bottom of the self-esteem bucket. When someone criticizes your efforts, they remove value from what you have accomplished.  For example if your dinner is greeted with critical or derogatory comments instead of compliments, or the boss tells you that your efforts were not up to their standard, or a neighbor comments that “they would have done it differently”.   On such days it is hard to feel valued and hence your life does not feel so abundant.

Life feels abundant as long as the positive days outweigh the negative.  Mostly we feel content with our lot in life. We do the things we need to do, in our jobs, in our homes, and for our family and friends and as well as for ourselves.  Each of the elements in our life fulfills certain needs that contribute to our sense of self-worth and wellbeing. We find balance and have a sense that “life is good”.

However, all it takes is one tragic or traumatizing event, one where everything you knew or believed to be true is violently torn from your life, for you to realize that your feelings of abundance are closely tied to your feelings of value and worth.  The vacuum this creates is almost overwhelming in its intensity.  Suddenly you are left to question your value as a person.  Are any of the functions of your life worthwhile? Survival requires that you fill the void with replacements.  We are creatures of purpose.  When our purpose is torn from us, doubt fills the empty space left behind.

To just exist is not enough.  We humans need more to function optimally. 

Having a goal and a purpose gives us a reason to get up in the morning and face the day with an optimistic outlook.  Working on, and occasionally achieving some of those goals, fills our life with abundance.

Purpose gives us a personal sense of intrinsic value.  A feeling that “what I do matters, what I accomplish has value”. Without purpose we lose sight of our value.  Without value we lose confidence. And without confidence, even getting up in the morning becomes a painful blur of “why bother”.

For a large part of our adult life that sense of value is tied up in what we do for others.  How we perform at school or work, as parents, what we do to raise our families, and in the community how we contribute to our neighbourhood or our social structure.

However, what happens when those stabilizing influences in our lives are shaken up?  Job loss or family disintegration or changes in our role in society all of these affect us on a much deeper level that at first seems apparent.

When a lot of our notions of self are tied up with what we accomplish that has value for others, then to lose that means an abrupt end to a sense of self-value as well. To be without self-worth is to feel lost; adrift in a sea of questions and doubts.  Who am I?  What is my purpose beyond my value to others?  How do I go on?  Where do I want to go? Who do I want to become? How will I get there?  What steps do I need to take to begin this journey? When do I begin?

Whatever the life changing event (retirement, grown children moving away, illness etc), the only road to recovery is to embark upon this challenging journey of self-discovery, redefining what brings you value in your own estimation.  Do something.  Learn new skills, take on new projects, and make new discoveries about yourself.  It is essential to make changes in your life to bring about changes in the sense of abundance that you feel.  It could be as simple as finding something you love to do, like a new hobby or craft or skill to learn.  The goal is to find something that gives you a new purpose and a new direction in your life.  Something that makes you wake up in the morning saying “I am glad to have another day to enjoy my passion”. 

However hard the journey may be, you deserve the end result, a renewed sense of self-worth, the feeling that you as a person have value beyond what you do for others.  And most importantly, beyond the value that others see in you.  It is important to find this feeling that today is abundant.  Abundant with joys and pleasures and good things.

Abundance is a way of living that fills your spirit with contentment and appreciation.

"Doing what you love is the cornerstone of
having abundance in your life."

   © photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Search of Mind Silence

When faced with the inevitable challenges and turmoil of life my brain turns into a constantly replaying movie where I relive events that have not been effectively resolved through other avenues.

In the absence of a satisfactory conclusion in real life, the film fragment replays over and over in a never ending cycle.  I find myself facing a real life version of the movie “Groundhog Day”.  My film is filled with sub texts of “what went wrong”, “why is this happening to me”, “what ifs” and “what might have beens”. 

Sometimes the volume is so loud it keeps me awake at night.  Sometimes the scenes are so vivid that they prevent me from fully participating in the present.   While I accept that this is my way of processing traumatic events and finding resolution, the day to day process is very tiring and emotionally draining.  Some days I just wish there were an “off” button.  Sometimes I yearn for “mind silence.”

Mind Silence; the absence of the inner voice criticizing everything I think or say or do! 

Mind Silence; the absence of that inner voice going over and over the conversations of the past trying to figure out where it all went so wrong.

Mind Silence; that moment where there are no recriminations, where for a moment I feel guilt free.

Mind Silence; is like an island of calmness in the midst of a turbulent sea.

Mind Silence; where everything is clear and pure and simple.

Mind Silence; where for a time I can be at peace.

Mind Silence; where the beauty of this moment is all that matters.  Just this moment in time, precious, unsullied by negative thoughts and emotions.

Mind Silence is freedom.  Freedom to just be and accept who I am without all the fine text of insecurities.

Mind Silence is happiness, because in the stillness my world view is optimistic and grateful.

Mind Silence is self-acceptance.  A moment when I am alright with who I am without the long list of things I need to be or do to be more acceptable. Letting go of the inner critic.

How I long for Mind Silence! 

