Monthly Archives: March 2018

Robert J. Healey

Robert J. Healey

I always liked Bob Healey and followed his political career from afar. Though I left Rhode Island shortly after high school, I always remembered this long-haired substitute teacher who occasionally filled in for my straightlaced and no-nonsense senior year high school English teacher, Mrs. Mary D. Parks.

Bob, or Mr. Healey, as I knew him, came sauntering into my senior English class one day with his distinctive gait and placed his worn leather attaché case on the equally worn oak desk in front of the class.

Before he launched into the day’s lesson, he paused and announced to the class he was going to teach us how to remember to spell a few uniquely spelled words. I sat there with great anticipation.

Mr. Healey walked up to the chalkboard and begin scribbling a word with the white chalk. He spelled out in big sweeping letters the word “W E I R D.”

I was wondering where he was going with this but I liked his whole theatrical demeanor and he had my attention. I suspect he held the attention of others in the class as well.

So, he begins his English lesson about words spelled with “ei” or “ie.” You remember the drill, “I before E except after C with some exceptions.” At any rate, he turned to the class with his long black hair all tossed about and proclaimed to us he had a sure-fire way to remember how to spell the word, “Weird.” He still had my attention; I was waiting with bated breath.

With characteristic flair, he circled the letters, “W” and “E” in the word “weird” on the chalkboard. I think he circled the letters twice for emphasis. He then proclaimed, “You can always remember how to spell this word by remembering WE are all weird. All of us.” Again, emphasizing the “we” in the word “weird”with two taps of the chalk under the letters “W”and “E.”

Now this struck me deeply. You see, I was a particularly insecure high school student at the time and felt quite unique in my own personal weirdness. I was often intimidated by the seemingly normative, and ever so cool, deportment of my classmates. THEY didn’t seem weird at all. And I thought I was pretty weird.

This proclamation by Mr. Healey changed my view of my high school universe and I suddenly felt that even though Mike, Tim and I (my high school buddies) would often spend Friday afternoons reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and writing zany poems, we were actually part of a larger world filled with weird people. In this moment, I suddenly felt like I belonged to a larger school community because, truth be told, according to Mr. Healey, we all were weird. This fact was most comforting to me.

I found out later, Mr. Healey was a perennial candidate for public office and once ran a campaign with the slogan, “A Strange Man for a Strange Job.” He indeed knew the power of being weird. He seemed to even revel in it.

Mr. Healey regularly ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor in Rhode Island. He actually ran on a platform of abolishing the office of Lieutenant Governor. This cracked me up! “Good for you, Bob Healey,” I thought to myself when I heard of his plans. He garnered 39% of the vote and over 126,000 Rhode Islanders voted for him in his 2010 race!

Mr. Healey may not have been wildly successful in politics but he was right about two points he raised as a teacher. First, I’ve always remembered how to spell the word “weird”even though the word “receive” sometimes still stumps me. And second, like Mr. Healey, my life experiences have proven to me we are all a little weird. Ain’t it grand!?

Do you remember a teacher from your youth who taught you a life lesson that remained with you well into adulthood? Please share it below.

Love, Grief, and Healing

IMG_2819 CA few days ago was the first anniversary of my Dad’s death. On March 7, 2018, it was one year since my Dad passed away.

On the morning of this anniversary, I was in an orthopedic surgeon’s office being poked and prodded by the doctor after suffering an extraordinarily painful herniated disc. As I hobbled around the doctor’s office, I had a chance to think about many things.

First, I thought of my Dad. Next, I thought of my love for him and the grief love engenders. I also thought about what it meant to be a loving human being in a world that, at times, seems a bit harsh. And truth be told, mostly, I thought about the reality of a painfully exploded disc which sent jelly-like detritus northward into my spinal column compressing a highly sensitive nerve which ordinarily served my legs entirely without notice or clamor.

I believe all these things are related. Let me explain.

