Archives for posts with tag: loss of a child

As far back as I can remember having a child, we, either Mom, Carl and I or Mom, Ava and I, traveled around north Georgia to the various Native American Festivals absorbing their heritage (multi-tribal events are coolest), cultures, customs and regalia.

As in most traditions, Mom initiated them and Dad happily participated if it involved taking Carl. Dad loved to see what that kid would say or do with new environments. One year when Carl was about seven, Dad and Mom took Carl and me to the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. My father’s mother, who lived in Palm Springs, California at that time, sent Carl a full Native American costume with headdress and all for his birthday. It only was fitting for Carl to insist on wearing it to see his relatives. My blue-eyed blonde son was sure even at an early age that he was a Native of this land. He was if only in spirit.

Carl on the war path!

Carl on the war path circa 1973!

He had also gotten that year this amazing horse with some of the finest springs made! He literally bounced on it all over Mom’s front yard! Notice his feet are not on the posts but down in bareback riding posture! All I had to do was tell him that’s how the real Indians rode their horses and that was that!

As Mom, Dad, Carl outfitted as above and I walked up the pathway to the village, there was an elderly tribesman sitting on a blanket. His face firm as if carved from wood. His eyes staring ahead as if he were blind. Without hesitation, Carl slowly folded up mimicking the position of the elder, leaned toward the man and whispered, “I’m an Indian, too!”

We adults held our breath knowing protocol normally wouldn’t allow such a spacial invasion but Carl was different. He was charismatic, magical and sent his energy ahead of him to the elder. We waited as the two enjoyed their visit and Carl was ready for the next part of his adventure.

It was fifteen years after Carl was missing before he came to me in a dream and guided me to find him. A few months later, Ava insisted on us going to a medium, Candice. When she channeled Carl, it was pretty remarkable. So much so that she told Carl she wanted to work with him from now on because he was such a great energy. He revealed that after he died, he wandered around his body for a few days near Indian Springs, Ga. and it was the Indians who came to him and guided him on his journey on the other side.

Carl had already told us years ago through the medium Candice that he had ascended to the fifth and had to get permission to go back down to the fourth to communicate with us. That he was now known as the “Great Warrior” and that the three of us (me, Carl and Ava) would write a book of that name telling the world the great truth and how there is no shame in it. Carl said that I was known there as “Woman with Great Knowledge” and that I had access to the Akashic Records. I’ve often wondered what that great truth might be. I’m thinking I might just have a clue now!

There’s so much more but this blog is about yesterday’s journey.

The minute Ava was old enough to go, we attended many Native American Festivals up until she moved to Vegas in late 2008. She and I both preferred the Rolling Thunder Mother’s Day event that has been in Canton, Ga for the past decade or so. The last Festival she and I attended was the year she left for Vegas (2008) for our Mother’s Day celebration. It was our thing. There, I bought her a feather hair thingie.

It was all those memories that bubbled like soda as I pondered how I was going to spend this Mother’s Day. I was reminded of how much fun we’d had at the one in Canton and determined that was just exactly what I was going to do. I announced to friends and family that I needed drum healing. I could hear them calling to me…healing my soul.

As I drove alone to Canton yesterday, I wished I’d brought something of Ava’s with me appropriate for the event. I looked in my rear view mirror and there it was…those feathers, bundled together with leather strips…tendrils of her hair still tangled in the design of the ornament as if they were meant to be there from its creation.

I then remembered that I keep Carl’s red, white and blue marble and Ava’s hair clip in my truck. I couldn’t wait for the next red light! I attached her feather ornament to the clip, put it in my hair and tucked Carl’s marble into my pocket. Suddenly, I felt better about my solo journey of release, healing and connecting…not really celebrating.

As I walked alone from the car to the facility, I spoke to Ava asking if she was with me. I really wanted to be holding her hand or have our arms locked around each other walking in unison as we always did. I felt a pressure in my right hand…a weight as if she had put her hand there. As soon as I acknowledged it, she affirmed it to be her. She held my hand for about ten steps or so until my mind wandered off considering the terrain and at least ten other things.

Shored by the mornings affirmations and confident Montana was safe at home, I made my rounds inside the circle of venders inhaling the fresh, clean, cool air and making note of which vender was a regular and taking an overall account of their offerings. Unfortunately for me, there were no surprises in the first half but I was sure not to be disappointed as I walked toward the area you can normally find the educational section in the rear. This is where you can learn most about that person’s tribal customs and see daily chores performed in yesteryear ways.

 

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

The first area was how to skin and cure hides. Interesting as it was, I was hungry therefore drawn toward the man cooking.

