“Love Each Other” One of The Last Messages She Shared Before Her Transition… We Embraced It Then… We Live It Now…


Silicon Bracelets With Inspiring Messages
Silicon Bracelets With Inspiring Messages, Including My Second Mom’s Message For Family and Friends, “LOVE EACH OTHER.”

In November 2007, one of my best friends, who I came to know as my second mom, Patricia Strother Barlow, transitioned from the physical to the spiritual… I loved my second mom and confidant more than words can describe. She was an absolutely amazing woman with a heart of gold… She was thoughtful, generous, kind, trustworthy, honest—she spoke her truth, and she loved people, all people…You could especially witness her love for people around the holidays…

Many of my Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were spent with Pat, my second mom, her husband, Ed, their immediate and extended families as well as my immediate family. At least 25 or more people showed up on Thanksgiving and Christmas day with food, gifts and holiday cheer… Some of the guests included, Pat’s former husband and his wife, Ed’s former wife and her husband, biological parents, former and present in-laws, Pat and Ed’s adult children, in-laws of the adult children, grandchildren, children of guests, Pat and Ed’s close friends, their children’s close friends and friends of close friends… At Pat and Ed’s house during the holidays, we were blessed with the experience of having a multi-ethnic, beautiful and gifted group of people all in one place. Considering the multi-cultural family that I was born into and influenced by, I loved being among many different people who freely expressed their own way of being in the world…  Outside of celebrating the present holiday together, we too celebrated life, family, friendship and community… While at our holiday gatherings, I listened to the conversations and watched the interactions of those around me and was taught many things, the most important was the true nature and power of love… Love brought people of various hues, persuasions, backgrounds, affiliations, perceptions and beliefs together in the same space to share with each other our lives and our gifts… We knew we were with people who freely loved us as we loved them…

I took for granted that I would always have these special occasions, spending the holidays celebrating life with the people I loved… Therefore, when I received the call that my second mom had transitioned, that early morning in November 2007, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I could not relate to what was being shared with me. It seemed the words would not register in my mind. I hung up the phone, lied back down in bed and closed my eyes again. I had received only a short period of sleep before the call, after spending the evening in New York, then driving the two or more hours back to Connecticut. While lying in bed with my eyes closed, the words slowly began to register, yet my emotions remained distant from me. Disbelief kept my feelings at bay… I’m not sure when I first released tears, but during and after my second mom’s memorial service, my tears were almost non-stop. For days, weeks, months and even years later, whenever I thought about Pat, my eyes would well-up and tears would form… Sometimes I could stop my tears from falling, other times I couldn’t. It took years before I could think about my second mom, not cry and only smile. When I began writing this, nonetheless, my tears came again, but so did my smile…

Why did it take so long before I could completely come to terms with my second mom’s transition? Pat and I never got to discuss the extent of her illness… She shared with me that she had an infection, but she would be okay. I believed her… She had never before given me a reason not to believe her. During Christmas 2006, although still recovering from her infection, she managed to scurry around the house, checking on the food, checking the gifts and checking to make sure everyone else was okay. Pat was mostly energetic, pleasant and for many of us, she was already well again. I was not prepared for Pat’s death nor had I expected that she wouldn’t be with us for many more years… I also cried for the many years that I did, because I didn’t make the opportunity to have the one-on-one time that Pat and I needed with each other during the time she was ill… Instead, I picked up the phone and called to check-in with her… The ride to Pat’s house was only 10-15 minutes. I always enjoyed taking the ride to see my second mom, and I always made the time. In 2004, however, my life changed.  I became a full-time entrepreneur. For approximately a year, after becoming an entrepreneur, I spent most of my time finalizing my manuscript for my first novel… In 2006, my first novel was finally published. Then most of my time was spent on the road promoting it… I made my life so busy with work; I hardly had time for anything or anyone else. Spending less time with the people I loved, kept me from knowing the finer details of their lives. Knowing the finer details was always important to me… The finer details mattered… I have no regrets about the time I spent investing in my career. I have loved being an entrepreneur since the beginning. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me to inspire people’s lives through both the written and oral word, and I get to do it my way… Yet, when I think about what I could’ve done differently, the word “balance” comes to mind. I know that my career would’ve been even more fulfilling had I equally shared myself with the people I loved… Today, I believe myself to be a master of balance… I take time for me, for the people I love and for my career… It’s a wonderful way of being…

