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

Love’s Magnetic Pull

Love is as essential to us as food and air and water and shelter. Without love well-fed babies fail to thrive and often die. Without love the lonely elderly wither away. We are born on this earth to learn how to give and to receive love, yet each love bears within it a dark seed—that of potential for the future loss of our beloved.

The phone rings. It is my husband’s brother. His wife is in hospice. They have lived with her cancer off and on for sixteen of their fifty-five married years. We pack hurriedly and drive 400 miles in hopes of seeing her while she can still speak. We are too late. We tell her we love her anyway, believing she can hear us. Her husband sleeps (badly) overnight in a lumpy cot in her hospice room, as does her son, sometimes her sister, perhaps her other son will too when he returns. Her jaundice fades. Her face softens until she appears nearly child-like. We joke that she would have loved how smooth her skin has become. I’m tickled that her finger and toe nails are perfectly polished red. We are told she’s been seeing her deceased mom, a sign of how close death is and of the support she is receiving through the veil.

My sister-in-law possessed the strongest drive to live of anyone I’ve ever known. She kept her sense of humor through mastectomies and radiation and chemo, through falls and broken bones and reconstructive surgery, every ignominy illness and modern medical science could bring. Her hair fell out? “Freedom,” she proclaimed. “No more blow-drying! No fussing! Now I just pop on my wig.” Whether with cane or wheelchair, she traveled, took cruises, never missed a single summer of arranging an adventure she dubbed “Kids’ Camp” for herself and her husband and their grandchildren. When the cancer started in one breast and she was told it would most likely migrate to its next-door neighbor, she said, “Take ‘em both off. Give me new ones.” Checking in to her last hospitalization on a Tuesday, she told the doctors, “I must be out by Thursday. I’m going to Las Vegas.” Her failing organs canceled that trip. Beloved of all the medical personnel who treated her, when she went into hospice at home, her oncologist made her first ever house call. Her transfusion nurses visited after she transferred to the hospice facility.

She’d been reading my book and we’d talked of how she might contact me after her death. I regret that we’d never finalized our plan. He tells me he’s read my preface. I hope it helps him to recognize at least the possibility of after-death communication’s gifts. I hope he comes to understand that our essential nature continues. For now he has the love of his friends and his family as sustenance. That is the one helpful thing we have to offer—our love. There is no fixing his pain, no easing it except with temporary distraction.

Now death’s tender enigma has drawn her through its veil. The serenity of her face belies the suffering of those around her. Had she screamed in agony maybe there could have been an element of relief when body and spirit split in two, but all that remains is grief and the loneliness in her husband’s eyes. Does he look at his older brother with envy because I, his wife, still live? The grateful look my husband gives me approaches awe. I am her age. Someday our turn will come. Will it be him or me attempting sleep on a lumpy hospice cot?

We hug. I think back to our first hug, our first kiss, our first whole night together. We were not that young, in our forties, old enough to have loved and lost, yet we gave little thought to this distant future likelihood that one or the other of us would be left to the stark emptiness of our last years.

She dies on Thursday morning. Her husband tells me he will do some work on Monday so he doesn’t have to think about it. I imagine he means, so he doesn’t have to feel it, and I understand. Large grief must be doled out one drop at a time. He would drown if he felt it all at once. Yet it must be felt. If not, it eats us away from the inside out until our hollow shell crumbles and breaks, as my father’s did so swiftly following my mother’s death.

I do not fear this fate for my brother-in-law. He is making plans. His house is too big. He may move closer to us. If so, his son says he will follow. Love’s magnetic pull will be his healer. The memory of his wife’s strong drive to live will remind him to live. I’m told Kids’ Camp at her sister’s house had been discussed, because it would be closer to home, easier on her failing body. I hope the grandkids do gather in four months. Their resilient nature will help with the healing. I imagine them, two by two, huddling tearfully in corners. In between they will share fun stories of their grandmother, and laugh, remember, and play.

