Tributes to Terri…

“Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.”
James Taylor

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Nicole, Amy, Terri, and Maureen

 

 

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I woke up this morning “filled” with all that is/was Terri. In my dreams. In my heart. In my soul.

James Taylor’s song, playing in my head.

So, on this New Year’s Eve, take a moment to remember our Warrior through the eyes of three of her BFF’s; Nicole, Irene and Amy…

A Poem From Nicole…

HIGH FLIGHT

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

“Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds —

and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of —

wheeled and soared and swing high in the sunlit silence.

Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along

and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

 

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

and…while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

the high untrespassed sanctity of space,

put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

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Irene’s Tribute

28 years encompasses a whole lot of memories with my best friend Terri.

It was always Terri’s kind soul, her openness, her ability to make new friends wherever she went, and her fun and adventurous spirit that I admired most about her throughout our lifelong friendship. People were inexplicably drawn to her, as was I. Her zest for living in the moment and hunting down life’s adventures were so apparent and infectious even way back in high school. I remember one particular choir trip down to California. Terri and I convinced a few of our very straight and narrow choir friends to sneak out of our hotel rooms after bed check and party it up all night. We even hitchhiked part way back to the hotel in the back of a pickup truck with some random cute guys. I know…seriously…what were we thinking? But that was who Terri was. That’s who she and I were together…Adventuresome. She lived in the moment and her love of life positively radiated to those that surrounded her.

I also very clearly remember the day that we both decided to ditch our stable careers at IBM and Ogilvy Advertising in search of more foreign adventures. Terri called me up one day at work as we did whenever we were bored and said, “Where are we going next?” We’d both been talking about wanting to see Asia for a little while. I said, “If you’re ready to ditch your job and go give teaching ESL in Taiwan a try then let’s do it together.” Terri’s response was, “Are you serious Reen?” And I said, “Hell ya! When are we ever going to have another chance in our lifetime to do this together?” And that was it. Within the next few months we had both quit our jobs, drove across the country and flew out of Vancouver to Taiwan, ready to embark on our latest exploration into Asia.

There are so many other stories I could share with you about my adventures with Terri. But I think the final most important one was the leap we took together into this crazy journey we call motherhood.   There was no way I was entering this next stage of life without my bestie right there beside me. So what does any good girlfriend do when they don’t want to fly solo? We planned on having our kids at the same time. And you know what? The powers that be allowed it. My eldest daughter Kaya and Marisa were born a mere 3 months apart. What more could I have asked for than to have experienced one of life’s greatest gifts, motherhood, with one of my closest and dearest friends. I see so much of us in those two beautiful girls. I see Terri’s open and loving nature; as well as wisdom beyond her years in Marisa’s eyes. I also see a natural ease of friendship between these two girls despite the geographical distance and sporadic visits.

When I had the honour of visiting Terri just a month ago, there were two things that she whispered to me while we were sharing a quiet moment together. The first was, she told me to be the best mom that I could be. The second was that she wanted our girls to know each other. I plan on honouring Terri in both.

Terri, you have always been my best friend, my confidante and my sister from another mother. I will miss you like no other but like you said to me just a few short weeks ago, “I’ll see you when I see you”. And I know that knowing you…I’ll be seeing you in the most unexpected places while you move on to your next adventure.

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Amy’s Tribute

Hello, for those of you who don’t know me my name is Amy, and I’ve known Terri for as long as I can remember. I, along with Maureen, were lucky enough to grow up in the Patton Street neighborhood where Nana lived and Spider and Jeanne chose to send Luanna each summer. I will forever be grateful that they made that decision.

As I tried to figure out what to say about Terri and how to reflect on a lifetime of friendship, I realized that the idea of summer is, in some ways, the perfect metaphor for her. First of all, everybody loves summer and everyone I know who met Terri, loved her. Like the summer sun, she enveloped you in her warmth and she shined, she radiated, love, peacefulness, and grace. And, like most of us know, summers are always too short and are gone before we’re ready for them to be over.

