Red Letter Days

Reflections about grief and loss 20 years following the transition of my daughter Jeannine from this world

by Dave Roberts

My sincere thanks to all who have supported me on a path that I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would ever be walking. In particular I am grateful for the presence of Reverend Patty Furino my dearest friend,colleague and mentor whose guidance helped me embrace new perspectives that allowed me to find peace with my daughter’s transition.

Jeannine age 16

Red letter days are defined as “ memorably important or happy occasions.”  March 1, 2003 would not qualify as a memorably happy occasion by any stretch of the imagination. At 12:30 am my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine transitioned into a new existence following a 10-month battle with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and incurable connective muscle tissue cancer. She left behind her mother Cheri, her brothers Dan and Matt, and a daughter Brianna. Brianna is an almost 21-year-old mother to a two-year-old daughter, Teagan Marie, who shares a middle name with her grandmother Jeannine.

March 1 turned out to be a memorably important occasion however, as this marked the beginning of my own transition to a perspective empowering me to continue the relationship with my daughter in the purest of forms.  As a result, I experienced a renewed desire to re-engage in life and be of service to others experiencing life altering challenges. This transformation did not occur without challenge, however.

Approximately two and a half years into my grief, I grew weary living in a world without my daughter’s physical presence.  I wanted God or their representative to come down from the Great Beyond with Jeannine, telling me that we made a mistake and are giving you your daughter back, your life back. However, the universe met my repeated requests for the intact life I once had with deafening silence. Besides it was continually frustrating and emotionally draining to wish for something that I could no longer have. So prior to the completion of year three of my grief journey, I  decided to embrace my identity as a parent who experienced the unthinkable, rather than reject it.

March 1,2023 will be 20 years since Jeannine was part of the physical world. I still have moments, days when I am transported to the early days of grief, where the pain is raw and as suffocating as a suit two sizes too small for me.

Today, I have learned to sit with whatever emotion makes its presence known , because ultimately it will teach me something about myself, or minimally reinforce the resilience that I have had to develop in the face of catastrophic and untenable circumstances. 

Every angelversary I have experienced usually reveals one revelation about myself or my grief journey previously unknown to me. This year has been different, in that no one profound teaching has manifested. In light of this development or non-development, I decided to take inventory of some of what I have discovered during the past 20 years of life without Jeannine. Here they are, in no particular order of importance. I hope many of these resonate:

  • There is a lot to be said for the will to survive in early grief, particularly during the second year, which is more challenging than the first, for many of us.
  • Happiness by itself doesn’t add up to fulfillment.  Fulfillment for me ,is being able to authentically express the totality of my emotions at any time. l discovered the importance of having a support group who embrace wholeness and authenticity, and who are not intimidated by my grief or my refusal to be happy all the time.
  • We can empower ourselves to re-engage in life with purpose and meaning in honor of and with our transitioned loved ones, or we can withdraw from life, never desiring to move beyond the prison walls created by the enormity and weight of our grief. Catastrophic loss can rob us of much but can never take away our free will.
  • It is ok to feel as though you are stumbling through the darkness of grief. Stumbling is movement, which is better than permanently sloshing around in the quagmire of grief.
  • I realize that my bad days can teach me as much about my grief as the good ones. Everything and everybody are in service to my continued growth  in the human experience and for the evolution of my  soul.
  • We can always find hope and light amidst the darkness of grief. When darkness envelops me, I take comfort from this teaching from The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan:

When life is joyous, the light will be there. When there is hardship the light will also be there.

  • I have discovered that any act of love towards our fellow human being, is an act of self-love and perhaps even self- forgiveness for the things we thought we should have seen or should have been to our deceased loved ones.
  • I am not the person I once was 20 years ago. In fact, I would need a search party to find the person that I was prior to Jeannine’s illness and transition. If I had no desire to evolve, I would have been permanently stuck in the abyss of grief, with no desire or path to move forward.
  • I have integrated spirituality with my core science beliefs. Belief expansion has empowered me to look at life and death differently. I will commit to belief expansion until the day of my transition. I still have plenty to learn.
  • From my perspective, acceptance involves in part, a willingness to create continued bonds with our transitioned loved ones. Establishing continued bonds with Jeannine empowered me to find peace with her transition and to reinvest in life with meaning and purpose.
  • Any kind of trauma changes who we are, at any age. The more we can embrace those changes, the more empowered we become; the more resilience we develop.
  • I can live a human experience while embracing continued spiritual growth and completely re-engaging with all the world has to offer. During early grief, I may have considered this point of view as disrespectful to the memory of my daughter. Now I view total re engagement in life as another way to honor the legacy Jeannine has left for me to carry.

