My 9/11

I grew up that day; we all did.   The two towers of strength collapsed in what seemed like seconds. We all watched in awe, fascination, disbelief and then horror.  In that instant our world changed forever.  I wanted to wrap my arms around my children and never let them go. I ran out and bought them cell phones.  I sat, fixated on the televsion; afraid to watch but not wanting to miss anything.  The heroic stories that we all know about now were in the process of happening.  People were reaching out to their loved ones for the last time; some never got the chance. 

I remember that day like it was yesterday and I will never forget.



You hooked up with some one who

brings out that evil side of you.

Now you don’t like me;

you analyze and judge me;

scoffing at everything I do.

“Just between you and I”

look in the mirror;

you know who I’m talking to.

I used to cry and feel sub par

but since then I’ve come pretty far.

I’m tending to me, becoming more free;

excising those scars.

“Just between you and I”

there’s no room in my life

for any backstabbing liars.

 So go on and have a laugh at me;

I’m not wasting any more energy.

This is the last time

I’ll put my pen to rhyme about you;

see, I’ve got better things to do.

“Just between you and I”

I guess its time to say goodbye.

I still love that person buried deep inside you.

I don’t know where it went to.




Image This was me then …2009


Image This is me now…2012

Can you see the difference?  When you look pretty good no one ever asks you how you feel.  It may not be that apparent but 2 ½ years ago my life changed.

This is what happened:

I was in the dentist’s chair having a temporary crown put into my upper right molar.  The dentist rested the full weight of her arm on my jaw as she made her assault on my tooth.  The banging and pulling was loud, brutal, and traumatic.  I wanted to tell her to stop but I was unable to move my mouth to speak, and I mustered up the courage to get through it.

Four days later I was out for lunch with my son and his friend and I realized I had a strange headache and that the inside of my mouth was pulsating.  “Maybe I’m coming down with something,” I thought to myself.  Feeling kind of weird I went home and took something for the headache.  It didn’t work.  Later on that night it felt as though my teeth didn’t fit into my mouth; that they were somehow lopsided and the top teeth didn’t meet the bottom teeth. My tongue felt out of place. The inside of my mouth… the gums, teeth and tongue… and under my chin were burning and throbbing.

Feeling the same way a couple of days later I made an appointment with my dentist to have a look at the work she had done. “You never checked my bite after the dental work,” I said.  “Well let me check it now,” I heard her say.   “Everything looks fine to me; maybe you have a virus; check with your primary care physician” she said.  “Just make an appointment when you’re feeling better and we’ll put in the permanent crown.”   I did as she said but my PCP couldn’t find anything wrong with me other than the suspicion that it had something to do with the work I had done in my mouth.

Over the next few weeks and months my headaches became much worse and it felt like the inside of my nose was constricted; similar to a sinus infection.   The area between my eyes looked swollen and was tender to the touch.  The pain affected my eyesight.  The persistent throbbing in my mouth and under my chin was sometimes unbearable.   Sharp sounds like the clanging of silverware or running the vacuum were very painful to my ears and I had to leave the room when I heard the sounds of dishes hitting each other as they were loaded into the dishwasher.

My PCP decided to do some tests – a cat scan of my sinuses, an MRI of my brain, and some blood work.  Everything came back pretty much normal other than some swelling of the nasal passages which had already been a problem since childhood.   I was put on an antibiotic for my sinuses in case there was an infection but that didn’t help at all.

I was becoming very depressed.  It’s a terrible feeling when you don’t know what is wrong and to whom to turn for help.  My PCP sent me to a series of specialists – a neurologist (who didn’t bother to do any testing), a sinus specialist in Boston (he said I was a complicated case and was afraid to do sinus surgery because of nerves in the area of the sinuses), an oral surgeon (he wasn’t sure what was causing the problems) and finally, Tufts Craniofacial Pain Center in Boston.   It was there that I received SOME of the answers.