So you have to pack a lot of things into the time you have and Terri was able to do that. She travelled the world, lived in the city that she loved, became a social worker, met amazing people, fell in love with the man of her dreams, started a beautiful family, and became a writer. Though not the writer she imagined, her blog has inspired, moved, and motivated people across the world.

She taught us all what’s important: to make the most of every moment, to live fully. In the short time that Terri was here, she blazed bright. And though we all wish we could have more time with her, I am so thankful that those summers forged a friendship that will live on through my memories and the friendship that our children will continue to have.

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Last but certainly not least, as you contemplate the new year before you, consider these words from Terri Luanna written on her spiritual pilgrimage to Europe a year ago.

Sure to inspire, Terri’s wisdom and joy de vivre offers each of us a  bold blueprint for a life truly worth living…

Happy New Year,

auntie L

 

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Terri’s “Big Idea”

“Why not think big? Dream big?

People may not get you- but the dreamers are the ones who change the world. When you honor yourself, everyone benefits.

Better to be true to yourself. Be different. Be unique. Honor your truth.

So dance. Love. Pray. Travel. Meditate. Learn. Grow.

Be inspired and inspire others. Be good to yourself and others. Find the beauty in life. Nurture you soul.

The time has come…”

Tributes To Terri…

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“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased.”

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon

Spider Robinson

 

 

 

On this bittersweet Christmas Eve, my heart and soul ache for the loss of my beloved niece…

I have learned over these last few weeks that my brother-in-law, Spider, was right. So, in an attempt to lessen my pain and increase my joy, I will be sharing excerpts from our phenomenal Celebration of Terri’s Life over the next few weeks. I hope it provides you comfort and inspires you to celebrate this holiday season wrapped in the warm embrace of your loved ones.

Terri Luanna da Silva

Welcome to our Celebration of Life for our beloved Terri Luanna da Silva, also lovingly known as our gracefulwomanwarrior. Today’s service, brought to you in true Rubbicco style, promises to be an extraordinary tribute to an extraordinary woman, full of powerful music, inspiring words, laughter as well as tears, and most importantly, per Terri’s request, dancing.

Marisa has her fabulous new rainbow dress on and her IPOD is ready to go. So we promise you, Terri, we will get this party started, just as you wanted.

But first… A few words about my incredible niece.

Where to begin…

Terri was my niece, my daughter, my sister and my friend. She was one of the most remarkable, brave, gifted, radical, compassionate and inspirational human beings I have ever known. She lived her life with a level of grace, compassion and a compelling wisdom that is very rare. And in doing so, inspired people all over the world.

And I do mean all over the world. The overwhelming reaction and response to Terri’s passing is truly mind blowing, to use a phrase frequently used by my sister, Jeanne. Blog comments, letters, and donations are pouring in from all over the world; Australia, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, Amsterdam.

And even… Macy’s department store at our very own North Dartmouth Mall.

I kid you not.

The other night, in an attempt to escape the ever present grief that consumes me, I decided to head to the mall for some retail therapy. I passed by a woman in the shoe department and our eyes locked for just a second. I smiled, as did she, and I moved along. A few minutes later I turned and there she was.

“Are you Dori’s sister?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I thought so. I’ve seen you on Facebook.”

She hesitated for the briefest of moments, then said, “I had to come over and tell you how sorry I was about your niece’s passing.”

Tears sprung to my eyes.

“Thank you,” I replied, touched beyond belief. “I can’t tell you how glad I am you reached out to me.”

“No, thank you,” she answered. “I don’t know what it was, but I just felt I needed to come over to you.”

“It was Terri.” I said.

She smiled. “I’m sure it was. I can’t begin to tell you how inspired I was by your niece’s story. And by your family. You let us all in during such an unbelievably difficult time. We have such a hard time talking about death and you and your niece did it so beautifully. I just had to come over to tell you how deeply her story has affected my life.”