IndFestTP2

IndFestCook2 IndFestCook3

 

 

IndFest1

The MC announced the calling for the celebration to begin. The rhythm of the drums prepared me for the wonderful events to unfold as I came back around full circle. where I found a dear friend, Fred, who owns Prairie Trails in Helen, GA. Look closely at Fred’s famous hat! Go check out his store online at http://helenga.org/business/prairie-trails and support local enterprises including http://www.avascorner.org as he has several pieces of my Native American jewelry for sale to help support Ava’s Corner, Inc.!

IndFestFredPrairieTrails

I always enjoy catching up with Fred and seeing his crazy hat! He told me that many of his longtime local suppliers had all closed and that he was struggling to keep going as well. We know that story to be repeated in the Historic Clayton, Georgia area near where I live as well.  that he introduced me to Karen. I was about to leave when he became insistent for me to wait for him to introduce me to this young woman he’d just met. Her name is Kaaren Renee Robb, Founder, Host & Sound Clinician…”Growing a community of people dedicated to advocating for, participating in and spreading the good news about sound & music healing.”

This young woman held up her drum and started singing. If my eyes were closed, I would insist it was Ava singing. Ava had actually tried various creative vocalizations one of which happened to be chanting into a drum ten years ago! WOW! Of course, I started sobbing and told Karen about Ava. She asked if she could do a drum/music healing on my heart. That would be a YES PLEASE in loud internal screams! After all, I’d announced I was coming for drum healing, right? Really? How much more on point can you get than that?

I stood still, eyes closed, hands down as she sang and tapped the drum starting in my heart region. I felt the vibrations as she moved around me. It was so very familiar…a deja vous experience so much like the hundreds I had throughout 2012 after Ava’s passing.

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing performing healing on our new friend who channels from the other side!

 

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

The other woman is a channel for the other side who proceeded to tell me that Ava had been tired of the struggling on this side and wanted to accelerate her process to ascend to the fourth dimension. She said we would meet again on the fifth and that Ava had a surprise for me for Mother’s Day.

As I turned toward the inner circle where the dancers performed, I found I walked with greater peace. The drumming was renewed and the dancers (my favorite part) were in full regalia!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

IndFestDancer2 IndFestDancer3 IndFestDancer4  IndFestDancer6 IndFestDancer7 IndFestDancer8 IndFestDancer9 IndFestDancer10 IndFestDancer10b IndFestDancer11 IndFestDancer12 IndFestDancer13 IndFestDancer13b IndFestDancerFringe1 IndFestDancerFringe2 IndFestDancerFringe3 IndFestDancerShawl1 IndFestDancerShawl2

Happy Mother’s Day to those mamas out there who follow this Warrior Eagle Donna Mama as one of my chirren has named me on this site. There’s so much more to come!

Happy Trails (or, if trials, remember to surf the tsunami)!

 

At this time in my life, coming up with a topic concerning my best decision is quite the challenge because most of my “best” decisions are followed by strange, and, sometimes, tragic outcomes. This topic has catapulted me into a plethora of reflections this last month or so especially with the hallmark birthday which includes the number six at the beginning and the end of it.

First, I was sure it was when I was ten and my sister introduced to me of the Classics Section of the local library (specifically, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) which spurned me onward to bigger-than-life European history such as that of Catherine the Great and, eventually, to biographies of other famous and infamous women in history. It was their stories that made my  ancestors’  journeys burst forth with life…resuscitating them to breathe again through me. Their struggles for religious freedom or desire to invent a better bicycle brake or to be the best American Impressionist artist was the cause and effect of my destiny to fall in love with writing and, eventually, travel the back roads of the US and Canada writing this blog, fromafriend7491.com!

Our first major road trip in 2009 together

Our first major road trip in 2009 together.

But, then I remember being twenty-eight when I was sure my best decision was marrying the man I was deaf-dumb-and-blind in love with which was only followed by horrific tragedy and unbelievable loss that I surely couldn’t include that as my best anything except what I shouldn’t have done.

With her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Ava with her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Now I’m down to the one decision for which I’m truly proud; however, to be totally truthful, it wasn’t even my decision. It was a directive from my reliable third party directly related to a tragedy…the suicide of my beautiful gypsy opera singing daughter who lived/worked in Las Vegas, Nevada with her estranged husband.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

As I drove west from my home in Georgia to handle Ava’s final affairs in early April, 2012, my reliable third party (call it God, Higher Power or whatever you wish) spoke to me in clear directives as he always does. Yes, my reliable third party always speaks to me in a very authoritative male voice. “Create an internet site to help others,” was all that was said.

