007 Kites in the Graveyard
Learning to Let Go at the Intersection of Grief and Joy
Allyson Cheney had it all under control...until she didn't.
When she faced a parent's worst fear, she found herself at the intersection of grief and joy, and found freedom in letting go. Allyson's story will move you, inspire you, and challenge you to remember what matters most right now.
I met Allyson Cheney a couple months ago when we were both part of the speaker lineup for an event. Pretty quickly, I realized that there was a rare depth and a substance to Allyson. And now after becoming better acquainted with her story, I know that those qualities have been forged in a crucible of tragedy and loss and refined by courage and the deliberate choice to press on. Allyson's courage is on display in the very fact that she's willing to share her story on this podcast--which requires her revisiting the most devastating chapter in her life thus far. And she's willing to do it so that all of us can benefit from what she's learned without first having to go through an experience like hers ourselves.
Her encounter with Mortality was unwelcome and unexpected, AND it has instilled in her a new zeal and zest for life. It's no exaggeration to say that Allyson Cheney is more fully alive today than ever BECAUSE of her tragic encounter with Mortality. Or more accurately, because of the way she has CHOSEN to use her encounter with Mortality to deepen and enrich her experience of life. I think that will jump out to you as you hear Allyson's story. Prepare to be moved, to be inspired, to be enriched, and to be equipped to live with more guts and gusto and abandon.
Allyson is passionate about educating women about essential oils and cleaner living across the board. She leads a diverse team of almost 2000 people through her online essential oils and clean-crafted wine businesses, and she has cultivated a supportive community of empowered wellness that meets you where you are. Her core focus is helping the busy, overwhelmed woman simplify the path to a cleaner lifestyle through one-on-one consultation, community, & collaborations. She thrives on breaking the expected mold so that others can be invited to do the same, and live in freedom, authenticity & abundance. Allyson lives in Kansas City with her husband of 18 years, and can most often be found taxi-ing her four children around town, running (literally and figuratively), walking her two doodles, or booty popping to old school 90’s hip hop.
The Hits Keep Coming
At 14-weeks of pregnancy, Allyson and her husband were shocked to learn that she was carrying twins. Then, the exam room she was in when she learned the news began to buzz with activity from doctors and nurses. Eventually, a doctor explained that they were searching for a membrane that usually separates twins in the womb, but they couldn’t find it.
It was a mono-amnyotic pregnancy, and it carried significantly more risk than a “normal” twin pregnancy.
Furthermore, they learned, to give both babies every chance to survive and thrive, Allyson wouldn’t be allowed to carry them beyond 32 weeks, and around week 25 or 26 she would be admitted to the hospital for constant monitoring. This was especially shocking to Allyson because all three of her previous pregnancies had been very normal and easy, as pregnancies go. From routine pregnancy check to everything-but-routine in the blink of an eye.
The Waiting Game
With three kids five and under at home and a husband who traveled full-time for work, Allyson was admitted to the hospital at 26 weeks to wait out the six weeks until her scheduled C-section delivery.
The Watching Game
At some point during the hospital stay, doctors noted fluid accumulating in the lungs of one of the twins. It wasn’t particularly alarming at that point, but the watching began. Gradually, the fluid made its way to the baby’s brain as well. Even so, a neonatal neurosurgeon assured them that things would turn out well, that “they would never see him again” (the neurosurgeon, that is).
“I will never forget the doctor and the nurse coming into our room with big tears in their eyes...There was not much brain left...Something along the way in pregnancy had caused his brain to be severely damaged, and they didn't know if he was going to live.” After delivering both twins, River was doing pretty well, but Archer, the twin with fluid in his lungs and brain, was in bad shape. Tune in to hear Allyson’s full account of what happened next.
The Bewildering Intersection of Grief and Joy
Archer died in Allyson’s arms five days after delivery. In almost the same moment that Allyson shared the news with family and friends standing vigil with her at the hospital, a doctor gave her the exciting news that River’s health had improved dramatically--remarkably at the same time that Archer’s life on earth had ended.
In the same moment, Allyson had the joy of a healthy baby on one hand and the heartbreaking death of her other baby on the other hand.
A Decade Later, Kites in the Graveyard and Learning to Let Go
Recently, Allyson and her family--including River, the surviving twin--visited Archer’s grave. And they remembered, and laughed...and flew a kite. “While death and dying and grief are excruciatingly hard...it's not all dark, and there's a lot of beauty to be found. Just like the kite in the graveyard. To the depths of heartache we have felt, it has allowed us to feel equally deeply in the opposite direction...We may yell a little louder, we may cry a little harder, but I guarantee you, we laugh a lot harder, too, we play a lot harder. We value our messy middle, which we're definitely still in, and might always be in.”
What Difference will Allyson’s Story Make in Your Life?
Allyson and her family are more fully and vibrantly alive today because they encountered Mortality and navigated the intersection of grief and joy. And, especially, because of the choices they made to live more guts, gusto, and abandon rather than shrink back in the face of life’s fragility and uncertainty. If they can make that choice, so can we. Life is uncertain and full of legitimate reasons to be fearful. But, as Allyson put it, we can “quit wasting so much time in life trying to predict what your thing is going to be...what your crisis or tragedy or thing is gonna be that you have to struggle through, because odds are that you're wrong...You can never guess what your thing is going to be, but when you're in the middle of it, you have a choice to handle it with grace and to keep moving forward and to feel all the feelings thru it and know that ultimately it's all working for our good.”
What change will you make today?
There’s So Much More
This brief summary of Allyson’s story doesn’t begin to do it justice. I hope you’ll invest in yourself and the power of the story you’re writing with your life by taking an hour to listen to the whole episode.
Get More Gold for Life With Allyson Cheney!
I’ve got a really cool opportunity for six lucky listeners: The first six listeners to email me will get to participate in an exclusive, live follow-up conversation with Allyson this Thursday, June 4, at 4:30 pm Mountain Time, via Zoom. So email me, and if you’re one of the first six, I’ll send you info for how to join this exclusive conversation.
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Remember: You ARE going to die. But you're not dead yet! So get after it!