I went on to tell her how we plan to publish Terri’s blog, and as we talked more, our serendipitous connections continued to unfold as we made more and more connections around our work and our kids.

All thanks to Terri.

But that’s what our warrior did best. Connect. And she encouraged, no, she insisted, that we do so as well. And through that gift of connection, of unconditional love and light, she will live on. Through each and every one of us.

But most importantly, Terri will live on through her greatest legacy of all, the Magical Miss M. Marisa, you continue to amaze your Auntie Laurie with your fabulous sense of style, your crazy, silly, creative videos, your amazing dance moves, your ingenious imagination, and your magical presence. Like your mother, Terri, her mother, Nana Canada, and your Nana Nana, you live and love deeply. Auntie so looks forward to keeping Mamae’s love of life and adventure alive with you.

In closing, I want to say thank you to you, Terri, for welcoming me into your journey- of life, of parenting, of grief, of marriage, of friendship, of cancer, and of the special bond we have shared since the day you were born.

Love, auntie L

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Hubby and Nana Nana

Hubby and Nana Nana

Kids craft table

Kids craft table

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auntie L and grandpa

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Balloon Launch Message from Miss M- “Thank you for all of your love, Mamae…”

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Final Gifts

Our Warrior gracefully and peacefully journeyed “home” on Friday, December 5th, at 12:41 p.m…

Choreographing right up until the moment of her death, Terri Luanna waited for her beloved husband to arrive. Then, as in all she did in her brief life, Terri passed gracefully and in peace, surrounded by all who loved her dearly.

Terri also ensured Miss M was partaking in a fabulous adventure with auntie L at the time of her death, making sure I was almost home before Heron called to tell me that her time was imminent.

I was not destined to be by Terri’s side, literally, but rather to “unpack” her mother’s leave-taking as we had done with her mother’s cancer journey. The recurring message from our Warrior? Live life fully amidst the pain and heartache…

Heron drove to my home later that afternoon, where he found Miss M and her “favorite cousin” (her words!), Jamie, listening to their favorite pop music and doing art work between dance moves. Papai took Marisa upstairs to share the news. Soon after, they joined the rest of the O’Neil clan and it was Miss M, child of her mother, who again taught the grown ups that life does in fact go on.

Papai gave Marisa the blue light necklace from hospice, beautifully explaining its significance as he peeled off the paper, releasing a bright, iridescent blue glow.

“It will stay blue for 3 days because that is how long it will take Mamae to travel to heaven. She will always be with us and will visit us in our dreams.”

It was unbelievably heart wrenching to witness, but such an honor to call this incredibly loving family my own…

A few minutes later, Marisa asked about the play we were supposed to attend. Her “O’Neil cousin”, Lauren, was “starring in” (Marisa’s words again), our high school’s rendition of Scrooge and Marley, and Marisa had come home with me to see Lauren  make her stage debut.

“Do you still want to go?” I asked.

To which she replied,  “Yes!”

Of course she did… She is her mother’s daughter after all.

As soon as she arrived home, she melted into her Papai’s arms and went up to bed where he hung their blue light to watch over them while they slept. In the morning. Heron told me he held her close, telling her how much he loved her and how lucky they were to have been loved by Mamae. Then he kissed her cheek, she kissed his, and together, they blew a kiss to Mamae which they have done each morning since Terri’s passing…

On Saturday, we all gathered in CT.

To remember. To grieve. To celebrate.

And Terri continued to scatter her “Final Gifts”…

There was one in the red cardinal her friend Patty saw outside her kitchen window at 12:45 on Dec. 5th.

Another in the perfectly timed Happy Song that played 3 times in the car with Marisa the day she died.

And one of my favorites, the dance party Miss M orchestrated on Saturday, insisting we all dance to Mamae’s favorite “New York” song by Alicia Keys and Jay Z.

