Dealing with Sven, or How To Write A Difficult Letter

Dealing with Sven,


How to Write a Difficult Letter

Some years ago I wanted to write a letter to my dad to say some difficult things that I just felt must be said. I consulted with my sister Mary, who understood him better than I, and she said “Write a shortletter, with only one point. If you say too much he’ll get lost in it. Then she told me about Sven.

Sven was a Swede who worked for a farmer in our area. (You know I’m a Swede so I can tell a story about a Swede). One day the farmer decided to pay Sven by check instead of by cash. He told Sven “You take this to the bank and they’ll give you your cash.” “O.K.” says Sven.

Off he goes to the bank. The teller takes the piece of paper and turns it over and tells him to sign the back. “Vat? No Vay!”  says Sven and he grabs the check and goes stomping out.

A couple days later he goes to the bank in the next town and presents the check. The teller turns the check over and starts to explain and Sven reaches to grab the check. The teller grabs him by the ears and bonks his head on the desk three times – Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!   Then she pulls his head up again and says “Sign here!”   “O.K.!” says Sven. He signs the paper and she gives him his cash.

A couple weeks later Sven is in the local grocery store and runs into the president of the local bank. (This is obviously small town Michigan) “Sven!” says the man. “I haven’t seen you in awhile. Where’ve you been? Anything the matter?”

Oh, I’m banking at de bank in de next town now, cuz day explain tings better!” says Sven.

So,” repeats my sister- “Sven is dad. Don’t write something complex, just short and simple and only one point.”

   In recent times I’ve had to do difficult communications with someone over serious matters with possibly large consequences.   I’d wake up at night with anger, thinking of what I’d like to say to this person. In the dark, I’d scribble down what I was thinking so that I didn’t have to carry it on and on in my head. This enabled me to go back to sleep peacefully. Then over days I accumulated a satisfying number of choice phrases that “I’d really like to say.” But in the calmness that this method enabled I was able to sift through all my choice phrases and (sadly) throw out most of them as I measured the possible result of saying all this. I could focus in on a simple clear communication of the most important points I needed to communicate in a way that might best be heard by the other.

    I seldom respond quickly to difficult emails or communications; I find it best to sleep on things, often have another person read what I think I’ll send. My goal is to be heardabout something that’s difficult for both of us to talk about, something over which there’s controversy and emotion. Keeping emotions quiet and out of the discussion gives me the best chance of being heard. I even try to bring myself to a place of respect and LOVE towards the other, at least as “God” or their Creator loves them. This enables me to write the very best letter possible.


I just have to share one more story here. When I began counseling at Triton College, one of the first people to come to me was a Kurdish woman from Iraq, in her burka, with a serious family problem. Her father had two wives, 6 children by the first, 9 children by the second, all the children were adults now living around the world, and the father was getting old. He had built a large house for the two families, the first family on the first floor and the second family on the smaller second floor. The two wives and families hated each other. The second family claimed the first was given more meat than the second, better clothes, etc. Now the two wives still live in the house and maybe a couple grown children. The dilemma: when the old man dies, who will get the house?  “We’ll be actually killing each other over this,” said the young woman, the peacemaker.

    I listened to this and at first panicked, thinking”What on earth can I say?” But then I remembered Sven. This father seemed clueless, never understood why the two wives and families hated each other. So I told the young woman the story of Sven and my own father. She laughed and nodded, “Yes, this is him!” I told her, “Write him a short clear letter, to the point: “Dad, we will all be killing each other if you die without a will. Please write a will saying who will get the house.”

She went away and a couple weeks later I saw her in the hallway and asked how things were going. She said her father had just sent a video, which she expected would tell everyone his wishes about this. She hadn’t had a chance to see it yet but was hopeful it would say clearly for everyone how he wanted things to be.”

I’m amazed that Sven is such a universal person!

In Honor of my Son’s Passing Into spirit

June 9, 2012

The International Association of Near Death Experiences, Evanston IL

Guest Speaker: Janet Nohavec, pastor of a Spiritualist Church in northern NJ and internationally known medium.