As I love to drive the open road and have been doing for several years writing blogs about camping my way west alone with my dog, I have a tendency to drive anywhere from twenty-four to thirty-six hours with only pit stops and short naps. My anxiety of seeing the steel-hearted devil who was married to my daughter kept me pushing forward so as to get to my daughter’s house, git ‘er done (“Git ‘er Done Donna” is what they call me) and hit the open road again to parts unknown.

As you can well understand, my focus was on my grief and was totally not interested in hearing any message from my reliable third party concerning a task so outside my realm of expertise or knowledge. I wanted to focus on my loss, grief and how to move through finalizing things in Las Vegas and spending time on the real open road healing.

I argued. I argued my best to a silent, unrelenting audience, “I don’t know anything about creating websites!” I might as well have never even made that argument as it went flat as a fritter. Nothing. No response, no guidance, nothing for over twenty-four hours!

Finally, somewhere west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I screamed at the silence, “What  has my forty-six years of real estate law experience got to do with creating a website?”

Finally, a response, “It taught you how to do the impossible!”

Ya’ know, I couldn’t argue with that one so my only retort was, “Now what?”

“Ask,” was the response but I knew what the real message was. I was to ask Ava’s friends who live and work in the performance industry in Las Vegas. So, I did and they all were excited for me to jump into this turbulent, bottomless task.

I started beating the drums and doing my research. I discovered that Las Vegas has a suicide rate fifty percent (50%) higher than the national average and has over eighteen bipolar therapy clinics. I obviously needed to start right there in Las Vegas.

My daughter had over 150 professional performer friends show up for her Las Vegas memorial and more would have been there but couldn’t because they had to work. Ava  was so very loved there and not a single person knew of her pain or despair save me. That’s quite a daunting task for one person and I didn’t want another friend, family or loved one to feel like there wasn’t a better decision for them to make or website to go like those my daughter visited her last night.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

After returning home, I sat down at the computer and outlined the design of the website in forty-five pages in thirty days. I turned it over to a friend of Ava’s who was a web designer in New York during the .com days and she said it was the most detailed design she had ever seen. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I was “told” it was going to look like! After all, I was just following orders…very specific ones at that. This website HAD to be personal because there is NOTHING about suicide that isn’t personal. It had to be called “Ava’s Corner,” it needed to be entertaining and it had to be launched on December 2, 2012.

With the love and support of her friends, we launched the Avascorner.org website in Las Vegas on December 2, 2012. We had performers and live feed for Ava’s friends all over the world to connect with us and Avascorner.org. It was the fledgling version of the vision I was given but it was a beginning. Later, my reliable third party reminded me the reason for that date (12/02/2012) because there are more suicides in December than any other month of the year…one very close to home.

We incorporated Ava’s Corner, Inc. right before the kickoff event in 2012 and we’ve just celebrated our first year and we are getting feedback from friends and strangers alike that we’re making a difference. We got our 501(c)3 IRS certification as a non-profit public charity, which I filed myself…a true miracle as  I hate dealing with any kind of government related paperwork; however, once again, I was told I could handle it. And, I did.

We have an all volunteer Board of Directors who have experience in finance, website building, law and professional performer…all the elements needed to make a team who loved Ava and who see the vision of saving lives and educating people in what I call brain malfunctions like Bipolar Disorders (BD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as Ava had, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and others.

Ava singing

Ava singing

Our broader Mission Statement:  “Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy and shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders.

All friends or family of those suffering from brain disorders are welcome to utilize our education and support tools as well as participate in Ava’s Corner forums.”

We’re actively raising money to catapult this site into the final phase wherein members can create their own cyber community of support, freely expressing their pain through art, writing, videos, singing or other artistic endeavors as my daughter did. We have posted all the ways she found to cope until she couldn’t overcome all the negative influences of being bullied at home and at work. We had her thirty-five years, six months and ten days and we are all blessed to have had this remarkable, loving woman in our lives.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

There are other remarkable, loving people in our lives who need help and we at Ava’s Corner, Inc. and avascorner.org hope we can be there for them worldwide before another year goes by.

Ava was not just my daughter but my best friend and confidant. I have struggled valiantly these past two years to regain functions prior to March 2, 2012 as rote. I suffered from stroke-like symptoms of loss of vocabulary, thought processing, coping and more. I have only recently felt “alive” again…actually on the wee hours of December 7, 2013. I guess I’ll find out some day why that day other than the day this article was due…or that Ava visited me that morning and gave me clarity. Yes, Ava comes to me but that’s being saved for a book.

So, as I said, pain and joy, joy and pain can’t be separated when you have lived, loved and listened when making a best decision. It’s something that comes directly from the soul.

I was startled when my therapist used that diagnosis for what I have been feeling these last sixteen months…startled enough to evaluate and re-think it all.

