While talking with a coach friend, I shared how I was back to writing more, and feeling alive again as my soul explodes with ink. We discussed the different audiences with whom I engage … caregivers, survivors, healthcare professionals, individuals at every curve on the rollercoaster ride of life, and ordinary folks just like me trying to get through everyday life. Ah yes, a little bit of everybody.

She said I should be promoting my work more, waaaaaay up in the clouds, pushing “doves, birds, pigeons out of the way … seagulls, yes, we can’t discriminate. They’re the rats of the bird world. They will eat just about damn near anything. Truly, they’re just awful birds …”

I deadpanned, “That’s what my mother-in-law has come back as, a seagull, but that’s all right.”

Mortified, she then quickly followed my lead in bursting out in laughter. Well, of course, I had to tell her the story …


As friends and family gathered for an informal memorial service on the front lawn of my mom-in-law’s Florida home, my palms dampened the papers in my hand. I had wanted to say something, anything, and unexpectedly the words had fallen from my heart and fingertips that morning. These words, echoing how she had always encouraged me. Now, I only prayed I had the strength to share them with those gathered.

The minister asked if anyone else had something to say. I raised my hand as if in school and moved to the front, under the bluest and clearest Florida sky I had ever witnessed. I signaled my husband to stand beside me, to give me strength. It was then I shared my love of a 61-year-old wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and dear, dear friend, gone far too soon … in an essay entitled, “Life is a beach …” concluding with the following:

“Yes, life is a beach, or so I learned from a dear friend of mine.

“She’s now the wind that shapes the waves. How do we know? Because of the warmth in its magical touch.

“She’s now the water that nourishes us. How do we know? Because of the gentle strength that embraces us.

“She’s now the seagull that celebrates the sun. How do we know? She’s the one that chatters more than the rest. Yes, that’s the one.”

With a smile I finished and hugged my husband’s family as I returned to the back of the gathering.

And then it happened.

Directly overhead a single seagull flew, circling three times and chattering loudly before heading toward the sea. Everyone immediately looked up at the cloudless sky to witness this incredible sight. We all smiled. We knew.

It was in this moment that I discovered the greatest level of love, of peace, in my entire life to that point. It was, it still is, beyond words, yet shapes how I compose them today.

After the service, I received many comments about my essay. It felt good knowing I had lifted everyone’s spirits and captured the essence of Janice. They had been equally moved upon witnessing that solo flight overhead, how it seemed to serve as a response to my closing line … a special gift as she had always encouraged my writing. That was how I could honor her memory.


My friend leaned back and said, “That’s a beautiful share.” Of course, she said the seagulls do haunt you for every scrap of food you’ve got. “But they do a service. They keep the beach clean.”

And then we laughed even louder and longer, knowing I’d run with this as she said:

“My friend says seagulls are rats. I say au contraire. My mother-in-law is one … That would be funny as hell.”

The point of this story? We all have different viewpoints, perspectives and life experiences that influence everything we say and do. And that’s why no two people are alike … thank God. We didn’t argue about them, we didn’t threaten a bird civil war. We laughed at the silliness of the image we shared in that moment.

Your rat is my mother-in-law, my guardian angel.

Next topic?

So, what’s your story? Drop me a line at [email protected] or leave a comment. I’d love to speak to your group, organization or company about working our way through the pain and challenges of everyday life. You want straight talk? You got me!