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The Squirrel and the Coaster

Dear Son,

I’ve been thinking of that sensation of delighted relief I’ve felt when any roller coaster I’m on slows to a stop and I unstrap to get off. These last several months I’ve had trouble unbuckling to jump free of the latest one; I need. . . something. And, you’re it. Though I’m unsure how this whole “being present” thing works between us, I trust you helped it all unfold.

And, btw, did you send that squirrel?

Enter an arrogant (aka normal) squirrel who laid claim to the most calming part of my yard – my birdfeeder and bird bath – and took over. It single-handedly (I’m certain) destroyed three birdfeeders over as many weeks while I was investing in various squirrel deterrents. I even started keeping score; it wasn’t pretty.

The day the coaster picked up speed, I had just returned a fourth, unusable birdfeeder to the store. I stood in the yard and lost it: “It’s me or you, squirrel, and I’m the one with the brain and a credit card!”

Ok, Matt, clearly, I was firmly in that “who’s in control?” space, where, yes, I know, I never win. But, Son . . . really? That squirrel gets to be the grief trigger highlighting my utter loss of perspective?

And there it was: that look . . . your gentle, old soul smile that said: “Just let it go, Mom; breathe, open again to your best life.” It was then I started to feel you with me.

Right away, I remembered something I’d written to you in another, long-ago letter for our memoir, “Letters for Grace.” I had been learning about the acceptance of heartbreaking realities, and how chaos can become fertile ground for something powerful and hopeful . . . things your early death forced me to consider.

In that letter I included a short fable I’d found in deMello’s “The Song of the Bird.” I knew you would understand why I included it then, just as you knew I needed it now.

“A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with a large crop of dandelions.

He tried every method he knew to get rid of them. Still they plagued him.

Finally, he wrote the Department of Agriculture.

He enumerated all the things he had tried and closed his letter with the question:

‘What shall I do now?’

In due course the reply came:

‘We suggest you learn to love them.’”

Today, unbuckled and grounded, I’ve come to accept that dandelions are worthy of love, that a squirrel can be the star of a grief story I may never fully grasp, and that you are still gone . . . yet still with me.

Always grateful for your gracious presence . . . then and now,




Oct 08, 2023

Oh Jane, I can totally visualize you in the yard with this squirrel and it makes me smile. And I appreciate the lesson learned on the other side. Your story reminded me of a visit to my dad when he was in his last days, feeling frustrated he didn't have any control of his world. As he sat in his wingback recliner looking out the window, he watched squirrel after squirrel climb the pole of the birdfeeder and feast on food not meant for them, scaring away his beloved cardinals and blue jays. He cursed his inability to do anything about it. So I offered to help the only way I knew how...coat the pole of the birdfeeder with vaseline.…


Oct 03, 2023

Mother Nature's healing abilities are a mercy and a blessing. I'm glad you partook.


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