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Tragedy and Blessings


A week ago, I found out that my cousin shot and killed someone, and then died. I have not seen my cousin in almost 12 years. But, I’d heard from him last October. He texted me out of the blue. I was almost as shocked that day as I was last week when I heard the news.

My cousin and I were fairly close as kids, our parents both divorced around the same time, so our Dads spent a lot of time together. Thus, so did we. I always remembered him as being extremely intelligent, way more than any other kid I knew, yet soft spoken and shy. One day when we were all snow skiing together, he fell. I was right by him and asked if he was ok. He yelled at me “Yes! I’m fine.” I remember thinking that he wasn’t very good at people loving him, but I still did. I didn’t realize the significance of this ability until last week.

When he texted me in October he sent a photo and a message that said, “Big love to you!” I didn’t recognize him or the number so I thought it was a stranger. Our messages went like this… I said, "Wrong #?" He wrote back, "Your cousin loves you. Sorry hope it didn't freak you out. Spreadin the love today.” I said, "No way!" He said, "Yahh? We had whip cream fight in Hawaii when we were little. Now you know it's me. Who else would know that? I love you and hope the kids are doing well. There's so much to talk about I'm texting from work but I guess my half ass attempt to get back in contact is better than none.." I said, "How are you? Thanks for the text! That's awesome. I didn't recognize you. Yes, I remember you EATING the whipped cream, smartest one of us all if you ask me."
Then I sent him a photo of me and the boys. He said, "My god, you are a beautiful family! You have to be as proud as can be" I said, "Yes. Thanks, they are sweeties. Brannon, my 6 year old reminds me of you. Uber creative, thinks way outside the box, and kind of a stinker sometimes...:)"

Those were the last words between us in the physical world.
When I heard what happened to him, I was so stunned, not only because of his actions, being such a gentle soul, but also because I’d compared him to my own son.

By some miracle, I had been invited to a meeting the school district was hosting two nights later. As I listened to their talk about asymmetric development in extremely intelligent children, the tears flowed freely. They were talking about my cousin, and my son. In one of her statements the woman said, “If a child who is highly intelligent is not taught social skills, they will eventually have difficulty in that area, which will then effect their emotional growth and physical growth. If this goes on indefinitely, you will have a Ted Kaczynski on your hands. He had an IQ of about 168 and no friends.

In the last week I’ve learned something that is crucial for all parents to know about. Social development is not something that is just learned by being thrown in with other children. It must be taught. There is a difference between discipline and teaching as well. And, if you have a child who is very smart intellectually, but who may be very introverted or have fits like a two year old when they are asked to do something they do not wish to do, then you need to learn about this topic. It is VITAL.

The deep sadness and grief of losing my cousin, along with the fear of my own child having issues in the future caused a ground level shift in my awareness about parenting. I’ve changed how I am with him.

Two nights ago I was reading to the boys and I stopped abruptly and looked at my watch. It was past their bedtime so I said, “Time for bed.” But Brannon would not accept that. He screamed, “Mommy! You didn’t read the last sentence!”

In the past I would have said, “You do not talk to your mother that way.” And a fight would have ensued. He would have been mad, getting him in bed would have been a struggle and I would have been exhausted.

But not this night, I knew that these kids have a HIGHLY developed sense of fairness. And I realized he thought this was not fair. So instead of my old ‘discipline’ I said, “Sweetie, I’m not trying to be mean or unfair. I just noticed it was past your bedtime and so I quit reading so we could go to bed on time. I’m happy to finish the sentence but I need you to talk to me in a way that is a bit softer so I don’t feel upset or angry.”

I watched him for three minutes while he fumed, I could literally see the steam coming out of his ears. Normally I’d have pushed him to ‘do it now.’ But this time I just sat there while he made the connections on his own and then… I heard, “Mommy, will you please read the whole last sentence?”

I smiled, let out the breathe I was holding and said, “Yes, of course. Thank you for asking me in such a nice voice.” I finished it and he went to bed without another word about it.

I’m learning this parenting thing. I hope. I also hope that I can turn this tragedy my cousin had into a blessing that goes forward into the world.

My cousin was very smart. He had a very high IQ. He took four languages in High School and got straight A’s in all of them. However he did not graduate because he refused to do work in any other classes. And he had a very hard time making close friends. So, a man who could have been a professor at a university never even got the chance to go to college. And a truly gentle soul ended up with a tragic ending.

We did not have the knowledge or tools back then that we now do to help these kinds of kids. Please spread the word about this topic. It is important for our and our kids’ future.


Wow!The first sentence

Wow!The first sentence captivated me, my younger (15yr) brother shot himself about 6 yrs ago. Your description of your cousin sounds like my brother. We were both adopted and grew up with rather different experience, given the age of our parents. But we, BEing very different in many ways, used to talk about how we were alike. While my brother was much smarter than me intellectually, we both never felt like we belonged here..we both had a hard time making friends. I knew when I was about 4 that I was not like evryone else. I knew as I watched my brother grow, there was trouble. I tried to tell my parents, but they never listened to me. Now, as an adult (65) I see and understand more. Sadly, I still feel like an undeveloped child in my abilities. Never had the opportunity. Like you said your cousin could have taught.. I would love nothing more than to provide a special school for our gifted children and their parents. There is nothing more important than communication, understanding, acceptance and love. I can only pray that my brother knew how much I loved him.My idea of a school teaches the basics along with discovering our gifts and how to use them.
Thank you for your page.