When I think of people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I think of our brave men and women who have faced the battlefield or the people injured in horrific acts of violence like 9/11 or the Boston bombings. I have never thought of my life, but I guess I should have and maybe so should you if you feel like I have and do.

After my daughter’s suicide, I was “told” by my Reliable Third Party to design and build a website to help others. Through the hand of my Reliable Third Party and the love and support of Ava’s friends, AvasCorner.org exists. So, I naturally went to my own resources to find out more about this condition. I share two and you can go to AvasCorner.org for more informational websites on this condition.

Acute stress reaction – Hypervigilance – Category:Posttraumatic stress …

NIMH · Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic…ptsd/index.shtml

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) A booklet on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) that explains what it is, treatment options, and how to get help.

*****

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental condition which is a lasting consequence of traumatic events.

*****

After re-reading these articles, I went back in time to evaluate my own symptoms. My first questions were: “When and how did it start?” The only answer I could muster was: “The minute I heard she had killed herself.”

I thought hearing of my son’s murder was surely the most horrific event a parent could face, and it was, but it came after he had been missing fifteen years. I knew he had to be dead because, at a minimum, he wasn’t asking for money! That sounds cynical but every eighteen-year-old needs money from their parents, don’t they? Also, my pain from Carl’s disappearance was often distracted in the measurement of   seconds during those fifteen years with helping Ava find hope to stay alive and functional. She was my mission, the love of my life, my joy and my greatest pain.

However, “that” minute…”that” phone call will be forever engrained, frozen, carved, jolted into my bloodstream as the most horrific trauma a human could face. Ava’s estranged husband…sobbing…hysterical…barely audible…telling me this disgusting, revolting, unbelievable truth. I spent the whole day throwing up and hearing deep soul-sounds come from my vocal cords which had originated from my core. My sister said I was also on the computer emailing Ava’s friends and answering their questions on Facebook. I don’t remember that part but I’m glad I did and could.

Thanks to my sister’s careful planning and execution, I was whisked away like royalty. I don’t remember getting to Vegas but I do remember seeing Eric and Cheryl who hosted our stay. They were dear friends of Ava’s…and still are. The five days I was in Vegas was truly an “out-of-body” experience because only moments of memory have stayed with me, the return trip with her ashes, her burial and my return to my cabin, which is when “it” hit.

My first recollection is having to go to Wal-Mart to pick up necessities. It was all I could do to muster up enough energy to run that gauntlet. I was walking rapidly through the store trying to hurry through my task when I found myself wanting to SCREAM as loudly as I could to the other customers, “How can you walk around so normally? DON’T YOU KNOW SHE’S DEAD?” It was such a task to suppress this urge that I walked out without buying a single thing.

I was reminded of that moment just a couple of weeks ago when Alicia and her sweet autistic son were visiting me from Ohio. We went to the local outdoor flea market.  The little guy had a melt down because there were too many people in the area we were approaching. I “got” it. Ava had been that way as a child as well (but not as severely) and I certainly had been that way most of last year. Too many strangers around freaked me out.

In trying to describe to my therapist, friends and family why my innate outgoing personality had disappeared, all I could say is that my skin had been ripped off that day leaving me raw, filterless and extremely vulnerable…which prohibited loud noises or fast moves until after noon and even then, they had best be for legitimate reasons. Knowing “they” couldn’t understand even with the graphic explanations was understandable because it’s one of those things you just have to live to grasp and I don’t wish it on any one…which makes me tolerate their ignorance with love.

Weeks went by without my being able to even go outside my own doors. Paranoia creeped in that I was constantly being watched by Ava. When I got like that, I couldn’t “speak” to her star without succumbing to terrible pain from her deep inside  my soul. It was all just too much to feel and stay alive, so I stopped going outside after dark…stopped talking to her through “her star…” unconsciously holding my breath until it returned naturally.

As a writer, quick thinker and even faster talker, words have been critical to my existence, self-esteem and an extension of my soul. That day, sixteen months ago, stripped my brain of most of the words I have been used to having at the tip of my brain. For this last year, I’ve felt as if I had had a stroke…struggling daily to retrieve those words always available to me but now some distant, vague memory. I’ve worked hard reviving them…reading dictionaries, watching foreign films to not only block my horrific messages but to feed my ADD and desire to bring languages back to my brain. Seems to be working but I’m still feeling a bit retarded in the word department. The most important part of this lesson is that I can SEE improvement…even if it is microscopic…much like when I had my nervous breakdowns…microscopic improvement is valuable.

It was more than a miracle that I lived through July, 2012. Montana, the grace of God, the love of my friends and family kept me going. If it hadn’t been for taking care of Montana and taking her outside, I wouldn’t have ever left the house. If I hadn’t trained her from the day she found me to be my “service dog” without understanding the why behind that drive, I wouldn’t have survived the year. Ava’s pull to have me with her was strong and extremely painful.

