Life, Death and Spirituality

Month: August, 2014


Countless parents have been through this, countless more are going through this and, sadly, countless others have it still to go through; the unimaginable grief of losing a child.

I have learned so much over the past twenty months. I have gone from ‘sometime agnostic’ to ‘sometime disciple’ depending on present circumstances. I have always liked to cover my bases! Losing Rowie on Boxing Day 2012 kick-started a journey of enormous proportions for me and I have been amazed by so many things along the way.

As I have said before, I made a promise to Rowie when I was encouraged to write this blog by him exactly one year ago (whilst I was in California with Jodie), that I would tell it exactly as it is; no embellishment and nothing left out.

I have come a long way since that sunny morning in Aptos – Jodie lying on a hammock in the sun, Bodhi Hope Archer, her Labrador pup, chasing flies and shadows and me, sitting in a chair in the sun, notebook at the ready; equipped to take down anything Rowie cared to say to Jodie in their session together. I am unaware of how ‘physical’ he can still be – and Jodie giggles as he tries to tip her out of the hammock!

However far I have come, there are still moments that set me back. I get angry with myself for allowing these moments but I am unable to stop the wave of sadness when it comes.

I absolutely KNOW that there is life after death; I absolutely KNOW that Rowie is very happy where he is; I absolutely KNOW that I will see him again; I absolutely KNOW that he is with me whenever I want him to be but this knowledge doesn’t stop the sadness caused by my inability to have his physical presence here and the sadness that I can’t hear his voice, his laughter – and I can’t watch him with pride like we did two years ago.

Catlins Got Talent – sure has – enormous talent! What an incredible evening yet again. Every year this show exceeds expectations. Last night Chris and I sat proudly by as we watched Francis and his compadres perform for the masses – loved it! Two peers of Rowan’s were in the group with him. Scattered around the hall were most of his friends; Claudia and Hannes, Duncan, Reuben, Erin and Nikeisha, Isaac, Hohepa, Jess and Tom, Josh, Ben, Quinten and many more for sure.

Claudia, Hannes, Nikeisha, Isaac and Erin are all studying in Dunedin; Jess and Tom at Lincoln; Duncan running his family farm; Reuben scored a wonderful job up at Walter’s Peak Station; Hohepa teaching Maori Martial Art in local schools, Josh, Ben and Quinten shearing/farming.

I can’t help but wonder what Rowan would have been doing if he hadn’t contracted out of this world when he did! It’s strange. I feel enormously sad, almost tearful as I look around. Here they all are and Rowie isn’t. Where would he be sitting? What would he be doing? Would he have joined Francis, Duncan, Ben and Kevin for their ‘turn’? Would he have been laughing and chatting with Claudia and Hannes? Maybe he would be discussing martial arts with Hohepa or some bizarre thing with Isaac! I sit and imagine his face, his laughter, his happy face when he gets to spend time, so special to him, with Francis.

What is very strange is that I can’t imagine him anywhere. He wasn’t supposed to be here and he was never supposed to have been here. He is absent in body and spirit. When he died it was ‘the right time’ – that does sound whacky I know. The Universe has an uncanny way of allowing things to happen when the time is right.

Some parents have their childrens’ lives mapped out for them before they are out of nappies. Chris and I had a vague vision for Francis but no such thing sprang to mind for Rowie at all – ever! Rowie didn’t want to study at Varsity even though he would have done sufficient work at school to get there. He was unsettled; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He wanted to stay locally with his friends, Claudia and Hannes – maybe he would have……………..NO! I can honestly say that I cannot visualise Rowie anywhere doing anything at any time!

Yes, last night I was very sad again. But this sadness is of my own making. It is a selfish sadness; a sadness that says ‘why can’t you be here with your friends Rowie’? ‘Why can’t Chris and I watch you with pride too’? ‘Why can’t we share your journey with you’?

Two steps forward and then one step back. Another obstacle but yet another lesson learned……..and why doesn’t it surprise me……The Universe got it right again.



Smell is so very important to me. I have always said that if you lined my three boys up with a hundred others and blindfolded me, I could pick each one of them out by smell! I’m not saying that they are unclean, or suffer from BO! I am saying that each has a definite, unique, beautiful smell.

After Rowie died I spent hours in his bedroom soaking up the smells that were inimitably his. He has a sweatshirt that still smells strongly of him and I spend time even now, nineteen months down the track, hugging and breathing in the essence that is Rowie from this sweatshirt.

