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The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's

lives.

 

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Friday
Feb282014

What To Do When Your Child Wants To Act

Santa Clarita News

BY: MICAELA BENSKO

Our family is in the entertainment industry and it is a large part of our life. My husband's credits include Co-Producer of Big Love, Production Supervisor on Nashville, Newsroom, and endless others. When our oldest daughter decided she wanted to be an actor, it caused me to reflect upon what I had learned over twenty years not just as a production spouse, but as a photographer in the entertainment industry on and off the set.

When our oldest daughter decided she wanted to be an actor, it caused me to reflect upon what I had learned over twenty years not just as a production spouse, but as a photographer in the entertainment industry on and off the set. It's my hope the following may help other parents facing the uncertain world their child so desperately wants to engage. Without having a sense of direction as a parent, this environment can easily become one of fear. Fear breeds panic, and with panic, well-meaning but potentially damaging decisions are made that quickly take the humanity out of the process of something that can truly be fulfilling if the proper perspective is maintained.

Once a child wants to act,talking her out of it is like wrestling a walrus out of a bikini.

In cooking there is a woman named Sandra Lee. I love her because she creates fabulous gourmet dishes with short-cut ingredients that cost half as much. Consider this my Sandra Lee recipe for the young actor lurking in your living room.

10.PASSION VS. TALENT: What is your child's passion vs. talent? They don't always coincide! Their love for acting may not necessarily be what they're good at, so it's your job to make sure you both are on the same page. The key is having an outsider's perspective to back it up. It's a lot easier to find out you can't swim before you jump in the ocean.

9. GET AN OBJECTIVE OPINION: Get an objective and cost - free assessment of your child's talent from a professional. Find an acting teacher in your local high school or college and ask if they can take some time to assess your child's talent. You'd be surprised how much expertise you can find right in your own community that can help assess your child's strengths in a supportive environment.

8. WALK BEFORE YOU RUN: Instead of spending thousands of dollars you may not have on many things at once, the first thing to do is enroll her in a reputable acting/auditioning performance class. She will learn the process of getting up in front of people and reading sides. After she has a class under her belt, submit her to an agency for representation. Sometimes classes have agents attend their class. Create a resume to include with her headshot. It doesn't have to have a lot on it! Just be real and know this is a marathon, not a sprint! Too many parents go in expecting things to happen ASAP. Do this slowly and properly.

7. NO PAY TO PLAY: Don't ever pay an up-front agency or management fee to be signed to their roster. EVER. These fees can sometimes be hidden in "headshot" fees where they get a kick back. Acting classes attached to an agency are another no-no. An agent can suggest an acting class or photographer but should not be financially associated with them in any way.

6. BEWARE OF 'INVITE-ONLY' CONFERENCE ADS: Watch out for ads for actors' conferences that say "Invitation Only". It is rare these events, that can charge up to thousands of dollars, are just for "selected" young actors or individuals. The entire process of becoming a working actor is done more with sweat and tears - with bursts of joy - rather than paying thousands of dollars to realize that in the end you still don't have an agent. In this business, the invitations you should get excited about are call-backs and meetings. Not opportunities to spend money you don't have on something that isn't a sure thing but looks sparkly in the ad.

5. IT’S NOT ALL SUGAR AND HONEY BOO BOO: There is a documentary called THE HOLLYWOOD COMPLEX. This film should be required viewing for every parent considering a career in acting for their child. This documentary is as close to reality as it gets and is educational for anyone of any age entering the entertainment industry. If someone wants to act, there is little that will dissuade them. It's the nature of the creative beast. But the greatest tool they will ever have is knowledge. This film is the inside scoop of what to expect upon entering the acting world. Sit them down and have them watch it with you so that when it happens to them, the highs and the lows, they'll know the most important thing of all. They are not alone.

4. EMBRACE THE GIFT: If a child would like to act or sing or dance, it's a gift from above for them to share their gifts with the world. So this is not at all meant to deter anyone from following a dream. This is simply a guide, having been a young actor myself, worked as a photographer in the business for years, and having been privy to the insider's perspective as a producer's wife for almost fifteen years.

3. THE NITTY GRITTY: When you introduce your child to the industry, go in with the frame of mind that nothing is a one-stop-shop that will create a career overnight. A career is built on many elements which come together over time.

But most importantly, she should have FUN. If acting is not fun for a child, then it's not worth doing. Period. End of story.