I’m sharing this with you because you who have suffered similarly, do as I say do and not as I did. I recognize trauma in others but not in myself. I did listen to my instincts as I have always done, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this condition being mine…but it is.

It surely is and it helps me having a name for what’s going on because I know it will leave with the right therapy, hard work and treatments.

It gives me hope. The hope that others who are suffering will reach out to AvasCorner.org for answers, directions and understanding. I just didn’t apply my own resources to myself.

I’m just sayin’…

Happy Trails (or trials).

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

She had an innate love for cats...and cat torture!

She had an innate love for cats…and cat torture!

When Ava came to the cabin, she always wanted to go to out local animal shelter to make sure things were being done right. I, of course, would get side tracked with the dogs and puppy breath while she went straight for the cats.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

One time before she moved to Vegas as we walked through the facility, she heard something I didn’t…a kitten in distress. I lost her. As I rambled around listening out for her voice, I was directed to the clinic area where a badly burned kitten had been found in a dumpster, apparently someone threw hot oil in the dumpster not knowing the kitten was there (we made that assumption not being to accept any other version). The staff was going to put the kitten down…it was only a few weeks old (eyes still blue) but Ava wasn’t going to have that.

It was Saturday around noon and the vet was already closed but Ava wasn’t going to hear of anything other than getting help for this lil fur ball. At her insistence, the shelter called the back office of the vet’s and told them we were bringing the kitten over to them and we’d be paying for its medical needs. We rushed the poor lil bugger over there and the vet & staff took it and said they’d call us with how it was doing.

The beautiful part of this story is that one of the vet techs fell in love with the kitten as she fostered it back to health, adopted it and called it Krispy!

I tell you this story because I have started donating kitty litter and cat food to the re-vamped shelter in Ava’s memory. The young man, Chris, who is in charge of the new, transparent facility is familiar with brain malfunctions and is helping me get the word out about AvasCorner.org. Ava’s happy today because we got her kitties taken care of.

Reach out in a meaningful way to honor those who are gone in a way they would do if they were here. It helps you heal.

When she was in Graz 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.

When she was in Graz 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.

My years of formal art training in college and core of creative DNA, force the “Get ‘er Done Donna” to stop and “listen” to the art form to guide my hands. I’ve been praying since its inception for a direction. And, as happens, the more research I did on the traditional Zen garden the more I knew it would take on a life of its own…and it did.

As I placed the focal points in the area to be the Zen garden the other night, I was “told” it was about the passage of time. It was only natural that the heart-of-pine which meant so much Sumner, Ava and me and has withstood the test time these last nine years in this very area was intentionally placed to mark time by its shadow. The other items were placed not so consciously but more as by direction. So, it wasn’t until today when I was pulling it all together that I noticed the placements of these items corresponded with time on a clock.

ZenGarden1*

It took off from there. The Heart-of-Pine stands proudly marking hours of life.

Twelve o’clock seemed to be the hour Ava was the most active…it could have been AM or PM, it didn’t matter. The noon/midnight hour is the small piece of driftwood between the cactus and the heart-of-pine toward the point. It’s also when I fell asleep…exhausted from the weeks events… as she spoke her last words to me.

Focal Point is the Heart-of-Pine standing tall with the help of the rocks Carl brought back from his mine years ago.

Focal Point is the Heart-of-Pine standing tall with the help of the rocks Carl brought back from his mine years ago.

Three o’clock was when I had to pick Ava up from school or her college classes were over for the day. Three PM is the rock on its side to the right.

Zen garden from the stream that runs to the left of it.

Zen garden from the stream that runs to the left of it. Three o’clock is the rock pointing to the right toward the railroad ties.

Six o’clock A.M is when I heard about Ava’s suicide. It is the dark stone near the aloe plant and the line of polished rocks marks her last night.

ZenLookDown

Seven o’clock A.M. was when Ava was born. It is the line of sea shells which Ava and I collected on our last trip to our favorite beach in 2008 before she moved to Las Vegas. She loved the beach and we spent many vacations there during her childhood and in her growing-up years. I can’t go there without thinking of both my children because we spent so many happy hours walking those beaches. There are only a few  pebbles within the line next to the shells as there were only a few of us who have that memories of that precious moment…the birth of  Jennifer.

The white sand without any other pebbles between six and seven signifies the memories between her birth and death which belong only to me and her. The few pebbles within that white sand signifies those closest to me and the Ava she became after changing her birth name. They are few but precious.

