Published on May 5, 2015 by in Inspirational




SATURDAY   MAY 30, 2015   AT 7:00 P.M.



A Promise

A Promise


RSVP TO MICHAEL AT 530-275-0388 (LEAVE MESSAGE), OR CELL 530-276-5053

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Gayle at Manzanita Lake 2012


Gayle’s spirit soared forth on new adventures at 4:15 a.m. January 6th, 2015. She passed from a pain-free coma with Michael, her sister Joan and Brother Butch holding her hand. Please remember her in your thoughts and prayers.

Gayle deeply believed that our spirit never dies, and although she loved this life with all of her heart she wasn’t afraid of death.



Last year I asked Gayle to perhaps give me some notes on things that I might include in her obituary, things about her life before I knew her, that she might wish to have mentioned. She never did.   Then, after she passed away, when I was preparing to write a notice for publication in the Redding Record Searchlight I chanced upon an item in her computer documents labeled “My Obit”. Here is Gayle’s Obituary as published, and, except for the introduction, as she wrote it:


Gayle Black Shaw Madden (1952 – 2015)

Gayle Black Shaw Madden departed this life on January 6th, at age 62. A Celebration of Her Life will be held in May at the Madden residence, exact date to be published later.

Gayle left this message on her computer:
“I came into this world in July 1952 under an Easterly wind in the Chinese year of the Dragon. I was the baby in a family of five. Mom, Hazel Black, was 40 and Dad, George Black was 52. After me they called it quits. I don’t remember being babied, but I always thought that I could get whatever I wanted, being the “kid” in a family with older parents.

Some of my happiest summers were spent with my oldest sister, Jean. After she married Bill Scanlon and had children, I continued to visit. As children, my next oldest sister, Joan, wheeled me around in an old wagon every night until I fell asleep. She treated me as her baby doll and still calls her daughter, Angie, by my name. Georgia Sorensen, my next oldest sister is married to Gary Sorensen. My brother, Butch Black married his darling wife Shirley Washburn shortly before he left to serve in Viet Nam. He loves me very much and would do anything for me. I love all of them, including their children and grandchildren.

In 1971, a year after graduating from Central Valley High School, I married Steven Shaw, an incredibly kind man. Our marriage lasted for 19 years. I remained happily single for the next 10 years before marrying Michael Madden in 2004. He and I brought much joy to each other lives and have traveled the world finding fun and adventure. We were planning our next trip when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011. Mike stayed with me every step of the way, deciding that he would do whatever he could to make my remaining life the highest quality possible. I told him he earned his true wings for such loving care. (His other wings were from being a career USAF fighter pilot)

One of my proudest achievements has been the love I have spread to others and especially to all of the precious children who have graced my classroom during my years of being an elementary school teacher. I taught at Columbia, Grant and Pacheco School Districts. Each child will forever be in my heart.

Another achievement is a lifelong dream I have held of having a book published. I finally wrote one during the last three years of my life. Its title is “An Imperfect Life: A Memoir of Life Love and Laughter—But Most of All Love”. It is a book of miracles and describes my love of life—even in the midst of dying.

And now with sadness at leaving the life I so love and with excitement to once again meet my Maker, I bid the world a fond farewell. I like to think my life has been a testimony that life is good. Gayle”


There will be a celebration of Gayle’s life on her mountaintop home near Redding, California in late May 2015. I will post the date and time in the local newspaper and on this blog. I also will keep this blog site on-line, although I will not write any more blogs except that I may post some photos every once in a while.

I deeply miss Gayle and I leave you with this final thought:

The problem with death is that it is often more sudden than you’d planned, and neither the survivors nor the departed are allowed any do-overs. So, while you are alive reach out to those around you and to those you love. Ask those questions, tell those stories, and say those things that bond and that draw you closer together in love and understanding.   And also, love and savor each hour of this life and this beautiful world that we live in.

Gentle love to each of you,


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A Promise

Every time I look at a table carefully and lovingly decorated I see a promise.

A promise that soon loved ones will gather.

A promise that soon good times and laughter will pour

as freely as wine and sparkling cider from a frosted green bottle.

