Have you ever felt a calling from within that is so clear that you felt to not say “YES!” would be a betrayal of yourself?
Today, Friday, December 15, 2017, was my last day in my 18-year finance career. I have enjoyed a number of challenging positions within the finance industry, beginning 12 years on the banking side followed by a number of years on the corporate side. During the latter, I earned my Certified Treasury Professional certification and enjoyed roles which included managing a $13 billion dollar investment portfolio. I then transitioned back to the service side, where as Vice President of Business Development for a short-term investment firm, I proudly earned my Series 7 and 63 licenses and brought in $1 billion of investments to the company. I share all of this not to boast but to convey how much I reveled and committed to my finance career; however, I feel a crystal clear calling to transition to a new professional arena.
Why you may ask?
In February of 2014, I had the honor of helping to care for a family member during the last days of his life. For 30 months, Steven bravely battled stage 4 glioblastoma brain cancer (to understand more about this type of cancer, click here). When I walked into his home on the 10th of February, I had no idea what would unfold. I did not know that I would end up sleeping by his side for the last nights of his life; that while I slept I would drape my right arm across the cold, hard bar of his hospital bed in order to keep my hand on his arm with the hopes that he would feel he was not alone; that I would advocate with hospice caseworkers on his and the family’s behalf; that I would help bathe him, administer medications, and essentially serve as his end of life doula (to learn more about what it means to be an end of life doula, click here). I did not know anything about caring for a dying man. All I did know in that moment was that I loved my family, and I wanted every one of them, especially Steven, to feel that love and know I was there for them.
As I cared for Steven, my family kept telling me that I should consider becoming a hospice nurse, because I seemed to be “a natural”. The instincts I had in caring for him felt effortless, yet I responded to their suggestions by saying that, a) I honestly had no idea what I was doing, b) my career was in finance, and c) I was only able to do what I was doing because of the love I have for my family. I did not realize at the time that the strength and instincts I was experiencing were coming from a calling deep within me.
The catalyst to unlocking this calling was provided by my experience with Steven. As I crossed the threshold of his home, I stayed open to the current moment ready to face anything it held. I approached every moment from a place of pure, unconditional love. And while I witnessed much pain, heartbreak, both physical and emotional challenges, and, yes, death, I also saw so much love and beauty. There are many beautiful stories from Steven’s last days that fill my heart with so much joy and love!
In her book, A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle states, “I heard a doctor say that the living tend to withdraw emotionally from the dying, thereby driving them (the person dying) deeper into isolation. Not to withdraw takes tremendous strength. To pull back is a temptation; it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as remaining open.”
That difficult, yet special time forever changed me. I did not withdraw emotionally but instead faced every aspect of it head on from a place of love. It set me on a beautiful journey and has given me a deeper strength to cope with various transition moments in my life. And one of the things I have found is that when I remain open to life, the most beautiful moments occur. When I approach every moment from a place of love, life reveals beauty even in the darkest moments.
After Steven passed, I needed to heal and learn from the experience life had given me. To be completely frank, it did not occur to me in those last days of his life or for the next couple of years that I would choose to redirect my professional career. The calling was not yet clear. It took time to fully realize the capacity I have within me to help others.
It wasn’t the physical act of caring for Steven that made a deep impact on me. It was recognizing my capacity to fully connect with him in those dark moments; to fully be open to the darkness of the moment and not shy away from it; to fully connect with the family and shine light on the beauty occurring in those moments. I realized I have an ability to “hold space” for others in “life’s transition moments”. I have the capacity to find the beauty in those moments and reflect it back to others.
What exactly do I mean by “life’s transition moments”? It is any moment (past, present, or future) that one feels challenged to face or overcome. It could be anything, such as the birth of a child, a child being bullied at school, a family or individual relocating to a new city, job loss, a lack of understanding or not receiving unconditional love from family, a verbally or physically abusive partner, the illness or death of a loved one, a miscarriage, or facing our own illness or death...any transitional moment that you need to navigate.
Also, what do I mean by “hold space”? In my opinion, holding space for someone is allowing them to be exactly who they are without judgment, agenda, condition, or need to press for a specific outcome. I have found my friends will often choose to reach out to me to talk through an issue or need because they know I will in no way project my own beliefs, thoughts, or experiences on to them. I simply walk with them through their own feelings and thoughts in order to help them determine the solution that is best for them. I want everyone to know they can be exactly who they are.
