By Shane Devine Forbes
Happiness lit my face like a ray of gentle sun—I knew the
spring thaw was finally melting the troubles of our painful separation, and I was overjoyed that Tom was on his way back home
to stay. I’d set out early that May morning for an appointment at the beauty shop and emerged with a stylish new hairdo.
What’s a new “do” without a new dress, I mused, as I danced into the dressing room of a
favorite boutique. I left wearing a rose-colored calico number bought in happy anticipation of the romantic dinner my husband
and I planned to share later that evening.
High on the hill of North Elm Street, the chapel bells chimed the
noon hour and, when the light turned green, I stepped off the curb into what suddenly seemed like a separate reality. Everything
around me—cars, pedestrians, and pets—all moved as if in a slow motion movie. How odd, I thought.
Later that day, around five o’clock, the phone rang and my dear friend Sue, who was staying with us,
picked it up. By the alarming tone of her voice and the few mumbled words I heard her utter into the receiver, I knew that
the unimaginable had happened. It was my brother-in-law calling to say that Tom was in critical condition as a result of a
serious highway accident earlier in the day.
Without warning, a loud, gut-wrenching, desperate scream came from
deep within, as I yelled “NO!”, and tears swelled and poured down my face. I sobbed and bellowed my unbelieving
denial as if I might change something, anything, relating to this cruel news.
Sue drove, as if in
her own private speed portal like a bat out of hell, along Route 2 from western Massachusetts to Newton-Wellesley hospital,
making it in forty minutes. When we arrived at Tom’s bedside, I was unprepared for the harsh reality of his condition.
Unconscious and on life support, he looked radiant: young, strong, handsome, and peaceful. I held his hand and spoke to him
softly, promising with all my heart that our precious son, Ethan, would receive all the love, guidance and encouragement he
would need to grow up strong and true. He lightly squeezed my finger, and then his brain wave monitor went flat. A kindly
social worker took me aside to talk about organ donation, but I found it hard to focus on such matters.
I began to wonder why Tom’s family hadn’t called me sooner. Then, a young familiar-looking woman,
around my age, tired and distraught, walked into the family waiting room. She hugged my in-laws, one by one, while my heart
sank. Why was she here?
I soon learned that she was in the car with my husband—on
their way to spend the weekend together in Boston—when the accident happened. Amidst the shock and sadness of my sudden
loss, and the difficult decisions that only I could make on my husband’s behalf, I came face to face with the bitter
truth that Tom had never intended to come home to me that evening.
My life changed suddenly
and dramatically that day. No time for goodbyes, no answers to so many profoundly difficult questions, no more communication
with the man I once called my best friend, my musical partner, my husband, my heart and soul. Life as I knew it was over and
I was left standing on the precipice of the great unknown, holding my precious little five year-old son’s hand firmly
Pockets empty, and the wolf at the door, we were bereft, left to face a precarious future. Tom had
let our life insurance policies lapse just a few weeks before his death. Looking back, I wish I could say that I immediately
pulled myself together and got on with my life, but I didn’t.
Up the Pieces
Inconsolable, I cried every day for the first year of widowhood,
and every other day the second year. After the third year, I cried only several times a week, while anniversaries, birthdays,
and especially Mothers Day brought the searing grief and tangled heap of unanswered questions back to the surface with a perplexing
Many times I asked myself “why did this happen? Where do I go from here? How do I carry on?”
To be honest, most of the decisions I made in the years that followed were guided by my desire to set a good example for Ethan.
Even as I struggled to put all the pieces of my shattered life back together, loving and protecting my treasured child gave
me the most compelling reason to keep on going.
In the months following Tom’s death, I dedicated myself to
mothering and applied my musical talents in ways that helped me feel connected to a larger purpose, as I grappled with my
grief. I now sang for special events, primarily those with an emphasis on world peace, and the reduction of nuclear danger.
One of my high points, just a few months after Tom’s death, was when I was a featured singer on stage
with Coretta Scott King and Sweet Honey in the Rock at the twentieth anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King’s
historic 1963 March on Washington. I opened the program with America the Beautiful, and sang a song that Sue Walsh
and I had written, an informal anthem of the Nuclear Freeze movement, called Save the Children, to three hundred
thousand like-minded people on the Washington Mall. We were all determined to make the world a better place, and singing in
this kind of context helped me feel that I was doing all I could for Mother Earth and for our children and their future. With
tireless help from my friend Sue, who always found a way to make me laugh, however challenging, I did as much singing as I
A year later I decided to resume my college education and get my bachelor’s degree—but
mostly because I hoped it would inspire Ethan to work diligently toward similar goals of higher education. In the fall of
1984, I was accepted to the Ada Comstock Scholars program and attended Smith College with a full scholarship.