Ms. Nohavec spoke for an hour, telling us her spiritual journey. Her father was an alcoholic and often beat her mother; she had a terrible childhood full of fear and neglect. Occasionally she saw her deceased grandparents and was frightened by this but ultimately realized they came to help her feel she was not alone in all that she had to endure. To her own surprise she later felt called to be a nun after high school and followed that path for five years. Again to her surpise she found herself called out of the convent as her gift of mediumship began to develop and she sought guidance and support in this unusual talent. She studied in England under a great and strict medium at the Arthur Findlay College near London. Well, her story goes on and on and is VERY fascinating, but after sharing all this and some of her experiences as a medium, she had time to offer to this audience of about 200 people a few real “readings.” Janet knew no one in the audience. When she perceives a “spirit” present who wants to speak through her, she offers to the audience what the spirit is sharing with her and waits for someone among us to recognize this deceased person.

Janet begins,

“A younger man is coming to me who passed over in fairly recent times; perhaps he was in his early forties. he died of cancer.

There’s a Robert connected to him somehow, not necessarily his own name.

He gave the cancer a really good fight, though it was not a long fight.

He has a wonderful sense of humor.

And someone here held his hand as he passed over. Does anyone recognize parts of this?”

I raised my hand and said that my son died of cancer 3 years ago, he was almost forty, and I did hold his hand as he died.

“He lived in a city, like perhaps Chicago.” “Yes,” I said.

She says something about “creativity”; I hesitated remembering that he taught physics, though I was forgetting at the moment all the musical instruments he played, the choirs he sang in, even his approach to teaching was so full of creativity. Someone else raised their hand and Janet addressed them but then she said “they want me to stay with this woman here” as she pointed to me.

“Are there writers in your family?” “Yes,” I said. “I’m a writer. And my son journaled a lot.” Janet says, “There’s something about letters, poems, or some important writings that have to do with him in some room on the left side of something.”

“I have his journals on the left side of my bed,” I answered.

“August is very important to him.” [I’m not sure about this. He was married in August. Or does this refer to this current August?]

“Something about his hair; he’s pointing to the left side of his head. Do you have some of his hair?”

“Yes,” I said. “I cut a lock of his hair from the left side of his head after he died and I still have it.” (No one knows this except the four people with me when he was cremated)

“ Did he die around someone’s birthday or anniversary, his death overshadowed a birthday?

I said his little niece had her first birthday Sept 6, just before his passing. Sept.17. Her mom, his sister, was with him a lot at that time.

The medium says “Why am I mad at doctors? He’s very upset about a medical thing or a whole lot of mistakes.” I said “Many doctors made mistakes that cost him a lot; (like he got Cdiff twice in the hospital which gave him diarrhea and he lost much strength; the surgeon waited two weeks to do the last surgery, there were doctors who should have diagnosed him earlier , and on and on)

She says, “there’s a grandmother behind him a small woman with a rosary in her hands. There’s lots of Catholicism in his family.” “Yes,” I answered, “and his grandmother just passed, she said the rosary daily till the day she died.” Janet says “She just wants you to know she’s with him here, and many others are with him too!”

“Did he like to swim a lot? I see him moving his arms like a swimmer. “Yes” I answered. “We all love to swim.”

“He does come to visit you,” she says, “every day. He’s there in the flick of an eye and gone in the flick of an eye. …something about free will…maybe he’s trying to give you advice, but respects your free will.” (I think, then, that the swimming thing was him recomending that I swim more.)

“I hear the name Chris” she says. I answer that this is his aunt, his godmother.”

“Then I get the name Tom, or Tommy?” I answer “That’s his name!”

She sees him in a shirt with numbers on it – 19, or 9 or 49? “Was he athletic?” “No,” I say, “but he started a Robotics team that has numbers on its shirt.” “I should watch for these numbers, “she suggests. “Perhaps in a photo.” (It’s said that a good medium is right 80% of the time.  I think she read these numbers wrong:  the numbers on his shirt would be those of his Robotics team.)

“He’s absolutely fine,” she says. “He’s very happy in his life now.”

“He’s making a rocking motion with his hand, like the waters are choppy right now for you?” I said “Yes, a big legal problem” (with Kim, his ex-wife). She says, “He says that all will be fine by fall.” (I think, “maybe he’s spending August helping me on this!”)
Janet goes on. “Now standing behind him I see a veteran, someone who was in a war, he has one of those little hats that veterans wear. Did you have an ancestor that was in a war?”

Here the first thing that came to my mind was my Dad, though I don’t remember him wearing that kind of hat. But I said “My dad was in World War II.” Janet says, “He’s not saying much but wants to apologize to you for something, I don’t know what for.”

