Improbable But True

I am thinking tonight about the monarch butterfly who makes a migratory journey of about 3,000 miles from the north to get to California and Mexico before the winter sets in. I have often wondered about that great effort. At best, it is highly improbable.  And yet, every year, it happens. I have made my own migration to a place in the sun before the winter comes. The butterflies will not leave until the fall. I am a little ahead of them. My journey was long and arduous, and there were times when it seemed improbable. And yet it happened.

No one knows why or how the butterflies know exactly where to go. Each migration, each generation of butterflies makes the journey for the first time. And so it has been with me. I don’t know why I was drawn here, but I was – and as as the monarchs are drawn to their places in the sun, my journey to Sedona seemed like a force of nature.

I have been told that I have lived here in a previous life. I know that I found healing from grief here. But I don’t really know why I was drawn here – why here, why now. It doesn’t really matter. I have decided to accept it as a gift from the Universe.

And now that I am here, and most of the boxes are gone, and my little abode looks more like a house than a warehouse, a great peace has descended upon us – Dorian Gray and me. Even he – Dorian -my cat – has settled down, something I thought would never happen.  A creature of the night, used to roaming wherever he chose, he is now living inside with me. He fought it for a few nights, and neither of us slept, and as improbable as it is, it looks as if he knows that we are supposed to be here. Maybe he, too, has accepted this gift from the Universe. He is safe here, every night.

As I sit here in the quiet, I hear thunder and rain is falling outside. It is the monsoon season here. Rain in the desert for two months. Improbable. But it is happening anyway. Sun every day. And rain every day.

The improbable happens. And I will accept each improbable gift from a benevolent, loving Universe. May you, dear friends, find your own improbable gifts. They are there, as surely as there is rain in the desert, and as surely as the butterflies will be in California and Mexico before winter sets in.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at or

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On Being Where We Belong


I have arrived at the end of a long journey. It began when my husband Bill passed away. Bill died at home, in his own room, and for that I am grateful. He was with me and his children. He was not with strangers. He did not die under a florescent light, but was beneath the window outside of which was the redbud tree I had planted for him, where the birds sang. But at the moment his spirit left his body, there came a void into the house that had not been there before. And although his spirit has always been with me, the life that resided in his body, the life that gave him a physical presence was absent from the house. Its energy was gone, and the house that was minus this energy was the house I was left to live in. It is so real, the loss of that energy.

I lived in the house for almost seven years, mindful every day of what was no longer there. I did all the things I did before, and more. I took care of things. I repaired what was broken. I managed the ground and its garden. But minding those things had lost its joy. I knew I had to go elsewhere in order to live again. Fully.

Those of you who have followed this blog with me know the long, painful story of the selling of the house. After three long years it has been done. The new buyers are lovely people. After settlement, we talked a little. The husband is an artist who was drawn to some of the work that hung on my walls. He went to the art college in Philadelphia that my brother and my daughter attended. He was taught by the same professor who taught them and who painted my portrait. He recognized his work when he saw it hanging, and said the house had an “aura” about it that he loved. They were the right people at the right time. He said his wife had been looking at the house for ten years. Imagine that. The right people at the right time and not a minute before.

And now I am in the place to which I have been called: Sedona, Arizona, a beautiful, sacred place. I could feel its call as I drove from the airport in Phoenix toward its holy red rocks, and I felt that from them I would draw a new strength. I am tired now and my back hurts. Moving is traumatic. Deep. I’m sure I strained every muscle in my back lifting a suitcase and a heavy cat carrier, many times. Between there and here my cat Dorian Gray and I slept in three different hotels – in Cambridge, in Baltimore near the airport, and in Sedona, waiting for the movers. But I’m healing. I am on the floor every night on my yoga mat, doing what I have been taught to help my back. And I am deeply, deeply happy.

The movers were marvelous; everything arrived intact. I am unpacking slowly, giving my back a chance to recover. But there is no deadline, no one to walk through my living space until I am ready.

