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PLAN B

Posted on August 8, 2016 at 8:40 PM

For so long now, it's been just Kevin and me on the conference circuit. We know the routine and the need to be flexible - shifting and adjusting for what is most needed at the time, and always having a back up plan. There is also the added gift of a synchronicity or two reminding me that my work has purpose and meaning, and that I am never alone.


This year, my daughter, Amber joined me as a first-time presenter for the sibling program at the 2016 Compassionate Friends Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. I couldn't have been more excited to have Amber with us and introduce her to my friends and colleagues.


Once we registered, we learned that Amber's workshop was not scheduled in a room with a projector, even though she had requested it. I should have known it wouldn't be so easy. After 15 years as a presenter for TCF, I thought I'd blazed a trail for Amber and hoped as "first-timer" she could present her workshop without a glitch. Needless to say, if it involves anything with computers, technology or scheduling at a TCF conference and it has my name on it, there will be a glitch! (I say that with humor and a wink to Alan)


My heart sank. I knew how important the visual piece would be to her presentation. Amber had written an insightful talk for the sibling workshop titled, A Year of Firsts, and paired it with a slideshow of photos from her childhood beginning at the age of eight-and-a half to illustrate her own year of "firsts" without Kevin. It was personal and interactive, and my experience told me it would make a tremendous impact on the sibling attendees.


Putting up a brave front, Amber's eyes brimmed with tears conveying her deep disappointment. All her enthusiasm and focus was obliterated by one glitch in the program. As a special education teacher working with students with autism, Amber has an innate skill-set of flexibility, compassion and calm that is admirable and inspiring. But this class was different - these were her people and she didn't want to let them down.


I immediately shifted into Fix-It Mom mode connecting her with the appropriate people. Adam, the tech man for the conference did the best he could with what he didn't have. I'd been down this road too many times and it didn't look good. It was time for a back-up plan.


While Amber was attending a workshop, I went back to the room to consider the options. It was evident there was only one - create three rows of half circles and set up my laptop with the larger screen for a more intimate viewing. It could work!


Later, Amber and I returned to the room where I enthusiastically laid out the plan! Amber wasn't buying it and broke down in tears. My heart went out to her. I remembered my first time and the immense pressure I felt to give my peers hope and something worthwhile to take home. I hugged her and said something about being flexible and open to what it could be.


Intuitively, I knew that something bigger was in play. It wouldn't matter how many times she rearranged the room or what size screen she used. Amber was being asked to let go and trust that she would be given everything she needed when she needed it most. In an act of faith, Amber would have to surrender all that she had planned to make space for grace to enter the room. There was nothing more I was supposed to do but be present to Amber and lift her up.


On cue, the first sibling bravely walked through the door, alone and expectant. "Grace" was nine-years-old, open and already seasoned in her grief.


Unassuming, Amber instinctively connected with her nine-year-old counterpart in grief. With great empathy, Amber created a space of trust and respect for Grace to be at ease. Reaching out, they met on common ground and began to fill the empty space between them with story-telling and imagery. They were a generation apart and yet "sisters' who shared an understanding beyond their years.


No longer needed, I slipped out unnoticed by the other siblings filing into the room. It was another "first" for me. I knew this time I couldn't back as planned to "check" on Amber as I had throughout our 25 year journey. Witnessing synchronicity in action was magical. It filled my heart with joy to know that my girl was not alone.


It's all about that back up plan. Plan B is about being present to the greater plan so that grace can move freely for transformative healing to occur.



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