Oh……. we’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz …Those words and melody always bring back to mind one of my favorite movies in the whole world. Maybe it was gathering around the television with mismatched Tupperware bowls of popcorn and a cold bottle of Coke (my mother had her own ‘hands off’ stash of Tab). We were dressed up for bed early, all snug in our jammies with pillows piled behind our heads and we would listen intently as Danny Kay introduced us to the yearly ritual of the televised viewing of “The Wizard of Oz”.

I love everything about the film, its’ characters, the music, the majesty, the change from black and white to color, and of course Judy Garland. The story taught me so much about how important the journey is in achieving a goal; to dare to take a risk; to dare to trust friends and trust the serendipity of life itself. My favorite character was the Tin Man. He was so tender, gentle and sweet yet so sad and forlorn. He could not feel the beating of his own heart yet bore the qualities of one who truly has a capacity for love. Life is about finding our own heart; seeing how it reflects back to us from the others that we love. We find that on the journey of searching to find what we think is important in life, we find by default what is truly important, and it’s all about heart.

I enjoy watching movies of all kinds. One of my favorites is a fictitious story about a young boy, the best little league picture in his small Montana town who walked off the pitching mound and quit playing baseball. The boy’s name was Chuck, the movie: “Amazing Grace and Chuck”. When Chuck is asked why he walked off the field, he responded “I have to give up something I love until the madness of nuclear arms across the world is halted”. Word spread, and soon major sport figures are giving up their positions on their respective teams to join this young idealist in his unique protest. The movement soon spread to children in schools across U.S. and the world. All the children began protesting nuclear arms by not speaking. To persuade the world’s children to start speaking again the United State’s President (Gregory Peck) and the Russian leader started to disarm respective missile sites. One person with integrity, the willingness to sacrifice, and has true compassion for the common good, no matter what their age is, can truly change the world. We should all follow what our heart tells us and make the world a little better place then when we found it.

The movie the “Never Ending Story’ which was a partially animated children’s feature (from the eighties) that had a great message for us. If your remember in the movie, the whole world was slowly disappearing because of “ the nothing” .When people stopped believing in magic and the beauty and mystery of life the world would fade away to nothing. Experience is our greatest gift, apathy our greatest sin. In our grief we may feel like fading away into the nothing and feel nothing, but then two lives are lost and the world diminished twofold. We love hard we grieve hard; we cannot feel nothing; If we do, we lose ourselves and that connection with our loved one in the bargain. We can use the experience of our grief to build our new future, a future that will have joy in it again sometime down the road. It is a life long journey down this road, but you if you feel love again you will feel joy again. Feeling joy again is the great legacy of our continuing love for our loved ones who have died.

Pay it Forward. Now there is a movie with a message! After experiencing several tragedies in my life, including the death of my son, I soon found the only way I was able to navigate through the dark shadows of my despair was by reaching out to other people in need. The more I would help others, the better I would feel, the better I would feel, the more connected I felt to the world and my son. It’s all about heart. I finally had a name for how I felt! From a movie I found a name, a phrase if you will, to explain the modality of healing that worked and is working for me. Pay it forward.

On this journey through life we will face many challenges; one of those toughest challenges is surviving the loss of a loved one. Healing from a significant familial loss takes years to reach some acceptable level of recovery. It takes years, not months to accept the death of a child. Helping others is one way to face those challenges, but one cannot fill another’s cup if our own cup is not full. In the beginning we are forced to accept the compassion of others to fill our own cup; prime it so to speak until our cup is full and capable of filling others. This initial process of filling takes as long as it takes and is different for everyone. When you cup is again full, you can start to fill the cups of others. When you reach out to others and in the process you will find your soul is refreshed, your pain diminished and your will to live restored.

A small act of kindness it like a small pebble thrown into a pond; its ripples reach every shore. Let your heart be that pebble that sends ripples of compassion to many different shores. In reaching out to others in this way, our loss turns to legacy, our despair turns into hope, and our future is reclaimed. At some point in this process you may even feel true joy again. Take the risk of being as good as one can be. Tip the balance. Pay it forward. It’s all about heart. It’s all about love.

I use these movies as metaphors of the grief journey for myself; you may have your own. No matter what movie, story, book or song that you may see, read or hear, if it is all about heart, there will be triggers that call their name. You will be reminded of your love one, in a way bittersweet and melancholy and your hearts will swell and eyes may well.

We will feel the pain again, and we may cry again, but we do not manufacture tears, they are just waiting to come out. Tears of remembrance are much sweeter than those of early pain, and they bring comfort, not fear. Home is where the heart is…There’s no place like home.

“You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for others…something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it”
-Albert Schweitzer

“It is in giving that we receive, it is in healing that we are healed”
-St. Francis of Assisi
Mitch Carmody November 2007

Author's Bio: 

Mitch lost his father to heart disease in 1969. In 1975 his only brother died of cerebral palsy. In 1985 he lost his twin sister and her two boys in a car accident. In 1987 he lost his only son Kelly to cancer. His mother succumbed to cancer in 2000. Mitch has struggled with the grief journey and how grief is processed and perceived in this country. He published a book in 2002 called “Letters To My Son, a journey through grief. The book has now reached the bereaved in every state and 7 other countries.
He has conducted a variety of workshops with The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA as well as a sought after speaker for many keynote presentations. Mitch has published several articles in national bereavement periodicals, is a frequent contributor to TCF Atlanta On-line and currently a staff writer for Living with Loss Magazine.
Mitch has dedicated his life to helping those individuals and families whom are trying to navigate in the uncharted territory of death, dying and the bereavement process. Through his workshop one may find insights into finding a way to move from Loss to Legacy..
Mitch lives in rural Minnesota with my wife of thirty years, he enjoys riding my horses, gardening, writing, helping others, giving blood monthly and creating works of art. He is also a proud first time grandfather to the daughter of their surviving daughter Meagan.