Friday, September 26, 2014

A Friend Remembers Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on the 10th Anniversary of Her Death – The Woman Behind the Iconic Image

There are no accidents, everything in life happens for a positive reason.                                         ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D

When fate and fame elevate someone to international icon status, that person is often not just idealized and idolized, but dehumanized as well.  That is what happened to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss-born physician whose book “On Death and Dying” stunned the world in 1969 with a new way of looking at how we treat the end of life.

At a time when women were not common on the world stage, Elisabeth was portrayed at times as a driven, over-confident, outspoken, irascible, hard-to-get-along-with, stubborn, witchy-bitchy, out-there woman.  Probably, if she had been a man and was doing the same job in the same way, he would have been admired and praised for his pit-bull tenacity, his intractable fierceness in never giving up or giving in.

But I knew a different Elisabeth, a vulnerable elderly woman, facing the last decade of her life out of the limelight.  These were the quiet years, the international honors and awards were all bestowed, there were no more public events where she held thousands spellbound, and all the controversies were muted.  Still the years of intense stress had taken their toll on her health, and already in a wheelchair, she retired in 1995 to Arizona where her son lived and where I also lived.

Elisabeth was good friends with the physician who established the Arizona-based foundation I directed, and when invited to be a member of the Advisory Board, she graciously accepted.  I was her contact, and we worked together for several years.  Although it was strictly professional, we enjoyed each other’s company and laughed a lot.   While she seemed drawn to me, and wanted to be friends, I resisted because I was born a highly-sensitive introvert – and I knew my limits for the kind of drama Elisabeth was capable of generating around her.

When I left the foundation in 1999 – to be with my beloved husband who was in an extended death process – I made a courtesy telephone call to honor her and to say goodbye.  She asked, “When are you coming out to see me?”  I politely explained that I no longer had a business reason to do that.  She countered with, “What does that have to do with anything?”  She called me at home once a week for a month – it touched my heart and I decided to give an ongoing friendship with this formidable woman a try.

I realized after a few visits that Elisabeth was lonely and needed a friend, and although I didn’t know it at that time, I did too.  I think what we valued in each other was our commitment to speaking our truth, and the fact that we were each spiritual seekers who were working on learning patience and how to love and be good to ourselves.

Several times a month for about five years I drove to Elisabeth’s house to share the civilized ritual of “taking tea,” which was synonymous with having a visit with her.  I learned her favorite delicacies and loved seeing her face light up with delight when I delivered them.

What mattered to me was that she seemed to enjoy my company, as I did hers.  Plus she trusted me, and I was humbled and protective of that.

I discovered that Elisabeth could find humor in any situation.  Once when she was in a rehab facility, recuperating from a fall, she asked me to hold a large glass of ice-cold lemonade so that she could drink from the straw.  We were doing okay until she waved her arm and hit the glass, spilling its contents on her chest.  She was so sensitive to cold, she let out a shriek.  When I asked God for forgiveness for failing to prevent the accident, she laughed uncontrollably and finally sucked in a breath and said, “He’s enjoying it, too!”  I was finally able to laugh, and we spent the rest of the visit embraced in carefree frivolity.

The greatest gift of Elisabeth’s life was the two young granddaughters who adored her, Sylvia and Emma.  When I shopped for my grandchildren, I often bought gifts for Elisabeth to send to hers, which brought out the child in her.  I connected the incredible love she lavished on these two, with the fact that she was born one of a set of triplets and never received the individual love and attention she desired.  I could relate because I was the seventh of 10 children.

I recall including Elisabeth at an afternoon tea in the desert, with some women friends of mine.  Elisabeth was surprisingly quiet as the others chatted away.  Later, she told me that this was the only time in her life that she had experienced such a gathering, just women getting together and having fun.   There was nothing to be “accomplished,” and no one needed anything from her.  She could just relax and enjoy.

When Elisabeth discovered my husband’s critical condition, she began subtly guiding us through it.  First she suggested that I start a journal of our experiences.  I did.  Much later she recommended that I write a book about what we went through and how we handled it.  I did.  She gave it her highest commendation: “This is not phony baloney.”  Now I realize fully that her influence led me to find my life purpose and strengthened me to actually live it.

