Nurturing the Love that Resides Within, Celebrating the Archetypal Feminine
Author of Persephone's Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld - The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula; Joyfully exploring an authentic life as a writer, a healer, and a sacred ceremony facilitator, while caring for aging parents, with reverence and gratitude.
I wonder what our world would look like if each individual could see all others with compassionate curiosity instead of brutal judgment. I grew up an agnostic Unitarian, and this religious foundation offered me the freedom to explore all religions and spiritual paths with a sense of mindful awareness. I could go to church with a friend and ‘try on’ being Lutheran, Baptist, or Catholic (that was the basic diversity of where I grew up). When all those things felt itchy and too tight, I chose to look into Wicca / Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Metaphysics, and Native American beliefs.
Being curious opened doors that were previously blocked by my fears or disinterest. I glory in the freedom to choose the spiritual path that best suits the truth of my soul and in allowing that truth to evolve. I walk through the world with a view that has been crafted and curated with the courage not to settle for the dictates of others. I understand my privilege in doing so.
Being curious rather than judgmental also guides me to a deeper understanding of people and cultures who may be experiencing the world in ways that are different from my own experience.
I live in a State that has recently passed legislation that harms and brutalizes the safe existence of multitudes of its residents. I find it impossible to put myself in the shoes of those who have enacted such psychic, emotional, and horrifically, physical abuse upon others. I can imagine that they feel threatened for some reason, but I fail to understand. Maybe they see their lack of understanding for the individuality of others as a reflection of stupidity (for which they must stand and fight), instead of an opportunity to learn, love, and grow.
June is Pride Month, and also a painful anniversary for our beloved community. Seven years ago, on June 12, 49 sacred souls were taken from us by a single gunman. They were celebrating within a safe space. They should have felt safe anywhere, but right-wing rhetoric destroyed that possibility. So, they went where they felt wanted, appreciated, valued, and invited to be joyfully authentic. A single being, cloaked in self-loathing chose to massacre those who felt the freedom that he denied himself.
I am curious about what those who support this harmful legislation are denying themselves. Who would they be if they refused to be put inside a tiny box of someone else’s construction. Maybe their parents, their peers, or their church communities told them that they could not belong if they dressed in a way that made them feel more alive or spoke their truth about how they were feeling. I wonder if they imagine who they might become if they would choose to toss away the banner of hateful righteousness and find belonging in their authenticity. They might be surprised to realize that they can be loved for being real.
So much of today’s animosity is pointed at the LGBTQ+ Community. Transgender humans and Drag entertainers are being especially terrorized, and those who support them are being targeted, as well. I’d like to imagine a world where the haters could consider compassionate curiosity, rather than close-minded disrespect.
I am a middle-aged, white, cisgender, straight woman. Full disclosure: if I could choose, I would be a lesbian. I prefer the company of women, and I have deeply loved a specific woman, but my sexuality has a mind of its own, unfortunately. Regarding the middle-aged part of my self-definition, I did not grow up with access to the identity terms that our youth are claiming today, as are those who felt they never had the choice before. I understand the resistance that some people feel to allowing individuals the freedom to be recognized, acknowledged, and validated for the declaration of their own truth. It’s hard to learn to use childhood grammar lessons differently. It’s hard to imagine a child, an adolescent, or an adult who has never felt right or safe in their bodies. Or is it?
Compassionate curiosity led me to spend time getting to know the stories of people I’ve grown up with, in the popular culture setting. Chaz Bono and more recently Elliot Page, have courageously, and also necessarily, stepped into the bodies and lives that make them feel safe, authentic, and joyful. My ‘aha’ moment with Chaz was when his mother stated that she found understanding by considering how she would feel if she woke up tomorrow with a penis. She knew that it would feel wrong and that she would want to have it removed. But even more deeply, I felt the truth of something Elliot spoke to Oprah in an AppleTV interview.
Elliot shared the overwhelm he felt at the thought of simply leaving his house. If you think about it, the world expected him to always be seen in drag. But also, just sitting down in a chair, he was painfully aware and deeply self-conscious of all that felt wrong in his body. One’s first thought might be outrage… as ‘this’ body is considered by society to be enviable and perfect. Any young woman should delight in a body that is healthy, fit, and petite. Unless, of course, your soul does not resonate with being a woman.
But what I felt instead was affirming recognition. Not because my private parts don’t resonate with my soul, but because for most of my life, every time I sit down in a chair, I am painfully aware and deeply self-conscious of all that feels wrong in my body. I believed I was fat when I was a size 10, and as my body grew with metabolic disorder, there was no room for a sense of belonging, acceptance, or especially confidence in the body I was born with. I have fantasized for most of my life about having a different body. I have dwelled in the pit of despair with visions of hacking away the flesh of my hips, belly, and thighs. And I have literally had 80% of my stomach cut away for the dream of possibly transforming the body that would make me feel safe, accepted, and loved. Not to mention the truth of having a female body automatically deems one a higher likelihood of being sexually harassed or assaulted. It is rather confusing to want to be seen and loved, while also hoping to be invisible to those who would deliver harm.
Of course, my compassionate curiosity is still limited by my time and ability to get to know the stories of others, and Chaz and Elliot are just two sacred beings among many who are either longing for, seeking, or moving through transformation. What I know for sure is that they each deserve to feel safe and to be nurtured and celebrated for the exploration and work they’ve endured and the truth they’ve declared. There is nothing more beautiful than witnessing the joy of an individual who walks through the world unflinchingly as themselves.
My longing has always been to be loved and accepted for who I am, whether I am seen as flawed or perfect in the eyes of others. Though I cannot relate to an identity other than cisgender, I can imagine that every human longs to be loved and accepted for who they are… not who others expect them to be.
Until those who fight to limit the freedom of authenticity love themselves enough to love others, it is up to the rest of us to be the fierce allies and protectors of those whose lives fall under their hateful aim.
I know a lot is going on astrologically right now, and that a shift is happening. I have been feeling the evolution of my soul in big and small ways. This Pride season, I am flying an all-inclusive flag in my garden (well, it would be a garden if I didn’t have a brown thumb). I had not done so before because I felt it was not my own, it was not within my identity to claim that rainbow pride. But now, I realize that every one of us is represented in these vibrant stripes. Those who see a rainbow and feel outrage must be carrying so much self-hatred, to be unable to see and celebrate their own true colors. May they find peace and comfort in their own divine beauty and no longer feel the need to persecute those who have already found it for themselves.
I’m also feeling led to share a Unitarian tradition of non-violent defiance regarding the pink triangle. I’m attaching a link that tells the story, but I’ll simply acknowledge that flying my pride flag is more than informing others that I care, I am letting them know that I am standing with them. I am enormously proud of who they are, and of who I’ve allowed myself to become.
You are loved exactly as you are. You are worthy of safety, freedom, and authenticity and I celebrate your divine truth with gratitude for your presence in this world which is made more colorful and vibrant with you in it. So, please… stay!
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
Four years ago, as I wheeled my friend out of rehab and to my car to take her home after recovering from a fall that broke her femur, she looked up at me and asked, “Why are you doing this?” I suspect she wondered because though we had known each other for 30 years, we hadn’t been particularly close in recent years. What had changed was my freedom to be of service once I left the corporate world. Choosing to simplify my life in order to care for my aging parents, allowed me to be present for other loved ones. My reply was simply, “Showing up is my love language, and I love you. You deserve this.”
The next four years continued to be challenging for my friend and her wife, who was beginning to show signs of what would be a diagnosis of vascular dementia. They were blessed to be active members of their Unitarian Church community for over 30 years, and their friends showed up for them in many ways during those years. The hardest part about holding space for these two sacred beings was feeling as if there was so little we could do to help when so much of the struggle was health-related. But that never stopped dear friends from showing up to do whatever was possible to ease their burden.
When my friend ended up back in the hospital last October, I showed up to take her home after discharge. There were a few things going on in her body. They fixed one issue, and left it up to her to follow up with specialists to address the other issues after discharge. I had learned from my father’s experience in his final years that it would be best to stay in the hospital until you can be seen by the specialists, but for one reason or another, that didn’t happen. She made follow up appointments with three specialists and was able to see one within a couple of weeks. The other two, however, had nothing available until mid-January.
Tragically, by January 3, she and I had returned to the hospital to learn that she had been in heart failure for the last two months. One of the tell-tale signs was that her body had been retaining fluid. Her physical therapist had been wrapping her legs for compression, and when I arrived to take her to the hospital, she had a large water blister on the top of her right foot. You could see the fluid within sloshing around as if it were a snow globe. I told her not to worry about shoes, as I would once again be her wheelchair maiden and her feet would never touch the ground. The ER was quite busy, and as we rolled her from one spot to another in the waiting room, I noticed that the blister had popped, and we were leaving little puddles everywhere.
She was admitted that night, and we learned that a valve in her heart had calcified to be described like a ‘Ritz Cracker’ by the hospitalist. There would be a pig valve replacement required, but they needed to get some of the fluid off of her heart and lungs first. She lost 20 pounds over the next few days, thanks to Lasix. (We were both delighted and fascinated by the new device that vacuumed out her urine, rather than having to be catheterized.) But that wasn’t enough. When we thought we’d reached surgery day, her doctors decided they needed her to get a little stronger in order to have a successful procedure and recovery, so they prescribed a few days of in-house physical therapy.
I had been so focused on helping set-up constant communication to their loved ones, through Caring Bridge, and securing the line-up of compassionately generous friends who would take shifts sitting with her wife, ensuring she was kept nourished, nurtured, and safe, that I hadn’t gotten to the hospital the first week. When she and I talked on the phone the day the procedure was postponed, she told me that when she woke that day, she felt the presence of her Mother. To be clear, these words came from the mouth of my friend who found all metaphysical references to the mystery of what comes next to be impossible to believe. She then asked me, “Do you think that means I’m going to die?”
I assured my friend that her mother was standing by to support her healing and to offer protection, but I did worry. I probably felt that the answer was yes, but that didn’t feel helpful in that moment. Since one of our dearest mutual friends died in 2017, we have often talked through her feelings and fears about death. I once felt as she did, that when you die, that’s it… nothing. But as a skeptical believer, over many years of exploration and mindful practices, I have found resonance with firm belief in something different.
Ten days after arrival, my friend’s nurse called to inform me that her heart had stopped pumping and that they were taking her to ICU, that a pump would be installed at her groin, and I later learned that the installation procedure had caused her kidneys to shut down. They put her on dialysis. When they realized she couldn’t swallow without choking, because she had to lie flat with the pump in place, they inserted a feeding tube. For the next couple of days, she slept often and was difficult to understand when she tried to speak. Meanwhile, I was holding Zoom Healing Circles with people who loved our friend from all areas of her life and from all over the country. Each morning that followed, as we waited for the medical team to come by, I would play the recording of the voices she adored. I asked her if she knew how loved she was, and she said, “no”. She couldn’t believe that so many people were showing up for her.
Her sister decided to come from afar, and I offered her sanctuary. Later, we would tell my friend how lucky we felt that she had brought us together… her best kept secret – after 30 years, how much her sister and I had in common. One afternoon, a doctor entered the room and asked which one of us was ‘the sister’. My new friend’s reply, “I’m her bio-sister and she’s (pointing to me) her soul-sister.”
Each morning, we would pull an oracle card for our beloved, before heading to the hospital, and we would pay attention to signs from the universe. We were of one-mind, on the same page. One morning, my new soul-sister alerted me to a white rabbit in my backyard. I have lived in this house for 25 years and this was a first! What I heard in my head was, “I’m late! I’m late, for a very important date!” My interpretation was that we should not waste any time. Our beloved would soon be departing.
She had seemingly rallied at the arrival of her sister, so her step-daughter questioned whether she should tell her son to come now or to wait. I encouraged her to get him here now. Far better to have time with her while able to speak to him. He booked a flight to arrive on Friday. Exchanging a sister for a grandson… the changing of the guard.
On Thursday, we finally heard from the cardiothoracic surgeon. He said that we were running out of options, and that the remaining ‘Hail, Mary’ possibility would be to punch a hole in the valve to see if the heart would start working on its own again, but that procedure came with great risk. On the phone, he presented it as an option that must be taken ASAP. I told him that her grandson and sister-in-law would be here soon. I asked if it could wait until next week. His concern was that waiting would allow time for more to go wrong.
When I told my friend what the doctor had indicated, she understood it to be the only chance she had to continue. She decided that she wanted to do it. I informed the nurse and left the room. I went to the bathroom and cried. Then, I called her important people to come. I asked her about her fears, and she shared that she was afraid that when death arrived it would be like turning out the light. She didn’t want to leave because she hated to miss anything. I asked her to join me in suspending disbelief, and to consider that when she left behind her broken body, she would be unlimited as she would return to the light of truth. She would then be able to be everywhere, all at once.
We were all gathered around our friend when the doctor came to see her. His language was a bit different than it had been when we spoke on the phone. He suggested that perhaps she should wait, and spend the weekend with the family who would soon arrive. He also explained what the trauma of using every means to save her life might look like, and she agreed that either now or in the middle of the postponed procedure, she did not care to have a 300 pound man climb on top of her to pound her chest. We appreciated the way he added a bit of humor to the very real information he was giving her, which was… that he was highly recommending a Do Not Resuscitate order, because she was nearing the end of life.
And just like that, we understood that we were not going to lose our beloved on an operating table that day. We were simultaneously heartbroken and relieved. Together, we sang the most stunning rendition of “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade, that I’ve ever heard. I call it the Unitarian theme song. It goes like this: “Spirit of life come unto me, sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion. Blow in the wind, rise in the sea, move in the hand giving life the shape of justice. Roots hold me close, wings set me free, spirit of life come to me, come to me.” We would sing that song several times more over the next few days.
During these difficult days in the hospital, friends were holding space for her wife. We wondered how much she would retain about her wife’s condition, as her memory was challenged to retain much of anything from moment to moment. In one conversation with a friend, she had reportedly referred to her wife as being in the hospital and having a lot wrong with her, looking forward to her getting better and joining her in their future home in assisted living, not knowing if she would ‘make it’, and that she was already dead. I felt so fascinated by this recounting from our mutual sister-friend, as it reminded me of a sci-fi series that featured a quantum traveler being unstuck in time. It seemed as if dementia could possibly be described as such… being untethered from reality, while being able to visit the future, as well as the past.
