Tag Archives: love

Dad and the (miracle) reunion

photo 2Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

In July 2014 my father Newton who is 95 ‘and a half’, (as he says), went to live in aged care accommodation in a beautiful town on the North Coast of NSW in Australia in order to be close to my sister.

He wasn’t there because he had dementia or was bed ridden or anything like that. He was there because as he was ‘getting on a bit’, it was considered better for him to be in a place where professional people like doctors and nurses could keep a watch out for him every day.

There he became friends with an Englishman, Peter.
One day Peter, who is 90, told Newton he had a younger brother, Hugh, who is 84 and who lived in England. Peter said that over the years he and Hugh had spoken to each other on the ‘phone however they had not seen each other face to face, so to speak, for such a very, long time. He didn’t tell Newton how long that was. He also told Newton, “I won’t ever see him again – unless a miracle happens!”

That night Newton hatched a plan to try and make that miracle happen for his friend.
His plan was to use his ipad to connect Peter with Hugh on Skype – if Hugh was on Skype too.

Newton told Peter his plan and asked him for Hugh’s email address.
Newton emailed Hugh and asked, “Hugh, are you on Skype?”
Hugh replied, “Yes”
Newton asked Hugh, “Would you like to see your brother Peter?”
Hugh answered, “Yes, of course!”
Newton said, “Well, let’s do it.”

At first a few minor technical problems thwarted the miracle. However, a week or so later, at seven o’ clock one Tuesday evening in December just before Christmas, in a bedroom in a small country town in Australia, and at the same time at eight o’clock in the morning of the same day, in a bedroom somewhere in England, two brothers, Peter and Hugh, sat in front of computer screens and saw each other for the very first time in thirty seven years.


Photo of my father Newton (left) and Peter.
Photo by Sharon, Aged Care facility staff.
Images used with permission.

And Jean said, ‘this is my friend’

IMG_9642Many years ago a young woman, about twenty years old, went into a church and knelt down on a little wooden platform to pray. To pray to God, to pray to Jesus, to pray the way as a Christian she had been taught to pray.

She sat there on her knees with her hands in front of her head and chest and she asked God for happiness for herself and for everyone else.

There was real integrity in her request. She was not asking because she just felt like it or because someone told her what to do. She did it because she wanted to.

She knelt like this for about twenty minutes, then got up. As she did so she saw an older woman standing near her. She recognised her because she had seen her in the church before but she didn’t know who she was.

“Can I join you?” said the older woman.
The younger woman replied: “Oh well, yes, but I have just finished and I have to go.”

Then the older woman said: “Do you mind staying with me for another two or three minutes? I want to tell you something.”
The younger woman replied: “Yes, of course, what do you want to tell me?”

Both women sat on a bench inside the church and the atmosphere was beautiful. They were the only two people in the church at that moment. There in that peace and quiet the younger woman heard the story of the older woman who had been through a huge amount of pain and suffering with her family. Huge. By the time she finished, in quite a compassionate way, the younger woman said to the older woman: “Why did you tell me all these stories? Why?”
The older woman looked at her and didn’t actually know what to say, and answered: “Well I don’t really know but I felt that you were the person that I would like to tell my story to.”

In that moment, the younger woman experienced a moment of fear and a moment of love. Her fear came from her thinking: “Why does somebody need to tell me all these very, very difficult things?”, and her love came from her thinking: “I really feel close to this woman.”
She thought to herself: ‘Shall I leave or should I stay with her?’ She said:
“Would you like me to stay with you?”
The older woman replied: “Yes.”
Everyday for the next three months or so the younger woman went to the church and the older woman came and told her the story of her very, very sad life with her family.

One day the younger woman said: “Do you think there is anything you still wish to tell me? “
And the older woman said to the younger woman: “No, but you taught me something very important, you taught me about friendship. You taught me that I can have a friend in my life.”
The younger woman looked at her with very big tears in her eyes and said: “As you have learned about it I have done the same. As you learn about friendship, I learn about friendship. Thank you for all that. I have learned quite a lot from you.”
The older woman looked at the younger woman and said: “Without you I would never, never, never have an idea that I can have actually a friend as I never had any friends.”

The two women left the church. The younger woman never saw the older woman again because a week later she died. She died from a heart attack or something. She wasn’t old, but she died. And at her funeral the young woman sat in the church and thought herself: ‘I lost a friend but I learned what it means to be a friend.’

I am telling you this story because last week ago my 89 year old friend Jean went to ‘live’ in an aged care facility. I don’t know if her stay is going to be permanent, I don’t think anyone does, but as her medical team told Jean ‘it is time’, she agreed to ‘give it a try’ as she has great difficulty walking. From the waist up she is a trickster, but those legs and right hip of hers are another story entirely. Jean was born in her house and I could understand that she was reluctant to leave it.