A promise that in the precious moments to come

there will only be one moment.

One moment frozen in time,

one moment set aside from all of the other moments of one’s life.

A moment pregnant with promise.

A Promise

A Promise

But not all promises come wrapped in a package of thanksgiving and merriment. Some come wrapped in the human condition that has defined life in this body since time began. These promises demand the best of ourselves and may ultimately end is self-sacrifice. These are the mature promises that point the way to man’s glory. These are the promises that must be made, must be fulfilled.

A Promise

A Promise

This is the kind of promise my husband made to me on the day we married. He vowed to be with me through sickness and through health. And true to his word, here he is. When I laugh, he laughs with me. When I cry, he cries with me. When I am too weak to get up, he lifts me. When I want to write or paint, he supports me. How did I ever get so lucky as to find such a man?

When is the last time you made a promise–a mature promise? When is the last time someone made a promise to you?

If your answer is never, it is not too late. Find someone to love. It doesn’t have to be a relative. It doesn’t have to be romantic. It doesn’t even have to be your first choice. It just has to be true. Surely you can find love in your heart for others. Surely you can receive. And when that happens you will understand how everything is a promise: a dewdrop, a child, a sunrise, an invitation, a book–a promise that life is to be lived. A promise that love is to be shared. A promise that even a table set in anticipation is a promise of love.

Every time I look at a table carefully and lovingly decorated I see a promise.

A promise that soon loved ones will gather.

A promise that soon good times and laughter will pour

as freely as wine and sparkling cider from a frosted green bottle.

A promise that in the precious moments to come

there will only be one moment.

One moment frozen in time,

one moment set aside from all of the other moments of one’s life.

A moment pregnant with promise.

A Promise Fulfilled

A Promise Fulfilled

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Am too!

I’m scared.

I know, I once wrote a post that said I’m not, but I discovered last night that I am.

Oh, I’m still not scared of dying.

I’m still not scared of the unknown that lies in wait for me.

I’m still not scared that I may cease to exist one day.

Rather, I’m scared.

Of what?

Who knows?

Space or Bust!

Space or Bust!

It reminds me of the time many years ago when NASA wanted to send a teacher into space. I wanted to go. I sent for my application and was certain they would select me. When the application came, it stated that to apply, one must have completed five years of teaching. I was in my fifth year, so therefore did not qualify. I was terribly disappointed–to the point of  childishly considering”fudging” just a bit on my application. Thankfully I caught hold of myself and threw the application away instead.


Later I began to wonder. How could someone (Moi) ride into space if I’m too afraid to ride roller coasters? So to prove to myself that I could do what it would take, even though I could no longer be considered, I began riding roller coasters–and began enjoying them. You may say to yourself, ‘Ah, mind over matter.’  But I’ll tell you the real secret.

As I stepped into the tiny metal propulsion machine (or so I pretended) I cinched down the seat belt until my lap complained, grasped the bar in front of me until my knuckles turned bloodless and white, and gave one last pleading prayer of promising to turn over the proverbial leaf if I was brought back safely. I was scared and my stomach knotted but I was ready to go.

And then, guess what? I discovered how to enjoy the ride instead of being afraid. How did I do that? By opening my eyes.

The "Eyes" Have It

The “Eyes” Have It

Always before my eyes had been closed and the blind anticipation of expecting something to go wrong had kept me in a state of terror. Now, I faced that careening out-of-control landscape whipping by in front of me with eyes wide open, and I enjoyed the thrill of the ride.

So, what about this being scared thing that is bubbling around right now? Has it been due to anticipation that something will go wrong? That’s crazy. Something has gone wrong. Has it been due to closing my eyes and not facing the truth? I don’t think so. Believe me, it’s next to impossible to ignore this condition.

What then?

I don’t know.

But I guarantee you, I will climb into this flesh and bone propulsion machine with my eyes wide open, facing my inner fears and enjoying the thrill of the ride. After all, if I indeed have what it takes to venture into outer space, I must have what it takes to venture into inner space.

