Life Journey

Dianne G.

There have been times in my life when circumstances were overwhelming and catastrophic leaving me feeling devastated at times. Years ago I experienced the death of loved ones in a short period of time – a 27 year old fiancé, my 61 year old father who died while with me, and 2 grandmothers back whom I was very close with – these events halted my life for a long time. I quite school to take care of my mother, held the financial responsibilities at home, and was in a job that brought me no satisfaction but brought security which I needed. I smiled on the outside, but was numb and feeling hopeless on the inside.

I began to have anxiety and panic attacks. One day while grocery shopping my heart started pounding, I began sweating, feeling dizzy and like I couldn’t breathe – all right there in the produce aisle! It was then I knew I needed help! Working with a therapist helped me understand and work through the anxious thoughts that came from losing those closest to me, and also helped me manage the fear of my own mortality. The therapeutic alliance and the tools and techniques I learned were life changing in many ways. Not only was I able to overcome the anxiety that plagued me for so long, but I was able to dream again. A passion was ignited within me to want to help others experience the relief I did.

I always had regrets about quitting school after my father’s death, but lacked the confidence or drive to go back. I was in my 40’s and it seemed ridiculous to do this now. I felt old, but there was this little piece of me that said – “just try”. Maybe I won’t even get accepted into the school (I secretly hoped this for a while). Well, in august 2014 I received the email that I WAS accepted and in September 2014 I was back in school pursuing my degree in psychology! It was both exciting and scary, but I was doing it!

During my second to last semester of school my brother became ill. He moved in with me and I took care of him. I watched as he became sicker and sicker. This was all too familiar. Do I quit school again? Do I let my dream go – again? He passed away at the end of that semester and I did think about quitting, but I had come too far and have dreamed too long. How am I going to get through this? I reached deep inside and found the courage to handle it, and handle it I did!

Even though my particular circumstances might be unique, we all face challenges from time to time that we might doubt we can get through. Whatever the circumstances or situation, no matter how big or small, we all have within us the power and courage bear it and overcome. It is within the place of bearing what seems impossible, that we grow stronger. It is that place that leads us to significant and lasting change.

I was once a person who didn’t think she could ever be a college graduate. This May 2017, I will not only be a college graduate, but I will be the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I broke that cycle of letting life control me, now I’m in control and manage life’s circumstances. Sometimes I still need the help when things are really difficult, but I know I can bear whatever comes my way. I’m chasing my dreams and this fall I will be attending Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service to pursue my Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree.

The voice that would tell me to give up when I felt like I was being pushed to my limits had to be silenced. I answered back in a strong, courageous voice – “Yes, what I’m going through is difficult and I’m hurting, but I possess the capacity to bear it – and I’m going to keep going and survive it.” I no longer exist, but I dream, I hope, I live, and I’m so happy!!

There is a quote I love and hopefully it will be as impactful to anyone reading this as it is to me: “You’ve always had the power my dear; you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda (the good witch from The Wizard of Oz).



I am the child of older parents and in young adulthood,  I became their primary caregiver. My parents were kind, caring and wonderful people who always did their best.

My dad was diagnosed with cancer the year that I graduated from college. The doctors gave him a few months to live, but my always feisty mother told the doctors, “He will not die. I simply will not allow it!” Through the hands of G-d, medical science and the love and care of my mom, my dad lived eight more years.

Sadly, in her 80’s, my mother developed dementia which caused memory loss and macular degeneration that rendered her legally blind. She truly was a woman who “marched to the beat of her own drummer” her entire life. Mom was strong, kind and a leader in every respect of the word.She was a woman before her time and believed that women could do anything!  She fought the best that she could, but her fleeting eyesight and memory took its toll on her body, but never on her untiring spirit. After much thought and many tears we placed mom in a nursing home. It was bittersweet since at first she did so well; entertaining the other residents and becoming a legend due to her wit and wisdom…her singing and dancing.. Always, spiritual, my Jewish mom sat in the Catholic Chapel of the nursing home praying to G-d in Yiddish. She said that “G-d hears all prayers of the heart.”

Mom developed an unusual rash that was difficult to diagnose at the facility. She was seen by a dermatologist.who ruled out much else and believed that the skin irritation may have been related to an allergy to one or more of her prescriptions. The doctor recommended “a gradual and conservative review of her medication” to see which one(s) may have been the cause. While we were unable to prove it; its our belief that soon after, the nursing home stopped all of her medicine “cold turkey” and she had a massive stroke.

My mom was in a coma for several days and when she awoke, she was paralyzed on one side. lost much of her speech and was unable to swallow. Again, faced with a life and death decision, we opted to have a feeding tube inserted in her stomach for nourishment . We moved her to a different nursing home hoping that she would receive compassionate care. Little did we know that our nightmare was just beginning.

Sadly, the second nursing home’s care was inhumane and brutal. The nurses and aides ignored her and I believe that she was physically abused. They disdained me because I visited every day and I asked too many questions. But instead of questioning them, I should have been screaming at the top of my lungs, “This is not right.” However, I like many others was intimidated by the medical system…a system who assured me that I was overreacting.

I visited her one evening a few weeks after her arrival there to find my mother weeping and her paralyzed foot swollen and black. A nurse looked at it and she said, “it was not serious and these things happen in people with strokes.” They refused to do much more. But, I did not feel comfortable and called an ambulance and had her taken to the hospital. We were told that she had a broken foot and the blood supply was limited. How does a paralyzed woman who cannot walk and barely move, break her foot? The hospital put a cast on her foot from her ankle to her calf and sent her back to the nursing home . Over the next few weeks she developed a cold and that soon became pneumonia. During this time, I asked if they were checking on her foot and was assured that they were. I asked every day and was assured every day that she was being monitored.