So, when did I feel that crystal clear calling?
It was on March 20, 2017. I remember it like it was yesterday.
A few weeks prior, my dear friend, Vicki, reached out to me. Her beautiful daughter, Lindsay, was approaching the end of her brave battle with cystic fibrosis. Vicki knew about my experience with Steven and hospice care. She shared with me the challenges her family were facing and asked if there were any insights I could share with her, as she didn’t have much experience with hospice care. I was so moved that she reached out to me not only because of the trust I felt she placed in me in that difficult time, but mostly because Vicki is one of the most beautiful women I have had the honor of knowing. This was not the first time she was facing the death of a child. Even with the amount of loss Vicki has experienced in her life, she exudes love, grace, and beauty, and the words she wrote to me echoed that. I was, and remain, humbled by her!
I shared with Vicki what I knew from my experience with hospice care. I told her not to be afraid to ask for or demand anything Lindsay needed. I said that if for some reason a hospice nurse did not work well with the family, then it was completely okay to ask that he/she not return. I encouraged her to share as much about Lindsay and the family as she felt comfortable with the hospice nurses because they are truly angels and will fall in love with the family and help navigate the situation.
But my greatest message to her was that as long as she approached every moment from a place of love, she would serve Lindsay and her family in such a beautiful way. Yes, there would be incredibly difficult moments, and many things would be perfectly imperfect, but she would have no regrets because she would know where her heart and soul were coming from in the process. She knew her beautiful daughter. And I suggested that she ask God/Spirit/Life/Universe (whatever serves her) to help her connect more deeply with Lindsay and trust that she would be guided in a way that she need not understand.
Early the morning of March 20, 2017, Lindsay passed away. Her brave battle had ended and, as her family so beautifully shared, she was “now pain free and soaring high reunited with her sisters Rosie and Kelly”. (To learn more about this beautiful family and the work they are doing to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, please click here to check out their website.)
So, on March 20, 2017, I was standing in the card section at a Rite-Aid in Hoboken, NJ scanning sympathy cards to send to the Bumpus family. As I read various cards, I could physically feel their pain and heartbreak. Tears streamed down my face. Let me quickly add, I am not one to cry standing in a card section of any store…until that moment, I had never had that experience. Yet, there I was sobbing for this dear family.
It was in that moment, I felt it. It was so clear. Life fully revealed to me that I have the capacity and passion to help individuals and families navigate life transition moments. I can help people approach difficult moments from a place of love and find beauty in every moment of life.
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." ~ Mark Twain
Having received this revelation, I am now choosing to harness this passion by building a life coaching practice with a special focus on death and bereavement. Through coaching and providing support, giving lectures and writing books, my intent is to help individuals find beauty even in the most difficult phases of life.
I do not claim to have all of the answers. I will never tell anyone what they should or should not do, what they should or should not believe, how they should or should not approach a situation, or how they should or should not feel. In my opinion, life does not fit into a box, nor do we as individuals. We have what we need within us to navigate this life. At times we need others to help us on our journeys. I will simply meet you where you are and help guide you through your challenges.
My purpose is to help you navigate through life’s past, present, and future moments. My hope is that by approaching those moments from a place of love, you will find healing, beauty, and joy and gain a deeper understanding of what those experiences mean to you.
So, talk with me. Share with me your stories. Your experiences are your experiences. Are there moments in your life that you have struggled to understand? What moments have you faced or are facing on which you would like to shed light? Are you currently facing a moment in your life that feels unbearable? Would you like to gain clarity in moments you have faced or are facing? I am here to help you navigate your way through these challenges, regain your footing and help you find beauty and positivity in even the darkest moments.
“Tell me your story and I will show you your bravery. Show me your scars and I will tell you of your beauty. Share with me your suffering and I will bow to your depth. Confide in me your fears and I will honour your strength. You have it all, darling. You have it all inside you. And your genius shows when you least imagine it. Don’t forsake anything about your soul, your body, your mind, your heart. It is both the light and the dark that make this world beautiful. Same with you, lovely one. Same with you.” ~ S.C. Lourie, Butterflies and Pebbles