A wonderful team of doctors did an assessment of my face, which began with measuring the amount of air coming out of my nostrils, checking my bite, feeling my jaw, measuring both sides of the inside of my mouth; rearranging my jaw with their fingers inside of my mouth, studying the movement of my mouth and jaw, etc.  The verdict:  TMD – temporomandibular joint dysfunction with some facial neuropathy of the trigeminal nerve.  In other words my jaw was out of alignment from my dental work and it had changed the structure of my face, affecting the nerves in my face. I was referred to one of their doctors who lived much closer to my home and soon I was fitted for two “appliances” that I would have to wear day and night.  One was to realign my jaw and keep me from clenching it when I was stressed, and the other to prevent the grinding of teeth during sleep.  I was also sent for craniosacral and lymphatic drainage physical therapy.

Two and a half years later none of these issues have been resolved.  Now there are times when I can’t chew, when I can’t open my mouth wide enough to take a bite, when the change in barometric pressure makes an assault on my face and nerves.  I’ve had to wear ear plugs at some of my son’s concerts, eat soft foods, and I rarely go out at night because the pain is much worse at the end of the day from talking, chewing, laughing, yawning…everyday life.

One Saturday afternoon my husband and I decided to take a drive to Wachusett Mountain which was about 45 minutes from my house.  As we made our way closer and closer to the mountain a pressure headache began and I started to feel nauseous.    By the time we made it up to the summit we had to pull over and stop.  I spent the rest of the day in bed with an awful migraine.  I have missed concerts, parties, dinners, and trips.  There are times I have to wear ear plugs at a restaurant because the sound of the dishes clanging is too acute for my ears.

This is what I call my new normal.

Sometimes it is okay and at other times it is not.

Sadly a couple of the people I thought would be there to support and love me through the tougher times had no empathy.  I have had to make some tough decisions about their presence in my life as I no longer have time for critical, insensitive, uncaring non-believers.  My circle of friends may be smaller but we are mutually supportive and understanding of each other’s lives.  We don’t judge each other; we listen, offer a shoulder; sometimes we cry together.

Some people who have chronic pain do wonderful things with their lives.  They channel their pain into artistic endeavors; they write poetry or take photographs of the beauty that lies outside of their narrowed world. The only thing I have to offer are some insights and valuable lessons that pain has taught me.   I have learned to be kinder, less judgmental, and more empathetic to others.  It is easy to say “I Love You” to the people who are still a part of my life and love me even though I have changed.  I value the times when I feel good.  I find peace in knowing that we all have our own battles to face and I have come to know that I can handle mine.

Remember, everyone carries their own pain; some of it is visible and some of it is not. 


      We used to be wrapped up in the warmth of four sisters

whose loving arms gathered ALL the children

as we laughed, told stories, sang songs

and followed the customs of our Jewish heritage.

     We used to sit at a long table laden with fine china

and sterling cutlery, savoring the delicious tastes of

chicken soup, tszimmes, stuffed cabbage and brisket.

     We used to feel like we were part of one large family,

the children playing together; the wives in the kitchen;

the fathers in the living room sleeping after the meal;

the easiness of the day settling into a peaceful smile.

     We used to gather for Chanukah at Auntie Dottie’s

in one small living room filled to the brim with presents.

We ate cold cuts without mayonnaise, pickles, cole slaw;

the nontraditional traditional Shuman meal.

     We used to be young but then we grew up.

Auntie Dottie passed away, then Auntie Wilma and

Auntie Natalie; all the husbands gone too, leaving one sister

whose arms aren’t quite big enough to hold us all together.

     We used to be children but now we have children

who see each other only at special Jewish holidays and

and it feels as if the traditions of the past are just barely holding on.

     Then there are times when I look into the eyes of my cousins and

I am filled with the memories of smells, tastes and laughter;

the memory of four unforgettable sisters whose strong bond

runs through the core of our ever-growing family.


I have a big heart

and I wear it on my sleeve

in tune with others feelings

I’m always there to please.

But when I needed others

nowhere could they be found

so I stayed inside my sadness

so deep I almost drowned.

At times I claw my way out

put on a happy face

let people think I’m care-free

only I know I’m a fake.

This world is filled with takers

not willing to dig deep

to unleash the hidden feelings

inside this broken heap.

For if you take the time

to peal away the skin

you’ll find the truest me

that few know lies within.


These poems were written five years ago to my special Aunt Natalie as she lay dying.  I am posting them today in remembrance of her and of my good friend Beth’s mother, Marcia, who just passed away a week ago.  It is a reminder to take advantage of every moment you have with the ones you love; to hold those moments in your heart, and to have no regrets.