Several weeks later, I visited and saw her gasping for breath, her oxygen mask askew and she was running a fever of 104 degrees. I said she needed to be hospitalized and they again said it was not necessary. But, it did not seem right and I called 911 and had her taken to the hospital where they diagnosed her with aspiration pneumonia. While she was there, I asked about her foot and cast and told them that it had been on for eight weeks. They were shocked that it was on that long and when it was removed, I cannot begin to tell you the condition of her leg and foot. She had gangrene. Her feeding tube gave her sepsis and she went downhill from there and passed away after I signed the paperwork for only “humane care.” No more procedures, no more tests, no more hurt and no more pain.

After the mourning period, I sought answers from both nursing homes and received few. I later learned that the physician that had allegedly ordered all medications stopped (that led to her stroke) had either resigned or was asked to leave. I also learned that the second nursing home had no paperwork that my mother’s leg was even broken and thus it was never looked at for weeks, despite daily assurances that it was. And the medical director at one of the nursing home’s actually asked me, “Why are you coming to us now? I told him, “I tried my best and no one listened while my mother was alive!”

I consulted with several attorneys who told me that a case would be protracted and difficult to prove. She was after all a woman in her early 90s and had other health issues. They said it was not worth the effort.

Respecting my families wishes I dropped any further legal action since it was just too painful for us all.  However, I filed a complaint with the State Department of Health, Division of Nursing Homes. After their review, they were only able to violate the second nursing home for a lack of adequate paperwork and for moving her from one room to another without prior notice. The real charges and allegations of neglect and abuse could not be proven. The paperwork had been modified and some of it disappeared. The case was closed and the statute of limitations under law has passed.

But, the guilt that I feel has not passed. I ask myself even today why I did not do more at that time? I did try…In fact, I tried my best and my questions and observations were ignored. I am a quiet person by nature and abhor confrontations. As such, perhaps I did not scream as loud as I should.  Would it have saved my mother’s life? No one can say. But, I do believe that it would have perhaps saved her from some of the pain she endured at the end of her life.

I cannot bring my mother back. But, I can save others from experiencing what I have. If something does not seem right; its not! Our own “gut instinct” is often the best indicator. I am still not an outspoken person, but I have learned that I need to use my voice to speak up more often. Its not easy for me; in fact its very difficult. I am a work in progress.

And, I have tried to use my sensitive and caring personality to benefit others, I have worked for the Assembly for the past twenty-eight years. Helping people is what I find the most satisfying. Its not the most glamorous job, there are no titles  and I often work behind the scenes. Some may say that is a “burn out job”, but I believe its so important….To be able to help seniors secure food stamps, to assist a mother find services for her special needs child, to help a family receive the benefits they so need, to lower tax bills, and to ensure that those who need long term care are treated with care, dignity and respect is what its all about for me. I have also always loved politics, but what I love even more is what good and caring elected officials can do for their constituents.

By helping others – I in turn help myself. It has been said that everyone suffers some injustice in life,and what better motivation do we have than to help others.

If something does not seem right – its usually isn’t. We all need to find that inner voice and be heard. That takes courage..and I have learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but its what we can do to triumph over it.



Life & Love

Gabrielle Gagliano

I was taught that by the time you are in high school you should know what your life’s path was. Meaning your career should be planned and ready to be met with through college or a vocational school.

When my son turned 16 I found myself fighting with him daily about his future. He had no intention of going to college and had no vocation interests.

When he turned 17 he had an opportunity to follow his passion! Music has been a part of his life since before he was born as his father is a drummer. He took piano lessons for 2 years but would not learn to read music so we just assumed he had no passion for it.

Over the years he has taught himself to master the keyboard and drums. He recently started playing the guitar and bass guitar. He became a member of a band a little over a year ago. They write their own music and lyrics.

They were given an opportunity to record the music and try to get it picked up by a record label. They finished recording their tracks on Mother’s Day. We have some more work to do to get it out there for the public to hear but we are having a great time as a family doing this.

I am so glad that I let go of what I was taught and learned to follow my heart.
Our children need to find their own path in life. We are there to guide and buffer but we should not be planning their futures for them.

Gabrielle Gagliano
Brooklyn NY



I think everyone experiences moments that break them, and we are left to decide if they break us open or closed. One of my most defining was the end of an engagement to a man I loved. I knew the pain and disappointment would be enveloping. And it did overwhelm me. But I was determined to use everything about the experience as a teaching. I wanted to learn about myself, my patterns, my strengths, my areas for growth. I wanted to learn how to have grace in the midst of change. I wanted to learn how to not be afraid. I wanted to build a life that on the outside matched my insides.

My journey of invention and reinvention had many parts. In it, I solidified my yoga practice, using it first as a way to delve into myself and then into teachings as I pursued yoga teacher training. Yoga was (and still is) my refuge. It taught me to learn to ride my waves of emotions, to surrender to processes without judging them, that pain is not lasting, and that our definitions of ourselves are fluid. I found a wonderful learning community to become part of that I felt supported and valued in. I asked for help when I needed it. I learned how to build a home inside of myself for myself. I learned wonders about my own strength. And in all this, I learned how to love myself, which was what I had been missing all along.



I sit here wanting to write an impressive reinvention then I realize as women we are constantly reinventing ourselves whether we are aware of it or not…

So here’s my story.



My Re-Invention Story – Finding Happiness

It took me a few years to have the courage to separate from my husband. The main reason I was staying in my unhappy marriage was for my daughter. I was so worried about what she would