Grief is a sacred journey

A Love Note from Beyond

Vic in his last weeks (Herbert Shapiro)

Vic in his last weeks (Herbert Shapiro)

I needed to calm down. I needed faith in my stamina for a TEDx talk. My mind felt blurry, on the edge of dizzy. I had practiced the talk with a friend that day and delivered my ideas with conviction.

“Go to bed,” I told myself at 9 p.m. “If you get ready now, you’ll be asleep by 10.”

Anthony Damiani ~1970

Anthony Damiani ~1970

It takes time to wind down when I’m wound up, so I decided to create a little order. I poked through a pile on the kitchen counter and found a small photo of my first meditation teacher Anthony Damiani. It’s a copy of the photo I taped to Vic’s chest after a night of cardiac arrests. Nine months later, I placed that photo over Vic’s heart when he was dying. The photo went with his body to cremation. How could I be careless with my precious copy of this photo, the one I want near me when I die?


Anandamayi Ma ~1980

I opened my red wallet to the hidden pocket where I keep treasures. The photo belonged there. Contents of that pocket varied over time: quotes by Rumi and the Dalai Lama, photos of Anandamayi Ma and Marion Woodman, and the photo of Anthony. Deep in the pocket, I noticed a piece of yellow paper, neatly folded and tucked inside a plastic card holder. Was it a quote I wanted to remember? I unfolded the paper carefully and read:

                                             You are the center of my life. Never doubt my love.                                                                                                                                                                   V


A message from beyond?  An unexpected communication? Simple words written by my husband Vic in his clear Catholic school handwriting. The words I needed to hear tonight.

When did he write this note? Did he leave the note on the kitchen counter or dining room table when he was alive over six years ago? Did he write it when he was sick and we were worried? Did I tuck it away knowing there wouldn’t be more love notes?

I don’t know. So much was forgotten in those frantic days.

He knew I needed comfort. Was that because he was dying? Yes, I was the center of his life. When he was dying, I encircled him with love.

How does the mystery of  love continue even after death? I always feel Vic’s presence in my heart, but his love note appeared like a gift from beyond. As I read the words again, tears rolled down my cheeks. Thank you for your love, Vic. Thank you, frazzled Elaine, for saving this note. DSC09038

In a few days, I’ll stand on the TEDx Chemung River stage to share what I know about loss. Grief is an inevitable part of life. Grief has value. Grief is another face of love.

Vic and I supported each other when he was here, and he still supports me across the veil of time. No need to explain the note. No need to remember when or why he wrote it. I found it now. His love message on the yellow paper he often used. That’s enough.

I slid the note into its protective folder and tucked it into my wallet pocket. I won’t forget it’s there. Maybe I’ll tuck it into my bra for the talk, right over my heart.


I went on the  TEDx ChemungRiver stage on Nov. 8 with Vic’s note over my heart. I’ll share my talk when it’s available on youtube. To read more about getting ready for a TEDx talk/performance, read My Meetup with Little TED. For more articles about the gifts of love, I suggest Languages of Love.

  1. I don’t know how you do it, Elaine ~ over and over again, you just amaze me with your beautiful writing. Vic’s love for you ~ and yours for him ~ comes through in every word, every sentence, every paragraph you write. I watched your TEDx presentation, and you were surrounded by that same love light all the way through. You are truly an inspiration, a physical and spiritual embodiment of all that love. Blessings to you, and thank you for yet another heartwarming message. ♥

    • Thank you, dear Marty. This post was a gift along with the note. It rolled off my pen because it had just happened and was powerful.

      Thank you for your positive words about my TEDx presentation. If my goal was to open people to the gifts of grief, including love, then I’m happy with the talk. Then there is the judgmental me who noticed every hesitation or moment when my emotions came to surface. The more I talk about my experience with others who were there or who listened, the more I ignore the inner perfectionist. Being “perfect” wasn’t the point, but speaking from the heart was. I’m grateful for the gift of Vic’s love message. I won’t forget that note again.