And because nothing is simple, and no happiness is absolute, I think every day of the dear friends I left behind, the wonderful, generous people who loved me through one of the darkest times of my life. I think of my wonderful writers group, who gave me a luscious party, the dear people who walked me so patiently through my book, who gave so generously of their time and skill, who gave me the richness of laughter, a balm for my sorrow. I think of the one who came to say goodbye to me as her own husband lay dying of the same disease that took my husband. And there were the ones who gathered at the beautiful home of a dear friend, my hometown friends, who brought food and love, the same ones who supported me unselfishly, week after week, and whose presence and memories I shall always cherish, whose faith and wisdom will continue to give me strength. I will never forget the balloons in the tree outside my friend’s house, how the wind gently took one at a time, and how they floated up, up, up until they were part of the Universe.

No, no happiness is absolute, and nothing in life is simple. But I am convinced that there is a place for everyone that is filled with peace, with rightness, a place where, if we are quiet enough, we will know that the Universe has set us down gently where we belong.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at or at

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Just Things

I’m sure there are at least two times when your whole life passes before your eyes. One is when you’re dying, and the other has got to be when you’re packing to move.  In the latter instance, your life doesn’t pass in a flash; it passes in a slow-motion, never-ending panorama of the things you’ve saved. I’m moving and I am touching everything that is in my house. It is exhausting.

I knew I was going to move when my husband died almost seven years ago. I just didn’t know when, but I decided to start purging about a year after that. His things came first. I gave his suits to a friend of mine who runs a shelter and rehabilitation center for men who get sober and start new lives. They’d go to job interviews in those suits. Bill would have liked that.

After the clothes, I had to confront the paper. Bill saved everything – photos of people we didn’t know, double exposures, duplicates of photos, newspaper articles, programs of shows we’d seen, birthday cards, you name it. I gave special things to his children, like his vinyl records of Irish songs, and a few of his favorite books. I kept a few things for myself that I couldn’t bear to part with; I still wear one of his jackets.

And then, I had to confront my own forest of paper.  Bill and I didn’t live most of our lives in the digital age. Our photos weren’t on our phones or computers. They were on paper. We didn’t text happy birthday or anniversary wishes. We didn’t stay in touch on Facebook. We gave each other cards with sweet words written above our signatures. We kept the pieces of paper because they were sent with so much love, and because the person who sent them touched them, and chose them with such care. And we put them away gently.

There is no room for a lot of memorabilia where I am going.  It is a small place with practically no storage. And so, before I threw away my precious cards, I read every word. Again. And I let them go. There were no little smiley faces, no emoticons. Only words, real, precious words. And as I let them go, I realized something. I didn’t need the cards to remember him. I remember him more vividly today than ever before. He is here with me, here, now. And always will be. I threw out all but the most important photos of the trips we took together. As if I could forget them, or how it felt to be with him in Egypt, or on a Caribbean Island, or in Guatemala or Spain.

And then, there were the precious mementos of four little children. I sent each of my three daughters a box of the things I’d kept of theirs – little cards they had made for me, their childhood poems, letters from foreign lands. Report cards.  I couldn’t throw them away. They are theirs now, and some day they, too, will have to choose what to keep and what to let go. My son Eddie’s things are mine. For now. He is in spirit, and my daughters can have them when I am gone.

I am bone tired every night. I pack every day. I seal boxes and label them until I am dizzy.  I put little colored stickers on the boxes indicating the rooms to which they will go. I have given away and thrown away more things than I knew I had. I have replenished the inventory of the Lutheran Mission here in our little town. I have donated half a library to our library. Habitat is coming for a few pieces of furniture next week. I have learned that Sherwin Williams will take back used cans of paint.  I make a trip to the recycling center every time I look around.  As I touch everything I own, I realize that I haven’t looked at or touched or used most things in a long time. How many books will I read again after reading them the first time? Only a few. Those I have kept. But the sheer volume of what I was holding on to is astonishing.  Why have I been keeping so many…things? They’re only things.

I remember asking my mother that same question when I began helping her clean out the old house. Her answer was that she never knew when she might need them. My mother had an excuse; she was a child of the Great Depression. But I have no reason to feel that way. Unless I have little faith that the Universe will provide what I need when I need it.

And there is my homework for the week. To think about that. Really think about it. But right now, I’m just tired. I still have a long way to go.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. You may find it at or

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