I started helping Jean a little more than a year ago. She lives across the road from me. She lives alone as her husband George, who passed away last year, had been in a nursing home (the same one she has gone to) for nine years. Her family are loving and supportive – food purchased, washing done, house  cleaned. Although Jean received a hot meal at lunchtime every week day from her local Meals on Wheels service, I became aware that she was making herself a sandwich for dinner because she could not operate her microwave oven as she has Macular degeneration of the eyes and her hands shook as she has Parkinson’s disease. So I offered to come over every evening (when I could) to pop a frozen meal in the microwave for her.  I felt this was an easy thing for me to do and I believe this is what members of a community might do for each other. She accepted my offer and as the months went by I sat with her at her little kitchen table while she ate her dinner and told me her stories. After dinner I would help her put her ‘patches’ on and administer eye drops or change a dressing on her legs. She was always bumping those legs!

She was always so very grateful – and often gave me ‘points’ for how much I had helped her that evening. I laughed about that and inquired what I had to do to get four points as it never seemed to get above two! That trickster in her never told me.

As the months passed by I found myself acknowledging and actively welcoming the energy of friendship with Jean into my life. I accepted her as she was, I did not judge her and I did not want anything at all from her and I am happy that I have connected with this very, very deep part of myself. I did not intend it, force it or push it, it simply happened. An example of embracing life’s experiences and not trying to control them.

I visited Jean the day after she went to her new abode. She was with a group having morning tea and she introduced me to the group by saying: “This is my friend Ruth.”

If I knew who was waiting

IMG_0768This is a story about comfort at a time of the death of a beloved.

It is a little story of of my next door neighbour’s, a little story of mine and a bigger one of my Canadian sister-in-law’s. Something brought them all together last week. Maybe it was serendipity, maybe it was love.

My mother was almost 92 when she died suddenly of a stroke and in the months prior I had often contemplated when she might ‘go’ and what life might be like for me without her. I was experiencing what I call premature or early grief and at times I became quite sad. I didn’t really know what these feelings were about until my next door neighbour told me a story about a friend of hers. Her friend’s mother had dementia and was in a nursing home and almost every morning the daughter would visit her mother to dress her and get her ready for the day. When the mother died those who knew the daughter thought she was amazing as she did not seem to be grieving. Everyone thought that as she had been so loving and devoted to her mother that she would ‘go to pieces’. When asked about her grief the woman replied, “I did my grieving in the years I visited my mother nearly every day”.

I have a habit of having pen and paper by my beside so I can capture the whispers from the Universe as they come, usually as I am waking up. Sometimes I put the date on these little pieces of paper and sometimes I just forget. And these slips of paper pile up, waiting for me – for something – some kind of reconnection. Last week on Thursday morning at  4.00 AM I woke up and found myself wide awake. I felt compelled to get out of bed and start sorting out some of these papers. And there I came across one that, unknowingly, I was soon to need. It was not dated, however I knew it was from a time not long before my mother died. The message on that little piece of paper was so, so beautiful – I could never have ‘thought it up’. I kept it aside by placing it on my desk. At 4.00AM in Sydney it was 2.00PM the day before in Toronto, Canada, and as I was to find out later, only a few hours before my Canadian sister-in-law’s step mother, passed to the light.

When my sister-in-law emailed me the news I rang her, and my brother of course, to express my condolences for their loss. My brother was not home, so my sister-in-law and I chatted for quite a while. And in the midst of that conversation she told me this beautiful story.

“In the afternoon of the day my stepmother died I was in a hardware store and had to use the bathroom and when I was in there I heard three sales colleagues talking outside. I wasn’t really listening to what they were saying but then I quite clearly heard one saleswoman say, “I was leaning over my brother just after he died when something, I do not know what, made me look up and I saw my brother standing with my father”.  

There is so much beauty to this story because my sister-in-law later shared with me that in the past few weeks her step mother had said she had no fear of dying, that she believed the soul left the body and was reunited with loved ones.

And the message on the little piece of paper I found so early that morning, the one with the message on it about my mother? It was also a message for my sister-in-law and all of us who have lost our mothers and it was this: “If I knew who was waiting for her I would not be sad”.

Dreaming of Ohio

1181px-Ohio_in_United_States.svgWhat do you do when you want proof that God is all knowing, all loving and all supporting? Seems impossible to find a way to prove that doesn’t it?

I was in a situation recently where my mind really ‘put it out there’ that I wanted to know God was helping me and I wanted proof of it. Why? Because it was a family situation and I wanted done with old energies which did not serve me. It was one of the greatest opportunities I would ever have to let go of my mind and live from the heart/the Oneness/the Unknown.  That is, to completely let go of control and to trust in whatever outcome was going to happen was the one that was going to happen. ‘Thy will’, not my will. My mind, the one that plays tricks on me, wanted proof that this situation would be OK for me to invest this trust.  Despite the fact that I had no proof I made the commitment to trust anyway and come what may.