      Sending you love, Elaine

  2. I haven’t stopped thinking about this note since you told me of it the other night. Every time something like this happens to me, I question my sanity. I then remember that our loved ones never abandon us, and these are the treasured comforts to remind us of that fact. I’ve had so many strange and mysterious contacts, I’ve stopped counting them! Thank you for reinforcing this. I love it!

    • Dear Susan,
      I never know how to explain these things, so I don’t try. I don’t know if this experience has anything to do with an intention coming from Vic, but iit reminded me that our love is strong and persistent and I never have to give that up. Also reminded how fluid time can be.
      Those little gifts are magnificent, no matter how we explain or don’t explain them.
      Wishing you many more supportive contacts,

  3. I love this, Elaine. And I love the messages and signs we get that remind us we are special. And don’tcha just love it when you’re revved up and so reeling with words that the blog post writes itself?

    • Hi Robin,
      I always wished Vic had left me an after-death letter, but he didn’t. Instead, I feel him in my heart, on this land, and in dreams. Soon after his death, I find little messages about love or our marriage in the margins of his books. I know there are more of those in that bookcase. Finding a note like this was a first. It’s surprising it took so long to look through the treasures in my wallet. Yes, I love it when something happens that begs to become a written story. The Muse doesn’t always show up in that clear way.

  4. Another poignant post. Your words “Grief has value. Grief is another face of love” pierced through to the broken places in my heart following the death of my mother. I wrote about her notes of a different sort left behind on her prized possessions here:

    I cherish each note and the letters I’ve saved with her rounded grade-school penmanship.

    Wondering: Did you tuck that note in your bra for the TED talk? 🙂

    • Hi Marian,
      Yes, tucked in my bra, or as I said in the sentence at the bottom after the break, “I went on the TEDx ChemungRiver stage on Nov. 8 with Vic’s note over my heart.” Now the note is back in my wallet. I look forward to reading your post about your mom’s notes. As you might imagine, I’m having trouble keeping all the balls in the air, so I get far behind on reading both blogs and books.
      I’m glad you have those notes to cherish.

    • I too resonated strongly with that quote you lifted from Elaine’s writing. The whole piece touched me and thrilled me. I celebrate your special eternal love, Elaine. Thank you for spreading it around and inspiring others. Just think, we can leave notes too! 😉 I can’t wait to watch the TED Talk, given by one who inspires me daily.

      • Julie, thank you. Leaving love notes is a great idea whether we’re healthy or sick. If we’re pushing the patience of someone, a sweet note always help. I hope we’ll both be happy with the TEDx talk. I know the ideas were good.

  5. What a wonderful gift. I too have had some encounters like that, Elaine. We can’t explain them and we don’t try. We are just grateful for them. I haven’t seen you talk yet. A pleasure to come. I’m so pleased that it went well. Jan

    • It was a wonderful gift, Jan–and it remains with me. Have you written about your experiences anywhere? I think it’s helpful to write these things down to normalize what happens to so many of us and also to keep a personal history. The TEDx talk will be available by early December and I’ll pass that information along. Knowing me, I’ll probably write about it. I’m still digesting the experience on many levels. Warmly, Elaine

  6. What a touching post as always Elaine. When I read the part about the note, it gave me goosebumps! I truly believe that incidents like that are messages from beyond just as finding a penny or a feather randomly. Congratulations on your hard work. Everything will be fine and is in the order as it should be. 🙂

    • Thank you, Debby. Goosebumps all around. It’s quite a journey creating a new life and still being supported by the old one.
      I hope you’re doing well in all ways and writing up a storm.

  7. Ah,Elaine. What a gift. What a treasure. Yes, the note. Yes, the confidence it gave you. Yes, the memories it brought. Yet the best gift is that you chose to share it. Those are the very best gifts. (And it was a true gift to me that I got to see that note in real time. I will never forget it.) We are loved, more than we could ever imagine.

    Blessings, my friend.

    • Thank you, Colleen. For those reading this thread, Colleen is my TEDx coach so we’ve worked together for many months. Colleen has been there for many months providing support and feedback. Colleen, it was another gift to trust that I could show you that note and know you would receive it in a heartfelt way.

