Oct 1 2012

I Dreamed of Rihanna’s Grandmother Last Night

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that the dream world is much more than an odd vacation spot our brain visits as it recharges for another day. Indeed, some of my most life-altering experiences have occurred in that other world, and many of my ideas about God, the afterlife and the soul are heavily influenced by what I’ve encountered while my body and mind were “sleeping” and my soul was “dreaming.”

As a result of the visits and messages I’ve received from deceased loved ones over the years, and because of many ecstatic (miraculous) dream experiences I can’t explain (and find it difficult to describe in earthly terms), I’ve come to believe that, not only do we exist after “death,” our souls retain a powerful spiritual connection to this life.

No offense intended to anyone’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, but the idea that the “dead” are “resting in peace” and have lost their ability to positively influence our hearts and our choices makes no sense to me.

I recently posted a story in which I shared about losing my fiance who died trying to save a drowning friend. Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of Todd’s death and I seriously considered writing about the many metaphysical experiences I have had with his soul — but I decided not to because I didn’t want to open to possible ridicule the experiences and insights that are so precious and meaningful to me.

Chicken? Absolutely.

Which brings me to my dream last night about “GranGran Dolly,” Rihanna’s beloved grandmother who recently passed away from cancer.

I should say that in real life I did not know Dolly, nor have I met or spoken to Rihanna, but I have been really hard on Rihanna verbally over the last few years, and have described her variously as “irresponsible,” “immature,” “out there” and a “terrible role model” for the millions of young girls who idolize her.

I have felt more recently that she seems lost, sad and lonely, and I have brazenly said that to folks whenever the subject of the young superstar has come up in conversation. Suffice it to say that my tone and attitude have been less than generous, and my thoughts and comments about her could definitely be described as “judgmental.”

Last night I got what I can only describe as a powerful paradigm shift via GranGran Dolly, who apparently doesn’t play when it comes to her baby girl.

I dreamed it was the Fourth of July and I was at a gathering (felt like a family reunion maybe) where Rihanna was in attendance. I walked up to introduce myself to her, and I’m not sure how to explain this, but I felt like I was meeting, not the “persona” that is Rihanna, or even the “human” that is Robyn Fenty, but the Soul behind all of that.

I reached to shake her hand, but she didn’t shake mine. Instead, she placed the palm of her hand against my face and looked in my eyes. She never said a word, but I felt in the dream like the entity looking at me was made of “Pure Joy” and “Pure Love.”

I turned to my left to see a woman (mid-30ish?) standing near Rihanna and beaming with obvious love for her. I immediately thought it was her sister because she physically resembled her, though she had much darker skin. In the dream I was thinking, I know Rihianna has a brother, but I didn’t think she had a sister.

The “sister” didn’t speak aloud, but (telepathically?) let me know Rihanna was the essence of “precious” and “pure” and that she was only only only made of Love.

Well, whoa.

I hadn’t planned to write about this today, but it’s been weighing so heavily on my mind that I finally tweeted about it:

What I did not know at the time I posted that, was that Rihanna had just tweeted this:

And then I saw this photo she tweeted:

I am 100% sure that woman standing there with Rihanna is an older version of the loving “sister” that visited me last night in my dream.

In the scheme of things, I’m not sure what any of this means to anyone else, but because I experienced it personally, it has very deep meaning for me.

For me it is a lesson in not judging the journey of others or assuming we know what they are made of.

Rest In Love, Dolly.

Sep 8 2012

Sometimes it Lasts…But Sometimes it Hurts Instead

“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.” -Adele

The photo above was taken at a surprise party for Todd Barr on September 8, 2002–his last birthday on earth. I wonder if the people in attendance that day know what a tremendous gift they gave him–just by being there to say we love you and we’re glad you were born. Todd told me (many times over the following days) that day was one of the happiest of his life. It was just like him to be so appreciative of something as simple as a birthday–something he should have had dozens more of.

