Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1, 2010

Now that mom is back home and appears to be resting well, I’ve been taking the morning and thinking about all that has happened in the past couple of months. It really has been very over-whelming and I am looking forward to my own little vacation someday soon. I’m not afraid to say that there were some of us who thought we might actually loose mom this past week.

It seems that when faced with our own or a loved-ones possible or imminent death we actually become psychologically stronger – although we may not feel it right away. Our brains begin to fill with images and memories and, if you are a musician like myself, it may even be accompanied by an orchestrated soundtrack!

“It again speaks to how resilient humans are and how this tendency to cope with threats is some sort of indicator of mental health," says Nathan DeWall, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

DeWall and others believe that as we develop our awareness of death, we also evolve what has been termed a “psychological immune system”. This is what tilts thoughts and attitudes towards the positive especially in times of crisis.

DeWall conducted a very interesting test and took two groups of people and asked one group to spend some time thinking about an unpleasant event such as getting a root canal done. The other group was asked to think about their own death.

This is where the psychological immune system comes in to play. Now, for those of you still reading – thanks for hanging in there with me because there really is a point to all of this. The groups were given word tests and other exams and the results are pretty interesting. The group that thought about an unpleasant event tended to be more negative or just not has pleasant. For example, when asked to pair the word ‘bird’ to either a beetle or a puppy, the unpleasant event group chose beetle. While the death-thinking group chose puppy. Puppy typically brings happier images than a beetle would.

As the events of the past couple of months have unfolded I have felt my own psychological heaviness. The weight that this puts on anyone is tremendous and during it I never really considered how I was coping with it all. But as I look back and read through my blog entries, I find it fascinating that I was focused on the positive. I, too, experienced my own psychological immune system.

So in the end it comes down to this: most humans, when faced with mortality, go to their happy place. My happy place is filled with lots of images, events, and emotions that make my heart smile. They bring me comfort and peace. Our spirits prepare us for every stage of life and when we are faced with the possibility of the end of this life – our spirits seem very well equipped to handle that.

I started a list of the scenes, people and places found in my happy place.

• Music

• Pine trees

• Mountains

• rivers and streams

• Wheat fields and hay bails

• Wildlife

• Family camping trips

• Christmas at Great Aunt Barbara’s

• Cape Cod with the Kenneys and the Danskins

• The stage at the Kirk

• The applause of the audience at Brevard Symphony Orchestra

• Stetson University

• Dunedin High

• Belt School

• 21 and 23 Union street

• Orlando Opera

• Walt Disney World

• Hugs from nephews and nieces

One of my friends, who was always and continues to be an inspiration to me, is Jay. Jay is a singer and he lives in Orlando and he, like myself, holds his family and heritage close to his heart. Recently he attended the 100th anniversary of his church. One of his relatives was among the founding members and Jay was amazed to meet even more people that he is related to. He took lots of photos (another trait we have in common) and made some great memories. I have included a beautiful photo that Jay took on his journey. It transported me, almost immediately, to a happy place. Perhaps it is a common happy place item for you, as well. Bare feet through green grass. Isn’t that a nice thought?

As mom continues to recover and as we continue to help Dad hang on to as much as possible on his journey through dementia – we all need to attend to our happy places. You are invited to spend some time there and then if you are so inclined – we would love to hear about YOUR happy place. Please send us an email and tell us all about it. It sure would bring a smile to our faces – and I know it would bring a smile to your heart as well. You can email them to

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