Season 1: Episode #7
What makes a hero?
According to Philosopher and Scholar Joseph Campbell, a hero is an archetypal figure who takes a journey from his or her ordinary world, goes out on an adventure, through a decisive crisis wins a victory, then returns home transformed with gained wisdom to offer others. This podcast explores real people, real stories and the pivotal moments that changed the course of their lives forever.
There's no right way to deal with crises. Everybody does it in his or her own way but the right way for me made a lot of people uncomfortable. And I had to come to accept that as well that I was walking down a path that the people around me didn't understand atall. And over time though, I could see that this was having an effect on the people I would share my story with.
Madeleine Brandli belongs in the company of wise sages. Just as she is a life-long learner, she is also a generous mentor and teacher; much of the wisdom revealed by the way she lives her life. May your soul be taught and illuminated by her choices and perspective as she shares her Hero’s Journey. I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…
Madeleine Brandli is a singer and multi-instrumentalist on harp, piano, ukulele, Hawaiian slack key guitar and nose flute. She’s won multiple awards as a singer, composer and songwriter. Madeleine completed studies in sound healing and has recently become a certified instructor in the energy kinesiology of Touch for Health. She shares a blessed and joyful life with her family in Southern California and Hawaii and at 73, her life begins anew at each door that opens.
My first question is how do we know each other?
Oh, Belinda, you and I met many years ago, not too long after my husband died and I was looking for some help in organizing, ostensibly my papers and things left from my life with him. But I discovered it was really more about cleaning the space in my mind, in my psyche, and making room for what life is going to bring for me after his passing. So, I engaged your services as a coach and we went through paper after paper and box after box, and it became a very healing therapeutic catharsis for me and I realized that it wasn't the stuff, that was in physical form that was important but it was the stuff that was uncertain in my mind and you helped me a lot in that regard.
Well, I remember meeting you. We were connected through our hairdresser and it wasn't that long after my daughter had died. So, I had started organizing and was referred to work with you and I remember feeling very raw inside of myself at the same time I was helping you go through your journey of loss. And I think in some way while I was helping you, you were also helping me and healing me along the way because I was observing how you were navigating the loss and going through all of the items from your husband's life, your lives together and the pain and challenge and joy of all of that journey. So, then we just have continued this lovely connection with coaching and friendship over the years and it's been amazing. I am so excited to share you with my listeners. So, Madeleine what was your ordinary world like before whatever you're going to share with us?
There were two touch points I would say if we're going to talk about an ordinary world. There was the life that I had before my husband died and that was one of a 35-year marriage and two children, two daughters. And we had a really happy, exciting life together. We shared a lot of passions. We learned to fly, he taught me how to ride a motorcycle, we did scuba diving. We had hoped to spend part of his retirement in a little house that we had built in the island of Kauai in Hawaii. And our children were grown and it was that time in life where we were looking forward to the next chapter in our life and then the world turned upside down.
His father passed away. And then, he passed away. And then his mother a couple years after that developed dementia and she passed away. That was my ordinary world.
Freshly widowed, Madeleine received her call to adventure as she tried to comfort her two grown daughters who were grieving the loss of their father.
My younger daughter was living in Germany at the time and I visited her with my older daughter over the holidays. And they had an argument, nothing particularly extreme but it escalated into a situation where we decided that we needed to leave and she wanted to be on her own. And after that I tried to approach her. I emailed her and there was no contact and I kept thinking that this would just fade away after a while, but it, but it didn't.
I was just devastated. When someone dies, it's forever. They're not coming back in this life and you, you accept what it is and you struggle through that loss and I was familiar with that. I knew pretty much by that time how to at least begin to approach that journey. But losing my child and knowing she was still out there in the world somewhere, that was un-charted territory for me.
And after a while, I stopped pushing, I stopped trying. I wanted to maintain contact with her physically but without a response, it became a one-sided story. So, I let go of the idea that I was going to be able to have communication with her and essentially just let her go on her path. And I knew she needed to do that for her own life, for her own survival and most importantly for her own healing and making her way in the world.
Though she was no stranger to loss, Madeleine had no idea how to handle the disconnection from her daughter. And so began the journey to find a way forward through the fog.
The immediate effect of the separation and estrangement on me was overwhelming grief and sadness. It’s this lost child and my heart was broken. And so, the first steps were really to simply accept that that's what was happening. To surrender to the reality of what was going on. [pause] In my mind, I knew she was totally capable of caring for herself. In my heart as her mother, I wanted to be there with her and for her and to help her. And the awareness was not so much that I thought she needed me. It was the opposite, it was I needed her in my life.