Nine o’clock P.M. was the time she was driving home from her friends’ house contemplating what she was going to do that night. It is the rock to left.

zenFocalPt

Ten o’clock P.M. signifies the time she left us. It is the big rock with pebbles on top. It is a big rock for a life-altering event with memories from us all covering that event.

Eleven o’clock P.M. is when she called me for the last time on Friday, March 23rd. It  is the cactus on the log because it signifies growth with prickles. River pebbles are in that pot as well as we all have our last memories/conversations with her.

The most significant thing to remember about this memory garden is that ALL the  river pebbles covering the area signify the memories we have of her…so many for so few years…even those who met her after her death through their songs in her memory, through Avascorner.org or from her friends, family and loved ones.

Ava's Star shines blinks "hello" right above the end of the wolf's nose above the tree line.

Ava’s Star shines blinks “hello” right above the end of the wolf’s nose above the tree line.

What you don’t know is that this is where I stand to see her star each clear night. It appears directly over the wolf’s nose above the tree line to the right of the stream beside the Zen Memory Garden which overlooks Carl’s Garden below.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever1`

Ava owned a wolf, Jake, who saved her life. She had to give him up if she wanted to travel with the man she wanted to marry. When I couldn’t keep him, I bought the wolf /cactus sculpture because I, too, was saddened from the loss. She regretted giving up her wolf for the rest of her life.

Some of you are going to say how sad it is for me to mark these times in this way and that’s okay. It’s MY Zen Memory Garden and this is where I am one year after her death. It will probably change a great deal and that’s exactly what I love about this kind of art/sculpture. It has its own life.

After we found out about how Carl died, I built a fence here with some of the wood I found at the burned out structure of the house where he was killed. It started out as a horizontal structure but, over time, it became a vertical one as I healed. The only part remaining is one piece of charred wood. I keep it close…on the front deck overlooking his garden

I envision a metamorphosis happening with this area as well and I look forward to seeing my progress.

Happy Trails (or Trials as the case may be).

They say that by the time you see a star twinkling in the night sky, it’s already gone. Ava was my shooting star. I was in love with her the moment I saw her at birth. My life forever altered because of her presence, brilliance, challenges, nightmares, passions and ability to love courageously.

Ava was not easy to raise. Quite the contrary. She was the most exasperating, frustrating, angry, recalcitrant, talented, complex person one could even fathom but she was MY gift. Although I am not a patient person by nature, I learned so much about true unconditional love from her presence in my life that even my DNA has been altered.

And, even in her death, she reaches across to me such that my learning continues. Well, it’s either that or give up too. Yep. I’ve considered that too these last months but she still drives me forward but, at times, backwards as well.

Ava moved to Las Vegas at the insistence of her spouse. She dragged her feet trying to avoid the 2000 mile move away from everything she knew and loved but finally acquiesced in the fall of 2008. And, on her moving day as her spouse waited impatiently in the moving truck, revving truck engine to remind her that they needed to get going, she ran back into the now empty apartment where I was for one more hug.

Ava, dressed in her cute summer dress which sweetly flowed gently around her hour glass figure, turned back toward me and said in a scared, quiet voice, “Mom, I’m afraid to move to Vegas.”

My cheerleader reply was, “Really? Why? You’re registered at UNLV! You’re gonna’ finish your opera training there! A whole new life awaits you!”

Sadly and almost like telling a secret, she said, “I’m think I’m going to die there.”

“Oh, baby. NO! You’re going to LIVE there!”

We were both right.

***
Three years later, Ava’s destructive six year marriage was all but over. In his mind, he was already gone. Problem was, it wasn’t in her’s and his increasing insensitivity toward this fragile being diminished her desire to continue. It was the one-two punch of his crassness with her mental and physical exhaustion from completing her degree, slammed dunked by being bullied at her first operatic job. Her spouse’s threats of abandonment pushed her ever closer to an end few imagined this bright, beautiful, playful, intelligent woman would or could ever consider…all save me. I was the one in which she confided everything…the rage, pain, doubt, joy, fear, jubilation, overwhelming sadness, hope and everything in between.

The final act began Wednesday, March 21, 2012, when Ava’s spouse announced he had a girlfriend. It devastated Ava to such a degree that she immediately melted into depression…not moving, bathing, or eating…only texting him to come talk with her personally as their eight years together deserved.

But, as usual, he doled out his doses of insensitivity and negativity sprinkled with unmoving resolve which fed her fears of abandonment, rejection and depression. A poisonous brew, indeed.

That was the catalyst for my twenty-four hour phone marathon with her for the three days leading up to the day that changed my life forever. She called crying her heart out; I sobbed with her. I tried to console her with assurances that I would leave as soon as the workers were through and I had reinforcements to help with her grandmother. I assured her, “Mama’s coming.”

