Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I've Learned about What We Call Death

 Coyote's Grandfather dying.
From American Indian Inspiration
In the painting above, which I did several years ago while studying and illustrating some very special Pomo Indian Myths, the spirit of Coyote's Grandfather is exiting his body to join with those in the spirit world that he knows and loves.

And that is just the beginning of his new journeys....

While I was working on this series of paintings, I would meditate and invite the input of the spirits of the Pomo elders who had shared their sacred teaching stories with the writers who collected them in the 1930s, asking them to guide my imagery. I worked in my study in San Diego, California, where the temperatures got up into the 90s very often in summer, and we did not have air conditioning in that room. While I was working on these paintings I would often get very cold. A drop in temperature often indicates the presence of spirit(s). Cool beans, huh?

Among the many subjects I've studied in depth over the years, including the medicinal uses of herbs and spices, Native American culture, history and prehistory (Atlantis and Lemuria), flora and fauna of the areas in which I've lived, art, business, technology, and distance learning in higher education, being able to put the various levels of reality, including what we call "death" into manageable contexts has been an area of very deep study.

Several things happened to me when I was young that catapulted me on a 40-year quest to seek information about the state of being we call death. My journey has been fruitful and very helpful in putting the experience of being "mortally" human into a context that is based in LOVE, not fear.

I will relate some of the things that happened that sent me on my quest - not easy reading - maybe best saved for daylight hours.

First -

When I was about 9 years old we lived in Wimbledon, England, and one of our neighbors was kidnapped. It happened at night and I heard glass breaking in the night and heard a single scream and though I told my parents about it they did not listen to me. At that time we had two old greenhouses in our yard along with a peach orchard, an apple orchard, and a lot of ancient bushes. I thought the glass breaking had happened in one of the old greenhouses as strangers went across the yard doing things they should not be doing.

I could not get anyone to listen to me about my sense that something was wrong. Soon the newspapers came out with information about Mrs. Muriel McKay, who was kidnapped for ransom, but the kidnappers had gotten the wrong person, and I remember saying when I was little that "they chopped her up and fed her to the pigs, all except for her teeth." The kidnappers were caught and jailed. I had looked for information on this event before, but couldn't find any until tonight, and I didn't realize they never figured out what happened to the body. Probably too late for them to check now - but if they did they'd likely find her teeth in the soil on the kidnappers' farm where the pigs were kept or the other farm mentioned near that area.

Second -

Another experience I had with death was that I had fallen in love with a young man in high school, and we dated for about three years. You know that with all those raging hormones and all that youthful beauty we were bound to explore our sexuality. He was a beautiful, earthy person - part Native American, with gorgeous black eyes and long black hair. We went hiking all the time, skinny dipping in waterfalls some, and had a gentle, loving relationship. He went off to Colombia, South America for a vacation during our last summer together. When he tried to secure a native guide to take him hiking in the mountains, the guide put his hand on my friend's chest and said he would not take him into the mountains. He said "you have to return home, there is life in your heart." Yep, I was pregnant at the tender age of 17. Nope my parents did not let me have the child.

My mother put me in the car along with her best friend and drove to Montclair, New Jersey where I was made to have a legal abortion. "We will not let you ruin your life," my parents had declared. (Oh ye of little faith and less help.) Over the years I have come to the conclusion that this death was my responsibility. I could have run away, but I didn't.

The thing about this that is interesting is that later, when I was married, we didn't use birth control for several years. I wanted a child very much at that time. I would not feel complete, somehow, until I had kept that broken promise of providing a body, a vehicle, for the spirit that was seeking me as a mother. After that abortion my arms felt empty, they ached for a long time. It would have been a true lovechild and who the hell were they to make that kind of decision for me? Why were there no conversations? I had a brain full of intelligence and lots of strength and enthusiasm for hard work!

One day I had a conversation with this little spirit in my car. I was driving along and I just felt the urge to talk to it. I apologized for the broken promise. I welcomed its arrival if it should choose to come to me. And guess what, very soon after that conversation I became pregnant. I told my son of this when he was older and teased him about making him wait. I do not take abortion lightly - but I do believe in a woman's right to choose. And I revere the Native American teachings, which tell us we can communicate with incoming spirits, we can welcome them even before they arrive. We can plan together. Many Native cultures had a very "prayerful" way of inviting the spirit of a child into their lives. In one of the books I have on Native American culture it describes how Grandmothers could make adult clothing for those who were not yet born, and it would fit perfectly - because they knew how to "dream" the spirit coming. Dreaming is one of the ways of communication between worlds or realities. (Though there are other types of dreams too.) We are not taught this! I think we should be!