The journey began when I realized that need was not a need that I had the right to expect. It was just a mother's love and at some point, that old cliché’ of you give your children roots and wings and when they fly off, you have to accept that that's what happens. And I'm not the only mother that's ever had children take off. I have Irish ancestors and in the middle of all this I wondered what it would have been like for all those mothers whose children took off in the middle of the famine and they never saw them again. And I thought, you survive, that's what happens you survive. So that was the first step forward.
A path was beginning to form. Madeleine recalled a stepping stone that had already been laid. A Medical Intuitive was counseling she and her husband a few months before his death. During a private session with her, Madeleine received a surprising revelation.
She said, you have a cancer profile but it's not your cancer. You're assuming his journey and you can't take that from him and you can't take it on yourself, it doesn't belong to you. And I never thought of allowing someone to have their own journey because I'm a helping kind of person. And, it was a stunning setback in my mind, I was shocked and worried and I said well, how can I not care for him, how can I not be there for him? And she soothed me and said it's not that you can't care for him, it's that you can't go with him.
And somehow, I couldn't articulate what she meant at the time I didn't understand it but a wise part of me knew that this had to do with the spiritual acceptance of each person's life and that mine had a different trajectory. That his was ending but mine had a different trajectory. I had perhaps many more years to live and she was suggesting to me that if I chose to follow his path, that I would bring upon myself the same kind of illness that would be his and that it was not fair to him nor to myself.
That set the ground I think in another way for me to understand when my daughter left that yes, this is another thing I wanted to go with her, I wanted to be part of her life, I wanted to experience what she was experiencing, share what she was sharing and here again, the lesson came back that's not yours. I don't get to have that life, I got my life and it's a beautiful life and hers is a beautiful life.
So, I think life sometimes prepares you in different ways and the preparation I had with all the, the deaths over my lifetime certainly prepared me to know that I could survive that, that I could get through those things. You lose your spouse, you lose your parents, you take care of a person who has dementia and then passes. So those things give you a kind of courage to know you can move forward. But this particular loss hit me really hard, so I wasn't prepared in the way I thought I was going to be and it was more of a struggle.
I couldn't go with her. So, I just stumbled forward essentially one step at a time. Similar to when my husband died, I felt like I was in a fog. But this time, I knew I had to be more proactive because it wasn't going to just heal from time like the grief of the loss of someone who dies because this uncertainty of what was happening to her, the fear about her life being okay, and my grief along the way, what am I missing in her life? My child's life. So, I needed to move forward with intention.
I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…Today we’re talking with Madeleine Brandli about the agonizing estrangement from her daughter, and the valiant commitment to forge a loving path forward… Her story continues.
More stepping stones appeared through the wisdom and teaching of some very key mentors. I introduced Madeleine to one of my spiritual mentors and wisdom teachers, Rabbi Mordecai Finley.
We were talking in a course situation one time about what happens when something terrible happens and there's nothing you can do, you can't change it. Surrendering to the pain is one thing, but there was a missing element in this sadness and grief. And he defined the solution as holy sadness. And I remember him describing the situation when people feel they've reached the bottom and I would say that when you lose your child in life or in death, you eventually go to a place where you hit the bottom. And I said, what happens when you hit the bottom? And he said the bottom falls out and you fall into the arms of God. So, that's holy sadness. That took me into a comfort place where I knew that that's where I had to be. I had to just accept and realize that I was loved by a power beyond myself.
At that point, had you fallen into the arms of God yet or was it just something that you knew could be possible?
I had glimpses of it because at that time I was writing these songs and it was a kind of eerie thing even when my husband was still alive. I was writing spiritual songs that came back to comfort me. The lyrics came back to comfort me. It's almost as if I couldn't write them in the depths of despair so they were channeled to me in advance to have on my journey.
And I didn't understand them when they came because I was never a songwriter and I'm in my late fifties at that point. So I knew that there was this comfort but I didn't in my rational analytical side didn't understand what that was going to be like. And the imagery of Rabbi Finley’s words led to another song and that was very comforting to me.
I was able to sit at the piano and just relax into the pain of it and get up and move on and plug forward but with a sense of comfort.
Madeleine became aware that she still had a lot of life to live and a lot of love to give. She wanted to find a proactive way to express that love to her daughter, even though there were miles and miles of disconnection between them. An answer came through another mentor; her acupuncturist.
He was a very wise man. And we had many conversations over several months of treatment nd he suggested to me that the energy in the universe is available to everyone and that the most powerful energy is that of love. And the most powerful love is unconditional love. He guided me through several meditations to help me project that unconditional love that I felt for her out to her. He convinced me that she would receive it whether she was aware of it or not. And so, I made that a practice over many years. I would think about her, I would send this wave of love out to her and it gave me great peace and I actually came to realize that that was one of the most powerful things in healing that I could do.