The night after I made that commitment I had a dream.

In my dream I was asked to point to the State of Ohio on a map of the USA. Ohio? I did not know where it was, so in my dream I asked myself what to do. The answer came that if I trusted in God, in the Oneness, in the Unknown – that I would be guided to the right answer. And if I got the answer right, here was proof of the God I trust. This was like a lucid dream – I was dreaming but also aware of me thinking about and responding to events in the dream.

I pointed to a place on the map and immediately in my dream it was filled in with red.

It was not until late the next day that I was able to Google the answer. There, coloured in red, in exactly the spot I had indicated in my dream, was the USA State of Ohio.

And its motto?

“With God, all things are possible” 
(Matthew, Chapter 19, verse 26)

OHIO-MOTTOHere is a new plant for the Garden of Commitment and I water it with a new found joy.



Let’s have some fun!


Ok, today we are going to have some fun.
Name one thing you like to do that’s fun.
Have you done it recently? Good on you if you have.
I like to dance. Have I done it recently?

IMG_8885However I did have a lot of fun on Australia Day this year. I organised a breakfast in a local waterfront park with seven good buddies. I love the ritual of meals with friends so I went all out on January 26 this year and polished the silver, ironed the linen, got out my best cups, saucers and plates, had an urn of hot water, teapots, everyone brought yummy food, read Banjo Paterson’s poems and we all had a wonderful morning.

For me, getting together with friends over a meal and having a chat lifts me. I love it. So I try to do it a lot. I certainly do it more than I go out dancing. My form of dancing at the moment consists of kicking off my shoes, putting on favourite music and dancing around the lounge room when my husband is not home. However I have not done a lot of that lately.

Here’s a great YouTube video that I play over and over because I love the dancing as well as the song. Slowly this video is seeping into my being the specific message that I am in fact this happy, this joyous and that I can indeed bring sunshine, and love.

In my Seven Gardens of Self Discovery I would place Things I Love – such as, dancing and meals with friends, in the Garden of Expression. I might also want to put that particular plant in the Garden of Uniqueness. The trick for me is to work out how I will nourish the ‘dancing’ plant a bit more so it will blossom and grow, so I will blossom and grow. I need an action plan to make it happen. I think I need to take some action here or this part of me may die, like a plant that I do not water. This really is ‘discovery’ territory for me.

Now your turn. What do you love to do?  What is something that really makes your heart sing and soar?  I challenge you to at least close your eyes now and think about it. You don’t need permission to go and do what you love, just decide to and have a go. Can you come up with an action plan and declare it?
In which of the Seven Gardens do you want to put the things you love?
What does your intuition tell you, even though I have not told you much about these Gardens?

Don’t forget to watch the video. It will bring sunshine to your life today.

Image of Joan Crawford, 1930’s publicity photo. Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice.
Image of picnic table, copyright Ruth Howard 2014
YouTube video is in the public domain

Tears of joy

collage of cardsThey crept up on me this morning, these tears of joy. I didn’t plan it of course but there they were. Lovely, light tears of something akin to happiness, but something that was even more than happiness – it was joy. It came about as I was going through the cards that good friends had given me over the last ten years or so, with the intention of cutting off the bits of the cards that I could use in some collage artworks (my next art venture!)  and then ‘let them go’, as they say.

I had re read about seven or eight of these beautiful cards and then I found myself saving one, then another, then another. Something was happening. Why couldn’t I let them go? It came to me what a precious gift I had been given through those cards – the affirmations of love, the kind words, the thanks, the appreciation. On the front of one card it said ‘Joy to the World’, in others I was wished joy. I decided to read them all and to keep them all.

When I came to the last item in the box, it was a copy of a speech a dear friend made at a major birthday party for me (you know the ones – the ones with an 0 on them). In that speech my friend told my story and sang my praises. It was two typed pages long! She concluded with talking about my ‘exuberance for life and passion for living’.

But what was it that brought me to tears? All those messages within the cards and then that speech. It just all welled up and over flowed for a brief few seconds and it was lovely. I had been seen and I knew it.

This experience of joy was one where I felt held, uplifted and full of joy. It wasn’t a big belly laugh joy (which I love!), but a quiet, sneak up on you type of joy.

So what is the recipe for joy here? For me it is three things.

One – To keep those cards and re-read them every now and again.

Two – To tune in to the energy of the heart behind the words and feel that love

Three – To remember this when I am writing a message on a card for someone next time. I never know, they might put them in a box and keep them for a few years too!

And as one woman always writes at the end of her sweet, sweet messages to me,