I had every expectation to believe my assurances and unconditional love would continue to work as it had for the last thirty-four and a half years. When we’d come to the brink before, she had aways miraculously been there the next day finding the energy to fight back until reinforcements arrived…me.

However, the fickle finger of fate was in the hands of a perfect storm scenario that night. Instead of packing to drive to Las Vegas, I drove my ninety-one year old mom to the emergency room. Mimi, her big-sister-by-another mother and mentor was also in the emergency room in Montreal.Her best friend of eighteen years, Kimber, was also in the hospital in the last stages of a high-risk pregnancy.  All three of her lifelines were too exhausted to read the final signs.

While I was with Mom in the ER, Ava called. I put her on speaker so they could visit. It was 8:00 P.M. EST, Friday night, March 23, 2012.

I stayed in the Emergency Room with Mom until we got a diagnosis and confirmation that she was going to be admitted. Then, I begged off to get some much needed sleep. I called to check on Ava as I drove home. It was 10:00 P.M. EST.

I finally got to Mom’s took a shower, and called Ava. We talked from 11:00 PM until I fell asleep about fifty minutes later. Her last flat toned comment, “You sleep good, Mom,” rings forever in my head.

Since she left, there’s been a bright, flickering star in the night sky off the corner of my deck. It spoke to me soon after she left; that was that. It was Ava’s star. I talk to it every night. It’s a comforting thing I do, like saying goodnight in the very personal way we did her whole life. See, I miss her so much that my soul aches when I can’t “feel” her. This star connects me somehow to her energy. I can’t explain it and I haven’t lost my mind (yet) but it’s true. Her energy flows back to me during this ritual not unlike the one we have shared from her birth…an umbilical cord which was never severed.

The other night I couldn’t find her star. How could I not find it? It’s the brightest one (of course) which blinks rapidly as if signaling an urgent Morse Code message. I reasoned that it now had taken its autumnal course away from its normal spot. I stood frozen, examining the sky in the hope of finding Ava’s Star. My final logic (after some panic) was that it was probably too early and I needed to come back out when it was darker.

Around eleven, even with a black velvet darkness, I still had trouble finding it. I stared at the western sky trying (in vain) to recognize the surrounding stars. At that moment, a shooting star blazed from where I was looking straight down to the treelined horizon to show me Ava’s star. I can count on three fingers the shooting stars I’ve seen in my life. Now, there are four.

***

Now I know I can find you in the fall sky, at least from my deck. But I also know you’ll be moving again when winter comes. I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t be able to find you in the night sky when I travel to Las Vegas to kick off AvasCorner.com to help other Las Vegas artists and performers find help and a true, accepting sense of community so they know they’re not as alone as you felt in your last minutes. But, now I know I just need to look westward for a shooting star. I love you forever.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

© All posts are Copyright protected. All Rights reserved by author. Please do not use my original photos or reprint my writing without specific written permission. Thank you.

It’s the crystal clear blue October sky which comes to north Georgia after  cooling temperatures start its magic on the trees causing their leaves to change  into brilliant autumnal colors of red, gold, yellow, orange (and everything in  between), when the air has been swept clean by the blustery wind that  produces that particular blue  matching my son’s eyes. For the 15 years he was  missing, it was this blue October sky that helped me feel connected to him.  Strange, but not, that it was on such a day with such a sky that we buried him.

Not the best picture of his eyes but close enough for now. Can't look any more through old photos right now.

With the passing of each day of the 15 year wait to find out what had happened  to my son, I was sure that the “system” would fail him. I was not disappointed.  The system failed all of us… miserably. Not only did the largest county police  department in Georgia botch his missing person’s information on Georgia  Crime Information Center (GCIC), but they actually removed his name from  the only link I had to the world to his whereabouts. They also altered his  physical appearance on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) when I  protested his removal forcing them to re-establish his profile on their network.

The irony? If my son had been 2 months younger, I wouldn’t have had to solely  rely on the government “system” as my only source to help me locate Carl. I  would have been able to use National Center of Missing and Exploited  Children to locate him. The “system” never asked me for a photo, childhood  fingerprints, dental records or anything which would actually assist “them” in  locating my son who was merely 45 minutes away from me the whole damn  time buried as a “John Doe” in a pauper’s grave.

What had happened to Carl started to unravel in the most unlikely way on  Saturday, September 11, 1999 at 8:00 AM.