A few years after she left my life, I decided to make a CD and in the middle of that process, I recorded one of the songs with the specific intent that every time it was played, every time I sang it, that it would be a love song to her. That was another proactive way that I felt I could stay close to her, even though she wasn't physically there to receive that.
I was living with the idea that I might never see her again. And, I knew that the possibility was there that I would just as the possibility was there that I wouldn’t. After struggling through all of that, I decided it was easier and more peaceful just to say I don't know. I don't know what's gonna happen. But for me, it’s a moment of pondering the one or the other and putting a stake in this is what I hope will happen, I didn't hope for it anymore. To hope for something like that puts a lot of strain on your heart energy because the other side of hope is the fear that it won't happen. So, it's really difficult to sustain hope that something will happen like that without experiencing an equal or greater amount of fear that it won't. And since I had decided not to live in a state of fear and it wasn't that I wasn’t hopeful, I just decided to live in a state of peace for whatever would come.
So, all these threads came at different times together to weave this kind of path or to kind of show the journey that I was trying to move forward on.
Although she had wonderful supportive mentors in her life, not everyone understood this path that Madeleine had chosen. Voices of disapproval arose.
They would say things like well, if it were my child, I would be on a plane to go bring her back or go meet with ‘em and hash it out and, and I understood that. But no one was in my place, no one was in their place. And it was a bit of a wound to hear that and I sometimes thought am I doing the right thing? Is this the right thing to just let her be on her way or should I be pounding down the door to tell her I love her and come back? And in the end, it had to be the way I felt was the most healing and the most actually more spiritual.
They were trying to help me but they were expressing their own fear about what they would do if that would happen to one of their children.
There's no right way to deal with crises. Everybody does it in his or her own way. But the right way for me made a lot of people uncomfortable. And I had to come to accept that as well that I was walking down a path that the people around me didn't understand at all. And over time though, I could see that this was having an effect on the people I would share my story with. So, it changed from being a source of doubt and fear, and criticism from people to people asking me how did you do that? And they would say I don't know if I could do that. And I would say of course you could do that.
Madeleine had now become a seeker of spiritual wisdom.
It was a different quest than the one I was on when I was happily married and no foreseeable big bumps in the road. I was having a different life than I expected. That was a shock. I think the push that it gave me to a different path led me into some exciting discoveries about myself and other people, and certainly about accepting. It led me to some beautiful books. Um, one in particular called The Untethered Soul; talking about the freedom that comes when a person surrenders to what is happening in their lives.
The Moment When can show up in multiple times and ways. Sometimes it’s an event. Sometimes it’s a decision. For Madeleine, it came as an unmistakable understanding that would shift her life.
It was I think the journey of how to infuse loss with love and the understanding of that love doesn't ever go away and that it's everywhere that you can send it out at will and that you can receive it. You can try to reject it, but that it's this energy wave that surrounds people that you love. And at the moment, it was not a day I could remember but, it was a moment in time when I understood that this idea of unconditional love, the undeniable power of unconditional love was what was going to change my life going forward. And it gave me, not just peace, but it gave me a sense of strength and power and I think that's how I was able to understand the criticism of other people about how I was approaching it and because it became a source of strength inside of me, that intensified over time. As the years went along, I didn't get any more comfortable that I would ever see her again but I became more convinced of the power of love that I was sending to her. My acceptance of that and understanding of that caused this shift.
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Today we’re exploring life after loss and the far-reaching power of unconditional love with my guest Madeleine Brandli.
On her journey, Madeleine began collecting rewards that came as a result of her bold decision to seek wholeness.
I moved through life year by year with this same kind of strength and peace and a sense of I think I would describe now as this sense of serenity. That is a powerful feeling to have in life because things happen all the time that are troubling and scary and deflating and demoralizing. And to feel like you can not just plug forward or move forward but that you can accept the challenge and just move with the flow of it without surrendering any of your strength or soul energy.
I'm imagining a lot of parents would be completely anxious, completely freaked out, feel like their life has no more meaning until they resolve that relationship. You kept the channel open with her but without demanding anything.
Along the way I realized I had developed tremendous resilience and lost a fair amount of fear for whatever would happen, although there was always a little bit left in the pocket. I learned a lot of skills for grief management and I found that I was more empathetic and compassionate with people going through difficult situations with their children especially. I found myself to be much less judgmental about the way people live their lives and I think that came from realizing that I had choices and everyone has choices and I chose a path that was right for me and it might not be right for other people but I think sharing my journey with other people made me realize it that one of the rewards I got was the courage to be open to share my pain.