I hadn’t had many experiences with death in the early part of my life. My older brother, who is 16 months my senior, was struck by a car on the busy, high traffic street we lived on. I was 2 years old at the time. He was 3 years old. He spent months in a coma but he didn’t die. When he finally woke up, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury which influenced his physical disabilities. Today my older brother is still with us, and although mostly independent, he continues to manage traumatic brain injury and physical disabilities. At the age of 2, I was too young to understand my brother’s experience; therefore I don’t know how my life was affected. But the lives around me must have changed… At about 7 years old, my closest friend’s brother, Scotty, was too struck by a car on the same busy, high traffic road we lived on. Scotty didn’t recover from the accident, and therefore, transitioned at 5 years old. My friend and I, along with her younger brother, Scotty, were on our way home from school. While walking down our street toward our homes, Scotty decided to run before us and then tried to cross the street on his own. As soon as he made it into the street he was hit by an on-coming car. I remember Scotty’s body flying into the air then landing onto the windshield of the car. Everything else went blank, except for the sadness my friend and her family experienced subsequent to Scotty’s death.

My older brother and I received a chocolate colored poodle, we named Mocha, as a gift when we were around 6 and 7 years old, respectively. We loved our dog along with the other pets we had as children. We found it fun to manage him and to learn what we needed to take care of him. Just as we were getting used to having Mocha around, he too was struck by a car. It happened on the same busy, high traffic street we lived on. It was another devastating accident that caused me much sadness and many tears. Scotty’s and Mocha’s deaths occurred during my childhood, yet in my early life I was never introduced to funerals or memorials. Perhaps, this is why death’s purpose was never really defined for me… All that I knew about death is that it changed the lives around me, including my own. Why it changed our lives, I didn’t know…

I was already graduated from college when I attended my first funeral. I don’t believe I had any fears or expectations regarding the funeral before going or while there, but the occasion seemed to finalize the death of an individual who we all loved and in some way relied on.  After the funeral, I began to more plainly understand what that finalization meant. It is our emotions that ultimately define how we relate to the experience we have come to know as death. Death can be for us the beginning of something new… or the ending of something existing or old… Both can be beautifully transformative or devastatingly life-changing, depending on how death occurred…

I experienced many emotions after my favorite uncle, my mother’s younger brother, the oldest boy, died in the spring of 1996… My favorite uncle’s funeral was my first. He was a young guy in his forties who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Finding out that his life could be shortened due to his dis-ease changed him. I wasn’t with him to know everything that he felt after receiving the news, but the steps he began to take to move his life forward uplifted him. He became determined to turn his life around and to save himself. He joined the church and got baptized. He attended services every Sunday that he could. He let go of his addictions and worked on being a better role model for others, including his children. He prayed as often as possible. He again started wearing his best clothes, the ones that made him feel good, and he took more time to rest and to be with the ones he loved. What seemed most important to my uncle was that he was forgiven by family and friends for his faults. I never verbally told my uncle that I forgave him, but I always showed him. Since he spent more time at home resting, I made sure to visit him as often as I could. While with him, I would sit close by and talk to him about whatever he wanted to know or share with me. I hugged him and held his hands to let him know how much I loved him. If I tried to walk out the door without hugging him he would have me come back. And I made sure to. I wanted him to know that regardless of what he was experiencing, he was still my favorite uncle…

For some time my uncle truly believed that he would overcome his illness. I don’t believe there was anything that could change his mind about this, at least, at first. The church taught my uncle that all things are possible with God. The church taught him to be a believer and not a doubter. The church taught him the purpose of becoming renewed and walking by faith. Much of what he was gaining through the church helped him to envision a brighter future. The streets, which he had made his second home, before joining the church, dimmed his future. In all, what the streets made him blind to, the church helped him to see… My family and I were grateful for the changes we saw. Our own faith was being renewed. Calvin wasn’t going anywhere… He was going to be with us for as long as he wanted to… All that he needed to do was keep being positive… It seemed church was the answer… My uncle’s death, among other experiences, including further years of spiritual awareness and growth, helped me realize that church wasn’t the answer. It was simply a stepping stone that could lead us closer toward the answer… The answer I discovered was… God (Divine Love) is everything you need. Everything you need is already in you… Ask what is already in you to make your thoughts, your feelings and what is outside of you new…