He knows how much you love him. Thank you for your post.
Love and Light,

IQ - social skills

sound like both your cousin and your son have Asperger's Syndrome.


Maybe but a few years ago a friend of mine told me about it and I've done some reading on it and it doesn't seem like a fit. Thanks for the comment. The vice principle at his school has suggested GT testing. We will see how the results go.

Meanwhile he has been soaking up the social/emotional skills/lessons in the last month like it's the only water on earth. Asking for more, talking about it all the time. Then randomly demonstrating what he has learned and asking questions. It's been fantastic.

Big learning curve for me. The books I've read are extremely helpful. Especially the "Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students". I've learned about all of the normal traits gifted kids have that leads to perfectionism, underperformance, extreme mood swings and stress.
Best of luck to anyone who has a kiddo out there!

Gifted Children

Jen you're absolutely correct in the list of characteristics of gifted children. As a teacher of GT Elem. kids I had to explain to them many social issues that other non GT kids just get. Justice is paramount to them. Things have to be logical. Very difficult for them to be at ease with our non-logical interactions. Organization is a biggy for them as well. I started my 3rd grade students using a planner, taught my 5th graders how to "begin with the end in mind" project planning to help avoid procrastination and always walked that fine line between making the lessons challenging enough so they had to struggle a little, but yet developmentally appropriate. I had a replacement Language Arts class; so I was their L.A. teacher. It was an amazing program. But here in Ohio the funding for GT has been cut so much the program no longer exists. They are now expecting us to meet the needs of GT within the regular classroom. Just not possible.

blog post 2-16-1012

Thank you for your Memoir, The Gift Giver. I have recently discovered how to hear spirits, my relatives and other people's when I'm asked to. It is a bit strange at first and then it is a comfort to know from a deep place within that we don't end and that they really are still available when we need them most. In other words when I feel most alone, I now know, I am not-- ever. It makes me ever more comfortable being able to do this with you having published this book. It is such a comfort to others to share messages from their disembodied loved ones.
This blog post was most enlightening. I see it in my work too. It seems that we are finally realizing that children are not lacking in knowledge and need to be "molded" We are finally treating them as whole spirits with consciousness that may be more evolved then our own. We've really come a long way since 1966 when children were still considered chattel. And the phrase-- Seen and not heard from the early 20th Cent. Are you kidding me? They have some of the greatest wisdom to share if you can understand their language. Thank you and Mark for your sharing and wisdom.

Woo hoo!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I am so passionate about sharing the 'normalness' of having this ability. I honestly believe in my heart and soul that we ALL do. So, I'm glad my story has helped you feel more comfortable.

Just as a sneak preview, I am starting a website that is going to be teaching people how they can tap into this innate ability. :)

Love and Light,

Thank You, Jennifer

Hi, I would just like to thank you for writing this book. I lost my husband of 16 years on February 28, 2010. He was only 45 years old and had been fighting health problems for 2 years. We went through so much in those two years, ups and downs, fights and loving moments, you name it....Since his death, I have not been able to accept the fact that it was "his time to go" or that "he was ready" or "in a better place'. Oh, I knew that his suffering was over but how could he leave us this way...our two young grandchildren were his life...his whole could he leave them?? how could he leave me with so many things left undone and affairs not in order? I could not make sense of it. Your book changed that. Now I can look at it in a completely different way and have begun to not only understand but also accept it. I simply cannot explain what this book has meant to me. I keep re-reading parts of it and have told anyone who would listen about it and recommended it to everyone I know. I only wish I was lucky enough to be able to communicate with Robert in such a way. I carry on conversations with him, and I know he's with me but his presence isn't so obvious. You are blessed with a gift and God bless you for sharing it. Love to you and your boys.


Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is extremely important for people to share their experiences. I'm so thrilled that the book has helped. I'm sorry about your husband, regardless of understanding, it is still a difficult path and I commend you. I'm glad he is with you, and you know that is true. I think we all communicate in different ways and that however he is reaching you is just right. And also a blessing to be acknowledged.

Parenting - so different today

Great story Jen! I've had the pleasure of watching my daughter parent her son, and it's so different. He just turned 2, so he's doing some things a 2 year old does - like hitting people or telling them to go away. She is so patient with him. She gets his attention (although he tries everything he can to distract her with something else), and talks with him. She doesn't tell him what to do. She asks him how it makes the other person feel when he's mean. Then she asks him what he can do to make the person feel better. She makes suggestions, but doesn't force him to do anything. However, she does keep at it until he says he's sorry, or whatever. She is teaching him to empathize, and he seems to be "getting it". She asked him one evening, as part of their nightly ritual, what the happiest thing in his day was. He said it was when he gave his toy to a little boy at preschool who was sad.
I try some of her techniques when I'm watching him, and I'm amazed at how well it works. Much less confrontational.

Shining Lights

Thanks for sharing your observations. My children have been like sponges since I started this new way of communicating and teaching them. My little guy (6) has even brought up the topic of emotions and talking about what they are, how to cope with the huge one's he has, and understanding other's more than once in the last two weeks. These kids are incredible. We have so much to learn from them.
Thanks again!

Thank you

I am almost done with your book. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Parenting is everything. It makes us women who we are! You are dear and wonderful soul. I look forward to reading more about your life and children. Thanks for the huge reminder that while we are here in 3D we only see a sliver of capital T Truth! Much love and joy to you and the boys!
Laurie Orloff
Dallas, TX
Author: How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Twen Survival Guide


"A story about loss turns into a beautifully written affirmation of life."
       .... Neale Donald Walsch, author, Conversations with God