Here I immediately answered simply “Oh I know” and the whole audience broke out in a laughing roar at the quickness of my response. My father definitely has something to apologize to me for.    “He wants to be remembered to you,” she said.

I thought later this could have been my Grandpa Saur, who would have worn a soldiers’ hat like that, but he would have no reason in the world to apologize to me…

This was the end of this reading; she then went on to pick up information from someone else in spirit.

I took note about that name “Robert” as a friend of mine “channels” which is similar, kind of combining psychic reading skills with mediumship. That guide had said there’s a young man named Robert with Tom and the two of them are very lively and creative together; Robert has a very jazzy feeling. They’re somehow related in spirit or psyche to each other, but basically they function as friends and enjoy doing many fun and creative endeavors together in this new life…

                             WHAT A BLESSING TO ME!

When It Might Be Valuable to Fall Apart


When It Might Be Valuable To Fall Apart                    9/14/12

This is such a difficult time of year for me; many great losses have come to me in September. Today I’m in tears remembering three years ago when my son was in the last two days of fighting for his life.

About now (three years ago) he said to me at 6 AM when I stumbled in to give him meds “I feel like I need to cry.”

Myself, I’d been crying often, scared of what might be coming, when I was alone in the car driving from here to there. I remember sometimes wondering when Tom got to cry as he never had privacy anymore. But not taking this as a nudge from Higher Guidance, this “wondering” just sat there in my head as a “wondering”. I assumed that somewhere somehow he did cry when he needed.

But this was not so.

At that moment at 6 AM here’s what I was thinking. I was exhausted. And I was afraid that if he started crying I would also cry and there was so much to cry about that we’d never stop! We might fall apart! We needed to stay strong as this big surgery was coming up shortly. Besides, Tom was a man almost 40 and so much bigger than me (6 feet to my 4’10”) I didn’t know how to put my arms around him anymore. Later, though, I thought to myself “I could have just climbed up on the bed beside him and put my arms around my son. This is what a mother should do!” Instead I said dully, “Some people watch sad movies to get themselves crying. Would you like to watch a sad movie?”

“No,” he said. And that was the temporary end of that. I stumbled back to bed.

How pathetic!

Later that day he shared something with me. When he was little, I never told him that “boys don’t cry.” I knew the world would tell him this sooner or later; now I know that I’d have saved him SO MUCH SUFFERING if I’d just taught him this myself – that it’s OK to cry in private but not in public. But I didn’t. In fourth grade his teacher demoted him from high math to middle math and he cried. She took a baby bottle from somewhere and sat him on a chair with it in front of the class! He said he never told us because he was afraid we’d make a fuss at school. He was also regularly and seriously bullied later on the school bus and didn’t tell us. As a result of these experiences, he’d stopped letting himself cry. I remember that even after his father died of a heart attack, I didn’t see him cry but I assumed he did in private. Now I was realizing that all the subsequent pains of his life had been stuffed down by him, never allowed to flow out through tears and heal.

Here he was with a large tumor growing in his lung, like a second heart growing in the wrong place when his first heart had been wounded by several tragedies in his life, including the recent failure of his marriage. I can’t help wondering if crying might have saved his life, letting these growths subside! For me, I couldn’t keep going if I didn’t let myself cry as needed.

Sometimes after he died I’d sob so hard I was afraid I’d have a heart attack. But I’d bring myself down gently and then sleep. I’ve always felt the need to sleep at least briefly after crying. Besides the rest for my eyes, my brain feels like it wants to go down to the slow brainwaves of deep sleep for just a short time to recover something. Then I magically get up and go on with my life! Crying is an incredible relief, though at times I feel scared that I’ll never stop.

That morning when I failed him, failed to help him cry, I was afraid we’d both fall apart; I thought we needed to be strong. What I hadn’t noticed yet was that crying makes one strong! It frees the tensions inside so one can stand up and do the fight with all our might!

Tom had a significant dream early after his diagnosis with cancer. He saw himself in a museum. As he walked through with his buddy, he saw children sitting on the floor here and there alone and in pairs all beat up. As he walked into a new room some men attacked his buddy. Tom tried with all his strength to pull the men off his buddy but wasn’t strong enough. He woke up.

