Amazing Grace

On Friday, the President of the United States stood in a church in Charleston, South Carolina and spoke of Grace. He said that it was Grace that transformed an act of uninformed hate into forgiveness, that it was Grace that turned an act of terror into love, and a coming together. The President asked the people of his nation to be expressions of Grace.

There are some moments in history that stop us in time. I believe this was one of them. I will not add to it. Let’s let that message just sit with us for a while. And let Grace enfold us.

Death Is Not What It Used To Be


Life happens. Death happens. No matter what I think, no matter how much I try to control it, these things happen. I have learned that what is as important as what is happening is my perception of it. I had achieved some measure of this when my father died.

Following are excerpts from my book, The Messenger:

I am sitting before him [Reverend Brown, the gifted medium] once again. “I don’t usually say this to people,” he says, “but Spirit wants me to tell you this. I see a circle of American Indians. They are dancing, rejoicing, getting ready to welcome your father into spirit.”

I am not surprised. After surviving cancer and three heart attacks, my father, who is almost ninety, has had a massive stroke. I dread the visit to the hospital. What will I say to him? He can no longer talk. My father makes it easy. He looks at me and smiles. I know that smile.


It is Christmastime. He comes in from the cold and sits down at the kitchen table, still in his policeman’s uniform. My mother gives him a steaming cup of coffee. I push my chair as close to him as I can get, waiting for the story. He always has a story, and while my mother is cooking dinner, I’ve got him all to myself.

“Guess who I saw today?” he says.


“Santa Claus.”

“Oooh…” I say. I know that Santa Claus is in the department store on Market Street, where Daddy works.

“He told me something.”

“What?” I am breathless. And then he smiles that I-know-a-secret smile.

“What did he say?” 

“He says he knows who you are.”

“He knows who I am?” I am practically screeching.

“Shhh, ” he says. “Don’t tell anybody.”

“Okay,” I whisper, so excited I can’t sit still.

“He told me he was going to bring you that thing you really want for Christmas.”

I can still feel the world light up, as it did that moment, when Daddy and I shared the best secret in the world: I was going to get the doll with the real hair.


He is almost ninety years old, and cannot move or speak. He looks up at the ceiling. His eyes are following something. He looks over at me, looks at it again, and looks at me. I look up.

“I can’t see it, Daddy,” I say.

His eyes are merry and shining. And then, he smiles the smile at me. It’s our last wonderful secret: Someone, or something from spirit is here.

“I know, Daddy,” I say to him. ” I just can’t see it.”

The next day when I visit, the nurses have just finished bathing him and are adjusting his pillow, trying to make him comfortable. I talk to him, try to get his attention, but for the first time in my life, my father is not interested in me. He has gone away somewhere. He dies the next day while I’m at work.


…My father’s pastor gives an affectionate, funny eulogy, and later, the family gathers at my house. It’s been a long day. I see to the guests, thank everybody for coming, and later, when my mother is resting and Bill and I are washing the dishes, I remember my last visit to Reverend Brown. “I see a circle of American Indians,” he had said. “They are dancing, rejoicing, getting ready to welcome your father into spirit.” In the hectic, exhausting months of dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my father’s stroke, I hadn’t thought much about Reverend Brown’s words. But now, it comes to me: My father’s father was Native American.

That night, I go to sleep thinking of my father in his hospital bed, smiling. looking at a circle of dancers, led by his father. There is no need to cry. Death is not what it used to be.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.


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Look for The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney on

Something Wonderful is Happening

I don’t know why, but today, for some reason, I thought of an old joke:

A scientist walks up to God and says, “Well, God, our technology is so great, we can make most anything. We can even clone people. We probably don’t need you anymore.” And God says, “Oh, really? Can you make a man from scratch?” “Sure,” replies the scientist. Reaching down to the earth, he scoops up a little dirt. “This is probably all I need.” “Well, you’re right, of course,” says God. “But that’s my dirt. You’ll have to get your own dirt.”

The story in my book, The Messenger, was given to me. It unfolded behind my eyes, beneath my thoughts. It came from a time and space as real as the one in which I am living now. The story existed before I wrote it down. I didn’t create it. I did have to work hard to bring it all together into a physical book, but when I was writing it, I never knew where it was going. I never knew what was going to happen. I knew I wasn’t in control. And because something wonderful was happening, it was all right.