We haven’t cleared his bedroom out yet. His drawers are still full of his distinctive ‘Rowie’ fashion pieces; his walls covered in his Asian paraphernalia and his hats; his bunk, peppered with names of loves lost and loves sought. I can’t bear the thought of clearing out his things; I know that they will never be needed again but I find it so very hard to say goodbye to these aspects of him that we still have with us. Every single piece of clothing reminds us of some warm and happy time; every item in his room brings back memories of his quirky hobbies and the fun and laughter that we shared.

It’s strange really. Rowan remains very familiar. It is as if I see him every day – his face, his smile, his expressions – all very familiar – but I crave to hear his voice. I lie in bed trying to recapture his voice but I can’t……it is not something I can bring into my conscious mind. I listen to his videos and my heart aches when I hear him but as soon as the video finishes I lose the memory of the sound again.

Rowan had such an enormous energy about him – he exuded life. Even in death Rowie exudes life – he still has an incredible energy.

Shortly before the 2013 Catlins School Formal I was told to look for ‘the light’ in the photographs! I was extremely excited about this and I mentioned it to his friends. They reported back that they couldn’t see anything. I was saddened – I thought that Rowie was going to show up somehow.

Last week I visited an awesome friend who is spiritual to the max! She was showing me photographs that she had taken on her phone – there were little orbs of energy bouncing around all over them! These orbs were definitely not reflexions of flash lights or such phenomenon – they were amazing and unexplainable! She stopped suddenly and looked at me. She said – ‘he’s sent you an orb on your phone’! I looked at her in a perplexed sort of a way! She said ‘Rowie’ – ‘he’s sent you an orb’! I got my phone out. I don’t have many photographs on it – just the odd snap of ‘cocktail night’ that I post to Facebook! I trawled through them and sure enough, a photograph taken looking towards Rowie’s photographs on the dining table showed up an amazing light orb sitting on Yowling’s head (Rowie’s cat that always lies by Rowie’s photographs)! Chris, Francis, Maree and I have no explanation for this ‘orb’. There is nothing reflective there. There is no flash on my phone anyway. But sure enough there is an awesome light energy ball sitting there, proud as proud can be. Maybe those Catlins Formal photos did have something there but maybe we weren’t sure of what we were looking for at that stage!

I miss the hugs. Rowie was a very tactile soul. He loved physical contact. He was demonstrative to the max. He couldn’t manage a day without giving Chris and I a hug or two. He would hug Francis. He would hug his friends. He would hug the animals. Yep, Rowie was solid; not in the slightest bit reserved. He was immensely affectionate and not ashamed to show his love for us all.

I will never stop missing him. I reread the text conversations we had. I watch videos of him.

We are given today but never promised tomorrow…….make sure you tell all that matter to you that you love them.


Every encounter teaches us something and through our relationship with others we learn more about ourselves. There are people we like and people we dislike and we label them and the things they do as either good or bad. At some point in the past, the present or the future we have done or will do the very same things! The whole purpose of all relationships is to help us be more loving and compassionate and less judgemental (H.H. The Dalai Lama – bless him). Life has an amazing trick of giving you the lessons you need to learn (quite possibly because of a pre-birth contract). What we don’t love we become until we learn to love and accept it. I think this perception shows us how the judgements we make of others become the judgements others make about us.

Today :-
I accept others as they are.
I have compassion for everyone I encounter.
I choose to show kindness to myself and to others.

Affirmations – I’ve always thoughts of them as empty promises; things that in an ideal world would happen automatically. Sadly this world is far from perfect. The human race has filled itself with negative thoughts, fear, hurt and anger. The world around us is really only a reflection of what we as a race put out there. If we could accept and love ourselves as we are without condition and count our blessings and not our faults then there would follow an awesome transformation.

It is so easy to say, “well, what good is it me changing because I am only one person – I can’t change the world”. “One heart at a time” – that’s all it takes. We have all been brought up to believe that we have no power, and anyway, powerful people are unkind people – powerful people can’t find true unconditional love! This is a wonderful way of us avoiding taking responsibility for our actions because ‘it won’t make a difference’ – we fear criticism or rejection.

The sooner we take back the power, the more we will learn about how to use that power.

Sometimes the force of habit keeps us stuck and unaware of potentially healthier and happier choices at hand. Every moment gives us the option to open a different door and take a different course; whether it is in our thoughts, behaviours or major life decisions. It’s quite exciting really when you actually think about that statement!

Each day of our lives should be hugely exhilarating! Every single moment of every single day offers us an opportunity to open a different, more exciting, more rewarding, more inspirational, double-glazed door! We are the kingpins that are in control of our own lives – we rule them as a chief would. Don’t sit back and let others grab that power from you – there are so many options available to us and it’s time we took a wider look at things. As we consider the many life choices available, we’ll feel more and more empowered and motivated to make the decisions that bring happiness, strength and forward motion. Be conscious, be aware, be flexible and be willing to take new and different action now. Use that intuition that we have all been born with!