Also happening during this timeframe, was the parallel hospitalizations of my life long friend’s mother. The day after I was in the ER with my friend, my favorite tomboy was in the ER with her Mom. Understanding the second half of life is certainly cemented when we find ourselves walking mindfully with our aging loved ones, wanting to ensure their safety and wellness, while holding our breath to prolong the number of days we will be blessed to share. Her mom would be in the hospital a few times that month. I visited with her, upon request, to help determine her wishes for care, as her kids worried she would choose rehab so not to be a burden to them. I advised against it, knowing that she would just be left in bed as a fall risk for all but 30 minutes a day. I knew she was better off at home.
My favorite tomboy told me that after that visit her mom said to her, “I think Missy thinks I’m dying.” I hadn’t really felt that she was, but I did realize that having walked so mindfully with death these last few years allows me to be in a constant conversation with it. It seems to me that death is always near and that it is worth our time to honor it, make peace with it, and then get on with living.
Back in the ICU, I was there each morning to greet the team of doctors and specialists who would brief each other on each patient in the unit. Each morning I would ask if we were at the point of hopelessness, and each morning they would indicate that we may be close, but not yet.
One afternoon after the decision to do the procedure had been postponed, my favorite tomboy (MFT) and our other childhood angel sat in my living room discussing the health concerns for both our mutual friend in ICU and MFT’s Mom. I looked out my front window to witness a flurry of wings, as a frenzy of birds danced at the feeder. There were Grackles and Titmice, and something else… maybe a Wren or a Warbler. I’d never seen anything like it! My logical mind considered that it might have something to do with a migratory path, but that didn’t make sense. I’m in Florida, and these birds are here all year. What I heard in my mind was that the spirit of our friend was gathering strength and preparing to fly. Looking back , I can feel the flutter in my chest and the truth that was being revealed.
On Sunday, I pulled an oracle card for my friend, and it felt ominous. Since I had a lunch date on the 22nd, I had planned to go to the hospital later that afternoon. I checked in with my friend’s family during their morning visit, and they reported she had discomfort in her belly, and an x-ray appeared to show possible constipation. During lunch, another friend who was visiting called me to report that test results had come back on her platelets that revealed her body was destroying them. That would mean any procedure would be prohibited due to her inability to clot. I set down the phone and cried into my hands. I was also told that they were taking her for a CT scan of her abdomen because her pain was increasing.
Shortly after my arrival, our medical team arrived with the results of the scan. Our beloved being had received her final blow. A perforated bowel. Of course, they could do nothing to repair it, as she would have bled out. Once again, I had to give my friend the bad news. As I explained it to her, and asked her to tell me what she was thinking, she expressed feeling baffled by how things went downhill so fast. She said to me, “So, there’s no hope?” “That’s right, my love. The doctors say we have to let you go. They will protect you from the pain of sepsis, and you will not suffer nor be alone.” I asked her if she knew how loved she was, and without hesitation, she spoke a resounding, “YES!”
Reflecting on that moment now, it feels as if, after weeks of waiting, we were suddenly on fast-forward. Things seemed to move so quickly. I called the family and closest friends to come. Paperwork was signed. I asked our beloved community to read the Phowa Practice for the transformation of our dear one’s soul into the Light of Truth. I let my mother know that I would not be home that night. Like my father before her, I would walk my soul-sister into the underworld.
The vigil was long. Twelve hours from her last words to me, “So there’s no hope?” Our beautiful being was tended by her wife of 43 years, her sister-in-love, her step-daughter, her soul-daughter, and her grandson. Her minister and her friends were there to sing her through the process of letting go. Shortly after 5am, I found myself following her breath with rapt attention. Just when I wondered if there would be another breath, it would come. I knew that her soul had already found its freedom, but that sacred vessel that had carried her light for so long was so loyal that it refused to stop doing its job.
Throughout the night, we had taken turns speaking our love into ears we’ve been told can still hear our words. One soul-sister sang to her, another joined me in reading aloud the Phowa Practice for the transformation of her soul back into the light of all that is. And I finally read to her the oracle card I had pulled the morning before everything had gone so wrong. From Alana Fairchild’s Journey of Love deck, I read, THE VOID:
“At the ending of every cycle, and the beginning of every cycle, there is a moment of transition. It may last for any amount of time – a moment of feeling, or many years of deep inner work whilst feeling displaced. The transition may require patience to endure the absence of knowing, the lack of certainty about who you are and why you are here on this planet. A void may open up between one moment of meeting with your lover and the seemingly endless stretch of time – even if it is only days that seem as though they are eternal in duration – as you wait to reconnect again.
Yet if you can accept that entry into the cosmic void as preparation for your next cycle of manifestation, if you can accept that darkness is holding you with love, not with unfeelingness, then you can relax and let the preparation be what it must be. Then you can be well equipped for the next steps forward on your glorious divine adventure this lifetime, meeting the beloved – whether divine or human lover – in a fresh new moment, excited, open and curious, always.
This oracle brings you guidance. There are parts of your own process unfolding that you simply cannot know about yet. It will not always be this way, but for now, it is most helpful for you to only deal with what is immediately before you. All else will be shown when the time is right. There is growing to be done and then the void will bring forth the next step on your path to meet you. You do not have to worry and you do not have to search. Be present. Be patient. When you can do something, do it, when you cannot, just be. Your time will soon come. If you are holding a question about relationship – surrender it into the void and let it become what it must be according to spiritual wisdom and love.
A coming together A blending of one Where understanding Spans the space between And separation disappears To form Anew”
As others rested their eyes, I laced my arm through the bedrail and placed her left hand over my right, then stroked her hand with my left, as I spoke aloud. “Thank you, sacred vessel, for carrying the soul of our beloved these many years. Thank you for breathing life into this remarkable woman who was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a wife, a step-mother, a grandmother, a musician, an artist, a counselor to many grateful hearts, and most importantly to me… a true friend. I know it is hard for you to let go of the sacred responsibility you’ve carried these 78 years, but it is time now to let go. For as long as we have breath, we will sing your name to the stars. Our beloved is now one with the Light of Love, and it is time for you to finally rest.
I must have gasped as I recognized her final breath, as everyone came to the bedside to hold our sweet beloved as we tried one final round of “Spirit of Life”. But we choked on our tears and quietly witnessed the slowing heart monitor until it transitioned into stillness. As I type these words, I look at the time to see it is 9:11. It was her birthday and it is now my new angel number. When I see it, I will know she is near.
When she was gone, her wife asked me, “What do we do now?” I explained what next steps would look like, and a few minutes later, she asked again. I know that her consciousness, clouded by dementia, was really saying to me, “What will I do without her?” As the nurse was doing her final exam, I lifted the sheet to see my friend’s feet. I felt a cord at my solar plexus pull me backward in time as I saw the bandage still wrapped around the site of the water blister on her right foot. Suddenly, she and I were rolling through the ER, leaving puddles everywhere. It was now January 23, and this was not the outcome either of us expected twenty days before.
Together, we exited the hospital, an exhausted tribe of devotees. It was 6:30am and our beloved had been gone for an hour and seemingly forever. I went home and slept for a few hours. At 11am, my phone rang and I heard the voice of my friend’s widow, “I’m calling to let you know that Sharon died.” “I know, honey. I was with you all night. Do you remember?” “That’s right, I remember now. Thanks for all you’ve done for us.”
The next day, I met the family at my friends’ home. The neighbors came out to ask about our beloved, and her widow told them that she had died. I affirmed that we had just lost her yesterday, and her wife was shocked to hear it, for she felt it had happened two weeks before. I continue to be curious about this affliction. The brain that is starved of oxygen seems capable of time travel. I am hopeful that it helps with grieving, for this beautiful being lost so much more than her wife, she has also lost her home, having moved into memory care for the lack of a constant companion and the need of greater care. I cannot fathom the shock of it all.
There is still so much to write, but I will save it for another post. What I am most grateful for is that I was able to show up for my friend during the most difficult days of her life and throughout her transition into the mystery of what comes next. Further, I am so enormously pleased that I had the opportunity to be mindful with my love and gratitude for the gifts my friend had unknowingly given me. By loving her, I was given the opportunity to speak with and write to her many friends and family members over the days that followed our fated final ER visit. I have met her people and now claim them as my own. I got to thank her for it while she could consciously acknowledge my thankfulness, with a reply of, “I’m so glad.”
In a recent text exchange with her sister, she signed off with, “I love you most”, and I replied, “As your sister would reply to me, I love you best.” She told me to hold onto those words, and I assure you… they are mine for all time.
Thank you for walking this path with me. And thank you for sending your love to surround the widow of my dear friend. May she have all she needs to feel safe and cared for until she is ready to join her wife for their next grand adventure.
In 2019, I led a series of workshops that were planted at Imbolc with ‘Seeds of Intention’. Every eight weeks a group of beautiful beings gathered for mindful connection, meditation, and personal growth as we marked the changing seasons. When the pandemic entered our lives, a number of my ‘sacred gardeners’ chose to continue meeting weekly, to stave off the sense of isolation that covid-19 threatened.
[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]
Three years later, despite every member being vaccinated and boosted, for some reason we had not made efforts to return to meeting in person. Every Saturday we nurtured our commitment to gathering in sacred, safe, and brave ‘virtual’ space. Each gathering started and ended with an oracle card that might inspire conversation or speak to a mood that often resonated with many. In recent months, one of those cards offered a message that reminded me of how one of my sacred gardeners had inspired, supported, and nudged me into creating those workshops that gave birth to this group. It felt like a new nudge from the universe to return to a physical sacred space.
One intention I had been considering for some time was the idea of my own croning. A croning is a rite of passage in the life of a woman when she moves beyond her former roles as a maiden and mother. As I have gotten to know these women on such an intimate level over the past few years, I was aware that many of us were on similar journeys at varying stages of aging. So, the suggestion was made, it was well received, and then a date was set.
Once the focus of our first in-person gathering was decided, the synchronicities began to arrive, as they do, to affirm that we were on the right path. From oracle cards pulled in weekly gatherings to random social media posts, guidance, inspiration, and messages kept rising to help build the outline for our rite.
I knew that for a hands-on craft, we would create our own crowns. I had a very simple idea for a floral circlet, but I wondered if I could find other, less practiced ideas to share. I found a few generous designers on YouTube who demonstrated the task, shared with my group for feedback, and then called a couple of experts for a slumber party crown experiment.
If you are truly blessed in life, you will have at least two life-long, childhood friends who are always ready for adventure. They gladly embraced the task of a crafting rehearsal, to see if it felt possible to do this work as a group within a reasonable timeframe. As we measured, nipped, smoothed, and twisted aluminum wire, we discussed the concept of croning.
In the life of a woman, she moves through three stages that mirror the moon. She is the maiden throughout her youth, a glorious waxing stage of innocence and discovery. She is the mother when she has moved into her fullness, not only by giving birth (which many of us choose not to do), but by creating a path, a home, a career, a purpose. And she is the crone when she is ready to leave behind what wisdom has taught her no longer matters, as she moves into the waning phase.
Three of my gardeners argued that they were not sure they were worthy of croning. They felt unsure of their readiness to claim it when they felt there was so much more to learn, or there were still young-adult children in the house. But when I read to them the inspiration piece for the power portion of the ceremony, they each changed their minds.
I understand that some may argue with my logic, but I know this to be true. The time of croning can be when a woman’s blood has stopped flowing. Another time may be at her second Saturn Return, around age 56 (depending on her astrological natal chart). It can be when she retires from the working world, or simply when she is ready to evolve into a deeper life experience. I stopped bleeding at 48 (thank the gods!), retired from the corporate world to care for my parents, and walked my father through the end of his life (to walk with death is an undeniable crone journey).
Our youngest is 51 and our eldest is 86. We are all in varying stages of cronedom. We are either serving our parents through the end of life, or preparing for our own. We are learning that we no longer carry the burden of worrying about pleasing others with how we look or behave, and are focused on learning how to please ourselves and love who we’ve become, especially after a lifetime of trying to be something society expected of us. With the war of beating ourselves with the unrealistic expectations of others, we are done!
We spent our Saturday virtual gatherings in the weeks leading up to our big event discussing who we were as maidens and as mothers, and what from each stage of our development we would choose to leave behind.
Our lives and stories were different in many ways and similar in others. I found myself reflecting on my youth and could immediately see so much that felt unpleasant. I could see my innocence as naivete, my longing as weakness, and my moments of confidence as arrogance. On first reflection, I found mostly regret in my ignorance, while a few others saw their maiden experiences as nearly idyllic, some, quite the opposite with a lost youth having to parent a parent. It took me a while to dig through my own darkness to reveal the buried treasure of being young. That process informed me of what I was prepared to discard from my maiden phase, and what to hold onto.
Motherhood was oddly easier for me to review. I’ve never been pregnant and am very happily childless, but I did give birth to a tribe in my mid-twenties (and I guess I did it all over again in my late 40s). That has long felt like one of the most important things I’ve done. I nurtured and cared for three bosses over three decades who gave me a sense of identity and purpose, they were my sacred beings to nurture and support.
So much light came through a sense of belonging and opportunities to contribute to something larger than myself. I found my people and myself during those formative years. But I also struggled with self-love and acceptance. I fought a long battle of self-loathing for never being thin enough, attractive enough, organized enough, or loved enough. It took me so long to figure out that every little thing that could deliver true happiness was always mine to give myself. I knew that I was ready to claim my cronedom when I stopped objectifying myself and yearning for the validation of others to believe I was worthy of being loved.
[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]
As we collaborated on crafting a communal croning ceremony, we also discussed music that spoke to us, and how we would honor the elements and archetypes of the divine that resonated with each of us, and of the wise women in our lives who had nurtured and inspired us.