Carl was sitting in my lap as I rocked him like you would a little, scared boy. I  felt his breath on my face and the weight of his 18-year-old body on my lap. I  urgently told him telepathically over and over how much I loved him as I  stared, unblinkingly, into those October-blue-sky eyes of his. I was holding  my  boy in my arms and that was all that mattered. I told him I didn’t care  where  he’d been or what he’d been doing. It was my body’s rocking motion,  tears and a mother’s pain strangling my breath which jerked me from sleep with the wonderful feel of my child’s 6 foot, 170 pound body sitting in my lap.

It was the bitter-sweet dream of my missing 18-year-old son and my immediate  conversation with my daughter (then 22) which triggered me into action once  again in search of him. My daughter told me she’d had a dream a couple of  days before where Carl had come to her as well. It was then she reminded me  of my associate at work who was dating a P.I. That was as good a place to start  as any.

I emailed my associate saying I’d had a dream and would she ask her  boyfriend, Ed, to assist us in our search for my lost son.  He called me the next  day.

From the onset of our conversation, Ed confidently said, “I think I can help you  put some closure to this. You really need closure”. Even though I knew next to  nothing about Ed, I “knew” he could and would be the only person to help  connect me with Carl again. How? 100% instinct… or God’s hand guiding me.

In our first phone conversation, I described Carl’s appearance, approximate  date of disappearance, where I’d last seen him and under what circumstances,  what I knew of his lifestyle, what I had done in my search for him over the last  15 years, etc.  And, by Thursday (9/16/99), Ed asked if I could meet him on  Saturday (9/18/99) to look at a composite drawing done by a famous police  artist to see if there was any resemblance between a “John Doe” found about  the time of my son’s disappearance in Ed’s hometown of Barnesville and my  son.

Ed had known about this “John Doe” as he’d been the Chief of Police of  Barnesville, Georgia when John Doe’s body had been found outside the city  limits in an abandoned house. Ed’s wife at the time, Rene, had been the lead    investigator of the Lamar  County Sheriff Department’s homicide    investigation team. And, in those 15 years, Ed had gladly left the area; his now  ex-wife, Rene, had gone to work for the GBI and had recently rejoined the  Sheriff’s office wherein she immediately started working their “cold case” files.

To prepare for the meeting, I needed to have the last known photo of Carl  enlarged 400% so as to accurately compare his likeness with “John Doe’s”  pencil composite drawing. All I had to work with was a picture taken by my  dad of  Carl, my daughter and me in April, 1984. This was the photo I showed  to many passersby in town during my lone search for Carl the long, hot  summer of 1984. I’d moved to Mom’s to hopefully add some stability to Ava’s 6-year-old life and so it was after I’d put Ava to bed that I’d go downtown looking  for any clue as to his whereabouts not knowing anywhere else to look. Having  to examine the photo closely was a painful reminder of my failure to find my  lost child. I had looked at it every single day for 15 years but not like I did on  this day.

Carl, Ava and me April 1984

As I pulled the photo out of my wallet, the exercise served as a painful reminder  of the lost third musketeer, lost years, lost love, lost child. Looking at it had  always brought tears to my eyes and a great pain to my heart but when I  experienced the full force of his sole image roll out of the copier in 400%  enlarged full-living color, I started crying.

I had somewhat prepared the kind lady at the photo shop assisting me by  explaining why I was in no shape to operate the simplest of machines at this  moment. As I fumbled for the  money I owed, my heart remained gripped in  pain from the after-image of seeing that enlargement of my beautiful child’s  face and from not knowing his fate.  As I left, this wonderful woman said as I  ran from the store, “God bless you. You’ll be in my prayers.” Her words echoed  through my soul as I raced to the privacy of my car to totally break down.

Saturday morning, 9/18/99, I awoke with fear, nausea, relief and pain all  shrouded in a sort of dislocated sense of non-reality (or surreal-ness – I’m still  not sure). My man-friend drove me to the pre-designated Jonesboro meeting  place with the enlarged photo of Carl staring back at me as each mile  brought  me closer and closer to knowing… or not.

Barnesville's John Doe

As I compared the pencil composite drawing of the Barnesville “John Doe” to  my son’s color image, a strange thing happened. As an art major in college  with an art  history minor, I guess, for me, it was somewhat normal for my art  history training to kick in. I kept staring at the drawing, reaching for where I’d  seen it before as if I was taking that all  important final exam… searching my  mind to identify the artist, time period and medium. Finally, when I was ready  to accept the task at hand, I was able to put the “student” aside and take the  features from each and compare  them. The hair was similarly parted in the  middle. The eyes had a slight droop on the outer edge crowned with proud  brows. The noses were the strong, straight Roman type. The ear  size and  placement was the same on the head.

“What about eye color?” I grasped explaining to Ed that Carl’s eyes were as blue as the sky on a clear October day. Why couldn’t anybody confirm eye color for me of this “John Doe”?

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