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?

BLOG 34 ALTAR

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

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

Who Stops at a Green Light?

 

When I was a kid, my folks, who had each nearly died as children, researched everything pertaining to health. My father planted his first organic garden in 1951 when DDT was a common household product. He lowered his blood pressure with garlic. We took vitamins—some of which I threw away because they made me burp a foul-tasting white cloud of bone meal. Soon after our town began fluoridating its water, five-gallon bottles of spring water were being delivered to our door.

Glass manadal pexel 2After my recent move from a home with delicious well water, I discovered that my new town fluoridates its water and my nice under-sink water filter didn’t remove fluoride. I added replacing the filter to my to-do list, but my mother, dead since 1984, wasn’t satisfied. She showed up the next morning, not with her usual tingle up my right side but with jackhammer force, to urge me to deal with this quickly—for both my health’s sake and my husband’s. That day we began buying water. If I have learned nothing else from after-death communication, it is that our beloved dead look out for our well-being and it’s best to heed their advice.

Sometimes our beloved dead can be lifesavers: Both Calvin’s daughter and his stepson had died. Two months after his daughter’s death, while driving, his wife heard their daughter’s voice tell her to “slow down to a stop.” She slowed, then stopped at a green light, only to watch in shock as a large truck ran the red light. She knows her daughter saved her life.

Green lt pexel 1What happened to Calvin two years after his stepson’s death was not quite so clear-cut. Coming from the gym late one night he chose the long way home, one he wouldn’t choose “ninety-nine times out of a hundred.” Then he heard his stepson’s voice say, “Good choice, Dad.” Was it he who nudged Calvin to take this route and did this prevent catastrophe? He may never know, but his wife’s experience had taught him to trust this as a possibility. To encourage such support this is a good point at which to acknowledge it with an audible thank you.

Thanks pexel 2Calvin added a story of synchronicity, telling me that twenty-five years ago, he dreamed of one of his children—he couldn’t tell which one—in a casket; in the dream it was 4:44 am. Much later, and eighteen years apart, the calls to inform him of his daughter’s and stepson’s deaths both came at exactly 4:44 am. Where do we file such events? Do they occur just to jolt us out of the narrowness of our blinkered everyday view into the great mystery of larger possibilities?

At times it’s our emotions that are “saved” by contact, rather than our lives. When her slightly older sister died of leukemia, nineteen-year-old Muriel needed reassurance. Soon after the funeral, her sister visited twice, in two identical dreams, to say she was “okay, happy even, light, free” and to give her a long, deep hug. Muriel shared these dreams with me forty-six years later, saying they still bring her joy.

Being proactive can draw exactly the contact we need, though it may require patience. In The After Death Chronicles, I write about Dr. Lynn, who still hoped, after his distant father’s death, to heal their unsatisfying relationship. As Dr. Lynn began a new and important project, he especially yearned for paternal support and asked for it in meditation; his father visited for the first time, thirty-five years post-death, saying, “I never knew what you wanted. Now I do and I will be supportive.” Of course, it helps that Dr. Lynn was already a proficient meditator, so his mind was trained to be receptive to Spirit’s messages.

When communication crosses the bridge between life and death it arrives custom fit to our needs. Muriel received a lifetime of reassurance and joy. Calvin’s wife’s life was saved (who stops at a green light?). Calvin’s dream opened him to questions he still ponders. These voices and dreams may alter our lives, leaving us with gifts we get to open again and again over years.

Gifts pexel 1To access my podcast conversation on after-death communication with Connie Whitman, Architect of Change, click on: https://bit.ly/2LmboCL  There’ll be another one coming this fall.

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

Grief’s Bewildering Reality

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On Sunday it was ninety-eight degrees here in Santa Fe, NM. Monday night I drove home through literal waves as three inches of rain hit the streets, seemingly all at once. A sidewalk by an arroyo two blocks from my house collapsed. There’s debris everywhere. The slushy hail made my yard look like December. Can you believe this photo was taken on July 24th? Definitely bewildering.Santa Fe in July?

But it is grief that is the most bewildering experience I’ve ever had, that most of us will ever have. It jolts at every turn. I reach for the phone to share news, then remember. One heartbeat brings a surge of love, the next lurches us into pain. Everything screams, “Where the hell are you? Why aren’t you here?”

One of the joys of my recent move to Santa Fe (though I sure do miss my hundred mile views) is easy access to powerful films like Carla Simón’s film, Summer 1993, which depicts this bewilderment to perfection. The star is Frida, a child whose widowed mother has died of AIDS-related pneumonia. Frida has gone to live with family in the Catalonian countryside outside Barcelona. The film’s Catalán dialogue (the first language of this Spanish province) is sparse, but when Frida goes outside in the dark and softly calls out for her mother, searching for her among the trees with a flashlight, when she dials her mother’s phone number and waits for an answer she does not receive, when she finds a statue of Mary in a hidden grove and leaves a gift “for my mother, when she comes,” we don’t need many words. At times, I found myself holding my breath, because her sense of confusion was so visceral. When her eyes flinched at a tiny sound, I was inside her, as bewildered as she was, as bewildered as I was after my daughter’s death.BLOG 28 PILLOS PXLS

Eventually the girl asks who was with her mother when she died. And then, quite quietly, she asks why she wasn’t with her since she is her daughter. She is reminded she was with her grandparents, a choice I’m sure was made to protect her. As I left the theatre I was awash with love and sorrow in equal measure.BLOG 28 FACE PXLS

Support from a Zen priest helped playwright Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros and her three sons to be really present with their dying husband and father as he sickened, and at the moment of his death, and after his death, when they washed his body, kissed and hugged him, thanked him, and wailed. Gersten-Vassilaros said these moments showed her that her boys would be okay, because “…we made death part of life.” (“How Will You Die?” by Lindsay Kyte, Lion’s Roar, page 56, November 2017)

To protect from the moment of death has no value, because afterward the bewildering loss is still there. Racing a cancer-ridden man off to the hospital, when it’s been known all along he is to die, robs everyone and protects no one. It robs us of the chance to say goodbye. It steals the opportunity to allow our deep feelings to erupt. It separates us from the one we love at the last opportunity for physical connection we will have.BLOG 28 STATUE PXLS

The trick—no easy task—is to allow death to sear us to the bone, to let it shred our hearts to ribbons, to let it show us its awful reality. Two key events of my life, though exquisitely painful, were the opportunities to be with each of my parents at the moments of their deaths. They gave me a wobbly rudder through the awful swamp of bewilderment to come when every part of me wanted to disbelieve that their deaths were real and their deaths were permanent.

To access my podcast conversation on after-death communication with Connie Whitman, Architect of Change, click on: https://bit.ly/2LmboCL

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