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?

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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.

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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 Festival:www.BeforeIDieNM.com

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 (www.lifeafterdeath.com. 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:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zSaTLB
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2ljjV0I
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2gEcr3f
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser: http://bit.ly/2gM255a

The Power of Rituals

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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 lifeafterdeath.com.

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

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zSaTLB
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2ljjV0I
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2gEcr3f
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser: http://bit.ly/2gM255a

Nine Ways Our Beloveds Make Contact After Death

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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 lifeafterdeath.com to hear about the many ways our deceased beloveds make contact. Then let me know at www.AnnieMattingley.com 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: https://bit.ly/2V90rtx

with Connie Whitman of Architect of Change: https://bit.ly/2LzVfdK

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil in bookstores, through www.AnnieMattingley.com and through the following sites:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zSaTLB
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2ljjV0I
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2gEcr3f

Healing the Scars That Separate Us

I am still chock-full of the week I spent in Toronto at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It lived up to its slogan—the Promise of Inclusion and the Power of Love. We were more than 7,500 people gathered with the intention of exploring our spiritual beliefs (with no aim to convert), healing the scars of separation from one another and from Mother Earth (with a focus on climate change), and strengthening the bonds of respect among us.

We are brown and black and red and white and yellow. We wear monk’s garb from traditions around the globe and blue jeans and saris and clerical collars and turbans, feathers and beads, headscarves and dress suits and sweatshirts. As I make the trek between the North and the South Buildings of the Toronto Convention Center I hear the rhythms of a dozen languages. At any given hour I can choose among sessions like a Hindu puja, a Celtic Samhein celebration to honor our beloved dead, the teachings of an Ojibway elder, or the lunch Sikhs serve every day as a gift. The offerings seem endless. In the breakout portion of an Interfaith Dialogue session I (who belong to no formal religion) am grouped with a female Mormon pastor, an East Indian Catholic nun, a Baha’i, and a UK woman who calls herself a street pastor. She says she scrapes drunk teens up off the sidewalk to get them home safely.

11.17:18 Toronto colors pxlThirty people attend the session I facilitate—“Honoring, Healing and Connecting with Deceased Beloveds”—including clergy from three faiths. After we each write a letter to someone we love who has died, one participant is moved to share that she was adopted and her birth mother had died before they could meet. She has written to her and is clearly thrilled to discover a new way to make this connection.

The next morning I huddle beneath a small shelter with many others in a steady November rain to participate in a Maya fire ceremony. At the end of my session a participant had made the inspired suggestion that instead of bringing the letters home to burn as I’d planned, maybe I could put them in the sacred fire the Canadian indigenous people have kept going 24/7 throughout the Parliament. This fire burns near where I stand right now.

11.17.18 Toronto fire pxlI had already meant to attend this ceremony, so I decided I would show up early to ask about the letters. It’s a challenge to find anyone in this crowded event; when the Guatemalan Maya shaman and her US escort, walked right by me that afternoon I was astonished. Nana Maria not only agreed to burn the letters, she explained that part of the ceremony’s purpose is to honor the dead. I should have known, for now is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest and contact is most readily made. That’s why there are holidays like Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Zuni and Hopi Ancestors Days, All Saint’s Day, the Celtic Samhein, in the US, Veteran’s Day, and in Canada, Remembrance Day.

11.17.18 Toronto letters pxlIn the ceremony, I volunteer to hold the red candle for the East, spreading my umbrella to protect it. Besides honoring our dead, Nana Maria tells us we are here to honor the places we come from, which I think means where I live. The moment I realize she means our birthplaces, I am transported into a sweet and deep connection with Bloomington, Indiana, where I only lived for the first four months of my life. The cold rain transforms into a blessing and mingles with my tears as we pray and toss copal into the flames.

At the ceremony’s completion, the tiny shaman takes the letters in her gnarled hands, prays in Tz’utujil over both me and the letters, kisses them, has me kiss them, and tosses them into the fire. I overflow with the conviction that there could be no more fitting blessing for these communications with our beloved dead and that they have been received.

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Before I left for Toronto, I had a profound conversation with Simon Brown of the UK’s Past Lives Podcast, which you may access through the following link: https://bit.ly/2z8FmX1

You may buy The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil in bookstores, through www.AnnieMattingley.com and through the following sites:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zSaTLB
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2ljjV0I
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2gEcr3f
Hampton Roads/Red Wheel/Weiser: http://bit.ly/2gM255a