Third -

Another thing happened when I was in college at Florida State University, and this is outlined in my blog post Life and Death, Art as Therapy. This was when the serial killer Theodore Bundy sat in the bar staring at me while I was working as a waitress. After a couple of hours he came up to me and asked if he could take me to breakfast when I got off work. As my post describes, I could feel the negative energy radiating from his body, and I walked out of the bar before my shift was up and never went back. He raped and killed several of our sorority girls a few days later. He was eventually caught and executed. I dropped out of school and went home to New Jersey, then moved to California very shortly after that.

Fourth -

When I was a newlywed, living in beautiful California, I shared a small apartment with my first husband and I loved to cook for him. One evening I popped a lovely fat chicken into the oven and put a bottle of wine on ice to chill, hopped into the car, and drove down the street to the office where he was working. He was due to finish up in about 1/2 an hour but I was so excited about everything I went to give him a hug and tell him I was looking forward to his arrival at home (ah, newlyweds).

The late afternoon sun was shining through the huge picture windows of his office and because he had no customers (he sold insurance) and his boss was holed up in his own office, we stole a quick hug and kiss and twinkled our eyes at each other. "I'll be home soon," he said, and I strolled out the front of the building into the soft breezes, across the parking lot, and got into my car to head home and finish making salad and rice.

As I turned on the ignition I looked across the street at the densely packed little houses that bordered the road, each with its own porch. Sidewalks lined the edges of small fluffy green yards, and I watched two little boys playing kickball in their yard while their family sat talking on their porch. The boys must have been about 7 or 8 years old.

Like a slow motion movie, the ball went into the street and the two little boys ran after it, just as a cadillac cruised into view. I heard the screech of its brakes and saw one of the little boys dragged into pieces under it, and all of the family members running down from the porch, wailing in anguish.

I went into complete and utter shock. I felt paralyzed and could not move. I could not breathe.

And then the gift came.

I heard a voice, but it was not outside of me. It was in me and all around me and it said "Don't cry for me for I am not unhappy." What a funny little statement - not the type of language I would put together. Kind of formal. Very polite. I knew it was the little boy, who was not a boy, not in the spirit world - he was full grown and ancient.

And here's the thing. Along with this voice there descended upon me a huge abiding sense of peace. It was like no peace I had ever felt before. This peace stayed with me for days and days.

In this trancelike peace, I pulled the car out of the parking space, went around to the back of the parking lot, and drove up the road to my little home.

When my husband arrived home (later than we had imagined because of the police and the events across the road) I told him about the voice I heard and the incredible sense of peace I was enveloped in and I felt some urgency to contact the parents of the little boy to let them know that somehow he was all right. My husband would not let me contact them. I wanted to write about it. I wanted to tell people, but he said they would think I was crazy. Well, it happened! And it was amazing!

Fifth -

When my father died, I stood at his casket next to my brother to pay my respects. My husband was with us in the funeral home. My husband is a plant scientist - very grounded in factual information. After we left the funeral home he said to me "Were you and your brother smoking in the funeral home?" I said, "Certainly not, why?" He said because he saw a white mass around us and couldn't figure out what it was. (Hi Dad.) From what I understand, spirits often stay close to the material world until after their funerals. During this time they try to comfort loved ones. Their greatest frustration is that because their loved ones are so caught up in emotion, they have a hard time reaching them. Their vibrations are so high that we need to be quiet, in a higher vibration mode ourselves in order to feel their love.

Sixth -

When my Grandfather died, he came to me, my sister, and my brother as we were each quietly studying in our homes. To me he said (telepathically), "Take care of your mother." To my sister he said, "Straighten up." And I can't remember what he said to my brother - I should ask him. We could tell it was my Grandfather by the fragrance in our rooms, and the very peaceful sense of his presence. My Grandfather was one of the most peaceful people you'd ever have the good fortune to meet. Whenever I have to do something that seems scary, like drive over a bridge across water way high up or something I ask my Grandfather to fill me with peace and he does.

Seventh -

So now it's in my face. My beautiful daughter has passed into this world we come from, and I know enough about it to encourage her on her journey and to ask her to help me get through the hard parts here. She does. It's like much of her passing she lovingly orchestrated. Of all the clothing she owns, the one dress that is my favorite was draped over her desk chair when I entered her bedroom. In her kitchen, there were two cans on the counter, olives, for those of you who've read my previous posts, you know about the significance of olives in particular, and refried beans. When my children were young and I was raising them as a single Mom for 8 years we would often eat quesadillas made with refried beans and olives. It was like she was saying "I remember, I love you." Maybe I'm reading into things - even so, I find it kind of delightful.

I cry. I cry so much my diaphragm feels like I've done a thousand situps and I wonder if I should see a doctor. Understanding and knowing don't take away the pain of separation, but they ease it so that it does not overtake your life and leave you a shell, useless to other children and family members who are in your care. It removes the concern about your loved one's well-being regardless of how they departed.

