author/source: Laurie O'Neil

Christine D'Ercole WordshopI am….    I can….   I will….   I do…

How would you answer these four sentences?

Tonight, I had the privilege of digging deep into the power of our own words with Christine D'Ercole along with my eleven-year-old great-niece, Marisa, and a group of brave, beautiful motherless daughters from empowerHER.

What is Wordshop?

According to Christine, “Wordshop is where we workshop the words that make up our stories,” and tonight’s Wordshop focused on the story of mother loss.

Sitting side by side on Marisa’s deck, masks in place, the sinking sunbeams filtered through the towering evergreens. One by one, our empowerHER sisters filled the zoom squares, each greeting landing on our hearts as a warm embrace. Intrigued by Marisa’s tasty snack, all agreed her unlikely watermelon sherbet and coconut almond chip combination sounded divine!

Suddenly, a new square emerged. In it sat a raven black-haired, dazzling blue-eyed woman whose smile immediately captured our attention.

Within minutes, Christine’s captivating energy possessed each and every one of our hearts. As she began to share her story, she offered each of us a roadmap for writing a new story about who we are and who we’re capable of being, all within the context of the profound loss each of the girls had experienced.

Marissa - WordplayMesmerized by her deep, synchronous voice, we “followed” her into the heart space where their mothers lived. The girls gathered special memories, mementos, and keepsakes “carrying” them into a room infused with light and love.

Then Christine told us to invite our mothers into this sacred space. Immediately, my beloved niece, Terri Luanna, entered. Her enchanting smile and eternal, all-consuming love for her daughter radiated from her being.

And then Christine said, “Your mother is always here. In this space. In your heart. She is always and forever with you, and you can talk to her at any time. Just like you talk to yourself. So, let’s invite her into the conversation. I want you to pick up your pen. I want you to imagine your mother speaking to you. How would she finish the sentence, you are… Write whatever comes into your heart.”

Sitting next to Marisa, I could literally feel Terri enter my being, as the words flowed out of the tip of my pen…

You are… Magnificent. My heart and soul. My greatest teacher. Brilliant. Brave. Beautiful. Compassionate and caring. Going to change the world. My everything.

Marisa was furiously writing next to me.

“Now imagine your mother answering you can…”

Tears sprang to my eyes as Terri’s all-encompassing mother-love exploded out of my pen.

Chose Your Words Photo taken by Brett JordanYou can… Be anything you want to be. Change the world. Be happy. Dream Big. Be famous. Achieve any and all things.

You will… Be loved. Love deeply. Laugh fully and often. Inspire others. Have an amazing life full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

You do… So much for others. Light up this world.

For the next ten minutes, Marisa and I immersed ourselves in the power of words. The power of writing them down. The power they possess to transform and shift our loss into empowerment and healing.

After each sentence, Christine asked the girls to pick one of their answers to write in the chat and then she spoke each of their mother’s messages aloud. Tears, smiles, laughter, and love emanated from each and every face on my computer.

Photo Courtesy of Peter FogdenAfter walking us through the same exercise, this time using I am, I can, I will, I do, it was time to say goodbye. Christine shared a few final thoughts as we all basked in the afterglow of this extraordinary experience.

“How you answer these four sentences is the root of your empowerment. By speaking about our losses, speaking our naked truths with vulnerability, we are able to shift our narrative and write our own stories. And always remember, your mother’s hands are on your back. And always know, all of us here have our hands on your back.”

Not wanting the magic to end, I explained to Marisa that I imagined what Mamãe would write to her and what Marisa would write to herself and suggested we each read our answers to each other.

Here’s what my bodhisattva great-niece wrote:

You are… Brave. Intelligent. Fierce. Kind

You can… Meditate. Learn. Be inspirational

You will… Be a Graceful Woman Warrior

You do… Make me smile. Make me laugh. Make me proud.

I am… Marisa Alegria Maytrea Robinson da Silva. Beautiful. My mom’s legacy. Terri Luanna’s daughter.

I can… Be more open. Love. Be friendly. Grow

I will… Make good things. Be a director or filmmaker. Love.

I do… Have a nice home. Have a caring pet. Love my family, and friends more than ever before.

So, I ask you again, how will you answer these four questions?

Write it down.

Read it aloud.

Write a new story

Laurie O NeilLaurie O’Neil is a social worker, author, speaker and writer who has devoted her 40-year career to enlightening, empowering, and engaging others in the critical power of loving connection. Co-author of Graceful Woman Warrior: A Story Of Mindfully Living In The Face Of Dyingand creator of the accompanying Grace Lessons WorkshopLaurie also contributes to the online magazine, Herself360 and has appeared on WJAR NBC 10’s Studio 10, NPR’s The Point, 95.9 WATD-FM’s Powerful Women Revealed, Cape Cod Writer’s Center’s, Books and the World, and the Engaging Voices, Positive News Now and Widowed Parent podcastsA graduate of Boston University, Laurie specializes in grief and loss, giving voice to the transformative and healing power found within our shared loss stories.