Our Warrior will be remembered most for her voracious and passionate love of life, her boundless compassion, and her deep and abiding faith in the innate goodness of human kind. The world is a better place because of Terri’s legacy of strength, hope, and commitment to living life to it’s fullest. Her indomitable spirit will live on in all of us; the people all over the world whose lives she touched…

Terri had one wish when asked how she wanted us to commemorate her life.

“I want a party and dancing…” Simple as that.

So that’s what we are giving her.

She also wants her ashes scattered in her beloved NYC as well as a commemorative bench in Astoria Park. This celebration will be open to all of you, her beloved army of soldiers, who bore witness to, accompanied and cherished our beloved Warrior.

We have set up a new gracefulwomanwarrior Memorial Fund via GoFundMe at gofund.me/icqknk, which will be used to fund Miss M’s education and cover any remaining medical expenses. A new button will be installed on this page (as soon as I can get auntie D over here to do it!)

In the mean time, please know that together, we will continue to keep Terri’s story and her legacy alive…

Love, auntie L

Celebrating Terri...

Celebrating Terri…

Visions…

The sun is rising and our Warrior is sleeping soundly beside me.

It has been a powerful week with our girl. Things have shifted in the last 48 hours…

I stayed over Tuesday night. It’s uncanny how in the wee hours of the morning, usually between 4-5 a.m., Terri and I have the most profoundly intimate interludes…

That morning she looked at me and said, “There’s these 2 Coast Guard guys.”

I said, “Tell me about them.”

“They’re nice… Good looking.”

“Are they dressed in white?”

“Yes, and they really like the ladies.”

“I bet that’s my Dad and Uncle Frank. They were in the Merchant Marines. Nana always said they loved the ladies. I think that’s your grandfather, Terri…”

“Yeah, I bet it is.”

I asked her if Jeanne had come and she said no…

We went on to talk about “home”. She said she felt like she had found a new “home”. I wholeheartedly agreed, citing the loving, compassionate care she is receiving; reflexology, reiki and massage at her fingertips,  a beautiful room filled with light and lovingly decorated by Miss M, friends and loved ones dropping by.

auntie Cole and I were up late that night talking, and talking and talking… Terri’s devoted BFF has not left her side and doesn’t plan to. We both wondered about what Terri was waiting for. Because that day she was clearly not ready to go.

She told Nicole she wanted to see Marisa. So on my way to see Terri on Tuesday I stopped and shared a magical bedtime hour with Marisa.

We sat together at Mamae’s altar, re-enacting how Mamae sat on her pillow, talking about what mediation is and prayer. About how Mamae will always be with her. That Mamae wanted to see her. So we made plans for me to pick her up after school the next day.

Then we read When Someone is Very Sick, a workbook to help children understand end of life. Marisa furiously worked on a drawing for her “special person who is sick” on the car ride to see Mamae.

I asked her to tell me about it. It was her and Mamae, with vibrant, bright colors, a sun shining and birds flying. Mame’s dress was particularly beautiful. The bottom was filled with flowers. I asked what was at the top.

“An x.”

“For love and kisses?”

“Yes. And for God.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Although things started shifting for Terri Wednesday- lots of sleeping and glimpses into the other side, Marisa and Mamae had a lovely visit.

As I danced with auntie Cole to the “Happy Song” Marisa played for Mamae, I caught a glimpse of Terri’s arm, gracefully “dancing” in the air. Just as her mother’s had from her couch, the week before she died.

On my way home I put on my playlist from Jeanne’s Memorial. Shed a few tears but mostly felt numb.

Then, “Will You Still Love Me” came on. That is our “Jeanne song”, the one the five sisters sang to our mother whenever we gathered.

Then it played again… And again… And again… It played continuously, for almost 30 minutes, until I pulled into my driveway. During that time I communed with my beloved sister and her daughter, at times raging at the fates and at Jeanne’s inability to “save” Terri. But in the end, I pleaded with her to enfold her daughter in her love.