The hardest parts of the pain with those of us close to Jess seem to be connected to our sense of responsibility. In going through the passing of my daughter, I've found that most of my work is in comforting others.

We all ask ourselves, did we do the right thing?

Knowing and understanding means we develop respect for the person's choices, dignity, and independence. It means we do everything we can to help them to be comfortable. We can try to secure medical care (if wanted), to love them through their experience of passing, and let them "live" the way they want to as it unfolds. Young people rarely have a "living will," but I would recommend it for everyone because it eases this sense of responsibility when there's confusion around what should be done medically.

Death has been riding on my shoulder for a long time, as it does with many people.

I think many people are afraid of it and they stay and stay here on Earth way past time for them to go home. We give them operations that keep the body functioning, but the quality of life is gone. My grandmother had several pacemakers put in for her heart over a succession of years, and she was for four years without sight, she would not put her dentures in, she could not see, she could not hear, she stayed in bed all day and night and I'm not sure that this is quite the way things should be. I don't understand why we fight death and try to "save" people. I truly believe that if we knew how wonderful and expansive life is in our true home, we'd all go jump off a bridge. I'm pretty sure this is part of why we don't know - why there's a "veil." In some of the readings I've come across, it is suggested that the ideal way to die is to know when you are truly finished and to be able to lie down and peacefully facilitate the disconnection of the silver cord that attaches us to our bodies.

I truly believe that if we knew more we would not be so vulnerable to the machinations of the material world, and we would love more easily, more openly, and more gently while we're here.

We "can" know more - really good information is available and accessible, but many of us are afraid that knowing will not fit into the context of whatever religion we've adopted (it fits easily into all love-based religions), and we need to learn to work at purpose in our own lives, as spirits being human by listening and tuning in to the guidance that is there for us, inside us, that comes from higher sources.

The work I'm doing now to help my human/emotional aspect settle is to meditate, and do a few past life regressions, to get the events of my daughter's life into a larger context that I can understand. I work with Michael Newton's material because he has a track record that's based in love and empowerment for those of us "left behind." I think this is healthy.

It doesn't stop me from crying hard. It doesn't take away the sadness. But it does give me a whole new way of thinking about and relating with Jess. One of the questions I had was "How do I have a relationship with my child now?" I can respect her things, touch them, enjoy photos and memories, I can "air-talk" to her, but I like better the soft, sure connection of our minds and hearts, which continues. I like pulling an Angel card after asking her "How are you doing?" and getting sweet answers that make perfect sense. I like when she fills me with her peace and love, which she can only do when I am not in the chaos of doubt and emotional anguish.

Our journey continues in-between and among laundry, cooking, walking my pups, being out in the world that she used to be part of, my work, my play. I feel a kinship with her. I am proud of her. I say "Good job! Rock on!" And I know she hears me. And I do other things as I wait for my outward focus to strengthen. There is something happening down inside that takes time. A settling. A letting go of guardianship. An acceptance. But it is not the acceptance of her absence, just the acceptance of her growth and the vibrational difference in our realities.

If I had not had all of the earlier death experiences, and if I had not studied and explored the various levels of realities, not just what my own culture believes, but what other, perhaps wiser and gentler cultures know, I think I would be absolutely mired in misery. But I don't feel miserable - I feel excited for her, and kind of excited for us all.

I am very grateful that life is much bigger than we've been taught. Thank goodness, else we'd all be bored to tears.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Working through the pain and stepping back out into the world

Letter to Jess, my sweet daughter who passed into our real home on January 9, 2015

Birth - this one's not for sale : )
My Sweet Jess,

I am looking at some of your precious things that I brought from your home when I had to go and take care of things when you passed away (hardest thing I've ever done), and I treasure them because I know you loved them. Some of them I gave to you years ago, like the beautiful ring on my finger that my gentle grandfather gave to my beloved grandmother, who gave it to my mother, who gave it to me, which I gave to you. You wore it always, and I hadn't expected to wear it again, but I do, and it is very precious.

I am missing you and trying to stave off the pain in my tummy, which I know will ease in time. I am looking at the beautiful beadwork necklace I started making on the day of your passing, even before I knew. It is called Birth because of the little red fossil among all the white and beige ones in the larger cabochon. It seems a message to me to celebrate your birth into the very best of places, of beingness. Oh if I could have a party there I would certainly be dancing with you.

We will likely have that opportunity, but later according to Earth time. I know that where you are time is irrelevant, all things being simultaneous and accessible - how wonderful that must feel. I know we've felt it before and we will again, and I celebrate that. Our Earth time is linear - with the moon and the sun marking it exquisitely - and clocks, maybe not so exquisitely.