Today I said goodbye

as I held your hand

and looked upon your withered body;

the last of your essence had already slipped away,

your labored breathing like a weight upon my heart.

You were a given; an unquestioned part of my life,

your love always there, as a mother’s.

Today I said goodbye, the final chapter closed.

Now you will be a memory

to which I will return again and again.

Your sweet voice, warm hands and smile,

long conversations, borrowed jewelry,

family secrets, everything just so.

Salmon and potatoes, peas and soy milk,

chocolate muffin quartered, soft sheets

and tender words.

These things I will always remember.


One by one before us I have seen those of the other generation

lose their place in our world to be buried beneath the earth.

One by one before us aunts, uncles, fathers passing away suddenly

or lingering and withering away day by day

to bare bones and soul.

What will be left of their lives and memories?

Will we remember their stories that we carelessly shrugged off

when our last loved one dies?

I will remember you in my heart

and carry your memory to my children

and write your stories down for the ages

as our family changes and adjusts

And I promise your life will never be forgotten.


Electrically charged,

Its tentacles branching out

In the forehead

around the eyes

down the nose

into the mouth,

below the tongue

and under the chin.

The clink of two glasses

The high pitched sound of a voice

A bright light in the darkness



Everyday life

affecting the pulse

of the mother nerve and

setting off its babies

to do their damage.


My father’s last dream precipitated the two final entries in his notarized document written on November 4, 1975.  They are:

“1.      I will be reborn on April 30, 1993.

2.         On May 3, 2001, late in the afternoon my home will be visited by one woman and two men.  One of the men will be full-bearded.  I do not know who these two men will be.  I do know that the woman will be Amy Swartz or whatever her married name will be.  Her visit will be pre-planned at this time (November 4, 1975) with me.  I will have the ability to recognize her at the time of her visit but I will not know how until and/or if she chooses to explain to my parents and/or me about this reincarnation which will be the purpose of this visit. This item will occur some eight years after the original opening of this statement and will further substantiate the above facts.”


My dad and I had had a love/hate relationship when I was in my teens.  He was my “enforcer”, my “grounder”, uncovering every lie and mistake I had ever made.   I had been focused on my social life when I should have been getting better grades.  At that time there was such a sense of not knowing who I was and where I was meant to fit into the world.  When I dropped out of college after a year, depressed and lonely, my father was the person who kicked me up off my butt which had been firmly planted on the sofa in front of the television.  He found a job in the local paper and forced me to make a phone call to set up an interview. Shockingly, they hired me!  That job began my metamorphosis from a self-loathing slug to a happy, fulfilled person with a growing sense of self esteem.  In some ways I saw my father as my savior.  When he took me as his assistant in the search for answers to his past life, it was the cherry on top of my sundae.  Soon after I took that job that my dad’s dreams began.

During that time my parents went on a sightseeing trip to Washington, DC.  After their arrival they began to visit the local attractions — the Smithsonian, the Capital building, the White House…and the Arlington National Cemetery.  They were just inside the gate at the information booth, when they heard a family asking for the location of some one’s grave.  Minutes later the family was handed a computerized map indicating the exact spot of the grave site they were seeking.  My mom and dad made their way into the cemetery, excited to be able to look upon the places where famous military dignitaries were buried.  After a short time my dad told my mother that he needed to do something and asked her to wait for a little while.  He walked away and left her standing at the JFK burial plot.  My mom waited…and waited…starting to get a little bit worried.  Finally my father came back looking like a ghost; pale, shaken and almost unable to speak.  While my mom tried to find out what was wrong he handed her a piece of paper.  It was a computerized printout of the cemetery, and there, in Plot #885, was listed the grave of “Jeremy W. Porter!”

My dad brought this information home to me and we discussed whether or not the grave was an empty one used to mark a missing soldier (Jeremy was listed as Missing in Action after being sent to Charny, France) or if there could have been another person with the same name. He seemed too agitated and upset at that time to investigate further and we put it on hold, not wanting to give his heart more stress than it could handle.

After that the dreams seemed to abruptly stop and eventually his stories became “party talk” or something cool that other family members brought up.  It wasn’t until his death that reincarnation became a recurring thought in my head that wouldn’t go away.