I carried with me, longer then I knew, the sadness caused by my favorite uncle’s death… This sadness grew further after my aunt, my mother’s younger sister, the middle daughter, who was also in her forties, transitioned around four years later. She passed the same night my family and I were asked to give her doctor permission to remove her from life-support. Julie Lynn too suffered from a long-term illness that eventually and completely diminished her life… My aunt’s death happened some years after her brother’s, but time didn’t lessen the devastation. Before and after my uncle’s funeral, there were days when I cried uncontrollably. Other days I wept softly. But mostly, I experienced my emotions alone. Before and after my aunt’s death, which was close to the finalization of my divorce, I became more distant from my emotions. My feelings were more reserved.  My own personal convictions caused me to believe that I had to be the one who turned everyone and everything around. I had to be the person that made everything and everyone better; so I stood on the promise that I would be the strength and love that we all needed… For years, I was… I walked away from the promise to be everything others needed me to be after Pat, my second mom, passed…

During my childhood, I remember crying for Scotty and for Mocha and receiving the support I needed from others to get me beyond the experiences that caused me to grieve. In my adult life, I reached out to others less and instead explored more my own ability to console and support myself. What I learned is that, both are okay. Both methods of restoring one’s own peace and wellness work. Spending time alone allowed me to discover what my relationship with death entailed. Was it the experience of death that defined my state of being and life, or was it my state of being and the way I lived my life that defined the experience of death? I found that both had been true for me. There were times when I had a very loose relationship with death, and there were times when I held on to it tighter than I even knew… The times when I held on tight, were the times when I wouldn’t let myself feel anything other than the emotions attached to the experience. I had the freedom to let go, but letting go seemed to dissolve a relationship that meant so much to me. Eventually, I found out that letting go opened for me the opportunity to change the way I was choosing to have my relationship with grief.

When my grandparents, my dad’s father, transitioned in 2001, and my dad’s mother, transitioned in 2003, my relationship with death and grief began to be redefined. I believe the reason was that, my grandparents lived long, healthy and productive lives. My grandfather and grandmother were both in their 90s and spent more than sixty years married to each other. Their relationship inspired me. I was grateful that they chose to live for as long as they did, and while with us, they tried to be the very best people they could be. Because my grandparents cherished their lives, when they transitioned from the physical to the spiritual, we had no choice but to celebrate their going rather than spend our time grieving their passing. I won’t say that tears weren’t experienced. I won’t say that some grief wasn’t expressed. My father at times grieved his parents’ deaths, but only because there were things he wanted to do over with them. His grief was understandable to me. As children to our parents, we hope to be for them our best, just as parents would want to be their best for their children. I am sure that within the ninety-plus years that my grandparents lived, there were plenty times when my father was his best. The times when he wasn’t, it was because he was still learning how to be his best for himself. Self-discovery and growth are mostly what define living… Both self-discovery and growth are constant… Being who and what we are, at the times that we are who and what we are, and accepting ourselves as so is a gift we give to ourselves… For me to try and count the moments when I have been my best, for myself or for another, would be useless… Instead, I want to say that, being my best is not what matters, living my life as fully as I can is what matters…

It had only been months between the death of Pat, my second mom, and the death of one of my closest male friend’s mom, who passed in July 2008, two days after her son’s and only child’s birthday. After my friend’s mother transitioned, I made sure to put aside whatever I was feeling and doing and be mentally, emotionally and physically available for my friend. I did whatever he needed me to do before and after the memorial. I’m not recalling how the death of my friend’s mom affected me, but I remember that I spent as much time as possible with my friend while we were both grieving… When I felt that it was time to let go and let my friend explore his relationship with his feelings on his own, I too began to do the same… I found that each experience I had with death created for me the opportunity to define my relationship with it. How was it making me show up in the world? Who and what was it causing me to become? Where was it moving me toward? When would I begin to speak to it, death, more honestly?

I began to pray and meditate daily and more often… Spending time alone was becoming more and more necessary and pleasing to me… My home remained silent for longer periods… I kept my TV off, although I hardly watched it before. The music I listened to changed… It was now softer and mostly instrumental. I ate primarily raw food, vegan meals… What I put into my body and on it mattered more to me… My wardrobe became more colorful and vibrant. I lengthened my rest times… I noticed the magic and splendor of nature more easily… I read more “spiritual awareness” books. I wrote more inspiring newsletters… and so forth… The changes I was implementing in my life began to cause everything else to shift around me. Life was showing me that it wasn’t my relationship with death I needed to define, it was my relationship with life… Days after my friend’s mom passed, I was encouraged to write a piece in my newsletter regarding LIFE… I was also reminded that another friend of mine would be giving birth to her second child and daughter soon… I was heavily into photography at the time, so I decided it would be great to capture truly organic and beautiful images of my friend while still pregnant. To enhance the idea of not only life but love within the images, I included my friend’s first born and son, who was a toddler, within the frames. The photographs were adorable and further expressed how truly alive life is… This is how I wanted to move forward in life…alive and always giving birth to new possibilities and glorious manifestations…

