Positive Aging Thought Leader: Maria Olsen
I talk to the dead. Especially during the pandemic.
“I struggle with ways to keep my beloved’s memories alive.”
I lost so many loved ones to the disease, complications from the disease, cancer, accidents, overdoses and death by suicide. Having lost so many people I love during this decade of my life, I struggle with ways to keep my beloved’s memories alive.
There is a view held by many Catholics that, when one sees a cardinal bird, a loved one who has passed on is saying hello. A clairvoyant I know told me that coming across feathers indicates that an angel is near. I encounter many cardinals in my travels. And feathers turn up in the oddest of places.
When my best friend was on her deathbed three years ago, dying of breast cancer, I asked her that, if it were at all possible, if she would please put in heart-shaped items in my path, like cloud formations. She laughed and agreed. In the time since her passing, I have seen heart-shaped flowers, leaves, rocks, and even food on my plate shaped as hearts.
My Friend’s Widower And Daughter:
I sometimes photograph the most striking of the heart shapes I see. Recently, while flying over the Grand Canyon in Colorado, I saw a canyon edge clearly shaped like a heart. I was stunned. I sent a picture of it to my friend’s widower and daughter.
I learned of another friend’s passing this year while I was on a boat trip. In the wake of the boat with no land in sight, a bird followed us for a great while. I felt my friend’s presence. I felt as if she were telling me that she was at peace.
“I felt my friend’s presence. I felt as if she were telling me that she was at peace.”
Butterflies also remind me of this friend. She was so delicate. Caught in the grips of drug addiction, she seemed so fragile. I see more butterflies than usual now. And they all remind me of her and her beautiful spirit. She loved flowers and often brought fresh flowers to friends. Butterflies are attracted to flowers. So thinking of her when I see them makes sense to me.
My Memories Of My Loved Ones:
I also write in my journal about my deceased friends and family members. They continue to inspire me, and I do not want to lose my memories of my loved ones. I want to keep their spirits alive. An author friend of mine regularly writes letters to her deceased husband. She says it helps her stay close to him and is therapeutic for her. Sometimes she publishes the letters in a blog followed by friends and family.
I believe there is some kind of afterlife and that our souls live on after we leave this earth. What exactly happens to us, I believe, is beyond human comprehension.
I have sought the services of clairvoyants and those who claim to be able to communicate with dead people. What I have witnessed has astounded me. Without my sharing a word with her, one clairvoyant assured me that my deceased father wanted to release me from something he had asked me to do while he was dying that I found too difficult a burden. Tears streamed down my face as I felt the relief wash over me. My burdened heart felt lightened.
“Grief can continue long after we lose someone.”
Triggered By Memories:
Grief can continue long after we lose someone. It is often triggered by memories. I read an apropos metaphor that likened grief to a ball inside a box. It can get smaller over time, but when it bumps up against the sides of the box, it hurts. In the same way, my grief can get smaller, but when it bumps up against my emotions, the pain can be searing. In some ways, time heals. But the totality of grief never seems to disappear completely.
We can transform grief into something beautiful and affirming, however. We can reframe it. Grief, for me, is an indication of great love. If we never have something worthy of love, we will never know the ache of loss. At least I loved. As the famous English poet, Lord Tennyson, once said, “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I believe that, just as I believe that my loved one’s love still exists. Cardinals, butterflies, birds, and heart-shaped things I see in my life’s journey remind me of that truth.
About the Author:
Maria Leonard Olsen is an attorney, author, radio show and podcast host in the Washington, D.C., area. For more information about her work, see www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com and follow her on social media at @fiftyafter50. Her latest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, which has served as a vehicle for helping thousands of women reinvigorate their lives, is offered for sale on this website.