Her Daughter Got My Daughter’s Heart — a Tale of Two Mothers

Amera two weeks after her transplant.

This week I did a podcast episode that is particularly personal  for me. In it, I have the privilege of interviewing the mother of Amera, the young woman who received my daughter Teal’s heart and kidney after her death.

As one mother to another, Debi and I certainly connect out of simple empathy for the path of motherhood. And we are both happen to be people who love to laugh, and enjoy a good chat. In fact, we genuinely like each other!

But we are also people who started out as total strangers, only to become inextricably linked on August 24, 2012. On that fateful day, Amera, Debi’s daughter, received Teal’s heart and kidney after 20 hours of surgery. Debi’s description of how beautiful Amera looked after the first phase of surgery, when she received her new heart, is breathtaking. For all around Amera, there was a shimmering, sparkling glow.

I say it’s the same glow I’d felt only a week earlier as I connected with Teal’s sparkling, shimmery essence in the afterlife for the first time. It was as effervescent and light as a cloud of champagne bubbles. And yes, just as Debi describes in the podcast, it was, indeed, glowing.

So we have become connected through destiny, karma, or whatever you wish to call it.

We are mothers who know what it’s like to sit by the side of your daughter’s bed, fearing her imminent death. And we are mothers who learned such decisions are not up to us, and so we both had to learn when to fight … and when to surrender.

Today, we are mothers whose DNA is shared in the body of one extraordinary young woman. And we are definitely better for this shared connection, as we both watch Amera thrive in the Cardiac Sonography program she is taking at … yes … the very same college Teal was about to start when she collapsed.

My path with Debi has been a really interesting one, because we didn’t even know each other until about three months ago. It was not until five years after Teal’s death that we all finally felt like we could meet. So we met at Ocean Beach, the very place where we scattered Teal’s ashes – which was Amera’s idea.

That night was an experience I’ll never forget. Of course, there were tears. But there was also a recognition of something so much bigger at work here. Especially when I played a video for them of Teal singing ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. “I feel like I know her,” Amera said simply after she watched the video. There was a basic, beyond-logic recognition for all of us of the God-sent nature of our connection.

Perhaps this is just a very vivid illustration of the connection we all share — the oneness we know about and yet, somehow, seldom glimpsed.

Amara is a thoughtful and highly sensitive young woman with an amazing life ahead of her.  That much I’m sure of. And as for me and Debi … well, we’ve both been through the ringer, but we agree that we have emerged better for it. Our experiences have been remarkably similar, as this episode will tell you if you choose to listen.

If you do, you’ll hear how Amera made her way with congestive heart failure for more than seven years, until it got to the point where she had to wear a wearable defibrillator vest — to shock her back to life in case she suddenly collapsed.

You’ll also hear what it was like for Debi knowing her daughter’s death was always in the shadows … until her life was finally saved because of my own daughter’s death.

It’s a conversation filled with hardship, hope, light and a lot of love.

I recommend you listen to this when you have a moment, and really get into the idea that we are all truly interconnected. Every last one of us. Even those of us who do not know each other at all. It’s a pretty wild concept when you think about it, and organ donation makes that truth extraordinarily clear.

Enjoy. Listen to the podcast here.

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

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My New Satirical Novel is Out … WHAT?

Okay, admit it. You are used to thinking of me as a warm, vulnerable, touchy-feely sort of blogger who shares her deepest stuff. Right? And yet …

I’m also a novelist who writes quirky, funny, page-turning spy thrillers

Along with my collaborator, Jack Harvey, we created a series called Transformed. In it we like to highlight unusual characters in uncommon situations with intricate plots. Like this – – the third in our series.

Transformed: POTUS is a funny satire the takes on the US presidency. In it the first post-Trump president is a sex addict to likes to spend his time off not in Camp David, but in Vegas.

Problems ensue when it becomes clear that our president can’t seem to hang onto the nuclear biscuit with the gold codes on it. He just keeps losing the damn thing.