A theatre major, I shaped my class schedule so that I could greet Ethan at the door when he arrived home from
elementary school every day, determined that he would not come home to an empty house. Instead, the wafting scents of simmering
stew and warm homemade cookies made our dining table a cozy and fun place to engage in homework projects together.
Children Are Our Most Valuable Resource - Herbert Hoover
Perhaps an earlier
stint with Mothering Magazine had prepared me more than I knew at the time for the hardships of single parenting
that became my lot a handful of years later. In 1975, in the spectacular sunshine and starlight of Ridgway, Colorado, I worked
along with the Vorhys sisters and several other women, to imagine and birth this beautiful publication. The magazine was intended
for a new generation of parents, united by the vision of raising their families naturally and organically, and rooted in the
wisdom that comes from the earth.
The first few magazine issues featured articles on natural home
birthing, midwifery, breast-feeding, organic foods, home schooling, and the dangers of childhood vaccinations. Back then,
the back-to-the-land message of Mothering Magazine was down-right radical! I eagerly recruited folks
to write articles, wrote some myself, and helped envision the magazine that now, some thirty-seven years later, has fostered
a conscious parenting movement that has helped make the birthing and parenting experience healthier, happier, and more holistic
for parents and children alike. My humble contribution to this project gave me the validation I needed to place mothering
at the center of gravity in my life.
Eventually, when Ethan turned fourteen, he went away to George
School, a Friends boarding school in Newtown, Pennsylvania. A year later, I got a job there as alumni director and joined
the school community. It was a daily joy to share Ethan’s high school days with him!
However, what I didn’t
realize was that my health was still deteriorating, even after treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS.) Not well
understood, CFS is now recognized as a real illness, after many years of medical skepticism. Its crises are brought on by
unremitting stress over time, and there were, obviously, several major traumatic events that had piled up in my life: Tom’s
death and all that followed; then the death of my dear brother Shawn, for whom I’d provided round the clock care during
the last three months of his life. Finally, fulfilling my responsibilities as alumni director brought me to the brink of total
burn-out and my second collapse at the end of 1999. Life as I had been living it was over, and a long rehabilitation
All along, I had held out hope that I would someday meet a wonderful man with whom I could share
my love and my life. Through a very unlikely series of synchronicities, I met Charlie—the love of my life—whom
I eventually married. Kind and generous, he’s done everything in his power to help me recover—since the fateful
morning we met at the local Starbucks—from the debilitating effects of CFS.
It was great good
fortune that led me to the Clymer Healing Center near Quakertown, Pennsylvania, where the renowned naturopathic doctor Dr.
Gerald Poesnecker was working on precisely my problem, chronic fatigue syndrome. Under his expert care, I slowly began to
get well. Beyond that, without the unconditional love and strength of my husband and my now grown son, plus the positive
power of my will, I would never have recovered.
My bouts with tragedy and illness
have made me quite sympathetic to people suffering from stress and pain, whether from sickness, trauma or other causes. I
combine that sympathy with my intuitive understanding of people and what they are feeling, and this helps my clients begin
to heal themselves.
Over the years, I’ve increased my knowledge as I studied and experienced many natural healing
therapies. Seven years ago, I opened an integrative wellness practice–Try Wellness–that blends holistic
systems with advanced energy technologies, including INDIGO Biofeedback, active dowsing, and stress management coaching.
It’s taken quite a few years to feel whole again. The many pieces of my once shattered life have been
reassembled into the beautiful mandala comprising all that I am now: business owner, public speaker, artist, healer, singer,
writer, ordained minister, mother, grandmother, wife, and friend. Filled with gratitude for all that I’ve come through,
I now live a creative, inspired, soul-lit life, and every new day carries the blessings and power of a promise kept.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A certified Indigo Biofeedback Specialist, Shane loves to help people
with a wide variety of needs find their way back to extraordinary emotional and physical health. Her passion is in helping
her clients experience profound health breakthroughs by training them to release the stressors that underlie all disease.
Shane founded the Try Wellness™ program in 2007, based around her vibrant biofeedback practice in Langhorne,
PA. Shane is also a singer, artist, minister, and author. Her singing, like her healing work, draws on a
deeply spiritual and intuitive connection to the heart. Her CDs are available at www.shanemariedevine.com
Shane Marie Devine Forbes