2. THERE IS NO SPEED PASS: It helps if you know someone. But it's never the answer. So often, well-meaning people ask how to get onto my husband's show. It pains him to answer that even at his level, there is no magic wand. There is a hierarchy in place on any legitimate production for a reason. There's a protocol set to maintain what little sanity there is, in an already insane industry.

1. MAINTAIN THE HUMANITY: The entertainment industy is built on people just like you. Parents raising families, that don't always have the answers. It's a land of passionate individuals trying desperately to fit in a systematic machine of parts all struggling to function as a unit, with higher-ups yelling at them to make it perfect. So forgive people in the industry if they seem cold, or on edge, or over-it. They're tired. They worked 17 hours the day before, and you remind them of everything they were before they themselves 'made it'. The short-tempered casting director, the agent who forgot your birthday, the development girl who never reads your script. They are not bad people. Jaded is not the word either. They are men and women who are in it all too deeply to walk away. It took too long, too many years of paying dues, to make a dream come true that in the end isn't at all what they expected. The Grip who works too late to tuck in his son at night. The AD who missed his daughter's play. The writer with ten pages of studio notes on a script that bares her soul. These are things no one will tell you, because in the industry you're not allowed to complain. Because ultimately every one of them knows they are damn lucky to be there. This goes for actors too.

So on this road, remember it's not about making it big. Even the biggest stars wish things were different up there.

Remind your child - and yourself - this is a journey of discovery. It's a time to show kindness and respect to those you meet along the way. Even to casting directors who forget to smile. Because no matter how this ends up, the only way to truly be successful is to remember that at one time or another, every person in that room, sat on their couch in their living room. And had a dream.

Do you have a news tip? Call us at (661) 298-1220

Original Article: http://goo.gl/C1wLdt
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Newsroom Micaela Bensko www.MoanaVida.com

Friday
Feb282014

Los Angeles Rain

"Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life. "
John Updike

I wake to rain collapsing on the eve, tapping the drainage pipe like a woman's nails frantically dancing on a desk. A blanket of wetness violates the earth. Nothing will be normal today. The freeway will be slick with oil. Commuting accountants dividing the distance by speed. Pursing lips strangle words too - tight to speak. DJ's warn of a second storm wiping Bieber from the news. A city ripe with starlets drowns in the reality of God. The falling sky reminds them of thunderstorms at home. When parents rocked to the clink of iced tea in metal cups. Home.
Los Angeles.
I remember the days when I feared the rain would keep me in at night. And keep me from the pounding clubs and passing trays with spirits to keep me dry.
Los Angeles. The city of angels who rarely learn to fly.
Daylight chisels through the grey collecting beads upon the glass. I watch them race to the window pane and settle into content. My children stir. My husband throws the sheets aside into a drape across the bed. I thank God for dreams I have not lived. Because without them the rain is sweeter than it ever would have been.

Thursday
Feb272014

Between The Lines

Two days ago someone knocked me out, cut me open, shoved wires in my spine and duct taped me. Ok. The duct tape might be pushing it. The rest of it is pretty much how it went.

Surgery always brings with it a reflection on one's mortality. Which it just one letter off from morality. In Wikipedia, it even suggests not to mix the two up.

An example of a moral code is the Golden Rule which states that, "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself."

Which makes me wonder if I should knock someone else out, shove wires up their spine, and wrap them in duct tape.

The last few weeks have wrapped me in the wonder of death and life. It happens when a loved one dies. My dearest friend passed. We called each other Siffy. Because she was my sister-friend - or sifter.

Three a.m. Has not been kind. It's when the dark opens up to a mass of thought. When the air changes to a texture that and coats my skin. When mortality comes to life as though a portal has been opened and God has set it free.

A natural wonderment is the curiosity of lives that others lead. It happens at the oddest times. When we are walking down the street and a man walks by with shoulders slumped. His beard unkempt and clothes with stains from the littered street. There is not enough time to look at his shoes, so we study his face. His eyes. As though his aura is tattered by time and there is nothing left to keep him in. His eyes are pooled with a lifetime of passers-by. People just like me, who wonder where he's been. Who he was before his tattered clothes and weathered skin.

A friend once told me about a homeless man she met while waiting for a cab outside a restaurant. She stood with her to-go bag dangling from the crook in her palm. Their eyes met. She swam in his sight. He accepted her gift with God bless and good night. But something made her ask him what brought him to this place. There was something she familiar she could read between the lines upon his face.

