For those friends who celebrate Easter, I wish you a happy one. And for all my friends, I wish you happy thoughts of life everlasting, of waking up from death to find that you are still…being—still alive, still in possession of consciousness, still able to dream, still able to love, free from pain, free from fear. Safe and at peace, looking back at the dream you have left and the dreams you have still to live. Full of hope. Knowing that there is no future, that there is only now. Forever.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at

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Time to Live

I had a birthday last week. I turned seventy-eight. Even I can’t believe it. I just woke up one morning, and there it was.  I had so many good wishes on my Facebook page and in my email inbox that I couldn’t answer them all. I had messages from friends I haven’t seen in a long time, messages from my daughters’ Friends, messages from friends in far off places, all sending love, love, love. My granddaughters’ messages were so beautiful they made me cry. My step granddaughters’ messages made me cry. My daughters’ calls and posts were precious and loving. My middle daughter was traveling and sent messages from every airport and called when she landed. My stepchildren wrote and called. My brothers called. I was inundated with love. It was a great day.

I’m also lucky. I’m very, very healthy. I have no aches and pains. Well, maybe my back hurts a little when I sit too much. So I try not to sit too much.  I can see, I can walk, I can do almost anything I want to do.  In May, I’m going out to California to see my daughter and granddaughter. I haven’t seen them in a while and I miss them. While I’m there, I’m going to drive up the coast, that beautiful California coast where the Pacific Ocean splashes against the rocks at Carmel. Just because I’ve never done it before. In a convertible, of course. My oldest daughter is going to come with me. My youngest daughter asked if I wanted to go to South Africa with her in October. Did I say yes?  I’m already thinking of what I want to pack. We went to India a couple of years ago, and it was a dream. A dream. My middle daughter, who lives closest to me, and I are sometimes on a quest to place my book in stores around Washington, D.C. We don’t place a lot of books, but we laugh a lot and have lunch. My granddaughter is building a web site for my book (more about that later). Life is good.

But here’s the greatest part: I can tell the truth. I am in touch with the spirit world. There it is. I probably wouldn’t have said that out loud years ago. But age has given me the greatest freedom I have ever had, and that is the freedom to tell the truth.  I don’t have to worry about its effect on my career. I don’t have to worry about what people will think. By now, I am who I am going to be.

Something happened to me after my son died. I reached out and touched the world of spirit. It responded. And saved my life. For years, I kept it a secret. I was afraid of appearing…well, you know…daft. What I have found out is that it happens to a lot of people, maybe not exactly in the way it happened to me, but it happens. Now that my story is out there – in a book – I’m hearing from people who have wanted to talk about their experiences, but were reluctant – or afraid – like I was. I love their stories. They’re sometimes alike, sometimes different, but they all boil down to one thing: the people they love who have passed over talk to them. They communicate. Sometimes they feel them close by. Sometimes they’ll have a sudden, bright thought that seems to come out of nowhere, a thought that only their loved one would convey. Sometimes their jewelry is moved. With me, it was my Christmas decorations that fell off a shelf –  my son telling me to celebrate, to continue with life.  Things happen to many of us to let us know that life is more than we can see or touch. And those of us who have had these experiences know that somehow, somewhere, our loved ones are living and love us still. We know that Nobody’s Gone for Good.

I believe that the Universe is loving and compassionate. I believe that there is comfort for those of us whose loved ones have gone into spirit. I believe that life is continual and eternal and that they who live on the other side want us to know that, and be glad. I believe it because I have been given a glimpse of it. And knowing that is what makes life good and worthwhile. I can’t see the point, otherwise.

I’m not one for whom life has been easy, so I speak not as a Pollyanna. I have a close, intimate relationship with grief and loss. I have nearly lost my own life, more than once. I miss my son and my husband every day of my life. I miss my lovely mother and my father. I know what it is to dwell in the dark. But I also know that life is not just one thing. It is night and day; it is sunrise and sunset, spring and autumn. It is lessons. It is learning. But it is forever. And it is good.

And so what is seventy-eight? It is just one more step along the way. It is time to plan a trip, time to tell the truth, time to live.


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Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Available at




It’s All About Life

I went to a funeral in South Carolina. If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know why. My cousin Tiny and her husband, Duke (who passed away), were married over fifty years, I said. But it was sixty-two years they were married. A lifetime. It was that funeral.

It seems as if I am constantly writing about death. But that’s not exactly true. What I am writing about is life. My daughter Michaela and I were in a little town in South Carolina for only one full day and a night. But that was long enough to feel the tenor of the place and the people, to listen to the memories, the anecdotes, the little pieces of a man’s passage on the earth that were all about life – his life, Tiny’s life, and the life of a tribe I continue to discover.  One of the most moving speakers at the funeral was a man whose life Duke, the football coach at Morris College, changed. The speaker was a poor boy who came to Morris, hoping against hope to play football. When he arrived, he had no shoes and he had no jacket. Duke provided both, and a full scholarship. As he stood before us in the small Presbyterian church, we saw a man who was the color of black coffee, tall, trim, and dignified by opportunity. He wore a bow tie in honor of his coach, who always wore one. He held a Ph.D. and before he retired, he had taught at the same little college as his mentor, Duke. He, too, had coached football. He spoke in quiet, measured terms. But his voice broke a little here and there as he remembered how his coach prodded, pushed, encouraged, demanded his absolute, total dedication. To football? No. To education. To life.

Morris College is an historically black college, one of those bright spots of hope in what was, for so many, a hopeless land. Through its doors walked members of my family. It was the path to a better life, a path that led sometimes to the migration of brave hopefuls out of the South, a migration that included my mother and father. That was how I came to be born in Philadelphia. When I go back to South Carolina, I know that I am tracing my roots. The life of my family.