Rowan, the teacher (and The Lion King of course)! The past is behind us – let go of it. Let’s enjoy the forward journey and blessings that come our way.


Déjà vu – from French – literally “already seen”. This is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, whether it has actually happened or not.

We all experience déjà vu at some stage or another in our lives. Some of us experience it lots of times and others may experience only the once which is all the more memorable.

We class this experience in many ways: some of us may look on it as an anomaly of our memory; our memory playing tricks. Others may look on it as a precognition or a prophecy. Certain scientific folk speculate that the experience of déjà vu is possibly a ‘neurological irregularity related to improper electrical discharge in the brain’. A number of us believe in the possibility that these déjà vu experiences are connected to something spiritual, something remembered from past lives.

For many of us déjà vu seems to come from a place deep in our psyche, far deeper than brain oriented memories. When you have a ‘déjà vu’ experience it feels far more emotionally driven with an unexplainable ‘familiar’ type sensation accompanying it. It feels overwhelmingly different to anything else we meet in our normal day to day lives. It hits hard when it arrives but only stays with us for maybe 20 seconds before it disappears.

Can déjà vu be related to our past lives? I’m not sure that this explains the full-blown déjà vu experience that some of us feel. If it were so then the past-life experience would have to be a relatively recent one to feel so familiar in present day terms.

The way I see it is that the human brain only holds memories and information from this lifetime on planet Earth. Our Spirit or soul, however, is capable of having infinite memories. Otherwise there would be no point in us having an ‘eternal’ life if we retained no memories of past lives and experiences – this is what our journey of learning is all about.

I’m not sure if Rowan experienced a lot of déjà vu. I know he had several episodes and they fascinated him. He asked me to explain the phenomenon to him and I struggled to provide him with anything worthy of acceptance. I never really analysed this occurrence; I guess I just accepted it as something that happens. Once more Rowan pushes me to continue questioning and learning. I find it absolutely incredible that the loss of life of a young, vibrant young man like Rowan can affect mine and other peoples’ lives so profoundly.

I have met many people since his death who have taught me countless things. My journey, guided by him, has helped one or two other people along the way.

Is this what my life is all about?


Perhaps it is because yesterday was such a beautiful, warm, sunny day and today is so dull, wet and miserable. I feel a little sad today. I start thinking of quotes that I have heard over the last months; quotes that have so perfectly described my feelings during this time.

There are so many awesome sayings:

• Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity; the price we pay for loving and being loved.
• No person has the right to condemn you on how you repair your heart or how long you choose to grieve because no-one knows how much you’re hurting. Recovering takes time and everyone heals at his or her own pace.
• There is absolutely no time limit on grief so don’t rush yourself or let others rush you.
• My grief will last a lifetime. After a few weeks, the rest of the world moves on, but I’ll miss my baby for the rest of my life. That doesn’t mean I’m doomed to a life of sorrow. I am better for knowing him. He made me a better person.
• No matter what anybody says about grief and about time healing all wounds; the truth is, there are certain sorrows that never fade away until the heart stops beating and the last breath is taken.
• Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.
• Grief if not a process. There is no endpoint. It’s not something I’ll be ‘done’ with. It’s something I’m learning to live with.
• When you feel like you can’t go any further, just know that the strength which carried you this far will take you the rest of the way.
• How can you forget someone who gave you so much to remember.
• ………and once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.

all poignant; all emotive to the max.

My favourite, the one I find expresses how I feel nineteen months down the track is this:

Grief changes us. The pain sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly.

The healing is not about stopping missing the person we have lost. It’s about learning to live our lives WHILST missing them. The pain never really goes away – you just sort of make room for it in the storeroom and box it up!

Helen Keller said ‘What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us’. This is so true.

Rowan gave us so many memories. No-one can take those away. The cliff that took his life did not take those away. They are indelible – imprinted on our hearts and souls. We will take them with us to our death. And even though we have the memories, we still sometimes cry out for the physical – the hug, the high-five, the kiss.

The deepest pain and grief we can endure is the death of a child. When you lose your own child you lose something that you would inherently die to save. Grief is probably the toughest class we have to take here on earth. But death gives life a certain meaning – and when you lose someone as important as Rowie you suddenly realise what is actually important in life. Other problems just seem so trivial.

We have survived the storm. So much of the past nineteen months is a blur. One thing is absolutely clear though; we are not the same people as we were when we walked into the storm.