He was a lawyer once. Then his wife left him. His world turned upside-down and all the change fell out. He was not a drunk. Just a soul sobered by loss. He entered a world where others understood that mortality was one breath away - and somehow that made life worth living again.

With time, he learned to sit by the curb where his past hailed for cabs and to-go bags cradled his food. When change was only in his pocket and the stain on his clothes was from a fine cut of meat.

So much nowadays makes me ponder this life I have tried so hard to lead - when I'm in bed and a man with change is sleeping on the street. I pray each night that God will help by showing me the way, so there will be light with which to read between the lines on every face.

Sunday
Feb232014

The Heart of Arts

My brother is an established music promoter in Burlington, Vermont. The following is an article he wrote that was published in the Burlington Free Press. His mission is civically localized, but his message is universal.

Heart of Art: Loving half the arts, and other big choices
Vermont-made music promoter weighs in on accessibility of Burlington's proposed art spaces

By James Lockridge

Feb. 22, 2014 2:31 PM


I picture leadership having its origin in principles — the fundamental values that steer decision-making. When you put a few principles together and uphold them publicly and confidently, you have leadership. When those principles uplift humanity, you have good leadership.

Inclusion is a principle I want leaders in our city — in government, and in our community — to demonstrate in their character, message and actions. I want to experience decision-making that shows an honest effort to include everyone in the benefits the city provides, including the things it builds.

The city of Burlington has big plans for development of new arts spaces, including stages at City Hall Park and inside the New Moran. We’ll all be glad to have new stages and new opportunities for performances; the contribution culture makes to our lives is among the most meaningful experiences we have — the sharing we do with each other through the language of art, music, theater, and dance is some of the richest communication we’re capable of.

We also have a simultaneous responsibility to uphold the interests of artists working outside the boundaries of institutions and production budgets, the real people comprising most of our performing arts community. Human-scale attention to arts infrastructure; uplifting our whole arts community at the same time; fostering artists as they develop their craft, not just when they’re ready for the limelight; removing barriers — especially financial ones — from engaging one another and sharing performances are all just a start for correcting the imbalance that permeates city support for the arts.

The performing arts have very little city infrastructure to roost on. The cost and complexity of renting a stage in Burlington makes our cultural garden a gated one. As we build performance spaces, will we be making them available to independent teen artists; disadvantaged artists with work in development or experimental work; artists who’d share music or spoken word spontaneously with the public; itinerant artists, or art on the human and interpersonal scale? The city is building stages within a worldview that’s of another era — The “foreign country” of the past where things were done differently, as Wired magazine helps us recall. Our stages are available to pay for; not programmed to include. Even our city’s central teen center, 242 Main, a cultural and historic treasure, exists as a facility in an inventory of the city’s spaces to rent. In this century we can do the algebra that on one side of the equation gathers tax and philanthropic funding, partnerships, volunteers and cooperation and on the other side provides staff, programming and the material resources that serve inclusively.

Examine the equitability of arts supports in Burlington. Have the millions of dollars invested by the city in the visual arts also supported our performers, and dancers, and musicians as comprehensively and passionately as our visual artists? Are we building small outdoor stages that anyone can use? Are we replacing public bulletin boards so the cultural community can accomplish the work of representing itself and its contributions to the economy, so that Burlington and our visitors can see how rich and creative life is here, because all of our art is represented? We have vision, talent, and options.

I’m proud of our creative community, and glad that the city gives art its attention. Our city council and municipal leaders are good-intentioned public servants and I’m optimistic that the will to lead us toward inclusive support for art — our heart as a community — will emerge and shine. We’re good people in Burlington. But this principled decision hasn’t been made for decades.

View original article at http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20140223/ARTS04/302230006/Heart-of-Art-Loving-half-the-arts-and-other-big-choices?nclick_check=1

James Lockridge is the executive director of Big Heavy World, a Burlington-based, volunteer-staffed music office working to preserve and promote Vermont-made music inclusively since 1996, http://bigheavyworld.com/. James thanks and respects New Moran and the Church Street Marketplace for their responsiveness to these sentiments prior to publication of this essay.

Saturday
Feb222014

For Friends Of Lou

Everything is clearer now.

Knowing Lou was a Master's course in friendship and selflessness - Love and non judgement of another's circumstance. Everything Lou did came from a place of love.