At the luncheon that followed the funeral, a man I didn’t recognize came over to me, took my hand, and said, “Come, let me introduce you to your cousin. She’s on the Moore side.” And he led me to a woman – his mother – whom I’d never seen before, but whose face I would know anywhere.  It was a Moore face. We hugged and held hands and talked about my grandmother, Helen Moore, whose name I bear. My grandmother was an Irish woman who married a dark Native American man. They had seven children. One was my father. Yes, my family is one of those hybrids – what they’d call a “mixed” family. On both sides. German, Irish, African, Native American, and Syrian – it’s all in our DNA. If I didn’t know better, I’d think somebody fabricated our family stories. And there are many. It’s a book in my heart waiting to be written.

But here we all were, Tiny cradled and safe in the middle of us, talking about family. About life. I never once heard the word death mentioned. We told and heard stories – some funny, some that took me back to my childhood, some so nostalgic I could feel my ancestors there among us, nodding in agreement and approval.  All of our cousins, it seemed, knew my daughter Michaela and wanted to meet her. They see her on CNN, and they’re her devoted fan club. How lovely it was to see them smiling with her, having a photo-op with her. To the young ones, I was Michaela’s mother.

You see, our trip wasn’t about death at all. It was about life. The people who reared me, who loved me, were full of it. They abided. They persevered. They believed they had something to live for – a purpose. Mostly, it was us, their children. They gave us all they had, gladly and without reservation. We were – we are – a strong, strange tribe. We range in color from black, to red, to white, and everything in between. And we were all there in that room, in that luncheon, loving one another, seeking each other out, striving to tell the stories that connected us.

I write about death because it happens. But life is so much more important. Unlike death, which is temporary, life continues. It continues in spirit, and it continues in children, in the ones that still walk the earth that look like and sound like the ones who have left. I am so grateful for that, and for my family. I know that I went to a funeral, but I also stepped out of a world filled with news of anger and fear into one that was filled with life and love.  Yes, my cousin Tiny will grieve and her life will never be the same. But she will not be alone. Yes, there is a void that is left by the ones who leave us. But then, there are the ones who are left that bear their eyes, and their mouths, their turns of phrase. Their laughs.  And the ones in spirit walk beside us and listen to us speaking of them. They know that death is only a bridge, and that life is all there is.


Edward Butler and Helen Moore Butler, with six of their seven children. The boy to the right of Helen is my father. The girl in front of her is Tiny’s mother.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. It is available at

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My Cousin Tiny

I always looked forward to summer when I was young. Not only because school was out, but because my cousin Tiny would come up from South Carolina to spend a few weeks with us. She was three years older, the sister I never had, and everything I wanted to be. She had great masses of auburn hair, unusual in our family. That hair, the way she sashayed down the street, and that Carolina drawl mesmerized the Philadelphia boys. And the girls. But what I admired more than anything else about Tiny was her confidence. She never waffled on anything. She was strong. Sassy. She is all those things today, and more. Her real name is Bernard, and she’s always worn it with pride. Never apologized for it. The family called her Tiny because of her size at birth, and it stuck. But there was nothing tiny about her. She was a presence wherever she was. She had an energy that was vital and vibrant. Everybody liked her, and I suspect, wanted to be like her. As I did.

Tiny is my cousin on my father’s side. Her mother was my father’s sister, a gorgeous woman with Native American blood who looked like Lena Horne. Tiny’s red hair came from her father’s side. My father’s family were the Butlers, the best, most interesting, joyous clan there ever was. They could see the bright side of anything. And they believed in ghosts. They could see them. Including Tiny. But that’s another story.

Tiny was in college, staying with us for the summer in Philadelphia as usual, when Duke, an older college football coach, proposed to her. I remember it so clearly. We were in my bedroom on the second floor with the door closed. I was privy to her fabulous secret before anybody else was. We giggled and giggled, and I could tell how happy she was. True, he was older, but he had won her heart over her many younger beaus.

Tiny and Duke lived together in love forever after that. He loved her youth and her energy. She loved his protection and steadiness. Most of their lives were lived as teachers in New Jersey, and when they retired, they returned to live in her beloved South Carolina. In his later years, Duke distinguished himself working with charities and serving on university boards. But he was never stuffy. He and my Bill got along famously. I’ve forgotten exactly how long he and Tiny were married, but I’m sure it has been over fifty years. It always seemed to me that they were partners in a conspiracy to have as much fun as they could for as long as they could. And they did, until Duke was badly injured in an automobile accident a few years ago. He never fully recovered and developed Alzheimer’s disease shortly after. But they were still partners, and Tiny was with him every day in the beautiful house they built, lending him her legendary strength and optimism.

Duke passed away yesterday morning. When Tiny called me to tell me, she was her old strong, steady self. We talked for a long time. Some of that time was devoted to Bill, my husband who passed away almost seven years ago. When we talked yesterday, it seemed as if we were still those two girls in that upstairs bedroom so many years ago. This time, though, our conversation was about how to live when the love of your life leaves this earthly plane. And we talked about her beloved sister who died, and Eddie, my son. She stood by my side when Eddie died, but this time, I could lend her my strength.

I will probably go down to South Carolina within the next few days, to attend the funeral. If we get a moment alone in her room, we’ll talk more about them, Duke, whose real name was Robert, and Bill. And we will be grateful for the good men who loved us so dearly. And then, we will go downstairs to greet her guests.


Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at

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