On Loss and the Holidays


I am told that if you write about something that is weighing heavily on your heart that just letting it out helps you deal with it. So here I will try. Let’s see if it works.

The upcoming holidays will have a whole new meaning for many of us who lost loved ones over the past year. I cannot relate to those who watched as a family member or friend or co-worker hat was struck down by the pandemic.  But I can relate to the loss and discovery of a new reality.

A great many things befell my family last fall. In October I heard those three most terrifying words; “You have cancer”. In November, my father passed away after a very long fight with chronic pain and COPD. Then almost exactly six months to the day later, my mother joined my dad in heaven.

This will be the first holiday season without them. Even when we spent the holidays apart, we always knew where each of us was and how much we wished we could be together, and that we would be together again.

I know from personal experience that we will be together again in the next reality. I had what what is known as a “near death” experience in 1992. That is subject for another time and over another beer. I believe I know what is on the other side and I am so happy that my folks are there. That knowledge eases some of the pain of the loss.

Maybe if someone sees this blog and feels what is in my heart about it, then these words may help soothe their own hurt.

In my case, I was driving home from work at the firehouse, in my wife’s Stanza (a light 4-door sedan). I had just crossed out of my fire district when I got slammed by a pickup truck towing another vehicle. It was a bright, dry morning. I admit the accident was all my fault, as witnesses will attest, I purposely ran through the green (yes I had the right of way) light. The other driver busted the red light at about 60 miles per hour when he hit my driver’s side door.

Not my car, but very similar.

The impact spun my car across an irrigation ditch and about 40 feet into an open field. In the movies when the director wants to show the severity of an event, they usually go into slow motion filming. What I witnessed was something like that. Time slowed down.

I felt the impact and the pressure throwing me to the right side of the car. My seatbelt kept me (at least the lower half of me) behind the wheel. Sparkles of glass seemed to hang in the air around me. My ears rang with the explosion of sound from the meeting of the two vehicles.

In truth it was an amazing experience.

I was aware of the point where the physics of the impact quit acting on my car and my body. All I remember was seeing the face of one of my Battalion Chiefs who had retired from my fire department some time before. Ok, so in my mind I was either losing it or I had died and gone to hell and he was there to torment me again. As it turned out the Chief and his wife were on their way home and witnessed the accident. He controlled the scene and made sure I was at least breathing.

The next thing I was aware of was being transported in an ambulance to the hospital. The attending Paramedic was a firefighter I had helped train. So, I knew I was in good hands. One of the bad things about being a paramedic is you do a self-assessment, and you know what is going on inside of you. We confirmed my suspicions that among many other injuries, I had a collapsed lung on the left side, but we had no way of knowing that my spleen had been fractured and I was bleeding to death internally. My attendant told me he would have to stick a needle in my chest to relieve some of the pressure. I told him “Over my dead body”. He said, “OK, I’ll wait”. And we both got a laugh.

So, let’s skip to the end.

I can only witness to what I felt. I cannot witness to the “Bright Light” or celestial music or ghostly figures in white robes. I believe those are all human constructs to help calm our fears about the transition from this reality to the next.

There are no human words that can adequately describe the sense of what we call total love, peace and freedom from restraint that I sensed.

My first perception was of the total release from the pain. I believe that there is a “pain” or burden to just hauling around this human body. We don’t realize it until we are rid of it.  There is also the pain plateau one feels from the injuries. All that was gone, and I was totally free.

Since my five natural senses left me, there was only this self-identity as some form of “energy” and that I was being called to join in what I can only refer to as a peaceful river or flow of energy. The desire to join this flow of peace and love was totally consuming.

I sensed that everyone I knew and loved who had gone on before was there and they so desperately wanted me to join them, almost as much as I needed to be a part of them. And the flow was going to something much more wonderful. Everything that was me desired to be with them.

I imagine that “hell” is being forever forbidden to join that flow. Sadly, I sensed that there were other souls or energy entities who were doomed to never become part of that pool. I am not sure how I sensed this, but I know in my heart it is real and it is to be feared.

A long time after I came back to this reality, I was able to make some sense of why I was returned. I came up with the simple answer: that I was not done here yet. We all have a purpose for being here. We may never know exactly what that purpose is or when we have accomplished it. But, to me it is the only thing that makes sense and helps me keep my sanity over the extreme sense of loss at not having been able to join the flow.