My dad died suddenly on April 8, 1987, twelve years after writing about his future rebirth in 1993.  It was the first time I had confronted the death of some one so dear to me.  It was devastating to be unable to say goodbye to some one I loved so much.  Even though I had the hope of reconnecting with a reincarnated version of him at a later date it did nothing to assuage my sadness and pain.

Hans Holzer was a famous paranormal researcher and author, living in New York City, who wrote over 100 books on the supernatural and the occult subjects for the popular market.  A short time after my dad’s death I sent Mr. Holzer an outline of my father’s story.  I wanted an opinion and some advice from a true expert but I really did not expect to hear back from him.  About two weeks later the phone rang and it was Mr. Holzer, asking me to come to New York and to bring my father’s papers with me; he was very intrigued!

Nervous and anxious about what to expect, I brought along my mother and husband for their moral support.  It was a long drive.  We finally arrived at Mr. Holzer’s home in NYC and rang the doorbell.    The person who opened the door was an older man with a receding hairline and a kind face.  Hans offered us tea, sat us down and got right down to business, asking me to tell him my father’s story in my own words. It was not an easy task; my dad had just died and I was very emotional.  Hans was understanding and let me take my time as he handed me Kleenex to dry my eyes.  Having written so many books about the paranormal he was extremely knowledgeable on the subject of reincarnation and made us feel as though what my dad had experienced was interesting, thought provoking and worthy of his time.

When I finished the story Hans sat for a few minutes thinking things over.  He then made his offer.   He would give me full use of his research team to corroborate the dreams and assist in the writing process but he wanted ME to be the author of the book! That was something that I had never considered.  I wasn’t a writer and didn’t know where to start.  The wound of sadness over my dad’s recent death was too raw and I didn’t know if I could tackle something so huge; it would sap all of my emotional strength.  We thanked him for his time and I told him I would think about his  generous offer.  The trip back home was quiet, each with our own thoughts about what should happen next.

When I got back home I needed the time to mourn.  I was so sad and worried about my mother.  I couldn’t think about anything but making sure that she was okay.  Life went on, eventually I got pregnant with twins, and any thought I might have entertained about writing a story or book about my dad’s reincarnation didn’t enter my head again for many years.  Mr. Holzer called me once to find out what I had decided to do.  He understood when I told him I just couldn’t do it and kindly told me to call him if I ever changed my mind.

I never did change my mind until now, thirty plus years later.


On April 30, 1993 I picked up the phone and dialed the Cincinnati University Medical Center to find out if a Michael Perrone had been born to a couple by the name of Joseph and Chris Perrone.

There was no record of his birth. I tried the next day and the next day and the day after that.

According to my dad I was supposed to visit him (Michael Perrone) on May 1, 2001 accompanied by two men.  That day came and went like any other day.  Over the years I have tried to find Michael on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn …every tool I can think of…but I have had no luck.

I have asked myself the same questions over and over again.  What if my dad had one small piece of his dream mixed up?  What if Michael was born in a different city or on a different date? What if one important letter in his name was wrong?

And then…was all of this really real?

My dad was somewhat eccentric and loved to stir things up.  Could this all have been an incredibly elaborate hoax? And what about all those letters we wrote and the letters we received back from the living relatives of the Porter and Martin families in South Carolina? What about the funny Slavic language he had written in the middle of the night after one of his dreams?  Were all those stories made up?  It would have taken my dad months or even years to come up with something so layered, so textured, so interesting.

I may never know the answers to these questions but I can say wholeheartedly, and without any doubt, that it has truly been an incredible ride.

Thank you, Dad.

Mom and Dad at my wedding; two weeks before he died.


“To Whom it may concern:  As of this date, reincarnation remains a very controversial issue.  It has neither been proved or disproved regardless of how much has been written about it.  Whether or not the people who witness this statement or the people who open it on April 30, 1993 believe in reincarnation is of little importance to me at this time.  I am concerned only with the following facts as I have seen them to be in the future.  The basis of these facts are the results of dreams and/or mental images produced during many hours of sleep.  It is not for me to even consider the evaluation of these dreams; I can only  rely on the future to validate the following facts.  In my mind as of this date, there is no question whatsoever that the following will occur.” … So was written by my father on November 4, 1975.

I wasn’t a skeptic.  When you’re nineteen, twenty years old your mind is open and anything is possible.