My Beautiful Friend Pregnant With Her Daughter and Blessed By Her Son... 2008
My Beautiful Friend Pregnant With Her Daughter and Blessed By Her Son… 2008

Within days of taking the photographs, I met my male best friend, whose mother transitioned, for lunch at a nearby park, not far from where I lived. When we reached the café where we would have our meal, we decided we wanted to be seated outside on the deck. While seated outdoors, my friend’s and my attention was caught by a mother duck nestling her young… The sight amazed me… I had my camera with me so I took a picture… I remember saying to my friend, while observing the mother duck with her young, “life is all around us.” I encouraged my friend to pay more attention to the way life was expressing this sentiment to us… We were surrounded by lustrous green grass and fully flourished trees within a historical park known for its rose and rock gardens… A large pond with live, colorful fish was only steps away from us… Sundry flowers, in many different shapes and sizes, decorated the landscape around us. Birds were flying by and some were chirping in nearby trees… and more… The organic music of life was everywhere making its music heard through many and varied creations… The same music that too gave us and gives us life… None of what we were witnessing and experiencing could replace my friend’s mother, or completely dissolve what he was feeling, but I knew that his ability to see life would renew him just as it was renewing me… Life invariably encourages us to live, in spite of the eternal nature of change…

Mother Duck Nestling Her Young Outside of Pond House Cafe..., Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT... 2008
Mother Duck Nestling Her Young Outside of Pond House Cafe…, Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT… 2008

Writing this piece has been cathartic for me… So many truths have been revealed to me regarding the experiences of my life… Over the last several weeks, I have prayed for friends, family, acquaintances and perfect strangers… I also indirectly prayed for those who have questioned my intentions for writing my novel, “Death Has Wings,” published in 2010. I was told that it is a novel about death, among other things I hadn’t related to the story… I now can express that I wrote “Death Has Wings” to remind myself and others about the magic and beauty of life… The principal characters, Corinth, the angel of Love, and Ezekiel, the angel of Life, demonstrate for us throughout the book and throughout their marriage, the power and brilliance of LIFE and LOVE when both are merged… “Death Has Wings” is simply about LIFE… It too is about our ability to loosen and release old ways of being in order for our new selves to emerge… Yes, individuals within the book have transitioned, but their transitioning is not about the death of someone… It is about the dissolution of those aspects of ourselves and those of others that do not serve LIFE… Aspects of ourselves and others that keep us from truly LIVING…

Every day I SEE LIFE all around me, at all times… LIFE is reflected in myriad ways for me, for us… Thank you, MOST HIGH GOD, for always revealing to me what is REAL, HONEST, TRUE and ACCURATE… GOD, you speak and share with me in the most magnificent ways… My gratitude for your LIFE and LOVE is immeasurable…

The days leading up to my birthday, on May 30, 2015, and during the days that followed, I was gently urged to be still and to let what needed to come, come… There’s so much more that has been revealed to me and so much that has been and is being dissolved within me and outside and around me… This is happening so I can see and hear more clearly and so I can experience life and love more freely, beautifully and prosperously… The second week into June, I was going through my jewelry that had been packed up and in storage… I pulled out silicon bracelets I decided to keep as part of my jewelry collection… The white one has a message on it that says, “LOVE EACH OTHER.” This message is one of the last spoken by my second mom within the hours of her transitioning… I needed this message when I read it… I was feeling as though we, my family and friends as well as the rest of humanity, were forgetting the importance of authentically and unconditionally loving each other and more importantly, authentically and unconditionally loving ourselves, our own lives…

The other bracelets read:

Yellow… FRIENDSHIP… My relationships with my family and friends, old and new, mean the world to me… I greatly love the people in my life and hope to do the best that I can to be a spectacular FRIEND…

Blue… BE ACTIVE. BE HEALTHY. BE REWARDED. … This message simply means to LIVE and when we do LIFE will indeed reward us with health, wealth and all good and beautiful people, places and things…

This fourth bracelet was with the jewelry I have been carrying around with me during my travels…

Purple… LOVE WINS… For me LOVE IS ALL THERE IS… When we, individually and collectively, come to realize that LOVE IS ALL THERE IS, Love will be all that we experience in every aspect of our lives, with all people, in all places, at all times… I believe we, collectively, are finally here… LOVE IS ALL THERE IS…