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

A New Way

“Don’t tell” is the embedded language of sexual harassment and abuse. And women often did not tell. We needed and wanted the part, the job, the account, and we kept quiet. Now we’re being asked why we didn’t say anything at the time. So—why didn’t we? Whether we were children or adults we were afraid of men’s power over our lives, afraid of what would happen to our careers and our dreams and our reputations, of what someone would say. We were trained not to make a ruckus, to behave ourselves, to be perfect victims. No one taught us we could say: “No! Stop! I don’t like this! You can’t! I won’t! Don’t touch me!”

I’ve been floating the idea of writing about this ever since #MeToo first appeared. I worried that it was too far off my focus of after-death communication, but when I heard Oprah’s eloquent and empowered Golden Globe acceptance speech (It is worth checking out.), I knew it was time. She used her voice and her platform, now I’m using mine. If every woman were to add her name to the roster of those who are saying “No More”, we would participate in a tidal wave of change. We need a new way.

When I was raped as a child, my parents called the doctor, called the psychiatrist, dealt with the man, but they did not call the police. I doubt it even crossed their minds. They too were trained not to make a ruckus and to keep sexual things out of the public eye. Later, when my mother told the woman psychiatrist, “She seems to have forgotten,” her reply was, “Good. It’s better that way.” Silence all around.

In the 1950’s, as a teenaged soda fountain clerk, I quickly learned to avoid the narrow supply corridor when the older pharmacist was on duty. We girls monitored our behavior—but we neither questioned nor reported how he squeezed himself against us if he passed us by.

Twenty years later, working for an all-male law firm with all-female employees, I attended the office Christmas party. No spouses were invited. There was a lavish spread of alcohol at five, the end of the workday. The catered food was scheduled for 6:30, by which time everyone was ravenous, and nearly everyone was a little or a lot drunk. I watched a usually straight-laced, married secretary exchange sexual innuendo with her married boss. Luckily her close friend pulled her into the kitchen to ply her with coffee.

Another woman, much more drunk, suddenly disappeared. Turned out she was with her boss in his locked office. All the men’s office doors had locks. I knew her well enough to suspect she would have deep regrets. Later I learned that this party’s ploy was an annual tradition, well-known in the local, legal community. In another job, when I turned down sexual advances from a man, he took the business my firm needed elsewhere.

“If you are ever attacked, don’t fight back,” we were taught, back in the day. “That way you won’t be killed too.” These messages and practices and experiences tell women we are weak and without rights. For men, they reinforce their power over us. This used to be a way of life, as was women’s silence, but remember, once women could not vote. Now we can. Once we could not own property. Now we can and we do. Once we thought we could not tell. Now we can. Now we do.

I’m not saying every man who touched a woman without her permission in the distant past should be pilloried and shunted out of his job (though some should). This is not about scapegoating a few men for old actions our culture condoned with turned-away eyes. The casting couch used to be a “joke.” If thought about, it was never funny. Now we are talking about it and it is really not funny. I recently watched “Cactus Flower” a 1969 comedy. Funny? Yes, but between laughs, I kept wincing as Walter Mattheau, the dentist, patted a female patient’s butt, as Ingrid Bergman, his nurse, deftly sidestepped a male patient’s repeated ardent advances. When will the time come when women loudly object to all such behavior on the spot?

We need to establish a new order between men and women. Many men (the ones Oprah calls phenomenal) have always known that non-consensual or coercive touching is wrong. The others must be taught or cajoled or—if necessary—forced into change by those of us who want all sexual touch to be mutual and consenting.

Men, it is time to question any authority over women you think that history, culture, habit, or religion has granted you. Women, it is time to reclaim our authority over our own bodies. Our daughters must be taught they can say no to adults, and later, as adults. Our sons must be taught how to hear that “no.” This shift requires taking a firm and possibly uncomfortable stance. If it requires telling tales, now is the time to tell them.

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