You’d think I would remember that, and apply it to my own day-to-day life story. you’d think that by now, I’d know that something wonderful is happening, and that it’s all right if I don’t know where my story is going, or what is going to happen. It’s funny, isn’t it – as long as the unknown is happening to somebody else, it’s all right, but when the unknown is where we must abide  – as we must – we choose to suffer. Wanting to know the why and when of everything is like thinking that you have to find your own dirt.

But I want to know when somebody is going to buy my house, because I want to move to Sedona. Dealing with this unknown is my current assignment from the Universe. Every day, I must wake up and find a way to understand that, as my daughter says, God’s got this. Every day, now that the weather is lovely (I like the heat), I have my first cup of coffee on my back porch. In that first, lovely hour, before I can question the why of anything, it is the most beautiful place on earth. It is alive with the songs of birds, and sometimes, the sound of the wind. The trees and flowers are all growing out of the dirt, which I did not create. Something wonderful is happening. Creation is unfolding as it should, and everything is all right.

* * *

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Look for The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney on

The Right Question

The first thing you have to do when you’re getting ready to move is de-clutter. Discard. Get rid of things. I’ve done a lot. You can actually see my attic. I’ve made a hundred trips to the Lutheran Mission here in town with clothes and household items, and I’ve donated loads of books to the local library. And still, I have more stuff than I need or will want to take to Arizona with me. Whenever that happens. I’ve had two potential sales fall through. Nevertheless, I am getting ready. It will happen. So, I’m reading a book called the life-changing magic of tidying up by a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo.

Ms. Kondo puts forth one very, very interesting idea. She asks you to pick up every item of clothing you own, every knickknack, everything you think you can’t part with, hold it in your hand, and ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. I tried this on one of my bookcases, one I thought I’d pared down. But when I held each book in my hand and asked the question, most of the books came down. Only my loved ones stayed. I was surprised. You see, Ms. Kondo says, this method of tidying is a dialog you have with yourself. A kind of meditation, a life-changing magic. A way to be surrounded only by things you love.

Her question was still on my mind this morning when I decided to work outside. It was sunny and warm, and after three solid days of rain, I was in heaven. After a few chores, I noticed that the roses on my fence needed trimming. I had cut them back severely in the early spring, and they put on a spectacular show that peaked  last week.                                                                  IMG_0445

Sitting on my back porch last week was better than being in a Chanel showroom. The perfume was more enchanting, and what a color – the palest, pale pink. Every time I looked at them, I felt a spark of joy. I didn’t know that’s what I was feeling – I was just feeling it.

Today, I noticed that the roses – past their peak now – had invaded the miniature crepe myrtle tree in front of the fence. Oh, I sighed, getting ready to get the ladder and my clippers out. And then I noticed something. The little tree and the roses had their arms around each other.


I just stood there, lost in their love. You can trim the roses when the blooms are gone, a little voice inside me said. They don’t last long. Let them stay where they are for now.

Then, it clouded up and started to rain. I sat on the back porch. I watched it fall. I listened to it pelt the tin roof. Dorian the cat was sleeping in one of the chairs. And instead of complaining, as I normally would (haven’t we had enough rain?) I noticed how beautiful and lush everything was, how verdant, and alive. And the thought came to me: Maybe God thought you should stay here and enjoy this most glorious, green spring before you go to live in the desert.

When I came to this house, there was nothing here except pine trees. I planted it all – the roses, the white hydrangeas, the wisteria, the Montauk Daises, the peonies, the crepe myrtle trees, the rings of hostas around the pines. All of it. I made a garden. Thirteen years later, it is mature. It is everything I envisioned. As I looked through the rain at it all, I felt a spark of joy.

Whether it is sorting through clothes, or knickknacks, or just trying to get through a rainy day, if you’re looking for a spark of joy, chances are you’ll find it. It may be in a beloved book, or your favorite sweater, or the garden you planted with your own hands. It is there, just behind the right question.


Look for The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney at

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