I have another silicon bracelet that I didn’t include in the image. It too is purple like the one displayed… This one has the word, PRAYER, on it… PRAYER IS POSITIVE AND POWERFUL… May we, individually and collectively, pray a prayer of gratitude each and every day simply because we are here to make this life what we truly want it to be… GOD IS GRAND… LOVE IS DIVINE… LIFE IS GOOD…

“LOVE EACH OTHER.” Patricia Strother Barlow, I am so grateful you lived and you shared the abundant and unconditional love you did in the time you graced us with your physical presence… Even now your life is making a tremendous difference… Thank you for BEING and for BEING YOU…

I met Patricia Strother Barlow, my second mom, when I began working at CIGNA in the early 90s. I was told by my manager that she was someone I should meet because she would make a wonderful career mentor. When Pat and I finally met, we quickly and genuinely connected on both a personal and professional level. I admired her for many reasons. First, she was deeply and authentically real… She was very down to earth as well as a wise business woman. She gave me sound advice regarding my career and she opened up to me personally and made space for me to do the same… I also loved her great sense of style. We both loved fashion and we enjoyed expressing our personalities through our attire. Pat always stood out, because of the way she carried herself. She wore her clothing, her character and dignity boldly. How she showed up made a big difference in her life and in the lives of others… She became one of the highest grossing, black women executives at CIGNA… Considering she saw me as her protégé, I believe I was following in her footsteps. I became known as a young, rising star very early in my career and began quickly climbing the corporate latter. A short time after Pat and I met, we started spending time together outside of the work setting. Doing so, gave us the opportunity to simply be and to share more of ourselves… The more time we spent together, the more our love and admiration grew for one another. The way we treated each other showed how sincerely we adored each other… We trusted each other… We communicated well with each other… We positively influenced each other… We made each other laugh and we were comfortable being vulnerable with each other… My career mentor became one of my very best friends. She became a confidant and soon gained recognition as “my other mom.” Pat’s daughter and son, who both were close to my age, took me in as their younger sister, and her former and present husbands became “my other dads.” It was wonderful to have another family that openly welcomed me and that shared so much with me… I am not only thankful to Pat for everything she was for me, and for everything she did to show me how much she loved me, I am thankful to her for being one of the women in my life who taught me how to be a real lady…

Shortly before Patricia Strother Barlow transitioned in 2007, she assisted in the planning, design and building of a learning academy in Hartford for young children in kindergarten and in elementary grades. The school is a transformational learning academy that provides a setting for children to experience higher education. Part of Pat’s motivation to get involved in such a meaningful project was my writing. Before the school was started, and during its planning, design and building phases, I was writing about the importance of higher learning in schools, and the value of keeping or installing arts and music education as well as physical fitness in curriculums. Pat made sure to deliver on this once the new learning academy opened its doors. I was inspired and encouraged by her motivation to take my words and make them a reality, so I continued to use my writing as a platform for positive and transformative change in education, the arts and music, in health and wellness, in religion and spirituality, in media and entertainment and more… What Pat and I did in the field of education opened the doors for other higher learning academies in Hartford, Connecticut, in other states throughout the U.S. as well as in other countries… We inspired and encouraged each other in so many ways and made not only our own dreams realities, but the dreams of others realities… Patricia Strother Barlow, you are no longer with us physically, but your beautiful spirit continues to influence the world in the most magnificent ways… I will never forget you, nor will the others who you inspired, including the multitudes of men and women in Corporate America who had the opportunity to witness the graceful steps of a lady who was led by love, integrity, thoughtfulness, wisdom, confidence and courage… and the list goes on just as your legacy will… Today, June 23rd, my second mom would’ve celebrated another birthday… We, your family and friends, celebrate it for you as we celebrate YOU…

Harkness State Park in Connecticut Is Where Patricia Strother Barlow's Ashes Were Released, November 2007...
Harkness State Park in Connecticut Is Where We Released Patricia Strother Barlow’s Ashes, November 2007… It Was A Beautiful Day…

For more about me visit, windinc.org and for more about my spiritual views, pick up my latest book, “Rise & Reach: Life and Leadership” at Partners In Goodwill, partnersingoodwill.comAmazon.com and Barnes & Noble

#HealthyLivesCampaign #HLC #WisdomInNewDimensions #WIND #Music #Dance #Life #Love #Health #Wealth #Rise&Reach #HigherThinking #HigherLearning #HigherLiving

Always sending forth love and light… Dana Rondel

Wisdom In New Dimensions
www.windinc.org

Partners In Goodwill
Publications & Media
www.partnersingoodwill.com

Tel/Fax: 1.888.609.9595

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