Vera, a Mystical Film

Blog. Blogger. Blogging. How many times did I hear these words before I had any clue what they meant? Blog made me think of glop and glop took me back to eggplant glop, the name my family gave to a gooey, cheesy dish my daughters would beg me to make when they were young. Yet here I am writing a new blog every week, so who says an old dog can’t be taught new tricks? I refuse to describe myself as a blogger though, any more than I was a glopper back then.

In the early 2000s, when I first saw the film Vera  ( presented by its Mexican director Francisco Athie at the Taos Talking Picture Festival, I was mesmerized. This visionary film depicts the journey from life into death of an old Maya man. He is a miner who dies in an accident, though neither the old man nor I realize this for quite some time. Lest he lose his way on his journey, a guide—Vera—appears to escort him across.

Vera is so ethereal, so unearthly it’s difficult to get that she is actually played by the living, breathing Japanese actress and Butoh dancer, Urara Kusanagi, rather than by some being created in an animation department. In a boat that slides silently through underground passages, Vera transports the man from the mine into the land of the dead with the utmost gentleness and love. One could never hope for more supportive assistance.

This is the thrust of the story. You must see the film to feel its magic, the pace slow and lyrical as poetry. It is in Mayan and Spanish. There are English subtitles, but there is so little need for language they seem almost irrelevant.

Though the film is fictional, it aligns perfectly with accounts from the dying and from near-death experiencers. Vera is also reflective of the peace that emits from those dead who communicate through the veil that separates life from death.

I remember how cold my mother’s feet became and then her legs, hours before her last breath. She seemed to die from the toes up. Yet even before that, she lost her desire to open her eyes and look at life, to speak, to drink, to eat. To please my sister, she took one bite of her daughter’s homemade pumpkin mousse on Thanksgiving, but that she did out of love not hunger.

I was interrupted just now by a phone call with the news of the death of a distant relative in her late eighties, who had been failing for a while. She died at home, her family at her bedside. Last week, when she refused dialysis, her dying began in earnest.

Certain doctors, especially those involved in the cutting edge work of resuscitation medicine, are beginning to understand that the body’s last breath is only part of a complex process. Beloveds, as well as hospice workers—nurses, doctors, orderlies, and palliative care therapists alike—get to see before-death experiences where the dying address people unseen by others. Those who die briefly and are resuscitated tell of what lies beyond death. In the middle of this rich texture is that point which modern medicine calls the moment of death.

The whole process, emotionally draining as it usually is for those left behind, is a sacred one, replete with a sense of mystery that Vera ably portrays.

The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil. To be released October 6, 2017. Pre-order on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and IndieBound. Find out more on my Book Page.

Does Death Transform Us?

Whatever else occurs in the mystery that is the afterlife, growth is a key aspect.

A year following his death, Helena’s father, too reserved to be close to his daughter when alive, sat down beside her in a dream. He had two forms. He was both himself (so she recognizes him) and a huge white mountain. She knew that his true form was the mountain. When he told her not to worry—about him or about anything, she was filled with ecstasy. This replaces everything between them, she told me, and is the “true nature of our relationship.”

© creativecommonsstockphotos / Dreamstime Stock Photos

Something happens when we are no longer in our bodies, no longer stuck in the negative aspects of our personalities. The dead mature, African shaman Mandaza Augustine Kandemwa says, in the book Twin from Another Tribe, he co-authored with Michael Ortiz Hill.

Many of those I interviewed during the research for my book on after-death communication experienced contact with the dead who had shifted from belligerence, rage, or alcoholism into benevolent and loving parents or siblings or partners. Forgiveness arose. Selfishness fell away, though sometimes this took years. An abusive father came in a dream long after death, ready to support his daughter for the first time and expressing his admiration for her.

At times this transformation must occur within the living too. My parents died in 1984. Large components of healing occurred among us just before their deaths, but I clung to certain resentments. Gradually, as I matured, these faded, so that now I feel only enormous appreciation for their gifts; their human flaws seem negligible.

For fifteen years Carla’s father’s Alzheimer’s had kept her from receiving the emotional support she longed for. She scheduled a psychic reading when she had no idea he would soon die. Her session, after his death, was flooded with his presence and support and love. After that, as though his dementia had never been, his reassurance and advice seemed always available to her. He helped her with issues involving her divorce; complex situations were resolved just as he said they would be. Carla told me her father gave her “the strength and perspicacity to do what I needed to do.”

Dementia and diseases like Alzheimer’s are of the physical body and brain. Once they are out of the picture, the essential nature is free to rise.

This quality of our true nature that emerges after death is best summed up with the single word “loving”. We humans can be quick to anger, to judge, to resent, and to wound those we love the most. The nature of loving in the afterlife, as indicated by both after-death communication and near-death experiences, excludes anger, judgment, resentment, and hurt. Only love matters to them now. Anything else is “nothing more than a row of pins” as one deceased husband told his wife when she worried about something she had done.

It is nearly universal for any direct connection with the afterlife to demonstrate this absolute and unqualified love. In fact, these visceral demonstrations of untainted love may be the primary gift of our contact with the dead.

Reading or talking about unconditional love is not the same as feeling its effects. Our response to such love is like a thirsty plant’s response to warm rain. We flourish under its presence and we are taught how to live and love more fully with each contact.

The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil. To be released October 6, 2017. Watch for pre-ordering in July.