Among the many synchronicities that crossed my screen was ‘The Thanksgiving Address, A gift from the Haudenosaunee to the World’, which I first discovered while reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s remarkably beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass. We realized that it had everything one could seek in honoring the sacred within us and which surrounds us. It would work for casting the circle, calling the quarters, and invoking the light of truth. I would love to begin every gathering with these blessing words.
The morsel of goodness that was the foundation of our rite and the climax of our journey was a post that offered a declaration from Dr. Shefali’s book called Radical Awakening. It prompted me to purchase the book, and hear it in her own voice through Audible. It feels like an assertion of defiance to internalized patriarchy. I hope you’ll look her up for yourself. I adapted her words to meet our needs, designed to roll more easily off the tongue. I’m grateful to Poet’s Corner for posting them.
I don’t think I had imagined how it would feel to welcome 12 sacred souls, live and in-person, into the sanctuary of my home. It has been so long since more than two extra people have graced this space. Their arrival, by ones, twos, and threes felt warm and momentous. We were all helpers that day. Some helped set the perfect spaces for our togetherness, some helped prepare the food for our sustenance, some helped by driving our loved ones who are no longer driving, some helped with crafting supplies, some helped with financial donations, one drove four hours partially through rush-hour traffic to get here the day before, and absolutely everyone held space for the truth and beauty of each and every life journey that was shared, with reverence and grace. That feeling, I was reminded, was the warmth of love, the support of family, and after a very long absence, it felt like a homecoming.
In the beginning, we agreed that the beauty of becoming the crone meant that we would not be attached to outcome. If we had intentions for this gathering that were forgotten or failed to manifest due to timing, that would only mean that we would have exactly the experience we meant for us.
We passed the script of ‘Thankfulness’ until every paragraph had been spoken, until ‘Our Minds [Were] One’. We spoke of the women in our lives (or men) who offered us wisdom and nurturing, and we brought into the circle the archetypes of the goddesses who most resonated with our souls. Surrounded by images in artwork, mine were obvious. It was the young Persephone that I called into the birthing of my Tribe at Imbolc of 1994, and she in her underworldly guise, as I studied holding space at the end of life and walked my father through it. And it was Artemis, who found me in 1999 through a Drawing Down the Moon ritual with my Tribe, and never stopped revealing herself through my own independence, fierce loyalty to my Tribe, a constant sense of being protected, and a groundedness that has served this archer well.
We chose nourishment and connectedness before starting our work of crafting crowns, and then moved outside to the tables where we took our time in the act of creation. My life-long friends, having practiced the elven circlet made from aluminum wire, offered support and guidance to those who chose that style, while others took to other materials. The idea of choosing simplicity at this stage of life bears great resonance. Whatever each woman chose for herself was exactly right and a work of perfection.
[My cat, Neville – blessing the crowns]
When we returned to the center of our circle, we honored those who had long ago been croned, and affirmed that in this phase of life, we are continuing to learn and grow, to release and receive, and therefore, we may choose to claim our crowns again and again. One who was croned at her second Saturn Return has now reached her third. She would be the one who anointed us all with essential oils symbolic of rebirth.
Each of my sacred gardeners were anointed, then sat to read her words of release and declaration, and then she was crowned with her own crafted headpiece by the woman seated to her right. It meant that we were going counter clockwise in circle, which felt quite right for this phase of life and moon. The following was my offering inspired by Dr. Shefali’s work, which some altered with their own deep meaning.
From the Maiden, I maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity, as I release Her sense of insecurity and not-enoughness.
From the Mother, I maintain an ability to face every challenge with patience and compassion, as I release Her need to put the needs and comfort of others before Her own.
From the Crone, I claim healthy boundaries, confidence in my knowing, and the power of my divine authenticity to expand and call forth joyful experiences of deepening growth and grand adventure.
I am a woman living in the fullness of my truth. I have curated and crafted my sovereignty.
In this moment, I release unworthiness and fear. I part with obligatory servitude and passive acceptance. I divest what is untrue to me, along with unhealthy boundaries of my own and of those who would cross them. I refuse to pretend to be something I am not in order to please others.
In this moment, I now command that I will ascend into my highest power. I will embrace my greatest autonomy. I will celebrate my deepest worth. I will embody my fiercest courage and manifest the most authentic me.
Today, I claim my crown!
[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]
There was such power in witnessing these words through the bodies and voices of each of my sacred gardeners, and there was deep beauty, as well. Our eldest crone is 86, and living with severe vascular dementia. We have seen rapid decline in her memory and abilities over the last year. Though this was the first time they had met in person, she allowed herself to be cared for by our dear one who had driven so far to be with us. She literally took our elder under her wing and read the words of affirmation, prompting her to add her own life experience into the words provided, and then allowed her to read the words to claim her crown. It was so tender and dear, and this is why my greatest wish for all the world is to know this blessing of heartfelt belonging.
When our circle was open, a couple of dear ones had to depart, but many stayed for homemade dessert, and a mesmerizing fire. There was meant to be music and song, but that was one of the things that fell away. I will add the words of one meaningful offering that may find voice in the future, and a link to another. Both have long been sung by members of our local Unitarian Church, where many of us have also found belonging. We feel that both resonate with the gratitude we hold for the honor of being in this latter phase.
Cup of the Moon by Carole Etzler Cup of the moon, filling, filling, shining in the night. Cup of the moon, spilling, spilling, spilling out her light. We dance in the light, in the silvery light when the moon is at her fill. And when the cup of the moon is empty, we wait her listening and still. In the dark of the moon we grow more in tune with the earth and the sky and then, we watch and wait and find joy in knowing the cup will refill again. We dance in the light, in the silvery light, when the moon is at her fill. And when the cup of the moon is empty, we wait for her to refill.
It is now Monday, and evidence of our Saturday celebration in my home is less obvious. The circle of 13 seats has been broken, the kitchen is not quite as recovered as the living room, but what truly lingers is the love. For 26 years, I have hosted gatherings of women (and a few special men) in this home, and I believe it is the residue of all of that light, love, and magick that can be felt upon crossing my threshold. I am grateful for it, and enjoy basking in it. I know the energy of our communion will hold me close for all of my days.
May the season of light deliver all you need with plenty to share. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
Two big things happened in my life a year ago. My soul-sister fell in love, and my father died. That time in my life was proof that we humans can hold space for every emotion, all at once. I was simultaneously heart-filled and heartbroken.
I held space for my dear friend through her darkest depths, and was blessed to bear witness to the moment she found her person. I had never seen her so happy, and knowing that her darkness had finally found illumination brought me enormous joy and peace. Meanwhile, I was holding space for my father’s physical decline, his struggles with body betrayal, and finally… an end to that struggle. Death is always bittersweet when the ache of a loved one’s suffering is replaced by their absence.
Since my friend also cared for my father, she was painfully aware of the limits of time with those we love, and she did not hesitate to take action, once she had found the soul who brought her spirit back to life. She sold everything and moved north. So, for nearly as long as I have been missing my father’s physical presence, I have also been missing hers.
From afar, she held space for all of the ‘firsts’ without my Pop, and as the anniversary of his death and her birthday grew near, she invited me to come up for a weekend adventure. They had plans to RV over to Provincetown (MA) to see friends, and it wasn’t long before everything fell into place as magick was revealed.
This journey would allow me to be in the state where my father grew up on the anniversary of his death. Further, a stop in a place he had written about in his #MemoirsForMelissa would be easily on our path, either to or from. I knew I was being led to carry some of his cremated remains back to a place he cherished in his youth. For me, it felt like a pilgrimage.
Once again, my lifelong friends supported my journey with inspiration, enthusiasm and great care. When you find the people who are genuinely happy and supportive of your own happiness, and will do everything possible to see you through every opportunity to attain it – you know that you are truly blessed. One asked me if there would be a ceremony to honor Pop on the trip, and that’s when that seed was planted. One generously booked my flights with her buddy pass. And one was my driver to and from the airport (actually, she sent her hubby on the homebound trip, which was a nice surprise). Also, my brother came up to care for Mom, and they both delighted in having each other to themselves for a few days. And of course, my friend and her wife graciously made room for me on their previously scheduled journey. The Universe clearly conspired to make it happen.
It is not every friend who chooses a partner to whom I feel immediately connected. But finally meeting in person the love of my friend’s life, felt like a homecoming. We are family, and it was written in the stars. These two were blessed to find each other, and I feel blessed to bear witness. They carried me with them on an adventure and held space for the surprising emotions that would rise and the magick that would be revealed. I am grateful.
I flew into their hometown and we loaded up the RV (christened The Honey Pot) with provisions and two golden retrievers, then drove eastbound toward the Cape (Cod, that is). In North Truro and PTown, we met up with several of their friends, many of whom were meeting in person for the first time. Each were warm, welcoming beings who made me feel included despite this being my first introduction. They have built a caring, mindful, loving community through social media, and this technology reminds me of the harm it has caused, but also the beauty of connection it has delivered. Like we humans, the internet holds both darkness and light.
Provincetown, to me, was a mixed bag. I seem to have lost interest in shopping since having chosen to live more simply. Mostly, I was delighted by the people watching. In this beautiful place, people feel safe to be authentic. Nothing fills my soul more than seeing individuals express their true nature with confidence and acceptance. Our society’s insistence on conformity is confounding. I would rather die than be subjected to a world filled with sameness. When you find yourself surrounded by a community that has left behind the places that punished them for their truth, you cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the joy of their expressive realness.
We were in PTown for Dad’s death anniversary (July 17), and found a delightful outdoor spot for lunch. As I was looking into the eyes of my dear friend with gratitude to be sharing her birthday with her, I suddenly burst into tears. I’d been told how grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and there it was. As she comforted me, my friend glanced at her phone and said aloud, “It’s 2:02. Pop is here.” And we knew it was true. It was the exact moment, one year ago, that his heart stopped. My angel number. When I see it, I know he is near.
Later that afternoon, one of the kind and generous souls in their group swung by the campground to pick us up. As we drove to the beach where we would gather and bounce upon salty waves, the radio did that thing it does. The night before we let Dad go, I set up his tablet to play music he enjoyed. I had asked him to find a way to communicate with me in ways I could understand. As I questioned whether he was ready to go and if I was being true to his wishes, he played three songs for me. The first one was the same as what came over the car radio… Sailing by Christopher Cross. The line that stood out to me on that difficult night at his bedside was, “Soon I will be free.”
The next day, we packed up the RV and made our way to the place I had most anticipated. Twenty years before his death, my father showed up for me. I had asked him to write down stories from his life that I could have when he was gone. Mom had reported that he had been honoring my request, and though I knew they were out there somewhere, I waited until he was gone to find them and read them. My brother found them last Thanksgiving (our first without Pop), and I shared one story per day with my friends and family on FB.
This is the story he left, that inspired this sojourn… from Bill Baker’s Memoirs for Melissa
“One of Dad’s customers owed him a couple of hundred dollars during the war years and signed over the deed to a “summer cottage” in Humarock, close to Scituate near Cape Cod. It was a little box of a place on an island between a river and the Atlantic with a bedroom, kitchen, half-bathroom, living/dining room, and a little porch. No electricity. No bath or shower. Icebox. Gas stove. No heat, no A/C. Loft above the bedroom and bathroom space for 2 kids to sleep. Ladder to pull down and climb up to go to bed. Comic books for color entertainment. (Dad had a customer who did PR for a bunch of Buster Brown shoe stores and he would bring Dad all the comics as he replaced them each month). We would go there when school was out (The House in East Milton, and later the big house on Elliot St would boil in the summer (No A/C remember), and stay until the weekend before Labor Day when school started in the fall.
I remember one night at the beach, the air raid marshal knocked on the door to tell us our lights were showing through the black curtains every window had. He was afraid the light could be seen by a submarine out in the ocean. Beth and I turned out the light in our upstairs bedroom and went to sleep. The next day, I was running along the sand dunes on the ocean side, and when I jumped over the top, down into a little depression, I was surprised by a huge German shepherd and a coast guardsman watching over a big machine gun. He was there to keep Germans from coming ashore from submarines. I stayed away from the dunes after dark for the rest of the war.”
I had reached out to one of Dad’s cousins who still lives up north, and her eldest sister reflected warmly on those years, visiting her cousins on the beach. She was able to give me a better idea of where they spent their summers. The cottage was to the right after crossing the bridge, and on the river side, rather than the ocean side.
My friends and I left the RV in a parking spot at the bridge’s edge and walked past where my Dad and his brothers fished when they were kids, and out to the oceanside beach. I read Pop’s words above and offered a cup of his ashes to the waves in which he once played. A gentle rain began to fall. Then, we walked over to the riverside. I didn’t have an address for their cottage and imagined it would have been replaced by something more modern. We turned at the fire station and walked by the first house from the bridge to a public area with access to the river. My friend and I each offered what was left of Pop’s cremains to the water, rock, and mud of another area I was sure had carried his small feet, once upon a time.
I didn’t take many pictures but captured videos to share with family. The three of us then popped into the Irish Pub on the corner, between the ocean and river for a late lunch. I met a man named Don sitting at the bar as I passed to wash my hands. I told him the story my father had shared and he assured me that my grandparents’ cottage was still there. He’d been living there for 65 years and knew that if a house had changed, it was never torn down, but added to. Maybe someday I’ll learn the address and visit once more. Don also let me know that the restaurant we were in would have been the post office and a small general store during World War II, so my father would surely have been there, as well. When I sat down at the table with my friends, I looked at my phone. It was 2:02.
After lunch, my friend wanted to stop in the gift shop across the street. To be honest, I’m not really a shopper anymore. But I was happy to pop in with my sweet friend who helped manifest this moment for me. The first row to the left offered shirts and sweatshirts branded for this beach. As I stepped around to the next aisle, I found a carousel of jewelry. There were two necklaces at the top that faced me, one was an arrow (a significant symbol in my life), and the other was a name… Melissa. You can poo-poo synchronicity all you want, but I know for sure that magick was afoot. Pop was present, as always.
My friend purchased a souvenir for each of us, and as she checked out I told my Dad’s story to the clerk. She said there was a local historian I would love to talk to, and said he had even written a book about the history of Humarock. I felt compelled to purchase a copy to take home to Mom and share with Dad’s siblings. I later handed it to Mom, and she said that Dad would have loved it. I said, “I know! He made me buy it!”