I've put on some good jazz, David Sanborn, while I'm writing to you - because smooth jazz is the most healing music there is, and because you love jazz. You're invited to this little party. You're always invited to come into my dreams and to flit around to celebrate the sun and the love that is always here for you.

I want to tell you thank you so much for coming to me, for putting up with my "Mommy demons," and for letting me love you. Thank you for all the wonderful, absolutely delightful conversations we had. I've never met another person with whom I've shared a connection that close, and had that much fun except for maybe your brother, who can also make me belly laugh, and my sweet husband. You and I understood each other, two peas in a pod, and you said some of the most beautiful things a mother ever wants to hear. Thank you for saying those beautiful things to me. I know there is a great and abiding love between us, and I hold that very dear. You are so very special.

I'm uber proud of you for so many things, perhaps the best would be your zest for living. And among others, your strength, determination, sense of order, work ethic, ability to love greatly, your love of dance and music, your connection to the arts, whether music, visual, photography, or writing. I'm uber impressed with how very much you got out into the world, with the wonderful, delightful, sometimes scary stories you shared with me of your road trips and your friendships, the photoshoots, the activities you were involved in, and your pure love of children.

I think you were absolutely gorgeous to look at in your human body, and I know you were also truly beautiful inside.

My little butterfly, Jessica Rabbit, Pumpkin, Marshmallow, Pocketbook, I love you dearly.

I'm working with a lot of emotions as I journey through the experience of you going first, and am trying to do a good job of it though sometimes I'm not so good. I'm a little confused and angry but I recognize these as "Earth emotions," or "ego emotions" where we have "expectations" and they are not real. I'm angry at the doctors, at the sickness, at the dreams we might have had that won't happen this time around. Please help me with the spring when life comes to the planet again, and you are not here. Help me through the winter as the snow falls and the winds blow, and you are not here. Help me through the autumn when the leaves fall and crunch and smell so good and you are not here. Help me through long summer nights when the moon is full and passions rise and you are not here. Let me feel your peace and delight in your new journeys.

The hardest emotions to deal with are the doubts. Could we have done more, could I have protected you better? Could I have given you more to make your spirit want to stay here and shine?

And of course I know the answers are that I have to respect your spiritual choice to go, as I believe we all find a way to do that when we're done. The doubts include anger with the systems we have here (economical, medical, educational, our foundational responsibilities) along with doubts about people who were around you that might have hurt you.

But I step back into the love that poured out from your Facebook page, and the love that poured out when I met the people who loved you while you were here. The stories they told are treasures close to my heart. You touched a lot of people with your beautiful heart.

I am so sorry for any times I may have hurt you, and any times I was not able to give you what you needed. The doubts make me wonder if I failed you.

But again, I remind myself that no matter what, we are all our own ancient spiritual souls and we will go when we are ready, regardless of circumstances here, and we will not go if we are not ready, regardless of circumstances here (remembering my friend Mary Lou who went parachuting and her parachute didn't open and she fell thousands of feet through the air and landed tangled in a tree with a broken leg, and remembering my way too close brush with the serial killer Bundy).

Thank you for the gift of dying warm and cuddled in your bed. That was so very graceful, as long as no one hurt you - which I think is not the case. I respect your wishes for independence and dignity - and it would have been okay to pass away in my home while you were here, but you rallied and gained strength so you could be in your place of choice. I think you did that to protect me, and I'm humbled. If I could have spared you any of the pain you endured I would have. I know you know that. And I am so so happy that you no longer feel that pain.

I need to ask you to help me with something. I'm still here, and when I wake up after sleeping it's really hard crashing back into this reality. I need to move back into the world and make myself useful, both financially and artistically and I need to be able to focus to be able to do that.

I want to guard the pain, because somehow it makes me feel like I'm guarding you. But some part of me knows you are in the best of worlds, surrounded by wise guidance, truly wise, and incredibly loving. And I want you to know that when I focus on my work, you are always in my heart, as you will be regardless of time, circumstance, or any other factor. We are, and we will always be - no one can take that away - it IS. But I cannot guard like I did for the past year and a half. I am humanly tired. I need sleep, and to wake with the sun. I need to function to be useful. So when I let go to do that, know that I am holding you just as you want and need to be held always, always in my heart and soul. No matter what I'm doing.

Now I will say thank you for everything - I'd do it again in a heartbeat as you know. Beautiful girl, child of my heart, I will step into the world and I will take with me all the energy available at all times to be useful. What else can I do until I join you?

Come and be the first to greet me when I come to our true home. This will be a great joy. Until then, happy journeys, bask in the love that surrounds you both here and there.

We will meet again if it pleases you.

I love you eternally,