The Power of Rituals

11.3.17 MUERTOS ALTAR

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

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

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

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

Surviving in the Dark: Teddy Bears, “Blankies,” and PJs

It’s that time of year when I’m counting the days until the return of the light on the Winter Solstice. It’s that time of year when one bumpy little mound called Guadalupe Mountain that sits on the horizon southwest of our home, gets ravenous for light and devours the sun, gulping it down at 4:30, turning the afternoon into night. It eats the light like there is no tomorrow, which is what worries me about this long darkness—that it will never end.

I need my silly sky-blue flannel pajamas printed with fluffy cumulous clouds and tiny stars, anything to comfort me in the fourteen-hour dark. I can handle snow and cold, that’s what down jackets and boots rated for minus zero are designed for, but the darkness is another matter. When my friend in Alaska posts a picture on Facebook of the last rays of direct sunlight to hit her home until spring, I cannot fathom how she stands it.

Yet this week the days will get longer (at least in theory) by seconds every day. In actuality, Guadalupe Mountain’s hunger for light will have not yet been fully assuaged. The moment of each day’s sunset will be determined by the mountain’s peaks and valleys until finally, when January is mostly gone, it will hunker down, light-satiated at last, and wait, quietly, for its next November meal.

At its best, this darkness is an interior, introspective time, but in combination with December’s festivities it tends to magnify new grief and bring up older ones. This is the season of my parents’ deaths, sixteen days apart, thirty-three years ago. Within recent weeks I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from friends about two mothers, a brother, a sister, a cousin, a friend, and a dog who have died. They slip away, the darkness facilitating their transition.

How do we comfort ourselves in the holidays, when this time of being with those we love brings our missing of them to the surface? Just as how we grieve is unique, so is what we do to comfort ourselves. We can wear our cloudy PJs until they’re threadbare like a woman who wore her deceased father’s sweater until it raveled apart. My widowed friend makes “bed muffins” from her husband’s shirts, rice-filled pillows to heat in the microwave and snuggle against in bed. After her husband’s death, she brought the outside kittens he was allergic to inside to snuggle in the empty bed with her too. If taking a teddy bear to bed brings comfort, I say do it, no matter what our age. Nobody will know unless we tell them.

A grieving daughter decorates a tree in her mother’s home to cheer her as she sells the furniture and pots and pans, sorts through boxes of crumbling photos. After my daughter Randi’s death one of my “blankies” was my mantra practice. I was sure that if I let that go, the dam would break, I’d be flooded not just with tears, but with some muck so unmanageable I would lose my hold on life. The gift? How this strengthened and cemented my spiritual practice. I figure if it got me through her death it is to be relied on for anything that will ever come my way.

I am a glutton for books, but I’m particular about their quality. After Randi’s death the level of my reading material plummeted. Later I realized this was because I could not read anything that successfully stirred up my emotions. Some glom onto books about the grieving process. I read to escape my grief. Others struggle to read at all. Joan Didion wrote in The Year of Magical Thinking that at first, after her husband’s death, she could only read headlines.

I recall accepting an invitation for some holiday meal not long after Randi’s death. Was it Thanksgiving? My memory of that time is so jumbled. When we got up that morning, the thought of sitting at a table full of cheerful people was suddenly terrifying; we canceled. Yet when we’re ready, on those special days, at the holiday dinner tables, we can look for some way to include our dead beloveds. This may be unspoken—a favorite dish cooked, a wreath on the door that was a gift handmade by our beloved. If the death is really fresh we may want to set a place at the table for this person.  We did that the first Christmas after Randi’s death, placing her photo on the plate. It was both bittersweet and satisfying to include her in this manner.

My family celebrated the first Christmas after my parents’ deaths in their home. Before we ate I raised my glass to propose a toast: “To those who are present and those who are… At the word “absent” I broke into wracking sobs. Everybody let me cry. I didn’t jump up and go hide in the bathroom. I didn’t apologize. It was a perfect reflection of the reality that our attempt to celebrate was taking place in the very room where my mother had died one month earlier and that, though life would go on, it would never be quite the same. That toast and my tears were a deep, deep comfort.

May you each find your own particular way to bring light and comfort to these dark days and to your holidays.

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