 It is at times surreal that I have survived and thrived following the transition of my daughter, for two full decades.  In fact, I have walked the path of a parent who has experienced the death of a child, longer than some of my undergraduate students have lived. That among other things, also adds to the intermittent surrealness of the last two decades of my life.

As mentioned previously ,I am not the person I was 20 years ago. I believe I have become more compassionate, open and present for my family and those who need support in trying times. I have mentioned in some of my other writings that I wish it took something less drastic than my daughter’s illness and transition to facilitate my metamorphosis . However, what I have learned is that we have no control over the challenges we will encounter in our life. All we can control is how we transform and transcend them.

It’s… Death that gives the world its point

From The Twilight Zone episode Long Live Walter Jameson

Contributors Wanted For “The Story Continues”

Cover of Dave Roberts’ Journal

Through our personal stories, we can discover a new understanding of the past, while creating the present that we desire.

When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister

After Reverend Patty Furino and I co-authored and published the book When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister, on Amazon on March 1, 2021, we decided to develop a companion website as well with a blog. Our blog, “The Story Continues” started out as a place where Patty and I could continue to share our reflections based on our ongoing conversations, when inspired to do so. However, “The Story Continues,” has become a place for other contributors young and older alike to share their life narratives and reflections. As we are firm believers in going where the universe guides us, we want to invite others who so desire to share their stories with us. Here are our submission guidelines:

  • Submissions will be edited for spelling, grammar, and format. Your content will never be altered. Before we publish your work, we will send any suggested edits for your final approval.
  • Submissions can be, but not limited to topics such as: critical thinking, integration of grief, ancestral healing, how you develop continued bonds with your loved ones, integration of psychology and spirituality, or how When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister impacted you.
  • All submissions should include a featured image. If it is your own, let us know. If it is coming from another source, please make sure it is properly credited.
  • Our goal is to give you feedback on your submissions within 24-72 hours.  If you have a specific publication date and time in mind, please let us know. Otherwise, we will schedule a publication date accordingly. 

Please email your initial submission to: Please spell and grammar check your work prior to emailing us. Though we provide editing suggestions, our response time will be faster if you do some preliminary due diligence. 

After we receive your first article submission, we will give you the option of becoming a regular contributor to “The Story “Continues” blog:

  • Once you are approved to become a regular contributor, you can upload your content to”The Story Continues” and edit it as well.
  • As regular contributors, you can submit as often(or as little) as you like. We want your work to be your original best.

We look forward to hearing from you and providing you an opportunity to share your thoughts with our subscribers and your support network. Wishing you peace.

Dave Roberts and Reverend Patty Furino

Walking in Awareness

by Yvonne Johansen

Me and my mom Rita during our younger years and again in 2018

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast with record-setting flooding and devastating winds.  My 90-year-old mother was left without power. Scared and alone in her apartment on Long Island she contacted me in California.  Miraculously, her phone still worked.  Not knowing how to help her or what to do, my husband suggested calling the Red Cross.  And we did.  An angel answered the phone, her name, Patty Furino.  

That phone call changed my life forever.  Not only did Patty help get my mom scheduled deliveries for food in the weeks to follow, but she also helped me problem-solve by finding her a warm place to stay until her power was restored. 

To say that Patty has been an instrumental part of my life over the last nine years would be an understatement.  She has been a HUGE part of my spiritual wellness.  Patty has empowered me to understand that I am connected to something greater than myself. We have had quite a few “marathon conversations” over the last nine years and I think it’s accurate to say,  over time my thinking shifted… and once it all changed, there was no going back to before.

WALKING IN AWARENESS, finding meaning and purpose in my life, has opened doors I don’t think would ever have opened.  I have developed the power and capacity to make critical decisions and choices that have grounded me during periods of change. I have also  developed resiliency and learned to thrive with grace and inner peace in the face of adversity.  Having a spiritual element in my life has helped heal suffering from past experiences.  The power is extraordinary.  

The power of a shift in thinking occurs when something so revolutionary happens in your life that you have no choice but to reorganize your thoughts and reinterpret your experiences through this new lens. After meeting Pat, my life was divided into before and after.   Try as you may, there’s no going back to the way things were before.  I experienced an earthquake of the mind—a massive and momentous transformation of perspective that completely shook, jolted and changed how I approach the world. And all I can say is it’s pretty wonderful.

Some people spend a lifetime in pursuit of their purpose. That’s a shame. 

I believe we are meant to do one thing with our life, and that is to awaken to the fire within which is the fuel of all life. In other words, do what makes your heart smile.

Patty & Dave’s book, When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister, is packed to the brim with existential truth and the kind of perspective and wisdom that will give rise to The Shift within you. The book will completely change your life and the way you look at it. It’s a reminder that life is what WE choose to make it. Second chances are real because you have the power to change your life’s direction no matter where you currently are.  In Pat’s words EVERYONE HAS THE POWER…. even a housewife from Long Island.  

