There is an ancient story that I have heard and shared many times over the years. I pull it out whenever someone mentions that something that has happened to them or someone they know as ‘bad luck’ or ‘bad news’.

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say.

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.

Good news, of course.

It causes me to look back at an event that occurred in 1992, since something similar seems to be happening in the same state in which I lived back then. As Hurricane Matthew is (anthropomorphically) ‘setting its sights’ on Florida, I recall the direct hit experience of Hurricane Andrew. We had moved to South Florida in 1990 and purchased our first house in Homestead, adjacent to the Naval Air Base. Our son used to love watching the planes take off and we enjoyed the tropical environment and the palm tree on our front lawn. I liked the idea that my parents lived less than an hour away after they retired (from NJ) to their own idea of paradise in Ft. Lauderdale.  Juxtaposed with those benefits and even though we made new friends, there was a part of me that was feeling a sense of loss. I missed our old friends and the change of seasons in our Pennsylvania environs. Our business felt like a struggle. We were magazine publishers and had createad a second regional edition that covered Florida.

I struck up a conversation, as I do often with ‘The God of My Understanding’ and said I would really like to move back home. I should have said, ‘a clean, easy, safe, convenient way,’ since on August 24, 1992, the hurricane made landfall and swept our lives and some of our home into the sky. Bad news? Who knows? As I look back on it 24 years later (as I have periodically since then), I see more positive than negative that resulted for us. Although there was severe damage to the structure of the house, we and our animals were safe. With our insurance settlement, we paid off the mortgage, deeded the property back to the developer and moved back up North to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I live to this day. We learned valuable lessons about having good insurance. We were grateful for the love and support of family and friends who helped us out in the aftermath.

Earlier that year, Michael was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Bad news?  Yes. Good news?  In some ways, since it took us both on a journey that we never would have consciously chosen. Love and loss, once again. Deep soul searching. As a result of selling our magazine and Michael enrolling in The New Seminary to become an interfaith minister, he may have been unknowinging preparing himself for his own transition that took place in 1998. He was in the ICU of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia for 5 1/2 weeks while awaiting a liver transplant that never occurred. I lived there with him on the unit and didn’t return home to sleep until the day he died on December 21st, 1998. When the doc turned off life support, the Voice as I called it, said, “Call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” I did and was welcomed into the school, completing two years worth of work in six months, since I had casually studied along with him and helped with his course work. In June of 1999, I walked down the aisle of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC and was ordained with his class. Since then, I have married well over 300 couples and officiated at numerous baby blessings and funerals.

Good news?  Without a doubt that arose from a bad news situation. In addition, I became an organ donor educator and bereavement counselor. As a result of his diagnosis, Michael was able to make peace with members of his family with whom there had been conflict and he was able to recognize the impact of anger and resentment on his relationships. My own experience as a widow, single parent and solo-entrepreneur  has provided a model for resilience.

My parents both passed in the last few years. My dad took his last breath on April 3, 2008 and my mom joined him on November 26, 2010. Good news?  Bad news?  Although I miss them deeply, I know that they are at peace and are together as they were in life. No more pain or suffering. They are with me as daily guides and support. Being an ‘adult orphan’ means that I am now the family matriarch and that I am not waiting for the phone to ring, ushering me down to Florida in a hurry.

Fast forward and at the end of 2013, a series of health crises showed up in my life. Initially, shingles crept onto the left side of my face, with Klingon-like ferocity … lesions and a swollen eye as part of the lovely appearance. Eight months later, I experienced a ‘heart opening experience’ when a fully occluded artery ensued and I needed to have a stent inserted. A month after that, kidney stones appeared and passed. A pain I would not wish on even the most vile person. A few months later, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and warned by the doc to dramatically slow my pace if I wanted to avoid further illness. I took heed. Good news?  You would think not. As a result, I have used my lessons to help others avoid the same fate. I took time to re-group and re-evaluate where my life was going, what path I was taking and who I choose as companions along the way. More than two years AHA (After Heart Attack), I am healthier than I was BHA (Before Heart Attack). A shake-up caused a wake-up and now I am taking steps each day to remain so.

What are the good news-bad news dichotomies in your life?


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