The action centers on Charley, the spy who’s assigned to keep bad actors out of the President’s midst — and who seriously has his hands full.

Want to read a free tidbit? Click here! And you can check out the full book here.

Viva … Las Vegas?

Yeah baby!

How I Tamed My Wild, Creative, Distractible Brain (without Drugs) and Began Getting More Done

I don’t know about you, but I have had a very big case of wandering brain. So much so, that it kept me from developing into my full potential in much of my adult life.

Some might call this a case of ADD, but I never thought of it that way. I always felt it was part the celestial seasoning that peppers my brain. It’s just the way I am. Which is not to say I couldn’t use a little help.

The great news is that over the last few years I’ve learned to rein in this wild, rambling brain of mine. I attribute a lot of this to meditation, the soothing balm that helps all of us slow down, calm down, and chill out.

Once I began a regular meditation practice of only 15 minutes every day, I felt more grounded and relaxed in my body most of the time. I also discovered I could be much more present for other people. Even better, I found myself forgiving myself for little things that once caused me great stress and annoyance.

Once meditation was solidly on board, the path got even more interesting. I discovered my wandering brain could be reined in by using binaural beats in my headphones while I worked. If you’re not equated with binaural beats, they are a very cool wave technology that activates both hemispheres of the brain to work in sync more effectively.

This can be extremely helpful for insomnia, relaxation, and focusing. The beats sound like a rhythmic, slightly dramatic sort of drumming … yet they are subtle enough to hide behind a gentle rainfall, or soothing music. They are weirdly addictive once you get used to them.

A friend turned me onto a website called brain.FM that has really been revolutionary for me. (Brain.fm includes several different kinds of binaural beats that you can sign up for on an annual subscription. A pretty good coupon is available here.)

The first time I used binaural beats, I remember I was sitting in a café in Oakland. Suddenly, the world around me dimmed out. Gone were the chatting twenty-somethings, the driving café music, the endless stream of gluten free treats going by. Instead … it was just me and my work.

I dug in. Then I looked up an hour later. I had just completed something I’d been avoiding for days, and I sat there in amazement, looking over my work. Damned if it didn’t work!

Using binaural beats has been great fun for me as I now work every day with greater focus and ease. It’s just … easy! Even the hard stuff.

So I was delighted to find out that Eben Alexander, an author I highly respect, has used binaural beats to crank out his own stockpile of books. Turns out he and his collaborator, Karen Newell, have also been using and developing binaural beats in their teachings for others as well.

Notably, they use the beats for an interesting sort of everyday transcendence, claiming it helps them travel to the other side, and connect more deeply with their spiritual guidance. I love that! After all, who doesn’t want to travel to the other side on a regular basis? I sure do.

(If you want to catch last week’s podcast interview with Eben Alexander, click hereKaren Newell  is our guest on Before the Afterlife this week.) 

If you consider yourself a ‘brain adventurer’ – or even a procrastinator — why not get yourself a pair of good headphones, and start to dig into the vast and incredible world of binaural beats to sooth and work with the brain. You’ll accomplish more, feel more relaxed, and who knows where you’re going to travel?

If you have your own fun experiences or resources for binaural beats to share, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you think!

 

 

 

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

Do You Know Your Place in the World? (And Why It Matters)   

Do you know where you stand among the seven billion people who live on this planet?  

It’s an interesting question, especially for us overfed Westerners. For me, it’s been a long, slow journey to understand that there actually are other people in the world.  

It’s like this great old New Yorker cover, painted by Saul Steinberg. 

To the average myopic New Yorker, the world beyond the Hudson River is a narrow stretch of corn belt followed by a shred of California, the Pacific, then far, far away … the rest of the world.  

In the busy swirl of our lives, can we seriously take the time to wonder about, say, the million-plus migrants trying desperately to save their own lives? Or the hundreds of girls and women Boko Haram abducted who are being forced to become suicide bombers?  

How about the homeless and destitute right here in our own home towns? Or the millions of young black men trapped in the school to prison pipeline? Can we really ‘get’ what they are going through? 

