Yet Another Letting Go

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Randi’s Estate and Taxes—Toss January 2019”  I’d written on the top of the box. On the side I’d taped a blown-up photo of a monarch butterfly, so I wouldn’t have to read that sad reminder every day in my closet. I’m quick to sort and shred and toss; I don’t like things hanging around beyond their useful life. The accountant and the lawyer had told me when these records could be tossed and I needed the space in my closet, yet sorting—what to shred, what to recycle—made a thousand tiny paper cuts in my heart. I didn’t cry, but I ached, as if it were my daughter Randi I was letting go of, not a stack of outdated papers.

From conception to death we continually cling and let go. In the womb we cling to the umbilical cord, letting go at birth to breathe for the first time on our own, when we still must cling to our mothers in order to survive. There is a letting go when we leave our childhood homes, but the urge to cling challenges us the most around our own deaths and the deaths of our beloveds. CHAIR 1.31.20

This winter a new challenge has emerged for me. The chair I had long ago placed in the backyard to honor Randi as a symbolic invitation for her to visit (see my very first blog, A Chair for the Dead, May 8, 2017) is slowly disintegrating. First one slat loosened, then another and another, now the first two have fallen to the ground. Each morning, I study the chair to see what has changed overnight. The paint’s been peeling for years. The seat has warped. None of this makes me cry, but that ache comes once more. It seems I thought this chair would last forever. Why do I cling to a warped wooden chair that’s been rained, hailed, snowed, and sleeted on, not to mention bombarded with our intense high desert sun, for more than eight years? Of course, I could repair it with glue and screws and paint, but wouldn’t that just be another way to cling to sadness?

Standing together at the window I tell my husband, “I know the chair’s a mess, but please don’t toss it.” I stop myself from adding yet. At what point will this symbolic object become trash? Unsure what I will do with it when it is rubble, I simply watch my reactions to its decline.

As I write I imagine one of the neighborhood mourning doves on the chair and it crosses my mind to write that I’d seen one, when I had not. After all, there’s bird poop on the seat, so it makes sense, but I’m mortified by my unethical thought. This blog is not fiction, it’s reality. I get up to wipe that dumb idea away with some hot ginger tea. On the way back to the page, just as I glance out the window, a mourning dove lands on the chair and I gasp as it preens in the sun and ruffles its feathers.

You would think with all the after-death communication experience I’ve had and heard and written about, I would get that this is Randi, but I don’t at first. I am crying though and suddenly joy-filled, because I know what to do with the chair. In the spring, I’ll put a birdbath on it or on its remains. I’ll get to watch birds playing in the water, shaking drops from their wings, scuffling, and splashing. It is now that I finally realize this is Randi making one more visit—the only one I’ve ever seen on her chair. I laugh aloud at the play on the word “mourning,” and at how she, and so many of the dead, love puns and word play. Without a single word, my daughter has reminded me to focus on playfulness rather than cling to pain. BLUE BOTTLES 2_20200217_082521

The next few days are particularly sunny and warm for February. I keep going into the backyard, finding pretty objects to put near the chair. I discover a way to mount my blue bottles there, smiling as I recall how Randi and I share a love of cobalt blue glass. Now in the morning, when I open the curtain, my eyes are drawn first to how the sun casts shadows on the blue bottles. I notice I often don’t even think to check the chair. I am letting it go.

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veilin bookstores, throughwww.AnnieMattingley.comand through the following sites:
Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound:
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser: the link to the video of a panel discussion, with me and three others, on the question: “Is There Life After Death?” We have since formed a group, Women Who Know—Death is Not Final, available for keynote talks, panel discussions, and workshops. For more on this, contact me through

Witnessing the Ninth


I’ve been through eight death anniversaries since my daughter Randi’s suicide, so as I came upon the ninth, I should have known better. Somehow the date—October 6th, which I thought had been branded into my memory with a hot iron—escaped me. I made commitments on the 4th, 5th, and 6th itself. I freaked when I realized what I’d done. Would I be functional? Would I be aching to hole up at home like I had in some years? Would I burst into tears in my dream group? Which one of my erratic anniversary moods would rise up in my writing group?


As always, I made a simple altar— the last of the flowers from the yard, a candle in a bowl of water so I could safely leave it lit overnight, two favorite photos. Angels, of course, because Randi had loved them so. The altar Randi’s grown daughter made in her home across the country was even more simple—just a purple orchid and a purple candle. 

When I arrived at my writing group, I surprised myself. Instead of stoically clutching my heavy burden alone, I announced it was the anniversary. I didn’t ask for anything and little was said, yet the support was palpable as we worked. I repeated this at each subsequent event. Each time I was witnessed, my mood stayed even, and I functioned well. Speaking on the phone with a friend who was going through something tough, I brought up the anniversary, finding it wasn’t necessary to ignore my needs in order to honor hers.

October 6thwas a warm and sunny Sunday. My husband and I and my older daughter opted for brunch al fresco. I thought about setting a place for Randi, but decided food was not the point. Instead I covered one side of the table and one chair with sprays of purple Russian sage. After we ate, we brought out the altar candle and a photo album and shared Randi stories.


