I have a grief quote that reads, “I long to ask the whys of you; the stories that I never knew.” At any time, you can rephrase this quote, and ask yourself, “What are my whys?” In a world with so many distractions, pressures, and expectations, stepping outside of it all and looking inward can guide you to realign, and live with meaningful intent.
A dear friend of mine, Patti DiMiceli, leads every facet of her life with this driving word, “Why?” She is the moving embodiment of wisdom. In 1980, her daughter, Amber, passed away at age 4 1/2 to cancer, and has remained an angel in her life. Patti has spent her days on earth tending to her own “why,” which is to spread Amber’s message of hope, heaven, and the miracle of life and death. Mother and angel have helped so many bereaved families.
Recently, I took a lovely forest walk with Patti. We hadn’t seen each other since before Covid, so it was a great comfort to stroll alongside her. Beneath the cascading sunlight and amidst the loyal trees, our souls spoke, at peace. Then, we did. We chatted about many things, like her amazing RV trip and “stay” in Florida, and what it means to be “brave.” Also, we addressed the recent release of my novel, Scarlet Oak. Patti is a fellow author. Her novel, Embrace the Angel, centers on her daughter’s passage from life to death, and is a truly powerful read.
Along the trail, I hoped to glean some insight from her, so that Scarlet Oak could spread her wings. At one point in our talk, Patti ceased walking. She turned to me with her bright eyes and heavenly aura, and asked, “Why did you write this book?”
I paused for a beat. My “why” felt buried beneath exhaustion (I struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and my past writing journey. You see, I had worked with agents on a different novel, and even rewrote it from page one to fit the market’s current need. Once I did so, it wasn’t my voice, or my story. After that experience, I resolved to write a novel uncensored and true to my soul. It became a second child, in a sense, Scarlet Oak. Deep down, I knew that I would ultimately need to walk my self-made path to publication. Still, this wasn’t all of my “why.”
In the presence of Patti and her love, the purest “why” flew to me . . .
I am a mom to a beautiful daughter named Summer. She has autism, a part of her. It was a long and heart-wrenching five-year road to diagnosis, during which time I witnessed specialists, educators, and the like, chunk her into categories of things she couldn’t do. I knew that my daughter was more than a check in a box, or a so-called disability. This journey felt clinical and soulless, as if life was already stacked up against her. Nowhere did it embody her worth as a human, unveil her soul, her spirit, her smile. And so, I wrote a book centered on seeing and feeling the soul of a child, first and foremost.
Patti nodded once I spoke my “why.” “That’s what I thought,” she said. She was well into the book as we had this conversation, naming it her nightly “guilty indulgence.”
Next, she advised me to make a connection with my community, conveying that she believes Scarlet Oak could help so many people. I originally created Mom Soul Soothers to speak to parents of children with special needs. My intent was to offer solace and connection, and, of course, my novel is an extension of this desire.
Still, I mentioned my concerns about how the story opens with a suicide. I worried that the material may read too dark for parents who already have a lot on their plates. But Patti reassured me that we all grapple with darkness. All of us. And she is right. My soul compelled me to write this story. The soul is never wrong, I believe.
So, yes, the story opens dark. From there, a tale of magic and realism unfolds, weaving together grief, hope, and love. Scarlet Oak also explores the delicate dance of keeping a child close, and letting go.
As our walk ended, Patti and I rested on a cozy blanket near the forest. We spoke of “being” rather than doing, and how expectations can be a kicker. Suddenly, she paused and stared past me.
“There’s Amber,” she said, “that leaf moving with the wind.”
I turned to see the sunlight brushing it, and how mother and daughter are forever interconnected. Amber is Patti’s divine “why.” Summer is mine. And we will forever share the wingspan of our daughters’ gifts.
Patti and I, you see, we were destined to meet. I spotted Patti in a post office days after I completed Scarlet Oak, a story at its core that deals with parents grieving the loss of a child, and learning to then see life anew. As I approached Patti with Summer, it felt as if we’d been circling each other’s sphere for a lifetime. Patti gazed at Summer for a long stretch. A moment. And she ultimately became the most wonderful friend, and a part of our family.
When I called Patti earlier this year to let her know my novel’s release date, February 28th, she went silent for a beat. I was curious as to her “why.” Softly, reverently, she whispered . . .
“February 28th is Amber’s birthday.”
A warm shiver traveled the length of my spine. It’s true. When you tap into your “why” the soul speaks, magic happens, and life moves with profound purpose.
And this is the truest magic. Amber and Summer look so much alike.
“There is mystery and then there isn’t.”
Answer your “why.” Let it inform you. Be well.
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Your moments here matter to me. Warm wishes and gratitude…always.