We would have loved to linger in that sacred place, but we had a long journey home and I had a flight to catch the next morning. I felt so blessed to have walked in my father’s footsteps with my darling friend and her beloved. It was a moment filled with a history, a present, and a future of the manifestation of true love. My grandparents’ love for each other brought into this world my father and his siblings who spent their summers in this place of beauty. My parents’ love for each other brought my brother and me into this world, and the love that my friend found by divine providence brought us three together on this pilgrimage. And though my father is no longer physically in this world, his love and our love will continue to resonate and grow for all time. Like the restaurant that once was a post office, it may change but it never goes away.
Thanks for showing up, Pop. You know that’s my love language, and you never let me down. Keep sending me the signs. I’ll wait right here.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
The book I published in April was dedicated to the archetypal feminine in Her form of Goddess of the Underworld. Persephone is both goddess of death and springtime – dark and light. As women (also true of men), we carry this duality within us. We carry light and darkness, joy and sorrow, happiness and rage (just to name a few) which find expression through life experience as we learn and grow.
When my Tribe was birthed at Imbolc of 1994, we each brought into the circle the energy of a specific goddess. I remember moving around the circle to greet and honor each altar, and being astonished by the number of dark goddesses represented. I had to check my notes to see which maiden goddess I identified with at the time. Any guesses? It was Persephone, sacred daughter whose arrival delivers the beauty of blossoms. I’d forgotten that historic morsel of goodness, and it filled me with delight to realize how She has been with me and within me through a 27-year evolution of my soul’s purpose.
I remember feeling a sense of mystery around the dark goddesses. Not quite fearful, but somewhat trepidatious. It was an energy that felt unfamiliar to me at that time in my life. I was 25, and just at the precipice of my becoming – ready to dive into a spiritual journey that would make my life so full, it was beyond my imagining.
I’ve certainly come to understand the dark goddess in an intimate way in the last three decades. She is Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads; Kali, the destroyer who clears away what no longer serves us; Cerridwen, into whose cauldron we are received and renewed. She is the Crone. She is the wise one who knows all. She is the bringer of death who initiates us all into the mystery of what comes next. I have come to love Her in ways my 25-year old self could not. I had so much to live and learn. She has been the innocent maiden who was violated, and the young mother who was fiercely protective of her young, and now she is a survivor who has seen it all and fears nothing.
Last week’s news from the Supreme Court about the horrific overturn of the ruling that has protected the reproductive rights and health safety of women for most of my life, brought that day of rebirth immediately to mind. I will share the truth of my thoughts and emotions to paint a picture of how the dark goddess archetype rises in the soul of a woman who has been betrayed and brutalized by her own countrymen.
She is rising with fierce rage for hard-won freedoms that were stolen in an instant. She is the hunter with her bow, sending arrows flying to take down her oppressors. She is riding on the back of a tiger, with scythe and spear to protect those who will surely come to harm for their careless action.
To be clear, I do not advocate violence. You could say that I am Christ-like, in the way that I believe that all beings are worthy of love and should be treated as such. The way fundamentalist Christians these days fight harder for their right to carry a gun than for the safety and protection of our school children, I wonder what kind of gun they think Jesus would carry. I’m not Christian, but it is my impression that he would rather die than bring harm to another sacred soul. That is how I feel. If it is my time to die, I will go. I will not dim my light through fear and violence.
However, when I heard that on the same day this despised court (currently at a 25% approval rating) removed the federal protection of our right to not give birth, they affirmed the right for us to carry concealed firearms, I thought… GOOD! With this news and the ludicrous ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that freed the murderer of Trayvon Martin, now, women can carry a pistol, and when a Republican man comes anywhere near her, she can shoot him in the testicles because she feels unsafe and threatened by his presence in her personal space. After all, any pregnancy has the potential to kill a woman. That is the bottom line. How dare anyone force that possible outcome on any sacred being! She must only go there by CHOICE!
As they removed our right to privacy (still confused why HIPPA laws don’t protect the privacy of patients and doctors for ALL healthcare and medical procedures), I thought, COOL! No more privacy. Now women can learn a man has issues getting it up, and decide not to swipe right! Better yet, she can choose only men who have verifiably been snipped. Vasectomies prevent abortion nearly 100% – it’s better than birth control!
When the news broke, I received a text from a friend who could not stop crying. She was angry, sad, scared, and she wondered if I also wanted to burn the patriarchy to the ground. Well… yes. Always. I do.
With the news of what we have lost, I immediately thought of the many times I have held space for the darkness of others. Were it not for Roe V Wade, someone I love would have been forced to give birth at the age of 11. So courageous was she, to survive and continue to thrive after a horrific beginning of sexual abuse… how different it might have been had there been no other option but for this child to give birth to a child. She called me, as well. She saw the news while in a meeting, and later puked up black bile. We cried together as she drove home. She gave me permission to speak her truth. It must be known what has been stolen. Republicans must know what horrors to which they have condemned our girls.
My favorite tomboy and I already had plans to meet after work. When she entered my home, we hugged each other longer than usual. We met in kindergarten, and share a similar world view. We both felt the horror of what was to come in 2016, when the US election became an abomination. Any intuitive being on the planet could see what was to come. We felt it. We marched for it. We cried about the probable future. That future is now. We are still crying. But not for long. The dark goddess is rising.
The next morning I prepared for my weekly call with my Sacred Gardeners. I pulled two oracle cards as a kind of meditation to begin our call and end it. The cards are inevitably perfect for setting the stage for deep conversation and holding space. They were exactly what we needed to hear in this moment. The first from Alana Fairchild’s Sacred Rebels Oracle and the other from her Rumi Oracle.
From Sacred Rebels we drew, RELAX THE HOLD OF DARKNESS AND BE AT CAUSE. An excerpt: “If the sacred rebel is not awakened, we will continue to live in a culture drenched in fear and distrust of nature. Those without awakened hearts don’t yet understand what nature knows – she knows timing, she knows life and death, she knows the creative process, she just knows – and can be trusted to support us, her own creations, in becoming all that we can become.”
From Rumi we drew, SACRED SOUL SISTER. An excerpt: “No matter how out of control life may seem, she’s letting you know all is proceeding just as it should and that her will shall manifest. Her will is your wholeness, your completion. Her will must manifest and shall, because her will is nature. It is growth. It is God. She is God, in you, now. Remember that and you’ll realize (f you don’t mind the ending being told before the last chapter) that everything’s going to be okay….”
As we each checked-in, after grounding and centering in sacred space, we shared in brave space how we were experiencing the heartbreaking news of the day before. Those present were no longer threatened by the possibility of unwanted pregnancy, and yet, we all carried the same weight of sorrow and rage.
I was profoundly affected by the testimony of one of my sacred gardeners, who at 86 with severe vascular dementia, has long been my personal hero. She and her wife, long before I met them, were extremely active in the National Organization for Women (NOW). She reminded us that when she was born, women had gained the right to vote, but were still living limited lives. She can’t remember what she has spoken moments ago, but she remembers growing up during World War II, and how women stepped up to fill the needs of a country at war, as men left to serve overseas. She witnessed women stepping into their power and then the expectation they should simply give it back when the war came to an end.
It took my breath away to acknowledge that she was among those who fought for my right to choose my personal autonomy over the expectations of others, and that she may not live to see that right returned to her daughter and great-granddaughters, and all other girls and women for whom she marched, and fought, and served in her lifetime.
When I served in clinic defense with other warrior women (and a few men) in the 1990s, I met a woman who had three children on three different forms of birth control. She was there to protect and serve the girls and women who were choosing a different path than the alternative outcome of unwanted pregnancy. I was reminded that I was an IUD baby. What I know for sure is that if my mother had chosen to end that pregnancy that she and my father had not planned, it would have been the right choice. Every argument against a woman’s right to choose her own autonomy is wrong. Period. The End.
The US has been on this trajectory of destroying women’s freedom since the Reagan era. If you listen to the words he used to manipulate the masses, they were filled with false rhetoric to build on the fears of those who carry a lack-mentality. They bought the lies that would take us further from caring for one another because they were certain there was not enough for them.
In recent years, I found myself stepping carefully through the field of terminology. When a former roommate became defensive when I posted a meme of gratitude for having not become more conservative, he wanted me to understand he had not voted for tRump, but that he voted against Hillary Clinton on a third party candidate. I decided I would refer to the ‘GOP’, instead of ‘Republicans’ to differentiate those who were elected and those who were supportive of enabling an admitted sexual predator, domestic bully and terrorist from those who were decidedly not liberal Democrats.
From this point forward, I no longer care to be cautious with my words. The truth, in my lifetime, has always been that the Republican party stands on a platform that is solely committed to destroying the protection of women’s reproductive healthcare, removing affordable healthcare from those who need it most, enabling domestic terrorism through unrestricted rights to carry weapons of mass violence, murder, and destruction, removing the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ American citizens, and filling their pockets while stepping over those who lack the privilege they possess and ensure.
If you are reading this and are offended by the way that others see you, I challenge you to take a good long look at the truth of the party to which you have sold your soul. If you say that you don’t agree with what I’ve written, but that you are fiscally conservative, and therefore a Republican… you are lying to yourself… and you deserve better. Every Republican administration in my lifetime has blown the national debt to oblivion, while the Democrat administrations have reduced or even completely resolved them (Clinton left us with a surplus – immediately destroyed by Bush).
Any vote for a Republican, from this point forward (as ever), is a vote for the murder of women and children (either by forced pregnancy, life-threatening despair, or gun violence). One must come to terms with the internalized patriarchy and misogyny that leads one to be able to sleep at night knowing what horrors you have enabled.
Women and girls will die from ectopic pregnancies or naturally failed pregnancies that become septic. You will say that you are protecting the souls of the unborn, but that is a lie, too. The soul arrives with the first breath, not with the dividing of cells (affirmed in your Bible, as well as by psychic mediums and channels). More children will be born into poverty, a burden, and unwanted. These will be the ones who carry their ‘God-given’ guns you protected into school rooms to murder the children who were wanted, cherished, and chosen. You will not support these burdened women and girls, nor the children they were forced to bear. You will vote against their welfare, their living wages, and their physical and mental healthcare. You will not choose to become a foster or adoptive parent. You will blame the women and girls for the rising crime rates, too. Your religious beliefs will never be valid as long as you are voting Republican, for there is nothing Christ-like about that party. Please, prove me wrong.
If you are of the mind that minorities are becoming a majority, and that feels frightening to you, I hope you have figured out that white women of privilege will have the ability to travel for the requirement of their autonomy (paid for by married politicians, no doubt). You are, therefore, celebrating at the loss of Roe, a future that ensures you will be in the minority sooner rather than later. Personally, I can’t wait. The reason you fear being a minority is that you might be treated the way you have treated others. May your karmic reward be made manifest!
Sooo…. that was an example of channeling the dark goddess. I won’t take it back. I will, however, find my own balance that mingles with light. I will honor the rage and horror while nurturing the love and light that harkens the arrival of a new age.
The eyes of the world are watching what happens next. Mid-term elections have been fortified by this SCOTUS decision. The intuitive way-showers I follow assure us that this moment in our history is a catalyst. Fundamentalism and Fascism have partnered for American destruction of democracy and fundamental freedom. This moment has revealed the shadows hidden by darkness and all is illuminated. Women in the US have been living in the illusion of equality, when it was far from reality. That is going to change! We became complacent, taking for granted the hard-won right to vote has brought us to the brink of losing it, along with others. For now, we still have a right to light.
You brought the darkness. We have lit our torches. The light is returning. Prepare to Burn!
I wonder how often the dreams of others actually come true. I don’t mean the random kind, like a young girl dreams of her distant future wedding day, but the kind that was so specific that it seemed impossible. I am not referring to the kind of dream that one manifests through hard work, like saving money to take a trip or buy a car. I mean the kind of thing imagined in youth, but never even contemplating placing on a manifestation board because it seems so unlikely that you’ve decided to dream of things more feasible.
Last week, it happened to me! I’m still processing it all, and my gratitude to those involved is impossible to express.
The dream was planted in 1986. I was in my final year of high school. I discovered the second recording of a concert. The first Stevie Nicks concert I saw was in 1982 on HBO. I was 14 and immediately fell in love. The next big event was Stevie Nicks – Live at Red Rocks four years later. I can’t recall if it aired on television or if we rented it from our local Video Village on VHS (pre-Blockbuster). What I can tell you is that I eventually owned it on VHS and later on DVD. It was THAT important.
I’m really not a crazy fan girl (well… maybe I am. I’ve seen her with and without Fleetwood Mac several times). But this woman does play a significant role in the spiritual journey of my life. I had heard the rumor in high school that Stevie was a witch. When I asked my brother about it, he said that she was a witch to Wicca as a Catholic is to Christianity. At the time, the only thing I could find in the library on the subject was in an encyclopedia. I made a copy of the pages and tucked it away. What I found in those pages didn’t draw me in, but I remained curious and open. My mom was paying attention (as always).
In February 1992, my mom signed us up for a women’s workshop at the Unitarian Church for a weekend emersion in neo-paganism with Margot Adler. A few weeks later, she signed us up for a 6-month class on Wicca (mom moved on when she knew I was not getting involved with a cult). Whether or not this was indeed her spiritual path, Stevie had influenced my life in a significant way. In that workshop and in the class that followed, I found my people. My life was forever changed for the better. There’s more synchronicity to unveil, but I think I’ll keep my visions to myself. (wink)
At the end of 1993, I called together a group of new friends, and we birthed our goddess group. Each of us at the beginning of a new path, we dedicated ourselves to exploring devotion, mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth, and to nurturing and celebrating the rites of passage through which we would each pass. Over time, my goddesses moved away or moved on, but we have never lost the deep connection that we chose to weave with one another. There is a deep, abiding love between this Tribe of beautiful beings. The magick circles we cast in our youth remain in the ether, and when anyone is in need – we simply step in and place them at center.
