Q: Tell us about yourself and your dream.
KW: I am a 55-year-old wife and mother living in southern Minnesota. I spent the last 35 years working in the business world. In February, 2009 I accepted early retirement from my company and am now enjoying the freedom that brings me.
My main goal in life was to raise my daughters to be happy, healthy, independent women who work hard and give back.
Q: Describe a gray time in your life and how you overcame it.
KW: I thought my goal had been shattered when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, died very suddenly, very tragically and very unexpectedly. She had just turned 20 and was just beginning her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota. On September 1, 2003 we moved her into an off-campus duplex she was sharing with six of her closest friends. In the early morning hours of September 20, 2003 a fire broke out and Liz and two of her roommates died of smoke inhalation.
Every parent’s worst nightmare had now become my nightmare. But very quickly I knew without any doubt that my daughter was just fine. She had moved into a new world and was very happy and secure. Within the first week of her death she sent signs to me and three others.
One the one-month anniversary of her death, she set off the smoke alarm in our home. Even though my husband and younger daughter were also home at the time, only I heard the alarm.
The next day I was awoken from a sound sleep only to find a news segment on the TV featuring a woman who claimed to have the ability to speak to the dead. And she lived only 60 miles from me. I knew I had to contact her. If there was any way that I could talk to my Elizabeth, I had to do so. It was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. After all, I was a grieving mother. What if this wasn’t real? I would need to somehow find a way to pick myself off the floor and go on with life.
Meeting with Kathryn Harwig was a life-changing experience. The minute I walked into her studio, all my anxiety completely left. We sat down and Kathryn started to talk. She told me things that she could have only learned from Liz. Liz was so happy to be in spirit she told Kathryn. Kathryn was able to describe the circumstances of her death … but more importantly she described Liz’s personality perfectly. “Yes, I died, but so what, she said to Kathryn!” It was exactly what I could imagine her saying.
This started me down a path of healing and transformation. Elizabeth continued to let me know in no uncertain terms that she was still very much a part of my life and always would be.
In 2006, USA TODAY featured an article on fatal off-campus house fires. I was so pleased that a newspaper of this caliber would focus on this subject. And I was so excited that Liz’s picture would be included. It was my desire to do whatever I could to keep other families from experiencing the devastating loss of a vibrant young adult.
When the article was published I immediately went to the store and bought three copies. I just couldn’t wait to read it. But once I did, my world came crashing down. The senselessness of Liz’s death hit me in such a powerful way. I was devastated … it felt like September 20, 2003 all over again, and it was all I could do to keep my composure. I tried very hard not to think about the article and focus on my work.
A couple hours later I got an e-mail from Liz’s high school French teacher. Jan had been Liz’s favorite teacher and we had kept in touch after her death. Her e-mail read, “Kim, you are just going to treasure this! I was going through my files yesterday getting ready for a new school year. A lone file folder fell on the floor. I picked it up and on the outside I read LIZ WENCL ESSAY. I opened it up and discovered an assignment I had given out over four years ago, to write a letter to one of your parents telling them what they represented in your life. Kim – this is a letter Liz wrote to you!”
I don’t speak French, so Jan translated it for me.
I know that you love me; you show me each day that it is true. Don’t think you are a bad mother. It isn’t true! When I look at you I realize how much I am loved. I remember when I was little and you would hug me and say, “I love you so much Lizzie! Come and sit with me for just a little while.” Those times were so special for me. I felt like nothing could ever hurt me. To be cuddled up next to you like that today would be like a dream come true. Mom, I am sad when you are sad; and, when you are happy, I am happy! You are my mother and I would never choose anyone else. Without you I would never be who I am. I love you with all of my heart.
Q: How are you working towards your dream?
KW: In the summer of 2005 I felt compelled to begin writing about my journey through the death of my daughter and all of the wonderful connections that she has made with me and with other family and friends. I had no idea what I would do with my writing when it was done, but that didn’t matter. Writing was a very healing experience for me, and that was most important.
Exactly one year later I found someone who was looking for “True Stories of Messages From Beyond.” I had my true story all written. I sent it off and in July 2006 True Stories of Messages From Beyond by Julie Aydlott & Friends was published.
Q: What challenges and fears have stood between you and your dream?
KW: In 2007 I felt pulled to step out even further and begin to speak about my daughter, her death and the journey that I have been on since that fateful day. But for all of my life I had said there was one thing I would never do – and that was public speaking. However, I felt confident that my message was important and it could help others, especially those who had suffered a significant loss.
I stepped out in faith, with Liz cheering me on, and spoke for the first time. It went very well. I was able to speak with emotion, but without becoming emotional. It was very healing and I had to admit I had even enjoyed it.
I now speak to groups whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Q: What inspires you to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough?
KW: My daughter Liz and our strong bond of love is what keeps me going. Liz was an avid cheerleader in high school and she is my biggest cheerleader today. We are a team that is bringing light and love to the world in a way that never would have been possible had Liz not left this world for the next.
I am so very grateful and blessed to have been given the many experiences I’ve had over the past six years. I believe I was given these experiences so that I could share them with others, and it is my complete honor and privilege to do so. I have come to believe that Liz fulfilled her destiny and now I am fulfilling mine. Speaking and writing have become my life’s purpose. I call my talk – “From Tragedy to Transformation – A Mother’s Story.”
As a mother, having that complete assurance that all is well with both of my daughters is a feeling of peace and happiness that is difficult to put into words. But it is always there and it will never leave me.
“Love never dies, and the bond we all share with those we love is never broken ….not even by death.” – Kim Wencl
To read more about Kim Wencl and her story, visit her blog, Love Lives On. True Stories of Messages From Beyond is available at Amazon.com.
Are you actively pursuing or living a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please e-mail me at: Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com.