Museums are about past time. I believe his “buddy” was his body. Something was showing him that the past had taken a toll, and healing had not happened for those events. Now his body was being attacked …

What if Tom had felt as free as I (a woman) do to cry, at least in private, whenever he felt the need? Perhaps this is one reason women live longer than men! And men often die of heart attacks, their hearts excessively strained. What if we didn’t fear letting go and “falling apart” as needed , trusting that whatever’s natural is what is needed and will ultimately lead to natural healing? Now I see all this, but like so much of learning – I only have the learning as a result of bungling – too late! Why couldn’t I know this before? Not only have I learned the importance of crying, falling apart if necessary, but also of following my intuitions. Stopping and paying attention to that quiet little voice that whispers so gently “I wonder how Tom ever gets to cry when he has no privacy?”

Free To Be Truthful

Free To Be Truthful
First blog: Intro  8/18/12

I suddenly break out crying. I know why: because yesterday a young male cashier at Jewel confidently called me – and the lovely young bagger – “honey”, and I walked away and took it.

For the last couple years this has really rankled me – to be called “honey” by service people. I never cease to be taken by surprise, and I don’t say anything because it’s a small interaction that happens in the middle or end of a larger transaction and I don’t realize it’s happened till the moment has passed.

I talk myself out of making a fuss about it. Frequently it’s a woman who does this: a waitress, beautician, cashier. I say to myself “It’s a woman; it’s not intended to be demeaning.” Also I realize that I lookyoung and sweet, though I’m 67, usually way older than whoever has called me “honey.” But most of all I hear Culture inside my head saying “It’s no big thing. It’s friendly. Don’t make a fuss over a small innocent friendly comment.”

But here I’ve burst into tears over it! I feel un-respected, demeaned, and I feel as bad for the young bagger as for myself. He asked her to go for me to get a grocery item and exactly as he added “honey” I saw this tall competent-looking young lady about his own age hunch over and look confused, put in her place.


There’s a history here. I remember my similar reactions in early adulthood when I was reading a lot of philosophy and theology. I would sometimes burst out crying, feeling “left out of the discussion”, uninvited, ignored (even though I was just reading a book!) by the constant use of mankind, man, and “he” in all these discussions about the great questions around being human. I wanted to say “Hey! I’m here, too!” I felt invisible and not valued, just a woman listening in.

Again in my head I could hear the arguments of Culture: “These words stand for everyone. It’s only a habit of speech, etc.” But I did feel like I was watchinga discusion but not expected to be part of it.


Farther down the path in my life, when my children were young, we were attending a small church where a middle-aged salt-and-pepper-haired man was entering the seminary. The whole congregation was behind him, so enthused and cheering him on.

As a child, I had wanted to be a priest. Of course, at some point I saw the reality there but in high school I began to think of the new field open to lay people – perhaps I could be a theologian. I was discouraged out of that by an incredulous relative who suggested if I were really thinking seriously I’d go into speech therapy – “there are jobs in that!” I still continued in the fields of religion and philosophy, reading all I could with no idea where to go with my inclinations. I thought about this man going into the seminary and how lucky he was to have a cheering team. No one wanted me to pursue a serious career either pastoral or intellectual in the Catholic Church. I’d done the nun thing and found it way too passive. I’d done directing Religious Education and found myself out-ruled always by the pastor who knew nothing about children.

So I created my own cheering squad. Like a child playing house: my Hummel statue of young Mary, my stuffed frog (named Beauty), and a couple other similar precious “things” that I can’t remember. I kept them in a circle near my bedside and projected into them the encouragement and valuing I needed. This was pretty pathetic for an adult, I know! But – it’s true!

I feel I’ve moved forward intellectually against great odds. The men of the world did not invite me into their discussions, their “great thoughts” about life and men and mankind. But I thought about life anyway and have not had to be tethered to their traditional subjects and lines of thought. I’ve been free to let Life teach me, ask me questions, test me, grade me, and give me feedback – i.e. Life hears my thoughts!

And so – my blog! My wandering blog, exploring the world, free to be truthful. Free to base my thoughts on experience, not abstract logic as philosphers and theologians often do. I’m happy to receive feedback, though I have no interest in “being right” and so would avoid argumentation. Rather, I look for augumentation– the development of our understanding, by standing under our real lives and experiences. We can enrich each other, my friends, old and new, with me here together for a short time in this beautiful interesting challenging classroom we call Earth.