In the 1970s my father started having strange dreams; dreams that made him feel as though he was living some one else’s  life while he recovered in the hospital after some heart-related problems. They continued long after he convalesced at home and happened so frequently that when they awakened him in the middle of the night he would jot them down on a piece of paper by his bedside. Because of my open mind and curiosity  I was dad’s assistant in this incredible journey to document, and in some cases, corroborate these dreams or recollections of another life.  You can be a skeptic or you can be a believer; it is your choice.


During the wee hours of the night Richard L. Swartz of Natick, Massachusetts “became” Jeremy Wesley Porter from Bennetsville, South Carolina.  Living in the late 1890s and early 1900s in a sprawling plantation with his grandfather, Jeremy was a privileged boy being attended to by a housekeeper and maid.  His grandfather loved to entertain many guests, including the military  in his large white-columned home;  one such party held on June 3, 1910 commemorated the birthday of Jefferson Davis.   Jeremy and his best friend, Robert Martin, enjoyed fishing in the Pee Dee Creek which was not too far from home.  The two pals were such good friends that Jeremy would often accompany Bob to  St. Michael’s Cemetary to visit his  Uncle William Martin’s (prominent attorney) gravesite.

A romance began to blossom between Jeremy and Mae Powers, a local girl whose father was very well known in the town.  The couple would meet under the wagon wheel chandelier at the Powers Hotel, proclaiming their young and sometimes desperate love. It was a time of adventure, romance and of impending war.  Jeremy was called to fight and his orders were to leave for Charney, France.  Before his departure he gave his girlfriend an engraved necklace; a promise that he would return to her.  In return she would wear it every day until they were in each others arms again.  That chance never came.


My father, Richard, had never been to Bennetsville, South Carolina; in fact he had never heard of it.  When he began amassing these stories about Jeremy’s life the first action I took involved making a call to the Bennetsville, South Carolina police department.  Through them I confirmed that there had in fact been a Powers Hotel which had been famous for its wagon wheel chandelier; it  had burned down many, many years ago!  I will never forget my father’s face when I authenticated one of the pieces of his mysterious puzzle.  He had been playing pinochle with a few friends around the kitchen table and his face went white; ashen.  After that incident my dad wrote many letters to the living members of the Martin, Porter and Powers families in the Bennetsville area with the premise that he was trying to track down lost members of his family.  He couldn’t tell them the truth; HIS truth; that he had been Jeremy Wesley Porter but now he was some one else.  My dad soon found out that Jeremy was listed as “Missing In Action” in Charney, France and a few of the responses corroborated some of his dreams.  However,  quite suddenly all correspondence from South Carolina mysteriously stopped. Could it be that the Porter family thought that Jeremy was still alive after all these years and wanted to claim the remaining fortune? Dad stopped sending letters and decided at that point to put things down for a while but the dreams continued.

One morning dad woke up from his sleep.  It had been a long fitful night full of strange dreams. He looked over at his pad of paper and was shocked to see that he had written down some information in a foreign language that he had never seen before!  Going over the dream in his head he remembered an older man from a small village who was clothed in burlap.  He had five children.   He was watching over his beloved wife as she lay dying and as he cried and prayed for her recovery he heard the comforting voice of God speaking to him.

Dad decided to take the pad of paper to the Boston Public Library to see if he could decipher the language and words. However, he had no luck because even though some of the letters looked to be a certain language others were not.  Almost ready to give up he brought the paper to the librarian, asking her if she could help in some way.  She told him that a professor from a local college was in the library and perhaps he could show the paper to him.  Dad was thankful and made his way to the professor, making up a story that the paper was given to him as a practical joke and asking him if he could figure out what the words said.  My dad certainly couldn’t tell the professor the truth!  The man looked at the paper and back at dad and said “Are you kidding me?  This is a very old Slavic language spoken in the 16th and 17th century and not commonly used except in remote Ukrainian villages!”   My dad just laughed and asked him if he could please try and decipher the meaning of the words.

These are the words from the dream; the message that the man heard as he prayed for his dying wife:  “Please don’t be sad.  You have lived a happy and kind life and you will be rewarded.  You have been together before and will be together again many times in the future.”