Todd died three weeks after this picture was taken. He was 34.

A few days ago I attended a birthday celebration for my brother who just turned 57, and as with most ceremonial events in life (weddings, births, funerals and birthdays) Todd came along with me (in spirit) to the festivities.

It was impossible not to be reminded of my deceased fiance as I watched my brother celebrate his special day, but what brought Todd to mind most powerfully for me that evening was the fact that there were so many married couples in attendance–and all of them had been together for decades–happily–according to them.

My brother and his wife went to prom together in 1974 and they remain in love after nearly 40 years. My daughter and her husband met and fell in love in high school in 1996. My sister-in-law’s aunt met and married her “best friend” 19 years ago and another couple had been “matched” by my brother and his wife over 20 years ago. Of the married couples in the room, all but one (newlyweds) were in relationships that had stood the test of time, and the word “soulmate” came up in conversation over and over that night.

So, of course, I thought of Todd often, though I didn’t speak of him in that context. His name did come up, not in a discussion about love and soul mates (I find that bringing a dead fiance into those discussions tends to bring the level of joy down in a room), but in a discussion about swimming in the Pacific ocean and its danger vs. safety.

One of the women there was saying she would never get on a boat or even go on a cruise because she was afraid of drowning in the ocean. The old (pre-Todd) me would have insisted she was missing out on a beautiful relationship with the sea, and that she should maybe reconsider, don a good life-vest, and partake of the beauty and majesty of the open water.

The new (post-Todd) me doesn’t quite see it that way. The new me now understands and can relate to being afraid.

When I was a child, I swam and body surfed in the Pacific ocean with my brothers and sisters with absolutely no fear of any dire consequences. We would swim out to catch the “big ones” and ride the waves back to shore, sometimes rolling and tumbling in the surf when an especially powerful wave hit us. We often resurfaced tangled in seaweed, gasping for air and laughing with joy at the “fun ride” the Pacific can give.

I would never do that today. Nor would I let my children.

I told the ocean-phobic woman I thought she had good reason to fear the power of the sea, then I explained to her how my fiance Todd (a very strong swimmer) drowned in it.

She stared in my eyes for a long moment and promptly changed the subject. “You are not over him,” she told me.

I know.

One thing survivors of loss know is that you don’t “get over” the loss of a loved one. Ever. What you do is experience the grief, then move forward, slowly at first, until life returns to some semblance of “normalcy.”

Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s grief model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief, lists 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance (not necessarily in that order) as the stages a loss-survivor will experience over time.

I can testify to all five.

But, I would add a sixth (and possibly most potentially debilitating) stage that persists long after those five stages are traversed.

6) fear.

I don’t have anything wise or witty to say about it. I can only say that I remember what it was like to be fearless, and I miss that.

Happy Birthday Todd. I miss you. I wish you didn’t have to leave so soon.


(This is a cross-post from WilliamToddBarr.wordpress.com)

Jul 20 2012

She was 10, He was 19: I Will Call Him ‘Snake’

Angel of Tranquility by Christine Munroe

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect…

…Well, I’m not really sure who gets protected here; maybe you can help me with that.

I know someone who violated a child sexually when he was a teenager. She was 10, he was 19. For the rest of this story I will call him “Snake.”

I didn’t know about it until recently when the now grown girl that he targeted (I’ll call her “Angel”) told me what Snake did to her. Some might euphemistically refer to what happened as “child molestation” because of Angel’s age at the time, but I will call it what it is.


Angel said she never told. She’s not completely sure why. She was a little girl who craved affection, and when Snake began paying attention to her she thought the attention was a good thing. He was a close friend of the family. She thought it was safe to hug him. To sit on his lap. She didn’t know he would turn into a reptile. After he violated her she felt ashamed. She was too ashamed to tell.