To the Hindus, the number nine is the sacred number of completion, like the months of a pregnancy. On this anniversary I have given birth to a new stage of my relationship to my daughter’s death. Instead of wrapping myself in my pain like protective armor I invited heart connection. Those three days were not without sharp shots of sadness, but it turns out the weight of grief is lightened by simply being witnessed. 

You’re invited to the following New Mexico events as part of the Third AnnualBefore I Die New Mexico

The Benefits of Writing Letters to the Dead, Monday, November 4, 3:45-4:45 pm 
A hands-on workshop to explore one way to make connection with and honor our deceased beloveds. DeVargas Funeral Home, 1520 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, TaosA hands-on workshop to explore one way to make connection with and honor our deceased beloveds. 

Is There Life After Death?Wednesday, November 6, 2:30-4:00 pm
Panel discussion with Judith Fein, Bethany Paix, and Andrea Campbell
Berardinelli McGee Life Event Center, 1399 Luisa St., Santa Fe

Video Podcast Interviews: Here are two more with Margaret Manning of ( Click on them to learn more about the wonders that can happen when we hear from our deceased beloveds.

3 Powerful Lessons I Learned from My Daughter After Her Death (#1 Changed My Life Forever).” (14 minutes)

7 Magical Stories of Ordinary People’s Extraordinary Connections with Loved Ones in the Afterlife.” (17 minutes)

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veilin bookstores, throughwww.AnnieMattingley.comand through the following sites:
Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound:
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser:

The Power of Rituals


How do we honor our deceased beloveds? How do we invite connection with them?

One way is by the most simple of rituals, starting with only three things: a place, an intention, and a regular time. This creates a rhythm that creates an opening in which we can receive connection. We could choose to light a candle to add the element of fire, but even this is not necessary, because nothing elaborate is required, only place, intention, and a time.

To find out more, click onExploring the Power of Rituals, Especially Altars, to Honor and Connect with Deceased Loved Ones for a 14 minute video podcast of my conversation with Margaret Manning of

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil in bookstores, through and through the following sites:

Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound:
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser:

Nine Ways Our Beloveds Make Contact After Death


Roxanne’s deceased mother made a sound to alert her that her little dog had slipped out an open door and was at risk from coyotes. Willy’s deceased friend showed him where to spread her ashes. When my daughter Randi visited me so often after her death that I expressed concern I might be keeping her from her own tasks, she assured me—verbally—that such human limitations didn’t apply where she was. She could be with me and doing her own work at the same time.

Each of these contacts allows us to be sure, as all such contact does, that our beloveds are okay. This doesn’t stop our grief, but it gives us a container for our pain so it doesn’t consume us.

Click on “9 Ways Our Beloved Reach Out from the Afterlife to Bring Us Comfort, Guidance and Wisdom” the first of four podcast video conversations I had with Margaret Manning of to hear about the many ways our deceased beloveds make contact. Then let me know at if you have an after-death communication story you’d like to share with me.

Coming soon: The Power of Rituals

I Light a Candle for the Absent

Awake before dawn, I watch the full moon slide slowly into the western horizon on the first full day of winter. Yesterday afternoon my husband and I honored the Solstice with only a nod and a brief prayer of gratitude for the return of the Light, instead of our usual Day of Silence, because our electrician had not yet finished wiring our new hot water heater. We’ve chosen an electric one, because our home has just become wholly powered by the sun. Our decision to go solar is based on our trust that the sun will, of course, continue to come every single day.

Not long after the moon sets, I watch that daily miracle happen again, when the eastern horizon gives birth to Light. I pray my thanks that the sun never forgets to bring us its gifts and I ask it to illuminate my heart as it illuminates the world (not to mention my solar panels). Tonight the sun will disappear before five. I won’t cry as it goes, as I didn’t cry when the moon left this morning, because, of course, I know they always return.

When we say, “The sun didn’t come out today,” it’s never fully true, because even in the cloudiest weather the sun still lights our way. In these short December days, I know spring will come—early or late—spring and then summer and then fall and winter again. These diurnal and seasonal cycles, like our own breath coming in and out, teach that everything is in constant change and motion and that everything returns; that which goes away is not lost forever.

My grandparents, my parents, my younger daughter Randi, too many of my friends, three of my sisters-in-law, and four of my cousins have all sunk beyond the horizon, out of sight, if not out of mind and heart. I have cried for each of their deaths and some I will cry for again and again, longing for a hug, a conversation, a card, a walk together in the woods.

Nature reminds me on a daily, monthly, yearly basis to express my gratitude to these beloveds, even as I cry and mourn their absence, for nothing and no one ceases to exist. They can and do receive my love and someday, someplace, even though I don’t know where or when or how, they will rise and return just as the sun and the moon do.

The Winter Holy Days are upon us—Thanksgiving and The Prophet’s Birthday and Hanukkah and the Solstice have passed, Kwanzaa and Christmas and New Year’s Day and Three Kings Day are coming, as they always do. I hold a place in my heart for the absent. I light a candle for the absent. I include my joys and my griefs and my beloveds—living or not—in everything I celebrate.


I raise a toast to those I love.

May you do the same.

May your Holy Days be wholly blessed.

 Here are links to a couple of my new podcast interviews:

with Rob McConnell of Xzone Radio:

with Connie Whitman of Architect of Change:

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil in bookstores, through and through the following sites:
Barnes & Noble:
Indie Bound: