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

Nothing, No One, Is Ever Totally Lost

Fall is in the air, in the way the mornings smell and feel, in the crackling cry of the Clark’s nutcrackers. These noisy birds are annoyed if I come too close and interrupt their pinon harvesting. It’s too early for them, isn’t it? I’m not ready for fall yet. Does this all portend an early frost? Will the flowers be felled before what I perceive to be their time?

My drying peppermint. Note the afternoon rain on the window.

I harvested the peppermint this morning and hung it in the sunporch to dry. This is a late summer task, not a fall one, but still that word “harvest” bothers me.

What I’m really not wanting is what follows fall—winter, snow, ice, cold. Yet these cycles teach me about how nothing ever stays the same. The grape hyacinth and crocus are the first to bloom in spring and the first to fade. All through spring and summer beauty shines, then disappears—lilacs, daylilies, the tall yellow yarrow I love so. Our irises are still impacted by last year’s army of voles who also killed most of the rhubarb. We have not yet finished clearing away the branches that were broken off by our heavy, late spring, snow.

Hail clattered everywhere last Sunday. I held my breath, remembering the baseball-sized hail that crashed through roofs and totaled cars in Colorado Springs last August. Sunday’s hail passed through without doing more than knocking off a few flower buds and petals.

Miscarriage, birth, life, death, illness, injury—they are all reflected in nature. If I can’t be present with change, I will suffer constantly. My garden and yard, the seasons, the moods of the sky and the mountains remind me of this at every turn. I don’t mourn the sun when it sets each night. I did not mourn it when it eclipsed on my birthday either. Why? Because I know the light always returns.

Last week I noticed a new volunteer hollyhock, not two feet tall, blooming a brilliant red. Another gift to be grateful for until the frost takes it away.

I look back at a journal entry about the despair I felt six years ago as I approached the first anniversary of my daughter Randi’s death—before her time. There have been so many steps and stages since then. Tears still arise unexpectedly as though from a bottomless well, yet even then I feel astonishingly blessed by life, and amazed and pleased that I can feel so blessed despite her death. I still often and regularly sense her presence to remind me that nothing, no one, is ever totally lost, totally gone.

This October 6th, the seventh anniversary, will include a new quality, since that’s when Hampton Roads is publishing my book. I think of this as bringing light to the darkness of that hellish day. Interviewing for and writing this book supported me through the winter of my grief and into its spring. I composted my sorrow and used it to nourish and feed my project. Now it is about to come into full bloom.

My prayer is that The After Death Chronicles will nourish all who read it, just as so much and so many have nourished me and it. Isn’t it ironic that I shrink away from fall for fear of the winter that will follow, when fall is my favorite season?

If you have after-death communication stories, I invite you to share them with me at http://www.AnnieMattingley.com. Just click “Share A Story” in the menu and follow the instructions. If you’d prefer to tell me your story verbally, let me know and we can arrange for that.

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


Go Take a Hike

There were fifty butterflies or even a hundred surrounding our sun porch when we arrived. It was hard to enter the house without letting them inside. We were returning from Colorado a few days after my daughter’s memorial service. As the butterflies fluttered around our windows and door all day long they lifted my heart on their delicate wings. Nothing could lift me into full-fledged joy, yet they flooded me with tiny shots of hope and possibility.

© Creativecommonsstockphotos / Dreamstime Stock Photos

They were not quite out-of-season. I’ve seen an occasional butterfly in late October here, but never so many. Today I looked up what to call such a group—a flight, a flutter, a swarm, a rabble (weird, eh?)—but the best name is “kaleidoscope,” because these contained so many kinds and colors.

Summer seems finally to be on its way here in New Mexico after lots of late spring snow. This was stunning on the crabapple blossoms, though many of their fuchsia petals curled when the snow melted. Now that it’s so sweet to be outside, it’s the perfect time for everything from a stroll to a long hike and to look for, maybe ask for, contact, because a common way for our dead beloveds to contact us is through nature, with birds and butterflies being typical. Butterflies can come in December. A single one has accompanied a person in grief on every step of a five-mile hike.

The key to these experiences is what happens inside us when they occur. This often involves an instant knowing. When a ladybug landed and stayed on my friend’s glasses as she hiked, she “knew” this was her mother. It can take a while to learn to trust this knowing, not to dismiss it as our imagination or coincidence.

The first time I got buzzed by a hawk, I was in my purple pajamas on the rooftop of my Oaxaca, Mexico apartment. As the sun rose, my attention was on my daughter. I thought the bird was a pigeon. It was very, very low and nearly directly overhead before I recognized it as a hawk.

Back home, I stood talking, when a shadow raced over us so close I ducked. My friend, facing me, was open-mouthed. “What was that?” I asked. “A hawk,” he replied. Had we ever seen a hawk come so close? This time at least I noted we’d been talking about my daughter. The third time I was swooped in my own front yard, again as I spoke of her. Finally I got that there was a connection. Being swooped by hawks is as rare as a kaleidoscope of butterflies that hovers and flutters all day. We’re not hawk-prey. Hawks swoop mice and bunnies they can eat for supper.

When such out of the ordinary events happen, if we can set our doubts aside and look for resonance, ask what the experience has to tell us, we may receive a grief-relieving dose of reassurance or hope. In my book, The After Death Chronicles, I share stories of contacts made via eagles, geese, hawks, swallows, falcons, butterflies, ladybugs, clouds, rainbows, and a large, unidentifiable insect that flew in and out of a baby’s open grave. Even the direction in which a hawk flew over another gravesite—to the west, where the sun sets—had meaning to the woman’s son and granddaughter.

So, whether we’re on a hike or a stroll or just sitting on the front stoop, we can listen for the voice of the wind, notice the rocks on the ground, how green shoots rise from the soil, watch the birds. If we think we might be receiving contact but are unsure, we can take a hint from some of the interviewees in my book–say thank you anyway. It can’t hurt.

Gratitude is always a gift to those who feel it and it might open up a path to receive a satisfying contact we are sure of. Besides, can anything but good come from being outside in nature? Enjoy.

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.