And if you tell me in the future that you see that I am no longer scared of roller coasters, don’t be surprised if I answer, “Am too!”

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Three Wishes

What three wishes have you wished for in your lifetime?

I don’t mean the universal ones like love, laughter, joy and connection. Those are freely given, available for the taking. Rather, I mean 3 wishes you’ve had to work hard for to make come true. The ones that make you unique, different in our sameness.

My three wishes have been:

#1: Become a teacher.


#2: Ride my bicycle on a century (100 mile) bike ride.


#3: Learn how to sing.


#4: (Okay, I know I said 3, but I bet you will come up with more, so I will too. :-)) Have a book published.


Little did I know that I would ever accomplish #4.

In April of 2011 I was told by a well-meaning surgeon that due to my advanced stage of pancreatic cancer I could live maybe another three or four months. At first I was tempted to get depressed, cry and clean out my closets! But on second thought, or third, or fourth, I can’t be sure which, I decided that maybe it was time to take a look at that fourth wish on my list. After all, what did I have to lose?

So as I had the energy, I sat at my computer and bit by bit, word by word, keeping an eye on my goal–I wrote. At times I honestly didn’t know if I would live long enough to complete it. I even asked my friend Pamela if she would see the project through to completion for me if necessary. She agreed. True friend.




But I did make it. Or, I should say I wrote it and it was published. I guess that’s one of the rewards of choosing to continue living my life as fully as I am able. I was so happy the day my box of books was delivered, I cried. I thought it couldn’t get much better, but I was wrong.

It got better.

I took my books Saturday to an Author’s Fair, hoping to sell maybe 5 copies–or so, and being happy with that number–or so. I was not prepared for what happened next. The line formed in front of my table like honeybees drawn to nectar.



I was humbled by the beautiful shining faces waiting in line to support me and my efforts and listen as some professed their appreciation for my writing. I would have cried the tears of gratitude and love welling up in my heart, but I was too busy signing books. Within the first hour, I sold out, even my copy. After that, I took orders totaling nearly 50 more.

Sister Joan and Gayle

Sister Joan and Gayle


(An Aside): I’d like to invite all who read my book to leave a review (a fancy word for comment) on my Amazon page. Simply scroll down to where it invites you to write a review. You don’t have to be a writer, you only have to be a reader so you can tell others why they may want to read my book. Thank you for doing this for me.

(An Afront: ha! ha!) How rich life can be, even in the face of struggles, trauma and loss. If during those times we can remember to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, trying the best we can to live our life, even when it hurts, then truly, we will end up with all we have wished for.

And this time I do mean the universal ones like love, laughter, joy and connection. The wishes that do not make us different. The wishes that make us realize that we are, after all, the same.

(Book ordering information is given under the tab: Gayle’s Book.)

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

Published on October 31, 2014 by in Inspirational

Which do you prefer?

A book in your hand…

or a book on your e-book reader?

I’m not sure which I prefer as I haven’t yet read an e-book. It’s not that I refuse to keep up with technology. It’s more like I just don’t think about it. Don’t ask me what I think about instead; I probably couldn’t say.  I guess I do a whole lot of thinking about nothing. That doesn’t stop me from reading, however. :-)

I believe that books have the power to change my life–well  at least they have the power to suggest changes. In fact, I’ve just found my favorite book of all time–one that suggests powerful changes.

Maybe you would like to know what it is. But before I tell you mine, maybe you will tell me yours?

It’s good to share these treasures with each other. Saves more time for thinking about nothing, if nothing else!

Okay, here is mine: An Imperfect Life: A Memoir About Life, Love and Laughter–But Most of All, Love.

It’s a book about one woman’s inspirational journey through the thrills of worldwide adventures and the throes of heartache and anguish buried within the diagnosis of an incurable disease. How she handles her adversities shows the strength and resilience of human nature and points the way for all of us to live a life filled with love. It is a testimony that life is good. It is a book of miracles. I would recommend it as a “must read.”

It took me a long time to find the book, though. It took a long time because it just wasn’t out there. So I wrote it. It is my book. It is my story. And now that it’s published, it can be your book, too.