      I’m slowly digesting the weekend experience, but TEDx taught me to stay in the heart, dare to share vulnerability along with ideas, and trust myself–not who I think I ought to be, but who I am. Sending you love and gratitude, Elaine

  8. What a timely gift from Vic, Elaine. And I appreciate what you said about not focusing on your “mistakes,” but the overall message you conveyed. I always have to remind myself not to be such a perfectionist. Sorry I wasn’t there to hear you, but I look forward to watching you when it’s available on YouTube.


    • The note was an amazing gift, the sort of thing that rarely happens to me in a dramatic way. I’ll be glad to see the final video, too. In TED, though, any verbal slip-of-the-tongue remains just as it was said. That makes it all the more intense and exciting.

  9. Yes there is a sacred energy. It is left in things that reappear at the right moment. Miracles can be just little miracles, but they are still miracles.

    • Hi Dennis,
      I’ve been thinking about you and your feedback. (Dennis is my local coach and spent many hours of time helping me with this talk.) Many miracles around this, including the value of touching the heart of grief and talking about it to people who don’t often think about these things. Yes, miracles. Thanks for all your help. I look forward to sharing a bowl of soup and talking about the day from various perspectives. Thank you for being there.
      Warmly, Elaine

  10. How incredible, Elaine! I loved being able to see the note…thinking of you in this time of blossoming!

    • Thanks, Kirsten. I did it! I didn’t know it would be so challenging for my lousy hearing. Speaking through a microphone and hearing myself and everything around me through an elaborate PA system with no lips to read was a stretch for me and my hearing aids. I was grateful for the support of that little yellow note.

  11. Elaine, There’s something very special about receiving a message in your loved one’s own writing. Something that is getting rarer and rarer these days! How blessed to discover it when you did and to have Vic’s tangible presence.

    A few years after my Dad died, it was my mom’s birthday. She had kept a special birthday card from him,that had sat upright on her bedroom window sill for many years.. On this particular birthday, she was feeling particularly lost without him. As she was standing near the window sill, the card fell off the sill and landed upright at her feet. The timing was amazing.It was just what she needed, .defies explanation but gave my mom so much comfort. Thank you for this beautiful post. Gilly

    • We don’t need explanations, Gilly, or at least I don’t. So much in this life is a mystery and even more about death.

      What a beautiful experience for your mom. A perfectly timed gift.

      And yes, I have the tangible note from Vic in my wallet pocket again–along with a new electronic version. I also have wonderful notes written by him in book margins and in journals. I had read his comments about me in some of those places, but hadn’t received something addressed to me before. I’m grateful to be reminded that love is what matters and what remains.

  12. Simply awesome!! I love Vic’s omnipresence and I love you!!

  13. “Grief is another face of love.” –beautifully said, and true. Love has many faces, and we learn them by facing life, and death, openly and honestly. The corners of the vast universe do touch. You finding your note from Vic, and yesterday I posted a short essay about grief on my website. In it I mentioned Orpheus, for the first time, I think. At noon your book arrived and I began reading. And there was Orpheus.

    • Hi Mark, My schedule has been packed (I knew this would happen, and the flurry ends before Thanksgiving), so I’m far behind on reading what others write. Thank you for letting me know you wrote about Orpheus. I look forward to it! You’ll find snippets of The Sonnets of Orpheus throughout my book and thoughts that reflect Rilke’s way of understanding the co-appearance of life and death. I studied Orpheus with my mythology group throughout Vic’s illness and for a time after his death.

      Today I’m giving a reading at American Cancer Society Hope Lodge where I stayed during Vic’s long hospitalizations. I return to the place where I wrote a Rilke quote on the chalk board on the door to my room (I’ll let you read on and find out what that quote was). I have a painting (amateur) I did of Orpheus on my wall–I’m walking out of the underworld with Orpheus and his lyre while Vic is wrapped in the arms of Eurydice in the underworld. Maybe I need to write a blog about that painting and that idea! Thanks for the Orphic connection and your kind words.

  14. So beautiful. You make me want to tuck notes like this one of Vic’s into letters for all my most loved ones.

    The miraculous nature of your re-discovery reminds me of experiences I had after my father’s death.