In 1975 when he was 52 years old my dad had another dream in which he would be reborn on April 30, 1993. The event would take place at the Cincinnati University Medical Center, 234 Goodman Avenue at 10:15 am.  His parents would be Joseph and Chris Perrone and he would be named Michael Perrone. He wrote this all down on an official piece of paper which he had notarized and put away in a safe place.  Hearing this information was not easy for me; it would mean that he would die and be reborn before he was 75 years old.


My dad died when he was 63 years old from a sudden heart attack, several years before his predicted rebirth in 1993.  As the year came and went the curiosity that I had in my youth still lingered within me.  One day I reached out, grabbed the phone and made my first phone call.

Why I Am Me

Those of you who know me well will have a good laugh when you hear that I used to think of myself as a care-free, happy-go-lucky person.  It wasn’t until later in life that a key event would unlock a Pandora’s box of neuroses and stress.

My dad died on April 8, 1987; 2 weeks after he walked me down the aisle at my wedding.  I remember his whispered words of wisdom in my ear and a weirdly funny quote from him about Lorna Doone cookies.  It was a great day followed by an equally great party at my home after the wedding where we listened to my husband’s family perform folk songs and finally sat down to relax.

Two weeks later we came back from our honeymoon in Hawaii amidst a terrible storm that delayed our landing by a few hours and my mom picked us up in the middle of the night from the airport.  I called my dad the next day to talk about the trip and we made the plans for our weekly “May I” card game to recommence that Friday.  Getting up the next morning I was so excited to be going back to work to talk about my wedding and honeymoon; I was on Cloud Nine!!!  Finally I was a wife!  After being at work for only a short time that had been spent smiling, laughing and gabbing about my new life, I received a phone call from the nurse at work.  “Please come down to my office.”  I couldn’t imagine why I would be called down but off I went.  When I walked in I saw my husband, Tony, and he had a look on his face that conveyed such a deep sadness that it stopped me abruptly.  “Don’t tell me,” I said.  “Who?” I continued.  He pulled me into his arms and said “Your dad…he died today.  He was alone and had a heart attack.  He was able to call 911 but when they got to him he had collapsed.  They found him on the floor.  They worked on him at the house and at the hospital but couldn’t get his heart to beat.  Your mother was called at her office and she’s being driven home.”

How could this be?  Through tears and shock I ran out of the office to my car and made my way to my mom’s house as fast as I could.  I wanted to be able to wipe away any evidence of my dad’s struggle before my mom came home. It was hard enough that she had to hear that her husband of 42 years died without her there.  I opened the door and immediately found my dad’s glasses on the floor by the front door.  I tenderly picked them up and walked through the house feeling a profound sense of emptiness and sadness, a feeling that would stay with me for a long, long time.

I realized several months later that along with my sadness came a sense of relief. My dad’s death uncovered a wound that had been deeply scarred and somehow overlooked.

I had been worried about dad since I was young, around 8 or 9, the first of two times that I witnessed him having a heart attack.  At that time we were living in Brookline and my mother was frantically calling for a doctor to come to our house. My dad was laying in the bed, in pain, with his hand over his heart and my mother sent me outside to play because she didn’t want me to see what was happening.  I remember my little kid self thinking how can I play when my dad is so sick? I remember the worry and the anxiousness I felt but it was not something a little kid could convey or speak about. I remember hearing later that my dad had his first major coronary at the age of 34!   Many years later there was another incident that happened when we lived in Natick and my mom, dad and I took at walk to JM Fields.  We couldn’t make it home and had to call an ambulance. My dad lived with the worry that he could have another heart attack at any time.  Little did he know that I walked that same path with him.

I remember having many dreams about my dad dying when I was a child and through adulthood.  I remember having the feeling that it was imminent and that I had to prepare myself. The timing of my dad’s death was very pivotal for me. I had just gotten married and this was supposed to be the happiest time of my life and yet here I was, devastated.

Can it be that we’re not supposed to be happy?  Can I let myself be happy again?  What if I smile and laugh…what will happen then? If I get too happy something bad might happen.  Something bad might happen no matter what I do. I will worry about everything because something bad might happen.  I will  make sure that everyone is okay.  This thought process has governed my life for the past 25 years and it is so thoroughly ingrained in me.

I am just starting to understand why I am me.  I am forgiving myself for being a worrier.  I am loving myself for caring.

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