Sometimes, I can create momentary silence by totally focusing on an object or concept or vision with gritty determination.  Shutting out all the nagging negative doubtful voices in my mind.  I cherish those moments like the precious jewels that they are.  I string those moments together into a patchwork of memories.  I write them into a new script, a story of joy and thankfulness.  And in the process I find healing for my wounded heart and aching spirit.

Mind Silence, is feeling okay about who I am and feeling comfortable with my place in life, a feeling of being in harmony with the universe.

Mind silence is accepting that I am worthy of love and that it is okay to love myself.

“love is the voice under all silences.”
-e.e. cummings

Mind silence is a new beginning.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
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    United Kingdom - Port Dover - Hike along the “White Cliffs”

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Things to ponder before preparing a eulogy:

1.    Don’t talk about wishing for more time with me; if there were opportunities to spend time with me when I was alive of which you did not take advantage.  I spent many years alone, without phone calls or visits or letters or cards or communication of any kind from those I had thought would share my senior years.  Instead I had to learn to make new friends and fill my days with new relationships to fill the void.

2.    Don’t say nice things about me; if you gossiped about me and said nasty things behind my back. Your thoughtless cruel and angry words broke my heart and destroyed my confidence, made me feel inadequate and unworthy.  You should have shared the nice thoughts and your good opinion of me when it counted…when it would have brought me joy.

3.    Don’t say you loved me; if you did not show your love and caring to me while I was alive.  There were countless days when I felt unloved and unlovable.   To fill the void I had to learn to reach out and form new relationships.  People who treated me with the kindness and respect I deserved.

4.    Don’t tell stories of the fun times we shared; if you did not share those fond memories with me while I was alive and could have enjoyed the reminiscing with you.  In my loneliness, I finally got to the place where I believed that there were no pleasant days in all your memories, that there was nothing beautiful worth remembering.  That all those years were a wasteland of negativity and all my efforts were for naught.

5.    Don’t compliment me; if you neglected to compliment me when I was alive and would have welcomed some positive appreciation.  If your neglect made me believe that I had done nothing right, and that everything I did was somehow second rate or did not measure up, then hollow words of praise mean nothing to me now.  

6.    Don’t talk about my good traits; if when I was alive you criticized me and told me how I needed to change to be better.  It was so tiring trying to live up to your expectations and always failing.  If you made me believe that nothing I did was ever good enough for you, then you have no business endorsing me now.

7.    Don’t say you will remember me; if you forgot me on my birthday or other holidays where it is respectful to remember those we hold dear.  There were many of these special days that I spent all alone and unremembered.   The tears of sorrow that I shed cannot be wiped dry with empty words.  There were times if felt invisible and forgotten.  If you did not give me the comfort of consideration and the warmth of being remembered when I needed them, they are wasted effort now.

8.    Don’t thank me; if you never thanked me while I was alive and would have welcomed knowing that you appreciated something I did for you.  I spent many hours in self-doubt, thinking that I had gotten it wrong yet again.  Over time I came to feel that much of what I did was a wasted effort, a thankless job unappreciated.   If you did not appreciate my generosity and kindness when I needed to hear that they mattered, then what use are empty words of thanks to me now?

9.    Don’t talk about the nice things you remember about me; if you only told me the bad traits you wished I would change while I was alive.  I would have welcomed some good feedback too.  If you devalued me as a person and made me feel unworthy, if you deflated my self-esteem then you have not earned the right to praise me now.

10. Don’t pretend that we were close; if you never took the time to get to know the real me. If you didn’t get to know my dreams and my aspirations, if you did not learn my regrets or find out what hurts I had suffered and endured; then you did not know the events that had shaped my life.  If you did not learn what motivated me to get up and try again after every disappointment or learn what inner strength and courage I had to develop to be able to cope; then you did not know me and you do not have the right to presume so now.

11. Don’t say you will miss me; if you never spent time with me when I was alive, when I would have welcomed your company.  There were lots of lonely days I wished you would remember me and had only fantasy visits to sustain me.  Only those friends who were a part of my life through visits and letters and phone calls, deserve the honour of missing my company now.

12. Don’t say you are glad to have known me; if you didn’t ask how I was doing and you weren’t glad to spend time with me when it counted most…while I was alive.  If you compared me unfavorably to others or replaced me with those you thought more qualified to be in your life, then you have not earned the right to claim my past.

13. Don’t tell the world you knew me: if you could not read my emotions and know the secret sorrow I carried in my heart.   If you did not learn that, “I’m OK” really meant I did not have the words to express my fears and hurts and that I really could really use a friend.   If you could not see beyond the smile I showed the world, if you did not see the sorrow and doubt on the inside, then you did not know me.  If you did not look close enough to realize that the smile rarely touched my eyes, you did not know me.  My secret grief I carried hidden deep inside and few were privy to that side of me.  You never got to know me. 

14. Don’t presume to put on a show of caring; if you did not care for me when I was in need of your caring. If you did not value me enough as a friend when I was alive I have no need for your hollow words now. Those who stood by my side during my times of greatest heartache won’t be deceived by your lies and flowery words.  There is no need to impress those who know the truth abot the lack of caring you showed me in the living years.

© Photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello

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