You can either hold the book in your hand…

or hold your e-book reader.

It’s available for both preferences.

For those of you living in the Redding area, the book-in-your-hand version will be on hand for a short time Saturday, November 8th at the Mt. Shasta Mall. That’s when I will be selling copies at an Author’s Fair. My hours might be short as my energy wanes rapidly, but I plan on being there from 10:00 a.m. If you care to take a peek at it, stop by.

For those of you living outside of the Redding area (assuming you want one, of course), you can find ordering instructions by clicking on the tab that says “Gayle’s Book” located under the header at the top of this page. Or click on the link at the end of this post.

I’m usually not an advocate for consumerism, so I hope you will forgive me for suggesting that the book might make a great gift for someone who likes to read. (Ouch. That was painful!) Even if you re-gift yours. It’s not the sales I’m interested in, it’s the readers! (There, that feels better….) While I’m at it, I might also be so bold as to suggest that it would make a good selection for your book club….If so, and you’re local, I’d love to participate in that discussion!

Let me know if you like the book. Or better yet, let Amazon and your friends know. A good word here and a good word there is usually a good thing.

And if my story has the power to suggest a positive change in your story, then I will be satisfied.

After all, aren’t we all here to help each other have happier endings to our stories? Then we will all be satisfied, and all be in love–with each other.

And what could be better than that?


The e-book is available at Amazon. To order, click HERE..

The paperback book is also at Amazon. To order, click HERE..

If you like the book, please feel free to help me spread the word by leaving a review on Amazon.

Happy reading!

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My Shoes

Published on October 12, 2014 by in Inspirational

I’ve walked a mile in my shoes.

Heck, I’ve walked hundreds of miles in my shoes–maybe even thousands.

You may think that sounds preposterous, and maybe it is, I can’t be sure. But I can be sure that I love my shoes!

For you see, during most of the summer I did not bother putting on my shoes. I could not walk.

Well, that may be a little misleading. I could walk: I just couldn’t go for a walk. Even to the end of my driveway.

But that has changed now. By the freely given grace of God, I can again go for a walk.

So look what I did. I put on my shoes:

My Shoes!

My Shoes!

I was so happy I cried!

My sister Joan and I walked through a life-size dinosaur exhibit. My friend Pamela and I walked through a quilt exhibit. I walked through the exhibit at the North Valley Art League. Mike and I walked through the Farmer’s Market. The week after that, my friend Nancy was here from Rhode Island. My friend Joy joined us as we decided to go gold-panning.

But first, I had to change shoes. Trail shoes and water shoes may be the same for some adventurers, but not for me. I put on my water shoes:

My Water Shoes!

My Water Shoes!

Then we went to Whiskeytown National Park and panned for gold near the Camden House:

Gold Fever... Yes-sir-ee!

Gold Fever… Yes-sir-ee!

Mike found a flake after an hour of swishing and swirling in the sparkling clear water, but we three girls found our gold in the sparkling hearts of one another.

Then, before we knew it, it was time to go.

We packed up our belongings, looked one last time at the pristine creek, and turned to walk back to the car.

For you see, I could walk back to the car.

So I bid the long, warm Dog Days of Summer a fond farewell:

Farewell Dog Days... Hello Bruno!

Farewell Dog Days…
Hello Bruno!

I can only hope that Fall will find me walking through the crunchy leaves on the land I love.

Maybe you will join me as we walk together on this path called life.


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We Are Who We Are!

There’s a moment at conception when there’s no turning back.

We will be what we will be:

I asked my mother, "What will I be?"

I asked my mother, “What will I be?”

Then we go through an awkward gangly stage:

Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?

Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich?

Will I be pretty?

I’m so pretty!

Will I be rich?

I’m so rich!












Then we’ll be what we’re meant to be:

I did it!

I made it!

It’s never too late to turn into who we are meant to be. Heck, I’m hot on the tracks of my meant-to-be right now. I figure if I keep going long enough I’ll make it. In the meantime, I’m honing my skills, taking plenty of dust baths and enjoying the company of my fine and not so fine feathered friends.