On April 29, I woke up before being ready to climb out of bed. I scrolled through Facebook and was reminded of my Tribe Sister’s birthday. Moments later, the phone rang to reveal her voice. “Happy birthday, birthday girl!”, I said. She laughed, the way she does which ignites my heart. She then proceeded to tell me that her husband gave her a birthday gift that she wanted to share with me. Can you guess what it was? Here’s a hint. My Tribe Sister lives in Colorado.
Prior to this call, I had been working on a plan with my favorite tomboy (my buddy since kindergarten) to take a road trip. It was slightly complicated by the difficulty of leaving my mom on her own for several days. But everything had finally fallen into place with our plan for escape. We would drive up to Georgia for a surprise birthday party for her mother-in-law, then stay a couple of nights with the boss who raised me, spend a day in our favorite art city, Savannah, spend one night on the beach with a friend and former colleague, then head home.
The problem was that the gracious invitation I had just received fell into that timeline. Now, I have responsibility in my top five strengths, so when I make a commitment, I keep it! My favorite tomboy knows this. So, I texted her to tell her about the call I’d received, and I was working through my mind a way to do both. When I told her that I was being given the once in a lifetime, dream-come-true opportunity to see Stevie Nicks, Live at Red Rocks, her reply was… that I must go.
At this point, my heart was already overwhelmed. My immediate thought about receiving this much goodness all at once was to wonder if I had done enough to deserve it. Could this really be happening? One dear friend had offered me a gift, and another dear friend offered me forgiveness, encouragement, and support. Meanwhile, as I began to figure out how to get there, a third dear friend arrived to make it happen. She is a flight attendant who just so happened to be flying to Denver two days before the big event (only 12 days away, at this point). She booked my flights and would hold my hand (figuratively) there and back again.
Now, the reason my lifelong friend and I were planning that road trip was that her husband was too stubborn to go (one of them would need to stay home to care for their pets and he tends to feel he is the better choice). When she told him she would be going alone, he changed his mind. He didn’t want her to drive that far, so he would go instead. This, my friends, was the big arrival of another gift. We knew that the Universe had conspired to, not only make my dream come true but to do the same for one momma whose only birthday wish was to see both of her sons. Don’t you just love the way magick happens?
I don’t think I immediately realized the power of this moment. It slowly dawned on me as I was processing the overwhelming sense of being loved and held by those who were rising up to make it possible for me, that I had held onto this impossible dream for 36 years. I was afraid to share it with others, because so much could go wrong, and loved ones would be forced to witness my disappointment. But those with whom I did share, each celebrated with me. There’s nothing like that feeling of genuine joy expressed by others as they witness your own dreams coming to fruition. Even my mom, who had seemed a little hesitant about my absence for our planned road trip, was delighted by seeing me get to have time with a Tribe Sister I rarely see and for the two of us to share this experience. This time, she worried that I wasn’t going to stay longer.
I had this strange sense of what that love coming at me felt like. I pictured a door. It was open, but there was a brick – not propping it open, but keeping it from flying all the way open. You know, intending to keep too much from entering. I’ve had this sense recently that when we protect ourselves from being disappointed or betrayed, we are not only keeping harm out, but also love.
When I experienced that sense of love flowing toward me, I wondered what it might feel like if I tossed that brick away and threw the door wide open. I still don’t know what receiving that much love all at once would feel like, but I’m open to the possibility. I challenged myself and my Sacred Gardeners to experiment with that visualization – and I hope you’ll join us!
Each morning, picture a door that is pleasing to your senses. Is it a wooden garden gate, or a door similar to your own front door? Feel the skeleton key in your hand and see yourself place that key into the keyhole of that door. Then turn the key, the knob, and finally throw that door wide open. Don’t be hesitant with worry about what may be found on the other side. Just push it with all of your strength and stand with your arms wide open to say, “Here I am love! Come and get me! I am open to receive.”
This was the first time I would travel by air since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of people lined up for the TSA security check at the airport was kind of terrifying. There were so many unmasked people, I hoped that being quadruple vaxxed and double-masked would keep me safe. After all, my body looks like those who end up on ventilators. I thought about calling my brother with instructions on caring for mom, should I not make it back.
But all went well. I was reminded of the way I chose to travel overseas many years ago, not as a tourist but as a pilgrim. When on pilgrimage, it is about the journey and what magick is allowed to happen along the way. It is never about hurried timelines or holding onto rigid plans. So, when my dear one informed me the flight was oversold and I may not have a seat, I repeated my little prayer, “Thank you in advance, dear angels, for getting me there and back again with grace and ease.” When I was handed my seat assignment, I said three ‘thank yous’, to the gate attendant, to my sweet friend, and to that unseen force that always wants the very best for us.
It was so cool to witness my lifelong friend on the job and to experience a moment in the life of a flight attendant. I stayed the night in her hotel room, where my Tribe Sister fetched me the next morning. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about these deep soul connections, is how easily we fall back into one another’s lives as if no time has passed at all. We may go years without being together in person, and yet, here we are in this moment feeling as if we have never been apart. I’m certain that is because the distance in geography is nothing compared to the closeness of the heart. When you hold a piece of someone’s soul inside of you, you are always together.
A major bonus of our three days together was getting to have a little time with her two kids, my goddess babies, now grown. As the women in my Tribe brought their children into the world, I always felt it a blessing to bear witness in one way or another. Being childless and single for most of my life with a soul-purpose of being of service, has left me feeling more like an observer in life. I have watched friends fall in love, get married, have children, and live fully committed lives while holding space from a distance. When the legacy of my loved ones seem to hold me close, I guess it makes me feel included. It surprises me every time. I will never take it for granted.
On May 11, we woke with anticipation of the day ahead. We headed through the mountains to Golden, where we had lunch and enjoyed popping in and out of shops (something I’ve not done for as long as I’ve not flown). Before we got back into the car to drive to Red Rocks, we stopped for a couple of iced beverages to keep us refreshed for the three hours we would wait in the parking lot. Being a Florida girl, I grabbed napkins for the inevitable condensation and was shocked when my Tribe Sister declined. She said that condensation doesn’t exist in Colorado. Nope! Unbelievable. I could not comprehend this idea. I kept my napkins close. I did not need them! I’m still a little WOWed by that discovery. I never imagined it to be a thing – no condensation on an icy cup! I wonder what other wonders await.
I’d been to Red Rocks Amphitheater as a tourist many years before. It was in the afternoon and there were no events happening at the time. I had imagined at that point what it might feel like to experience a musical performance while seated within this glorious lap of Mother Nature. As I ascended and descended the earthy red structure, I heard in my mind and spoke aloud the words from that well-watched video from 1986 – “Thank you, Red Rocks, Colorado!” This danced through my memories as we sat in camp chairs within the shade of the car to watch people lining up to ascend a long and winding ramp to the entry point. I sipped from my amazingly dry cup of iced chai, and enjoyed the view.
When the invitation first arrived, the weather forecast was cold and rainy. By the time my flights were reserved, things had changed and 90 degree weather was expected. On the day of the event, however, everything was perfect. It was a cool and sunny day with a delightful breeze. I carried a sweater for when the sun went down, but it was never needed. It turned out to be a perfect day.
We decided to take the shuttle up to the entry point. I would call it the top, but it was actually the stage level with 38 rows to climb, for us. That may not sound like a grand challenge, but when you live at sea level, already being a mile high means that your lungs are extra challenged by even a few steps upward. I could feel the lack of oxygen in my lungs for a while after we settled into our seats.
I recognized immediately our good fortune. The 38th row may not sound like a big win at a concert of someone you adore, but in the case of this venue, a great deal would be lost to be closer to the stage. From our center of the row location, we could see the stage clearly, but also everything that surrounds it and that which lay beyond it. As darkness fell, the lights of the city on the horizon danced above the stage like an intentional light show. It was stunning.
Stevie had asked her friend and mentee, Vanessa Carlton, to open for her. They had both been in serious lockdown throughout the pandemic, and this was the beginning of stepping back into the world they each loved after the extended exile. As Vanessa performed “A Thousand Miles” at the close of her set, we could see her facial expression change as she searched for the words of a forgotten verse. Later, as Stevie twirled into her third or fourth song, she paused. She said that the next song was a surprise… even to her… as her team sorted out the setlist. I had not previously considered the consequence of a performer’s return to the world they were forced to leave behind. It was a joy to see them find their way back to this sacred space.
When Stevie’s opening tune began, my Tribe Sister and I looked at each other through tears. We hugged one another with gratitude for all of it. That we were in this sacred space, on this perfect evening, manifesting-dreams formerly believed impossible, and most of all, that we were together. As overwhelmed as I was by the invitation, she felt the same about my willingness and ability to be there on such short notice. I think that may be one of the most beautiful things in life. To feel so deeply a sense of love and connection with a sacred soul, and to be met with reciprocity – to know without a doubt that someone else holds you in the same beautiful light. Stevie Nicks was amazing, but the light in the eyes of my beloved friend was what made this whole adventure priceless.
Getting to behold an evening of live music with my favorite, favorite of all favorite artists, while being held by the elements of earth, wind, and sky, next to one of my most sacred beings was enormously soul-filling. I hope my swiss-cheese memory never lets a single moment fall through the holes.
Stevie closed the evening with an apology to her audience that her set may not have been as long as it once was, acknowledging she is nearly 74, after all. She also wanted us to know there was nowhere else she’d rather be.
As I sit here in my living room, I imagine myself at 74. I definitely won’t be dancing on a stage in front of nearly 10,000 people. However, if I manage to live that long, I know that I will be deliriously happy to find myself sitting next to any and all of the beings in my life who either helped to make my dream come true or who loved me enough to celebrate this moment in my life as if it were their own triumphant glory. I hope you have friends like mine.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here. I hope that you are considering the position of the door to your heart and are inspired to throw it wide, while opening to receive the flood of love that is coming for you. May your wildest dreams, even those previously thought impossible, be made manifest with grace, ease, and delightful surprise. What I wish for you most of all, is that you are blessed to have friends who show up for you in that moment to assure you that you deserve this.
To me, today is a holy day. Not because of something that may have happened thousands of years ago, but because it marks an important, life altering anniversary. Nine months ago today (April 17), this small family gathered around a white haired and bearded sacred being of earth and sky, and witnessed his final breath and heartbeat. None of us got to see him come into this world, but we were so honored to hold space for his grand departure.
Symbolism is powerful in my life. You could say it is my second language. In the metaphysical world of intuitive gifts, I fall somewhere in the range of empath and claircognizant. I’m a feeler and a knower. Since I have asked the Universe to speak to me in ways that I can understand, I have found that if I pay attention, that line of communication is always open.
Four years ago, I saw the signs and followed the synchronicities. It was nine months after I danced out of the role that had long sustained me in the corporate world. The symbolism of that timeframe is obvious. It is a gestation period for human birth. In February of 2018, a courageous friend shared in brave space his diagnosis and prognosis. Brian opened a portal for me at that moment, and I picked up my torch and mindfully stepped through the door.
On new years eve, at the portal between 2021 and 2022, I shared on Facebook the final words that my father left for me in his “Memoirs for Melissa”. It felt like closure of some sort, to come to the end of his written page in the year that he died. I said to the Universe and my father’s energetic being, “Daddy, thank you for these stories. Thank you for showing up and for bringing other sacred beings to join you. Thank you for taking those painful lessons and difficult challenges of your youth and becoming a kind, compassionate, patient, loving, beautiful being. Now that I have heard your story through your words, I wish to tell our story through my words. It will be a book about making friends with death, about eldercare and self care, about the power of sacred ceremony to transform sorrow, about respecting the autonomy of those we love as they journey toward transition, and about giving the love that heals.”
Since I had been writing for the last four years, it didn’t take long to build my manuscript. I found the very best publisher with whom to partner by following the signs and synchronicities. A doula assists with transition and transformation. I had been my father’s end-of-life doula, and Sharon Lund at Sacred Life Publishers became my book doula. She helped bring my book to birth. I had already reached out to her because she had published another book on this topic, but I knew she was the one when she called me and the first three digits of her phone number were also one of my angel numbers, 808. I see these numbers frequently. They are in the email address of the Boss Who Loved Me, and I associate a sighting as a strong reminder that I am loved.
Sharon and I discussed the process and determined this project would take about three months to complete. An astrologer I follow (Annie Botticelli) had stated that the days between March 3 and April 27 would be ideal for the launch or birth of creative endeavors, as all planets are direct for this brief period of time. I may be a skeptical believer, but when messages arrive in actual words that don’t require symbolic interpretation, it seems prudent to follow. As we completed multiple edits and my dear friend crafted the cover from a beloved artwork gifted from my Tribe-brother, I considered the timing. April 17 would be the nine month anniversary of my father’s death. What are the chances that this exact date, with this symbolic meaning, would be remotely possible? According to Sharon, the chance was slim.
The final version went to the printer on April 14. Experience informed my book doula that it could be three weeks before it appeared for sale on Amazon. I knew it was going to be impossible to have my book officially published and available at Dad’s anniversary, but hoped it would at least occur before the planetary deadline on the 27th.
Because the seasons are shifting in Florida with the arrival of higher temperatures, I went ahead and secured the memorial tree I wanted to plant in my front yard. It would be dedicated to filling, somehow, the absence of my father and of my beloved ailing oak. So on the morning of April 15, the landscape professionals arrived, and were so patient and kind that they allowed me to read aloud my words and intentions, while also sprinkling some of my father’s ashes into the open womb of earth that would receive the tree I’d chosen.
“Hail to thee, sacred Traveler:
Nearly nine months have passed since your beautiful soul crossed through the veil of starlight. Your physical presence is terribly missed. Your spiritual presence is deeply felt with enormous gratitude.
When you left, our sacred oak, too, fell. The loss of you both has left a punishing light and sorrowful emptiness to fill the chasm of your absence.
May this tree be a symbol of rebirth. May these branches hold space to nurture and nourish the birds that bear your loving messages in a language I can understand. And may she grow taller, fuller, and more colorful throughout the years, providing shade and serenity for all to behold.
May the flowers that surround this keeper of your memory be a blessing to all you’ve cherished in life. May they blossom and bloom for your delight, with sweet memories of your grandfather’s garden.