For those of us left behind, much of life is now about deciphering her legacy - reflecting upon the philosophies Lou wanted us to learn.
Often times, Lou would read to me the teachings of Daskalos as I responded with disingenuous understanding. It was too complicated for me to grasp, but it all came so easily to Lou. That is because she was an advanced spirit. I listened because I loved Lou so much she could have read a recipe to me (as she often did) and I would sit in pure awe. She brought a magic to every move she made.

If we never knew Lou, we would not have in turn be able to share with others her strength in the face of adversity. Her humor in the face of death. Our mutual lessons in life, morbidity, and the true essence of humanity in the eyes if God.

Knowing Lou has set us all up to be the teachers she was to us. We met Lou for a reason. This would upset her, but it wasn't to learn how to make a Kale salad, or cook your own nut milk. We knew Lou so we would know our own purpose and mission in life. And that could only be revealed to us through her passing.

We all feel her death is a tragedy. Why does goodness die when evil thrives?

Lou wants us all to know that her passing was in divine order.

Lou cultivated particular friendships from around the world. Each with their own magnificence. If you were a friend of Lou it was admission to a n exclusive club with Walt as its bouncer and Frances as its hostess.

We all knew that if Lou loved a certain new friend, then we would too. Lou was my best friend. Anyone who was close with Lou considered her their best friend. But since Lou's passing, we all have so humbly realized that none of us were truly Lou's best friend. There was only one entity that earned that place in her heart, and that was God.

If there is anything Lou would want from us all, besides loving Walt and Frances as we do, it is to get to know her best friend. Invite him into your home at least once a day and have a talk. Sit Him down for tea. Lou would like that. And possibly even offer a kale salad. With raisins and nuts inside. No dessert though. We all know how she feels about sugar.

So as we continue this journey of healing, and find ourselves trailing tears into wine, please know that from now on, you are never alone. There will always be this circle of Lou connected forever by her grace. And what better way to live the rest of our lives than with the tools she gave us during her life we can now learn to use to perhaps leave the world a slightly better place than we found it. Just like Lou.

Friday
Feb212014

The Hummingbirds Part 1-3

Thursday
Feb202014

The Special

We all have that moment when you read an update on Facebook that incites a response. You feel charged to leave a comment. Commenting is for moments of brilliance. But you stop - because you begin to scroll down the Comment box and realize how not-special your comment would seem. A littered trail of avatars have not only expressed your exact thought, they have expressed it with a wit reminiscent of David Sedaris.

Your feathers fall and you retreat to the newsfeed crawl wondering if you should ever be so bold as to comment again, feeling that your 'brilliance' was maybe not so brilliant at all. You begin to question how unique you really are.

When I was seven years old, my mother sat me down in my room and gave me 'the talk'. Not about birds and bees. But more about peacocks and hummingbirds.
She told me I was I special. I was going to do amazing, magical things in this lifetime. I had a purpose. There was a reason for my existence. She couldn't wait to see what it would be. She said I was, special.

So I waited.

And waited.

For the special.

Then I had children of my own and it hit me. My mother loved her children so much that she couldn't help but assume that the rest of the world would too. How could they not see what she saw?

Life has been a journey with roads turned onto themselves, at times crushing my soul like freeways collapsed into a white meat sandwich. Let's just say the only special I've felt is the fact I have survived it at all.

I was promised gold, I just didn't know I'd have to dig for it. To find how I just might leave some kind of mark on this world. Some type of proof that I was here. That I mattered.

This is difficult to do when you grow up and realize that every person on this planet is attempting to discover the exact same thing. It is as though we are all in a race we never signed up for. It's the amazing race for the equally amazing.

I tried everything to find my sweet spot in life. From studying the Bible to dating a healer. Practicing Indian spirituality to following rabbits down little black holes. But my special still evaded my search.

Then came my accident. The surgeries. The wheelchair. My body is broken. I am no longer able to force a life down my throat. Yet here is where I have begun to sense that meaning cannot be manufactured. Purpose cannot be planned. And that these can only be realized in a light so pure they could only have been sent by God.

The mistake I made, was assuming I would discover my special by actively seeking it out. When all I had to do was be stripped to the barest of bone to see the answer lived right inside of me. The key is not to worry about whether we shine in the eyes of others, but that we live each moment for only God to see.

Monday
Feb172014

The Change

Three hours of sleep. A throat wrecked by hacking coughs of chiseled lung. Hot eyes with tears unlike the ones I've shed for fourteen days. This is the one time in my life when bronchitis is refreshing.