Do we even really care? 

Our crafty minds kick in: why should we care? That’s happening somewhere else, maybe a million miles away.  

It’s really not our concern, we tell ourselves. 

Truthfully, it’s not time or even distraction that’s the issue here. We remain myopic to the dilemmas of the rest of the world because in the Western world, we live in a highly privileged society. Our needs are met. We have abundant food, homes, water. We have shopping malls, air conditioning, fast food and catering apps. We have time to listen to the news, fret about politics or global warming, and attend protests. 

Not surprisingly, millions of people would love to be in our shoes.  

It is painful to acknowledge this, because to do so brings up stuff: a sense of privilege, and the shadowy feeling that it is not earned. Then there’s entitlement and guilt.  

We’d have to acknowledge all the suffering in the world, which is vast.  

And we are small. 

How can we possibly hold all this pain? A feeling of complete and utter hopelessness washes over us when we consider it … So we pull out our phones to see who called, or texted, or emailed, or pinged us on social media. We consider a quick game of Words With Friends. 

We avoid the singular awareness that we are part of a vast sea of humanity – one that shares common problems across the globe, as well as the local ones. 

That awareness, once truly seized, invites a sense of responsibility. Once we are touched by truly understanding another person’s plight, our hearts open up. We can’t help it — it’s simply what we do. 

Here’s what is truly interesting: it turns out we are all suffering 

That’s what being a human is really all about.  

While we may not be suffering on the scale of a displaced migrant who’s lost everything and has been living in a refugee camp for the last year, we may be living in an empty marriage. Or our children won’t speak to us. Or we’re sick, or our parents are sick … or our …  

You get the point.  

Within that chrysalis of suffering, we are all being re-formed. Like precious metal we are being melted down, and so can once again live, free from our prior restraints. This is what suffering actually does for us. 

For me, I emerged from my own period of huge loss with my senses on high alert. Now I’m still basically raw, even though it’s been more than five years since my daughter’s death. So … yeah. Now I do feel my place in the world, and all the responsibility that comes with it. I’m hoping I always will. 

It’s like being an overly peeled onion. So I feel far, far more connected to the rest of my fellow denizens of this planet.  

At the same time, I’m no longer caught in my own little survival scenario. The bottom already dropped out once, so now there’s room to stop, breathe and look around. This is the true privilege of crisis. 

When you realize this, your own story becomes a bore. Meanwhile, the rest of the world matters far more than you could have expected. For me, I’ve become aware of something far bigger than just me — the fantastic web of humanity that surrounds us all.  

It’s true. We are all connected: You, me and the guy who just gave us the finger on the highway. Likewise for our IRS auditor, our kid’s homeroom teacher, and an incarcerated person on the other side of the city you will probably never know.  

They matter just like we matter. How do I know this?  

Sometimes, just occasionally, I read the paper and I cry. That’s really all I have to go on. 

Today, just for a moment, try to imagine that you are far more powerful than you realize. That your big, beating heart really can help save the world, in some small, considered way. And that you are intrinsically connected to every other person under the sun. 

All you have to know is where you stand in this great cosmic web of life. It is, indeed, a place of power. 

 

 

 

Are you a listener of Suzanne Falter’s Before the Afterlife Podcast?

We welcome you into the Before the Afterlife Facebook  Group! This is a place where you can discuss your thoughts and feelings after listening each new episode or really at any time you feel so inclined! We want to make this a relaxed hangout and a safe space where you can share your hopes and fears, lessons and questions, cravings and frustrations. Join here.

Five Years After My Meltdown; What Mid Life Crisis Teaches Us

As many of you know, I have been on a guided path as direct as a speeding bullet for the last five years since the death of my daughter, Teal. And I’m happy to report there has been much progress.

For much of that time this ‘speeding bullet’ meandered here and there. Most of the time I had no idea where it was leading me; I just knew that it was.