I think another important sustaining gift that I received along this journey was gratitude. I felt gratitude when all the people in my life passed. Gratitude for having had them in my life and if you live long enough to experience compounding losses, it becomes clear that the moments that you share with people are precious and to be grateful for what they were when you experience them carries you far into the future even when they're gone.That gratitude appeared especially when my husband passed away and again that was kind of like a template for what happened later with my daughter. And I was able to apply an intentional thank-you to the life that I had shared with her and that she was the gift that I received. Both of my children were gifts to me. And we don't own them, we have this beautiful time with our children and then they're supposed to go away. They're supposed to head off on their own. So, I, I found that gratitude allowed her to stay forever in my heart.
So six years went by without any communication with her daughter. Madeleine was finally enjoying a life of peace, freedom, and love through acceptance of what had happened, through fully releasing her daughter to her own journey, and through sending out energy of unconditional love. But the story didn’t end there.
And I got an email from her out of the blue saying that she was going to be near me at a conference and that there was a young man that she wanted me to meet. Within a couple of days at a restaurant, she showed up with her—who would soon one day be her husband—and I know she was very afraid. And I opened my arms and she walked right in.
It was as if she had never left because for me, she was always in my heart and in my soul and I was never uncomfortable with the fact that she was gone once I came to that place of peace. She's my child and she needed to go off on her life journey and perhaps she didn't know another way to take a break. Maybe this is what she needed to do. Matter of fact I'm pretty sure this is what she needed to do and I'm glad for her. I was, I was thrilled for her. And I was thrilled that the man she brought with her became her husband, he's a beautiful soul. I knew when I looked in his eyes that he was happy that his love would be reconciled with her mom.
And it was easy because I had already done my work before. I had already done the journey of the struggle of salvaging myself from the loss of my child. I had already been down in that hole and fallen through the blackness, and figured out a way to climb back out and it gave me this root. It gave me this anchor in the undeniable power of unconditional love.
I think for her after all those years, there may have been some trepidation about what to do, how to how to come back. Anger, it's a huge barrier for resolving problems and sometimes it gets so great that there's no way back. There's no path forward, no way to return through the anger because the words that were spoken last were such stinging, painful words. And without some way to resolve that, it's a big challenge. I think it's a challenge for someone to move forward and seek peace. And the way I handled it was again my choice. I elected never to discuss what happened, never to hash through the past, never to challenge her choice or her decision. And for the past six years, we've had a new life, a new relationship. And today, I'm taking care of my first grandson, her little boy three days a week. Who knew?
The Hero’s Journey isn’t complete until the Hero brings home the elixir to offer others.
The gifts that I have brought back from this journey start with the feeling that I am free. I'm free to experience all of the pain and suffering, all of the grief and the loss, all of the love the joy and the shining moments and the darkest moments. I'm free to experience all those from a place of peace and of the absolute knowledge that whatever comes my way I will be able to move through with love and grace and I never would have predicted that as something I would have said to be a gift.
I look at life in a totally different way and I find myself to be very calm in the presence of trauma. And before, it would have been a more intense kind of I'll get through this somehow kind of emotional way of dealing with it. It's different now. It comes from a place of this is just the way life happens and allowing it to flow through me, is one of the gifts that I bring to myself and back to the world.
I shared a few thoughts with this wise and loving being.
You have that intuition, that ability, that awareness to align to a situation that may be difficult for the sake of peace and acceptance.
You have a presence that is calming to people that don't even know you. So, you have a very special, it's almost like a nurse. You’ve become a mentor to so many people through all these journeys that you've been on. And I will say for myself, when you were going through this with your daughter, when it was pretty fresh and we were working together, I was starting to go through my son growing up and separating and I'd already lost my daughter to death. So, when my son was separating and he was at the end of his teens and I was like, I didn’t know how to handle it. I went to hold on so tightly and I was watching very carefully how you handled what you went through and I learned from you to release and trust in a whole other level that I hadn't understood before. And I really attribute your insight to helping me eventually navigate that well and my son has turned into this incredible, he always was, but he isn't this incredible adult and we have a great relationship. So, I'm just one person that you've impacted through your gifts and your willingness to learn and to adjust and like you said resilience that you've gained from going through all of this. So, thank you from me.
Oh, you're very welcome.
As part of her healing journey, Madeleine created the CD “In Shades of Green” to honor her Celtic ancestry and love for Hawaiian spirituality. Her music celebrates the beauty of the earth, the wisdom of world traditions, and the deep connections we share with those we love, whether for a moment or a lifetime. It was produced and arranged by Jeff Lams and is available on itunes and CD Baby. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is in the show notes.
THE MOMENT WHEN IS PRODUCED BY SOUL ORGANIZER. MUSIC IS COMPOSED BY JEFF LAMS
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