The last two weeks have been a blur. The loss of a sister-friend will do that to you; it is an amputation of the soul. It is losing a part of yourself that defined who you were and who you wished you could become.

I am beginning to feel the calm between the heaves. When heartache succumbs to the amnesia of time. There are actually moments now and then when I forget that life is not complete. One of my children will cry or or the dogs will bark. The randomness of life shuffles death to the side where it lurks in wait for me to glance at her picture on my shelf. Or for when I search for earrings and come across the necklace she made for me with tiny beads. In a morse code it says, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' I reflect on how she was the change this world needed to see. And how I need to focus on becoming the friend she was, that made me feel complete.


Friday
Feb142014

Daskalos Who?

"Fame is a trap in our spiritual path." Daskalos

During my health challenge, one of my tools for managing the enormity of my life transition has been to reconnect with my connection to God. What do I truly believe? What is faith to me, really? How is does faith correlate to healing? Is my disability truly a predestined arrangement for my spiritual growth and why?

With the death of my dearest friend Lou last week, came the plunge into the spiritual teachings of Daskalos. Lou and I have been infused in each others lives for twenty years. But never more so than the past five. With Lou's cancer and chemo, and my accident and surgeries, we exchanged patient-caretaker modes like girls exchange thoughts. It was a given. An unspoken absolute that no other sister could fill that place in our lives. Of holding the others head above the toilet. Changing bandages and wiping tears.

One of the ways we differed, was Lou would read to me about her spiritual journey. She had recently discovered Daskalos and her excitement was overflowing. She rocked in the chair beside my bed and read for an hour at a time from various books by Markides on this incredible philosophy mixture of Christianity and Indian spirituality. But in my haze of pain and medication, it was her voice that soothed me more than the words that seemed to blur together in the air before they landed on my cheek.

So now, it is my mission, to learn all she wanted me to hear. Before she passed, the one thing I did catch, was that the teachings of Daskalos absolutely prepared her for the afterlife. That was all I needed to hear.

Daskalos is not really his name. It is a commonly used term in Greece for schoolmaster or teacher. And when you hear of Strovolos in relation to him, this is the area he lived in in Cyprus. For instance, the book I am starting with is called The Magus of Strovolos by Kyriacos C. Markides. Magus means priest or teacher, of Strovolos.

Daskalos said, "Our mission in life is to be of service to our fellow man. The harvest is bountiful, but few are the harvesters." It was his hope that his teachings (he actually never took credit for his teachings but attributed them to Jesus's disciple John) would be used to create 'a beautiful world in which man could live in peace and harmony. The teachings are based on a combination of Christian beliefs and Indian philosophies. He saw so much savagery and injustice in the world and the collapse of morality.

The first discussion Markides had with Daskalos was about out-of-body experiences. Their first discussions also ventured into reincarnation. He learned that when Daskalos and his student went out-of-body, it was always to 'be of service' to mankind in one way or another.

There is no nationality, religion or race attached to the service intended by Daskalos in his teachings and service to others. But how does one experience out-of-body? Daskalos explains that we don't just have one body, but rather three bodies. (Now that's a deal.) We have our 'gross material body' which is our flesh and bone, a 'psychic body', which is the body of sentiments, and a 'noetic body' which expresses our mental state. A further explanation left my brain in knots. But suffice it to say, we have three consciousnesses (that's a lot of esses).

You still with me?

When one leaves his body, it leaves the 'gross material' body behind and ventures out with its 'psycho-noetic' body, which is why they can return to their physical being aware of where they had been and what they did when they were out-of-body.

The real kicker is, there is an energy force that connects all three of these bodies together. It is called the 'etheric double'. Somewhere in this is the energy that is affected and used that results in ritualistic healings. Some say it is energy absorbed by the body through our chakras, and is the energy scientists have yet to discover.

Out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, etc., are things people rarely spoke of in public until the last thirty years or so. With this spiritual awakening in the western world, minds are more open and largely less likely to judge these concepts right away. People are more curious than ever before, with an aching to discover new truths.

One of the most influential followers of Daskalos is/was (not sure if he's passed, will have to Google that one) Kyriacos Markides. He's a sociologist who returned to his homeland of Cyprus in the 1980's where Daskalos (in his sixties) lived in Strovolos and began to study his teachings to write a book. Markides knew the only way to truly learn and absorb this new spiritual reality would be to submerge himself completely as a disciple.