May the sacred earth of my father’s former vessel bless these roots and hold them close, feeding beloved tendrils with the healing light of love.
Blessed be beloved beings. Your presence upon this sacred land will be a blessing for all my days that remain. Thank you for being healers, protectors, nurturers, and sentinels of peace, love, hope, and rebirth. I love you. I love you. I love you.”
As I poured the ash into the earth, I looked to find they had fallen first into the shape of a crescent moon, and with the final toss to empty the vessel, a straight line. My father’s remains had fallen perfectly into my own personal sigil (a magickal symbol I may use instead of my name) and also in the form of a handheld crossbow. This was something Pop had said to me after he broke his hip. He thought I should have one, and I figured it was the pain medication. But maybe . . . just maybe it was a portent.
Later that evening, I was having dinner with a friend inside a restaurant (a rare thing since the start of the pandemic), and I heard someone say my name. It was the Boss Who Needed Me and his wife. I can’t tell you how mushy I get when I see them, it is so rare. But he is such a significant part of my story, that my heart just melts in his presence. Though he was addressing my friend, I took what he said to heart. “I want you to be sure that when Melissa’s book is available, I will be informed. I want to be the first to buy it!”
So, last night (April 16) while hanging out with my Mom, I popped over to Amazon and typed the words that had only been mine for the past nine months. Mommy’s little secret until her arrival. And much to my surprise . . . she was there! Sharon says that Pop made magick happen for me, and I know without a doubt that this is true. I texted the Boss Who Needed Me to let him know that if he really meant it, this was his chance. He texted me back and said, “Melissa, we ordered it this evening.” So now… I am free to share the news with you.
Exactly nine months from the day my sweet Pop became one with the light of truth, he is being symbolically reborn in the form of a book that shall ever be his memorial. That this date also falls on the Christian celebration of rebirth could be a coincidence, but who would ever believe that? Dad sent the signs and I followed his guidance. He has always shown up for me when I needed him most.
Dear Universe, thank you in advance for allowing this work of love and light to be a blessing to others. The journey itself has already been a great blessing to me.
Welcome to the light, Persephone’s Passage! I’m so glad you are here.
PREFACE “I once asked myself why I write and discovered that as much as I wish for my words to offer light and healing, I write for myself. I’ve determined that what I call a Swiss cheese memory allows me to live in the now. Accessing memories for me is a challenge, so when I read what I’ve written, it gives me the access I crave. Seriously, I have Googled things I’ve written to be sure they are mine.
The reason I’ve published these words is to give birth to something of myself that will remain when I am gone. It is a memorial to my father, and a tribute to the same care I intend to offer my mother, as I walk with her into the underworld (may it be a long, long journey).
Though I have loved and cherished many children and goddess babies, I have no children of my own. As I offer Persephone’s Passage to the light, I do so with reverence for its perfection. When I think of what ideal parenting might look like, it is to keep it safe, feed it well, and provide a firm and balanced foundation from which it may launch itself into the world. Once it is out in the world, my only expectation is that it exists in authentic truth and joy. I will not judge it by its number of pages, by its popularity and how many people call it friend, or by its income. I will not weigh it down with expectations of any kind. I will simply be grateful that I was blessed to have this creation of pure love move through me. I love it without condition.
May those who find it feel the depth of the love that resides within, and know that they, too, are cherished, valued, and sacred. Namaste. Blessed be. Amen. So mote it be. Aho. It is done.”
Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. Many have been extremely supportive of this endeavor over the last few months. Some have been more than supportive, and I am overwhelmed to the point of lacking words to describe how completely loved they have made me feel.
A mantra that I have engaged to help with feeling worthy of receiving, is this: “May I be a blessing to others; I am open to receive.” I am open and grateful!
When Dad died, I realized I would once again have to shift my self-identity. I am no longer his full-time caregiver. I am forever his daughter and also . . . I am Melissa Baker, Author of Persephone’s Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld – The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula.
Persephone’s Passage may be found on Amazon, and soon will be available through other online sellers and even possibly in bookstores as Ingram distributors update their catalog.
It has been quite a while since I’ve written in this sacred space. One reason is that I’ve been nurturing a project that will soon come to birth. Another reason is that in a world of chaos it is difficult to find clarity through which words may rise. My writing moves through me, and begins with fingers on the keyboard with a request to the Universe for the gift of words that might bring light. Today, the image and words that arrived were related to the familiar phrase–sink or swim. My logical mind immediately chimed in with the awareness of another option. . . to float. It’s my favorite!
At Imbolc this year, I planted my seeds of intention. One seed which has already taken root is the intention of togetherness. Physical togetherness has been a rare joy since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Though I have maintained connectedness with phone calls, zoom meetings, and letter writing during this time, seeing loved ones in person has been at a minimum. Since planting that seed, however, I have been blessed to have face-to-face time with many of my loved ones. It feels like such a blessing! To be clear, I never took these opportunities for granted. My soul sings with gratitude for each greeting.
Many of these gatherings have revealed a similar sentiment. We are all feeling overwhelmed by world news and local awareness of discouraging trends. It seems that the schoolyard bully archetype is looming large over the entire world these days. They are rising up to conquer a peaceful nation, to squash the hard-won rights and freedom to be authentic and safe for those who have had to spend their lives pretending, and to ensure that the promise of autonomy, equity, and equality for all beings gets ripped out of their walled gardens of self-servitude.
Feeling and witnessing this oppressive energy daily is soul-crushing. It is difficult to find the light in such darkness, let alone knowing how to BEE the light. (See what I did there?) For me, the best way to cope with looking forward is to reach into the past.
In the early 90s, a friend shared her understanding of our astrological move from the Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. I know, we’ve been singing about it since the 60s, but if Mercury Retrograde lasts three weeks and has a two week shadow period. . . imagine how long the shadow period is for an approximate 2,000 year cycle. Feels like forever! The wisdom shared was that we are moving out of the patriarchal, war-mongering, money-obsessed era into one that feels more nurturing and inclusive. In this time, those who feel their perceived power slipping away are doing everything they can to prevent the arrival of such peace and balance. They are like rats in a toilet bowl, trying to lift the closing lid. They are terrified and THEIR fear is what we are feeling.
There were two big moments in my life that I identify as important lessons for my soul’s journey. I’ve written about them before. The first was in 2001 when a new boss arrived to end my 10-year career in a company where I’d been valued, appreciated, and fiercely loyal. The day I chose to leave was after a period of feeling unsafe, paranoid, and downright miserable. My Tribe and I had just celebrated Ganesha’s birthday and asked him to remove our obstacles. I never would have dreamed that my job was what held me back. But it was all of that discomfort that pushed me forward and into that next place, that better space for the growth of my soul, my income, and my future.
The next big moment was spectacularly similar to the first. In 2017, with the arrival of a new boss, darkness returned. I felt every portent of dread that I had felt before. It was a gift from an intuitive guide that informed me that as an empath, one can read the way our bodies feel to interpret messages from the Universe. I was feeling anxious, uncomfortable, paranoid, and miserable. There were moments when I feared I might suffer a stroke as I felt my blood pressure rise with shock and disbelief in what was happening.
When those words of wisdom were shared with me, it was a revelation! My whole body shifted out of fear and into peace. I understood in that moment that the Universe was telling me it was time to go. Something better is on the way. . .just like before. I instantly let go of the fear that was harming my mind, body and soul, and when that departure opportunity arrived, I joyfully danced out of the building.
Of course, something better did arrive with the unexpected discovery of the ability to retire from the corporate world. I never would have dreamed of it or sought it, because I was stuck in that old belief of what living (and surviving) looks like. Both of those life lessons taught me that when I feel uncomfortable, change is coming–and it will be for the better.
In these places of panic, when it feels like our world is falling apart, we often move into that sink or swim mentality. Either we violently scrape at the edges of a slippery slope with the hope of climbing out so that we can remain in that place where we’ve always been or we can let go and sink to the bottom because life is not worth living if it can’t be the same as it was. I say, screw that!
I don’t know about you, but I am quite buoyant and I intend to float through this current chaos. Surrounded by atrocities throughout the world, and right here at home with hateful and harmful legislation and rampant gun violence, I feel extremely uncomfortable. It feels impossible to find comfort and peace within when there are so many sacred beings who suffer at the arrogant and hateful hands of others.
If we are to understand that everything is made of energy (including us), then it feels far more helpful to reach out with love instead of fear. The Buddhist Art of Tonglen would have us breathe in their suffering and breathe out deep peace. Let me take in your fear and give you my comfort.
I am choosing to believe that what we are experiencing right now is the discomfort that informs us that change is coming. . . and it is going to be good. We are about to be liberated from working for an ungrateful boss so that we can learn to better serve ourselves and those we love.
The aftermath of the rise and fall of historical monsters was a renaissance of accountability and peace for the generations that followed the tyrannical downfall. The hard part is reconciling the devastating loss and destruction that came first. It is especially difficult when we are watching it unfold on every screen within our view.
So we focus on what we can do to nurture the source of light. We exercise our freedom to vote. We honor courage and heroism. We lift up the sweet songs of children finding safe harbor. And we float down this river of light with the vision of the stories of peaceful endings, joyful liberation, grateful celebration, and mindful rebuilding. We see this for countries at war and in our own country at war with itself.
We ignite that radiant green heart light from within and allow it to expand beyond the reach of our physical bodies, to encompass our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and states, our countries and continents, our planet, our galaxy, and our universe. Everything is illuminated by the light of our love. See the face of the one who has made you feel most treasured, safe, valued and loved in this lifetime reflected in the faces of every being you meet. Know that you are safe and loved in this moment and that all is well and all shall be well.
Wherever you are in the world, and however you are feeling in this moment. . .if you are struggling to swim and feeling like you are about to sink, I hope you will choose to lean back and float, instead. May you feel yourself filled with and surrounded by the healing light of love. Everything will be okay. I promise.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
Nearly 20 years ago, my parents and I attended a journaling workshop at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1U). I can’t recall exactly what I loved about it, but it involved a binder with tabs, and a specific suggestion for how to mindfully access memories in order to write them down.
We shared things we’d written, as we felt comfortable, with the class, and though I cannot recall (read: swiss cheese memory – things fall through the holes) exactly what my father read, I can tell you that it had impact. I asked my Dad, at the time in his early 60s and recently retired, to consider continuing the journaling project. I told him that I would love to have stories that he would share, even if a little tough to tell, that I could hold onto when he was gone.
I can remember my Mom telling me how enthusiastic he was about the project. She said that he was really into it. When he started having issues with neuropathy in his fingers (he typed with two forefingers on a good day), he acquired Dragon Software, so that he could speak his words onto the page.
My parents moved closer to me in 2014, and it was divinely timed. My father’s health gradually deteriorated, and I became his full-time care giver in 2018, until he died in July of 2021. During that time, I would often think of that project, and ask if he could tell me how to find it. He couldn’t.
When he was gone, it was foremost on my mind, to find the pages he had crafted. When cleaning out his office to turn it into a hospital room at home, so that we could bring him home as a virtual paraplegic after he broke his hip, I was mindful not to misplace or throw out any CDs that might have contained sacred data.
My brother came home for Thanksgiving. It was the first time we’d been together since he said goodbye to Daddy in the ICU. Mom and I had a few tasks for him, and my personal priority was finding Dad’s pages. He had to do some updates, but we were finally able to open and forward three documents to be reviewed. The first one is titled, “Memoirs for Melissa”.
When I started to read the opening of the first document, I glanced at the bottom left of the page to see how few pages were there. Only 6. There were only 6 pages in that first of three documents. That’s when I knew I couldn’t read right through them. I had to savor each paragraph. For once those pages were complete… the pages of each document… it felt as if my father’s story would also be complete.
I decided to share one story per day with my loved ones through facebook. I tag his five siblings, my mother and brother, and one of his cousins who still lives up north. I even initiated a hashtag, my first, as I’m really not a social media conformist. But I did realize how handy it might be to find the series of posts, once they were separated by anything else I may share on my timeline (mostly art that speaks to my soul) on any given day. So… #memoirsformelissa was brought to birth, by and for my father.
When I finished the first document of six pages, I opened the next. Only 9 pages, but some of the stories were simply cleaner versions of those in the first document. So, I opened the third and final document my brother and I found on Dad’s hard drive. There are 12 pages in that version. It is obviously the same document as the second, but waxes on a bit longer. I’m still not reading ahead, though. I can’t. I cannot bear the thought of an ending.
These pages, are delivering more magick than one might imagine. My first thought is about the priceless nature of these simple words on paper. My love language is ‘showing up’. I show my love by committing to be present, and by being reliable, trustworthy, patient, and kind. I ask for nothing more in return, and realize that this is not something everyone can offer. When I asked my Dad to consider dedicating his journal to his own stories he might leave for his daughter… he could have loved the idea, but failed to make the time to bring it to fruition. But that’s not what happened. My father showed up for me. He always did. Even months after his body was left behind, his spirit is rising from the pages he blessed long ago. This is my most valuable inheritance.
My next thought on the magick of Pop’s pages is the way his words, and mine combined, are inspiring and touching the hearts of others. I’ve received several private messages from friends who tell me how much they are enjoying Pop’s stories. One friend is even inspired to do the same for his daughters, realizing that we are now in our 50s and access to our memories is fleeting. He’s not wrong… my Dad started writing things down in his 60s. When I asked him to tell me stories in his 80s (after he’d broken his hip, and I feared our time might grow short), he could talk for a good hour, but the stories were less cohesive and not quite as full.
I love that people who knew my father, and people who are just now getting to know him through his words and mine shared on facebook, might just choose to leave behind their own magick to be unveiled by sacred beings who are hungry for their presence, long after they are gone.
I don’t really have anyone to whom my stories will have meaning, but I’m glad for my ability to write things down these last few years. My father’s stories from childhood are revealing to me the many hardships in his youth that paved the foundation of his becoming. His early childhood illness and disability (with asthma and epilepsy) carved out the future of a compassionate, patient, and kind husband, father, social worker, scout leader, dungeon master, and Santa representative. I can almost see each of his stories as the crafting of a single flagstone that is laid onto solid ground, and as my father steps forward, he crafts another and sets it down. Each of these stories, however far they may come from his past into his future, bring the man he was, upfront and center, into the life of his two children.