Over the years Angel’s and Snake’s families remained close. She saw Snake at social and religious functions—many of them held at her own home. He acted as if nothing had ever happened. He laughed and barbecued and Pictionaried with Angel’s mom and dad. He even electric slid at Angel’s wedding.

One day, Snake actually apologized to Angel for what he’d done. This was after his own daughter was born. Angel accepted his apology and buried the secret that much deeper.

There is a sad reason why, after so many decades have passed, Angel finally told me about what Snake had done—she and I recently learned that a young man we both know, “Worm,” “molested” a little girl we both know, “Dove.” This happened to Dove almost twenty years ago, and like Angel, Dove didn’t tell. Like Angel, Dove tried to heal her injury on her own.

And, these two women have something else in common.

Worm is Snake’s son.

Dove was 11 when then 16-year-old Worm violated her. Dove was not the first little girl (and was not the last) Worm abused. Several adults in Worm’s family (including his father, Snake) were aware that Worm had raped a young family member months before he targeted Dove.

I’m told Worm was “reprimanded” for what he’d done to his cousin, but no therapy was mandated and the police were not called.

To make matters worse, not one of the adults who knew what Worm was capable of thought it wise to warn Dove’s parents. If they had, Dove’s injury would have been prevented.  Dove says she knows of at least two other little girls he victimized as well.

Worm is now a grown man, married, respected in the community, with children of his own.

Worm, like his father Snake, acts as if he did nothing wrong.

Over the years, I have genuinely loved, laughed, barbecued, Pictionaried and prayed with both of these men and their victims. I have warmly hugged them at social and religious events. I have trusted them with my own children. Now I must question all of my grown daughters to determine if they were sexually abused in this family’s home?  I feel violated.

Should I alert the unwitting parents of other little girls who spent time there? Are there other now-grown women who have kept painful secrets buried like Dove and Angel did? Is my use of the monikers “Snake” and “Worm” (instead of using their names) yet another violation?

I can’t come close to imagining how Angel, Dove and the other survivors feel and have felt over the years. All this hugging and praying and laughing and pretending that these little girls were never injured. How complicit in their injury we all must seem.

Some might say this is all water under the bridge. Too much time has gone by. The statutes of limitations on these crimes have long expired. How does discussing this now add value? What good can come of bringing this back to life?


What good can come of burying crimes against children? What healing or caution or justice is there in that?

I am not writing this out of a call for vengeance. I acknowledge the possibility that one or both of the men in this story committed those crimes as teenagers and never re-offended as grown men. Perhaps they received therapy and/or prayed to God for healing and forgiveness–and perhaps they received that from Him.

Or, not.

What if these men continue to struggle with an impulse to have sex with little girls? What if the fact that their secrets are still “safe” make all of our daughters the opposite of that?

Does it add insult to the survivors’ injury when years pass and men like these are viewed as great family men and/or admirable members of their communities—even as some of their victims are struggling as adult women to find moral footing under the weight of their unattended shame?

I wonder how many reading this tragic story have survived a similarly tragic one? How many were left unprotected and vulnerable while the names, reputations, and secrets of abusers were safeguarded? How many have had to face their perpetrators over and over again at religious, social and/or family events?

I wonder how many more children must be inflicted with these devastating slow-healing wounds before we find the will, courage and methods to address this issue more openly and proactively in our families and in our communities? How can we work together to preserve our children’s innocence?

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most vicious crimes conceivable, a violation of mankind’s most basic duty to protect the innocent. –James T. Walsh

Snake and Worm, if you recognize yourselves in this story, please know that I cannot keep your secret.  For legal reasons I won’t name you here, but I will warn parents whose children might be left in your care and I will speak frankly to you about this when our paths cross again.

If we have learned anything from the Sandusky crimes (and the many adults who knew something was very wrong, but did nothing) it is that SILENCE does not protect children. The awful combination of shame, silence and secrets is like a magic serum that makes sexual predators indestructible.

Truth is the only kryptonite.