This is just the beginning of my studies of Daskalos and the writings of Markides. There is so much to his teachings, this was just a dipping of my toe into the waters. Wish me luck! And please if you'd like to follow me on this journey and comment, discussion is always fruitful.


Thursday
Feb132014

The Music Box

I stood in front of my grandfather's dresser. Grabbing the corners of its top, I hung my head low. I could not let go of the image of Cabernet snow with fixed hair still clinging to shattered bone. The outline of my grandfather' body still pressed into the white like an abandoned crime scene.

My grandfather lived too many lives for one man. He was a man's man with a lumberjack build. Vermont ran through his veins like syrup from a tree. There had been talk that the farm was too big for him to manage alone any longer. With my grandmother's stroke and living in a facility, forty acres of gentlemen's land and a house he built with his hands, it was all too much. At eighty-four, the thought of his life chipped away to one room with Bingo at 5 o' clock was too much for him to bare. So, went out on his own terms outside his office door where the screen slammed against its frame for one final time.

My oldest daughter was six months old. My only reprieve from grief was into her breath. The rest of the hours were spent going through my grandparents' belongings and reminisce. But the one thought that stalked my mind was whether or not Grandpa was ok. Was he finally at peace?

Growing up Catholic leaves one with many concerns. One of the greatest sins in the church is to take your own life. It only results in purgatory or an eternity in damnation.

I had never lost someone I loved. My grandfather was a father to me as my brother and I spent every summer on their farm.

The previous few days had been a rolling tide of tears. Then calm would set in, and we would laugh at a thought that passed too quickly through the air. At times we all swore we felt my grandfather in the room. A thickening of the air. I found myself lost, wandering from room to room. Then I stopped in front of the glass cabinet where Grammy had kept her china. Next to the plates was a music box. I slid the glass and gently held the box in my hands. It wasn't actually a box. It was solid wood with a rounded base painted in blue with white stars around its side. On top was a table that turned when it played. A Christmas tree stood in the middle, with little wooden angels dancing around the edge. I fell in love it and asked my mother if she would mind if I brought it home for my children. She said of course, and that it was the most meaningful gift Grammy had ever received. It was from dear friends who had gone to Germany and brought it home for her. But it was broken. It had been broken for over thirty years. But Grammy loved it so much that she kept it in the china cabinet for all to see.

I set the music box on top of my grandfather's tall dresser in his room where my mother and I were sleeping. I closed my eyes with hands wrapped around the base of the box and prayed with all of my heart to my grandfather to please, please let me know he was ok. To please make this music box play, because it was so broken, there could be no other possible explanation other than it was him. I even tried the crank and all it did was clunk. I prayed so deeply tears welled in my eyes and my face filled with the pressure of will. But nothing happened.

---

The casket was closed at the wake. Loved ones filled the parlor, but the only one I could talk to was God. A slit of light peeked through a door to a vacant room where I sat in numb isolation, confronting Him. My pleas to accept my grandfather through the gates of Heaven fell into tissues stained with regret; That I hadn't called enough. That my life as a new mother on the west coast took precedent over communicating with this beautiful man who taught me so much about life. I asked for a sign. Just something, anything, just to let me know my grandfather was ok.

We arrived home with dragging spirits and crawled into our beds. My mother slept on Grandpa's side and I laid where my Grammy would fall asleep to Johnny Carson and her tiny black and white television on her dresser next to perfume bottles and bobby pins untouched by time. We slept.

At one in the morning I awoke to the most wondrous sound. Startled. I jolted up in bed. The music box was playing the most beautiful music I had ever heard. It was him. Grandpa was there. He was making it play. I shook my mother to wake. We heard it. We cried. We knew.

The music played its song two complete times all the way through. Every chime was perfect, as though orchestrated by angels. Every note filled the room. As I stared into the darkness, a silhouette of a crowd of people walking toward a light played before me like a film. The air was so alive the cells in my body raged with belief, with faith, and the knowing that I will never question again if life goes on.

The family's priest came to visit the next day. We shared Grandpa's visit with him. In my humming of the tune it played, he told us the song was a sacred hymn sung in honor of the blessed mother Mary. We hung our heads and prayed.

The music box is tucked away. It has not played a single note since. Not that I haven't tried, or turned the crank only to be answered by a clunk. But one thing is for sure, the music box was truly the most meaningful gift to ever be received.

Listen to 'The Music Box' http://www.cdbaby.com/m/cd/micaelabensko2

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