Speaking of his children, we have not made it into Dad’s storytelling, as of yet, and there are so few pages left. I am guessing that my brother and I will have to write the chapters that follow. I suspect our parents see so much of what they wish they’d done differently, they sometimes overlook the many things they did so well. For example, I know that Dad’s parents had personal challenges that made things difficult for their children. But those are not the stories that held the mind of my aging father… it was the goodness on which he focused. What a gift it is to hold space for every truth, not just the ones that hurt.
There you go again, Dad… still teaching me, even when you feel so far away. You just keep showing up! I’m so grateful for every little thing. I love you most.
Thanks for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
I was blessed this past weekend to attend a bookend event. The Boss Who Loved Me shared with me the wedding celebrations of her sacred daughter. Her beloved son was married at the beginning of the pandemic, and it sparks hope that this special occasion for her daughter, The Doctor, might help bring it to a close. It was kept quite small and cautiously included only those who were vaccinated. After all, she has fought long and hard to keep her parents safe. This declaration was an act of love.
Two days of events were required for this glorious new beginning. The first evening was a gathering of loved ones to partake of the traditional 10-course Chinese meal, and to stand witness to two sacred traditions of stunning significance. First, the Hair Combing ritual, and then the Tea Ceremony. The first, symbolic of the blessings of the parents upon the Bride and Groom, for a long and healthy marriage and an abundance of grandchildren. The second, an opportunity for the Bride and Groom to honor the Parents, the Family Elders, and the Ancestors… as they pour out tea as an offering, they are bestowed gifts in return, that symbolize abundance, longevity, fertility, and prosperity. Once again, the blessings were spoken in English and Cantonese by the parents of the Bride. After all, they had family attending via Zoom from Toronto and Hong Kong. And through this magical medium, the elders who could not travel due to Covid restrictions, were able to also bestow their blessings.
I love these traditions. They are so meaningful and powerful. In Western tradition, the Father ‘gives away’ the Bride, and somehow, that just doesn’t seem enough. The newlyweds may have the opportunity to say thanks in a speech, but that seems so lacking, when we are talking about the transformation of enormously formative relationships, as well as the beginning of new ones. Plus, symbolic sacred ceremony, to me, speaks the language of the soul. Not only are their hearts and bodies now joined, but so, too, are their eternal spirits – through the undying love of their ancient ancestors.
In my past life, you know… in the corporate world, my role was rather isolating and solitary. I supported executives in human resources, and so became a secret keeper. Therefore, the people to whom I was closest are those I was blessed to serve. There is a depth of bonding there through the hardships we survived together, as well as the great accomplishments that may not have been recognized by many. As one who held space for two special leaders through a successful CEO succession, and painful ‘staff adjustments’, all requiring the sacrifice of personal and family quality time, through to retirement, it is my great pleasure in these ‘after-years’ to hold space for their great joy.
He called me when he learned of my father’s passing, and though I hadn’t seen him since his youngest daughter’s wedding, reconnecting with the Boss Who Needed Me at the ceremonial dinner felt as if no time had passed in our connection. He and his wife have been very busy traveling around the country to nurture seven sacred beings, in the form of beautiful grandchildren. He’s been retired eleven years now, and we can’t believe that much time has passed. He once told me, as we prepared for his retirement, “Mel, I feel like I’m getting a second chance.” He was referring to the way that his career had taken so much of the time his family deserved. And I glory in knowing that, this time, he has his priorities in order.
I still feel this sense of isolation in my current life, and I suppose attending a wedding alone, adds to that feeling of walking alone in the world. I was purely an observer at the wedding on the second day of events. I really only knew the parents of the bride, though there was much warmth felt between myself and the family and extended family I met at their son’s wedding last year. So, this is what I witnessed, as a mindful observer.
The day was overcast, which can be a blessing in Florida. It was warm enough for our sleeveless dresses, but not too hot. We were facing the setting sun, but were not blinded by it. This was the first blessing.
The Bride was stunningly beautiful, and completely unfazed by the gentle rain that began to fall as her wise father walked her down the aisle. In her vows, she shared her sense of joy and relief in having finally found her darling Groom, after a length of being told to “be patient”, and “he will come when you least expect it”. She exclaimed that she actually had to go get her Prince (they met electronically, as many happy couples do in this age), and she was so glad she did. That the universe keeps providing ways for us to manifest life altering relationships feels like the second blessing (or maybe that should be the first).
When the vows had been shared and the rings gently placed, the Bride and Groom were announced, at last, to be Wife and Husband. This observer took note that at that moment, an Osprey flew across the sky, just above Mrs. and Mr. This is what I learned about the third blessing: the Osprey is a portend of profound change as one comes into their power, guiding them to manage with grace and ease the remarkable transition that lies ahead. They also mate for life, and symbolize abundance and victory. Weddings do remind me of victory, as we all know how much work has gone into the culmination of this celebration.
The fourth blessing came through the rain. Both the wedding ceremony and the reception were held outdoors. A Florida wedding in November is preferable to a summer affair. When the rain came, it arrived as a gentle kiss, and a fleeting one that would come and go. It arrived along with the sweet-flowing emotion that the element of water represents. It came as every witness held back tears to see the Bride make her ‘march’, and it came again as loved ones offered words with a toast.
I loved the way that it was welcomed as a part of life, a part of us. No one ran from it. Into every life a bit of rain shall fall. How we perceive it determines its blessing or its curse. It is said that rain on your wedding day is a gift of good fortune. On this day, you have chosen to ‘tie the knot’ with the one you love. A wet knot is nearly impossible to unravel. And of course, to me, the element of water is cleansing, healing, and loving. It seems that when one finally finds the person who has filled any sense of longing or emptiness previously felt, with comfort, trust, and surrender… a gentle rain is the universe affirming that healing is complete.
Those who came together in celebration were fully present and delighted in the joy found between this loving couple. Both the Bride and Groom were surrounded by life-long love, in the form of parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends, both life-long and journey-long (as in the arduous journey the bride took to become a doctor). I am certain that the glow one could see emanating from the newlyweds was partially the light of love that flowed through them and around them.
Though I saw myself as the unattached observer, it was not a sorrowful seclusion. There was nothing in the way of my clear view. All that I could see in the committed couples present and the individuals moving in delighted festivity, was a sense of reverence, kindness, connection, happiness, and pure joy for the momentous gift of standing in community to say to the Sacred Couple : “We, as your beloved community, are committed to supporting you in your togetherness. Tonight is all about you, and about how the two of you add something extraordinarily special to all of us, through your devotion. Thank you for sharing with all of us, the light of your love.”
As for me, I got to see, once again, the manifestation of joy in the life of the Boss Who Loved Me. She’s been retired less than six years, and she is doing a fine job of replacing those work-related heartbreaking moments, for which we held space in the corporate world, with happy, joyful, gloriously fabulous ones. Everyone is healthy. Both children are now married. Her first granddaughter arrived this summer, and all is right with the world. I am grateful.
I found myself, while making my morning gratitude pour-over coffee, reflecting on that sensation of aloneness. Last night, there were so many happy couples dancing in celebration (including the Bride’s parents who will have their 41st anniversary in January), and I wondered if I will always be the observer in this life. It may truly be that what I am meant to accomplish in this lifetime must be done on my own. Perhaps feeling a sense of joy in my own ONENESS is the whole point. Witnessing the blossoming in love of others does not diminish the love in my own life. I already have so much. (I mean, how many people recognize three of their bosses as great loves of their lives? I have been quite lucky in love. They each loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself – validating my worth until I figured out I didn’t have to earn it.) How could there possibly be more? But I do wonder… what if there is another point on the horizon of new beginnings. I guess I’ll do what my father taught me… I’ll keep showing up and I’ll wait right here.
Thank you for walking this path with me, and for sending your blessings to the happy couple.
Mom and I are working on our so-called, ‘new normal’ these days. I think it still seems odd… the lack of Dad. It still feels unnatural to sit in his chair, or to have the first half of the day to myself. Mom doesn’t need me in the same ways he did. This new normal is… different.
We are giving each other more space, while creating new routines of togetherness. Before, much of my energy was focused on Dad’s comfort and wellness, since he could no longer walk for the last seven months of his life. Through my soul-daughter-medium, Pop said that it is now time for us to bond, mom and me. We are learning from each other through the ways that we grieve. As we process our great loss – the departure of her husband and my father – we are observing the truth of one another more clearly. We are learning and growing… together.
I have been dubbed the feeler of my family, for I tend to be more expressive with my emotions. Mom and I are mourning differently. Through the study of death and dying, I have prepared myself for an intentional journey through the end of life with my parents, as well as my own inevitable transition into the mystery of what comes next. While it has helped me find peace and comfort in the idea of death, it has not diminished the grief that I feel in missing my father. For so long, I went to sleep worrying about his comfort and awoke with anticipation of his needs. That’s a hard habit to break. I was hyper-aware of the blessing of my ability to serve, and how fleeting that time would be.
I am learning that, though she is not demonstratively emotive, Mom is processing her grief silently, through introspection. Last night, Mom shared with me that she often wakes thinking of Dad’s last days. Like me, she considers what might have been done differently to have changed the outcome. If he hadn’t been scared, because he couldn’t breathe, might he have refused being intubated? But reality was, that his oxygen was plummeting, and had he refused… none of us would have been present for his passing. His sisters and brothers would not have gotten to say goodbye. My brother and his wife would have missed holding his hand – having been kept away by Covid-19 for so long. So much more would have been lost.
I know these things cross her mind, as she faces her own mortality. We talk about her ‘Five Wishes’ for the end of life, which are similar to my Father’s. She does not want to be kept alive on a ventilator. She does not want to go through what Pop went through. It was difficult to witness. It causes heartache for the survivors – having to ‘pull the plug’. I assure her that what Dad did, by approving intubation, was a gift to all of us. That the emotions we would be feeling had he suddenly been gone, or that he might have left without allowing us to hold him and love him just a little while longer would have been unfathomable. I can see now, that I feared betraying him by letting him go too soon, while he feared betraying me by leaving when I was not in the room. We served each other well, Pop and I. I assured Mom that she need not make the same choice. I will not betray her.
Mom and I watched a few episodes of an Amazon series called Solos last night. The first episode features Ann Hathaway in her basement. This monologue is a conversation with herself… past, present, and future. The character is working to perfect time travel, and we gradually learn that her intentions are to be able to jump ahead, into the future, to escape the torture of witnessing her mother’s decline from ALS.
As this story unfolds, and we come to understand the pain and suffering of both the daughter who is present and providing full-time care for her mother in decline, we also learn of the regrets of the future daughter, who did find her escape, and lived with regret for the rest of her days. Together, they ultimately choose to destroy the probable future, to ensure one version of this daughter remains fully present through her mother’s end of life.
As my Mom was serving me a piece of her favorite cake, that I ordered and picked up for her earlier in the week, she shared something else with me. She said that when she went to bed the night before, and found that I had made her bed for her, with an extra blanket (because it was going to be Florida-cold that night), she felt so loved.
She was astonished that though she feels like she was not a Grade-A mother, that she should be treated as if she was. What I want her to understand is that it doesn’t matter how imperfect we are… we all deserve to be loved and to be treated with kindness and respect – always. I feel that getting to serve my father through his end of life brought this message home for him, and my intention is to do the same for my mom. I wish for her to know that without a doubt…
I am here. You will not walk this path alone. You deserve this!
As I walked home from ‘tucking her in’ for the night, I cried happy tears. I cried for the sweetness of a simple life, and for the great fortune of alignment, which enabled me to be here in this moment, with this woman, to experience this insight and healing between us. I can see the greater gift of my father’s passing, in the path that he paved for us to have these conversations about death, in a way that we couldn’t before his example.
I could feel the presence of my father, as I digested his words from my session with #RedRoseReadings. Mom and I are using our time wisely. We are deepening our bond and our understanding of one another. We are learning what we might offer each other, in these days that belong to just the two of us, that feels like love that heals. And as I gazed up towards Orion’s Belt – twinkling in the clear night sky, I said aloud, “Thanks for showing up, Pop!” Because THAT is MY love language.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
If you’re curious about the mystery of connecting with a loved one on the other side of the veil, consider reaching out to my brilliant soul-daughter, at https://redrosereadings.com/.
I started writing this post in the last week of October. So, imagine, if you will, a moment of time travel, and go back in time with me. Otherwise, I’ll have to rewrite some of this post, and it may never see the light, in order to ‘bee the light’. Thank you for your kindness and selfless work of magick.
The beauty and mystery of this time of year has always spoken to my soul. Even as a child, when the depth of my understanding was quite shallow. Dressing up in costumes that my mother had sewn was a highlight that cradled the mad delight of walking through the darkness from house to house to receive sweet treats. My mother’s handicraft insured that my costumes were unique and fabulous. Morticia Addams was a favorite of which I was sad to outgrow.
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s at the beginning of my spiritual journey that I learned the deeper and much older significance of the holiday. In the US, we call it Halloween, and it is about wearing costumes and greeting neighbors and strangers with the words “Trick or Treat”. Much like many other holidays we celebrate in the US, the rituals are committed without the reverence of ancient meaning.
There is much written about Samhain, All Souls’ Night, and Dia de los Muertos, and there is plenty to learn from simple internet research, including concerns about cultural appropriation. A part of my seeking has been to find the spiritual path that resonates with me. Though many friends grew up Christian, I grew up Unitarian, and was invited to build my spiritual path from the ground up, free from expectation and dogma.
My ancestry is English / Irish / Scottish, so it may not surprise anyone to learn that what resonates with my soul includes a foundation of earth-based reverence, and a healthy helping of Celtic spirituality with a sprinkling of mysticism.
