I’ve recently learned one of my most valuable life lessons from a very unlikely source, my sister-in-law Lorie.
When I first met my husband Rob his sister was knee deep into a 10-year addiction to methamphetamine. As far as we all know, she never stopped during the last 21 years.
At the extended family gatherings Lorie would almost always attend. She would arrive either high, coming off her high and very disagreeable or somewhat ‘normal’ but anxious to leave to get her next hit. I was always ‘outwardly’ kind and welcomed her into our home but spent most my time avoiding her during these family affairs. I had made some early attempts to connect but it’s hard to do when someone’s primary relationship is a drug.
Rob would say, Lorie would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever change. A chant he would mimic through the years from all her dramas that an active meth user creates. He had years of frustration, hurt and pain. I too joined in on the family’s chorus of judgement. Another voice to add to the song of condemnation on Lorie’s behaviors and choices.
Her children shared many stories of the neglect, abandonment, and emotional pain they suffered while living with their mother and her addiction. Like any family of an addict, they all had the emotions one experiences, anger, sadness, disappointment, helplessness, hopelessness, resentment, despair and finally exhaustion. One by one they left to live with their father in Texas.
She never fought for them and now had the opportunity to go full blast into her addiction. The neglect never changed throughout their lives, she contacted them occasionally and rarely saw them. They were the ones who made the contact. I watched them all try to steer through the rocky waters of having an addict for a mother.
In the last 21 years anytime, when her name would come up, I would judge her with a resounding harshness about her choices, her addiction and her neglect of her children and grandchildren.
In June Lorie was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. Her three adult children jumped into action to help their mom navigate this process. They made numerous calls to doctors, arranged appointments, and spent their time and energy trying to get her the best resources to assist in her healing. When anything was left up to Lorie, she would drop the ball and things wouldn’t move in a timely fashion.
In August she could barely breath, so a friend took her to the hospital. While in the hospital she requested chemotherapy for her lung cancer. On her second round of chemo, she completely shut down and was placed on a ventilator.
The Hospice staff called her kids and told them they needed to come as quickly as possible for they doubted she would last the week. When they arrived from Texas the doctors took Lorie off the ventilator and thought she wouldn’t survive the day. She did the opposite; she rallied, woke up and started talking. They moved her out of ICU to a regular hospital room.
Her kids were there almost all day every day and one of them would spend the night with her. Amazing, generous, and loving human beings her children. Two days before she passed, when all three kids were present in her room, she said, “I’m so sorry I was a bad mother, I’m so sorry I was a bad grandmother, I’m so sorry I was a bad daughter to my mom and dad, I’m so sorry I was a bad sister to Rob, and I regret I ever did drugs.” Her kids were moved and overwhelmed with grief, sadness, and a sense of relief.
Rob’s sister Lorie did change that day.
What a gift Lorie gave them, and redemption is never too late. A miracle occurred that day and more were to come.
The doctors told her kids she would not survive without the oxygen they were providing her, and they had to make the heartbreaking decision to reduce the oxygen she was receiving.
Two days later I came to the hospital at noon, Rob and the kids came out weary and hungry. The doctors were going to start to reduce the oxygen at 2:30 and they needed to return at 2:00. We all left for lunch. During lunch they talked about my father, what a character he was and his very bushy and pronounced eyebrows. Our waitress had accidently charged another table’s check to ours and it took time to straighten this out. It delayed our return to the hospital at 2:00.
While waiting I picked up my phone and noticed my cousin in Florida had text a picture of himself with my dad, out of the blue. The time of the text 2:04. I replied back to ask him if the picture was from his wedding years ago, he said yes, and that my father was a wonderful Uncle to him. Just like Rob has been to Lorie’s three kids all these years.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I just looked up from my writing this blog and my computer clock says 2:04 PM, AMAZING! A coincidence? I don’t think so.
When they arrived at the hospital, around 2:20, Lorie had already passed. A second gift for her children, for they now wouldn’t carry the burden that they were the ones that allowed the doctors to reduce her oxygen.
Could she have passed at 2:04 and my father was there to greet her as she crossed? I’d like to think so.
Lorie was now released from her decades of personal shame and everyone’s judgement and condemnation. Her spirit was free.
The next day I went to Torrey Pines State Park to walk the beach and trails. When I got there, I found the last parking spot next to a camper of a man named Larry Martin who does Rock Art for the Heart. A serendipitous moment, for this is the third time I’ve crossed his path in two years. As I started my walk I wondered if I'd see him. As I got to the bottom of the stairs from the beach to the trails, I saw him talking to a woman and near him was a large heart shaped rock perched upon another rock. I went up the trails and wished for him to be there when I came down.
Not to be disappointed, he was there and gingerly placing the last heart on top of a rock. A row of three hearts on top of rocks. Hearts for Lorie’s three kids? I’d like to think so.
I believe what Lorie couldn’t provide them on this earthly plane she could send from the other side. Another miracle! Maybe Yes and Maybe No, but I choose to think so.
The next day when Rob was taking her oldest son to lunch his nephew was served a heart shaped swordfish. Lorie sending more love?
I went back to Torrey the next day after my morning meditation with the angels. I had drawn the card Forgiveness from my angel card deck. Coincidence? Well, you now know what I think. During Lorie’s hospitalization I would meditate every day and send her love, light and healing. The first time I ever sent her loving thoughts and words, a victory of Human Spirit for me. I was stuck in Human Normal judgment all those previous years. Even though I didn’t like that I was saying all those negative things, I felt justified, she was a bad mother and grandmother.
What if all those years I sent loving thoughts? Would she have seen the ‘Llght’? What if we all had done that instead of our continued chorus of judgement. Would that ‘energy’ reach her and have her change? Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t but it couldn’t hurt. At the very least I would have at felt better about myself and my desire to be a kind and loving person.
My miracle that day was I grieved all the judgements I bestowed upon Lorie, and I ask for her forgiveness. I felt her give it to me and many tears were shed during that walk. She gave me the gift of awareness. When judgement comes up now, I usually catch myself and send love and light in someone’s direction instead of negative judgement. A real miracle for me.
There is a difference between judgement and discernment. Discernment provides a path to Honor Ourselves and gives us guidance whether to stay in a situation or leave, judgement causes an emotional and spiritual distance from another human being. A human who may be struggling with something.
Thank you, Lorie, for being one of my greatest teachers.
Footnote: The doctors said that the lung tumor was wrapping around her heart. I looked up what Louise Hay had to say about heart and lung illness.
Louise Hay was a noted teacher and author who specialized in affirmations and positive thinking and the mind body connection.
The heart represents ‘the center of love and security‘ and the lungs are about ‘the ability to take in life.’ I guess in this human life Lorie could never take in the love and security that her family offered. I choose to think she taking it all in now.
Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
Larry Martin (949) 257-8433 Instagram @Rockartfortheheart
If you are lucky you might meet him on the beaches of Southern California, look for his beat-up camper surrounded by his heart art.
Kyle Gray can be found on Instagram. He has published many books and offers online courses through Hay House.
Alison Armstrong.com has online courses, books and audio tapes that encouraged us humans to foster extraordinary relationships, with ourselves and others. She has had a profound influence on my personal journey of transformation.