Turns out this meandering path is entirely about spiritual growth. You see it again and again in stories big and small. Most of the world’s great spiritual leaders passed through such a time of testing. Jesus, for one, wandered in the
Judean desert for forty days and night, said a big fat no to temptation, and came back more surrendered than ever to his path.

My own father, John Falter, an artist known for his many Saturday Evening Post covers, crashed and burned in his early fifties after magazines began to use photography.

During those confusing years, I can remember the stress in his face as he attempted to get work to feed our family. He tried everything – chalk talks in the manner of Mark Twain.

Humorous engraved prints which he had printed by the thousands. Even an animated dog food commercial. None of which came to anything.

Eventually, after five lost, wandering years, my father was reborn as a successful painter of American history. That became his path, his contribution, his legacy — and one of his greatest passions.

The final phase of his career fell into perfect alignment with who he was, at his core. And, I say, helped him to complete his purpose in this lifetime.

This midlife crisis path always appears to be about life change, but really it’s about faith. Can we surrender to the idea that we need to change, and that this is all for something bigger? Can we accept we are being changed in a
way that can only be beneficial … even if it hurts a hell of a lot on the way?

Doubt abounds. Can we make it? Will we implode, never to be heard from again? How will we keep body and soul together?

We have only one job at such times. Stay true to ourselves, no matter what. Woe to those who do not listen! The older we are, the more treacherous it is to stray from this uncertain path.

In my own crash and burn period I tried twice to resurrect my old business, even though it no longer reflected my values, and even though I knew it was a mistake. It was something – anything — I could chase after in the face of
uncertainty. Yet, when I did those launches, the result was clear. My site

Yet, when I did those launches, the result was clear. My site was hacked into five times in two weeks. All the purchasers refunded. My work was dead in the water. Yet again … I surrendered.

My daughter Teal’s death and all the other losses I experienced during this time showed me that it’s the unknowability of the path that makes it both hard and healing.

By not knowing, for instance, how I would make money, I had to trust. I trusted that my instinct to stop my business coaching was right, and that this would lead, eventually, to the right thing. First, I needed to shift back to a place of greater alignment, before the better work could arrive.

Ultimately, that trust has been rewarded. When I was ready – at the two year point, and not a moment sooner — writing jobs dropped in my lap out of nowhere. They provided fun work and a steady income, and a way to ease back into working.

Then I began to get hired – again out of nowhere – to speak to national audiences about self-care and my experiences as a Donor Mom. Now I’ve begun to distill these learnings into a memoir, corporate workshops, and an upcoming online learning program.

Yet, even better, I’ve had the opportunity to detach from all my pre-conceived ideas of ‘success’, fame and fortune. Instead, I have simply focused on what’s happening here and now. So I discovered the incredible release of old
internal pressures to overwork and ‘push through’.

Over the last five years, I learned to live simply, spend my money consciously, and cut out all the old excesses. My desire for that nightly glass of Chardonnay disappeared right along with the need to throw money at high-end consultants who will ‘save me’.

Turns out the answers are all right here, as they have always been. A beautiful walk in the hills of Oakland as the sun is setting is just a rewarding as a pricey concert ticket or a fancy dinner out.

On this path, I don’t have to be anyone other than me. I don’t have to sway millions to buy my info products. I don’t have to even become a household name. Instead, I simply have to stay true to what feels right, and keep looking for ways to serve.

Ironically, for the first time in my life, I now understand true ‘enoughness’. I am enough, I have enough, and I do enough. And that is simply bliss.

Our spiritual paths in moments of crisis are all about being willing to not know, and show up in full willingness anyway. This act of surrender allows the Universe to meet you full on, wrap its arms around you and carry you through.

And so you discover that you are not alone, and that every midlife meltdown does indeed have a much bigger purpose in your life. If any of this sounds familiar, or you’re facing a crisis of your own, I urge you to trust it.

Your meltdown will lead you exactly where you need to go.

 

 

 

P.S.

And why do I focus on life lessons? Because, hey, that’s what it’s all about … right? Hence my invitation for the following guest, Deepak Romala. Listen to our conversation here…