While writing a tribute for Elisabeth’s memorial service in August of 2004, I yearned for a way to honor her that would be ongoing and could be shared with those who knew her only through the media.  The result was a book of tributes, “Tea with Elisabeth,” which was published in 2009.  The 51 contributors included bestselling authors, celebrities, hospice leaders, colleagues, family and friends.  Their memories bring to life the colorful human side of this tiny woman who became a global force for change, and yet who was so wonderfully, beautifully, painfully human.

_______________________________________                                                            Copyright © 2014 by Fern Stewart Welch                                                                     

The author’s books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart, (April 2013); “Tea with Elisabeth,” recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; “You Can Live a Balanced Life in An Unbalanced World,” (Nov. 2008); and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within,” (Feb. 2008), are available at, other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Make Peace With Your Past and It Won't Sabotage Your Present

 I’m pursuing a path of love because it helps me forgive myself and others.          
                                                     ~Fern Stewart Welch

  Sometime ago I learned my offspring were planning a dinner party to celebrate my 80th birthday.  I was awestruck and a little nervous.  While it seemed a lovely idea; I thought the odds of getting everyone together were slim.  If you have followed any part of my almost eight-year commitment to writing about growing through life instead of just going through it, you know two things:  First, that I bare the rawest places in my heart and psyche to share the insights that I gain to help others create better lives; and second, my family was ripped apart by a divorce that happened decades ago and like many other modern-day families, we are still coping with the consequences.  We have wounds that are not fully healed, and lessons not fully learned.  

What I hug to my heart, however, is that each adult offspring has survived, and prospered in their lives, thank you God.

In looking back over what was the greatest regret of my life, it is hands-down the breakup of my first marriage and the fractured relationships that resulted. I realize now that the energy behind the memories of what we all experienced decades ago has probably lessened somewhat just by the passage of years, yet my uncertainty at even the idea of us all being together at one time let me know I still hold some energy around the upcoming event.  I’m sure this is probably true for some of my family members also.

Although I had dreamed of and prayed constantly for not just a reunion of my family, but a true healing for everyone, I fully realized the difference between my time and God’s time, which also includes the right time for everyone concerned.  I had gradually accepted that an encompassing expression of family unity wasn’t likely to happen in my lifetime.

At first the planned family event didn’t seem to be having a strong effect on me.  Then after a week or so, I began to feel the unresolved emotional energy that had been repressed and suppressed for decades beginning to pop up. 

I soon recognized that I was facing a “come to Jesus” time with my own inner stuff.  Evidently this family gathering, which had been the desire of my life for so many years, was shaking up some energies within me that were desperate to break free, be acknowledged, healed and released.

In my over-active imagination, a coming together with all my adult children and their families seemed fraught with less-than-desirable possibilities.  For a micro-second I even thought about bowing out of the event, and in a low moment, I tentatively mentioned backing out to my daughter (also at times my mother-figure), and she came back with a spiritual truth that brought that train of thought to a screeching halt.  She said, “Remember your own words: If you’re the one hurting, it’s your problem.”  Ouch, she was right.

Even at that point, though, the low-level thoughts and feelings were still strong enough to cause me to go within and seek help from my inner guidance.  I knew from years of inner work that the energy attached to my “swallowed-down” feelings had to be fully experienced to allow a healing to take place.  I fulfilled that directive by bringing the suppressed energy-emotions to the surface and releasing them.  I immediately felt a new-found peace at the core of my being.  Then I was directed to do the following:

Ask yourself the following questions and answer from the Truth at the core of your being:

·         What is your greatest life sadness?
·         The breakup of my first marriage, and the fractured family that resulted.

·         What did you learn from that experience?
·         I learned from the heartbreak of divorce, and the pain and suffering of our children, the true meaning of love.
             How did your children fare during this upheaval?
·         Not well.  I thank God they’re alive, and are now stronger than ever by overcoming such challenges and choosing to grow through them and become wiser and more conscious and aware human beings.