About The Author

Yvonne Johansen, MS, CCC-SLP is the Lead speech-language pathologist at Citizens of the World Charter School in Hollywood, CA.  She has over 30 years of experience as a clinical supervisor and Founder of Children’s Therapeutic Center,  providing home based early intervention services through Regional Center & Early Head Start programs. Since the beginning of her career,   Yvonne has enjoyed helping children with speech and language disorders,  providing support and training to families and caregivers.  Yvonne has experience working with a variety of populations within various settings in both New York and California.

Her passion for helping children coupled with her creativity, serves as the foundation for her educational toy company, SmartFelt Toys.

SmartFelt Toys makes award-winning, multi-sensory interactive playsets that build early language skills in young children.  Beginning with My Little House and now with My Little Farm, My Little Zoo, and My Little Farm Bingo, these uniquely designed, classic toys provide children with the groundwork when building their receptive and expressive language skills.

Yvonne measures her success in how she can make a difference in the lives of children. SmartFelt Toys is an extension of that.  Her dream is to one day manufacture SmartFelt in the United States, hiring a diverse workforce, empowering individuals with special needs in achieving their independence.

Yvonne was born and raised in New York.  She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology/Audiology at Marymount  Manhattan College.  Yvonne also holds a Master of Science Degree in Speech Pathology from Teachers College, Columbia University, NYC.

Discovering the Joy of Being Still and Other Thoughts on “When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister”

By Judy Parker

Old Forge Pond, Old Forge,NY ©2020 by Kathleen Spatuzzi Photography and used with permission

I feel an overwhelming need to share just how much Dave Roberts’ and Patty Furino’s book When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister has impacted me. The effect is so profound that I have already sent copies to two dear people who have suffered loss. I plan to send more to others whom I believe will benefit from the message in this book. I believe in the healing power and comfort of this book.

Whether the loss is of a child as Dave and my brother experienced, loss of a mother, father, sibling, nephew, friend, or a beloved dog, the hurt and loneliness can become almost unbearable. This book gives me hope and strengthens my faith that death is not the end of our existence. The effect on my perspective has been far-reaching and I want others to know about the peace, comfort, and joyful expectations this book has brought me. With my existing faith I believed I would be reunited with loved ones in the future but now I know I don’t have to wait until then. I am learning that I can make my own connections with them. I am even discovering the joy of being still,  which is something new for me. During those still moments more peace comes to me than when I rushed hither and yon for years,  looking for the next great thing.  Practices like Dave’s “Pieces of Me” provides more opportunity for the growth we all need to be truly happy.

I think about messages that I previously perceived as mere random occurrences. I now realize that life is not just a series of coincidences. I accept the fact that I can’t control a lot of life,  and that’s ok. Instead of being fearful about what the future will bring, I now eagerly anticipate the gifts of presence from loved ones who have transitioned, in the here and now. Walking with spiritual awareness as advocated in this book allows me to not only be receptive to change but to actually look forward to what life can bring me. I know it won’t always be rosy, but I have faith that the good will far outweigh the bad. I can now envision a future filled with wonder and possibility.

Dave and Patty’s book helped me believe that we really don’t lose our loved ones but develop a new connection with them.  I am so happy that I don’t have to abandon my core beliefs but can be empowered to develop a deeper understanding of life’s mysteries. What a marvelous thought that we can learn from so many different sources! In fact this book helped me learn to tap into many more resources than I could ever have imagined before. Who would have thought we could learn so much from Native Americans, animals, people who are put in our life path like Patty for Dave, and even random strangers whose paths cross ours. I love the fact that you don’t have to be a “gifted” individual to develop a higher awareness of life. We just need to believe .

Another great benefit from this book is that I now have a large reference list of material in which I can delve even deeper and, in the process, explore myriad avenues of thought. Neil Peart’s “healing road” to which the book refers is not just a healing road, but an elevation to a higher life experience. I see more clearly that life is a wonderful gift that keeps on giving if we are receptive and open to connecting to something greater than ourselves.

Dave and Patty express to the reader that our individual paths are not like anyone else’s and that there is no one “right” way to live. I believe this book has started me on what I hope is a never-ending road of discovery. I am excited about looking at the world with wider eyes and without fear of what I may find. I feel joy in reaching out to others and sharing my newfound knowledge. As Dave said, the power of community to work through grief is real. In the process of sharing in our community’s growth and supporting each other we can make this a better world for everyone. I am more attuned to opportunities to “help” others not just in big ways but even in simple acts like smiling. I want this to become a part of who I am.

My heartfelt thanks go to Dave and Patty for this book and for my new outlook on life and death.