In Celtic tradition, Samhain marks the turning of the Wheel of the Year, when we (in the northern hemisphere) are moving out of the long days of summer and into the darkness of winter. It’s my FAVORITE time of year! Pronounced Sow-wen, it marks the mid-point between equinox and solstice, as the days are growing shorter. It is also considered the Celtic New Year (the final harvest – marking an ending before the new beginning that comes with the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice, as the days begin to grow longer again). It is also known as Ancestors’ Night.
I’ve been on this path since 1992, so this is the 30th Samhain I will celebrate. And yet, it is the first that feels truly sacred and somewhat urgent. When I started writing about death and dying in early 2018, I recognized the blessing of having suffered few losses, compared to many. Most were not unexpected, and were people I’ve loved, but was not especially close to.
This year is different. This year… my father is on the other side of the veil. I have never longed to see, hear, or touch someone more. Less than four months gone, it feels as if a lifetime has already passed. The longing I feel induces pain in my chest and head. It’s hard to imagine becoming accustomed to his absence. But of course I will… in time.
Before and after he died, this summer, I felt connected. My intuitive-self felt guided and supported. My inner-skeptic was silenced by what resonated as truth and comfort given in moments of longing and reach. Messages came through nature, oracle cards, and synchronicity. But recently, I have been feeling disconnected, and frankly, abandoned.
I went to the mountains for ten days of respite, and though I found deep peace and comfort, I did not find my father there. Though I traveled with my laptop, I did not open it to write. I was disconnected. And when I came home, my landscape had changed. The remaining Oak tree that was a twin to my neighbor’s ailing oak, the other half of the squirrel-super-highway that used to stretch across my entire yard, had dropped a giant limb. My remaining sacred sentinel is now half the tree it used to be.
It feels as if every larger-than-life, great being in my life has fallen away. My father and these two oak trees have represented symbols of protection in my life. Without their towering presence, I feel unsafe and exposed. It is difficult to navigate a path forward, in such unfamiliar terrain.
All week, my emotions have been floating on the surface of my heart and mind. My emotional support being, now living many hours away, rather than minutes away, held space for my longing and grief, as I shared how absent my father feels. I was missing the messages from nature that I’d come to expect.
Every morning, I brew my pour over coffee with hot-water circles of gratitude for the elements, for my guides and angels, for the safety, wellness and protection of myself and those I love, and finish with – “thanks in advance, Daddy, for revealing your presence to me in ways that I can understand”.
The next morning, I reported to my friend, that the Mourning Doves had returned to the bird feeder, something they started doing after Dad died… previously only foraging on the ground. I felt seen and heard. I felt the return of my father’s energy. As a skeptical believer, I realize how silly this sounds. And yet, I cannot deny the comfort and joy that returned, simply for their arrival.
The next day, there were three messages in rapid succession that WOWed me. The first was a sound that my cats heard before me. As I investigated the odd placement of the knocking sound, I discovered through the library window, that a Wren was pecking at a Mud Dauber’s nest on the window sill. When I googled the spiritual meaning, I learned that they symbolize rebirth, immortality, and protection. They are associated with the arts, and those who write. They are harbingers of rebirth.
A bit later, I was drawn into the front yard. It was a gloriously windy day, and the trees were going with the flow – a beautiful dance. I noticed that the uncarved pumpkin on the outdoor altar was oddly leaning. This is where I make offerings to the spirit of nature (a table cut from my neighbor’s ailing oak), and my friend’s children and I placed a few seasonal gourds out to mark the arrival of October. In Florida, the heat will argue with you about what season it really is, but we like to force the issue, when possible. Upon inspection, it appeared that the pumpkin was definitely losing its youth and elasticity. Since I was there, I peered through the brush to see the tree-sized branch that had fallen from my oak tree, and then followed it around, to check on all it enveloped.
As I turned to peer through the side yard toward the back, I gasped to realize that a Hawk was quietly perched upon the gate of my wooden privacy fence. For the longest time, I stood there watching with reverence, as he returned my gaze… back toward me, left eye holding me in stillness. The longer I stood, the longer he stayed, and what I heard in my mind was this: “See! I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere. All is as it should be.” And the wind shifted, taking this majestic creature, not into the sky, but into the tree by the gate. He was ‘waiting right there’, just as Pop always said when I left his presence – “I’ll wait right here!”
I decided to come back into the house, despite the opportunity to stare all day. I googled the spiritual meaning of Hawk, which is: spiritual messenger, clairvoyance and spiritual awareness. I suppose I will choose to trust the message I heard. Then, nature’s winged spirits of air delivered a final, glorious vision.
As I looked up from my second research moment of the day, my breath was taken by an unbelievable sight outside my window. A bird was feeding, whose colors were woven of pure magick. Gem-tone shades of red, blue, yellow, and green caught my eye. A bird I’d never seen beyond photos arrived with the final message for the day. The Painted Bunting, according to google, arrives to encourage us to use our ‘voice’ to speak from the heart, and to add more color and vitality to our lives. So… here I am. Speaking from my heart and welcoming more color and vitality.
Synchronicity arrived the next day, when a friend posted a John O’Donohue poem, that spoke to my grief and my colorful guest. As when the Painted Bunting was spotted, I cried my words of gratitude, “Thanks for showing up, Pop!”
Beannacht by John O’Donohue ~ On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets into you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green and azure blue, come to awaken in you a meadow of delight. When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home. May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.
It feels as if, these messengers and messages are arriving to quiet my sense of feeling exposed and abandoned. They remind me that I am protected, and that as the giants of the past each fall away, I am invited to plant and create something new. As I reflect on how significant each of these beings have been in my life, delivering a feeling of being safe, loved, and protected… I now find myself wondering what I might leave behind, onto which someone else – 50 years from now, may reflect with gratitude for the loving protection they feel in this sacred space.
Last night, I gathered with a few friends who knew and adored my Dad. I bought flowers that he would love, and my friend intuitively brought fried chicken thighs – one of Pop’s favorite meals. We watched the 1993 animated film of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, and reflected on the many cultures and traditions that honor the dead this time of year. And we sweetened our sorrow, with slices of key lime pie, also in Pop’s honor.
When everyone had gone, I wrote a letter to my father, and left it beneath his photo with a candle burning as a beacon to call his spirit home. If he came to me in my dreams, my memory did not hold it.
I asked him to continue reaching me and teaching me, to help me release self-doubt and find greater confidence in the messages I seek and receive. He taught me a great deal in life, whether consciously or not. A mindful soul may continue learning and growing from the past. An intentional soul has the opportunity to learn and grow through curiosity and openness, beyond what was previously imagined. Thank you in advance, dear Daddy, for showing me the way.
My final nod to this sacred Samhain was a special call with my soul-daughter. She is a medium, and I felt that an annual conversation with Pop might be an interesting tradition to begin. Once again, the skeptical believer is curious and willing to suspend disbelief, until a sense of resonance is found. In the young woman, who could be my daughter – were I able to choose one, I have found deep trust, resonance, and a sense of belief. We hit record at 2:02pm, my angel number for Pop. Coincidence? I think not!
For 90 minutes, Pop showed up. What was really interesting, was that he spoke to the many things I’d written about in my two-page letter. His words, delivered through #RedRoseReadings were meaningful, healing, and comforting. They affirmed that I am hearing him clearly, and that when I am through with grieving, I may learn to trust myself enough to know that what I am receiving is not just a result of wishful thinking or a creative imagination. I’m mostly there, because I already know I’m just not very creative, so I often conclude that whatever comes to mind is actually coming through me from something beyond my understanding.
A friend of mine told me that she hadn’t really felt inclined to seek a conversation with her father after his death. So, I asked myself why I felt such a longing. I was there for my Dad for nearly all of his days in the last three years of his life and have few regrets needing closure, so what could I possibly need to know? What I realized is that I wish to continue learning about things that feel impossible and fantastical. Who could possibly be a better teacher than the man who cared for me for all of my days, and trusted me to care for him in his final years? No one. Just Pop. And it turns out that the shift in perspective when we slip through the veil, provides an opportunity to find words for a world of silent thoughts that never found form in life. Life is fascinating, and death… well, it is just a part of life. Learning and growing is a never-ending cycle of rebirth.
We are always in the process of becoming. As I gradually let go of who I was – my father’s full-time caregiver, I am opening to who I may become. It’s all a great mystery, and I am open to receive.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I hope that the messages you seek are coming through loud and clear. I’m so happy you’re here.
Last week delivered the painful blow of closure. My exploration into the path of an End-of-Life-Doula was sparked by a 2018 conversation with a friend. He shared the challenging news of his diagnosis and prognosis, which prompted my life-altering question that blessed us both. I shared that story in a previous blog post:
My friend and I live on opposite corners of the country, and while we held each other close, we communicated infrequently. Each of our communications informed me of his failing health. He was prone to positivity, but would often allude to the truth of his situation. I worried that I would not know when he’d reached the end of his path. I lacked a connection to anyone else in his local world. So, when he popped into my mind, I would send a text message to let him know I was still here… holding him close and wishing him WELL.
Our last reciprocal communication occurred after the death of my father and his first birthday without him. I sent a note: “Sending love from afar. Hoping you are safe and well. Missing you so much. Love, love, love.” He replied: “Always love hearing from you. I wish i was doing better, but don’t seem to be making much progress. My legs have pretty much stopped working, so now I use a walker 24/7 which isn’t ideal, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Continue to be optimistic. All in all I know things will get better. I hope you are doing well. I’m certain you are!! (heart, heart, heart)”
I wrote back: “Oh, beloved. I’m sorry for this news of added struggle and body betrayal. I wish I were closer and could offer support. My dad died on July 17. Yesterday was his 84th birthday and last month was my parents’ 60th anniversary. I’m so grateful he was mine. He’s my new angel. I’ll send him over to shower you with blessings. I love you.” I sent pictures of my Pop, so that he might recognize him should he show up in his dreams. But in truth, if one can sense the presence of an angel, I wanted him to know that my Pop, who knew the reality of body betrayal, coping with his own for most of his life, while supporting others throughout his career, would be a safe receptacle for his hopes and fears. My friend promised to keep his eyes open for Pop.
My worries about not knowing were put to rest last week, when my phone rang and I heard an unfamiliar voice. My friend’s husband spoke his name, and I knew. I knew that he was calling me with bad news about our mutual beloved. I had texted last week, and again that morning – without reply. I’m so grateful that he took the time to reach, even in the depths of his grief.
He shared that his husband had been struggling to walk in recent weeks. He required assistance getting to the bathroom. It was obvious that the cancer had wrapped itself around his spine, and wasn’t about to let go.
He reminded me that my friend did not thrive in a state where he lacked control, and informed me of his powerful choice. They live in a state that offers Death with Dignity, and this is the path my friend chose for himself. His beloved hoped for more time, but absolutely honored and supported his end-of-life preference to avoid greater suffering.
With his doctor’s support, a compassionate end was arranged. In Oregon, one with a terminal diagnosis may be provided a medical prescription for departure. I have offered this compassionate care to the cats I have loved. Instead of a long and languished or painful end, my Vet came to the house to bring comfort and release. I cannot imagine why this is not standard practice with humans who suffer with no hope of future wellness. I am grateful that it was possible for my beautiful friend. He lived, and left this world, on his own terms. A peaceful warrior, from brilliant beginning to elegant end.
As we spoke, I was reminded of the duality of emotions with my father’s passing. Though he could not speak at the end, he left his wishes in writing. Releasing him from life support was my final act of loving kindness and respect for the man who loved me for all of my days. I did not betray him by holding on. I honored him by letting go. My friend asked his husband of 25 years to let him go, and he did not betray him. The doctor was present, and it was a blessing for these two lovers to peacefully part in the physical sense. It’s hard to describe the honor of presence during our final transition… but there is a gentle coming of peace that arrives with the grief of longing. I hope to be so well-loved when I reach my end of days.
My Mom’s friend posted an article this week about people ‘taking matters into their own hands’ at the end of life, by ceasing to eat or drink. It states that one can go 7-10 days without food or water to accelerate rather than to prolong death. But the truth of the matter is that this is still a painful ending, and it is not necessary.
About 20 years ago, my grandfather (my Dad’s father) was in his mid-80s, living with leukemia and macular degeneration. He was ready to go, and asked his doctor what that would look like if he stopped taking the plate full of meds that were keeping him alive (a regret of many, according to what Stephen Jenkinson refers to as palliative care causing prolonged dying, rather than prolonging life). The doctor said if he stopped eating and drinking, he would pass within a week or two.
And so, that’s what he set out to do. He discussed it with his wife and adult children, and the appropriate paperwork was established with DNR (do not resuscitate) signage posted throughout the home where he chose to die. Two weeks passed, and my grandfather… did not. He received news that a dear life-long friend of the family died in her sleep. He declared it was not fair. “Why am I still here?” He relented to the suffering and allowed his youngest daughter and caregiver to administer a bit of soup and water. It took that sweet man a month of suffering to pass from this world. It was a month of painful witnessing and space holding by those who loved him, too. It was an atrocity that he was not permitted to part in comfort and peace, on his own terms.
There are more stories of suffering at the end of life that I could use to prove this point and argue for a countrywide declaration of a Compassionate End for those with a terminal diagnosis who wish to die with dignity, but I want to return to my position of gratitude. I am grateful that this sacred being, whom I adored, who came into my life to play a vital role in preparing me to care for my father, was able to stand at the portal between the worlds, and step through the veil without regret.
I have a candle burning for him, just as I did when my father left in July. I wrote the words that came to mind as I held him close. The flame dances in the jar, and he inspires me to write.
It feels as if my world has come full circle. I met this man before leaving the corporate world, and our conversations ignited end-of-life study and the timely first steps on the path of making friends with death. I was able to walk, without fear, beside my father to the edge of the unknown. And now… both of these sacred beings have stepped off of my path. I am so grateful for every little thing.
Farewell mighty warrior and treasured friend. Your last name was the same as Dumbledore’s Phoenix, and I see that you have lit the heavens with your beautiful light. Your transformation from earthly appearance to energetic form renders you no longer limited. Knowing you has been my great joy, and I am forever changed by your friendship and love. Thank you in advance for communicating with me in ways that I can understand. I promise to keep my eyes and mind open to receive.
Thanks for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.