·         What do you “owe” your offspring?  And yourself?  
F     For my offspring, I owe automatic forgiveness for any behavior they presented over the decades that was  The only way they knew to cope with such a huge life trauma.  As for myself, I sought forgiveness via the spiritual path and found some inner peace by remembering that I did the best I could with my then-conscious awareness.  I did the one thing I was capable of doing, loving them as unconditionally as I was equipped to do.  I couldn’t save them or eliminate the hurt.  I just loved them to the best of my ability. 
(The current life lesson I’m focusing on is self-love.  I realize now that the more I love myself in a healthy way, the more I am able to love others healthfully.) 

·         At this point I had my own question:  How can I hold any undesirable emotions that might pop up in check?  
      The answer was: By being open to receiving love.  
       (This insight-lesson seems three-fold: I need to forgive, heal and release past memories. 
·         This increases my level of self-love so that I could rise above the energies that cause me to focus on my hurts.  Instead I felt strong compassion for my offspring based on what they might still be experiencing.  This conscious awakening that is stirred up then begins to right any imbalances in giving and receiving, which allows opening to receiving love.)    

·         My next question was how do I anchor in this awakening and access it at the event and open to receiving love? 
      The answer was:  “Simply say, thank you for coming to every adult in attendance.  They are honoring you and their own soul-growth by being there.  You deserve this and they do, too.  Be loving kindness.  Be the real you that you came in to be.  Rejoice.  Be glad.”

As the days passed, I spent a lot of time working on myself and reviewing the directives I received from my inner guidance.  I had already experienced several powerful energy-release sessions, accompanied by intense chest-heaving emotion and heart-wrenching tears.  Also during a pre-birthday lunch date with a long-time friend and spiritual confidante, we talked a lot about how positive affirmations, directed prayers and forgiveness work had proven powerful in our lives.  As I left the restaurant with my friend, I felt my heart opening, and I knew a healing was happening within me.

Not only did I feel it physically, I felt it emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Instead of focusing on myself and my fears and foibles, I was now able to come from a place of clarity within that was free of the negative past memories that blocked having a healthy loving relationship with myself, my offspring and their families.

With that positive thought before me and a new perspective on not allowing the past to spoil my present and the future, I wrote out the following directed prayer that I would repeat daily to take us through the upcoming event and beyond:

I claim that the Divine White Light of the Christ
And the Golden Light of God’s Grace
Guides our family into Divine Right Action in every aspect of our lives.

♥♥♥♥♥  While I recognized several days before the birthday party that all my concerns were gone, I had no idea the family gathering would provide another level of insight.  At the event, I did exactly as my inner guidance directed, and soon realized I was grounded in a cocoon of gentle joy, love and peace.  For a brief, yet significant time, I was aware of a bliss within, and wondered if this is what Heaven on Earth feels like.  The evening was marked for me also by it’s easy moment-to-moment unfolding.

On the drive home, I knew I wanted to hold onto the experience. I spent the following days in quiet contemplation, savoring the experience and being grateful for my family, the gift of life, and the opportunity to be a better me.

The lesson I learned is that no matter how long we’ve prayed and worked on making peace with the past, if we are still “bothered” by energies that pop up and upset us—we still have some inner work to do.  The truth is that when we choose to heal and release the past, we free ourselves to live in the moment, to choose healthy ways to love, and to create the lives we truly desire.  ♥♥♥♥♥

FYI:  If you or someone you know truly desires to choose forgiveness to release the past, try the following.  First, make the conscious choice to forgive yourself and others.  Be patient and work with the following technique, which has served me well:

I freely and wholly forgive myself for any real or imagined wrong done by me, to me, or to ___________, or anyone else, past or present.  I freely and wholly forgive ___________, or anyone else for any real or imagined wrongs done to me, past or present.


Copyright © 2014 Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart, (April 2013); “Tea with Elisabeth,” recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; “You Can Live a Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” (Nov. 2008); and “The Heart Knows the Way—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within,” (Feb. 2008); are all available at  Amazon.con, other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.