Things are shifting. Since Marisa’s visit Terri has been sleeping mostly. She occasionally asks us things like, “Are the papers ready?” “Does everybody trust everybody else?” She also told auntie Cole, “It’s so beautiful…”

Visions are the order of the day.

Together, we are all bearing witness to our Warrior’s incredibly courageous journey…

Love to all,
auntie L and Team Terri

popsicle cheers!

popsicle cheers!

A MESSAGE FROM TERRI…

auntie L here

My beloved niece has asked me to speak on her behalf. Sitting next to her in Chicago as she painstakingly “wrote” her last post, LIFE AND DEATH, was truly a humbling experience. She has been using a voice recognition program for some time, and that post took her 3 hours to complete. I offered numerous times to type for her, but the writing process is a deeply personal experience.

So I sat next to her, tears flowing, bearing witness to her compelling message.

And now, Terri has a new message…

In the end, our Warrior settled into a new “home” at the incredibly loving Weiss Hospice and Palliative Care Unit at Middlesex Hospital. The pure grace, compassion and comfort provided by the staff and volunteers in this exceptional place are truly like no other. Positive energy abounds.

Amidst the inevitable pain and discomfort of Terri’s disease…

The rehab we landed in after our miraculous Angel Med Flight was only to be a stepping stone for Terri. Team Terri (as we now call ourselves) was destined to take an incredibly frustrating journey from Mystic to Weiss. Suffice it to say, our medical system is infuriatingly inept at managing the “in between” transition from life to death. But I’ll save that dissertation for another day.

After much soul searching, our Warrior chose to move into a space of comfort and love, combined with the best quality of life attainable, in order to embrace and cherish those she loves in her time remaining.

So many things have happened since we moved here a little over a week ago. Within the incredibly heart wrenching emotions of this difficult journey with our beloved Warrior, the pure love is almost indescribable…

Like the moment I walked into miss M’s classroom to volunteer on her mother’s behalf and her face lit up with a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Or the tears of love and loss her hubby and I shared as we looked ahead at how to carry on Terri’s legacy of love for her daughter.

A 66th birthday celebration for grandpa form Terri’s room, officiated by none other than miss M.

A steady stream of her dearest, closest family and friends, surrounding Terri with light and love accompanied by deeply intimate exchanges.

A Thanksgiving overflowing with gratitude, love, family, music, beauty and sorrow within this end of life journey with our beloved Terri Luanna.

Terri told me that night she felt she was moving closer to dying…

She described it as feeling like she imagines dementia might feel, and she said I needed to tell all of you about it.

I asked her what she wanted you to know and she said, “Tell them it isn’t scary…”

She says it’s also a bit confusing and very “busy”. Lots of images, people, dreams and a sort of veil of uncertainty between realty and “something other”. Especially while she is sleeping. Which she is doing a lot of these days.She wondered out loud if she’s “seeing” so much because she’s lived and traveled to so many places and if folks who live in the same place all their lives have a different experience…

She is also having lots of “visitors”. After a Reiki session she turned to me and asked, “Are Daniels’s parents passed?” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “They were just here.” She told auntie Cole that same day that Nicole’s father had visited her the  night before, inviting her to sit with him on the porch. That is exactly where Nicole spent many cherished moments with her deceased father.

But in the end, it was her bodhisattva daughter, miss M, child of her mother and grandmother, Jeanne, who provided the ultimate gesture of love…

After decorating practically every surface of her mother’s room with her stupendous art work, then preforming dance after dance on Thanksgiving eve (much to her mom and dad’s delight!), miss M lovingly whispered in her mother’s ear while saying good night, “I’m sorry you have to die, Mamae…”

No tears. Just a rare moment of enlightenment we can all take a lesson from.

Terri wants you to know she is surrounded literally and figuratively by all of you who love her. She feels your love, compassion and strength each and every day.

She wants to thank each and every one of you who helped bring her “home”. And she welcomes your continued prayers, positive energy and support in the days ahead…

Love, auntie L and Team Terri

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Our miraculous Angel Med Flight

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family loving…

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