Even in my weakened state I find there is still a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered, to be tasted, to be loved. And I, for one, can’t wait to meet each day. How about you? How will you greet the day? What will you discover, taste and love? How will you give the self you are meant to be? However it is, I can’t wait to meet you there!

Wait for me...I'm coming!

Wait for me…I’m coming!


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Angels Among Us!

I am the baby in a family of five siblings. For years I was known affectionately as “Baby Gayle.”

You’d think with that kind of upbringing it would be easy for me to receive.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

Maybe it’s because I’m a woman raised by older parents with old-fashioned ideas of give and take. For years my generation has been known affectionately as “Baby Boomers.”

Or maybe it’s because I just didn’t learn how.

Either way, receiving does not come naturally to me.

So when Denise Kerb phoned offering to teach me how to paint with alcohol inks, I stumbled over my tongue. I had never met Denise Kerb. I had only seen her art work hanging in our local art gallery, North Valley Art League.

Denise Kerr's Alcohol Ink Painting

Denise Kerb’s Alcohol Ink Painting

I had been to the charming art gallery (nestled riverside in Caldwell Park for you locals) that very day and raved to the receptionist about Denise’s work. I mentioned that I had purchased some of the inks but could find nothing online to show me how to paint pictures with the vibrant medium. She passed my ravings on to Denise.

Denise phoned and said it would be her pleasure to come to my house and teach me how to use the seemingly uncontrollable medium. She came on Sunday, the day I reserve for art. She got out some ceramic tiles, showed my “painter” friends and me how to manipulate the inks and then guided us as we blew through straws, stamped with felt, tilted our squares, squiggled and giggled.

Charlie, Christine, Denise (standing), Shirley, Joan

Charlie, Christine, Denise (standing), Shirley, Joan

Now, Denise makes her living by selling her art and teaching classes. I certainly want to support her in her endeavors, and I was quite humbled by her generosity of supplying everything we needed, so I took her aside later and offered to pay her for her precious time.

She responded, “No, thank you. It is something I want to do for you.”

“But you are doing it for my friends, too,” I insisted.

She looked me in the eye and said with the grace of an angel, “Then it wouldn’t be the same.”

I stopped. I looked at her and back at my happy friends.

Denise had brought bottles of colored ink to share that day, but she shared her heart.

She had come to teach me how to smear the colors into a beautiful picture, but she taught me how to give and how to receive.

God must have sprinkled the earth with Master Teachers so that the rest of us can learn the true lessons of life. Maybe we could all be known affectionately as “Baby Beginners.”

After all, aren’t we all in the infant stage of growing into our own angel wings?


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Saying Good-bye

How does one say good-bye

    when it may be forever?

Does she look into the hearts and the souls

     of those she loves

     then smile at their beauty?

Does she silently wish for happiness for her beloveds

     in an uncertain world

     then smile at the possibility?

Does her body tingle with warmth

     and gladness and love

for having known them?

Does she remember the good times

     spent backpacking, cycling and breaking bread together

     while deep contentment fills her heart?

Then as she watches their car drive out of sight

     hands waving, faces grinning,

     does she break down and cry

     at the magnitude of her loss?

Yes. This is my experience at saying good-bye

     when it may be forever.

For you see, my beloved friends Dave and Lieve came to visit. They live in Switzerland and have taken us on many unforgettable adventures in the Swiss Alps. Many years ago Mike and I bonded to them as quickly as Saran wrap bonds to itself. We have been unable to untangle ourselves since, but we haven’t tried.

They are a little shy so I cannot post a photo of them, but I can give you a glimpse into their hearts and souls:

Their Heart: La Dolce Vita!


Their Soul


So, how do I say good-bye as they make their way back home?

I don’t!

I remember what Dave said to me in September 2012 when we last visited them in Switzerland. I had tears in my eyes at our parting as I knew I might never see them again.

He said, “We don’t say good-bye.”

I gave him a puzzled look.

“We say, ‘See you later.’ ”

The tears changed to smiles then as they changed to smiles this September 2014.

“See you later,” we all called to each other.

Even though all of us knew,

it might be forever.

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