About The Author

Judy Parker was born on July 30,1951 in rural Williamsburg County, South Carolina.  As a middle child of 11 in a farming family she learned at an early age what hard work really meant.  Judy attended Winthrop College, in Rock Hill, South Carolina from August 1969 until December 1970, after which time she transferred to the University of South Carolina(USC) in Columbia.  Judy earned a Bachelor of Science in Education (mathematics) in 1974 and a Master of Mathematics in 1977 from USC.

Judy’s first career was as a mathematics teacher at junior and senior high schools in Columbia ,South Carolina from August 1977 until January 1983. After teaching, she transitioned to the field of Information Technologies. From January 1983 until her retirement in May 2013, her positions included: insurance and real estate computer systems installation and troubleshooting, data systems analyst, instructor of insurance principles, system software, and computer systems problem management.  She enjoyed her career and found immense satisfaction in her work.

She is divorced and the mother of a 34-year-old daughter. After retirement, Judy had a little difficulty in figuring out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Because of her passion for the outdoors, she quickly decided to use her free time to hike in state and national parks.  Judy is currently exploring the idea of buying an RV and “traveling this grand land of ours. “

8 Weeks Later

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash


It has been approximately two months since the book, When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister was released. Pat and I are pleased to have heard from grieving individuals who have taken comfort in the fact that they can be empowered to maintain continued bonds with their loved ones. One young woman told us that she and her mother were reading the book and planned to discuss it. Another parent told us that she was reading it together with her college age daughter. One of the outcomes that Pat and I hoped for was that the book would inspire multigenerational discussions about how the integration of psychology and spiritual practices could empower present and future generations to transcend life challenges. We had hoped that people would resonate with the message we are trying to convey.

Though we are humbled by the positive response to our book, thus far, we both had to confront our own fears and doubts(e.g. our shadow selves) during the writing process.

We’ve both had to look at the idea that our personal stories are now out there for colleagues, students and family to see. It has brought a sense of vulnerability to our private lives. In fact, prior to our book being published, I had a dream of being naked and alone on a dark city street. To me, that was the ultimate and symbolic representation of being vulnerable. Sharing my spiritually transformative experience after 10 years, was risky for me because of how my science based colleagues in academia would perceive my experience. But I hold my colleagues in high regard because they are very clear with what they believe. And there is room in this world for individuals with different beliefs to coexist peacefully. If we choose to witness rather than judge another person’s beliefs, we integrate certain aspects of them into our core belief system, if we so choose. So I cast any fear and doubt I had aside and “completed the mission” with Pat. Besides, I was never really in total control of the writing process, Spirit truly inspired the content of this book.

Empowerment and The Mississippi Freedom Trail

Photo Credit: Patty Furino

The work that I did with Pat was not traditional grief work. Pat empowered me to use the wisdom she shared through not only my daughter, but my other deceased ancestors and her wise spirit guides to facilitate the development of a clear and peaceful perspective that would help me look at the world differently. She helped me peck at the shadows of my past so I could find clarity in the present and create the future of my own creation. What Pat does is probably best described as Spiritual Counseling, and she treats it as a ministry. Her guidance helps individuals to achieve the greatest level of awareness and empowers them to develop a sense of self-efficacy or belief that their actions can have a positive impact on the world around them.

I had previously attempted to convince Pat of our need to write a book about my experience and what I learned during our marathon conversations. But Pat always resisted, because she was always very private, not wanting to share her level of awareness openly with the world, for fear of being misconstrued. But as was the case with me, Pat cast all of that doubt and fear aside because she also knew that Spirit was in control. Writing a book for Pat, was a HUGE accomplishment, because she was never one to sit still, let alone behind a computer typing hours upon hours and day after day. Pat has always wanted to be among the people, helping those who crossed her path, just as the Masters did. She wanted to do her work quietly.

Pat is ready to get back to work on ground with people. In May of this year, Pat will go back to Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Mississippi, to honor Emmett Till and his courage. She wants to create a second butterfly garden just as she did 10 years ago in response to the emotion that ran through her in the 24 hours following the ceremony at Bryant’s Grocery, the first marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail.

There is a Season

What we continue to notice is that not only are our lives shifting and expanding, but also those of the generations of humans that follow us on this planet. Our children grew up with technology being introduced, this next generation is growing up with technology being the main focus of their education for an entire year. When the youngest thinkers reach their adolescent years there will be another generation that will bring evolution and change to the way we perceive our existence on this planet. As Pat has described it, these are the signs that we are in The Great Conjunction of The Aquarian Age. A time where peace, inclusivity and tolerance can be our guiding principles.

There is a 1960’s folk song written by Pete Seeger and performed by the Byrds, that came to mind as we wrote these last lines.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

Pete Seeger