Grief is a tricky emotion. If you listen to some of the experts on the subject, you’ll learn about stages and processes. As a former project manager with a very linear and methodical mind, this all sounds so neat and tidy.

Experts tell us during grief we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. I’m no expert on grief but like many of us, I’ve walked through my share of losses – some sudden and others expected.

Each experience of grief for me was different and painful in its own unique way. Sometimes it’s subtle and other times it’s blunt. Most importantly, the process after each death wasn’t neat and tidy at all but more like riding a poorly greased roller coaster with unexpected bumps and curves. So much for a neat linear process.

I do know one thing. Grief and love are linked. It’s somewhat like investing. Love is the principal we invest and grief is the interest earned on our investment. The more you’ve invested the more interest you will earn. If you grieve much, good for you, you’ve invested much in love.

I know another thing, on this roller coaster ride of life, it’s good to have a friend or two along capable of sitting in the steel car with you. Though highly personal, grief does appreciate company every now and again. It’s especially comforting to know we are not alone and others have made this journey too.

Grief seems to impact all parts of the human person. You may have heard of the mind/body connection discussed in recent health literature. This concept suggests our mind and our emotions can impact our physical health. I believe in these ideas and particularly when it involves acute experiences.

As I stood in the surgeon’s office looking at the results of my MRI, seeing – in all magnetic clarity – my herniated disc and protruded nucleous, I thought to myself, “THERE is my grief and all the emotions attached to it. It’s all exploded out of the disc rupturing the outer core and settling into my spinal column compressing the root of a nerve. Painful, raw and real.”

While these mind/body theories are controversial, I believe they do have merit and it’s important to address healing from many different perspectives. We are, after all, comprised of mind, body and spirit.

So, healing from loss and healing from physical trauma are interrelated for me. My journey with a wide variety of health conditions has proven this to be true. We are a complex system and not just disparate and unconnected parts.

Part of our system, often over looked, is our spiritual connection to a Higher Power and to each other. Truth is, we are not alone as we journey towards fullness of life and health. We walk with each other and we walk with God.

I’m more and more convinced God walks closely with us especially during times of pain and loss. Time and again, I’ve heard others say this is their experience too. Could this be true for you? I actually had a very odd experience happen to me about a week or two before my disc herniated supporting this notion.

One morning, prior to visiting some friends, I was quietly praying. I’m not one of these people who regularly hears God talking to them or “receives” a word from God in prayer. Mostly God is pretty silent with me. I look at Him, and He looks at me. I’m most dubious when someone tells me God told them this, that or the other thing. Having said that, I am about to tell you such a story.

On this morning, some weeks ago, I heard a folksy locution which said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.” I found this “voice” somewhat strange and so I mentioned it to a friend.

It was strange for three main reasons. First, I haven’t heard such a locution before this moment. Second, my back – to the best of my knowledge – was perfectly well at this time and so I interpreted this message to be a general comment of support. And finally, the voice seemed so casual and light; it certainly wasn’t a Hollywood “God Almighty” kind of voice. All these reasons saw me dismissing this experience and I promptly forgot all about it.

Fast forward two weeks later and I was driving down the road after my orthopedic appointment with the same friend I had mentioned this locution to a few weeks earlier. I said to her, “Do you remember the message I mentioned hearing a few weeks ago?” She replied, “Yes, you said you heard a voice say, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.’” We both looked at each other incredulously and I said, “Maybe God or my guardian angel is looking out for my back?” My driver and friend smiled and said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that God was looking out for you and your back. In the message, he was giving you consolation in advance.” With some uncertainty, I thought to myself, “Perhaps.” I did, however, have a distinct feeling of peace and experienced an “all is well” kind of feeling.

So, as I continue walking through my grief and enter the second year after my father’s passing, I’m more aware of the relationship between mind, body and spirit. I’ve got both back healing and emotional healing to do. There is much joy in all this – though it does come at a price. And mostly, through it all, I am deeply grateful because I don’t need to worry; healing will unfold and God has my back!