I know that the energy that made up the souls of my Mom and Dad are there. Forever embraced in that ultimate peace. I know they made it to wherever that flow was going.

And I will be with them again.

Finally, I believe to get there we must:

  1. Do all that we can to be kind and loving of everyone and everything. We are all in this together.
  2. Leave this reality better than we were born into it.
  3. Pursue a life of joy and meaning.

That is all and yet it seems such a heavy lift at times.

If you wish, I can talk more of this and fill in some gaps in an otherwise long tail. Just leave a comment and share this with someone you know. That may turn out to be your purpose.

Let’s go make a difference.

Be safe and be kind.


Both Sides Now

A Barnyard Management Insight

Barnyard Management is a series of inciteful reminders written by Ken Farmer. Ken is a retired Fire Chief and close friend. Please take a moment to read his latest musing. The stop to reflect on the words and how they may apply to your own situation.

Once again, I am showing my age! In 1966, Joni Mitchell released a song called “Both Sides Now”. It later won a Grammy for best arrangement and instruments and vocals. It was later recorded by Anne Murray and Neil Diamond with success.

Joni Mitchell

In the song, she sings about looking at love from both sides now and from the give-and-take. She concludes with that somehow, she really does not know love at all!

I guess that’s still true for some of us. But many of you have now found that one true love and clearly understands and embraces the both sides.
Like many of us during the recent pandemic times, I ended up watching some TV shows that I would not normally watch. One was the story about the rise of country star Garth Brooks. Garth was born in Tulsa, OK, and was a graduate of Oklahoma State University. That is the part of this story that I will come back to in a little bit.

Garth Brooks

Garth has become one of the biggest county acts ever with his career. He recorded nine albums that achieved diamond status. He beat the Beatles who held the record at six. His career is amazing when you consider it all. He has won two Grammy Awards, 17 American Music Awards and the best-selling solo album. He did something very unusual for a musician and retired from performing between 2001 and 2005. In 2014 he staged a comeback world tour. He has since released several albums.

According to the records, he has sold 170 million records. As of 2020, he is the best-selling solo artist and is ahead of Elvis and second to the Beatles.
I could go on about his history and his fans. He is an amazing performer and loved by his fans here in the US.

He has become more thoughtful and contemplative in recent years. In the show I happened to catch, he was sitting in a cabin on his farm and talking about his father and two brothers. In this scene, he held his hands out and turned them slowly as he described his father’s advice about life.

open hands, open hearts, open minds, open to giving as well as receiving …

He had told Garth to always look at both sides of any situation before making a final decision to be for or against something. He said that everything is a blessing, and everything is a curse. That’s some deep advice, in my opinion. What may look like gold today can turn to brass tomorrow. Everything has many impacts. Being the richest person in the world comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. Don’t ever assume that everything will be perfect in the future. What may look like a golden chance may destroy your life. Like you, I can tell hundreds of stories that fit this scenario.

His Dad’s good advice was that there was always another side to each issue in life. Some were good, and some were bad. It was always your choice to ponder the issue and decide what was right from your perspective, morals, and beliefs in your life.

This perspective struck me for many reasons. In each of our experiences we have had to decide on many matters in many situations. Sometimes you must make the decision quickly and sometimes without all the information. One key thing we can all learn from this story is to always take the time and make the effort to find out all the information and facts you can before deciding. There is a need to not extend your time to plan, and you may be forced to decide before you are ready.

In the year 2020 about the only thing you can count on is that what you know now will change in a few minutes or days. Nothing seems certain and what you were told one day will change dramatically the next day. So, what is right and wrong today may become wrong and right overnight!

I would just simply follow Garth’s Dad’s advice and ask you to consider both sides of a discussion or argument. Ask more questions; look for more accurate information; wait a few days until you can discover all the facts and then make a decision that is best for everyone. Always try to consider both sides now.

And the rest of this story deals with Garth and his connection to the fire and rescue service. From what I have observed about him, he is a deeply concerned person and has not gotten above his raising. An old friend of mine works at the International Fire Service Training Association which is housed at OSU.

He met Garth when he was a fellow bouncer in a local club in Stillwater. To this day, Garth and his wife will stop and talk with him and his family when they run into each other in Stillwater just like they were both still in college. This tells me a lot about him and his lifestyle.

Next time you have a chance, put on some Garth Brooks music and appreciate his view of life! You will learn something! He is someone who still lives in the barnyard!

Stay Safe, October 2020
Ken Farmer

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Be safe and be kind.