    You are living in mythic time and helping others do the same. Blessings on you and on your talk tonight.

    • I think that’s a great idea, Shirley. I don’t think Vic put the note there (I don’t know for sure that he didn’t, but it would be uncharacteristic for him to root around in my wallet). It still felt like a direct message from him–to me. Remember you are surrounded by my love always. Vic and I left each other love notes in suitcases, and I always advise my sons to write little love notes to their partners. Many relationship bumps are soothed by a sweet love note. I received the note on Thursday night and gave the talk Saturday. It’s a done deal! Should be posted by Dec. 8.

      Have you written about your experiences after your dad’s death? Send me the links if you have them. Meanwhile, I’m behind on my reading, so I hope to visit your site this weekend or before. Warmly, Elaine

  15. Hi Elaine! What a great post! How gracious of you to share your story with others. I’m sure it helps normalize the experience so many of us have with connecting with deceased loved ones. I especially appreciate that you are not focused on explaining your “comforting coincidence” but rather focus on how it helps you in your grief. If an event or situation happens that has meaning for us it really doesn’t matter how it happened. There’s no need in trying to “prove” anything. It has significance to us and helps us on our grief journey and that’s all that really matters. I look forward to viewing your TEDx talk!

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond to my story. I agree these things happen commonly. I don’t need to figure it out and my memory offers no clues. It’s rare for my husband to show in an outer way. He has been a constant headliner in my dreams and he’s part of this land he loved and tended. I have found journal entries or notes in the margins of books in response to what he was reading, but this was addressed to me, “E” as he usually called me. I am grateful. Thanks for watching the TEDx talk in December. The Corning Museum of Glass where the event was held is a high-tech audiovisual wonder, so I know the video will be good quality.
      Warmly, Elaine

  16. There is no question in my mind that our loved ones surround us and are supporting us when we need them the most. This is such a moving story, speaking to the power of love and relationship that triumphs over death and loss. Thank you Elaine for sharing yet another wonderful post!!

    • I always feel surrounded and supported by my husband’s love, but this straight-forward message came at a key moment when I was going public about grief and loss. I had worked hard to find the words I wanted to say and figure out how best to present them. I felt unsure and vulnerable. I imagine I put the note in my wallet during a rough time when Vic was alive. He and I had a habit of leaving little notes for each other, but I didn’t save many. I’m grateful for many things, including this little yellow piece of paper and the electronic copy I made of it. Mostly, I’m grateful for continuing bonds of love. Thank you for your kind words.

  17. Oh Elaine…. no doubt you found that precious note at that moment for a reason. A beautiful reminder that Vic is always with you – cheering you on, holding you up, loving you forever…

    • Yes, Vic is with me but not his body–so I feel his closeness and support and his absence and distance at the same time. When I need his love, it’s there. This experience makes that clear. Sending you love.

  18. Another incredibly moving post. I’m sitting down to write a love note and I’m putting it in my husband’s wallet. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Barb. I’m grateful for every love note I tucked in a suitcase or bagged lunch. I wish I’d saved more of those little notes from my husband usually found on the dining room table but sometimes on my pillow when he took a trip. I have a few and now this one that’s always in my wallet. I have an unmanifested plan to send one-line love notes on postcards to friends who are far away.

  19. Oh my goodness. This is beautiful. It gave me full body goosebumps. That love . . . Wonderful.

  20. Beautiful, I love messages from beyond, they always come when most needed.
    Loved this.
    <3 hugs.

    • Thank you, Laura. I usually have these kinds of experiences in dreams, but I was wide awake to receive this one–and I still carry that note around.

  21. What a wonderful and timely message. It confirms again what I know so well: at just the right time, we’ll have all we need. Thanks for sharing your work, Elaine. Looking forward to your Ted talk!

    • Thank you, Rica. It was one of those moments when the inner and outer words fall into a sweet balance. I hope you enjoy the talk. After doing that, I felt I could do anything. The link is on my blog page and you probably saw it there. I hope you have a sweet weekend full of love. We need chocolate this time of year.

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