Welcome to the Light – A Rebirth

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.

Pop’s ashes form my sigil

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.

Stories from Beyond the Veil

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.

Mother-Daughter Love Language

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/.

Full Circle – Journey’s End

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.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/providerpartnerresources/evaluationresearch/deathwithdignityact/Pages/index.aspx#:~:text=On%20October%2027%2C%201997%2C%20Oregon,a%20physician%20for%20that%20purpose.

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.